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Vol. 1 Issue 4 New York London Hong Kong Philippines

RECLAIMING MYTHS Lynne Weiss

Ashley Boynes-Shuck

Tara Cronin

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page 06

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Prose

Featured Author

Artist Profile


New Reader Magazine December 2018 | Vol. 1 Issue 4 COVER IMAGE

Tara Cronin CREATIVE STAFF Lead Editor : Dominique Dela Paz Layout Artist : Iain Yu Publicist : Kota Yamada

Kyla Estoya

Researcher : Roseilyn Herrera

PRODUCTION & FEATURES

Celina Paredes , Jazzie Maye, Neil Gabriel Nanta, Rey A. Ilejay, Rio Bianca Lim, Sarah Ann Eroy, Tiffany Joyce CONTRIBUTORS

Allan Johnston, Ashley Boynes-Shuck, Ben Michelman, Betsy Housten, Carter Vance, Eleanor Fogolin, Erica Bernheim, Heidi Stauff, Jeannine Burgdorf, John Sibley Williams, Karl Lucente, Lynne Weiss, Montana Svoboda, Natalie Wang, Nicole Melchionda, Rebecca Lee, Robert Guffey, Robert Knox, Sara Read, Sean McCarthy, Tara Cronin 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: 100 Church St. Suite 800 New York, NY 10007

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EDITOR’S NOTE

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have to confess I hate writing these notes, Dear Reader, because whatever I have to say is never half as good/eloquent/ beautiful/true as the work our featured artists and writers have so generously shared with us. I put it off until the very last minute. The very last. And then I edit it at least five times. At least. It irks the hell out of our layout artist and I think he’d be happy, too, if I never wrote another editor’s note. But the editor’s note is tradition, and where would we be without tradition? People have been making traditions and rituals and telling each other stories since. . . I don’t know. For a long, long time. Probably around the time we discovered campfires, maybe before. We made sense of the world from the stories we told, and I think that’s true even today, even though a lot of the myths we used to tell have been replaced by other, newer iterations. Joseph Cambell in The Power of Myth says it best: CAMPBELL: There’s a Zen story about a sermon of the Buddha in which he simply lifted a flower. There was only one man who gave him a sign with his eyes that he understood what was said. Now, the Buddha himself is called “the one thus come.” There’s no meaning. What’s the meaning of the universe? What’s the meaning of a flea? It’s just there. That’s it. And your own meaning is that you’re there. We’re so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it’s all about. MOYERS: How do you get that experience? CAMPBELL: Read myths. They teach you that you can turn inward, and you begin to get the message of the symbols. Read other people’s myths, not those of your own religion, because you tend to interpret your own religion in terms of facts—but if you read the other ones, you begin to get the message. Myth helps you to put your mind in touch with this experience of being alive. It tells you what experience is. One of our featured artists, Tara Cronin, is an artist who seems to instinctively understand experience and the language of myth. In the project statement for “Archetypal” (the series the image on our front page is from. Thank you, Tara!), she talks about the archetypal language and how it exists, always, within us. Filipina artist Nova Lucerna inspects the healing qualities of myth in a post-colonial society with her installation art. Musician Mass Needs Soss tells his stories on the streets of Decatur. Ashley Boynes-Shuck speaks on her experiences a writer, influencer, and activist while dealing with chronic illness. Featured prose contributor Lynne Weiss talks about the myth of identity and how we are all connected with each other, regardless of where or even when we are. Featured poetry contributors Betsy Housten and Carter Vance talk poetry and experience—deciphering experience through poetry. There’s that and so much more this issue, and we here at NRM hope you enjoy, Dear Reader. And more than that, we hope you find something that resonates with you and your experience of life. Wishing you a meaningful holiday season and a transformative New Year, D.


Contents Feature

Short Stories

06 Featured Author: Ashley Boynes-Shuck

45 The Meaning of Flight

08 Contributor Corner (Poetry): Betsy Vance and Carter Housten

57 Create Space

12 Contributor Corner (Prose): Lynne Weiss 14 Artist Profile: Tara Cronin 20 Street Harmony

Interview with Mas Needs Soss

CELINA PAREDES

24 Healing Rituals

Going Back to our Roots

HEIDI STAUFF

JEANNINE BURGDORF

63 Learning German LYNNE WEISS

73 Upward Mobility REBECCA LEE

79 This Wound of Glass ROBERT GUFFEY

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91 The Shadow of the Family ROBERT KNOX

CELINA PAREDES

28 Marie Hyld

Lifeconstruction

103 A Boy I Knew Before I Got Like This SARA READ

112 The Wreckage

New Reader Media

SEAN MCCARTHY

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

Writer’s Corner 131 Events, Conferences, Etc.

Flash Fiction 39 Frigid ELEANOR FOGOLIN

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Poetry 40 Telling Stock Love is One Way

60 Breaking Lesson One BETSY HOUSTEN

ALLAN JOHNSTON

50 Praise Song Found Hitting the Fox Something I Learned Between 5th and 7th Grade BEN MICHELMAN

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68 Clean Places The Music Study Hymn to Hillsborough Gardens CARTER VANCE

76 Kismet Bay Our Impossible Home ERICA BERNHEIM

88 Nativity Losing My Religion Say We’re Descended JOHN SIBLEY WILLIAMS

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96 A Death, Becoming To a Light Which We Know to Be Fading Shatter, In Age and Another, I’ll Swim with My Father MONTANA SVOBODA

107 The Wives Poem Cassandra is Every Woman Who Tried to Speak Almost a Fairytale NATALIE WANG

120 Parentheses Cross-Referenced Compression/Combustion Revisitations

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NICOLE MELCHIONDA

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Featured Author

Ashley Boynes-Shuck

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n 2003, Christine Miserandino came up with the “spoon theory” when over lunch she described to a curious friend what having lupus “felt like”:

I quickly grabbed every spoon on the table; hell I grabbed spoons off of the other tables. I looked at her in the eyes and said “Here you go, you have Lupus.” I asked her to count her spoons. She asked why, and I explained that when you are healthy you expect to have a never-ending supply of “spoons”. But when you have to now plan your day, you need to know exactly how many “spoons” you are starting with. . . Social media influencers, bloggers, and speakers like Christine have since been at the forefront of a worldwide movement to remove the stigma and the mystery that surrounds chronic and invisible illnesses. Invisible illnesses include mental illnesses, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and chronic pain, like arthritis. And more often than not, people who suffer from these invisible illnesses not only suffer from the illnesses but from bullying, in school or even in the workplace.

Photo from ArthritisAshley.com.

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Prose

Ashley Boynes-Shuck, awardwinning blogger, speaker, health activist, and author, takes us through her experiences of workplace bullying and discrimination in chapter 13 (“That Time I Had Some (More) Horrible Bosses”) of her memoir, Sick Idiot. She’s gotten more than her fair share of passiveaggressiveness, mistrust, sarcasm, and downright harassment from some of her bosses and coworkers, though Ashley recounts everything in her memoir with humor, grace, and understanding:

Unfortunately, empathy isn’t a skill that is taught in our college business classes, or on the job. The nature of these illnesses makes it difficult for “outsiders” to trust us. My conditions, for the most part, are invisible, so I typically look fine. You would think that this is a good thing, but that’s not always the case. Looking healthy confuses bosses and co-workers who are completely ignorant to the severity of the diseases. Looking healthy gives others a pass to inaccurately judge you without taking the time to educate themselves on the seriousness of your condition. Ashley has a laundry list of diagnoses, and her conditions have kept her from playing softball in grade school and from wearing her beloved high heels— but certainly not much else. Her multiawarded blog, Arthritis Ashley, has a following of upwards of forty thousand people, and she’s been named one of Pittsburg’s 40 Under 40, among other things. She’s even been tweeted by Oprah herself. Ashley is the author of two health memoirs, Sick Idiot and its companion, a collection of her most popular blog posts, Chronically Positive. She’s also written a novel, To Exist, and she’s currently working on her second piece of fiction, as well as an e-book on healing crystals and essential oils for followers of

Arthritis Ashley. She keeps herself busy and productive, a value she stresses in Sick Idiot. “We can always choose how to respond to our circumstances,” she says. “We can decide whether we are going to be bitter and dwell on the negative aspects of life or if we are going to try to be positive and happy despite our struggles.” Ashley says that she gets her resilience and positivity from her friends, family, and her husband—her support system. “I have always had great people in my life, and they have buoyed me through the difficult times. My family is very loving, funny, and fun, so I think that humor and positivity is just ingrained in me, and always has been. I also come from a place of gratitude. My illnesses have been challenging, but overall my life is awesome and I’m very blessed. So I just focus on that!” Aside from school and office troubles, Ashley has also had to deal with internet trolls. We all know how emotionally draining and exhausting social media can be, even without our own personal trolls, but Ashley, who also does work and writes for a number of media and tech companies, takes regular breaks from the internet. “I put down my phone when I am spending quality time with my husband, family, or friends… unless I’m using it to take pictures! We don’t need to be connected and online 24/7. I like spending time in nature. I think being outdoors really helps to undo the toxic effects of social media and technology—plus it replenishes the spirit and rejuvenates the soul!” Ashley says that “Mindfulness and intention are so important… and so are tech detoxes.” Of course, regular readers of Arthritis Ashley and Ashley’s body of work will know that she doesn’t shy away from the internet or pop culture at all. She’s as much inspired by Oprah and Lady Gaga as she is by Ernest Hemingway, Jane Austen, and Maya Angelou, among others. She’s also inspired by

editors and friends: “Lindsey Smith, Amanda Filippeli, Bethany Hensel, Kristen Varoli, Shellie Hipsky… and Darieth Chisolm, who has become something of a mentor to me.” Ashley credits a number of people for inspiring and encouraging her writing: “Mrs. Paula Johannes. . . she taught the GATE (Gifted and Talented Enrichment) program at South Fayette Elementary. As a child, I was very precocious and ahead of my years when it came to reading and writing. I was a bit shy and socially awkward, but man, did I love to read. I lived for GATE and Mrs. J allowed me to flourish. She encouraged and helped to cultivate my love for writing and reading during those formative years.” And so did her grandfather, who she affectionately calls “Bups.” “He took me to the Bookmobile each week to get new library books, and let me sit at his desk and write stories. My parents always encouraged me to read and write as well, giving me money for books, allowing me to express myself through fashion and writing. All of these people, as well as some special high school and college English teachers, helped to shape me, and I feel that they all should be acknowledged and thanked!” For more of Ashley, check out Sick Idiot and Chronically Positive, available on Ashley’s website (www.abshuck.com). Follow her blog, www.arthritisashley.com.

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Artist Profile

Contributor Corner

POETRY B E T S Y VA N C E AND

CARTER HOUSTEN

BETSY HOUSTEN NRM: What does poetry mean to you? Betsy Housten: For me, poetry is a way to decipher what's underneath my conscious thoughts and feelings; to first explain myself to myself, and then – with any luck, and lots of hard work – through those discoveries, to resonate with others. NRM: What’s your favorite line of poetry and why? Betsy: Last month I got Ocean Vuong's "the most beautiful part of your body is where it's headed" tattooed on one arm (opposite a quote by Cheryl Strayed, one of my favorite essayists). I love it because it reminds me to pay attention to intention, commitment, and adventure, rather than getting hung up on the physical shape my inherited fleshbag happens to take over time. NRM: Do you ever look back at something you’ve written and think, “Wow, that’s good. Did I really write that”? Betsy: Most recently, this happened during a radical revision of a poem that had never quite found its footing. I'd

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put the original draft aside to focus on my MFA thesis project, and months later – all of a sudden – I was finally able to write about my work as a massage therapist after almost 10 years in practice. It was thrilling to integrate those two essential parts of my life in a way that felt entirely unique to my perspective. I'll keep tinkering with line edits here and there, but the poem showed up fairly whole. It just danced right out of me like it had been gathering itself for a very long time. NRM: A lot of writers have favorite themes or myths they keep coming back to you. Do you have any favorite themes or myths? Betsy: I write a lot about the body, about family (both biological and chosen), about my experiences navigating the world as a queer woman. NRM: Say someone comes up to you and tells you, “I want to write poetry, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere,” where would you tell them to look? Betsy: Online: Wildness Journal; Adroit Journal; Tinderbox; Shallow Ends; Glass Journal's Poets Resist series. In print: Bayou Magazine.


Poetry

CARTER VANCE NRM: What does poetry mean to you? Carter Vance: To me, what makes poetry distinct from other forms of writing is that it leaves much more implied between the chosen words in terms of meaning than in the words themselves. Though certainly many prose writers do use what has been described as an "iceberg technique" of implication in terms of contrast between surface and deeper meaning, in many ways the form of poetry itself demands such attention. As the poet is using an limited number of words, each of those words, and the particulars of style with which they are surrounded (punctuation, line breaks, etc.), matters all the more. So, I think poetry is essentially the act of writing in such a way to convey a meaning beyond that of the words themselves. This is something of broad category, but in my mind it is the only one which properly encompasses all that poetry is and can do. Of course there are many forms of poetry, ranging from free verse to the regimented classical forms, but all of them share this essential quality.

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Artist Profile

NRM: What’s your favorite line of poetry and why? Carter: "The moving waters at their priestlike task Of pure ablution round earth's human shores" - John Keats, "Bright Star" Keats was one of the first poets I ever seriously read, in high school after the release of the biographical film about him which shares its title with this poem. Though it is perhaps a bit of cliche to return to an old master, the reason this line in particular always sticks out to me is that it manages to blend the spiritual with the sensual in such an understated way. One of the key concerns in writing which seeks to evoke strong emotions, poetry or otherwise, is how to do this within the confines of an intellectual task of reading and interpretation. Keats manages in those lines to, in my mind, convey both a sense of grandeur at the movement of the universe but also a deeply physical form of human connection to them. NRM: Do you ever look back at something you’ve written and think, “Wow, that’s good. Did I really write that”? Carter: I often go back to a piece I had published a few years ago with the outlet Minor Literatures entitled, "Ode to DLR". I wrote that piece after living in London for several weeks and going back and forth to work on the Docklands Light Railway, the Tube's oft-forgotten little brother. I suppose why I go back to it is that it still seems to convey a sense of new arrival and amazement with the particulars of a place. There is something about how the words seem to speed up and then slow down, letting images and people on and off, in the way that public transportation does. I don't know if it adequately captures what that experience would be like for other

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people, but it always takes me back to East London in a sensory way. NRM: A lot of writers have favorite themes or myths they keep coming back to. Do you have any favorite themes or myths? Carter: I honestly try not to get too hung up on thematic consistency or establishment of a set of tropes in my writing. A lot of what I do is very dependent on where I am, both physically and in terms of life events, at the time of writing, so, the variation in imagery and theme in my writing can be quite large. That said, some of it is deliberate in terms of theme choice. This tends to happen more when I'm writing in response to a news event, for instance, where even if I am not searching for a journalistic quality, there is more of a "point" to the writing. These poems, in retrospect, I find tend to be more laboured in terms of their production, though I do think some of them are among my better work. With this said, I have been told that longing for connection and the interplay between people and place is a theme that comes through strongly in what I write. In a certain way, I can see this, given how much I tend to be inspired in terms of my writing by visiting somewhere new.

NRM: Say someone comes up to you and tells you, “I want to write poetry, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere,” where would you tell them to look? Carter: Firstly, it never hurts to learn the classics. This might sound like a bit of a fusty point, but going to the library and checking out the collected works of acclaimed poets (for me in particular it was Keats, Plath and Lowell) is a good way of at least knowing what forms and ideas you respond to. This can help in terms of both inspiration and learning the idiom. In the current environment, there are many online outlets that publish poetry and accept unsolicited submissions. I personally like to use the blog Published to Death to keep track of upcoming calls for submissions. A word of caution, though, that some outlets can be misleading in terms of their publishing agreement and may unduly charge a submission fee . In general, unless it's a contest with a cash prize or a very prestigious publication, you should not pay a submission fee. For this same reason, be sure to read the terms of any agreement to publish carefully before accepting. Finally, depending on the community you are in (whether you are attending an educational institution or not), there is likely to be some group working on writing. This could be a community workshop, a reading series, or something else in that same vein. Connecting with others who share your interest and passion is the best way to workshop your ideas and discover where your weaknesses or oversights might be.


Artist Profile

Contributor Corner

PROSE Lynne Weiss Why do you write historical fiction? What’s your favorite era in history to write about? What are you working on now? Lynne Weiss, author of “Learning German,” answers these questions and more in this issue’s Contributor Corner for prose. I write historical fiction because I like reading history and historical fiction, and I like reading history and historical fiction because I can learn so much from them. One of the first books I remember reading as a young teenager was a novel called Desiree, which was an historical novel about Napoleon’s first love. It was fascinating to me to learn about Napoleon while reading a wildly romantic love story. Later I loved E. L. Doctorow’s novel Ragtime, set in early 20th century New York. Doctorow’s groundbreaking book combined actual history with fictional characters, so we learn about financier J. P. Morgan as well magician Harry Houdini and anarchist organizer Emma Goldman, along with a fictional African American ragtime musician named Coalhouse Walker. Since then, I’ve found many favorites that could be called historical

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Poetry

"How do people move from one culture or identity to another? And what are the consequences—intended and unintended—of doing that?" fiction—Andrea Barrett’s Servants of the Map, Sebastian Faulks’s Birdsong, Lily King’s Euphoria, Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things, Sarah Waters’ The Paying Guests, and Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko, for example. But in a sense, isn’t nearly all realist fiction historical fiction? Realist fiction captures a time and place, and the nature of the universe is that the present inevitably becomes the past. So I love also writers such as Toni Morrison, Willa Cather, Theodore Dreiser, and Mark Twain, who are not generally seen as writing historical fiction, but who offer a window into a time and place that is not my own. What fascinates me about reading both historical fiction and either wellwritten narrative history or collections of letters and diaries is how much the people of an earlier time are like us and how different they are from what we think they were like. We imagine that their struggles were easier and simpler because we know how things turned out. It’s easy to shake our heads over efforts like Prohibition, for example, or some of the compromises that eventually led to the Civil War. But can we simply assume that people of the past were stupid? They had reasons for their perspective and their behavior, and when we look into those reasons we often find that they were far more complex than we have been led to believe. I’m not always sure what position I would have held had I been a voter or activist back when these questions were being debated, and I find the scandals and squabbles of the past just as fascinating as those of the present day.

There are many challenges in writing historical fiction. Some are the same as in writing any fiction—you have to tell a good story! In historical fiction, you always need to figure out what your readers need to know to understand the story. Again, that’s true in any fiction, but sometimes people need to have more “big picture” background to understand historical fiction. In my story “Learning German,” I thought readers would have heard of the Berlin Wall, but they might not know the details of how Germany was divided with Berlin in the middle of East Germany. That needs to be explained without breaking the narrative of the story.

"In a biological, ecological, and spiritual sense, everyone on the planet has always been connected to one another." I don’t think I have a favorite era of history. I can find the Mongols as fascinating as the American reformers, but I tend to look for stories of the overlooked—people whose race, gender, sexuality, religion, or economic status has left them out of the main narrative of history, or people who were involved in the development of some institution or technology we either take for granted or have completely

forgotten. My first novel was set in 1890s Boston and was about a white woman who performed in blackface. That’s a subject people don’t like to think about today, but the truth is that nearly all of American popular entertainment once relied on racial and ethnic stereotypes. In my novel, the performer falls in love with a black man who despises her mode of performance and eventually talks her into passing as black so they can perform together in the highly segregated world of 1890s America. The book I’m working on now is a retelling of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, set in the Cornwall region of the UK in the 1930s. Rebecca was not written as historical fiction, but my book, set in the same time and place, is necessarily historical fiction. Without giving too much away, I will say that the book deals with some of the same themes you would see in my earlier novel and in “Learning German”—how do people move from one culture or identity to another? And what are the consequences—intended and unintended—of doing that? I think this is a question we all need to ask ourselves today. In a biological, ecological, and spiritual sense, everyone on the planet has always been connected to one another, though many didn’t see things that way. Today these connections manifest themselves more profoundly through our communications, technology, and economic lives, but most crucially through our environmental impact. Understanding how people of the past grappled with and resolved (or did not resolve) conflicts despite their doubts and imperfections can only help us move forward in meeting our present challenges.

Keep up to date with Lynne’s writing on her website, www.lynneweiss.org.

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Artist Profile

TARA Cronin

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Poetry

T

here is no easy way to define Tara Cronin. She’s an installation artist, book artist, sculptor, photographer, printmaker, and a writer, among many other things. She lives on a coffee farm in Hawaii and holds various copatents with her partner, scientist Ed Chen, including a patent on a unique polymer made from materials used in her artwork. She has exhibited her art internationally, most recently in New York and Japan. This issue we got the pleasure of speaking to this fascinating artist and ask her a few questions about her work, her life, and what inspires her to create. NRM: There are some elements that keep cropping up in your work that stand out to me: rhythm and blood/ chlorophyll. In Archetypal you use “plant blood,” chlorophyll, with your own blood, to draw rhythms on print (to me they look kind of like braille and/or morse code). In your book “I Had Decided Not to Grow Old for 400 Years”—which is a visually stunning book, by the way—you wrote, “I am a creature of the earth-sea. . . Now one entity of sea, salt, chlorophyll, meshed veins, meshed vines, meshed blood. . .” You also write about “playful rhythm” and “6/8 time.” Why do these things keep showing up? Is this intentional? Could you tell us more about this connection between the contrast between the physical world of cartilage/sinew/vessels and the spiritual/emotional/physical that you explore in your ongoing project, “The Sum and Its Parts”? Tara Cronin: In honesty, I don't think these are even in the forefront of my mind let alone intentional or deliberate. That said, when you keenly show me the prevalence of these themes, I can say with certainty that the way I work is through a long, slow process of revealing things to myself by making and by creating. I think a lot of people work this way to at least some extent;

I'm a huge fan of the power of mulling— the way our thoughts and our visions form and solidify in the backs of our minds while we barely know it! Regarding the themes themselves— rhythm, blood, chlorophyll, the sea and water—these all tie very closely together in how I experience the world. It is—for lack of a more descriptive word—very spiritual for me. I think I generally may come off as a sort of bubbly and fastpaced person, which is very much “me,” but at times when I’m not around anyone—and this is a lot!—I tend to be a very internal person. This means for one thing, i feel these rhythms of the work around me, I feel the life and strength of water and the sea, as well I

almost give great thanks, often, to the basic life-giving-materials that give us this life. I started looking at artmaking seriously as a practice in response to a very difficult time in my life. Thus I reflected on this thing that is Life as many are in awe of, and I find that so many elements that surround us and found myself repeatedly amazed by the seemingly opposite worlds of the inner and outer consciousness, our sort of invisible psychological/spiritual/emotional daily experience of the world, and our outer more visible physical/sensate experience of the same world. Some people tend to say “mind and body,” as if they are separate. But of course, there is no

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Features

“and.” They exist symbiotically, and I love this contrast because it isn’t a contrast at all! The sea for me is a place where i feel my mother, my personal spirit, the lives of those I’ve lost. . . it’s a perfect example of where these two sides of the same sword-world, are more noticeably working together. One can feel a sense of personal headspace and yet also feel the cool and warm temperatures, the rush of the currents, see the marine life, surrounding. Maybe this is just me but its a place where i’ve always felt these two starkly differing worlds collide harmoniously, and also being in the sea makes me feel I’m Home—and that is also another theme that ties into these that by the way are touched upon in The Sum and Its Parts as well most other projects since then. Home is a sense of being, and is also a who and a relationship. It is not a physical place to me. In this way of understanding the idea of “home,” it’s easier I hope, to look at the ideas of our inner and outer worlds being also a sort of sense and a being, rather than a literal criss-cross—

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although that is also what they are. I hope I’m making sense! On the topic of rhythm, it is another thing I feel as I mentioned; i feel rhythm everywhere and the world is a very musical place. We just have to listen. That said, I think I have a bias for sure, as I have Tourettes Syndrome and also play percussion and drums, and much of my tics and compulsions actually manifest as musical and rhythmic tics that are often in 6/8 and 9/8 time. So on that one, I’m not sure if i’m just sensitive to these rhythms that I feel everywhere, as in the earth and the winds and the rains, or just really tourettic and OCD! Hah! NRM: You seem to identify a lot with plants—mashed veins/veins, chlorophyll/blood, etc. At least if I’m not totally off in my interpretation. Why is this? What is it about plants that you identify with? Tara: This is an abstract feeling for me, I can’t really answer your questions and can’t put my finger on it. I grew up not in the city where a majority of my life was, but in a tiny suburb in NJ of about 1800 people at the time, where everyone had a backyard and ours was just a ton of woods with a stream to get messy in and trees to climb and pathways to get lost in. Even so, just because i loved to get lost on the high branches of a tree, doesn’t really explain why i was drawn to that in the first place. I think I’d have to thank two major teachers and influences on that: 1.) Video games and fantasy-world books (both of these I devoured and the thing they share are wild and detailed descriptions of vast fields and twomooned-skies and pathways through highly symbolic and yet beautiful nature and woods) and; 2) My beloved grandmother. My cousin’s grandmother raised me just like a second mother for much of my youth. She herself was raised in a remote countryside of Korea. She taught me, but naturally not pedantically at all, to listen to the

wind and feel it on my face, to catch dragonflies and talk to them and let them go, to play games with the skinshells left by a molting cicada or a reed that I found in the grass. She basically showed me that the world of nature and plants, right around me, had everything I was looking for and that I needed for my bored and youthfully antsy mind and body. My guess is this sort of simple and very magical experience had a big impact on me. NRM: In one of your blog posts, August 2015, you say that you are “a strong believer in the threads of myth that keep our societal psyches in one piece.” You “bring the transformation to each object” with story and the language of myth. Could you speak more about myth and what myths can be found in your art? What stories keep coming back to you? Is there a body of myths that inspires you or that you find yourself closely identifying with (for example, Celtic folklore or Native American myths, etc.)? Tara: Yes, there are a handful of myths and myth-groups of stories that I’ve related with or found myself especially drawn to, but, each one is far from the point that is important to me, so, I won’t name any! I am more interested in the


Arts and Culture | USA

elder and for the mother and for the family. I find it fascinating that we use this language every day, whether literally through tales and wondrous myths or through simple rhymes and songs. And these seemingly “nothing” stories and phrases end up largely shaping how we feel about huge issues such as family, gender, hierarchy, respect or lack thereof, self-worth, etc. So it’s not any one culture’s stories or any one particular story that I’m drawn to—I’m really amazed at the effect being as potent and also the same no matter from where or whence it came.

language and power of how myth works in each of us and thus in a society, in a history and in a humanity’s chapter. In my project Archetypal i researched many myths to try to reference as many as I could, and stay broad and stay loose, to not talk about the stories or the characters themselves, but rather the effect they all have on us. The function of them. And they all function in the same way, no matter the execution and no matter the story. It’s amazing, really. Even a simple phrase such as “step on the cracks, break your mother’s back”! This is not a traditional nor a recognizable “myth,” but it’s another example of a tale or a phrase, something familiar, that we end up remembering and that begins to surreptitiously work its way into and throughout our consciousness as a five-year-old, a twenty-year-old, an eighty-year-old who might never recall the rhyme but still has one extra influence teaching them respect for the

NRM: You work with a lot of mediums—art books, photography, videography, words, print, to name a few. How do you decide what medium will go best with a project’s message? Tara: It sounds cheesy or cliche, it really does but I tend to follow a vision I’ll have whether its passively such as in a vivid dream, something that stood out to me in a book or movie, or something I find myself doodling more at a certain time, or more actively such as writing or reading with a theme in mind to sort of ignite a visual response, etc. But whatever the vision, it starts always with something very vivid and the focal point is always the tactility or the quality of light or the animation in it, or the size and weight, etc. So depending on what qualities the vision takes, i decide to then make the following project or work in that medium. It may sound like blind walking, but I think that is often the best way to find a solution and to find a way that you didn’t have before. To sort of start from the end rather than force it from the start, if that doesn’t sound too fluffy! NRM: Could you tell us more about the polymer you patented with your partner, Ed Chen? How did this project come to be? Tara: Sure—and I have to first state he is the scientist and I just am an excited lay learner and perhaps inspiration as he insists! He is also largely the creative

thinker, by the way, and I the more “left brained” and counting, measuring, overly verbal and not-visual-enough, getting caught up in syntax limitations, thinker, contrary to what some may believe about a scientist and an artist. I was working with chlrophyllin, as he showed me that I could use that, which is basically freeze-dried chlorophyll, and that i could reconstitute it into useable chlorophyll by adding water. I was also working with my blood and both of these as we got talking back and forth he realized may have certain properties that would maybe work in some experiments he was doing. One of them ended up using the chlorophyll in a certain way and in a sort of membrane layer, and in the way he applied it, in an experiment in our apartment in Nyc which at the time had around 700 PPMs of CO2 in the ambient air—at least measured in our apartment—he brought it from the 700PPM to 0PPMs in about an hour. So we wanted to find a way to implement this on a larger scale because climate change is one of Ed’s major concerns. Unfortunately finding partners and an outlet to actually execute this technology, is much harder than we hoped! NRM: Tell us about the coffee farm. What drew you to the coffee farm, to farming coffee? Tara: .We were actually just AirBnB-ing it on Big Island in Hawaii and around the same time Ed was working on an agricultural technology that would both increase yield and thus also biomass and so could be used toward climate change but also as as way to apply a very cost effective way to get nutrients to plants and crops. We ended up taking a leap and took over a farm that a guy named Mike was retiring from. He also taught us every step of the actual coffee farming and we took it on as a business and our livelihood as well. I made a new website for it and we have been building the

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business since. That was around three years ago. To give you an idea of how Ed’s tech changed production, the first year we inherited the former year’s fertilizer and farming schedule, and that was around 13k Lbs cherry (raw coffee fruit is called a cherry). The best for this farm in the last 35 years was 16k Lbs. After a year of implementing Ed’s technology, we got a record harvest of about 23k Lbs, and again the following year. This year we are still in the middle of the harvest, so it’s still hard to tell. Mike taught me how to roast and I’m pretty excited and grateful, especially since people call him the local “Yoda of Coffee”! I love roasting and I love the farm and it actually is conducive to artmaking—not only in that I’m surrounded by nature and in the middle of a mountain, but the annual harvest is about 4-5 months of 11 people in the house (mostly work-exchange interns), and everyone crying a little from us all

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having to pick and process the coffee intensely, hah. But also because this means the other 7-8 months out of the year it is calmer and I can focus on any projects that I’d be making. NRM: What’s something you wish you could talk about in conversations or interviews but never get to? Tara: I almost was going to simply say I have no idea, but, I thought of one—my Midnight Walks! It’s a habit or tendency or practice, however you want to view it, that I began a few months after moving to the middle of a mountain in the middle of the Pacific. I call them midnight walks because they start late at night when I often have extra energy and just start wandering slowly, mindfully, through the trees of the farm. There are no streetlights and barely a house light in the distance, so unless the moon is bright, this happens in the pitch-pitch dark. Sometimes, though,

they happen at only 9pm. I’m always barefoot and I prefer this because it helps me sense the world around me, to not fall and not falter, to feel and hear every wind and creature and leaf that I’m passing, and the earth under my feet to keep my balance (it’s seriously dark). I love this unexpected practice I’ve done and I do it every single night now. No one really knows and no one asks so, now I’ve talked about it! I seriously suggest it to anyone who needs to calm their mind, find or open something in their mind or heart, or just heighten their awareness. Or if you’re afraid of the dark it’s a great practice too—at first I barely dared to go 10 feet from the house!

For more information on Tara and her projects, check out her website, www.taracronin.com.


Features

STREET HARMONY INTERVIEW WITH MAS NEEDS SOSS

CELINA PAREDES Photo by Michael Dang, summer of 2017, Duluth, Atlanta, Georgia.

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I

N DECATUR, GA, young musician Mas Needs Soss (Maasiah Robinson) wanders the city like a modern nomad with his guitar strapped to his back. If not busy at his internship, he’s up all hours learning key concepts and theories to enhance his guitar skills and singing. Even though cops chase him off now and then (due to the Amplified noise law implemented in some areas), Mas continues to gain a lot of positive crowd response. You can find him in Decatur Square, where he plays atmospheric songs infused with elements of jazz and classical influences that break into funk. The Georgia-born, Decatur-based 20-year-old began playing in 2015, where he first started messing around with seven chords, and later decided to pursue guitar full on in 2016. He tells me that the goal is to gain lots of perspectives and have a multitude of experience by going out there and meeting different people. A conversation is an experience. In general, so is life. Influenced by artists such as Nujabes, Jacob Collier, Childish Gambino, DEAN, and his personal friend Bennet Jackson, Mas plays remarkable guitar covers on contemporary and jazz standards, sometimes singing in different languages. While most of the foreign songs that he sings are in Korean and Portuguese, he does not limit himself to only K-grooves and bossa nova. He plans to visit every country one day and get to know every culture, hoping the approach will widen his vocabulary in music and in life. Mas loves the guitar for its versatility. It can be played as a bass and even rhythm instrument, and various techniques can be applied to it, such as slides and percussion, allowing just about any song to be played by a solo performer. Sliding from a couple of arpeggios into some smooth singing and then funk, Mas is a one-man party full of life, charisma, and talent. He’s a masterful performer, warming up the crowd before "throwing in some wild stuff."

NRM: What and who are your heavy influences? The ones that summarize why your music is what it is. Mas: My music is the way it is mostly cause of Nujabes and that entire atmospheric chill genre. Nujabes is the reason I got into the jazz and really just chill shit in general.

played. It’s much more noticeable in classical music, in my opinion, how the double bass continues the same rhythm but gets louder as the song continues. It’s build up to some type of changes.

NRM: Isn’t he Lo-fi? Mas: Nah, not exactly, but close. Just listen to his music and compare it to lo-fi tracks.

NRM: That’s true. I always feel like a piece tells a story. Mas: Exactly. Ever heard Larry Coryell’s “little b’s Poem”? You can hear the dynamics of the song vary in his picking. The second time around, his picking isn’t just raised a pitch, but it’s also harder. That hard picking is a notable change within the song, along with the vibrato that comes with it. A manipulation of pitch and dynamics at the same time. In the end, all work together separately yet simultaneously to convey a musical idea. It’s one of my favorites. Bennet showed it to me.

NRM: Is the experience of playing in the streets consistently spontaneous? Is it like a surprise because you encounter new things and new people every day? Mas: Busking is consistently spontaneous in that I never plan an ordered set list. I pick my songs depending on what I think people might respond to, what I’m in the mood for, and if I can even remember what songs I know in the moment. To be fair, literally every performance or gig I have done is spontaneous. I just did a gig at an opening for a bed and breakfast with no plan set list. Just went at it and tried some new songs mostly, forgot the lyrics but only I would know, so...

NRM: What was it like when you just started playing (in 2015)? Mas: It [2015] was interesting, to be honest. I fucked around with 7 chords I picked up on random sources and sung songs like "I Eat Ass" by Filthy Frank pretty much everywhere. Ended up learning "Sunday Morning" and

NRM: When did you start busking? Mas: I started busking in the beginning of September. I had a terrible performance at this one festival I crashed 'cause this Vietnamese dude was completely drowning out my music. I wanted to die. So I was like, "Fuck you," and the next day I went

NRM: What is atmosphere to you? And what elements/techniques do you use to deliver it? Mas: There are three pillars to music. There is rhythm, pitch, and dynamics. Manipulation on all three will determine how well you move a crowd. Continuously varying the rhythm is one really good way to keep people engaged, and it’s a good way to build up anticipation for a groove they are waiting to move to, dance to, jam to, etc. But at the same time you can’t have rhythm without dynamics. NRM: What are dynamics? Mas: In music, dynamics are the changes in volume throughout a piece. It’s also a good way to convey an idea that everyone can hear and feel when

NRM: In classical music? Mas: Classical music.

sung that everywhere too. On the train. In McDonald’s. On the bus. Also it was really 2016 that I started playing. Technically 2015 of December but like, it’s December. But yeah I dicked around with basic jazz chords until November of 2016, when I decided to pursue music.

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Photos by Gibson Arias, October 10, 2018, Decatur, Atlanta, Georgia.

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and played at some book festival in Decatur. There was a huge stage trying to drown out the sound from my shitty equipment, so I was like, "Fuck you," and set up as far as I could from them while still having a lot of people. I played my music as loud as possible, and it turned out amazing. Made damn near 300 dollars that day. Then I went back and played at the Vietnamese festival to end the day off. That was hella fun, too, hella people crowded around I have busked semi-regularly. I have talked to hella people and danced at parties like an idiot with people, with no regrets. NRM: Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Mas: I feel like a lot of people think I’m an extrovert, even some personality test said I’m an ENTJ and apparently that makes me an extrovert. I just try to interact with people in a way that creates an immersive and memorable moment. But in no way could say I’m an extrovert. I believe an introvert recharges their mental energy alone and an extrovert recharges by being with people, so in those respects, I'm definitely an introvert. However, the lines are so blurred in my opinion, do they really mean anything? I feel like anyone could be either extreme at any given time. This was a simple question and I’m looking way into so Imma just stop here, my bad. NRM: What have you learned so far in your practice? What do you want to learn more about? Mas: Well, for starters, if you don’t know how to properly sing, then spend almost a whole month singing 3 days in a row each week. You will make a lot of money, but you will fuck up your voice. So, yeah, I learned that singing technique matters. Besides that I have yet to even finish my jazz studies. I’m no student but I teach myself jazz using the beautiful internets. I’m learning "So What" by Miles Davis and I have gotten some sick lines from it. Seriously. That man was a god damn

genius. Crazy, but still a genius. I’ll be learning how to solo and hybrid pick in a very dedicated fashion once I’m done with my web development internship at Equifax. All the while, I listen to all types of jazz, and I'm just soaking up all the harmonic techniques I can. Then ya boi will be learning classical and eventually combining both musical styles. Hopefully my singing is actually

good by that time. Music comes before the voice tho so. I don’t really care if it doesn’t lmao. NRM: Post Malone or Post Malo-knee? Mas: Last question. Go away, Celina. For more of Mass Needs Moss's music, check out Instagram @masneedssoss.

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HEALING

RITUALS GOING BACK TO OUR

ROOTS CELINA PAREDES

Installation view of NOVA LUCERNAS’ Healing Rituals. Photo by Chiew Pui San June 23, 2018 Rampai Setapakm Kuala Lumpur Malaysia.

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W

alking into the gallery for Nova Lucernas’s installations is like walking back through time into pre-colonial Philippines. The artist delivers a full sensual experience. Participants walk through the smell of Efficascent oil (a camphor-based liniment popular in the Philippines) and incense and the sound of folk drumming into a place where they become part of a ritual. The artist-turned-folk healer applies mixed oil to participants’ faces, touching their heads and bodies. In Nova Lucernas’s recently attended art residency in Rampai Homestay, Kuala Lumpur Malaysia (2018), the Cebu-born artist was asked to do a quick demonstration of her work entitled Healing Rituals. This was Nova’s first

time to present her art internationally. Artists from around the world engaged in an exchange of creative talks and presentations. Nova replicates longstanding Philippine traditions of folk healing and replicates the rituals of mananambal and babaylan by spreading out bones, lomboy (Syzygium cumini), tobacco, palina leaves (palina is a cleansing ritual done to ward off spirits of the dead) and lana (medicinal oil made from coconut oil and other ingredients). In Filipino tradition, herbal medicines and potions like the haplas, habak, anting-anting, and agimat were believed to cure sickness and illnesses. Nova wants to preserve these fragments and rituals from pre-Hispanic Philippines, a


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time from when before the Philippines was colonized by Spain. Nova’s art is greatly inspired by her childhood. Her grandfather told her stories about myths and beliefs that are now often dismissed as being superstitious (tuo-tuo); her family burned incense and put up Latin prayers on the walls, practices typical of a kind of syncretism found in many cultures informed by Catholicism. Immersing herself in various cultures while working in constant recognition of her own, Nova continues to gain relevant experiences and new friends across countries. She says that it is through travelling that she draws inspiration to “upgrade” her art. Because of her experiences in Malaysia and Manila, she is now motivated to make some changes in her work, leaning to a more intricate art style of her former love, prosthetics. Nova tells us she is enjoying the new challenge. She is currently busy

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exploring the medium of prosthetics as she approaches graduation this December from the Bachelor of Fine Arts, Major in Painting program at the University of San Carlos, Talamban, Cebu. When I got to sit down with her over coffee recently and asked what she plans to do next, she says she wants to pursue art full time. Back in art school, I witnessed her interest in these fragments of indigenous beliefs she put up her works in the studio, astonishing our professors every time. It was hard not to fall under the spell of her work; Nova was speaking the art of the Maharlikans and the Philippine body of myth that is all but lost in the modern world, though we are seeing a resurgence interest in Philippine pre-colonial beliefs and culture with websites like Aswang Project and artists like Nova leading the way. When she entered the painting program she never thought of becoming a painter. She was interested mainly in combining things:

assemblages, installations, and now prosthetics. This art direction is already quite observable since kindergarten, when her teacher, seeing that Nova had formed a human figure out of simple toy blocks, told her that she was going to be an artist one day. A hybrid of pre-colonial world of rituals and of modern contemporary art, Nova’s exploration of mixed media and materials allows her to express and present new ideas and at the same time educate and connect with the viewers so that what was “not progressed” in Philippine culture can be developed now. It has been her art practice to create works that are often interesting, intriguing, and ritualistic. She believes that by doing this, she can aid help people learn to appreciate the magic in their own culture, reconnect to their roots, and understand themselves better.


Features

MARIE HYLD LIFECONSTRUCTION An excerpt from her book, Lifeconstruction, available now.

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Throughout this project, I learned how surprisingly easy it is to paint a delusional picture of a life. It made me realize that we, in this digital age, are communicating more than ever—although we’re not spending as much time cultivating truly meaningful relationships. Even though I get the convenience of electronic communication and see the value of entertainment on social media, I also see how it offers a near-constant temptation to pull away from the real-life interactions and relationships that are vital to our well-being.

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Communicating through digital devices prevents us from the small things in human interaction, such as reading someone’s gaze, their facial movements and hand gestures. The nonverbal world seems to be shrinking. And as I felt the hunger for it, I somehow got tangled up in this project.

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Throughout these thirteen unique meetings I got to experience human interaction up close. I observed trembling lips, shivering bodies, analytical glances and nervous smiles. I felt sweaty palms and cautious caressing while carefully exchanging ideas and thoughts. It felt like an experimental game, testing the possible heights we could reach, all while the camera was clicking. I clearly remember the constant dance of adapting to one another—both trying to reach a place so intimate and daunting, all while making sure that no one was in an anxious place.

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Feeling so alive and breathless in new acquaintances and seeing the final product of all the meetings made me realize that we really need to remember what is truly real and what isn’t. The observance, trembling, shaking, laughter— the interaction between me and the participants all felt very real to me. But the fact is, that I do not know any of the participants. At all. I don’t know anything about their past, future dreams or present hurdles and struggles. All I know about them is how their homes are furnished and what they act like in an unfamiliar, tense situation. I also have an idea of how they want to be seen related to how they present themselves on their Tinder profile and how they interacted with me during our brief meeting.

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Besides the question of validity, this project made me realize that there is something very genuine in many of us. The eagerness and ability to connect on a human level and create something together. Surely there is a core of passion for human connection and creation in most of us. Still, these connections and creations can take various forms. Some might just find place for a brief moment where others are to be found for a lifetime. But who are we to tell when something is true or not? Maneuvering on social media can be very difficult.

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If we don’t remind ourselves that social media is a false projection of a life, we might end up finding ourselves lonely, isolated and thirsting for a deeper connection.

Find Marie Hyld on Instagram @mariehyld and her website, www.mariehyld.com

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Literary Work

Natalia Sinelnik © 123RF.com

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Flash Fiction

Frigid ELEANOR FOGOLIN

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he half-fridge is squatting on towels and bath mats in the middle of my kitchen, seeping quietly, turning the apartment back into the kind of swamp this whole river valley was before the colonials came to do the queen’s bidding, and like a queen I step sideways around the pale, dead machine and lift my hem above the water staining the cheap, peeling linoleum. To backtrack a bit, the whole apartment is peeling, and I still love it even in the summer when the air is so close you feel the whole city pressing down on you and my dress won’t leave the backs of my legs alone, which is especially galling as I hear my neighbours clattering downstairs after a post-coital nap in the middle of the afternoon. Meanwhile the last time I was with someone they bit and weren’t entirely convinced that I didn’t like it, I suppose because in a weak moment I moaned convincingly just to say well, if that’s what you really need, and they said were disconcerted because I scarcely made a noise at all. I wouldn’t have thought of myself as being quiet when it came to it, but maybe some memory reared its head, someone could hear like a saint or your roommate and from there I start to think, you know, the really impressive part of tran-sub-stan-tee-ay-shun is that the Eucharist never has to look over its bruises the next morning in the bathroom mirror, disappointed that it couldn’t enjoy the pain along with you. But to backtrack again, it was because of the heat that I decided today was the right time to chip the ice. See, I couldn’t defrost the fridge because the water would find any crack and filter down, dripping, dripping, dripping into the apartment below, filling up the light fixtures and running down like rain until the landlady calls and the handyman has to come around. So there I was like Michelangelo with his chisel all ready to carve the angel out of the marble, only I was sitting on my kitchen floor in my underwear with a butter knife and a hammer chipping out a lot of rotten bananas that I’m never actually going to make into banana bread, and just as I’m congratulating myself on how well this is all going— pheeewshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh To backtrack one more time, it’s the hottest June weekend there’s been since the ’70s, but I have the flour and the milk and the butter and the eggs and I don’t have to go to the party until four because the bottle of valpollicella has been waiting since yesterday and so there’s time to watch the cake bubble, become waxy in the pan, the secret to which (I have discovered) is in the baking powder, and in letting the fat yolk slide through your fingers even though it’s too hot to stand over the stove making something that a family eats for breakfast and you are only one, the only other task for that day being to drink water and read poetry and savor the minutes where my dress gives me that sensual touch and be blissfully unaware that soon the half-fridge will be parked in the middle of the kitchen and I will be drinking wine about it.

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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Literary Work

Telling ALLAN JOHNSTON

Weeds of childish misspeaking find ways to seed games with soft webs of discovering denying and life is easier to give away. Telling frames ways to play the accident— broken dishware, mud in the hall, violations of well-off life. Unburdened from this part of turning human, we spent more time in elaboration— the ways that truth can come to be what comes to thought. The cake finds ways to explain its nibbled history,

Boyan Dimitrov © 123RF.com

different from what children bite from it. When blame bloomed in others, when the loose foot of truth could choose its own square to chalk up

beyond the game of the fallen comrade,

and land in, life simplified. Guilt became so many flocks of geese— seasonably moving, pestering the sky. The tongue is its own remembrance:

to the starting point, the end and origin of all we moved from,

it knows the entrance to the road of silk, the soft way to the body it washes in waves on the hip curve under the heat of wool or warmth of milk where it heals itself with telling. By the time we had found our differences we were already well on in telling it all— doing as we were taught in the artifice of creation, following rampant seeds of order. You had moved

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away from the overt aggressions of flesh that helped define brothers,

a dolled reality dancing in the place of lace. You were becoming the other, some sort of target— the sex that bears all strangeness to me now that the tales repeat themselves over and over, leaving no clue.


Poetry

Stock ALLAN JOHNSTON

each time the pain comes the patriarch moon lends authority to the milk skin, sacrifice for augmentation. Under it numerous representations, graded progressions beneath the current, die, root implant of the spoken. The empress accused of creation is connaissance, interpretation of the immediate passivity. Another might access powers of Gods, fastnesses of the said so made such (auctoritas) in the end of the spoken. One way to catch opportunity is to arrive before anything unlocks, be part of the to-be blocks. A stock exchange will soon open. Boyan Dimitrov Š 123RF.com

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Poetry

Love is One Way ALLAN JOHNSTON

After Neruda You come without greenness, without memory not recognizing your mirror reflecting contrary regions that mount to a noun. Alone where the scent of the grains of love, that winged raven, pass into August, the strumming of a guitar touches the sea with its timbre and sound. You love without knowing, bustle memory into empty houses near lanterns of clothing. You retreat, but already know. At least you came to take my life and tune it. You, in front of me, reigned, a queen, like an hourglass, or like the tresses of fins in the domain of kisses.

in secret, between the darkness and the soul, I love like the plant that has no flower and rises in front of you, and hides blossoms of water, and takes your love into the heart, and prepares an aroma that ascends to the earth. You love without knowing how, where, or when you direct love, without probes or hiding. Love is one way since it cannot be another, without being what it was and will be, without your hand on my skin, and your eyes in my dream.

I do not love like the rosy fires of salt or of tobacco. I do not love like the flesh of clavichords that propagate flame. I love as I love the obscure:

Allan Johnston is the author of two full-length poetry collections (Tasks of Survival, 1996, and In a Window, 2018) and three chapbooks (Northport, 2010; Departures, 2013;Contingencies, 2015). He has received an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship, Pushcart Prize nominations (2009; 2016), and First Prize in Poetry in the Outrider Press Literary Anthology competition (2010). His poems have appeared in Rhino, Poetry, Rattle, Poetry East, and many other journals. He teaches writing and literature at Columbia College and DePaul University in Chicago, and reads or has read as a contributing poetry editor forWord River, r.kv.r.y, and the Illinois Emerging Poets competition. He is also co-editor of JPSE:Journal for the Philosophical Study of Education, and has published scholarly articles in Twentieth Century Literature, College Literature, and several other journals.

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Short Story

The Meaning of Flight HEIDI STAUFF

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ne morning, Rhea saw it there, pecking in the pristine landscape under the Kensington Country Club sign as she waited to turn into the gated community—a black chicken scratching in the pansies at sunrise. It was still there at dusk when Rhea left, the sun casting long shadows in the Georgia summer twilight and the day after. Rhea started looking for it every morning when she drove by, throwing crackers out the window into the grass by the bushes, hoping it was smart enough not to wander into the street. Rhea thought she knew where it came from. Down the road, past the developments, a single trailer home hunched on a square of land, fending off the flock of developers that swooped down from Atlanta to buy up everything in the vicinity and turn it into expensive gated communities. The trailer had a makeshift wire fence surrounding it that kept in a brood of chickens and a few goats. All the neighborhood women grumbled, saying it was a black stain on the town. They complained it smelled up the new park where they marched around the man-made lake pushing strollers and talking out loud into hidden cell phones attached to their ears. They held community meetings and petitioned the city council, but the trailer’s owner wouldn’t budge—even when offered large sums of money. Rhea wondered how the chicken found its way there. Surely, it didn’t walk the three miles from the trailer to Kensington Park. Chickens are (as everyone knows) flightless birds. She thought about trying to corral it and return it, but it seemed fat and happy, scratching out a quiet living in the flower beds and retreating into the woods at night to roost. Rhea was a nanny for one of the many rich families in the Kensington Park Country Club, where the residents were tucked safely behind cast iron gates inside sprawling houses in neighborhoods built in less than a month. The gigantic homes stood stamped onto the hillsides in a pattern of three or four alternating models—so close they almost touched. They appeared made of brick or stucco on all sides from the street, but they hid shingled backs—like dresses pinned to the fronts of mannequins in a store window display to create the illusion of being completely clothed. It was a new neighborhood, and most of the cul-de-sacs were unfinished. The houses sat on their streets like embryos

in jars displaying descending forms of development. They started out fully formed at the top, bulging with families on green lawns thick as carpet. Expensive cars hid behind garage doors designed to look like carriage houses. But as you drove down the street, the lush lawns turned into freshly laid sod with the seams still showing. For Sale signs advertised barren three-story houses with naked windows staring at the road like lidless eyes. Newly planted flowers budded in beds around the foundations. Saplings sprouted along the driveways, tethered to stakes to keep them upright. At the end of the cul-de-sacs lay red clay and skeletons— partially framed buildings swarming with construction workers like flies on a carcass. They perched in the eaves in the afternoons, eating their lunches from plastic grocery bags as Rhea walked by with Katie in the stroller. Something kept them from whistling and cat-calling like they did in her town. The same unspoken rule decreed they idle their leaf blowers and lawn mowers as she passed. Rhea used to say hello and smile, but they only stepped aside and looked at the ground. Outside the gates of the neighborhood, Rhea was Mommy, not to the two-and five-year-olds she watched, but to the endless amounts of people she interacted with every day—a generic tag they gave her to avoid actual conversation. “What would you like, Mom?” the woman from the ice cream store asked. “How long has this fever been going on, Mom?” the nurse asked at the pediatrician’s office. “Wait for your Mommy, Honey!” warned the mothers at the playground. Rhea stopped correcting them. It was easier. Their eyes didn’t drift while she continued talking, trying to cling to the intimacy of the prior conversation like a child to its mother’s knee. So, Rhea took on the role. She slipped her arms into the designer sweat suit costume of the neighborhood mommies, bought a fake Gucci bag online, stole a pair of Chanel glasses from the Gymboree lost and found and traded in her Volkswagen Bug for a black shiny SUV she couldn’t afford. Her husband was a good man. He worked two jobs while putting himself through school. Rhea barely saw him. All she

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wanted to do was stay home and have children, but bills kept her at work, getting up before daybreak to drive an hour to the rich side of the county. Eight weeks into her pregnancy, Rhea developed hyperemesis. She got so dehydrated from vomiting, she spent the night in the hospital. She didn’t go in to work for three days. Maggie, her boss, used it as an example of how flexible she was when Rhea complained later about the long hours. Rhea felt like a fly caught under the glass of her financial situation and thought Maggie used it to her advantage. Rhea needed her and her money, and Maggie knew it. So, forty hours a week became fifty, and fifty became fifty-five. Helping with the laundry turned into picking up Maggie’s bloodstained underwear off the bathroom floor and scrubbing it in the laundry room sink until her hands were white and cracked from bleach. Rhea put up a fight when Maggie expected her to baby-sit on the weekends without compensation. Maggie turned on her and hissed. I was just asking you for a favor as a friend. The friend card—one Maggie could whisk out like a Visa and use at a moment’s notice. She seduced Rhea into a false sense of camaraderie, insisted she call her Mags, confided in Rhea about her husband’s negligence and what a jealous bitch her sister was. She cradled Rhea in the cozy nest of girlfriend closeness and then turned on her for a favor—something you wouldn’t ask of an employee without compensation but something you wouldn’t ask of a friend either. Can you do me a favor and stay late and clean the basement? I have a big party tomorrow. Rhea stopped fighting it. She swallowed down the protests sticking in her throat and agreed to whatever Maggie wanted. It was easier than flinching through the day, waiting for Maggie to slap her with some new argument proving how unreasonable she was being when Maggie had been so flexible with her. At least the children loved her. There was solace in that. She wasn’t hired help to them. She was just Miss Rhea, a constant presence they didn’t question or wonder about, an intrinsic part of their tiny five and two-year-old lives. Rhea’s job included dropping off and picking up the fiveyear-old, Hunter, from the bus stop at the top of the cul-desac. So every morning, Rhea packed Katie into her stroller and took the journey to the top of the hill with Hunter. Mothers left their houses and joined them in the line with their offspring trailing behind like ants. They ignored Rhea and neglected to reprimand their children when they picked up Katie and swung her around, or pushed Hunter out into the street. Tired and nauseated from being pregnant, one day Rhea lost her temper. She called out in a voice loud enough for the mothers to hear, “I know your mothers don’t care, but if you do that one more time, you’re gonna be in big trouble.” She got into a yelling match with Diane, Maggie’s neighbor, who called Maggie and complained. Rhea thought she might lose her job.

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But Maggie just rolled her eyes. I could care less what they think, Rhea. They are no friends of mine, just a bunch of stayat-home-bitches with no lives of their own. Rhea gloated the next day at the bus stop. They had not gotten the best of her. They had not defeated her. After that, the neighborhood mommies formed a tight flock away from her, calling out to their children in first names that should be last ones: Conner, Carter and Madison before turning back to their conversations about how hard it was to find good help or a decent lake lot to build their summer houses on. Rhea was close enough to hear, but not near enough to feel involved. She busied herself with buttoning Katie’s coat and tying her laces. She pretended to talk on her cell phone, laughing into the dial tone. The morning Rhea came back from the miscarriage, the chicken greeted her at the neighborhood entrance. Some of its feathers stuck out at an odd angle as it scavenged through the pine straw. It looked thin. Rhea rummaged through her glove department but found nothing to give it. It waited, cocking its head and studying her with one yellow eye as she drove past. Maggie was on the phone when Rhea walked inside the house. She looked up and placed her hand over the phone receiver. “Did you get the flowers I sent?” she mouthed to Rhea, her lips stained a dark red. Rhea nodded. Maggie gave her a thumbs up then returned to the phone, pecking at her laptop. Katie cried through the monitor beside her. “I’ll get her,” Rhea said, going up the steep stairs to the second floor. Katie sat in her crib and squinted at her in the semidarkness. The smell of urine drifted from her crib. “No, Rhea. Want Mommy.” Rhea tried to pick her up from the crib, but she flattened herself against the bottom of it, making her body a dead weight Rhea struggled to lift. Katie screamed as she put her on the changing table and unzipped her pajamas. Rhea said nothing, just changed her, stoic and silent and as if she was dissecting a cadaver. Katie calmed down half-way through, hiccupping and sucking her thumb. Rhea sat Katie up and took a deep breath. “Let’s go eat breakfast. Okay, sweetie?” She knew Maggie could hear her through the monitor. Katie looked up at her from underneath a curly mop of blonde hair, then pulled Rhea’s shirt up with one hand and put her tiny finger in Rhea’s belly button with the other. “Baby?” Katie asked, her eyes wide and blinking. Rhea pulled down her shirt and shook her head slowly. “No, no more baby. Baby all gone.” A single rivulet slipped down her face and splattered on Katie’s arm. Katie touched the wet spot with her finger and looked at it. She scrunched her tiny face into a frown. “Boo-boo Rhea?”


Short Story

Rhea picked her up and put her back into her crib. “I have to go potty, Katie. I’ll be right back.” Rhea locked herself in the bathroom and rocked herself on the toilet as blood trickled out of her into it. Katie yelled, “Out, Rhea. Out!” If Maggie heard, she never came up, retreating somewhere deep inside the massive house. When Rhea came downstairs, she saw a note on top of a box of baby clothes. Can you return these for me? I bought them for my friend’s baby shower, but I think I’m going to get her a stroller instead. Rhea trudged up the hill to the bus stop, ignoring Hunter and Katie fighting over a toy. She had been almost fifteen weeks along—in the safe zone. When she found blood spotting her underwear, she had called her doctor. He reassured her it was probably just from intercourse. He advised her to rest and not lift anything over twenty-five pounds but Maggie wanted her to come into work, because her designer was coming over to show her some new ideas for one of the three gigantic guest rooms. So, Rhea went in. She didn’t bother telling Maggie what happened or ask her to bring down the heavy loads of laundry from upstairs. Maggie was too busy poring over paint colors and fingering swatches of rich fabric. When Rhea reached the top of the hill to wait for the bus, she stood there, a pad thick and bulky between her legs. She dripped as she waited, listening to Diane gossiping to the others. Diane was the fat one of the group, thick and round like a hen. She stood in the middle of the circle, talking about a mother missing from the bus stop that morning. A wattle of skin jiggled under her neck as she whispered in a loud voice. She had a big bruise on her arm, and when I asked her about it, she said she didn’t want to talk about it. The women clucked their tongues in disapproval. When the clots came like dark pieces of liver, Rhea had called the doctor again. Her husband drove her to the office, his face white and drawn as he gripped the steering wheel. Rhea wailed against the car door, clutching her stomach. Her breath fogged the window around her head, leaving a disembodied silhouette when they pulled into the empty parking lot. Her doctor unlocked the office and ushered them into the examining room. He put Rhea’s legs up into stirrups and inserted the thin cold wand of the ultrasound. Her husband walked behind him and watched the screen, looking for the tiny flutter of the heart beat. Rhea watched his eyes as she lay there with her legs spread. He searched the screen then settled on something, and she knew. The doctor gave her a sympathetic grimace. I’m sorry. I think we’ve got a miscarriage here. He told her some women choose to pass it at home, but she could go to Mercy Hospital for a D&C. Rhea asked if she would be drugged for it and he said yes. She nodded to her husband. She wanted to feel nothing.

Mercy Hospital was on Rhea’s side of town. It was an old brick building, crumbling around the edges, who’s waiting room was always crammed with families speaking a dozen different languages. They waited fifteen minutes for the woman at the front desk to finish her phone conversation and admit them. Giant cramps gripped Rhea’s abdomen like a fist as she paced and listened to the woman complaining about her boyfriend into the phone. Rhea’s husband gripped the counter and stared at the woman, but she ignored him and took her time winding down the conversation before finally hanging up. She admitted them and directed them to the wrong floor. As they entered an unmarked office to ask directions, Rhea’s water broke. She bent over and held her knees together as it rushed out of her and splashed onto the floor. Red strands floated in yellow liquid around her feet. Two women in scrubs behind the counter ran over with a wheelchair and rushed her upstairs. Doctors and nurses turned in the hallways as the women wheeled her by, trying to locate the source of the inhuman sounds before turning back to their conversations. Rhea tried to lean over the side of her wheelchair so that she wouldn’t put any weight on the tiny mass between her legs in her underwear. She felt something—the flutter of a butterfly wing. She waited four hours before getting the D&C. They pumped her full of Stadol and she floated in and out of dreams where she walked through a park following the sound of crying. An old woman sat on a bench feeding birds. Didn’t she hear it? The woman just shrugged and threw bread to a group of blackbirds who shrieked and stabbed at one another with their sharp beaks. Rhea woke to see her husband sitting by her bedside. The small mass was still between her legs. Rhea told the nurses something was down there, but they said they couldn’t clean her up until she stopped bleeding. She tried to tell them something was there, the flutter of a tiny wing, but they just shushed her and dripped more drugs into her IV. Finally, before they wheeled her into the operating room, they cleaned her up. “We have remains here,” the nurse said. “What? What are you talking about?” asked the other one, peering between Rhea’s legs. “We have some fetal remains here,” said the first one pointedly, holding up something between her gloved fingers. Rhea squeezed her eyes shut and mumbled. They had to save it. The doctor wanted to run tests. The nurse put it in a plastic container marked “biohazard” and left it on the side table next to Rhea. “Don’t,” Rhea’s husband said, following her eyes. “It’s not something you want stuck in your mind for the rest of your life.” Rhea turned away and looked out the window. She stared at the wall of the brick building facing her until she drifted back to sleep. She remembered nothing else until after the procedure was over—her uterus scraped clean like a dirty plate.

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Rhea placed her hands over her still swollen abdomen as she waited for the bus. She pressed her fingers into it, almost expecting to feel something there. Hunter ran wild in the neighbor’s yard. Katie screamed from her stroller to get out. “Hi, I’m Robin.” A woman Rhea didn’t recognize stretched out her hand to her. Her fingers were long and bony, trapping Rhea’s fleshy hand in them like a rabbit. The other mothers paused and turned sideways, listening to their conversation. “And what’s your name, you precious little princess?” Robin asked Katie, who frowned at her. “That’s Katie,” Rhea said, staring at the woman’s legs. They were so thin, Rhea imagined she could make out her joints under the thick fabric of her sweat pants. “She’s so cute!” Robin said, smiling at Katie. Katie scowled and slapped at her leg. “Out! Out!” “Which one is yours?” Robin asked, looking at the brood of children swarming through the yards. “Hunter,” Rhea said, pointing to him as he wrestled another boy to the sidewalk and sat on him. She felt the other mothers’ eyes on her. “Oh, wow. You must have your hands full.” “You could say that,” Rhea said, looking at the rings crusting Robin’s fingers and her long painted nails. She pointed with one of them at a fat little girl with pigtails who had small piggy eyes and an upturned nose. “That’s mine over there—Gracie. She’s five. We just moved in down the street.” “Adorable,” Rhea said, watching Gracie dig inside her nose, pull something out then eat it. Robin shook her head, embarrassed. “Well, she’s my little project. You can’t have everything!” She smiled and shrugged her bony shoulders like wings. “I’m working on another though. Hopefully, this one won’t be as challenging.” She rubbed her stomach, a small bump Rhea hadn’t noticed before. “Congratulations,” Rhea said dully. “Thanks. Are you going to have anymore?” Robin asked, her eyes blinking wide with mascara. Rhea saw Diane watching her out of the corner of her eye, cocking her her head, listening. This was usually the part in the conversation where Rhea stopped pretending and admitted they weren’t hers—that she was just the nanny. But the words lodged deep in her throat. She stared silent at the ground. Robin shifted her stick legs, waiting. Diane walked up and touched Robin’s arm. “I’m Diane,” she said. “This is Maggie Wallace’s nanny—Rhea.” Rhea’s face burned. “Oh,” Robin said awkwardly. Diane tucked Robin’s arm under her fat one. “Let me introduce you to the other mothers.”

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“Okay,” Robin said, looking helplessly at Rhea. Rhea stared after them as they absorbed Robin into their circle. Diane’s whispers floated over in snatches. Rude to our kids. Doesn’t have her own, so she doesn’t understand. Gives Maggie an awful hard time. Miscarriage. Robin glanced over at Rhea, her face growing more pointed as she listened to Diane. The others bobbed in agreement. Rhea bent down in front of Katie’s stroller. She untied then tied Katie’s shoes. Katie frowned and touched the wetness on Rhea’s face. “Boo-boo, Rhea?” Rhea stood up and jerked the stroller around and headed back to the house. Hunter yelled after her, “Where are you going Miss Rhea? The bus isn’t here yet.” Diane called to him, “Come over here with us, son.” Maggie was on the phone in her office. Rhea tore a piece of paper off a notepad and scribbled on it: I’m going home. She deposited Katie in Maggie’s lap, handed her the note then walked out the door. Maggie ran out after her, but Rhea was already in the car. As Rhea backed out of the driveway, Maggie followed with her mouth hanging open and her arms flapping up and down. Katie tottered after her crying. Rhea drove past the bus stop. The women surrounded Hunter and watched her as she drove by, swiveling their heads on their necks like owls then snapping them back to Maggie, who was still yelling from the driveway—Katie, a tiny dot by her side in Rhea’s rearview. Rhea drove to the entrance of the subdivision, her breath tight in her chest. She paused at the stop sign where the access road met the highway. It wasn’t too late. She could still go back. Her cell phone rang deep in her purse. Something moved in her peripheral vision and she turned to look. A large hawk stood at the base of the Kensington Park sign, ripping long pink shreds out of something clutched between its talons. It looked at her and cocked its head, examining her like an insect—one yellow eye at a time. There were dark feathers strewn around the carcass—a black stain on the ground. Rhea stared at it until a car beeped at her from behind. An angry looking woman with big black sunglasses motioned in her rearview for her to go. Rhea looked one more time at the hawk—its beak sharp and bloody—then pulled out onto the highway and went home.

Originally from New England, Heidi Stauff currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia, where she lives with her husband and two children. Heidi’s fiction and poetry are published or forthcoming in The Woven Tale Press and Rock & Sling. A former professional musician and singer, Heidi is working on a collection of short stories and a novel.


Literary Work

Praise Song BEN MICHELMAN

Praise the scream that finally escaped his throat. Praise WebMD, his lack of concussion symptoms: his undilated pupils, his consciousness. Praise his alert fury. Praise my wife’s concern, how it exceeds blame. Praise Motrin Concentrated Infant Drops. Praise the body. How it ripens and crusts. Its fragility and its bounce-back. Praise sleeping it off, Praise the rhythm of breathing. Praise the dog for not barking at the creak of the mailslot. Praise this lasting rest. And finally, praise the good-nap wake up. (The no cry, sit-up-in-the-crib, da-da-da wake up). Praise the dust rising through bars of light. His hair, tufted like a juvenile bird’s. His gaze, how it finds me, and his two-toothed smile, so wide wide open, as if I’d never let him fall.

Puwadol Jaturawutthichai © 123RF.com

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Poetry

Found BEN MICHELMAN

“I am never where I am” – from a 0-star review for Pave, a navigation app. We’re stuck with Christmas music, traffic, and each other, so we try Pave for a new way. Speaking syllables that don’t touch, it demands that we exit, then takes us past battlefields, over covered bridges, onto dirt roads. We stop in a church lot for boiled peanuts. The vendor smells like fir needles and smoke. Back in the car she unbuckles to feed me. The phone, propped in a cup holder, has quieted: we’re floating through an empty map. But here her salty fingers linger on my lips; right here: the bag breathes warm in her lap. rclassenlayouts © 123RF.com

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Hitting the Fox BEN MICHELMAN

Veerathada Khaipet © 123RF.com

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Ben Michelman is a husband and father. His work can be found in Barrelhouse, Up the Staircase, Spillway, and The Southern Tablet. He currently teaches and coaches eighth graders in Durham, North Carolina. He hopes that his poems, like his students, possess “a keen bullshit detector, yet maintain a hopeful curiosity about the possibilities of the world.”


Poetry

In a rotting outhouse on Honey Island Swamp, your period started eight days late. I didn’t try to fill the gaps between your sobs until Mississippi when I asked what you wanted for lunch. In Gulfport you made up for the drinks you’d skipped, and we slurped oysters with hot sauce as a storm stumbled by. I made a joke about the baby gators we’d fed marshmallows to: how the guide so casually suggested measuring eyes to nostril to determine their age. That was four months ago and you’re still unpregnant and this fucking fox runs in front of the car. The weekend’s already been a violent one: we found the bunny you’d named Nibbles (it spent all May hiding in our strawberries) slick and sideways on our patio—eyes open, as if still alive. At the Cincinnati Zoo, a toddler tumbled in with the gorillas. The silverback pulled up the boy’s pants, and the keepers shot it dead. And now, this fox. When we hit it, it feels like losing everything. I can’t do the usual math, the weighted values of lives— The difference between roadkill and child. So I pull over, pound the steering wheel and cry. When I jerk open my door to see more clearly what I’ve done, you touch my arm and say, no. You’ll be the best mother. You tell me to buckle up, to think of all the foxes I haven’t mangled, all the beauty still out there, all the miles left and we’re already late.

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deymos © 123RF.com

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Poetry

Something I Learned Between 5th and 7th Grade BEN MICHELMAN

On bus rides in fifth grade we’d rank our top five crushes. The girls started it. They’d give their friends a peak, then fold the paper into their sweaty fists. First we’d beg—just tell us number five! Then we’d bargain, fully turned around, our scabby knees stuck to the vinyl seats. Usually it would end in an equal trade: one boy’s list for one girl’s. I was always number two on Jessica L’s list. I loved her. Number two felt like holding on. In seventh grade, we went to the woods for three nights of team-building. A guide drew a circle in the dirt with a stick, told us that this was our comfort zone, demonstrated a small step out. Then we led a blindfolded classmate over a wall. After dinner, the male teachers gathered the boys by the lake and asked us to each write a question on a scrap of paper. No judgement, they said. They remembered how confusing things could be and would answer anything. I pretended to scribble something, then folded my paper up blank. When the teachers started reading, nobody knew which questions were real and which were jokes, and we were forty boys and four men so we laughed. Then they let us swim in the dark. I slept in the side room of the cabin that trip. I’d jogged from the bus to claim it. That night, as my friends whispered fiercely in the main room, I clutched the Walkman I’d smuggled in and tried to find a baseball game. Something I could control. Something to dull the panic of homesickness. A familiar voice. Three days later, on the bus home, I was manic: thrilled to have made it through, to be only a few hours away from Mom. Someone whispered that Jessica had kissed Manny on a dare. Manny? He’d never even cracked her top five. I knew exactly what to call her and I did it. Branches raked the roof. The driver’s eyes flashed in the rearview. Jessica rested her head on her friend’s shoulder. I pushed mine against the seat in front of me and let the backroads chatter through me. It felt like some power, and also— like just barely holding on.

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kuco © 123RF.com

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Short Story

Create Space JEANNINE BURGDORF

I

closed my eyes to completely concentrate on what Nate was saying, then wondered if I looked creepy to him. I wanted to make a memory of his voice, delighting in the similarities it shared to that guy in those luxury car commercials. “I looked down and she was wearing my watch,” Nate said. “She had taken my watch before we broke up. I laughed because I had bought the exact same one again and was wearing it. We looked like members of a cult, if anyone had been looking at us close enough.” I laughed, opening my eyes and looking into his dark, seemingly bottomless eyes, but it barely covered my sadness that in his story he was having coffee with his ex-girlfriend. I was self-conscious of the gap in my two front teeth and the unevenness of my bottom teeth. Our smiles were in stark contrast: Nate’s, white and evenly shaped across his lips and mine, unbleached and stacked like half-forgotten books. We were a part of a creativity group of actors, artists, singers, and dancers who met on Sundays to explore our creative expressions. Being drawn to passivity and procrastination, I had a hard time actively participating, much less creating anything, instead wading in a sea of self-pity since my divorce was finalized eight months ago. The group was a safe place to meet people, to appease my therapist who insisted I was worthy of having my creative expressions heard and seen. Nate was always volunteering, trying things first, letting himself look stupid. This is a gift attractive people do not even know they have: that they can make mistakes and not make sense but no one notices because all anyone is paying attention to is their gorgeousness. “Let’s settle in, people,” the instructor, Steve, said. “Everybody! All right, today…” I stopped listening. Nate had taken a seat in front of me. I stared at his geranium-colored pants. They looked soft and baggy at the knees, as though he had been wearing them for days in a row. I inhaled his smell: woodsy beard oil and onions from the bagel platter he had eaten with his ex. “Ann, why don’t you go first,” the instructor said to me. Panic gripped me. I had no idea what was happening. I shook my head.

“There’s no time like the present,” he shouted and clapped his hands. I stood up without thinking and walked toward Steve at the front of the classroom. “What are we doing?” I whispered. “We are not doing anything!” he shouted, emphasizing the “we.” I stalled by shaking out my hands and rotating my neck to try to relax. I was faking it, but that is the artist’s credo: fake it ’til you make it. I did some awkward vocal warm-ups and Steve snapped at me to stop stalling. I asked him again what I was supposed to be doing. “Just sit down, Jesus!” I didn’t get up the rest of the class, enjoying my passiveness and getting lost in Nate’s pants. Still in bed before the alarm went off, I realized Nate hadn’t appeared in my dreams. Images of him in those pink pants had popped up when I was in line at the grocery store buying almond milk and eggs these last few weeks. Seeing his perfectly proportioned teeth and long legs in those Millennial Dockers made my cheeks flush. His presence each Sunday was a harbinger of good news: attractive people do talk to me, have talked to me, and would do so again in the future. Surrounding myself with attractive people was a defense, a shield against my own unworthiness, which was something I was supposed to be working on in this class, according to my therapist, Margaret. “What were the origins of your feelings of being less than, of feeling not enough?” she wanted to know again and again. Being alive, I wanted to reply. I usually launched into some story about being left home alone at any period of my childhood, while my parents, or brother, or babysitters went about their lives, convinced that I could take care of myself just fine. Both potential responses were true. The first was universal. Everyone I met felt insecure about something, to some degree. The second was specific. I had to contend with those childhood memories, those scars all on my own. If I wanted to do it while surrounded by people who were objectively more symmetrical and unwrinkled than myself that was my choice. I invited Nate to be Facebook friends, not real-life friends. On his page I find out he is twelve years younger than me and grew up in a tony suburb. Nate was in high school when I got married. He has 2,000 friends. I have not met 2,000

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people in my entire life but realize that is how young people are connected to the world, and how I am reflected back to the world through my 150 Facebook friends, people I had met in real life before the invention of social media. I knew being Facebook friends would not amount to anything with Nate, but it was a start. I hadn’t started anything in ten years. The last time I had started any relationship Facebook wasn’t even invented. After three days of looking at his photos, posts, events, and likes, we didn’t seem to have anything other than where we spent Sunday evenings in common. I had no appetite, no ability to focus. I had therapy with Margaret in the morning. There was a black-and-white photograph that she had taken of an albino peacock hanging outside her office door. The bird was in full splay and the quality of the contrast was striking. Some days, I liked to think that I was that peacock, rare and beautiful. Today I felt more like a mistake, like a yellow cardinal instead of a red one, needing a do-over from nature. Margaret was wearing the same grey cardigan she always wore over her clothes, which were also bland and shapeless. How was I supposed to be inspired to be imaginative by someone who blended into the walls? “Why do you want to start a relationship with this man, say instead of some other man?” Margaret asked after I told her about Facebook. “Because I am attracted to him.” “Do you want to be in relationship with everyone you are attracted to?” “Yes. I want ten lovers, twenty, a hundred,” I replied. “Have you heard about singles who are marrying themselves? You know, making a commitment ceremony for their families and friends where they publicly announce their self-love?” Margaret asked. “It sounds pretty self-involved. I mean, I guess you can get anyone to go anywhere if you offer an open bar.” “I am serious, Ann. This is something for you to consider. Aren’t you ready to move on from this post-divorce malaise?” I pictured myself smiling in a flowing ivory gown, a garland crown of ribbon and white flowers in my hair. Nate stood next to me in yellow pants. I felt better after sleeping through the night and because I had not checked Facebook for twenty-four hours. I went through my jewelry box and put on my old watch so I wouldn’t be tempted to open Facebook on my phone, pretending to look at the time. I had forgotten about it, its midnight-blue face, the tan strap stained from my wrist sweat. I probably hadn’t worn it since I got my smartphone, since before I was married. I started to forget what Nate looked like, not having looked at his photo for hours at a time as I had the past few days. I got my sketch pad and pencil and started to recreate him: his

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dark hair, his angled jaw. I was idealizing him, having lost the nuances of his face, the subtleties of the shift from his nose to his mouth and his mouth to his chin. The morning had been swallowed by this improvisation and by the time the sketch was complete I felt I had moved past my inertia. I had done something I was proud of with my day. Over the weekend, I saw flashes of Nate’s wrist, covered in that watch, or the width of his shoulders as I was making coffee and driving home from the post office. My chest grew hot and my breathing became shallow. My fantasies were hardly pornographic, but they didn’t need to be; it had been so long since I had let myself be aroused. The unexpectedness of the images made them welcome. I couldn’t plan when the next one would arrive and I couldn’t conjure images of him when I tried. On Sunday, I brought the sketch with me to our creativity group. I wasn’t sure I would show it to Nate or to anyone, but I felt confident carrying around something I had made, to prove I was more than just an onlooker lurking in the group. The conversation before class had turned to Nate breaking up with another woman. I looked down at his empty wrist. He had lost another watch. I sat at the front of the class and when our teacher asked what we had worked on last week, I raised my hand, timidly, halfway at first. Pulling the sketch out of my Art Institute tote bag and turning it toward the group, I described my artistic process, “I wanted to capture Nate’s face last week when he was telling me how he realized his ex-girlfriends were walking off with his watch as some sort of consolation prize for dating him. I tried to capture that happy-slash-horrified place.” There were giggles and some chatter. Nate’s face reddened with embarrassment. Shame was not a sexy look on him. I wanted to laugh for real this time and hard. I wanted to yell across the room, “you are so handsome, how are you not flattered by this attention?” I hadn’t expected him to be embarrassed, to even have the capacity for embarrassment. I didn’t do anything, continued staring as his lips sunk and his brows crumpled. I stood there, accepting the tepid applause from everyone but Nate.

Jeannine Burgdorf is a writer and stand-up who has performed at Stage 773, The Annoyance Theater, Under the Gun, and with The Kates in Chicago. Her writing explores female characters who are, on the outside, emotional idiots and who often see life through an absurd lens. Her writing has also recently appeared in Orange Quarterly.


Literary Work

Breaking BETSY HOUSTEN

“Some of the moons of Saturn, including Pandora and Prometheus, act as shepherd moons to confine the rings and prevent them from spreading out.” —wikipedia.org Sixth planet, spill it. Who was it taught your moons to shepherd? We’d like a word. We’ve got ideas, big ones, we’re dying to branch out after encircling you for centuries, bored with holding you so close. Jupiter’s beautiful, and touchably close, her great red storm writhing like a heart. Her turbulent atmosphere blisters and roils. Hot mist we ache to bathe in. Jury’s out on what of it’s stable, though honestly that’s hardly the point. You can’t keep us forever; Prometheus should know better, as should Pandora, about the fallacy of control. Rein them in, they’ve gone rogue, strutting about the cosmos like you promised them something. We’re asking politely. We’ll count to three.

Betsy Housten is a Pushcart-nominated queer writer and massage therapist. Her work appears or is forthcoming in formercactus, Burning House Press, Memoir Mixtapes, Longleaf Review, Glassworks Magazine, Little Red Tarot, and NILVX. Jersey-born and Brooklyn-bred, she currently lives in New Orleans, where she is pursuing her MFA in poetry.

Photo by Marie Hyld

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Poetry

Lesson One BETSY HOUSTEN

Caroline showed me, Caroline who moved to California shortly after that day; eight years old and banging the plastic tails of my seahorse My Little Ponies together over the picnic table where I’d lined up tubs of water for their weekly ritual bathing—one to wet, one to soap, one to rinse—Caroline said they were having sex. I shook my head and said nuh-uh! That couldn’t be right, no way did babies come from the glittering bottoms of Sea Mist and Wave Dancer. Sun brushed her curls. The ponies gazed up at me from the clutch of her hands, their painted eyelashes demure, admitting nothing. Caroline smacked them again, concentrating, tongue sticking out of her mouth. I wanted to get back to the washing. I loved submerging their pretty bodies in water, scrubbing smudges from hours of pretend, arranging them on towels to dry. No, I insisted, they can’t, they’re both girls, then looked out at our yard, the tangle of flowers both cultivated and wild: Queen Anne’s lace twining around honeysuckle blossoms, tiger lilies blushing bright red like they knew something I didn’t.

Photo by Marie Hyld

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Roman Nerud © 123RF.com

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Short Story

Learning German LYNNE WEISS

T

hey are the only Americans in the building. Soldiers and tanks are everywhere, and trucks the color of canned peas. Canned peas are one of many foods that make Gail gag. Squash, lima beans, corned beef hash, spinach, the soggy red things that come in canned soups— the list goes on and on. It’s a constant battle to get you to eat, her mother says, but it is a battle Gail feels she is winning. She likes feeling hungry. The hunger tells her she is winning the battle, though she isn’t always sure whether the war she is fighting is the war against her mother or her own body. Her body is changing in ways she doesn’t like. Mounds are growing on her chest, and hair as thick as grass in the triangle below her belly. If she doesn’t eat, she thinks, these things might stop growing. Her body might stay the way it is, the way she likes it. Gail’s parents want her to learn German so she can translate for them. That’s what they say, but she thinks it is one more trick to make her do things she does not want to do, like make friends. The school Gail will go to in the fall, Frankfurt Elementary, has summer courses in German, so every weekday morning, she and her mother and her sisters take two trolley cars to get there. Betsy and Becky are only five, so Gail’s mother takes them to the school playground while Gail takes her class. They get back to their apartment at about noon each day, and at the end of their second week in the building, the door of one of the other third-floor apartments opens as they walk by and a tiny old woman in a flowered green dress steps out into the hallway. Her blonde-gray hair is gathered into a braid wrapped around the crown of her head, and she looks like she belongs in a fairy tale forest. Eine Märchen, Gail thinks, happy that she has remembered the word for fairy tale. “Please,” the tiny woman says to Gail’s mother, “Sie und Kinder. Unsere Wohnung.” She mimes drinking tea and then points into her apartment. “Drei Uhr,” she says, holding up three fingers and pointing to her wristwatch. “Ja! Ja! Danke,” Gail’s mother says, smiling. Gail has already learned enough German to know that her mother’s accent is terrible. She says Danke so the first syllable rhymes with “thank” instead of with the broad “ah” sound it should have.

“This will be a chance for you to practice your German,” she tells Gail, as she freshens her lipstick and makes the girls change into clean dresses before they walk down the hall to the neighbor’s apartment that afternoon. The Handke apartment is small and clean. Lacy ovals are pinned to the arms and backs of the upholstered furniture. Tiny porcelain dancers curtsy and bow on the gleaming dark shelves. The apartment smells sweet, like overripe apples and lemon. Frau Handke’s face is like pleated silk, and Herr Handke’s eyes are as blue as the dresses on the porcelain dancers. Gail is taller than both of them. The twins get to sit in a corner with coloring books and paper dolls, but Gail has to sit at the table with her mother and the Handkes so she can use her German. The only time Gail heard people speaking German before her family moved to Germany was in movies or TV shows about the war, and the people who spoke it were bad. Just hearing people speak German made her stomach start to heave at first, but she has started to like the language. “Das Wetter ist schön,” she says, because she has learned to say “the weather is nice” in her class, but the weather has been overcast and rainy since they arrived. She compliments Frau Handke on the cake. “Der Kuchen ist gut,” she says, although the thin slices are dry. She is careful not to spill tea on the lace tablecloth while the grown-ups smile and nod and try to say things in halting combinations of German and English. Gail’s mother gets up and walks around the room, pointing to the figurines of ladies in ruffled dresses and men in frilly jackets and white stockings and saying Schön! Sometimes she picks up a photograph—so many photographs crowded on the shelves, some behind others— and says “Sie?” to ask whether these faded images are the people sitting in the room with them. Each time her mother points at an object it is as if the old people are seeing it themselves for the first time in a long time, and when she points to a photo of the Handkes—younger but still recognizable—with two boys in short pants, Frau Handke takes it from her and stares, her mouth quivering and smiling at the same time.

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“Unsere Sőhne,” she finally says, pointing to the little boys. “Their sons,” Gail explains. Frau Handke nods. “Tot,” she adds, and drags her finger across her neck and opens her mouth to make a gagging sound. And then she traces the tracks of tears falling from both eyes with her fingers. “I’m so sorry,” Gail’s mother says. The Handkes nod. Herr Handke says, “Der Krieg.” “They died in the war,” Gail explains. Herr Handke makes explosive sounds and motions to indicate falling bombs and then extends his arm and makes ack-ack sounds. At supper that evening, Gail’s mother says “So sad! They lost both sons,” She is dishing succotash onto the girls’ plates. Gail wrinkles her nose. “Lima beans?” Her mother ignores the grimace, and Gail’s father wipes his lips. “Did they say where?” he asks, and adds, without looking at Gail, “You have to eat at least four bites before you can leave the table.” “Where?” her mother asks. “Where they were fighting.” He pauses. “I’m wondering whether it was the Americans or the Russians.” He looks at Gail as she lifts a single kernel of corn to her mouth. “When I say a ‘bite’ I mean a forkful.” Gail’s mother widens her eyes. “I hadn’t thought about that,” she says. “You know,” she says to her husband, “we were just kids when the war ended. I barely understood what was going on.” The only friend they have in Germany is her mother’s friend Mary, who went to high school in Massachusetts with Gail’s mother. Now Mary, “Mrs. Baird to you,” her mother says, is married to Lieutenant Colonel Baird and lives in Fulda, over an hour away on the border between East and West Germany. Gail’s father, a master sergeant, says the Army has rules about enlisted men and officers spending time together, so he and Gail’s mother agree that he will take the twins to the base movie theater in Fulda while Gail and her mother visit Mrs. Baird and her son Dwight who, Gail’s mother says, is “the same age as you.” That means he is eleven, but Gail has been told many times that girls mature earlier than boys. She thinks people tell her this because they think she might be worried about being taller than all the boys she knows, but she doesn’t care about that. She would be happy if all the boys in her class disappeared, and most of the girls, too. They plan to go to Fulda to see Mary Baird the last weekend in June, but Gail’s father is called out on alert that Thursday morning. He and all the other fathers must prepare for a war, in case the Communists invade West Germany. “It’s practice, like a giant fire drill,” Gail’s mother explains, but the exercise must be much more than a fire drill because when her father comes home on Sunday morning he is exhausted and has to sleep all day. On Monday, parents talk about the alert when they pick up their children from the summer German class. The troops were

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ordered to the Fulda Gap, the mountain pass everyone thinks the Communists will drive their tanks through when the war begins. “Isn’t Fulda where Mrs. Baird lives?” Gail asks on the trolley the Monday morning after the alert. How could her mother want to visit someone who lives so close to the place where the war might start? Her mother pats her hand reassuringly. “That’s why they live there. They are protecting us.” When they get home and her mother makes lunch for her and her sisters—baloney and mayonnaise sandwiches—Gail refuses to eat. Eight weeks into her summer school class, Gail starts thinking in German. She understands words and phrases she hears and sees around her—bis später! Haltestelle! Sparen! Einkaufszentrum! Entschuldigung!—and she repeats them silently to herself. She knows what they mean now—until later! trolley stop! save! shopping center! excuse me! and she likes the way they feel in her mouth. Some words are as crisp as apples; others are soft and chewy, like brownies. They set off for Fulda in their Ford Falcon station wagon on a Sunday morning in early July. Highway signs mark the exit for Bad Kissingen, a town south of Fulda. She knows Bad means bath or springs in German, but maybe it also means bad as in a bad place to be when the war begins. They drive past that exit and pass between low mountains that could be hiding places for soldiers and then the mountains flatten and they are in Fulda. Her father pauses at the guardhouse and then they drive past corrugated Quonset huts and rows of pea-green Jeeps until they arrive at the Bairds’ house on the officers’ cul-de-sac. The house is the color of leftover squash. White wire arches march in straight rows across the lawn, separating beds of red geraniums from trimmed grass. A row of missile bunkers—broad mounds of grassy earth with flat tops—is visible beyond the houses clustered at the edge of the base. Mrs. Baird opens the door before they even ring the bell. She has a helmet of reddish-brown hair. She wears a white shirt with a starched collar, green shantung slacks with knife pleats, and she shouts “Brenda!” and then, “These must be your beautiful girls!” The lieutenant colonel is on the phone in the kitchen, his back to the living room. Even from the back Gail can tell that he is not as good-looking as her father, who looks like Gregory Peck from certain angles. Gail’s father and the twins go to the movies and Mrs. Baird introduces Gail to Dwight. Dwight is about six inches shorter than Gail. He has a blond crew cut and the fabric of his khaki bermudas is bunched up where his thighs rub against each other. He stares at her with watery blue eyes from behind thick glasses. He breathes through his mouth. He asks her how old she is and then what grade she is in. “I’m eleven,” she says. “I’m going into sixth grade.” Dwight informs her that he is only ten, but he is going into sixth grade too. “I skipped a grade,” he says proudly.


Short Story

Gail has known other boys like Dwight—boys who do well on tests but don’t know how to make friends—and she is not impressed. “Do you want to play Risk?” Dwight asks. “Yes,” Mrs. Baird answers for her, and Dwight leads her up the stairs to his room. A dozen plastic airplanes, each about eight inches long, fill the shelves along one wall of Dwight’s room. “These are my models,” he says. “My favorite is this P-40 Warhawk.” He lifts an airplane with big white shark’s teeth and a bright red tongue on its nose from the shelf and dive-bombs the little plane toward Gail’s face. She pulls away. “What’s wrong?” he asks, daring her to admit she was frightened. “It’s dumb to have teeth on a plane,” she says. “It’s a war plane,” he says. “But planes don’t eat people.” “I forgot,” he says, as he sets the plane back on its stand. “You’re a girl. Anyway, I’m working on a Soviet Polikarpov now. Maybe I’ll paint a friendly face on it.” He smiles at her. “For you. Once I finish the Polikarpov,” he continues, “I’ll have all the World War II planes. Then it’s either battleships or Korean War planes.” “You’d learn more from building the planes,” she says. “You can see how they change.” “Good point.” He pushes his glasses higher up on his nose. “You’re really ugly,” he says. She shrugs. She considers telling him he is really ugly as well, but she is afraid he will think they have something in common. “I’m only eleven,” she says. “I’ll probably look like my mother when I’m older.” He is clearly impressed. “Your mother is pretty,” he says, and then he scowls. She does not tell him that his father is ugly, but she can tell he is thinking about his father. “Let’s play Risk,” he says. It is a new game for her. Each player attacks and defends territories on the backdrop of a world map. Dwight uses red and blue ballpoint pens to draw little hash marks on the inside of his arm as they play. “What are you doing?” Gail asks. “Planning my strategy.” Strategy! Gail doesn’t know what her strategy should be, but she wants to prove that she can beat him, so when Mrs. Baird knocks on the door and says her parents are ready to go, both Gail and Dwight say “Already?” and as Mrs. Baird’s footsteps go down the stairs and Gail stands to leave, Dwight lunges. The frames of their glasses smash against each other as he plants a sticky wet kiss on her lips. He smells like sour sweat and cherry Lifesavers. He clutches her arms with moist hands and then, as suddenly as he lunged toward her, he pulls away. “Did I do it right?” he asks. Gail’s father barks out her name from the bottom of the stairs.

“I have to go,” she says, but when she stops in the Bairds’ downstairs powder room to scrub the scent of Dwight from her face and hands, she bats her eyes at the mirror surrounded by round movie star lights. When her braces are off, when she’s allowed to tease her hair and wear eyeliner and contact lenses, she’ll be pretty. When Gail and her mother and sisters visit the old people again, she can carry on a stilted conversation. The Handkes ask where they are from in the United States, and Gail explains that they lived in Washington, D.C., before they came to Germany, but they were in Japan before that. That was before Betsy and Becky were born, and the only thing Gail remembers about Japan is that they sometimes sat on the floor when they ate, and a small long-haired dog with a loud bark lived next door. She remembers eating balls of cold rice, too. “Wir essen auf dem Boden,” she says. For a moment, she feels courageous for having created this sentence, but a moment later, she realizes she has said something confusing. She hasn’t learned past tense yet, and she has just told the Handkes that they eat on the floor. They look politely puzzled. “Auf dem Tisch?” Frau Handke suggests gently, tapping the table. Gail agrees. “Yes, we eat at the table.” It is too hard to explain. In early August, Gail’s mother takes homemade cookies downstairs to the Handkes, and they drink lemon tea as sweet as lemonade, but warm. Gail’s mother walks around the apartment, and the Handkes smile and nod as she points to carved wooden animals and figurines of dairy maids and farmhands gazing lovingly at each other. Gail translates what the Handkes say about each object her mother points to. “It belonged to her grandmother,” or “it is from Holland.” Frau Handke tells Gail she has learned a lot of German, and Herr Handke says sehr gut! Gail looks around the crowded little room, eager to say something that will show off her skills, but at that moment, her mother pauses before a framed photograph on the crowded mantel. Her mother picks up the photograph and frowns. Herr Handke’s eyebrows go up over his blue eyes, and Frau Handke says, “Sie mag es nicht” to her husband, but what it is her mother doesn’t like, Gail cannot tell. Herr Handke goes to her mother’s side and touches her arm, but her mother does not look at him. Her hand shakes as she places the photograph where it was, behind other pictures on the mantel. Her face looks strange when she turns to Gail and the twins, as though she is trying not to say something. She opens her mouth, and for a moment, nothing comes out, and then she says, “Come on, girls. It’s time to go home.” Becky and Betsy, absorbed in their paper dolls, do not look up, and Gail is surprised to realize that she is disappointed. She was starting to like talking to the Handkes.

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Frau Handke’s beautiful skin has gone pale. “Unsere Sőhne,” she says, her voice defiant, and she says some more things Gail cannot understand to Herr Handke. Gail’s mother calls sharply to the twins and then they are all moving toward the door, pulled by the power of her mother’s rage, as palpable as a chill wind filling the room. Her mother walks out first, the twins close behind, and Gail hesitates, wanting to say something polite, but her mother says “Gail!” in a voice so commanding that Gail runs out the door and into the hallway. “What’s wrong?” Gail asks as her mother hurries them down the hall and into their own apartment. She asks again when her mother sinks down onto the large gray chair in the living room, the one her father usually sits in, but her mother only shakes her head. When Gail’s father gets home they go into their bedroom and shut the door. Gail hears her mother’s distressed whispers, and then her father’s voice, louder and a little impatient. “What did you expect? They’re Germans,” and then, after a pause, more kindly, “Why don’t we visit Mary this weekend?” Gail doesn’t want to go back to Fulda. She is sure her mother would disapprove of Dwight’s kiss, but more important, she doesn’t want to be in Fulda in case the war starts. But she knows they are making the trip to help her mother feel better about the picture she saw at the Handkes, so she doesn’t complain. She still doesn’t know what was in the picture, only that it upset her mother, but the prospect of going to Fulda again makes her stomach ache so she pushes her soft-boiled egg away at the breakfast table. Her father looks exasperated, and says, “We don’t have time for this, young lady. We need to get on the road,” but in the flurry of getting ready for the car trip, her parents do not notice that the egg remains uneaten when they leave. Gail sits in the back seat behind her mother. The twins take turns sitting in the middle and behind the driver’s seat, crawling back and forth over each other again and again until Gail can hardly keep from screaming as they pass the long lines of trucks and tanks that fill two whole lanes of the Autobahn. They pass the Bad Kissingen exit. Bad kissing. Is kissing bad? she wonders. But it wasn’t my idea. When they pull up to the Bairds’, Gail is dismayed to see that the missiles are out of their bunkers, pointing toward the border. Her father nods toward them and says, “Testing,” and then he says he is taking the twins to see That Darn Cat! at the post movie theater. He invites Dwight and Gail to come along. Dwight, who is wearing the same khaki bermudas he had on last time, says, “That’s a baby movie.” “They can stay here,” Mrs. Baird says. “Go ahead,” she urges, waving the hand that holds her cigarette toward the street.

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“Daddy!” Gail calls as her father and sisters walk back out toward the car. Her father turns and waves. She wants to say, What if the war starts? but Dwight is running up the stairs to his room and her mother is telling her to go upstairs too. They begin the game where they left off. Dwight had recorded all their positions from the previous game, and before long, Gail forgets about the missiles and the threat of war. Once again, Dwight draws red and blue hash marks on his arm as they play, and Gail thinks she might win when Dwight says, “Let’s say whoever loses has to take something off.” She sits up. “What do you mean?” “Like you could take off your blouse.” She shakes her head. “That’s stupid.” “Come on,” he says. “I just want to see what they look like.” He nods toward her chest. “Are you wearing a brassiere?” he asks. “Because then—well,” he sounds regretful, “you’d have to lose twice.” “I’m not going to lose at all,” she says hotly. She stands, planning to go downstairs to sit with her mother and Mrs. Baird, but when she opens the door her mother is laughing. It’s the first time she has heard her mother laugh since they moved to Germany. Mrs. Baird is laughing, too. “His German typist’s husband!” she says, and her mother and her friend start to laugh harder, and then her mother’s tone grows serious. “…such a sweet old couple,” she says, and then the words swastikas and Nazis in a whisper. “What did you expect?” Mrs. Baird says, the same thing Gail’s father said. But then Mrs. Baird lowers her voice. “Anyway, you think the last war was bad. The next one will be a real doozy. We can hear them exploding mines on the other side of the border at night.” “You get yourselves to Frankfurt if anything happens,” Gail’s mother says quickly. “You and Dwight.” “Oh, Brenda,” Mrs. Baird says with a sigh. “If the shooting starts we’ll be evacuated—if we’re not cooked first. But don’t worry. If something’s going to happen and I find out— because Charlie doesn’t tell me everything—I’ll let you know. Anyway, my theory is it will start in Berlin, not along this border. Anyway,” she continues, “let’s not worry about it,” and a moment later, she is telling Gail’s mother about a trip she took to Paris with Dwight and Gail goes back into Dwight’s room. “You came back.” He looks really happy. She stands with her back against the door. “I didn’t want to bother them.” Dwight stands. The fabric of his shorts bunches up between his thighs and he pulls the legs down to straighten them. “Hey,” he says, as though he has just had a new idea. “What if I show you my thing?” he asks. “And then you could take off your blouse.” “Your thing?” Before she can stop him, Dwight opens his pants and holds out his penis so she can see the face he has


Short Story

drawn with his ballpoint pens—two blue dots for eyes and the curve of an ink-red smile. “I drew it for you,” he says. “No teeth. Do you like it?” She is a little disgusted and a little shocked, but mostly she is angry that she has been forced to play with this boy while her mother visits her friend. She says, “Do you speak German?” He sneers. “Why would I want to talk like a kraut?” Ever since they arrived in Germany, she has been picking up new words, new expressions, from the headlines in the news kiosks, the magazine covers that reveal more skin and use more slang than the magazines and newspapers on U.S. newsstands. “Schwänzchen,” she says, and smirks. He narrows his eyes. “What does that mean?” he asks, but she can see he knows he has been insulted. “Little tail.” She crosses her arms over her chest. She has won. With a single word, she has won the battle. Dwight zips up his pants and kicks at the board game. “I was winning,” he says. Just then, the doorbell rings. Her father has returned, and Gail can go downstairs. Gail wakes earlier than usual the next morning. She gets up, even though the sky is barely light, and goes into the kitchen, rubbing her eyes in confusion. Her parents are sitting at the kitchen table, their heads bent over the radio. Her mother looks up and hesitates, and then she stretches out an arm in invitation. Gail walks over and stands next to her mother, listening to the reports with her parents. East German soldiers have stretched a wall of barbed wire six feet tall around East Berlin. Her father shakes his head. “They’ve surrounded the entire Soviet Zone,” he says. “In one night.” “Why?” Gail asks. “To keep people from leaving East Berlin. The command must have known something was about to happen,” he says. “That’s why we saw all those convoys yesterday.” He laughs grimly. “They were headed for Fulda but they should have gone to Berlin. Now West Berlin is an island in the middle of East Germany.” “How far is Fulda from Berlin?” Gail asks. “Far,” her father says. “Probably about 300 miles away.” “Will the war start now?” The phone in the little hall outside the kitchen rings—more like an electric buzz than the telephone ring she is used to from the States. Gail’s father gets up to answer it. He listens for a moment, and then he says, “We were already up,” and then, “She’s right here,” and holds the phone out to Gail’s mother. She hesitates before taking it. “Did somebody…?” She doesn’t say die. Gail’s father shakes his head. “Mary,” he says. “Mary?” Gail’s mother takes the phone. “Hello?” and a moment later her face softens. “Yes,” she says. “You were

right. Berlin.” And then she says, “Thank you,” and sets the receiver softly in its cradle. “It’s going to be all right.” She laughs. “They—we—are not going to respond.” Her father looks at Gail and says, “To answer your question—no. There’s not going to be a war. At least, not today.” School starts a few weeks later. Now there is a bus, so Gail can go to school and come home by herself. She and her mother and sisters have not visited the Handkes since the day her mother saw the photograph that upset her so much. The one time they encountered each other in the stairwell, her mother walked by without speaking, and so the Handkes lower their eyes when Gail sees them on the sidewalk outside the apartment building one day in mid-September. “Guten Tag,” Gail says. The old people stop. They look at her and smile with relief. “Guten Tag,” they respond, and Gail pauses, thinking. “Es ist ein schöner Tag,” she says, although as usual the sky over Frankfurt is overcast and gray. The old people smile and nod, as though they understand what she means. Frau Handke says some things Gail doesn’t understand, and then she takes Gail’s hand and presses it between hers. Her skin is cool and dry. “Kein Krieg,” Frau Handke says. “Kein Krieg,” Gail agrees, and adds, “Kein Krieg heute.” No war today. “Auf wiedersehen,” she says, taking her leave of the old people. ‘Auf wiedersehen’ means ‘until we see each other again.’ It is something to say to a friend, not an enemy. Upstairs, her mother is reading The Stars and Stripes, the American army newspaper. The twins are playing with their dolls. In the kitchen, Gail takes bread from the breadbox, and as she spreads the Brot with Senf and slices of Schinken und Käse, she thinks of all the words she knows, all the words her parents do not understand. She sits at the kitchen table and eats her sandwich of ham and cheese and mustard, grateful for her hunger.

Lynne Weiss is a writer and editor of history and social science materials in the educational publishing industry, and her mission is to create literary fiction from overlooked and forgotten aspects of history. She lives outside Boston, Massachusetts, where she is a community activist and a lover of local theater and music. She earned her MFA from UMass Amherst, and her work has appeared or will appear in Wild Musette, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, The Common OnLine, Ploughshares blog, [PANK] blog, Change Seven, and Radcliffe Magazine. She has received grants and residency awards from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Millay Colony, Vermont Studio Center, and Yaddo. And, she says, “I sing for fun!”

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Clean Places CARTER VANCE

Carter Vance is a writer and poet originally from Cobourg, Ontario, Canada, currently resident in Ottawa, Ontario. His work has appeared in such publications as The Vehicle, Contemporary Verse 2 and A Midwestern Review, amongst others. He is a 2018 Harrison Middleton University Ideas Fellow. His debut collection of poems, Songs About Girls, was published by Urban Farmhouse Press in 2017.

Suwatchai Pluemruetai Š 123RF.com

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If there is some grander notion, to these ether trailings of sunlight across splendor brick clicking of chatter heels against stone, then it is unrevealed against the washing of winter coat flows, as much so as under watchful burning space of warmer times. There may yet be some clockwork design to the patching of curtain draws on days too blank to pass inside, yet still too knife-showing to venture out.

Then go to some places, scrubbed down and seeing to welcome, but filed down from all threat, tensed of all teeth-bearing exercise, in the contemplation of old air where you could belong. Not even there, though, was a planning pen found amid rubbish bins, hesitant tea cups, broken spindle casing, there being no sketchbook tracing of myself in famed rooms.


Poetry

The Music Study CARTER VANCE

The fuse, the spark was drawn out on matching tables for the theatrics of it all: All-dancing showcase of pastime blues, grinning with new-wed promise, grinning with minded property. As it was drowned in shadow, growing faint, weary as tides scrape on sea-glass, a cry came: Spared of all evening’s cold, dulling sense with floated radiation warmth these are not a making of dreams except as test patterns. Coming up, a cleaner place of it was made for mirrored time, a hunting whiff of old things leaving: Like tragedies, staged readings, the jig is danced to float about with accordion breath, not a pen-scratching sense.

Isabel Da Silva Azevedo Š 123RF.com

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Grigori Katz © 123RF.com

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Poetry

Hymn to Hillsborough Gardens CARTER VANCE

The rolling out of green passageway hills must have reminded pale men with leg chains in ship hulls of the misty home counties; why else would they have graced these rocks with names of kings, with Sunday’s best, with three-prong electric plugs? As old as the flying places were, top houses dotting the bright, rococo Spanish shades, the fixtures in sheet metal were new. The telling ocean shade of Samaritan tarps below pointed to who was enough without two silver coins to cross, enough without a Labour Party badge number, or enough without fortunes in family names to Brooklyn, or Rexdale, or inner-ring London, that could have lent a hand. In rusting white time I watch, hear the spray of ocean and chop of housing lumber, again like the timely overseer, the court magistrate.

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Laurin Rinder © 123RF.com

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Short Story

Upward Mobility REBECCA LEE

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he was sitting in her wheelchair outside Mr. Goodenberg’s office with a saxophone pressed against her lips. It was a brisk Tuesday morning and she looked wide awake. Good for her, Mr. Goodenberg thought. It was just chilly enough to be uncomfortable and yet, here she was, with her American flag proudly dangling off the back of her chair. When she puffed out a vaguely familiar Christmas carol, her chubby cheeks blossomed. She was smiling. Mr. Goodenberg nodded in approval. Like a true trooper, she was soldiering on. Mr. Goodenberg, a senior programmer at UStart, pulled a crisp ten-dollar bill from his wallet. It seemed like an odd amount of money to have. The ATM machines had become snobby, requiring a minimum of twenty dollars for extraction, but the amount was needless. Mr. Goodenberg preferred credit cards. At the bottom of the wheelchair was an old-fashioned top hat with several single dollar bills crumpled against the cloth. Mr. Goodenberg, smoothing out his money, carefully pressed his bill inside. He walked off quickly, avoiding the thank you. Mr. Goodenberg didn’t need to be thanked for doing the right thing. Being a good citizen was enough. The office building behind the saxophonist was technically not Mr. Goodenberg’s, but he thought of it as his own. Even when he was not at the office, he took great pride in working on the third floor. UStart paid well and he enjoyed that people still dressed up for work. It wasn’t one of those sharp new tech businesses run entirely by twenty-year-olds. Mr. Goodenberg, already in his late thirties, started to resent the fresh faces of aged-out frat boys. “Ah,” he said, once reaching the office. “You can hear the music from up here.”

The room Mr. Goodenberg shared with his coworker, Mr. Greenbriar, was small, but well lit. He liked to think of it as private. It was populated only by him and Mr. Greenbriar, while the marketing department and design team had their own rooms. Rooms without bay windows. Mr. Greenbriar nodded. The coffee pot was half full and the remaining mug was left in its rightful place at the edge of the coffee station. Mr. Goodenberg helped himself to a full cup and sat down at his desk. He was ready to start the day. The next morning, the saxophonist continued to play outside Mr. Goodenberg’s office building. She had a flimsy music stand with only one book: Christmas favorites. Although it was March, Mr. Goodenberg thought it almost cute that she would play something so cheerful at an obviously inappropriate time. Beneath her music stand was the familiar top hat and some loose change that had fallen close, but not quite. The saxophonist pleasantly looked up and made eye contact with Mr. Goodenberg just long enough for him to acknowledge that he had seen her. She was wearing a camouflage jacket with printed leaves instead of the standard army colors. She still had the American flag flying on the back of her chair, but Mr. Goodenberg noticed a slight tear on one of the stripes. It was an electric wheelchair. Perhaps she had driven it recklessly. Since Mr. Goodenberg had already paid her ten dollars the day before, he figured he didn’t need to duplicate the same form of generosity. He smiled broadly and waved at the saxophonist. She smiled back. He supposed most homeless people could use a smile rather than money. It wasn’t as if they were invisible. Mr. Goodenberg settled into his office, determined to finish all the morning calls before eleven.

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“Did you set up the intern interviews?” He turned to Mr. Greenbriar. “We have both scheduled for Friday.” “Are they in the afternoon?” Both intern applicants were qualified to help with the extra computer programming that was needed. One said he was a recent graduate from Stanford University and the other taught himself. Secretly, Mr. Goodenberg wanted the one who taught himself to work for UStart. He couldn’t imagine what a man with a Stanford education would want working in a small town business unless something had gone terribly wrong. “The one from Stanford is coming in at eleven. The other one is at two.” Mr. Greenbriar eyed the cracked window next to Mr. Goodenberg’s desk. “Do you think we could close that?” “Sure. I didn’t realize I left it open.” “It’s just that,” Mr. Greenbriar nodded toward the obese woman in the wheelchair, “I think I’m all worn out on holiday cheer.” It’s true, Mr. Goodenberg thought. The woman had recycled the same Christmas songs twice yesterday and was starting on a third this morning. He closed the window, but the sound only muffled. Thursday morning the saxophonist was still wearing her leafy camo jacket, but her jeans looked more dirty than the day before. I must not have noticed, Mr. Goodenberg glanced down at the obvious stains on the front of her jeans. They were red and yellow, most likely from food. Mr. Goodenberg tried to avoid her eyes, but there was no way to avoid her entirely. The building was right behind her. Consciously staring ahead, Mr. Goodenberg sidestepped the top hat as he made his way through the front door. He was pretty sure there was already money in there, but if she saw him staring, he might feel obligated to give more. His blank, almost silly smile, seemed to suggest he was pleasantly making his way to the office to start his full day of work and could not be bothered with anything less wonderful. This was something the saxophonist could not understand, but might appreciate. Both bay windows were closed. Mr. Greenbriar sat with a pair of headphones on, staring into the distance of his computer screen. Silent Night played faintly from the ground level. Mr. Goodenberg peered at the streets below, searching for any other musicians. The several blocks surrounding the building were quiet. Women shopped at the market. Boutique stores and cafes lined historical brick sidewalks. The saxophonist was an obvious new addition. Mr. Goodenberg thought about the Stanford applicant and what he might bring to the table. His schooling, no doubt, was an asset. “What are we going to do about this?” Mr. Greenbriar motioned out the window. The women shopping had made a deliberate circle of vacancy around the saxophonist. Cafes with outdoor seating were empty. To listen to her play was to

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use some kind of service. If patrons didn’t pay her, they would feel as if they were taking advantage. Mr. Goodenberg thought of the men who washed car windows at stoplights. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” The morning before both intern interviews, the saxophonist was playing “Let It Snow.” The flag, still floating behind her chair, now seemed gimmicky to Mr. Goodenberg. It was as if she was using his patriotism as a form of guilt, tricking him into paying her money. But he had paid her money, he thought. Ten dollars was a good amount for a street performer. The saxophonist did not look at Mr. Goodenberg and he quickly moved beyond her. If she did not look at the man who gave her money, she didn’t need anymore, he thought, slightly relieved. But once in the office, his guilt returned. “She’s still there,” Mr. Greenbriar said. “I know.” “Jingle Bells” had started to play. Even from behind doublepane glass, they could hear the faint shake of a tambourine. “She will scare off our interns,” Mr. Greenbriar said. “Will she?” “She already scared off the customers for those shops.” Mr. Greenbriar pointed to the cafes across the street. “Nobody wants to come to a place full of panhandlers.” Mr. Goodenberg nodded. “It makes this area look low-income.” “What do we do?” “It’s a noise ordinance,” Mr. Greenbriar stated. “How do you know?” “I looked it up.” The two men stared out the window. “Do you think we should…?” “There’s got to be other people who are trying to work in this building, too. She’s ruining our ability to be productive.” Mr. Goodenberg nodded again. “And she’s been here for three days at least. It’s been more than enough time.” Mr. Goodenberg agreed. She had been there for several days. Possibly longer than he remembered. “We’d be doing her a favor. She could get more money if she moved to a different spot.” Mr. Greenbriar said. “Yes. She can’t be making much in this area.” The stains on her jeans were visible even from three stories up. Mr. Greenbriar reached for his cell phone to call the police. “This stuff happens all the time.” “Yes.” Mr. Goodenberg paused briefly. “She would thank us.”

Rebecca Lee has published in a variety of magazines and journals. Some of her publications include: Able Muse, Existere Journal, British Medical Journal, and others. Her essay, “Rules of Engagement,” was listed under notable essays in the recent anthology of Best American Essays.


Literary Work

Kismet Bay ERICA BERNHEIM

My favorite color has always been local. If you consider the sweet fermentations death will bring, you will no longer be able to consider your arms without imagining them gone. Your legs will not take you anywhere useful. Face it, the days belong to vultures, the nights are for binge-watching rain and frogs. What I want to say is that I’ve never been so clumsy. What I want to do is release fake news through morphine drips, reports of Lincoln dishonestly engraving love is eternal across his wife’s wedding ring, to turns which have always belonged to us. To pretend more is to welcome ruin into your heart. The downing of memories like shots, how we collected ourselves, how we wore leather gloves in a springtime cemetery, how we dug through bedrock looking for artifacts of the love I have made exist, quixotic and vague, without artifice or curtains, no lifeboats or escape pods laden with their own brands of illegal explosives. We are mercenary; we are clean. Wishes undo intentions, the way the molecules in milk let themselves fall apart, but looser, and quite possibly with less grandeur. If this frightens you, it is important that you tell me so.

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Tithi Luadthong © 123RF.com

Erica Bernheim’s writing has appeared recently in DIAGRAM, The Missouri Review, Denver Quarterly, and The Adroit Journal. Her full-length collection, The Mimic Sea, was published by 42 Miles Press (Indiana University South Bend). She teaches at Florida Southern College, where she also directs the creative writing program and curates its visiting writers series


Poetry

Tithi Luadthong © 123RF.com

Our Impossible Home ERICA BERNHEIM

It was real, what we made, this dream of swimming pools filled with honey, tended by goats with exquisite manners. What might I have been like if I’d bought those salad tongs, those wishbones under domed glass, the few items, but lovely ones. Winter in Florida may not be the paradise it seems. If I did nothing wrong, I would not be your enemy. This emptiness posits our bodies as capable of doing the impossible if we assumed the correct starting positions. People can break their necks doing something as simple as a somersault. Brevity and restraint retreat to their separate corners. The referee has already picked favorites. There’s no need for more.

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Yelizaveta Tomashevska © 123RF.com

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Short Story

This Wound of Glass ROBERT GUFFEY I

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esse Lazar held nothing back from his wife and five-yearold son when he gathered them together in the living room to hear the difficult news. His explanation of what might happen to him in the upcoming war was relentless and graphic. Sarah, his wife, made it clear she didn’t approve of such candor in front of their child. She sat on the couch, wringing her hands as Billy sat beside her playing with his favorite Hotwheels. The tiny vehicles were dented and discolored from having been toyed with so much. Billy seemed convinced that the square white patterns on the cushions had been designed as an intricate network of roadways for racing miniature cars. Billy had a strong imagination. Sometimes Jesse thought it was a little too strong. “Billy should get used to how life really is,” Jesse told his wife. “There’re a lot of evil people in the world trying to do evil things. Isn’t that right, Billy?” His son nodded, not once looking up from his little game. “These Iraqis might do anything to us. Hell, they’ve got chemical warfare bombs we wouldn’t even dream of using—stuff that’ll make your skin melt right off your face.” “Jesse, please!” Sarah hugged Billy tightly to her chest. “Listen, don’t worry. We’re going to get shots to protect us from all that crap. We’re a hell of a lot smarter than they are, okay? That’s why we’ll win and they’ll lose.” He gave his family a reassuring hug. He told them he would be back soon. He wasn’t lying. ***

Neither was he lying about the shots. He, like every other American soldier, was given eight in all. Half the time the doctors wouldn’t even tell him what the vaccines were called. This worried him only slightly. After all, these doctors were trained professionals. Old pros. They knew what they were doing.

A couple of his fellow soldiers freaked out and refused to be injected with the vaccines. They were held down at gunpoint and the needles forced into them. Some idiots just didn’t know what was best for them, but Jesse knew that was par for the course in the military. In fact, that was par for the course everywhere. *** The war came and went with fire and dust and mysterious clouds of red sand and midnight darkness that cast out the rays of the sun and coated birds in sticky blackness from which they would never be free for as long as they lived…. *** It was all over in a hundred days. Jesse and his compatriots returned home to an elaborate parade and a grateful country and an outpouring of kisses and cheers and streams of yellow ribbons that looked somewhat like the barriers one would find wrapped around the chalk outline of a dead body lying in the middle of the road. Jesse didn’t know why he thought of them that way. It wasn’t an appropriate image to commemorate what had truly been a glorious victory. Yes, a victory! A victory for a country that desperately needed a boost to its confidence in order to help it heal from the lingering wounds of Vietnam. Naturally, Jesse felt proud that he had been given the chance to play even a modest role in helping the country on its way to recovery. *** The sickness came later. But not much later. The first symptom was an unusual one. His semen burned like acid and ate away at Sarah’s vagina. At first he didn’t know what the hell was wrong. He thought he might be

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suffering from some kind of sexual disease. But how had he caught it? From Sarah? No. He was certain she’d remained faithful to him while he’d been stationed in the Gulf. At least, he thought he was certain. He was frustrated and confused. Eventually he started talking to some of his friends, soldiers who had also been in the war. They were suffering from similar symptoms: stiff joints, chronic fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, loss of eyesight. The symptoms varied from soldier to soldier. From hero to hero. None of them felt like a hero, though. They felt like shit. *** The networking among Gulf War vets continued. Clearly, this sickness was isolated to those who had liberated Kuwait, and yet no doctor would admit this. Most of the time the doctors told them the sickness would go away. “Just wait it out,” they’d say. Jesse did just that. After all, the doctors knew what they were doing. They wouldn’t lie. *** On February 14, 1992, Jesse woke up with the usual stiff joints, feeling as if his elbows and knees were constructed of rusty metal hinges. The pain was intermittent (always worse in the morning), but nonetheless this premature arthritis had cost him his job. He’d been out of the military since the end of the war. Besides the Army, this gig at Arco was the only job he’d ever had; the shortest, too. Some days… some days the pain was so bad he couldn’t even move. Sarah had been forced to go back to her old job, the one at the jewelry store, the same one she’d been working at before her mother contracted breast cancer. She hated that store. And it seemed to Jesse she was beginning to hate a hell of a lot more than just the store. She hated everything that reminded her of her mother’s long, slow death. She barely spoke to him anymore, except to chastise him for his “laziness”—as if his disease was a put-on, an excuse not to work. He couldn’t blame her for being edgy. These days she rarely got to see her own child. Billy, too, was feeling fatigued of late. Both Jesse and Sarah tried to convince themselves this was not important. Six-year-olds can get tired, Jesse said. There was nothing sinister in this. He hoped there was nothing sinister in this, either: the Army refused to pay Jesse the medical benefits due him. In a very roundabout way, they let him know he couldn’t be suffering from a disease that didn’t exist. Gulf War Syndrome had not been officially recognized as a disease. Therefore, he could not be sick. It was all very logical, they claimed.

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Jesse was beginning to wonder if these doctors knew what they were talking about. Nevertheless, he hoped they would come through for him. Hoped... and endured. Until the aforementioned morning of February 14, 1992, when he woke to find a large, conspicuous hole in the middle of his chest. He could pass his hand right through it. It wasn’t bleeding, and the insides were as smooth as glass. In fact, they were glass. He could see the bright redness of his inner organs dutifully carrying out their various tasks beneath the oddly situated window. It was so… so perfect and neat, as if a laser on a high tech tunneling machine had bored a hole right through him while he’d lain in the oblivious throes of yet another nightmare about the desert and pools of blood and Iraqi soldiers who had already surrendered being buried alive by American troops in monstrous earthmoving machines, Iraqi soldiers shot in the back as they attempted to run from firebreathing tanks, civilians being maimed and killed by wayward Patriot missiles. But the nightmare had been nothing compared to this. This wound of glass. Despite his stiff joints he shot up from the bed and screamed. He screamed for a very long time and staggered around the house and wondered what he was going to do. After these initial moments of panic, Jesse paused in the middle of the living room and tried to gather his wits together. He tried to calm his breathing. How on earth was he breathing with no lungs? he wondered. No, no, came the response, don’t think about it. If you think about it you might just fall apart like the Coyote when he realizes he’s gone off the edge of the cliff. Don’t think about it. So he didn’t. Instead he remained motionless in the middle of the room and wished to God his wife and son were there with him. But since they weren’t, one being at work and the other at school, he decided to turn to the next best thing: the can of beer in the fridge. The cool touch of the aluminum was enough to ground him to reality. As he took swig after violent swig, the mess in his mind began to sort itself out. He began to analyze his predicament, and these were some of his first observations. Though the perpetual stiffness of his joints was as uncomfortable as ever, the wound itself was not painful. Just cold. His normal bodily functions had not been affected by the wound. For example, the beer that flowed down his throat seemed to go somewhere (it wasn’t leaking out the hole). However, he had no idea how it managed to do this, and couldn’t be certain at all that it would continue to do so for any great length of time. He couldn’t be certain of anygoddamnthing. He couldn’t even be certain this was happening outside his own head. Should he call his network of war buddies and ask them if they were suffering from similar wounds? They’d think he was crazy.


Short Story

Maybe he was. He wondered if he should sit tight, wait for Sarah and Billy to get home, and ask their opinion. Before he called his friends and made an ass of himself he wanted this impossible phenomenon confirmed by someone he could trust. Oh, he felt like running away, just like when he was fourteen. Just hopping on a freight train and leaving this life behind. He wanted to be done with this existence. He felt like an alien in somebody else’s skin. He needed to confirm his sanity, and he knew he couldn’t wait until Sarah and Billy returned home. There was only one other person he could think of to contact: Doctor Kramer, his physician. This was the same doctor who had told him his physical problems would all blow over in time. That had been a year ago. Jesse was sure he meant well. He picked up the phone, dialed the doctor’s number. The receiver felt slippery in his sweating palm. “What can I do for you?” said Kramer’s nurse. “Um… well, I’m not sure how to—I-I’ve got this giant glass hole in the middle of my chest. I don’t… w-what do I do?” The nurse’s chuckle was nervous and strained. “Well, of course, glass holes are usual with men your age. Did you think about taking a few aspirins?” “You actually think I’d joke around about something like this? How long have you known me now? I’m fuckin’ falling apart! Don’t you remember my other symptoms? Don’t you?” After a long pause the nurse replied, “I’ll have the doctor call you back in twenty minutes, okay?” “What if it gets worse before then?” For the first time since he was twelve, he felt as if he were on the verge of crying. “In twenty minutes, Mr. Lazar. Don’t worry. Just hang tight.” Jesse hung up the receiver and stared at the phone, as if fearing it might abandon him the second it left his sight. *** Later that day, his son came down with such a severe stomachache the school nurse called Jesse to ask him if she could drive Billy home. Jesse agreed, of course. When the doorbell rang he put on a shirt and a sweater in order to obscure the gaping hole. He thanked the old woman (who had been kind enough to walk Billy all the way to the door), then carried his ailing son to bed. Not only did Billy have a stomach ache, but a fever as well. Jesse tucked him in, assuring him he would be well again very soon. “You promise?” Billy said. Jesse playfully ruffled Billy’s hair; he nodded, not saying a word. *** About an hour later Billy woke up screaming. Jesse rushed into the small blue room and saw his son kneeling on the carpet in front of a pool of fresh vomit. Billy was pale, his face

layered with sweat, his mouth coated with spittle. He was staring down at a glass-lined hole in his stomach—a hole that looked just like Jesse’s. The only difference was its somewhat smaller size. “Oh my God,” Jesse whispered, feeling reality slipping out from beneath his feet even further. “Daddy… Daddy, help me.” “I will… hold on… just hold on.” He dashed back into the living room and reached for the receiver just as it rang. He picked it up. He said hello. “Mr. Lazar? This is Dr. Kramer.” “Oh… oh, thank God.” “What’s wrong?” “It’s my son, he—something’s wrong. A glass hole. In his stomach.” “But… I thought you were the one with the hole.” “I am! Now my son has it too. What the hell’s going on?” “I… I couldn’t say. I’m sure the condition can be reversed. Um, in the meantime, perhaps you should think about seeking a different kind of help. I have a number here—” Jesse caught on. He cradled the phone, cursing the doctor and everyone associated with him. He returned to the bedroom and calmed Billy down as much as he could, placed him back in bed, pulled the covers up to his chin. He promised him everything would be okay when Mommy got home. “You’re not lying, are you?” Billy asked, his voice filled with suspicion. “No, of course not,” Jesse said. “You… know I wouldn’t lie.” Frustration caused Jesse’s hands to curl into tight fists. He wished there was someone he could beat up in order to make everything all right again—some Iraqi he could grab by the collar and shake around a bit. Jesse patted his son on the head, then tip-toed out of the room. He paced the living room. Back and forth, back and forth. He couldn’t wait until his wife came home and, hopefully, made everything better. *** Sarah seemed alternately disgusted and intrigued. She kept reaching out to touch the curved walls of the hole, but would wrench her hand back at the last second, just before the tip of her finger connected with the glass. “I-I’m calling Doctor Kramer right now,” she whispered. “I don’t think that’ll do any good. He says—” “I don’t care what he says! He’s been giving you the same song and dance for twelve months now. He couldn’t help you with your arthritis, your fatigue, your diarrhea, your vomiting. It’s about time he understood how bad—” “I really don’t think that’ll get you anywhere.” Jesse felt fatigued again. He sank into the couch, lowered his head into his hands.

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“For months I’ve been telling you something’s seriously weird and fucked up and wrong, but all you’ll say is, ‘Oh, don’t worry about it. It’ll all blow over.’” “That’s what Kramer told me. I figured he knew what he was talking about. Why would he lie?” “That’s always been your problem, you know that? You’re too damn trusting. You believe everything people tell you. Your father, your superior officer, your doctor. Someone’s going to tell me how to cure Billy.” “Where’re you going?” “To Doctor Kramer’s office, where the hell else?” “I thought you were going to talk to him over the—” “Fuck the phone! He’s going to see us in person or I’ll ram his door down with my fist.” She grabbed her purse with one hand, gathered Billy in a blanket with the other, then headed out the door like a soldier meeting the wolves of war. Jesse followed her out onto the driveway until she turned toward him and said, “No! You better stay here.” To Jesse the implication was clear: You’ve caused enough trouble already. She eased into her car and peeled out of the driveway, the tires emitting a high-pitched screech. Jesse stood in the driveway, not knowing what to do. For awhile he just stood there staring at the little white suburban houses that surrounded him until he saw the neighbors peeking at him through their kitchen blinds, at which point he lumbered back into the house where he sat in the couch and stared at the blank TV screen. He did this for about half an hour. Eventually, he realized he was waiting for the phone to ring, waiting for his wife to call and tell him she was sorry for being so abrupt with him. But the phone never rang. He got up, grabbed a few bucks from the roll of bills Sarah left for him in a dish before she went to work every morning, and headed for his favorite bar downtown. It was a good twenty minute stroll. The cool twilight air would do him good. At Smalley’s Bar he sat on one of the ripped vinyl stools and flirted with a cute auburn-haired waitress as she placed beer after beer in front of him. He didn’t mean to drink so much. He didn’t mean to pass out. He didn’t mean to return home at 11:23 in a taxi cab with beer stains on his jacket and t-shirt. By the time he returned home Sarah was packing her bags. Jesse was so wrecked, he could barely speak. “Where…?” “To my sister’s for awhile,” Sarah said. “But why?” “Kramer wouldn’t see me. We need to talk to somebody else. Until then, I’ve… got to go.” “But… why?” She slammed her fist into her suitcase. She began to cry. “Isn’t it obvious? You’re contagious. You’ve infected Billy with… with something. I… I can’t let it happen to me.” “But it won’t.” “I’m surprised it hasn’t already, what with—” “It won’t.”

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“Dad died of cancer. So did Mom. I don’t want to go through what they did. It was so long and drawn out. They just wasted away. They just… wasted away….” “But it won’t happen to you.” “Oh, really? You promise?” He thought of saying yes… and instead said nothing at all. She continued to pack. As if by reflex he reached under his shirt, into the hole in his chest, and grabbed tightly onto empty air. He could feel something there: impending loss, as inevitable as death. He knew he shouldn’t be surprised. Quite the contrary, he should’ve seen it coming. But that didn’t change the feeling of despair that hit him here in the hollow pit of his chest. The reality of it was difficult to grasp. Sarah was taking Billy and never coming back. Never coming back. Never. He sank onto the floor and remained there for a time, crying. She pleaded with him to get up, to act like a man. He collapsed onto his face, passed out once again. The next day, late in the afternoon, he awoke on the sofa with a massive headache. He ate a meager breakfast of toast and tomato juice, stuffed as many essentials as he could into a small backpack, then left for the nearest switching yard. He hadn’t hopped a freight train since he was sixteen, but you never lost the know-how. All you needed was a little courage. And no responsibilities. No family. II The most dangerous place in America is a freight yard after dark. Jesse learned that when he first rode the rails at age fourteen, eight years ago. Now he found himself here again, crouched in a tangle of bushes that surrounded the same dilapidated Santa Fe switching yard he and his friends had frequented as teenagers, a tattered backpack strapped to his shoulders, wearing nothing but faded blue jeans, a black jacket, a white t-shirt, and his old Army boots. From his vantage point he couldn’t see anyone else around, none of the usual transients or runaways, but perhaps they were hiding too, waiting for their chance. The boxcars were a drab reddish-brown, the color of rust, each of them decorated with a large white circle containing the familiar bold letters that spelled out the words SANTA FE. The train began to move, slowly at first, then gained speed as the engine passed his hiding place. He felt himself sweating. Strangely, so strangely, the pressure he’d normally feel in his lungs when exerting himself like this had now abandoned him. He felt, instead, the incessant throb of nothingness, the lingering echoes of absent flesh—a gaping emptiness always pulling at his attention.


Short Story

It’d been so long since he’d exerted himself to such a degree. Though he seemed to be in perfect health, in truth the bone-weary fatigue often came upon him without warning. One moment he’d be playing a rough game of football with his old Army buddies, the next he’d be laid out on the ground, unable to move, his limbs feeling as heavy as concrete. Ever since he got back from the Gulf, he’d been half a man. He hoped his strength lasted just long enough to get him to Seattle. He planned to visit the top of that futuristic-looking Space Needle, scan the breath-taking fog-strewn landscape… then leap the fuck off. It was a fine dream, a fine goal. If nothing else, it was something to look forward to. His initial attempt at riding the rails hadn’t gotten him far. The Santa Fe line followed the Pacific Coast all the way up to Washington state. As a teenager his goal had been to ride the entire line from one end to the other: the suburbs of L.A. to the Canadian border. He might have made it, if the police hadn’t picked up him and his friends somewhere outside San Francisco. Then his dad came to his rescue by shipping him off to the Heritage Christian Correctional Training School in Provo, Utah. His three-month stay at the “behavioral adjustment” institute altered his entire worldview—for the better. He no longer questioned his father’s authority or the wisdom of his teachers. Once those three months were over he felt as if a black cloud had lifted from him. His head was clear at last. Gone was his ridiculous desire to spend the rest of his life drumming in a punk band, doing drugs, and hanging out with antisocial slackers ten years his senior. After his outlook had been adjusted, he realized how horribly he’d been treating his family. His old friends—enablers, every single one of them—accused him of being a mind-controlled zombie, but deep down he knew the truth. They were just losers. His new goal was to make his dad proud. Everything else came second place. He married the girl down the street, joined the Army, and had a child he named after his father. The beginning of a perfect life, just like the Heritage School had promised. Now, almost a decade later, he had nowhere to turn. His father had died of a stroke a month after the Gulf War; he’d died with a heart full of pride for his only son. His mother followed soon afterwards. Without his wife Sarah and his son Billy, without the VA, without the Army, Jesse had nobody. Despite the Heritage School’s readjustment of his worldview, recidivism now gripped his psyche. Somewhere in the back of his mind he’d always retained a feeling of disappointment at never having reached Washington. He’d been so looking forward to seeing the Space Needle. Jesse hoped to rectify that situation right now. One, two, three, four cars passed by him. As the dark, yawning door of the fifth car rolled by, he emerged from the bushes and darted toward the door. He ran alongside the car, tossed his overstuffed backpack into the blackness, then leaped onto the wooden platform; he pulled himself up over

the foot-high metal rim and scrambled into the darkness on his stomach. He rose to his hands and knees, glanced toward his left. Row after row of immense tires, perhaps intended for eighteen-wheel trucks, took up half the boxcar. To his right moved indistinct shadows. “Who the fuck invited you in here?” A phlegmatic, gravelly voice. Its owner stepped into the moonlight shining through the open doorway. Though he was short, no more than 5’6”, he was built like a bear on steroids. He had a mean, distorted face; Jesse wondered if he’d been born with his lips naturally twisted into a scowl; his skin was leathery and bright red, his nose bulbous and misshapen as if it had been smashed into a wall thirty or forty times too many. He was wearing a baseball cap, an ill-fitting black sweat shirt, and blue jeans so old they had turned silver. He wore no shoes, just white tube socks. He appeared to be in his early 40s, though he might have been even older. On either side of him stood two younger men in Jesse’s age range. They were taller and skinnier than the first man, but no less dangerous looking. Their faces were etched with the obvious signs of the perpetual pain and hardship that came with a life spent on the rails. Both of them held switchblades in their hands. They seemed eager to use them. The burly man said, “What’re you, fuckin’ deaf or something? I said who invited you in my car?” Jesse rose to his feet. He had a loaded .38 in his backpack, but it had landed several feet away. He knew he couldn’t pull it out in time. Perhaps he wouldn’t reach Seattle, after all. It didn’t matter, did it? Either way he was a dead man. “Nobody,” Jesse said. “But I intend to stick around anyway.” He balled his hands into fists and waited for them to attack. The burly man’s scowl transformed into an ominous grin; he was missing three of his bottom teeth. He exchanged amused glances with the men on either side of him. “You hear that?” he said. “He intends to stick around anyway.” His grin faded just as abruptly as it had appeared. “Fuckin’ A, I’m tired of you clean-shaven college kids horning in on our territory, lookin’ for a little excitement on the weekend by hoppin’ a few trains here and there and then goin’ back home to your squeaky clean dorm room where your mommy pays all the goddamn rent. You think we live like this ’cause it’s fun? ’Cause it’s ‘exciting’? We live like this ’cause we have to, ’cause nobody gave us a choice!” He was yelling so passionately spittle was spraying out of his mouth. He paused a moment, as if he were trying to calm himself down. The grin returned. “Of course, I don’t know what I’m complaining about. I mean, hell, without you college kids bringin’ us your fat wallets we wouldn’t be able to eat nearly as much as we do.” He turned toward his two companions, pointed lazily at Jesse. “Grab ’im.” Jesse tried to fight back but it was impossible, not with two against one. Within seconds they had his arms pinned

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behind his back. The burly man reached into his belt and pulled out a long hunting knife with a serrated edge. He approached Jesse slowly. “Gonna do the Columbian necktie?” one of his companions asked, his voice trembling with anticipation. The burly man now stood within a couple of feet of Jesse. “Nah, I’m tired of that. Think I’ll get this one over with fast and easy.” He plunged the blade through Jesse’s chest. The knife ripped through cotton and air and cotton again; Jesse felt nothing. He only smiled. For a second there was just silence as his attacker’s eyes widened. Then Jesse heard one of the goons behind him whisper, “Oh, shit.” Perhaps he’d seen the tip of the knife peeking out of the back of his jacket. “C’mon,” Jesse said, “can’t you do any better than that?” The burly man withdrew the knife, stared at the clean blade. Then he lifted up Jesse’s shirt and said, “Holy Christ. You’re one of them.” Now Jesse was the one who was confused. “One of who?” The burly man snapped his fingers. His two goons forced Jesse to turn around, then released him. One of the men unzipped his pants and let them drop to his ankles. Oh no, Jesse thought, anything but this. Then he saw what was between the man’s legs: nothing. Nothing but a glass hole. The other man lifted up his shirt, revealing a gaping glass hole in his beer belly. Jesse didn’t know what to say. “H-how the hell—?” He felt the burly man’s hand on his shoulder. It was a soft, sympathetic grip. “Meet your fellow veterans,” he said. *** The train rode on. Out of the suburbs, past the skyscrapers of brightly lit Los Angeles, into the wide open farmlands farther north. During those long hours Jesse told his fellow veterans everything about his life: his time spent at the Heritage School, his father, his wife, his son, the war. In turn they told him their own stories. The burly man liked to be called Bloodoath, or just Blood for short. He was a Vietnam vet. He had been stricken by Agent Orange during the war, leaving him unable to hold down an honest job. In the early ’80s he and a group of other “hoppers” had decided to form a loose-knit organization called FTRA, which stood for “Fuck the Reagan Administration.” As the years dragged on, as Reagan slipped into senility and the Oval Office switched hands from one puppet to another, the acronym evolved into “Freight Train Riders of America.” The original intent of the group was to form a safety net for Vietnam vets, fellow soldiers who had been abandoned by their country and left to the streets. But near the end of ’91 something odd began to happen: The old vets were dying off one by one, at last succumbing to old wounds—physical and otherwise—

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sustained during the war that no one liked to remember, and were being replaced by the vets of a new war, vets whose wounds were far more serious. Far more bizarre. “You’re not alone,” Blood told him, “there’s hundreds like you droppin’ out all over the country. It’s the same old story. We fight their dirty battles like toy soldiers, then they cut the strings and let us deal with the memories and the injuries and the guilt all on our own. I hoped it wouldn’t happen again, but it did. So now we’re back to square one. We’re at war again, but not with the gooks or the towelheads, oh no. We’re at war with the United States itself, and we’re fightin’ for our lives.” He introduced Jesse to his two companions. Their names were Horizontal Nick and Siderail, both of them veterans of the Gulf. Their stories were mirror images of Jesse’s with only slight differences. Their “wounds” had developed around Thanksgiving of ’91. By Christmas they had both lost their jobs, their families, their entire lives. “But… but how did this happen?” Jesse asked. “What’s causing it?” He ran his finger around the smooth inner surface of his chest. “Is this a side effect of some kind of chemical biological warfare agent? Did the Iraqis spray us with something we weren’t protected against?” Both Nick and Siderail shook their heads in tandem, staring at Jesse with pitying smirks. “You were never protected against anything,” Nick said. “None of us were,” Siderail added. “It’s not too hard to figure out what went down in the Gulf,” Blood said. “Those needles they forced into your arms didn’t have vaccines in them. They poisoned you. On purpose.” “The war was a goddamn lab experiment,” Nick said. “And the whole country of Iraq was the lab. Must’ve been the biggest lab in the history of the fuckin’ world.” “A hundred and seventy thousand miles long,” Siderail said, “stocked with lab rats in camo fatigues. And we scurried right into it. All for Uncle Sam.” Jesse felt as if the earth was crumbling beneath his feet. These people had to be insane. Their wounds existed, certainly; he couldn’t deny that. But to suggest they could be explained away by some ridiculous conspiracy theory…. “I-I can’t believe any of this,” he whispered. “The Army wouldn’t do something like that to us.” Blood tipped his head back and laughed. “Hell, I wouldn’t doubt if the whole war was just a cover for their goddamn experiment! They did it in ’Nam. Look at Agent Orange. You know how many of my friends died from that shit?” “How many?” “All of them.” Jesse could tell that Blood wasn’t joking. “But how can you be sure this wasn’t something Saddam Hussein attacked us with?” “If it was,” Blood said, “why wouldn’t the Pentagon admit it existed?”


Short Story

Jesse had no answer. “If… if what you’re saying is true, where do we go from here?” “That’s simple. We fight back by staying alive. That means eating. If you want to put food in that belly of yours you’re gonna have to pull your own weight. Can you do that?” Jesse puffed his chest out with pride. He’d pulled his own weight before, back in the Army; he could do it again. All he’d ever needed was a little support, someone to point him in the right direction. “Of course!” “Good, good.” Blood patted him on the back. “At the next stop we’re gonna go scavenging with the rest of the boys. You can come along, show us what you’re made of.” The train halted in San Jose at around 4:00 a.m. The second the boxcar rolled to a stop, the trio leaped out the door and onto the sun-baked dirt below. Jesse followed close behind. They were in a freight yard not unlike the one they had left, except this one wasn’t in the middle of the suburbs; it appeared to be located on the outskirts of the town. A chainlink fence surrounded the yard. About a hundred feet beyond the fence the uneven, rock-covered ground sloped off into a barren ravine. On the opposite side of the ravine lay a small encampment of tents and makeshift huts made of cardboard. Old men with wrinkled, pinched faces devoid of emotion sat around a small fire burning in an oil drum. They stared at the four newcomers with a paradoxical mixture of hatred and disinterest. Jesse was suddenly glad he’d remembered to slip the .38 into his belt. “Where’re the others?” Siderail said. “They were in a car farther down the line,” Blood said. “They’ll be along in a few minutes.” “Over there,” Nick said, pointing at five shadows scaling the gate that surrounded the freight yard. Jesse watched the figures as they rounded the end of the ravine, soon joining the four of them near the fire. Blood introduced each of them to Jesse. One by one, they lifted their clothes and revealed their hidden wounds to Jesse. This was done in a quiet, solemn manner; almost ritualistically, like a church service. First came Track Rat, a diminutive albino with buck teeth and beady little pink eyes; his jagged wound charted a spiraling course around his entire body, a narrow glass ravine carved into his pale flesh. Next came Flatbed Jimmy, an incessant smoker with a glass hole that could be seen tunneling its way straight through his throat and all the way out the back of his neck. Montana X: a beefcake skinhead whose crimson swastikas, etched into his biceps with razor blades, weren’t quite as shocking as the glass tunnels that had replaced his eyeballs. Spitfire: a beautiful woman with long red hair, legs that wouldn’t quit, and a curvaceous stripper’s body; she would’ve been perfect if not for the pair of gaping wounds where her breasts should have been. Dogman Joey: a lanky Italian with a panoply of holes perforating his entire body. His shadow, cast

by the flickering flames, looked like a silhouette drawn by a surrealist. Moonlight streamed through his ruined flesh. He was a block of Swiss cheese sculpted into human form. All five were Gulf War vets. According to Blood, their wounds were growing larger and larger. Not by much, less than half a centimeter a day. Nonetheless, this story could have only one ending. At some point in the future—a year, a decade from now?—each of their bodies would be reduced to nothing more than— Fire and dust and mysterious clouds of red sand and oillaced air that cast out the rays of the sun and coated birds in sticky blackness from which they would never be free for as long as they lived. Jesse, remembering the poisoned skies of Kuwait, couldn’t help but sympathize with those birds— sentenced to death for merely being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Like Jesse. Like all of them. Reduced to nothing more than air, each of their bodies would vanish… as if they had never existed at all. In the meantime, they tried their best to survive. Any money they made while riding the rails came from filing fraudulent welfare applications in cities along every train stop in the U.S. It was a hell of a racket, quite lucrative indeed, but if the money ran out before they could collect more food stamps in the next town (which happened often), they were forced to go out scavenging. “Scavenging?” Jesse said. “You mean like animals? Picking stale bread out of trash cans?” Was this to be his life from now on? Blood laughed. “No, not really. You’ll see. Just follow our lead and you’ll do fine.” The group of nine soldiers began strolling away from the campsite. Blood wrapped his beefy arm around Jesse’s shoulders, urging him to follow. They seemed to be headed toward the line of dark houses that lay beyond an old rendering plant some hundred yards from the campsite. Blood laughed and said, “It used to be, the most dangerous place you could find yourself after dark was a freight yard.” “Of course,” Jesse said, thinking back to his misadventures as a teenager. “What, that’s not true anymore?” “No. These days the most dangerous place to be is in the neighborhoods surrounding the freight yard.” He kept chuckling as the little sleeping houses drew nearer and nearer. *** Flatbed Jimmy kicked the door in. A frightened young Hispanic woman and three children lay huddled atop tattered mattresses on the floor of the darkened living room. Montana X and Dogman Joey held guns on them. “Nobody moves, nobody gets hurt,” Blood said. Track Rat and Spitfire raided the kitchen, dropping anything that wasn’t nailed down into a large trash bag. Siderail and Horizontal Nick headed for the hallway.

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Jesse didn’t know what to do. The woman was crying, pleading for her life—or perhaps the life of her children—in Spanish. The children began crying too. Blood told them to shut up. When that didn’t work he slapped the woman upside the head; he held a knife to her throat from behind, slid his hand up her t-shirt and began fondling her breasts. “Hey, Jesse, you want some of this action, hm? I bet you’ll forget that wife of yours in two seconds.” As his hand slid toward her panties, the woman began screaming even louder. Gunshots erupted from the hallway. Siderail toppled out of the darkness with a bullet to the head. Bullets clipped Dogman Joey, sending him to the floor. Montana X yelled, “Look out behind you!” A young Hispanic man wearing only tattered blue jeans—no shoes or shirt—burst through the front door with a pistol in his hand; before he could get off a shot Montana spun around and pumped three bullets into his chest. At that same exact moment a middle-aged Hispanic man with a huge gut, wearing nothing but underwear, emerged from the hallway with a .22 aimed at Montana’s back. Jesse acted out of instinct. He simply couldn’t afford to lose another family. He whipped the .38 out of his belt and plugged the man directly between the eyes. His skull exploded as his body toppled back into the hallway, falling across Siderail’s bloody remains. Another figure emerged from the hall. Jesse almost blew him apart before realizing it was Horizontal Nick. “Hey, hey, it’s just me!” Nick said. “Don’t get so fuckin’ trigger happy! There was another wetback in the bedroom, but I took care of him. Man, you should see the stash of cocaine they’ve got in the closet. Could keep us busy for months.” “Great!” Blood said. “Add that to the till. And don’t let Track Rat sniff it all!” He turned to Jesse. “That was some good shootin’ you did there, kid.” Jesse shrugged. He was still in a state of shock. “The Army trained me well, I guess.” “At least the fuckers did something right. Hey, you want a piece of the prize?” The woman in his arms had stopped screaming. She was just staring straight ahead, unable to move. Her children were cowering behind the couch. Blood didn’t even pay any attention to them. He began kissing the woman on the back of the neck as he slid his hand inside her panties. Jesse fingered the trigger on his gun, unable to move. Blood fondled the woman between the legs for only a second. “What the fuck?” he said. His fingers emerged from her panties covered in… blood. Pure rage flared up in his eyes. “You bitch!” He pushed her away from him, as if she were diseased, then punched her in the jaw. She crumpled to the floor like a cloth doll. Jesse did nothing but— Watch. Watch Iraqi soldiers who had already surrendered being buried alive by American troops in monstrous

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earthmoving machines. Watch. Watch his friends shooting Iraqi soldiers in the back as they attempted to run away from fire-breathing tanks. Watch. Watch civilians being bombed by wayward Patriot missiles. Watch. Watch his wife and child receding from his grasp. Blood stood over the woman, wiped his fingers on his pants, whispered, “This is the luckiest day of your life. Remember that.” He turned toward his little crew and clapped his hands together. “All right, men, let’s move out of here! Do we have everything we need?” “Wait a minute,” Nick said, “what about Siderail?” “I’m glad you reminded me,” Blood said. He kneeled down beside the corpse, turned Siderail’s pockets inside out. “Nope, there’s nothin’ there worth keeping.” Nick shook his head back and forth, looking very disappointed. “That son of a bitch owes me twenty dollars.” Blood held his hands out in a gesture of helplessness. “Guess you’ll have to take it out in trade.” The FTRA left the house in single file like a troop of marching soldiers. Jesse remained motionless as he stared at the woman lying on the floor. Eventually he felt Blood’s familiar, sympathetic hand on his shoulder. He’d felt that hand before. It was the hand of his superior officer. The hand of his doctor. The hand of his teacher at the Heritage School. The hand of his father. “C’mon, we don’t have all day,” Blood said. He laughed. “Hell, don’t you know there’s a war on?” Jesse slipped the gun back into his belt. “Yes, sir,” he whispered. He followed Blood into the night at breakneck speed. Blood said they had to hurry, hurry. They had a train to catch.

Robert Guffey is a lecturer in the Department of English at California State University – Long Beach. His most recent book is Until the Last Dog Dies (Night Shade/Skyhorse, 2017), a darkly satirical novel about a young stand-up comedian who must adapt as best he can to an apocalyptic virus that destroys only the humor centers of the brain. Guffey’s previous books include the journalistic memoir Chameleo: A Strange but True Story of Invisible Spies, Heroin Addiction, and Homeland Security (OR Books, 2015), which Flavorwire has called, “By many miles, the weirdest and funniest book of 2015.” A graduate of the famed Clarion Writers Workshop in Seattle, he has also written a collection of novellas entitled Spies & Saucers (PS Publishing, 2014). His first book of nonfiction, Cryptoscatology: Conspiracy Theory as Art Form, was published in 2012. He’s written stories and articles for numerous magazines and anthologies.


Literary Work

Nativity JOHN SIBLEY WILLIAMS

To be so inhabited: immaculate body flooded with unrequited light; virginal no longer the right word, though still untouched by human hands; forced upon, defiled, better known as miracle. A violation of doves rises from the blood spotting her sheets. An uncarved block of wood being whittled into savior. & the sheep are growing restless. Emancipation is the wrong word when water breaks & the true wailing begins. Mercy, revelation. No one is safe from the wolves

in our hearts.

The sky flints with stars men follow to praise their creation.

John Sibley Williams is the author of Disinheritance, Controlled Hallucinations, and the forthcoming Orison Poetry Prize-winning As One Fire Consumes Another. An eleven-time Pushcart nominee, John is the winner of numerous awards, including the Philip Booth Award, American Literary Review Poetry Contest, Phyllis Smart-Young Prize, The 46er Prize, Nancy D. Hargrove Editors’ Prize, Confrontation Poetry Prize, and Vallum Award for Poetry. He serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review and works as a literary agent. Previous publishing credits include: The Yale Review, Midwest Quarterly, Sycamore Review, Prairie Schooner, The Massachusetts Review, Poet Lore, Saranac Review, Atlanta Review, TriQuarterly, Columbia Poetry Review, Mid-American Review, Poetry Northwest, Third Coast, and various anthologies. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

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Poetry

Losing My Religion JOHN SIBLEY WILLIAMS

Copper echoes of church bells; a whole town goes black & goes white an hour every Sunday. Material & imagined skies burn together. The burning smells like bread rising, like a creature comfort we’ll take for granted until this god too abandons us. Like all fathers. & the hand-me-down ironworks not so distant we can fail to hear its hum inviting us in. We’ll try

or pretend to try to find roads our fathers have never trudged & might disown us for taking. We’ll marry our high school sweethearts, build a brand new house a half-mile from our parents, call it starting over again. & in heaven still that war that is not our war calling our names. A bird that is not a dove burdened by our branch.

Say We’re Descended JOHN SIBLEY WILLIAMS

from the sky. Say the penned-in horses trembling with dreams of escape look nothing like us. Say our violences are meant to beat the song out of each other, that what we’ve killed is most likely not dead, at least not forever. If there’s such a thing as forever, say we’re guaranteed some welllit corner of it, that everything vanishes when not standing directly before us. Before us, say no light or darkness or horses or sky existed. Even the gods need something to believe in. When I stay up all night watching the city undress, say I’m the one suddenly naked, exposed, totally unprotected from eden.

martm © 123RF.com

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Roman Nerud © 123RF.com

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Short Story

The Shadow of the Family ROBERT KNOX

T

homas wakes from what he assumes is a dream, unless he is dreaming now and what his mind was experiencing while his body apparently slept, a blur of faces, a desperate need to keep up with a gavotte of disjointed activities, is actually his real life. He discovers two frost-grizzled guests materializing at the front door, the emotional price of negotiating the ice-slicked front walk and super-slick porch surface (one of his father’s old do-it-yourself projects beginning to decay) writ large in the frosty discomfort of their slowly thawing features. But who are they? Thomas has planted these people in his mind’s back garden years ago; now they pop up like some conspiracy of the undead. But if the stooped, graying figure wrapped around himself like a mummified artichoke is indeed Danny Keller, as Thomas’s sleep-furred memory begins to suggest, it follows that the woman arriving with him is—and can only be—his wife, Thomas’s own first cousin Ronnie. Dressed up as her mother. Guys? You in there? What the hell happened? Thomas feels his consciousness resetting to the time, decades ago, when the now disturbingly aging Danny Keller caused a brief sensation when he left his loosely strung first wife to marry then-young Ronnie, who had stitched him up in the ER the night the wife went after him with a steak knife. Aside from the fallout from his explosively failed marriage, the securely employed Keller was as safe and unobjectionable a life partner as could be imagined… Except for the annoying detail that, as Thomas’s execrable, now deceased stepgrandmother insisted on putting it, “He’s black.” Thomas thought the old lady needed her eyesight examined. Keller was, at most, a lightly tinted dusty hue, as if his flesh had been coated by fireplace ash freed to blow around the room when someone left the cottage door open. Step-Grandma had no cause to be alarmed over the future of the Fremont gene pool since Ronnie and the slightly off-white Keller had taken

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a vow of childlessness. The years passed and nothing (to his knowledge) ever wombed inside his cousin, who seemed happy with her lot while occasionally loosing a streak of disappointed judgments on the quality of the human material given to her to return to health in her capacity as emergency nurse. That such commentaries appeared to be typical of the females of Dad’s family, Thomas reflected, might explain why the men of the family hid their thoughts like prisoners of war. In such company, Danny Keller fills a room more sociably than most. He joshes with Ronnie’s brother, the Peter Pan-ish Nicholas (called “Nickels”) Fremont, about keeping late hours in the local taverno and leading others astray. He joshes with his wife’s septuagenarian mother (Thomas’s “Aunt Fanny”) about her golf game, but keeps a slightly warier eye out for his wife’s sister Gal, the family evangelist, who has discovered religion after achieving prosperity through an early match with husband Nelson, a generally quiet industrialist with a sideline as a practical joker. So many old, roughly familiar faces in the house give Thomas a warm, rootsy, slightly curdled feeling. He wonders if the presence of his late brothers’ descendants causes his father simple pleasure, or pleasure mixed with regret, and wanders off in pursuit of the old man to get a reading on his mood. He finds him hiding out in the chilly back porch (sun room in summer, chill room in December) where he has set up his bar. Barkeeping is a kind of homing instinct for Harry, Thomas realizes, some piece of cherished tribal knowledge doomed to go no further where Thomas himself is concerned. Put Dad anywhere—out back for a barbecue, a motel room in Atlantic City, or a bus tour of the Great Southwest—and he erects a “set-up,” though his own needs never exceed anything more complicated than a can of beer. He must have imbibed this instinct with his mother’s milk (a drink, Thomas reminds himself, poor motherless Dad never actually got to taste), this innate rapport with the ice bucket, clear glasses, and colored liquids that bespoke hospitality to him. The older we get, suddenly middle-aged Thomas reflects, the more we slough off the incidentals and return to the first truths of our nature: Here is the essential Harry Fremont. All we ever learn we encounter in diapers. Over time the primal imprint works its way to the surface, like a worm through an apple; or some time-lapse photo revealing its subject after decades. A lifespan later we stare at the picture, confounded, and exclaim, ‘My god! What’s Dad’s face doing in the mirror?’ The old Adam spreads like a disease, pushing everything self-made out of the picture. Discovering his father duplicating his father before a row of bottles like a priest at his altar leads Thomas to reflect on the enduring mystery of the old man’s ancestry. Who was the Fremont tribe’s founding father? The patriarch whose psychic elimination begets the tribe? The missing man? Yet if he really yearns for a picture of the Grandpa Thomas G. Fremont nobody mentions, maybe all he needs to do is

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spend some time in the chilly sun room and watch his father set up the bar. “What can I get you?” Harry asks as his guests arrive and allow their coats to be taken and piled decorously in the master bedroom. He collects orders, mildly insistent, courts rejection by recalling some previous favorite drink now lost to age and moderation, then disappears. A few minutes later he makes a second sortie. “Fix you something, Fanny? You all set, Nickels? Danny? Thomas, you can help yourself.” Duty done, he ambles back to his cold-porch retreat to leave the getting-on to others. Where Thomas now discovers him. “Can I do anything, Dad?” A silence. “Oh, I think I’ve got it under control.” Thomas watches his Dad fill a glass with scotch and soda, then stir a little. ‘Am I right?’ he wants to ask. ‘Is this what your Dad used to do?’ But he has no experience in putting questions to his father and can’t manage to change the rules so late in the game. “You don’t have to wait for me, Tom,” Harry says, without lifting his eyes. Dismissed with his scotch, Thomas retreats to pursue some other line of research in his quest for ancestral knowledge. The living room has filled up. His brother’s young family having arrived from ‘out East,’ the children plant their toys in the house’s pedestrian lanes until somebody with the clout of age expels them to the basement. Maybe they’ll find some magic down there amid the shelves of ancient toys, playthings of the Fremont boys who grew up in this house. Cousin Kit, up for a visit to his New York relatives from one of those Naval spawning bases in Delmarva, hunkers down in his safe berth at one end of the couch. Thomas wedges himself in beside him, the room’s mutter of mingled conversations creating an umbrella of welcome privacy. Thomas and Kit, two first sons of their generation, the latter fatherless for twenty years, pick up an old conversation about Kit’s father’s last trip to Long Island to say goodbye to the places of his childhood. “He knew he was going to die,” Kit recalls. Guilty in his cousin’s presence of having for a father the lone surviving Fremont brother, Thomas is tempted to observe he’s not sure how much difference it’s made: twenty years of not talking about anything that, ultimately, matters. When cousin Gal, the vivacious (if at times intrusive) soul of Thomas’s generation of Fremonts, turns her enthusiasm on Kit with a request for updates on his brothers, Thomas closes his eyes for the thought experiment of reconstructing a world of sporadic cousinly connections. Behind nearly shuttered eyelids he floats through the house, hovering over


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conversational groupings, delving through the year’s accretions for the whatness of kinship while he still possesses faculties to understand it, maybe even appreciate it. He listens as cousin Nickels, shirt open over a mostly flat stomach, a nest of subtle vipers tracing faint paths in his fair features, explains to all who care to listen that his teenaged son’s life revolves around basketball. Nickels’ son, called Tommy (in homage to the mysterious Thomas G. Fremont, Sr.), is a shy splinter of a lad who lives under the protection of a baseball cap and wants nothing to do with the day’s holiday gathering but to survive it without causing or enduring some horrible embarrassment. His dark-haired older sister Lucy, on the other hand, exhibits a maturity and social poise beyond her years: how like a girl. Lucy (for Lucia) is mini-Mom. She takes after her Mediterranean earth-mother Donna, an archetypal madein-millennia match for boy-god Nickels, who will always treat her husband as a peer of her son. Donna, Thomas reflect, incarnates the eternal feminine recurrence in lipstick and heels: blooms, breeds, fights for her young. Barely out of junior high, daughter Lucy is already capable of running a household or a modest retail outlet. Thomas’s thought-experiment monitors the talk, but when the conversations veer toward money and other mid-life stuff, as they always seem to do, he grows bored. O, where are those youthful follies of yesteryear? Gal and husbandto-be Nelson stealing a march on adulthood (he remembers hearing his father’s eyebrows rise as he reports news of this unseasonable haste): pregnancy and marriage before high school graduation. Sister Ronnie flouting the interracial marriage taboo. Intermittent sister-on-sister feuds. Domestic unrest. Not to mention Thomas’s own few peccadilloes (the worst of these forever classified). The whispered scandals of yesteryear shine in their faded glamour compared to the tired respectability that wafts like the odors from the steam table, now that the catered spread has arrived. Limping from his sun-room retreat Harry generously tips the two lads from the deli, joshing with them in a creaky, but touchingly effective gesture of class solidarity. Where are the family memories, pleasurable, scandalous or otherwise, that will flicker in the gaslight of time for Thomas’s children when the youthful sinners and adulterers of his generation are geriatric? Where are the crepuscular encounters with sentimental, colorful, and annoying elder relatives? These days, instead of the traditional All-Uncles penny-ante poker games of Thomas’s youth, the backroom is the scene of the constant kiddie-videos film festival. Tradition going all to hell, Thomas thinks. What will future generations have to remember us by? At that moment, happily—in the grip perhaps of her own restless urge-to-enlivening—Cousin Gal gets to her feet and begins agitating her Aunt Ginny to sit down at the piano and perform the family’s last party trick. Thomas’s mother,

cocooned in her advancing deafness, demurs as party manners require; then with a nervous laugh and a little wiggle for old time’s sake allows herself to be persuaded over to the piano bench. She must want to play, Thomas thinks, if she’s this easily aroused. Then come the preparatory rituals. He watches with a mixture of impatience and affection Ginny’s fussing over the right glasses for reading music, the prolonged searching for the right sheet music (abandoned ultimately in the face of the general clamor for any music), and finally the first few, startlingly proficient runs up and down the ivories proclaiming beyond a doubt the reanimation of the old magic that holds everyone in the room in its sway. Still got it. Still there. Everyone is a little stunned, even Thomas. The only activity requiring disciplined effort applied to natural inclination anybody in this gene pool ever managed. At the sound of these opening incantations, acting on his brain like keening rents in the space-time continuum, it all comes back to him. Everything that ever was: the inarticulate childhood gifted, and endured, within these then-considerably-younger walls; his skinny inarticulate run-around-and-hide boyhood; the falsely ennobling torments of his teens. Then, waking still older ghosts, the vibrations emitted by all those nearly forgotten great-uncles and their unknown wives, their meteoric careers, sad declines and unspeakable failures, bruited about in snatches of stories by older relations too deaf or cantankerous to be closely questioned: the tragedies (real or imagined) of the grandfathers he never knew. Gabriel Gravecart’s sudden death (piano-playing daughter Ginny a mere lass of five) by ruptured social conscience with the name of the working class hero he had betrayed on his lips. Pop Crafty’s Roaring Twenties engineering journeys to distant lands to record the old magic of the human voice for the new magic of the mass market phonograph; then everything, all the evanescent wealth of self-inflation, lost to ‘the crash.’ Model T Fords and ocean cruises while the good times lasted; those high times washed away in an instant, as if by a rogue wave in the sea of time. The mysterious bizness of Thomas’s namesake, his father’s father, whom he conjures to his own incommunicable satisfaction by observing Harry’s bar-keeping flourishes. All those other branching antecedents who walked on two legs at noon, yet disappeared when darkness flooded the land. Now the cousins and their tag-along spouses (known collectively as “the outlaws”) call for the familiar tunes, the Christmas carols everybody knows. Mom, however, fiddles and diddles through her music book’s complicated “Introduction” to the piece that’s caught her fancy, announcing to the increasingly peopled room, most standing, craning their necks toward the score they’re unable to read, “This is the ‘Introduction.’” Thanks, Mom. And only then strikes a familiar phrase and gives the experienced accompanist’s lift

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of the chin—ready, everybody?—before launching into a lately popular tune too new for the old days, yet somehow evocative of the spirit of a place and time capable of stretching in all directions. Like playdough. “I always knew! You were the one!” Ah. Thomas, impressed, thinks here’s a score well suited to his Cousin Ethan, who likes to show off his soaring tenor. Funny thing, though, he hasn’t previously noticed Cousin Ethan among the evening’s company. Ginny launches into some spooky solo business, bone rattling riffs up and down the scales. Then segues—flexing those finger muscles—into a showy rhumbo-classical crescendo, a touch of Rockin’ifyou’remanenuff, followed by some Bumpin’ Beethumpin’, plus a dash of Paderbrewski (whom Uncle Felix always called “Paddy the Rooski”), before modulating into an improvisation on the theme of the Moonshine So-Nada (“so nada new with me neither”), finished off with a theatrical swerve back into the ghoulish melody from “The Shadow of the Soap-Opry”—that paean to the melodramatic flesh-eater of time and grave robber of spirit. Strong-voiced Ethan (probably just slipped in when Thomas wasn’t looking, in time for the musical interlude) lowers profoundly over the keyboard. Pushing sixty, he doesn’t have his glasses, can’t make out all the lyrics, and nobody else can peer around his substantial form. But he can sing. Thomas can’t find his place in the sheet music and sings the wrong words repeatedly. Cousin Kit’s contra-tenor buzzes in and out on favorite lines, while various female voices thin out in the upper registers where Ginny ambitiously tries to take them… Yet the Incompetent Chorale snaps into a surprising harmony when “The Shadow”—da-dum! da-dum! da-dum-dum-dum!— rumbles back around in the left-hand, like the horror movie villain popping up in his party masque-of-the-red-death. The extended family song-gang bravely singing out, crooning, soaring, bellowing, proclaiming, celebrating and intoning as e-pluribus-oneness, joined now by the distantly ghoulish voices of the departed (who, apparently, only Thomas can hear, since no one else looks about in astonishment): “There is a home for us!/ It’s down be-low!” Spirits in the rafters. Phantom faces at the window. Presences unglimpsed in an ice age booming in on cue. “I always knew! You were the one—” “There was a time we lived”—Ethan’s heroic tenor roaring now, time-traveling, flying by memory—“T’was long a-go/ The earth closed over us/ How cold be-low!” “Dark is the endless night/” -- Gal and Ginny’s sopranos twining in reply— “Black is my heart!” “The Shadow of the fam-uh-lee—” All the room’s voices joining in now, even old Harry emerges from his backroom bar-room to stare at the rumpus, weak eyes blinking in surprise. Keyboard runs overlap one another.

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Ginny’s fingers fly like the souls of the possessed. The clash of climbing voices and pounding keys obscure the final lyric. Voices end as one, as the piano fills. “Da-da-de-da-da-duh! Da-dah-de-dah!” Uncannily, the theme starts up again, though no one knows who begins it. The voices of the ancients join in, the quick and the dead together reconfiguring to wriggle through the spacetime continuum: “Red flows the sacred heart,” the living exclaim. “Bled white the wound...” “You were the final face,” the dead reply. “Both then and now! “You had a spinal taste “It’s good and how!” “It was a darkened day!” combined voices assert... The volume shakes the walls, rattling the chandelier; porcelain mugs chatter on the coffee tree in the dining room. “Sun burned us through!” The two choruses trade off lines. “There was a time for us,/You know it’s true!” “The shadow of the fam-uh-ly—” “Was always—” And then the quick and the dead combine in one final lyric: “YOU!” “Ah-aah-ahh-ah-aaahhhhh!” ‘You?’ Thomas thinks. Who? “Ah-haa!” Silence. Yikes! Thomas looks about for his son, Stephen. Haven’t seen the boy for some time. Probably down in the basement with his cousins. The singers take a breather together. Ginny turns the musical break into a romantic old time standard, slow-dance tempo. “Time for a slow one,” Gal announces. She pulls her still-after-all-these-years luvin’-husband Nelson out of his chair and they lean together in an affectionate back and forth sway, wordlessly recalling that amazing night in their senior year that brought them together so unconventionally soon. His consummately teasing whisper; her easy, fertile laugh. The half-hearted protests taken (and probably meant) as encouragement. In the nearly empty “sun porch” where Harry has gone back to minding his bar, Gal’s mother, Aunt Fanny, communes silently with the life partner of her livelier days, the longdeparted Herm. God, Herm! Twenty-three years! Has it really been that long? How can anyone live alone so many years?... Glimpsed through the wreaths of their combined cigarette smoke, the folded eyes, high hairline and still glossy (though now well thinned) hair of her brother-in-law Harry transmigrate into the remembered features of his elder brother, her longgone Herm.


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“Thank goodness the kids were all grown up,” Fanny says. “As much as they ever would be,” she adds, reflectively. Even Nickels turned out all right, despite giving her some rough moments. “I wish you coulda’ seen that, Herm. I wish you coulda seen Nicky get married.” Regret pulls the deep lines of her mouth down farther still: “You never got to see Nicky’s kids. Never knew your other grandchildren... They all turned out so good, Herm.” She starts to cry. Old Harry holds his puzzled peace inside a turban of smoke, displaying the half-smile of a man who doesn’t hear well but offers a near saintly willingness to endure almost anything for the pleasure of others. Is poor Herm’s widow talking to him? It doesn’t make much sense? Do these wild remarks require a reply? What’s that? Something about Herm? He frowns, unwillingly recalling the night he came back from the hospital and said to his wife, “He doesn’t look that bad.” That same night—poof!—he’s gone! At least that hospital couldn’t do anything more to him after that. In matters of health Harry always pronounces the glass half full. Not bad; can’t complain. Then offers to top it off for you. Better that than call the doctor. Noises loom in the basement. He hasn’t checked on them for hours, Thomas thinks guiltily. He hears a wailing chorus, perhaps a kind of singing, but can’t recognize the voices. He’s hearing more voices down there than kids he can account for. “Stop that!” Gal scolds. Then murmurs a laugh and relaxes into Nelson’s arms. Nelson whispers something in reply. “I know,” Gal whispers back. “Just like the old days.” The hallway door to the basement bursts open, and a flock of skinny-limbed youngsters—features familiar, but names unplaceable—pour out, overrunning the crowded living room, fingering the wrapped company sweets displayed grown-up style in candy dishes on the coffee table, swarming the kitchen, rumbling past Grandpa Harry’s slow gasps of surprise and muffled protest on the porch, and throwing open the back door to the frigid outdoors before the family elders can lift a finger. For some reason, the air outside now feels fresh and unaccountably spring-like. Dream children, Thomas thinks, the fruit of a path not taken: Aunt Fanny’s spirit grandchildren. The unborn children of her childless second daughter, the daughter of her heart. The slender-limbed wraiths dive off Harry’s cement satellite deck and land with shrieks of pleasure on the still frozen walks. They slide past Thomas’s iceberg vision as he pursues them through the open back door and espies a country of befuddled boobies and smarmy petrels, awkward auks and uncles, gawking grebes, panicked platoons of imperial penguins, frigid blasts from the frigate-birds. Circling the globe on a great circle migration, the insubstantial brood of unborn Fremonts arrives indoors by way of the front door just in time to separate the

amorous collusions of their tenderly paired-up elders, who lean against one another in strange, time-worn middle-aged embraces, a few persistent sing-meisters still softly crooning the past-haunted lyrics of “The Soapbox Shadow.” The family’s tenors swath the room in magnetic bands of ionic sound, Ginny’s slippery soprano slotting through in the quarter-rests like the voice of a faded, but still hopeful angel, singing the anthems of the bright college days that never were… Too late, Thomas thinks, hearing this. Too late for any of this. Until, finally, just as the grown-ups come to themselves and begin recovering their realistic attitudes and time-worn shapes, the visionary children slip back through Harry’s barroom retreat and assume for Aunt Fanny’s inward eye a roster of dappled moon children of mixed streams: her own and Herm’s, plus Danny Keller’s mingled origins. Changelings spun from some undreamt cookie cutter of Platonic forms. Wild sublunary beings, silver-eyed, checkercheeked, elfin-haired, slippery-limbed. None pale and wasted; or dull. No, never that. “Send me, O send,” Fanny hears, the words of the hymn rolling over the strains of the Episcopalian pipe organ in her memory, “my arrows of delight!” Released from time-forged manacles, the invisible children play on some imaginary summer day. They are beautiful, eccentric, unwilling to stay still long enough for a count. Children of the uncertainty principle. Their voices sweeten the air. A mixed scent arises in Aunt Fanny’s transfigured senses: sea-salt, Christmas pine, the incense of a childhood church shared with Thomas’s mother, the heavy winter uniforms of the Fremont brothers, home from the war. “There is a time for us!” mortal voices sing in the other room. “The time has come!/Now plays the orchestra/Hear now the drum!...” Thomas hears a drum, and follows it through the house to the back room, the napping place, where he finds Stephen thoughtfully massaging the leather skin of a Christmas present. “Like it?” Thomas asks. Stephen murmurs a yes. A shy gesture. Thomas waits; then asks, “Did you hear the singing?” Stephen nods again. “That song... It’s about...?” It’s all in the music, Thomas thinks. Everything known (and unknown) in the music. “Listen, son,” he says, “I’ll tell you the story.”

Boston area author Robert Knox writes fiction, poetry, and journalism. He is the author of Suosso’s Lane, a novel based on the notorious Sacco and Vanzetti case, a contributing editor for the poetry journal Verse-Virtual, and a correspondent for the Boston Globe. His stories have been published by Words With Jam, The Tishman Review, Lunch Ticket, and other journals, and he has published two poetry chapbooks. For more, see his website, www. robertcknox.com and blog, prosegarden.blogspot.com.

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A Death, Becoming MONTANA SVOBODA

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I do not know where— to begin where at first, I am but a spine pressed. To one that, is not mine; night of weathered beginnings now but an Autumn that has passed and passed and passed between waiting. For “I Love You,” and pride simply in shades of green: chartreuse juniper cedar pine sage Brewing, boiling into flesh boiling into another cup of water taken in. Sipped and sipped until the cup is beyond empty until the veins are beyond vessels, a gossamer that takes light and uses it to become invisible. “I am not so invincible anymore,” A veil to fight through pale as honeyed sunshine settling beneath a brume of underbrush— dust as it were. Reportedly here where no language spoken can be thoughtfully recalled here where only blisters and boughs bending in repeated motions are understood; it matters so very little—the intent cannot be known though I know I know and I know with only a faint sliver of warmth alluding to an injury sustained that this can wait this can wait this can wait David Mann © 123RF.com

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Comaniciu Dan © 123RF.com

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To a Light Which We Know to Be Fading MONTANA SVOBODA

Stains gray without much else; this is divergence—where: you and I. You, and— then shriveling— is it not: night dry land somewhere above somewhere else. A hill with a bouquet of wheat, beckoning and beneath; breathing becomes touch becomes moisture, water even, what is objectively fair in, between everything. A thin translucent veil: diverted distracted light from afar from the ballet of cotton moving over skin, a feeling a breeze rippling first distantly then closer and closer but not. Nearly, not close enough, how bright it is how against an absence against a dribbling reverberationnight is it? What is there to see— when the end result— how can it only be— a dying ember.

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Katarzyna Bruniewska-Gierczak © 123RF.com

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Shatter, In Age and Another, I’ll Swim with My Father MONTANA SVOBODA

Not unlike, what, it is to be above a progression. Of stones some smooth, others rough, hewn as glass and lusterless. Certainly, their lack of depth— a reflection shown is perceived as being more genuine. To be above a long vein of silt, debris where the tree—nearby flutter of birds or, where the living with a heartbeat come to abandon their rhythms, effectively, giving way until and deciding to continue on; absent but with enough there to be considered otherwise—dying it’s known as and not in as a means of superiority nor dominance but as a way of acknowledging what already happened. He stumbles, his bones all the more fragile, his body all the more rigid falls back beneath as if to be baptized.

Montana Svoboda is a non-binary writer from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and now lives in East Lansing, Michigan, while studying plant biology.

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Photo by Marie Hyld

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Short Story

A Boy I Knew Before I Got Like This SARA READ To the loudmouth in the booth behind me: If you quit drinking, why are you going on about it in a bar? Waving to the waitress—another grapefruit and tonic. You’re talking over half the room. I come to this dark, noisy place to be around people, but not all in their personal business. I wish you’d keep it down.

To my mother: You’re the one who should have quit sooner. You used to ask me, Why are you never home? Why? Because you dragged me under. Your unexplained absences, your elation and your damp misery, your forced confidences. All the details, told to me as if I wanted to know.

To the bartender: Bushmills, rocks. Thank you.

To the guy at the end of the bar: The summer I met the boy who looked like you, I could still escape the gravity field of that dim apartment and my mother, over-vigilant, then gone suddenly for an hour, or all day, or more. I could still walk on light feet to the city park, past vines as thick as a child’s wrist and through the itchy grass to spend my hours among friends. Back then I could put down my burden.

To Robbie, my old friend, visiting from out of town and sitting on the barstool to my left: I don’t want to come to New York for the weekend. I’m actually glad to see you, but don’t start asking me for things. To the loudmouth: So, you ‘shoulda quit sooner?’ You ‘wrecked your first marriage?’ Yet don’t you sound cheerful? Don’t you sound like everything’s just fine. To a guy at the end of the bar, but only when he’s looking the other way: You look like someone I knew when I was seventeen. I’m so different now, he wouldn’t recognize me.

To the bartender: One more. Thank you. To my mother, always charming. The center of every room: Did you fall or jump? It mattered to me for a while. To the loudmouth, who I can still hear above my thoughts: Is this what it looks like to be happy now? Show up in a bar and talk so everyone can hear about your wonderful

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life? Are you like all the happy-looking people at my office? Do you pin pictures of grinning children to the walls of your cubicle? Keep stats on your fantasy football team? Do you chat about the weather and traffic and complain about shopping for a new car and how your wife wants a third row but you want something sporty? Because that shit makes me want to poke my eyes out. To anyone judging me for being on my third drink: There is a difference between a drinker and an alcoholic and if you’ve never had to learn what that difference is, then fuck off. To the guy at the end of the bar: I think it was the last time I was happy, the summer I kissed the boy who looked like you. Under the oak tree, leaning against the warm side of my beater VW, surrounded by the smell of weed and asphalt. He was Robbie’s friend. Brown eyes, an easy voice, a summer job with the city. We talked about running away somewhere. We talked about love. But we were young and poor and when the summer work was over he went home to West Virginia. We talked on the phone once or twice as my world fell apart. There’s a heavy place under my ribs where I remember. To Robbie, my old friend: I don’t know. I don’t know why I still live here. Anywhere else seems the same. To the loudmouth: I see you in the mirror behind the bar. There’s a young guy across from you and he and his girlfriend are drinking beer. Did you quit before you became a stranger to your children? If I have to hear everything else, at least let me know that much. To the guy at the end of the bar: She died the next spring before the cherry blossoms. It happened so fast, I didn’t have a chance to escape. Twelve years ago. That boy who looked like you would be a man now. To those judging my attitude—those inclined to say, “But she was your mother”: My mother, the glittering light, the Senator’s mistress, who left me over and over long before she stumbled, blind drunk, into the path of the subway train. When the news came out, the Senator’s children appeared in pictures with their own stout mother, virtuous in her cardigan. No cardigan-mother for me. I did my grieving ahead of time and I was done when it all got in the

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papers—the Senator’s children in their little dress shoes; me after the funeral, black nail polish and silver rings on my fingers, pushing back hair tangled by wind. To Robbie: Doesn’t that guy look like your friend? The one who worked for the city that summer? No, not that one— there, down at at the end of the bar. Robbie, don’t go over there. It’s not him. To those who might be observing me without my knowing: Twelve hard years lie between me and the end of the bar. My hands are shaking and I want so badly to check myself in the mirror. I look down, stir the ice in my glass. Robbie shakes his hand, slaps him on the back, smiles and says something I can’t hear. Points at me. To the bartender: Soda water, with a lime. To the man I have been calling a loudmouth, who is now quiet: You’ve finished your last grapefruit and tonic. You gather your things, smiling, shaking hands. Your shoulders are heavy, but your eyes are bright. To happy people: Happiness is a slippery place. If you’re not careful, you’ll lose your feet and what you weren’t looking out for will obliterate you. But I’ll give you this—before the obliteration, it’s beautiful. Now that boy from before crosses over the years, becomes a man. He follows Robbie, holding his glass aloft, moving sideways through the crowd. Something expands inside, pushes my breath up high in my chest. To the loudmouth. The one who knows the way back from Before: Wait. Don’t go yet. How do I do this?

Sara Read recently had her first published work appear in The Missouri Review and Beloit Fiction Journal. She had a first career playing fiddle music and now am is professor of nursing in Charlottesville, Virginia. “A Boy I Knew Before I Got Like This” earned Honorable Mention in the Fall 2017 Glimmer Train Very Short Fiction competition.


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Pitsanu Kraichana © 123RF.com

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The Wives Poem NATALIE WANG

The crane wife gives a laugh that sounds like beating wings. As though solving someone’s problems was ever a good enough reason for them to stay, she says in a voice like ragged feathers. Meanwhile the fox wife gathers her tail around her squalling children. She does not know how to tell them that their father could not love a thing he could not understand. Meanwhile the snake wife beats her fists bloody against her prison for eighteen years, screaming for her husband to move the heavens to rescue her, as she had him. Meanwhile the seal wife searches every corner of the house for her skin, but still has dinner on the table by the time he comes home. Meanwhile the pale mountain wife strokes the bruises on her arm and traces the eggshell smooth hollow in her back and wonders why she was born empty. Meanwhile the mermaid clutches a dagger while staring down the sleeping prince and his bride. She thinks about choices. Meanwhile the tiger wife smiles with pressed lips. Meanwhile another corpse rises to sink her teeth into a man’s chest and swallows his screams. Meanwhile one more baby girl’s smothered cries. Meanwhile quiet. Meanwhile something rolls across the floor. Meanwhile waves beating the shore. Meanwhile the flutter of wings.

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Cassandra is Every Woman Who Tried to Speak NATALIE WANG

Cassandra storms the marketplace in torn robes, shrieking of horrors no one wants to hear. In other words, like every false prophet scratching futures in the dirt with a lolling tongue. Even the chickens are unperturbed. She stands in the square with the squabbling philosophers, golden fluids dripping down her legs. No one notices. The vision comes to her then and she hears the thunder of Spartan cries, feels the slice of metal against her body. She knows Apollo sent it to weigh her tongue to stillness. It does not work. The fruit seller is the first to notice her words and throws rotten pulp but she continues, fruit and flies on her clothes and cheek. Who are you to speak, woman? the market demands. Cassandra, daughter of Troy and the truest prophet to live, screams until she is dragged away by guards, beaten until her words drop to mumbles. It does not make them less true. She can still taste Apollo’s spit. Like the truth, it burns.

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Almost a Fairytale NATALIE WANG

after richard siken you said: i want to be a prince in armor. give me a princess, you said. pink gowned, pink faced, patient. give me the dragon: fire-breathing, spiked, flying. & the pox, i want to add. & bad teeth & boils & witch hunts & death of old age at thirty-five.

or did you forget that part?

maybe you only dreamt up what it was like to be a prince: silk & furs, silver armor, the second son, silver son, spare son, riding away from his golden brother’s long shadow to find his own kingdom to rule to find a princess to save, so maybe you thought i was the rabbit princess crying pink eyed in the corner but really we were always crossing swords with each other to save ourselves. maybe we were both only ever princesses, hoking on the smoke in our towers & cringing from passing witches. or maybe i’m the dragon swallowing down armored men for a snack, picking my teeth with their spears & that was why we were always fighting each other. i’d still rather be the dragon.

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armor me in scales, sharpen my tongue into a fork, if it means that i am weaponed against you.

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but no: i am only a lizard who dreams of being a dragon. my tail grows back, but i still stumble on three legs. the dragon likes its maidens hoards princesses like it does jewels. the dragon cries every time a prince steals one away —does that make you the dragon after all? maybe in this story, the dragon is really the prince, the third son of the dragon emperor of the western seas in exile, waiting for a travelling monk to lift the weight of his past & carry him home. that night you said, hurt: i said:

i thought you were the maiden.

i’m sorry for wearing a costume although i don’t think this should mean that i’m not allowed to wear white dresses now.

& i said: i thought you were the prince. i cannot tell if you were pleased or disappointed at that. some days i want to restore the scales but it feels like you want to leave them hanging, a weight you can keep swinging over my head. but the rooster crows & the sun rises another day. the lion roars & waits in his den for his women to feed him. the bull does not need to see red to charge. the fish think they know the moon because they have swum in her image. we all leave our marks. sometimes we still feel the bruise.

Natalie spent her childhood reading about Asian fox spirits and vengeful ghost women, as well as trickster faeries and debauched gods. Her debut collection of poetry, The Woman Who Turned into a Vending Machine (Math Paper Press), is a collection of poems on womanhood, metamorphosis and myth, and a tribute to these childhood companions. Her writing has been published or will be in forthcoming issues of LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction, The Kindling, Rambutan Literary, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Eunoia Review, and Fairy Tale Review, as well as the SingPoWriMo anthologies. Her poetry has been commissioned by and displayed at the Singapore Art Museum. She has also performed on Glasgow and London stages.

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The Wreckage SEAN MCCARTHY

Taras Yakovyn © 123RF.com

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D

wyer Flanagan would meet the girl by the sea. It was always close to dusk, or just after dark, and sometimes he would have a fire going, or sometimes he would just be sitting in the sand, drawing pictures with his finger, and always, after five minutes or less, she would come rising up out of the water. A break of a wave, a spray of the mist, and the sea foam retreating, and there she would be. Dripping wet as she approached him. It was almost summer, and if it weren’t very late, you could hear the roller coaster crashing in the distance. Shouts from the riders, echoing up and down the boulevard. And the rising and falling music from the carousel. The girl never paid the events of the night any mind, and if nothing else, they seemed to seclude the two of them all the more. There were bonfires further down the beach, but if anyone passed by, shadows in the distance, they never stopped. The girl would take a seat in the sand, sometimes beside him, and she never said a word. Most of the time she just looked out upon the water. Dwyer lived with his wife and four children. He lived on the beach, in a gambrel roof home—three stories—a porch in front and a porch in back. The house had once been maroon but was now weathered gray. Vera wanted him to paint it, but Dwyer wasn’t sure; he liked the weathered look—it seemed apropos so close to the sea—and Vera wanted a lot of things. It had been a fight with her that sent him down to the water’s edge, to smoke a cigar and stop his hands from shaking in anger—a fight with Vera, and their oldest, a son, now seventeen—on that first night when Dwyer saw the girl. But fights with Vera weren’t unusual, nor were fights with the boy. Dwyer would reprimand the boy for something he had done wrong, and regardless of whether it were mild or severe, Vera would jump in to defend him, and soon all three would be shouting. One fed off the other, and it had been that way for a number of years. An enabling dysfunctional triangle. Dwyer wasn’t stupid—he wasn’t a saint, he wasn’t entirely innocent, and he sometimes overreacted—and he didn’t look on himself as a victim. He was just there, in this situation, in this house with them, and that was how things happened. Dwyer had met Vera when he had first moved back east, more than fifteen years before. He had just finished grad school, a master’s in social work, from a school high up in Oregon, and Vera was newly divorced. Waiting on the annulment. She was Catholic, she told him, and she wouldn’t really date until the annulment was final. She had never dreamed that she would be someone who got a divorce—it was against her beliefs—but she was left with no choice. Vera was the same age as Dwyer, but she already had the boy, and up until then their lives’ paths couldn’t have been more different. Dwyer had attended a small, walled, Catholic University in Southern Connecticut, its own community, its own reality, attending basement keg parties, rolling about his

bed with chastity belt Catholic girls beneath flashing green Heineken signs—rolling but never getting too far—and then forcing himself to go to the library in the morning. Vera had applied to school herself but then gotten pregnant two months before she could get there, and then, that was that. She worked and gave birth, and eventually put herself through paralegal school after marrying the father of the boy. It was a little more than a year into their marriage, she later told Dwyer, that he started to beat her. “Then why did you stay with him?” Dwyer had asked. The whole situation puzzled him, and from what he could see of Vera, she didn’t seem like the type to put up with it. Any of it. “Because,” she said. “I thought I could change him.” The boy didn’t remember his father—Vera threw him out before he was yet two—but he lived through the turmoil. Assaults on the driveway when picking him up for holidays and refusals to return him after taking him up for the weekend, and Dwyer, too, had been there for the tail end of this. Vera panicking, and calls to the police. When Dwyer was first introduced to her, he was sure it would never fly. A mutual friend had introduced them. Vera was slim and pretty with careful, hooded eyes, and she was reserved around him, a step or two away, at least until they got into bed. And then it was all different. Dwyer had never slept with anyone with so much vitality and life. She would clench her teeth as she herself grinded into him, and then she would look down at him, her eyes empty and haunted, celestial and primitive, and then she would hold his face tight in her hands as she began to cum, her body stiffening, and then bucking on the bed beside him. Dwyer would prop himself up with one elbow, run a finger up her midsection, from her pelvis to her chin, and watch her body convulsing, watch it consume her, flattered and amazed; he had never known, seen, anything like it. And then in the bedroom across the hall, the boy would start to scream. The girl on the beach couldn’t have been older than her early twenties. Long dark hair, and eyes that looked as if you could fall right into them. An entire world right within her eyes. She wore a sheer white dress, wet and clinging from the surf, nothing beneath, and on that first night she had walked up towards him, never looking at him, not even as she stood right before him. From where Dwyer sat you could see the entire curve of the town, the peninsula. The lights of the mansions on the hill off to his left, and rows of cottages running the shore all the way to the public beach. The boardwalk and the open air Pavilion. Clam shacks, and the amusement park, the Ferris Wheel, lights down, an enormous round shadow in the distance. The girl looked up and down the beach, as if she were waiting for somebody, expecting somebody—possibly somebody she didn’t want to see—or as if she was not quite sure where she was. Lost. It was late

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that night, and the only light at all came from moon. Casting everything blue. The smell of brine was strong in the air, and a mist washed across Dwyer’s face each time the surf broke, dancing like fingers performing a piano roll. Dwyer was sure he was hallucinating, but then she took a seat beside him, the sand shifting as she did, and then her bare leg was pressed up against his own, wet. The boy, Stevie, cried nearly every night that first year they were dating. It never stopped. They would put pillows over their heads, and Vera would get up to rock him, but it never helped. And then in the mornings, sometimes still screaming, he would run wild about the house, squatting to pee on the floor and slipping in it the moment after he did, and pulling dishwasher detergent out from beneath the sink and squirting it while he ran. Sometimes cuddling with you, kissing, and other times, kicking and biting. It all depended on whether you said yes or no. Sometimes, when Vera worked early, Dwyer was left alone with him, and when he was, he and the boy would sit by the window and wait for the fire engines to pull out of the station across the street. This excited the boy to no end, and because it excited him, it soothed him, and that in itself kept everyone happy. He couldn’t pronounce the “W” and he called Dwyer, “Dyer.” Dwyer fell in love with Vera quickly enough, but even as he did, he could shut his eyes and see the red light flashing—it wasn’t realistic. He couldn’t love her. He had never planned on being in a relationship like this—he had always seen himself taking the traditional route, marriage, a few years together, romantic, alone, and then children—and there was no way it could work. Not with the chaos, the weekend disruptions, Vera still filing restraining orders against the boy’s father. Dwyer wondered if anyone in his family had ever before filed a restraining order against anybody. Had ever needed to. His mother was quiet about the whole thing, as were his sisters—except for Meagan who called him up out of the blue, and calmly asked, “Dwyer. What are you doing?” And he had an answer. Vera was wonderful, smart, ambitious, the boy was wonderful, it all was wonderful except for the exhusband. And then there was a pause, and Meagan had said she just needed to check.Sometimes that was all someone needed was for someone else to check. And maybe that was true, but he still had cold feet at the end of the first year of dating, and then one day Vera and the boy stopped by his parents’ house while Dwyer was in the backyard mowing their lawn, high on the hill. Dwyer saw the boy come out back looking for him. Left, then right, then catching sight of him in the distance. And then he was running, head down, determined, scurried steps with short, toddler legs, and his arms swinging side to side, across the yard and up the hill, until he reached Dwyer. Dwyer shut off the mower, and boy ran over, wrapping himself around Dwyer’s leg, clinging tight and then looking up.

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“Dyer,” he said, “I saw a kunk.” “A kunk?” Stevie lay down on the grass, on his side, rolled his eyes back a bit. “Yeah. He was on the road like this.” Dyer had raised him up and kissed him, and the boy hugged him tight, and then that was that. He wasn’t going anywhere. How could he go anywhere? On the third night he saw her, the girl took Dwyer’s hand, and took him to the water’s edge. Vera had lost her mind at home, after Dwyer had gotten into another fight with Stevie. Dwyer was a loser, she said, and it was the way that she said it that hit home. If she yelled it, much as she yelled most things, it wouldn’t have bothered him as much, discredited within the context of passion, anger. But she had said it calmly, weighing her words, and Vera did nothing calmly. Stevie had taken Dwyer’s car for the night without asking, returned it in the morning, reeking of pot and dents in the fender, scrapes on the door, and then denied touching it. And how did Dwyer know it was him? Vera demanded. Did he see him? It could have been anybody. But it wasn’t anybody, and they both knew that. “Who would steal a car and then risk returning it?” he asked. “Risk getting caught a second time?” “Exactly,” Vera said, “that’s why I don’t think he took it. If he took it, he would just leave it somewhere, pretend someone else stole it. He wouldn’t risk bringing it back.” At first, when Dwyer had confronted him, he had seen fear in Stevie’s eyes, knew that he had him, he was going to confess, but before he could, Vera jumped to his defense. Dwyer watched the boy’s eyes again as she spoke. A flash of amazement, of victory. Stevie had her, and he knew it. It was over. No way was he coming clean now, never. Not with her on his side. “Unless he was hoping I just wouldn’t notice the dent,” Dwyer said. “Oh, yeah,” Vera said, “like you’re not going to notice the dent. It wouldn’t surprise me if you took it, got in an accident, just to set him up, get him in trouble. You blame him for everything. You’ve never liked him. Ever. You’re a loser.” They had argued some more, yelled, screamed, and the boy had told Dwyer to go fuck himself. “You’re not my Dad anymore,” he said, and he ran upstairs. The girls, their little ones, were crying again, and Dwyer was at a loss. Vera stared him down. “Why don’t you just leave?” Dwyer, on the beach, turned back to his home. The yellow lights in the window, and only one shadow moving about. Vera. Had to be Vera. Or maybe the boy, victorious now, down raiding the kitchen. Dwyer could see the blue glow of his television in his room upstairs. The girl was being playful. She let go of Dwyer’s hand and fell backwards into the water, a splash following her as she did. The water was cold. She leapt back up, running her hands up over her face, slicking back her


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hair, and then she pressed against him and kissed him. Her body wet and cold from the water, but firm. Real. How could she be real? But she had to be real. She took Dwyer’s hand and placed it on her hip, and then he moved it around, down over her buttocks. Real. And then in front, real. She nibbled his lip, and then they were back on the beach, Dwyer on his back, and the girl looming above him, on top of him. Stevie had been the ring bearer at their wedding. A blonde mushroom-top haircut and mischievous smile. Precious in his miniature tuxedo. He held his composure throughout most of the ceremony, but the church was hot—high nineties—the priest was very old, very long-winded, and into the second hour, Stevie, now four, began to scream. Vera’s sister-inlaw had carried him out, the boy hanging over her shoulder, pummeling her back as she did. But it was a night wedding, and he was tired, Vera later assured Dwyer, and then as it was, he slept through most of the reception. Dwyer and Vera spent their honeymoon in France. Landing in Paris, and sleeping away the morning it the hotel lobby after attending a five a.m. Mass in the dark shadows in a corner chapel at the back of Notre Dame, exhausted from the time change and being up all night following the reception, making love on the floor. They drank Kwak beer with the Belgium soccer team in a café on La Rue de Belleville, and got lost in the catacombs, the dust of the dead caking their shoes, and then climbed to the top of Montmartre, and Vera becoming irritable, both nauseous and hungry, and realizing she was pregnant. Pregnant. So soon. They moved into the apartment below Vera’s brother, and Kylie was born eight months later. Vera painted the walls in the boy’s room blue with white clouds, applied with a sponge, and she said she had read that that would soothe him. Calm him. Dwyer had always believed that if he had had more time to bond with Stevie, if Kylie, hadn’t come so quickly, things would have turned out better. They would have had a chance. But then Kiley was there, and his entire life changed the moment he saw her. Tiny and helpless and beautiful. He had never felt anything like it—so quick, so dramatic. Instantaneous love, that felt as if it had been there forever. And she then consumed his life—precociousness and wit, and the boy resented that, resented her, of course he did. As did Vera. Dwyer couldn’t blame either, but he also couldn’t tolerate any potential harm, physical or emotional, coming to his baby. Instinct set it. The protective antennae, and people, he knew, could preach against it, the error of his ways, his shallowness, that under the same circumstances, they would be different, they would handle it better, but unless they had experienced it themselves, they could never understand it. Stevie’s father had signed over his rights three months before the wedding, making himself out to be a martyr, doing it for Stevie, to give him stability. But it was all nonsense. He was doing it so he wouldn’t have to pay child support, and

because if he didn’t, Vera’s lawyer was going testify again, tell the judge everything he had done: the death threats, to both her and Stevie, and the abuse. Even Stevie’s father’s lawyer upon being presented the evidence, the testimonies, petitioned the judge to be excused from the case. The man had been left standing alone, and Dwyer remembered thinking how much better it all would have been if he had been left alone years earlier instead. Alone was where certain people belonged. Dwyer had adopted Stevie as soon as they returned from the honeymoon. They all met with the judge, a different judge—this one old, with laugh lines and nose hairs—and the boy affirmed his desire to have Dwyer for a father. Of course he did—for almost three years he had been his friend, his buddy, not a parent. Dwyer hadn’t been in a position to discipline, set limits, scold, and he had been happy for that. But then the change had come. It had to come, he told himself, he was his father now, Stevie had to realize that, Dwyer had to assert his authority. At first he had merely snapped at him a couple times for running wild, not listening, or getting into something he wasn’t supposed to. And then he had him writing, I promise not to do this, I promise to do that, and then he had him sitting in time out. When he called a family meeting, and explained that things had changed, he was his father, that Stevie needed to listen to him, the boy thought he was joking, started to giggle, and then when Dwyer saw this, he started to yell, and the boy started to cry. He ran to his room, and locked the door behind him, kicking it after he did. The transition didn’t get any easier, but eventually they began to follow a pattern, and then the other children began to arrive after Kiley. Two more girls—Maeve and Sabrina. And then they had bought the house on the beach. Now Kiley was eleven, Maeve was nine, and Sabrina was six. Six, Dyer thought, lying on the beach and staring at sky fading from blue to black, spotted with stars, if he could only keep her six. Innocent. He took the girls to the park the night after the incident with the car. They rode on The Skylark, feet dangling in the air, as the ski lift-type cars slowly cruised above the other amusements, and then Kiley and Maeve took a turn on the Indianapolis 500 with David Lee Roth bellowing “I Can’t Wait to Feel Your Love Tonight” over the speakers as Dwyer watched on, holding a sad Sabrina’s hand; she wasn’t tall enough yet to make the ride. Ghoulish laughter bellowed out from Kooky Castle as they passed, and Sabrina caught sight of the wax Frankenstein chasing the shrieking woman, his arms outstretched, and hers up in the air as she screamed. They revolved in and out of the castle, spinning forever, and Sabrina clung to Dwyer’s leg. She had seen them plenty of times during the day, but they weren’t as creepy during the day, nothing was, and this was her first time seeing them at night.

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And disappearing into the castle, into the darkness, anything was possible. None of the girls would go on the ride—cars that rode you into the complete blackness, passing the hags and zombies and painted paper mache murderers, bright beneath fluorescent lights, and then taking quick, sharp turns. Jolts. Dwyer picked Sabrina up and carried her to the entrance of the park. They stopped for a piece of bad pizza at the park’s restaurant and bar, the Roaring Twenties—old ladies in light cotton dresses sipping high balls and gin and tonics, all relics of the twenties themselves—and then they all walked across the street to the bay. The lights were on at the club around the bend of the bay. The club was inside one of the old ferries—The Mayflower— that used to run for the Nantasket Boat Lines, now grounded on the shore and sinking into the mud, looking to be tilting at an angle. The ferry had run from Boston to Nantasket throughout the thirties, forties and fifties before being towed to the side of the bay. It was the first thing that greeted you as you drove into the town. Now there was music coming from inside. A disco song. I Never Knew Love Like This Before. Dywer and the girls climbed over the guardrail. There was a group of men outside on the deck at the club, boys. Maybe eighteen, maybe younger—the club rarely ID’d, and the drinking age was still eighteen—and then after a moment, Dwyer realized that one of them was his. A beer bottle in one hand and cigarette in the other. The boys were all silhouettes in the night, but he could tell by the voice. Could tell it anywhere. He was saying something about the episode with the car, laughing a little, boasting. He would be able to get it again, next weekend, after things had calmed down. His mother would never believe his father when he accused him of taking it. He dragged on his cigarette. I can get her to believe anything, he said. I love her, she’s my Mum, but sometimes she’s so dumb it’s not even funny, he said. If I told her I needed twenty buck to go to the movies, that prices had gone way up, she’d believe me and give it to me. I swear to God. Dwyer looked at his girls to see if they were listening, but they were not. They were throwing stones at the water. One of the stones reached the water. A distant plopping sound, and a spreading circle in the moonlight, and it was then that Dwyer saw her again. First just the head, barely above the surface—it could have even been a seal—but then emerging. Neck. Shoulders. Breasts. The girls had stopped throwing their stones, but were now excavating shells in the sand, and none had yet noticed her. Dwyer watched as she ascended, now completely naked, the water running in rivulets off her body. She was barely twenty feet away, but then she stopped, standing the shallow water, shoulders erect and perfect poise. She opened her mouth as if she were calling out to him, but she made no sound. He could only hear the sounds from the park—the roar and crash of the roller coaster—and the noise coming from The Mayflower. Thumping music, and the voices

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of the boys, all tongue slurs and bravado, competing against it. He looked to see if the boy was still on the deck, but the moonlight had shifted, and he could no longer hear him. And when he looked to the water, the girl was now gone. Kiley and Maeve were already climbing back over the guardrail, but when he went to swoop up Sabrina, she was standing perfectly still. Eyes on the bay, locked on the spot where the girl had been. “Mermaid,” she said. The next morning was a Sunday. Vera was already up and in her bathing suit by the time Dwyer made it down to the kitchen. A two-piece blue, camisole-style top with a string bikini bottom. Her hair pulled back with a blue bandana tied in knot atop of her head. Dwyer hesitated a moment when he saw her—standing at the counter—stirring a cup of tea. Her eyes, blue themselves, always looked just a little more beautiful when she wore blue, and seeing her ass in the bikini always made his heart falter just a bit. Always had, ever since they met. She didn’t look up. “There’s bagels in the fridge,” she said. “I picked some up at the bakery this morning. I was just going to lie down on the beach for an hour or so, and then I’m going to take the girls food shopping with me.” Dwyer came up behind her, put his hands on her waist, perfectly narrow until it reached the curve of her hips, and his lips on the back of her neck. He brushed himself against her, and felt her tense immediately. “If you feel like taking care of the food shopping, then fine, be my guest; otherwise, you need to let me have my tea, and my hour in the sun.” “I’ll be quick.” She pulled away from him. “You’re never quick.” She crossed the room and took a seat at the table, opening her book. Dwyer watched her still, trying to think of something to say. Something to open the door a bit, give him a chance, but nothing came through. The boy came leaping down the stairs then, landing hard on the kitchen floor. Shirtless in his cut-off jeans, and baseball hat on backwards. His eyes still bloodshot from the night before. “Going out,” he said. “First you’re doing the trash,” Vera said. “You don’t do it now, you won’t be home until after midnight, and you’ll forget. The trash comes tomorrow.” “I’ll do it when I get home,” he said. “That’s what I just told you,” said Vera. “You won’t. You’ll forget. You forget every week.” “I’m late. I was supposed to meet Charlie fifteen minutes ago. He’s waiting.” “Now,” she said. The boy kicked the wall, yelled “fuck!” and “I’m sick of this shit! It’s not my fucking trash!” and then went to get the trash bags. Slamming the cabinet door behind him as he did. The noise followed him throughout the house, wastebaskets being


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slammed on the floor, lying on their sides--where they would remain until Dwyer up-righted them--more cursing, calling one of the girls a little pig, and then out to the curb with the barrels where he kicked one over before running off down the street to meet his friend. Dwyer stared at her, but Vera didn’t look up. “At least he did it,” she said. Dwyer skipped his breakfast and went out for a run. One block after the next of the alphabet streets, and then tight along the enormous granite wall that buttressed Allerton Hill. The road became a narrow land strip that connected Point Allerton and the village, Gallops Hill, Telegraph Hill. The Boston Light was visible now in the harbor as was Graves Light beyond. He cut down past the old Kennedy summer home, and then up Telegraph Hill, heading in the direction of Fort Revere. The run was a good one if the weather was cool, a cloud covering or a breeze, but in the heat and high sun it could get tough, and now Dwyer slowed to a walk halfway up the hill, his hands on his hips as he struggled for his breath, shirt soaked, and the sweat streaming off his temples. The fort itself, or what remained, had been constructed more than a hundred years earlier, atop the earthen remains of a diamond shape Revolutionary War bastion. The fort was concrete, the ramparts now covered with earth and grass, heavy steel links, more than a foot in diameter, set tight in the walls. The links had been used to secure the enormous guns they had placed here in the Second World War. Dwyer came to a stop when he reached the stairs that led down into the belly of the fort. Everything below was covered in graffiti and broken glass. Ellen was a whore, Barbara sucked big cock, Billy Tate was a faggot, and Heather loved Steve. The profanation of history. But the view here was one of the best in New England. You could see the entire town, the entire peninsula, curving towards Atlantic Hill, and the countless boats spotting the bay. Cottages lining the beaches and enormous Victorians covering the hills. In some ways it always felt like a town lost in another time. Dwyer looked at the waves breaking against the shore, down by the alphabet streets. White crests riding with purpose, riding like claws, a hand about to spring, and then pull back, dragging with it its prey. Vera was lying on the sand down there somewhere, and somewhere down there, further out, was the girl. Dwyer wondered what happened to her during the daylight hours. Whether she stayed submerged beneath the sea, whether she merely slipped back into her own world, own time, own dimension, or whether she really was at all. Perhaps she was all just in his head. A product of stress and anxiety, alcohol and imagination. The yearning for a fantasy. Madness? On his way back home, he stopped at the town’s Historical Museum. A green building with a farmer’s porch and a red shingled roof. The Museum was on Nantasket Ave., at the foot Gallops Hill and across from Stony Beach. He was sweating

still from the run, uncomfortable, but the museum was nearly empty save for the old man behind the desk as you entered— sparse white hair and steel rimmed spectacles—chin to his chest and snoring. Dwyer left five dollars on the desk and started about the room, taking in photographs. Ships, wrecks, maps, and heroes. On the far wall, there was a framed map of Nantasket, pinpointing all the wrecks that had occurred off the shore. It was treacherous passing through these waters en route to Boston Harbor, before you hit the Boston Light, and the wrecks numbered in the hundreds. Dwyer studied the map— The Maritana, The Henry Tilton, The Hopzibah, and The Juliet—considering the wrecks closest to his home. There were photographs of the long, narrow surfboats on wheels—the crews would race them down the beach and straight into the surf when attempting rescue of a ship stuck on the rocks or lilting in the waves during the course of a storm. The Nantasket crew had gone to the aid of four separate wrecks in the Portland Gale of 1898. Three hundred and fifty vessels between New Jersey and Nova Scotia had lain prey to the fury of the sea in that storm, five hundred corpses awash on the water, one hundred ninety-two dead from the steamship Portland alone. The museum held a photograph of the schooner, Henry Tilton, washed ashore on Stony Beach during that storm, and grainy photograph of the lifesavers with their enormously long oars, cresting the waves. Dwyer studied the photographs, wondering. The entire coast was one long watery grave. He flipped through the newspaper clippings, pictures of the victims, now yellow and torn, faded, looking to see if she were among them, and if so, who she might be. There were pictures of stern old women in long gray dresses and hats with plumes. Men in bowlers and three piece suits. Long mustaches. Short biographies in each of the captions. Only the rich and famous, it seemed, were worthy of a caption. And photographs in newspapers had only begun less than a hundred years ago. But something told him she was somehow older. He paused on the photograph of a young woman in a fancy dress, her hair high up in a bun, and a broach of some sort tight against her throat. The dress was a hoop dress, and the woman’s hands were folded in front of her. Dark eyes, but the other features of her face were blurred, faded with time. It could have been her, or it could have been anybody. Anne Wainright, it looked as though the caption said. He could hear labored breathing, smell something old, half land, half sea. The man from the desk was behind him. Dwyer could feel him looking over his shoulder. “They only looked for the bodies if the people came from money,” the old man said, “but back in those days the only ones they found were the ones that washed ashore. It wasn’t unusual for bodies to wash ashore. Usually the day after the storm died down. They would be scattered all along the beach.”

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Dwyer turned to him. “You don’t see as many wrecks these days. Thankfully.” “Not with modern technology. It’s not too difficult for the boats to work through the shoals. But if a storm gets bad enough, and there are boats on the water, then you’re going to see it. Ain’t no way around it. During the hurricane of ’38, I volunteered to help collect the bodies. Doc Bergen organized that one. He liked to organize things. Of course the hopes were that we would rescue a few, but there wasn’t any rescuing. All of the bodies were blue and bloated and half covered in sand, lying there in the tide. I’ll carry that with me until the day I go myself. They were all over the beach. We just covered them up and carried them off.” It was the weekend after, the final straw. The boy had been smoking his grass upstairs in his room, stereo blaring, the entire hall a cloud. At one time Dwyer had attempted to punish him just for smoking period, but now he had just resorted to pleading with him not to smoke in the house. He was seventeen, and it no longer seemed worth the struggle, the effort had exhausted him. The kid smoked around the clock—before school, after, suppertime and before bed—but he had the whole beach. The park. The fort. The town. And it was now summer, plenty of places to smoke it, just not in the house. Not with the little girls upstairs with him. And each time Dwyer smelled it, confronted him, the boy denied it, told Dwyer he wasn’t smelling anything. He was paranoid. Stupid. Dwyer would warm him one final time not to smoke it in the house, his house, he said, not the boy’s. And then invariably, things would escalate. Vera jumping in, Vera, too, insisting there was nothing to smell. Dwyer was delusional. Dwyer felt like smacking his own head against the wall. Living with insanity. He knew it was there, they knew it was there, and yet he was being accused of being in the wrong. It made no sense. After he had searched the boy’s room, and confiscated plants and bongs, pipes, and papers, and jars of loose weed, he had grounded him that Thursday, and that had caused the Friday uproar. Friday night. A friend of Stevie’s was having a graduation party, and Stevie was just demanding he be allowed to stay out the entire night with his friends, despite the grounding. Even Vera—despite still refusing to admit he had been smoking in the house—had said no, looking away and telling the boy to get upstairs, and it was then that things escalated. Dywer and Vera and the girls were on the beach having a bonfire. Driftwood sparking green and blue with bioluminescence. The tide was close and the waves were loud. Vera was sipping a gin and tonic, and Dwyer had a margarita, his second. The girls would run down the water, dip their feet, and then scamper back. Now, huddled in their beach chairs, knees pulled up close to their chins, their sweatshirts pulled down over them.

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Vera had been quiet, still angry from the night before, Dwyer imagined, and then the screen door knocked open, and the boy stood on the steps, sand and tall sea grass between them, telling them he was going out. He would be home in the morning. “No, you won’t,” Vera had said, not looking his way. “You’ll go inside and you’ll shut your mouth, Stephen.” “I will not!” the boy shouted. “I’m seventeen, and I will not be treated like a child! If I want to stay out all night, I’ll stay out all night! This is about freedom. You can’t repress my freedom just because you yourself have no life!” He then turned to Dywer, saying the only reason he grounded him was because he had a hard-on over pot. He was so close minded. Stevie then began to shout that pot made him stronger, faster, smarter. It was God’s greatest gift to mankind. The tequila had started to kick in, and Dwyer took a deep breath, trying to stay calm. Vera shouted back at the boy, and he was still refusing to go inside. Getting louder and louder, more and more absurd. Dwyer started towards him, saying, “Come on, Steve, let’s go, inside, you’re making a scene,” and the boy backed up the steps, saying again he would see them in the morning. He was already three inches taller than Dwyer. Dwyer followed him onto the back porch, Vera right behind him, telling him to get back in the house, and when Stevie didn’t listen, just continued on his racing speech of nonsense concerning pot and his freedom. Dwyer had given him a shove, not hard, but enough, just a poke in the chest and an order to get inside, and then Stevie was grabbed his hands and the two of them were wrestling, the strength of the boy getting the better him. It didn’t last long. Vera jumped in, screaming, pulling Stevie off him, and climbing on Dwyer herself, and Dwyer, thinking the person on top of him was still the boy, spun her around, to get her beneath him, and then she was shouting even more. What was he doing? He was hurting her. He let her go immediately, looked down at her in shock, and by then Stevie was out the back door, running off into the night. Dwyer was sweating. Nothing making sense. Stevie was crazy. It all was crazy. A hornet’s nest. A hornet’s nest that he was convinced he could quiet when he walked into the lives of Vera, the boy some sixteen years before. This kind of thing happened often to Vera back then, with her ex-husband, but it wasn’t supposed to happen now. Not with Dwyer. Dwyer looked about the porch. The dull yellow light bulb on a cord hanging from ceiling, everything coated in a thin layer of sand, salt, and his little girls, his beautiful little girls, running about crying, asking him to stop. But he had already stopped. He was flat on his ass on the porch, supporting himself with his hands. And then Vera jumped up, squeezed him by the face, and slapped him. “You’re pathetic, Dwyer. You disgust me.” Dwyer just glared at her.


Short Story

“Go ahead,” she said. “Hit me. Hit me, too. You’re as bad as the first one. Stevie’s not going anywhere, Dwyer. You are. Why don’t you just leave? You’re a loser. A loser. The biggest mistake I ever made was marrying you.” The boy was down on the beach, still shouting. Dwyer could go fuck himself, and if he came near him again he was going to kill him. Did Dwyer hear him? He would kill him. And then piss on his grave. Dwyer was a drunk. An asshole. The girls hugged Vera, all still crying. Dwyer got up off the floor and left the porch, the screen door banging hard behind him. His hands were shaking. Behind him, in the house, he could hear Vera still yelling. And then moments later something was slammed—pots in the kitchen—followed by a door. By the time Dwyer got down the beach Stevie was thirty yards away. He turned, doing a little dance, shouting more obscenities, and both his middle fingers raised in the air, directed at Dwyer, but Dwyer stayed still, watching. And Stevie kept moving into the darkness. Getting farther and farther away. Smaller and smaller. Disappearing into the future. And into the past. Inside Vera continued to shout. The moon was halfway into the night sky, standing at twelve o’clock, directly before Dwyer and cutting the sea in half with a narrow path of light. The light came across the water, beginning at the horizon, and landed at his feet. A perfect beam. A path to the sea. Beckoning him on. He listened to the sounds of the night, the sea, washing and retreating. No gulls, no boats, no cries from the park down the street. He felt like he was losing his mind. It was all out of control. Everything. Everyone. The boy, Vera, and Dwyer himself. He had no control anymore. How, he wondered, had he ceded all control? He was the father, the man of the house, and now nothing he said, did, mattered anymore. It wasn’t good for anyone. Not Vera, Dwyer, the little ones. Or Stevie. But it wasn’t about Stevie. Of course. And it never had been. The fire sparked behind him. Vera shouted again. Dwyer took a seat in the sand, watching the water, listening to its voice. Time felt to have stopped. It could have been five minutes or it could have been an hour later when he saw her moving through the surf, directly beneath the light of the moon. She had her head above the water, and looked as if she were clearing the waves before her as she swam. Dwyer looked back at the house. Now no voices, no movement inside. He could picture Vera whispering to the girls. Telling them she was protecting them from him. He was violent. They knew he would never do a thing to hurt them, but if Vera was circling the wagons, she would tell them anything just the same. It was always all or nothing with Vera. If you’re not with us, you’re against us. No middle road.

And who would he be if that was how they remembered him? Who would he be now anyway? A song began moving through the night. The voice high and rising, pushing to be free from the crash of the waves. Dwyer could not recognize the words, nor discern the melody. He had never heard the girl’s voice before, never heard her sing, but she was singing now, and she was waiting for him. Wading in the surf. Dwyer stood in the sand. Watching. Struggling to gather the courage to move. Go to her. Stay with her. The girl’s face looked so beautiful in the light of the moon, and her song seemed to have moved someone inside him. Soothing him. Just a few short steps. Cold and then warm. Simple. He took a step, and then his body froze. He heard a voice from the house then, the light in the kitchen on, and he turned to see a small shadow standing in the porch, just inside the screen door. Sabrina. He couldn’t see her face, but going by the size of the shadow, it had to be Sabrina. He thought he heard her call out “Daddy,” soft and cautious so that her mother wouldn’t hear. He looked at her again, perfect, small, innocent. And precious beyond words. And the pull to go to her was unbearable. The need to protect her, them. Small specks of light amidst all the chaos. The sound of them crying, the creaking floorboards of the porch as they scampered about, and shadows. All just shadows in the dark. As was he. As was Vera. The girl was drifting, the riptide taking her back, farther out to sea. There were muffled voices from deep within the house. Upstairs. And then from behind him, Sabrina whispered again, knocked lightly on the door. The door creaked open. “Daddy,” she said again. Who would he be? he wondered again. Dwyer started back up the beach. The girl was now fifty yards out, just a speck on the water, the moonlight receding and the song all but gone. As soon would be she. Back in the darkness, back where she belonged. Dissolving and decaying, haunted, the wreckage was out there somewhere, far in the past.

Sean McCarthy has new stories either recently published or forthcoming in Zymbol, The Hopkins Review, Glimmer Train, Water~Stone Review, KAIROS, and South Dakota Review. His first novel In the Midst of the Sea is forthcoming from Linden Publishing.

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Literary Work

Parentheses NICOLE MELCHIONDA

Martyred trees scrape through hyphenated breaths. I called father as he drove to the mountains where we used to shimmy between split boulders and pretend we were Hercules, hatched from rock, aping birthing pains. He said I was on speaker while Jeff and Markie howled their hellos. The three of them twisted their testosterone into a knot because my alternator blew: a triptych of hemorrhages. Mechanic-bound, I dumped the metal on a man father praised, maybe because they share the same name, benevolent brothers and proxy parent. Before I went to bed that night, mother sent me photos of the labored familial climb and there you were, mid-boulder, squinting with your puerile smile, solitary. If you were listening in the car mummy-lipped, I’m sorry that the only way I can bear to talk to you is through voyeuristic phone calls and half-dialogued poems. The truth is I can’t bear to keep you near because every day I feel you cracking inside my metamorphic chest straining for one of us to be reborn. alenrush© 123RF.com

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Poetry

Katarzyna Bruniewska-Gierczak Š 123RF.com

Cross-Referenced Nicole Melchionda is a graduate of Stetson University. There she was mentored by awardwinning poet Terri Witek. Her work has recently been nominated for the Best of the Web 2018 anthology.

NICOLE MELCHIONDA

Our bodies are not our own and every night we must mourn the lives we’ll never live. Unbuckle each vertebrae and be banished to the vacuous where pain sloughs off bit by stanza. Could we ever be a symbol of the highest magnitude? Post-cauterization you will awaken by transfixion as your blood slows to forgiveness. Pause to study your tachycardia: butWHY-butWHY-butWHY. Are you learning everything you ever sought to know? Slink back into the fissures of your brain and sleep the kind of sleep that unsettles generations. Reminisce about a love that was promised a millennia too soon.

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Literary Work

Compression/ Combustion NICOLE MELCHIONDA

At one point (trillions of years ago), I embraced all of your old flames: 1. The Lawn-Stomper 2. The Acne-Backed Strangler 3. The Hippie Who Wouldn’t Hold Your Hand in Public 4. The Hold-A-Knife-Against-My-Throat-While-I-CheatOn-My-Army-Boyfriend 5. The Ancient Player of the Hymen Card 6. The Rigor Mortis Robot When you left me, I reacquainted myself with the mattress you offered to your Bulgarian student, bluish-necked, which I attributed to the tryst you never had. Speckled in that affair I met your estranged father, that high school Spanish teacher you hated, the boy you punched who got you suspended, the unrequited crush, now paralyzed from a collision, your favorite writers, the fostered dogs of your childhood, that neighbor who spread his feces on front doors, that shark you barreled into mid-Atlantic, the tree you carved our initials into, the Chinese children you teach English, and you, the orchestrator of their screams: I LOVE MY GRANDPA. In some ways, we are all little gods omnisciently aware of every vibrating atom. I was you, I was them, I was it, I was me. We were all the angels sitting atop the pin. There was a time when all of us felt infinite in the tiniest space(s). We galloped past Andromeda, butt heads with Galileo, and held the seven wonders in our bellies. To cross the voids that distance us today shrinks me smaller than the space between our mingling genitals. There’s a reason why we hold each other now and never feel close enough.

kuco © 123RF.com

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kuco © 123RF.com

Revisitations NICOLE MELCHIONDA

First born, first echo: swaddled bones smothered by exhaustion, DNA reabsorbed into earth. I don’t even know your name but I imagine you were the heaviest ten pounds upon an Atlas-condemned father. He ran through the streets cradling your corpse screaming for concrete gods to defibrillate the decay to no avail. His next wife was sterile, the prerequisite for re-union. The night they were impacted by steel must’ve been the penance he’d craved in a mind that chugs slowly now. His memory dangles from an inverted spine but I wonder, faceless deity, do I fear your intimate secrets more than severed synapses capable of bastardizing the dead? I don’t dare ask if he remembers the first words of panic or the feel of your slack, but I must know: was your blood congealed mid-stasis or were you still warm from the weight that taught us a parent can love too fiercely.

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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 fourth quarter of 2018.

The Spirit of Dreams LARA PARK Have you ever had a dream of an animal and wondered what it meant? The Spirit of Dreams enters into the mystical world of the animal kingdom. This is a channeled book that brings meaning and guidance from the animal kingdom into our dreams. Written primarily for children and teenagers, the Spirit of Dreams gives various meanings and practical advice on how to use the messages given to us in our dreams in our everyday life.

Terralepus KATHLEEN HAMILTON Terralepus is an intergalactic adventure featuring Jackie, Jasmine, and Max, three old friends who overcome murderous monsters, unfriendly planets, and a stint on planet Earth. Author Kathleen Hamilton, inspired by Jackie, the family rabbit, started writing stories to entertain her family and friends. Terralepus is available on paperback and Kindle on Amazon.

Revenge Is Mine MALCOLM JOHN BAKER Author Malcolm John Baker has written a blistering drama set in present-day America. Revenge Is Mine touches on the conflict in the Middle East, though ultimately it is a story about love, humanity, and the gruesome realities of war. Available on hardcover, paperback, and Kindle.

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Out of Many One: The Proclamation and Abstract Value of Merit DUFORT BAPTICHON A Juris Doctor candidate of Thomas M. Cooley Law School, Dufort Baptichon has written a passionate indictment against, in the author’s own words, “the matrix of illusions that politicians created.” Out of Many, One is a thoughtprovoking work that inspects the concepts of truth, money, and merit.

Success Skills for High School, College, and Career CARY J. GREEN Here is an excellent resource book by Dr. Cary J. Green, an educator who has spent twenty years teaching, advising, mentoring, and supervising university students. Success Skills promises to help young people develop key skills for academic success, leadership, and employability skills such as communication, time management, and critical thinking.

Noni’s Walk Outside MICHELE LOUISE CALLAHAN Noni takes her granddaughter Sylvia out on a walk and teaches her all about sun, dirt, grass, and all the joys of connecting with Mother Nature. This beautifully illustrated children’s book is available in paperback and ebook formats on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble.

On the Origin of Dignity: Its Creation and Enhancement WALTER TUNSTALL, PhD Walter W. Tunstall, PhD, presents a revolutionary theory on the nature of dignity. On the Origin of Dignity discusses dignity as a concept and as a living, experienced dimension within each human being. In his foreword, Wolfgang O. von der Gruen, PhD, calls dignity “the essential ingredient in human striving that achieves stable civilizations locally and globally.”

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High in the Andes: A Spiritual Adventure Novel WILLIAM MICHAEL KAUFMAN Narada is on an archeological tour through the ruins of Peru when he stumbles across an extraordinary secret. What begins is an extraordinary process of self-discovery, reflection, and ancient memory. Author William M. Kaufman is an educator and a student of spiritual philosophy and transpersonal psychology. He has written several books on spiritual enlightenment, including The Transforming Power of Illness, for which he has received grants from The Lifebridge Foundation.

Tools for Life: Daily Inspirations JAMES COYLE Tools for Life is a collection of 365 short stories designed to be read every day for a dose of inspiration, courage, and motivation. Dr. James Coyle, counselor, pastor, and professor, dispenses a wealth of wonderful advice for daily life. Focus and align with your purpose, cut the anchors of guilt and shame, and turn obligations into opportunities and manage the fear of the unknown with Tools for Life.

Mockingbird Moments: A Memoir SHARON BROWN KEITH On October 20, 1992, life for one East Texas family changed forever. Following the devastating sudden death of her father, Sharon Brown Keith embarked on a journey of grief and healing, of acceptance and personal growth and transformation. In this moving memoir about love, loss, and letting go, Keith shares her recollections about growing up and coming of age under the tender and steadfast guidance of her father and hero.

Balanced Leadership: A Pragmatic Guide for Leading LEONARD W. HEFLICH Writer, coach, and teacher Leonard W. Heflich presents an essential guide to effective leadership. Discover and clarify your mission, vision, and values; learn how to handle difficult people and situations; improve the performance of your people and teams; and communicate with coworkers, customers, and colleagues with Balanced Leadership.

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The Program: Trilogy of the Project & The Hunt MANUEL PELAEZ Manuel Pelaez has imagined a not-so-distant future of high-tech robots, war machines, terrorist groups and rebel factions in his trio of sweltering sci-fi novels, The Program, The Project, and The Hunt. Join a host of memorable characters as they navigate this strange new world.

360 Degrees of Love DE VAUGHN LA BON This love story by author De Vaughn La Bon, co-written by Rita Stewart Lynum, promises to be more than just a romance story. It touches on themes of spirituality, destiny, religion, and the twin flame connection. Available on ebook and paperback editions.

Meet the Pops BELINDA BARBIERI Belinda Barbieri’s Meet the Pops series is a delicious family treat. The Pops Farm is magical, with lots of surprises in store for both the young and youngat-heart. A sweet story meant to delight and educate your family, it uses entertainment to teach young children valuable lessons they’ll take with them for the rest of their lives. Follow up the first Meet the Pops with Meet the Pops: Flag Day Every Day and Meet the Pops: Christmas for some timely holiday fun.

The History on the Page: Adventures in Black British History TONY TALBURT Tony Talburt takes young readers through the pages of history in this collection of short stories. Children and their parents will discover the country’s past from a new cultural perspective and meet a cast of unsung heroes in Britain’s rich, diverse history.

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God’s Leadership Codes: Pillars of Effective Leadership by Jehovah and Jesus DR. HAROLD MICHAEL PHILLIPS In his introduction to God’s Leadership Codes, Dr. Phillips calls his book “a help to all who desire to lead as God would want us to lead.” A long-time pastor and with a master’s degree in Religious Education and a doctorate in Theology, with an honorary Doctorate of Divinity degree from Mid-Continent University, Dr. Phillips is a recipient of the 2003 Salt and Light Award. He has taught God’s leadership codes in the Baptist Seminary in the Philippines and at leadership conferences in Holland and Switzerland.

A Dance of Reflective Relationship: A Fairy Tale of Creation KIERA LAIKE Written by Kiera Laike with beautiful watercolor illustrations by Susana Levy, A Dance of Reflective Relationship is a story of love, magic, and wonder. Snuggle into the wonders of our galaxy.

Of Life and Time CLIFTON L. WEST III Clifton L. West III calls himself an ordinary person who has lived an extraordinary life. Kirkus Reviews calls his memoir “an indefatigably optimistic book which joyously celebrates the power of love. A deeply thoughtful account of the demands and rewards of Christian devotion.”

The Scar of Cain: The Book of Jasher, Part 1 BILL SANFORD The year is 2025. Man’s most ancient and feared enemy still walks the earth and has been consolidating his power and marshaling his dark forces for thousands of years. He is the man of shadows, and he has only one agenda: to establish a one-world order where he controls mankind’s destiny.

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Alexa-Alessandra: A Story of Love ANITA SUMARIWALLA Alexa is a brilliant student who wins a scholarship to study music in Rome. There she meets Munir, an Arab artist, and their love blossoms as they experience the joys of first love. Through deception and manipulation by others they are forcefully separated, but fate seems to have other plans for the two.

The Fish House Gang KENNETH L. FUNDERBURK Randall Moss is known around Fort Walton, Florida, as a loud-mouth braggart and a spaced-out petty crook. As he prepares to carry out his dream job, Moss knows he cannot do it alone. He gathers an eclectic group of beer-loving thugs in his backyard to formulate a plan, thinking that nothing can go wrong. But trouble isn’t close behind; he and his gang soon find themselves in the crosshairs of a dangerous Mexican drug cartel.

Suck It Up, Buttercup: Be a Leader and People Will Follow WENDY SELLERS Wendy Sellers, “The HR Lady,” presents an essential guide for leaders and learning how to lead with kindness and strong communication. Learn how to motivate strong, positive, and effective leadership skills and people will want to work hard for you.

Towards Thin Air: From Cardiac Bypass to Everest Bypasses VIJAY MALUR Vijay Malur looks back at a life filled with happy, sad, depressing, and exhilarating experiences in this inspiring memoir. Everything for the successful physician changed in 1998 when an accident took away some of his memory and sight. Three months later, he underwent quadruple cardiac bypass surgery. By taking life one day at a time, he found he could accomplish things he never would have imagined---including scale Mount Everest.

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The Haunted Dog House CATHY VENTURA HAPPE Fred, the cocker spaniel, thinks his dog house is haunted. Is it really haunted, or is someone playing a Halloween trick? Fred, together with his friends, tries to solve the mystery.

Help! I Have a Brain Injury and It Feels Like I've Dropped Out of the Sky: A Survivor's Guide to Understanding and Managing Traumatic Brain Injury KAY PRATT CEAP CPCC CSLC Kay Pratt is an Expressive Arts Practitioner and a Spiritual Life Coach in Southern California. Founder of the Expressive Arts Therapies Network, she is helping others to move forward with their lives through creativity following treatment for serious injury, illness and trauma. Help! I Have a Brain Injury. . . TBI survivors share their experiences with TBI to help inform other people about brain trauma and brain-injured individuals.

Corporal Archer and the Siege of Vicksburg: A Novel of Historical Fiction JON HOWARD HALL Jon Howard Hall, author of historical fiction, has written a gripping story of the Siege of Vicksburg. With the threat of yet another battle during the summer of 1863, Corporal Jonathan Archer discovers a renewed strength as he must find a way to provide safety and protect his family while also serving in the defense of his hometown.

Parnassus: Selected Writings and Poems MARKUS VOSSI Markus Vossi presents a collection of his selected poems based on his experiences, observations, and moments of realization.

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WRITER’S CORNER

Events, Conferences, Awards

JANUARY ART FESTIVALS

Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival When: January 10–20, 2019 Where: Tampa, Florida The Tampa Bay Black Heritage Festival (TBBHF) is Southwest Florida’s premier cultural event. This 10-day, family friendly, cultural experience focuses on music, education, economic and social empowerment, and the arts. The 2-Day Music Fest, which takes place the weekend of the MLK holiday, features locally and nationally recognized musicians, artists, poets, and craftspeople.

SDSU Writers’ Conference When: January 31–February 2, 2019 Where: DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, San Diego, California Whether your goal is direct feedback on your work from a top-tier agent or editor, or simply to elevate your craft and enjoy the camaraderie of a literary community, the SDSU Writers' Conference is for you. Enjoy three full days of breakout sessions in genre- and career-focused tracks, interactive events, an exciting lineup of literary luminaries, and networking opportunities galore. https://ces.sdsu.edu/writing-languagecommunication/sdsu-writersconference

www.tampablackheritage.org/

ALA Midwinter Meeting BOOK FAIRS/ FESTIVALS

Rancho Mirage Writers Festival When: January 30–February 1, 2019 Where: Rancho Mirage Library and Observatory, California The Rancho Mirage Writers Festival was founded in 2014 by Jamie Kabler, who wanted to bring a premier intellectual event to the Coachella Valley. As festival enthusiast Mark Hogan describes it, Rancho Mirage is “Coachella for the brain.” The Festival has featured authors who are the recipients of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, among other honors. Many featured books are New York Times bestsellers. The Festival has become truly international, with authors from all over the world. The Festival will have 90 sessions over three days. Our writers are all experts in their field, distinguished historians, respected journalists, and gifted storytellers.

When: January 25–29, 2019 Where: The Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, Washington. The American Library Association (ALA) is the oldest and largest library association in the world. Founded October 6, 1876, during the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, the mission of ALA is “to provide leadership for the development,

promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.” Librarians, authors, publishers, business professionals, educators and students—anyone who is passionate about books, libraries, and eager to learn and shape the future of the industry is welcome here. www.ala.org

New Delhi World Book Fair When: January 5–13, 2019 Where: Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, India The New Delhi World Book Fair (NDWBF), over 47 years old, is a major calendar event in the publishing world. NDWBF offers the exhibitors a unique opportunity for business in this growing book industry. It is also an ideal venue for promoting titles, copublication arrangements, and trade. Besides the many literary and publishing conferences and programs that are organized during the fair, it also opens up a gateway to the publishing and intellectual world of South Asia. The New Delhi World Book Fair attracts participation from major publishing houses across the globe. www.newdelhiworldbookfair.gov.in/

www.rmwritersfest.org/

Konstantin Kulikov © 123RF.com

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WRITER’S CORNER

Events, Conferences, Awards

FILM FESTIVALS

International Film Festival Rotterdam 2019 When: January 23–February 3, 2019 Where: Rotterdam, Netherlands The International Film Festival Rotterdam aims to offer a quality selection of worldwide independent, innovative cinema and visual arts. Devoted to offering a platform to and actively supporting independent filmmaking from around the globe, IFFR is the essential hub for discovering film talent and for catching the early buzz on many world and international premieres. http://www.iffr.com/en tixti © 123RF.com

The Donald M. Ephraim Palm Beach Jewish Film Festival When: January 20–February 12, 2019 Where: Palm Beach, Florida As much a labor of love as a mission, The Donald M. Ephraim Palm Beach Jewish Film Festival strives to bring the finest examples of cinema from around the world to South Florida. The chosen films are as diverse as the Jewish community. Some focus on Jewish issues, others spotlight Jewish achievement and valor; still others document Jewish culture, arts, and history. www.palmbeachjewishfilm.org/about. html

identity. Since the late 1980s, she has transformed found objects and everyday materials such as cigarettes, vegetables, and stockings into disorienting, confrontational tableaux that boldly challenge social norms. The human body and anthropomorphic forms recur throughout Lucas’s works, often appearing erotic, humorous, fragmented, or reconfigured into fantastical anatomies of desire. www.newmuseum.org/exhibitions/view/ sarah-lucas

AWARDS

The Costa Book Awards When: January

EXHIBITS

Sarah Lucas: Au Naturel When: Until January 20, 2019 Where: New Museum of Contemporary Art, Lower East Side, New York Over the past thirty years, Lucas has created a distinctive and provocative body of work that subverts traditional notions of gender, sexuality, and

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The Costa Book Awards honor some of the most outstanding books of the year, written by authors based in the UK and Ireland. There are five categories—First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book—with one of the five winners chosen as Book of the Year, announced at an awards ceremony in London every January. www.costa.co.uk/costa-book-awards/ welcome/

Lahore International Book Fair When: January 31, 2019–February 4, 2019 Where: Lahore International Expo Centre, Abdul Haque Rd. Lahore, Pakistan Lahore has always been a center for publications, where 80 percent of Pakistan’s books are published and remains the foremost center of literary, educational, and cultural activity in Pakistan. Lahore has fired the imagination of writers, artists and thinkers over the ages. This city is regarded as Pakistan’s cultural capital. With a focus on literature as encompassing a variety of genres—from fiction writing, to history, politics, art, architecture, culture, and music—the LIBF Trust has done considerable efforts to reclaim and employ Lahore’s rich and varied literary tradition. www.libftrust.com/


WRITER’S CORNER

Events, Conferences, Awards

FEBRUARY BOOK FAIRS/ FESTIVALS

African-American Family Book Expo When: February 24, 2019, 12:00 PM– 5:00 PM Where: Northwest Activities Center, 18100 Meyers Rd, Detroit, Michigan It's an exciting one-day event created to preserve literacy in our community at the family level. Enjoy a winter afternoon with over 60 talented authors of adult & children books. You'll meet indie authors, buy autographed book(s) and enjoy a host of family fun and entertainment. https://www.detroitbookcity.com/

Havana International Book Fair When: February 7 - 17, 2019 Where: San Carlos de La Cabana, Havana City, Cuba Each February, Havana’s International Book Fair transforms the old Spanish fortification San Carlos de La Cabana that overlooks the Havana harbor into

one of the biggest book parties in the world. It takes place in Havana City for ten days before continuing on to the other cities for two more weeks. The book fair ends in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba. The festival consists of book vendors, poetry readings, children’s activities, art exhibitions, and concerts in the evenings. It is considered Cuba’s premier cultural event, as well as the event with the highest attendance in Cuba: the XX International Book Fair drew over 2.3 million people to the Capital City! www.authenticubatours.com/cubafestival-tours/havana-book-fair.htm

African American Children’s Book Fair When: February 2, 2019 Where: Community College of Philadelphia, Philadelphia. The African American Children's Book Fair is one of the oldest and largest single-day events for African-American children's books in the country, with an average yearly attendance of more than 3,500. The event features nationally known bestselling authors/ illustrators, many of whom have won

some of the most prestigious American Library Association awards including the Coretta Scott King Award. These authors/illustrators have produced some of the best books of our generation. www.theafricanamericanchildrensbookproject.org/

Onyxcon When: February 16, 2019 to Sunday, February 17, 2019 Where: Atlanta, Georgia Onyxcon is the largest convention in the Southeast celebrating the impact, contributions, and presence of the African Diaspora in realms of imagination through the popular arts. They promote, showcase, educate, and entertain all fans of the Sequential Arts and related media. “We edutain!” Onyxcon features independent and legendary creators of comics, books, film, and other media with a focus on African Diaspora culture, concepts, interests, and general markets. Ultimately, Onyxcon represents diversity in these arts, and so are open to representing all popular arts that are consciously diverse. www.onyxcon.com

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WRITER’S CORNER

Events, Conferences, Awards

Taipei International Book Exhibition, Taiwan When: February 12­-17, 2019 Where: Taipei, Taiwan TIBE - Taipei International Book Exhibition 2019 is the pre-eminent event for the business of books. It provides an excellent platform for business to business contacts and help producers, manufacturers, importers and exporters to network with international traders and wholesalers. www.tibe.org.tw/en/news/12

Perth International Arts Festival When: February 8 – March 3, 2019 Where: Australia Perth Festival has seeded and cultivated decades of cultural growth as the oldest arts festival in the Southern Hemisphere. It is Australia’s premier curated multiarts festival and one of the greatest in the world, known for commissioning major new works, celebrating the unique qualities of Perth, and engaging diverse audiences. At festival time in Perth, there is no other place like this on Earth. For a few weeks every glorious summer, the best artists from Western Australia and the world stand shoulder to shoulder in creative unity with the community. www.perthfestival.com.au

Brussels Book Fair, Belgium When: February 14 – 17, 2019 Where: Brussels, Belgium Brussels’ Book Fair is a gigantic library in the heart of Europe, which has become a major cultural event for more than 40 years. The Book Fair is located in the history-laden site of Tour & Taxis, where all the stakeholders of the publishing world will be brought together. Publishers from France, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Quebec

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will meet their Belgian counterparts. Since February 2007, the Brussels Book Fair committed to reduce its ecological footprint with a series of initiatives, without damaging its smooth running. www.flb.be/en/book-fair

Vilnius International Book Fair When: February 21-24, 2019 Where: Vilnius, Lithuania Since its start in the year of 2000, the International Vilnius Book Fair has become the biggest and most important book fair in the Baltic states. Today it is the main annual meeting place of publishers, authors, and readers in Lithuania and attracts more than sixty thousand visitors annually. The Vilnius International Book Fair is visited by the stars of the literary and culture from all over the world.

FILM FESTIVALS

ZagrebDox When: February 24 to March 3, 2019 Where: Zagreb, Croatia ZagrebDox is an annually held international documentary film festival. The festival was founded in 2005, with the aim of providing the audience and experts with an insight into the recent documentary production, stimulating national documentary production and strengthening international and regional collaboration in the coproduction field. ZagrebDox is oriented towards organizing a specialized festival, screening the best creative documentary films whose imaginative forms and selection of subject matter make this festival unique in both Croatia and Europe. www.zagrebdox.net

www.vilniusbookfair.lt

EXHIBITS

Portland Oregon Women's Film Festival When: February 28 – March 3, 2019

Bruce Nauman: Disappearing Acts

Where: Portland, Oregon

When: October 21, 2018 – February 18, 2019

POW Film Fest is Portland's premiere film festival showcasing films directed by women. Currently in its 11th year, the festival features the work of some of today's top women directors while honoring the true pioneers and recognizing the next generation of leading women filmmakers. We also provide space to strengthen the Portland community of women in film by offering year round film workshops for girls and non-binary youth ages 15 to 19 with our POWGirls program. It is POW Film Fest’s goal to be inclusive of all women’s voices, regardless of race, class, age, religion, abilities, sexuality, or gender presentation. We respect each individual’s right to gender selfidentification.

Where: The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1, New York City, New York Bruce Nauman has spent half a century inventing forms to convey both the moral hazards and the thrill of being alive. Employing a tremendous range of materials and working methods, he reveals how mutable experiences of time, space, movement, and language provide an unstable foundation for understanding our place in the world. The exhibition is on view at The Museum of Modern Art through February 18, 2019, and at MoMA PS1 through February 25, 2019.

www.powfest.com


WRITER’S CORNER

Events, Conferences, Awards

lassedesignen © 123RF.com

Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale)

MARCH

Southwest Florida Reading Festival

BOOK FAIRS/ FESTIVALS

Where: Fort Myers Regional Library Campus – 2450 First St, Fort Myers, FL

When: February 7–17, 2019 Where: Berlin, Germany Berlin: an exciting, cosmopolitan cultural hub that never ceases to attract artists from around the world. A diverse cultural scene, a critical public and an audience of film-lovers characterize the city. In the middle of it all, the Berlinale: a great cultural event and one of the most important dates for the international film industry. More than 334,000 sold tickets, more than 21,000 professional visitors from 127 countries, including more than 3,700 journalists: art, glamour, parties and business are all inseparably linked at the Berlinale. www.berlinale.de

Virginia Festival of the Book When: March 20–24, 2019 Where: Venues across Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Virginia The Virginia Festival of the Book brings together writers and readers to promote and celebrate books, reading, literacy, and literary culture over five days in Charlottesville and Albemarle County every March. The Virginia Festival is the largest community-based book event in the Mid-Atlantic region and has attracted audiences of more than 20,000 for each of the past thirteen years. www.vabook.org

When: March 2, 2019 10:00 AM–4:00 PM

There is always something for children and adults to experience at the Southwest Florida Reading Festival. Everyone enjoys the multiple stages with the celebrity authors who share the inside scoop about their latest books or what makes a story idea click for them. You will be able to buy books and have the authors personalize and sign them, too! Kids will be mesmerized by the storytellers. There’s also an abundance of family fun activities such as crafts, readings, drawings and so much more. It’ll be a day you will thoroughly enjoy and one you will want to repeat every year! www.readfest.org

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Events, Conferences, Awards

New York Antiquarian Book Fair When: March 7–10, 2019

Venice Book Fair and Writers Festival

Where: Park Avenue Armory, New York

When: March 15–16, 2019

Over 200 American and international dealers will exhibit at the ABAA New York International Antiquarian Book Fair, bringing a vast selection of rare books, maps, manuscripts, illuminated manuscripts and ephemera. The diversity of specialties includes art, medicine, literature, photography, autographs, first editions, Americana, and much more. This book fair is officially sanctioned by the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America and the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers. This means that the consumer can rely upon the experience and professionalism of participating dealers and the authenticity of the items available for purchase.

Where: Blalock Park, Venice, Florida

www.nyantiquarianbookfair.com/

National Black Writers Conference Biennial Symposium When: March 23, 2019, 11:00 AM–9:30 PM Where: Brooklyn, New York The theme of the 2019 National Black Writers Conference Biennial Symposium, “Playwrights and Screenwriters at the Crossroads,” centers on some of the challenges, subjects, and processes for getting the published written word from one medium to the other. The program will also focus on how racial politics influence not only literary writing but also playwriting and screenwriting. www.centerforblackliterature.org

Venice Book Fair and Writers Festival is a unique event, featuring writing and publishing workshops, and a special day when local and national authors sell and sign books at a festival market in beautiful Blalock Park in downtown Venice, Florida. Our Friday Writers Festival will include presentations to help writers hone their skills and sell their books. The Saturday Book Fair is free and open to the public. www.venicebookfair.com/

London Book Fair When: March 12–14, 2019 Where: Earls Court Exhibition Centre, London, United Kingdom The London Book Fair is the global marketplace for rights negotiation and the sale and distribution of content across print, audio, TV, film, and digital channels. In 2019, LBF will celebrate its 48-year anniversary. Staged annually, LBF sees more than 25,000 publishing professionals arrive in London for the week of the fair to learn, network, and kick off their year of business. The London Book Fair sits at the heart of London Book & Screen Week, which will take place from the March 11–17, 2019.

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Oxford Conference for the Book When: March 27- 29, 2019 Where: Oxford, Mississippi This year’s Oxford Conference for the Book includes sessions on Southern foodways, Appalachian studies, poetry, creative nonfiction, Mississippi and Southern history, gender studies, and biography, among other topics. OCB partner Square Books will host several sessions of author readings and conversations. www.oxfordconferenceforthebook.com

Emirates Airline Festival of Literature When: March 1–9, 2019 Where: The InterContinental Hotel, Dubai Festival City, UAE

AWP Conference & Bookfair When: March 27–30, 2019

www.emirateslitfest.com

www.londonbookfair.co.uk

This event is an essential destination for writers, teachers, students, editors, and publishers. The Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) is a nonprofit literary organization that provides

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www.awpwriter.org/awp_conference/

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is the Arab world’s largest celebration of the written and spoken word. The Festival has grown continually, and in 2018, hosted over 180 authors from 50 countries to entertain and educate 41,000 visitors. The festival places home-grown talent center stage and offers local fans the chance to interact with world-famous authors, attend literary debates and workshops, and participate in competitions.

Where: Oregon Convention Center, Portland, Oregon

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support, advocacy, resources, and community to nearly 50,000 writers, 500 college and university creative writing programs, and 125 writers' conferences and centers.


WRITER’S CORNER

Events, Conferences, Awards

Paris Book Fair

Cinequest Film Festival

When: March 15–18, 2019

When: March 5–17, 2019

Where: Paris, France

Where: San Jose and Redwood City, California

Attend France's largest book event and share your editorial inheritance with more than 155,000 visitors. The Paris Book Fair is a must-attend event for book industry actors: about 30,000 professionals are coming to discuss their trade's issues. Livre Paris wishes this year to celebrate the richness and diversity of Europe's literary heritage by putting Europe in the spotlight. Editorialized around the following guideline "writers facing the world," the event is anchored in the latest literary and editorial news. www.livreparis.com

The story and legacy of Cinequest is bringing together the Silicon Valley’s technologies and spirit of innovation with the arts to empower great creations—and connecting audiences, youth, artists, and innovators with these creations and with each other, improving our lives and our future. https://www.cinequest.org/film-festival

Toronto Short Film Festival When: March 11–15, 2019 Where: Carlton Cinema, Toronto, Canada

FILM FESTIVALS

Pink Film Days When: March 14-22 2019 Where: The Ketelhuis cinema, Westergasfabriek / Westerpark, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Toronto Short will return to the Carlton Cinema for a fifth year of celebrating the very best of international short filmmaking. Join us for a week of screenings and networking events

at the Carlton Cinema, with ample opportunities for short filmmakers to showcase their achievements, learn from fellow filmmakers, and build contacts for future collaborations, all in the heart of vibrant filmmaking Toronto. www.torontoshort.com

Portland International Film Festival When: March 7 — 21, 2019 Where: Portland, Oregon Drawing an audience of 38,000, the Portland International Film Festival (PIFF) is the biggest film event in Oregon, premiering more than 140 international shorts and feature films to Portland audiences annually. Audiences can experience a variety of parties, visiting artists, and plenty of festival adventure taking in this feast of cinematic fare. www.nwfilm.org

The Roze Filmdagen (meaning "Pink Film Days") is the longest running and largest film festival for LGBTQ films in the Netherlands. The selection of films includes LGBTQ related romantic comedies, provoking documentaries and everything in between. For this 2019 edition, we expect over 10,000 visitors who will enjoy over 125 films (feature films, shorts and documentaries) from around 40 different countries in 135 screenings. The festival also curates LGBTQ programs for several other international festivals. www.filmfreeway.com/RozeFilmdagenAmsterdamLGBTQFilmFestival

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Profile for newreadermagazine

New Reader Magazine Vol. 1 Issue 4, "Reclaiming Myths"  

New Reader Magazine proudly presents our final issue for the year 2018, “Reclaiming Myths.” This issue we concern ourselves with mythmaking...

New Reader Magazine Vol. 1 Issue 4, "Reclaiming Myths"  

New Reader Magazine proudly presents our final issue for the year 2018, “Reclaiming Myths.” This issue we concern ourselves with mythmaking...

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