Montana Mouthful: Schooling

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Dear Readers, Every year, Montana’s summer seems to come and go in a flash, and this year was no exception. Although we’re firmly in school mode, with students cracking their textbooks and taking their first tests, we hope everyone had a chance to fully enjoy summer, wherever you live. One of the highlights of my summer was a June trip to the St. Mary area of Glacier National Park, a truly picturesque portion of Montana. Whatever your summertime activities, we hope they were happy and memorable. But now, back to the “schooling!” In this issue, we start things off with a very sobering narrative nonfiction piece about an active shooter drill in a classroom. Other stories and poems are not quite so serious yet still powerful, like one character’s experience of boar hunting abroad, and a schoolmaster who used explosive measures (quite literally) to get his students’ attention. We hope you enjoy the issue as much as we enjoyed putting it together, and we thank all of our contributors and those who continue to choose Montana Mouthful as a place to feature their work. Before I close, I want to pass along some updates and other information about the magazine. Montana Mouthful received its 501(c)(3) designation during May 2019, and in August 2019, we held our first local event as a nonprofit. Snow Hop Brewery hosted us for one of its Local Wednesday events. Thanks to everyone who dropped in to support us! If you missed the event and are in the Helena area, Lewis and Clark Tap Room will be hosting us for one of its Ales for Charity Nights on Tuesday, November 19, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. We hope to see you there! We have some other events up our sleeve for 2020, and we’ll keep you posted as they come up. Finally, in terms of the issues themselves, we’ll be making the following changes: Beginning with the next issue, we’ll no longer charge a reading fee to submit work through Submittable. The next issue will also include a new feature, called “Editors’ Enclave,” which will house a story, essay, photographs, or a combination of those from one of our editors. Now, without further ado, we hope you enjoy Montana Mouthful’s “Schooling” issue! Thanks and happy reading, Jasmine Lamb, Editor

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Vol. 2 • Issue 2

VOLUME TWO • ISSUE TWO Montana Mouthful is an independent nonprofit 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.

Introduction .......................................................................II Drill, Baby, Drill..................................................................3 Pet’s Condensed Milk .........................................................5 Trouble with Mother’s Day at Cambridge Elementary.......7 Teachers: Haiku ..................................................................8 Dean Smith.........................................................................9 About the River ................................................................11 Black Chalk ......................................................................12 Trivial Pursuit ...................................................................14 The Mushroom Cloud ......................................................17 Why do you think that the pig in Orwell’s Animal Farm is named Napoleon......................................19 Lucky ................................................................................20 Spring Cleaning ................................................................22 Testing, Testing .................................................................27 Overnight..........................................................................29 Teaching Nobody..............................................................31 Schoolmaster.....................................................................32 Medical Conditions(s): Hemophilia......................................35 First Night Out.................................................................38 Boar Hunt.........................................................................42 ShopU...............................................................................45 In closing ..........................................................................47 Biography..........................................................................48

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 Emailed submissions will not be accepted. VIEWING ISSUU: MAGCLOUD: CONTACT Email: Web: Facebook: Instagram: Twitter: DESIGN Layout and graphic design by Luke Duran, Element L Design

Cover art:

Untitled | GEORGE STEIN Montana Mouthful | 1

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Vol. 2 • Issue 2



Drill, Baby, Drill by Kimberly Diaz rill, baby, drill. When Sarah Palin said it she was referring to oil. But we’ve been doing it in the public schools for quite a while now. Only it used to be for a barrage of tests. Now, it’s for a barrage of bullets. Active Assailant. Two words every student must understand, from kindergarten and up. Every month the public schools in our state are required to have active assailant drills. Students have to know what to do in case there’s a disaffected white male with guns and ammo on campus. If his location is known, you run, hands up out of the building –that is if you’re far enough away. If his location is unknown you hunker down and hide. But there’s really nowhere to hide. You’re in a school. Schools have classrooms. Classrooms have kids. I could say students but that word is used so loosely. Some schools, up north mostly it seems, have closets. Kids can hide in there but I doubt the doors are bullet-


proof. In my classroom there’s no closet. Only corners. So we all crouch down in the one you can’t see from the rectangle of glass in the classroom door. Which of course is covered. Maybe they will quit putting windows in classrooms since we also have to cover all of them up too. The drills are age-appropriate and not traumatizing according to the legislators who mandated them. These are the ones who think they are experts on everything. They tell us when life begins. No abortions after six weeks. Who should get raises. They should, and regularly. How to handle disagreements in parking lots. Stand your ground. When we should start to worry about the environment. Never. Drill, baby drill. The drill is announced unexpectedly. We don’t hear the entire message because the kids are humming, rocking in their seats, tapping pencils, or arguing with each other. Then when we realize it is happening we get quiet

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Some schools, up north mostly it seems, have closets. Kids can hide in there but I doubt the doors are bulletproof. In my classroom there’s no closet. Only corners. to listen. The sound is garbled over the loudspeaker. Is it a drill or for real? The kids close their laptops. I switch off the lights and point to the corner. Some clueless kids go to another corner instead. One that would make them an easy target. Frantic signaling finally gets through to them. They crouch under desks, up against each other. They whisper “Is this a drill? “ Some rock and cry. Others hyperventilate. One small skinny boy slides into the bookcase and folds himself up on a shelf with the Diary of a Wimpy Kid and I Survived book series. I push my desk in front of the door which must always be locked, then crouch down in the corner with the kids. I’m thinking, I hope they check the upstairs classrooms first. We have to stay in position until they come rattle our door, turn the key in the lock and make sure we’re all doing what we’re supposed to do to

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increase our slim chances of survival. Luckily, I’m agile and petite. It’s not that hard for me to manage physically but it disturbs me to think about what these kids are internalizing. That the chances of getting shot in school are pretty good. It’s just a normal thing that happens. Could be any day now. When administrators check the door, I feel proud that my teacher’s desk is doing such a good job of blocking it. They push the door against it but it doesn’t budge. I have a lot of totally useless crap in that desk. When we get up off the floor kids are still asking if it was a drill or not. “It was a drill” I say and add, “I hate these things. And although school shootings have happened and it is terrible there’s really not much chance of it happening here.” By the end of the week, there are three mass shootings in the United States. Two of them in schools.

Vol. 2 • Issue 2


Pet’s Condensed Milk by Magda Montiel Davis


er eyes were aflame and that’s what struck me when she opened the front door of our brand new home. Our brand new home in Havana, in the brand new neighborhood of Nuevo Vedado, somewhere between its hilly slopes and the riverbed of el Rio Almedares. Somewhere between middle and upper-middle class. I was six, maybe seven. She stood in anesthetized stillness, save for clipped bursts of breath that lifted the clavicle of her chest. The woman had just climbed three flights of stairs to get to our home, its entrance an accordion of concrete steps with decorative patterns of seashells. It was a mezzanine of sorts, these steps; a prelude. They led to stairs that looked as if they were suspended in air, just one concrete beam down the middle supporting the entire structure. In her arms, the woman held a baby, its cheeks cherry red; sunburned. She held it at her hip, not at her chest. She held it as if the weight of the child would have her drop it

any minute. Now she moved. She shifted her weight slightly, tightened one arm around the child, swung out the other and in silence, opened a pink-white palm to me. I called out over my shoulder, my eyes not leaving the woman’s face. “¡Mami!” Clickettyclack my mother’s stilettos on the mirrory terrazzo floor. Mami stopped when she saw it was just the beggar woman. “Just a minute,” her voice large from the other end of the living room. A look of hope lifted the woman’s face, a face of ashen brown grimed with streaks of dirt. Years later, I would see the picture of a copperfaced woman on the cover of National Geographic with the same burning eyes and that’s what I would remember, the beggar woman standing silent before me on our front porch. The woman moved the baby to the other hip. It was then that I saw the body, arms like sticks, stomach the roundness, the size of its head. And not a baby, not a baby at all. Not a Montana Mouthful | 5

baby like the Thumbellina dolls Santa Claus had brought me and my sister and amiguitas up the hill; or the ones the Three Wise Men would bring in a few days, the 6th of January, the Day of Epiphany, celebrating the showing of Baby Jesus to the Magi. And that was the thing about living in Nuevo Vedado and having friends like Alina and Anita and attending The Philips School where the first half of the school day you spoke only English. You were Americanized. And that was a good thing, to be Americanized, because Santa’s flying reindeers stopped at your house and the Magi’s camels climbed up your front steps to bring you Parcheesi and hula hoops and Sears portable record players that opened and closed like suitcases and played Take Me Out To the Ballgame and other American things. And now, a disquieting silence. Something in the woman’s eyes consumed me. It wasn’t that they were aflame in anger. Not exactly. It was some sort of impatience. Hunger, maybe. Yes, that was it. Hunger. My mother clicketty-clacked back to us. The woman’s face opened up again. I stood back and watched as my mother laid a can of condensed milk on the pink-white of the woman’s palm. It’s too heavy, I said, but not aloud, for the woman to carry a can of milk and the child, too. The woman wedged the can in the curve of her armpit, but the can fell to the floor, its dented Pet’s Milk sad-cow label rolling down the incline of our porch, Kla-klá, Kla-klá, Ka-klá, like the yaw of a limping man, Kla-klá, Kla-klá, Kla-klá. I thought of Sunday. I thought of every Sunday when my father made us go to church with him. Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church (really, Father Juan’s Church). My 6 | Montana Mouthful

father didn’t much like it when Mami wouldn’t go, which was often. “Instead of practicing all that brujería, all that tribal primitive nonsense”⎯ he’d look down the length of her⎯ “go to church with me and your daughters. You live in Nuevo Vedado now, not Guanabacoa.” The small town on the outskirts of Havana where my mother grew up. I thought of Sundays when Father Juan shoved a round wicker basket on a long wooden stick at us and if someone didn’t toss American dollars into the wicker basket he’d hold the basket in front until the person did. “It’s for the Catholic Church,” Father Juan would say when standing high in the whitemarbled altar with big brown crucifix. “The Catholic Church that will give to the poor.” And I thought of my second-grade teacher at The Philips School who said we shouldn’t even have any poor. She said she would quote a great man: “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day.” Or something like that. “Teach a man to fish and he will eat for life.” And now the woman pivoted half a turn and retreated like a wounded animal with no fish but with a can of Pet’s Condensed Milk. She began the descent through the three flights of stairs leading to our home. Wait! I wanted to call out to her, but I didn’t. I ran to the edge of the balcony, took a little jump, my stomach on the black wrought- iron rail. My eyes followed the woman as she shambled down the hill, her figure becoming smaller, my chance to do right becoming smaller with each of her steps. “¡Niña!” Mami said. “Don’t lean over like that.” I could fall. “La cabeza pesa mas que el cuerpo.” The head, it weighs more than the body. Vol. 2 • Issue 2


Trouble with Mother’s Day at Cambridge Elementary by Roger Camp Plied with a jar of paste scented to invite a taste and sheets of construction paper colored to capture the eye instructed to quarter said paper, commanded to copy the blackboard pap I balked. Having a one-of-a-kind mother she deserved a card of the same.

Returned to class as the bell sounded the day’s end I dashed home my mother, my own.

after Jane Kenyon’s “Trouble with Math in a One-Room Country School”

Banished outside, ostracized I hunkered in the dirt, scraping the clay soil into a tiny adobe house, roof thatched in weeds and fenced-in with twigs all the while hardening my heart against authority.

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Teachers: haiku by Hugh Findlay

Psychadelic Graduation | KATHLEEN PHALEN TOMASELLI

They tried to teach us — Mistakes, burdens, regrets, but We ached for our own

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Vol. 2 • Issue 2


Dean Smith by Candy Bedworth ean Smith. Just your name is an instant bittersweet rush, like a lemon drop, a brittle sugar casing that snaps apart to burn sour sherbet onto my eager tongue. I remember your cuffs, soft with wear, washed out grey, frayed and slightly too short, revealing those thin, ink spattered wrists. Those wrists which looked so vulnerable that I wanted to gently touch my lips to them, but which in fact were strong and sometimes cruel, when you were inflicting chinese burns in the concrete playground. Now I wince at that language we used: Chinese burns, Paki food, Spaz. Parroting the tribal prejudice of our white working class community. Exposure to university politics taught me to be ashamed of my roots. But I also learned I’ll never attain the ease and confidence of the middle classes either, so here I float, alone, untethered. We came from the same rough housing estate, you and I. Ugly rows of 1970’s brick terraces, scrappy front yards littered with plastic bikes and car parts. You would climb to


the top of the rusting climbing frame to smoke a fag. You bragged that you stole them from your step-dad. You, sitting alone, surveying your kingdom of yellowing grass and stunted potentilla bushes. Then leaping down, and running full pelt across the playground, its mud surface foot-hardened to concrete smoothness. Your scuffed plimsolls surfed the weeds studded with desiccated dog turds and gaudy sweet wrappers. I have a very pretty cottage garden now. I replicate the layered planting schemes of Gertrude Stein. I don’t plant potentilla - too many associations. Likewise, berberis and cotoneaster. I once embarrassed myself calling it ‘cotton-easter’. My accent and pronunciation are just two of the ways I exhibit my unsuitability for fine company. My vocabulary is extensive, but my coarse tongue doesn’t always keep up. Back then, I would spy on you from my bedroom window, shivering under the scant cover of the pub doorway, waiting for your Mom. Sometimes she brought you crisps and cherryade with a straw. But mostly she didn’t. Montana Mouthful | 9

Did you know I wore plastic carrier bags folded up inside my shoes, a cheap fix against the rain? I prayed no-one noticed, but maybe you did. Maybe you knew that feeling, of skating around inside your own shoes, of losing your balance inside your own skin.

Did you know I wore plastic carrier bags folded up inside my shoes, a cheap fix against the rain? I prayed no-one noticed, but maybe you did. Maybe you knew that feeling, of skating around inside your own shoes, of losing your balance inside your own skin. If we passed in the corridor between lessons I would take quick, shy glances at you. Even from a distance, you were easy to recognise—your jaw set, your fists clenched, your eyes narrowed, your mouth pinched. Closer, I might see soft brown lashes, dusty freckles, the greenish smudge of an old bruise on your cheekbone, maybe a tiny crusted slash of dark red blood on your eyebrow. Then, at the last millisecond, your look fleetingly opened. You saw me. My face would burn, and I always frowned away. We never really spoke. I kept myself mute and closed in that place. It was the only weapon I had. And we knew weapons were necessary, there was no doubt about that. We had different ideas about getting out. You rushed headlong at escape routes, skidding your battered Chopper bike out of shot like a Brummie Steve McQueen. Schemes and petty scams, a bit of thieving maybe. You were impatient, reckless. While I whittled 10 | Montana Mouthful

away slowly, secretly, patiently. My Saturdays were spent in the one small glass and steel island of civilisation rubberstamped into that lego-block estate. Greedily gathering the library cards for the whole family, I would indiscriminately pile fiction into my spindly arms and ravenously consume them in my tiny box bedroom. The subject matter hardly registered—fairy tales, the Classics, Mills and Boon, they all went down the same way. It was the distraction and the words themselves that I craved. I worked my way methodically across the shelves although I never paused at non-fiction - I’d had a belly full of reality. I don’t remember how I heard you had drowned. But I remember the absence I felt in the corridor, in the classroom. Like a mis-step on a stair, or a sudden draft from a window you didn’t know you had left open. You became a cautionary tale even before your soaked, bruised body was pulled from the gravel pit. No longer a smoking, swearing, stealing, flesh and blood boy, but merely a warning, a lesson to be learned. Teachers, Police, and the quarry workers all invoking your name as a by-word for the foolishness of troubled youth. The last time I saw you was near the end of term. While the popular cool kids were having a last fag behind the canteen bins, planning drunken summer escapades, I slunk out of the gate with my laden school bag. You whistled, sharp and loud, over the flickflick-flicker sound of the cards clipped into the spokes of your Chopper bike. ‘See you ‘round maybe?’ you called. My heart thumped in my chest and my voice dried in my throat. You shrugged and pedalled away, and with a huge effort, I called out after you ‘Yeah, sure’, Vol. 2 • Issue 2

But the wind took the words from me before they reached you. Dean, how did you feel in those last moments? Did you struggle? Did you fight the sinus burn of the silty water, lunge for something, anything, to hold you up? Or did you understand the luxury of letting go, and surrender to the inevitable embrace of the cold darkness?

That same year in September I took my old book bag across the park, past the empty climbing frame, skirting the stale beer and urine stench of the pub, to join the school Sixth Form. Two more years to mutely endure, before I could flee to University. I sat obediently at the front, bent my head and lowered my eyes to my French grammar: Je vais partir; Vous avez partir…


About the River by Charles Malone In the 50th year since the last fire on the Cuyahoga I’ve been talking to kids about the river the way you talk to them about sex or drugs or American history, by that I mean in a classroom. The kids have been talking too. One girl told me she went everywhere in a kayak when her dad didn’t have a car and I said there’s a long history of that. Usually they ask how can water catch on fire? I want to spin it

like a magic trick, like wine or rabbits; say something French. But, I stick to a truth and tell them that if they really want to they can set the river on fire again. They ask what will happen to the turtles if the river catches on fire again. Ah, I say, that is a very good question. And then, we find words that rhyme with flood. What, then, would the deer drink, or anything with a mouth?

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Black Chalk by William Rudolph The understanding you need is there, scribbled upon the slate board in black chalk: within

among each blotted out word, every effaced diagram, countless expunged equations. Through that erasure, sense

that dark matter, covering the front-most wall. Give up your habit of relying on your eyes. Open another sensation

the rollcall of teachers’ names— written on day one, rubbed out on day two, and replace them with your own hands, your own

to sense the essence of layers, angles and curves chalked up and erased, coats of absence upon absence:

bottomless mystery. Scratch behind the frieze, thrilling in being more fully oblivious, and dig into the deeper darkness beneath.

with or without an omniscient adjunct’s moving Michel-angelic hand— it has been written and remains

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Vol. 2 • Issue 2

3rase | LUKE DURAN

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Trivial Pursuit by Eileen Collins


hunderbolt was a little grey horse with big block-like feet. He was surefooted and had an easy enough time going down a slight incline, although he was not able-bodied enough to climb back up. Although unfamiliar with equine anatomy, I suspected there was a slight disfigurement and I knew he’d take pleasure in an easy canter if only he could. How I loved that sturdy old horse. I was also rather fond of Kindergarten, until the day our ancient teacher, Miss Wienfelder, snatched Thunderbolt out of my hands and put him out of reach on top of the piano. I was so distraught over my loss that I don’t even remember whether she gave him back to me at the end of the morning. I thought of nothing else the rest of that day but how many boxes of cereal I would have to eat to get another prize as splendid as my wonderful walking horse. Despite this trauma, things eventually got back to normal. I had no strong aversion to 14 | Montana Mouthful

school for the rest of my elementary years. I liked it okay. Really, what else did I have to do? All the other kids were there and it was better than watching soap operas at home with mom. When I “graduated” from Samuel F.B. Morse Elementary School, I got to buy a new white blouse. No one, not my sister or anyone else in the world had ever worn it. My oldest sister came to my graduation and brought her baby son. Kids asked, “Is that your mom?” I said yes. Based on some test scores, I and another girl from my elementary school were to be placed in what was then called the “Enriched Program”. We rode a Baltimore City Transit bus to get to Rock Glen Junior High. There were some tough girls on that bus and you didn’t want to look at them because they might ask, “What the hell you lookin’ at bitch?” Sometimes the bus would be crowded and we’d be standing up holding onto the pole or the back of a seat. Boys would rub up against us and act like it was an accident. Vol. 2 • Issue 2

I don’t recall much about the enrichment, other than we took a foreign language in seventh grade and others had to wait until eighth grade. It didn’t matter much, because that window of opportunity closed much earlier, that ship having sailed right down the Seine making not a single stop in Baltimore. None of us would ever be fluent speakers of any foreign language. Many of us would struggle for a lifetime with the one we’d learned as babies. That was also of little consequence for many of us since we never realized we were struggling. In retrospect, the French teacher was probably suffering from some psycho-social malady and couldn’t be held responsible for her behavior. Unfortunately, I did not yet have a copy of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders. She didn’t seem to like kids much, if the way she shoved that poor boy against the wall was any indication; although she did have a favorite. Her “pet” was Renée, of a very French surname, whose parents actually came from France and thus actually spoke French. The fact that Renée may have had a wee bit of an advantage was never mentioned as she was repeatedly held up to the rest of us as an example of our sloth and bilingual ineptitude. A line from one of the rote dialogs from that long-ago class is still bouncing around between my left frontal and temporal lobes. Dis donc, où est la bibliothéque? incidentally, is on the official list of Foreign Words and Phrases You Will Probably Never Say. I practice it now and then just in case the opportunity should arise. You never know when you’ll need to find a library when visiting Rocamadour for a little slice of mille-feuille. Since none of it seemed even remotely important to my thirteen-year old self, I

began to skip school to pursue other interests, such as sneaking back into the house and sleeping all day. Sometimes different friends would join me and we’d go to their house and watch TV and eat all kinds of junk food. None of my classmates in the enriched program ever joined us. The more days I missed, the harder it was to go back. I barely made it through that year with a passing grade in anything. The next year was no longer enriched. Finding school even more abysmal, I increase the frequency of my truancy. As I fell further behind, I had no idea what was going on. One day I happened to show up just in time for a math test and spent the time drawing flowers

One day I happened to show up just in time for a math test and spent the time drawing flowers and peace signs all over the paper. and peace signs all over the paper. The math teacher, Mr. Hill, was not impressed with my artistic ability. Threatened by a juvenile court judge that I would be placed in a residential school for “Bad Kids” I tried to get it together and make a go of the second time around in eighth grade. I had a teacher that I liked who wrote nice encouraging things on my papers, and I had a new friend. I didn’t miss too much school and my grades were good. I don’t know why, but I never went back after that year. If I had it to do over, of course I would have stayed in school. I’m terrible at Trivial Pursuit having never taken a high school history or geography class. Montana Mouthful | 15

I was in graduate school when my son was in high school. I never told him about my misadventures with the truant officer or the juvenile court system until he was safely pursuing a degree in Engineering. Sometimes our Trivia team wins the trophy. It’s made out of beer bottles and we always take a picture of our team holding it proudly for all of our Facebook friends to envy. I keep hoping for a question about libraries in France. Meanwhile, Dagwood Bumstead’s dog is Daisey and the neighborhood kid is Elmo.

Typewriters on school desks


At my age, I can get away with a lot by pretending. I’ve just momentarily forgotten the name of the seventeenth president or the longest river in Argentina. I’m not expected to have all the answers. I make it a point to sit next to a retired teacher or librarian. It’s not as though I’m useless. I’m the go-to person for questions about plants and insects. I’ve gotten points for naming a song. Not many Trivia players in my circle know Tracy Chapman or the Doors. Fewer still can belt out the lyrics to Frank Mills from The Broadway Musical, Hair.

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Vol. 2 • Issue 2


The Mushroom Cloud by Mervyn R. Seivwright 6 IN CREW AND HIGH-SCHOOL TEACHER ARE KILLED 74 SECONDS AFTER LIFTOFF Thousands Watch Rain of Debris “Cape Canaveral, Fla. Jan. 28 -- The space shuttle Challenger exploded in a ball of fire shortly after it left the launching pad today, and all seven astronauts on board were lost.” By William J. Broad Special to The New York Times

Our eyes didn’t leave the sky. We were 200 miles from the space center. On clear days we saw past launches cloud-trails to space. On this clear day we saw smoke, white cloud mushroom spores, bending, speeding its growth. Chemistry high school students standing speechless, tearful in disbelief. Our eyes didn’t leave the sky studying the smoke standing still—a trophy for nature, an image imprinted to the file draws in our brains, clicking 8-millimeter film-frames blacking out before the real movie reel. Our eyes didn’t leave the sky. Our teacher did not console us, we were stone still outside the school, statues spread out in a French garden, hypnotized with a chill. Our eyes refused to leave the sky—and them alone.

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Game On 18 | Montana Mouthful

Vol. 2 • Issue 2


Why do you think that the pig in Orwell’s Animal Farm is named Napoleon? by Gerard Sarnat I was asked to be present (all expenses paid) at AARP’s annual event to receive an honorary silver plaque for the lucky senior citizen whose Medicare compliance scores among CPAP wearers were second in the whole goddamn fast-food nation but when that gloriously fine time finally came mid July the fat lady from some circus who won had just expired so moi ascended to top of the podium which actually’s no joke since our Big Brother government collected microchip data on everybody with obstructive sleep apnea — without permission — leading me to develop really bad insomnia.

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Lucky by Larry Brown


ne day it isn’t there, not anywhere, and the next, the very goddamn next it seems, the nickname bumps and bangs him whichever way he turns. His grade eight class, the only friends he knows, friends who, if he shows he worries about what they say, will concoct some act of evil that makes a bad nickname seem tiny potatoes. He barely sleeps the night before phys-ed and its no-place-to-hide skins-versus-shirts teams He drapes a blanket over the mirror in his bedroom. He tries to eat less but hunger finds him wherever he hides and pesters him until he eats more. He shoplifts, chocolate bars mostly, hand in coat pocket fingering the bars up through a hole he scissored open. He actually buys and pays for something when he shoplifts, and part two of this system is that he only steals from stores where he is known. Where he isn’t a stranger to be eyeballed. Like Jack’s Snack Bar. Hey, Mr. Jack, he might say, Chunk o’ Licious bar up and 20 | Montana Mouthful

through the hole and his money out to buy bubblegum, how’d our Leafs do last night? Mr. Jack calls him Chief. In his class four of the girls are, to his eyes, barely girls, but then there is Penny. Penny’s smile rises like smoke, slow and sly. She is her own category. Penny dates a moustache who drives a Mustang. One day after school Penny asks if he is okay, her question real he thinks, and as he stumbles into a reply the Mustang horn cuts him off. Penny says she has to go, sorry she says, reaching out but not quite touching his arm, then she slips into the passenger side and the Mustang tires spit gravel. He watches the car grow small in the distance, tears pressing into his eyes. Tubby. Tubby Martin. Another Saturday arrives empty so he breaks into the boarded-up arena on Wapp Avenue. A wooden door around back, rotted by weather and time, a door with give. He hid a steel bar the last time he was here and today it is still where he put it. The door yelps and Vol. 2 • Issue 2

budges open. Damp and cold, but also warm and sour inside. A popcorn machine tipped on its side, one section of the hockey boards still upright and daylight peeking in the ceiling. His feet scrape and thump. Then something rustles, scampers. Another feeling, one at and gray, blots out his fear. He thinks about the box of wooden matches in his pocket, matches

paid for, and the lighter uid in his other pocket, stolen, and about the burning fuse on that TV show, the theme song bouncing along, and he thinks about going somewhere new where there are good friends and he has a nickname like Capone or Bomber, but mostly he thinks about Penny and her smoky smile and knows he will never hear her say his real name in a way that makes him feel lucky.


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Spring Cleaning by Brett Ramseyer


0,787 school emails clutter my k12 inbox. Bored and unbusy, I look for something to do. I delete to pass the time. Spring cleaning meant something in my parents’ house. No light spritzes of Endust on a rag to stir around our skin cells collecting on the dark stained pine would suffice for Mom. No vacuuming around the living room loveseat subcontracted to my big sister. No picking up pillows around the room just to straighten left to me. Spring cleaning did not go around anything. It went through. Twenty years into my career I should stand atop the game. I am old enough for wisdom and young enough to innovate. Instead, I click and scroll around the minutiae of 2014 when I was president of my teachers’ union. That spring I taught my last full load of five classes and played a big personality in the lives of my students much like Mom did when she taught high school English where I do. I hated spring cleaning as a child. It took all day and Dad was involved. I could not get 22 | Montana Mouthful

away with a few seconds of light pillow work. Lamps, books, and knick-knacks piled in temporary boxes. We shuffled our feet through the lime shag carpeting, grunting chairs and tables with heavy lifting. Furniture on the deck squinted in sun glare, where the winter crust on the wood could no longer hide in the shadows of the room. We pulled the paintings from the walls. They left a rectangle memory on the rough-sawn paneling. The dates repeat off the screen. I check one box with a click that selects the correspondence in batches of fifty. When I trash them, a Silicon Valley short-cut asks if I want to dump all 10,737 remaining emails. I hover the pointer over the tantalizing way around the task. When the room was clear, the real cleaning started. My sister, Aimee, and I wiped the walls. She took the top half; I wiped the bottom. She argued that I could reach higher and I complained that she could reach lower. We debated until Mom mediated an agreement at Vol. 2 • Issue 2

a knot in the paneling that demarcated equality. The memory rectangles vanished. I find two emails from favorite seniors four years back thanking me for letters of recommendation. I lost touch with him. I do not know if he earned the scholarship. I have not seen her since the senior honors ceremony. I do not know if she might earn a degree this upcoming spring. I have no idea of their majors or the adults they have become. I trash them among another batch of fifty. Aimee and I turned the corner. Our bucket water grayed and thickened with each subsequent stroke down the panels. We wrung our wash clothes like twisted ropes, but could not hear the water splash since Dad fired up the red RugDoctor. He rented it from the oldest of two grocery stores in town. He pulled the stainless steel vac-head through shag in straight lines like those of the mower in the yard. Mom unhooked the curtains to run them through the wash, repair or sew new ones to brighten the room. The carpet dried a lighter shade with the mochaccino froth collected from the RugDoctor poured over the deck rail into pine needles of the forest floor. When I reach the 2015 emails, Mom’s name appears like an anachronism sprinkling a dozen times through the list of fifty. I tap the can shaped icon before I can process her name. She rises again in the next fifty. I slow to read the subject lines. “Reading the Signs.” “Two Peas in a Pod.” “Generational.” “The Weeping Fields.” “The Perfect Funeral.” I click to read through the body of a letter. With the slider door slid wide, the box fan on high, we directed a jet stream from the den through the living room. When the carpet dried to only dampen our sock feet, Mom

directed the chairs to different corners, the loveseat perpendicular to the windows, an end table near a different outlet. She tucked the winter tchotchkes in a cardboard box to slumber summer stacked in the attic. Pink petalled cups and saucers clinked from the back of a cupboard. Mom rinsed and wiped them clean. She set them on the table beneath the Tiffany lamp, filled them with violets volunteering from cinder block retaining wall outside. She rehung the favorite paintings in different groupings, occasionally pounding a new brad into the wall before swapping a recent photo into an old frame. When she finished the room was new again. She did not hurry

We shuffled our feet through the lime shag carpeting, grunting chairs and tables with heavy lifting. Furniture on the deck squinted in sun glare, where the winter crust on the wood could no longer hide in the shadows of the room. around spring cleaning with a wholesale purge. The only way to preserve the good was to sort through the memories worth keeping. My confidante, my conspirator, my critic, my Mom asked me to be the same for her through correspondence. She wanted her poetry to improve. She asked for my help to make the funeral more perfect. “Can you go through this?” I pushed her for imagery, active

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verbs, specifics. When she finished she wrote: Remember near a stream running clear Pick a red apple October day to celebrate the cool… Without preaching, lightly toss the atoms so they drift down waters to the wild unknown On October 29, 2015, a high school friend emailed asking for a favor I could not grant. I replied that Mom was terminal after suffering two massive strokes, one ischemic, the second hemorrhagic. The friend prayed for a miracle. Later that day I replied “The miracle we were granted was mom’s short term suffering. She died this afternoon in my arms. She is much loved.” The following spring, Mother’s Day, I poured her into the water like dust. The crystal flow never slowed. She, already pure, continued clear in the creek that accepted her. On October 12, Mom sent me one of her last emails about a writer’s cabin my father

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and I spent a year constructing for her next to a spring fed pond in the middle of their 160 acre woodland property. “When the floor is done I am going to move things in. I can work around any dust that will be created by doing window trim. Dad won’t get to that this week because tomorrow he wants to get back out and cut wood. I think the window trim will be slow going. With the floor done, I can use the cabin now. Why wait? I can vacuum up any dust that gets on the rug we are going to use. I am so excited about all of this. I am also so grateful for all your help in this project. Without you, it wouldn’t have been possible, or would have taken 3 years to complete. You’re my hero.” That would have been two years too late. She enjoyed 15 cabin days. The window trim still is not done. I rescued these emails from the trash because Mom taught me the importance of spring cleaning. Like life, I must go through. By reading and now writing, I make our love new again. And she is still much loved.

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Gravity Frog | LUKE DURAN

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Testing, Testing by John Nelson I begin by arranging the loose pages, Thirteen mimeographed papers, unnumbered, out of order, the faded purple ink blurred and blotchy.

I’m back in the park again, where a cooling summer shower passes through, splashing the street, leaving me with my wet pages.

A small scrap of page 44, a water-based tattoo shaped like the Battle of Gettysburg.

I look more carefully Until a question appears: Dunne and the remented revolver, 1869. Below it, the page is blank. I am thinking about this question. I should know this.

I’m outdoors, it’s summertime, the Fourth of July in the park, a light breeze shaking the papers, and me, there at the picnic table. I go looking for a quiet spot, out of the sun, and drive into a country of bare hills, to a cave of dried and flaking mud, the Badlands, follow a path down a cavern where it’s still and damp, and knickknacks appear on the humps of soil, on display. Hula dancers, buffalo coin banks, a snow globe with cactus and a donkey. Reasonable prices. Clearly marked. I see customers walking the aisles, friends down at street level, Hello, hello, hello! How about this weather?

I turn to watch the parade, veterans in step as the flags whirl, girls on horseback, Shriners circling the streets in tiny red antique cars, drums insistent in the distance. It’s ten to one, ten minutes left, I know I need to begin. I stay at my place at the picnic table, writing with frenzy now, until, on page eleven, there’s a keypad for playing patriotic songs. I begin with Yankee Doodle Dandy, but then the blaring bands come by, and everything I thought I knew falls into step with the parade. Montana Mouthful | 27

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School Children in Cages | KATHLEEN PHALEN TOMASELLI


Overnight by Charles Duffie After two years studying overseas, it’s good to be home. I stay in bed and soak up the familiar. Patterns in the popcorn ceiling, sandpaper sheets, lemon Pledge furniture polish, rhythm of the Kenmore dryer down the hall. Something Dad said last night about airport security ripples across the jet lag but I let it go. I stay in the shower so long I feel my carbon footprint expanding. Even the texture of the water feels familiar. Dad’s room hasn’t changed. The only addition is a laptop, open on a TV tray. I heard him moving around earlier, but now he’s slouched in the armchair, hands on the tray as if he dozed off typing. That comment about airport security ripples back, something about travel bans. I crouch next to him and brush my finger across the trackpad. The screen wakes revealing a photo of immigrants in a detention center. A block headline warns against “THE SLOW INVASION.” Dad stirs in his sleep and I retreat downstairs. The living room is the same, as middle class and safe as a set from all those sitcoms I used to watch. Sitting on the beige sofa feels like a time lapse: I’m five, I’m 12, I’m 17, I’m 22. As I tap the website address into my


phone I feel dad over my shoulder, but the big room is empty. There’s the immigrant photo and headline. Tap “Trending Stories” then tap the top post, “Fake News Handbook.” The article is a bunker info-kit: how to defend against liberal attacks, how to stockpile truth. I scan the comments and names, then tap the next article, “How Sandy Hook Was Staged.” My heart drops in a bucket. I swipe like I’m flicking wasps off my phone, blur of black text punched with red diagrams. Thank God, no comments from dad in that sludge, at least, not that I can tell. Who knows what names people use in these online basements. “Ready for breakfast?” I almost drop my phone. Dad stands at the open closet. He reaches in, lifts out a holster, loops it over his shoulder. His back is turned but he says “It’s registered” like he can feel the waves coming off me. Pulling on a coat, he looks like my father again. “You never owned a gun before,” I say. “A lot of things are happening that never happened before.” That’s a startling claim coming from a history professor. We sit in a bright diner with two of his Montana Mouthful | 29

friends. I’ve known these men all my life. Mom used to call them the Musketeers. One teaches at the community college with dad, the other is an accountant. They talk about America in the past tense. Dad sits facing the glass door. Every time the bell rings his eyes lift over my shoulder and hold a little too long, like a sheriff in a saloon expecting trouble. I feel an itch to turn every time the bell rings. We drive by protesters waving signs on a street corner. BRING OUR TROOPS HOME, BUILD HOUSES NOT BOMBS. Cars honk in support. I remember standing in a crowd during the Iraq War, holding dad’s hand. “You didn’t honk,” I say. “Why encourage them?” “So you support the war in Afghanistan now?” “I think of it as a second border.” “Dad, it’s half a world away.” “ You know how far half a world is?” There’s a rhetorical edge in his voice so I wait for him to finish. “Half a world is an envelope. A box. A button.” I want to ask if he means what I think he means—anthrax, homemade bombs, warheads —but everything feels out of focus. Dad always stood dead center, a common sense conservative. Lately his emails sounded angrier, fed up with the country, exasperated with an incompetent President, critical of a swampy Congress. But I didn’t take his anger as a sea change. Who doesn’t feel more of everything these days? Now I’m trying to line up this man with the man I knew, and they don’t match. He turns on the radio. Pundits fill the gap between us. The news is reported using different contexts, events described using different facts. Sometimes individual words have differ30 | Montana Mouthful

ent meanings. I feel like an exchange student in my own country. At CVS, a shaggy man argues with the pharmacist, banging an empty prescription bottle on the glass, demanding a refill insurance doesn’t cover. Dad folds his arms over his chest. The hand on bottom slips under his coat and like an x-ray I see his fingers curling around the pistol. The man throws the orange plastic bottle at the glass and stalks out of the store. Walking back to the car, breathing dad’s secondhand fears, I check faces and doorways. When we get home, dad says he’s going to lay down and shuts himself in his room. I sit on my bed and stare across the narrow hallway. TV light flashes under his door, voices thrum and laptop keys clack with a machine rhythm like there’s a factory in there, an assembly line where ideas are welded onto his imagination, words blow-torched under his skin. We’re supposed to put up the lights, but I don’t think he’s coming out anytime soon. I go downstairs, load the Kenmore dishwasher, walk out into the cool dusk. I remember peddling my Schwinn around the block, music and voices coming from open windows, people on porches, kids playing touch football, running down-and-outs into each other’s lawns. Now it’s like a ghost town, fences to the curb, bars on windows, 24-hour news buzzing against dark screens. I know it didn’t happen overnight, but it feels that way. I walk up the hill to the top of Hobart Avenue. Dusk paints the rooftops and trees deep amber. In the distance, downtown fades into a silhouette, skyscrapers a serrated blade cutting across the purple horizon. Two blocks below, dad stands on a ladder, stringing Christmas lights on the eaves. Vol. 2 • Issue 2


Teaching Nobody by Hugh Findlay I have so much to say to nobody So I throw words up into a vast blackboard sky And while nobody listens, my words drop like chalk into a deep cold well below And each word calciďŹ es into stone Until the well overows with nothing less than something And nobody learns a single goddamned thing

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Schoolmaster by Don Noel


My Dad grew up, at the turn of the last century, in a little town outside Butte. If he ever told us its name, I’ve forgotten. He claimed it was the toughest town in the state, populated mostly by copper miners, with a one-room schoolhouse that was the terror of educators. When he was in second grade, Dad said, the then schoolmaster was insistent they learn to spell words right: If one misspelled a word, he snatched the mandatory wooden ruler off the child’s desk and delivered a thwack! on the knuckles. Dad wasn’t much of a speller. After a time in the mines himself, he got to college and became a pioneer in powder metallurgy— a career that lifelong required little writing. He came home from spelling lessons one day with a broken ruler. “How’d you break that?” his father asked. “Sat on it by accident,” Dad lied. “Be more careful,” his father said. “Here’s another.” 32 | Montana Mouthful

He came home a few weeks later with another broken ruler, with another lie about how it happened. This time, the replacement his father provided was an engineer’s rule, one of those triangular sticks you couldn’t break across your knee if you tried. At that point, Dad said, “I learned to spell.” Believe it or not, that schoolmaster didn’t last long. He could bully eight-year-olds into spelling better, but he couldn’t manage their older brothers, who made his life hell with heavy-handed pranks, including several involving the outdoor privy that need not be described here in detail. He quit, and was succeeded by a veritable parade of men who could only stick it out a few weeks. The school board despaired, and advertised the job more widely. Along came a little man whose thick handlebar moustache, tall black Stetson and heavy black wool cape could not disguise that he stood barely five feet and couldn’t have weighed more than a hundred pounds. He Vol. 2 • Issue 2


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sought out the board chairman at his general store. “I’m Bruno O’Reilly. I’m here to take your school job.” Thank you, the chairman said, but this was a pretty tough school, and those kids would have him for breakfast. “I don’t think so,” the diminutive candidate said. “You have anyone else applying?” No, the chairman admitted. “Then give me a chance.” The chairman convened the board in the back of the store, and they reluctantly agreed to hire the fellow for however long he might last. That was Monday evening; they put out word that school would reopen Wednesday. The new schoolmaster spent Tuesday making quiet preparations, starting at the livery stable. “I want a horse and buggy for tomorrow morning.” Easy enough, the stableman said. “I want a horse that’s deaf.” The stableman had that too. “He’s pretty old, though, and a bit lame. How far you goin’?” “Just as far as the schoolhouse.” “I guess he can manage that, all right.” So the new schoolmaster rented the horse and buggy for the next day, and made a few other arrangements. “What time’ll you be here?” the liveryman asked. “Say 8:30.” “I dunno. School usually starts at eight.” “That’s just fine.” As Bruno O’Reilly obviously intended, the entire student body had been in front of the schoolhouse for a half-hour when he hove into view in his oversized black Stetson and cape, and the older boys were getting pretty

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frisky. Everyone stopped whatever they’d been doing and watched his approach, the old horse barely managing a slow trot. “Whoa!” he hollered, maybe twenty yards from the schoolhouse. Everyone but the horse heard him, of course, although it’s unlikely anyone noticed that he hadn’t pulled up the reins. The horse kept shambling along. “WHOA!” He belted it out, this time. The deaf old horse kept coming. “WHOA, goddammit!” This time Bruno O’Reilly pulled up on the reins, and the horse came to a stop right in front of the school. Out of the buggy in a flash, he stepped up to grab the bridle with one hand. With the other, he reached under his cape to produce a very large, bright steel revolver, which he rammed into the horse’s ear. BAM! A single shot, and the horse fell dead in the traces. Ignoring his audience, the new schoolmaster blew the smoke away from the gun barrel and looked down. “NEXT TIME I tell you to do something, goddammit,” he shouted at the equine corpse, “I guess you’ll PAY ATTENTION!” At last he looked up at his waiting students. He manipulated the revolver visibly to chamber another round, then tucked the gun into whatever holster lay his under the cape. “All right,” he said to a very attentive audience. “Never mind the horse. All of you get into the schoolhouse right now, and take your proper seats. NOW!” Bruno O’Reilly was still schoolmaster, Dad said, when he graduated. That’s the story he told. Said every word of it was true.

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Medical Condition(s): Hemophilia by John Wojtowicz A scoutmaster tugs the sleeve of my sun-faded staff shirt, pointing to one of his campers then to a health information form; “That boy’s blood doesn’t clot. If he starts to bleed, he won’t stop.” The other scouts assigned to my patrol gasp. The boy scrambles to explain; “My nose spray is in the health lodge. Two squirts and I’m good.” “Nothing sharp. He’s fragile.” says the scoutmaster with finality. The boys skip him when pocket knives are passed around on Monday. Tuesday he’s the odd man out when we practice fireman carries. I pretend I don’t hear him ask; “Permission to enter the axe yard?” during Wednesday’s Totin’ Chit demonstration of woods tools.

“Man, I never get to do nothin” he says afterwards, heading to the mess hall. During my shift at the health lodge, I pocket his nose spray and hold him back the next day when the patrol heads to lunch. He responds with a firm thank you as I pass him a hand axe and makes sure to hold it properly: belly with his left, under the head with his right. Letting the weight do the work, he splinters the pine blocks into finer and finer kindling with a series of smooth swings. I let him use my pocket knife to cut up carrots, potatoes and beef patties. We add water to our foil packets before placing them on the fire: two scouts sitting on logs, identifying bird calls, watching our lunch simmer.

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First Night Out by Rachel Hoffman


nly a fool tests the water with both feet.

We had entered the southern outskirts of Mali’s Inland Delta, of annual summer floods in which rich mineral silt washes down from the Fouta Djallon mountains of Guinea. In good years, the water breaches the banks of Niger River tributaries and fertilizes the soil for another season’s planting and grazing. Decades have passed, however, since this actually happened. Successive annual drought, instead of the hoped-for deluge, has ravaged the population with hunger and brought death to animal herds, impoverishing previously wealthy herders. The changes gave rise to nightmare scenarios in which the current generation of nomadic shepherds had to settle and learn to farm or die, and settled people had to move farther south in search of new land to cultivate. Not too far beyond the sides of our road rose chains of termite mounds. The two-inch 38 | Montana Mouthful

long flying insects form vast colonies by chewing soil from underneath themselves, gnawing downward and mixing the soil with saliva, then spitting out a cement-like substance with which they build upward. The mounds beyond the road loomed in giant bulging columns, some 15 or 20 feet high, with mushroom-shaped caps. They supported millions of insects and looked like monumental stone penises. The sky turned from bright grey to deeper grey to dusk until I could no longer see as far as the side of the road. My butt was sore from sitting. I wondered about the night, and where we’d stop, but if I asked, Moussa would say, “We’ll stop when there’s a place to stop, Rachelle.” And, of course, we did, when there was. The name of the tiny village is lost to me, but several of its male inhabitants welcomed us with smiles and bows of their heads, as if we’d been long expected. We parked at the perimeter of the village, unrolled our sleeping mats, Vol. 2 • Issue 2

and placed them close together on the ground outside of an empty compound. The men who had come to welcome us pounded several stakes into the ground windward of our mats and tied additional mats upright to the stakes to break the advancing dust-carrying bluster. These men brought with them a small stove, a charcoal-burning furnaux, the size of an upended shoebox and the only type of stove I ever saw outside of Bamako. Moussa pulled charcoal, tea, and sugar, three shot-sized glasses, tray and teapot from his bag, and boiled leaves and sugar into a khaki syrup known as tea. The initial boil is called “prémiers,” firsts, and it is so strong and so sweet, drinking it is like slurping molasses. Slurping is part of the routine. It cools the hot liquid and, for the same inexplicable reasons that some manners are considered bad, and others become convention, loud slurping is part of the social ritual. For the “deuxièmes,” seconds, more water and sugar are added to the leaves and this is boiled into a slightly less vile elixir. The “troisièmes,” thirds, is the final round, almost potable. After thirds, the leaves are thrown to the goats and the teapot is stuffed with fresh leaves and more sugar. The men spoke in Fulani language, mostly through Yaya, although they knew some Bamanakan so Moussa could participate. Chieck—still with cameras slung about his neck – stalked around, disappeared, returned, took photos with bright, irritating flashes. Every man was wrapped in long cloths and turban and the men of our team bundled blankets around themselves, too, as the sun set. I was happy in my sleeveless cotton shift. Long before the party broke up, I began to drift. It was impossible to sit silently after a long day on bachée-hard seats, hearing but not

understanding, and still appear engaged as the men talked late into the evening. Everyone had taken afternoon siestas, but I never did get the hang of it. We moved from the outside into the courtyard of the small compound we had earlier set ourselves up next to. Our compound for the night with a one-room structure. The arrangements had been made among the men. I followed Moussa’s lead. The four of us slept within spitting distance of one another in that courtyard, me between Yaya and Moussa, Moussa with my hat over his face, until a squall whooshed low into us, bringing with it a hard splatter of wet dust. Even earlier having been covered in fine

The men who had come to welcome us pounded several stakes into the ground windward of our mats and tied additional mats upright to the stakes to break the advancing dust-carrying bluster. Saharan sand, even feeling grime beyond anything I thought I’d ever feel again during that first trip, this, on our first night, was something completely new: a harmattan storm, a wall of dust and dirt hurtling across the Sahel, the wall horizon-long and tall and thick traveling at 40 miles per hour. I don’t know who grabbed me and my sheet and mat, but I was pulled by the arm into the one room of that small compound to find the other three there when I finally could open my eyes to the flashlight. This was an old structure of crumbling mud brick, probably abandoned, the breadbox-size window without shutters was open to the wind and dust, as was the doorway, no way to block either. Moussa and I kept our bags close. We were all close. Montana Mouthful | 39


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Moussa smelled of tobacco, faintly mixed with sweat. He’d taken on the affect of a pipe, even when he had nothing to put in it. Chieck must have splashed himself with cologne before all this happened; maybe he went prowling around. Yaya, I couldn’t detect any bouquet coming from Yaya. “Monsieur Propre,” Mr. Clean, I called him. “Et toi,” Moussa said. I’d taught him the word copasetic. He said in English, “You are copasetic?” I laughed, then looked around. I whispered, “I have to pee.” Every compound has at least one attached outside enclosure with a hole in the ground that opens into a leach pit. The toilet is surrounded by wall on three sides for privacy and one open side for getting in and out. Moussa directed me to walk through our courtyard, follow the outside wall to the right, turn right again, and I’d find the toilet. I wrapped a bandanna around my nose and mouth and squinted forward until I found the outside wall. The dust was so thick and the wind so strong, I could see no more than a foot in front of me, but with my left hand holding my skirt taut and my right hand against the rough exterior wall, I followed it to the right and turned, then another right until the wall ended. With my flashlight held at knee level, I could make out a small slab of concrete and beyond it, the hole in the ground. I closed my eyes again against the wind. I straddled the hole in the ground and pulled up my skirt to squat. Relief…my bladder began to let go. One after another, out of the hole, screeching beasts flew up into my legs, tangling in my skirt. I shrieked. I jumped. I peed down my legs onto my flip-flops, fumbled my flashlight and lost it into the toilet

and reached out for anything upright. I stood there and shrieked in the dark and the airborne dust while the last of the beasts left my skirt. I thought I might have a stroke, or faint in the toilet, our first night out. “Rachelle!” Moussa called. My terror had been so loud that he, Yaya, and Chieck, along with a couple of dozen villagers, had heard me over the wind. I squeaked and squealed. I shook and cried and covered my face. Then two women began to laugh. I was outraged. Then the men laughed, too. I was not the first woman to suffer bats flying out of a toilet, but I was the first white woman to have it happen in their village. What the hell was I doing? I was a stupid American who should have stayed home. “Rachelle,” said Moussa. “Restes calme,” Stay calm. Stay calm my ass! I couldn’t even pee by myself. Moussa took my right arm, and Yaya the other. They walked me by the elbows back around the wall to our room. My teeth were chattering and I was trembling, but the situation was so bizarre that instead of cry, I started to laugh. By morning, everyone in the village knew. I hadn’t died of fright. And when a good portion of a two hundred resident village gathered in the morning to laugh, when the harmattan wind had passed and everyone connected to the bush phone—the GNN, or Gossip News Network—was scrambling to see the white woman now red with dust (except for what urine had washed from her calves and sweat had caused to drip into blotches of deeper brown) I laughed too, because to do otherwise would have been crazy. Montana Mouthful | 41


Boar Hunt by Jonathan Maniscalco


The bush was a prickly uneven bed to lay on. Still, William was comfortable. The old butcher was on the bush next to him with his eyes half open and the rifle across his belly. It had gotten warmer since the sun had come up but the wind chilled the air. The two of them had been at this spot on the hill for a long time, looking lazily over the plains littered with patches of tall grass and trees for several miles up to the mountains. It was a clear day so the snowcapped peaks were visible. The prospect of hunting had not excited him when his host father had explained that was going to be the first activity of his new European life. He wasn’t against the practice, but held the common suburban distaste and overall squeamishness towards it. This was nice though. The view was not only beautiful but served as a contrast to the fields of shining wheat he had seen the way up here and an addition to the collage his mind was making of this country. 42 | Montana Mouthful

It was all new so he should try things he wouldn’t back home. He wasn’t going to shoot anything anyway. They sat longer. When dogs started barking in the distance the butcher jumped up with agility beyond his age and shape. William started to get up, but the large hand of the butcher hovering above kept him down. The barking was still distant. Lifting his rifle, the butcher looked through the scope and aimed. Squinting, William tried to see what he was pointing at, but couldn’t. The rifle went off a second later and William caught a small dot moving across the frosty grass. A pack of smaller dots were gaining on the slowing first dot, but before they caught it William was pulled up by the butcher and the two jumped off the hill to where their doorless jeep had been waiting. The butcher drove, seeming to know exactly where his target was going to end up. After twists and turns they came out of a tree patch to see the dogs had surrounded a boar. They were attacking all at once. The Vol. 2 • Issue 2

boar kept them back with its big tusks, which regulated the hounds’ bites to its legs and back side whenever it turned its back on a new section of the circle. Two other jeeps had arrived before them. One of which had contained William’s host father. He was standing over the circle of dogs with the hunters from the other jeeps. His big body in his coat and a mud-flap hat on his head with both hands clutching a similar rifle to the butcher. The barking from the dogs had not ceased in their attack. Now accompanied with snarls that bared their teeth ferociously and dripped with eager saliva. The boar’s tusks were lowering and the dogs were getting bolder, biting at its face and jumping on its back. The brutality of it was hard for William to watch. The crumbling boar wasn’t satiating the dogs’ bloodlust but intensifying it. Their barks turned to howls as they piled on top of the wild animal, biting deeper and longer until it stopped twitching. One of the hunters without a gun ran up to the dogs shouting and waving his arms. The dogs bounced off the boar in different directions and started dancing around their trainer howling and jumping with a primal happiness William had never seen in a dog back home. But whatever wholesome dignity William could take from that was ruined when the trainer grabbed the tusks of their kill and started waving it around. It seemed unnecessary and against what William had been taught, the relationship hunters and prey should have from the lore of his country’s noble, almost mythical, hunters. Still, the animal was dead and it was making the dogs happy. These were actual hunters. Another trainer was kneeling in front of a lone dog off to the side of the commotion.

William could tell the dog was hurt by its whining. The trainer was rubbing salve on the large gash near its mouth and whispering reassurances as the dog twitched away. William felt more for the dog than the boar. He thought he shouldn’t but something natural was pulling him to appreciate the sacrifice the dog had made more than the boar’s life. Another gun sounded and echoed over them. The dogs looked up at the sky, then at their trainer, who started yelling and waving his hands again. The dogs took off and everyone but William spoke in rapid Basque before jumping to their newly designated task. William’s host father and a trainer got in a jeep and drove in the direction the dogs had gone. The trainer who had treated the dog

When dogs started barking in the distance the butcher jumped up with agility beyond his age and shape. William started to get up, but the large hand of the butcher hovering above kept him down. picked the wounded animal up and was driven in a different direction by another hunter. It was just William, the butcher, and the boar. The butcher took out plastic gloves a doctor would use from his pocket. He put them on and unsheathed the knife attached to his pant leg. He looked over at the boar then at William. Deciding something, he took out another pair of gloves from his

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pocket and handed them to William. William put them on without thinking about it, but backed away surprised when he realized the butcher was handing him the knife. The butcher smiled widely and nodded vigorously. William took the dull handle and

Bending over the dead boar, William unhappily touched the tip of the knife to its stomach. It felt tender and soft beneath the dark hair. He looked at the butcher, who nodded enthusiastically. stared at the butcher as he started speaking quickly and making cutting motions. William looked at the edge of the blade and nodded. Bending over the dead boar, William unhappily touched the tip of the knife to its stomach. It felt tender and soft beneath the dark hair. He looked at the butcher, who nodded enthusiastically. Feeling trapped, William pushed the knife into the dead animal expecting disgust or nausea. He didn’t feel any though. The knife had gone in easily and emotionlessly like he had cut into a dummy or mannequin. With barely any effort, William dragged the knife down the rest of the belly. The flesh opened on each side as the knife slid down, releasing a wheezing sound as gas escaped the body. When he was done, William was looking down at an assortment of guts he believed to be similar to his own. In his peripheral, William saw the butcher making a lifting motion and William

44 | Montana Mouthful

stuck the knife back in the boar and started lifting the wet, squishy, putrid-smelling guts out of the animal and leaving it next to the boar as a lucky surprise for fouler animals. When he was finished, the butcher patted his back before flipping the boar over. Blood soaked the frosted-tipped grass a dark, ugly red. When it was over, William helped the butcher carry the boar by the legs and laid it on the towels in the back of the jeep. Pointing to a bag in the back, the butchers took his gloves off and put them into it. William did the same. They drove back to the church that had been the meeting spot in the early morning and where the town ended. Not long after, William’s host father returned with another boar. Later, his host family, the butcher’s family, and many more people from the town gathered around the church’s outdoor tables for a picnic. The dogs were playing with the children. Running after and pouncing aggressively on the sticks and balls they threw, barking. A noise that, whether excited or angry, had lost its innocence to William. William’s host father called to him from the grill he was cooking over. He handed William a meat sandwich, which he knew would taste better before biting because now it was abstract and had been earned. Even if how it had come about had been ugly. Meat would always taste like food in a newly satisfying way to William. Of course this wasn’t the boar he had cut. His was still laying in the trunk to be further prepared for consumption at the butcher’s carniceria.

Vol. 2 • Issue 2

A Job Well Done

Taking Charge



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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 artwork submitted by Emily Nguyen. Emily is a junior at Helena High School and a student of the Shop University. The painting of a girl and a mountain lion, titled “Species,” is about Emily’s passion for animals and wildlife.

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Vol. 2 • Issue 2



Montana Mouthful | 47

We hope you enjoyed another issue of Montana Mouthful magazine, this one replete with stories, poems, and images that related to ideas of “schooling.” The variations on the theme and the quality of submissions never cease to amaze us. We feel privileged to continually put together a literary magazine of such outstanding quality. We also want to give a shout-out to our very talented magazine layout designer, Mr. Luke Duran of Element L Design. Thank you, Luke! What’s next, you ask? The theme for our next issue is “Romance Gone Wrong.” We’ll begin taking submissions for this issue on October 15, 2019, and we’ll close for submissions on December 15, 2019. We aim to publish the issue on February 10th, right before Valentine’s Day. We can’t wait to see what sort of stories, poems, and images you come up with for “Romance Gone Wrong.” Thanks again for your continued readership, submissions, and support for the magazine! We couldn’t do it without you. Sincerely, Jasmine Lamb, Editor

Serving Helena for over 40 years selling adult and children’s books, records, gifts and more. Open every day of the week. Special orders welcomed! 406.465.1939

48 | Montana Mouthful

Vol. 2 • Issue 2


Creative Writing Contest. Among her published work is “Ashes Over Havana,” selected for inclusion in Best Women’s Travel Writing and published internationally in Sweden’s Granslös. A graduate of the University of Miami School of Law as well, she’s a recovered immigration lawyer and former Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress. She lives on a farm minutes from Iowa City, a UNESCO City of Literature. You can find out more about Magda at Kimberly Diaz

Candy Bedworth Candy’s love of Cornish Rex kittens is a new and thoroughly inexplicable life phase. She lives in a remote part of Wales, but she is still on her way home. Candy has almost no social media presence, but you can friend her on Facebook or read her art history articles at

Kimberly Diaz studied Creative Writing at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. Her creative nonfiction has appeared in the Eckerd Review, Fleas on the Dog, and is forthcoming in Ariel Gore’s latest anthology, The Wonderful. She is a mother, teacher of gifted students, and extremely concerned citizen. She is currently working on a collection of creative nonfiction and volunteering for the presidential candidate she believes will represent the will of the people. Charles Duffie

Larry Brown lives in Brantford, Ontario. His story collection TALK was published by Oberon Press, and his story Triangle appeared in Best Small Fictions 2017. He teaches writing workshops throughout southwestern Ontario.

Charles Duffie is a writer and designer working in the Los Angeles area. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Los Angeles Review of Books, So It Goes (The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library), Atticus Review, Anastamos, Bacopa Literary Review, Prime Number Magazine, Exposition Review, and others. You can find out more about Charles at

Roger Camp

Luke Duran

Roger Camp lives in Seal Beach, CA, where he gardens, walks the pier, plays blues piano, and spends afternoons with his pal, Harry, over drinks at Nick’s on 2nd. When he’s not at home, he’s traveling in the Old World. His poems have appeared in Rust+Moth, Southern Poetry Review, and Nimrod. He is also the author of three photography books including Butterflies in Flight, Thames & Hudson, 2002. His work is represented by the Robin Rice Gallery, NYC. Find out more about Roger at

Luke Duran is a graphic artist composed mainly of oxygen (65%), carbon (18.5%), hydrogen (9.5%), nitrogen (3.3%), calcium (1.5%), phosphorus (1%), potassium (0.5%), and a whole mess of trace elements, depending on what he had for dinner last night. He specializes in design for print, and generally puts his artistic energy toward things like education, conservation and the arts. He maintains a snarky page about logos at, and a page about great album artwork at Learn more about Luke at his old and outdated website:

Larry Brown

Eileen Collins Eileen Vorbach Collins is a Baltimore Native. She lives in Florida where she is working on a collection of essays. Eileen’s work has been published in Bereavement Magazine, Anastamos, and HerStry. Other nonfiction stories are forthcoming in the Santa Fe Writer’s Project and an anthology by Chaleur Press. Eileen would like to go back to third grade and give school another try. Magda Montiel Davis Magda Montiel Davis holds a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program, where she was awarded an Iowa Arts Fellowship. Her memoir, Kissing Fidel, received Honorable Mention from Red Hen Press’s 2019

Hugh Findlay The author lives in Durham, NC, and would rather be caught fishing. He drives a little red MG, throws darts on Tuesdays, reads and writes a lot, dabbles in photography, and makes a pretty good gumbo. Zac Hall Zac Hall is from Bismarck, ND and has strong ties to the ranching and livestock industries. He loves being involved with youth and livestock and advocating production agriculture. He strives to share these passions through his work. You can find out more about Zac at the following. Instagram: @zacforte and

Montana Mouthful | 49

Rachel Hoffman

Don Noel

Rachel’s stories have appeared in Immersion, Litro, 1966 Journal, NUNUM, *82 Review, Raw Art, and Hot Metal Bridge—the submission chosen for the creative non-fiction Social Justice Prize—and elsewhere. A 2017 Fulbright granted Rachel a month’s residency at the International Writers House in Ventspils, Latvia. Rachel’s debut novel, Packer and Jack, was published by a small press in 2014. She holds a PhD in art history.

Retired after four decades’ prizewinning print and broadcast journalism in Hartford CT, Don Noel received his MFA in Creative Writing from Fairfield University in 2013. He has since published more than four dozen short stories and nonfiction pieces (including Iniquities, which was in Montana Mouthful’s inaugural issue). He has two novellas and a novel still looking for publishers. You can find out more about Don at

Charles Malone Charles Malone grew up in rural Northeastern Ohio, headed west to the Rockies, came back to the Great Lakes, and has loved all of it. His chapbook Questions About Circulation is out with Driftwood Press as part of the Adrift Chapbook Series. He edited the collection A Poetic Inventory of Rocky Mountain National Park with Wolverine Farm Publishing and has work recently published or forthcoming in Hotel Amerika, The Best of Boneshaker: A Bicycling Almanac, The Sugar House Review, The Dunes Review, Saltfront, and Matter: Nomad. Charles now works at the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University coordinating community outreach programs. Find out more about Charles on Instagram @c_j_malone. Jonathan Maniscalco Jonathan Maniscalco is an ESL teacher living and working in Santiago, Chile. His first short story collection, 10 Stories to Manhood, was published by Adelaide Books in 2018. You can find Jonathan on John Nelson John S. Nelson has published poetry and other work in journals, magazines, and newspapers. Recent publications include poems in Pasque Petals, Briar Cliff Review, South Dakota Magazine, Poetry Motel, and Delmar. A professor of English for New Media at Dakota State University in Madison, SD, he is a native of Fort Pierre, South Dakota, the oldest European settlement in South Dakota. His chapbook, West River, is this year’s winner of the SD State Poetry Society competition and will be published this fall. Emily Nguyen Emily Nguyen is a junior at Helena High School and a student of the Shop University, who spent most of her time doing art when she was little. This painting of a girl and a mountain lion, named “Species,” is about her passion for animals and wildlife. Wild animals belong in their natural habitat and human beings must not harm or cage them for their own benefit to avoid a world where these creatures will only exist in the past.

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Mo Operandi Mo Operandi is an arts student who loves street photography and taking reportage style images. Follow him on Instagram: @mo_operandi. Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli is a documentary photographer, seeing the lives of others through the lens of her Nikon. And in that moment, she tries to capture the split second flash that betrays truth. In her long journalistic career, she has captured images of celebrities and blues harp guys, of grief, of joy, of protest and anger and secreted love. These days, she’s living in New York’s Adirondacks, not far from Quebec and the Vermont border is just about outside her front door. Find out more about Kathleen at Jessica Putnam Jessica Putnam is a fourteen year-old high school freshman from Great Falls, Montana. She enjoys drawing and playing computer games in her free time. Her goal is to become a digital artist. Brett Ramseyer Ramseyer’s work has appeared in Montana Mouthful, Silver Needle Press, the Peregrine Journal, Sixfold, and Chaleur Magazine. His novel COME NOT TO US (2014) and short story collection WAITING FOR BELLS (2016) are available at He also administers the Joan Ramseyer Memorial Poetry Contest at which announces its winners and finalists as well as releasing its contest anthology SUNBEAMS on the same date of this issue, September 23, 2019. He invites all to login, enjoy, and submit poetry in the 2020 contest starting at the turn of the new year. Find out more about Brett at

Vol. 2 • Issue 2

William Rudolph

George Stein

William Rudolph earned his MFA in Writing from Vermont College—where his mentors included Mark Cox, Jody Glading, Leslie Ullman, and Roger Weingarten. His poetry has appeared in Barrow Street, The North American Review, Quarterly West, The Nebraska Review, Rattle, The English Journal, and many other journals—most recently Steam Ticket, SLANT, Flint Hills Review, and The Briar Cliff Review. He coaches student writers at Grinnell College and in GC’s Liberal Arts in Prison Program.

George L Stein is a writer and photographer living in Michigan City in Northwest Indiana. George works in both film and digital formats in the urban decay, architecture, fetish, and street photography genres. His emphasis is on composition with the juxtaposition of beauty and decay lying at the center of his aesthetic. Northwest Indiana’s rust-belt legacy provides ample locations for industrial backdrops. George has been published in Midwestern Gothic, Gravel, Foliate Oak, After Hours, Hoosier Lit, Gulf Stream Magazine, 3Elements, Stoneboat, Occulum, the Gnu Journal, Iliinot Review and Darkside Magazine. Find out more about George at the following: Instagram @georgelstein and @_dark__muse_ as well as

Gerard Sarnat Gerard Sarnat is a retired physician who has built and staffed homeless and prison clinics. He was also a Stanford professor and healthcare CEO. As a writer, he has won First Place in Poetry in the Arts Award, the Dorfman Prize, been nominated for a handful of recent Pushcart and Best of the Net Awards, published four collections and appeared in Stanford, Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Pomona, Brown, Columbia, Wesleyan, University of Chicago periodicals as well as in Gargoyle, Main Street Rag, American Journal Poetry, Poetry Quarterly, New Delta Review, Brooklyn Review, LA Review, San Francisco Magazine, and The New York Times. Find out more about Gerard at Mervyn Seivwright Mervyn R. Seivwright was born in London, England and has appeared in Park University’s The Scribe publication, Dayton’s Flights Literary Journal, Rigorous Journal, Toronto, Canada’s The Trinity Review, and has been commissioned by the British Museum, Ipswich, United Kingdom. Mervyn is currently studying for an MFA in Poetry at Spalding University, Louisville KY and residing in Tipp City Ohio. Find out more about Mervyn at the following:; Facebook: Mervyn “DeepCobra” Seivwright; Twitter: @DeepCobra.

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. Recent publications include: Driftwood, The Patterson Literary Review, Spitball, The OffBeat and Glassworks Magazine. He has poems forthcoming in Duck Lake Journal, Jelly Bucket, and Montana Mouthful.

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