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Vol. 2 Issue 6 New York London Hong Kong Philippines

KEEPER OF FIRE


New Reader Magazine June 2019 | Vol. 2 Issue 6 COVER IMAGE

Jodie Ferrer "Lady of the Land" CREATIVE STAFF Lead Editor

: Kyla Estoya

Layout Artist

: Iain Yu

Publicist

: Kota Yamada, TJ Delima

Researcher

: Rosielyn Herrera, Marjon Gonato

Production & Features : Celina Paredes, Jazie Pilones,

Neil Gabriel Nanta, Rio Lim,

Sarah Eroy, Gifthir Elmido,

Jarryl Ibrahim, Rey A. Ilejay

CONTRIBUTORS

Stephen Schwei, David Thomas, Tony Koval, Lynn White, Catherine A. Coundjeris, K.V Martins, Mugabi Byenkya, Ute Carson, Mary K O'Melveny, Riley Hassle, Lazar Trubman, J.B Stone, Igor Goldkind, Rebecca Gould, Bill Arnott, Amber May, Fabiyas MV, Dorsía Smith Silva, Eleanor Fogolin, Cassidy Frost, Avra Margariti, Christopher Acker, Nicole Zelniker, Matthew Cook, Mike Sharlow, William Falo, Maria Victoria Beltran, Christine Fair, Jodie Ferrer MARKETING AND ADVERTISING

Laurence Anthony laurence.anthony@newreadermagazine.com

SUBSCRIPTIONS

subscription@newreadermagazine.com www.newreadermagazine.com Phone: 1 800 734 7871 Fax: (914) 265 1215 Write to us: 100 Church St. Suite 800 New York, NY 10007

All Rights Reserved


NOTE With a word, or a touch, I could have rekindled that fire. - Dolly Parton, Old Flames Can’t Hold A Candle To You

This journal will always be committed in proclaiming new voices in both the literary and art scene. This quarter, I realize how that there’s something much deeper than what these artists and contributors have put together. Raising awareness on mental illness, our friends Abi Stevens and Mugabi Byenkya—despite not knowing each other’s existence—both hold a flame in representing a minority whose voices shall be heard. Abi started a project where her artworks became a medium in reaching out to people who suffer the burning pain of having chronic migraines while Mugabi proves that these disabilities shouldn’t stop you from doing what you desire. We have Rone whose eyes flicker whenever he sees beauty even amongst the tattered and destroyed. He sparked the thought that such long-forgotten memories in a certain place can still be reclaimed when you choose to tell its history. Similarly, Avra Margariti also points out that by narrating someone’s truth, you inspire others to come out with their own understanding of what's happening. Inside these pages aren’t just works to amuse or to put you in awe—these stories will be part of history and these storytellers (whom I salute) will forever have a fire that will keep on burning for as long as their stories are read or heard. And I hate to be a little corny but this issue is our torch and we ask you, Dear Reader, to pass this flame along. Go on, take it.

K


Contents Feature 08 Contributor's Corner (Poetry): Mugabi Byenkya JAZIE PILONES

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12 Contributor's Corner (Fiction): Avra Margariti GIFTHIR ELMIDO

14 Between The Looking Glass

And What Abi Stevens Found There

KYLA ESTOYA

20 The Rone Empire KYLA ESTOYA

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12 Writer’s Corner 137 Events, Conferences, Etc.

New Reader Media 137

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126 Rita Dunham C. MONTGOMERY

127 Manuel Pelaez J. KHAN

128 Derrinique Elliott SARAH ANNE

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129 Bernadette Butler B. LEXINGTON

130 To-Read List NRM takes on the challenge of bookmarking emerging voices in the indie publishing world, presented in random order.

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Fiction

Poetry

31 Little & Wolf

34 Post-Coital Bukowski

AVRA MARGARITI

38 Sawbones CASSIDY FROST

45 The Quicksand Around Her Feet

AMBER MAY

36 Lit Fest Litany

85 Depressants Zenaida Laura MUGABI BYENKYA

BILL ARNOTT

40 Post-Modernist Legacy CATHERINE A. COUNDJERIS

89 Queen of the Glass Menagerie REBECCA GOULD

CHRISTINE FAIR

54 Intermission

43 THE OLD FIRE DAVID THOMAS

CHRISTOPHER ACKER

67 Red Clay

51 Solving for X 52 The Water Jail

MARIA VICTORIA BELTRAN

90 Every Man Walks About as a Phantom (Mullet) MATTHEW COOK

103 Showdown at the DA MIKE SHARLOW

115 Atlanta NICOLE ZELNIKER

121 The Anti-Lullaby WILLIAM FALO

108 30,000 Days STEPHEN SCHWEI

FABIYAS MV

MARIA VICTORIA BELTRAN

82 The Teacher

RILEY HASSLE

DORSÍA SMITH SILVA

ELEANOR FOGOLIN

76 The Loud Scream

97 A Scream Belong Invisible

59 So You Think You’re Going to Shoot Me? Our Lady The Stars IGOR GOLDKIND

62 Corner Store Prophet

110 Loves Notes To an Untamed Wilderness TONY KOVAL

118 Echoes Living on Borrowed Time The Past Lives On UTE CARSON

J.B. STONE

68 WOLF MOON THOSE TIMES, WHEN YOU DID NOTHING WRONG K.V MARTINS

73 CAMP ANOTHER AWAKENING SORROW LAZAR TRUBMAN

79 In Flames LYNN WHITE

81 WHAT MAKES OR BREAKS A WALL? MARY K O'MELVENY

Featured Bookstores 06 Alexander Books A Novel Idea on Passyunk Winding Way Books


Featured Bookstores

Alexander Books Alexander Books was founded in 1989 by Gary and Barbara Alexander in Lafayette, Louisiana. In December 2018 a group of five friends took over the store. Upon hearing that Alexander Books was up for sale and potentially going out of business, the group banded together to save this establishment, which was an integral part of the Lafayette community. The group consists of Alexis and William Premeaux, Dylan and Camille Simon, and Jori Bercier. From all different backgrounds and areas of study, ranging from environmental science to literature, the owners of Alexander Books emphasize community and hope that their bookstore can be a place where all can gather together, read a book, and share their stories.

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Featured Bookstores

Winding Way Books

A Novel Idea on Passyunk Alexander Schneider and Christina Rosso-Schneider are newlyweds and independent bookstore owners who live in East Passyunk, Philadelphia, with their two rescue pups, Atticus Finch and Kaylee Frye. When they aren’t at the store, Alexander works as a freelance graphic designer, while Christina teaches several English courses at local universities and writes short fiction and nonfiction. A Novel Idea on Passyunk is a community-minded bookstore and event space in East Passyunk, Philadelphia. Community is at the forefront of our goals. While we carry thousands of new and used book titles, ranging from fiction to history to new age, a cornerstone of the store is our Philadelphia authors and a small press section. Philadelphia has such a rich arts culture full of many talented individuals. We host a variety of events featuring these artists, such as the Philadelphia Poet Reading Series and Community Drafts, a monthly open mic. We hope to create and foster a space of diversity and inclusivity and want to help our customers fall in love with books, either for the first time or the millionth.

Winding Way Books at Gallery Row, 106 W. Chestnut St., Lancaster, is ranked among the likes of stores in Portland, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, Denver and more. "The best part of owning a bookstore in Lancaster is the people I meet," owner Melody Williams said. "The store's t-shirts: Make some noise; this is not a library' is another example of the store's personality." The store sells new and used books, both fiction and nonfiction.

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Contributor's Corner

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Byenkya


Poetry

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o spread love, light, laughter and vulnerability across every life he touches—this is the mission of Mugabi Byenkya. Mugabi is named one of the writers who have contributed Uganda's literary heritage since its independence. Brace yourself as he gives us an insight about his poetry and how writing gives him power to show empathy. Skip to page 85 to read three of his poems: Depressants, Zenaida and Laura.

NRM: What were the difficulties you and your family faced after leaving Africa to settle in a foreign country? Mugabi Byenkya: My family never settled outside of the African continent, per se, due to the nature of my father’s work. My father worked for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP)

from the late 1980s until he passed in 2005 and we settled in Uganda. The nature of his position involved the frequent relocation of our family every 3-4 years. I was born when we relocated to Nigeria in the early 90s. After leaving Nigeria, as a family, we lived in Sudan, Bangladesh, Cambodia,

Thailand and settled in Uganda when my father passed in 2005. Personally, after leaving Uganda at 18, I have lived in the USA and Canada before making the transition to splitting my time between Kampala and Toronto. My siblings are spread across Nairobi, New York, Toronto and Washington,

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Contributor's Corner

DC. Honestly, my family was more blessed than challenged by the opportunities afforded us through travel. Although my perspective is skewed by the fact that when we were moving as a family, I was a child and therefore shielded me from most difficulties. Frequent relocation is the only life I’ve known and the life I feel most comfortable with, which is one of the reasons that I currently split my time between Kampala and Toronto. NRM: At a young age, did you already have a heart for writing poetry/ stories? How did you start with your compositions and what were your struggles during the process? MB: I grew up in a family of avid readers. I remember being 4 years old and incredibly perplexed by my sibling’s choice to stay curled up on the couch choosing to read rather than play (as playing was the best thing ever at the time). So, I asked my mom to teach me how to read and discovered what remains till this day one of my greatest pleasures: reading. Writing was a natural follow-up from reading as I fell in love with literature, authors rapidly morphed into my idols. I naively thought that I could make a sustainable living from my writing, as long as I put in the work. So at 4 years old, I proudly proclaimed to my family that I discovered what I wanted to be when I grew up: an author! I’ve had a hyperactive imagination since childhood and enjoyed putting said imagination into a physical product through creating thrilling adventure stories involving characters I created like, a wisecracking gecko and his best friend the recalcitrant house cat. The enjoyment that I got from the writing process on it’s own was enough, until I got the courage to start sharing my work which was terrifying but thrilling. I’ve been slowly working to that goal ever since and after achieving that goal with the publication of my first book 2 years ago, I’m working on establishing my career and legacy.

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NRM: What is one thing about writing that you adore and how did this persuade you? “I love writing too much to give up I lust after the intricate patterns of multisyllabic gatherings of words it’s absurd how alive diction makes me feel I’m a word nerd ya heard?” - #Write NRM: When you began writing your first stories, did you write them in your African dialect or in English? Which of the two languages made it easier for you to write your emotions and thoughts? And which of the two would you prefer to use for the rest of your life and why? MB: One of my biggest sources of personal shame is the fact that English is the only language that I speak/write/ understand fluently. I was born in the 1990s and the prevailing narrative by educators at the time was children should be raised at home speaking solely the language spoken at school. My siblings and I were going to English speaking schools in English speaking countries across the Global South, thanks to the UNDP and colonialism. My older brothers in particular struggled with the transition to living in Nigeria and English being the dominant language of instruction, so the teachers advised my parents to speak English exclusively at home. Therefore, the home I was born in was a predominantly English speaking home despite both my parents being polyglots. English is the language I am most comfortable with but over time I have learnt some Luganda, French and Runyoro. I plan to take classes work on my fluency and incorporate more of these languages into my writing next year. Certain things cannot be expressed through the English language and more languages have and will continue to add to the ways that I express myself in English.

NRM: From where you came from, did the culture, art or tradition, inspire/ influence your works? MB: I’ve always been a firm believer in the power and importance of representation in art. I’m very lucky and privileged to have been raised in a family which ensured that my various intersecting identities were represented through the art that I consumed. I try my best to continue the practice set forth by my parents, to consume the art created by my respective peoples. The non-linear narratives exemplified by my Ugandan, Nigerian and Disability communities in particular, inspire me to take more risks with the ways that I write instead of catering to the dominant White Western Abled gaze. NRM: How much of your work speaks for you? Is there a part of yourself that is revealed exclusively through poetry? Can you tell us more about it? MB: I write significantly more poetry than I do any other form of writing. I play with different forms of writing for different purposes, as there are things better said in an essay, song or novel than a poem. However, I’ve found that since I don’t write much long form poetry, the economy of words inherent in short form poetry when compared to other longer forms of writing, makes each syllable carry greater poignancy. Therefore, I have to be careful with my poetry to responsibly carry the immense weight that words hold. NRM: Do you compose for yourself or do you have a specific audience in mind? MB: I write for the angsty confused black, disabled, queer little human I used to be and still am. NRM: Can you tell us about your writing style and how did it develop? Is your style African or American influenced or a mixture of both? MB: My writing is accessible, vulnerable and visceral. I prioritize accessibility


Poetry

in my work, (particularly among the disabled and neurodivergent communities that I belong to) through trying to center and ensure that my work can be accessed and appreciated by people of different abilities and capacities instead of appealing to the literary elite. I prioritize vulnerability through using writing as a tool to process trauma and celebrate resiliency. I prioritize visceral writing by using the British colonial and indigenous Baganda tact I was raised with to present harsh truths palatably. My style was developed through studying great writers like Jaden Smith, John Keats and Jennifer NansubugaMakumbi. As well as through studying myself and living my best life as inspiration strikes. As my choice of writers to highlight shows, I have multiples artistic influences and I am not limited geographically in the art I consume and that influences my voice. NRM: How does poetry and your other works make you feel as a person and as part of the community? MB: Writing is incredibly cathartic and helps me significantly process things that I have difficulty processing otherwise. I’m incredibly grateful and appreciative for the communities that I have formed through poetry and writing in general, as they inspire, motivate and provide solidarity in what is often a lonely artistic practice. How did your disability play a role in your writing? MB: I manage multiple disabilities which shape the ways I navigate the world and I try to center this through my writing. I center my respective disabilities and disabled people in general through my writing by trying to be unabashedly and unapologetically disabled. I aim to write for disabled people and to force ablebodied people to re-orient themselves in the world that we inhabit rather than catering to their gaze like the literal rest of the world is built.

NRM: How did poetry help you grow into the person that you are now? “I’m a centipede in the body of a millipede trying to break free of this cocoon enshrouding me but I know the longer I stay hibernating, the better I will be” NRM: You have received literary awards since 2015. As a writer, what role do you play in the society? MB: When I’m on stage or writing I’m not Mugabi anymore, I’m a vessel. My Writing While Black buddies jokingly dubbed me vessel when I told them this, but it’s true. Creation comes from somewhere else, creation is supernatural. The fact that words placed in a certain order can bring people to tears is a gift, and one that I do not take lightly. Most people who have read my book have told me it brought them to tears on several occasions and honestly, I don’t know how to respond to that. I’m touched that my words can have such a profound and powerful impact on so many people but simultaneously scared that my words can have such a profound and powerful impact on so many people. I’m merely channeling, yet, I’m channeling my story, in my way. Reading my book caused a reader to reach out to their estranged brother who they hadn’t spoken to in over a year. Reading my book humanized depression and helped said reader empathize with the brother they had given up on. Reading my book salvaged a sibling relationship. Words hold power. A power that I am uncomfortable with. A power that I’m afraid of. A power that must be wielded responsibly.

thousands of unique literary traditions within the various peoples contained in each colonially constructed nation would be ridiculous. So instead, I will focus on the literary scene in Kampala, the city that I currently live in. Kampala’s literary scene is vibrant, bustling and incredibly diverse. There are spaces catering to more academic elite circles, spaces catering to performance poetry in various languages, spaces catering to insightful discussions between writers and readers and more. It’s a scene that I’m incredibly proud to belong to and one that I try to support as much as possible. NRM: Your writing has been used to teach high school students. What are your thoughts about using your works for academic purposes? How do you feel that you help contribute in the improvement of young individuals? MB: This is honestly one of my biggest sources of pride and joy. I remember being in high school and an avid reader but a lot of the academic texts that we read were not engaging and difficult to relate to. This was something I set out to address with my own students when I taught high school English for two years in Kampala and was floored to discover that they had read my work! It was also incredibly powerful for my students to see a writer as a young disabled black person who they could see themselves in. Someone who they could actually become rather than reading the works of dead white men.

NRM: How do you describe the poetry and other literary works that has been produced/written by people in your community? The African community most especially. MB: To lump the entire 56+ countries on the African continent and the

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Contributor's Corner

Avra M A R G A R I T I

B

orn and raised in Greece, Avra Margariti started writing at a very young age. This is her first literary work in New Reader Magazine and we got to talk to her as she shares the significance of creating memorable characters and what goes on inside their heads. Skip to page 31 to read her fiction Little and Wolf.

NRM: It looks like you've been writing for quite a while now. What do you think makes an interesting fiction story? Avra Margariti: The characters. It’s not necessary for them to be likeable, but I believe they have to be memorable. I will read a mediocre book as long as I can connect with the characters. NRM: Why do you write stories and how does one stay inspired to write? AM: I don’t think I can help it. Even before I started putting words on paper, I had a lot of ongoing stories in my head that would play like a movie before I fell asleep. As for inspiration, it’s everywhere. I have found it really works for me when I combine ideas and themes that are seemingly incompatible. For example, when I wrote “Little and Wolf”, I merged the Stanford Prison Experiment with Little Red Riding Hood. NRM: Do you have a favorite author or favorite literary piece? Can you tell us more about why you like them? AM: If I could only recommend one book to everyone I meet, it would be “Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil” by

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Australian author Melina Marchetta. It’s a novel about xenophobia, perspective, and lost children. I love this particular author because she writes about families in a very authentic and relatable way. NRM: How do you describe your style of writing? Do you have pet peeves in writing? If so, can you name a few? AM: I think my writing tends to be introspective. I focus more on what’s happening inside my characters’ heads and less on their surroundings. One of my pet peeves is unoriginality. A lot of stories give me a sense of déjà vu for all the wrong reasons. Another pet peeve is when elitists try to emulate their favorite dead author while also glorifying the past. NRM: I've read some of your works online. They're great. How do you write short stories such as Ode to Ghosts and Crayola that have a pretty short word count but still have substance? AM: With shorter work (300 words and under) it’s best to know beforehand what emotion you want to evoke. That


Fiction

way, even if the plot doesn’t fully resolve itself, your readers will still experience some emotional closure. NRM: Did being a Social Work Undergraduate help you with your writing? AM: Definitely. Social Work is all about understanding people and developing empathy. Coincidentally, empathy is one of the most valuable skills for a writer to have. It can help you put yourself in your character’s shoes, and temporarily adapt their voice and worldview. NRM: The internet made it a lot easier for artists to get their work out to the public. With so many writers out there, how does one establish themselves? AM: You have to be original and unflinching, enough that people want to read more of your work to see what you will do next. A strong social media presence is also important, which is something I’m personally struggling with.

NRM: Basing on the results of the Stanford Prison Experiment, can you say that absolute power corrupts absolutely? AM: Most modern Psychology textbooks no longer include the Stanford Prison Experiment, since its results are deemed largely inaccurate. Philip Zimbardo himself admitted most of the subjects were aware of the objective of his experiment beforehand. Personally, I don’t think power in itself is corrupt (though, of course, when you add the word “absolute”, the equation changes). It is when combined with unexamined privilege that power becomes destructive. NRM: In the story, we see the events transpire through an innocent child's eyes. Do you have a specific reason why you chose to do this? AM: If I’d written the story through the eyes of an inmate, I’m afraid it would have turned into yet another prison

story written by an outsider. Since “Stanford County Prison” was a mock establishment assembled only for the needs of the experiment, I thought the best narrator would be a child who likes playing make-believe. I wanted to infuse the narration with dreamy details at first until the fantasy dissolved and the situation became all too real for the narrator. NRM: As a writer, what role do you play in society? AM: Stories don’t exist in a vacuum. Writers have to be in tune with society and its struggles. I don’t buy into the idea that writers should climb on a pedestal and preach to the masses. I simply think that, by telling their truth, writers inspire others to come out with their own personal truth.


Features

Betw een g n i k o o L The s s a l G vens And What Abi Ste

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Found There


Arts and Culture | London

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etting lost in a daydream is typical for writers and artists. Most days I find myself reading emails then teleporting to the waves crashing to the shore and feeling the sun's warmth all over me. It's a great feeling when you know it’s not real but it feels nice. You just close your eyes and you're off to wherever or whatever you want to be. The idea of having magical powers, going to Neverland or having a pet dragon is just a blink away. I’ve used fantasies, dreams or imagination to break free from reality and I know most of you have too. We each have our own little world and right now we’ll be getting a glimpse of Abi Stevens’. Her obsession of fantasy became a medium of personal escape that carried over in her works. Her fascination with mythology and reading a lot of science-fiction books expanded through time and made her see deities and monsters as an inspiration for what she creates. Stained glass windows, old architectural designs or illuminated manuscripts are only a few things that trigger this Cambridge-based artist to breed her artworks. We had the opportunity to talk to Abi where she shares her recent project that's a little bit different from the fantastical pieces she usually makes. Abi Stevens is known for her whimsical and conceptual illustrations and symbolism. Historical narratives and quixotic inspirations played a big part in what she makes. “I love to hide narrative or historical details in my art,” she added. In fact, visual research is an integral part in her creative process. For example, her self-initiated cover of The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters include objects hidden among the flowers that relate to three main characters, but the plants themselves were carefully chosen to reflect the mood of the story. Symbolism became more and more significant as her work develops. But in 2018, Abi took a plunge into a rabbit hole that left her unable to work. She was diagnosed with chronic migraine and the pain and isolation took a toll on her mental health. With time, she then decided to redirect the burden she felt into her creative practice and found the door in making The Chronic Project. “The Chronic Project is extremely personal to me and has opened up a new avenue for me to explore my art”, she says. “It proved to not only be cathartic for me, but a means to

connect with other chronically ill people with whom my work resonated.” It came to a realization that her works can now be more than just a mere picture that a person can look at. It was now a voice for a particular minority whose screams are not often heard. It raised awareness not only for people with chronic migraines but also for people who know someone with this condition. She even took a step further by being an advocate and a fundraiser for charities that uphold the stories of these people. Each piece in the chronic series took about 10 hours each to be completed. The symbolism from her previous works were consistent but instead of mythical creatures and characters from history, it was rooted from her personal story. According to her, it is intended to educate the viewer by allowing them to identify the experiences of someone who has a combat going on inside their heads. She hopes that they gain a greater understanding and empathy for others with chronic illness. “I feel that it’s my social responsibility to tell stories, to provide a voice for the voiceless and to foster communication and understanding through creative expression.”

Despite this creative turn, Abi still enjoys making fantasy-inspired illustrations especially now that her health has improved. She does, however, want to further develop The Chronic Project by working with her sister, Hannah Shewan Stevens, who is also chronically ill. Together they’re hoping to make a difference.

It proved to not only be cathartic for me, but a means to connect with other chronically ill people. NEW READER MAGAZINE

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Features

Splitting Like how many people describe migraines, Abi illustrates the feeling of your head literally splitting when it occurs.

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Arts and Culture | London

Swallowed Up This image emphasizes the feeling chronic illness gives as if it is swallowing up your life. This portrays the negative impact it has on you mental health.

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Features

Brain Fog A confused and unfocused state of mind, during which processing time, concentration, information retention, and 'brain power' are compromised.

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Arts and Culture | London

I feel that it’s my social responsibility to tell stories, to provide a voice for the voiceless and to foster communication and understanding through creative expression. Other Works:

OTHER WORKS Left to right: Black Shuck; From her works on British Folktales, The Glass Books of the Dream Eater, Volant; a 55-hour monster pattern COVER PHOTO Love is a Dangerous Game. It was a personal challenge that pushed her skills in figure drawing, shading and symbolism. To her, it is intended to represent the hopes and dangers of the world for women; the dichotomy that you have to be vulnerable but also protecting yourself emotionally and physically.

The Chronic Project will be on display at CUC Winebar, Cambridge for a one-night fundraising show on the 14th of September. The money is intended to raise money for the London Migraine Center.

Abi Stevens is a digital illustrator and educator living in Cambridge, UK. She graduated with first honors in illustration from Cambridge School of Art in 2011 and since then have split her time between working in schools with children and pursuing her illustration practice. Instagram: abistevens_illustration Twitter: @AbiStevens_Art Website: www.abistevens.com

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Features

The KYLA ESTOYA

Rone Empire

Special thanks to Luke McKinnon and Emma Costello from Common State

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Arts and Culture | USA

B

uilt some time in the 1930s, a mansion carries an extraordinary past: it was built as a home, turned into a children’s hospital and became a hotel which closed down in the 1990s. Right after that, its years were spent being spiritless until a Melbourne street artist brought it back to life with murals and installations that recreated life inside. This is the story of Rone and his empire.

The Lounge

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Features

Through a cracked window, you spy the ghost of a smile on the lips of a woman, or do you? You are drawn inside, into a once-magnificent hall. You are now entering Empire.

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Arts and Culture | USA

The significant creatives he worked with to make this happen were: interior stylist, Carly Spooner, who sourced over 500 individual pieces; Loose Leaf Studio, who created all of the organic sculptures. Sound designer, Nick Batterham, who composed a classical score that ran across 14 channels in response to the installation; and scent designer Kat Snowden who created four bespoke scents that represented each of the four seasons.

The current owner offered me to paint a wall inside, but once I saw the building, I wanted to do a bit more than that.

Tyrone Wright moved to a big city when he was 20. During those times, unusual stencil artworks and vibrant posters were popping up in the streets. He fell in love with them and decided to jump on board the scene where he met artists that opened the door for him in becoming a street artist. With his friends, they started their own studio called Everfresh (2003) and continued to grow as artists. “I’m best known for my portraits of ‘beautiful’ women. This came from a response to everything in street art and graffiti at the time (early 2000’s) being very aggressive. I wanted to make a work that responded to my friends ‘screaming vampire’ poster so I made a ‘calming beauty’ one,” he claimed. As time passed, he noticed his works still

held its beauty even as the poster was rotting away on the streets. This led him to further study the fine line of beauty and decay. “I didn’t know the Burnham Beeches mansion but heard rumours of it. One of the current owners is a fan of my work and he offered me to paint a wall inside, but once I saw the building, I wanted to do a bit more than that.” According to Rone, the inspiration comes directly from exploring abandoned spaces and that things that are left behind usually tell the story. Although in creating Empire, there was nothing in the mansion— not a single curtain or light fitting— that told a story. If he was just going to paint the walls it wouldn’t feel right. He wanted the story to be much deeper and wanted the history of the place to be felt more. So with the help of some people, they brought in furnishings that now has told a much richer narrative than just murals could do on their own.

Empire was open to the public on 6 March until 22 April. As a storyteller, Rone had similar other projects that revolved around working with old and rugged places. One of these is the Empty project that drawn more than 12,000 visitors in over ten days. He emphasized that he likes to work with these places because they have so much more to offer than just a blank wall. The stories in such places are pretty obvious but exaggerating the narrative puts it in the spotlight. “I think something is at its most beautiful when it’s at its most fragile. It reminds the viewer of its temporary nature, that it should be appreciated while it lasts. I’m trying to convey the melancholy of something that was once so cherished, but has now been forgotten,” he said.

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Features

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The Study

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The Sun Room


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The Dining Room

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Features

I think something is at its most beautiful when it’s at its most fragile. It reminds the viewer of its temporary nature, that it should be appreciated while it lasts.

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Arts and Culture | USA

s llest mural. It wa rg is Rone’s ta bu en th Go of en a Emm g in Swed -storey buildin painted on a 14

Triple Silos in G biggest mur eelong, Australia may al. have been hi

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, Rone offered to

ay in Vanuatu During his holid ntre ce a community

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Literary Work

silmairel © 123RF.com

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Fiction

Little & Wolf AVRA MARGARITI The Stanford Prison Experiment was a social psychology experiment that focused on the psychological effects of perceived power, particularly the struggle between prisoners and prison officers. It took place at Stanford University by psychology professor Philip Zimbardo and his team. All the “guards” and “prisoners” of the makeshift prison were college students. August, 1971 Mama gives me a wicker basket and warns me not to let my grubby little hands help themselves. Inside is fresh bread that smells like Mama’s skin, apricot jam like a small sun in a jar, and a batch of golden banana muffins I just know I’ll be shoving into my mouth later. “Is everything there?” Mama mumbles, eyebrows sliding together in a little V of worry. She fusses with the basket and rearranges its contents one last time before neatly covering it with a plaid towel like the people on our television use for picnics. Papa stands up from his recliner and wanders over to our sunflower-yellow kitchen. “Did you bake an iron file into that loaf?” He laughs at his own joke When we don’t join him, he wipes away an invisible tear. He finds it funny that Hunter is away, says, It’ll help him build character, and it’s for science, right? Or whatever psychoscience those people believe in. At least your brother’s getting paid for once in his life, even if it’s just to stand around and look tough. He’ll joke about it even as Mama’s hands flutter at her sides and her face creases. Sometimes I think I could play the xylophone on her forehead wrinkles. “Don’t forget your coat,” Mama tells me as she ushers me to the front door. This is our joke. She knows I never leave the house without my raincoat—my very own shield. I grab it from its hook and run my hands over the shiny vinyl. The coat is a bright, cherry red. Too large for me, but Papa says I’ll grow into it. Mama kneels down to help guide my arms into its sleeves since I always end up getting tangled. Her chapped lips graze the crown of my head. “Remember to kiss Hunter for me. And be good to Papa.” I nod and say, “Yes, Mama,” even though Hunter would never let his little sister kiss him anymore.

Papa starts up the Impala—red like my raincoat—and it kitten-purrs to life. “Get in, Little. And don’t fill my car with crumbs, for Chrissake.” I sit by the window and watch the world turn into a blur. It’s like I’m at the county fair carousel with my eyes half-closed, everything soft and pastel, spinning round and round. Papa drives with one hand on the steering wheel and the other lifting the towel to inspect the contents of the basket. His crooked smile spells mischief. “Should we make sure everything tastes good?” “Mama said to take the basket straight to Hunter. She doesn’t trust them to feed him anything that doesn’t come from a World War II tin can.” I parrot her words so he’ll smile at me again. Maybe he’ll even ruffle my hair the way I like, though I’m not really sure what Mama meant. “I won’t tell if you don’t.” We turn off the highway and head down the long, straight road leading to Hunter’s university. Palm trees flank the drive. They sway like drowsy giants in the slight breeze. Once we’re stopped in the campus parking lot, Papa uses his Swiss Army knife to cut two fat slices of bread and drop generous globs of amber jam on them. While I eat my slice, I swing my feet back and forth a few inches above the car's floor. Sweltering heat slinks through the open windows, and the summer air ripples with the cicada’s song. Still, I don’t take my coat off. When we’re done, we lick our sticky fingers and repack Hunter’s lunch. Papa circles around the car and opens the door for me. “Hold my hand, Little. We don’t want you getting lost in this place. I swear it’s like a maze.” Hunter has been studying here for a year, but this is the first time I see his university up close. It’s all pale-yellow sandstone buildings and red tile roofs. The sprawling lawns and arched walkways make me feel small inside—I tighten my raincoat around me and run my hands up and down the vinyl exterior, over and over again. I think Papa feels small too, even if he won’t admit it. Most times, he grumbles about how Hunter spends his days here, and only ever treats our house like a bed and breakfast. He will lecture Hunter about factory work, honor, and family. Then they’ll fight, and each will storm off in different directions. But in a few hours they’ll have forgotten all about it, going back to talking about football or boasting about the latest animal they caught. Papa always has some comment at the tip of his

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tongue, but he’s quiet as we cross the bright green lawn hand in hand. My sneakers squeak against the diamond-patterned floor. I crane my neck, half-convinced the church-like ceiling stretches into the clouds. My eyes devour everything, but Papa leads us straight to the secretary’s office without giving me the chance to scratch the itch of exploration. A woman with fluffy gray hair and tortoiseshell glasses greets us from behind a heavy desk. Papa plants his elbows on its wooden surface and says, “Grandma, we’re here to visit that damn prison.” The secretary tuts at him, and I place my hands over my ears the way I’m supposed to whenever he curses. “Visiting hour isn’t for a while. How about you wait with the rest of the parents and we’ll call for you? The students… er, inmates are having lunch.” Her tone is dry, but she winks at me when Papa isn’t looking. “What a pretty red coat you have.” I giggle a little and wink in return, all flushed inside. Not everyone gets my need for my raincoat. Papa heaves a dramatic sigh, as if following the rules is doing Grandma a favor. “Let’s wait and give him his lunch, or else your Mama will never stop nagging at me.” He takes my hand again and mutters through his teeth, “These people think they’re someone, with their fancy schools and experiments. Kids from my old block fought tooth and nail to stay out of prison. Our Hunter walks into one as a goddamn volunteer. At least he's running the thing, instead of letting someone else order him around.” We go down a flight of stairs to the bowels of the Stanford County Prison. The whole building has a golden glow and silvery shine, but down here the world is gray and dull. Our steps echo and the air tastes musty and funny, not funny like Saturday morning cartoons, but funny like milk gone sour. Parents and relatives sit on metal benches in the dim-lit hallway. Their baskets and packages aren’t nearly as pretty as Mama’s. Someone calls Papa’s name. He lets go of my hand. The man, one of his football buddies, claps Papa on the back. They start talking about how crazy this whole situation is, Batshit crazy, I thought psychologists were supposed to be rational, but this one built a mock goddamn prison inside his own university department. They clutch their bellies and wheeze with laughter. I recognize that sound from all those evenings they’ve spent on our back porch, drinking beers and reminiscing about when they used to work in the factory instead of owning it. The man offers Papa a brown ciggy that turns their voices sandpaper-scratchy. The thick smoke tightens my throat like a fist’s wrapped around it. Remembering I’m still here, Papa turns to me. “Little, run along now. Go play or something. Just don’t wander too far.” He chuckles and nudges his friend in the ribs. “If you’re bad,

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they might just lock you in here, and your brother will have to guard you, too.” I don’t need to be told twice. I skip down halls made of metal and concrete. This place feels like the pages of my books, a dungeon where adventure and magic happen. Once he comes home, Hunter will have so many stories to tell me about playing make-believe with his friends all day. At least, he would if he wasn’t so busy and distant since starting college. He never used to snap at me or call me weird and stupid before, either. But now every time he calls me ‘Little,’ it’s with a bite in his tone. I nibble on a muffin because Papa won’t tell, and Hunter deserves having his food nibbled on. The prisoners are meant to be having lunch. According to Grandma, Hunter is also somewhere in the cafeteria. I can just picture him, glare in place, hand squeezing his wooden guard baton. I stand on tiptoe and peep through the mesh window to the row of folding tables. Several boys sit still and silent with their eyes trained on the gooey lumps on their plates. The guards stand against the far wall, their faces hidden in shadow. I run along like Papa said, before they catch me staring and lock me up. The cell area is empty. Unsupervised. My pulse spikes like it sometimes does during recess, when I vow to run faster than any boy or girl. My hands tremble in anticipation as I move along the wall and sneak inside, quiet as a mouse. Dull-brown flakes of cracked paint cling to the red of my coat. The holding cells are three in total, arranged in a right-hand row along the short, narrow corridor. They make me think of Papa’s chicken coop. I peer into the first cell. Inside sit three cots with no mattresses, and a bucket that smells like the back alleys I used to pass on my way to my old school, before Papa sent me to private school, with its stiff uniforms and stiffer teachers. Next I inspect the table—an old teacher’s desk—pushed up against the wall by the entrance. The guards have a good vantage point of the makeshift prison cells from here, but the prisoners can’t know what the guards are up to or even throw stuff at them. Two pairs of identical mirrored sunglasses and a deck of cards rest on top of the table, a game of solitaire under way. There are— There are footsteps. My body knows to crouch under the desk and get small. I press against the freezing concrete wall and will myself to disappear, even as my heart hammers in my chest loud enough to echo. The loping strides stop once they reach the last cell at the end of the short corridor. The cell isn’t empty like I thought. A boy squishes his drawn face between the bars, white knuckles wrapped around thick steel. The rest of his body is hugged by shadow, so for a moment it’s like he’s only a floating sliver of face and a pair of ghostly hands.


Fiction

Another boy stands outside of the cell—the owner of the footsteps. The boy is smiling, but it’s too big. Too many glistening teeth. In profile, the boy doesn’t look like a boy at all. The wolf says, “Do you want it?” He holds a key in his hand, swinging it back and forth from its cord like a hypnotist’s trick. The prisoner’s eyes follow its wide motion. He swallows, and his Adam’s apple bobs nervously. “Yes.” From my hiding place beneath the desk, I watch the wolf’s smile grow bigger. He lets the key drop. My lungs forget how to do their job until the key hits the floor, just within reach from the prisoner’s cell. The boy scrambles down to get it, hands fumbling on the ground. The wolf only laughs. His boot, big and black and shiny, moves over the boy’s fingers. It’s playful at first, but then he’s grinding down. Hard. The boy yelps. “No,” the wolf growls. “Do you want it?” The boy opens his mouth to speak, and the wolf spits into it. The large glob of mucus and saliva drips down the boy’s chin, mouth still open in surprise like his jaw has been unhinged. My mouth opens too. My throat works to produce a sound that just won’t come. The wolf doesn’t stop him from climbing to his wobbly feet. The boy backs into his cell, out of sight. I think it’s over, it’s over, I can leave, but then his body is drawn toward the bars again. As if he’s almost, but not quite, the one in control of his movements. The wolf waits ever patient, his smile ever present. I should run back to Papa, ask him to help, or maybe pretend I never saw a thing. I’ll take his hand like he never let go of mine and inhale his sweet smoke that makes my lungs tingle. I will forget all about the wolf and the boy. But there’s something keeping me here. Red sneakers glued to the grimy floor, heart thumping against my ears rabbit-fast, mouth dry and fingers clutching the handle of my basket, I watch. “You little bitch,” the wolf says, and I can’t even cover my ears the way I’m supposed to, I’m sorry, Papa, I just can’t move. “I’m going to tell,” the boy rasps. His voice barely grazes my ears. A shiver runs through me, and it’s not because of the cold drafts blowing through the entire basement turned prison turned… what? “Who you gonna tell? Zimbardo? That bastard is crazier than any of us.” The boy doesn’t speak, but the wolf must hear something in his silence because he stalks closer to the bars. He smiles again and bares his teeth. They look like dentures, even though he can’t be older than Hunter. This time, he makes his smile kind and understanding. A trick? “We’re friends, right? We like each other.” Like the moths to the lights of our back porch, the boy flutters close to the bars. He slumps against them, and I can see it on his face; he wants the trick to work. The boy’s lips half-part, hope bleeding into fear. “We are. We’re friends.”

Just for a second, the wolf looks like a sheep. The sight makes my lips part, too; my tongue tries to curl around the two familiar syllables I’ve been speaking all my life. “I bet you want to get out of that cramped cell. Stretch your legs a bit. I've got a joint, if you want. Saved it just for you. Don’t give me that look, I’m a man of my word. I’m going to let you out…” The wolf’s tongue darts out of his mouth. He licks his lips, taking his time with it. When he’s done, they gleam wetly in the flickering lamplight. “… As long as you do one thing for me first.” The boy’s eyes go wide and round as summer moons. Then, he just looks tired. His hand moves through the cell bars. The palms of my own hands feel raw around the woodplaited handle. The contents of my basket suddenly weigh a ton. My oversized red vinyl raincoat doesn’t feel like a shield that can protect me from anything, not anymore. Slowly, the boy’s fingers tangle in the wolf’s uniform, same as the one Mama ironed for Hunter six days ago. The bunched up fabric of the khaki shirt even has a button missing, like the one I stole from Hunter’s shirt as a keepsake. He yelled at me for over an hour until the veins in his throat bulged and the whites of his eyes pinkened, and Papa had to come break us apart. Inch by inch, the boy’s hand slides lower. It rests on the uniform’s belt buckle for a moment before the wolf snaps his teeth. “Hurry up already. How long do you think it takes everyone to choke down their lousy rations?” The boy nods, then just keeps nodding. A snake hangs from the wolf’s open khaki trousers, limp at first, but then twitching into firmness when the boy’s shaky hand grips it. The hand goes up and down in jerky motions like the wind-up toy monkey I have back home. Like a broken version of it. An endless loop. I gasp. The wolf’s head whips around. He sees me in my little red raincoat, holding my little wicker basket. He opens his big mouth with the big teeth. Hunter opens his big mouth with the big teeth and whimpers my name.

Avra Margariti is a queer Social Work Undergrad from Greece. She enjoys storytelling in all its forms and writes about diverse identities and experiences. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Daily Science Fiction, The Forge Literary, Wolfpack Press, Argot Magazine, The Writing District, The Colored Lens, and other venues.

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Literary Work

Post-Coital Bukowski AMBER MAY

ah, christ. alone again with this body. prisoner and warden to this Bluebird. stale heart connected to something. hey valves, you still in there, boys? still pumping dry blood in and out of this Bed? and me, i am mere a mere growth on it.

BA in English Literature, Amber May is currently is Maine working as a case manager at a homeless coalition.

Bed. centrifugal force lighthouse & storm sick ward healing ward black hole stripper pole greenhouse log cabin drunk with termites and spermicide stillborn nursery museum of history most unnatural and secretions most unsacred (if from these crusted sheets a whiff of whiskey i could sip how soon sacred the tumescent wound would drip) i lay stacked in my bones i undo and rebuild myself tinker toe by tinker toe bone’s connected to the heel bone the heel bone’s connected to the foot bone the foot bone’s connected to the calf bone (poor stupid innocent veal) the calf to the knee to the thigh thigh to the cunt-crusher cunt-crier pious blasphemous cunt-power-denier’s connected to the spine’s connected to the scaffolding of lungs’re connected to the neck head heart bone

Cody Davis © unsplash.com

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Poetry

There was a female. i did not forget her name i never asked her name a name is a memory and there’s no room for memory in this room. inevitable is a name, a name for a thing a thing bound to happen and nothing is bound to happen to a thing but to end. There was a female. she was present now she’s past. death without dying left her shape in my sheets i want to brush them smooth to erase her. if only i could get this brain to tell these fingers, move. I’m not in love, I’m lazy.

guess i’ll just lay here next to her 80 thread-count imprint close my eyes up to the empty-sealed ceiling breathe in because my nostrils will anyway, the smell of our anything-but-lovemaking. making love is just making less time. She never asked my name either.

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Lit Fest Litany BILL ARNOTT

And I wonder If anything could ever feel this real forever? If anything could ever be this good again? – Dave Grohl, Everlong

Paweł Czerwiński © unsplash.com

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Poetry

From the end of a southwest branch line, lilting north reassuring pull of pack on my shoulders I walk by a beach from the train into town night sky’s alight – planets and stars none of which I’ve learned. Sure, dippers, the north, orion, the moon occasionally venus and mars on nights they’re especially Christmassy, but not much more than that Bought a book on astronomy as a teen, one or two lifetimes ago as straight forward to me as calculus which I repeated two times in college – that’s right, I took it three times Every celestial body’s up there, in anonymity (to me) even downgraded pluto you’re only a rock you know but oh, what a rock! Don’t stare directly at uranus, I’m sure I read somewhere most likely a medical journal (my god, doctor, if I could do that!) It’s “urinous.” Well that might be the problem. Have it looked at. But not directly. And I wonder No, I know. Dave G himself would be wondrous at this, what I hear as I cross High Street the majesty of a young foreign band thrashing out a cover – his make-or-break song drop D, I believe, as everything then was written that way an anthem, our anthem, played well at this nondescript pub on the edge of the continent, edge of the world, a place of people I love, that magic I’m hard-pressed to find elsewhere, knowing I’m not alone, in this, which keeps me coming back thank you, whoever, whatever you are under countless nameless stars as a hero’s soundtrack plays, a dream right here, a dream I’m walking in now And I wonder If anything could ever feel this real forever? If anything could ever be this good again?

Vancouver author, poet, songwriter Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of Dromomania and Gone Viking. His poetry, articles and reviews are published in Canada, the US, UK, Europe and Asia. Bill’s column Poetry Beat is published by the League of Canadian Poets and the Federation of BC Writers.

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SAWBONES CASSIDY FROST Joel Filipe © Unsplash

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Fiction

T

he unremitted screech of a kettle was what made seven year old Ethan come out of his bedroom. In the kitchen, he used an open drawer for leverage, pulling himself onto the counter. From there he could reach the knob, turning off the burner. He checked to see if there was water left. Most had evaporated, but Ethan had enough for a mouthful of hot chocolate. He poured in half a packet, stirring his concoction with the clean end of a dirty butter knife. Fishing the chocolatey paste in one gulp, Ethan mentally followed the hot liquid as it fell through his body. He set the cup on the tower of dishes, and jumped off of the counter. Aware of his scalded tongue, he went to check on his mother. This was the second night in two weeks that she’d left the burner on. Shelly Sinclair was in the living room, where rain puttering on the roof drowned the usual soft buzz of the TV. From behind it looked as though she was awake; watching the news, but Ethan knew that she wasn’t. He picked a fuzzy blanket off of the floor and set it on her lap, tucking her in at the waist. Ethan pushed the spoons and wraps aside and snuggled in beside her. Playing with the stethoscope that he habitually wore around his neck, he considered checking for a heartbeat. He wasn’t a fool, he knew that his model was plastic, but nursing her calmed him. When Ethan was younger he loved playing doctor, and lucky for him his mother had needed his constant help. He applied Band-Aids, disinfected sores, and poured big glasses of water for her to take pills with. Ethan was always willing because he knew it was how they spent their time together, and Shelly’s appreciative smile always made him feel good. Though, Shelly hadn’t smiled much these last few weeks. She hadn’t done much of anything at all. The garbage can had toppled over, but she didn’t take notice. She didn’t even stir when the fruit in the fruit-bowl had spotted Hobbit holes for the flies to live in. Sensing the decline in her condition, Ethan had spent his spare time compiling a box of medical tools. Each night he would head out for a stroll, letting the darkness cover his shadow. Once a dog had almost given him up, but he was faster. Its owner wouldn’t have known better, as dogs bark loudly at squirrels or neighborhood cats. The rest had gone as planned. There were a large number of unlocked sheds in his neighborhood, so he could have his pick of equipment. However, Ethan didn’t steal anything; he borrowed what he needed. When his mom seemed well again he’d put everything back, but circumstances were serious. Shelly had a worsening infection. Earlier this month she had cut her hand while attempting to cook. Mothers shouldn’t wield cutting knives if they’re high, and Shelly usually didn’t, but she must have been feeling momentarily inspired when Ethan had brought home some fresh vegetables. He prepared to sit down and eat them raw when she had suggested a stirfry. Shelly began cutting the vegetables when the knife, held in her unreliable grasp, slipped. Ethan, had bandaged her up that

evening, cleaned the wound, and ate the vegetables raw as originally planned. Yet, the cut had gotten infected. Ethan now felt guiltier than ever, and he had to fix his failure. Ethan held his sleeping mother’s hand, looking at the blackness that crept through her fingers with concern. He also took notice of red lines that were shooting through the rest of her arm, and how they all came to conjunction at the center of her chest. Overwhelmed, he decided that it was time to act. He had to focus on fixing what had become black before it spread. Ethan took a loaded needle from the table and poked it carefully into one of the colored veins protruding from his mother’s right arm. She didn’t even stir, having taken too much of the injection already. “The patient is currently in a zombielike state,” Ethan said to his imaginary assistant. “We may proceed.” He grabbed her wrist, and fumbled around in the toolbox for his newest edition, the hand saw. The tool was the length of his forearm, and as he moved it side to side the skin slid open easily under its ridges. Blood was running between her middle and pointer finger and into the blanket that Ethan had lain on her lap. To get a better cut, he pulled her arm towards the coffee table, laying her fingers on its hard surface. Shelly’s head followed this motion with an unconscious thud, also hitting the table. To fix this, Ethan then began to push at her backside, sliding the rest of her off of the couch and into a sitting position on the floor. That part was easy, but even after leveraging the table as a cutting board, getting through the bone proved infeasible. Ethan rummaged through his tool box again, finding his rubbing alcohol. He splashed the wound, momentarily wiping away the blood as to examine her wrist. He thought that it may be easier to cut through because wrist’s had ligaments. He had learned this from watching a carpal tunnel surgery on late night TV. Blood spurted out of Shelly with force that surprised Ethan, as he had yet to learn about artery veins. Watching it hit his shirt, the couch cushions, and his mother, Ethan thought about KoolAid. Even though the consistency was thicker, and it didn’t have a sweet smell to it. It actually didn’t have a scent at all, which surprised him. The kids in school said blood smelt like pennies. They had told him that Dracula’s favorite coin was the penny for this reason. Daydreaming, Ethan left his mom wedged between the couch and the coffee table. The next step to his procedure was finding his mother a non-infected hand.

Cassidy Frost is a horror writer who lives in New Brunswick, Canada. She likes to meddle with abnormal topics, and her tone is a mix between innocent and ghastly. You can join her writing adventures at cassidy-frost.com.

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Literary Work

Post-Modernist Legacy CATHERINE A. COUNDJERIS

Clusters of people search for what they want in shopping malls, But they make sure not to know who they are. And factories produce what they want to be, But who will attempt to do what cannot be done? Who are the heroes who will save a nation? Odysseus could not escape the sirens of today— The media would not allow him. Once wrongs committed could be purged by sweat and tears. But now history can be rewritten, And sins will not be forgiven, For the church bells are broken, And the courthouse clock rings out an imitation. Music is dying, but the geese come each autumn, They sing the same song. Can you hear them still? They used to play on the field across from my house, Bringing a fresh air with them. A sickness is on the land and on its people. But the children cry, Mom, can I have the car keys? They comb her gold hair and dress her in gardenia scented silk. Be home before one dear. And she is gone. A willow reed strangles In the litter of city garbage. The ordinary is now exotic and the exotic is ordinary. Who will let their voices be heard in the din? There is much to be said, And those who can say it best have grown up and gone to college. Where are the heroes who will lead a nation? Who is not afraid to speak the truth, Despite what the critics will say? Censor not your heart, the emperor has no clothes‌

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Poetry

undrey Š 123RF.com

A former elementary school teacher, Catherine has also taught writing at Emerson College and ESL writing at Urban College in Boston. She is published in Peeking Cat Literary Magazine, Crossways Online Journal, Mused Bella Online Journal, Metafore Magazine, The Scarlet Leaf Review, 34th Parallel Magazine, and Borrowed Solace. Currently she is living with her family in Frederick and she is working on a YA novel.

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kuco © 123RF.com

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Poetry

THE OLD FIRE DAVID THOMAS

Burns long and deep 10,000 years her amber's Have flickered Like whispers in the endless Forest night Forgotten Gods Gather round Her crimson alter To chant their mothers pride That has long Been passed Into stone And time And the cross 10,000 years an still men wait for women to reborn them.

David Thomas is the author of a novella, dozens of comic strip stories and screenplays. His work has been published in the UK, America, Europe and Japan. He lives and works in Cardiff, Wales.

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kuco © 123RF.com

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Non-Fiction

The Quicksand Around Her Feet CHRISTINE FAIR

S

he glowered at him, eyes narrowed, trying not to hear him. She studied his ruddy face with his pale, hooded, skyblue eyes. His face was terribly like her own. When her mom was mad at her, she’d hiss in disgust, “You look just like him.” She hated the truth of it. His widow’s peak, his unruly hair and his godawful teeth: they too were hers. Years of dentistry prevented that oral disaster from playing out in her mouth, but it was a Sisyphean task. Her teeth would crack or break. The dentist would patch them up. They’d break again. Bob just let his teeth go. His smile had large gaps where teeth once were. Her eyes traced the holes along his gumlines as he spoke. “That goddamned son of a bitch” pounded in an endless loop in her head while she tried to appear indifferent, as he plowed on in that flat, nasally Midwestern voice which was all too familiar. When her ears grabbed onto his words, she could feel the familiar anger rearing up on its hind legs with a desire to lunge at him. She reminded herself to episodically grunt or nod. The task helped to keep his vapid words at bay. He was still droning on about "his kids,” as he called them. The expression grated on her nerves every fucking time he said it. Not only was she his kid, she was his firstborn. However, to avoid the responsibility of being her father, he volunteered for two tours of duty in Viet Nam. He tried to re-up a third time, but the army declined, explaining that only nutcases wanted three servings of that war and they wouldn’t take another known nutcase back there. Admittedly, he had signed up for the first tour before he knew her mom was pregnant, but that didn’t excuse the second and the attempted third. The simple truth stung: this ratfucker actually preferred to shoot and be shot at in the jungles of Viet Nam than stay in Indiana and be her father and her mother’s husband. This was an inescapable fact and, as her mother would say, in resignation before such facts, “you can put chocolate on a turd and call it a donut. It’s still just a chocolate-covered turd.” Her mind drifted back some twenty years ago when she was in her late 20s—a few years after her mom died of Melanoma—when she went to Viet Nam with a boyfriend. She visited the war museums in which they curated the personal effects of captured soldiered and downed airman: their dog

tags; photos of their sweethearts or children; their dogs; watches; random pocket litter from their last trip to Bangkok. She wondered what would have happened if Bob had been captured. What artifacts of his existence would be on display? Did he have her baby picture in his wallet on his second tour? Her mom’s picture? She knew the answers. Or at least she thought she did. They divorced after he returned to the United States. He married his high-school sweetheart, leaving her mother’s life was ruined, condemned to go from one jackass’ bed to another in order to survive. Rural Indiana in 1967 was unforgiving of her mother’s circumstances, while the men, equally at fault, escaped judgment. Waves of rage washed over her. She stormed out of the last museum she visited in Saigon. She strode up to the first sidewalk hawker she could find and bought a post-card depicting Ho Chi Minh, who looked so much like an ornery Colonel Sanders. She scribbled on the card hastily, “Dear Bob. In Viet Nam. Wish you were still here. Chris.” She had every intention of mailing it even though she didn’t have his address. But her rage made her tenacious. She would find his address and mail that motherfucking card from Viet Nam and he would see that stamp and post-mark from Saigon come hell or high water…or both. From an internet café, she opened up Alta Vista and searched “Bristol Indiana White Pages.” She was surprised that finding The Shitbird’s address was so easy. She scrawled out the address, set out to the find first post office and dispatched it before her conscience had a chance to advise against it. Something he said caught her attention and dragged her away from her memories of 1998 Saigon, and back to Bob, sitting in front of her in this Indiana hellhole. “Fuck this fucker!” she thought. “What the hell am I doing here?!” She interrupted whatever useless thing he was blathering on about. She had to know. “So, Bob, did you ever get that postcard I sent from Viet Nam.” For a moment, a look of hurt washed across his face. “Yes. Yes!” he said in a rising voice. “I did. And it was an asshole thing to do.” She was relieved that he got it and that it stung. She nodded and said “Well, I got the asshole gene from you,

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along with your shitty teeth and your goddamned cancer gene. I got nothing else from you except that pile of olid ass. Oh. A pile of shrink bills too.” Here she was, at some execrable Indiana lake dive, because Bob called her to say he was dying from an aggressive cancer of his esophagus. He said that he was in a lot of pain. He said he wanted to see her. She and her husband Jeff drove all night, her crying most of the way. Tears of sadness, guilt, anger. When they got to Indiana, he was hardly dead. In fact, he was still a complete, unreconstructed, unapologetic prick who reveled in his hurtful antics. She felt she had been made a fool. Played in fact. As he bloviated about the tedious lives led by his unaccomplished, slothful children, she wondered how many times had she been in the hospital, alone? Where was he when she and Jeff lost their babies? Where was he when she had been abducted in Iran? When she nearly died in Kabul and Amritsar and Dhaka from food pathogens? Where. The. Fuck. Was. He? And yet, despite their better judgment, she and Jeff were there were a second time. And he was still not dying. To wretched was immortal. She wondered if this boor might actually outlive her. It was possible that this clod would deny her the simple pleasure of micturating on his grave. Yet, despite her unending furor, here they were, sitting outside at a picnic table, on an August evening in shitty Indiana, when the humidity was exceeded in its oppressiveness only by the tiger mosquitos that bit through her clothes. She inventoried movies to distract herself, recalling a George Clooney film in which he had stared at goats until they died. Or he tried to. Of course, she considered Bob to be slightly more sentient but less considerate than a goat but decided to employ the technique, staring at him, while mendicating upon the facial expression that Clooney’s had character maintained. The absurdity of it all kept his words and their meaning at a safe distance. Would he notice her utter disinterest in the rubbish spewing out his toothless, twisted mouth, noting only the saliva that had dried in the downward tilting corner? His face was asymmetrical, as all faces are, but his was noticeably and irritatingly so. His nose was warped like someone had smashed it right and properly, but in all of the photos she had of him, that was his nose. It didn’t mean that prior to becoming her father, he didn’t piss someone off, and gotten wailed on his face. But it does mean that he had lived with that nose most of his life, and he didn’t care to fix it. “Thank Dog,” she thought to herself “that nose is not genetic. Otherwise, I’d have that misshapen snout, too.” For a moment, she looked away from him in shame. She felt abashed for being there, for being conned into seeing this jackass, who was incapable of the slightest remorse. She couldn’t even grasp that this vulgarian is the source of half of her DNA. She had never wanted her colleagues to see him, to hear him, to know of him. Once, she gave at

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a talk at Notre Dame. He met her at the restaurant where she was dining with her colleagues. She kept looking at the door, hoping to intercept him before he came to their table and introduced himself, but he managed to slip in. She was thankful that he had at least bothered to wear decent clothes. Nonetheless, she hurried them out the door. How could she explain who this man was and why he was there? It was just too much work. She looked down at her plate that had arrived somewhere in the middle of this annoying reverie. She pushed her food around with her fork as if it was that tiny sand pit and miniature rake their couples’ counsellor had on the coffee table. Eating was not possible, knowing that if she ate it all, she would have to excuse herself to purge. Yet, the desire to wolf it down was there-- French fries and barbecue pork ribs. She knew what it would feel like coming up, the comfort of wrapping her arms around her stomach in this practiced exorcism of anger at others and herself. The self-flagellation accompanied by the self-induced heaves were a soothing ritual she learned early in childhood. If she didn’t stave off his never-ending, irritating words, she would pick up that ketchup and smother her fries, then begin shoving them into her mouth, swallowed after barely chewed. They looked like they had been slightly dusted with chili pepper. Likely spicy. They were double fried, golden brown and crispy. She wanted them so badly. Then she’d move onto those ribs, glistening in their sauce. She imagined her mouth bighting down on the soft, tangy flesh. And then, having polished her plate, she would drink the rest of her large glass of water (that was critical) and she’d excuse herself. First the fries would come up. They always come up like rocks, hurting as they made their way up and out. The ketchup, sweet and sour, would come up with them. Then the ribs. Somehow, they seemed to sink beneath the fries in her gut. They would emerge last, burning her throat. The sauce was one thing. The grease was another. It would leave an orangish ring of stain along the toilet. She considered ordering a milk shake. The cold milky beverage would mitigate the burn of the spicy pork’s exodus. Later, she could drink some water with baking soda stirred in, to neutralize the acid and mitigate any damage she would do to her esophagus and compromised teeth. Another inheritance, she had been diagnosed with Barret’s esophagus which had a history of becoming the same cancer Bob had. Thinking of that cancer, she reminded herself that she could not allow herself to binge and purge anymore. She had to self-soothe some other way. She poured water over her meal to make it less appealing. She sighed, shrugged her shoulders and looked right into his face. Resigned to her outrage. He would just not shut up! She looked at her husband’s face. Nothing. He had tuned out, too. She looked back at her plate. She felt her mouth water. Why was she here? This man is a horrible human being. Perhaps the worst person she


Non-Fiction

knew, except for her uncle, a pederast who murdered her aunt, her namesake. But that’s a low bar. Or maybe a high bar, if you are measuring distilled evil. This rube was her father, but he did not raise her. Where was he when her stepfathers’ beat her, or her uncle thrust his finger into her girlish vagina and plucked her innocence like a blackberry? He had given her nothing, except his rotten genes. A lousy esophagus and unseemly teeth. What the fuck was she doing there? He was supposed to be dying of esophageal cancer! She felted trapped, smothered, unable to breathe. She had to get out of there. She began looking around furtively at her husband, the waitress, the table behind Bob, where a large woman, with voluminous arms draped about her pot belly, sprawled out and wide like the desert sands she once traversed in Jaisalmer. The woman’s purple veins bulged, out and over her thick legs which strained the polyester shorts she wore. Her friend, in thickly caked makeup, wore a colorful maxi dress, held a yappy chihuahua on her own capacious lap, making the tiny dog appear even more diminutive. She had to keep herself distracted. Focus on the chihuahua. On those veiny legs and flaccid arms. The swirls of hues on the endless muumuu. She saw a milkshake at the chihuahua’s table. Was it vanilla, she wondered? She loved vanilla. It almost tasted as good coming up as it did going down. She looked once more, furtively, at the water-logged food. And then he said something that she could not ignore. He called his granddaughter a pig. She hadn’t been paying attention to how he ended up there in his story. She thought maybe she misunderstood. Her voice piqued as she asked him to repeat himself. “What did you just say?” She elongated the vowels in “what” and “say” to make the words last longer as they fell out of her mouth. He gathered himself defensively, sat upright and looked her defiantly, square in her eyes and said “She’s a goddamn pig. Ashley is pig. Her mom is a pig. She’s a fucking pig, like her whore of a mom.” Sublimating her range, she retorted “Bob, just how old is this ostensible pig?” wondering if he knew what “ostensible” meant. “She’s fourteen,” Bob snorted, almost gleefully. “But she’s always been a pig.” “And just why is she a ‘goddamned pig’?” she asked with contempt-dredged curiosity. She slapped hard at a mosquito biting through her clothes. She glanced down at the blood spatter on her thigh and palm. It was cathartic to kill it and see its blood on her skin. Again with increased adamancy, Bob told her “Her mother is a pig, and she’s a pig, too.” Inhaling and crossing her arms over her empty stomach, she leaned back and repeated her question in a lowered voice, slowly and with an intense glare, “Why, Bob, do you call your teenaged granddaughter a pig, a goddamned pig?”

He explained how she’s “a little slut, who got kicked out of school for asking boys to show her their dicks.” Horrified, she recognized the child’s behavior. This was the behavior of a child who was suffering abuse, but was too confused to understand her inclinations. Her wife-murdering uncle had abused her since she was a toddler. Her first memories were of him turning her over the back of the couch in their basement, sliding aside her underwear and thrusting his trigger finger inside her tiny body. And, having been touched like that, her body reacted in ways her mind could not understand. She had learned to enjoy the physical reaction to nerve stimulation, while not understanding why pleasure had to be kept secret. Only later did she understand how fucked up it was. And when she did, the feeling of guilt, filth, and selfloathing followed her like a miasma that was always present. It was then that she discovered the calm that came after eating an entire box of Raisin Bran with whole milk, then thrusting her face over the toilet, calling herself names as she summoned the contents of her stomach into the commode. With each hurl, she felt the self-loathing leave her along with the contents of her gut. It wasn’t the eating that soothed her: it was the purging. With each expulsion, she felt better, until she collapsed on the cold bathroom floor and felt the sweat evaporate. She sat back and looked at him from the side of her eyes as she turned away from him. Then at the food. She wanted so badly to do what had comforted her for so long. But she knew she couldn’t. Not since her doctor showed her the photos of her injured esophagus. She thought about those photos. They kept her on point. She pondered Bob’s cancer and the extensive surgery that required a reorganization of his upper thorax after they removed most of his cancerous esophagus. The stomach had to be moved up. They had had to cut him from the front and back to rearrange his lungs, upon which his truncated stomach now rested. He could not breathe as easily as he used to, with that stomach sitting on his lungs. And eating was not a pleasure. For months, he had that tube that sent nutrients directly to his upper bowl. Considering this, she again resolved that he, this unrepentant shitbird, would not bring her to her knees, face plunged into a toilet, puking up her loathing for him, herself or anyone else while courting that cancer, his cancer. She turned, and returning his defiance in measure, stared right into his face and sneered whether it had occurred to him that perhaps “that the little girl is a pig because someone abused her?” Bob replied in a most matter of fact way, “Of course she was abused! Her mother is shacking up with a goddamned pedophile!” The swirl of rage felt like a typhoon, an urge she felt she could control. It was too much. Ashley, the “pig” was his granddaughter. His son’s daughter. She had to leave. She had to get out of there. She explained that it had been a long drive from DC to Indiana and that she had to go. She asked for the bill and paid it. She didn’t

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want him paying for their dinner. She wouldn’t ask him to pay for anything. After he left, she sat there with her husband, grappling with what just happened. She felt wrong inside like someone had scrambled her. She couldn’t grasp why. Understanding seemed to lurk beyond her reach. That night, sleep was elusive. In their motel bed, she kept replaying his words and re-seeing his twisted, saliva-crusted mouth. She sat up beside her snoring husband, and cradled her unease, trying to pin it down. In the darkness, cut by a street lamp, she stroked the velvety ear her dog, Boudreaux. They had brought all three dogs with them, and at this moment, it was Boudreaux who sought comfort, while Vega and Saffy slept. Rubbing that soft ear was something that pacified them both. He nestled his Janus-faced head into her lap, turned over, and stretched his hind legs out and up, revealing his snow-white chest and belly to indicate that he wanted a tummy rub. She leaned over to stroke his strong undercarriage and thought how much she loved him. After a sleeping Boudreaux, hind legs in the air, snoring snout flopped beside her, the puzzle floated back. At first, it was hazy but slowly came into focus with glaring obviousness: during her dolorous childhood marked by a revolving door of abusers, she often rehearsed the consoling canard that if her father only knew about this shit, he would have saved her. Maybe he would’ve beaten her uncle or even killed him in a fit of rage. When her step-fathers consecutively rained hell upon her, she imagined her father as a kind man who, moved by her pain and his remorse for not rescuing her earlier, would drape himself around her like a warm coat and lead her away from a life that waged a vicious war on her young self. She had come to know Bob somewhat over the intervening seven years. The first time she met Bob, she was thirteen. They met at the Walgreen’s restaurant in the Glenbrook Mall, in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Her mother promised her that she could meet him when she turned thirteen, if she could find him. Her mother worked all day. From their home in Huntertown, the Allen County Library in downtown Ft. Wayne was no more than 12 miles. The bulk of the distance was on the peri-rural highway, Lima Rd. So, one summer day, after her mom left for work, she hopped on her bike and made the journey. It was nothing for her: a friendless loner, she spent most of the Huntertown summers on her bike traveling through farmlands. The library had phone books for the entire state. It took her no time to find Bob. She Xeroxed the page with his name, address, and phone number. When October 12th came, she presented her mother with the finding she had kept secret since July. Her mom was annoyed but kept up her end of the bargain. She remembered dialing his number, waiting for him to answer and explaining who she was. He didn’t seem terribly excited. He was about thirty years old then and he seemed mostly confused and uncertain. Nonetheless, he agreed to meet her.

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At the mall, her closest friend, Holly waited as they met. Holly was more reliable than either Heather or Carmel, with whom she had once planned to escape. How many times had they considered hopping a boxcar and going wherever it took them? She and Holly had spent hours under the railroad bridge plotting, while with Heather and Carmel, she waited for them both underneath the street lamp for an hour before she concluded they had chickened out. Holly was made of tougher stuff. And that is why she was there today. Holly watched from a distance, while she and Bob sat at a table visible to mall shoppers. Bob brought his wife, who sported expensive Jordache jeans. She wanted Bob to ask her whether she was okay, was she loved, did her stepfather treat her well? He asked her little other than pro forma queries about school and puzzled questions, riddled with revulsion, about why she kept pet rats. It went no deeper than that. The next time, she was 23, and had just buried her mother, who died at 46. He callously told her while she still stood on the concrete steps outside his house that “You weren’t born out of love. You were born out of a bet.” Her stomach twisted and churned, not because of the cruelty of it, but because of the confirmation of truth. Her mother had long told her, from the time she was six, that Bob and two other men made a bet to get her into bed. She hadn’t known what it meant until she grew older and came to understand the words and implications of the posited scenario, the more unbelievable it was. By the time her mother was dying, she was in full revolt. She had outright called her mother a liar and, in a fit of anger over her mother never having protected her from the men in their lives, yelled at her to never repeat that nonsense again. Her mother died with her rejecting that foundational truth, which, more than anything, explained her mother’s own pain and resentment towards her daughter who had committed the crime of being born alive. Now, Bob said those words with cavalier flare as if he were explaining some unfortunate turn of events at the dog track. So, she returned to her rented car and drove back to Chicago, in silence, with her stupefied boyfriend saying nothing for the four-hour drive. By now, she was a grown woman approaching middleage. She had met him about a dozen times over the years and had made infrequent efforts at small talk on the phone. She didn’t know him well and never would. Too much had passed. But she knew him enough to recognize him in her. As far as she could tell, there was no her in him. He was still an appalling mystery. She had gotten the worst of his DNA. He was a selfish, unrepentant churl who reveled in his assholery. Still, she could not find it within herself to just write him off, delete his information from her phone, and block his number as her brother, whose own father was another participant in that ignominious bet, and her husband repeatedly advised. She hoped—just as she always had—that there would be some point at which he would


Non-Fiction

understand just how shitty he had been to her and her mother and do something to make it right. She didn’t know what that would take. Her mom could not forgive him; she had died decades ago. But she still held out some hope that deep inside, he wasn’t just an unreconstructed bint of no redemptive potential. Sitting there that night, she knew that she had seen the bottom of his soul and there was no reason to look further. Hearing him call his first granddaughter a pig, she understood for the first time that he never would’ve saved her. He would have seen her anger and truculence and averred it was her fault, the abuses she had suffered. Maybe he would’ve seen her precocious sexual interests and described her as a pig; inherited from her mother, whom he would have denounced as a pig, without an iota of irony. He would have embraced no obligation to intervene in the smallest of ways to save her. She and Ashley, in Bob’s universe, were pigs by birth rather than by circumstance. He could give no fewer fucks about this if he had to at gun point. In the morning, they left Indiana for home. Boudreaux wailed while Vega slunk off to the back of the minivan and fell asleep, snuggled up against Saffy. Jeff, sensing her silence, knew she was marinating on something. As they reached West Virginia, she said “Jeff, I want to discuss something with you. It’s serious.” He didn’t like having somber conversations while driving, so he pulled the car into a strip mall. Neither were hungry, so they just talked. “Jeff, I’m going to report this to child protective services. He’s not going to do it. No one called them when I needed them. I’m not going to let this girl hang out to the dry. Do you think I should?” Just saying the words aloud caused a strange calm to fall over her. Jeff told her that he thought she should, but she should know that any chances of a rapprochement with Bob would be impossible. “But”, Jeff said “that would be a positive externality of doing the right thing.” She smiled at him and said, “Two nerd flares for that one.” In the middle of nowhere, her cellphone had no bars. T-mobile had less coverage in the United States than in Afghanistan. Jeff had Verizon which fared better in rural Murkah. She called Bob from Jeff’s phone and apologized for abruptly ending the dinner last night, explaining the long drive home and the presentation she was giving on Bangladesh to the Atlantic Council on Monday. Trying to sound nonchalant, she asked about his granddaughter Ashley’s name and her mother’s name, writing them down furiously. “And um…where does she live? Does she live near you and Rick?” He blurted out “Rome City” before he caught himself. “Why you asking this stuff?” he asked suspiciously, omitting any verb. But she had what she needed. She remained silent. She didn’t want to lie, but she didn’t want to tell Bob either. That made him nervous. He knew her because he knew himself. Though he didn’t raise her, she was

like him: stubborn, resolved and once she took a decision, the decision was made. “Chris, what the hell are you doing?” The silence bugged him, which oddly pleased her. The power was now in her hands. As he grew irritated and anxious, she told him flatly, “I’m calling CPS to report the situation with Ashley. No one called CPS when I was abused. This girl deserves a chance. And frankly, you or your son should’ve done this. What the fuck is wrong with you people?” He bellowed “Don’t you dare. If you do…” She hung up. She Googled child protective services for Rome City, Indiana. She told the operator all that she knew and hung up. She had no idea what, if anything, would come of this. But at least she tried to give that little girl the chance no one gave her. Bob kept calling. She declined to answer. For another day he called her mobile and home phone. And then the calls stopped. And, so did her fantasy that he would have done a damned thing to save her childhood self no matter what he knew. And with that epiphany, she understood that she never needed or wanted to see him again. She blocked his number. She didn’t need to entertain him anymore. A year passed, then two. She wondered if Bob had died. But she was at peace when she realized that even if he was dead, she didn’t care. He died that day when he called that little, broken girl a pig. In his mind, she and Ashley were pigs, faulty females with a lack of morals. Coming to terms with this information about Bob, she was able to let go of any expectations about his ability to parent; to care about anything more than himself. He had failed to see that neither she nor Ashley were the pigs; rather the men who tried to break them. She never learned what came of Ashley and she was too timorous to speculate. Indiana is not forgiving. It’s why she left as soon as she could. College was her escape. Would Ashley escape? What life would she make for herself and would she one day rage at her father’s indifference to her suffering? Sitting on the porch, sipping on an Old Fashioned, with Boudreaux’s snout foisted into her armpit as she scratched his ears, with an easy smile as she gazed back at Saffy and Vega who slept with angelic calm beneath her feet. Bob’s cruelty and callousness, which once felt like quicksand around her legs, had finally set her free. She wished such freedom on Ashley, a little girl she would never know but could never forget.

Christine Fair is an associate professor within the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Her previous publications have been nonfiction and her research covers the political and military events of South Asia. Consequently, she travels extensively throughout Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka. Her personal website is christinefair. net.

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kuco © 123RF.com

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Poetry

Solving for X DORSÍA SMITH SILVA

Dorsía Smith Silva is a Professor of English at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras. Her poetry has been published in several journals and magazines in the United States and the Caribbean, including Portland Review, Saw Palm, Aji Magazine, Gravel, etc.

I had a name before I came to this room with a smell of knotted danger like a slow moan passing through the wind of cool-colored fall trees, but now I’m simply number 519360. I am not a woman, I am not a mother, I am not a wife, I am not a person. I’m a number: a series of six digits repeated in intervals ten times a day. “You want breakfast?” “Number?”

Head nod.

“Roll call for bed.”

Number 519360.

This is my day of successions with integers and primes, stripped of my own tongues: reduced to draped memories that crystallize into corroded strands. Sometimes, I tell them my name to remind them that I’ve come searching for ink to write my own poem. But, this life anchors to the shushed silence of poverty. There is no reading of my name, only numbers with half-opened eyes.

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The Water Jail FABIYAS MV

The Water Jail was built in Mysore in India during the rule of Tipu Sultan. The war prisoners were tied to the slabs inside and kept in cool water.

These steps lead to an old dungeon. The river Cauvery with protruding bones and ribs flows nearby. The fossils of torture lie at the bottom of time. Wrists of those prisoners are tied to the stone slabs. Cool water touches their chins. Sleep drowns. Agony bloats. An aching past thus echoes in the arched cells These relics of torment attract thousands of visitors. Now you need not go to Mysore. You can find it in every nook.

Fabiyas MV is a writer from Orumanayur village in Kerala, India. He is the author of Kanoli Kaleidoscope (PunksWritePoemsPress,US), Eternal Fragments (erbacce press,UK), and Moonlight And Solitude (Raspberry Books, India). His fiction and poetry have appeared in several anthologies, magazines and journals.

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Poetry

Oleksandr Melnyk © 123RF.com

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Intermission CHRISTOPHER ACKER

I

n her desperation to free the pink tablet from its foil pouch, the tablet slips through Winona’s trembling fingers and falls to the carpet, where the heel of a well-dressed woman reduces it to dust. So this is what my life has been reduced to, she thinks to herself. Craving stomach relief tablets like an alcoholic with the DTs. And on top of all that, a son at home that— Winona bites down hard on her tongue. The pain extinguishes those unwanted thoughts before her day is ruined any further. After a deep swallow from the water bottle in her purse, she almost forgets the doctors telling them that their son, the little boy she brought into this world with hopes of achieving great success, has aut— Stop it. Not now.

Valeriya Pichugina © 123RF.com

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Fiction

Winona curses herself for not packing an extra box in her purse, but how was she supposed to know the production would somehow feel like Tolstoy himself was at the helm? Never did she think her life would come to sucking down Pepto-Bismol tablets at the rate of a box every two days. The worst part about it is that it’s only intermission. There are still another two more acts to go. Behind her, a gathering of seasoned opera patrons— ‘benefactors’ they probably call themselves—rave about the revelation that is the soprano playing Natasha Rostova. Their haughtiness is oppressive and makes breathing even more of a chore. If Winona wasn’t so sure before, she is now. The Met isn’t cutting it. But her husband throws a wrench in her escape plan. He weaves through the dense crowd clutching two large glasses of wine and announces once he completes his return, “I know you prefer white, but they only had red.” Her flaring nostrils grabs hold of the pinot’s sweet aromatics. Normally a relaxing scent, the pinot only causes the unrest that unexpectedly arrived during the early scenes of Act One to turn into full-blown nausea. The strain of keeping her shit together proves to be too much. Winona can no longer maintain a brave face and somehow finds the courage to ask, “Would you hate me if we left?” “Leave? And go where?” “I don’t know.” Winona collects herself with a deep breath. “Maybe walk around the park.” The electronic chimes bouncing off the lobby’s walls urge the crowd to start finding their seats. Lines file back into the theater in polite, hushed tones. In minutes, James and Winona find themselves surrounded by a handful of employees desperately waiting for the second act to commence. “But intermission is almost over,” he pleads. “I can’t sit through another two hours of this.” Winona hands the wine back to James before it can wreak anymore havoc on her stomach. “I’m sorry. The gift is very thoughtful but I can’t do it.” The swagger James woke up with this morning is gone. When he sulks over to the front door of the Met, it takes him a good three tugs to fully rotate the heavy glass on its elegant brass hinges. He’s lost something. His strength to go on. Once the door closes behind them, he says, “I don’t get it. You didn’t eat any wheat today.” “My GI said it will take some time for my stomach to heal.” “How long are we talking about?” “I don’t know. Months?” “Did the doctor actually say ‘months’ or did he—” “Can we please stop talking about this?” The pang burrowing itself under her nausea is the recognizable feeling of starvation. She’s never known the true meaning of hunger until two weeks ago when her

gastroenterologist diagnosed her with celiac disease. Learning which foods are gluten-free and which will turn her stomach inside out has been a torturous trial by fire. It was safer to not eat anything at all. Her mood improves once she spots a peanut vendor over by Columbus Avenue. Her stomach pleads with her: You have no idea how those nuts are prepared. But her brain—shutting down from a depletion of calories—shouts: Nuts, salt, sugar! What can be safer than that? A tremor returns to her hands upon arriving at the peanut vendor. Her fingers unlatch the clasp on her purse when she realizes nothing in there can help. Before passing out becomes a very real possibility, Winona asks the vendor, “Do you know if these nuts were cooked in any flour?” The vendor holds the metal trowel in midair. He ponders the question before replying, “Flower?” “Yes, flour. Is there any in these nuts?” “No flower. Just nuts.” Although it’s hard to understand the vendor through his thick Haitian accent, she’s left feeling relieved at what she thinks he says. A handful of peanuts find their way into her mouth—the first real meal she’s had all day. Winona returns to the water fountain outside the opera house and hands James a bag of cashews. Not that he deserves it, she hears herself say but immediately chalks the nasty self-talk to her sour stomach. After a few hearty bites, James uses his tongue to clear the more persistent cashew particles lodged in his teeth. He then turns to Winona and says, “I thought you told me you like going to the opera.” “I do. But what made you think I’d like a four-hour production of War and Peace?” “Honest mistake. I’m sorry.” “It’s not your fault.” “You could’ve told me you didn’t want to go.” “I thought I could make it.” She licks the salt and sugar off her fingers, adding, “Like I said, there’s no predicting this stomach thing.” “Can I do anything to help?” “Like what?” “I don’t know. Something.” “You can take me to the park.” In the ten minutes it takes to walk to Central Park and find an empty bench that overlooks a softball game being played, the unwavering claustrophobia that swept over Winona during the overture finally relents. Her stomach, too, returns to normal. “It’s nice out here,” she says, letting the fall breeze kick around her bare legs. “I miss the city.” The breeze jettisons upwards and ransacks the tree hovering over their bench. James picks up a leaf that lands

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by his feet. He considers bringing it home as a keepsake from their fifth anniversary, but realizes it would crumble the second he’d put it in his pocket. “Do you want me to get you something else?” he asks Winona and lets the leaf fall back to the pavement. “That’s up to you.” James places the playbill on his wife’s lap. “I can take you on a shopping trip to Anthropologie.” “I’d like that,” she answers and slips the playbill into her purse. “Good. We’ll go first thing tomorrow morning.” A minor scuffle breaks out on the softball field between the pitcher and umpire over his tiny strike zone. Winona can only listen to so much of the creative vulgarity the two men throw at each other before her defenses break down and she lets slip out what she promised herself to ignore until at least tomorrow. “What do you think we should do about Thomas?” James stops loosening his tie. “Let’s not go there.” “Why’s that?” “Just because.” “You need to give me something more than ‘just because.’” “It’s our anniversary. Is that good enough?” His suggestion makes her think what their lives would’ve been like had they decided against having any kids. It’s only passing—she blinks and it’s gone—but the thought doesn’t seem altogether that bad. Just the two of them without a constant state of tension eating away at them. Winona lets the thought simmer before a wave of guilt washes it away. “So we just pretend we don’t have to kiss goodbye to the happy life we hoped we were going to have?” she asks. “Tonight? Of course we pretend.” “Can I say I miss him?” “Right now, Thomas doesn’t even exist. And he certainly doesn’t have—” “Don’t say it.” “It’s just you and I and there’s nothing else we should be thinking about.” James takes his wife’s hand, squeezes it, and adds, “It’s been a good five years.” A hot dog cart that has packed it in for the night tramples over the freshly-fallen leaves. With it, the cart carries the smell of burnt hot dog buns that jostles her stomach’s equilibrium. When Winona thinks she has things back under control, she wipes the back of her hand across her eyes and replies, “It has.” Her inflection throws James off. “Are you asking me?” “I’m agreeing with you,” she clarifies. “And I wouldn’t want anything to be different.” “You wouldn’t?” The approaching dusk brings a chill to Winona. It also brings the umpire out of his perch behind home plate. He waves his hands in the air to signal the end of the game. James takes the umpire’s cue to stand up and smack the creases out of his

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pants. His eyes then catch hold of a building through the halfbare branches. “Is that Tavern on the Green?” he asks. Winona follows her husband’s pointing finger and spots a building with plywood nailed over the windows. “It looks like. But why is it boarded up?” The few minutes they have of useable sunlight are spent heading towards the restaurant in a state of decay. Overgrown bushes decorate the property. Weeds grow from the gutters. A temporary orange fence keeps the couple from getting any closer than fifty feet. James tells his wife, “If I’m not mistaken, the restaurant went bankrupt a while back.” “That’s a shame,” Winona remarks and feels a twinge of nostalgia. “Remember when you took me there for my twentyfirst birthday?” “How could I forget? I’m still paying interest on that prime rib.” The moment they’ve captured almost makes up for the fiasco at the Met. Not even the homeless man sleeping in the bushes can bring back the worries they share about their son. James then says to Winona, “I’ve been wondering something.” “What’s that?” “What exactly does your stomach feel like?” A screeching fire truck barrels down Central Park West. Winona waits for it to pass before she continues, “It’s hard to describe. I really can’t put it into words.” “Can you try?” For the time being, there is nothing wrong with her stomach. It feels as rock steady as it did the night she asked the waiter for another go at the bread basket so she could mop up the rest of that delicious gravy.

Christopher Acker is a husband, father, and full-time clinical social worker living in Bridgewater, New Jersey. His fiction has appeared in Junto Magazine, The Ocotillo Review, Thing Magazine, Subtle Fiction, The Raven’s Perch, Inwood Indiana, Fictive Dream, Spelk, Firefly Magazine, The Molotov Cocktail, and No Extra Words. His work has also been featured on Wandsworth Radio in the UK.


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Poetry

So You Think You’re Going to Shoot Me? IGOR GOLDKIND

I got news for you goyim, You've been shooting at me for 900 years From arrows to bullets to canon and you still haven't hit me. Because I am no other than you. How can I replace you when I am you? Open your eyes, you are aiming your gun at yourself. You don't get it. This must be the trick of the devils' twisted tongue, right? The one that tries to deceive you With the facts of truth Poured from the grail of reason. Go on, have a taste. No, you can't shoot me, you can't even aim. Your hatred is so predictably boring, Always looking for someone else to blame For your failure as a human being. Anyone should do, but Just like a bad movie cliche, you pick the Jew. How can you shoot me, When most of us are already dead? Replaced, misplaced, driven from your nations’ borders. Baked in your ovens. Never even pausing To wonder what the difference ever really was. Now we have nations, guns and missiles. Our own black-booted armies, to protect us from bad shots like you. To protect us from everyone but ourselves. Now we can sip from the same blood cup, While hating and then shooting, All of the Other Jews.

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Andrea Crisante Š 123RF.com

Our Lady IGOR GOLDKIND

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You are our lady of grace. And now your dress is flames. The beauty of your sunken dome from a drone Is a poem in itself. Written by us and Destroyed by utter chaos. This is what we can do that rivals the stature of the gods: To astound each other and ourselves With the pure wonder of creation. The sacrifice we all make to our better selves Who gave buildings wings and Lay the foundation stones of Our own self perfecting. Epiphany is not found in the act of worship It is found in the insight gained by a gratitude for the world. Exactly the way we built it. Exactly the way we know it to be. Whispered prayers are but poetry That none other than you will listen to But it is good to talk to yourself. To sing in harmony with all the selves who are listening, Wearing Not false, but true masks. Revealing the kind of truth that can only be told with a lie. The subtler architecture that carves the heavens from the spaces on this earth. Reconstructing what can be seen behind your faces, Behind all the saints who guard you, Behind the divine grace of your stature. The sensuousness of your catastrophe is breathtaking.


Poetry

The Stars IGOR GOLDKIND

There are few shreds of dignity left When you drown face down in your own back street gutter. You can cry out as loud as an archangel's horn if you like It won’t do you any good or any harm either. You still can’t stop the wind or turn back the tide Fate is nothing personal. It’s just the universe catching up with you, then passing you by. Your dream of yourself is evaporating Forming the clouds that obscure the night’s sky The stars are leaving you now, one by one. This is the last moment of your own self-awareness. Your last chance to figure out what the fuck is going on. Very much like the moment you first awoke, Only your mother’s smile is nowhere to be found And all that remains of limitless love is your fading memory: The sound of her voice calling you to come home In the far distance From where the stars had gone to mourn your passing.

San Diegan Igor Goldkind is an author, poet and producer of advanced media technology innovations. At the age of 14, Goldkind served as a volunteer Science Fiction Coordinator for the now wildly popular San Diego Comic Con. His imminent short story collection THE VILLAGE OF LIGHT based in the genre of Speculative Realism, is to be published this year as well as his first novel entitled simply, PLAGUE.

kuco © 123RF.com

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intueri © 123RF.com

Corner Store Prophet J.B. STONE J.B. Stone is a neurodivergent performance poet, reviewer, and writer from Brooklyn, now residing in Buffalo. He is the author of two chapbooks, A Place Between Expired Dreams And Renewed Nightmares (Ghost City Press 2018) and forthcoming, Fireflies & Hand Grenades (Stasia Press 2019). You can check out more of his work at jaredbenjaminstone.com.

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This past summer afternoon, Ocean Avenue was drenched in hot, sticky concrete molasses. It was like living inside the confines of a cliché street poem. One filled with overdone metaphors on heat and the madness of being stuck in the same place for years. However, like many neighborhoods in the heart of Brooklyn, there was still so much life with a stewed pot of personality to match. On one corner, a lively

Haitian fruit vendor exchanges words with an old Russian man, dressed in an olive green sweater vest. At a red light, two cab drivers yell across the lanes at each other. From out a third story window, an older Sicilian woman is shouting at a young Pakistani grad student. To the untrained eye, these look like confrontations rather than conversations. However, to the accustomed mind, the dialogue isn’t


Poetry

friendly, nor is it abusive, it’s just New York. Every Monday through Saturday commute, since freshman year of high school, I’ve paid witness to this imagery. I remember how many times my mother would have the blind fear washed over her face, held her rolling pin tightly while baking. “The nods, the nods, what’s with the nods bubbie,” I exclaimed. “I just don’t feel comfortable with you going all of the way out to Crown Heights for summer work, you already know this, yet you continue to give me palpitations. “Palpitations? Palpitations? I think you’ll survive ma,” I replied sarcastically. A pause started to fill the room. My mom, still a little shocked by my snide remark, tries to shuffle the topics. And with a passiveaggressive smirk, and eye-rolling signal, she said, “You know there is a nice local Deli that just opened up right down the street, and they’re looking to hire some summer help.” “Ma, it’s not local, it’s another “Ben’s Deli” franchise—plus I like where I am. People there treat me well. They treat me like one of their own.” Despite this, it seemed no matter what I said, it never made a damn difference. Her head was always tightly bolted by her own cognitive dissonance. To an extent, these arguments have been a daily

occurrence, but a part of me wishes I also told her the other reason I love where I work; escape. I doubt she would’ve listened. However, not even my mother’s subtle racism could ruin this day, fore today was extra special. It was the first commute of what would be my final summer here in Brooklyn, before I head off to University at Buffalo. As I arrived, I took a long look at the bodega. It was a small, navy blue and butter yellow building, plastered with a prism of lotto ads and take-out specials. It wasn’t a street-side oasis, but I loved it. From the brutally-honest humor exhumed by patrons and employees alike, to the relaxed atmosphere of incense, pastelito knock-offs, and shisha packets, it is definitely a place I knew I would miss. Of all of the people and things I’d miss, Mr. Fares is someone I’d miss the most. He was an interesting man, always sporting the finest burgundy beret cap, with a nice brown leather vest over a plain black tee. He was someone who took great pride in his work. He wasn’t the smiling, ‘come back now ya here’ type of guy, but like anyone he was capable of laughter. Tell a good enough joke, and he might chuckle a bit, and throw a ‘Haha! Hey! I like this guy’ type of comment your way. Later in the day a man in upscale attire walked into the store with a couple also fashioning some ritzy wardrobe. They appeared to be newlyweds, dressed in Fedoras and enough black and purple argyle to make cashmere and suede the “new punk.” As he showed the couple around the store, it was a rarity to see anyone wearing such fashions around here. The man playing

tour guide was a representative from sunset development. He was adorned in that typical yuppie getup; a pompadour fade, a top of the line Armani suit, and a fake, plastic demeanor. Mr. Fares followed the tour group with his eyes, worming the vision to their direction. “And right here is where your additional restroom could go,” he said, pointing to the cornered frozen section next to the one and only restroom.” For every commentary the representative gave, a more befuddled look eclipsed the face of Mr. Fares. With raised eyebrows and squinting eyes, it was easy to see that Mr. Fares sensed something weird. He called out from his register. “Hey what’s going on here, huh?” “Oh yes! Well my name is Jamie Mastersen from Sunset Development LLC., and I’m just showing this lovely, young couple the new property that we will be working on shortly.” He turned his eyes back to the couple, continuing with his tour. Trying to pretend Mr. Fares wasn’t even there. Mr. Fares once again approached Mastersen. “Property?” “...Umm…yes… this propert—” “Woah! Woah! Now see here man. I don’t know who the hell you think you are, but this is my store! I don’t appreciate you bringing people in like this, now what work you talking about?”

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“Excuse me for just one moment,” he said with the phoniest smile towards the young couple. With his dimples cringing towards Mr. Fares, his shoulders switched like a robot with a busted cog. “If we could chat in your office for a bit? I can explain everything.” I was told to leave the room, by Mr. Fares, but I would be lying to you if I didn’t peak my ears over by the doorway, and let my eyes wander towards the slight slit and eavesdrop on what was said. The room was dimmed, not dark, not pitch black, just dimmed. Kind of the similar to the scenes from a Police interrogation room. Mastersen nervously tapped his fingertips together, his eyes pacing back and forth like a Wimbledon spectator. He slid a document over to Mr. Fares. “What the hell is this?” “Mr. Fares, in that document is a check of 100,000 dollars, enough money to buy out this dingy hoodlum haven and transform it into something better. Yes, I gave a tour without asking, but this is enough money, and I feel if anything a generous amount to boot, and it would be a foolish decision not to take it. So what do you say?

“This store is my life man, it is 20 years of sweat, tears and labor. Say I take this from you today, where do I go? Will this be enough to retire from? Also is it worth seeking employment elsewhere? See you think you have the answers, but not once do you ask yourself these questions. You want a sale hows abouts we make it a million plus a pledge to not buy out any more space on this block”

“Oh, okay and tell your boss, I said fuck off, will ya,” He shouted back with a smart grin.

“Well a million is entirely out of the question. I mean personally, I thought 100,000 was a little too generous, location or no location, but my boss insisted you would be this stubborn.”

“Vultures? Is everything alright,” I asked.

“Okay. No sale then,” “Mr. Fares, please oh please, listen to reason,” he shuffled his feet, and laid his palms in a somewhat pleading display. He kept slithering toward Mr. Fares as he tried to walk out. Mastersen continued, “You care about this neighborhood, right? Then why continue making it a place where your most common customers are a bunch vandals and old lottery addicts. All I’m doing is offering you a chance to pull a plug on this store for good and retire on a lap of luxury.”

Then they both started laughing together.

He chuckled again. “There is a lot I could unpack right here, but to be honest my man, you aren’t even worth the discussion.”

“Hahahaahh—and what makes you think this is going to be enough.”

Mastersen, stormed out from the back office, and exclaimed,

A silent, awkward pause filled the office.

“This isn’t over! I’ll be back here soon!”

Mr. Fares started laughing a little bit.

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As I made my way back to the counter, I saw him counting the register draw. I heard him mutter and sob a bit under his breath, “These vultures are turning this block into a graveyard more and more every day.”

“Yeah,” he sighed. “Vultures. Pull up a chair, we need to talk.” As I adjusted my chair. I turned to Mr. Fares, as he turned his eyes facing to the storefront, casts hauntingly through the front window. He says, “I don’t know if you’re familiar by how this neighborhood has transformed—” “—yeah for the better! Look at all of the new greenery! All of the coffee shops and even a farmers market too! What more could you ask for?” “See this is the type of blind ignorant B.S. that eats away at me.” My neck tucked back, and my body turtled into the seat. “I’m sorry to snap at you like that, but you say you love this neighborhood, but you’ve never walked inside the walls of every brownstone, you’ve never paid a visit to the other businesses that once thrived there.” “I’m sorry I—”


Poetry

“—Take a look out this window, do you see the older gentleman over there, across the street?” “No…” “C’mon now, the one dressed in torn rags, begging for change right outside of the Starbucks storefront? Well that Starbucks used to be a local taco joint, and the man begging on the street was the proprietor of said business.” “What about the vouchers, don’t people usually get them upon moving.” “Do you honestly think payment for a few months’ rent is enough to get back on their feet? Start a business? ” I eventually was starting to realize my own ignorance unfold, and became disgusted with it. I still don’t know what upset me more, the fact that this neighborhood has been bled dry for so long, or that it took a brief talk and years of watching this unfold to finally realize. “What can we do,” I asked. “There’s a committee meeting this weekend, a bunch of the remaining owners all over East NY are going to be there. I suggest you come, if you want to help.” As we made our way into the meeting, representatives from Sunset Development attended including Jamie. He stood there with arms folded, his head up in scoffing formation, whistling and humming frantically. Maybe it was the “out of one’s element”

nervousness that presumed over his face. The tension in the room was bottled and tucked under every seat, buttoned under every lip. Mr. Fares did what he had to do; wait until his grievances have been heard and hope for the best. As we painstakingly awaited the decision, the council board members made their final choice in favor of Sunset. Two days later, an eviction notice was piked to the front door of Mr. Fares’ bodega. The second he saw this, there was no yelling, no outright breakdown. He froze for a minute, watching 30 years of business flash before his eyes like a dying man. He walked over to the storage room, and laid out his prayer rug, and with a copy of the Qur'an by his side, made his final pleas to Allah. I would like to tell those reading this, a miracle was sparked within this same week, but I don’t want to lie just to save face for those who love their closure. Mr. Fares kept fighting, but in the end, decided to try and compromise a sale. … Several months later, my first break from college, I headed back home, and then made my way to the bodega, but only saw a construction zone for a new apartment building. A series of ravines lined with orange and yellow ticker tape. I stood up at the billboard plastered to the fencing, and there he was, suddenly standing next to me,

“Yeah it absolutely sucks. Listen, Mr. Fares, I am so so sor— “—Don’t! There is absolutely no need for you to apologize, you did what you could, I did what I could.” “What are you going to do now,” I asked. “Well, it’s not all bad, my brother has a shop on Jackson Heights, so I’m lucky, but I cannot speak for the rest of those you see among you. If this continues who knows how many neighborhoods will have to be gutted and stripped and rebuilt into these decadent streets.” “Can’t say I dig the approach Mr. Fares, but I understand.” “No you don’t, you still don’t, and you never will, but that’s okay.” As Mr. Fares bade me farewell, I saw him walk off to the subway station for the last time. I didn’t know if his brother had a place by Jackson Heights, a comforted feeling he tried to leave me with. However, whether it was there, or to another sunset, another skyline, another neighborhood to call home, I just hope he gathers an army. I hope he finds a revolution against the wicked. Let’s hope home is a place best reclaimed.

“Disappointing isn’t it,” he says to my surprise, appearing out of nowhere.

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Olha Poharytska © 123RF.com

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Prose

Red Clay ELEANOR FOGOLIN I see God at her potting wheel When I am old enough to crawl. She wears a blue tank top with the face of an Aztec mask, the sleeves roughly cut so she can plunge up to her elbows in the clay She is turning on her wheel. I love the smell of earth arts: fire, water, dust, acrylic. She brings me to the workshop, my sister still curled like a bud in her belly, and I stand as close as I dare to the blazing kiln mouths. My mother must have had forearms of iron—from lifting her baby onto her hip, from lifting bricks of clay. I am learning, through fairy tales, that the mother always dies. I don’t know why; but it gives me a premonition that my mother will leave me. I begin holding my breath. At the centre of the world, there she is, holding things in gyroscopic balance. She doesn’t leave when I expect it. We have years together. I keep on holding my breath. When She works the pedals the wheel makes a grinding roar so immense that I feel vibrations in my baby teeth. But purposefully and without fear She sits astride a fissure in the earth, pulling up the shapeless muck. She is often sick: migraines, pneumonias, sputters of blood in a tissue. When I turn twenty-eight, she has cancer for the second time. I am trying to write about it and return to those old images: tumours are the leavings of clay, trimmed away from pots and huddling beneath her skin. The veins in her arms are lines of blue glaze. Doctors press heat to her cells, making her skin peel. When she went to the countryside to fire work with her friends, they sent me pictures of women in coveralls, gas-masks, and welding goggles, their dogs rambling about a safe distance from the fires. Chemotherapy strips her limbs bare as a young tree, but she climbs out of the fire every time, radiation burning beneath a bandage, totally sanguine.

as a child she played in train yards scooping red mud to form. some clay got beneath her fingernails and waited all these years. It bewilders the doctor and no trowel can dislodge. In the final year she took to using kinder materials: paper, cotton, needle and thread. She made stars for her nurses, and treasure boxes. The change in medium was practical: clay is heavy, kiln-firing is difficult, and the process in general is hard on the body. Several times she thought of giving it up entirely, but her last act was to sculpt mud into likenesses of her daughters as queens of the ocean and air. My sister is crowned with the tendrils of a squid; I wear a wreath of crows. The ones who diminish me will never know how she crowned me with birds, how she saw my head full of flight. This sort of love is a cosmogony and can only be known through the telling of a myth in which we carve the mountains, scoop out the valleys, and set the mud walking on infant legs. but I heard the ground roar umbrage as she pulled the red, red clay and well I know it is the mud of which she is made and the clay with which she made me.

Eleanor’s work has appeared in The New Quarterly, Cactus Heart Press and Acta Victoriana. Read more at her blog (www.eefogolin.wordpress.com), visit her Instagram (@efogolin) or follow her on Twitter (@content_ott).

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WOLF MOON K.V MARTINS

Tithi Luadthong © 123RF.com

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Poetry

Your mother used to say that wolves howl in hunger, unseen, outside villages when a January moon snakes over the wheat fields. Generations of wolves with wet-flick tongues gathering at the edge of their woods, nipping and slipping into our gardens. She told us they’d eat children. That she’d whistle to them, call them names we can’t recall. Confide. She had language on her side. Now, sometimes you lie awake at night, wondering if underneath your skin wolfblood flows. Fables skittering undercover. She’s dead now. Your mother. But wolves still gather in her shadow, and we cling to each other in the dark.

K.V. Martins is originally from Australia but now lives in New Zealand. She writes poetry, short stories, and flash fiction. Kim is a travel writer/editor for the Ancient History Encyclopedia and her work has been featured in The Copperfield Review, Furtive Dalliance Literary Review, Flash Frontier, Flash Flood Journal, The Drabble, Plum Tree Tavern, “a fine line’, Vamp Cat, the University of Iowa anthology Moving the Margins 2018, and upcoming in Fewer than 500 and Moonchild Magazine.

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Tithi Luadthong © 123RF.com

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Poetry

THOSE TIMES, WHEN YOU DID NOTHING WRONG K.V MARTINS

Your mind keeps returning to those times you pretended you were no-one, when you could not see yourself because his mouth took away your last breath, swallowed your body, leaving you with fishbones.

you could hide in them? you would ask yourself whether sheep can paint whether pretty birds are always kept in gilded cages whether someone will blame you whether this is punishment

It was uninvited; always uninvited

for teasing the family dog for blowing the petals off the roses

it’s our secret he’d say -

for -

and he’d feed you ice cream he hoped would fill the spaces between silenced screams

You hoped the world would erase you.

he’d grasp your hand, come upstairs

He’s dead now. Your father. You wished you’d put the knife through him.

you would go, always go Someone else did that. like a white dove that has not been set free, that cannot fly

But you imagined the glint of metal slicing through the fruit of rotten flesh

he’d take off your dress, those innocent threads pressed down between cold linen sheets you wondered - where is this place called winter?

you felt there was never enough water to wash away the blood

what if the ragged ponies in the field flee leave you with the tremble of a lip?

or the memories that are always on

what if the rain puddles outside are so big -

in the background of your mind.

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undrey © 123RF.com

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Poetry

CAMP LAZAR TRUBMAN

Stocky, forsaken barracks forming a perfect square. Deadly forest around as far as the eye can see. Survival is not an option and frankly a useless thought. The world is a narrow tunnel with no proverbial light. And even if there is a light – the tunnel will never end. And time isn’t passing, no – it’s us, I believe, it’s us, leaving signs of existence on the unsullied snow. tiny signs of existence… Non-existence perhaps. There, behind our backs - darkness from all four corners, a lonely acacia tree, ridiculously bent; under the endless sky, covered with grayish clouds, hundreds of faceless humans, unknown, nameless, unknown… What are we dreaming about: tears of abandoned wives? An unforgettable midday? Rumbles of a distant thunder? Chamber, where we were tortured? Self-satisfied warden? Guard who is constantly licking his weather-beaten lips? This road is a deadly spiral and sometimes an endless ring, but after some watered potatoes mixed with a nameless fish, the history of mankind, until uneventful end, everybody is passing, everybody is writing… We waking up early, coughing, have our coffee and pills; walking, love our women – the only remaining light… It’s rubbish that we are dying – we’re just getting awfully tired and moving aside in silence…one after another…gone.

Lazar Trubman is a high school teacher and a survivor of the labor camp in the ancient land of Transylvania. His poetry and prose have appeared in literary publications across the United States, Canada and the UK.

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ANOTHER AWAKENING LAZAR TRUBMAN

Having woken up again, my thinning hair still uncombed, but having had a shower and dressed, even if still without a jacket and a hat, I suppose, because the first actions are mechanical, helpless habit, I only know that I am once again on the edge of the bed, yes, I have once more woken up, but I am still encircled in by dreams which, if I look at them closely, I fear, will prove not to be dreams at all but memory, not memory of the night, however, but memory as such, the sediment of experience, and yet I am awake, as I have said, even washed and free of emotions, perhaps even whistling, I don’t know exactly, it’s unimportant, and if at this moment I am softly whistling, it’s only so as not to have to speak, even to myself, I have nothing to say to myself; I have to get out of the house, heavens above it’s high time, so I assume, and yet I am in no hurry as though I have all the time in the world; suddenly a pneumatic drill is chugging, I listen for a short while, and when the drilling stops, only the tone changes – now only the engine is chugging; I listen, I hold my breath, suddenly silence; I sit as motionless as a statue, in a pose of a man pulling out a thorn… Finally, I am determined to leave the house, to take my torturous morning walk, I put on my shoes, adjust my hat, as if it really matters how my hat sits on my head; on the other hand, my watch is on my wrist, where it belongs, because my morning walk without a watch is an endless journey, a journey into nowhere; into the distant past, which I survived… undrey © 123RF.com

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Poetry

SORROW LAZAR TRUBMAN

Autumn. Slush. He is forty today. Texts from friends, calls from neighbors and colleagues. “Don’t be sad,” someone said, “you are still miles away from your fiftieth birthday!” It appeared that the sorrow was gone, and tight knots weren’t tight any longer, and more water went under the bridge this particular year than others. Many deeds were awaiting their turn, and the weather was boring and rainy. He began to forget her. And that was exactly her ultimate favor. Rains were wiping away, washing off their hopeless and helpless relations. In the past those memory gaps were so rightfully named an oblivion. For as long as it’s gone – it won’t burn: no matter the name, no matter… It appeared that the sorrow was gone. It appeared… But it wasn’t…

undrey © 123RF.com

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The Loud Scream MARIA VICTORIA BELTRAN

S

hots ring out from a dilapidated hut in a stinky alley way deep in the slums of Tondo, Manila, simultaneously heard with a loud scream that physically fills the hot humid air. The loud scream pierces through the hut's flimsy roof, flies with the swirling dust, hovers over a group of children scavenging in a high pile of garbage, zooms away, and is swallowed by the thick smog of the city. One of the scavengers, eight year old Jose, lets go of his precious haul of discarded plastic bottles, and sprints home faster than the jeepneys that rule the streets

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of the metropolis. Panic stricken, he reaches home to find his mother profusely bleeding from a gunshot wound in the head, his three year old sister is bathed in their mother's blood, crawling away from the carnage. Meanwhile, the scream emerges from the city smog and continues its journey, past the greedy commercial district, over the manicured lawns of the mansions in an exclusive village, passing through the polluted Pasig River and entering the MalacaĂąang Palace, home of the president of the country.

Ekaterina Petrunina Š 123RF.com

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Flash Fiction

Curious spectators block Jose's way but between his neighbor’s dirty elbows, he can see his mother, still alive and coughing more blood. He can hear his sister's wailing and smell the putrid gun powder mixed with the scent of death. The sickening feeling is familiar. Jose has been here before. Like a wily rat, Jose darts between the sea of humanity and reaches his mother's side. Screaming profanity at the squadron of policemen that shot his mother, Magdalena. He reaches out to his sister, trying to calm her down. Police officer Roberto Duarte takes charge of the situation and cordons the area. All the curious onlookers are dispersed, doors and windows are closed, and a nosy reporter is kicked out of the shanty. Magdalena is a thirty year old mother of two who originally hails from the far flung province of Caraga in Mindanao Island. She came to the big city thinking she will be hired as a housemaid by a rich family. Only fifteen year old at that time, she ended up in a cheap brothel in Ermita. Unable to raise money for fare home, she is forced to dance night after night in a steamy cheap bar, in front of salivating strangers that are almost as poor as Magdalena herself. Things changed for the better when she met Carlos. A janitor in a nearby restaurant, he fell in love with her and saved her from hell itself. Unfortunately, Carlos was shot to death by the police some weeks ago. With their two children, the couple lives in an area notorious for drug dealing. It's the only place they can afford. So when the government launched Operation Tokhang, with the goal of eliminating drug users, there have been countless of deaths in their neighborhood. Carlos was supposedly shot because he's a suspected drug user and he tried to fight back during arrest. Nothing could be farther from the truth. While the cabinet meeting in Malacañang Palace is winding up and a sumptuous lunch is being served some blocks away, Magdalena finally succumbs to her wounds. Jose has no more tears left. “In the official report, we have to insist that she tried to fight back!” Police officer Duarte instructs his men. A piercing scream reverberates in the luncheon room at Malacañang Palace but nobody hears it as everybody feasts on the food banquet. Jose silently vows to his god and his devil that when he grows up, he will kill all the policemen that gets in his way. The silent scream never arrived where it intended to go.

Maria Victoria Beltran is a writer of poetry, fiction, screenplay and creative non-fiction, in Cebuano and English. She won the Komisyon ng Wikang Pilipino for Cebuano fiction in 2007 and 2008, awarded by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts in the Philippines. She also tends to a growing family of herbs and vegetables and two lovely dogs, one of which is probably pregnant. This is her first attempt at Flash Fiction.

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In Flames LYNN WHITE

Lynn White lives in North Wales. Her work is influenced by issues of social justice and events, places and people she has known or imagined. She was shortlisted in the Theatre Cloud 'War Poetry for Today' competition and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Rhysling Award. Find Lynn at: https:// lynnwhitepoetry.blogspot.com

Gather round! Gather round the hearth it’s a cozy place if the fire is burning and we’ll keep it burning never fear the flames. Gather round to watch them flaring back to life leaping and lapping from the once cooling embers, watch the shapes and shades flickering dancing alight alive, a living fire. Gather round, gather round! We’ll keep it burning the home fire watch closely let yourself be hypnotised bewitched be mesmerised by the flickering flames, waving and dancing. Listen to them as they crackle and scream as a living fire must. Gather round, never fear the cold we’ll keep it burning the home fire screaming crackling dancing flaming living aflame with new life. Gather round.

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WHAT MAKES OR BREAKS A WALL?* MARY K O'MELVENY *A wall is fear in three dimensions -- Jane Loeffler, architectural historian, quoted in “Walls are the foundation of civilization. But do they work?” The Washington Post, January 9, 2019.

Frost asked who are we walling in and who are we walling out? But it is often the why that matters most when the subject of barricades rises up between us. Everyone can cite a wall recalled in dreamed sleep and woke nightmares. Do we need more dividing lines? Our landscapes are already filled with hurdles grand and small: hedges, stone pillars, razor wire, steel slats, concrete blocks topped by parapets and posts, forts with moats, metal cages, partitions and palisades, cells, gates of all dimensions topped by glass shards, iron shanks, electric lines. Those are just the physical ones. As a girl, I heard Burl Ives sing about how fences could limit us, leave us breathless, longing for an open range. Soon enough, trip wires and blockades were scattered like ordnance in otherwise normal pathways that others crossed with ease. As I tried to sort through limits and booby traps, the calculations required on these journeys seemed endless – up or under, forward, sideways, climb over, slip backwards – a march, a dance, a bow and scrape, a forced

smile here, missed opportunity there, an old route retaken, a newer guide, a clearer map. Stones added. Removed. Slogans painted. Detours devised. Roadblocks repositioned. As fear clings, climbs, clambers, desire shifts course once more. Some walls fall. Others degrade. Are bulldozed, backhoed. Even as failures litter deserts, alleyways, borders like crime scene evidence, each new step contains promise of another. If we look closely, we understand that limitations will always give way when hope is in the mix. Our skies are filled with celestial tales of yearning that beckon like fire on a chilled night. No walls can stop those sounds.

Mary K O'Melveny is a recently retired labor rights lawyer. She lives with her wife Susan in Washington DC and Woodstock NY. Mary's work has been published in various print and on-line journals and on blog sites such as Writing in a Woman's Voice and The New Verse News. Her poems have won several critical awards and she is a Pushcart Prize nominee.

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The Teacher MARIA VICTORIA BELTRAN

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ister Teresa's office is near the school's chapel. It is very quiet here because teachers and students are not allowed to talk and laugh when they pass by. The principal's office is like a chapel. There is a very big cross on the white washed wall and under it is a huge vase full of colorful flowers. Aside from this, there is no other decoration in the room. When Lisa enters the room, she can see that Sister Teresa is sitting in her usual chair, behind the bulky brown office table. Looking like a priest in his confessional booth. "Come in, Miss Tolentino, Please take a seat." Lisa sits down. An uncomfortable silence follows until Sister Teresa speaks. "I will not beat around the bush anymore. You probably know that I'm also concerned about your future." "There's no need, Sister." "I will just inform you that I did not vote against you, there are also some people that tried their best to keep you as a teacher here in our school but majority of the board members want to fire you especially the representative of the Parents Teachers Association. He

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Flash Fiction

threatened us that if we keep you here, he will transfer his children to another school along with the other parents. He's really upset with you. “I know.” “And why do you insist in teaching Literature the way you do? I know that a lot of students like you but it is definitely not allowed to let them write whatever they want, without any rules and borders. Some parents find it reprehensible that you practice hypnosis in class so your students can write truthfully. Are you a teacher or a psychiatrist?” "There is nothing to talk about, Sister. I can file my resignation as soon as possible." "I just want to advice you, Miss Tolentino.” "I remember your memos, Sister." "In everything that you do, you always set your own rules, you never listen to anybody." "I’m just being a rebel." "I want to give you a second chance, Ms. Tolentino. Your record as a Magna Cum Laude graduate from the University of the Philippines will be a big help. And you have to follow the school's rules and regulations." "I have no intention of teaching in this school anymore. I have learned everything what I can here and am ready to move on." "And what are you going to do with your life, young lady?" "Just like my grandfather, I will write. I will write poems, fiction, essays and novels about the life of people that are generally marginalized in our society." "And end up popular but poor like him, and get killed too?" Lisa stands up and walks towards the door but before leaving she turns around to face Sister Teresa one last time. "I will be like my grandfather and the only question is if anybody can stop me." With this statement, Lisa leaves the prestigious Saint Helena's College forever. Standing before her grandfather's tomb, Lisa smiles to herself. She looks up to the flowers of the Kalachuchi tree nearby that sways with the wind. She watches the wind that is swirling around her through the gentle movement of the leaves. This little wind, Lisa thinks, can unite with the others to form a hurricane while the flowers may fall to the ground or end up in a flower vase. One is just passing by while the others stay here until its end.

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Mugabi Byenkya is a black, disabled writer, poet and occasional rapper. He was born in Nigeria, to Ugandan parents and is currently based between Kampala and Toronto. Mugabi was longlisted for the Babishai Niwe Poetry Award in 2015. His essays and poetry have been featured on The Good Men Project, African Writer and Arts And Africa, among other publications.

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Depressants MUGABI BYENKYA

Tangy

liquid elixir intoxicates my soul

alcoholism runs in my blood; but not in my soul,

the first time I sipped a beer,

it felt like home

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Zenaida MUGABI BYENKYA

The first time I met your mother, she wrung her hands shuffling forward on two unsteady feet never taking her eyes off her white flats I stepped forward with a sheepish grin left hand scratching the nape of my neck right hand extended only to be slapped away she pulled me into one of those hugs where you rock from side to side for what seems like an eternity I had to crouch down to ensure that my shoulder wasn’t smushing her face instead, tiny rivulets of tears seamlessly streamed before free-falling off the cliff of her cheekbones and meeting their final fate the lightest of splashes on my shoulder “Thank you for saving my daughter’s life” she whispered into my left ear before looking me in the eyes and planting a wet red kiss on my left cheek taking a deep breath she exhaled unclenched from our embrace took a step back fished a hanky out of her pocket dabbed away the remaining tears looked up smiled and said, “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you”

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Poetry

Laura MUGABI BYENKYA

my first thought upon waking up is suicide my last thought before drifting off to sleep is suicide I’m not often this frank about my suicidal ideation but I am always this frank about my love for you I wasn’t always this frank about my love for you The day we met the mask of masculinity was firmly secured Batman taught me never to trust anyone snitches taught me never to trust a coworker but you taught me that I did not have to take off the cowl to be cradled as I would learn to cradle you with my words cats cradle Your mind reminds me of cats cradle and I don’t mean this in a manic pixie dream girl type of way I mean this in an ADHD type of way I can’t relate but I can feel you you can’t relate but you can see me hear you heal me hold me as I gently weep

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Poetry

Queen of the Glass Menagerie REBECCA GOULD

Rebecca Ruth Gould's poems and translations have appeared in Nimrod, Kenyon Review, Tin House, The Hudson Review, Salt Hill, and The Atlantic Review. She translates from Persian, Russian, and Georgian, and has translated books such as After Tomorrow the Days Disappear: Ghazals and Other Poems of Hasan Sijzi of Delhi (Northwestern University Press, 2016) and The Death of Bagrat Zakharych and other Stories by Vazha-Pshavela (Paper & Ink, 2019). Her poem “Grocery Shopping” was a finalist for the Luminaire Award for Best Poetry in 2017, and she is a Pushcart Prize nominee.

The elders do it wrong when they arrange the world like picture postcards at a funeral. They do it wrong when they coordinate Christmas holidays for children. They do it wrong when they speak in whispers & foreign tongues, making sure their secrets aren’t revealed. They do it wrong when they protect children from the world outside. They do it wrong when they give them toys, coddle them like ninnies, & smile as if at dolls, We shouldn’t blame the adults for their confusion. They treat children like idiots because they are animals in a glass zoo. Laura, queen of the glass menagerie, observes but does not purchase their insanities. She orchestrates their dancing but refrains from diving in, even when she must sacrifice every domestic happiness. Laura laughingly observes how the adults escape confusion by erecting fortresses of sanity & then caging themselves in.

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Every Man Walks About as a Phantom (Mullet) MATTHEW COOK

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remembered the split when Taylor called to organize a tract blitz. He’d convinced me to join Peterborough Bible College’s witnessing team last year, even though I was still in high school. He said I had the gift of evangelism. I mostly thought it was because my dad had given me an old Corolla over the summer. Taylor spoke excitedly over the phone about driving to Markham for the Christmas street festival on Friday. “Sorry,” he said. “Holiday festival. You and me. Philip Meestra for sure. I’ll try to find a few more.” “There’s only seatbelts for five.” “Make sure the trunk is empty.” Taylor laughed. “I’m expecting a lot of interest. Ash McClelland will probably come, you know her, right? Tom McClelland’s daughter.” “McClelland,” I repeated. It sounded familiar. “Missionary to Pakistan. He’s so into incarnational ministry that he married a native. Been planting churches in Hindu villages since the eighties, man. The guy has led hundreds of people to the Lord. Tom McClelland is a modern missionary hero. His kid’s at the college.”

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Fiction

I said I didn’t know her, and I was distracted for the rest of the conversation. I was remembering the split, for some reason. I must have been ten years old when it happened. My family had always gone to St Catherine Bible Chapel behind the memorial park. Then there was a fight. Mostly I remember old men in suits yelling in the sanctuary. And my father; his face was red as if he were yelling, but his mouth was squeezed shut. We started going to a different assembly after that. I went to bed thinking about it. The next morning, at Glendale Bible Chapel, I looked at the great world map on the missionary prayer wall. The Americas stood rigidly in the centre. Europe and Africa were to the right, Australia to the left, and Asia, split in half like an ox on the altar, lay on both sides. Dozens of photos of missionary families surrounded the map. Each was pierced by a tack, and each tack anchored a thick thread that connected the missionaries, across land and sea, to their countries of service. The McClelland’s photo looked new. Tom McClelland, arm around his wife, Ajoti, was pale amid his family. Their son stood taller than his father. Their daughter looked about my age, and smirked as if she had a secret. I remembered her name was Aishwarya without having to read the card. I couldn’t remember why I remembered. After the service, I went to the chapel library and found a copy of Tom McClelland’s book, The Foolishness of Preaching. It was about his first decade of ministry. There was a glossy cluster of black and white photos in the centre; Tom McClelland preaching to a seated crowd; Tom McClelland opening a clinic; Tom McClelland in a turban, laughing. I lingered over a photo of Ajoti McClelland standing seriously in a field with a baby on her hip and fat white bangles on her arms. The caption didn’t say which of their children it was. On Friday I drove to the Bible college to pick up Taylor and his recruits. I still hadn’t gotten sick of Five Iron Frenzy’s new album, so I took the long way and sang with the windows down despite the cold. “It’s kinda catchy, kind of a virus, cuttin’ your hair like Billy Ray Cyrus!” I tried to keep it under the limit because speeding’s a sin, but the song was pumping me up. I crested Clonsilla, and my guts rose as I sped down the hill to Lansdowne. “Feel the power of the Phantom Mullet! Tremble and cower before the Phantom Mullet!” Peterborough Bible College was a tiny school on the edge of town sitting in a wide cleft of trees beside an open field. Across the road was empty farmland. I pulled into the parking lot a few minutes early. Outside by the main doors, two of the professors were taking their coffee break outside as if it wasn’t grey November.

“Taylor’s chauffeur arrives,” thinly bearded Professor Jordan said as I got out. “Sharing the Gospel in Markham tonight, I hear?” “Yup. Aren’t you cold?” “A man is warmed by the fire in his heart,” the other professor said with a rigid smile. “What is that, Psalm 39?” Jordan said. “Something like that.” I was pretty sure I’d never met this other professor before, but he seemed to know me. He said, “the office staff tells me we haven’t received your application yet. You’re still joining us next year, aren’t you?” I said, “Lord willing. I have the application open on my desk. “It should be on our desk,” Jordan said. They both laughed, and I went inside. There were a few students milling around the common room. First years, most of whom I didn’t know yet. I vaguely recognized a tall blonde guy on the ratty couch by the coffee machine. I made sure to catch his eye as I went for a cup. “Here’s our ride!” he said when he saw me. He got up and shook my hand. “How you doing? Silas, right?” “Yeah,” I said. “Phil?” “Philip, yeah.” The others on the couch introduced themselves. One was a thin-faced girl whose name I forgot as she said it. The other girl was Aishwarya McClelland, wearing a tight, striped turtleneck and a long jean skirt. She was darker than her photo, and exactly my height when she stood to shake my hand. “Hi,” she said. “I’m Ash. Taylor’s had a lot to say about you. The coffee’s fresh, if you’re looking for some.” I really wanted to say something clever. Something witty about fresh coffee. But then a loud group of students rolled into the common room. Taylor’s voice made him seem bigger than the others; he was singing, and waving his grey fedora. “Jesus shall reign where’er the sun Doth his successive journeys run! His kingdom stretch from shore to shore Till moons shall wax and wane no more!” He grinned when he saw I was already here. I gripped his hand, and he pulled me in for a hug. “Ready to preach the Word?” he said. “In and out of season.” “Philip? Ash? Rachel?” “I’m not going,” the slim faced girl said. Taylor’s shoulders slumped, but only for a second. He gave the girl a glance, spun his fedora onto his head, and turned. “Pray for us!” he called, and led the way outside, singing another missionary hymn. The sky had greyed over a bit. The autumn wind whipped up and I had to restrain my walk so it wouldn’t seem like the chill bothered me. I would have offered Aishwarya shotgun, but Taylor had it on reserve because he liked to chose what we listened to.

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Before we made it to the highway, he turned off my ska and put his own tape in. A sermon, of course. Philip groaned and asked for Five Iron Frenzy back. “This will get us in an evangelizing mood,” Taylor said. I adjusted the rear-view mirror to look at Aishwarya. When I caught her eyes I said, “What do you want to listen to, Aishwarya?” I must have said it wrong, because Philip barked a laugh, and Aishwarya smirked at me. “It’s your car,” she said. “Silvanus.” She said the name with a taunting kind of lilt. Sil-vaa-nus. I tucked back the mirror. Taylor shushed us and turned up the volume. “Worthy art Thou to open the scroll and cut its seal,” the preacher said. “For Thou…wast…slain!” “He’s going to talk about the Moravians next,” Taylor said, and turned it up again. “It’s great, listen.” The sun was gone by the time we got to Markham, and the streetlights glowed orange. I pulled into a No Frills parking lot as the preacher was saying, “Remember what Jesus said in Luke 21?” I killed the engine before he could remind us. It had gotten colder. I wished I brought gloves, and imagined how sore my hands would be by the end. Aishwarya looked comfortable in her heavy winter coat and hood. Philip and Taylor seemed not to notice the cold. Taylor gathered us into a circle for prayer. He prayed that the Lord of the harvest would bless us, and that through the foolishness of preaching, He would save those who believed. “We’re not actually preaching, though,” Aishwarya said as Taylor distributed the bundles of pamphlets. “We’re just handing out tracts, right? “Who knows? We’ll do as the Spirit leads.” Taylor and Philip got to work right away, leaving tracts on about a dozen windshields before we left the parking lot. Then they walked briskly to catch up with other pedestrians on their way to the festival. Aishwarya wasn’t in as much of a hurry. “It’s too cold to run,” she said. I agreed, and tried to think of something else to say. It was quiet for a while, and the others got far ahead. Then, in a gentle voice that startled me with its brightness, Aishwarya started singing. “It is meet we hear Thee saying, We should merry be and glad; I have found my once lost children, Now they live who once were dead.” I knew that hymn. It was a Glendale Bible Chapel favourite. Aishwarya’s version made me wonder why we sang it the way we did, with sad, deep voices that shook the chest. “You sing great,” I said when she finished, and a car went by, and blinded us with its headlights. We arrived at the festival. The street was closed to vehicles, and we walked down the middle white line, through warmly dressed crowds of people clutching steaming Styrofoam

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cups. Booths took up the sidewalks, selling pastries and hot chocolate. There was music all around and everything was lit up, white and red and green. We went two by two into the crowd to sow our seeds. Some seeds fell by the wayside, as people let our tracts slip to the ground. Some fell among thorns, as others told us to keep Christ in the church. But some tracts found their ways into purses and jacket pockets, and a few people even stopped to talk about faith. Aishwarya and I were exchanging e-mail addresses with a young couple looking for a church to join, when Taylor came out of the crowd and grabbed me by the arm. “Dude,” he said. “I found Mormons!” He pulled me away from Aishwarya and the couple, down the street, and behind a group of carollers. He pointed. Two Mormon missionaries stood out among the people, with ties and satchels and shiny golden name tags. “These are yours,” Taylor told me, and started toward them. “In and out of season, right?” I followed. The Mormons looked as young as me. One was lanky, and the other had bad acne. They smiled when they saw us, and Taylor asked where they were from. “Idaho,” Elder Lanky said. Elder Acne held out a pamphlet. “Would you like some literature?” Taylor took the tract and opened it. “Neat. My friend here has some questions about your, er, gospel.” He clapped me on the back so hard I actually stumbled forward. I gave him a look, and noticed Aishwarya and Philip had caught up and were watching. “Um,” I said. I turned to Elder Lanky and tried to remember the best ways to witness to a Mormon. “So, I’m told that you don’t believe in Jesus.” “Of course we believe in Jesus,” Elder Lanky said. “Jesus—” “But you don’t pray to Him,” I said. “We pray to the Father.” “So it’d be wrong to pray to Jesus?” Elder Lanky looked at me suspiciously. “Jesus said to pray to the Father,” Elder Acne said. “So that’s what we do.” “In the book of Acts, the first Christian martyr prays to Jesus while he being stoned. Was he out of line there or …?” I could tell by Elder Lanky’s face that he’d figured out who we were: professionals for another team. He started to turn away. “You should pray to the Father about the Book of Mormon,” he said. “Hear what He says.” “Revelation twenty-two says anyone who adds to the canon is accursed,” I said. “Kinda sounds like the Father’s already made his opinion on your book clear.” “I used to do drugs!” Elder Acne suddenly confessed, probably louder than he’d intended. “I was on a bad path. But


Fiction

I read the Book of Mormon, and it gave me a burning feeling in my chest and great peace. I got away from the drugs and reunited with my parents, and—” “I know exactly what you mean!” I interrupted, seeing my opening. “You ever listen to Five Iron Frenzy? They got this one song, The Phantom Mullet. Kind of a fake-eighties-rock ballad about hair. It’s probably the stupidest song they’ve ever done. No meaning in it whatsoever. But every time I hear it, I get the exact same burning feeling in my chest that you’re describing.” The street seemed to get quiet. I thought I heard Philip whistle behind me. The Mormons just stared. “So,” Taylor said, nodding as if thinking it through. “You’re saying the Book of Mormon has as much truth as a phantom mullet.” Elder Lanky turned red, but his voice was controlled. He said we should read and pray about it ourselves, then he wished us a Merry Christmas, and led Elder Acne away. Taylor squeezed my shoulder. “Ha! We win! Let Utah send us their missionaries, we’ll convert them and send them back.” “I didn’t see a conversion,” Aishwarya said. She was watching the Mormons disappear into the crowd. They weren’t handing our tracts anymore, and Elder Acne was rubbing his forehead. “And they were from Idaho.” “Seeds sown,” Philip said. “Maybe they’ll grow.” My heart was pounding from the thrill of the fight. Then Aishwarya looked at me with level lips and I deflated. In an understated voice, she said, “is that was Taylor meant by you being a natural evangelist? That you’re good at arguing?” “That was witnessing,” Taylor said. “Not arguing.” There was an edge to his voice. “It looked like bullying, Taylor,” Aishwarya said. “Those poor deluded missionaries are preaching doctrines of demons! They’re on their way to Hell if they don’t repent.” “And making fun of a kid for the way he overcame drugs is the way to save them?” Taylor looked at me, as if waiting for me to add something. When I didn’t, he turned back to Aishwarya and quoted, “It is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Matthew nine nineteen.” Taylor reminded me of his grandfather, teeth on edge while quoting scripture. I remembered the split again— his grandfather and my grandfather arguing about the McClellands…and something tacked to the missionary prayer board? Aishwarya relaxed her shoulders, and the familiar smirk touched her mouth. “Matthew ten nineteen,” she said. We ran out of tracts shortly after that, so there wasn’t any reason to be at the festival. Taylor had me drop him off at a friend’s house. He claimed it had always been his plan to stay in Markham, but Philip and Aishwarya seemed surprised.

I didn’t care. It meant I could choose the route back to Peterborough, and Aishwarya could sit shotgun. I took the winding, unlit rural highway. There was no traffic, and heavy darkness covered the fields beyond the road. Aishwarya sat staring out the window for so long, I thought she’d fallen asleep. Then she said, “Got any music?” I opened the compartment between our seats and snatched away an old, half-empty Harvey’s bag. I flicked on the dome light to reveal my cassettes. Aishwarya rummaged through them. “Supertones, Insyderz…you have nothing but ska.” “Sorry,” I said. I wanted to turn the light off because I’d said it with more feeling than I meant, and my cheeks were burning. She looked at me. “Which is the one with the mullet song?” It was still on the dash where Taylor had tossed it. I popped it in. The Phantom Mullet was just ending. Ugly Day was next. I turned off the light and let it play. Aishwarya leaned back and listened for a while. I felt like I should say something about the Mormons. About how it was cheap shot to bring in the mullet song. Or how it was probably against the spirit of the gospel to target Mormons in the first place. Three songs went by without a word. Then Aishwarya suddenly said, “What’s your last name?” Philip said, “Meerstra.” I’d forgotten he was even back there. “Not you.” She poked my arm. “You.” “Bailey,” Philip and I said together. Aishwarya covered her wide mouth with both hands. “We used to be pen pals.” That was it. That was why I had been remembering the split. The split I caused. # I’d found a note taped to the McClelland’s photo on the missionary prayer board. There was a Bible verse on it I couldn’t understand. It was something about Canaan, which was funny because the McClellands were in Pakistan, not Canaan. I showed it to my dad. He didn’t think it was funny. He got mad. When he showed it to some of the other elders, they got mad, too. After that there was a meeting on a Tuesday evening, which never happened at St Catherine. There was a lot of yelling, and people seemed angry at my family, and Taylor’s. We started going to Glendale after that, and I wrote Aishwarya a letter for a Sunday School project. # Aishwarya bit her lip and punched me in the shoulder as if she’d known me forever. “I was mad at you so long! I was ten years old, yaar! I’d never received a letter before. I must have read yours a dozen times. I worked so hard on my reply and I had to throw out three copies because I’d made mistakes, and you never wrote back.”

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I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t speak. Philip laughed in the backseat, and I rubbed my shoulder. “Wow!” Philip said. “Really?” “Yeah,” I said. “My Sunday School teacher had us all choose missionaries to write to.” “And you picked Ash.” “I did.” “Why me?” Aishwarya was leaning against the door now, smirking gently with her arms crossed. I almost told her it was so I could ask if Canaan was close to Pakistan, because I remembered writing that question. “Saw your picture on the prayer board,” I said. And, before I could stop myself, “you had a cute smile.” She screwed up her mouth to keep from smiling and sat forward again. She reached for the volume knob. “You owe me a letter,” she said, and turned up the music. As soon as I got home, I went up to my room, ignoring my dad’s calls to take off my shoes. If I still had Aishwarya’s letter, it would be in the junk drawer at the bottom of my dresser. I pulled it out and dumped the contents on the floor. There was no letter. I opened the closet and took down the big cardboard box on the upper shelf. I found an old NES console and set it aside for later, but no letter. I checked under the bed, in the end tables, and the dusty places behind the dresser. My room was a mess, and there was no letter. I gave up. Kicked off my shoes and went downstairs for a drink. On the way I checked the bookshelf in the hall and the shaking drawers of the china cabinet in the dining room. I noticed the old hope chest, covered in a quilt and a stack of magazines. I pushed them off and fiddled with the latch until it opened. Inside, under a pile of embroidery magazines and unfinished cross-stitching, was a bundle of opened envelopes. Most were addressed to my mom or dad, from people I didn’t know. One was addressed to me, in tight round letters, from Aishwarya. My dad was in the den, watching Star Trek. I collapsed on the couch beside him. While a bedraggled Picard argued with Cardassians, I read Aishwarya’s letter. It said she was glad to have a pen pal and that Pakistan wasn’t anywhere near Canaan, and she was pretty sure it didn’t exist anymore. She asked about my family and my school and my interests. She asked me to write back, and signed her name with a flower over the i. A commercial came on for a bathroom cleaner. The TV lit the room like a car’s headlights. “Dad,” I said. “Do you remember the note I found when I was a kid?” “What note?” “At St Catherine. About the McClellands.” He didn’t move for a second. I was about to ask again, but then he muted the TV and sighed. “What about it?” “What was it?”

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“Does it really matter?” I looked at the letter. Another piece of paper was clipped to it—the first few sentences of a reply I must have started and given up on. “I think so,” I said. My dad reached beside him and flicked on a lamp. He looked me up and down, as if trying to gauge my height while I was sitting. “It was a racist note,” he finally said. “A verse out of context about not marrying outside your people. It was put up by a man who didn’t know better. He’s with the Lord now.” “That’s why we left St Catherine? Because they were against interracial marriage?” My dad looked very tired, and I suppose I knew what he was going to say. “It was your grandpa who put the note up,” he said. “My dad.” “Oh,” I said. “And Taylor’s grandpa?” “Yeah, they were of the same mind on that, and other things, too. Stuff had been brewing a while before the note. The split would have come even if you hadn’t found it. In the end, your grandpa and old man Martin got read out of the assembly. Glendale took them in and, well, we just kind of went along.” “Right,” I said. But it didn’t feel right. He looked at me a moment longer, then nodded and turned the volume back up. I watched for a while, as the Cardassian tried to get Picard to say there were five lights. Then I went back up to my room and put Aishwarya’s letter on my desk. I threw away the crumpled reply I’d started as a child, and pulled out a fresh sheet.

Matt W. Cook is a former Evangelical preacher and missionary who had a crisis of faith. Now he writes about our relationships with religion, spiritual disillusionment, and spiritual reconstruction. Matt lives in Toronto with his wife and kids, where he writes as if his income depends on it. He sometimes blogs and tweets at mwcook.com and @matt_the_cook.


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A Scream RILEY HASSLE

Can a scream be heard, If it is not uttered out? If it never passes the lips, And it only drowns the mind, Coating eyes in a mist of blue? If it is left to ferment and spread, Slowly growing with passing years, Training the physical being and the mind, To forget bliss when pure and courage when tried? If it can only stretch to a mental state, But seeping through in pulses, Amongst the body but out of sight, Hidden with a misplaced smile and damned hope, Trying to be heard? Yes, It can. Through clear eyes and sewn lips impure, A scream can be heard. Through actions and movements, Slow and secure, Covered and mimicked. A scream can be heard, More loudly than when silent.

undrey Š 123RF.com

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undrey © 123RF.com

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Belong RILEY HASSLE

As you can see, I'm not all there But none of us are, Neither here, nor elsewhere We all lose a bit of ourselves, Whether now or later Never completely anywhere, Never completely nowhere If we were all there, No one could be here Now, with everyone everywhere And no one nowhere Where would you and I be, If we don't quite belong?

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Invisible RILEY HASSLE

She spoke, All that was heard was a joke. No one believed her, So she let life slide into a blur. He heard, But that was deemed absurd. No one believed him, So he let life go on a whim. They tried, But everyone thought they lied. No one believed them, So they let life condemn. She died, Everyone cried. They all said that they loved her, The truth, never again to stir. He knew, But he just withdrew. No one knew the truth, But them. The invisible youth.

Riley Hassle is a student from Texas, who enjoys her free time by starting various creative activities, especially writing.

undrey Š 123RF.com

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Showdown at the DA MIKE SHARLOW

I

t never matters what year it is, archetypes remain the same. The victim, the bully, the hero, and the bystander are archetypes. Who knows who the originals are? They could be Biblical, mythological, historical, and very possibly, even prehistoric. The thing is, with people can their character change? Is their archetype interchangeable? Can a victim become a bully? Or a bystander become a hero? Angelo picked me up in his rusty, gold, ‘69 Grand Prix. It was a loud, gas-guzzling boat. We drove to the party on Ferry Street in the first-floor apartment of an old two story. A half barrel of Pabst Blue Ribbon was buried in ice in an old claw tub in the bathroom. Two bucks, all you could drink. There were only about ten people there, but by bar time the place would be packed. This was 1978, a time before cell phones and the internet. A couple of landline phone calls and word of mouth was enough to spread the news about the when and where of any party. Angelo and I got a beer in a twelve-ounce plastic beer cup and wandered into the kitchen to socialize. I was hoping someone was passing a joint, because I hadn't gotten high all day. I ran out pot last night. If worse came to worse, I could scrape resin out of my pipe, but I didn’t like to resort to that. It tasted like shit, and the high seemed kind of dirty. I was also looking for the opportunity to buy a bag. I had thirty dollars. Enough cash to buy a half ounce, and enough left over to party. Angelo and I stood in the kitchen talking about Mr. Danoff, our Econ teacher. We were in the same class for the last

hour of the day. We knew economics had relevance, but the thickness of the material combined with Danoff’s lackluster delivery and monotone voice was as sedating as a light rain on a lazy spring afternoon. Bobby Kay walked in to the kitchen. My spine-tingled with fear, and I froze. Bobby Kay was a bully and a badass. He backed up his mean streak with strength. This was the worst kind of bully. Earlier in the summer he had knocked my brother off his bike. There was really nothing I could do about it. If I tried, I would've gotten my ass kicked. It would have been worse than getting knocked off a bike. Bobby came from a family of loggers, and it was obvious that he had been in the woods for years weight training with tree limbs. He was about my height, about five-seven, but more muscular and physically dominant. Bobby walked up to Angelo, and I was relieved. I didn’t think he recognized me, or even noticed me. I could tell they knew each other. “Hey, Bobby,” Angelo said. “Hey, pussy.” Bobby moved directly into Angelo’s personal space. “I don’t want any trouble.” Angelo avoided eye contact and turned his body to a passive posture. He was about two inches shorter than Bobby but with a similar build. I wanted Angelo to stand up to him. I thought he stood a chance. Bobby muscled into Angelo and forced him into the kitchen wall by the frig. Bobby was cornering him like a predator. I wanted to do something, but I didn't know whether I should,

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or even could. I held out hope that Angelo would push back. Despite Angelo’s deference to Bobby, he didn't appear petrified with fear, just very annoyed. Bobby tried to force the fight from Angelo. Then suddenly, startling me more than Bobby Kay had previously, Tim Cullen bolted into the kitchen from the living room, although I didn’t even know he had arrived at the party, and grabbed Bobby Kay by the throat and lifted him off the floor. “Stop fucking with my friends!” Tim was about five-nine, probably a hundred and seventy-five pounds. He had long dark hair, longer than mine. He had native-looking features, but he had never mentioned it, so I had no idea. I had never seen Tim be aggressive. He wasn't the kind of guy who looked for a fight. He usually spoke quietly and didn’t make a spectacle or an ass of himself. There was an inherent kindness and confidence about him, but at this moment I thought he was going to kick the living shit out of Bobby. A madness filled Tim's face. He became ferocious, and his eyes were wide and wild. Bobby Kay’s eyes were red and teary, and it looked as if he was going to full-blown cry. He tried to resist and grabbed Tim's hand on his throat, but Tim overpowered him. Bobby looked like an animal ready to get eaten. I enjoyed his helplessness. Now you know how it feels. Tim was on the precipice, the point where he was either going tear Bobby Kay’s head off or release him. In an instant, Tim let him go. I think he saw and felt Bobby’s submission. Bobby walked out of the kitchen and left the party. After this, Tim, Angelo, and I decided to leave the party. We figured Bobby would tell his older brother, Billy what happened, and Billy might show at the party with some of his friends. We didn't want a brawl. Getting drunk and fighting wasn't our thing. Getting drunk, getting high, laughing, and looking for women was how we partied. We landed at the DA Club on the corner of Third and Main. Tommy Smith was there waiting for us. Tommy was fair skinned with a smooth complexion. He was a handsome, slim guy with long brown hair, who walked with a confident bounce that looked a bit effeminate. He was also a bit androgynous looking, but not as much as I was. I had long dishwater blond hair, and a few times I was mistaken for a girl. One night down at the bars a guy thought he knew me. He thought I was some girl with whom he had sex, but once he heard my voice, he figured out I wasn’t her. Then he said, supposedly to make me feel better, “She was ugly anyway.” He quickly walked away as gracefully as he could. “Catch ya later, man.” “I’ll get a pitcher.” Angelo headed to the bar and brought back a big frosty glass picture of Special Export. It was high in alcohol content. We didn't need many of these to get all fucked up. We poured our first pitcher of the night, as the song Hurricane by Bob Dylan played on the jukebox. Tommy played this. He was a big Dylan fan. Angelo was too. My dad was

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a boxing fan, so I was a boxing fan. I knew more about the fighter, Rubin Hurricane Carter than they did. As we sat at the round wood table drinking, Bobby Kay walked in with his older brother Billy and Billy’s best friend, George Orlin. Billy had long, shiny, curly, blond hair. He wasn’t much taller than Bobby, but he was a lot more muscular. He was a badass, but he wasn't a bully. He didn't need to be to instill fear. I didn't know who he destroyed, or how he did it, but he had a legendary reputation. Whenever I passed him in the halls at school, I felt an electric fear run through me. I averted my eyes and hoped he wouldn’t notice me. Once when I met his eyes in passing, he said, “What are you looking at?” “Nothing,” I mumbled and kept walking with my head down so my long hair would hide my face. George Orlin commanded similar respect and fear as Billy. He was bigger, but I believe he deferred to Billy. Still, I felt exactly the same way around him as I did Billy. With his wavy red hair, he looked like he could have been a descendant of Vikings. He sure acted the part. Sitting with Tim, Tommy, and Angelo I felt less threatened. Tommy, Angelo, and I were probably on about the same level. We were close to the same size, small, give or take a couple inches and a few pounds, but I was probably the only one of us who had been in any fights. No one would know it, but up until 9th grade I had been in quite a few fights, if not violent altercations. I was more apt to punch someone for even the most minor slight. When I was in eighth grade when my family lived in California before we moved back to Wisconsin, I punched a kid with braces in the mouth for cutting in front of me in the line to get on the school bus. The same year I slapped a friend of mine in the face on the bus for teasing me. “What did you that for? I was just fooling around,” he said, as his eyes teared and up, and the red imprint of my hand appeared on his face. I felt like he was trying to humiliate me. Up until I was a sophomore there were other altercations, then I began smoking pot and stopped getting into fights. Feeling threatened, and the fear and anger that accompanied it, gave me more of a flight response, or just apathy. I didn’t want to fight anymore. Tommy sensed that something was up, so we filled him on what happened at the party less than an hour ago, while the beat of My Sharona thumped from the jukebox. Billy, Bobby, and George keep staring at us, so Tommy finally said, “How you guys doing? Need a beer?” No, no, no. Then I took a second to think about it, and I realized that it was smart. Their reaction could be an indication of their intent. “Go fuck yourselves!” Bobby blurted. “Shut up, Bobby,” Billy said. “We’re good,” he said to Tommy. Which also meant, “Go fuck yourself.” So, there was obviously not going to be an amicable resolution.


Fiction

“Awe, c’mon, have a beer with us,” Tommy persisted. “Tom, let it go,” Angelo whispered. I was thinking the same thing. “Tommy, sit down.” Tim pushed a chair towards him with his foot. Tommy was already half in the bag. He had been at the bar for a couple of hours before we got there. When we walked into the bar, he was talking to a couple of girls. Ever since he was dumped longtime girlfriend, Renee Renner, blonde, petite, and beautiful, he was trying to fuck his way through the pain. Tommy sat down on the chair Tim offered him. Billy kept looking over at us like he was measuring up the situation. Mostly, I think, he was trying to size up Tim. Tim was the one who had laid hands on his brother. I was pretty sure that Billy didn’t feel remotely threatened by the rest of us. We finished the pitcher, and Tim went to the bar to get another. Billy drained his glass and headed to the bar behind him. As Tim waited for the fresh cold pitcher of beer, Billy sidled up next to him. I was the first one to notice and signaled to Angelo with a nod. We could see that Billy was talking. Tim smiled and said something back. We couldn't hear anything that was being said. The bar was beginning to fill, and the voices were raised to talk over The Who booming on the jukebox. Yeah, who the fuck are you, Billy? Billy leaned in closer and said something that made Tim step back and raise his hands with palms out in a gesture of peace. I looked over at George and Bobby, who were also watching the situation very closely. They looked like they were ready to launch out of their chairs at any moment. Tim grabbed his pitcher of beer as soon as the bartender brought it over and went back to our table. “What an asshole,” he said, as he began to pour us beers. “He wanted to fight, didn't he?” Angelo asked. Tim said nothing. “Fuck ‘em.” Tommy raised his glass. “Don't fight him, Timmy,” Angelo leaned towards him. “Let’s drink this pitcher and go to another bar.” Billy returned to his table with his drink. He kept glancing over at Tim. Billy and George looked over our way every minute or so. I accidentally made eye contact with Billy. I looked away before he did. Knowing the animal, he was, sustained eye contact would have meant I was challenging him. “We need to get out of here.” I emptied the last of the pitcher in Tommy’s glass. “Drink up.” As we finished our beer, the Jackson brothers, Mike, Travis, and Terry, walked into the bar. These guys came from my neighborhood. Mike was two years older than me, and his brothers were my age, and also twins. They weren’t identical. Terry was slightly bigger, harder features, and more verbal than Travis. Travis appeared softer in all ways compared to his brother, but he was a Jackson, and the Jackson Brothers were

tough. Growing up in the neighborhood, I played with Travis and Terry. In the course of play, particularly football or wrestling around, you would be able to gauge someone’s strength. There were very few kids my age, or even a bit older, who I couldn’t dominate. I was faster than Travis and Terry, but they were definitely stronger. Their kind of strength made you feel helpless. One of the last times I saw them was at the Kandy Kane Korner over two years ago during the summer. The Korner was an ice cream shop that had a pool table, a couple of pinball machines, and two video games, Asteroids and Space Invaders. With my best friend at the time, Glen, and a group of other people, I hung out there almost every day. We got high in nearby alleys and then played pool and smoked cigarettes there. Shortly after the Jacksons began hanging out there, Larry Olsen, whom hung out at the Korner on occasion, got lippy with Terry. I didn’t hear what it was all about, but Larry could be an ornery fucker. Maybe because he was sixteen and his hair was already thinning. Anyway, the situation escalated quickly and soon Terry and Larry took it outside. Larry was shorter than Terry, but they probably weighed about the same. Larry threw one punch and missed. Then Terry grabbed Larry by the collar, pushed him back against a parked car, and thumped him on the head and face. Larry tried to fight back, but Terry was dominant, and in about thirty seconds Larry gave up. “Okay! Okay!” I was a little disappointed that it ended so soon. Travis and Terry had long curly dishwater blond hair. They looked like stars in a coming of age movie. Mike wasn’t quite as good looking. He was inches shorter than his brothers, and he had a stocky build a lot like Billy Kay. Travis and Terry were long, lean, and muscular. All three of the Jacksons wore faded jean jackets in various states of age and wear. The Jacksons saw me and came on over to our table. “Hey Mick.” All of them shook my hand. I was surprised at how glad they were to see me. I introduced them to my friends. Travis and Terry went to Northside High, while Angelo, Tommy, and I went to Southside. Both Mike and Tim had graduated a couple of years ago. I asked the Jacksons if they knew where I could score a bag of pot, but to my surprise, none of them smoked. Mike saw the empty pitcher on our table. “Mick, gimme that. What are you guys drinkin’?” “Special Ex, but we’re heading out as soon as we finish our beers,” I said. “Fuck that. You guys can have a beer with us.” Mike grabbed the pitcher and headed to the bar. By this time, Travis and Terry had pulled up chairs to our table. “No, we really to get the hell out of Dodge,” Angelo said. Then I explained to them what had been going down. Terry looked over at Billy, Bobby, and George. “What the fuck you lookin’ at? You keep lookin’ over here like you want something.”

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“Let it go, man,” I said. By the time Mike came back with the pitcher, it had escalated to the challenge delivered first by Billy. “You wanna go outside?” Billy stood up and pushed his chair back. Terry did the same. I knew Terry was tough, but Billy Kay was no Larry Olsen. “Let’s go,” Terry extended his arm towards the back door to the alley. The alley was still paved with red brick from the 1920’s, now worn smooth, missing and busted up in spots. The smell of garbage and stale beer filled the spring night air. An army of cigarette butts littered the ground. A dim cobweb infested yellow light above the back door of the DA Club barely lit the area where Billy and Terry prepared to fight. Both peeled off their jackets and took no time to go after each other. Terry landed two shots to Billy’s face, then Billy tackled him and got on top. Terry’s head banged against the bricks, but before Billy could do more damage, Mike knocked him off. George went after Mike, and Travis launched himself onto George’s back. Bobby tried to dive into the fray, but Tim blindside body checked him like a hockey goon, and Bobby went flying into a row of dirty dented garbage cans. The crash of metal echoed through the alley like cymbals. Tommy, Angelo, and I stayed out of the way and watched the melee. Then I noticed a bag of pot almost at my feet. The fighting had spread out. Everyone was back on their feet. I stepped onto the bag to hide it, then bent down and grabbed it. In one motion I slid it into my jacket pocket. I was sure no one noticed. Those who weren’t fighting, were preoccupied watching the combatants. At the end of the alley, a cop car blew in with its cherries and berries flashing. As it roared towards us, everyone scattered. Tim, Tommy, Angelo, and I ducked out of the alley and back into the bar before everyone else. Then we bolted out the front door. “The Office!” Tommy pointed to the bar directly across the street. We dodged cars on Third Street and raced into the bar. It was crowded so we weren’t worried about the cops anymore. I bought a picture of Pabst. After all, I didn’t have to worry about spending any money on a bag of pot anymore. While we drank, I didn’t tell anyone about my find. I went to the bathroom and slipped into the only stall to look at the pot. I unrolled the baggy and massaged it in my fingers to move it around to get a good look at what I had. It looked like almost a half-ounce of Columbian Gold. The buds were orange. My heart beat with excitement. I opened the bag and took a healthy sniff. I couldn’t wait to smoke this. I rolled the bag up and stuck it into my sock. You never knew what could happen downtown, so I always kept my pot down the front of my pants or in my sock. Suddenly feeling relaxed, I needed to pee out the beer I had been drinking. When I walked out of the bathroom stall, Bobby Kay was standing there. I didn’t even hear him come in. “You have it?”

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“What?” I acted oblivious. “You know what, fuckface. My bag. Back in the alley it fell out of my pocket when your dipshit friend cold cocked me.” Bobby stood in front of the door blocking me. He smelled like BO and garbage. I didn’t know what he heard, when I was in the stall admiring his pot, now mine. “I don’t know anything about it. Someone else probably took it.” I was waiting for him to say he, or someone else, saw me take it, but he didn’t. I took my pack of Old Golds out of my jacket pocket and showed him I had nothing else in my pockets. My jeans were tight, so I padded the front pockets to him there was nothing. I turned around to show him I had nothing in my back pockets except my wallet. “I don’t have it. What was it anyway?” “Half ounce of gold.” He said it in a quiet, almost vulnerable way, that almost made me feel sorry for him, so I acted like I was. “Well that sucks, man. Maybe it’s still somewhere in the alley.” “I went back after the cops left. I didn’t find it. Fuckin’ pigs probably found it.” He moved out my way and went to the sink to wash off the dirt on his face from dragging himself out of the garbage in the alley. “Know where I can get a bag?” “Sorry, man. I’ve been looking myself.” I moved towards the door. “Later.” And I walked out of the bathroom. When I got to the table, I said, “I ran into Bobby Kay in the bathroom.” “Holy shit!” Angelo said. “He was looking for his bag of pot he lost it in the alley, when Tim knocked him into the garbage cans.” I pointed at my sock and pushed it down enough for them to see. Everyone laughed. “You okay?” Tommy leaned forward and put his hand on my shoulder. “I’m great. I’m a fucking hero, man.” Everyone laughed.

Mike Sharlow lives in La Crosse, WI. To live, he works in Special Education and is an Employment Trainer for adults with disabilities. His works appeared in Amelia Magazine, Lost Souls Magazine, Bewildering Stories, The Wagon Magazine, The Literary Whip and others.


Literary Work

30,000 Days STEPHEN SCHWEI

30,000 days is a lifetime in most western societies. Roughly 82 years, with one-fourth to one-third of all your time given up to sleep. How will you spend down your 30,000 day account? You don’t know how many are allocated to you and you can’t earn any more. There is no blueprint, nobody will audit you, and the only true rewards are self-defined.

I devote so few hours to some things, thankful to be able to focus on all the rest, but waste so many more on the meaningless and backsliding counter-productive and life-shortening activities. If you have the luxury of choosing each day’s activities you can also decide how important each day is to you. One of so many or one of so few.

Some days are for rest or downtime. Some are frivolously frittered away. Errands and life’s obstacles and tasks easily eat up thousands of days. Will the rest be fulfilling, make you proud, and make you feel like you’ve accomplished something or other? JFK lived 16,979 days, Michael Jackson 18,564. Jimi Hendrix only 10,158 and Jimmy Carter 34,274 so far. Me, I’m working on 23,557. Hopefully I’ve got 6,443 more to go, to parcel out and divide up into the categories of my life.

Natalia Hubbert © 123RF.com

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Stephen Schwei is a Houston poet with Wisconsin roots, published in Wax Poetry & Art, Beneath the Rainbow, Hidden Constellation, Borfski Press, and the Waco Word Fest anthology. A gay man with three grown children and four wonderful grandchildren, who worked in Information Technology most of his life, he can be a mass of contradictions. Poetry helps to sort all of this out.

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Loves Notes To an Untamed Wilderness TONY KOVAL

Tony Koval lives in Alaska with her three children and her husband. She spends her time pretending to be a ballerina or a rockstar while she cooks tacos. Sometimes she gets distracted and accidentally burns things. One time, she broke her toe leaping across her kitchen while dancing.

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i

They said space was the last frontier or else the frozen north was. I knew, at once, they had never met you. I guess, now, the inside of the human body is no longer a mystery and all the borderlands have been mapped. The wilds: They've all been tamed. They said nothing was left but space, Antarctica, and the bottom of the ocean. I knew, at once, they had never seen the sparking glimpses of barely-coasted galaxies living inside you, That they would never be able to build space ships or submarines strong enough to come back from the glowing hot places in your chest or lay the railways it would take to tame and colonize the craggy and endless mountainous landscape of your mind: How would they penetrate the permafrost? What man would ever be dumb, dedicated, and pig-headed enough to trek the tundra on foot or hoof? What man could ever brave you, you Dead Man's Pass? You dangerous thing? Who could ever map you under the clear and cold constellations, under sharp white stars like perforations in the fabric of the

black night? Travel the frozen lakes as a midnight silhouette through the daytime darkness, unmitigated, and not get washed away under the neon night, starving, you Aurora Borealis:

he didn't tell the rest of the world?

WHO?

bigfoot you unicorn.

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You stormy sea, you ship wrecker, you Devil's Triangle, you Hurricane Alley, you monsoon.

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They would glimpse you and then they would whisper you and then they would hunt you down and harvest you and eat you and try to take on your magic you

They would put your parts in a museum: Escape them.

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What dreamer imagined they could fly with birds or

What Columbus would cross you? Bring the whole screaming industrial world after him? How could he not come back from those strange lands, those foreign and fathomless depths of you, and say, 'You must see these miraculous things I've seen!'? How could he keep you a secret, you Land of Milk and Honey?!

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How can there be one man who goes into a wild place and not another who follows?

submerge themselves for hours without drowning? Who determined to go far beyond the point of breathing and see the wicked creatures who live in the desperate gloom down at the bottom of the cavernous sea, searching for myths like you?

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Crash into wildernesses like you. How could he love you and keep you a secret? He couldn't. How could he ever meet you and not whisper your gospel door to door?

Meet them and make earthquakes!

vii

You are a vast and untamed wild only when untouched, God Particle.

How could he know you were real if

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The very act of witnessing you changes you.

your fangs and your claws: Some spiritless trophy,

You don't need them! some proof of conquest.

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How could they ever wrestle you down and break you to keep you? They will never get through your polar caps. They will never mine you dry. They will never find your bottom, you ocean. They will never find the end of your stars; You will go on and on and on and on and on.

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They can't tame you! You would scratch the walls and claw the furniture you wild thing! You don't need to be kept! You're a survivor! The only way to keep you is to kill you! And then you are just the dried parts of what you were-the leftovers of yourself: Your skin, your bones, your fur hung on some wall,

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Go screaming into the night! Escape them! Leave your blood in the snow when they clip you with bullets! Wear your scars! Survive! Survive! SURVIVE! Run!


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Fiction

Atlanta NICOLE ZELNIKER

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met our neighbor Isaac in Atlanta, a week after my family moved across the country from Olympia, where Mom and Dad would both take jobs at the University of Georgia. It rained much less, they said, and they talked non-stop about raising their biracial children in a more diverse city than Olympia, but until I met Isaac, I thought Atlanta was a dump. I was eight and he was 30, but he had me hooked when he told showed us his library, a vast collection of tomes from the dead-white-men classics to Harry Potter. He was already losing his soft, sandy hair then and his skin was cracked and red from the sun, but he also smelled like peppermint and to me he couldn’t have been more perfect. “He seemed nice,” Mom said at dinner later. The five of us–Mom, Dad, older sister Brianna, younger brother Miles, and me–always ate together. Mom and Dad insisted. Miles was five then and picked at his sprouts. “I guess,” he said. Bri, then ten, rolled her eyes and swung her braided hair out of her eyes the same way Mom did. “I wouldn’t know. He spent the whole time talking to Lydia.” I looked up from my sprouts. “You could have talked to him too,” I said. “I’m sorry I haven’t read the entire history of every book ever,” she said. “Bri, be nice,” Dad said. I shrugged and took another bite of sprout. Even though he said he didn’t mind at all, Mom and Dad apologized endlessly for asking Isaac to watch us kids on their anniversary night a month later. They would pay him, they said, and they would drop us off at his place. He insisted on coming to us, much to my disappointment. Two professor parents and our book collection wasn’t nearly as vast. My parents left mere minutes after Isaac arrived, much to Miles’ dismay. Bri had already shut herself up in her room, practicing for her teenage years. “What do you like to do Miles?” he asked. I was taken aback when he asked that. Would we not spend the rest of the night talking about the new book series I had started in class? Miles stopped pouting almost immediately. “I like to play with my animals. Want to see?” He took Isaac’s hand and led him to his bedroom upstairs, leaving the scent of peppermint behind. I spent that night stuck on the same page of my math homework, insisting to myself that I needed to get it done

anyway, and listening to my brother laugh. I took to stopping by Isaac’s after school. Mom taught statistics and Dad taught biology, but Isaac could help me with my English homework the way my left-brained parents couldn’t. I never told Mom and Dad when I would be home late. Just that I was getting extra help after school some days. They told me they were proud to have such a studious daughter. Mostly, Isaac and I talked about what I was reading, whether it be The Magic Treehouse series or, years later, books like Beloved and The Handmaid’s Tale. Every once in a while, Miles would tag along, but Brianna never did, even though she was the one who told him where I was off to after school in the first place. I couldn’t tell him not to come, because then he would tell my parents, and he had promised not to as long as he could come with me. Back then, I wasn’t quite sure why I didn’t want them to know. “Maybe you can help me with this, Miles,” he said one day after I had stopped by with an essay and Miles in tow two years after the move. I sat up straighter. Miles put his pencil down on Isaac’s coffee table and asked, “What is it?” “It’s this watch,” he said, showing us his wrist. The blackrimmed clock face stood still. “I can’t seem to figure out how to set it.” “We just learned this in second grade,” he said. “I can do it.” He took the broken watch off his wrist and handed it to Miles, who climbed up onto Isaac’s lap and fiddled with the dial. Isaac put a hand on Miles’ stomach to steady him. I mostly forgot about Isaac once I went to middle school. I had accumulated friends from third fourth, and fifth grade, and by the time I got to sixth grade, I was actually considered fairly popular, much to Bri’s disbelief. I forgot about Miles too, really, since he was still in elementary school and it was considered uncool to care about your younger siblings. It didn’t occur to me that I was treating Miles the same was Bri had treated me for years. He asked me one day after school if I’d start going with him again to Isaac’s. I told him I was too busy for Isaac. “Did you ask Bri?” Miles wrinkled his nose. “Bri doesn’t like Isaac.” The two of us were in the living room, flipping through the channels on the TV.

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“Why do you need me to go with you?” “I don’t want to go alone, but Isaac says he’s lonely.” “If you don’t want to go, then don’t go,” I said, turning up the volume on a Star Wars movie. “If you could just go with me –” “Miles, hush. This is my favorite one.” I didn’t see him leave, but he must have. When I got up during the commercial to get a snack, he was gone. Bri went to high school the year after, and I soon followed, leaving Miles to navigate the teen-infested middle school waters alone. She graduated a few years after that and went to the university where our parents taught, a silent acknowledgement that Atlanta had become our home over the years. At some point in the intervening years, Isaac moved to Abbeville. I stopped by one evening to say goodbye and help him and Miles move some boxes. He gave me 100 dollars for my trouble, a sum that seemed a fortune to a teen. The high school was down a few blocks from our home, meaning once Miles started, he and I could walk together every morning. I had long since given up on the idea that treating my little brother like an inconvenience was the cool thing to do. We walked together almost every day in the beginning. He told me all about how he may go out for football, but really he’d like to try for the swim team. I talked to him about track and whatever friend group drama I was having at the moment. One evening that spring, Mom came into the kitchen where we were both doing homework. It was a rare night that Mom and Dad were both home before eight o’clock, but somehow, they had managed. “Phone, Miles,” she said, holding the landline. “Who is it?” “Isaac. Our old neighbor.” Miles froze. Then, “I don’t want to talk to him.” Mom’s eyes widened and her lips thinned. “Miles Carlton Faye, don’t you dare be rude. Come get the phone.” Like a man condemned, Miles rose and walked, head down, toward Mom. He took the phone and slinked from the kitchen. “Nice middle naming, Mom,” I said. She grinned. “Lydia Jean, don’t make fun of your brother,” she said. I don’t remember exactly when, but sometime after that phone call, Miles stopped walking with me to school. He came late, most days. He dropped out his junior year, after I followed Bri to college. I rarely heard from him. It wasn’t until years later, after my parents moved with Miles up to New York, that he finished high school and eventually went to college. When we were both in our thirties, we met up in San Francisco. I had come for a work conference. He was in medical school. He showed me his favorite cafe around the corner from campus. I hadn’t seen him in a year, since he visited me in

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Miami, where I had started a life with my husband. Soon, I would be pregnant with our second child. That last visit, Miles had told me he started therapy. It wasn’t until California that he told me why. “He used to touch me,” Miles said. “When I showed up at his house without you.” I stared into my coffee. I wished I’d ordered something easier on the stomach. “Why did you keep going back.” “He said he was lonely,” Miles said. “I was, too.” “But –” “It’s not something I think I’ll ever understand. My therapist helped me realize that maybe that’s okay.” After a minute, I looked up at my brother. He looked so much like both our parents. Mom’s eyes and Dad’s smile. “Were you ever mad at us?” I asked. “For not stopping it?” Miles shrugged. “For a while. But I’m realizing it was nobody’s fault but his.” I nodded. Pretended to understand. He told me all about his therapist and how great it was to have help and how everyone should be in therapy. I said a lot of “sure” and “uh-huh” and “that’s great.” That night at my hotel, I tried to picture Isaac as I knew him and found I couldn’t quite manage. I remembered his soft hair, but were his eyes brown or blue? How did his face change when he smiled? Was he really tall, or did I just think so because I was so young? I drew my knees up to my chest and leaned against the pillow, angry with myself. Angry for not doing something then. Angry because as much as it had hurt Miles, I wondered if Isaac chose him because I wasn’t good enough.

Nicole Zelniker is an editorial researcher at The Conversation US and a recent graduate of the Columbia Journalism School. She has published several pieces of poetry and short stories as well as "Mixed," a non-fiction book about race and mixed-race families. Read more of her work at nicolezelniker.wordpress.com.


Flash Fiction

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Echoes UTE CARSON

We live in each other like Russian dolls, only our contours and edges are soft. The shells in-between are translucent and memories resound through the spaces around. My lover’s footsteps reverberate from his bed to mine, and I feel the temperature of our embrace. Saliva pools in my mouth from his succulent kisses. I smell my mother’s straw-blond hair and the mossy sour breaths of my babies. My grandmother’s fingers tenderly comb my locks and my father walks toward me erect and whole, unmarred by wounds of war. Life stories are recorded in the crevices of my brain and emotions bounce back from hollows in my body. I am filled with the echoes of my loved ones.

Living on Borrowed Time UTE CARSON

When you are old, you live on borrowed time as the sand in the hourglass trickles through. Now is the time to reclaim experiences you pawned in the past. Give memories new life by sowing the seeds from your stories in the fertile green minds of the young.

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Poetry

The Past Lives On UTE CARSON

Our grandson bursts into tears as we dismantle our 18th century armoire to pass along to the next generation. “Its spot in your living room will be empty,” he laments. To comfort him we draw his attention to the story the old piece tells. “It has survived many generations,” we begin, and show him how it is held together with wooden pegs and iron hinges. He marvels at the carvings on the doors. We look for the craftsman’s initials chiseled into the façade and run our hands over the ornamentation on its lacquered sides. Many years ago the armoire decorated a parlor in the baroque castle “Bielwiese” in Silesia. Until the onset of World War II generation upon generation was photographed in front of it. After the war a farsighted relative rescued it, loading it onto a cart and hauling it to western Germany from where it later left by ship for America. It has belonged to us for nearly three decades. Now it will find a home with one of our daughters. The youngest generation will assemble in front of it to be photographed. History is embodied in such artifacts and holds a place in the family of things.

A writer from youth, Ute Carson's first story was published in 1977. For the past 26 years she has continuously published stories and essays in journals, magazines, and books. Her latest publications include "Gypsy Spirit" in Falling in Love Again - Love the Second Time Around, and "A Mantra" in Arts and Letters Magazine. macrovector © 123RF.com

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Liudmila Matvienco © 123RF.com

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Fiction

The Anti-Lullaby WILLIAM FALO

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watched the tourists line up at the entrance of the castle waiting for their chance to see and feel the horrors of the past with a chance to see a ghost. I knew they would see nothing, the only horror here was the amount of money they took from the people for the souvenirs of Dracula, who never even set foot here. I would soon learn the real terror was not in the castle, but it could be anywhere and inside anyone. I walked so softly, people said I was a ghost, but when you walk like a ghost you catch people doing or saying things that they didn’t want you to see or hear. I approached the employee break room, after taking a tour through the castle. I did take a tip, and laughed when a child asked if I lived here. It must be because of my black clothes. I gave that small girl a black ribbon I wore and she did a little dance. I smiled. I stopped outside the door when I heard laughter and I leaned against some black curtains. I blended in and listened, maybe I should have just gone in, but I didn’t. I thought I was so tough that nothing could hurt me. I was wrong. The voices filled the old halls like demons from the past. “I can’t stand Anca. She’s always dressing in black, probably to get more tips.” “I think she’s bulimic. I heard her throwing up in the bathroom.” I did, sometimes I do that, but I’m not bulimic. “She is so anti-social. She thinks she is better than us.” I heard a few grunts agreeing with that statement. “I hate her. I wish she would quit. She makes us look bad.” How did I do that? “I think she came from an orphanage.” I gasped. “I heard that someone bought her. A trafficker.” “A sex trafficker?” “Yes, but nobody wanted her, so they were forced to keep her.” I was too stunned to react and the fact that I thought it could be possible hurt. I am tough. I carry a knife and I don’t back down to anyone, but the words got through my outer shell and pierced my heart. I slumped against the wall. A tear threatened to drop. That never happened before. Was I adopted? I often felt strange with my parents, like I didn’t belong and I didn’t resemble them at all. I couldn’t handle it all and ran through the huge halls, past the rooms that ghosts were supposed to roam and the stairway that led to the dungeon where the guides tell gullible tourists many men died. I flew past the walls with red stains that are said to be blood.

Outside, the tourists stared at me as I ran past them. Someone yelled out. “Look at her. She must have seen a monster.” I stopped and turned. “No, I didn’t. The monsters are on the outside. They are everywhere.” I waved my arms at all of them. I kept going and backed my electric scooter out of the garage and gunned it down the path until I reached the Transylvanian woods. I took the backroads to avoid seeing anyone, I couldn’t go straight home and face my parents. We’re they my parents? At night, when I lay in bed, I often felt like I didn’t belong there. My father was often gone on long business trips. He said sales trips. I didn’t know what he sold, maybe girls. The thought made me shiver. My mother burned candles in the dark and always seemed distant, she claimed to talk to spirits of the dead. I struggled to keep away the thought it could be children she trafficked away that didn’t survive. What was I thinking? The scooter hummed on like a beehive filled with angry bees. The backroads became dirt trails once used by people hiding from the communist government during the eighties. Many of them hid in caves around here. I sped on despite the dangerous curves and loose dirt causing the wheels to lose their grip on the trail. My mind was still filled with dark thoughts and images. Suddenly, a large animal burst through the woods. It might have been a stray dog or a wolf. I couldn’t stop, but I turned the bike sideways and the tires slid in the dirt with me hanging on to if for far too long. It finally stopped against a tree and then the pain came and I yelled out. The animal that ran out on the trail was long gone. After my scream, the woods became silent. My long pants saved me from any major cuts and despite never wearing a helmet, my head stayed off the ground long enough in the slide to not hit the ground with enough force to cause any major injury. The scooter wasn’t so lucky, the wheel was bent and the handle bars broke in two and in these woods there was no cell reception. I was on foot. I saw a small game trail going through the woods, the same one the animal used to cross the road. I followed it deeper into the woods in the general direction of my house, still not sure what I would do when I got there. It seemed to go on forever and my legs ached from the crash. After an hour, I saw another path that led toward a hunter’s cabin. I needed a break and pulled my knife out and headed toward it. The door wouldn’t budge, but I heard a whimper

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and shoved it open. A scream came from the corner where a girl crouched down. She was tied to an old portable heater. “It’s okay,” I said and walked toward her. “Help me.” She begged. Her brown wavy hair dangled in her eyes. I could still see the terror making her brown eyes look large and alert. “It’s okay.” I used my knife to cut the ropes. “Who did this?” “Traffickers in my village. They promised me a job in the United Kingdom, but brought me here. They are going to sell me.” “When? Where are they?” “I don’t know.” She rubbed her wrists and hugged me. “I’m Anca. What’s your name?” “Nicoleta.” Outside every noise became a threat. Wolves, bears, traffickers, and darkness came closer. I had to get her out of here. I led her back to the other path. We walked until we reached a crossing. “My town is close.” She pointed west. “Okay.” We went that direction for an hour and I saw the small town. Much smaller than mine. Nicoleta smiled and ran to a house on a small street. I waited outside on a dried-up fountain with an angel in the middle of it. Cracks ran along the angel’s body and one wing was missing. I watched a horse and cart go by taking vegetables to a market. The horse glanced at me then neighed and continued on its way while an old man shook its reins. I thought of asking for a lift on the cart, but Nicoleta came toward me with a man. “This is my brother, Viktor.” I backed up when he reached out for me. Maybe he thought I took his sister, but he grasped me and lifted me off the ground with a bear hug. “Okay.” I struggled to get free of his embrace. “You saved her.” “It was nothing.” I wanted to find my home before dark, but it was a long trip. “You must come inside for some food and drink.” Viktor grabbed my arm and led me inside. “What about the police?” “We called them. We do have a picture of the kidnappers. We made them take it before they left as a memory of Nicoleta.” He pulled it out. I stared at it and my mind broke. I staggered backwards. “It can’t be.” “What?” Nicoleta was washing herself down with a cloth. She told me only her brother and her lived here. Her parents left them a long time ago for some job in another country which is why she tried to do the same thing. “I…” My mouth froze. “You know them?” “My parents. Maybe not my parents.”

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I slumped against the wall. The words from the castle workers came back to haunt me. Traffickers. Tried to sell me. Nobody wanted me. The orphan nobody wanted. The business trips by my father. What did he sell? Or who did he sell? The memorial of candles by my mother for missing people or children. I blacked out. When I woke up a woman police officer was sitting across from me. She saw me wake up and came closer. “How are you feeling?” “Okay.” “What happened?” “I have to tell you that your parent’s house was burnt down apparently by an unattended candle.” “They’re dead?” “No, missing. We have alerts out for them at all the border crossings.” “Are they my parents?” “I don’t know, but it appears they could have sold thirty or more girls from surrounding villages to other traffickers. You saved Nicoleta from being one of them. You’re a hero.” “No, I’m not. I’m nothing.” Nicoleta stepped forward. “You saved my life. You can stay with us now.” Viktor nodded and they both hugged me. Where else could I go? They accepted me into their house, but I couldn’t accept the past, present, or future. I searched through the burned-out house and found some pictures that survived the fire. Their edges were burnt, but I could make out some of the faces. I recognized some as cousins, friends’ children, or children or so they told me. None of it was true. I kept the pictures and returned to my new home. I could barely eat. I still threw up a lot. Viktor bought me a new electric scooter and I flew through the woods. I still didn’t wear a helmet. Maybe I wanted to die, maybe the answers were there in another place. A fire inside me was still burning and I couldn’t sleep. The faces came to me in the quiet moments at night, like an anti-lullaby. I searched every path in the woods hoping one day to find the missing or for monsters like my so-called parents. I always brought the knife with me. I lived for the danger, because it made me feel alive.

William Falo writes fiction. His work has appeared in Newfound, The Ginger Collect, Soft Cartel, and other literary journals. You can follow him on Twitter @williamfalo


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Featured Authors

Rita Dunham INTVW BY C. MONTGOMERY

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orn in Chicago, Illinois, Rita Dunham received her BA in Creative Writing from Columbia College - Chicago. Her work has been honored in the Dallas Fort Worth Literary SoulFEST in 2009, Los Angeles Times/ Festival of Books in 2010, Hollywood Book to Screen Pitch Festival 2011, and Chicago’s Lions Club. Rita is a single mom, educator, RE investor and novelist. She’s worked in various capacities within the field of writing, and was feature columnist for Today’s Chronicle. Now, she is in the field of Education as substitute teacher. NRM had the chance to interview the 52 year old Chicagoan writer and discuss her work and key mission to inspire those who struggle—that there is always hope. NRM: Did you always want to be a novelist? RD: From a young age I have taken pleasure in all genres from basic storytelling, fiction, non-fiction, urban, feature columnist for a Chicago newspaper and even poetry. I knew and some of my family members recognized my passion for prose early on, particularly my grandmother, who encouraged me consistently. However, novel writing appealed most to me. The thing I loved most about the process was the opportunity to express my thoughts, beliefs and observations through self-reflection and the written word. Drawing a written picture of the world in my own eyes The only rules I follow are the ones I create.

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NRM: Could you tell us more insights about ‘A Token for the Journey’? RD: The insight I draw from whenever I write, it’s always from a place of truth. A place of conviction. “After all, how would we ever know what lies inside, until someone or something brings it out. Through pleasure or pain. Choose your poison.” is one of my most favorite lines in A Token for The Journey. Because in life, we must choose wisely.

reveal their true purpose or contribution to society - leaving their inner-genius virtually untapped. I like to touch the discouraged and broken-hearted people in life because I've been there and I know what it's like. This is my tribe. The aim of my mission is to relay the message that just because you started there, by no means do you have to stay in that place, or make it the finishing line of where you end up.

NRM: What issues do you feature in your writing? RD: Just as I previously mentioned regarding the pleasure or pain factor, the truth is, one could not exist without the other. Life, in and of itself, is a combination of pleasure and pain. Triumphs and disappointments. The state of true success or accomplishment on any level, often springs from the act of struggling, sacrificing, lack or dissatisfaction of some sort. Yet, this is the very place where the fire to strive forward is kindled and the thirst to accomplish your mission is often quenched. Without lack and resistance how would we ever come to appreciate and savor the taste of joy? Develop compassion for others or a need to spread our wings and reach farther.

NRM: Was there anyone that touched your life or brought you to this perspective? RD: I would say it was a mixture of people, life and self-experience. I like to always try to look for the good in every situation, no matter how challenging it may be. I would have to say my grandmother was the most influential, along with my older sister and a few wise cronies of mine. "Even the most undesirable circumstances are coming to teach you something." One of my older siblings and best friend, June Cunningham, also had a heavy influence on my upbringing. She was a very unique composite with this super compassionate core and a street edge that just wouldn't quit. A mixture that still resonates with me today. During her short time on this earth she managed to form a Youth Organization as a vessel to reach so many of the young people in our community a few years before she passed away.

NRM: How did you become interested in these issues? RD: There is so much pain in this world. Yet, there is so much good. Good that is often drowned out by a multitude of unfavorable circumstances in life. Many of which we have no control over. There are so many hearts and minds that have yet to be discovered, yet to be awakened or had the chance to

NRM: What are you working on now? RD: Currently, I am nourishing two totally different projects. Both of which are firmly rooted within the foundation of Truth. Conviction. And Faith.


New Reader Media

Manuel Pelaez INTVW BY J. KHAN

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iving in Florida by way of Havana Cuba, this 50-year old retiree has rekindled his passion for storytelling. What started as a collection of notes jotted down during his day job—this graduate of Florida International University has grown his works into several published novels. In the middle of writing his next novel he managed to find time to answer a few questions for New Reader Magazine. This is Manuel Pelaez. NRM: Can you describe your trilogy book in one sentence? MP: It has it all: action, suspense, drama and it’s the first three books in a saga. NRM: What was it that compelled you to write The Project, The Hunt and The Program? MP: When I thought of Izem and Soldaat, their overwhelming energy compelled me to tell their story, as if they were real people in front of me. As soon as I started writing about them it turned into its own world which was full of different characters and stories and I just had an amazing time writing it. NRM: Was there something about Africa that made you want to base your main characters there? MP: There’s a humanitarian crisis in North East Nigeria, in the Lake Chad basin. That’s still going on and I thought about starting my story there, in a place that’s full of chaos and misery. Also I thought about the large areas of jungle with untouched mountains that could possibly hide an entire civilization. And a means for Izem to be able to hide

from an organization as powerful as the CIA. Some of my favorite movies are based in Africa like Blood Diamond and Tears of the Sun. NRM: Did you do a lot of research for the books? Can you tell us about your research? MP: I always do a lot of research for my projects like geopolitical regions, humanitarian crises, etc. I like to keep some aspects of my stories grounded in reality and that allows me to add some fantasy elements. NRM: What are some themes or issues you like to bring attention to in your writing? How did you come across these issues? MP: I try to write a greater message in all my works. I want to teach my readers to become spiritually and mentally stronger, more intelligent. Hopefully I can inspire them to break away from their limitations and boundaries. NRM: What is your work schedule like when you're writing? MP: Now that I’m retired I usually write after a workout (mostly on weekdays). I try not to force myself to write and try to keep it natural so I won’t strain myself. It allows the ideas to come to you and it’s easier to keep track of the story. NRM: What do you like to do when you're not writing? MP: I like watching movies; studying the different plot points and the progression of the story. It’s actually more for studying than entertainment but I still enjoy myself. I like to swim, listen to music, go out dancing, workout and

meditating. Meditation is good for the soul. NRM: How many books have you written and which is your favorite? MP: Currently I have seven published books other than my trilogy. They cover a wide variety of topics like psychology, philosophy, tragedy and comedy. I wrote this book called The Power of Rap in Words of Wisdom or in Spanish: El Poder del Rapeo en Palabras de Sabiduría. That particular book was easy to write as if it almost wrote itself. All these emotions, worries and fears just poured out of me into this book. From there I was inspired to write action novels. The latest novel to be published is called The Plains. I have a manuscript called The Triangle. I’m currently writing sequels to the DARPA trilogy. NRM: Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they? MP: Be true to the spirit of your story. Don’t be afraid to get in touch with your emotions and allow the reader to feel what you write. Don’t hold back and just let your mind go. Write your own way, don’t follow trends. NRM: Tell us a little bit about what you’re currently writing. MP: I’m currently writing the sequels to DARPA, basically a continuation of the story. It will be mind blowing. They say pride is a sin but I’m proud of my work, especially when it has a greater message and I hope to inspire readers all around the world.

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Featured Authors

Derrinique Elliott INTVW BY SARAH ANNE

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hich started out as an English class project, Derrinique Elliot debuts with “My Very Own Words”. Elliot was born and raised in Eleuthera Bahamas, she is a dilettante with a wide range of interests. Derrinique Elliot works in an office and when she’s not happy fulfilling her job, she tries to learn new words and enjoys it. She also volunteers, read books and look into “some new something from somewhere”. New Reader Magazine had the chance to interview the young writer from Eleuthera Bahamas to discuss her work and her role as a writer in society. NRM: When did you begin writing? Derrinique Elliott: I tell everyone who asks me this question that I’ve been writing since I learned how to string sentences together. So maybe age 7 when I was in third grade. I’ve always loved telling and making up stories, the earliest I remember is telling my mom what happened every day after school including mimicking the tones/voices of my teachers and classmates perfectly. NRM: How did "My Very Own Words: 15 Original Poems" start? DE: This was actually a high school project I did when I was 16. My 12th grade English Honors teacher issued our class the assignment to write 15 poems in 15 different styles of poetry as our final for the class. Thankfully, she allowed us to use poems we had written previously that apply to one of the styles we were using so I didn’t have to come up 15 poems right off the top of my head - I can’t write poems on demand. Poems come to me, I don’t plan them. So this project was really a challenge.

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Upon completion of all 15 poems, my dad insisted on printing as a booklet so it would be in a more appealing and readable format as opposed to a regular printed project folder. Five years later, a coworker took it to a local poet for him to read. That poet sent the booklet back with a self-publishing website on it. After a recommendation from my uncle (who is an author) I checked out a co-selfpublishing and jumped headlong into the process of publishing that little worn booklet into the book you see today. NRM: Which poet influenced your style in writing? DE: No poet in particular, I kind of just write as it comes to me. I've always enjoyed listening to spoken word performances and reading others’ works whenever I get the chance but I don’t have any particular hero in the world of poetry. Among the poems you've written, which is your favorite and why? Of the 15, my favorite would have to be ‘Words’, the Lyric that starts the book and the poem that gave the collection its name. That poem encompasses how I feel about words and written expression - writing is a part of me and I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t write. It was one I wrote a while before I got that project in 12th grade and my first ever performance - I’ll never forget reading it in front of an auditorium full of people during my school variety show. Words in and of themselves are so powerful, they creates thoughts, feelings, entire worlds, within a person and can change them forever. NRM: Is your theme consistent? DE: I wouldn't say so. Other than it all being generally fiction starring

teenagers/young adults, I find my characters telling different stories or focusing on different topics as their story comes together. Perhaps my theme would be how that character sees the world? A lot of it turns out to be self-discovery when I get feedback from others, although for me I’m just writing. For my poetry, it’s mostly just about life or capturing how I feel in a certain moment for me to reflect on and make use of in a future story. NRM: What do you think is the role of a writer in society? DE: A writer’s job is to tell stories. These words are for society to be entertained and inspired by. Provide an escape from the harsh realities of the world and reveal that there is more good within and around a person than they might think. Writers release part of themselves onto a page and that part of themselves causes society to look at themselves as well and draw conclusions - whether it’s on how they feel in the moment or how they see their world. NRM: Are you working on something else right now? DE: I’m always thinking of something to write or working on something, be it fan fiction or original works. Currently, I’m working on finishing my novel drafts so I can share those with the world as well. I’ve begun a new novel every year since 2012 during NaNoWriMo but have yet to finish any of them as a first draft proper for editing. This year, I’ve chosen one whose characters I especially love to work on and get finished to begin the journey to publishing again.


New Reader Media

Bernadette Butler INTVW BY B. LEXINGTON

B

ernadette Butler has lived an adventurous life. She went from computer data entry to serving two terms as a school board member, State of California Legislature Woman of the year 1994, flight attendant, school crossing guard and finally, author. As a writer, her works resonate with honesty, sensitivity and strength of faith. She’s managed to turn a bitter childhood fraught with domestic violence into Words of Praise, Joy and Love, a collection of poems expressing her relationship with God and all He has brought her through. New Reader Magazine had the pleasure of talking with the extraordinary mother of three about her latest book, “Living With Autism: My Life With God, Me and Melvin”. NRM: Can you tell us more about your book? Bernadette Butler: “Living With Autism: God, Me, And, Melvin” is a deeply personal reflection on my experience as a mother of a child with Autism, and the challenges of raising a child with a developmental disorder, and the profound strength I derived from my faith throughout the journey. NRM: What inspired you to write the book as an autobiography? BB: I’ve always wanted to share my journey to help other parents and to inspire, to encourage and to give hope. NRM: How long did it take for you to write it? BB: This book was being written in me before the day I was born. It is the story of God’s moving words of love, teaching me what true love is. I am the storyteller.

NRM: For those interested to read your book, can you share at least 3 of your favorite quotes from your book. BB: “I was unclear, but Melvin was precise. Melvin had made up his mind. One day in the kitchen, he said to me, “Mom, I know something is wrong with me. My friend have gone off to college. I need my own place. I am a MAN.” “I was trapped in fear. Afraid of my own shadow. This was not about me; this is about Melvin’s life. I must step out of this fear.” “I had blamed myself for so many years, feeling Father God was punishing me. It took all these years of healing and learning that God was not punishing me, but he gave me Melvin because He knew I would love him unconditionally as the Lord loves all of us unconditionally.”

NRM: Is there someone you would like to dedicate this book to? BB: First giving honor to God. To my friends who stuck by me, to my husband Paul who encouraged me to tell my story, and to all the mothers with autistic children and adult children, there is HOPE.

NRM: What is the main message that you’re trying to convey to your reader in this book? BB: I How many of us can truly love without limits? Our love is limited because we place conditions on love. When we see a person with a disability, often some show pity. Why? Some show disgust, why? Do we all have challenges in our lives? Yes, we do. We have become so judgmental and self-absorbed that we miss out on the outpouring of love that is provided to us through those we view as different. When a person is selfish, unloving, unforgiving, judging, rude, disrespectful, insensitive, and all the other negative adjectives, you are limited, or you too can be viewed disabled because you are unable to receive the goodness and love.

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To-Read List New Reader Media, a creative marketing firm working in partnership with New Reader Magazine, takes on the challenge of bookmarking emerging voices in the indie publishing world. Presented in no particular order, here’s New Reader Media’s reading list for the second quarter of 2019.

Lyrics of the Heart ANTHONY RICKETTS After a best friend's death, Terry, Jade and Toni are determined to find out why she committed suicide. But when Terry finds her diary, the answers will surprise you.

Switched In Time BARRY B. BEGAULT It's impossible switching times with your old self. But what if you did and only one person has the answer why and how to reverse the situation?

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My Name Is Deliverer BOB NICOL Bob shares his harrowing experiences around the globe, and whether he was fighting for survival. Join him as he treks through some of the most perplexing predicaments and discovers some of the most astounding supernatural solutions.

Fall CATHY YOUNG After getting pregnant unintentionally, Autumn bears the effects, abuse and rejection on teen pregnancy. Despite her life falling apart, she's determined not to lose the one she’s carrying.

Holy Spirit You Are Welcome In This Place DR. CHARLES G. GLENN It has been said that little is known about the Holy Spirit, but this book, "Holy Spirit You Are Welcome In This Place," places a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips.

Crossing the Street with Tyler & Max CLAUDIA TAN Read the story of twin brothers as they find their way in this world and discovering that their own neighborhood is an adventure in itself.

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The Chronicles of Kisoné: School Days DERIUS THOMPSON Where's the fun in reading if you can already predict the end? Join Kisoné Hoshigaki on his quest to survive sophomore year at Nato High as he encounters characters that you and him aren't prepared for.

Deception: A Mac Daniels Novel GENE BOFFA Mac Daniels returns to North Korea to face the Supreme Leader and confess his previous scheme only to find out that the country has just brokered a deal with ISIS. He is now filled with uncertainty and everything turned out to be not what it appears to be.

Hot Blooded Murder JACQUELINE D'ACRE Bryn Wiley roams New Orleans seeking a slayer—in a desperate race to save the stallion. Can she unmask the face behind the real murderer?

Blind Will: A Novel JAMES JORGENSEN Karl Hecker's life was filled with revenge and hatred after the Nazis captured his wife. This drove our hero to become a spy where he carries secret papers, and discovery would mean certain death.

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The Imaginarium Machine JOHN ADRIAN TOMLIN It's 2030 and technology has reached its peak. Instead of playing on a TV, you play in your mind. What could possible go wrong?

Medusa’s Lair: A Chic Sparks—Fish House Gang Novel KENNETH L. FUNDERBURK In this gripping tale, a modern day crime fighter, Chic Sparks, goes on a quest to find a crime that uncovers an international money laundering enterprise that places him in grave danger.

Spice It Up: Recipes With a Sensual Twist LAJUAN PRESTON They weren't kidding; the way to a man's heart IS through his stomach. Enjoy the recipes and tips in cooking this book offers while simultaneously giving relationship advice.

The Unsaid: Thoughts of a quiet man LANCELL LINDO This book speaks volumes about a musician's narrative, creativity, and thought process and giving an insight into the mind of a musicmaker and how he sees the world.

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The Spirit of Dreams LARA PARK When something strange happens in our dreams, we often seek the meaning of it. This book brings meaning and guidance from the animal kingdom into our dreams and how to use the messages given to us in our dreams in our everyday life.

I Am Freud! Psychoanalysis Is the Only Method of Cure: It's Too Bad No One Knows How to Do One!!! LEN BERGANTINO Dr. Bergantino explains how extrasensory perception can be developed and utilized through therapeutic use in treating mental disorders and other diagnoses.

The Band 4: The Air We Breathe MARGUERITE NARDONE GRUEN Two people who come from different worlds collide and their lives will never be same again. This is a story of love, loss and heartbreak of family and friendship. This is their story.

Truth Lies And A Little Fiction MICHAEL NENO This humble book is expressed by the author where he shares the experiences and wisdom from the hard times and people he had come across in the past.

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Glass Half Empty PRECIOUS DEVINE CLAY Consisting of poems that speaks for life, this book takes readers on the road to self-discovery and finding one's purpose.

A Token for the Journey RITA DUNHAM This book sums up life and what can become of us through pleasure and pain.

Finding Solid Ground: In Politics, The Economy, and Jesus' Teaching REV. ROBERT EMERICK The author gives us an overview of political and religious history and how these things repeat itself. With the teachings shared in the book, it opens a gate on how to maintain a balanced society.

Contentment Through Mindfulness: 2Nd Edition ROBERT LEIHYV Revolving on the area of Buddhism that keeps complete consciousness, this book elaborates contentedness and mindfulness of the heart.

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Mei-Mei's New Home SUSAN VON TOBEL Adorable little dog Mei-Mei is dismissed from her home and is taken to the animal shelter. Follow her adventure on getting to her new home and meeting her new family.

Motherhood: A Journey Into Your Own Heart YOUSCHKA CHARLOTTE Through the gift of motherhood, Youschka shares her journey in facing her fears and doubts and making those pain and tears worthwhile.

The Power of Goodbye: Walking Into Freedom YOUSCHKA CHARLOTTE Letting go and syaing farewell is a difficult thing to do. This book helps in stepping out of your comfort zone and earning your wings to fly.

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WRITER’S CORNER

Events, Conferences, Awards

ART FESTIVALS

Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, The Original

Santa Fe Art Week

Photo: artfair.org

When: July 18 – 21, 2019 Where: Ann Arbor, MI

Photo: Marc Romanelli

When: July 12 – 21, 2019

The Ann Arbor Street Art Fair is the original of a collective of four concurrent and contiguous fairs that transform central Ann Arbor into a massive outdoor art gallery each July. Established in 1960 and still true to its mission of increasing public knowledge and appreciation for contemporary fine arts and fine crafts, the Original Ann Arbor Art Fair presents consistently high quality, all original work. The Street Art Fair, the Original takes place on the streets surrounding the historic Burton Carillon Tower and the tree-lined central campus of the University of Michigan.

Where: Santa Fe, NM Santa Fe Art Week is a nine-day festival featuring over 100 unique and creative experiences that offer behind-the-scenes access to artists and the creative process. The inaugural Santa Fe Art week takes place July 12—21, 2019, with events throughout the city. Santa Fe Art Week begins with the International Folk Art Market and culminates with Art Santa Fe and celebrates the city as a vibrant and thriving center for arts and culture. During the week, there will be a myriad of art experiences and events, openings and shows, art talks, workshops, art walks, and more at some of Santa Fe's 250+ galleries, cultural museums, and destinations. Santa Fe Art Week has been created to bring collectors and art fans from around the country to Santa Fe to enjoy everything the City Different has to offer.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Photo: Festival Fringe Society

When: August 2 – 26, 2019 Where: Edinburgh, Scotland The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the single biggest celebration of arts and culture on the planet. Every August for three weeks the city of Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, welcomes an explosion of creative energy from around the globe. Every year thousands of performers take to hundreds of stages all over Edinburgh to present shows for every taste. From big names in the world of entertainment to unknown artists looking to build their careers, the festival caters for everyone and includes theatre, comedy, dance, physical theatre, circus, cabaret, children's shows, musicals, opera, music, spoken word, exhibitions and events.

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WRITER’S CORNER

Events, Conferences, Awards

LITERARY FESTIVALS ASPEN SUMMER WORDS When: June 16-21, 2019 Where: Aspen, CO

Photo: Riccardo Savi

Recognized as one of the nation’s top literary gatherings, Summer Words is a six-day celebration of words, stories, and ideas held annually in Aspen. Advanced workshops with renowned authors and teachers are an intimate place for writers to develop a manuscript, while introductory workshops invite participants to explore the craft of writing. Literary agents and editors meet oneon-one with workshop participants, while public panel discussions provide inspiration and insight for writers and readers alike. Evening events include readings, receptions, and the Aspen Words Annual Benefit Dinner, featuring a special guest author.

AJC Decatur Book Festival

Library of Congress National Book Festival

Photo: For the AJC

Photo: slowking4

When: Aug. 30-Sept. 1, 2019

When: Aug. 31, 2019

Where: Decatur Square, Decatur, GA

Where: Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, DC

The AJC Decatur Book Festival is the largest independent book festival in the country and one of the five largest overall. Since its launch, more than 1,000 world-class authors and hundreds of thousands of festival-goers have crowded the historic downtown Decatur square to enjoy book signings, author readings, panel discussions, an interactive children's area, live music, parades, cooking demonstrations, poetry slams, writing workshops, and more.

The 2019 festival will invite visitors to Explore America’s Changemakers, part of a yearlong initiative coinciding with a series of exhibitions, events and programs at the Library. Exhibitions opening this year will explore the fight for women’s voting rights and Rosa Parks’ groundbreaking role in civil rights history. Changemakers are everywhere. Everyday citizens become trailblazers and history makers, shaping America. Among numerous festival programs dedicated to the theme of Changemakers, a special panel will feature new books on Winston Churchill by Andrew Roberts, Frederick Douglass by David Blight and visionary women including Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs, Jane Goodall and Alice Waters, by Andrea Barnet. The event is free and open to the public.

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WRITER’S CORNER

Events, Conferences, Awards

Melbourne International Film Festival

FILM FESTIVALS Palm Springs International ShortFest

Poster: Pat Fox

When: March 22, 8:15pm When: August 1 – 18, 2019 Where: Melbourne, Australia

Poster: LA Associates

When: June 18 – 24, 2019 Where: Palm Springs, California The Palm Springs International ShortFest -- celebrating its 25th anniversary -- is the largest short film event in North America A highly competitive festival, ShortFest receives 5,000± submissions from over 100 countries around the globe. Approximately 325 shorts are selected and screened in 90-minute themed programs, with many of the remaining titles available for viewing in the Market. An Oscar®, BAFTA® and Los Premios Goya-qualifying festival, ShortFest has presented more than 100 shorts that have gone on to receive Oscar® nominations and/or awards. With hundreds of filmmakers and industry professionals in attendance and an audience of 22,000 avid filmgoers, ShortFest is defined by a decidedly casual atmosphere and a taste for the unconventional. It's not what you might expect to find in Palm Springs in June.

Established in 1952, the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) is one of the oldest film festivals in the world and the most significant screen event in Australia. An iconic Melbourne event, the festival takes place annually in the heart of the city, presenting an acclaimed screening program alongside industry and celebratory events. MIFF showcases the best in current cinema from around the world as well as retrospectives, tributes and discussion programs. Since its inception, MIFF has also been committed to local film: it is Australia's largest showcase of new Australian cinema and is the country’s most vocal champion of emerging and established local filmmaking talent. The festival also hosts many celebratory world premieres of local films.

Edinburgh International Film Festival When: June 19 - 30 2019 Where: Festival Theatre Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom Inaugurated in 1947, the same year as the Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh International Film Festival is the world's longest continually-running film festival. EIFF is renowned around the world for discovering and promoting the very best in international cinema - and for heralding and debating changes in global filmmaking. Intimate in its scale, ambitious in its scope, and fuelled by pure passion for cinema in all its manifestations, EIFF seeks to spotlight the most exciting and innovative new film talent, in a setting steeped in history. Photo: Declan Nicholson

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Profile for newreadermagazine

Vol. 2 Issue 6, "Keeper of Fire  

New Reader Magazine's second issue of 2019, “Keeper of Fire” is an ode to people who are protecting legacies and stories and to those who ha...

Vol. 2 Issue 6, "Keeper of Fire  

New Reader Magazine's second issue of 2019, “Keeper of Fire” is an ode to people who are protecting legacies and stories and to those who ha...

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