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VOLUME TWO • ISSUE ONE

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Greetings Montana Mouthful Readers! I recently attended the Rugby 7 Tournaments in Las Vegas, NV, and I’m happy to report that the USA was victorious! The crowd is always so entertaining. People dress up as if it’s Halloween, and everyone has so much fun. For instance, I saw groups of men wearing red suits with large white hearts. There was a man in an American flag Speedo (and nothing else)! 70’s get ups, Elvis impersonators, dinosaurs, and the like were all in attendance. Everyone was clowning around to support their teams and express their enjoyment of the sport. And in this spirit, I am excited to introduce Issue 4 of Montana Mouthful, themed, “Clowning Around.” Of course, as we all know, not all clowns are funny or enjoyable. Sometimes clowns are sinister. It seems that you either love them or you don’t. In this issue, we have stories, poetry, and artwork that captures the amusing and the menacing aspects of clowning around. Please explore the selections and find tomfoolery happening at the bowling alley and the basketball court; some enjoyable and unsettling artwork and poetry also delights. We hope you enjoy our fourth issue as much as we enjoyed putting it together! In other news, as we reported last issue, we are still working on gaining our 501©3 non-profit status. This requires patience. Meanwhile, we’re planning for future issues. Thank you for your continued submissions and readership as we navigate through this process. It’s spring in Montana, and although the weather continued to cling to winter during spring’s early days, eventually Mother Nature had to quit clowning around and introduce warm weather! Cordially, Cari Divine, Editor

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VOLUME TWO • ISSUE ONE Montana Mouthful is an independent digital 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 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 https://montanamouthful.submittable.com/submit Emailed submissions will not be accepted. VIEWING ISSUU: https://issuu.com/montanamouthful/

Introduction .......................................................................II Party Animals .....................................................................3 Ooops .................................................................................7 When Clowns Put On Their Show.....................................8 Freak Show .......................................................................11 Clown College ..................................................................15 Play Fight..........................................................................17 Yellow Clown Teeth ..........................................................21 Finger-wagging .................................................................22 Tail-isman.........................................................................23 Done Did It ......................................................................24 His Eldest Son Would Abuse the Household Staff in the Following Manner..........................................26 Generation Z ....................................................................28 Jungleball ..........................................................................29 Johnny Reno .....................................................................35 The Roommate..................................................................37 Balloon Bender .................................................................43 Camp Songs......................................................................45 April Fools Regrets ...........................................................48 ShopU...............................................................................49 180° Different View ..........................................................51 In closing ..........................................................................53 Biography..........................................................................54

MAGCLOUD: magcloud.com CONTACT Email: admin@montanamouthful.com Web: montanamouthful.com Facebook: facebook.com/montana-mouthful Instagram: instagram.com/mouthfulmontana/ Twitter: twitter.com/MontanaMouthful DESIGN Layout and graphic design by Luke Duran, Element L Design

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Cover art:

Resentment | ANNA RUNNALLS Montana Mouthful | 1


Delightful Deflation | KEITH MOUL 2 | Montana Mouthful

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NONFICTION

Party Animals by Andrea Avery

“A

giraffe is a wiener dog with its neck and body flipped, see?” He tilted back in his chair and twisted the balloon. The tiny office was a mess: giant duffle bags and hula-hoops, paper and grimy face-paint palettes and bags of balloons. Five minutes into my interview at Party Animals and I was in training. I must have gotten the job. This skinny, goateed twentysomething in black jeans—my boss—had already told me his own life’s ambition was to be “just the most diabolical dude.” All balloon animals are variations on a theme, he demonstrated, his sneakered toes on the lip of his desk. “You think it’s going to pop, but it won’t,” he assured me as he wrenched the squealing latex. A rabbit was a giraffe was a wiener dog, he explained. The magic was in the proportions of long parts to short parts, of segments stretched transparent and full of air to deep-hued pouches knotted off half-full, velvety in their slack.

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My friend Alexis referred me to Party Animals in the fall of 1998. It was daytime work, weekends only, leaving my evenings free for classes, homework, practicing piano, and my campaign to punish my unfaithful boyfriend, a reticent percussionist whose most ardent communications regarded ravioli and The Crow. Weekly outings to The Olive Garden and a movie passed for a relationship then, and what passed for a job was racking up hundreds of unreimbursed miles in a 1996 Chevy Cavalier crisscrossing the Phoenix Metro area as a minimum-wage costumed character for kids’ birthday parties under the supervision of a down-market Criss Angel. The previous spring, I’d passed my own birthday alone in my white-cinder-block studio apartment on campus in a hydrocodone stupor, my right hand swaddled in bandages, two weeks out from surgery to patch together my tendons. It wasn’t clear whether I’d ruptured them playing the piano or if the rupture

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was simply the inevitable result of the rheumatoid arthritis I’d had since childhood. Either way, that hand surgery was the first rumbling of what has become my thundering reality: I would not be both arthritic and a pianist. On the morning I turned 21, my reticent boyfriend was probably in a practice room in the basement of the music building making great gorgeous noise, wheels of marimba mallets spoking from his fists, as my mother, preparing to fly back to Maryland, told me that she and my dad were divorcing. My mom left, and when he was done practicing my boyfriend helped me put my hair in a sloppy ponytail and took me out to dinner on the twinkle-lit patio of an Italian café. It wasn’t until after our first summer as a couple, which we spent apart—he went to Michigan, where he met a tuba player named Anne and came back guilty; I worked a temporary clerical job at a smoke-detector company named after the three-headed dog that guarded the gates of the Underworld— that we settled into the kind of sour chainrestaurant silence it had taken my own parents 32 years of marriage to perfect. My boyfriend came back from Michigan and confessed his tryst with the tuba player. Plagued by fear that it was my body and its shrill demands—all the failures it was caching, illness and disability that would afflict me and anyone who loved me—that had sent him into brass-strong arms, I insisted that we stay together and demanded that I be permitted to unleash my punishing ire at will. I’d spent all summer, after all, answering phones with the name of a monster whose job it was to keep the dead from leaving.

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My temp job ended, school started again, and I got the job at Party Animals. Alexis told me about it as we walked one night from the practice rooms to the off-campus church lot where the music majors parked. It was in that lot, the next spring, that Alexis, still working for Party Animals, told me she was pregnant. I paused before congratulating her because I didn’t know if it was good news or a disaster. This is 21, I think now, at 42. Simultaneously summoning an adult’s joyful pragmatism about an unplanned pregnancy and the knee-jerk, knocked-up dread of a teenager. Experiencing romantic betrayal like an adult and, like a child, believing that ruined love could shape-shift back into romance if you just kept messing with it. Practicing piano with chronically diseased, disintegrating hands. Needing a part-time job and choosing, for work, endless birthday parties. According to Party Animals policy, each party was to be staffed by two people, one in costume and another, a handler, to do all the skilled work: balloon animals; face-painting; and ensuring that the costumed character, who trundled around half-blind, peeking through the black-mesh grate of a mouthhole, didn’t fall in a backyard swimming pool. Often, I would show up as a clumsy Teletubby (Alexis reminds me that we were not billed as Teletubbies but non-copyrightinfringing “Tummy Friends”) to find that no handler had arrived. To do the face-painting or the balloon animals that the parents had specified, I had to break character and take off my head and mitts—another Party Animals no-no. Once, when I was fully costumed, head and all, as Red Tummy Friend, a woman

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marched up, beer in hand. We offered Red and Yellow Tummy Friends but not Purple or Green. According to a particularly ridiculously ‘90s controversy, the purple Teletubby was gay. Therefore, explained my diabolical boss, no one would request the Purple Tummy Friend. “What about the green one?” I asked. He shrugged. “Green one’s lame.” At the party, the woman with the beer wasn’t concerned about the sexual orientation of Red Tummy Friend, but she had pressing questions about gender. “Are you a girl under there, or a boy?” she shouted into the creature’s face, nowhere near my true face. “Tee-hee,” I replied, waving my arms in a gender-neutral, non-copyright-infringing way. Then she groped at the fur on the front of my body and gave each of my breasts a good squeeze. “She’s got chi-chis,” she announced to the party. “It’s a girl!” Alexis says that she was always disconcerted when she arrived at a party in costume to find that the family had strung up a piñata in her likeness, which they beat with sticks until it coughed up its contents. Just once—when another Party Animal canceled—I got to be Barbie. I went to the office to pick up the knockoff Barbie kit, which consisted of a chintzy pink ball gown and a radiantly yellow-white wig. “Hey,” my diabolical boss said as I packed up my gear. “Don’t wear your glasses, OK? She doesn’t have glasses.” Even without glasses, I wasn’t a very convincing Barbie, judging by the face the birthday girl made when she opened the door

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and saw me standing there, squinting in ill-fitting satin as I hoisted a boom box and a bag of balloons. I won her over with my face-painting skills; eventually, she and her friends crowded around me on a big chenille ottoman, their arms folded under them as they leaned across my throbbing knees, their frosting breath on my cheek. “Good job, Barbie,” one said as I painted a cheek, pulling it taut with my inflamed fingers, peering in close without my glasses. On the job for Party Animals, I had two options: in character as the costumed star of the show, my sick body was safely hidden from sight but I was useless, tee-heeing f urniture. As the handler, in a putty-colored Party Animals T-shirt and jeans, I forfeited both my anonymity and my desirability. My knobby knuckles and awkward gait invited

“She’s got chi-chis,” she announced to the party. “it’s a girl!” stares and questions from kids (and their parents), even as I did all the magic, even as I made all the dazzling things. But as Rip-off Barbie, with my vision unobscured and my hands free, I was useful and desirable. Now that my arthritic hands have curled into claws, I am amazed that this girl—me!— could, only months after having hand surgery, successfully fashion long, sword-length balloons into entire menageries. That she’d be back at the piano so soon, or at all. You’d never have guessed how much I hurt. Unless you were my quiet percussionist boyfriend,

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at whom I directed, weekly, from my side of the booth at The Olive Garden, all the rage and injury and bitterness and fear that roiled inside me. My time as a Party Animal was shortlived. I burned out, or the company did. I don’t remember. I turned in my hula hoops and face paints, though my Party Animals T-shirt remained in my Chevy until that winter, when it was broken into in the dark church parking lot. By the next summer, my life had transposed to a new key: I had another iffy temporary job, this time as a security guard in the university art museum, and a Norwegian business-major boyfriend with whom I spent Saturdays playing croquet with the Scandinavian student’s association, percussionists and pianos and Party Animals forgotten. Two years later, I was a grad student in the English department, an aspiring writer who used to play the piano. I started teaching, and though I liked holding court at the front of the room, the best days were those when I sat over a manuscript with a student, cheek to cheek, our breath on the page together. I fell in love with an industrial designer who broke my heart and I grew into someone who understood that when someone you loved hurt you, you either had to forgive them truly or let them go. I let him go, and we remained friends until the day he died. I married a locksmith and became a teacher. Party Animals became an anecdote I offered whenever anyone asked about the strangest job I’d ever had. I was a Party Animal half my life ago. I’m friends with Alexis—and, incidentally, the percussionist—on Facebook. Alexis’s page is full of pictures of her boyfriend-turned-husband; that surprise baby, now almost 20; and 6 | Montana Mouthful

two other beautiful children. Over messenger, she recalled the set of parents who strong-armed her into going into a bouncy house fully costumed as Famous Mouse, the kids who used to whisper secrets to the rented characters. “The ears of the costume were probably a foot above my real ears,” she wrote, “and I just pretended I heard them.” Sometimes, when I am stressed to tears by teaching, or when I see my piano sitting shrouded and silent, I miss that strange season of birthdays. I miss crisscrossing town in that shitty car for that crap job. I miss long evenings in the practice rooms at the piano. I miss the body I had at 21, because my body at 42 is even more painful, more stare-worthy, more scribbled with scars. I long to be the girl in that pink Barbie costume, ill as she was, because she was healthier than I am now. Prettier. Then again, I know she was furious and heartbroken in ways I no longer am. The woman I am now is that girl in different proportions. I carry with me her small, rubber knot of pain from the summer the percussionist kissed the tuba player, I hold a small sip of her bitter rage. But I choose to breathe into my compassionate parts, to expand my capacity for love for that girl in pain and also for her boyfriend: He was just 20 after all, short-sighted, and trying. I inflate my memory of him after that hand surgery, turning up at the hospital with a raggedly beautiful bouquet of every orange bloom the florist had. My musical ambitions are tied off in a dark pocket somewhere inside of me, but not gone, never gone. I have made instead a bright, sturdy, and expansive life of teaching and writing—spaces that were in me even then, latent, elastic, awaiting air. Vol. 2 • Issue 1


POETRY

Ooops by Zöe Blaylock Dark of mood I invited him over for a night of poetry and blight. But he heard poetry and Bud Light and stood prepared in the vestibule where I, confused, but thirsty too, let him in to join me in reciting Dante, Rossetti, Ferlinghetti, and, finally, Giovanni— as if all poets were Italian. Eventually, we stopped mid-stanza, perhaps due to the embarrassment of having neither Ásti Spumante nor Chianti.

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POETRY

When Clowns Put On Their Show (A Circus Tent, Pitched Sideways) by Karen Poppy Time will say nothing but I told you so. —W.H. Auden Yes, we should weep when Clowns put on their show. Orange clown, with his big Gasbag speech. Turkey clown, With his neck wattle, evil-eyed Gobbling goblin, pecking pecker. Thanksgiving at the U.S./Mexican border: Toddlers tear gassed in the name of order. Then another week, another murder. Or several. Add to our circus tent Some swastikas for décor. Yes, history plays itself again. Time says so, our times say so. Yes, we should weep when Clowns put on their show.

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The Totem Hierarchy | NIEKO MCDANIEL

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Brooklyn Clown, 2018 | BILL LIVINGSTON


FICTION

Freak Show by Liz Stewart

T

oday, we’re on the road for the next city. I don’t care to know where we’re going until we get there, I worry less that way. The country has morphed into grass, trees, mountains, and cities— each unique but intrinsically linked, known to me by the scent, shade, and size of its audience members. In the mornings I have to reapply. Hints of my cracked skin show through the loud colours of my face. If there is evidence of a man beneath the character, I cover him quickly. Red around the lips, the nose, the cheeks. Thick blue eyebrows and yellow triangles around the eyes. White shirt, long polka-dot tie. Make sure the wig is clipped tight. But the smile is my favourite part; striking red covers my lips, pulled like putty from ear to ear. Interactions are easier under the guise of a wide smile. Once we get to the fairgrounds it’s time to set up, and we are all subject to help. Tents don’t put themselves up, and everyone else is

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sweating, dressed in day clothes. “Hey clown, help me move this.” He’s new. A stagehand with dark eyes and a couple black hairs above his lip. I pick up the other end of a metal pole. “My name is Giggles.” “That the name your mom gave you?” I stare at him. Definitely new. No one else would disrespect me with questions like this. “Why are you wearing your costume already? Show’s not for hours.” “I like it.” “Isn’t it hot?” Margot Hansen swoops by in her yellow spring dress and her bare feet, carrying boxes up to her chin, just in time to smooth my ruffled pride. I show my teeth. “Hey,” she says, but she’s talking to the boy, “You’ve met Giggles? He’s the star of the show.” “Yeah,” he says, “Giggles.” “Do you want to see a trick?” I ask Margot.

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I’ve been showing her my sleight of hands since she was basically a child. Years ago I used to look after her, now she makes time for me. Her eyes go soft. She is a different kind of pretty, a little like a ransom note, with features that seem pasted together from other people’s faces. She glances at the stagehand, then back to me, and her lips tilt up. “Sure.” I lose a coin behind her ear, and find it beneath my tongue. That’s a new one. Brandishing it in front of her face, she shrieks and laughs and jumps on the spot, dropping the boxes beside her. The stagehand gives a noncommittal huff. I place the coin in her hand as a gift, and realize too late that it’s covered with spit. She thanks me anyway.

I place the coin in her hand as a gift, and realize too late that it’s covered with spit. She thanks me anyway. “I think Margot can take it from here, thanks buddy,” the boy says, and she takes the pole out of my hands, brushing my gloves, almost my skin. They walk together across the fairground, away from me. I take another coin out of my pocket and run it across my fingers. “Giggles, come help me out.” It’s Sam, the lion tamer, except he’s missing the coat with frills and gold buttons. He’s dragging a folded tarp along the grass. “Do you want to see a trick?” I ask him. “Just pick this up.” E

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After set up, I go on one of my walks, enduring the sights and smells of the circus. I am not afraid to walk inside the fenced-in place where we will stay the night. I know there is no reason for fear. Everything is routine, and everything moves quickly, that’s what I like. My breath is a manageable hitch, then I turn past the horse stables and it stops in my throat. I see Margot there, pushed up against a storage container with the stagehand’s hand up her dress. Blocked by shadow, I see them move together. His hand gropes, methodically pawing at her chest and between her legs. Her eyes are closed. Her mouth is open. Her chest moves quickly, and so does mine. His face is hidden in the curve of her neck. Blood runs hot, to my cheeks and lower stomach. I know I should leave, I know that this is some kind of sex and they need their privacy. But I can’t move. My eyes are widened right to the paint. My vision goes black, tunneling in. Margot’s brows are furrowed like she’s concentrating hard on something, and I’m concentrating too. Whimpers come out of her, just loud enough to hear. I take a step closer. Then she opens her eyes, and I’m running as fast as I can back to my trailer. I kick the door shut and collapse on the couch. The place is small but it fits my body fine. There’s a water stain on the ceiling—getting fatter every year—and I stare at it. I picture her mismatched face. It makes me feel strange, and sick. I picture him, and I’m angry. The stagehand, he’s new, he’s ruining my life. For hours I lay there. It’s her body and his hand, rolling behind my eyes. Then I get up. Reapply. Before showtime, when we huddle to-

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gether backstage, the crew likes me best. Among the screaming colours and drawn on eyebrows I’m just as weird as the rest of them. Everyone has stepped into the shoes of a character. Backstage they do up the laces. “Knock ‘em dead out there tonight, Giggles,” Sam the lion tamer says. He’s wearing the red coat now, with the heavy golden buttons. He’s relying on me to keep the show light and move everything along. They all are. This is my favourite part, behind the curtain, when I can hear the audience but they don’t have faces yet. The Mystical Warlock calls out my name, and I wheel out and down the fake wood path that’s been set on top of grass. I hop the unicycle up the stairs to the stage. People clap and blink a thousand eyes at me. Applause after I land the flip, and with my first act over and adrenaline rattling my teeth, I wait behind the curtain for my next cue. Before my second act I hear someone cry out on stage, and the crowd ignites in shock. The stage crew barrels past me, flinging the curtain open, and I hover behind them. There is Margot Hansen, being hoisted from the safety net, collapsing into the arms of her supporters. Her mom is there, her younger brothers, Mystical Warlock. The empty highwire buzzes overhead. I step into the open. She fell. She never falls. It can’t be true, but she’s fumbling like a fish in the net. I see blood. The stagehand rushes from the other side of the stage. Red streams down Margot’s chin and the crew ushers her to her feet and the lights go dim. There he is, sprinting through the shadows to kneel next to her and whisper something in her ear. He cups her cheek. The spotlight comes up on me. My chest

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burns and my limbs are locked and I can’t rip my eyes away from the couple frozen in the shadows. They’re taking her away and I’m tripping on oversized shoes, following them past the velvet curtains, into the wings, where she is deflated on the floor. “Is she okay?” I push past bodies to touch her shoulder. Warm, even through gloves. “Giggles, get back on stage!” “Margot, it’s okay, look,” I take a coin out of my pocket. I think a trick will make her laugh. A hand hits my chest, pushing me back. The coin clatters to the floor. It’s the stagehand, barricading me from her. “Stop,” he says, “You’re crowding her.” His arms hang loose at his sides, the hairs on his lip are a quivering balance act. Everybody looks away. “I’m fine,” she says, choked in tears. “Go back on stage, Giggles.” This time, I don’t like the name. The clown isn’t worried for her, the clown doesn’t care. There is no dignity as I straighten my back and walk back into the lights. The crowd is waiting. My smile widens, automatically. “And that, kids, is why you should never join the circus!” Nervous laughter, and we’re back into the act. Another Hansen fills in her place, and soon someone is holding me by the legs, whirling me around the trapeze while I act terrified. The audience hollers and thumps. The height doesn’t frighten me, I make the faces absently, swinging back and forth into the arms of people who will catch but not love me. After the big finale, I wait among the lighter fluid and the elephant prods and the hand chalk and the bucket of red meat until

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everyone is gone. Margot is still there tying up her shoes on the grass. There’s a square bandaid on her chin that wrinkles when she smiles at me. “Great show tonight,” she said, “I never get the chance to actually see it but I’ve been backstage all night so I got to watch. You’re the best part, you know. The crowd loves you. And how you kept the show rolling after,that was really something.” “It was nothing.” She’s looking at me. And I don’t know how to tell her. “I was worried about you.” It comes through my lips forced, like a cough. She grins, unaware. “Oh, you don’t have to worry, Giggles. It didn’t even hurt very much, and Ray was there to look after me.” “Ray?” “You met him, remember? We’re kind of seeing each other.” Ray. My heart cramps. “Oh.” “Don’t tell my parents!” She points an ardent finger at me. “Ray’s shy and I’m not supposed to be telling anybody yet, not even you, so you have to be discrete.” She’s standing now, too close to me. She balances on one foot, then the other. One of her eyebrows stretches further than the other, and there are only freckles on her left cheek. Mismatched, in the dark, she is so, so young. I mime locking my lips and throwing the key. Tittering a laugh, she rushes to me, throws her arms around my waist. Blood rushes down and down. “Thanks, Giggles,” she breathes into my blouse, “I love you.” I can sense the curl in her

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lip when she says it. She’s joking. When she pulls away I’m happy to be mute, to let the paint emote for me. I wave, and walk away. Slipping back to my trailer, I sit down and let my head rest in my hands. For once I wish the trailer was more like a home, and I can almost picture it. Someplace made of bricks, someplace solid where I could look out the window and know every road and hill and bent tree around me. But then, I’d be alone there too. There is great space between my fingers, the emptiness is infinite. My breathing sounds like choking, but I don’t cry. Crying would mean admitting something. There is great space between me and the mirror, and I look at myself. My makeup is smudged. E Two hours later and I’m walking south. Traffic is shuddering by on my right side. The roar of an audience has transformed into the hum of passing strangers’ conversation. They don’t look at me twice. The brown small shoes make my feet hurt, and the brass-hinged suitcase weighs down my arm. I turn into a building with a neon open sign. It smells of coffee and grease. I sit in a booth by myself. It’ll take at least a night for them to notice I’m gone. Maybe showtime tomorrow, they’ll look around and wonder where Giggles is. I can only hope that no one will recognize me anymore. A menu slaps down on the table, the laminated paper is smooth to the touch. A broad-shouldered waitress stands over me, a spot of lipstick on her teeth. “Hi, there,” she says. I meet her eyes. “Hello.”

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POETRY

Clown College by RC DeWinter sisyphus has nothing on me one big rock up and down every day the same damn thing so predictable

as i stand foolishly clutching the couple i’ve managed to catch without relaunching them into the air

i juggle seventy five balls in the air every day with no way to catch them all no octopus here

a clown’s farce that leaves me in tears awaking each morning to another performance predestined to fail

they bounce off my defenseless skin hard rubber satellites patterning bruises in shades of pain and despair

one big rock up a hill would be a picnic compared to this hell of vorticose spheres eat that sisyphus

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Stage | JOSHUA ATLAS 16 | Montana Mouthful

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NONFICTION

Play Fight by Candy Bedworth Play-fight Noun • An un-refereed contest in which participants try to dominate each other without inflicting injury. Verb • To engage in such a contest; to horseplay

I’m lying in the snow, arms pinned up above my head, brilliant sunlight sending haloes around his body above me. It’s a beautiful day, and just moments ago I was marvelling at ice crystals caught on cobwebs. But now my throat is tight and my breath is shallow and panicked. My mouth is parched, my brain fogs. E ‘Hey, babe, are you ok?’ He releases my arms and I curl on to my side, winded, wounded. ‘What’s up? I was just playing, sweetheart…’ he looks into my eyes, his face is full

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of concern. And it’s true, it was just a silly snow-fight, horseplay. But whatever my head says, my body is recoiling, and I stumble inside the house, lock myself in the bathroom and dry retch into the toilet bowl. E It had snowed in the night. Even before I opened my eyes, I could feel it. That soft stillness, pale light filtering through the curtains, despite the early hour. Our first proper snowfall since moving into our new home together. Magical! We bounced down to breakfast, pulled on our waterproofs and opened the door to dazzling beauty. We shuffled around in it and packed together a wonky snowman. The puppy snuffled and yapped, utterly delighted with the strangeness of it all. I waved at the neighbour’s kids hauling themselves up the steep bank behind the house, sliding down it on old plastic sacks. But it was so cold. After an hour, we headed back inside to unfreeze numb fingers and icy paws.

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At the door he threw a snowball at me. Loosely packed, it powdered to nothing almost before it hit. But it caught me unawares, icy crystals grazed my cheek and I turned away, hand urgently twisting the door knob. He grabbed me from behind in a bear hug, ‘Love ya’ he said. I pulled at the door, but he leaned to the side and we fell awkwardly into a soft drift, which puffed up around us in a swirl of snow dust. I tried to haul myself up, suddenly feeling heavy and ungainly, but he hugged me tightly and rolled us over, wrestling me. My stomach clenched, ‘Don’t,’ I whispered, but he pinned me down, giggling. He really had no idea.

My stomach clenched, ‘Don’t,’ I whispered, but he pinned me down, giggling. He really had no idea. Later he tries to ask what happened. But I’m still struggling to talk. Sitting quietly and drinking hot cups of tea is all I can manage today. I feel embarrassed and ashamed. But I know ‘that talk’ is coming, so the next day we sit over his famous morning pancakes and I tell him. About what play-fighting means to me. About my past, and how it hovers over my daily life, descending like a tornado without warning, leaving me bruised and winded. He struggles to take it in. I wonder if he’ll stay. E Actually as I got older, I worked out the triggers. I avoided anything that might involve sudden frights, unexpected contact, hard body 18 | Montana Mouthful

knocks. I pretended I was ‘too academic’ for sports. I declined invitations to rowdy parties and cautiously skirted the mosh-pit at crowded gigs. I avoided boys who favoured water fights and handsy flirting. I chose gentle pursuits, horses and books—and I loved my choices. They fed me, they soothed me, and life moved on. A slow journey to understanding gentle, loving contact, and unpicking the oxymoron of play-fighting. E My first memory of touch is curled up on my mother’s lap, her strong arms encircling me, her warm hand on my back. My second memory? A stinging slap, the sound of it ringing in my ear, the heat of it mottling my skin. I remember the ammonia-bleach smell of my mother’s care-worn hand as her palm angrily swept my face. In her endless battle to keep domestic order, my untidy piles of library books and my unkempt, knotty hair sometimes made me the enemy. But my mother was reliable. She didn’t confuse me with playful rough and tumble, she was either angry or she was not. I learned to read her body language in milliseconds. I loved her, passionately, for her transparency. My father was different. Sudden and unexpected roughhousing, horse-play, tickling—whatever he called it, it always ended with me cowering in hot shame from his laughing taunts. I hid the bruises, the arm twists and the pinches, it was only play-fighting after all, wasn’t it? E Many years later, I tell my therapist, laughing and crying in disbelief, that I had read about the annual ‘Playfight Festival’, where participants pay 250 euros to be roughhoused by strangers in Switzerland. Their website talks of ‘conscious warrior intimacy’ Vol. 2 • Issue 1


but I’m not convinced, and nor is she. She talks of dissonance, she tells me to take it slow, and listen to my body. And to trust that I will know love when I find it. E My first husband was gentle—and jealous. I was young - and thoughtless. My verbal flirting, with friends of both sexes seemed harmless to me, just words. I became known for my witty linguistic sparring. But it fell like blows upon his skin. I hurt him with those weapons, and in truth I revelled in my newfound power, I was heady with it. He punished me for that, and our love unwound painfully as I started flinching whenever he reached for me. We parted without kindness or grace and I am sorry for that. I didn’t know then how much un-learning I had to do. E But don’t feel sad for me, because all these years later I have a treasure trove of touch memories, that swirl and swoop, that gently touch my dreams, that surprise me in the supermarket queue, and that console me in the dark moments. E For instance, just last night, on the landing, leaning on the wall outside the bathroom, I’m waiting for the kids to finish spitting gobs of minty toothpaste into the basin I’ve just cleaned. My partner, that man who wrestled me in the snow, the man who stayed, walks by with an armful of fresh ironing ready to receive muddy knees and inky blots the following day. He pauses, leans in, and brushes my hand with his. No words. Just the warmth of his hand brushing my age-spotted skin. A moment of connection. These days our bodies circle each other like distant planets in

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the seemingly never-ending domestic constellations of work, kids, cooking and cleaning, but nevertheless I still feel that gravitational pull when our orbits collide.

I still feel that gravitational pull when our orbits collide. And there is more, so much more. I vividly remember stroking the face of my first-born and how that slowed my breathing and grounded me in the present like nothing before or since. Just him and me, circling and settling, both in awe of the other. Now he towers over me, with teenage hormones coursing through his veins. And yet, an evening in front of the TV, cushions and snuggle blankets rucked up around us, he will gently lean into me, or rest those giant feet across my lap. Standing in the kitchen, he calls to the dog and tugs hard at the ratty chew toy we’ve kept from puppyhood. The dog engages and pulls back, growling. I pause, and blink hard, but then I turn to him smiling, ready to laugh. E And more. At bedtime tonight, my youngest asks to be tickled, and although it takes me a moment to gather myself, I scribble my fingers softly over his toddlers pot-bellied tummy and he squeals in pure delight, his eyes shining. I remember to breathe. I blow a raspberry on that squishy tum and I smile into his glorious face. ‘Mommy play’ he chuckles. I’m getting there.

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| BARBARA MARTIN

Happy 20 | Montana Mouthful

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POETRY

Yellow Clown Teeth by Richard King Perkins II At the circus with my great aunt, an indiscriminate clown chose her to be part of the act— sat on her lap, making odd, silent innuendos that only the adults laughed at. I was confused but came to her defense with all I had, stomped on that clown’s floppy shoe until I found foot, pushed him away with two small hands almost curled into fists

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until the entire audience was laughing except me and the clown who got angry, I suppose, and stepped on my foot really hard, making me wince but pretending it was all in good fun. I don’t hate clowns or fear them but it was the first time I knew a smiling face could be hiding so much more than yellow teeth and spit.

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POETRY

Finger-wagging by Romana Iorga Do it in pairs. If there’s no one left in the world, wag at yourself. The rules are simple: find something to wag about. Reading too much. Cheating. Bad eating habits. Lack of exercise. Exorcisms. Out of body experiences. Politics, money, religion. Seriousness or frivolity. Sleeping. Snoring. Breathing. Doing it over and over, whatever it is you’re doing. Dreaming of elsewhere and staying put. Those you wag at must know they’ve committed a crime. If they don’t, your wagging is pointless. You might as well have stuffed your foot in your mouth. Followed by the rest of your body.

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Wagging is an art. Dogs do it well with their tails. You don’t have a tail, one would hope, so a finger must do. Wagging with any other body part will get you in trouble. And last but not least, what’s at stake. Who gets the prize, takes home the spoils, writes the poem. Who’s crowned and whose head must fall. Hint: too often it’s one and the same. In other words, you. Let’s not kid ourselves. It’s always been you.

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POETRY

Tail-isman by Bryn Gribben What is worse—the day you stole the ceramic Siamese cat from our neighbors’ porch, or the fact that I’d suggested it and realized I’d have to be careful about what I asked you for?

as when I found, for your birthday, a vintage ceramic Siamese cat whiskey decanter, so perfect—”but empty,” you said, removing its fragile head, peering inside, disappointed.

Unlike or too like? One day you saw the real Siamese cat sitting next to the ceramic one—then you apologized for drinking every bottle in the liquor cabinet—then I asked you to forgive me for checking all your texts and finding other women—

What hurts more: noting, one day, the neighbors’ cat (ceramic) cracked in half, or both of us thinking we could steal it again, repair what once we’d simply taken, the present, perfect and empty, or the loyal beating heart?

When it becomes hard to tell the good from the bad, a talisman can seem as much a curse as cure:

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FICTION

Done Did It by Erin Cork

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t began as a joke a few years back. We joined a league, ordered clown shoes and shirts with our bowling names embroidered on the chest. We embraced our alter egos: Lena Waybak, Penny Pinscher, Nessa Sary and Katy Didit. Pins dropped, nachos bubbled, arcade games gunned, dinged and spiraled. Eighties hits in surround sound moved us. We shook our groove things and belted out the chorus. Strikes fell in fast lanes. She threw a gutter ball, swung around, arms suspended like a kite in a crosswind. We’d laugh, “Here comes Katy.” There were memorable karaoke renditions, Whitney, Patsy and Gloria Gaynor. It was all fun and games until a misstep on a table top led to a broken ankle and sobbing version of “Last Goodbye” on the way to the emergency room. Back then she was engaged. Drinking was a game. A quarter in a glass, spin of the bottle, less truth, more dare. Katy became her go to. Dumped and broken she whammed, bammed and blamed, ruining moments. A 24 | Montana Mouthful

predictable follow up of pathetic apologies, tearful regrets and woe is me laments. There were blown sobriety tests. A litany of never agains and twelve step hallelujahs. We’d say, “You can come but leave Katy at home.” The monster already created burst through doors unexpected and uninvited. Life of the party to least likely in three easy steps. The before. After. And in between a beeping monitor, wavy line of tension signaling hope and recovery. We wanted to believe our fearless friend would be okay. She’d survive. Our posse needed her. She completed us. Some people aren’t prone to one of anything. She tried. Moderation didn’t take. Katy wanted to twist and shout. She loved a scene, sought out release, the eye of the storm, attention’s center. We were tired. Late night sessions became hard decisions. Choices between altering our behavior, our own lives for her company veered toward leaving her behind. She got it. Said she understood. Vol. 2 • Issue 1


Marionette | SYDNEY HARRIS

We all grieved in textbook stages then adjusted, moved on. We looked for a replacement, a fourth for the league. It didn’t work out. We packed up the shoes and shirts, went to grad school and suburbia. We heard that she joined a band, banged a montanamouthful.com

tambourine and sang her heart out. She gained and lost, gatewayed and went missing. She changed like seasons, got hung up between fall and winter. In one last surge towards spring she lifted from a rooftop, certain she’d take flight. Montana Mouthful | 25


POETRY

His Eldest Son Would Abuse the Household Staff in the Following Manner by Jeffrey Burghauser Having called a maid, the little shit Makes her stand inside of the acute Wedge that’s rendered by an open door; Having forced her to insert her foreFinger and her thumb into the slit That the door & molding constitute Near the middle hinge of naval brass, His complexion reddens like a brick As he dances like a lunatic Over marble green as sparrowgrass.

Since the egg is broader than the slit, She is stuck: Release the egg, and hatch Yet another mess she’d have to clean; Any effort to outthink the mean, Simple insolence sustaining it Might reorient the door, and ratch All those fingers like a grey linnet Trapped inside a spinning dynamo— Or await aid, and, while doing so, Hemorrhage dignity by the minute.

Having sprinted all the way around To the other side (recall that these Doors are massive), he produces one Linen-colored egg, and, thereupon (Under some Pissarro or renowned Flemish portrait of Maimonides) Sticks it where her fingers form a vise. Nietzsche taught in his eternal jeer How to render Force an atmosphere; Someone else’s woe, your paradise.

And the maid cannot appeal to her Master, for he’s skipped away, attacked With moronic joy at what he’s done. This is Richard Cory’s eldest son, Scrambled in a gaily mindless whir (Nicotine’d, caffeine’d, and armagnac’d) To abuse the small Rodin with sticks— To engage in tickling the mare, Barking Heil, mein Führer! to a pear, Peepingtommery, or politics.

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Wooden Clown Toy | JOSHUA ATLAS

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POETRY

Generation Z by Kathryn Staublin They were born with square eyes and an internal light

Asleep, it would buzz and their muscles would quake

Their fingers were plastic and weren’t bent quite right

Each ring in their ears was an hour awake

Their inner thoughts flickered while their limbs turned to stone

But with the device they held in their hands

They’d have deep conversations whilst sitting alone

Their batteries would drain into dreams far from grand

They’d eat with their eyes while all else went unseen

The nightmares became real when reality struck

And they’d soak up the rays off their LED screens

Because with their real friends they were now out of luck

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FICTION

Jungleball by Ken Elliott

W

e often played basketball at school during lunch. Mark and I rarely brought anything to eat and never had money, so we would be out there early, shooting a game of horse or around the world. If we got enough people to play, we would quickly choose teams and play to the bell. Whoever had the highest score by then was the winner. Most of us had attended the school since elementary, so we all knew each other fairly well. We had our circles of friends that sometimes overlapped, but this was the year that our social groups started to become more sharply stratified. We didn’t really see it happening nor did we know why. I find it interesting now, looking back, to note that the kids I chose to socialize with didn’t stay at Freedom Christian all the way to graduation; we all left within a year or two—and some of us not by choice. There was an invisible class system developing. It wasn’t so much financial, though that might have been part of it. It was montanamouthful.com

more philosophical—we just didn’t see things the same way. The basketball court was out on the blacktop behind the church building. It served as the parking lot for the church on Sunday, and there was a ditch that ran along behind it. Mark and I were out there one day with Tabby lazily shooting baskets during lunch. We had known Tabby for years, but it was only during church camp, when she was caught ditching with us, that she began to earn a higher place in our estimation. Some guys began showing up, and it was suggested that we start a game. We chose teams. Dave Simper and Kyle were on the other team, naturally, and Tabby was the only one left unchosen. “Girls aren’t allowed to play anyway,” Dave teased her. “You can be the cheerleader.” “It’s my ball, asshole. Besides, I’ll wipe up the court with your dumb ass.” Tabby never took shit from anyone. “I don’t feel like playing anyway,” Luke Montana Mouthful | 29


said, and he just walked away, leaving a spot on our team for Tabby. Tabby was taller than anyone on our team. She could be fearsome when she wanted to be, and no one had forgotten the time she stabbed Tim Duggan with a pencil in the third grade, least of all Tim, who still had a blue spot on his forearm that hadn’t gone away. She never seemed to belong in a dress, but since that was required of girls by our school’s dress code, there she was, running up and down the court in her dress, calling for the ball. It was usually a fairly evenly matched game at lunch, but with Tabby on our team, we were annihilating them. She was fast, and brutal, and a deadly shot. We were all stunned at her athleticism. Dave Simper was clearly growing frustrated. With about five minutes left to go in the lunch period and the ball in his possession, he stopped dribbling and yelled: “Jungleball!” We knew what this meant: All rules went out the window; it was a free-for-all. Dave tucked the ball under his arm and stiff armed Pat out of his way and charged at the basket. We clawed at him and tried to rip the ball loose. It was to no avail. He scored, then went up, got his own rebound and scored again. “What the hell is this?” Tabby asked. “Jungleball,” I told her. “No rules.” “What? That’s bullshit.” I shrugged. “It’s how we play sometimes.” Tabby went up to get the rebound from a missed shot from one of other team’s players and she was shoved to the ground by a kid named Kevin. He grabbed the ball as it came down. “What was that?” she spat at him from the blacktop. Kevin went to shoot but was

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hack from behind by Axel who grabbed the ball and headed in the other direction. Tabby was up now and running with the pack. She inserted herself into the thick of the action under the basket. Her arms and elbows were flying as she cursed everyone in her way. She was really getting the hang of it. She punched Kyle in the side of the head. He went down and crawled to the side of the court. But when she went up for a shot, Dave grabbed the sleeve of her dress and ripped it clean off. The ball bounced off and stopped by the fence as we all watched to see what would happen next. Tabby looked down at her bare arm then back up to Dave. Dave was the tallest kid in our class, maybe in the whole school, but he looked petrified at this moment. “Sorry, Tabby,” he said. Maybe it was out a sense of self preservation, but he seemed to really mean it. “Sorry my ass,” she said and she went at him with her fists swinging, left and right. Dave tried to back away, then he tried to grab her arms. She landed a couple of blows before he finally fell to the ground and rolled over on his hands and knees with his arms over his head in a defensive posture. We let her take a few more swings before we pulled her off of him. Except for Kyle, none of us really liked Dave all that much. The bell rang. We all looked back toward the lunch tables. No authority seemed to have been alerted. We tried to calm Tabby down, but she was still in a rage. Dave got up holding one hand over his eye. The opposite cheek was red. He glared at Tabby through his good eye. “It’s called ‘jungleball’ you stupid bitch!” He walked over to

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Untitled | JOSHUA ATLAS

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where basketball lay and threw it over into the ditch. “What the hell!” Tabby yelled. She started toward him again, but thought the better of it! “You’re gonna go get that, you asshole!” “Wanna bet?” Dave snapped as he stormed off, still holding his eye, his group of friends in tow. We looked at Tabby. “I’ll climb over the fence and get it after school,” I told her. “Bullshit. I’m getting it right now.” She headed toward the ditch. “You’re gonna be late to class,” Mark told her. “I don’t give a shit,” she said. As we walked back, I saw her climbing over the fence in her white dress and dropping down to the other side. After lunch I had typing class. We practiced on huge, metal, manual typewriters that had, no doubt, been donated by someone. Both Dave and Tabby were enrolled in that class though neither was present when the bell rang. I could see Mrs. Bird marking in her roll book. I told her that Tabby was at school and so was Dave. They just might be a little late to class. “Are they okay?” Mrs. Bird asked. She was a very sweet, compact, little Hispanic woman. “Um…I think so,” I said. I didn’t quite know what to tell her. Dave came in first, holding a baggy filled with ice over his eye. His face was puffy and red, and I could see now that his lip was split. He looked over to where Tabby usually sat; his one eye seemed wild and afraid. He seemed somewhat relieved to find her seat empty.

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“Oh my goodness! What happened to you?” Mrs. Bird asked him. Dave sat down sullenly in his seat and hunched over his typewriter. “Nothing. Basketball. I don’t want to talk about it. I was beginning to wonder what had happened to Tabby and if I should alert Mrs. Bird as to her whereabouts. Then she walked in. She looked as if she had been raised by wolves. Her dress was covered in filth and dead weeds. She must have slid down the dirt bank of the ditch and forged the water to the other side. And apparently her dress had caught on the fence coming back over. Besides the missing sleeve, it was ripped all down one side so the side of her bra was exposed. She held her basketball under one arm. “Oh, my!” Mrs. Bird was overcome. “What is going on? Tabitha, are you okay? Do you need to go to the nurse? Do you want to get some clothes? What on earth happened to you?” Tabby calmly placed her ball on the ground and took her seat two rows ahead of me. “No, I’m fine,” she said. “I just had to go get my ball in the ditch.” She looked over at Dave several seats away in the same row. “Someone threw it over there.” Dave continued looking straight down. “Okay,” Mrs. Bird said reluctantly. “We’re going to continue practicing today. Open your workbooks to page…” As Mrs. Bird talked on, Tabby turned around at me and smiled. I smiled back. In the years to come, we would grow much closer to Tabby, but I knew right there, at that moment, that she was one of us.

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SHERRI HARVEY

Unruly Sunrise: Oprah Friendship Cruise 2019

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Moses supposes his nose is... | JON SHAW


POETRY

Johnny Reno by Richard King Perkins II and me devised “fun houses” in my garage for ourselves and the neighborhood kids each summer. We always kept a Pay as You Leave placard posted on the entrance door.   After a little fine-tuning, our methods were perfected: We’d slap our friends’ faces with ketchup-covered latex gloves   make them walk through bed pans filled with recently boiled water   and shoot them in the ass with pellet guns if they began to get a little cautious.

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As a grand finale, we’d blow Comet from its container into the sealed garage with an air compressor, Through the choking and snorting, through the burning eyes, we’d shake the kids down for all the money they had,   laughing through our gauze masks and wrap-around goggles   because it was our first business and we got to make up all the weapons and all the rules of warfare.

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Le Petit Garcon | BARBARA MARTIN 36 | Montana Mouthful

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NONFICTION

The Roommate by Brett Ramseyer

G

oing in blind to freshmen dorms really cleared my vision, like a bad smell or a shot to the gut. If Jeff Spicolli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Chris Farley mated to drop a soccer playing half-clone, all clown, at Michigan State, then I roomed with him freshman year. Josh arrived first to 220 Campbell Hall and lay claim to the top bunk and the nearest closet. His 200 CD changer stereo took up a small car’s parking space in the tiny, ancient room. It covered a portion of his closet opening.  He sat backwards on his dorm provided desk chair two feet from the stereo pointing his remote at it and changing CDs faster than any song could play. I thought my ear drums would bleed. “It’s huge,” I said. “I know. Right?” said Josh tucking his greased dishwater locks behind his ears. His darker eyebrows bounced to the rhythm of the music, his Adam’s apple pulsed like a house beat. montanamouthful.com

Lloyd and Harry from Dumb and Dumber and his idol, Chris Farley from his favorite movie Tommyboy hung over his desk. I suspected John Belushi in a sweater from Animal House almost made the cut, but remained rolled up in the back of his closet under a beer helmet. No matter which posters he hung, he enjoyed the cinematic equivalent of alcohol poisoning followed by lobotomy. Somehow we met for five minutes at orientation months earlier.  I remembered he wanted to play Big Ten soccer, me, baseball. Sports was our common thread. His thin bouncing frame rippled from considerable soccer mileage.  I stood an inch or two taller and outweighed him by at least thirty pounds. The soccer program cut him in two days. I was cut in the final infield mowing six weeks into the fall. That connection frayed. Josh made friends easily, a guy’s guy. He talked about nothing for long stretches of time at full jocular volume. He introduced me to half the floor. I faded to the background Montana Mouthful | 37


accustomed to country solitude. I bet he moaned about rooming with a square. He piled clothes, shoes, and occasionally course work on his desk, and he smelled like acid feet. Socks, a foreign concept never graced his hooves. Unshod, he spread a mutant funk through the room. My eyes watered. “Jesus, you stink,” I said. “I can’t even think.” “I know. Right?” Always considerate he whipped out a can of disinfectant spray that promised a 99.9% kill rate, but it only managed to aerosolize the cloud and make it a flavor. I opened the window to the winter rush of Grand River Avenue and left the room, my green backpack over my shoulder. 8:00 PM and I still had four hours of studying to do, my grades teetered. Josh ‘studied’ in the library, but would return early to the room with Tammy and Vanessa, thin, supple sophomores. I took a break from studying. Tammy liked him.

Tammy liked him. Vanessa wasn’t interested in me. I questioned Tammy’s brilliance. I returned to my books. Vanessa wasn’t interested in me. I questioned Tammy’s brilliance. I returned to my books. In a month he hit it with Tammy on some frat house porch then proceeded to avoid her. In January in the twenty below zero days, Josh convinced me to pay the $5 entrance fee into the dorm game, Assassins. I armed my-

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self with a neon pistol with a five shot clip for firing orange suction darts. Each entrant hunted down a name from a slip of paper. I planned to hunt a stranger and put a dart on his frame. Vigilance was key, my head kept on a swivel 24/7. Would he meet death in the shower? The cafeteria? On the way to class? Beyond competitive I expected to win. The last man standing took home the collective pot. I purchased my pistol before Josh. I smirked at beating him to the punch. After my last class for the day I pulled my mission out of my lobby mailbox.  The unfamiliar name required recon. We were allowed to have some fun in the pre-terrorism days. Our room door stood open, John and Mike from down the hall sat shooting the shit with Josh in front of his stereo. They collected floormates for a dinner troop to eat together in the Landon cafe. “You coming Brett?” John asked. “Yeah, give me a minute. I have to pack some heat.” I pulled out my pistol bigger than a Glock and brandished it like double oh seven. “I have my mission.  Do you know who this guy is, John?” I handed him the paper. “Sweeet!” said Josh looking at my pistol. “I haven’t bought my gun yet. Can I see yours?” “Sure.” I tossed it over to him. “I know this guy. He lives on the third floor,” said John. An orange dart from my pistol shot from two feet splattered into my gut. “You’re dead,” said Josh. “Ha ha, dickhead. Give me my gun back. What room is he in, John?” “No dude, you’re dead,” said Josh.

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Untitled, Nassau Street | MARC ALEXANDRE

In five seconds it registered and when it did my face curled up like Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement of the Dallas Police Station.  Josh started to laugh, so did John and Mike. “Yeah, what room is he in, John?” said my roommate Josh Ruby. He held up his mission slip bearing my name. “You’re an asshole.” “I know. Right? Since you won’t be needing this, can I use your gun.” If I was on the fence before, it was definite now. I hated that douchebag. He of course could not wait to go Greek

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in the spring. He settled on SAE, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Sexual Assault Expected, the frat sanctioned the year before for hiring two women to (ahem) help each other entertain the fellas in rumpus room was his first choice. During Rush his would be brothers kept him awake and unwashed for a week straight and consequently kept him out of the room. I had the funkless flat to myself for the first extend stay of my freshman year. I could grow accustomed to this kind of Greek life too. He staggered into our room on Thursday morning and collapsed on his bed skipping

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the day’s classes to sleep for the first time in days. I walked to my German and history classes.  When I returned near four in the afternoon he was gone again, but some stink stayed behind. I opened the window. By Saturday it felt like Josh would never return. For some reason he cleaned the tower of shit off his desk and I thought I might be forever liberated. So I called my new girlfriend. At 3:00 AM Sunday morning he blasted through the door, his steps meandering, his toes dragging. He woke us both up, but settled on his bunk. My girlfriend cuddled into my neck and I didn’t mind too much that I was awake. We dozed again until Josh sat up leaning toward the window. He stuck is head in the casement that rose to the ceiling and dropped just above my mattress. Without further warning he vomited torrents and heaves of fraternity initiation in viscous splattering gobs. They hit the window, bounced off the sill and onto my blankets. My girlfriend screamed and ducked under cover. Droplets found my cursing lips. I recoiled in disgust.  

He voided Lloyd. Hacked up his Harry. Belushied damn near everywhere. I started to put a foot on the floor to evacuate ground zero when he leaned out into the room. He proceeded to paint the one-hundred square feet around us. He voided Lloyd.

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Hacked up his Harry. Belushied damn near everywhere. I dragged him to the community bathroom down the hall, threw him at a toilet. He was all heaved out by then. I considered killing him with his head between the jaws of the seat and bowl. I dragged him back. My girlfriend had one more shoe to put on and she hopsplotched out the door. Returning to the stench had me seeing red. I yelled. He could neither walk nor talk. He should have cleaned it up, but he was a rag and the acid might implant the foul odor with permanence into every surface.  Removing it from my comforter required chemicals. I overloaded the basement washing machine with soap. I rammed in the quarters like it was my fist to his head. I slid the bunks out with him lying atop them. I emptied the bathroom paper towel dispenser and scraped the bile off the window, the sill, the walls, the floor and into the garbage that I ran to the dumpster. I opened the window as far as it would go into the sub-freezing March morning.  If he froze to death, I knew I would be exonerated. I saw a floor acquaintance in the bathroom who just happened to lumber in bleary eyed for a late night piss. I asked if I could sleep on his couch because my roommate obliterated my room. It was 4:30 AM. He leaned on the door jamb peering in and said, “Whoa.” He let me in and gave me a blanket.  I stared two smoldering holes into his ceiling until 6:00 when I just got up and left. When Josh finally regained consciousness I told him what he did. “No way. I didn’t do that,” he said.

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“Look around, dipshit.  You’re cleaning this up.” We didn’t talk much after that. He spent a lot of time fratting. I couldn’t see his face without wanting to strike him. I do not remember saying goodbye at the end of the semester and I cannot remember who moved out for the summer first. I saw him one more time for the rest of my life at my convocation at the Breslin Center. I did not dress in my gown, but wanted to hear the guest speaker.  I sat up off the floor away from the other graduates. Before the event began I saw Josh on the opposite side of the arena. He had a pretty girl on each arm, they were holding him up. His toes were dragging and he was fall down drunk. I have no idea if he was graduating. He wasn’t in a gown. Elie Wiesel, the author of Night and Holocaust survivor, told us that the opposite

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We were engaged for a time, but were no more. I looked at her and shrugged. I looked again at Josh and seethed. of love was not hate, but indifference. I have never forgotten that. On the floor of the arena in her gown sat my freshman year girlfriend who I broke up with the summer before our senior year. We were engaged for a time, but were no more. I looked at her and shrugged. I looked again at Josh and seethed. According to Wiesel’s wisdom I was closer to loving my first roommate than her. Crazy. I know. Right?

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Jester | ANNA RUNNALLS 42 | Montana Mouthful

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POETRY

Balloon Bender by “Catfish” John Wojtowicz He started with the wiener dog, the dachshund, the quintessential balloon animal. With a few more locking twists and a pinch of the tail, he’d conquered the standard poodle.   His hands stopped shaking around the time he mastered a hook twist for the monkey’s head   which he showed his probation officer who checked ‘magical thinking’ off on his Mental Status Report.   The trick was pumping just enough air to keep the balloons firm but still bendable.

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He grew accustomed to loosing this gamble with a snap of latex and loud poplearning to laugh at the letdown. He’d wake up with bits of balloon stuck to his face, half-deflated giraffes at his feet and start making butterflies.   When the cravings got strong, he set up shop on a well-acquainted park bench with hand pump instead of hard liquor   making pirate swords and Viking helmets, flower bouquets and fairy wings, fielding requests for alligators and kangaroos.   The kids’ smiles made him smile suggesting the discovery of a new method for extracting happiness from the world.

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Of Ascension | OLIVIA PRIDEMORE 44 | Montana Mouthful

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NONFICTION

Camp Songs by Harvey Silverman

T

he building, the bunk, was rectangular, long and somewhat narrow with a central hallway running its full length. Rooms opened onto the hallway opposite one another, five pairs, each room with three simple metal bed frames atop of each was a thin and uneven mattress. The rearmost part of the building was supported by heavy wooden posts and was thereby suspended over water when the tidal river was at its highest rise. Bare light bulbs, each operated by a pull chain, were in plain ceiling fixtures in each room and in the hallway. At the front of the bunk was a small screened area the width of the building and little used. On the wall of that screened in space was a small fuse box with two fuses. It was that fuse box that made the building vulnerable to our attack. Summer camp was more than fun—it was experiential. How could it have been otherwise at the end of the 1950s; sailing, swimming, playing ball all under the direction of young montanamouthful.com

men in their twenties, themselves enjoying a paid playtime. Perhaps the time without structure was even better, card games, the local radio station, comic books, and particularly talking about the mysteries that capture the curiosity and focus of the peripubescent, divining truth from rumor, fact from imagination, and learning the ribald songs that titillate those hormonal yearnings. The camp was owned and operated by a kindly and gentle somewhat elderly couple somehow suggestive of one’s grandparents with whom one might spend the summer. Their adult son, Jeff, less kindly and more authoritative, provided the necessary direction and discipline required to safely manage nearly one hundred boys freed from parental restraints. That summer the camp had accepted more twelve and thirteen year olds than that single bunk could house so three of us, veteran campers, were placed into a small auxiliary structure along with an ineffectual and dull junior counselor to watch over us. We were, of Montana Mouthful | 45


course, a part of all activities with the main group and had many friends among those campers from prior summers. But we also considered ourselves a special threesome, our cabin physically separate and up a gentle slope from the bunk and so in a sense on our own.

I do not recall exactly how I came up with the idea for the raid. I do not recall exactly how I came up with the idea for the raid. There had been nothing of the sort during my three summers at camp but one heard stories of episodes in the more distant past—such as when one of the camp’s cars had somehow been placed on a float out in the swimming area in the dead of a night. Campers came from various communities in a few states but Dave and I went to the same school and had been friends since the first grade. His cousin was our third cabinmate. Neither hesitated when I offered my plan which first necessitated a trial run. One night, after our pasty and unintimidating counselor had fallen asleep, we noiselessly—at least as noiseless as boys our age could be—made our way out of the cabin, down the hill to the bunk. A single light in the hall was the only illumination. The screen door luckily did not creak as we opened it and we then made our way down the hall, going into several of the rooms and leaving a note that simply said, “You have been raided.” We returned to our cabin, unseen, unheard, and

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most importantly uncaught. Breakfast a few hours later in the camp’s dining hall was accusation filled. We sat as usual at one of the tables that held ten or a dozen, eating breakfast as usual, denying all knowledge of any raid or notes left. “It must have been kids from one of the other bunks,” we suggested. The kids in the older bunk were unlikely to have done anything so benign as leaving a note, the younger kids in the other unlikely to have been able to successfully manage such an operation. Of course they knew it had been us. And we knew they knew. But there was no proof, no evidence, merely reasonable suspicion. By the following day the episode had been forgotten. We waited a number of days until finally our counselor had his once monthly night off, away from camp. Just before midnight, before the counselor’s scheduled return, we again made our way down the hill to the bunk. As usual, just a single ceiling light in the hall was on. We entered the front area and I quietly loosened the two fuses in the fuse box. The hall went dark and we split up as planned, going into each room and pulling the chain for each ceiling light. Almost every room had a radio brought by one camper or another. Each was always tuned to the same local top 40 station that featured our favorite DJ, Arnie “Woo-Woo” Ginsburg who played both music and repeated commercials for Adventure Car Hop drive-in restaurant. We turned all the radios on. We returned to the front and reported to one another what was done. Though the most difficult part of our adventure had been accomplished it was at this point we were

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most anxious. “Okay? Ready?” Anxiety’s adrenaline caused me to be tremulous as I quickly tightened the two fuses and then we ran furiously out the door up the hill to our cabin while the bunk lit up brightly and radios, at full volume, blasted out a rock and roll song. We arrived breathless, the three of us all speaking at the same time, trying to be quiet and whisper but much too excited for that. The bunk was not directly in our sight from where we stood but we heard the shouting and confusion and saw the light in the sky above the bunk. We had done it and gotten away. The next morning in the dining hall before any food was served Jeff, appearing somber and angry at the same time, stood up and made clear that he was displeased with the night’s events and that, further, immediate dismissal from camp would attend any camper involved in future mischief of any sort. That was fine with us. We were done. The remainder of the camp summer proceeded uneventfully, simultaneously too fast and seemingly without end. That was my last year at camp. Dave and I remained friends through high school and, still best friends, went off to college in different states. One college summer I was living in a summer sublet while Dave was back to camp, this time as a counselor. Circumstance allowed me one day to join somebody driving the hour and a half to camp so that I could visit with my friend and indulge in a bit of nostalgia by seeing camp again. The owners, still kindly and gentle and seemingly no older, welcomed me warmly and invited me to share lunch with them at their

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table in the camp’s unchanged dining hall. Jeff was there and had me stand as he introduced me to the assembled campers. I could not have felt more welcome and had a delightful lunch chatting about camp and college and hearing about some of my friends from my camp days. Following lunch I spent time with Dave and his campers, enjoying the memory lane trip. Which was when I made a major error in judgement.

I could not help but recount the story of the raid. A story to which the campers closely listened. Walking around camp unsurprisingly encouraged telling stories and anecdotes of our own time as campers. I could not help but recount the story of the raid. A story to which the campers closely listened. I left late that afternoon after a very pleasant visit. It was wonderful to have been back at camp which I found so much smaller than memory had registered. It was not until the next week when I spoke with Dave that I learned that very evening his campers had attempted to repeat our raid on another, younger, bunk. He described to me chaos, campers running every which way in the night’s darkness, counselors chasing, the owners distraught, Jeff beyond furious. I knew I would not be visiting camp again.

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POETRY

April Fools Regrets by Jill Hawkins Once, I stayed the night with my neighbor Crystal, she was homeschooled and it took two years for her parents to let my stay because I went to public school and wore blue eye-shadow.

I can’t explain why I wanted to shock her after I worked so hard to earn their approval.

We did her chores and had scripture lessons, then we painted our toenails, secretly.

When a family friend only had room for the younger siblings my father offered for Crystal to stay with us.

We huddled in a single bed centered under an alcove where I pretended to be a lesbian.

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Nine months later, after a storm, her little sister was reading in the closet by candle light and caught the hem of a Sunday dress on fire.

At bath time, she stood shivering by the claw footed tub wondering if I was watching close by.

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While Montana Mouthful seeks and accepts stories, poetry, and artwork from around the world, we wish to connect with writers and artists of various sorts from our local Helena community. Montana Mouthful and The Shop University have teamed up to include an essay or story in each issue from one of The Shop University’s students. The Shop University was founded and is operated by Suzy Williams, and she writes the following message: The Shop University is so excited to be a regular feature in Montana Mouthful magazine. The ShopU teaches extensive daily English classes to teenagers and adults in the Helena area. Over 80 students from over 40 different countries have walked through the door. These 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. The ShopU exists to help these students thrive in our community by

meeting their English goals. These 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. Most adults to 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.

This issue features a nonfiction essay written by Kozue Nakama. After tough times in her new country, America, Kozue finally changed the ways she thinks and opened her mind up. She currently enjoys being different, trying new things, and traveling across the states. She takes her favorite class at The Shop University, and she aims for the next English level with Suzy Williams.

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NONFICTION

180° Different View by Kozue Nakama

“I

DO NOT WANT TO MOVE TO AMERICA!!!” me, 14 years old at the time, cried. I would say I was a typical girl who would stay in her country her whole life. Who would want to live in another country, leave everything behind, and start your life over? Well, some would, but definitely not me! I was the girl who always wished to be just “ordinary”. I didn’t have to be special at all. I was happy as I was, being ordinary. “I am pretty satisfied with my country, and with my current life. Why do I have to move to a new country even though I do not want to...?” I cried to my parents. That was how my American life started.  My high school life in America was terrible. New life, new school, new place, new culture, and new people? Why do I have to start my life over again and learn a new language? No way. It was a whole different world and I hated everything. A lot of students were interested in me and talked to me at first, but I just had a “don’t-bother-me” attitude. 14 year50 | Montana Mouthful

old me, was definitely hitting the age called “teenager.” Not easy at all. A very difficult and complicated age. A year later, no one bothered or talked to me anymore just like I wished, but I didn’t care because I kept telling myself “I have tons of friends in my country; I do not need any friends here at all!!!” I was very stubborn because all I wanted was to go back to my home country, but it was a sad thing. The only thing that I could do was cry all day, at home and at school because I was still under-age and I could not go back and live on my own.    Luckily or unluckily, I grew up with technology, so it was easy to stay in touch with friends. I always wondered what my friends were doing in the meantime. I wanted to know, I wanted to talk, and I always had to check on what my friends were doing. But checking on my friends made me feel like my heart was tearing apart at the same time. “If I were still in my country, I would also be in these pictures.... I would be on these trips and Vol. 2 • Issue 1


I would have fun times with them....” I just couldn’t stop. Simply the fact “I want to know” made me more pessimistic. Why do I have to have this kind of life...? I was always mad at my life and crying. And I felt so miserable because it seemed like I was the only one who was struggling, not enjoying my life at all, but sobbing all the time. I wonder how long it took. Little by little, that turned into strength. “Then I will have a life that my friends can never have!”  Looking back, my life changed since the day I moved to this country. Definitely in a bad way at the beginning. I felt like my life just flipped 180 degrees over in a day. But you know, if I had seen the first 180 degrees in my country, then I should see the other 180 degrees in this country and what it offers. Just like I decided that I would have a completely different life that my friends could never have. Since then my life that didn’t even have a ray of light, just cleared out and I felt a lot better. “Because my life is not a typical life anymore, why don’t I have a totally different life then?” Meanwhile there was one more thing that I had realized: Everything is actually the way you take it. The same thing, some take as positive and some take as negative. My friends that moved to this country exactly like me, from the same country, with their family and it was of course not their wish, did not actually mind living here at all. They were not interested in America or American culture, but they did not look sad either. Surprisingly they actually fit in. That was the only difference, but that actually gave us a HUGE difference. It took a long time, but I realized that. I realized it was very important to see things from a different view. Not only one side. A different side from maybe like 180 degrees away. Negative to positive, montanamouthful.com

positive to negative. We are all different, so we all need to think about all the ways, so we can surely understand each other and choose which idea is the most reasonable for ourselves. After my feelings cleared, I started to want to see more of America all by myself. I don’t know why, but I had strong confidence that I could live anywhere in the states. I was very excited for this adventure; however, my family and friends were very nervous and worried about me because I had never lived out of Hawaii. I had never lived without my family. This small island is totally different from the mainland. “You cannot expect anything in the mainland like what we have here. People here are nice to you, but you never know once you are out of the island. This is a huge country. There is still racism unfortunately. You look like a typical Asian, not American. You do speak a little English with an accent. What if something happens to you? What if you are in an emergency and need help, but we cannot come over immediately? After all, we do not want you to forget that you are a girl.” I knew everyone was worried to death and scared me with those true facts, but I had no fear. Not even a tiny bit. You never see the world until you actually go out. So, I was just excited about what kind of new life and adventures would be waiting for me.  I finally got to move to the mainland when I was 23. I became a live-in nanny. There were lots of reasons to move all the way here and be a live-in nanny, and I would never take that big of a risk if I didn’t have enough reasons for it. I will never forget the day I moved. I felt very great and fresh and definitely had sparkling eyes in my face because everything I saw was new. I knew through this job and life in the mainland, I Montana Mouthful | 51


would be able to learn lots of things and I was just excited for what kind of experiences I would get here in the mainland.   I started in Mississippi. I barely knew how to drive. I started driving practice with my host mother there. Driving at 15 mph was just enough for me at the time, but I learned how to speed up to 65 mph. I ran out of gas while I was driving one time. I had a flat tire. I ran over a big metal thing that appeared on the road unexpectedly. Every time I had a problem, I sought help without hesitation, from my host family, friends, and even random people on the street. I was not scared to ask for help at all and people always kindly helped me out whenever I needed. I thought I would make lots of American friends. I ended up being in a cool Mexican group. Me with Mexicans, nice match. I moved to Utah. I experienced snow driving. I can now drive busy streets and highways too! I went more places all by myself. I also discovered lots of places with my friends. I did road trips to many of the beautiful national parks there. I got to experience lots of fun things that I had never experienced before with my host families. I met more cool people from different countries. Everyone had different stories to make it where they are, but everyone was just cool and very impressive. I learned how to drive everywhere in the states, American cultures and holidays, more English, table manners, how to solve problems (just ask!), how to take care of and love kids, how to get closer to people, how to be more worldly and adventurous, what family is, what marriage is, what being a parent is, what children are and what people are... I’ve just learned lots of things. And these experiences will remain as my treasure throughout my life.   Now I am in Montana to learn more new things. Even though I am not with my family, 52 | Montana Mouthful

I’ve realized that I am not alone at all. I have so many people to ask for help. So many people to be friends. So many people that reach out their hands to me. Everyone that I encounter says I am friendly. I look happy all the time and I am definitely a happy person. I actually didn’t know that. But there is surely no border between me and people now. Getting to know new people is so much fun for me. I get interested in every person that I meet, to know what kind of life stories they have. They all have different life stories and it is very interesting. And I find that I am a totally different person than 10 years ago. The long dark winter time of my life that I struggled had passed and the spring time of my life that brought me to a completely new world is also going to come to an end. A whole new different chapter will begin soon. I have been in Hawaii, Mississippi, Louisiana, Nevada, California, Alabama, Utah, New York, Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Jersey, Florida, and Montana in the past two and half years. I have seen lots of places. I have met lots of people. And I will surely travel and meet cool people a little bit more before the new chapter begins.   If I could talk to the 14 year-old me, I would tell her “Kozue, listen. I know you would still be stubborn and not believe what I say. Your life will surely be a bit tough for you. But you will never ever regret having a life like this.” Either staying in my home country my whole life or moving out of my home country as I break out of my shell, I wouldn’t have regretted it at all. Why? Because it only matters how happy you can try to make yourself in the same world. And because the way you think changes your life dramatically and intensely.  Vol. 2 • Issue 1


We hope you enjoyed the fun and sinister stories, artwork, and poetry that represented our theme of “Clowning Around!” We are always so excited to review the submissions and see the creative takes on our themes. Furthermore, we are always impressed by the talented writers and artists who submit great work to us, and we thank them for doing so. Submissions for our 5th issue, themed “Schooling,” (or some variation on “school”) will open on June 16, 2019. This can be a story about education, school days, or even a time when you were ‘schooled’ and taught a lesson. Let those creative minds flow on your definition of schooling! Issue 5 will close for submissions on August 12, 2019, with an estimated publication date of September 23rd, 2019, when the majority of folks are in “back to school” mode. As always, we appreciate the support of all the submitters and readers of our digital magazine. Cross your fingers on our non-profit status and keep coming back! Cordially, Cari Divine, Editor

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Biography

Zoe Blaylock Formally educated at Harvard, and informally but more persuasively in the school of hard knocks and droll encounters, Zoë Blaylock is now a committed volunteer who works in healthcare/research ethics at several medical and academic centers in San Diego.

Jeffrey Burghauser

Marc Alexandre Marc Alexandre (b. 1987) is an artist living in Princeton, New Jersey. He creates photographic images that explore the complex relationships of Americans with their country. Marc is a current Graduate student at the Hartford Art School MFA in Photography program. You can find out more about Marc at the following: marcalexand.re/ and @marcalexand.re on Instagram.

Joshua Atlas Joshua Atlas currently lives and travels throughout the Southwest United States, focusing his time as a painter in an Albuquerque studio, and drawing and illustrating on the road. You can find out more about Joshua at the following: joshuaatlas.net/ , @inkonpaperabq on Instagram, and flickr.com/photos/atlasjoshua/ .

Andrea Avery Andrea Avery is the author of Sonata: A Memoir of Pain and the Piano (Pegasus Books, 2017). Her work has appeared in Ploughshares, Real Simple, and The Oxford American. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona, where she works as a teacher. She is working on a novel. You can find out more about Andrea at the following: andreaaveryauthor.com, @and_read on Twitter, @andreaavery77 on Instagram, and facebook.com/andreaaveryauthor.

Candy Bedworth Candy Bedworth’s remote, rain soaked farmhouse clings to a steep-sided valley in rural Wales. She raises chickens and children with varying degrees of success. Art, literature and Lakrids licorice save her sanity on a daily basis. She writes regularly for ‘dailyartmagazine.com’ and can be found on Facebook and Instagram. (@candybedworth)

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Jeffrey Burghauser is a teacher in Columbus, OH. He was educated at SUNY-Buffalo and the University of Leeds. He currently studies the five-string banjo with a focus on preWWII picking styles. A former artist-in-residence at the Arad Arts Project (Israel), his poems have appeared (or are forthcoming) in Appalachian Journal, Lehrhaus, New English Review, and Iceview (Iceland). His book-length collection Real Poems is available on Amazon. amazon.com/dp /1727378768 You can find out more about Jeffrey at jeffreyburghauser.com.

Erin Cork Erin Cork lives in Missoula, MT. She writes and hikes in the mornings with her two rescue mutts. She works the swing shift as a train dispatcher, drinks a lot of coffee and uses foul language. Her work has been featured in X-R-A-Y Lit, Hypnopomp, Image OutWrite and Memoir Mixtapes. She has other pieces about to drop elsewhere. She is working on another draft of her first novel and an essay collection. You can find out more about Erin at the following: elcork17@twitter and elcork17@instagram.

RC deWinter RC deWinter’s poetry is anthologized in New York City Haiku (NY Times, 2017), Uno: A Poetry Anthology (Verian Thomas, 2002), in print in 2River View, Meat For Tea: The Valley Review, borrowed solace, Pink Panther Magazine, Down in the Dirt, Another Sun, Plum Ruby Review, forthcoming in Genre Urban Arts and in numerous online literary journals. You can find out more about RC on Twitter @RCdeWinter and at rc-dewinter.pixels.com/.

Ken Elliott Ken Elliott grew up in suburban Orange County, California and joined the Army straight out of high school in order to see the world. Instead, they sent him to a swamp in Central Louisiana. He studied journalism in college, but did not become a journalist. His work has appeared in Gemini magazine and will be published in an upcoming CC&D magazine. He has also published a children’s book entitled The Wish through Adamo Press. It made the author approximately $48.00 but can be found in libraries nationwide. Vol. 2 • Issue 1


Bryn Gribben

Romana Iorga

Bryn Gribben is a senior lecturer at Seattle University, teaching creative non-fiction, music and identity, nineteenth-century British literature, and the value of the arts. She is also, her students say, their steampunk fairy godmother. Bryn’s recent essays and poetry can be found in such places as the Rappahannock Review, Superstition Review, and River River, among others. Her essay Cabin,” in volume 3 of Tilde, published by 30West Publishing, was nominated for a 2019 Pushcart Prize. You can find out more about Bryn at thisgemlikeflame.net.

Originally from Chisinau, Moldova, Romana Iorga lives in Switzerland. She is the author of two poetry collections in Romanian, Poem of Arrival and Simple Hearing. Her work in English has appeared or is forthcoming in The Normal School, Cagibi, The American Journal of Poetry, PANK, Washington Square Review, and others, as well as on her poetry blog at clayandbranches.com.

Bill Livingston Sydney Harris This artist is located in Pittsburgh, PA, and grew up exposed to a multitude of different art styles, giving her the opportunities to grow as an artist and find herself. She likes to show her quirky attitude by experimenting with mediums and styles. Her use of bright and bold colors make her work pop and stand out from the rest, allowing for her to create her own identity in the art community by classifying herself as a surrealist pop artist. You can find out more about Sydney on Instagram @sydneyharrisart.

Devoid of a particular style, Bill Livingston strives for accessibility while craving aesthetics. His photos have been featured in Right Hand Pointing, Damaged Goods and Sic Vice & Verse. His work has been in several group gallery shows in Los Angeles and he’s won a few county fair ribbons. He lives in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, with his wife and twin daughters. Peruse his galleries at blivingstonphoto.com and follow him on IG and Twitter @pixnwordz.

Barbara Martin Sherri Harvey Sherri Harvey teaches English in California’s Silicon Valley, holds an MA in Modern Fiction and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction. She spends her days taking pictures, galloping her horses, hiking with her dog, writing stories and meeting people. She adores the great outdoors: go outside and play! This year, she covered photography for the Holland America-Oprah Winfrey-Friendship Cruise, she will present a talk called “Not All Who Wander Are Lost” at AWP, and will write and photograph orangutans in Sumatra to give a voice to those affected by palm oil dependency and deforestation. She has published both essays and photographs in Literary Traveler, World Nomad, Wanderlust-Journal, Reed Magazine, Dime Show Review, the Same Literary, daCunha Global Storytelling to name a few. Check her out at sherriharvey.com or sunsherphoto.com.

Jill Hawkins Jill Hawkins is a recent graduate student of the Red Earth MFA program at Oklahoma City University. Jill has publications of poems in the following journals: Degenerates, The Endeavor, The Poeming Pigeon, Southwestern American Literature, Mizna, The Journal the American Medical Association, and Blacktop Passages.

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Barbara Martin grew up on three continents—and has lived in ten states coast to coast. She moved to Oregon about 6 years ago. She earned an MBA, is a certified creativity coach and teaches the occasional art class. Her work is contemporary in style and leans toward the abstract and sometimes surreal or visionary. You can find out more about Barbara at the following: facebook.com/BarbaraMartinArt/; barbaramartinart.com; and on Instagram @BarbaraMartinArt.

Nieko McDaniel Nieko McDaniel is an artist who focuses on stereotypes and negative aspects of all people in his artwork. He makes artwork that comments about race, gender, social class and more through the use of negative imagery. Nieko judges our imagery of stereotypes and issues by putting forth many people repressed thoughts into an artwork to make them feel uncomfortable and change their ways of action and thinking. You can find out more about Nieko at niekomcdaniel.com/.

Keith Moul Keith is retired from work, not life, happily. You can find out more about Keith at poemsphotosmoul.blogspot.com/.

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Kozue Nakama

Anna Runnalls

After her tough times in her new country, America, Kozue Nakama finally changed the ways she thinks and opened her mind up. She currently enjoys being different, trying new things, and traveling across the states. Her favorite class, The Shop University, is located at 614 N. Last Chance Gulch Helena, MT 59061, and she aims for the next English level with Suzy Williams. 

Anna Runnalls is a painter living and working in San Francisco, California. She is a former Montanan, who still misses the Montana sky. You can find out more about Anna at the following: annarunnalls.com or @runnallsanna on Instagram.

Richard King Perkins II Richard King Perkins II is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in long-term care facilities. He lives in Crystal Lake, IL, USA with his wife, Vickie and daughter, Sage. He is a three-time Pushcart, Best of the Net and Best of the Web nominee whose work has appeared in more than fifteen hundred publications.

Jon Shaw Jon is a family doctor, trail runner and occasional photographer. He used to take some amazing landscape photos before his kids came along. Now he lets them play with his expensive camera kit! You can follow Jon on Instagram @jonathan831sailing.

Harvey Silverman Harvey Silverman is a retired physician who writes primarily for his own enjoyment.

Karen Poppy Karen Poppy has work published or forthcoming in many print and digital journals, as well as anthologies. Her work is included in The American Journal of Poetry, The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, ArLiJo, Wallace Stevens Journal, and Chaleur Magazine. Karen Poppy has recently compiled her first poetry collection, written her first novel, and is at work on her second poetry collection and second novel. An attorney licensed in California and Texas, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can find out more about Karen at karenpoppy. wordpress.com/publications/.

Kathryn Staublin Kathryn Staublin is a writer, editor, and English teacher from Indianapolis, Indiana. In 2017, she graduated from Indiana University Purdue University with a master’s degree in English, a certificate in professional editing, and a certificate in teaching writing. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Poeming Pigeon, The Scarlet Leaf Review, and The Horror Zine’s Book of Ghost Stories.

Liz Stewart Olivia Pridemore Olivia Pridemore is a multi-dimensional artist and cofounder of Silver Needle Press. Her photography, poetry, and comics have appeared, or are forthcoming in, Portland Review, Broad River Review, Memoir Magazine, Utterance, Sand Hills, Tilde, Five 2 One, River River, Bridge, The Ocotillo Review, Pidgeonholes, Round Table, Ampersand, and elsewhere. Olivia lives in Pleasant View, teaches writing courses at Austin Peay State University and enjoys spending time outdoors with her two dogs. You can find out more about Olivia at oliviapridemore.com, and silverneedlepress.com.

Brett Ramseyer Brett Ramseyer teaches English and Creative Publishing in Hart, Michigan, where he and his wife raise their three children. Ramseyer’s work appeared in Montana Mouthful, Silver Needle Press, the Peregrine Journal, Chaleur Magazine and Sixfold. He administers the Joan Ramseyer Memorial Poetry Contest at bramseyer.worpress.com and occasionally tweets @BARamseyer.

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Liz Stewart is an emerging writer born and raised in a village in southwest Manitoba. She now attends the University of Victoria for writing and psychology.

“Catfish” John Wojtowicz “Catfish” John Wojtowicz grew up working on his family’s azalea and rhododendron nursery in the backwoods of what Ginsberg dubbed “nowhere Zen New Jersey.” He is currently employed as the mental health coordinator for a local community college and takes every opportunity to combine this work with his passion for wilderness. He has been featured in the Philadelphia based Moonstone Poetry Series and Rowan University’s Writer’s Roundtable on 89.7 WGLS-FM. Besides poetry, he likes bonfires, boots, and bluegrass. Recent publications include: Stoneboat, Naugatuck River Review, El Portal, The Mom Egg, The Patterson Literary Review, Driftwood, Spitball, The Offbeat and Glassworks Magazine.

Vol. 2 • Issue 1


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Montana Mouthful  

Volume 2, Issue 1. Montana Mouthful is an independent digital literary magazine devoted to short fiction and nonfiction, poetry, and visual...

Montana Mouthful  

Volume 2, Issue 1. Montana Mouthful is an independent digital literary magazine devoted to short fiction and nonfiction, poetry, and visual...