Montana Mouthful: Lost and Found

Page 1


Lost and Found

Dear Readers, Please enjoy the pages of our Montana Mouthful Lost and Found Issue! Throughout our lives, we lose and find tangible items: stray gloves, misplaced jewelry, and socks that disappear in the dryer. Without fail, I’ll finally throw away a stray glove only to have its mate show up later. But material items aren’t the only things lost: some have also lost their minds, their loves, and their relationships. Our Lost and Found issue focuses mainly on the intangibles and the resolutions to those losses. There are some unique takes on lost and found throughout the pages. Related to this theme, we also have some news: Jasmine and I have recently ‘found’ ourselves in different life circumstances, so it’s with deep regret that we announce that this is our final issue of Montana Mouthful. Jasmine and I have additional life responsibilities that won’t allow for the same level of commitment that’s required to maintain a quality literary magazine. We don’t want the quality to suffer because of our inability to provide well-deserved attention to our submitters, contributors, and readers, so we have decided this will be our final issue. However, this doesn’t mean the magazine will disappear right away. While we’ll eventually shut down the business, eliminate expenses, and close the non-profit, the following schedule will be in place for 2022 and 2023. • Free-to-Read digital issues will be available on Issuu until July 2023 at • Print-on-demand copies of all 12 of our issues can be ordered until 10/31/2022 at • Our website will be available until January 2023. We would like to thank our readers, followers, contributors, supporters, and everyone who submitted their work to our magazine. We appreciate all of you, especially those who’ve put their hearts and souls into their work and shared it with us. Please see the Editors’ Enclosure section of this issue for our final thoughts. Thank you for your support from inception to closure of our beloved Montana Mouthful Magazine. Sincerely, Cari J. Divine Co-Editor, Montana Mouthful

II | Montana Mouthful

Vol. 5 • Issue 1

VOLUME FIVE • ISSUE ONE 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.

Lost and Found

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.

Editor’s Note......................................................................II

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 Emailed submissions will not be accepted. VIEWING/PURCHASING ISSUU: PEECHO: CONTACT Email: Web: Facebook:

The Sound of Music............................................................2 What Louis Finds...............................................................8 Trenches, Rats, and Watercolors .......................................12 Paper Dolls .......................................................................14 Margot ..............................................................................20 Home Remedy .................................................................25 Grandma’s House..............................................................26 Sister .................................................................................32 Lost and Found in the Wild Horse Desert.......................34 Her Gloves........................................................................40 The Bathtub ......................................................................44 Something Happened in the Heart of the Forest in the Heart of the Night..................................................46 ESL feature.......................................................................52 Making difficult decisions sometimes works out better than expected ..........................................................53 Editor’s Note.....................................................................56 Biography..........................................................................58

Instagram: Twitter: DESIGN Layout and graphic design by Luke Duran, Element L Design

Cover art:

Incipient Coulrophobia | ROBIN YOUNG

Montana Mouthful | 1


The Sound of Music by Cassidy Exner

On March 9, 2017, I stare at the middle school gymnasium wall and sing for what might be the last time in my life. I have had twelve hours to let the phrase thyroid cancer make its way into the crevices of my brain. For better or for worse, I am still numb. This is intentional—my only choice is to refuse to acknowledge the reality of the diagnosis, in case I drop dead the moment I recognize it. (Later, I will wish I’d accepted that the tumor would take my voice with it in a month. I would have savored those twelve bars of “Fields of Gold” a million times more.) As I finish my solo and return to my spot in the front of the soprano section, my music sounds like applause and my mother crying, because unlike me, she knows that everything is about to change.  On April 12, 2017, I open my eyes to the stark white glow of a hospital ceiling. The bandages around my neck won’t let me turn my head, the breathing tube has stolen my speaking voice completely, and the anesthetic makes me sick to my stomach when I sit up. After twentyfour hours of vomiting, I cry myself to sleep, the theme song to Jessie taunting me from the 2 | Montana Mouthful

small TV in the corner. As a nurse takes my blood for the fourth time in as many hours, my music sounds like a heart monitor and the drip of an IV.  On May 1, 2017, I go to my first select choir rehearsal since acquiring the six-inch scar across my throat. I see the notes on the page. I know what they should sound like. But I also know that when I open my mouth, the sound that comes out is all wrong, and so I close it again. As I stare at the staffs on the page, my music sounds like everything that's wrong with me and everything I'll never get back.  On May 31, 2017, I go under anesthesia for my second life-saving surgery in as many months. My calcium and Vitamin D levels plummet. This turns out to be the least of my problems after a nurse gives me double the safe amount of pain meds and nearly sends me into liver failure after three such doses. The result is so many blood tests that the frantic techs have to switch from my arms to the back of my hands. As I ask my mom why the doctors can’t just Vol. 5 • Issue 1

stop this regimen (the answer, I presume, is that I’d die), my music sounds like the pulsing pain deep in my body and my heart.  On September 5, 2017, I enter high school and am reduced to tears at the idea of auditioning for the select choir there. The fact of the matter is that after cancer, I am simply not good enough. I am broken and scarred and terrified, so I close the idea out of my head for what I think will be forever. After all, remission is supposed to be a blessing. If I dare cry for the way things used to be, for the delight that singing used to bring me, the cancer will come back. And then singing won’t matter. Nothing will. As I sit in the third row of the music room during fourth period, my music sounds like silence.  On September 19, 2018, I sing an Italian audition piece alongside two other students as I audition for the select choir. The notes remind me all of the tears I shed deciding whether or not to audition, and I am convinced that I’ve made a huge mistake. As I read my name on the list of accepted singers, my music sounds like my heart beating out of my chest.  On November 14, 2018, I sit in rehearsal and feel blood rush to my cheeks when our teacher has us all stand up and perform solo, transitioning every four measures to a new singer. I force four bars of sound out of my throat and then leave for the bathroom. The sheer magnitude of loss slams into me, a kraken awoken by the sound of my own voice, and I cry. As I stare at the graffiti on the stall door, my music sounds like the ringing in my ears—

impossible to ignore and impossible to love.  On January 26, 2019, I attend a choral gala alongside the others, all of whom adore singing and are good at it (two things I cannot say anymore). I learn three pieces in a day and stand in a chorus composed of five different schools, with two hundred bodies swaying in unison to the accompaniment. Our last song “Lord of the Small,” brings a palpable joy that rises like smoke. By now, I am all too familiar with the bitterness that four-part harmony brings me, the stinging ache of happiness that I will never get to feel again. This time, though, it does not come. And I smile.

“On December 15, 2019, I stand in front of two hundred people, dressed in their winter coats and perched on hay bales in my coach’s indoor riding arena. Cancer has had one thousand, one hundred and twelve days to take control of me, but as I shift my feet in the dirt, I realize that it never did.” As I feed off of their energy, my music sounds like the faint chirp of a bird learning to fly.  On September 14, 2019, I sit on my little bay mare, the one constant in my life, and loosen the reins while I catch my breath halfway through our training session. My coach asks me if I would consider singing solo at her church's live nativity come December. "I'll think about it," I say, laughing absently, and ask Montana Mouthful | 3

my mare to canter before I process what I’ve just said. As Bella pricks her ears at a leaf on the ground, my music sounds like the beat of her canter— the first fleeting streak of hope since the day I lost everything.  On October 29, 2019, I write my choir teacher a three-page essay. Everyone in the select choir is supposed to audition for a statewide group, and in order to not do so, we must explain to him why. I tell him that music has been hell for me and that I'm finally learning to love it again, and that if I ever sing solo after cancer I want it to be on my own terms. As I attach my essay and press Send, my music sounds like a signature—written in pen, not pencil, because I already know what my terms are going to be. 

4 | Montana Mouthful

On December 15, 2019, I stand in front of two hundred people, dressed in their winter coats and perched on hay bales in my coach’s indoor riding arena. Cancer has had one thousand, one hundred and twelve days to take control of me, but as I shift my feet in the dirt, I realize that it never did. I stand in front of the microphone, pick a slat of wood on the arena wall to stare at, and sing. And when I strum the last chord on my guitar, I step back to take in every single detail of this moment. The cows mooing behind me, the sun setting through the open arena door, and the feeling of falling in love with singing all over again. My music sounds different now. It doesn’t sound broken and small and scared anymore. Instead, it sounds like everything I’ve fought for, everything I thought I’d lost, and everything I’ve finally found.

Vol. 5 • Issue 1


Montana Mouthful | 5


Ode to a Lost Shoe by Lane Henson Wisonson Point, 2020 I’ve wandered out into the grey of another October. This loose scattering of leaves is a reminder. A fawn finally outgrown of its spots leads a weary doe through the gloom, nothing else on this road except the lighthouse at the end of it. Near the boardwalk I find an abandoned shoe slowly filling with sand here at the beach’s edge where dune grasses end their march to the water. I wonder about the ways a person loses a single shoe: a hurried father tugging kids to the car, late for dinner.

6 | Montana Mouthful

Or barefoot lovers retreating from the wind that sweeps summer from these miles of sand. O lost one, O solitary traveler, there are so many places we leave pieces of ourselves! Maybe the other shoe is riding a sheet of blue ice across the North Atlantic and slowly filling with snow. Maybe, above it, Orion pulls back his bow, draws a course that connects the halves like a string tied across all of space. Maybe each star is an eyehole: laced, peered through. Walking on I find myself considering an ear pressed to a screen door straining to hear soft footsteps in the night, a door unlocking, a lamp left lit.

Vol. 5 • Issue 1

Flip Flops MIA | JIM ROSS

Montana Mouthful | 7


What Louis Finds by Shira Musicant

Louis sat on a concrete bench next to the river with a purse on his lap. He was thinking about changing his name to Jake. Legally. There was something dashing about Jake. This was a name that took risks, a name that lived on the edge, and gave thievery an air of glamour. He’d found the name on a driver’s license inside a wallet that he’d released from a man’s pocket a few years ago. Even the photo of Jake McBride looked a bit movie-star-ish, a scruff of a beard and hair falling over his eyes. It was a good look. Sometimes Louis imagined that he was being interviewed about his work. Ellen: I understand you have never been caught. Is that right, Louis? And, may I call you Louis? L: Well Ellen, I go by Jake, but close friends call me Louis, so go ahead. And you’re right. I’ve never been caught. (He would dip his head modestly here.) Ellen: Okay. So tell me, Louis, what is your earliest memory of stealing? Louis couldn’t remember when he’d decided to start stealing. Actually, he hadn’t ever really decided. He’d just gradually done it, found op8 | Montana Mouthful

portunities and took them. Petty thievery, involving spontaneity and improvisation, often did not get the credit it deserved. He’d explain that to Ellen. When he woke up this morning, for example, he’d had no idea that this purse would be sitting on a chair as he jogged by. The Rio Hondo River bordered the fine city of Downey. This section, however, had not yet been addressed by the city’s beautification project. Trash came in on the wind and lodged in the rocks. Joggers did not run here, preferring a path higher up the riverbank, landscaped and debris-free. From his bench near the rocks and the water, Louis had an easy view of running shoes and stroller wheels. He took his time perusing the handbag. He could easily toss it in the river if anyone came down to him. There was nothing glamorous about this steal: a beige, fake leather purse. It had no imagination. It was dirty on the bottom, as if the owner was in the habit of setting it down carelessly, wherever she happened to be. Really. Some women. They should take better care of their possessions. He was huffy on this point. If people really cared, they would not be easy marks. He was providing a valuable lesson for humanity. If you Vol. 5 • Issue 1

care about your shit, take care of it. She should have slung it across her body while she buried her head in her phone. The clasp was iffy. It gave way easily to his pinch: here I am Louis, rifle through me. Feeling for the wallet, possibly the prize, he pulled out a dingy leather thing. Not much hope here. He put it in his sweatshirt pocket, saving it for last. A hairbrush full of brown hair, a small Kleenex package, and a plastic baggie of tampons. People had no decency these days. They’d put anything in their purse, with no consideration of who might look inside. He tossed hairbrush, Kleenex, and tampons into the river. They floated for a minute in the brown churn, before moving downstream, captured by an eddy. The river winked back at him, a piece of cellophane that held the light for a minute, as if thanking him for his offering. Parts of the river crawled, parts hurried by. The Rio Hondo, it seemed, could not fully embrace the idea of joining the greater Los Angeles River. He didn’t blame it. This was interesting. He pulled out a small plastic container tightly closed. It rattled when he shook it. No labels or writing on the outside. He opened it. Pills. Nine of them. Pale green ovals with the number 80 on one side. They looked like Oxy. He’d scored. They might even be legit. He zippered the container into his sweatpants pocket. Joggers approached, feet pounding and voices breathless. They couldn’t see him, but he froze for a second, tempted to throw the purse in the river. White running shoes flashed by as the joggers passed. Their voices faded. Resuming his search, he took out a wad of papers. Receipts—gas, laundry, groceries. He glanced through a handwritten list. When he was in elementary school, he used

to ride his bike out of his neighborhood into the Whittier Hills, the section of town with nice houses and landscaped yards. He’d go in the evenings when the lights were coming on inside, offering him a view of family life. He’d spy. Fathers watched television. Children played games on computers. He liked looking in kitchen windows: a mother taking food out of the refrigerator, stirring something at the stove, chopping at the counter. He imagined eating roast chicken and mashed potatoes. This was his other life.

“There was nothing glamorous about this steal: a beige, fake leather purse. It had no imagination. It was dirty on the bottom, as if the owner was in the habit of setting it down carelessly, wherever she happened to be. Really. Some women. They should take better care of their possessions.” Her life, the life in front of him now, seemed pathetic. Well, her list was pathetic, though neatly written: dog food, cleaners, library, call Mom and Dad. The receipts and the list followed the hairbrush downstream. There was no make-up in her purse. Most purses at least had a lipstick. At the bottom of the purse, he found a notebook. It was about the size of a hand with a silver ballpoint pen clipped to the cover. The pen had some heft, and seemed out of place with the shabbiness of her possessions. He put it in his pocket, and opened the diary to the same school-girl script of her list. Dear God, it looked like poetry. He moaned and flipped Montana Mouthful | 9

through the pages—empty dark night . . . hollow life . . . lonely journey . . . Someone here was not happy. He pulled out a piece of paper, unfolded it, and read in the now familiar handwriting, Dear Mom and Dad, I cannot do this anymore. You will be happier without me . . . Oh great. Her parents would probably croak when they saw that. It was your generic suicide note, not even original. Sorry for the pain I have caused you. He put the note back in the diary. This was not fair. He hadn’t asked for this--this sense of responsibility. What about your dog, Lady? There was such a thing as knowing too much about a person. He should have tossed the purse in the river when the joggers came by, before he knew what she was planning.

“He could take her balloons for her birthday. That’s what he could do. Follow the thin thread of identification that the wallet contained. That would cheer her up. Or maybe not. Did suicidal people like balloons?”

The wallet was the green of old appliances in musty apartments. He opened it to a driver’s license photo: a plain, plump face encased in cracked plastic. Mary Sue Greeley would be forty years old tomorrow. He searched the wallet—two twenties and a single. Not impressive. A visa card—he could try that out, but people usually cancelled right away. No photos. He could take her balloons for her birthday. That’s what he could do. Follow the thin thread 10 | Montana Mouthful

of identification that the wallet contained. That would cheer her up. Or maybe not. Did suicidal people like balloons? He threw the beige purse into the river. It floated, before jamming itself between two rocks, this eddy not quite strong enough to push it through. He watched it for a minute, willing it to go away. But it seemed to have settled, now part of the river’s landscape. Stuffing the cash into his pocket, he pulled out her pen and wrote in her diary. Dear Mary Sue, Try a hobby. It has helped me tremendously. Yours, Jake He closed the book. Clipped the pen on it. Then had another thought, and added PS Happy Birthday under Jake’s name. What to do with it now. And he’d decided, though he didn’t like it, that he was morally obligated to get his note to her. Yes, Ellen, thieves do have morals. There was no flash of light, no music in his ears, accompanying this conversion, just the purse bobbing before him, and the river bubbling around it. The Universe had given him a mission. He should take the wallet and the diary to the police. They must have a Lost and Found. They would find her, and knock some sense into her. Louis stuffed the diary in his pocket. Leaving his hide-away, he entered the path along the river, running slowly, warming his legs after the cold bench. The wallet on one side of his sweatshirt and the diary on the other, bounced against his body. He left the river and headed into the city center. He jogged up Brookshire Avenue, past gas stations and strip malls, past the park, each step bringing him closer. In my line of work, Vol. 5 • Issue 1

he’d explain to Ellen, you have to exercise, stay in shape. As he approached the low brick building that housed the fine officers of the Downey Police Department, he slowed, and went past it, around the block. His chest hurt, as if he’d run a marathon, but he knew better. This was nerves. The building seemed to have a reverse magnetic pull, pushing him away. Though he’d never been caught, he was wise enough to know that he could be. His hands felt for the container of pills hidden in his sweatpants. He put one in his mouth. For the nerves. He’d saved her life by taking these pills. He just knew it. That was enough. But pills aren’t the only way, Ellen said. He also knew that. He stopped at a bench on the police department lawn, stretching hamstrings and quadriceps, his heart slowing. A plaque announced that this bench was donated in memory of Officer William Hernandez who died years ago in the line of duty on August 16th. Two newly planted maples would someday shade this bench, courtesy of Downey Beautification Project. Louis placed the wallet and the diary, with the pen still clipped to the cover, on the bench. He spread the suicide letter open, arranging letter, wallet and diary under the plaque, lining them up with the slats in the seat. He did this carefully, as if creating a piece of art for the memorial bench. Ellen would approve. Mary Sue’s stolen and lost possessions, if not Mary Sue herself, now rested in the hands of Officer Hernandez. The two saplings stood guard. He had work to do, business. He popped another pill. He planned to sell half of them. Already feeling lighter, Louis jogged away from the police department.


Aftermath by Nancy Murphy

After my mother died, I left my husband. He had always been a rock but I stumbled upon someone more like fire, and I needed to ignite, breathe into the blue edge of a flame, find myself in what remained. . It’s Friday night, I slice into red peppers. My new man scorches them on the grill along with sweet corn, chicken in dried thyme, Spanish olive oil. Together ten years and I still call him new. This is just how I talk, tell myself I’m free, remind myself that I could be reduced to ashes again. Sometimes I’m afraid that only burning can purge this longing, for all that’s lost, for those careless nights and all that blazed.

Montana Mouthful | 11


Trenches, Rats, and Watercolors by Geoff Watkinson

My internship duties in the Fine and Decorative Arts Department of the British National Army Museum included organizing and documenting collections of photographs and rearranging shelves of original 17th and 18th century diaries from Brits who had explored the Middle East. The men who had produced these artifacts had lived exhilarating lives, even if they had mostly faded into obscurity. To make the job at least somewhat meaningful, I told myself that it was my responsibility to keep these individuals alive by capturing their work in a spreadsheet. I was 20-years old, living in the Kensington neighborhood of London with 15 students from my American college in a fifth floor flat. I traveled extensively to western Europe, addicted to the excitement of a world I hadn’t seen. During free days, I explored the city, and most nights I went to pubs and clubs until the early morning, waking up a few hours later for my internship. The monotony of the museum job convinced me to never work in a museum again, but I was glad I had learned that. I had no idea what I wanted, but I had a growing list of things that I didn’t want. Occasionally, however, during my duties at the museum I would stumble upon something interesting. 12 | Montana Mouthful

I documented a series of “watercolours and drawings in a graphic cartoon style” that focused on the western front of World War I by Richard Barrett Talbot Kelly, a British soldier who worked steadily on his teaching and artistic career after the war: “he published several books of bird paintings before being recalled to the army in 1939…” He taught at the Rugby [School] until 1966, while also curating national museum galleries. He even designed posters for London Transport and the Underground from 1927 until 1960. I handled Talbot Kelly’s 30 portfolio-sized watercolors without gloves. No one wore gloves. To the Brits, artifacts less than two or 300 years old weren’t so ancient. Talbot Kelly used bright colors, especially yellows, greens, and oranges. His images seemed to flutter, as if he’d painted beyond where the end of a man’s face should have been or beyond the border of a tank, so that each object bled into the other. They presented a beautiful amalgamation of violence that was uncomfortably human. Men wore gas masks. Green tanks rolled in no-man’s-land. An orange sun dropped behind the bleak brown battlefield of Verdun. I put the information into an Excel SpreadVol. 5 • Issue 1

sheet, including transcription of the notes Talbot Kelly had made on the back of each sketch. He’d produced most of the watercolors when he got a rest from the front, a place where he undoubtedly slogged around in muddy trenches, killed rats, and took trips over the top to try to kill a man in another trench a thousand feet away. I wondered if he had killed anyone on the same day that he’d created a painting. The museum had purchased the collection for somewhere around £30,000. Once I was done with the documentation, the collection was shipped out to one of the dozens of storage warehouses around the outskirts of

London. Museums have lots of stuff, and they must put it somewhere. Less than one percent of a typical museum’s holdings are on exhibit. To my knowledge, Talbot Kelly’s collection never saw an exhibit floor. Although I wasn’t supposed to, I photographed every one of them. I hold onto those photos as if they are my private collection, for my eyes only. Fifteen years later, and I wonder if those watercolors are still boxed away in a warehouse on the outskirts of London, the museum deciding to exhibit other pieces of art over Talbot Kelly’s—the history that we see chosen by a select few who run the museums and galleries around the world.

The book cover of A Subaltern’s Odyssey, Richard Barrett Talbot Kelly’s memoir, features a watercolor illustration by Kelly. This book was published posthumously by William Kimber & Co., 1980

Montana Mouthful | 13


Paper Dolls by Katy Goforth

I first learned about her while sitting in an Ingles grocery store parking lot. I was in town from college, and my mother needed to go to the store. She burst into tears and said, “You have another sister. I gave her up. Don’t hate me.” I thought about it for the few seconds I was given and responded, “I don’t hate you. You had a baby. It’s ok.” Then we walked into Ingles and shopped. There was no family meeting. No handwritten letter pouring out her soul. We put the makings for dinner that night in our cart while she told me about 1966, her decision, and the baby that would change my life. If an emotion wasn’t beautiful to the outside world, then you didn’t feel it in my Southern family. Only show the happy times. It was like being a paper doll. Beautiful clothes for the world to see on the front but exposed on the backside with those beautiful clothes just barely hanging on by paper thin tabs. You shoved unwanted emotion down deep inside of your belly to burn. It’s what my mother had been taught before me, her mother before her, and so on. And it was very much like a fuel for me. As we walked the aisles and my mother shared her story, she also issued a stipulation. Rules for how to move forward with this new-found 14 | Montana Mouthful

information. No talking about it. No talking with my friends, my family, and certainly not my immediate family. I felt my mother’s shame wash over the entire cereal aisle that day. I was angry, and once again I would shove it down deep and just let it burn away. I was also interested. There was someone out there who might look like me. I went back to college, and I sat with this information. There was no deep dive into an internet search at this time. It was the late nineties after all. I did the one thing I always did when I had information that I couldn’t trust with anyone else around me. I called my big sister. She had actually been given a few more details about the baby—a name, a birthplace, a birthday. I also confided in a friend who I knew was adopted. Looking back on it, I realized this was my deep dive into the internet. For the first time in my young life, I was not accepting that Southern shame that women get labeled with so often, especially when sex is involved. My mother shouldn’t be ashamed. All she did was have a baby. And this shouldn’t bring shame on my family. It could be a joyous finding if I let it be. I found comfort through the years talking to my friend about her adoption. I would dayVol. 5 • Issue 1

dream about finding the baby, but I could never baby at designated safe locations without the move to the next stage of actually finding her. fear of prosecution. When a mother does this, At this point in my life, I was newly married it’s often picked up as a news story that details and teaching college English. I would sneak in the baby’s sex, weight, and measurements. The writing prompts for my students that touched name of the law really says it all. Abandoned on adoption and its history in the South, but babies act. These mothers aren’t abandoning what I was really doing was finding excuses to their babies. They’re making a conscious choice search for more information. I knew my sister for the baby’s safety. That’s love. had been born in Charlotte, N.C., and she had It was the summer of 2018. That same been kept in the area until her adoption. I also friend who had talked to me about her adoption knew it had been a private adoption, which had been looking for her birth parents by using could have meant that a religious organization a DNA kit. She’d found them. I quickly called was involved. So many complicated layers, but my sister, and the story spilled out so fast that that burn deep inside of my belly had grown to I didn’t think about the repercussions. A month a full-blown inferno. later I was standing in my kitchen keeping my In 2006, I sat outside of a Barnes and Noble husband company as he cooked supper, and I waiting on the doors to open. Author Ann had a breathless and excited voicemail from my Fessler’s The Girls Who Went Away had finally big sister. She and the baby had found each been released. Fessler gave a voice to young single American “If an emotion wasn’t beautiful to the outside world, then women who were forced to you didn’t feel it in my Southern family. Only show the give up their children. She also shared her personal story happy times. It was like being a paper doll. Beautiful of finding her own birth mother. clothes for the world to see on the front but exposed I carried that book around with on the backside with those beautiful clothes just barely me like some carry Bibles. hanging on by paper thin tabs. You shoved unwanted I wanted to know how my emotion down deep inside of your belly to burn.” mother felt. I could have asked her, but I would work up the nerve and then hesitate too long. And to be fair, she owed no one an explanation. other. The fire in my belly that had pushed me I knew that. So, I would continue reading and forward turned into a big, heavy stone. I was highlighting and making notes in the margins terrified. In her message, my sister said she had of Fessler’s work. I was still no closer to finding an email exchange with Kelley. Kelley—the the baby or unraveling what it would mean for oldest of our trio now had a name. I scrolled my family if I ever did find her. I had started to through my email and opened the message. understand the stigma and the shame that surI frantically read it to my husband as he paused rounded unplanned pregnancies, especially in his cooking. My hands were shaking and big the South. My home state of South Carolina silent tears were rolling down my cheeks. She passed the Safe Haven for Abandoned Babies had spent the early part of her life in North Act. A mother can surrender her unharmed Carolina, but she had spent most of her life on

Montana Mouthful | 15

the California coast. I was stunned. Being from the South and knowing that Kelley was born there, I just didn’t expect her to be from the West Coast. I thought to myself, “Did she grow up with sweet tea? Did she shell peas with her granny on a porch? Does she say pecan correctly?” All of the emotion that I had been taught to stuff down deep had boiled over. I had imagined this moment since I was a young adult, but at no point had I thought past finding her. What do I do now? My first emotion after finding Kelley was anger. Not anger at Kelley, but anger at the situation. It should be so simple. I wanted to know my sister. I knew who she was now. I should have a relationship with her. But the what ifs started to flood my mind. What if people thought less of my mom because she’d given a baby up for adoption? She had nothing to be ashamed of. I’m not even sure I would call it entirely her choice, but I knew how our small community would likely react. Social circles would shrink. Whispers at the church covered dish suppers. Judgment of my mother and my family rather than the system that had been created to take these women’s babies rather than offer the support needed to keep them. I chose to keep pushing through like I had on that faithful day in the Ingles parking lot. Kelley and I emailed at first. These were long emails dotted with childhood and adult experiences we’d had. We dove deep from the beginning. This was when she shared that she was sick. Her condition was called Genetic Pulmonary Hypertension. I remember the day I told my husband this, and his face fell. I asked, “What?” He said, “Make plans to meet her now.” So, we did. Next came the planning phone calls. A call from Kelley made me feel like I had been transported back to Thanksgiving feasts at my grandparents’ house. Cousins, siblings, 16 | Montana Mouthful

grandchildren, and even friends all talking at once, and the noise being pierced frequently with genuine belly laughter. I learned about her childhood, raising her own children mostly as a single mom, and her love of animals and hairbows. She was never without her signature bow in her hair. Through our talks and emails, I learned that Kelley had been a paper doll, too. On the front side, everything was presented beautifully to the outside world, but if you flipped her over then you would get a glimpse of what she had pushed down deep inside to burn. Kelley raged against being a paper doll. That rage was inspiring to me. Calls from Kelley were familiar—a warmth. They were a piece of home. We started to plan on her and her family coming to visit us in our hometown of Spartanburg, S.C. She wanted to see where we were from and where we grew up. My sister and I had assumed we would go to her because of her health, but she was insistent. She arrived with her husband and her youngest daughter in tow. We packed in visits to our favorite Spartanburg restaurants, Wade’s and Papa Sam’s. There was even a day trip to Charleston, S.C. to explore Fort Sumter and get some fresh seafood. My mom was able to come with us. It was wonderful and sad to watch her take in that she was spending time with the baby that she last saw in 1966. These are memories that sustain me. We lost Kelley on February 12, 2019. I was at work, and my phone rang. It was her husband. He told me she was very sick, and it was near the end. Twelve minutes later my phone rang again. She was gone. I knew Kelley was very sick, but I still hadn’t planned on losing her. I sank to the floor of my office and all of that emotion I had proudly packed down deep just spilled out. My colleagues literally and figuratively lifted me off of the floor that day. As I was able to tell others what had happened, Vol. 5 • Issue 1

they too lifted me off of the floor. The judgment I had been worried about and the shame that still engulfed my mother perhaps didn’t exist in my circle. No one was waiting to weaponize the story. They were simply sorry for my loss. July 28, 2019 would have been Kelley’s 53rd birthday. Pushing against every emotion and anxious thought in my body, I planned a birthday celebration for Kelley along with my sister. We invited close friends that wanted to be on this journey with us and to support us. There was good food, good drink, and good company. All of the things that Kelley loved. We raised money in her name for the local humane soci-

ety, and of course, everyone wore a hairbow. This loss runs much deeper than people are ever willing to talk about—the loss of a sibling. There are so many layers to my relationship with Kelley. It started all those years ago in a grocery store parking lot. Had I caved to the small town Southern societal norms that have traditionally been assigned to women, then I would have denied myself a relationship with my sister. I would have also missed out on knowing my mother on a different level. On a level that I could relate to myself as a grown woman living the small-town Southern life. I was no longer that paper doll.

Angels Will Find Us | CARLA NAGLER

Montana Mouthful | 17


Lost and Found in the Museum of Natural History by Renée Adams The day my young son and I stood looking at dinosaur bones, I was reading a sign. That quick, he was gone. Dry mouth, fast heartbeat, I threw my tether out to him, anchored myself to the sense I always had that nothing dangerous would ever take its hold on him. But clear confidence made me fearful. Maybe I trusted too much. My optimism would keep me inattentive. I would miss the signs that point the ugly finger toward destruction; it would be my fault I didn’t intercede with fate.

I absorbed him in my arms, he smiling placidly. Were you worried? I asked, my own tight ball of muscles melting with relief into his presence. No, I knew you wouldn’t leave without me. I figured if I waited here, you’d find me. You’d have to come this way to leave. Child of mine, he caught my tether, the rope of confidence that he would be all right, the rope of love that didn’t even need to pull him to me because he knew that love was always there in sight.

Maybe, maybe someone found him ... a guard, (refuse to think who else might find him). I searched adjacent rooms a while in panic; I worried for the time I wasted so. My mind’s viewfinder shrunk to focus; he was in the lens of hope. And so I hurried to the main room, the African elephant large, imposing, and he, a tiny child of four years old, was there. Alone. No guard. 18 | Montana Mouthful

Vol. 5 • Issue 1

#229 Ever Green | JOSH STEIN

Montana Mouthful | 19


Margot by Katie Knecht

I was new to Manhattan, and afraid of it, when I met Margot on 5th Street. I couldn’t tell you how long, exactly, she had been there, but then neither could she. She was a cat. I’d been walking to an animal shelter in the East Village every Sunday for a couple of months. As a recent and friendless transplant to NYC from Western Kentucky, I basked in the love of those cats. Sometimes I swept litter off the floors or chatted with potential adopters. Most of the time I went to every single cage and visited every single cat because I felt they deserved equal attention. There were all kinds: a senior cat whose owner had passed away, black-and-white spotted litters of kittens, and chunky Garfield-types. There was a resident cat—not up for adoption— with ears that looked like they had seen several boxing matches. He prowled the shelter’s stoop and observed visitors from atop cabinets, maintaining the natural order. I had grown up with animals and found that connecting with them came naturally, but getting a pet was impossible: I lived in a railroad apartment with three strange roommates. We walked through each other’s rooms to get to the kitchen and bathroom—there was no living room to 20 | Montana Mouthful

speak of—and my bedroom, which barely fit a full-sized bed, had no windows. Where would a pet fit in? Plus, I was working at the corner coffee shop, my paycheck just enough to afford $800 in rent, with cash tips paying for all other necessities: Halal truck food (which, if you were careful, could be split into two meals), thrift-shop dresses, and $15 kale margaritas that weren’t even good. On a winter Sunday, everything changed. I walked into the shelter and spotted a newcomer: a gorgeous, long-haired lady with white fur and grey splotches that formed a little hat over her head and ears, and the pinkest nose I’d ever seen. She was lying down like a loaf of bread, her bushy grey tail curled about her like dressing around a turkey. I didn’t follow my obsessive routine of visiting each and every cat, left to right. I walked straight to her. The man who ran the shelter knew me by now. “She’s six—was just surrendered by her owner earlier this week,” he said as though she were a fine painting and I were an art collector. I slid the latch of the cage open and her green eyes—those of a lime that isn’t quite Vol. 5 • Issue 1

ripe—found me. She stood up, planting her perfectly round, white paws. Without questioning her intentions, I touched my nose to hers. It was cold and wet and full of life. A light rumble began in her belly as I stroked her head and scratched behind her ears. “Someone’s engine is running,” I told her, echoing something my mom said when our cats at home purred. As impossible as getting a cat had seemed before, the obstacles now felt equally as conquerable! I could talk to my roommates and convince them! I had $30 left over from this week’s budget—surely enough to buy a litter box and some food! “How much is the adoption fee?” I asked the owner. “Oh, I couldn’t ask you to pay. She was surrendered because she has seizures.” Instead of scaring me, this information made me all the more certain she needed me. “I’ll take her,” I said. A reckless answer, perhaps. But I felt newly enlightened; I wanted to take care of her. I got a “Let’s see how it goes” consensus from my roommates, which I interpreted as a green light. Home we went. She peed outside the litter box. She knocked things off the kitchen table. She sprinted through the apartment in the night. (I Googled “training your cat to not be a nocturnal psycho”.) But when she curled up beside me in bed, my uncertainties dissolved. The next morning at the coffee shop, I overheard a story about a girl named Margot. That was it. New life, home, new name. I spent my tip money on a personalized collar for Margot and my Instagram became an array of her sleeping positions. I landed a job at a tech company making more money, so we moved into a bigger apartment—with a bedroom door—in Brooklyn.

My new roommate loved Margot as much as I did and we spoiled her with food off our plates. She still had seizures every few months, which wasn’t enough to warrant meds, but which turned me inside out every time. Margot and I developed a post-seizure routine: talking to her while she got re-acclimated, giving her a warm bath, and letting her recover in a dark corner. I went out less and spent more time working on my own short stories and giving Margot “lap lessons”. This was some sort of demented Pavlovian theory of putting her in my lap, brushing her (which she loved), and hoping she would eventually want to sit in my lap on her own. She began climbing on my chest and demanding pets nearly every morning. I started a new job as a copywriter and we moved into our own apartment in Brooklyn. My nights moved further away from tequila shots (shudder) and toward cocktail bars and sushi dates. Boys came and went; if Margot didn’t weave in and out of their legs with approval, it was a no-go. Our evening routine called for the tucking of her head into the crook of my arm, and a new, lovable habit of licking my face before bedtime. When a pandemic spread around the globe, Margot and I stayed inside together. I bought a desk for my living room and she laid at my feet while I talked to coworkers on Zoom for hours. Occasionally, she’d look up and give a signature squeaky meow, which sounded something like “weenk” if I had to spell it. I called her a range of nicknames—Pickle Chip and Margarine and Baby Bean—and sang her various songs; “Margot Baby” to the tune of “Santa Baby” was her favorite. We developed an understanding of each other’s sounds and movements; we were in the dance of life and no one else was at the party. A special rhythm. Several months into quarantine, she stopped Montana Mouthful | 21

eating. I was used to her health challenges, but she was 12 now, which wasn’t young for a cat. We went to the vet, with no choice but to take an Uber—I wore a mask, terrified because there was no understanding of how the virus spread. I waited outside, staring at abandoned construction equipment, unable to accept the potential loss that was looking back at me, especially amid so much hurt around the world. Devastation mingled with guilt. The vet called from inside and said there was hope, as long as I gave Margot four pills per day. Neither of us liked it. Some days, we only got three out of four down, and I couldn’t be sure which one went missing. I braved the grocery and bought a range of wet-food flavors and canned tuna. I even cooked her a salmon filet. When she finally took a bite again, I cried. She got strong enough to travel to Kentucky and sleep with me in my childhood bed; she spent my 30th birthday with me at a cabin upstate. We went to a friend’s house in Maine, passing mornings on a cool deck overlooking the ocean, and evenings by a warm fire. Explorations on the road gave her new life. When we got back to Brooklyn, her appetite waned again. One afternoon, her breaths became labored. I had hoped it would be years before we went back to the animal hospital, but we were again in the all-too-familiar Uber ride. All I could do was whisper the promise I had made to her when I adopted her: “I’ll take care of you.” I sat under a tent in the rain while the hospital team drained fluid from her lungs. The vet called and told me that, to keep her alive through the night, she would need full life support and, even then, there weren’t many paths forward. Her lungs were sick, her heart was sick—probably some type of cancer. I heard the unsaid words in the vet’s voice: The way to

22 | Montana Mouthful

take care of Margot was to put her to sleep. The otherwise locked-down clinic let me inside with a mask on. I signed papers I couldn’t read through tears. I put scrubs on over my clothes. Someone took me to another floor, and then there she was: the smallest and sweetest and greyest-and-whitest little thing I’d ever seen, tucked under two soft blankets. Though she was coming off anesthesia, she looked at me with green eyes. How was it that Margot’s life would be over so soon? Countable minutes and seconds. I couldn’t possibly express to her the companionship and comfort she had given me. I spoke to her, reminding her of my favorite moments over our six years together. Her fur soaked up my tears. A heart rate machine beeped nearby. How could I let her go? When would enough time ever have passed? I wanted to stay beside her until I died instead. Another machine rumbled nearby but, when I leaned closer, I realized: It was her. Margot was purring as loud as I’d ever heard her. I felt her love for me, her caretaker and friend. I felt her saying that she had been protected. Telling me our life together had been full. Saying it was okay to send her on. I held her in my arms as the vet administered a shot that first put her in a deep sleep. She continued to purr. “Margot,” I whispered to her, “you took care of me.” A second shot ended her pain. I stayed and admired her, rubbing the special spot above her pink nose, committing the details of our last moments to memory. We possessed the purest, most uncomplicated love I had ever encountered. And though I had lost her, finding her and knowing her love was more than enough. For me, Margot had made New York home.

Vol. 5 • Issue 1



Home At Last

by Richard Band

by John Grey

That poem you read in high school and forgot, perhaps by Housman, Eliot or Edna St. Vincent Millay: you crack open the old reader on a rainy day and the poem flashes

After war, your mother's kitchen. So the cabbage stinks of marshlands. At least it's not the putrid stench of body parts. The simmering spoon stirs its way toward sauerkraut, not the next roadside bomb. And potatoes are mashed hard but not as hard as marching feet. There's pork to be had, a dead meat without dog-tags. How succulent, a word that lost its way, now found again on well-laid table, in the midst of family conversation. It's peace central. White curtains, half holding back the outside, half letting it in. Bedrooms upstairs, all dreams, all the time. And a parlor with a TV silent on the news. A piano in the corner, not played in years but such sweet music.

like the gleaming shell on the shelf in the den, the one you found on Edisto that brings back to you your little son, flying at the seabirds, his sister chasing, calling “You can’t catch them, you can’t!” You return now to the poem and remember over all the years how the words lifted off the page and this time, suddenly you catch it, grasp it, a lost thing found and hold it like sheet lightning in your hand.

Montana Mouthful | 23


Together We Stand 24 | Montana Mouthful

Vol. 5 • Issue 1


Home Remedy by Skye Rozario

The boy opens the tip-top doorknob and instead of the cat curled on the entryway, Father lays curled at his feet. He thinks if he should yell, if he should tear up, but he stands still, hand on the knob, staring. He’s mucked again. He wasn’t careful today, eyes too engrossed in swift, fluffy clouds hiding bands of color. He didn’t skip the puddles, didn’t watch the walk—he trounced and trod on all the cracks and now his father’s broken on the floor—not Mother’s back, but father’s patience. Father’s patience isn’t a straw, it’s a crooked stick the boy’s sneakers crushed. And now he’s dripping a pool of guilt onto the tile because Father’s splayed in the way of the shoe cubby. There’s a bump on his head and the reddish bloom of Mother’s resistance on his cheek and the boy wonders at the stairs if she pushed Father, but he knows it was his careless shoes banging the concrete, banishing Father to the ground, that a puddle-splash left the mark, not her, all him. He wishes Father would move so he can wipe up his shame from the tiles, so father will notice less, so he won’t thunder-cloud his face into a storm over the dining room table while Mother savors her food and sneaks

glances at the accidentally burned portion on Father’s plate. Mother gives no ‘hello’ from the kitchen as she usually does when the boy arrives—did he break her too on his return home? Father moans on the foyer floor. For once the boy is towering over him like Father does, for once he’s above, but yet afraid of what comes when sleeping teeth wake to bite. He bends his knees to meet his father’s twisted face, rolling him off his side like a snowball. He mucked it again, mucked everything for them. Father unfurls his watchful lids. The boy hears him scolding though his lips are closed. Then his eyes soften, his tensed face relaxes. “Get me a bag of peas from the freezer,” he says, “a bag of peas,” then turns his head. The boy throws off his slimy boots and dashes to the kitchen. Father’s not broken, not cracked. Reaching into the freezer he hears, “Get a towel to clean up this muck, too.” He smiles—Father’s still the same, he’s alright. The boy didn’t ruin it for good. He runs back to the entryway as Mother slumps into the kitchen, a violet blooming on her wrist—Father gave her a flower too. Yes, he thinks with glee, still the same father. They’ll have dinner as usual tonight.

Montana Mouthful | 25


Grandma’s House by Cassandra O'Sullivan Sachar

“Wow! Another spectacular design by Lidda Design LLC. This mid-century modern home has been expertly reimagined and redone with meticulous thought and care. 3BR/2BA + DEN. Open great room concept with walls of windows and island kitchen. Stunning two-tone cabinetry, quartz countertops, Slate appliances, gas stove, kitchen island w farm sink w brass fixtures. White washed wood floating floors throughout.” So begins the listing on Zillow for 4432 E. Burns St. in Tucson, Arizona. The price for which it sold just four days ago has more than quadrupled in value since last year, when my mom and aunt sold it to developers for a pittance. I wrote this address many times over nearly four decades, from the time I was literate until my grandmother died at age 96 last June. I sent thank you cards for the birthday and Christmas checks she would send me and packages with homemade cookies and presents for Christmas and her birthday. Later, when life got too busy for endless hours in the kitchen and long lines in the post office, I’d write this address in the order form on the Harry & David website. Grandma had a sweet tooth. Despite the designer landscaping and patio, 26 | Montana Mouthful

despite the walk-in closet and panoramic sliding doors, these photographs leave me feeling hollow. All traces of my grandparents are gone, demolished. The wrought iron gates and owl-shape in the door my grandfather welded have been ripped out and replaced with modern wood and concrete barriers. The fussy old fridge with a hundred magnets, many of which were souvenirs from road trips, is gone, likely buried in some landfill by now. The 1960s microwave, one of the first, I believe, would never fit in with the new kitchen’s turquoise backsplash and fancy appliances. But my grandmother wrapped many hot dogs in paper towels to heat up in that microwave over the years. It’s a terrible way to cook a hot dog, but it has a certain nostalgia for me. The living room where I spent so many hours over the decades watching my grandmother’s favorite shows, “Magnum, P.I.,” “Emergency,” and “The Rifleman,” for example, has been reconfigured into something unrecognizable. It’s hard to look at these sterile white walls, free from my grandmother’s latch hook wall hangings, western-themed art, and scores of family photographs spanning multiple decades. It’s hard to imagine my ancient grandmother, dressed in her endless supply of cat-themed tee Vol. 5 • Issue 1

shirts and Native American moccasins, sitting in this new room, stripped of all its personality and memories. But she sat there for about fiftyfive years.  When I was a young kid, the most exciting time of the year was when we’d go and visit my mom’s parents. The dry, dusty heat would hit me the moment I stepped off the plane. We’d quickly strip off our jackets, our protection from the bone-chilling Pennsylvania cold. We sure didn’t need them in Tucson, even in March. The most exotic difference was the landscape. Instead of the lush, green grass and elegant cherry trees lining our driveway, Grandma and Grandpa’s house had only gravel in the front yard framed by cactus and palm trees. (Though the plural for cactus is technically cacti, locals in Arizona don’t say this, so I’ve been told.) These trips petered out as more siblings joined the fold, and there was never a time when my entire family went together. My older sister, Sarah, was on a high school trip and my brother, Garth, was a toddler staying home with my dad while my mom took the three middle children to see her ailing father for the very last time. After Grandpa died when I was twelve, we stopped traveling to Tucson as a family. Grandma would usually come to visit us in Kutztown for two weeks every year. It was too damn expensive to bring the whole family, and Grandma was just one person with a single plane ticket to buy. During the visit when my sister Sian got married in 2001, Grandma announced she was too old to travel. “What if Eleanore gets married some day?” I asked. I didn’t even bother bringing up Garth as he was not quite 14 at the time. “Tough,” was Grandma’s response. She was a kind woman, not at all hard-hearted, but she

didn’t like to do what she didn’t like to do, and travel had joined that list. It was up to me to start visiting her after that. What’s sad about living so far from family is that there are a million reasons not to visit— other trips to take and closer family obligations. I was born in Illinois but moved to New Jersey and then Pennsylvania before I turned eight, as my dad’s work took him to these places, but both my parents grew up for about half their childhoods in Tucson. In fact, I only exist because of my dad’s sister Helen’s asthma, which the doctors said would kill her if the

“It’s hard to look at these sterile white walls, free from my grandmother’s latch hook wall hangings, western-themed art, and scores of family photographs spanning multiple decades. family continued to endure winters in Long Island, and my grandmother’s bangs. Born and raised in Wisconsin, my grandparents decided they were sick of winter and wanted to move somewhere warm. They visited Florida, but the humidity was too much for Grandma’s hair. That dry Arizona heat suited her well, so they packed up their belongings and headed west, luckily for me, since I got to be born.  I’m not sure how many times I visited my grandmother in my adult years—maybe half a dozen. My husband, daughter, and I would stay about a week and get together with my dad’s side of the family, too. On these trips, I got to know my grandmother in such a different way than when I was a kid. She and my grandfather had been in love Montana Mouthful | 27

since age 14 and were married at 18. She told us about cocktail hour by the pool and showed my husband and me where the wine glasses—not used in decades since she couldn’t drink anymore with her medication—were kept in the cabinet. We sat outside under the wrought iron pergola my grandfather made and watched the sunset transform the sky into a tapestry of colors as we played Scrabble and our daughter, Serena, splashed in the pool. The last time I visited was spring of 2015. Grandma was 91 then and really slowing down. She’d had at least one stroke by that time but still managed to live on her own. Though she once had an active social life, all of her friends had died. She rarely left the house, not even for a play at the Gaslight Theatre, once her favorite outing when we’d come visit. Every time I left my grandmother, I’d wonder if it would be the last time I’d see her. I meant to go back. But I didn’t. And now I never can.  Right after the house sold, Serena happened to be traveling through Arizona, outside Phoenix, on an expedition where she worked for free in exchange for temporary food and housing. On her way there, she stopped in Tucson. “What’s Great Grandma’s address?” she texted me. I responded and asked, “Are you planning to do a drive-by?” Her response of “Yes” didn’t quite prepare me for the photos she texted me a while later, two of her at the pool. At Grandma’s pool. I called her. “Are you trespassing?” “Technically, yes. The gate was unlocked, so

28 | Montana Mouthful

I went inside. I knocked on the door, but I forgot that no one moved in yet, so no one showed up.” “Weren’t you worried that someone might call the police?” I always imagine the worst outcome, but my only child has no such trepidation. “I’d just tell them that my great grandma lived here.” She paused. “It gave me some closure.” When someone lives for 96 whole years, it’s a different grieving process than when they die young. But it’s still a grieving process. I didn’t even cry when she died, even though I felt sad. But I’m crying now, as I write this, thinking about her, the memories flooding in, how she loved cats, how Sian one time held up a tiny toad to her and told her what it was, but she thought it was a pebble and screamed when it jumped, how she hated going into the aviary at the zoo since she didn’t want birds flying at her head, how she used to love bringing my husband a Starbucks Frappuccino in a glass as we relaxed in the heat and listened to the cooing doves, how she always signed my birthday card “Love, Grandma and Miss Lily” or whoever the cat du jour was, in increasingly shaky handwriting. I can still hear her voice in my head, the way she’d answer the phone, and I can picture her in her living room, Miss Lily faithfully by her side, with all the kitsch as it once was: the cowboy figurines, afghans, old ashtrays that hadn’t been used since my grandfather died but were still pretty to her, the goofy cat statue that she decorated for various holidays, and the television blaring, always. And even though that living room is lost, gone forever, and so is she, the fact that I can put it all back together in my head has to be enough. It is enough. And now, I have found closure.

Vol. 5 • Issue 1


Montana Mouthful | 29


Stretch Run by Leland Seese September fields span Snoqualmie valley, nubbed with plump and orange pumpkins. Dormant tulip fields lull beneath a soporific rainfall rolling north beyond the Skagit river’s delta.

And though the purists see no variation (the game condensed to its essentials — hit and run and catch and throw), an existential urgency attends each play.

But in the ballparks of the major leagues, green remain the fields of the stretch run. Like Keats’s later flowers for the bees a clutch of teams cling fast to claim division titles or a single precious wild card slot.

Like spawning salmon driven upstream, fighting the currents of their dying lights, like Rubenstein at 90, animating Schubert through the ageless, child-spirit of his genius, erstwhile champions leave everything out on the fields, now winnowing to eight, then four, then two whose lifelong dream-ambition will carry them to All Saints’ Day,

A multitude of grieving fans might ask, Where are the songs of Spring? What of the Orioles? the Pirates? the Mariners? the Mets? For division-winning teams there comes a second season; scent of hot dogs and the 7th inning stretch, pitchers throwing far beyond 100, rotator cuffs in rags, hobbled veterans homering heroically, circling the bases slow as milk trains.

30 | Montana Mouthful

when the grass of green fields reposes in its sodden slumber, awaiting April tulips and another spring.

Vol. 5 • Issue 1

Found | JIM ROSS

Montana Mouthful | 31


Sister by Grace Schwenk

I was ten years old when I realized Kaia had the guts to fight back. It was a day of roughhousing like no other. There I sat on top of her, pinning her elbows down with my knees, dangling a loogie inches away from her tear-stained face. The next thing I know, I’m lying sprawled out on the floor with Kaia's smug face now staring down at me. “How the heck did you do that?” I ask, wincing as I try to sit up. Kaia offers me a smirk and puts her hands on her hips. “I’ve been running up and down the driveway,” she replies, “my legs have the power to hurl Franny the heffalump off me.” Her blonde ponytail bounces from side to side as she says this. She takes a hand off her hip and offers it to me. I roll my eyes at her. We’re not allowed to say cuss words so heffalump is the closest she can get. Thanks Winnie the Pooh. “Wanna go ride bikes?” I ask her, as she helps me to my feet. Over the next decade, life as we knew it slowly unraveled like a thread of yarn on a spindle. Our parents were the first in a family of devout Catholics to get a divorce. Our mom moved out in the spring of 2007 because our dad had a hard time giving up the bottle. When 32 | Montana Mouthful

she moved out, dad was gone most nights doing who knows what and we were left to our own devices. Kaia wasn’t quite old enough to take care of things on her own without mom always around. I taught her how to do laundry, how to pull up her hair into her beloved ponytail, and how to cook a frozen burrito in the microwave for breakfast. I found myself through social activities like team sports and hanging out with my friends. Kaia found herself through solitary activities like books and running. I always made fun of her for writing in a diary and called her crazy for running in five inches of snow. “It’s called a journal,” she would say, with hands on her hips while flicking her freshly colored blonde balayage to the side, “not a diary.” I graduated with the honors of class clown and was offered a partial scholarship to play soccer at a Junior College in Sheridan, Wyoming. I lasted my two years and took off after graduation in a van with some of my teammates to live for a year in California. Kaia graduated two years after me at the top of her class with a full ride scholarship to study Creative Writing at the University of Montana. “She had so much potential,” I hear my mom say while gulping down a mouthful of Vol. 5 • Issue 1

tears from the hallway. I look down at my wrist and see the name “FRANCES SWAN” written in red letters on my hospital bracelet. Turning my gaze to the black screen of the television mounted on the wall, I can see a dim version of myself. There I see someone who resembles me, but isn’t me. My loose curls are now a frizzy mop tucked back into a half bun. I have dark bags under my eyes from the year of sleepless nights. I have an IV sticking into my pale arm to remedy all the damage done by the alcohol, shrooms, and Molly. The person I see in the reflection is not the one who stuffed everything she owned into a van one year ago to take a gap year at Huntington Beach. The person I see is sad. The person I see is lost. The person isn’t me. It’s a mere reflection of a person who said they just wanted to try it once. Kaia comes storming in the room from the hallway. She lays her Patagonia coat on the chair next to my bed, tucks a strand of her freshly done blonde balayage behind her ear, and offers me a hand. “We’ll fight this one,” she says, the tears causing her eyelash extensions to stick in clumps, “together.” In the following weeks, I was sent to an in-patient rehabilitation center in Eugene, Oregon. Kaia wrote me letters everyday. They always had an inspiring quote by one of her favorite poets and a picture of Duck, our family dog. I spent two months detoxing, going to therapy, and finding myself all over again. My favorite days were the days we got to visit the beach in the afternoon. I brought my polaroid with me and took a few shots of a sea star and some seals sunbathing in the sand. I wrote Kaia back once or twice. I slipped my photographs from the beach into the letters so she could see I wasn’t in prison. When I got out of rehab, I decided I didn’t want to go home. It was too

triggering for me. Kaia packed up her 2008 green Subaru Outback with Duck, her books, and all of her favorite Patagonia sweaters. They met me on the front steps of our new apartment a mile away from the beach. Now, I’m sitting in the sand throwing a stick for Duck into the waves. He barks non stop until I throw it for him. Then he comes back as a wet mop filled with salt water and shakes right on Kaia. I snap a photograph of her reaction just as it happens. “Duck,” she yells, as she sets her diary down into the sand, “this is my new white sweater!” I laugh at Duck and tell him good boy. “He didn’t mean to get your diary wet,” I offer in protest for Duck. Kaia puts her hands on her hips and flips her blonde balayage, tied back once again into her beloved ponytail, to

“Kaia wrote me letters every day. They always had an inspiring quote by one of her favorite poets and a picture of Duck, our family dog.” the side. She tells me it’s not a diary and goes back to writing observations about a sand dollar into her journal. She is finishing up her last semester of Creative Writing at a small university here in Eugene. She claims she is writing these notes into her diary so she can write a poem about a sand dollar for class. I observe my photograph and tell her I’m going to publish it in the wildlife magazine I’m working for. Rolling her eyes she tells me, “you better not!” We still tease each other like we used to as kids but there is no more fighting. Rather, we are fighting our way through life together. Montana Mouthful | 33


Out of the Desert 34 | Montana Mouthful

Vol. 5 • Issue 1


Lost and Found in the Wild Horse Desert by Joy Victory On a recent trip home to South Texas, I fall in love with a hand-drawn map on display at the local natural history museum in Corpus Christi. It’s unassuming, hanging between sexier exhibits on Civil War battles and yellow fever outbreaks. My husband and daughter, who are visiting the museum with me, don’t even notice. Its simple beauty enchants me. Instead of the geographic landmarks typically found on a map, the dominant features are the words WILD HORSE DESERT and a drawing of a mustang running eastward, her mane shaggy and long, bouncing behind her as she strides across South Texas between the Nueces and Rio Grande Rivers. As I scrutinize the centuries-old map, I realize the word “desert” appears right across the small patch of land where I spent much of my childhood, at my grandfather’s farm near Riviera, Texas. I am stunned, having never heard of such a place. I can’t help but wonder: Is this map real? If it is, why didn’t I know about it? Later that night, back home, I flip open my laptop to learn about the Wild Horse Desert. It was a real place. My head fills with images of escaped horses learning to carefully forage

around the prickly pear cactus, their shiny hides reflecting the shadeless sun, unencumbered by saddles and bits. Here, with few predators and few people, they were finally free to thrive as they wished. But, I realize, my head is also filled with memories of my grandfather. Many decades after the horses proliferated, he fled to the same place. After a lifetime of struggling with internal demons, Vic, as he was known, finally achieved tranquility within the Wild Horse Desert, right around the time I was born and entered his life. For years, he didn’t feel compelled to hurt anyone, including himself. Everyone assumed he was a changed person, a happy grandfather. And then the phone rang.  I was in the fourth grade at the time. One day after school, while my little brother Erik noisily pushed his toy truck across the living room tile, I heard the abrupt chirp of the cordless phone. My normally chatty mother was uncharacteristically quiet for a couple of minutes. She kept asking the caller in a low voice wait, are you sure? I scooted closer to the kitchen,

Montana Mouthful | 35

where my mom had hidden herself, but she hung up and stepped into the living room. Finding me curled around the edge of the wall, we locked eyes. “Vic’s dead, Joy,” she blurted. “He killed himself.” Before I could react, she walked to her bedroom and shut the door, leaving me alone with Erik and this grim news about my father’s father. My grandpa Vic who owned a farm. My grandpa Vic who loved animals. My grandpa Vic who loved me as much as I loved him. I think she was in shock, or that’s what I tell myself now when I think about how she left me alone to contemplate such heavy news. Minutes later, as I stared at the patterns on the floor, my dad arrived home from work. “What’s wrong?” he asked, noticing the tears in my eyes. “Where’s your mother?” “Vic’s dead,” I said, parroting my mother. “He killed himself.” I fidgeted with my plain white Keds, the trendy shoes that all the girls were wearing that year. My father’s head shook quickly from side to side, as if he were trying to erase my words. And then, as my mother had done a few minutes earlier, he left me with Erik and retreated to join her. Not long after he left, I heard the guttural choking sounds behind the closed bedroom door. My father’s grief. Before I was born, Vic and Vera lived in Corpus Christi, immigrants from rural Tennessee. When they retired, Vic insisted on moving away from people, settling on a few acres of arid scrubland about an hour south of town. He managed to transform it into a true farm, with livestock, a large vegetable garden, a pond stocked with fish, and even grapevines he somehow inexplicably coaxed to withstand the intense South Texas heat. 36 | Montana Mouthful

For me, the farm was heaven. One of my favorite photographs from that time shows me sitting outside the big brown barn, dirty and dusty in my cowboy boots, smiling and holding a pair of barn kittens I had just managed to tame.  Vic loved his farm, and his grandkids, and seemingly, the rest of his family, too—though at a distance, rarely returning to Corpus Christi to visit us. Instead, he’d wait for us to come to the farm, where he could do things like take us out on his tractor and drive us in circles beneath the 10-foot-high trellis where the grapes grew. One of my favorite memories of him is simple: We’d sit on the screened-porch swing and listen to the migrating birds making their way south on the Texas flyway. He was often quiet, not saying much. But during campfires, he’d become more animated, beguiling me with ghost stories of restless Civil War soldiers who had come back to life, tormenting the people who trampled unknowingly on their unmarked graves. These soldiers had the ability to shrink and transform into fast-flying demons, chasing people as they drove out of town, terrified. I can still see the tiny floating ghost-soldiers in my mind, lit up in the taillights of a 1980s-era station wagon with wood paneling, just like my mother’s car at the time. Campfire stories were his forte, likely because he had been raised in a wandering farming family of nine kids. Sitting around the fire was a primary source of warmth and entertainment for his family, who were homeless while traveling between the alternating growing seasons of temperate Tennessee and semi-arid South Texas. He also had a raft of ghost stories involving soldiers because, in a sense, they were his lived experience: He had served in the U.S. Army in Germany during World War II and Vol. 5 • Issue 1

fought in several battles, where he saw up-close the horrors of war. Although his childhood was not easy, and he felt insecure all his life for only having a sixth-grade education, it was probably his time in the war that haunted him most as a young adult and father, my aunt Linda told me later. The Vic I knew—calm, quiet, doting—was not the Vic she and my father knew in the postwar years. According to her, he had a mercurial temper, prone to laugh at his children’s antics in one moment, and then hit them repeatedly the next. It was the sort of abuse that these days would result in him being in jail and having his kids taken away, Linda said.  If you visit now, the Wild Horse Desert is largely desolate, filled with cactus and mesquite trees, barbed wire and dusty roads. Where did the million horses go? Blame the cattle industry barons, who viewed them as pests and competition for resources, and rounded them up near the end of the 19th century, turning some of them into work horses, and others into glue and food. This extermination happened incredibly fast—and perhaps because of how quickly and cruelly the Wild Horse Desert disappeared, Texas children aren’t taught this part of our history. Instead, we only know it as part of a general Western mythos, not realizing that places like Mustang Island are named not for cowboy culture but instead for the horses that once blanketed the beaches and mesquite plains. I never would have learned this had I not stumbled across the hand-drawn map in the museum, and paused to look at the pretty horse in the center that caught my eye, curious what happened to her. The calm that settled over my grandfather in his later years did not last, either. When I

was nine, he was hit with attacks of angina, intense chest pain that signals blockage in one or more coronary arteries. Left untreated, it can lead to a heart attack. The remedy was bypass surgery, to reroute the blood flow through healthier arteries, but Vic was terrified at the thought, Linda explained. His fear stemmed from a previous surgery. About 15 years earlier, in the early 1970s, he had experienced similar symptoms and had undergone open-heart surgery when the procedure was still new, painful and very high-risk. During that surgery, I was told, he went into cardiac arrest. They resuscitated him, and he would later tell people that he floated above his body toward a calming, serene white light—the classic description of what we now call a “neardeath experience.” Later, Linda said, he faced an

“For me, the farm was heaven. One of my favorite photographs from that time shows me sitting outside the big brown barn, dirty and dusty in my cowboy boots, smiling and holding a pair of barn kittens I had just managed to tame.” extremely long and painful recovery, developing a type of PTSD-induced coping mechanism that made him think death was beautiful. Hence, his slip into suicidal thoughts when the heart problems resurfaced. The chest pain triggered enormous fear, and he avoided the recommendation to have surgery, even if it was probably a lot safer than it had been the first time. Instead, he fixated on the part he didn’t find traumatizing—the near-death beam of light. As a kid, I was told that Vic died by suffocating on carbon monoxide, locking himself in Montana Mouthful | 37

the farmhouse garage with his old Ford pickup spewing out fumes piped into the truck’s cabin. It was painless and quick, I remember my parents explaining; his warped, uneducated way of dealing with the excruciating pain of uncontrolled heart disease that induced panic. This was only partly true, I found out many years later, when my mother’s mental health unraveled in similar ways, and I couldn’t get Vic’s death out of my mind. Was the version I had in my head the accurate one? I asked Linda. No, she said. Although he had tried gas several times, my grandmother always found

“One day, we will all be ghosts, like the wild horses of South Texas. Vic is now a ghost. One day so will I. A part of me, my child-ghost, is already with him.” him before he was dead. She tried to get him into a hospital for surgery, and depression treatment. The final time he fled in his truck, driving all the way to the beach in Galveston with a loaded shotgun that he had wedged between his legs. When the police searched his pockets, they found his driver’s license, two dollars, and a picture of me. One day, we will all be ghosts, like the wild

38 | Montana Mouthful

horses of South Texas. Vic is now a ghost. One day so will I. A part of me, my child-ghost, is already with him. My daughter is eight, a wild horse herself, who on a recent camping trip at Mustang Island State Park ran freely into the waves after fighting off my attempts to coat her in sunscreen. As the sun set, she grabbed her Barbies and ran right up the dunes, covering herself and her dolls in pink-hued sand. Three generations down from Vic and full of other family members’ genes that should be more dominant, my daughter has his blue eyes, his round ears, his blonde hair, his beguiling smile. He had a dark side that I didn’t realize was there until decades later, long after he had died. Does she? Do I? A grandfather’s love can be snuffed out by fear, a herd of wild horses can be decimated by greed. It is my daily task as my daughter’s mother to not let these thoughts of shifting people and land take me under, to not push away the people and places I love, living ever fearful of seemingly inevitable transformations. And when I do feel that wave of fear taking me under—when I stay up late worrying what my daughter will be like as a teen, or I see my beloved Mustang Island drowning in floodwater—I tell myself: I can and will adapt to change; I have done it many times. There can be an ocean of horses, and they can disappear. That doesn’t mean the abundance of life is gone forever.

Vol. 5 • Issue 1


lost childhood by Ellen White Rook I was like a crow picking through my mother’s drawer of glittering things tearing aside pastel chiffon scarves heavy with perfume I upended tiny cardboard boxes spilled chains and jewels from their thick cotton resting squares escaping with shine and glow and proof the Perisphere a pin from the 1939 World’s Fair which I displayed on a motheaten cardigan in adolescent irony lost almost immediately and my father’s childhood signet ring 10k gold with a flat black stone obsidian or dark glass dulled to cemetery gray his worn initials hiding inside the band they never noticed when I wore it though they asked where it had gone the stone fell silently for decades the circlet dulled in my nest of tangled chains bent hoops and claspless bangles until my youngest daughter found it she wears it on her pinky the worn gold setting frames the missing gem headstone to lost earth and legacy proof of what I took from them and would not admit

Montana Mouthful | 39


Her Gloves by Linda Budan

The green dumpster in the driveway was half full of stuff Goodwill would not accept. Cracked garden hoses, stained jackets and tattered boots used on long ago camping trips, a set of forgotten encyclopedias crawling with silver fish. We divided the keeper items among ourselves--crystal candle holders, the walnut dining room set, an heirloom chair, her sewing machine, his tools and fishing lures. After a few uncomfortable confrontations over who would get what, compromises were made. The photo albums were divvied up. We crammed our foraged items into rental trucks and the back seats of cars as we made ready to depart for our scattered locations. After calculating what to sell and what to give away, we announced the estate sale. We told ourselves the baby grand piano would command a nice price despite the small crack in the soundboard. Collectors would snap up the grey Formica kitchen table and matching chairs. Realtors would handle the house sale. Earlier that same week, I found a collection of her gloves in the bottom drawer of the mahogany highboy. She had amassed an assortment of styles and colors; a few were still in their original cellophane wrappers. Most 40 | Montana Mouthful

were soft cottony white, some with delicate tucks or floral embroidery at the cuff. She had light blue and creamy yellow and one pair of ruched elbow length black gloves that seemed altogether out of character. Holding her gloves in the dark bedroom triggered memories of Sunday mornings. I conjured up her slim frame in her navy-blue suit, her clutch-styled blue hat, her long legs in silky seamless hose. I saw her pull on a pair of pearl-white gloves, pick up her leather-bound Bible and walk from the room in her go-tochurch heels. The vision made me ponder what to do with the gloves. The vintage gloves could go on the sales table amid all the other objects stickered with round red price tags. But doing this would seem terribly wrong, like a minor crime. After all, these were the gloves that encased the hands that had cared for me in so many tender ways. The hands that brushed my hair, washed my face, wrapped me in a towel, dried my back and cooked and sewed and helped me grow. With these thoughts, I gathered up the gloves, walked them to my car and secured a safe spot for them in the packed back seat. After the sale, I drove 2000 miles to my Vol. 5 • Issue 1

own home, where I arrived exhausted and emotionally sapped. Items were unpacked and stowed. For the gloves, I found an empty shoe box which I covered with black paper. I wrapped the gloves in tissue paper and laid them inside, much as if creating a small crypt where the energy of the gloves would be kept from harm. I taped to the lid a solitary white silk rose and placed the box on the top shelf of my closet.

though I have no use for the gloves, the thought of tossing them out repeatedly brings on feelings of culpability. Increasingly, as the years of my life stack themselves one upon another, like seasoned logs on a woodpile, I think about accumulations. I am aware the time has come to crawl out from under the weight of stuff I do not need or want, and I remind myself that no one else should have to deal with my detritus. So, the question asserts itself: what to do with her gloves? Pondering my options, I re“Holding her gloves in the dark bedroom member again her hands, once so triggered memories of Sunday mornings. capable and strong. Over time, I I conjured up her slim frame in her navy-blue saw arthritis set in, saw the blue suit, her clutch-styled blue hat, her long veins emerge like entwined braids beneath the spotted thinlegs in silky seamless hose. I saw her pull on ning skin. It occurs to me that a pair of pearl-white gloves, pick up her my own hands have become a leather-bound Bible and walk from the room match for hers. Indeed, peering in her go-to-church heels.” at my own mirrored image, I see my skin sagging along the same cut of jaw line; I see the same Since those events—the estate sale and the arch of sparse eyebrows. fashioning of the small crypt—two decades I confess the gloves are gone. I took the box have passed. For 20 intervening years, the down and let her go. Even though it is beyond gloves have remained out of sight, while I an easy explanation, I know she no longer needs busied myself with a life: maintaining a home, the safety of the crypt at the top of my closet. collecting degrees, muddling through goodBecause leaning forward and looking carefully, enough parenting. I have glanced inside the I see now she is there in the mirror looking little black crypt only once or twice. And back at me.

Montana Mouthful | 41


This and that 42 | Montana Mouthful

Vol. 5 • Issue 1


The Jigsaw Puzzle from the Second-Home Thrift Store by Kenneth Chamlee is missing seven pieces, now that we can count the unaccounted for, amorphous cousins absent from this family mottle. Their truancy reveals brown amoeba voids in our panorama of cowboys chasing mustangs, a splendid Palomino shattering sage and cactus as it flames around chuckholes dark as the dining room table, little misshapen caves of knobs and sockets, a Freudian mosaic with discrete omissions, none touching, none betraying the gray underside of desire. Still, we miss the cousins who cannot see the space we built for this reunion, how we laid out a level floor, squared up corners and framed the sides, then carefully raftered clouds into a turquoise sky. They leave ghost shapes hovering in the high plains air, a beautiful horse slipping the uncoiled lariat.

Montana Mouthful | 43


The Bathtub by KT Freeman

On Tuesday, at 1432, a plane crash-landed in my bathtub. My three-year-old had been playing with it when it slipped out of his hand and disappeared beneath the soap foam. When it did not immediately reappear, he began to scream. He kicked and thrashed. Waves sloshed over the side. A lone boat, once floating over placid waters, drifted over the spot where the plane went down. He settled down when I drained the tub, but until I did, his little world ended.

44 | Montana Mouthful

On Tuesday, at 1433, a plane went down in the Pacific Ocean. A lieutenant on a carrier watched it fall, smoke trailing from its wing. When they drifted over the spot, they found nothing but whitecaps. Today, there’s a man on my doorstep. He’s dressed in crisp military blues and has a folded flag in his hands. He keeps talking, but I’m not listening, not anymore. I’m too busy cursing a tiny plane that crashed in my bathtub on Tuesday at 1432.

Vol. 5 • Issue 1


Montana Mouthful | 45


Something Happened in the Heart of the Forest in the Heart of the Night by James Gering Jerome, Jerome, you shout into the cold darkness, please answer. You get no reply from your oldest somewhere in this vast forest shrouded in night mist. Jerome is an occasional wilderness lover, in his impulsive twenties. After the day’s online work meetings, he releases solo frustration and energy on the rugged trails we have here in the Blue Mountains. Jerome! Your head torch beam lances the trees, searches the nooks. The forest drops steeply away from the track into the valley in a sway of canopies and shifting shadows. Lillypillies and sassafras, eucalypts and water vines grip the sloping earth in tenacity. The survivability is mutual – without the lattices of roots through the soil, the land would slide. Jerome, son! Cold passes your lips, forms little puffs in the night air. Your child, so able, so capable except when he is not. With each of your footfalls, you pray for his voice. Only your puny echo comes back. He was meant to return shortly after twilight. Midnight came and went 2 hours ago. Earlier, in your living room, bottle of stout in hand your phone had lit up, Jerome’s younger brother calling from Europe. Dad, Jerome… Jerome is missing. 46 | Montana Mouthful

Vol. 5 • Issue 1

The living room lurched. You clenched the phone. Your skin was fire and ice. Ma is at Katoomba police station, he said. You didn’t say that you had just declined two calls from her though he is surely aware. Phoning her now, Terry, you say. And stay by your phone. I’m going to find your brother in a trice. You listened grimly to your ex-wife. Thankfully Jerome mentioned to her his hiking plan. She dropped him at Conservation Hut for a walk to Vera Falls. Unthankfully, the track descends three kilometres into dense forest. You ended the call and the logical brain kicked in despite the beer in your blood. You moved about the house, gathering up essentials: headlights, matches, sweaters, two sleeping bags, wet weather gear, snack foods, energy drinks. Two days earlier, you had cooked for Jerome notching up much-needed goodwill depleted during the virus and the related pandemic of strained relations. You made lasagne from scratch, layers of homemade pasta cheesy bechamel, bolognaise sauce. Jerome, you say gently as the pair of you eat, when you hike I want you to take supplies – take a headlight and a sweater. Also snacks, water and matches. Obviously your phone, and some first aid items too. You tick the items off on your fingers, wincingly, smilingly. Please, Jerome. Sure thing, he said, sure thing. A parent can try, a parent is allowed. But Jerome detests being encumbered, wants to be totally free after the workday. For him, even a light pack is a burden. And his mother confirmed he left without one. You overshoot the Conservation Hut turn-off. It’s dark overall, cold overall. Not good overall. You drive back, jump out at the car park, hoist the pack onto your shoulders. The temperature hovers near zero. The moon attempts to penetrate the mist.

Montana Mouthful | 47

You turn on your head torch. Giant shadows appear to mock you as you descend onto the trail. Jerome, Jerome! You shout his name every ten paces, just hoping. You peer over the sides and try not to think it’s futile. A twig snaps. An owl hoots. You come to the first river crossing. The torch outlines the dark stepping stones. Lovely boy, where are you? Damn it, Jerome! Nobody hears the grief in your voice. He has to be okay. If he weren’t, it would tip you over the edge. Jerome, oh Jerome. He returned to Australia during the pandemic and came to the mountains temporarily with his mother to wait things out. Jerome was angry with you. You had declined for various compelling reasons his mother’s offers of ongoing friendship. The beam of your light has weakened a little. You speed up a little. The wrong tableaus of what might have happened take over your thoughts. You stop and call to mind some reasonable scenarios. He got lost in the dark and is waiting for help. He sprained an ankle, you’ll reach him soon. What else? It’s too cold for snakes. It’s too cold for people. You consider the sky, the hazy constellations of stars that belong in a children’s book, the kind you read to your sons when they were young. The forest is big and you are small. Jerome, are you there? Please, Jerome. After seventy minutes on the track you arrive at Vera Falls. The water is flowing silvery off the wide shelf of rock. You tentatively approach the edge. Son, son, you shout. There is nothing to see in the blackness, little to hear over the sound of the falling water. 48 | Montana Mouthful

Vol. 5 • Issue 1

Facing It Together | JACK BORDNICK

Montana Mouthful | 49

What happens now? You hear something different, a faint noise getting louder. The engine of a light plane. Part of the rescue response. It surely has thermal imaging cameras that will pick up the heat signature of your boy. You hear another sound. A voice. You think your mind is playing cards, flipping over jokers. The sound comes again from below the falls, quite distinct – Dad, dad. Jerome! You put your face in your hands. He says he is okay, the details you can’t decipher. But the pitch of his voice is strong, that’s good leaving you pretty sure he didn’t fall. But how did he reach the bottom of the waterfall? You search the sides of the rock platform for openings in the bush. Nothing. Did a track to the base of the falls branch off higher up? You hear voices on the main trail coming nearer. You take off your pack and crouch on your haunches. You have found your son in the heart of the forest in the heart of the night. You feel changed. You resolve to forgive everyone for almost everything.

50 | Montana Mouthful

Vol. 5 • Issue 1

Footage Lost, Found, Left | LUKE DURAN

Montana Mouthful | 51

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 thankful to have been a regular feature in Montana Mouthful magazine. For the past eight years, the ShopU has taught intensive daily English classes to teenagers and adults in the Helena area. In this amount of time over 120 students from over 50 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. 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. Having been able to showcase their stories in a language they have worked so hard to learn for the community to read in this magazine has been an unbelievable gift. Suzy and the students of the ShopU are immeasurably grateful for the honor of this feature these past few years, and will treasure this gift and each and every copy of the magazine showcasing their language growth. To have so many published authors now in class is a real measure of success. In the absence of this platform, we promise to continue sharing and writing our stories to continue to connect with the community and world around us. Thank you for helping us reach our goals. Thank you for being a part of the ShopU community. Thank you for reading our stories!

This issue features an essay by Ilda Trejos.

52 | Montana Mouthful

Vol. 5 • Issue 1


Making difficult decisions sometimes works out better than expected by Ilda Trejos When you make the decision to leave your home, your family, your friends, your habits, and your past, there are very strong reasons that force you to do it since you would never do it of your own free will unless it is for vacation. Since I was a child, I always dreamed of having better living conditions than my parents could give me in my childhood. I was raised by my mother since I was five years old and my brother was three years old. I am the oldest child as a result of the marriage between my mom and dad. Since my father died, my mother took care of us working tirelessly to get ahead and give us an acceptable childhood. Despite the multiple jobs that my mother had, it was never enough to support the expenses of the house: food, school, public services, our food, our clothes, or extras like Christmas toys. The rest of my family also had very few economic resources, so they could not help us much either since they also worked and had a family to answer to. I remember that we had good neighbors who helped us a lot. When they realized that we did not have food at our table,

they always sent a plate of food to share. Also, when Christmas came and we had no gifts there were always kind people who gave us a small toy and for us that was more t han enough. This is how my life went throughout my childhood, and as I grew, I knew that I did not want my life to be like that forever. When I turned 10, I was more aware of things, but our economic situation worsened more since my mother suffered from a kidney disease that made it impossible for her to even walk for several months. Because of this disease, my mother was without work for a long time and we managed to survive thanks to the charity of many neighbors and the little that the rest of our family could give us. With a lot of effort, I was able to finish my high school studies. As a child I started working to help my mother with expenses. I sold lotteries and I worked as an assistant in a telephone company, and for this I needed a child labor permit which my mother signed, so I could help her. And then this is where you start doing

Montana Mouthful | 53

things against your will to get away from your brother, after having managed to build a small family in order to achieve a better well-being house in better condition than the one we had for you and for them. At age 17, I left home. before, after having stabilized my brother with a I left my sick mother with my brother because business, I had to make the decision to stop I had been offered a job in a bigger city. There supporting them financially in order to start I began to work day and night in a gambling paying for a university degree. This moment was house; I worked double shifts to be able to pay very difficult since I had to think about myself my rent in that city, my expenses, and the if I wanted to continue moving forward with expenses of my family back in my hometown. my purpose of having better living conditions One day while I was working at the betting and a better quality of life. house, I received a call from one of my cousins I studied public accounting for five years at telling me that my mother was very ill and they the university. I paid for this degree by making were going to transfer her from the clinic. She another big decision against my will. I had to told me that I would have to be there because work as a security guard 12 hours a day on my they were going to remove a kidney. This was one of the hardest decisions against my will that I had to make because I had to con- “Little by little, with great effort and making tinue working and could not be decisions that were not easy in my life, things with her during this difficult time. began to happen to me, until another moment We did not have medical insurance that would cover this surgery, came when I had to take on another great and if I stopped working, there decision challenge against my will, but would not be money to pay for it, necessary to improve my life. so my mother was transferred to another city and she had surgery while I was still working and calling my brother every 10 minutes to find out feet; in reality this was considered a man’s job, about her condition. I still remember this mobut it was the job I had to do at that time to be ment with a lot of pain. I always thought that I able to have a good salary and be able to pay for was making a bad decision, and every time I my university. called I was afraid that they would tell me that I continued to help my mother financially, my mother had died, and I had not been able to not in the same way as at the beginning, but be by her side. I never abandoned her financial needs. Things kept happening and improving; our I supported her as much as I could at that time. economic situation, thanks to my work, was I got a better job as an accounting assistant improving and this is where more decisions where they paid me a little better, and I worked continue to appear against your will. fewer hours, and did not have to be on my feet At 25 years old, after having worked that long, in a company where I gradually rose, tirelessly for eight years to help my mother and gaining the appreciation of my bosses.

54 | Montana Mouthful

Vol. 5 • Issue 1

Little by little, with great effort and making decisions that were not easy in my life, things began to happen to me, until another moment came when I had to take on another great decision challenge against my will, but necessary to improve my life. At the age of 35, I got pregnant by a man I barely knew, who for this reason may not have wanted to answer for my pregnancy, but this was not going to be a cause for me to stop in my goals. I knew some friends who suggested that I come to the United States to work and be able to give my daughter a better future as a single mother. With a broken heart because of the love that the father of my daughter never gave me, with my soul bleeding to leave my family once again and go to a country strange in language,

culture, and people, I made the decision to come to the U.S. Not only to ensure a better future for my daughter, but also, as always, for my family. So I made this big decision against my will again, but with my eyes set high on achieving my dreams. Today my daughter is five years old, and she is a beautiful and intelligent girl. I married a man who is a great father and loves me, and we have a nice family. I keep working to achieve my dreams and every day to achieve better living conditions. I keep working on my dreams, I keep looking for my happiness, and I keep making decisions against my will that lead me to achieve success, make me happy, and bring me together again and forever with my family.

Montana Mouthful | 55

Dear MM Readers, The Montana Mouthful project has been near and dear to my heart since its inception in 2017. At the time, we were a handful of Helena-based writers who’d created an informal group to share our writing with each other. From then until now, various aspects of life, both good and bad, dwindled our numbers, but we’d put so much planning and preparation into the magazine, that those of us who remained have tried to put our best foot forward with every issue. In total, we’ve published twelve stunning issues. We hope you’ve enjoyed them as much as we’ve enjoyed putting them together. For the remaining editors, and our graphic designer, we’ve come to a cross-roads. Different life paths, goals, and projects have presented themselves, and we’ve made the decision to end Montana Mouthful on our “Lost and Found” issue. By doing so, we’re ending on a high note, with the same quality and attention to detail that we’ve demanded from ourselves all along, as opposed to a gentle downslide into less time, less energy, and less quality as we attempt to hold the magazine together while doing other things. While the creation and execution of a literary magazine is no easy feat, on many levels I’m glad we undertook the project, especially coming from the perspective of writers-tryingto-get-published. Whatever side of the coin you’re on, I’ve learned that both enterprises require hard work (polish, polish, polish, proofread, proofread, proofread) and both require a level of compassion for what the other side is trying to do. In the end, I’m of the mind that it’s the process of creation that matters most; whether you’re creating a literary magazine or creating a piece for a magazine, the success is in the undertaking itself, and the realization that published or not, every person has a story, a poem, an essay, or piece of artwork inside of them. On that note, thank you to everyone who’s supported us or contributed work in the past five years. I hope you continue nurturing whatever creative endeavor brings you joy. As for me, going forward you’ll most likely find me in a garden or greenhouse, growing flowers, vegetables, and other plants one seed at a time, guiding them into adulthood, much like the process of growing a seed of an idea into a story, poem, or piece of art. Thanks and best wishes, Jasmine Swaney Lamb, Co-Editor, Montana Mouthful

Dear Readers, Quite recently, a memory popped up on my social media page that said, “I found a writing class! I am so excited!” This was 10 years ago. At that time, I’d decided to remove myself from my cocoon of grief and try something new. I’d undergone two years of grief after the loss of my husband, and sadness had taken its toll. I needed something new and different to focus on. I needed to take my journals and turn them into a story. I walked into that creative writing beginner’s class full of insecurity, a little bit of dread, and the surety of failure. Then I met the instructor, Jasmine Swaney Lamb. Her eclectic personality and a lecture about how the brain worked had me hooked. The first few classes, I watched her red boots walk back and forth across the floor as she drew plot arcs on the white board. As the classes went on, I was able to make eye contact with my educator. I tried to speak with her after class a few times, to let her know that she was beneficial in pulling me out of my depression, but there was always another student who quite verbosely monopolized her time. I would walk out, sad that I did not get my audience with her. One night, the talkative one was not in attendance, and I was finally able to express my appreciation to her and awkwardly thank her for sharing her knowledge. I volunteered early on to share my work with the class and receive feedback. Although I had a lot of angst, I also had a great appreciation of the kindness shown for my story of grief. Jasmine spent a significant amount of time on her feedback and led the group in providing positive thoughts. I took the class two more times and

56 | Montana Mouthful

Vol. 5 • Issue 1

met a variety of folks with different writing abilities and interests. Jasmine and I started a life-long friendship. After the classes ended, a menagerie of writers came together on a monthly basis to share and gently critique each other’s work. The group dwindled in numbers as we dove into the large undertaking of designing and creating Montana Mouthful. It has been an educational and challenging experience. The last few years have seen Jasmine and I administering the magazine. We reviewed every submission, which overwhelmingly numbered in the hundreds for each issue. We made painful decisions, communicated good news and bad news with our submitters, maintained our website, learned about non-profit status, maintained the bookkeeping, posted on social media, and attended fund raising events. We worked tirelessly on each issue, but the beautiful issues could never have been pulled off without the amazing graphic design and layout expertise from Luke Duran of Element L Design. He took each issue and lovingly crafted it to meet the theme and represented us so professionally. Our goal was to be part of the paying market, but we were unable to get to that ambitious goal. Nevertheless, it was an amazing journey that is now coming to an end. Montana Mouthful has meant so much to me as I grew out of despair and into my new life with each issue. Sincerely, Cari J. Divine, Co-Editor, Montana Mouthful

Hello Readers, I was touched when Jasmine and Cari invited me to share some space on this page. Montana Mouthful was their shared vision of passion and thoughtful planning long before I entered the scene. I fondly recall a cozy autumn evening in Jasmine’s living room where a group of local writers had gathered. They described an ambitious literary magazine project over candlelight and hors d’oeuvres. I had been asked to attend as a consultant to share my experience with publications and design, but found myself quickly enamored with their idea. As circumstances would have it, several writers in the group stepped away from the project, and when the magazine was ready to launch, I was asked to design and lay out the first issue. One issue became twelve, and it is with great satisfaction and a bittersweet smile that I look at this fine body of work called Montana Mouthful as it draws to a close. It is a rare privilege for a graphic designer to be entrusted with a carefully planned project, and then given unlimited creative latitude to craft the appearance of how it will look, how it will be paced, how it will be absorbed and enjoyed by a new audience. Cari and Jasmine afforded me that privilege when they handed their “baby” over to me, and for that I am forever grateful. There’s a dirty little secret among designers that our best work is only as good as the raw material we have to work with. Montana Mouthful is no exception, but the material supplied by the contributors was anything but raw. I’m grateful to the writers, poets and artists who contributed their talents to this publication. You opened my eyes and my imagination to compelling content I wouldn’t have seen elsewhere. Thank you, Jasmine and Cari. Thank you contributors. And thank you, Dear Reader. Luke Duran, graphic artist

Montana Mouthful Montana|Mouthful 57 | 57


Abigail Jacqueline Campbell Abigail Jacqueline Campbell (Abbey) is a Connecticut based antidisciplinary artist. She recently made a loaf of sourdough bread, but it was rather under-baked. Find out more about her at: and on social media @ahhhhbbey. Kenneth Chamlee

Renée Adams Renée Adams was previously published in Montana Mouthful, and her poems also have been published in The Typescript journal, Gargoyle, Plainsongs, Gateway Literary Review, Detour Ahead, The Zebra, in her city’s buses, and others. For 13 years she’s curated her poetry fence, attracting visitors from other cities and countries. She poem-bombs her neighborhood, provides Gumball poetry in a local café, and a mini poetry fence in her local library during National Poetry Month. Her attempts to get poetry out into the world include giving out poems along with candy to children on Halloween. Find out more about Renée at: Richard Band Richard Band is a librarian, book collector and trustee of the Arras Foundation in Lancaster, SC. His work has appeared in South Carolina Review, Kakalak, Charlotte Writers Club Awards Anthology, Poetry South and Light Quarterly. You can find Richard on FB: Jack Bordnick Jack Bordnick is an Industrial design/Sculptor graduate of Pratt Institute in New York, where he had his own professional design business and was a design director for numerous companies and local government projects. His sculptural and photographic imagery is a reflection of his past and present forces and the imagination of his life’s stories. They represent an evolutionary process of these ideas and how all of life’s forces are interconnected, embraced and expressed through creative art forms. Being a designer and sculptor in New Mexico has allowed him to have a deep understanding of culture and environment, which has influenced his artistic interpretation and creative solutions on projects of this nature. Find out more at: Linda Budan Linda Budan is a retired healthcare professional who lives on a wildlife habitat in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. When not tending the habitat or taking country walks, she writes micro memoir and poetry, practices art journaling, cooks from her garden, and works on mastering Piazzolla tango on the piano.

58 | Montana Mouthful

Kenneth Chamlee is Professor Emeritus of English at Brevard College (NC). His poems have appeared in The North Carolina Literary Review, Worcester Review, Ekphrasis, and many others, including seven editions of Kakalak: An Anthology of Carolina Poets. He has received three Pushcart Prize nominations and regularly teaches for the Great Smokies Writing Program of UNCAsheville. He has completed a poetic biography of 19th century American landscape painter Albert Bierstadt. His new book of poems, If Not These Things, is upcoming from Kelsay Press in 2022. Check him out at and @kenchamlee. 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, has served as art director for Montana Outdoors magazine for the past 20 years, plays bass guitar and generally puts his creative energy toward things like education, conservation, social justice and the arts. Cassidy Exner Cassidy Exner is a 17-year-old writer and cancer survivor living on a horse farm in New Hampshire. In addition to writing, she creates music and competes as an equestrian at the national level. She plans to attend Middlebury College next year and continue her studies in writing. KT Freeman KT Freeman lives in Helena, Montana where she takes inspiration for most of her stories. She has been writing since she was in the fourth grade. When she’s not writing, she enjoys game nights, chocolate chip cookies, and anything “Star Wars” related. James Gering James Gering is a diarist, poet, and short story writer. He is the Australian Society of Authors Emerging Poet of the Year, 2018 and teaches at The University of Sydney. Publication credits include Rattle, San Pedro River Review and Star 82 Review. His collection of poetry, Staying Whole While Falling Apart, was published by IP in 2021. James lives in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, where he climbs the cliffs and rappels the canyons in search of Rilke’s solitude, Chekhov’s humility, and escape in general. He welcomes visitors at

Vol. 5 • Issue 1

Katy Goforth

Carla Nagler

Katy is a writer and editor for a national engineering and surveying organization and had a career as a community college English instructor prior to that. Her work has been published in The Dead Mule. When she’s not writing, she’s traveling the country following her favorite musicians and collecting oddities for her menagerie. She lives in Anderson, S.C. with her spouse and two dogs, Finn and Betty Anne. Find out more at the following: Twitter @MarchingFourth and

Carla Nagler has a degree in fine art photography from California State University, Northridge, and a Certificate in Creative Writing from Santa Fe Community College. She has travelled the world photographing cemeteries. For the moment, she lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with her dog, Adi.

John Grey John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Sheepshead Review, Poetry Salzburg Review and Hollins Critic. Latest books, “Leaves On Pages”, “Memory Outside The Head”, and “Guest Of Myself ” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Existere, Blueline and International Poetry Review. Lane Henson Lane Henson is a writer of poetry living in Duluth, MN. His words have recently been published or are forthcoming in Pasque Petals, The Talking Stick Volume 30, and Great Lakes Review. Katie Knecht Katie Knecht is a native Kentuckian living in Brooklyn, NY. She earned her MFA in creative writing from Manhattanville College and works as a copywriter at a fintech company based in Manhattan. She has been published in Scribble, Wraparound South, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, and Mutha Magazine, and was featured in Upper Hand Press’ anthology, She Will Find Her Way. She particularly enjoys petting cats and eating ice cream. Find out more at the following: and on IG @katieknecht. Nancy Murphy Nancy Murphy is a Los Angeles based writer and recent winner of the Aurora Poetry contest. Previous publications include Gyroscope Review, Stoneboat Literary Journal, Sheila-Na-Gig, The Ekphrastic Review, The Baltimore Review and others. She was recently featured in “Poets on Craft” at Cultural Daily. She has a B.A. in American Studies from Union College, Schenectady, NY. Find out more at: Shira Musicant Shira Musicant’s stories can be found in the Santa Barbara Literary Journal, Two Hawks Quarterly, Literally Stories, and Gold Man Review. She writes in the wee hours, and by day, is a somatic psychotherapist and adjunct professor of somatic psychotherapy at Antioch University in Santa Barbara, California. Find out more at:

Lindsey Pucci Lindsey Pucci lives and teaches in Minnesota with her husband and young son. She graduated from the UW - La Crosse where she won the Carol Quillins scholarship for her work in digital photography. Her photos has been published on the cover of Nightingale and Sparrow, and featured in The Parliament, Feral, 3Moon, CP Quarterly, and Mason Street. Find her on Instagram @ linney_bee. Ellen White Rook Ellen White Rook is a poet and teacher of contemplative arts residing in upstate New York and southern Maine. She offers workshops on ikebana, Japanese flower arranging, and leads Sit, Walk, Write retreats that merge meditation, movement, and writing. Ellen is a recent graduate from the Master of Fine Arts program at Lindenwood University. Her work has been published in Montana Mouthful, New Verse News, Red Rock Review, and Trolley Literary Journal. Find out more at the following: @rookellen (Instagram); @ewrook (Facebook). Jim Ross Jim Ross jumped into creative pursuits in 2015 after a rewarding career in public health research. With graduate degree from Howard University, in the past six years he’s published nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and photography in over 175 journals on five continents. Publications include, Barren, Bombay Gin, Burningword, Camas, Columbia Journal, Hippocampus, Ilanot Review, Kestrel, Litro, Lunch Ticket, Manchester Review, Montana Mouthful, New World Writing, Stonecoast, The Atlantic, and Typehouse. A nonfiction piece led to appearances in a documentary series broadcast internationally. Jim and his wife—parents of two health professionals and grandparents of five preschoolers—split their time between city and mountains. Skye Rozario Skye is a recent graduate from the Harvard Divinity School, where she earned her MA in Theological Studies, and she’s originally from Iowa. She studies English, Humanities, the Study of Religion, and Creative Writing, and she is currently re-centering herself on her inner passions, writing and art.

Montana Mouthful | 59

Cassandra O’Sullivan Sachar

Joy Victory

Cassandra O’Sullivan Sachar is a writer and associate English professor in Pennsylvania. Her creative nonfiction, short stories, flash fiction, microfiction, and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in Adelaide Literary Magazine, The Dillydoun Review, Pennsylvania Bard’s Eastern PA Poetry Review 2021, Little Old Lady Comedy, The Centifictionist, The Dribble Drabble Review, 666: Dark Drabbles, Black Petals Horror/Science Fiction Magazine, Eerie Christmas 2, Tales from the Moonlit Path, Friday Flash Fiction, The Drabble, and Merlyn’s Pen. She holds a Doctorate of Education with a Literacy Specialization from the University of Delaware and is working toward an MFA in Creative Writing at Wilkes University.

Joy Victory is a writer and editor living in Austin, TX. She is currently the Managing Editor of and a longtime healthcare journalist. She has been published in Cosmopolitan Magazine, VICE,, Health (now VeryWell Health), and the USC’s Center for Health Journalism. She lives with her husband, daughter and rotund cat in Austin, TX. When she’s not working or parenting, you can find her outside hiking a greenbelt or catching some live music. Find out more at:

Fabio Sassi Fabio Sassi makes photos and acrylics using tiny objects or discarded stuff. He often puts a quirky twist to his subjects or employs an unusual perspective that gives a new angle of view. He really enjoys taking the everyday and ordinary and framing it in a different way. Fabio lives in Bologna, Italy and his work can be viewed at Grace Schwenk Grace Schwenk is a writer from the Bitterroot Valley of Montana. When not writing, she can be found getting lost in the mountains with her pack of hiking chihuahuas. Leland Seese Leland Seese’s poems appear or are forthcoming in RHINO, The Chestnut Review, The Stonecoast Review, and many other journals. His debut chapbook, Wherever This All Ends, was released in 2020 (Kelsay Books). He and his wife live in Seattle, where they are foster-adoptive and bio parents of six children. Josh Stein Josh Stein is a lifelong multi-mode creative artist, musician, writer, professor, and adult beverage maker, residing in Napa, California. His metallic and fluorescent acrylics delight and perplex, moving between the worlds of solidity and abstraction. Find out more at the following:, and on IG steincreates.

Geoff Watkinson Geoff Watkinson has contributed to Guernica, storySouth, Brevity [Blog], The Humanist, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Virginian-Pilot, and Switchback, among others. His first nonfiction collection, Have Some Faith in Loneliness & Other Essays, is due to be published in 2022. He is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Green Briar Review. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter: @GeoffWatkinson. Rex Wilder Rex Wilder is a photographer, art maker, and poet living in Benedict Canyon, California. His photographs and art have been celebrated on covers of many prestigious magazines, and featured in many more. Three books of his poetry are currently auditioning for their forever homes on the shelves of indie and online bookstores wherever fine literature is sold. Find out more at: Robin Young From large, life-sized pieces and 3D sculptures to small postcardsized arrangements, Robin Young’s keen eye and gripping esthetic guide her viewers into her own semi-readymade world. Repurposing these nostalgic images for lighthearted and sometimes disquieting messages; Robin’s artistic universe is strange, funky, sometimes perverse and always alluring. Find out more at: and on Instagram:

Ilda Trejos Ilda Trejos is originally from Colombia, and she has lived in Helena for one year with her husband and daughter. She is dedicated to improving her English at The Shop University. This essay is her first published work.

60 | Montana Mouthful

Vol. 5 • Issue 1

Montana Mouthful | 61

fluctuationdeprivecaptainlegislationassetroarzerobrowngoalkeeperoft linger olatesurfacemonstrousassignment staffthreatbreezebanish wilderness given he ironyplanepoolnoterevivesausagesurroundappealejectwriterhoar retreatturn scannerasbestoscoralpeninsulagreviouslameweedshimdesignzipwindowcurvature ponyhugemaidwhipcunningcaptivateclosedrushemergencywith chiefinterfaceofan wildernessmarchshoutslamgossipforestprofessormausoleumbasssunnycravepudding estimateashfixwheatinvestmentexposeenddemonstrationea startlionvisibleattack censuscongresschocolatesurfacemonstrousassignment staffthreatbreezebanish fatlevelsimplicityasylumfinishbiographyoffender kidneycommissionconvincing volunteeralbumdiscocrackcheapmudimproveprizestillyearfrequencyladdernude moodsulphurpathcommunicationprejudiceelect composercowmotivationaffectgirl rabbithikeresourcecompeteoutputobjecthallregretlegbodyapplehelplessbrother nationalcategorydominatecontradictionmake registrationsuperintendenthigher subjectvisualdeadtermlighterrelatefictionthighceilingdefinepearlfamiliar averageloungecomputingimpresspitjokequota deportagehurtroadsnuggledisplay chaferesponsiblenonsensecreateabsencedollbraveobjectivefragrantviablequota fitnesspenaltydecreaseburststableegg ancestormisleadgripvigorouseastrancher spitcolonycameraclinicimportpledgerecessionexposurebrillianceallowdirtyfish budgetdiplomaticvesselplaintiffto prosperhaltlilyauthorisetorturelocationcow helloppose folkdribblevegetablesmartmeadowhoroscopemagneticapproachexempt budgescaleinflationflightrock happenbeefileabsoluteincludesalvationbeardnut graduateradical inspectorsketchfullsoloceremonyfinaladviserexcavateedition supplementaryexpectedof topplestraightaudiencetrenchabandontoothcommitteego wonderfavorablelistcharacterhandyabortionyouthsandwichobeseenlargevideo visitjestsizestretch inflatetwilighthumanityseriousdefendantsensitiveprestige judicialwearoutdeathly comfortcordcharitycivilianpastoccasionpettymultiply makespendkill pricegestureacutenegativelaserconsumernunenvironmentalovercar latestfeastgrazecanvasskillhighlightfacadesteelsupplygeneralmemberjellybud lookbuild invasionheadelementtrayadvertisesiegebanpressfirefighterdrummer suninsistsellerbutterflyeffluxof lossbuselectioncompartmentprincehenstation crutchdressreducepolishdinnerinjuryhourtextgalaxythreatensettleimplicitly carryfussnominationfishermannerwith negligencedifficultytollcellvictorydope showtractindicationlonelyangeladvocateaspectrelieveminechildengaged mental crowndemonstratorpianodiscussrepeatemake auxprovincialsocietypromisespirited readareluctanceconveniencesmontanamouthfulrmpardonwatermoneyfiletrain performancesmiletumourdisagreehealthstreampearevokereptilesyndromeportion gebcasemarshtooffspringdessvolumefiveissueoneembrainmanualmsadutshailvoi profitstainbarktraininginnovationswipeonionsuspicion trainermanufacturegive meanschokecoached monsterstudying orchestrabotherpunishstylelidbannerprison playerinterrupttenderfairevenfolkmusicextortinviteeggsexwhitecarsavepacks handicappowerembarktilearttotalfostercurriculumparachutewholerootpushed reservoirgracespeechrelativeproductcontentracismcathedralhairofficialmetal coppergive inhabitantambiguiltygiver inspireservemorselvalleyelectronpopgoat detectorfavourbowfightreactiontigerviewmorningrunnerordertechnologyinvite greecanteen intensifybulbousreporterof residentrangeseparateironoutfithigher deficiencyfaithpigeoncandidateexaggeratepneumoniaprecedentkneefootballtaxcurve waybroken listcharacterhandyabortionlick youthsandwichobeseenlargegraduate conductorpaincarbonribexhibitionmourningrehabilitationtheoryinjectcheese olatesurfacemonstrousassignment staffthreatbreezebanishlegislatureifhope defendoppositegreetdistrictqualifiedflagintegrityinhibitionadoptiongoldenpie

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.