er kidneycommissionconvincing moodsulphurpathcommunicationprejudiceelect composer cowmotivationaffectgirl nationalcategorydominatecontradictionmake registrationsuperin tendenthigheraverageloungecomputingimpresspitjokequotadQuarantineeportagehurtroad nuggledisplay wonderfavorablelistcharacterhandyabortionyouthsandwichobeseenlargevideo graduateradical inspectorsketchfullsoloceremonyfinaladviserexcavateediti helloppose folkdribblevegetablesmartmeadowhoroscopemagneticapproachexempt spitcolonycameraclinicimportpledgerecessionexposurebrillianceallowdirtyfish chaferespon siblenonsensecreateabsencedollbraveobjectivefragrantviablequota subjectvisualdeadtermlighterrelatefictionthighceilingdefinepearlfamiliar rabbithik eresourcecompeteoutputobjecthallregretlegbodyapplehelplessbrother volunteeralbumdi cocrackcheapmudimproveprizestillyearfrequencyladdernude
ctuationdeprivecaptainlegislationassetroarzerobrowngoalkeeperoft linger irony oily anepoolnoterevivesausagesurroundretreatQuarantineturn pony hugemaidwhip boy cungcaptivateclosedrushemergencywithchiefinterfaceofanesti mateashfixwheatinvestmentexposeenddemonstrationea startlionvisibleattackto tlevelsimplicityasylumfinishbiographyoffender kidneycommissionconvincing moodsulurpathcommunicationprejudiceelect composercowmotivationaffectgirl nationalcategorydominatecontradictionmake registrationsuperintendenthigher erageloungecomputingimpresspitjokequota deportagehurtroadsnuggledisplay wonderfaorablelistcharacterhandyabortionyouthsandwichobeseenlargevideo graduateradical spectorsketchfullsoloceremonyfinaladviserexcavateedition helloppose folkdribblevegetablesmartmeadowhoroscopemagneticapproachexempt spitcolonycameraclinicimportpledgerecessionexposurebrillianceallowdirtyfish chaferesponsiblenonsensecreateabsencedollbraveobjectivefragrantviablequota subtvisualdeadtermlighterrelatefictionthighceilingdefinepearlfamiliar rabbithikeresourcecompeteoutputobjecthallregretlegbodyapplehelplessbrother
VOLUME THREE â€˘ ISSUE THREE
Hello Montana Mouthful Readers and welcome to our Quarantine issue! I hope everyone is doing well in this unprecedented time. As one of the Montana Mouthful editors, I’m fortunate to live in Montana where our COVID-19 counts are fairly low. Big Sky Country is full of open spaces that allow for social distancing and areas of beautiful scenery. During the lockdown, many of us were able to explore, hike, bike and enjoy the great outdoors in relative safety. We know this is not the case for many of you who’ve been quarantined in small apartments in big cities where you’ve had to avoid a multitude of people. We can only imagine the sort of stress you’ve been under in the more populated areas of the country and beyond. The Coronavirus situation has been stressful, humbling, and hurtful, yet it’s also inspired so much hope, love, and humanity. This was evidenced within the enormous amount of submissions we received for the issue; this theme set new submission records at Montana Mouthful. We received submissions from across the globe, and each submission gave us a unique perspective on quarantine and the mental and physical toll it's taken on people. We want to thank all of the submitters but especially the contributors of this issue for their courage, insights, and talent. Your prose, poetry, and artwork is a breathtaking mixture of sadness and hope, of anger and joy, and of fear and courage. While we’re extending thanks, we also want to thank the staﬀ of Copper Furrow Brewing Company in Helena, Montana, who recently hosted a fundraiser for us. We are grateful for those who donned their face masks and joined us for a socially-distanced drink. The brewery helped us raise money to assist with the expenditures necessary to produce our lovely magazine. In the following pages, please enjoy the many selections of poetry, ﬁction, non-ﬁction and artwork that describe or show how folks have spent their time during the Coronavirus quarantine and the multitude of feelings evoked during this pandemic. Stay healthy and hopeful my friends, With warmest thanks, Cari Divine, Co-Editor
II | Montana Mouthful
Vol. 3 • Issue 3
Quarantine VOLUME THREE • ISSUE THREE 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. EDITORS Jasmine Swaney Lamb Cari Divine 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/PURCHASING ISSUU: https://issuu.com/montanamouthful/ PEECHO: peecho.com CONTACT Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 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
Introduction .......................................................................II July 2020: A Quarantine Countdown .................................2 Tiptoes................................................................................7 A Small Price To Pay For Yo-Yo Ma...................................8 How To Grocery Shop In A Global Pandemic.................15 The Sixty-First Day...........................................................16 Obsessive Compulsive in the Time of Coronavirus ..........19 Quarantine Day 44 ...........................................................20 Fill In The Blanks..............................................................23 Contact Tracer ..................................................................26 Sheltered and Shorn .........................................................29 Mountain Quarantine.......................................................30 Quarantine for Better .......................................................33 I Have a Corner Darkened ...............................................35 The Terrible Shopper ........................................................36 Pop Evaluation..................................................................38 After the Quarantine ........................................................42 A Kentucky Writer Quarantined in Peru..........................44 the illustrated woman........................................................47 The Woman Across the Hall: A Quarantine Fable ...........48 Four Hundred Miles in a Hot Car while Banjo Music Plays.............................................................53 Spain in the Time of Balconies .........................................56 Cruel White Sheets ..........................................................58 Living in the World of Covid ...........................................64 An Issue Masks Alone Cannot Fix ...................................66 I Discover I Miss the City I Hate .....................................70 The Disappearance of Daughter X....................................72 The Deli Next to the Nursing Home Brings Coﬀee to Your Car .......................................................................77 Behind the Locked Door ..................................................79 Editor’s Enclosure.............................................................81 Quarantine........................................................................87 Editor’s Note.....................................................................89 Biography..........................................................................90 Cover art:
Connected from a Distance montanamouthful.com
| KATE O’DONNELL
Montana Mouthful | 1
July 2020: A Quarantine Countdown by Kriﬆen Gidel 12 As in p.m., and I’m still in pajamas: boxers, glasses, an old t-shirt. My hair, not cut since January, is in a clip I bought in another life, while studying abroad in Italy. My husband is in his makeshift oﬃce, and I should be making lunch for our boys. Instead, I’m re-reading Paul Ollinger ‘s Your Only Goal Is to Arrive, sent by a friend in March, when I was in a hamster wheel of “doomscrolling” and drinking cups of Chardonnay to quell pandemic panic. Ollinger shares his story of an exhausting pre-pandemic ﬂight with a baby. When he later apologizes for not working en route, his colleague reminds him, “ traveling with kids is a whole diﬀerent thing than traveling by yourself… forget about napping, reading a book, or checking email. Your only job is to keep the baby safe and as comfortable and quiet as possible.” Comparing this current pandemic to a crazy ﬂight with kids, Ollinger suggests the same end goal: “to arrive on the other side in one piece.” I’m not a masochist, so I’ve only taken 2 | Montana Mouthful
one ﬂight with my own children. But if this pandemic is like a ﬂight with kids, the plane is also on ﬁre. 11 The number of days until an annual resort vacation in Minnesota. But we won’t have everyone. Friends in Idaho are out because she is bravely treating ill patients and doesn’t have time to quarantine and vacation. The Vermonters are understandably nervous, not only about the long drive but also leaving a state that’s managing COVID-19. I’ve stared longingly at pictures of their sons at small group summer camps in masks, while we are held hostage by central Iowa heat and rising virus numbers. As I texted the Vermont friend today, we are planning to “Lysol the sh*t out of our cabin, open the windows, and hope for the best.” She sent back a puke emoji. 10 The dividing line for some extended family members: 10 rocking masks and social Vol. 3 • Issue 3
On the Inside Looking Out
| ELOÍSA PÉREZ-LOZANO
Montana Mouthful | 3
distancing to a few who aren’t. One of those anti-maskers caught—and beat—COVID recently. Otherwise, his life hasn’t changed. Yet I haven’t left my house in a week. Before schools began closing, I predicted quarantine would cause a delayed cluster of coronavirus babies or divorces from too much togetherness. And a phenomenon I called “corona-judgment” would divide those who followed protocols from those who didn’t. Now, even in my family, the mask-wearers refuse to see the non-mask-wearers, causing hurt feelings on both sides I sense will outlast this whole mess.
Some of my sons’ questions have pushed us to important conversations about equality, racism, power, privilege, good/ bad guys, adoption, and death. One conversation began with my older son bringing me a note he wrote for a classmate staying with a foster mom before the pandemic. In the note, my son revealed his own awakening to life’s discrepancies, writing, “I’m sorry your life isn’t fair.
9 Multiply by a thousand, which should equal the number of questions my kids ask each day: When can I come down from my room? Can I wear shorts? Are you done with yoga? Can I have chocolate chips in my yogurt? When will I see my teachers again? Mom, I’m making a Lego gun to ﬁght robbers… is that okay? What does “chubby” mean? Where is my watch? Why are you still in your pajamas? 4 | Montana Mouthful
When you get married, why does your face change? What’s that smell? Did I ﬁnish my milk? Can I have a snack? Can I look at your phone? Are there volcanoes in Iowa? Do I really have to wash my hands better? Why are those kids playing together if there’s a virus? Why do I have to go to the doctor if there’s a virus? Do only girls have big “lubbies” when they’re older? Will your foot tattoo be there forever? What did you look like as a kid? How much does college cost—$10,000? Wait, why is college so expensive? What’s for lunch? Ugh, did you put cheese on my sandwich? Why don’t cats like water? When will we see Grandma and Grandpa again? Did the virus start because someone ate a bat? Can we play Wii? Can we watch a movie? Where are you going? Are you ever coming back? 8 The age my older son turned during quarantine. We tried to make the day fun, letting him pick dinner and eat his birthday dessert ﬁrst. But he still melted down when he tried a new Lego set (“I can’t do this!!!!), projecting more about the other things he couldn’t do that day than anything else. We’ve become those annoying parents, reminding him not all kids have toys and food and safety right now. One day, instead of “we had to walk 30 miles uphill to school,” he will tell his grandchildren, “We lived through COVID-19… and I had to stay home with my parents for months…and they yelled more than usual…and I could only play with my brother.” I just hope he ends with: “But we were lucky.” 7 Some of my sons’ questions have pushed us to important conversations about equality, racism, power, privilege, good/bad guys, adoption, and Vol. 3 • Issue 3
death. One conversation began with my older son bringing me a note he wrote for a classmate staying with a foster mom before the pandemic. In the note, my son revealed his own awakening to life’s discrepancies, writing, “I’m sorry your life isn’t fair.” “Um, buddy,” I began slowly, trying to teach him the problems with pity. “This is really nice of you to think of him… but we don’t need to remind him things aren’t fair. He knows. Ask how he’s doing instead.” “But it’s so unfair that some moms can’t take care of their kids!” Tears pooled in his eyes, life’s realities tearing his tender heart to pieces. “I know. But adults try to help all kids have a family, no matter what. Kind of like A and Z next door… M and B are their parents, and they are a family, but A and Z were adopted.” (Our white neighbors have two biological white children and two adopted black children, all within a few years of my sons’ ages.) I ﬁgured my son knew this, so his shock surprises me: “Really?! They were adopted?” This summer, I’m reading Ibram X. Kendi’s book How to Be an Antiracist. He elucidates that we can’t ignore race to prevent racism because: “the color-blind individual, by ostensibly failing to see race, fails to see racism and falls into racist passivity. The language of color blindness… is a mask to hide racism.” I never told my son “we don’t see color,” but I’m still relieved he didn’t separate his friends next door into categories (biological, adopted) based on their skin color. He just saw a family. 6 The number of roles I played in early quarantine: mom, wife, high school teacher, preschool teacher, ﬁrst grade teacher, and cleaning crew. Never one at a time—instead, each role shifted in short intervals as I rushed to put my son on a montanamouthful.com
school call, then vacuum the house and clean the kitchen, then host zoom oﬃce hours for my students, then ﬁnish laundry, then plan a lesson, then ﬁnd something to keep my kids from ﬁghting. All with constant interruptions. But I have a husband who can work from home and likes to cook. We have insurance and paychecks. And none of us have pre-existing conditions. So, we’re okay, most of the time. 5 The number of weeks until I’m supposed to board another “ﬂight” with students and fellow teachers to resume school. Each district has drafted detailed plans for how we could ﬂy safely through fall semester, yet the necessary pre-ﬂight safety protocols aren’t being implemented. Our chief air controller (the governor) never mandated face masks, and even denied one city the ability to do so. Even though our state is on a “red zone” list for virus numbers, and I live in the largest city there, our governor signs a proclamation taking away local control, stating, “‘in-person instruction is the presumed method of instruction’” this fall. She wants to throw us all on a packed ﬂight and pretend we’re not navigating an incessant storm. I didn’t buy a ticket for this. 4 As in a.m., the time I fall asleep lately. I used to fall asleep fast, sleep deeply, and sleep late, but now I only do one of those each night. Early in the pandemic, I would crash, my eyes snapping open at the same time—2:08 a.m.—every night, my brain shuﬄing a freak-out playlist: Does anyone still care about climate change? Is it bad my kids haven’t been to church in years? What are we going to do about the pandemic causing larger gaps in marginalized groups? Am I damaging my kids by yelling so much? Montana Mouthful | 5
How am I unintentionally contributing to white privilege? My sleep schedule is the erratic equivalent of a college freshman, sleeping in shifts. When I do sleep, I dream I’m in dark, multi-story bars, cutting a gooey group birthday cake into pieces or trying to keep my drunk friends together, losing diﬀerent ones in the crowd as we make our way from the back of the bar, out the door, and to the car, where I am designated driver.
1 One pointed question today: My son shows me his Injustice, Gods Among Us cards, and when I ask which is his favorite, he says Ares, even though “he’s a bad guy,” because Ares has the most (numerical) power. When I ask “So you value power over being good?,” he shrugs. I vow to help him answer “NO” to that question the rest of his life. Even when, now, it feels like too many people are saying hell yes.
3 How many times I’ve denied my boys their Kindles today, at one point yelling, “STOP ASKING ME ABOUT YOUR KINDLES!” Maybe they’re not learning more math right now, but they should learn when to stop pushing. I also want to stick three forks in my eye if I have to hear them talk about their favorite game anymore. Yes, I worry they are always trying to avoid my “crazy eyes,” but as I said today at breakfast, “I’m not expecting perfection. Stop asking me for something every time you see me. I’m not here to serve and entertain you.” At this point, I’m done playing ﬂight attendant. I imagine what pioneer families were really like, stuck together on the same homestead for months, wondering if it was truly more Kardashian than Ingalls Wilder.
0 The amount of energy I have to try anything new. “New” was not returning to school after Spring Break or not seeing my parents or not being within six feet of neighbors. Ollinger ends “Your Only Goal Is to Arrive’’ with this advice, “When the plane ﬁnally lands, no one around you is going to remember if you ﬁnished that book proposal. All they’ll care… is whether you maintained your cool and kept your child from puking… it’s not about what you get done right now.” No problem. I tell myself “it’s not about what you get done right now” while binge-reading books instead of confronting the news, my to do list, or next semester’s plans. The problem is the arrival time. All travel has a scheduled arrival. Even when we ﬂew back from Hawaii soon after the 2011 tsunami, with an unscheduled stop in San Francisco because there weren’t enough pilots. Or in Italy, when we got on the wrong train and then missed the last train to our original destination. Or when I was on a plane circling for an hour to avoid a thunderstorm. But now 120 days into “social distancing” or “quarantine” or whatever we’re calling this crazy ﬂight, I keep feeding my kids snacks, hoping to “arrive on the other side in one piece.” Please just give me an arrival time.
2 The number of questionable haircuts I’ve given my husband and sons during quarantine. My husband has oﬀered to return the favor, but I keep saying, “Maybe next week...” Wedding vows may pledge “in sickness and in health,” but there isn’t anything about mutual trust in haircuts.
6 | Montana Mouthful
Vol. 3 • Issue 3
Tiptoes by Steve Denehan We heard her pottering around her room long after bedtime we heard her tiptoe slow and soft to the kitchen we heard the creaking door cause her pause and pictured her eyes wide and white her chest high with caught breath we heard the drawer open heard her rooting in it smiled at each other as she tiptoed back, quickly to her bedroom
I didn’t notice it at ﬁrst before seeing it while cleaning my teeth it was just below the bathroom mirror just above the sink the print of her hand cut out perfectly stuck on the tiles and written on it • Turn on tap. • Get soap. • Scrub saop on your hands. • Put hand under tap. • Get taol and turn of tap.
Friday night no school the next day secret late nights the fabric of childhood we let her be
I rinsed, spat into the sink put my hand on hers once and then again
later, we tiptoed too into her room her sleep, deep her breaths, long and sweet music her ﬂoor was covered with slivers of paper a scissors in amongst it all we shook our heads in the dark montanamouthful.com
Montana Mouthful | 7
A Small Price To Pay For Yo-Yo Ma by Timothy O’Leary Stan McGreevy was a legend in Santa Pulmo. For over forty years, he had been one of the most popular teachers at Santa Pulmo High, where he taught music and directed the school band. Twenty-three of his students went on to enjoy signiﬁcant musical careers, including the drummer for Stone Temple Pilots, ﬁve members of internationally renowned orchestras, backup singers for Paul Anka and Weird Al Yankovic, and a cast member of Jersey Boys. In 1999, the Santa Pulmo High Marching Band, under Mr. McGreevy’s leadership, was named best in the nation, and played at the Rose Bowl. The plumed shako that Mr. McGreevy wore that day while acting as drum major held a prime place in the school trophy case. Mr. McGreevy could be demanding; his face in crimson agony as he guided cacophonous students through diﬃcult Debussy and Vivaldi passages. However, he managed to temper musical passion with compassion and wisdom, the teacher kids turned to when they sought advice, or needed to unload distressing secrets, counseling teenagers on subjects ranging from abortion 8 | Montana Mouthful
to tattoo removal. When Carl Taggert announced he was gay, and was promptly ejected from his house, he took up residence in Mr. McGreevy’s garage while he ﬁnished high school. When Lanny Williams’ father lost his job, Stan pulled a few strings to get him hired in the high school maintenance department. Jessie Burdett had particular aﬀection for the man. In 1984, during her senior year of high school, he organized a concert in the park to raise funds to send her to Los Angeles for an audition for Star Search. Jessie had dreams of one day performing as the opening act for her idol, Cyndi Lauper, and had prepared a stirring rendition of Time after Time, which earned her a slot on the show. Jessie sang her heart out, but lost to an impish twelve-year-old doing a disturbingly sexy interpretation of Madonna’s Material Girl. Still, Ed McMahon took Jessie to lunch, and she met Rosie O’Donnell and Sawyer Brown. Even though she ultimately abandoned her musical dreams to open a bookstore in Santa Pulmo, she credited Mr. McGreevy with making one of her most cherished memoVol. 3 • Issue 3
Recovering with a Friend | GABY BEDETTI
Montana Mouthful | 9
ries a reality. So the previous February, when Mr. McGreevy suﬀered a massive stroke while conducting Puccini’s Nessun Dorma, the community came together in support. Mrs. McGreevy had passed away the previous year, and the only option was to house Mr. McGreevy in Moonlight Cove. Money was raised to upgrade him to a private suite, and former students became frequent visitors to their old mentor. Unfortunately, it was hard to gauge Mr. McGreevy’s reaction, his face frozen by the malady into a Muncian scowl. All contact to the outside world was cutoﬀ when the corona disaster struck Moonlight Cove, killing many of the residents and isolating the rest. Friends were terriﬁed for Mr. McGreevy, but he somehow managed to avoid contracting the virus, instead relegated to solitary conﬁnement. Jessie Burdett came up with the idea for the concert. Forced by the pandemic to close her bookstore, she had nothing but time on her hands, and was feeling an existential need to perform community service. She contacted several friends that had comprised their high school band, Jessie and the J Girls, to suggest they put the group back together. With Jessie singing lead, Deb Weekly on guitar, Jill Taylor on drums, and Pam Standly on bass, the group attempted to rekindle rock magic while rehearsing at a safe distance in Deb’s backyard. Even the ladies would admit their recreations of Pat Benatar and Bangle’s classics left a lot to be desired, but they ﬁgured it might bring a little pleasure to Mr. McGreevy and the Moonlight Cove residents, so on a Saturday afternoon they set-up on the lawn, ten feet apart, in front of Mr. McGreevy’s room. The residents initially looked confused and annoyed as Jessie and the band belted out Hit 10 | Montana Mouthful
Me With Your Best Shot, and Love is a Battleﬁeld, but warmed when they got to Manic Monday and Hazy Shade of Winter. It was diﬃcult to judge if Mr. McGreevy enjoyed the performance, though he continued to stare out his window for the entire hour. Word of the concert spread through the community, and Jessie received a call from an old classmate, Robert Cook. Robert and Jessie had been in band together, and Robert now taught musical theory at Santa Pulma State University. “I’m thinking of putting together a string quartet to play for Mr. McGreevy and the residents,” he said. “We’ll safely distance. We can even wear masks, since none of us will be belting out Walk Like an Egyptian,” he joked. “Wonderful idea,” Jessie said. She knew that Mr. McGreevy was much more a fan of Bach than The Bangles. That weekend she sat on the hood of her car in the Moonlight Cove parking lot, listening to Robert and the group perform Shubert’s Death and the Maiden on the lawn. Mr. McGreevy’s window was open, and he stared at the musicians, his head shaking back and forth. The performances were so successful that they decided to make them a regular Saturday event. The Santa Pulmo Explorer did a cover story on the event, which was picked up by the newswires—a rare bit of good news. “It’s incredible,” Jose, the manager of the retirement home exclaimed to the reporter. “It gives residents hope and something to look forward to.” Jessie was acknowledged as the founder of the Moonlight Cove concerts, as they were now called, and a couple weeks later she received a strange email. Read about the great work you are doing for Moonlight Cove. I’ll be passing through town, and would be glad to give a short performance. All my best, Yo-Yo Ma. Vol. 3 • Issue 3
Jessie assumed it was some kind of joke. She checked the email address: YYMa@gmail.com. Is it possible, she wondered? She forwarded it to Robert, asking if this could possibly be real. Unfortunately, I am not personally acquainted with Mr. Ma, he said. Seems dubious, but it can’t hurt to explore. Assuming it was some kind of ﬁnancial scam—he would probably ask she forward money to some account—Jessie replied, Thanks so much for your oﬀer, and we would love to have you perform, but we don’t have a budget to host celebrity talent. You misunderstand, YYMa@gmail.com replied. No need for compensation. I’d be happy to stop by Saturday and play for a few minutes. My only request is small cooler of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. I enjoy a cold one on weekend afternoons. Yo-Yo Ma was willing to come to Santa Pulma and play a concert at an old folk’s home in exchange for a six-pack of PBR? It made no sense. When she discussed it with Robert, he suggested they extend the invitation. “What have we got to lose?” he asked. “I’m curious to see who shows up.” YYMa@gmail.com told Jessie to expect promptly at three. Don’t forget the beer, he reminded her. Robert and Jessie kept the visitor secret, afraid of the embarrassment if it turned out to be a hoax. On Saturday a small crowd gathered at Moonlight Cove, expecting the usual concert. By regulation, they were not supposed to leave their cars, but a few people crawled on the roofs of their vehicles, while others just opened all their windows. The Moonlight Cove residents pulled chairs to their windows, anxiously awaiting the afternoon entertainment. Robert had his group ready to play, assuming there was no way in hell montanamouthful.com
Yo-Yo Ma would show up. Jessie and Robert, standing apart on the lawn, watched a dented Jeep pull in. A sixtysomething masked Asian man, dressed in cargo shorts and a t-shirt emblazoned with I LISTEN TO DEAD PEOPLE, walked towards them. A young woman with purple-streaked hair, face covered with a sun buﬀ, texting while she walked, followed behind. “Are you Jessie,” he yelled.
Yo-Yo Ma was willing to come to Santa Pulma and play a concert at an old folk’s home in exchange for a six-pack of PBR? It made no sense. When she discussed it with Robert, he suggested they extend the invitation. “What have we got to lose?” he asked. “I’m curious to see who shows up. Jessie turned to Robert, throwing a “is it possible it’s him” look, Robert shaking his head with an “I don’t know” gesture. Jessie yelled a greeting, and the man stopped ten feet away, and bowed in what had become the fashionable greeting during Corona. “Nice to meet you,” he said. “I’m Yo-Yo. Want me to play right there?” he pointed at a stool set in the center of the lawn. Jessie nodded in amazement. “Uh, yes. Thanks so much for coming.” “Did you bring the beer?” he asked. Jessie pointed at the small cooler sitting a few feet away. “Wonderful,” the man replied, clapping his hands as if she had bestowed a wonderful gift. “It’s a perfect day for music and beer, isn’t it?” His eyes curling in what she assumed was a smile. The purple-haired woman walked forward, Montana Mouthful | 11
pulled a disinfectant wipe out of her purse, cleaned the handle, removed a beer, wiped the top before popping it, and handed it to the man before opening one for herself. They pulled up their masks to take sips. “Will play for beer,” the man laughed. “Ever see a homeless guy with a sign like that?” Jessie smiled and nodded, still unsure what was happening. “Might be a good idea to give them the beer,” he said. “Can I borrow a cello?” “You don’t want to play your own instrument?” Robert said in amazement. “I don’t feel right about carrying Petunia around in that old thing,” the man said, motioning at the Jeep. “We’re camping. It’s tough on an instrument.” Robert yelled at one of the orchestra members, who brought over a cello and set it next to the stool. The woman pulled out another wipe, cleansed the stool and neck of instrument, and nodded at the man before she returned to the Jeep. “I was thinking Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major,” he said. “Maybe end with a little Here and Heaven to mix it up a bit. Kind of my greatest hits. OK?” Jessie and Robert nodded. From the minute the music started, the crowd leaned forward, realizing they were experiencing something special. Robert closed his eyes, head back, drinking in the music. At one point, he looked at Jessie and mouthed, “Oh my god.”
12 | Montana Mouthful
The man played for forty-ﬁve minutes, rising to thunderous applause, the Moonlight Cove residents screaming “bravo” out their windows. Mr. McGreevy’s head bobbed up and down, as he happily grunted “Yo-Yo, Yo-Yo.” The man bowed and waved, hustling back towards Jessie and Robert. “Incredible,” Jessie said, “Thank you so much.” Robert seemed too awestruck to say anything. “Happy to do it,” he said. “Thanks for the beer,” he said, leaning down to pick up the cooler. “Sorry, but we need to run,” he waved at the purple-haired girl standing in the parking lot, and hustled towards the vehicle. The girl came towards Jessie and Robert, stopping back a few feet. “Hate to ask, but would you guys happen to have a few bucks for gas?” Jessie and Robert exchanged confused glances, and Robert pulled out his wallet. “I have forty,” he said, setting the bills on the grass and backing up. “Perfect,” she said. They watched them tear out of the parking lot, as Robert followed Jessie six feet back to her car. “So it really was him?” Robert said. “What do you think? I can’t believe it. Yo-Yofucking-Ma.” Jessie noticed her car door was ajar, and looked inside. The glove box had been riﬂed, the contents strewn all over the seats and ﬂoor. “I think Yo-Yo’s girlfriend stole my phone and four bucks worth of quarters.”
Vol. 3 • Issue 3
While You Were Sleeping - Rialto
| STEVE MEREDITH
Montana Mouthful | 13
| ANN MARIE SEKERES
Quarantine 14 | Montana Mouthful
Vol. 3 â€¢ Issue 3
How To Grocery Shop In A Global Pandemic by Margaret Anne Ernﬆ Make a list of people in your life you want to check up on to make sure they’re alive and well. Examine your wrist on the spot where you accidentally brushed hands with the man scrapping metal on your block. Google the size of “particles.” Wash your hands, three times. Calculate how much you haven’t saved for retirement. Wonder if there will be “retirement.” On Instagram, watch Jonathan Van Ness make coﬀee while dancing in his underwear to Cher. Question whether you want to have children. Choose wisely. Check if you’re out of powdered milk while fantasizing about indoor concerts. Wonder if it’s worth the risk to visit your mother for Thanksgiving, wonder why we celebrate Thanksgiving. Check today’s updates on where the death toll is rising fastest. Turn oﬀ the radio. Call your sister.
Tell yourself others have it worse. Tell yourself that undermining our own pain is self-inﬂicted gaslighting. Wonder whether the price of Giant brand natural salt and pepper potato chips (ribbed) have really gone up, or whether you used to budget better. Listen to your favorite song. Cry. Google: diﬀerence between ventilator and a respirator life support: long term impact Make list. Go shopping. Keep your distance. Repeat.
Check the polls. Google: How did the roman empire fall? Spanish ﬂu 1918 Drive-in movies near me How to hold your pee in longer
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The Sixty-First Day by Susan Helene Sharon stared out the sliding glass door, waiting. She gave a quick glance at her watch. “Anytime now,” she assured herself. The house was cold. Sharon pulled her sweatshirt collar up around her neck. Mechanically, she lifted her coﬀee cup to her lips and took a small sip. Need to make it last. The hedge shuddered slightly and a fat, brown squirrel cautiously traversed the cement block wall. He paused on the cement pillar opposite the glass doors. His head turned towards the sliding glass door. Did he see her? Changing pace, he scampered out of Sharon’s sight towards the front of the house. Sharon nodded, reliable Skippy. Something she could count on in these days of uncertainty. She pushed her chair back, preparing to rinse the now empty mug when she caught a movement out of the corner of her eye. Standing on the pillar was Skippy. Or was it? No. This squirrel was smaller, grayer, and was looking directly at Sharon. The newcomer tilted its head. Turning, it bounded across the wall. Well, well! Looks like Skippy has a pal—a 16 | Montana Mouthful
girlfriend maybe. After all, it was April, or was it May? She’d have to check the calendar. Washing her mug at the sink, Sharon amused herself by thinking up a name for Skippy’s friend. She settled on “Bouncer.” Time to check on Kent. She would have at least an hour before her furry friends traversed the wall—the afternoon’s entertainment. Funny. Once she had rarely noticed the wildlife in her backyard. Skippy and now, Bouncer, had become her main source of entertainment. The TV no longer showed movies or sitcoms. What few channels remained were ﬁlled with newscasters spouting dire news reports and admonishing people to self-quarantine. She had unplugged the TV on Valentine’s Day. Not a single Hallmark movie or Valentines special. She was done. Sharon opened the freezer, removed the ice maker container, and dumped the ice cubes into a large bucket. She put on her dishwashing gloves. She replaced the container, closed the freezer, and picking up the bucket proceeded to the front hall stairs. It was dark here. She had stuﬀed towels around all the window frames Vol. 3 • Issue 3
and doors to keep the virus out and had not opened the front window drapes for the past two months. The sights had begun to depress her. Formerly tidy lawns lay unmowed. Landscapes, once lush with greenery and ﬂowers, were driedout specters of their former selves. Empty streets and burned out streetlights made the nights seem ominous. No, better to remember what was. She stopped outside the guest bedroom door. Edging it open slowly, she sniﬀed the air. Not too bad yet. No need to lower the temperature on the air conditioner again. Turning on the overhead light, she cautiously walked to the bed where her husband of ﬁfty-three years lay; an empty bucket stood sentry. Two thirty-inchlong wallpaper prep trays ﬁlled with water, lay on either side of his body. Carefully, Sharon emptied the trays into the empty bucket. Next, she reﬁlled them with ice cubes. Sharon stared at her dead husband. He’d been a good man. She had been the diﬃcult one. It seemed so unfair that the virus would take him and not her. He was the social one. He made friends standing in line at the grocery, pumping gas, or just out for a walk. All their friends had been his friends. She was sure that the isolation of the quarantine had killed him. He’d gone up to take his afternoon nap in the guest bedroom and never woken up. She should call the authorities. They would come and take him away and he’d end up cremated with a bunch of strangers. Kent didn’t deserve that. She would wait it out and they would be buried in their side-by-side plot at Golden Hills, with a proper graveside service. Yes, Siree! “There you go, Kent. Nice and cool. Guess what? Skippy has a friend. I named her Bouncer. I think we have a Spring romance blooming. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some baby squirrels to watch? Wish I had some nuts for them. montanamouthful.com
Maybe soon, Kent.” Grabbing the now water-ﬁlled bucket, Sharon returned to the kitchen. Using a plastic cup, she portioned the water out to the plants in the atrium window behind the kitchen sink. Sensing movement, she turned her head. Skippy and Bouncer were poised on the cement pillar, looking into the house. Cautiously, Sharon walked to the door. The squirrels tensed, tails raised, but did not move. Sharon ﬁngered the latch. Should she open the door? Would it scare them away and they’d never return? She couldn’t have that. They were the only living things in her life now (plants didn’t count). Sharon backed away from the door. The squirrels watched. Bouncer was the ﬁrst to move. Scampering down the wall, she ran up to the door. Skippy tentatively followed. What did they want? Did they want to come in? No. That was impossible. Should she go out? Also, impossible. The virus was out there. What was she afraid of? Dying? She wasn’t really living. Besides, it would only be the
What did they want? Did they want to come in? No. That was impossible. Should she go out? Also, impossible. The virus was out there. What was she afraid of? Dying? She wasn’t really living. backyard and it was such a lovely day! Sharon approached the door. The two squirrels ran back up the wall, settled on the cement pillar and watched. She slowly slid the door open and stepped outside into the warm, inviting air. She took a deep breath. Then another and waited. The squirrels watched. A noise. Sharon had heard something. Something mechanical. Then, a voice. Far away, but a voice. She wondered. Was she losing it? No, Montana Mouthful | 17
there was that noise again. Sharon sidled over to the side of the house and peeked around the corner. Yes, the noise was coming from across the street. Sharon shuﬄed towards the wrought iron gate that led to the front yard and peered out. The noise had been a push mower. She stared in disbelief at the young man cutting the lawn. A woman was pruning the rose bushes which rimmed the house. A car drove past. Sounds of a song emanated from the open driver’s window.
She stared in disbelief at the young man cutting the lawn. A woman was pruning the rose bushes which rimmed the house. A car drove past. Sounds of a song emanated from the open driver’s window. Opening the gate, she took three steps down the walk and stared in amazement. How could this be? Was the virus gone?” Opening the gate, she took three steps down the walk and stared in amazement. How could this be? Was the virus gone? A young woman pushing a stroller came up the street. Sharon lunged at her, frightening the poor woman who immediately snatched her baby up into her arms. Sharon, realizing how she might appear, pulled back. “Is it over? Is it safe? The virus, I mean.” The woman looked at her inquiringly.
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“Don’t you know? The pandemic is over. “ Sharon needed more. “When? When was it safe?” “Why, I believe it was two months yesterday. Today would be the sixty-ﬁrst day. With that, the young woman placed her child back in the stroller and with a quick smile, proceeded on her way at a not so leisurely pace. Sharon stared after her. Feeling her knees buckling, she lowered herself onto the grass and stared in wonderment at the normality of the scene around her. It was her memories of the past materializing in the present. She looked over her shoulder. Skippy and Bouncer sat on the pillar where the gate was attached. Bouncer turned and ran back towards the hedges, pausing on the familiar cement pillar opposite the sliding door. Skippy had not moved. He eyed Sharon intently. Sharon smiled and nodded. Skippy turned and scampered back towards Bouncer. Sharon watched the two squirrels disappear into the hedges. On unsteady legs, Sharon returned to the backyard. Slowly she slid the sliding door open and reentered the kitchen. Regaining her strength, she moved with determination to the front of the house. She scooped up the towels from door sills and piled them on the couch. Moving to the living room window, she pulled back the drapes. The sunlight was blinding but welcome. Sixty-one days? She headed towards the staircase. She must tell Kent.
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Obsessive Compulsive in the Time of Coronavirus by Renée Adams She was touched that everyone obsessed about hand washing after handling their mail, their groceries their doorknobs, their phones their masks leaving their towels constantly wet trying to rid themselves of the elusive virus. For years, the need to wash her hands dry, red, and cracked out out damned spot of terrifying germs no amount of soapy hands would rid her—sure to kill her.
When we landed at the corner, she began to cry, and I knew why. Recently, I asked if it was bad for her— this coronavirus if it crowned all her fears. No, she said, it gave her comfort to see others feeling as she had all her life, and this was real— it was the imagined she was fearful of— like the rest of us.
Once I walked beside her in the city knowing gum spots on sidewalks drove her crazy with fear, those dirty gums from people’s mouths, years of dirty mouths waiting for her as she walked. She stepped between the hundreds of them, legs in parentheses of panic; I joined her avoiding gum as if my mother’s back I’d crack if stepped upon. Empathic walking made me anxious, so diﬃcult to avoid those dirty spots. montanamouthful.com
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Quarantine Day 44 by Rebecca Longenecker The clematis bloomed today, buds like clenched ﬁsts slowly released in one long crescendo down the north fence until all we could see out the front door were pale pink palms receiving the rain. You emerged from the second bedroom making a rare appearance after a video call still jolly from the camaraderie with your coworkers not an open palm, but no longer the family ﬁst either, and you saw the new blooms without my saying anything. I watched you taking in this new season, holding our daughter and cooing to her, using the word clematis, and I startled at my own surprise that you had heard me in the days leading up to this moment. When I thought it was over, our baby back in my arms, you noticed the storm door, that the glass needed cleaning— peanut butter ﬁngers, pollen, and the dog’s wet nose. You went down on your knees to pull a rag out from under the kitchen sink where I keep them, and you scrubbed the spring ﬁlth oﬀ the glass.
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Vol. 3 • Issue 3
Biophilia #9 in C minor
| CAROLINE KNICKMEIER
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| JACK BORDNICK
Facing It Together 22 | Montana Mouthful
Vol. 3 â€¢ Issue 3
Fill In The Blanks by Andrea Chesman Emanuel Lapides died unexpectedly on April 11. He was 61 years old. He is survived by his wife of 41 years, Phyllis (Margolis) Lapides, and two children, Emily Lapides Morris and Joseph Lapides. Lapides was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, and attended Poughkeepsie High School. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in history, a subject he taught for forty-one years at Arlington High School in Poughkeepsie, where he was twice named teacher of the year. A life-long bowler, he was the highscorer in his league and a zealous Mets fan. A private funeral service is planned due to the corona virus. Phyllis Lapides regretted this obituary she sent oﬀ about Manny. She hadn’t expected him to die so young, so suddenly. It was the virus, of course. She should have put that in. Before, when you saw that someone died unexpectedly, you assumed it was an overdose. That was the plague that was decimating New York. Usually the young people, but sometimes it was older folks. Like what happened to the plumber who worked on their house. Starts with a car accident, some pain killers, then soon: addiction. Now it’s the virus–or suicide. Her great-aunts, who raised her in Pittston, Pennsylvania, always turned to the obituaries in the newspaper ﬁrst—even when a man landed on the moon, or when hundreds drank the poisoned Kool-Aid. “Oh dear,” Aunt Agnes would say. “So-and-So passed. Such a shame.” “Did we know So-and-So?” Round and rosy Aunt Ellis would ask as she bustled about the montanamouthful.com
kitchen, ﬁxing breakfast for Agnes and Phyllis on an old coal stove. “Um, not sure. He didn’t attend St. Mary’s,” Agnes would say, running her ﬁnger along the print as she read. “But the name is certainly familiar.” “Well, it’s a pity. Did he leave young children behind?” They would speculate on the hows and whys. Lung disease most likely, or cancer—if it wasn’t sudden. Unexpectedly usually meant an accident involving alcohol. Guns, cars, and alcohol brought a lot of men down. What Phyllis wished she could have written about Manny was how he woke with a smile on his face most mornings, how he took such joy in feeding the birds and coaxing his roses to bloom, how he loved babies and was known by his sisters as the Baby Whisperer, he was that good with the nieces and nephews. How he was a good father and taught his children to be loyal Montana Mouthful | 23
and trustworthy and to drive defensively. How he was unﬂappable in the face of her moods, and yes, she was moody. But, oh how she loved that man. She loved him from the moment they met. The newspaper provided a template for writing the obituary, with blanks left for survivors of the deceased, education, work history, interests of the deceased: the facts. She was still in a fog when she put in all the relevant details she could think of and sent it oﬀ. She couldn’t spend much
The newspaper provided a template for writing the obituary, with blanks left for survivors of the deceased, education, work history, interests of the deceased: the facts. time on it, what with all she had to do: which funeral home and coﬃn to choose, notifying the relatives, bemoaning with each one about the pandemic that would prevent them from gathering. “It’s a shame we can’t be together now,” one sister said. Manny was the ﬁrst to go among his siblings. None of them were prepared. “This is a shock,” said the other sister. “Were you with him?” each asked. “What were his last words?” And she had to say no. she was not with her husband of forty-one years when he died, did not hold his hand, did not say goodbye. Which left a jagged hole in her heart. She tried to be philosophical. No one will be with me when I die either, she supposed. She told the kids not to come for the funeral, it wasn’t safe, she couldn’t face another death in the family. Emily was heartbroken, Joe seemed stoical. Or stoned. Probably the latter. In the empty house, it was hard to ﬁll the hours in the days, the months that followed. 24 | Montana Mouthful
The pantry had been stocked by Manny right before the shut-down. She couldn’t open a can of Campbell’s tomato soup without reﬂecting on how he had cared for her. And how alone she was now. Sure, there were phone calls at ﬁrst—from her colleagues and his. No one was working, so everyone had time for phone calls. Then there was silence. For a few days, Phyllis focused on making masks with the sewing machine she had set up in Emily’s old room. But there were only so many masks she could make with the fabric she had on hand, leftover over from making quilts—a hobby she no longer cared about. She couldn’t ﬁll the time with baking—there was no one to bake for. Nothing on television interested her, not even shows on Animal Planet. She couldn’t bear to listen to the radio, too much bad news. She obsessed over the obituary she had written for Manny. Now when the paper was delivered each morning, she turned to the obituaries ﬁrst, needing to see who else died and who had a good obituary. Everyone loved Manny. A few years back, he spent a year fundraising and took his American history class for a memorable trip to see the musical Hamilton. That year he played the cast recording so many times, she could sing all the songs. “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story.” The words still echoed in her head. Four months into the lockdown, she decided to start writing her own obituary. Not that she thought she would need it soon, but Manny’s death taught her to expect the unexpected. She didn’t want to leave the writing to her kids. Not that they weren’t great kids—they were—but Emily was generally too busy with her law practice and Joe was adrift. With a yellow pad in front of her on the scarred wooden kitchen table and a pen gripped in her hand, she willed the words to come. The problem was she just wasn’t Vol. 3 • Issue 3
all that impressed with her accomplishments. When she was ﬁrst married, all she wanted was to be a mother. And she dove deep into that well, staying home with the kids until they were in school. She cooked, she cleaned, and she played endless rounds of Candyland and Go Fish. In the report card of life, she could give herself only a B in mothering: Emily never ever found a partner to love, Joe was a drifter. After Joe started ﬁrst grade, Phyllis took a job as an assistant school librarian. It was an undemanding job that left her free to work around the kids’ schedules; anyone could have stamped the books and shelved them alphabetically. What had she accomplished besides the children? For a while making quilts absorbed her, and the one that she and Manny slept under took a red ribbon at the Dutchess County Fair. But there were only so many beds to cover. She maintained a large organic vegetable garden and canned endless quarts of tomatoes each summer, made pickles, applesauce, and jam. She wasn’t a great cook, but she did make a ﬁne pie. Was that her legacy? Now with the pandemic, laid oﬀ from the library, her world was shrinking. Nobody could visit, but she didn’t really care to see anyone but her own children; there were no grandchildren and probably never would be. After the lockdown was lifted, would there be any reason to
leave the house except to buy groceries? She didn’t think it likely that anyone at the school would think to invite her to their happy hours or their Christmas parties—if such things ever happened again. She sat at the table for hours, staring at the blank paper, thinking of all she had not done. She called herself a feminist but had never insisted that Manny share more of the housecleaning. She had faithfully recycled, but never marched to save the environment. At various times she worried about Joe being drafted, but never did anything more than vote for the least war-mongering candidates. She tried to be fair and kind to all the children in her school, but never marched for racial justice. The planet was warming, the climate was wilding, the social fabric was unraveling. Idly wondering if Agnes and Ellis would approve, she wrote the best obituary she could, realizing as she wrote that if she changed the names and dates, her obituary would suﬃce for any number of women she knew. She typed it into the computer, printed out two copies, slipped them into manila envelopes, and addressed them to Emily and Joe, labeled “To be opened after I die.” She wondered whether her kids would wait, would argue with her, would even bother to send it oﬀ in the end. And, would anyone remember her after she was gone.
Phyllis (Margolis) Lapides died on xxx. She was xx years old. She was raised in Pittston, Pennsylvania, and worked for twenty-ﬁve years as a school librarian at Violet Avenue School in Poughkeepsie. Her husband, Emanuel Lapides, predeceased her. She is survived by her two children, Emily Lapides Morris and Joseph Lapides, the sole extent of her legacy in the world. She regularly donated to the local food shelf. She believed in marriage equality because love is love. She didn’t think she was a racist, but she knew that wasn’t really enough. In other words, she tried to be a good person, but hadn’t tipped any scales. She died grateful that she passed on before she had to watch any more animal species become extinct, any more forests burn, any more black men shot and killed.
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Contact Tracer by Shoshauna Shy Dear Stranger on Rusk Road in Butternut, Wisconsin, pop. 375. Or in Shawano, La Crosse, Prairie du Chien. I’m sitting down with a spreadsheet on my laptop. You’re sitting down to dinner or about to take your dog out for a walk or expecting your boyfriend to call when you get my call instead. My hope is that once you ﬁnd out you were exposed to COVID-19, you will help prevent my having to give this same bad news to your best friend next week or your asthmatic Aunt Lucy upstairs. You will agree to skip your sister’s wedding shower, cancel your appointment at Hair It Is, and not go to work serving customers Coca Cola and peach pie at the Lucky Grill. Even though you feel perfectly ﬁne. Even though the coworker who bakes those pies didn’t seem one bit sick.
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Watch for chills, a shortness of breath, a rise in body temp. Note if your pancakes suddenly taste metallic; if those lilacs blooming out back have no fragrance; the brownies have no ﬂavor. Sorry to say, but whether you listen to me or not, you could still end up in the ICU. You just don’t want to be the one to put your mother there. How quick you are to agree to what I recommend just to get oﬀ the phone or you tell me I got the wrong # or you declare I’m scamming you. Whichever way it is, I know I am ruining your day, but since nobody wants to be miserable alone, Case #497886, just know that the next time I skim this database, my own name could pop up in the queue, and I’ll break out in a cold sweat. I’ll deny that catch in my breath. I’ll stop dead in my tracks. Just like you.
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Work Day | MAYA LEVINE
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Vol. 3 â€¢ Issue 3
Even My Giraffe Needs to Wear a Mask | JIM ROSS
Sheltered and Shorn by Orman Day The salon down the road is shuttered, a Korean gal can’t buzz humming blades through three months’ shaggy growth. So I have to trust the dull electric clippers, ﬁshed from beneath the bathroom sink, rusty and cobwebbed, to cut not uproot my mad-scientist fringe of ﬂaring hair. Without conﬁdence, Debbie snips an uneven trim without furrowing my aged head, making me wince with pain. The one time I assess my reﬂection, I ask, “What happened to my sideburns?” When she threatens to abandon clippers and comb, I pacify her as best I can, “Not complainin’, just wonderin’.”
Now I keep away from mirrors, wear a cap when I venture outside our sheltering place. My advice to other locked down partners: prepare for the worst if your jittery barber titters, sighs a breath that tickles your ear. Hoping to appease an angry Mother Nature, I oﬀer wispy clippings to the sprites dwelling in the forest facing our patio. Maybe someday I’ll ﬁnd a blueberry bush cradling a cardinal’s cup-shaped nest woven from twigs, brown leaves, ﬁne grass, ivory-colored strands shorn from me.
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Mountain Quarantine by Jessica Plancich I left Rainland in the unclaimed hours that belong to neither night nor morning. Droplets the size of tears pelted my windshield, but if the evergreen state was sorry to see me go, the feeling was not mutual. I had grown tired of being run over by other carts in the grocery store as I tried to grab a loaf of over-priced, smashed bread. I was fueled up, fed up, and determined to be reunited with my Big Sky home. No one had held a door open for me in nine months. When I attempted to let a fellow driver in on the highway, I was met with confusion and distrust. As my belly grew bigger and the kicks became stronger, I knew that Rainland was not the place I wanted my family to grow up. I descended the last mountain pass into my childhood home just before Rainland’s ﬁrst shutdown orders went into eﬀect. My escape, my journey, had been planned for months. It was nothing short of a miracle that I made the cutoﬀ in time. My ﬁrst order of business was a trip to replenish supplies. The fully stocked toilet paper 30 | Montana Mouthful
aisle, I regretfully took for granted. I made myself a piece of Wheat Montana toast and sat, breathing gently in the perfect stillness. Later that night, my grandmother told me, over her crock pot roast beef dinner, that in her day, when they ran out of money, toilet paper was the ﬁrst thing to get knocked oﬀ the shopping list. Images of catalogues stacked in an outhouse came to mind. Ironically, I would soon ﬁnd several friends and locals addressing their own shortage. When that time came, I saw something that I had not seen in Rainland. People oﬀered to help one another. Though those who deliberately call sub-zero mountains home are often withdrawn, they, we, are not a selﬁsh bunch. I swelled with pride like an impressed parent as social media ﬁlled up with the young and healthy oﬀering to run errands for the elderly and exposed, or those with an abundance of basic necessities lending, without hope of repayment, to those without. Personally, I thanked my lucky stars that my baby registry had ensured enough diapers and wipes to get us by no matter how long the Vol. 3 • Issue 3
The Super Moon Rising Over the Wasatch
| JOEL LONG
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shortage went on. The pandemic ensured our birth would be quiet, free of curious guests or self-welcoming intruders. I slept away the mornings that grew warmer with the melting snow. Under my circumstances, I had no desire to go out anyway. On the front porch of a simple, supposedly temporary, trailer-home, I drew great comfort from the fresh, clean air, and planned where I might someday put a house on this land. The greater climate of the United States was uncertainty. News reports conﬂicted. Information changed. Tempers, fear, and regulation got involved, but through it all, I remembered what I had seen. I knew, I believed, that my people would band together instead of falling apart. If there was a place to be stuck in quarantine, this was the right choice, certainly. I wish I could embed in the paper the feeling that overwhelmed me as my nesting came to
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fruition and resulted in perfectly matched tiny socks, miniature heirloom quilts, and a bassinet with a clear view of pine trees under the mountain sky. I had been born here, in the treasure state. Even during such uncertain times, it seemed only right to pass that heritage along. Friends and relatives called. They were unable to be with me in person, but I had never felt less alone. Rainland was alone. Rainland was the hopeless drear, unfriendly, and unconcerned about a stranger’s fate. In comparison, Montana was God’s embrace. It was beauty inseparable from strength. Even the atmospheric pressure at high elevation carried a distinctive feeling with it, like the incoming storm would set a part of the soul free. As the world held its breath, waiting to see what would come next, my son took his ﬁrst, in the quiet, peaceful sanctity of Montana.
Vol. 3 • Issue 3
Quarantine for Better by Diana Cole My sister says she is getting along better in these stranger times with her husband of forty years.
They trade oﬀ each other, knowing if one of them catches it, they both will.
Forced to live in familiar proximity — but 24/7 — has brought them to a kind of truce.
In a corner of the porch eaves two ﬁnches nest. One feeds, one keeps watch on the crows mobbing the elm tree.
It’s either break all the dishes, the sound barrier, or ﬁnd a new routine
For my sister the dirty cup in the sink is not cause for the raucous outcry it once was. Better that she work out knots in his back,
like the porch project. She picks pansies for window boxes, plans where the table will go
that he defer to her ﬁlm choice — The Lady Vanishes — in black and white. Better to stuﬀ the old news into the ﬁreplace.
while her husband ﬁnds the table online, searches sites for roll up shades; scrolls doggedly for the best price.
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| GABY BEDETTI
Haircut and Housebound 34 | Montana Mouthful
Vol. 3 â€¢ Issue 3
I Have a Corner Darkened by Jeﬀ Burt I’m thinking of the dog being alone today as after months I will go back to work. She won’t sleep on my feet to make impossible a sneak for a coﬀee or an unneeded snack. She won’t skulk around after she barks and come wagging knowing the attention she receives for being shushed is worth more than the inattention she receives for silence. She won’t be told what’s out of bounds when the ball rolls towards the bathroom, won’t need to skate across the glass of the wooden ﬂoor where she’s afraid to fall, like Bambi on ice. At times I watch her now as if in practice, spending an hour or so in an opened kennel wide awake, head alert, appearing to have memories of what imprisonment was like to give kinetic sense of what the future holds. Am I so diﬀerent? Though I command the house I have lost my false sense of control of what went on beyond the walls, and ﬁnd too I have a corner darkened with toys of backpack and a redolent leather valise and several sprigs of lilac that act as opiate for my brain. Lilac-for so many years used for mourning, as if the soft and profuse fragrance could transport the soul from the awfulness of death. montanamouthful.com
I have stayed in that darkness for hours, alert, waiting for some key to enter the lock of the future, to entertain again, to know the satisfaction of mobility, even if on a new leash. Perhaps I am not thinking of the dog being alone today at all. Perhaps I am thinking tomorrow, when the tumbler ticks and the door re-opens it won’t be the same world that enters after all. Perhaps I should practice how I should greet, how I should be grateful, take my queues from earnest blacks who emancipated one day found the world still closeted the next yet found a grace to forge ahead through brutality and neglect, summoned not acceptance and not hope but the knowledge of joy under weariness and exclusion to carry on. Perhaps that is what the dog begins to practice, and I shall—weariness to a world not of its making, a world suddenly smaller, a world of walls, of tempered greetings, restraint, of ﬁnding not tranquility but composure. And in that corner of darkness, too, to carry the beautiful and necessary fragrance of lilac.
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The Terrible Shopper by Jennifer Shneiderman Evelyn tried unsuccessfully to hide her displeasure as she combed through the grocery bags. Since she had retired and her husband had passed away, her weekly shopping had been a highlight. Evelyn drove to the shops every week in her immaculate Lexus, her nails polished and, although in her early 80s, her still statuesque ﬁgure dressed in jewel-toned silk pantsuits. She called the butcher at the farmer’s market by name and she knew to get up bright and early when the best seafood was delivered to the local ﬁsh market. Evelyn was very particular about quality produce and she took her time choosing ripe, in-season fruits and vegetables. Generally, she stuck to low-sodium food as she took pills for high blood pressure. She particularly loved going to Costco, scooping up their premium salmon and visiting the sample stands sprinkled throughout the massive store. With the onslaught of COVID-19, the joy of shopping had been ripped away, and Evelyn suddenly went from lonely widow to shut-in. People over 65, especially those with pre-existing conditions, were advised to stay home. Evelyn’s 36 | Montana Mouthful
condition ﬁt both of those categories. Now, she was at the mercy of her grandson Bill’s anemic attempts at marketing, and she wasn’t happy about it. Evelyn refused to do online shopping because she wouldn’t trust the corporations with her credit card number. So, she endured Bill’s hurried and bungling attempts at procuring essentials. He frequently bought the wrong size, ﬂavor or brand. He purchased mushy apples, salted crackers and oﬀ-brand packages of tortillas. Today, once again, when he dropped oﬀ the bags and stood six feet away from her door, Bill gave his grandmother a wry smile and shrugged his shoulders sheepishly. Inwardly, he cringed while she slowly shook her head. Even through her mask, he could sense her distaste and disappointment. After dropping oﬀ his grandmother’s groceries, Bill sat in his Prius outside of her house for a while. His stomach churned with resentment at her obvious judgment; he knew he could never meet her standards. Despite that, he was determined to shop for her every Vol. 3 • Issue 3
Work From Home | LINO AZEVEDO
week. She didn’t know the silence and tension that now shrouded her favorite grocery stores— the furtive movements of the customers, the fear in their eyes when someone got too close with their cart, the stomach drop when seeing the shelves cleared of toilet paper and cleaning products. Long lines, limited product choice, empty shelves and intermittent violence montanamouthful.com
dominated the news. But none of that coverage could quite convey the underlying feeling of strangeness, competition and sense of desperation—the prickling sensation that the fabric of human decency was shredding in front of one’s very eyes. If he could help it, she would never experience this. He would rather she think he was just a terrible shopper. Montana Mouthful | 37
POP EVALUATION for First Name, Last Name by Susan Niz In light of current pandemic schooling restraints the teacher (i.e. parent) shall hereby receive an evaluation of her/his recent performance. This report card is in keeping with the stringent pedagogical demands hereby set forth within the realm of “lockdown” (day 128) and school/workplace (the address formerly referred to as personal residence). The subject shall take these marks and look deep within her/his being, asking her/himself if she/he is embodying the rigor to which she sets as a standard for her students (children). Please note: Each category holds equal weight. Think of plates spinning. Think of all that is at stake. NO TRANSFER REQUESTS ARE BEING ACCEPTED AT THIS TIME. 2020 ACCEPTS NO INDEMNITY AGAINST LIABILITIES INCLUDING LOSS OF LIFE OR LIMB. PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES C+ At least you’ve stopped yelling so much and started crying instead. They’re more cooperative now. Maybe they feel sorry for you, but you’ll take what you can get. Keep hugging them tightly, like you’re their life vest and the ocean is a turbulent navy swirl. When they do return to the big wide world they’ll tear out your ribcage and drag it behind them like an oversized purse. HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT BYour house is generally tidy as you sweep up and burn their inventions and creations, Legos and sock puppets. Your house is fairly sanitary, but there is orange mold in the shower and you should be sanitizing doorknobs and faucets with much greater ferocity. INSTRUCTIONAL DUTIES C Some days they don’t even cry because they’re doing just enough math. Your grade is marked down because you think those dimestore skills workbooks satisfy a comprehensive curriculum, which is lazy considering your education level.
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Vol. 3 • Issue 3
SPOUSAL DUTIES D- (**you are at risk of being dropped from this subject) Your attendance is weak and you ain’t taking notes. Roles have been renegotiated non-verbally. REMINDER: No transfer requests are accepted at this time. PERSONAL CAREER ADULT POETRY TEACHER B+ You really like doing this. You cried when your last class was over. You said, “Now it’s just me and my kids!” Zoom acoustics didn’t allow you to hear the collective “aww.” Finally, you are doing something worthwhile with your life. PUBLIC HEALTH/FAMILY SECURITY C Pretty good job keeping the kids trapped at home, making their friends only appear on an iPad screen. Are you sure the “social distanced” trips to the neighborhood pool are worth it? Beware. You are alienating your social friends. That is a choice you’ve made so you’ll live and live with it. PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT C “Glamorous” is a word you frequently use to describe your personal care with full irony. You don’t even pluck your eyebrows anymore. When tissues were in short supply, you started using your shirt to wipe your tears and even your runny nose. You would never have done that before. NOTES: [adjective] Keep up the ________________ job! Only ________________ days left until a vaccine trial!
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Vol. 3 â€¢ Issue 3
| CHERYL EDWARDS
Fear | CHERYL EDWARDS
Working Pandemic | JENNIFER FREDERICK
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After the Quarantine by Thomas Locicero On streets of cobblestone, I tramp the sawdust of antique bookshelves sanded by a gaunt man, who coughs, eyes my shoes, and smiles amused sorrow as my steps settle the dust in the street’s ribs. A row of trees bring country to the city. The autumn evening voices through its wind. Leaves ﬂee and scrape the pathways of the rushed. The pubs and publicans have come alive. The ancient, storied lamplights lead the way. It sets the mood; the lonely look for love. As for me, I’ve loved. It’s time to have a drink and let my soul stretch across the starless night. I used to be alone; now I’m used to it. I used to be alone; how I’m used to it.
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Vol. 3 • Issue 3
Last One Out | STEVE ZIMMERMAN
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A Kentucky Writer Quarantined in Peru by J. Federle Something is eating our bananas. Four times now, my husband and I have come downstairs in this strange house to ﬁnd a banana in ruin—peel frayed, fruit nibbled. We both agree it can’t be a mouse. But something is eating our bananas. And my computer charger is dying. I live in Peru with my husband. In this country, we saw a priest die ﬁrst. Others went before the priest, but the priest was the ﬁrst death we really saw. Society knows poetry when it sees it, literacy rates be damned. A priest, in his 40s, collapsing, never having left his local ﬂock? The breath has such symbolic richness in Catholicism. That unbreathing priest was poetry. After the priest, my husband told me to pack. He ventured into grocery stores, twice, four times, ﬁve. Arroz, frijoles, pasta. The night the president announced quarantine, we crammed the car full. Packed all night. At eight in the morning, we drove from our small apartment to his mother’s house in San Isidro. Armed police paced the streets. The ten-minute drive felt like ﬂeeing. The melon-colored house is huge and 44 | Montana Mouthful
windy. It never rains in Lima, just the occasional misting. Because of that, houses are built open, to let the breeze circle. The air moves like breath. My husband’s mother died years ago, and for the last few months, we’ve had the house up for sale. For the most part, it is unfurnished. In that hollow house, my husband cupped my face. “If this gets worse, I want you to evacuate. You’re not used to this.” He grew up in this house during the 1990s, when the president had dissolved congress and abolished the constitution to ﬁght terrorists free of ethical red tape. The house is a fortress, gated and walled oﬀ. As a child, my husband heard sirens, even explosions at night. I grew up in Kentucky suburbs, where some folks left their front doors unlocked for neighbors’ kids. The only sounds at night were frog song and a distant train whistle. I told my husband I’d stay. I’d use the time to write. “We’ll be ﬁne.” We held hands. Around us, the house breathed and breathed. Whatever’s eating our bananas only comes at night. The ﬁrst banana, my husband and I skimmed walls for mouseholes the rest of the day. Nothing. Vol. 3 • Issue 3
The walls were all solid, impenetrable cement. After I found the nibbled banana, it took ten minutes to get my laptop charger to connect. One of the gold pins is melted. My husband’s cousin, Carlos, is living with us. He and his wife and baby had been staying in the house, enjoying cheap rent in Lima in exchange for caretaking. When the president announced the quarantine, they were in Trujillo, visiting family. Carlos is an administrative doctor, working to direct ambulances; he had to return to work in Lima. His wife and baby stayed behind in Trujillo, where there were fewer cases at the time. They’ve been apart now two and a half months. Every weekday, when Carlos arrives home, he Zooms them. The conversations, always on speaker, last until nine or ten at night. Sometimes Carlos plays guitar. Sometimes his wife sings. He comes home from work later and later, but always calls. I don’t mean to listen, but the house breathes the conversations and singing to every room. His wife ﬁlmed their son’s ﬁrst steps three weeks into quarantine. When Carlos showed us the video, we leaned in around the phone, together for a moment, like we could all be in that room too in Trujillo, cheering on or ready to catch the unsteady little one. On the third banana, I proposed it’s a bat. Because it never rains, part of the house is open to the sky, and the kitchen has no door. Bats love bananas, don’t they? Carlos and my husband insist there are no bats in Lima. They say it’s a cat, one of the stray ones that screams at night. I spend ﬁfteen minutes cursing, massaging my charger, unplugging and plugging again, before the little light comes on. The burned pin is a blackened nub. Another looks discolored. The port gets far too hot. The house has only three sounds at night: a single cricket in the garden; the cop car that drives by around 10 p.m., blasting national songs over an old megaphone; and our neighmontanamouthful.com
bor’s piano, always quiet waltzes. I drown in these sounds every night. I drown, and I lose myself picking apart the podcasts I listened to during the day. I listen to podcasts non-stop now, trying to ﬁll the silence. Trying to inspire something onto my blank, blank pages. “Death in the Afternoon” said that after the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, the ﬂesh left behind, human and animal, amounted to 6 million pounds. The earth must’ve dipped under that weight. 6 million pounds? “This Paranormal Life” said the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum was built to hold only 250, but at one point in the 1950’s housed 2,400. “True Ghost Stories” reﬂected on abandoned tuberculosis hospitals. One of the hosts wondered if pop-up COVID hospitals will become as full of ghosts as the old TB hospitals. The cop car goes by, blasting “Contigo Perú.”
The house has only three sounds at night: a single cricket in the garden; the cop car that drives by around 10 p.m., blasting national songs over an old megaphone; and our neighbor’s piano, always quiet waltzes. On Facebook, Lali said a friend told her “Iquitos is a cemetery.” Iquitos is Peru’s jungle capital, a city of 378,000. “It’s a cemetery.” I wonder what the weight of the dead is in Iquitos alone. How many pounds of ﬂesh? The Guardian says the city’s main public hospital has 180 beds, but some 900 patients. Are all stories the same? Do any stories not bleed into all others? How do I write something new? How do I write something about any one thing? Asylums in West Virginia are tuberculoMontana Mouthful | 45
sis hospitals are battleﬁelds are Iquitos. The cop car rolls further oﬀ. Patriotism drops to a tinny echo over San Isidro. Here, we are not in Iquitos, because the houses have two ﬂoors and pianos and gardens with a cricket. And because we have hospitals with more than 180 beds. How does humanity bury so much ﬂesh again and again? How is there enough room in the earth? Who is breathing right now, me or the house? Can I breathe at all? What the hell is eating our fruit? Why the fuck won’t my laptop charge? Birdsong is the only sound in the morning. The dizzy mix of last night’s noise and thoughts seem distant. Some of the birds are jungle birds, I think, but familiar enough. I decide to try to write about the woods in Kentucky today. In Kentucky, my little sister is recovering from a heart transplant. I spent two Decembers in a row on the sofa of her hospital rooms: 2018’s December, when her heart failed, and 2019’s December, when she received the new one. The hospital rooms were beige and brown and sometimes faced a brick wall. No air. The windows stayed sealed, as lung transplant patients were on the same ﬂoor. We brought so many ornaments to make those rooms seem anything other than the interior of an eggshell: a mandala wall hanging, scented oils, photographs, a Himalayan rock salt lamp, puzzles, a blue ceramic plate and metal fork from home to remind her of her place at our family’s table. I peeled oranges for her at mid-
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night, snatched buckets just in time, chose the music, washed and brushed her hair, held her hand. I wrote nothing. What will this December bring? Will she start her new life, with a new heart, like she planned? Will she continue to breathe? Will I be able to write? How long can America take any one sad thing seriously, no matter how swollen the earth beneath its feet? Our dad has gone into work every weekday. He’s a lawyer, working with wills and probate. The family has bills to pay. New hearts are expensive. But just this week, he texted a photo of himself out for drinks. The restaurant kept folks outside, under a blue early-summer sky. Yet in the background of the photo, two tables of patrons sat far less than six feet away. I’m afraid our own father is tired of this sad thing in less than two months. After the ﬁfth banana, I cut all the remaining bananas in half and freeze them. And with the last of my laptop battery, I catch up on Twitter. Literary agents are calling for romance and escapist fantasy. Here I am, in a house that breathes in Peru, only able to draft scattered lyrical essays. I can only report two things. Yesterday, my husband saw a mouse in our garden. The creature was bold enough to scurry onto the patio, where a door, if left open, would grant entrance to the house and kitchen. And despite quarantine, we’ve found a way to order a new charger.
Vol. 3 • Issue 3
the illustrated woman by RC deWinter she does herself up every day because well you never know
moist lips ready to meet another's shine in a shade somewhere between scarlet and rust
showering legs scraped with carbide steel done and dry
then costumed in elaborate casual rings and earrings on she goes downstairs
teeth ﬂossed brushed drowned in an ocean of mouthwash
knowing when death lurks in the sweetest breath she's a disposable decoration on the cake of life
skin powdered with scented corn dust hair blown in a warm electric wind gelled and sculpted into fashionable obedience
painfully perfect she sits at her kitchen table
then ﬁnally the masterpiece of her face
sipping coﬀee looking out the window waiting for no one
shaded and painted with all the loving fury of great portraiture light and shadow in perfect balance
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The Woman Across the Hall: A Quarantine Fable by Chloe Horning They come and go at all hours of the day and night, these men and boys. Sometimes, less often, women. They bring curry, pizza, noodles, and sushi. They bring ice cream, bottles of wine, dumplings, and barbeque. They bring these things to the woman across the hall. They ring the bell, they knock, and then they leave, hustling away down the hallway to the staircase. They fear disease, certainly, but also, they fear losing productivity, for there is much to be done. I know all of this because of the smells. Rich melting cheeses, tangy vinegars, roasted meats. I smell them coming before I hear them. I jump from my oﬃce chair and rush to the peephole. I see them leave the food, but somehow, I never see HER. The woman. Sometimes, I catch a glimpse of a hand darting out to grab the takeout bag. It moves so fast; I can't discern its nature. Is the hand plump? Or slender?
* I am composing an email when I smell the unmistakable rich anise and beef scented aroma 48 | Montana Mouthful
of Pho. Looking through the peephole, I can see the takeout bag resting on the ground in front of the door. This is unusual. Typically, she grabs her bounty and drags it into her lair quickly, quickly. I count the minutes as they pass...one...two...ﬁve. I dart out into the hallway and knock gingerly at her door. Then, I retreat the requisite six feet. The door opens a crack. “Hello?” “Hi! It’s Julia from across the hall...your neighbor?” “My neighbor. I see.” I crane my neck, straining to see her, but behind the crack in the door are only shadows. “Well. The delivery guy left your Pho. I just wanted to let you know.” “Oh, thank you so much.” The voice is soft and airy. The hand slithers out and snatches the bag, drawing it back with predatory grace. I try to imprint the details of its appearance. The hand is ﬂeshy but not corpulent. The nails are shaped and rounded, but not embellished. “I was having my bath, you see,” says the Vol. 3 • Issue 3
The View Beyond | SHERRY SHAHAN
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voice. “I didn’t hear him knock.” “Oh! Well...how are you holding up?” I’m stalling for time, but I must know more about her. “I mean...are you quarantining alone in there?” “Oh yes, I have the place to myself.” She says this without a hint of regret. Alone! So, she is eating all of that food herself. “Oh, and are you working remotely?” “Working? Remotely. Yes, I suppose. You could say that.” Her tone is ambiguous, but I laugh, feigning comradery. “Yes! I know exactly what you mean. It’s all so strange. What does it even mean to work anymore anyway?” “Hmmmmm,” she draws out the syllable. “What sort of work do you do?”
If the woman across the hall does not work, how can she aﬀord to eat all that food? Unemployment wouldn’t cover it. A trust fund? Has she robbed a bank? Or perhaps she is one of those women who gorges herself and captures the results on a webcam for the beneﬁt of horny admirers across the world? I have heard of such things. “I teach college. Part-time. Well, I mean I’m an adjunct. My classes were cut because of the... well you know a lot of students dropped out. Anyway. I should be working on my research. I guess you could say I’m working on a book. Or...I should be.” “I’m sorry,” says the voice. “Don’t be. It’s my own fault for procrastinating.” 50 | Montana Mouthful
“No...I mean….I’m sorry but I have to go. My soup is getting cold. It was lovely to meet you.” With that, I feel a subtle rush of air, and the door shuts as if blown by an invisible wind. I hear the metallic slide of the deadbolt.
* Back in my own apartment, I pace. There’s a whiteboard in the kitchen where I have written down my daily routine. 7:30 a.m. rise. Make bed. 7:30-8:30 a.m. exercise. 8:30-9:30 make and eat breakfast, shower and dress. 9:30 a.m. -12 p.m. make course videos, and respond to student emails, etc. 12 p.m. lunch 12:30-4:30 p.m. work on my research 4:30-6 p.m. leisure 6 p.m. dinner 7 p.m. read until bedtime It is best to stick to a routine. Best to get up early. Don’t stay up too late. But what time is it? Is it morning or afternoon? What should I be doing right now? It is best to stick to a budget. If the woman across the hall does not work, how can she aﬀord to eat all that food? Unemployment wouldn’t cover it. A trust fund? Has she robbed a bank? Or perhaps she is one of those women who gorges herself and captures the results on a webcam for the beneﬁt of horny admirers across the world? I have heard of such things. My stomach growls faintly. Ah. I was writing emails before my conversation with the woman. Now it must be time for lunch. I go to the fridge and scan the contents, ﬁnally settling on some leftover tuna salad on a bed of lettuce. It is important to eat healthy and drink plenty of water. Stick to an exercise routine. Vol. 3 • Issue 3
Don’t consume too much alcohol.
* The next morning, I am sweating my way through a few miles on my compact elliptical machine. It’s ugly, and I hate the way it takes up half my living room. Does she exercise? She must be enormous? Mustn’t she? Or bulimic. Yes. It has to be one or the other. There must be consequences. I chastise myself. These thoughts are unfeminist. They are fatphobic. I should mind my own business! What diﬀerence does it make? And yet... There are two more deliveries that afternoon and evening. Two more! I read in bed, waiting to become tired enough to sleep, but the words swim on the page. Finally, I put the book down and close my eyes, but sleep will not come. I had been casually dating someone before the quarantine began. But of course, we weren’t serious enough to move in together; to quarantine together. At ﬁrst, we would have daily video chats, then weekly ones. Then, there was just the occasional text message. Now, nothing. I hear them again. Footsteps. And I can smell it. She is having something delivered again. It reeks of red, bloody meat. I run to the door in my pajamas and bare feet. Again, the delivery man rings her doorbell and turns to leave. But it is diﬀerent this time. She is waiting. The door opens wide. Arms reach out. Strong ﬁngers grasp at the delivery man. From my vantage point, I can just see the side of his face. I see one of his thick, dark brows raise in startled surprise, his jaw slackening into a gasp. I can also just make out a ﬁgure in a white nightgown in the darkened apartment beyond the threshold. He sees her now too, and he must montanamouthful.com
like what he sees. A drowsy smile crosses his face. Then, with a sudden movement, she drags him inside. I gasp. What have I seen? “He must be her boyfriend,” I say to myself out loud. “Or maybe her Tinder date. If they want to break quarantine to have sex, it’s none of my business.” I get a glass of water from the kitchen. Go back to bed. Stare at the ceiling. A boyfriend. A tryst arranged via the internet. That’s what I saw. Surely. Or... Morning comes and I have gotten a few hours of sleep. More importantly, I have a plan. I stalk to the whiteboard and erase my daily routine. In its place, I write the steps that I will take today. I dress. I take the novel I am reading and go to the stairwell. Minutes pass, then hours as I try to read. A handful of tenants pass me on the stairs, some in masks. They give me a wide berth and a friendly wave. They can appreciate my need for a change of scenery. Finally, one of them appears, a woman carrying bags of steaming Chinese food. “Oh!” I exclaim sweetly, “Is that for Apartment 3C? She checks her delivery slip. “3C” she repeats. “That’s mine. I’ll take it from you.” She looks me over, then shrugs and sets the bags down. “Have a good day!” In a ﬂash she is gone. With a racing heart, I pick up the bags. I stride to the door of the woman who lives across the hall. I knock, then retreat several feet away with the bags. The door opens a crack. “Is someone there?” “Oh! It’s me, Julia!” I say. “The delivery person gave these to me by mistake.” Montana Mouthful | 51
you said you were quarantining alone?” “Excuse me?” “It’s just that, well. It puts everyone in the building at risk. I don’t care, personally. But some of the neighbors are, you know, elderly.” “That’s really none of your business.” “Yes, Well,” I snap. “Do you want your Chinese takeout or not?” There’s a long silence. Then a sigh. My heart hammers in my ears. Finally, the door swings open a little wider, and she emerges from her apartment. She looks a lot like me.
| GABY BEDETTI
“Oh Julia,” she sighs. “How wonderful. I was getting hungry. Can you bring them here?” “Oh, um, actually I was hoping you could come out here and get them? It’s funny,” I force a laugh, “I haven’t actually seen you.” The woman does not laugh. “I’m not decent,” she says ﬂatly. “Could you please just bring me my food?” A high, hysterical vibration thrums through my body. I can hear my voice rising in pitch and feel my palms begin to sweat. “Not decent? That’s funny. Say, I saw someone go into your apartment last night. I thought
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Vol. 3 • Issue 3
Four Hundred Miles in a Hot Car while Banjo Music Plays by Linnea Cooley We are eighty miles down I95 when the air conditioner breaks. My brother Theo toggles the dial, rotating it back and forth as if that will somehow ﬁx things. The air is still blowing through the vents, but it’s hot air. Hot and humid. The little hairs on my forehead are sticking to my skin. The back of my T-shirt is sticking to the seat. The inside of the car is hot, hot, hot. We open the windows and let the wind roar as we barrel down the highway. Snippets of sound ﬂoat in from the side of the road. A dog barks. Far away, someone is mowing their front lawn. “Close the windows, I can’t hear anything.” “What? “The windows.” I roll the windows back up. “It’s so hot.” “Way too hot.” “Let’s try messing with the air conditioning again.” Theo examines the buttons on the dashboard. He turns the front air oﬀ. Then on. Back air oﬀ. Then on. Nothing is working. We’re just going to have to sit here like a pair of chickens montanamouthful.com
in a hot soup. At least there’s no traﬃc. What’s usually a nine-hour trip is now just over seven hours with everyone quarantined inside their homes. We pass rows of houses with grassy lawns and no indication whether the families stacked inside are healthy or sick. There are few other cars on the road, and when I do see them I wonder, where are they going? As we pass they look back at us and I know they are thinking the same thing. Our plan is simple. Drive down to retrieve my things from my college dorm. Drive back up in time for my shift the next morning. When the pandemic started, my brother was booted from his college in Vermont and me from my university in Maryland. We reluctantly returned to our parents’ home in Massachusetts, forced to leave our possessions and small communities behind. For two months my things sat behind a locked door before the university ﬁnally announced that I was allowed to retrieve them. In the passenger seat, Theo scrolls through Spotify, cultivating the perfect playlist. He’s always had a strange music taste, preferring niche artists to anything on the radio. These days the Montana Mouthful | 53
only thing he listens to are obscure folk bands. After the ﬁfth banjo solo, I protest. “Please Theo. It’s too hot.” “Too hot for music?” “Too hot for banjo.” “What’s wrong with banjo?” “Nothing, just not in the heat.” Theo frowns, and I instantly regret hurting his feelings. He purses his lips and turns down the music. Underneath his swaggering ego, I forget how easily he bruises. I relent. “Actually, I didn’t mind that track with the ﬁddle.” The sound of the banjo blares through the tinny car speakers. When it’s Theo’s turn to drive, he lays his foot hard on the pedal and the car accelerates up to ninety. When I’m in the driver’s seat I prefer to settle at a comfortable seventy, but Theo is a more conﬁdent driver than I. He isn’t afraid to swerve between lanes if it means avoiding a slow car. I don’t like how closely he crowds the cars in front of him. He brakes fast, and somehow always stops in time. I don’t want to be a nagging older sister, so I look away when things get close. We speed through Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania. As we move south the air grows heavier and more humid. It’s so hot, impossibly hot. We roll the windows down again. Somehow, the air from outside is making things worse. “We have to do something about the heat.” “The what?” “The heat. It’s too hot.” “Well, what do you want to do about it?” “Roll the windows up?” “The what?”
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“The windows, roll them up.” Theo obliges. The plastic siding on the inside of the car has become hot to the touch, and I loosen my grip on the wheel. We don’t stop for food, ignoring the signs for McDonald’s, Burger King and Chik Fil A that whiz by. Both my brother and I have a tendency to starve ourselves, a bad habit formed in childhood. We take the same, strange pleasure from an empty stomach. Sometimes hunger can be a welcome distraction. By the time we enter the state of Maryland the sweat on my back has spread. The back of my arms, my hands, and my thighs are damp. I wipe the sweat from my upper lip onto a remaining dry patch of T-shirt. To my disgust, even my ears are sweating. There! The exit! Theo pulls into the University boulevard. As we roll through campus, my heart pounds. It’s there. It’s all still there. The grassy lawn, where my friends and I would sit after class. The library, where we’d stay up late “studying”, all the while talking loudly until a sour-faced librarian asked us to stop. The administration building. The campus bookstore, the Gym. I direct Theo through campus, past the lawn and around the traﬃc circle until we are in front of my dorm room. “Here.” Theo pulls into the parking spot and stops the car. We peel ourselves from the seats, grimacing at the slick of sweat we leave behind. Then, we are opening the car doors and the air rushes in. Cool, cool air. I want to inhale it all. Night has fallen and there are droplets of dew on the grass growing up through the pavement. We sit in the parking lot and breathe, and breathe, and breathe.
Vol. 3 • Issue 3
Camouflage | SYDNEY HARRIS
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Spain in the Time of Balconies by Julie Weiss The state of alarm resounds over television stations, the world gathering speed as it spins
if something crashes but no one is around to hear it, does the body bent around the tree
like a war in our direction, only the shrapnel that strikes unsuspecting bodies is invisible.
exist? Depositing recyclables in their respective bins becomes a leap of faith: the virus could
Thousands of expressions are smothered under surgical masks. Friends cut short
pounce like a startled rat, for all we know. Corpses pile up daily and are hauled away.
their conversations, scared of the skeletons rattling in the space between them.
On our balconies, we retaliate: a pianist and a saxophonist surrender their souls,
We cleanse handles before turning them, wash our hands for the duration of a song
ballads rising as winds lash their faces. A ﬁtness instructor, all muscles and spandex,
before sweeping a stray hair oﬀ our face. Soon, walking trails hover above themselves
leads his neighbors in a morning cardio session from a rooftop. Kindergartners shout “¡Veo, veo!”
for want of weight. Playgrounds creak eerily as if they had birthed the children lost to them.
running the narrow gamut of ﬂora and structures below. And every night at eight, a nation´s applause
Stripped of purpose, streets race each other across cities; from our rooms, we wonder:
lights up the sky, a burst of thanks shimmering down upon healthcare warriors on the front line.
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Vol. 3 • Issue 3
Self-Quarantine, Florence, Italy
| ROGER CAMP
Montana Mouthful | 57
Cruel White Sheets by Thomas Howarth It was not the sort of hotel you’d choose to isolate yourself in. For starters, it was far away. Anywhere humans lived, it was far away from there. Secondly, it was cold. The hotel’s biggest expenditure was new radiators. It should have been an easy ﬁx, but some ancient places simply swallow heat and refuse to give it back. It is a recurring problem. The surroundings were beautiful. Forests, mountains, lakeside trails. Beautiful places to walk. However, the occupants of the hotel were not allowed to leave their rooms, and so the lively depth of these surroundings was reduced to whichever randomly allocated view one’s window aﬀorded. One unfortunate—Patient Zero, in fact—suﬀered a double-glazed rectangle of tarmac, bins, and wall. Served him right, some felt. Claudia looked out onto the lawn. Not a bad view, all things considered. The wide-open expanse recurred in her dreams, a bright green vista of freedom. It contrasted poetically with the muddy brown of the carpets inside. Once the ﬂoors had all been tiled with cold white 58 | Montana Mouthful
ceramic. Claudia shivered and curled up her toes. Her husband was asleep on the bed. 95 years old. The husband, not the bed—although… Slowly, she crouched, examined the frame. Perhaps it was the same one. That’d be funny. Before falling asleep, her husband had been talking again about the history of the place. Reciting facts memorised from a leaﬂet, employing casual intonations to make the phrasing sound original. ‘You know,’ he’d told her, ‘in the 1950s, this entire wing of the hotel served as a single ward. It was only divided into separate rooms in 2010.’ ‘Yes, I do know’ Claudia had said. ‘We both read the leaﬂet.’ He snored. It was dreadfully boring. They’d been trapped in this room for a week now, alternating between snoredom and boredom. But between his snores now, Claudia could hear something: silence. Absolute silence in the hotel. She didn’t know what time it was; conditions outside only hinted vaguely at ‘late day’. Everybody seemed to be hibernating. Vol. 3 • Issue 3
She went to the door. For a week it had been banned from serving as a door; instead, it became a seven-foot hatch through which plates and cutlery came and went, handled by a porter in latex gloves and a facemask. But today, hearing opportunity in the silence, Claudia resolved to make it a door again. She snuck out into the hallway. The silence buzzed in every line of the corridor. Her husband’s snoring faded behind her, like history—or like the future, if one were stepping in the other direction, into the past. She walked carefully, as if fearing that she might tread on a butterﬂy. She was in a hallway with many rooms to the right. Once, it had all been wide open, a wing of ﬂoorboards and rickety beds. On her left, between a vending machine and a ﬁre exit, there was a door. It had once been the door to a nurse’s oﬃce, with a window providing a view of the wing. The window was gone. Sneaking around at night, Claudia had once seen something through that window, something that made her and her fellow patients laugh for nights afterwards. Between the slats in the blinds, she had seen two of the nurses kissing. The window was gone. That was almost seventy years ago. But the same silence buzzed in the walls. Instinctively she tried the door. It opened; a storeroom now. And there were two hotel porters in there, kissing among the folded towels and trolleys. ‘Gosh, I’m sorry,’ Claudia said. The porters thrust themselves apart and straightened their waistcoats. ‘I… I thought was my room, I was mistaken.’ One of the porters cleared her throat. ‘Do you need help?’ ‘No, no, I’m ﬁne, I’m just…’ Claudia closed the door. Silence resumed. montanamouthful.com
She laughed. Or at least, she remembered laughing, the ﬁrst time around. ‘Almost seventy years ago’. Not speciﬁc enough. She did the maths: sixty-seven years had passed since she had ﬁrst been conﬁned here. Sixty-seven years and three months. She walked further along the hall, and then stopped. She turned to her right. Room nine. She knew it intuitively. This was where Laura’s bed had been, in the space now occupied by suite number nine. This was the spot where Laura had coughed up all that blood, and died sweating in her bed. Seven-year-old Laura. She looked like a skeleton. Everybody else had been moved up the far end of the ward, leaving a wide empty space. It had felt as though it was haunted. It still did. Claudia stepped back from door nine, as though she might still catch tuberculosis from
It was dreadfully boring. They’d been trapped in this room for a week now, alternating between snoredom and boredom. But between his snores now, Claudia could hear something: silence. Absolute silence in the hotel. She didn’t know what time it was; conditions outside only hinted vaguely at ‘late day’. Everybody seemed to be hibernating. its threshold. She wondered where Laura had been buried. On the grounds? Her tiny bones might still be here—perhaps beneath the tennis courts, or the restaurant. That prompted a question. The sanatorium had been equipped with a necessary evil; a morgue, small and out of sight. Carefully Montana Mouthful | 59
ignored but always looming, in every hushed conversation between nurses. Some children feared hell, or purgatory—but Claudia feared the morgue. She feared the morgue and its cold, white tiles. Hell was abstract, purgatory was nowhere—but the morgue was here. The morgue was now. She had seen Laura wheeled into it. She had quietly followed, and had spied on the cruel white sheets and the lockers in the walls. They seemed to spy right back at her. Claudia walked out into the hotel lobby, silent on pink-slippered tiptoe. No receptionist. Only the shining ﬂoor and stacks of leaﬂets. Perfectly still. An embalmed room. Corridors tunnelled away in diﬀerent directions, an unaltered layout. Claudia went up to the closest door and peered through its criss-crossed window. Question answered. The morgue, it appeared, was now the kitchen. There was something funny about that.
On some vague compulsion, she had been vegetarian from the day she left the sanatorium. This had annoyed her father, when Claudia returned home. He’d set out a feast of rare expense—but his daughter refused to touch the roast beef. On some vague compulsion, she had been vegetarian from the day she left the sanatorium. This had annoyed her father, when Claudia returned home. He’d set out a feast of rare expense—but his daughter refused to touch the roast beef. ‘I don’t believe it. Five years in that place. You get diagnosed with this disease, you spend 60 | Montana Mouthful
ﬁve years in that old castle, we ﬁnally bring you home—and you won’t even eat? Do you know how much this cost?’ She pushed the plate away and was happy with her bread. Claudia turned away from the morgue. She realised that it still unsettled her, even in its false new guise. Her mother had negotiated with her father’s temper. He was—she explained—only upset because he’d missed Claudia so much. It was nothing to do with the roast beef (though her dad did reiterate, just for the record, that it was expensive). Claudia’s parents had been permitted to visit the sanatorium. Once a month, when they could make it. Her mother would sit at the other side of a table. No contact allowed. Her father stood at a masculine remove, surveying the other patients and their visitors. The matron had things to say about Claudia. Things about sneaking about. Claudia was in the lobby. At night this entrance hall had appeared as an ice palace, frozen in white moonbeams. She liked to creep in and gaze at them. She knew that light did not travel instantaneously; she was fascinated by the thought of its journey through black space. Fascinated and terriﬁed. There was nothing lonelier than sitting in silence, staring at those moonbeams. She thought it would never end. She knew she would be here forever. Matrons did not travel instantaneously either. She heard their footsteps, and in the delay of their approach she hid in a cupboard that was always empty. Even now, as a hotel, the cupboard was empty. Claudia found that she still ﬁt inside. She’d heard footsteps; some porter or manager this time, not a matron, but it was impossible to tell them apart from the oﬃcious clack of shoes on Vol. 3 • Issue 3
polished ﬂoor. Claudia held her breath. The matron—the hotel porter, the manager—passed through the moonbeams, paused by the glossy leaﬂets. ‘Hello? Is there anybody here?’ Claudia examined the cupboard’s interior. Built into the wall, it must have served a purpose at some time. The building had existed long before it was forcibly mutated into a sanatorium. Perhaps the cupboard was haunted, or only accessible to those who needed it. She saw her younger self in the dark, crouched in the corner, scared of death and morgues and the footsteps of old matrons. The child saw an elderly woman; a ghost. They shushed each other. The matron, or the porter—or whoever it was—disappeared, carried away on fading footsteps, and Claudia re-emerged into the lobby. She closed the door carefully, and hung a ‘do not disturb’ sign on the handle. ‘She sneaks about at night,’ the matron said. Claudia’s dad suppressed a proud smile. Claudia left the lobby. She veered clear of the corridor leading to the kitchen, and headed back to her room. She didn’t want to be caught sneaking around now, sixty-seven years after last being disciplined for the same oﬀence. If the universe recurs, it could at least skip the embarrassing parts. She moved quietly along the corridor, past Laura’s room and the oﬃce of the kissing nurses, and slipped back into her own room. For a moment she saw it as it was; without walls or furnishings, a long ward of dusty ﬂoorboards and utilitarian bedframes—and then her husband appeared. He was folding white sheets, ready for collection by a masked porter. ‘Claudia, where have you been? You know
we’re not supposed to leave the room.’ ‘I was just sneaking about.’ ‘Well, don’t get lost. You don’t know the layout of the place.’ He gestured to a shining metal dome on the table. ‘Dinner?’ ‘Where did that come from?’ ‘They just brought it up. From the kitchen.’ ‘I’m not hungry.’ ‘Suit yourself. I’ll save you a bit of lettuce.’ Claudia smiled. As her husband began to dissemble the platter, the iPad on the bed buzzed. ‘What’s that?’ ‘We’re getting a call,’ Claudia said. ‘Look, it’s Laura.’ She pressed the green button. With a heft of reluctance, her husband abandoned his dinner. ‘Hello, hello.’ Claudia and her husband sat on the bed and leaned in together, squeezing into frame. Claudia felt an arm around her shoulders. ‘How are you?’ their daughter asked, smiling. ‘I hope I’m not interrupting anything.’ ‘Only dinner. There’s nothing else to interrupt.’ ‘Look at you both, though’ Laura said. ‘It must be quite cosy, at least, trapped in that place.’ Claudia’s mother sat on the other side of a table. Her father stood behind her mother, looking around, uneasy. Claudia was lucky. There were even younger children who did not recognise their parents. At the next table, a skeletal girl spoke to her mum and dad for the last time. The task of saying something had fallen to Claudia’s mother. ‘How are you?’ she asked eventually. ‘I see you’ve got a lot of friends here. But it must be quite frightening, trapped in this place?’ The building was very quiet. Sanatorium, hotel, whatever it had been before, and whatever it would be next, if anything. ‘Yes,’ Claudia said. ‘It is.’
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Stella and Stanley at Rozel Point, Great Salt Lake
62 | Montana Mouthful
| JOEL LONG
Vol. 3 â€¢ Issue 3
Social Distancing Day 139
| MEREDITH CRAIG DE PIETRO
Montana Mouthful | 63
Living in the World of Covid by D. Walsh Gilbert I hear the scratch of octopus against octopus as they pass underwater, all tangle of arms and suckers snagging each other. I’m jealous of their touching. I’m in a boat stuck topside on the ocean’s water. My bordered, bucket world— over there is white-capped splash and froth. Sea wind rushes by hanging in my hair like shouted messages. The octopi keep playing. They can’t see me
64 | Montana Mouthful
struggling to break the surface tension or smooth my curls. They just keep tumbling in their world among the clown ﬁsh and the starﬁsh and green kelp swaying in the currents. I’ve tried to pull the rivets from my tug, to ﬂood or sink, to jump in naked. But, I can only dream my dream of drinking octopus’ ink, of rising from the deep tattooed, of seeing with octopus eyes.
Vol. 3 • Issue 3
The Wonder of it All
| NEIL BERKOWITZ
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An Issue Masks Alone Cannot Fix by Nam Hoang Tran It was around early March of 2020, during the peak of mass hysteria, when I ﬁrst experienced the horrors of discrimination. With news of house goods depleting at staggering rates, my mother urged me to go fetch the designated water ration of two cases per person. I agreed and set out on foot since the nearest CVS was within walking distance. Having only taken a few steps past my mailbox, I noticed a neighbor of mine, Mr. Lincoln, was also outside. Mr. Lincoln was an African American man in his mid-sixties whose attire consisted mostly of long sleeve polo shirts tucked into pleated khaki pants hemmed to sit neatly atop his New Balance sneakers. The story goes that his name was a tribute to the man who emancipated his ancestors many years ago. I went to middle school with his daughter and remember his beaming smile as he greeted me on the way home. We built up a solid friendship therefore I didn’t assume anything out of the ordinary would occur. However, when I waved at him this time, he simply glared back from his parked car in the driveway. I assumed his weak66 | Montana Mouthful
ening eyes failed to register the motion, so I tried again, now accompanying my wave with the phrase “How are you doing, Mr. Lincoln?” He maintained silent eye contact while rolling up his passenger side window until he was only a hazy outline behind the tinted glass. Perhaps he had just turned on the air conditioner and did not want the cold air to escape. With this thought, I smiled and continued walking. A few houses down, I came across Sean, the newest member of our neighborhood. Sean was a Caucasian man in his mid-forties whose attire consisted mostly of cargo shorts and souvenir tank tops from the various places he has vacationed. Regardless of being the freshest face, he and I bonded quickly over the sweetest harvest from my plum tree oﬀered in exchange for unlimited access to his basketball hoop. It was a fair trade and both parties were happy. Sean was playing with his daughters on their front lawn, and out of politesse, I waved and asked him how he was doing. A question which would have garnered a smiling reply before was now met with a change of demeanor as he quickly Vol. 3 • Issue 3
gathered his daughters back inside. Perhaps he realized he had mistakenly left the oven on and rushed in to prevent catastrophic consequences, or perhaps his wife would soon return and he had to get the daughters fed and the house prepped for her arrival. With these thoughts, I again smiled and continued walking. With CVS in eyesight, I shifted impatiently at the intersection hoping that I wouldn’t have to return home empty handed. Amidst the light bustle of cars, I heard a very distinct female voice break through the vehicular commotion on my left. “Go back to wherever it is you came from kid, we don’t need monsters like you in this country.” I turned my head to a Caucasian woman in her sixties glaring directly at me from the lane nearest the sidewalk. Appalled, I pointed at myself and shrugged to conﬁrm if her words were indeed directed at me. She continued spewing spiteful rhetoric all the while making brushing hand motions as if to sweep me back to wherever it was she believed I came from. Luckily for her, the light shifted to green before I could oﬀer my two cents. Monster? It surely takes one to know one. I smiled once again and crossed the street into CVS. The store was nearly empty, both in its supply of water and in number of patrons. Aside from one or two people scattered throughout, there was only one worker. He was sitting at his register station thumbing through a TIME magazine, quickly throwing it at his feet when I turned towards him. We maintained eye contact brieﬂy before he stood up and smoothed out the wrinkles in his pleated khaki pants. Which struck uncanny resemblance to those seen on Mr. Lincoln. “Hello, welcome to CVS. Please let me know if you need anything.” montanamouthful.com
“You guys don’t happen to have any water left, do you?” I asked. He told me there were luckily two jugs of water still in the back. I nodded in appreciation and went to grab them before returning to the registers. While I am usually not one for small talk, I ﬁgured I might as well strike up a friendly conversation since he was willing to help me. “This whole pandemic thing, crazy don’t you think?” I asked the man. We both shook our heads at how it took something as large as global chaos to remind people of the importance of proper hand washing. I chuckled when he told me the only
“Go back to wherever it is you came from kid, we don’t need monsters like you in this country.” I turned my head to a Caucasian woman in her sixties glaring directly at me from the lane nearest the sidewalk. Appalled, I pointed at myself and shrugged to conﬁrm if her words were indeed directed at me. She continued spewing spiteful rhetoric all the while making brushing hand motions as if to sweep me back to wherever it was she believed I came from. time he’s rubbed his hands together for that long was to keep them warm during the cold winter months. The two of us continued chatting for a couple minutes until I saw a change in his demeanor. “Hey kid, mind if I ask you where you’re from?” Montana Mouthful | 67
Have a nice day. These were the very words which stuck with me on the way back outside. Have a nice day. What a redundant and commonplace expression used to wish someone farewell. I thought, “Would his word choice have been any diﬀerent were he to have known how I was treated on the way there?” Maybe he would have opted for “have a better day” instead. These were questions I wrestled with as I headed towards home, with the sun beaming overhead and the water weight from both jugs pulling my legs deeper into the sidewalk below.
Selfie in 2020
| SVEN DELAYE
He let out an audible sigh of relief when I told him I was Vietnamese. Noticing this, I asked what his reaction would’ve been if I had said China. The cheeky smirk which once adorned his face quickly vanished as he was unable to answer. While I maintained my gaze, his eyes were glued to the receipt dispenser which began to whirl, signaling my proof of purchase was printing. He refused to make eye contact as he handed over the folded slip of paper along with my two jugs of water. “Have a nice day,” he mumbled. I answered, “You too.”
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Vol. 3 • Issue 3
| LUKE DURAN
Montana Mouthful | 69
I Discover I Miss the City I Hate by Alex Gurtis I sit on the grass around a lake on the outskirts of downtown watching the night rattle the golden sky like a freight train pushing the wind across our empty country In the distance, the skyline captures the tangerine sunset so each high-rise looks like a piece of unﬁred pottery staged against a purple sheet I have always heard the grass was greener on the other side of the glass but I have never been a ﬁeld by a lake sinking into its embrace and learning the grip of grass is still a hug I didn’t know I would love the bee hiding on purple petals tucked among the thickets of grass eye level with my resting head or the wings of songbirds accompanying their mournful sermon by striking strings of air as they chase the morphing clouds
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And while I knew my ears would miss the impact of feet launching a purple ball against a net and friends banging ﬁsts against the table on board game night setting beers adrift like the moon walking the tide I once complained before the pandemic how crowded downtown could get on the weekends how the sweat of strangers poured down the street like a May shower but now wrapped in twilight I suddenly miss the bars and clubs on Orange and Pine jubilantly packed with alcohol pulled marionettes And the roads where the left turn lane means a hard right across three traﬃc ﬁlled lanes and the pain of your back bent over the steering wheel ensures you curse our tourist economy suddenly seem missing I never knew I loved our roads Yet, in the summer those endless black rivers lead to places only assigned a name my soul has yet to meet Vol. 3 • Issue 3
Too Much Time | SHELLEY MATHEIS
Self-quarantining? Now you’ve got the time to go through your things and decide which ones ‘spark joy.’
I didn’t know I loved the thought of changing the world without suﬀering the loss of change I didn’t know I could miss the constellations of distant oﬃce windows of human ingenuity staking claim to godhood, conquerors of the earth of the little lie that the modern world meant control and nothing could possibly change our privileged lives - I think I miss that the most montanamouthful.com
I didn’t know I loved our imperfect world until I was sitting in a park by the lake until I was sitting without the people I miss because a microorganism stole them until I was watching the world disappear on a journey without a date of return
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The Disappearance of Daughter X by Charles Lewis Radke She is over eighteen now and recently one of my twin daughters stopped sharing her location with me. This happened via “Find My Friends” on my iPhone, the same app I use to discover the whereabouts of my inner circle, people like my wife, my son, and my other twin daughter. In a surprising twist, I have learned that through this handy app, I can also ﬁnd myself, which would have been useful when I was eighteen. This could have spared me a decade or more of embarrassment and bad decision-making, especially with the young women I dated, at least one of whom shouted this very thing to me: “Call me when you ﬁnd yourself!” I learned of my daughter’s self-emancipation in a text thread with her. Because anonymity is important here, I will refer to this particular twin as “Daughter X,” which—since she still lives with us—I may do around the house as well, just for chuckles, just to let her know how much I respect her new stealth persona. In fact, I may even buy her a bunch of cloth masks that cover half her face, revealing only her shifty little eyes, you know, so she can really channel her inner ninja. 72 | Montana Mouthful
Upon reading the automated notice of Daughter X’s release from captivity, I reacted with a despair-faced emoji and a question mark, because these days we can say so very much with so very little, and who couldn’t use a bit more nuance and ambiguity in these “uncertain times?” Daughter X was quick to respond: “I turned it oﬀ for everyone,” she replied. “I dont know its just weird” [sloppy punctuation, hers]. I sent back an a-ok emoji, just to assure Daughter X that I am totally cool with not knowing where she is. Totally cool. Really. She’s eighteen and supposed to be in a college dorm anyway. Living at home was never part of the plan, so who can blame her for wanting to disconnect? Not me. I’m cool with this. Really. Acting on a vague, ﬂuttering sense of rejection, I Googled “My kid has stopped sharing her location with me!” because I was hoping for a well-researched article by a respected Ph.D. on Jilted-Parent Syndrome, which isn’t actually a real thing but should be. I did ﬁnd a number of articles on something called Jilted-Lover Vol. 3 • Issue 3
Syndrome, which is where spurned, psychologically deranged people hunt down their exes for the purpose of doing them bodily harm with things like pistols. While interesting, this was of no real use to me because even though I do feel jilted, I love Daughter X and I have never in my life owned a pistol. I still hadn’t found what I was looking for, so I moved to a Q&A forum, which seemed to suggest, based on my search term, that location un-sharing is pretty common in the parent-kid dynamic. There, I ﬁgured, I would ﬁnd the soothing wisdom I needed to come to grips with the absence of Daughter X’s avatar, which once hovered like a tiny coin on a map of the greater Fresno area in my iPhone. It is a diﬃcult thing for me, really, because I always took comfort in seeing what iPhone calls my “people” on this little map, and with Daughter X no longer there, no longer hovering, I feel unwhole, like I have lost one of my people. Before I was granted access to this particular Q&A forum, a watchdog algorithm asked me to verify I was older than the age of thirteen, which I did by scrolling through these month, day, and year drums that clicked like tiny roulette wheels. It was a great comfort knowing that within the forum, I would not be in the presence of twelve-year-olds, just in case there was some unsavory content of a disturbing nature. My son is twelve, and I would certainly not want him nosing around the kind of material that might leave psychic trauma. As a concerned and vigilant parent, I appreciated this extra level of security, especially after I agreed to over sixthousand words of terms and conditions, all of which boiled down to this: “Anything posted in FORUM by doctors or lawyers should not be accepted by USER as actual medical or legal advice.” Once I had released FORUM from both montanamouthful.com
medical and legal liability, I was allowed passage, and boy was I pleased. I found a number of reputable experts in the private entertainment and online gaming industries responding to questions that seemed relevant to me as a dejected, jilted parent. Here’s one: “How can I stop my parents from tracking my iPhone without them knowing?” One user named Vladimir, who identiﬁed himself as the “CEO of a Lunchclub,” had this to say: “That’s spying! Don’t stalk your kids’ every move!” A spirited debate ensued beneath this comment in which an anonymous “former submariner and radiation worker” took issue with Vladimir the Lunchclub Guy: “I bought my kids’ iPhones, pay the monthly line charges, and they live under my roof, so it’s MY iPhone, not theirs.” I realized that the capitalization of the word MY was intended to illustrate just how
Upon reading the automated notice of Daughter X’s release from captivity, I reacted with a despair-faced emoji and a question mark, because these days we can say so very much with so very little, and who couldn’t use a bit more nuance and ambiguity in these “uncertain times”? passionate “former submariner and radiation worker” felt on the matter, and it was nice to see that I was in the company of people who cared so deeply about the location of their children. Then there was Mary, an “addiction expert” who at some point in her life said she “studied empathy.” In a separate but equally earnest Montana Mouthful | 73
thread, Mary advised a sixteen-year-old girl who’d grown frustrated at her parents for “stalking” her. Here’s what Empathetic Mary said: “Buy another phone. Drop oﬀ the old one at the public library every day after school and pick it up before you return home. That way, you’ll be able to turn tricks without them knowing, and when you’re murdered, they’ll never ﬁnd your body.” No one responded to Mary’s advice, which I found unusual given her obvious expertise and empathetic online demeanor. I perused diﬀerent forum threads after that, where participants responded thoughtfully to other pressing questions like “Have your pants ever fallen down in public?” and “If you were a serial killer, how would you mess with the police?” Things like that. None of this investigation made me feel any less jilted, however, and if my mother were alive
Because I wanted to stay out all night like the other boys and girls, I came up with a foolproof plan to hoodwink my mother and, at least for the evening, stop sharing my location with her. I told my mother I was spending the night with a friend, Rob, then before I left, I tore the page from our phone book on which Rob’s father was listed. today, she would tell me I had this coming. “Do you see now?” she would say. “Do you see how you made me feel?” This would no doubt
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be followed by a snicker, and maybe even moose antlers, where she would stick her thumbs in her ears and ﬂap her hands at me while singing neener, neener, neener. Here’s why. On a Friday night in 1985, when I was seventeen, some girls from the local junior college were hosting a house party. They lived in a rental on their own, without their parents, and this little soiree was the biggest thing to hit Fresno since Oingo Boingo shredded Ratcliﬀe Stadium with the Thompson Twins. Rumor had it there were to be multiple kegs, a Zima fountain, and a backyard band that knew both “Stray Cat Strut” and “Stairway to Heaven,” if you can believe it. The best part was that this party was going to run all night, nonstop until sunrise, so it was not for the faint-of-heart. Regrettable things were bound to happen. Because I wanted to stay out all night like the other boys and girls, I came up with a foolproof plan to hoodwink my mother and, at least for the evening, stop sharing my location with her. I told my mother I was spending the night with a friend, Rob, then before I left, I tore the page from our phone book on which Rob’s father was listed. By the time my poor mother discovered my subterfuge, it would be too late. It would be months, nay years, before she would discover the missing phone book page. Honestly, I thought it was genius. Later that night, after ﬁguring out what I’d done, my mother drove into a 7-Eleven parking lot clogged with my classmates. She was wearing a green bathrobe and pink foam rollers in her hair. Since she chain-smoked when she was upset, I know a Virginia Slim menthol was involved, likely dangling from her lips as she called out my ﬁrst AND last name, over and over, until some girl with blue eyeshadow
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walked over to calm her down. “If you see him,” my mother said to this girl, “tell him there’s a family emergency.” At this point, just to show everyone at the 7-Eleven she meant business, my mother likely ﬂicked her burning cigarette to the asphalt and squashed it out with the rubber sole of a bedroom slipper. At the all-night party, the girl with blue eyeshadow found me and said she saw my mother. “She said you had to call home,” the girl said. “Something about a family emergency.” So that’s what I did; I found my way to a back bedroom, closed the door, and called my mother. Here’s what she said: “You’re the family emergency.” I drove home then. I walked into our rental house and sat on the couch with my head down. I listened as my mother let me have it, wailing and tears and empty threats about living with my father. I watched her pace and smoke and smoke and pace. That green housecoat, those pink foam rollers, and I imagined that was exactly what she looked like in the crowded 7-Eleven parking lot among two-hundred of my classmates, all because I wanted one night of disconnection and independence, all because I wanted to un-share my whereabouts, not understanding that for a period of several, hand-wringing hours, my
mother felt unmoored, like she had lost her only person. It is mid-morning. I am not sure of the day, as they all seem to run together now. Upstairs, I hear Daughter X stirring in the bathroom. Water runs, which I hear shooshing in a pipe on the other side of my bedroom wall. I hear her feet shuﬄe from the bathroom to her bedroom, which we have set up to look like a dorm, a place she can simulate a real college experience without her parents around. In recent days, I have told her she has earned the chance to be on her own, to declare her independence, whatever that looks like now. There she is again. More feet shuﬄing, more running water. A door opens. A door closes. Her footsteps pause at the top of the staircase, then a sigh, then a slow descent, then a creak in a ﬂoorboard. I stand from my desk and smooth my frumpy shirt. I look toward the hall, just in case she pops her head in, just in case she wants to say good morning. I stand like this as I listen to her rummage the refrigerator, and I stay like this until I hear the front door open, then close. Her car coughs to life, then pulls away and the sound of her fades. I look at my phone, for old time’s sake, and remember the days not so long ago when, in the palm of my hand, I still had every one of my people.
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| MICHAEL JANIS
How We Take Care of Each Other At its root, “How We Take Care of Each Other” is about connection. Or rather, it speaks to how our current situation prevents connection, as we all self-isolate and are suddenly avoiding contact with someone who is potentially infected or is an asymptomatic source of COVID-19 infection. We are social creatures, and every relationship we have has been built and held together by complicated nonverbal language, beginning with parent and child. It’s part of our social fabric. Individual, family, and interpersonal relationships have all changed as a result of the COVID-19 emergency. What is the characteristic of a pandemic? Emptiness. It can be felt in the unusual quiet in what was normally noisy, bustling neighborhoods. Silence, where the silence isn’t merely the absence of noise. It’s judgement, longing and paranoia. It is the fear that we may be ourselves a transmitter of the virus as we seek the comfort of others. The fabric of society is held together by even the smallest physical contact. Touch is as important a social condition as anything. It reduces stress. It makes people trust one another. It allows for cooperation. When you look at people in solitary conﬁnement suﬀering from touch deprivation, you see that people lose a sense that someone’s got their back, that they’re part of a community and connected to others. Some of the varied images in the glass reference topics such as how COVID-19 cases are heavily concentrated in the African American population, and how we are separated from those we long to be with, but are afraid of the possible consequences. —Michael Janis
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Vol. 3 • Issue 3
The Deli Next to the Nursing Home Brings Coﬀee to Your Car by Amy Soricelli Marian's father was dying through the window. He waved his carbon-paper hand back and forth, with its liver spot/checkerboard ﬁngers. She hated him for dying between glass. Once when she was nine, she hated him for bad breath and business trips, but now it was his disappearing without a suitcase. Her list of hatred can be tied to a kite. Marian's father had Jello on his ﬁngers when he held together his thin smile. That pretty nurse with her beige promise, sets the lonely machines drilling steady white noise. No one really watches him die. Marian's father was silent with his mouth forming I love you, from that double room window he shared with a nice man from Queen's. Every evening he stood by the glass, as his room-mate watched him wave goodbye to anybody who could see.
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While You Were Sleeping - Montana Club
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| STEVE MEREDITH
Vol. 3 â€¢ Issue 3
Behind the Locked Door by Don Noel Aunt Vicky’s door was locked. When he called half an hour ago, she’d volunteered to have it ajar for him. Tom wasn’t really worried: There didn’t seem to be a breeze, but it might have blown shut. Leaving it open for him, rather than coming down when he rang the doorbell, was new anyway—although not entirely unexpected. Last week she’d let him in, then on the way back to her third-ﬂoor apartment had to pause on every landing to catch her breath. Better for 90-year-old vanity to labor up alone, he supposed, and be breathing serenely when her favorite nephew arrived. Or she might have been distracted by something, and forgotten. Never mind; wouldn’t be her ﬁrst memory lapse. He pushed the no-longer-black button of the old-fashioned round brass doorbell. It looked as old as the house, which Uncle Steﬀen, a carpenter, had built as a wedding present for his bride. The two of them raised him from maybe two years of age; Tom had no memory of either mother or father. Her husband was long gone, but she was an amazingly sturdy, disciplined montanamouthful.com
survivor: Victoria Carlsen, retired schoolteacher, world traveler, foster mother. He both loved and admired her. With a mop of snow-white curly hair that she insisted on trimming herself, she’d never let herself put on a spare ounce. She didn’t have to be up there on the third ﬂoor, but Uncle Steﬀen had built a separate doorway and stairwell to that level, which let her rent the rest of the house to one of the few intact families left in a deteriorating neighborhood. She was still steady enough on her feet to be an avid gardener, puttering at ﬂower beds around the house and managing a few tomatoes and other veggies in a patch in the back yard; she sometimes oﬀered him tomatoes or string beans to take home to Betsy. His ﬁrst instinct was to insist that she keep them for herself, but it pleased her to think that even at her age she had something to oﬀer. The doorbell hadn’t brought her; he had his cell phone dial her. He didn’t start counting until maybe ten rings; after counting oﬀ another dozen he gave up. Not yet really worried, he went around to the back yard to see if she’d decided Montana Mouthful | 79
to weed the garden while she waited for him. No sign of her. She surely knew better than to go for a stroll. It wasn’t the same neighborhood it had been for most of her life. The shortest route to the park now went through some blocks he himself would hesitate to walk through alone after dark. She ought to know better than to go wandering, anyway. But maybe not: She’d been slipping recently. Not quite like Alzheimer’s, he’d told Betsy after last week’s visit; just not as sharp. Forgetting that she’d already told him about the ﬁremen’s visit, for instance, and telling him all over again with new embellishments. The ﬁremen had been making a routine inspection of old three-story houses, checking on heating vents and sprinklers, which was reassuring. They’d been wearing masks and rubber gloves, of course, but she hadn’t remembered why. The coronavirus, he’d reminded her, and there was just a bit too long a pause before she said “Oh, yes.” “Did she have a cough?” Betsy’d asked. Maybe a little, but hardly worth mentioning, he’d said. He tried now to remember what it had been like. Kind of a dry cough. He hadn’t seen any sign of the Tucker family, but he went around to the front door to ring. There used to be a way to get from their second ﬂoor to her third-ﬂoor stairwell. And they must have seen or heard her the last few days. But no one was home. Back to her stoop, he set down the shopping bag of snacks he’d been carrying around, crackers and a good cheese and a small bottle of wine. She wouldn’t accept fattening chocolates or cookies, but what she called a “European aperitif ” was a weakness she indulged. The bag set securely against the handrail, he tried to phone her again. Again, no answer. 80 | Montana Mouthful
Maybe she’d just forgotten that he was coming, despite their brief phone conversation less than an hour ago. He called Betsy. “Sweetie, could you look up locksmiths in the Yellow Pages, and see if there’s one nearby here?” “Did she sound okay when you phoned this morning?” she asked. “I don’t think you ought to go up there alone. Call the police.” “All right. But there’s no point their smashing the door down. Look in the phone book and ﬁnd me a locksmith.” Turned out there was one only a few blocks away. “Call me back when you’ve got him arranged,” Betsy said. The locksmith said he’d come right away, and he called her back. “Are you wearing your mask? You don’t sound muﬄed.” “I wasn’t, but I will.” “She may have the virus thing, you know. You said shortness of breath, and cough. Once the door’s open, don’t just go charging up there. Call the police, please.” “I promise. Here comes the lock guy.” The locksmith, a grey-haired black man who also wore a mask and gloves, said it wouldn’t take long—“That looks like the original, and they weren’t very sophisticated back then”—so Tom called the police. Two cops arrived, also masked and gloved, just as the man got the lock picked open. Tom opened the door. There was Aunt Vicky, a crumpled heap at the foot of the stairs. His eyes began to well up. One of the cops brushed by him and felt for a pulse. “She’s alive,” he said. “Best call an ambulance.” She opened her eyes and looked up. “Tommy!” she said. “I knew you’d come.” The hell with the distance stuﬀ: He knelt down to take her in his arms, tucking her head over his shoulder so she wouldn’t see him cry. Vol. 3 • Issue 3
Here an editor may share a story, essay, poem, artwork, or a mixture of these. The work in this “enclosed” space may or may not have a connection to the issue’s theme. In this Editors’ Enclosure, Jasmine’s friend, Sarah Raymont, shares two emailed installments of “The Sweet Life,” about COVID-19 quarantining in Brooklyn, New York.
Hello Readers, In this “Editor’s Enclosure,” I’ve decided to write only an introduction to my friend, Sarah Raymont, before letting her writing speak. A brief backstory: I met Sarah in the early 2000s in Norwich, England. We were attending the University of East Anglia to obtain Masters Degrees in Creative Writing. We were two of a handful of foreigners in the program. Right oﬀ the bat, everyone in the program peeled oﬀ into small writing groups. I’d like to think Sarah and I formed a small group, along with three other lovely ladies, because of our brilliance and popularity, but mostly we’d been left out of the “cooler” groups of “serious” writers. Nonetheless, Sarah and I had many adventures in Norwich that had nothing (and everything) to do with writing, including a surreal night in a pub/nightclub where we waited near the bar for Sarah’s roommate to exit a Bob Geldof concert next door when two Scottish men got into a gregarious ﬁght and soon we were ducking thrown pint glasses. Fast-forward a few years: Sarah is living in New York City and had begun writing emails she titled “The Sweet Life” to a friend in London. The Sweet Life was a candy store where she worked. This was back in 2007, and when the letters ended, Sarah was on #39 of The Sweet Life installments. For the next 13 years, there would be no Sweet Life emails…until Saturday, March 2020, when in my inbox was, “Sweet Life #40: Cornucopia.” To begin it, Sarah wrote: I decided to bring back the newsletter I used to keep back in in 2007, which ended at #39. At that time, I was single, homeschooling kids part time, and working at the Sweet Life, a candy store on the corner of Hester and Ludlow in the Lower East Side of New York. It started out as a letter to a friend in London, who has since died. Much has changed in thirteen years. Namely, that you could go outside. Back then, I would write about the customers, montanamouthful.com
chocolates and licorice, the changing neighborhood, which was Orthodox Jewish, hipsters and Chinese. Back then, I used to see hope in a package of cookies. Once a week after work, I’d go to the bar under my apartment on Canal Street, get a glass of Prosecco and write about something small. I thought it would be a good time to do that again, because things feel so, so big. And we are all forced to see all our truths right now, there’s nowhere for them to go. Montana Mouthful | 81
I was on deck to produce something for this issue’s Editor’s Enclosure. I kicked around the idea of a ﬁction story; I thought about including some lame Instagram photos, but here’s the truth: in this pocket of Montana, and especially in my household, we’ve been relatively unscathed from the Coronavirus. Yes, we’re being cautious; yes, we’re wearing masks, but nothing I could include would have the depth and emotion like Sarah’s Sweet Life emails do, in which she’s been writing about the quarantine from Brooklyn, New York. So, here are two email installments from Sarah’s “The Sweet Life” newsletter. *For reference, Sarah is married to Alex. They have two daughters, Minnie and Linden. Sarah’s father currently lives in Mexico.
Subject: Sweet Life #42: Celibidache – Saturday, April 4, 2020 Because of the handwashing, we’ve taken oﬀ our wedding rings. For good. For now. The diﬀerence between “for good” and “for now” is so blurry. We’ve not had any breakthroughs or established a lovely routine. One cannot get used to the sound of sirens. Nor the one minute clap at seven pm when the birds out front are chattering and the sunlight is particularly beautiful. This clapping makes me cry for so many reasons. I wake up in the morning and love New York. The day feels like a long assault on a loved one. The Empire State Building, which is usually lit up in diﬀerent colors depending on different celebrations, is pulsing a red light at night. It was supposed to commemorate the hospital and medical workers. Who thought this was a good idea? It’s disconcerting. I saw it the other night when I went on a walk. It was like driving in a car with the gas light on. Is how New York feels right now. It’s all disorienting, like jet lag or a very long trip that’s short in days. Only it’s the reverse. It’s a short trip which is very long in days. I read that we will all know someone who has been sick. My best friend is getting over it, most probably she had it, and she’s much better now, but she says she sleeps a lot in the day. She wakes up and then she sleeps during the day in a diﬀerent place. To me this sounds like dying, but then waking up. I am envious of this sleeping 82 | Montana Mouthful
during the day. Of turning oﬀ the brain. That sounds like a nice option to get through this. All of last week, the mother dove was sitting on top of her babies in a nest in the blueberry bush on the roof. Today, we bounded up the stairs in the brief afternoon sun, to see the birds and they were gone. It’s like they were never there. The babies were too new to ﬂy so it was probably a Bluejay, or a crow. I didn’t know this about Bluejays until I saw one eating another bird. I probably could have lied and said they were ready to leave the nest, but I didn’t. Lying has become hard. And we sang the song about the many things we were thankful for, including the baby birds in their brief lifetime. When I call my dad, he asks me about the mood here. I tell him about going outside wearing a mask and how creepy it is to be so aware of yourself, and not to touch anything. It’s a little somber, I confess. He asks me if the kids know what’s going on and I tell him Linden said, “when Blonbloom touches me I get so sick.” Blonbloom is her imaginary friend who lives with her sister, HoHo, and their parents Lindy and Decorations at their place of work, which is a rainbow factory in Mexico. They are always very busy, and they don’t like it when I sing. My dad was watching a Bruckner concert on YouTube. And his favorite conductor of the moment, Celibidache. He is always watching Celibidache these days. He was a Romanian conductor who later turned to Zen Buddhism. Vol. 3 • Issue 3
He likes him, for one thing, because he sat down when he conducted. And my father considers this to be an innovation. “He’s over 80, why shouldn’t he conduct from a chair?” I read him a New York Times article from the 80’s, when Celibidache came to Philadelphia, to teach at the Curtis Institute. “To Mr. Celibidache, American musical management is a criminal operation that takes talent, uses it cynically, squeezes it dry and discards it,” it said. My father roared with laughter. He is turning 93 in a few weeks, the day after Hitler’s birthday. My dad likes odd numbers the best. As opposed to even ones. So, he is looking forward to turning 93. Every day, he goes to swim, sometimes twice, and he stays in the pool for hours with his brand new colander to save the bees and beetles. He says when they’re saved and watches them dry their wings before they ﬂy oﬀ. He says they see him coming and say to one another, “here’s the old man, coming to save us.” He asks me again if we are ok, and I say, “we are healthy” and he says, “TOI TOI TOI.” “How come Jews can’t say things are good without thinking bad things will happen?” I ask. This has always made me uneasy. The whole toi toi toi thing. “Our history” he says. And zigs and zags from Germany to Italy and his love for Italy. I tell him Germans have done admirably with the virus thus far, compared to Italy or here. He chalks the German response up to German eﬃciency. “Jews are used to death,” he says. We live in amazement if we get to an old age, without a pogrom. There’s a saying in Spanish which goes; Mama haceme grande (help me to grow up) que para sonso (for being stupid) me hago solo. I can do that by myself. Mommy, help me to get bigger. Stupidity, I will get to on my own. Until next time, and much love. Sarah montanamouthful.com
Sweet Life #43: BlonBloom – Saturday, April 11, 2020 The mayor announced that New York City Public Schools are to remain closed through the end of the year. We all knew this, but it’s still a brutal announcement on a sunny and chilly Saturday, that there’s nothing to go “back to.” Homeschooling for us means Minnie is learning how to play poker and Linden does a remote gymnastic class ﬁve mornings a week and that’s pretty much it. I used to homeschool kids. I think I did this for ten years in order to pay rent. I’d go to their houses, kids who were too cool to be in school. Is what I told them, and we’d read Cormac McCarthy and Kafka and write Abraham Lincoln letters: the stuﬀ I thought was cool, but mostly they’d tell me about their friends and all the woes there. So many woes. I had a six year old student who wanted to blow up the world who sat in my lap during lunch time and we watched episodes of The Muppet Show. You’d think I’d be good at the home school component of right now, but I’m reactive and dreadful. Minnie wants to play poker for money. She wants to learn to juggle. She wants to learn magic. Cards, clowning and magic, yikes: she’s doing that with Alex. I didn’t go out on the street much this week, but to clap at 7pm and to deliver bread. I stick bread in paper bags on people’s steps or in the forsythia bush outside our building. There are always sirens and earlier in the week the same siren which marks the Friday Sabbath was going oﬀ on a Tuesday, like an air raid, and nobody on the internet could tell me what it meant. Quarantine is starting to remove levels of sarcasm and cynicism from me and that’s new and uncomfortable. Those scales are my trademark. For example, I made Seder the other night. I have been the recipient of many great Seders in my life, and when I grew, that Montana Mouthful | 83
stopped, and when Seder stopped, I mocked it. Perhaps we are all regressing, and there is something in recreating the smells and traditions of one’s past. Making matzo ball soup made my house smell a certain unexpected way. Like our house on 30th Street in DC. The smell of cooking in my clothes smelled like my mom. Looking at her handwriting on recipe cards the other day made me sad and happy at the same time. We have all this stuﬀ in our own selves and homes which can give us the tools and inspiration to get through the day. The kids wear tiny, beautiful handmade masks on their faces. I tie them on behind their ears. Linden is in despair with her clothes because they aren’t fancy enough and often walks around the apartment with her head hanging because nothing is “fancy.” We are all regressing and none of us are fancy. Minnie has decamped from her bedroom to the ﬂoor for sleeping because she’s worried that if she sleeps in her bed, the Mystery Man will take her. Linden is peeing all the time. I made Alex watch the movie Beaches. Which I watched like a warm, warm blanket, just like when I was twelve. When I loved the cold WASPy wealth of Hillary, as opposed to the brassy, needy Jewiness of CC, who was too funny to me in an unacceptable way. Now I’m very into CC and her embarrassing needs. They feel so familiar. My dad has stopped talking about the Virus so much when we FaceTime. The urgency of that has gone away. In some ways, the life he lives in assisted living is a permanent quarantine. He has little to no contact with the outside world. The days stay the same and he has no need for nouns like “Monday” or “Friday.” He eats and loves matzo whenever he can, whether it’s Passover or not. His days are marked by swimming, two hours of bug rescues and lunch. It didn’t used to be that talking to my dad 84 | Montana Mouthful
cheered me up. Not ever, not even in the last year, when I felt within the Texas-sized hole of my mother, an obligation to call and cheer him up. Now, talking to him is good. It’s distracting and pleasant. It’s funny. I call to speak with him to get some of what he has, but he’s in the pool and will have to call me back. Even the owner of the home said he puts them in a good mood with his optimism. Prior grief is an oxygen line for this time. Grief is why I started making bread. When my mom’s Alzheimer’s got worse, it made sense for me to “feed my mother” (the starter is called a mother dough) and help my starter while I couldn’t help my mother-Mom. Kneading, stretching and folding is therapeutic. Giving people bread is cathartic. I used to give Minnie’s teachers bread, a little oppressively, perhaps, but it really helped me. How do you say goodbye to the best thing in your life? For me, it was making something and giving it away. A lot of people are having to say goodbye to family, to friends, to their people, without being in the same room as them. When my mother died, my dad, Daniel and I were in Mexico, and we were with her, and that time was a terrible and beautiful gift. We had a cobbled together Marx Brothers patchwork quilt of a funeral ceremony, which involved the three of us standing with her body, which was on the bed where she died. She was covered in a bright Mexican rainbow cloth, which had on it a box of Kleenex for us. It was one of those decorative boxes of tissues, this one had neon blue and yellow popsicles on it. Something else to look at. A rabbi in New Orleans—who was at the mechanic at the time—recited the Kaddish from the phone I held with my left hand, while the phone in my right hand had our brother Adam, who was in Berlin with his new son. I kept thinking it wasn’t fair, it wasn’t real, that none of it was, Vol. 3 • Issue 3
that real was only when we planned it and were together, but of course it was real, it’s all we had. And what we have is what is real. What is ‘together’ really? It was something my mom always wanted. In a comically exasperated way. Like, annoyed at all of us for having our own interests. She was a guided missile of ﬁerce togetherness and we were all little tiny pandas, wandering oﬀ from her. I have some of this and for people like us, I believe the term is “control freak,” right now is a huge test of letting things be in whichever hand they happen to be and
even ﬁnding beauty in this. The last bit of news from here is that Bloonbloom, Linden’s imaginary best friend who lives and toils at the Rainbow Factory, is ﬁnally wearing a mask! After much hold out, she decided to wear a mask after Linden gave her a special, glittery rainbow mask. Blonbloom didn’t like the mask her grandparents made (I didn’t know she even had grandparents), but she loves her new one, and she’s not sick anymore. Love, Sarah
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While Montana Mouthful seeks and accepts stories, essays, poetry, and artwork from around the world, we wish to connect with writers and artists from our local Helena community. Montana Mouthful and The Shop University have teamed up; each issue includes a piece submitted by 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. For the past six years, the ShopU has taught intensive daily English classes to teenagers and adults in the Helena area. In this amount of time over 100 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. Learning a new language is hard. Most adults do not achieve ﬂuency in a second language without extreme dedication and motivation. Writing is often the last of the four skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) where ﬂuency is developed. Each of our students has dreams, goals, and stories. Being able to showcase their stories in a language they have worked so hard to learn for the community to read is an unbelievable gift.
This issue features an essay written by Yang Si. The author Yang Si is originally from China and has lived in Montana for almost two years. She likes traveling and to try new things. After coming to Montana, she began to like ﬁshing; this is a new skill for her. Yunsi Pi is a six-grade student, and the author’s son. He is good at learning English, so he helped Yang Si write this article. He enjoys his life in America a lot. Also, he loves ﬁshing after his school took him ice ﬁshing.
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Vol. 3 • Issue 3
Quarantine by Yang Si
2020 was the most tumultuous year I’ve ever had. At the beginning of the new year, a new type of unknown virus ﬁrst broke out in China. In the short two months that followed, the new virus quickly swept the globe. So far, more than 10 million people have been diagnosed around the world, resulting in more than 500,000 deaths. Scientists all over the world began to study the virus, but no one knows where the virus comes from. Some people think it comes from wild animals, and some people think it’s from sea food, and there are many other theories. The United States declared a state of emergency on March 13, 2020, advising people to keep their social distance in public places. The city where I live also announced that all public schools were closed, and that recreation and ﬁtness facilities were closed. After this, people stayed at home and we started our isolated life. At the same time, my English class also started holding classes online, so we can keep studying English during the quarantine. When I joined the ﬁrst Zoom meeting, I didn’t know how to turn on my video, or how to unmute
myself, but thankfully my English teacher taught us patiently. The ﬁrst few days of isolation I faced of a lot of leisure time; I did not know what to do, but with the arrival of spring, I could do more outdoor activities and some animals came into my yard too, so I could watch them do funny things. The rabbits chased each other and ate grass in my yard. Many birds with names I don’t even know came back with spring. They started sitting in the trees, and a couple of birds even started to build a nest in a tree. I think they will have some very cute babies in a few months. Soon, the grass in the yard began to sprout, and ﬁnally there was plenty of time to take care of the lawn at home. For me, growing grass was a new skill. With a hint of curiosity, I searched the internet for instructions on how to replant grass seeds, and well, it didn’t seem too diﬃcult. So, I acted without delay. The next morning, I went to the store to buy grass seeds and soil. First, I used a rake to clean up the dry weeds on the ground, and remove the lawn of stones, sticks and other debris. I broke up large pieces of soil to ensure
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that the land was ﬂat. It was a big project, and soon, the mess was packed into three large garbage bags. Next, I sprinkled the grass seeds, and scattered them on the ground as evenly as possible, and then I sprinkled a layer of soil to protect the seeds. Ok! The ﬁnal step was to water several times every day to keep the soil moist. After a week, the grass seeds sprouted. As I watched the sparse yellow lawn become dense and vibrant, suddenly, I felt that all the hard work was worth it; I did it! I also planted a small vegetable patch in the backyard and planted vegetables in the hope of getting my own greens in the summer, but it took some hard work too. I planted spinach, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage, and
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corn on the porch with my son. After some time, the vegetables ﬁnally grew, but still, some of them died. Even so, I was very happy, because it was the ﬁrst time I had planted vegetables on my own. Maybe soon, I’ll be eating my own vegetables! I feel working in the yard is funny. For me it is a whole new way of life. Isolated life can also be full and interesting, no matter how serious the outside environment is. To live each day well is the most important thing. Hopefully, when the outbreak ends, it will make this isolated life in 2020 a special and precious memory in the hearts of each of us.
Vol. 3 • Issue 3
Thank you so much for perusing the pages of our “Quarantine” Issue! We hope you enjoyed the selected submissions that helped to deﬁne the state of this unprecedented time. We were overwhelmed with the amount of work sent to us and want to thank everyone who took the time to share their artistic viewpoints on the pandemic. Congratulations to the contributors who helped to create this excellent issue! The theme for our next issue is ‘Out of This World’. This is a broad theme, open to several interpretations. For instance, perhaps “out of this world” immediately sparks ideas of sci-ﬁ adventures, or an out-of-body experience, or artwork that portrays something extraordinary! But don’t forget that the phrase “out of this world” is also used to emphasize something extremely good or impressive. Whichever direction the theme takes you, note that submissions for this issue will be open from November 2, 2020 - January 11, 2021. We aim to publish the “Out of This World” issue on March 15, 2021 for your reading pleasure. Also, due to our limited availability for in-person fundraisers, we hope you will consider donating through our website or Facebook page, so we can keep this digital magazine going. We appreciate any assistance as we continue to work with a bare-bones budget! Last but not least, as always, we want to thank our graphic design artist, Luke Duran, of Element L Design, as he continues to wow us with his amazing layout skills for each and every issue. Thank you for your patronage, for sharing our posts, and for getting our magazine circulated into the world! Stay safe and healthy and count your blessings throughout the holidays! Sincerely, Cari Divine, Co-Editor
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Biography Renée Adams Renée Adams is an emerging aging poet whose poems have been published or are forthcoming in The Typescript poetry journal, Gargoyle Magazine, Chitro Magazine, The Zebra, The Alexandria Gazette, Gumball Poetry, and in her city’s buses and local art gallery. For over 11 years, she’s curated her poetry fence, attracting visitors from other cities and countries. Her PechaKucha Alexandria presentation on the poetry fence and related activities can be found online at https://www.pechakucha.com/presentations/poetry-fence-evolves-with-community Lino Azevedo Lino Azevedo was born in the 1970’s to Portuguese immigrants near the city of San Francisco, California. Like most small children, Lino enjoyed creating from the soul with simple tools like pencil and crayon. Being a painter herself, his mother saw the potential and let him try his hand with her oils and brushes. After receiving an art award in high school, a counselor suggested San Jose State University for its strong art and design program. Lino graduated in 1997 with his bachelors and began teaching drawing and painting to both children and adults. With a growing passion for guiding other artists on their journeys, he obtained his master’s degree in art in order to teach. Lino lives in Savannah, Georgia where he is a Professor of Foundation Studies. His work has been shown in galleries throughout North America. Find out more about Lino at the following: www.azevedoart.com and Instagram @azevedoﬁneart Gaby Bedetti Gaby Bedetti’s essays, photos, poems, and co-translations have appeared in New Literary History, Still, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, Front Porch Review, and Asymptote. Other works are forthcoming in Brooklyn Rail, Ezra, and Rhino. She is a professor of English at Eastern Kentucky University. Find out more about Gaby at https://gabriellabedetti.wordpress.com/ Neil Berkowitz Neil Berkowitz is an emerging photographic artist and printmaker living in Seattle. He pursued a dual major in photography at the Newhouse School of Syracuse University many years ago, followed by coursework in photography at the New School. He returned to photography six years ago and has been working solely in digital photography. He has recently begun dividing his time between photography and printmaking and is an active volunteer in the digital media lab at Photographic Center Northwest in Seattle. Find out more about Neil at https://neilberkowitz.com
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Jack Bordnick Jack Bordnick is an Industrial design graduate of Pratt Institute in New York. He has been a designer and design director for the past twenty years including work for numerous companies, corporations, and government projects. They included a children’s museum for the city of New York and the Board of Education, and Jack was involved in all aspects of marketing and design. Find out more about Jack at jackbordnickstudio.com Jeff Burt Jeﬀ Burt lives in Santa Cruz County, California, with his wife and a July abundance of plums. He has contributed to Tar River Poetry, EcoTheo Review, Williwaw Journal, and Clerestory, and he won the 2017 Cold Mountain Review Poetry Prize. Find out more about Jeﬀ at https://www.jeﬀ-burt.com Roger Camp Roger Camp is the author of three photography books including the award-winning Butterﬂies in Flight, Thames & Hudson, 2002, and Heat, Charta, Milano, 2008. His work has appeared in numerous journals including The New England Review, Phoebe, Folio, and the New York Quarterly. His work is represented by the Robin Rice Gallery, NYC. Find out more about Roger at rogercampphoto.com Andrea Chesman Andrea Chesman is the author of more than twenty cookbooks, mostly focusing on preparing food from the garden and homestead. Her ﬁction has appeared online in The Bangalore Review, Write Launch, Green Mountains Review, Fresh Ink, and in print in The Oﬀbeat and the anthology Twisted, published by Medusa’s Laugh Press, which nominated her short story for a Pushcart Prize. She has a story forthcoming in Blue Lake Review. She lives in an old farmhouse in Vermont, where Robert Frost used to take his meals when he lived in the cottage across the street. Her website is andreachesman.com Diana Cole Diana Cole, a Pushcart Prize nominee, has had poems published in numerous journals including Poetry East, Spillway, the Tar River Review, The Cider Press Review, Friends Journal, Verse Daily, Blueline and The Main Street Rag. Her chapbook, Songs By Heart was published in 2018 by Iris Press. She is an editor for The Crosswinds Poetry Journal and a member of Ocean State Poets whose mission is to encourage the reading, writing and sharing of poetry. When she is not writing, Ms. Cole is a stained glass artist. You can visit her website at dianacole.net to see her artwork and some previously published poetry. Linnea Cooley Linnea Cooley is a queer writer and essayist. Her work appears in McSweeney’s, Pif Magazine, and Sublunary Review, and in 2020 she was a ﬁnalist for the Jiménez-Porter Literary Prize. Find out more about Linnea at https://linneacooley.weebly.com/ or on Twitter @linnea_cooley Vol. 3 • Issue 3
Meredith Craig de Pietro
Meredith Craig de Pietro is a travel journalist based in Brooklyn, NY who has written for publications such as Lonely Planet, Vice, Delta Sky, New York Family and many more. Find out more about Meredith at www.meredithcraigdepietro.com and on Instagram @meredithcraigdepietro
Cheryl Edwards is a contemporary artist, residing In Washington D.C. She is a painter, printmaker, and mixed media artist. Her practice is about memory and identity, which she examines in the element of water and dolls. Find out more about Cheryl at https://cdedwardsstudio.wixsite.com/cdedwards
Margaret Anne Ernst
Orman Day’s prose and poetry have been published by such journals as Creative Nonﬁction, ZYZZYVA, Portland Review, Los Angeles Review, Potomac Review, and Owen Wister. He often writes about his backpacking journeys around the world. Among his adventures: bungee jumping oﬀ a New Zealand bridge, spending two months canoeing the Mississippi, hopping freight trains, thumbing on six continents, and conversing with cocaine-smoking gringos in their Bolivian prison cell.
Margaret Anne Ernst is a writer, community organizer, minister, and fanny pack devotee living in Lenapehoking territory in Philadelphia, PA. Her poetry has been published by Saccharine Poetry and essays in Unbound: An Interactive Journal on Christian Social Justice, and www.RadicalDiscipleship.net. She regularly walks by Cobb’s Creek and works for a world in which she could put her feet in. You can ﬁnd out more about Margaret at www.plantedmoredeeply.wordpress.com
Sven discovered his passion for street photography at the beginning of 2020. Unfortunately, this pandemic does not help him much. You can ﬁnd out more about Sven at https://www.instagram.com/wandering.translator/
J. Federle, born and raised in Kentucky, earned an MA in 19thcentury Poetry in England—when she writes, Romanticism meets the US South, Gothic and Greek imagery fusing with folktale humor. Her years in Peru, married to a supportive Limeño, have improved her Spanish, if not her ability to dance. Find out more about her at the following: www.jfederle.com and at @JFederleWrites
Steve Denehan Steve Denehan lives in Kildare, Ireland, with his wife, Eimear and daughter, Robin. He is the author of two chapbooks and one collection with several collections forthcoming including “A Chandelier of Beating Hearts” from Salmon Poetry. Twice winner of Irish Times’ New Irish Writing, his numerous publication credits include Poetry Ireland Review, Acumen, Westerly and Into The Void. He has been nominated for Best of the Net, Best New Poet and has been twice nominated for The Pushcart Prize. Find out more about Steve at the following: denehan.wixsite.com/website; twitter.com/SteverinoD; facebook.com/denehan RC deWinter RC deWinter’s poetry is widely anthologized, notably in New York City Haiku (NY Times/Rizzoli, 2/2017), Nature In The Now (Tiny Seed Press, 8/2019), Coﬃn Bell Two (2/2020), Other Worldly Women Press 2020 Summer Anthology: a Headrest for Your Soul (6/2020), in print in 2River, Adelaide, Event, Genre Urban Arts, Gravitas, Kansas City Voices, Meat For Tea: The Valley Review, the minnesota review, Night Picnic Journal, Prairie Schooner, Southword, among others and appears in numerous online literary journals. Luke Duran Luke Duran is a graphic artist composed mainly of oxygen (65%), carbon (18.5%), hydrogen (9.5%), 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.
Jennifer Frederick Jennifer Frederick an artist, a writer, and a law student at University of Maryland Baltimore. She has been creating collages since the 2016 election. Her work has appeared in Spring Hill College’s Peace and Justice Magazine, PAX; 1807: An Art and Literary Journal; and Beyond Words Literary Magazine. You can ﬁnd out more about Jennifer at the following: https://twitter.com/collagesofcolle or collagesofcollege.tumblr.com Kristen Gidel Kristen Gidel earned a B.A. in English from The University of Iowa and an M.A. in Teaching from Drake University. She now spends her days encouraging high school students to put down their phones for books and her nights helping her husband keep their two young boys from taking over the house. You can follow Kristen on Instagram @kgidel D. Walsh Gilbert D. Walsh Gilbert is the author of Ransom (Grayson Books, 2017). A Pushcart nominee, she has also received honors from The Farmington River Literary Arts Center and the Artist for Artists Project at the Hartford Art School. She serves on the board of the nonproﬁt, Riverwood Poetry Series, and as co-editor of the Connecticut River Review published by the Connecticut Poetry Society.
Montana Mouthful | 91
Baltimore born but Orlando raised, Alex is Florida based writer. He is a graduate of the University of Central Florida and currently works at Valencia College. Alex’s pieces have previous been published in Storyteller Magazine, What Rough Beasts, the Garﬁeld Lake Review and Zephyr.
After a 20-year career as an architect in the United States and Australia, Michael Janis returned to the US with a focus on working with glass. Awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in 2012, Janis went to England’s University of Sunderland and taught at the UK’s National Glass Centre where he became an Artist-in-Residence at the Institute for International Research in Glass (IIRG). Massachusetts’ Fuller Craft Museum mounted a solo show of Janis’ glass panels and sculpture in 2011, where they have recently acquired one of his works for its permanent collection. Janis’ artwork is also in the permanent collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, Florida’s Imagine Museum, as well the artwork collection at the US Bucharest Embassy. The DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities awarded him the 31st Annual Mayor’s Arts Award for “Excellence in the Arts”. Find out more about Michael at the following: michaeljanis.com; instagram.com/michael_janis; facebook.com/michael.janis
Sydney Harris Sydney Harris is an artist located in Pittsburgh, PA, who grew up exposed to a multitude of diﬀerent art styles, giving her the opportunities to grow as an artist and ﬁnd herself. After graduating from Waynesburg University with her Bachelor of Fine Arts, she was able to ﬁnd ways to incorporate nature into her art style since she has always been inspired by its simplest forms. She creates artwork that highlights her fascination with the land and ocean life. Her use of bright and bold colors makes 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. Find out more about Sydney at the following: Sydneyharrisart.com and Instagram: @sydneyharrisart Susan Helene After years of an enjoyable teaching career, Susan Helene retired to pursue writing and art. Currently living in Southern California, she has lived in the South, the North East, and the West. Susan is an avid reader, a ceramic artist, and a perennial student. She currently ﬁnished writing a book of short stories about women at diﬀerent times in their lives called Womanscape, and a middle grade book on bullying called, Finding Our Way. Find out more about Susan on FB: Susan Helene - Author. Chloe Horning Chloe Horning is an erstwhile librarian, improbable yogi, and aspiring witch. She is also a writer. She lives outside of Seattle with her husband and dogs. Thomas Howarth Thomas Howarth lives in I live in Cork, Ireland, where he writes ﬁction and performs stand-up comedy whenever there’s not a pandemic on. His writing has been published by Literally Stories, fresh.ink, Czykmate Productions, Montana Mouthful, and the Bookends Review. Find out more about Thomas at instagram.com/ thomashowarthcomedian
Caroline Knickmeier Caroline Knickmeier is an artist and writer dedicated to a life of critical thinking and making art and love. She is currently artistin-residence long distance during quarantine for a rainforest reclamation project and ecological garden, raising funds for pasture land conversion to secondary growth in Costa Rica. She is a graduate of the Wilderness Studies program at the University of Montana. Find out more about Caroline at the following: carolineknickmeier.com, gallerygallery.org, and @sobraliacaroline Maya Levine Maya Levine was raised in Chicago and will attend college in Palo Alto, California. She enjoys experimenting with form and relating form to function. She has over 20 published written works. Thomas Locicero Thomas Locicero’s poems have appeared on all seven continents in such literary magazines as The Satirist, The Pangolin Review, Roanoke Review, Boston Literary Magazine, Bindweed Magazine, Antarctica Journal, Poetry Paciﬁc, The Ghazal Page, Birmingham Arts Journal, Boomer Lit, Hobart, and vox poetica, among others. He resides in Broken Arrow, OK. Find out more about Thomas @ThomasLocicero Joel Long Joel Long’s book Winged Insects won the White Pine Press Poetry Prize. (2012) and Knowing Time by Light (2010) were published by Blaine Creek Press. His chapbooks, Chopin’s Preludes and Saffron Beneath Every Frost were published from Elik Press. His poems and essays have appeared in Gettysburg Review, Sports Literate, Prairie Schooner, Bellingham Review, Rhino, Bitter Oleander, Massachusetts Review, Terrain, and Water-Stone Review, among others. He lives in Salt Lake City.
92 | Montana Mouthful
Vol. 3 • Issue 3
Rebecca is a born-and-raised Mennonite: the descendant of farmers, missionaries, conscientious objectors, and an unwavering commitment to non-violence. She grew up in Lancaster County Pennsylvania and graduated with a BA in English Language and Literature from Eastern Mennonite University. She currently lives in Seattle, Washington. Her poetry is unabashedly biased toward her worldview, especially in its exploration of societal stories about the earth, womanhood, family, and sexuality. Her work has been published in Eclectica Magazine; Havik; The Pointed Circle; Bridge Literary Journal; Flying Island Literary Journal; Wilderness House Literary Review; Rhubarb Magazine; and The Phoenix Literary Journal. Find out more about Rebecca at https://www.rebeccalcreative.com/
Timothy O’Leary’s short stories have been published in dozens of magazines and anthologies, and he is the author of the story collection, Dick Cheney Shot Me in the Face, and Other Tales of Men in Pain (Unsolicited Press), and Warriors, Workers, Whiners, & Weasels (Zephor). He’s been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, won the Aestas Short Story Award, was a ﬁnalist for the Mississippi Review Prize, The Mark Twain Award, and The Lascaux Prize. He graduated from the University of Montana, and received his MFA from Paciﬁc University. More information can be found at www.timothyolearylit.com
Shelley Matheis Shelley Matheis is a Cartoonist/Illustrator. Find out more about her at https://quannlace.wixsite.com/website-1-1
Steve Meredith Steve Meredith is a Montana Phantasy Photo Artist. Find out more about him at https://www.slmimages.com Susan Niz Susan Niz’s ﬁrst poetry chapbook is Beyond this Amniotic Dream (Beard Poetry, Minneapolis, 2016). Her second chapbook, LeftHanded Like a Lightning Whelk, was released with Finishing Line Press November 2019. Her short work has appeared in San Antonio Review, Wanderlust Journal, The Write Launch, Ponder Review, Chaleur Magazine, Typishly, Tipton Poetry Journal, Carnival Literary Magazine, Crack the Spine, Blue Bonnet Review, Ginosko, Cezanne’s Carrot, Flashquake, Opium Magazine, and Summerset Review. She has been featured in live poetry shows in Minneapolis and Austin. Susan’s novel Kara, Lost (North Star Press, 2011) was a ﬁnalist for a Midwest Book Award (MIPA) for Literary Fiction. She has a BA in Creative Writing. She lives in the Austin, Texas area where she teaches adult poetry classes. Follow Susan on Instagram @nizsusan Don Noel 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 ﬁve dozen short stories and non-ﬁction pieces (including three in Montana Mouthful), but has two novellas and a novel still looking for publishers. Find out more about Don at www.dononoel.com
Eloísa Pérez-Lozano Eloísa Pérez-Lozano graduated from Iowa State University with a B.S. in psychology and an M.S. in journalism and mass communications with an emphasis in photojournalism. In addition to being a photographer, she is also a poet and her work has been featured in The Texas Observer, Houston Chronicle, and Poets Reading the News, among others. She lives with her family in Houston, Texas. Find out more about Eloisa at the following: Twitter: @elopoeta, Instagram: @elodisneygirl Jessica Plancich Jessica Plancich is a 5th generation Montana girl with a habit of writing. Find out more about Jessica at Ranch House Publishing. Charles Lewis Radke Charles Lewis Radke’s forthcoming memoir, Stuccoville: Life Without a Net (WiDo/E.L. Marker), is due out in January, 2021. A husband and father of three, Charles also published a history book, Sierra Summers: A History of Gold Arrow Camp (Nov. 2017). His nonﬁction is forthcoming in HASH (9/2020), and his short ﬁction has appeared in Mud Season Review, The San Joaquin Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Gulf Stream Magazine, and The South Dakota Review. He has also written for Writing Lab Newsletter. He is the recipient of an AWP Intro Award for ﬁction and the Estelle Campbell Prize for literature from the National Society of Arts and Letters. Find out more about Charles at the following: charleslewisradke.com; facebook.com/charleslewisradke, Twitter (@cradke1), and Instagram (cradkewkc) Sarah Raymont Sarah Raymont lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband and their two daughters.
Kate O’Donnell Kate O’Donnell is a 20 year-old visual artist based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She uses acrylic paints as a form of creating hope or awareness. She has created many artworks to showcase community in the time of social distancing. Find out more about Kate on IG @k8_cr8tions
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Jim Ross jumped into creative pursuits in 2015 after leaving a rewarding career in public health research. With a graduate degree from Howard University, he’s since published nonﬁction, poetry, and photography in nearly 150 journals and anthologies in North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. Publications include Columbia Journal, Ilanot Review, Lunch Ticket, Montana Mouthful, The Atlantic, the Manchester Review, and Typehouse. Recent photo essays include Barren, Kestrel, Litro, New World Writing, So It Goes, and Wordpeace. A nonﬁction piece led to a role in a soon-to-bereleased, high-proﬁle documentary limited series on VICE and BBC networks. Jim and his wife—parents of two health professionals on the front line and grandparents of ﬁve preschoolers— split their time between the city and the mountains.
The author, Yang Si, is originally from China and has lived in Montana for almost two years. She likes traveling and to try new things. After coming to Montana, she began to like ﬁshing; this is a new skill for her. Yunsi Pi is a six-grade student, and the author’s son. He is good at learning English, so he helped Yang Si write this article. He enjoys his life in America a lot. Also, he loves ﬁshing after his school took him ice ﬁshing.
Ann Marie Sekeres A long time ago, Ann Marie Sekeres went to art school and learned to paint. She showed a bit around New York in the 90s, but didn’t get where she wanted to be. Eventually she became a very happy museum and nonproﬁt publicity director and started a family. She then found out about the Procreate drawing app from an illustrator she hired, stole her kid’s iPad and has been drawing every day since. Follow her work at @annmarieprojects on Instagram. Sherry Shahan Sherry Shahan has traveled extensively as a journalist and photographer, often watching the world and its people from behind; whether in the hub of London, a backstreet in Havana, or alone from a window in a squat hotel room in Paris; whether with a 35 mm camera or an iPhone. Her photos have appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Country Living, San Francisco Chronicle, Christian Science Monitor, Backpacker and more. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Find out more about Sherry at SherryShahan.com Jennifer Shneiderman Jennifer Shneiderman is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a writer living in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Indolent Book’s HIV Here and Now, The Rubbertop Review, Writers Resist, the Poetry in the Time of COVID-19, Vol 2, anthology, Variant Literature, Bright Flash Literary Review, Wingless Dreamer, Trouvaille Review, Sybil Journal and The Daily Drunk. Currently, her ER doctor husband is on the pandemic frontlines and her teenage son is in quarantine. Find out more about Jennifer at the following: Twitter @JenniferShneid3 and on her website: https://jshneidy4.wixsite.com/jennifer-shneiderman Shoshauna Shy
Amy Soricelli Amy Soricelli has been published in numerous publications and anthologies including Dead Snakes, Corvus Review, Deadbeats, Long Island Quarterly, Voice of Eve, The Muddy River Poetry Review, Vita Brevis, Terse Journal, Remington Review, Literati Magazine, Blind Vigil Review, Red Queen Literary Magazine, and The Westchester Review. *Sail Me Away (chapbook) Dancing Girl Press, 2019. Nominated by Billy Collins for Aspen Words Emerging Writer’s Fellowship 2019 and for Sundress Publications “Best of the Net” 2013. Recipient of the Grace C. Croﬀ Poetry Award, Lehman College, 1975. Nam Hoang Tran Nam Hoang Tran is an emerging writer and English major at the University of Central Florida. When not involved with academia, he can be found immersed in nature, doing yoga to Bon Iver, and picking fruits from a ﬂourishing backyard garden. He grew up in Vietnam and currently lives in Orlando. Julie Weiss Julie Weiss’s debut chapbook, The Places We Empty, will be published by Kelsay Books in July 2021. In 2020, she was a ﬁnalist in Alexandria Quarterly’s ﬁrst line poetry contest series and for The Magnolia Review’s Ink Award. In 2019 she was a Best of the Net Nominee. Recent work appears in Better Than Starbucks, Praxis Magazine, Kissing Dynamite Poetry, and Anti-Heroin Chic, among others, and she has poems in many anthologies, as well. Originally from California, she lives in Spain with her wife and two young children. You can ﬁnd her on Twitter @colourofpoetry or on her website at https://julieweiss2001.wordpress.com/ Steve Zimmerman Steve Zimmerman is a writer and photographer, born in Ohio, who spent most vacations wandering the western states chasing after his heroes, both real and imagined. His work has appeared in the Tacoma Art Museum, the Evansville Review, the Bellingham Review, Photospiva and, most recently, Arkana Press. Find out more about Steve at szimages.photography.
Author of ﬁve collections of poetry, Shoshauna Shy’s poems have been published in journals, magazines, anthologies; as videos, inside taxis, community cars, and on the hind quarters of Madison Metro buses. She usually gets ideas for new poems while stuck doing something else. Find out more about Shoshauna at https://www.PoetryJumpsOﬀtheShelf.com
94 | Montana Mouthful
Vol. 3 • Issue 3
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Montana Mouthful | 95
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Volume 3, Issue 3: Quarantine Montana Mouthful is an independent nonprofit literary magazine devoted to short fiction and nonfiction, poetry...
Published on Oct 19, 2020
Volume 3, Issue 3: Quarantine Montana Mouthful is an independent nonprofit literary magazine devoted to short fiction and nonfiction, poetry...