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Vol. 2 Issue 7 New York London Hong Kong Philippines

HERALD


New Reader Magazine September 2019 | Vol. 2 Issue 7 COVER IMAGE

Mark Anthony Gelig "This and That" Mark is a freelance visual artist, musician and photographer. Currently, he's testing his potential talent in using gouache paint and watercolor. You can follow his quest in Instagram @markgelig CREATIVE STAFF Lead Editor

: Kyla Estoya

Layout Artist

: Iain Yu

Publicist

: Kota Yamada, TJ Delima

Researcher

: Rosielyn Herrera, Marjon Gonato

John Paul Vailoces

Production & Features : Celina Paredes, Jazie Pilones,

Neil Gabriel Nanta, Rio Lim,

Sarah Eroy, Gifthir Elmido,

Jarryl Ibrahim, Joi Villablanca

Frank Go, Rey A. Ilejay

CONTRIBUTORS

David R. James, Gale Acuff, Fabrice B. Poussin, John Grey, Devin Guthrie, Celma Lougredo, Josh Pearce, Tim Kahl, Niles Reddick, Marquise Williams, Sharon Frame Gay, Gal Slonim, Hareendran Kallinkeel, James Snowden, Robert Villanueva, Jack Cooey, Alan Irid Fendi, Claudia Spiridon, Mark Anthony Gelig MARKETING AND ADVERTISING

Laurence Anthony laurence.anthony@newreadermagazine.com

SUBSCRIPTIONS

subscription@newreadermagazine.com www.newreadermagazine.com Phone: 1 800 734 7871 Fax: (914) 265 1215 Write to us: 100 Church St. Suite 800 New York, NY 10007 ISSN 2688-8181

All Rights Reserved


NOTE You may have heard it through a song. You may have caught a glimpse of it while watching your favorite movie. You may have seen signs from the Universe. Some time ago, you probably have heard your calling. Possibly, one two o’clock ago, you found yourself crying in bed and getting angry at yourself for writing the most embarrassing piece of work that you published. In your mind only one thing rings true, and like a neon sign, it flickers on and off and sends a repeating message: I am a failure. Your eyes fixed on your friend’s hair tie around your wrist. You think of him for a second. Earlier that day he said, and you remember this, that if you say sike out loud— whatever you said first loses its power. So there you are, feeling the displeasing voice inside your head again: I am a failure, it whispered. So under your breath, you said something else: “Sike.” This quarter’s issue celebrates the people and other things that has brought us both good and bad tidings. Deep in our hearts we know that they have made a big influence in who we are and what we are now. As we draw closer to the end of another year, allow me to pay tribute to all the unsung heroes— — heroes like you, Dear Reader. I wish you revel in reading this month’s journal. And for those who are waiting for a harbinger, I hope you find something in between these pages.

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Contents Feature 08 Contributor's Corner (Poetry): Farbrice Poussin JAZIE PILONES

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10 Contributor's Corner (Fiction): Jack Coey GIFTHIR ELMIDO

15 Chasing Waves KYLA ESTOYA

18 Foretelling and Strengthening Bonds: Kita 3 CELINA PAREDES

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22 SOAR HIGH

Piloting Your Film Career Through Film Labs

NEIL GABRIEL NANTA

Writer’s Corner 123 Events, Conferences, Etc.

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74 New Reader Media 09 Nancy Foshee SARAH ANNE

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

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Featured Bookstores 100

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06 Broad Street Books Beach Town Books


Fiction 27 We’re Not Moving to Maine A Peddler Wig NILES REDDICK

39 No Electric in 5150 MARQUISE WILLIAMS

43 Rubber Daises What? JACK COOEY

55 Spark of Life SHARON FRAME GAY

64 A Stroke of Luck

74 Shining of the Eternal Light HAREENDRAN KALLINKEEL

83 Emmitt’s Homecoming Runs Into Second Act Problems JAMES SNOWDEN

94 Love and Betrayal in the First Person Past Perfect Tense

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ROBERT VILLANUEVA

106 Listless ALAN IRID FENDI

112 Hunt CLAUDIA SPIRIDON

GAL SLONIM

Poetry 32 On Not Being In Bangladesh Couldn’t Be Happier Let It Go, Buddha DAVID R. JAMES

52 Vision of Love GALE ACUFF

58 On the Walls of the Old Fort Drinking Her Essence Virgin Land FABRICE B. POUSSIN

69 ROMANCE FOR A SUNDAY AFTERNOON THE WORD OF A FISH PLAYING THE CONCERTINA JOHN GREY

78 If You Value Your Life Circular Thinking DEVIN GUTHRIE

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89 Dead Fish Motel Drama Figs CELMA LOUGREDO

101 Please Hang Up and Try Again Semi-Rigible People Slaves to the Weather

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JOSH PEARCE

109 Identitarians Give In to the Drift TIM KAHL

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Featured Bookstores

Broad Street Books Buying and selling books since 1998, Broad Street Books has the largest selection of quality used books in Sussex County, NJ. They are an independent book store specializing in a wide variety of used non-fiction books, children & young adult literature, leatherbound classics and CDs. Visit them at their location in the beautiful downtown Branchville. Or online at www.broadstreetbooks.com

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Featured Bookstores

Beach Town Books Beach Town Books is a charming bookstore in the heart of downtown San Clemente where every book has been loved before...by someone. It has been in town for over 40 years now and is currently owned by the Langstons since 2016. They offer an amazing selection of new and used books in almost every genre, over 70,000 titles! Come and have a cup of coffee while you wander the aisles to find a book that will inspire, enlighten or intrigue you. They even give store credit for donations. Enjoy their peaceful atmosphere and over 20 comfy places to sit in Orange Counties' favorite bookstore. They are located at 99 Avenida Serra, San Clemente, CA 92672. Whether you are a local, visiting the area or live anywhere in Orange County, San Diego or Southern California for that matter, come see their quaint bookstore, walking distance from the beach, it's worth the drive! Go to their website www. beachtownbooks.com, follow them on Instagram and Facebook or contact them at (949) 492-1114.

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Contributor's Corner

NRM: How long ago was it before you discovered your passion for writing? Did writing help you grow as an individual? Fabrice Poussin: For some reason I always enjoyed writing even long before I read other writers. When I was in middle school I always received compliments on my writing and in highschool I was also getting the highest marks. I was not quite sure why, but apparently my words pleased in the way I put them together. When I was 16 I was in school I detested and that Is when I began writing novels. It gave me the freedom I needed, and allowed me to be more than what school would. I never, however, took it seriously. I enjoyed it and shared it, as a gift to those who cared to read it. My writing is me, as my photography. I suppose I like to give some of me for free in a subtle way. As I write I continue to discover myself, to ask questions and also to let the words come together a little bit outside of my control. NRM: What is one thing in life that inspires and persuades you to write and pushes you everyday to keep on writing? FP: I would have to say it is a desire to get closer to the truth of what the universe means.

NRM: Can you tell us more about your style and your theme? FP: I will have to say that, at this time, my style is fairly consistent, although I would like to change it. I do not believe that I am truly in charge of the lines I bring to life. There is an idea, a theme; I begin to write and watch what happens. Often what develops is far from what I planned. My theme, silly as it may sound, is really love, and the search for it through a whisper (the poem) which I hope can reach to the far side of the universe. NRM: Which of your poems are you most proud of? Can you give us your favorite line? FP: I don’t know about pride, content yes, proud no! I will simply choose of the three in this small series, and it will be “Virgin Land.” I pick the last two lines of this poem as my favorites here. The poem and the lines (as would be for the poem entitled “Drinking Her Essence”) focus on my observation of the aloneness which a dear friend experiences. Too young for a last farewell she lies a virgin land in the desert. NRM: What part of yourself is revealed in your poetry? How much of your work speaks for you? FP: Shall I say all of me? In a sense yes, but I am careful. I do express some of my most desperate longings, but I do this in a slightly masked way. After all I don’t mind saying how lonely I may be at times, but I don’t want to seem so weak or pathetic. Every line speaks for me, whether it be through texts which observe our neighborhoods, those which attempt to understand the universe or the screams I throw into deep pace hoping they will carry on forever or reach a welcoming host.

FABRICE POUSSIN INTVW BY JAZIE PILONES 8

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How much of your experiences shape who you are as a creative? FP: Although this response may seem cliché I do have to admit it is loss and longing. Being abandoned may be the most notable experience. I have often compared it to that of a puppy who would be left alone at rush hour in the middle of speeding cars on an eightlane highway. It leaves a very large and deep void which must be filled; that is a very strong stimulant for writing. NRM: What is your advice for aspiring writers and poets out there? FP: I have a number of students in a group I sponsor. I tell them to pay attention to everything around them at all times, every detail. Then I ask what it may mean to them, what connection they can find with the scene or object they see. But most of all they must remain alert to all things; they must be great witnesses to what happens around them, let those things become part of them, and let the meeting of those details with their innermost being guide their writing. They must let go of the need to control what they create, let it become pleasure and not become task.


Featured Author | New Reader Media

Nancy Foshee INTVW BY SARAH ANNE

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ancy Foshee toured Fort McHenry as a child and those memories were prominent as she researched more about the War of 1812 to write O’er the Ramparts. Having spent so much of her childhood on Army bases, Nancy Foshee learns to adapt various communities in the United States and abroad. Foshee has chosen to write stories within the genre of classic romantic literature because she was an English and American history teacher to high school and elementary students. New Reader Magazine had the chance to interview Nancy Foshee to discuss her work and her role as a writer in society. NRM: When did you fall in love with writing? Did you always want to be a writer? Which writers influence your style in writing? NF: I fell in love with story-telling when I was a child. My fourth grade teacher steered me toward reading biographies, and I found myself fascinated with the different places and times I could visit just by reading. I wrote stories myself from junior high on. And I read books that combined history with biography. But of all the writers, I think Jane Austen was my favorite. She wrote about women at a time when female characters had to be subservient. Elizabeth Bennett was my absolute favorite. She was aware of the restrictions placed upon her because she was female, but she didn't let that keep her from saying or doing what she felt was best.

NRM: How did O'er the Ramparts start? NF: I had already written Fort Douglas, though it hadn't been published yet when I decided I wanted to write about the battle at Fort McHenry. I did my research by reading several nonfiction books about the battle and about the War of 1812. I settled on a story that would place a young woman at the center of the conflict with her own personal life in turmoil. That way her life could mirror the conflict between the fort and the British.

period. I hope that when people read any of my novels, they gain a window into the period being described. NRM: Are you working on something else right now? NF: Currently, no, because I have been focused on this new edition of O'er the Ramparts. But I am really interested in researching Marjorie Post for my next project. I don't know yet whether I will write another historical fiction which includes her or if I will consider writing a biography instead.

NRM: In writing your books, are your themes or style consistent? NF: All of the five novels I have written place independent women in the center of conflict at a time when women were not expected to be heroic. Women did not even have the right to vote until 1920, and yet American women worked just as hard as men to settle our country. I want my stories to spotlight this fact with the fictional women I create. NRM: What do you think is the role of a writer in society? NF: Just as Jane Austen did, I think writers are needed to catalog the values and manners consistent with our history. That is one thing I try hard to do when I write about a period other than my own. I want to describe the manners, values, and expectations of that

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Contributor's Corner

ack Jcoey GIFTHIR ELMIDO

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Fiction

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writer is a reader: there's a unique relationship between the word and imagination that is not possible any other way. When the reader reads about Ebenezer Scrooge, he takes the printed word and alchemizes Scrooge in his imagination: particular to that certain reader: no two Scrooges are the same. Not so with movies or TV. Scrooge is given to the watcher and his imagination is dormant and all Scrooges are the same. It is the individual exercise of imagination that is desirable in the reader and writer. I would say that's the writer's talent: his particular and unique view of the world and the ability to express it with some facility of eloquence. A writer is most likely a divergent thinker and it is often his first thought is that's the most obvious, the most conventional. This speaks to revision which allows the opportunity to take a blatant thought and make it more subtle: give more specificity and nuance. This is the process of writing. It's more than expressing yourself: it's expressing yourself in a way never seen before. Vocabulary is a tool for giving the writer more variety in how he says something and the nicety of saying it in a nonobvious way. There is a mysterious aspect of writing: the non-composing time when the writer is engaged in activity which is divorced from writing. Shopping, mowing the lawn, doing laundry: tasks which are modestly demanding so that part of your brain is working when BHAM! the idea comes. Often times, I break out in a selfsatisfied grin and my wife will say, "What's so funny?" "Oh, nothing," I answer. NRM: How would you describe yourself as a writer? Jack Coey: I’m a do-it-yourself reader that believes there’s an intimate relationship between reading and writing; that writing evolves from reading. Reading exercises the imagination like running for the athlete. I learn how to

write from reading other writers; their creation inspires me to create. NRM: When did you discover your passion for writing? JC: I started out as an actor and discovered I felt a contentment or harmony when I wrote. Your passion, whatever it may be, makes you feel a certain way which nothing else does. You’ll know it when you feel it. I want young people to know this more than anything for it is true contentment and the best way to live in my view. There’s a lot of obstacles to living a creative life but there’s no joy like it either. You have the privilege of creating what didn't exist before. NRM: How do you stay inspired in creating stories for your readers? JC: When I was a young actor in New York, I did a scene in which I had difficulty with the character. The acting teacher said to me: “You have to find something about this character that appeals to your imagination.” I’ve never forgotten appeals to your imagination. Ideas don’t come on schedule. Writers I’ve been told have higher idea production that say a bank teller. Still it takes patience: you have to wait until you get an idea that appeals to your imagination and only then will you be able to write with conviction. NRM: What and Rubber Daisies revolves around the story of an actor trying to make it in the industry. Why choose this theme? JC: The acting theme is based on my experience. Faulkner said a writer needs three things: experience, observation and imagination. NRM: How do you translate your own life experiences into your writings? Does it make storytelling easier or harder? JC: A writer should have an inventory, as it were, of what he can write about. All the great writers I’ve read have all

written about what they've lived in a visceral way. They're writing from their gut. Faulkner about the South, Dickens about London, and Steinbeck about migrant workers in California. You can try and fake this, but it won’t work. I can’t write about being in combat, but I can write about being at an audition. NRM: In Rubber Daisies, you’ve mentioned that showbiz is about creating illusions. Even with this fact, why do you think people still follow it? JC: Humans need the solace of illusion to relieve themselves of reality much like getting drunk or high. It also allows humans to explore possibilities without limitations: someone watched a bird fly before the airplane. Pursuing illusions is the great difference between an open society and a repressive one: a repressive society can't afford illusions. NRM: Both of your works ended with subtle revelations. How important is ending a good story? JC: A story works when the writer creates a reality: period. His audience suspends disbelief and enters into the world created from the imagination and eloquence of the writer. The more real the story, the better told it is and so I always try and make the progression of events in the story subtle, logical and with a greater tension leading to the climax. Just like sex. (Who wouldn't want to be a writer?). NRM: If you could meet the 7-year old you, what advice would you give him? JC: There are two questions in life: what work will you do and who will you live with. Find your natural abilities and do that for the emotional engagement that only that can bring . Who you live with? Only you have the answer to that.

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Artist Profile

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Arts and Culture | USA

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Artist Profile

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Arts and Culture | USA

CHASING WAVES KYLA ESTOYA

Cruising down the roads of sunny Los Angeles, you’re bound to hear your next summer’s anthem on the radio; it opens with a groovy bass line that gently builds up to where a guitar takes you by the hand and lifts you up to a rock-steady rhythm of the drums. Just when you think your day is getting better, you hear a soulful voice singing — you have fallen in love again

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usic teleports you to places. When an exceptionally poetic flair is paired with electrifying melodies, suddenly you’re not just simply riding a bus home or working inside the office anymore. Elements come together and your anxiety falls apart. While writing this article, Vista Kicks’ songs are on loop and is being played in the background. I am somewhere safe and happy. Derek Thomas (vocals), Sam Plecker (lead guitar), Trevor Sutton (bass) and Nolan Le Vine (drums) are the men behind the spell I’ve fallen under. There was a six-hour time difference between me and the boys. Momentous occasions like these, however, did not withstand Skype’s mandatory way of greeting someone in a video call: can you hear me? Nonetheless, I was electrified and it grew even more when we finally started talking to each other. Growing up in the same neighborhood in Roseville, CA, these longtime friends have been making music since they were teenagers. It’s not surprising to believe that they even

made a unified decision to drop college all together. Inside their crammed onebedroom apartment, this quartet has poured all of their creative juices into making notable songs like Gotta Get Away, Marceline and Chasing Waves. Press play and you are swept off your feet. The vocals are heartfelt, bass lines are funky, drums are punchy and guitar solos? They are satisfying. “I think the main thing that influenced us in music are the bands we listen to and how we were raised when we were growing up,” Sam says, “Our parents were always encouraging when it comes to music. In terms of that, I guess we were really lucky and that kind of inspired us in doing what we’re doing now.” Influenced by rock legends from the 60s and 70s, they experimented with pop beats, groovy rhythm and blues vibe into their tracks. A music reviewer even dubbed them as seriously talented musicians that very much stretch the boundaries of classified music. When I first heard of this band, I couldn’t get enough of their song Gimme Love. There was a familiar feeling in that song that I can’t put words to it.

Unquestionably, I knew I wanted to dance, sing and have a wonderful time. “We like performing a lot of our songs live and seeing the crowd enjoy it is pretty cool,” Derek says, “We like to keep them entertained. As musicians, we believe that connecting people through our music is our main goal.” I interviewed VK during a time where they had just finished their UK Tour in June. For the past years, they have done numerous gigs and headlining appearances. This summer alone, they have opened for their heroes Bob Dylan and Neil Young in a sold-out concert in London’s Hyde Park. A few weeks after that, they played for Rolling Stones’ Stones No Filter Tour at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA.

We feel like we’re not limited in expressing ourselves NEW READER MAGAZINE

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Artist Profile

We make sure that everything you see about us is the real us They are living the dream. “We were very excited to watch them [Dylan and Young] play live. A lot of people— friends and family— have asked us what it’s like to have a moment like this and we always react the same way: we’re speechless.

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There’s no exact word to describe the feeling other than being speechless,” Derek emphasized. Evidently, getting to where they are now did not happen overnight. According to the band, a lot of dedication and sacrifice were put into their music career. “Everybody wants to be a rock star but no one wants to put in a little sacrifice like living in a small apartment with four other people,” Sam said and smiled to his co-members. Letting go of a comfortable life and taking big risks made these guys successful. Last year, they released two of their tracks in the public domain. This means

that anyone can use the songs freely because no copyright comes with it. Exploring the power of releasing music for the love of art was one of the most consequential things they have done. And they made it possible by making their songs accessible to their listeners. This liberating act empowered them to keep believing in themselves and push their limit. “It’s nice having this kind of freedom in the music industry and to us that’s important. Being in a band, we get to do whatever we think is good for our growth or exposure. We feel like we’re not limited in expressing ourselves and I think we’re in good hands,” Sam emphasized.


Arts and Culture | USA

Another significant thing that sets Vista Kicks apart from the norm is their passion in letting their audience take part in their creative process and journey. Wholesome posts to and from their fans are all over their social media pages and it’s definitely heart-warming. In their YouTube channel, you can find an eight-part series of how they made their album Booty Shakers Ball. From witnessing how they record every component of their song to getting updates on their Vista Garden— they documented everything. “It’s something natural,” according to the band’s guitarist, “There’s something about capturing moments through a camera

and we make sure that everything you see about us is the real us. Filming is something we do all the time because it’s one way to connect us to our audience and it’s also something that shows our growth.” By doing this, they reveal who they are as a band and as individuals— endlessly evolving. No one really knows what the future will be like for Vista Kicks. If there’s one thing I learned from talking to these talented people, it’s enjoying every moment you have in the present. “The thing is, we have our current records and we’re trying to wrap it up with Twenty Something Nightmare. For the rest of 2019, we’re looking into doing

US tours and maybe try to make another record, we’re not sure yet. We like what we’re doing now and we’re enjoying the fact that we’re actually doing something.” When it comes to how they want to be remembered, the mere fact that people will still be playing their music would suffice. And although, Vista Kicks might want you to do the boogie or jam to their songs, it’s safe to say that the kind of thing they offer to the table is purely made with love. Yes, you sing along and yes, you are banging your head to the rhythm of the drums but know this—as silly as it may sounds— you are taken you to an oasis and you are enjoying every bit of it for sure.

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Features

Bo Suk Lee

Foretelling and Strengthening Bonds: Kita 3 AN ART DIARY BY CELINA PAREDES

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ince 2012, the Kita Art Exchange Program has been a collaborative event for artists from different countries to take turns visiting each other; holding workshops, artist talks and exhibits. The idea started with Balinese and Cebuano artists who agreed to have ‘Kita’ as the title of the activity since it was based on a common word that means ‘we’. Seeing the success of the last two Kita events in bringing countries together for a sharing of art and friendship, it became customary for them to have a third one.

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Arts and Culture | Southeast Asia

The participation of artists outside the Southeast Asian region shows that the original notion of solidarity and kinship implied in the title is ever growing This year, for the first time, the participation of artists moved outside Southeast Asia to Mauritius Island, United States and Korea. Artist-writer Radel Paredes says, “The participation of artists outside the Southeast Asian region shows that the original notion of solidarity and kinship implied in the title is ever growing. “ New Reader Magazine had the opportunity to cover the event for its duration. Being assigned, I was able to catch the artists setting up at the gallery for the grand opening. Malaysian representative Queenie Chow had come back for the second time now. She displayed cups and pots made from an intricate process of using fine water molecules and trace minerals designed to enhance and speed up the brew. Holding a sample piece made by her uncle, Queenie shares, “See how fine the work is? Even this part, you can see the perspective. They had to be skillful enough to do this. Sometimes they hire special people for it.” The knowledge of clay and firing, as Queenie says, makes it able to achieve perfection.

The method called ‘reduction’ involves shrinking the pot while the firing process changes its color. There were also contemporary works of Manila representatives Jik Villanueva and Buds Convocar, US representatives Jerry Salinas and Ronald Cortez and Cebu representatives Jun Impas, Celso Pepito, Radel Paredes and Adeste Deguilmo. These include sculptures, paintings and collage works using various media.

Beside the gallery is a small shop that sells local items. South Korean artist Bo Suk Lee who was looking through the items shared that they had just gone to a museum that day and that she found interest in locally weaved bags. Bo Suk and I walk back to the gallery to view her works. Hidden along the patterns in her painting, are numbers and the alphabet from different countries. An example is the word Arirang which means Korean history.

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Features

Ecstasy in Faith

The Virgins and the Birds

Bo Suk’s typography and forms have a story to tell. She says, “There are meanings inside: every letter, English or Korean. Here, (pointing to a part of her work), is a beautiful village and also trees. White color porch tree tells about the village. It’s Korean traditional culture: storytelling.” Coming from Reunion Island, Charly Lesquelin explains to me his works as well. The falling giant prominent in his painting represents ‘humans’. Charly says, ‘Only man controlled the world and they made many mistakes.’ The ladies surrounding the giant represent

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women, in reference to a French poet who believes that women are the future of the world. “My Baby is an Island”, another work by Charly, is a mystical earth woman holding her baby, which reflects Charly’s origin as coming from an island. Charly explains, “If you make a mistake, the baby can die and you die at the same time. “ The works of Charly about nature aim to give a happy help, as he remains positive that the world can become a better place. Charly’s ‘The Virgins and the Birds’ is coincidentally similar to Adeste

Deguilmo’s painting ‘Ecstasy in Faith’. Even though the two haven’t met before, they’re both painters who share a love for music and wearing hats. At six o’clock on the 4th of July, Qube Gallery officially opened the Kita-3 Art Exhibit in celebration of the coming together of different countries to extend the growing global art scene. Palm Grass Hotel also gave their support by holding a following exhibit at the hotel showcasing works and collage and monotype prints made by the participating artists from a printmaking workshop days


Arts and Culture | Southeast Asia

Life involves a cycle of construction and deconstruction. Working with the environment made me understand nature better before. Angel Angoh, Mauritius Island representative, shared how much she enjoyed the activity. She loves telling stories in her head, which shows in her monotype prints. “When I keep telling these stories, the forms appear.� Cherry on top: sketching sessions were inserted in between our itinerary! The artists had some of their loved ones pose in front of the group while they were focused on sketching. During the weekend, Adeste welcomed his artist friends to his studio where they had another art session. I was able to join them on one afternoon of plein air and art installation at Maribago Bluewater Sumilon. While some artists painted the view, others made use of found materials from nature in honor of the natural cycle of life; the ephemeral. Though the activity was simple, the process seems to mirror life and the way it involves a cycle of construction and deconstruction. Working with the environment made me understand nature better. After the activity, the artists donated some of their works to the resort owner, who happily received them. The rest of the days that followed consisted of some more sight-seeing, karaoke, shopping and egress of artworks in preparation for the departure of the international artists. When the foreign artists made their way back, the Cebuano artists continued the exhibit up until the 31st of July. They also held an artist talk at Qube Gallery for the art lovers and friends who are eager to learn more about art and on pursuing it as a career.

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Features

Lecturer: Alemberg Ang (Producer | Philippines)

SOAR HIGH

Piloting Your Film Career Through Film Labs NEIL GABRIEL NANTA

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LY Film Lab 2019 is an ASEANROK cooperative project by Busan Film Commission, supported by Asian Film Commissions Network, and in partnership with the Film Development Council of the Philippines. I’ve attended all lectures in the FLY Film Lab 2019 and have created a surprisingly dependable guide from my scattered notes for you: an aspiring filmmaker.

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Ever since I attended film school, I never really thought of myself as someone who will work in the local or international film industry. I honestly find the whole thing too overwhelming and intimidating. There is a lot at stake on a legitimate production. After all, this is still a business and a lot of money is involved: the elaborate set designs, the expensive equipment, the fastpaced, sleep-deprived, caffeine-induced

workers— it’s all too crazy. Yet despite the madness, many filmmakers tend to forget all the grueling shooting hours and all the mental breakdowns as they watch the truly rewarding final cut of their film. The way most film industries work is people to have a name for themselves. If you’re new to this industry, regardless of talent, the big guys will never cash in on you. And it’s completely reasonable.


Arts and Culture | Philippines

This business works on meritocracy. You have to start from the bottom, prove yourself, and work your way to the top. Beef up your filmography. Network with important people. Volunteer on your country’s international film festivals and network once again. And most of all, hustle twice as hard if you want to be noticed. One possible—and helpful— way for filmmakers to actualize their projects is through film labs. There’s a catch, though: you have to offer something unique and fresh to the table. Having international themes based on local customs is an added bonus to get into film labs. Incorporating daring and taboo subjects matter help as well as tackling relevant social topics. And most of all, figure out if your film has an audience for it. The further you are in the development of your script, the higher the chance you’ll get into film labs. Once chosen, you will have the chance to learn the ins-and-outs of film production as well as some of the most useful and juiciest industry secrets.

These labs provide brilliant mentors that will teach you the business side of cinema as you get funding from potential investors. This year, the FLY Film Lab has selected diverse talents of directors and producers from the ten ASEAN member nations and the Republic of Korea. The chosen filmmakers with their featurelength projects are given the chance to strengthen their competitiveness with the help of renowned mentors to increase the capability of transforming their scripts into films.

You have to offer something unique and fresh to the table

It’s a win-win for the film lab and the filmmakers. These filmmakers get the necessary input and push they need. In the fortunate event of their film getting successful, critically and commercially, the lab gets to boast the successful filmmakers who have undergone their incubator. I was fortunate enough to be invited to all the afternoon lectures brought to you by FLY 2019. The way these mentors examine a script takes a lot of examination regarding the purpose and drive of the story’s characters and events. The writers must be able to answer the questions being asked because if they don’t know the answers to their own work, then the problem usually lies there. The ultimate goal of the mentors is for the writers to make sense of their own stories making it their truly own. If the first and last five pages of the screenplay captures the attention of important investors and potential collaborators, then they will read your screenplay. This industry is constantly busy. Your screenplay is a good selling

Moderator: Remton Siega Zuasola (Director | Philippines) | Lecturers: Trey Ellis (Screenplay Writer, Associate Professor at Columbia University | USA) Marietta von Hausswolff von Baumgarten (Screenplay Writer, Script Consultant | Sweden) © Film Development Council of the Philippines

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The ultimate goal of the mentors is for the writers to make sense of their own stories making it their truly own point when asking for funding. Having a strong start will keep your readers engaged and intrigued by how your story will unfold. Screenwriting is trial and error. It takes years to develop a good screenplay. You have to search for meaning: actors, scenes, locations, and other things utilized by your characters in the story. This will help you uncover something you might have missed the first time you were writing the story. With regards to criticism, always be understandable and treat all criticism as something constructive. It’s valid to get emotional knowing all the time and effort you put into it. Be obsessive with your script and treat it like it’s your baby. Because it is. Traveling to different countries for film labs, project market, and film festivals are a rich man’s game. The flight and accommodation fees. The ridiculous exchange rate for daily expenses. It’s all too much. But if you think that your project can stand a chance, then give it a try. Surround yourself with experienced people who can help you. Research more. Have a solid director-producer tandem. And most of all, have the heart and keep your passion burning.

I fell in love with films when I was very young. Growing up, I adored so many movies and I'm sharing some of my favorite ones:

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015) Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

Eighth Grade (2018) Directed by Bo Burnham

No Country for Old Men (2007) Directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen

The End of the Tour (2015) Directed by James Ponsoldt

Григорий Жарков © 123RF.com

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Y Tu Mamá También (2001) Directed by Alfonso Cuarón

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alexzaitsev © 123RF.com

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Fiction

We’re Not Moving to Maine NILES REDDICK

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fter my heart attack, I decided I better get moving, stop procrastinating, and see what I wanted to before a second one came along and took me out. At the top of my list was a trip to Northern Maine to see the Aurora borealis. I knew there was a simple explanation for the scientific phenomena, electrically charged particles from the sun entering the Earth’s atmosphere, but the light show was beautiful, filled with a variety of colors: red, yellow, green, blue, and violet. The lights formed patches, clouds, streaming arcs, rippling curtains, or shooting rays that lit up the sky and glowed better than starlight, moonlight, or even a shooting star. We had flown to Portland from D.C., rented an RV, and camped by a lake a few hours north of Bangor. We made a fire, had hot chocolate, and roasted marshmallows. My wife Tina and I talked about life as a funnel, how as we spiral through time to our own end, how we lose friends and relatives, how we lose material things, and how we seem to need less. The lights, though, express for us the mystery and awe that for historical people who had seen the lights must have been overcome with a sense of spiritual power. That ancient DNA lived on in us, and we felt much the same as they must have felt, except we understood the science of it. At sunset, our teens were by the lake and threw rocks into the water, seeing who could skim a stone the farthest. When Teresa and Tim walked back up the hill to camp, I had to tell them to turn off their phones, sit back, and marvel at these lights. They’d likely never see them again in their lives back in Maryland, but they were bored. I just hoped they’d remember them one day and find them a positive memory. They hoped to see a moose by the lake or maybe a bear. I wanted to explain to them that animals were more interested in avoiding humans, but I didn’t want them to give up and go inside to watch Netflix on their iPads. I imagined the lights must be like other mysteries scientists haven’t quite figured out yet, like crop circles. Video captured balls of light floating and moving around fields and from the sky, we find elaborate geometric shapes. Of course, there were pranksters, but not all crop circles were pranks. In fact, most were not. Some speculated the crop circles may represent an unseen force attempting to communicate, but I imagined scientists will come to understand this natural phenomena that

has taken place for hundreds of years. One of the first accounts of the Northern lights a few hundred years ago was first thought to be a home was on fire in the distance followed by an assumption of judgement day the closer the lights appeared. We left the next morning and headed over to Bar Harbor and camped at the base of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. The teens certainly didn’t want to get up in the dark and hike to the summit with flashlights, but I wanted to watch the sunrise, the first place in the United States to see the sunrise at certain points of the year, but as the sun rose, I saw them snapping selfies that would surely end up on Instagram before we hiked back. In the distance, I thought I saw a spray of mist. It could have easily been a splash from a wave crashing against one of the many rocks jutting out of the water, but I told my Tina and the teens to grab the binoculars and see. They scanned the general direction in which I pointed and Teresa said, “Oh my God. It’s a whale.” No sooner had she said it than the beast soared out of the water and belly flopped and splashed. I’d read this behavior shocked fish and knew the whales must have come inland to feed. We sat on the bald rock formation and watch several others, including a small one, probably the size of a compact car. None of us had ever seen whales, and it was amazing, the icing on the proverbial cake from our Northern lights experience. When the whales had moved on, we hiked down and had our own breakfast. Our breakfast consisted of blueberry waffles, a lobster bake croissant, and a side of scrambled eggs with our dark roasted coffee and juice. It had to be one of the most unique breakfasts we’d ever had; the only conversation was “Mmm”, “This is delicious”, “Let’s move to Maine.” Seriously, I wanted to relocate. The natural beauty of the Northern lights, the whales, and even the puffins we had not spotted on land but hoped to see on a cruise later, were enough to make me want to go for it, but we were in mid-July and wearing light weight jackets. While we enjoyed a little snow every winter, it was a little, not several feet or below zero for months. Perhaps, if I would have taken that polar plunge when I was twenty-five years younger, my body might have adjusted, but sometimes, we accept the realization that earlier choices put us on a road where there were no U-turns.

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Yulia Yugina © 123RF.com

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A Peddler NILES REDDICK

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didn’t know his name, but I often saw him standing on the corner of 6th and 59th in Manhattan peddling bike rentals, or offering to chauffeur tourists in a Pedicab through Central Park, giving tours and commentary. He always greeted me: “Good morning, sir” and I greeted him, a nicety in a city that wasn’t socially cold, but fast-paced and busy. He knew my routine. First, I ducked into Starbuck’s, got coffee and The Times to go, and then made my way to the benches by the first bridge in the park, where I sipped and read until time to get back to the apartment for a shower and two block walk to the high rise, where I worked for a hotel management company that handled nine four- to five-star high rises in Manhattan. He’d been trained to look for the older ones, the tourists with canes or those who had a limp, or those who shuffled or were humped or crooked in some way. He had mocha skin, dark hair and eyes, an appreciative smile, and an accent that wasn’t overly heavy. He was also fit; the constant commute back and forth on his twenty-one speed from upper Manhattan back to the East Village must have helped sculpt muscle. That combined with his pedaling heavy tourists around the hills in the park kept him lean and young-looking. Periodically from my office, I saw him leaving at the end of his shift. He’d been in the city for at least twenty years, taking an opportunity to leave crowded and poverty stricken Nepal with his young bride for freedom and opportunity in America, enticing stories others peddled. He had worked two jobs, by day in the bicycle rental business and by evening as a cook at an Indian restaurant. He believed hard work would create a pathway to success for his two sons, one now at Fordham and the other at NYU, both in STEM fields. He also believed his sons might take care of him as his lean muscles turned to flab, and he became stooped and crooked like those he scanned for on a daily basis. I didn’t know all of that information until later, of course. After a couple of weeks of not seeing him, as I came out of Starbucks with my coffee in one hand and The Times in the other, I asked another bike peddler about him. “Yes, yes. Abikh.” He shook his head. “So sad. Killed on the way home to East Village on bike”. “I didn’t hear it on the news.” “Yes, yes, so sad. Two sons in university. Wife no work.” “Oh dear. Did your bike company do anything for him?”

“Don’t know. Need ride today, sir?” “No, thank you. Is the manager at the stand?” “Yes, yes, Sam. Guy with beard.” I first asked him how Abikh had died, and he said he was weaving in and out of traffic on his commuter bike to his second job at the restaurant in the East Village when an Escalade knocked him onto a Yellow cab and once the cab slammed on breaks, he was flung onto the sidewalk. He actually only had one broken bone, but he had a severe head injury, some brain swelling, and had been taken off life support. I’d seen injuries many times through the years—bike riders weaving in and out between a raging river of yellow taxis, tour buses, limos, all moving swiftly. New Yorkers were supposed to understand and respect the power of this river. None of the vehicles conformed to the rules signified by yellow lines and were squeezed in tight, sometimes two to a lane, side by side, so close a hand couldn’t fit between them. Near misses were frequent, most vehicles were dinged and dented, and horns blew constantly. The higher one’s apartment or office, the less one heard them at night, and I’d become accustomed to them so much so that if the lullaby stopped, I didn’t think I could sleep. I asked Sam what their bike company did for Abikh and he shared the family didn’t want flowers at the wake and hadn’t identified a charity. They collected about one hundred dollars and had given that to Abikh’s wife in an envelope. I told him I didn’t know Abikh personally, but had spoken to him for years on my walk to the park and wondered if there was anything I could do. He said he didn’t know, but gave me Abikh’s wife’s name and address. Abikh had come to be a part of my life, my routine, a part that had always been pleasant, and somehow now, it was less so, like a change in coffee brand, a newspaper not available on the stand, or a bench in the park moved that offered a different view. For several weeks, I thought seriously about what I might do, since I really didn’t know him or his family. Finally, I wrote a nice card to Abikh’s widow and sons, a card with Monet’s “Water Lilies” on the front that I picked up at the Museum of Modern Art, and I didn’t include a return address or my last name in my signature. The money order, too, was anonymous, but I knew it helped bridged the gap for them for at least six months.

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© 123RF.com

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Wig NILES REDDICK

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hen they found the lump in one breast, she figured it might be a fatty deposit due to high cholesterol. She had one in her arm and her leg and when she pushed around on her abdomen, she felt like there might be one there, too. Those were harmless signs of bad genes she inherited from her grandmother, but after the biopsy and the news that the lump was malignant, she worried. At forty-one, she couldn’t imagine death already knocking on the door, but there he was taking a breast and hoping for more. She imagined him not as the Grim Reaper all dressed in black and clutching a scythe, but as a horny teenage boy groping at her breast, trying to get in her jeans, stealing her virginity and innocence, and leaving her to pick up her own pieces and manage life. Rhonda didn’t know what her husband Tim would think, but she knew he would step in line, march to her every need, and fight and pray right alongside her. She didn’t know what her kids might think, both in high school and struggling with their school work and social lives. She didn’t mind the breast being cut off if it meant saving her life and she didn’t mind giving up the other one as a preventative. At least her chest would be even and aside from the scars, she imagined it would be like prepubescent all over again, more innocent and childlike. Rhonda handled the surgery as well as anyone, and the chemo didn’t scare her nearly as bad as throwing up, diarrhea, and the clumps of hair that came out in the shower and when she brushed her hair. Rhonda called Heather, her cosmologist who’d cut, permed, bleached, dyed and just about anything else to her hair through the years, including adding a feather at a point when that was in style. Heather agreed to see her at closing, so no one would be there and Rhonda had her head wrapped and tied in a colorful scarf. Heather complimented the scarf, untied it from her chin area, pulled it off, and exclaimed, “Honey, this isn’t as bad as you made it out to be, but let’s cut it really short, in case you lose more.” Rhonda began to cry, and Heather held her shoulders, put her head next to hers and told her she’d be fine. It was just another trial in the journey. When Heather had clipped most of what was left, she looked bald with less than a quarter of an inch hair in random patches. Rhonda knew the rest would come out, too. The chemo nurse had told her so, but the chemo nurse had also told Rhonda that when it grew back, it would be even better, prettier, and fuller than it had ever been

in her entire life, and Rhonda looked forward to that, maybe even a new color. Heather recommended “a fun wig” in the meantime from a store just around the corner, and Rhonda said she would try it. When she stepped into the wig store, she mused she had never noticed the store before, since she hadn’t needed to, and was amazed at the styles and high prices. This certainly wasn’t her grandmother’s wig store. At the end of her grandmother’s life, she had gone through chemo for pancreatic cancer, and while she hadn’t lasted a year, she did buy a wig, that looked like a wig. When her grandmother died, they couldn’t find it in the house and couldn’t imagine someone had stolen it or borrowed it, but when they cleaned the attic, there it was in the corner where a squirrel had made a nest out of it, and the Styrofoam head it rested on had fallen and lay on insulation between rafters. Rhonda found a cute blonde cut that had a bit of lift and spike to it, and the manager helped her try it on and view it from different angles in the mirrors. It looked real and natural to Rhonda and she said she’d take it. Co-workers, choir members at church, and even people she ran into at the grocery store complimented her new look, asked her how she was feeling and how treatment was going. Rhonda knew when they’d done surgery, the cancer was gone and wouldn’t be back. She was appreciative of insurance, her ability to buy time, and have such a supportive circle of family and friends. After chemo, check-ups, blood work, and scans the first year, she had a clean bill of health, her hair had come back a lighter color and Heather gave her a short bob cut. Rhonda felt good and finally put her wig and Styrofoam head in a box in her closet. She didn’t want to give it to the squirrels she knew were in her attic because of how much it cost and she knew one day, she might need it again.

Niles Reddick is the author of the novel Drifting Too Far From The Shore, a collection Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, and a novella Lead Me Home. His work has been featured in eleven anthologies/collections and in over two hundred literary magazines all over the world. His new collection Reading the Coffee Grounds was recently released.

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On Not Being In Bangladesh DAVID R. JAMES —I like writing about where I am. —BILLY COLLINS

I like writing about where I’m not, such as my colleague’s cottage standing empty along a pebbly shore, its insides—yes, knotty-pined, patina’d, I’m pretty sure— enjoying the respite between peopled summer weekends or the cushioned silence of winter’s drifts and desolation. Indeed, for me a good vacation wouldn’t be complete without the writing of a poem made possible by the time I might otherwise have spent cycling through Belarus or Montenegro or perhaps observing profoundly to my spouse, once more, and to everyone gathered at some seaside cheese market, that the tiny countries of Europe are to U.S. states what Cornish hens are to cuts of beef— just me if I were doing my part in re-embedding the ugly American. It is also a lot of fun simply imagining that advertised walking tour of Patagonia, whose vast, steppe-like plains, according to one encyclopedia, since I wouldn’t know from experience, terrace west toward the Andes, their barren shingle slowly giving way to porphyry and basalt (types of lava, FYI) and an increase in annual rain and vegetation. And since I’ve been told I should get away more, especially now with the recent re-inflation of a few of my arteries, here I don’t go to Slovenia, Guyana, Burkina Faso, to Trinidad and Tobago, Tanzania, to the Pacific islands once crushed by Portugal, Guido Vermeulen-Perdaen © 123RF.com

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to all the homes of the Uralic family of languages— Hungary, Finland, Estonia, places like that— to Warsaw, again, thirty-five years later, to Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur in Reykjavík for a hotdog smothered in remolaði. But what I’m really hoping is that the Dalai Lama will join me when I head for the Tibet that lies just beyond the plateau of my porch, which we’d pack up into on the bony back of a ballpoint pen, he highlighting old hangouts among the rugged heights, I taking copious notes on the fly, though that of course wouldn’t mean we’d be any closer to peace in the world or the end of exile from all the places where I’m not.

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Couldn’t Be Happier DAVID R. JAMES —How do I know I don’t need what I want? I don’t have it. —BYRON KATIE, LOVING REALITY

I couldn’t be happier, I’m saying to myself this damp gray day, late April, forsythia blazing anyway across the street, rain dripping from the porch roof eave, because I’m not. Likewise, nine thousand additional dollars aren’t called for against the latest unexpected expenses since they aren’t showing up, and thanks and appreciation from the kids—hell, from anybody— obviously aren’t in order: none’s coming in. How do I know that nobody should know that melancholy’s returned? Nobody knows. And who was ever supposed to think that shredded shingles, general meanness, governmental homicides, and this next epidemic

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shouldn’t have appeared? They’re clearly here. This is what drove François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire nuts: reality daring to define what’s real, this best of all possible worlds, happiness with what is. Try telling that to all the bloody survivors, the skeletal ones with victim mentalities who make the nightly news do-able, the imbeciles, like us, who can’t see the bigger picture. Next thing you know they’ll be wanting water, nutrients, UN intervention, still not comprehending if they don’t have it they don’t need it. Next thing you know they’ll be challenging reality.

Guido Vermeulen-Perdaen © 123RF.com

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Guido Vermeulen-Perdaen © 123RF.com

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Poetry

Let It Go, Buddha DAVID R. JAMES

Let it go, Buddha keeps saying, still so attached to detachment that veins I imagine at his temples are throbbing like the chanting of ancestors on a CD I bought cheap for $7.97. For once again I’ve had the wrong idea, Calvitholicism an indissoluble oil slick floating on Buddha’s smooth sea of equanimity. Try as I might—well, there it is: attached at the straining hip of effort. Zen Master Seung Sahn says wanting enlightenment’s a big mistake. I say add it to the list: the first marriage, the first religion, the second—trying to save the whole world with words.

D. R. James has taught college writing, literature, and peace-making for 35 years. He lives in the woods near Saugatuck, Michigan. His poems and prose have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies. His latest of eight poetry collections are If god were gentle (Dos Madres Press), Surreal Expulsion (The Poetry Box), and a microchapbook All Her Jazz is free and downloadable-for-folding at the Origami Poems Project.

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undrey © Unsplash

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Fiction

No Electric in 5150 MARQUISE WILLIAMS

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lue collars, some winding down from an amphetamine tweak, scarf down their graveyard-shift lunches at the 5150, a diner quite far from anything other than a trailer town living off the fumes of a nearby coal plant. Silverware stained with water spots slice at food made with half love, half desperation. When the waitresses hand them out, they’re paid a few bucks and stare in return. All’s alright at the 5150. Men’s room—jaundice-lighted, sewage-greened, pengraffitied. Wilkie Rodman Evans Jr. sits alone with ripped highwaters down to his sneakers. The snot salting his lips and chin does nothing to block the stench of urine that rusts into the floor. On the stall door he scribbles with a Sharpie a Disneyesque cigarette happily exclaiming, “Don’t smoke kids. God hates fags!” The muffled laughter of the diners outside. The bathroom door swings open. The lights buzz like a window-tapping horsefly, then flicker on and off and stay on. Hard-sole footsteps echo closer to Wilkie until a man (maybe?) enters the stall next to his, bringing along a cologne reeking of ammoniac leather. Peripherally, Wilkie sees and hears the man(?) sit down on the toilet, but not pulling down his blue dress pants down to his bluer oxfords. A match hisses and a cigarette whispers: the smoke from both rises together like two souls mid-embrace. Then a wet fart. “Scrambled eggs taste like shit here,” Dover says. Lord no. “Tastes good enough for me,” says Wilkie. He rubs the soles of his sneakers against the floor tile; their squeaking grates on his ears. “Doesn’t beat mom’s.” Another drag. Another plume. “Scrambled eggs. Bacon. Orange juice squeezed from actual oranges instead of the one hundred percent concentrate crap they got here.” “The food here is not so bad.” “Not so bad?” Dover says. “You see this place?” The power goes out. “Nope,” says Wilkie.

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The diners bitch but don’t moan. Instead they laugh at the pretend-riches of fifty percent tips and angus beef burgers being felled to reality by a simple blackout. It’s all the same in the dark. “Heh, talk about timing,” Dover says. “So how long you planning on staying?” Dover takes some time to think. “How long are you planning on staying?” Wilkie says nothing. “I’m sorry. That was rude.” Another drag. An unseen plume. A first sigh. “Hey, remember the time the tree fell on the power line? I had to drive you to the library so you could type up Mrs. Carnegie’s essay last minute.” He laughs. “How long are you stay-ing here?” says Wilkie. The laughter stops. “Don’t know yet,” Dover says. “I’m thinking about buying mom a gift.” “Tell her I said happy birthday.” “Tell her yourself.” “Achoo!” “Bless you,” Dover says. Wilkie sniffs. “So...” Dover says. “So...” says Wilkie. Dover clears his throat. “This is crazy. Us sitting in the dark I mean.” “You get used to it. I did.” “How?” “Day at a time,” says Wilkie. “The dark really isn’t much different from the light. Just a matter of perception.” Wilkie sneezes again and sniffles. “You know you’re wasting your time talking to me.” “Maybe.” Dover continues. Another drag. “So, how’s the bank treating you?” “Alright.” Wilkie knows that Dover knows that he doesn’t work at a bank. “You a manager or supervisor or...whatever yet?” “Not yet.” A sudden yet expected frost slimes Wilkie’s skin and drills him to the bone. He hugs his own shaking body. “A teller’s gotta work three years till they’re eligible. The boss’s taking a liking to me though, so it might be sooner.” “Glad to hear,” Dover says. “Mom always knew come hell or high water you would make it. You should visit sometime.” “God when’s this fucking light gonna turn on?” says Wilkie. “Come home. She’d be glad to see you.” The dining area goes quiet as a nail-to-chalkboard voice cuts in to crack a joke Wilkie can’t hear. The punchline hits (something with the word “freak” in it, maybe?) and the room erupts into a laugh as loud as cannonfire, jumpstarting Wilkie’s already-fast pulse to rapid fire speeds that pound his chest like sledgehammers. However the uber-confidence usually accompanying this feeling is gone. It has been for a long time. But I got used to it, thinks Wilkie. The smell of shit, the

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taste of a hard-earned day, the nights spent in jail beds and government pits—unending pungency numbs itself. “No thanks,” says Wilkie. “Please Wilk. It’s been fifteen years. Forgive yourself. Was it wrong what you did? Yeah. But you did the time. Besides you were in high school, you didn’t know any better.” “That doesn’t excuse jackshit. He was—” “—in the third grade.” Dover finishes. Another sigh, except this time more dog-tired; Wilkie had no idea if it was Dover’s or his own. “I know.” The yellow lights flicker back on to the applause and cheer of the diners. The bathroom stall graffiti is now seen as clearly as writing on the wall can be. “Looks like the lights back on,” Dover says. “Yeah,” says Wilkie. Wilkie’s eyes are glued to his Dover’s feet and their shadows—he sees his brother stand; he hears him drop his cigarette in the toilet (hiss) and flushes it with his foot; his mind submerges with the small thunder of toilet water spinning and sinking down pipes which lead to a river which leads to an ocean which leads to nowhere. It saddens Wilkie. “I’m staying at the inn down the street,” Dover says. “Come down there and we can talk.” The stall door next to Wilkie creaks open. The same footsteps that echoed in now click their way out, and after the howls of the outside amplify, all becomes quiet after Wilkie hears the bathroom door thud close. For a long time, there is absolutely no shift in sensation or environment. It is as if Wilkie is staring at a picture of what his eyes see: a men’s room—jaundice-lighted, sewage-greened, pen-graffitied. It isn’t until he raises his arm to doodle the rest of his comic that he breaks free from the out-of-body trance. “Don’t smoke kids. God hates fags!” Maybe he does. Who’s to say? Isn’t like anyone ever met the man himself. Damn clever joke though. Wilkie wishes he could laugh at what he wrote, but he feels too nauseous to do so. Instead, he listens to the laughs of the 5150 regulars: Hahahahahahaha! ad nauseam..

Marquise Williams lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He has an Associate of Arts Degree in English from the Community College of Philadelphia. He works as an electrical apprentice for Local 98, but his passion lies in writing stories. Whenever he has the time (which is rare nowadays), he likes to play guitar and pretends he's Eddie Van Halen. His portfolio can be found here: http://bit.ly/MarqPortfolio


Literary Work

buccaneer © 123RF.com

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Rubber Daises JACK COOEY The obituary read: Brad Stevens known for his role Billy Lewis in the hit play Coming Out died Tuesday at 71. It was a lucky break that launched his career as he was the understudy to the original actor playing Billy Lewis who was killed in a car accident and Mr. Stevens took over the role and won great acclaim. Coming Out advanced the cause of Gay Rights in America. He toured the country and that experience culminated in a short run on Broadway. He went to Hollywood and had several parts in movies but told an interviewer in 1983: I like the energy from an audience. Playing to a camera leaves me flat. He did some commercial work most notably for Duncan’s Lawn Fertilizer in which he played a blade of grass. He is survived by his manager, Omar Dawson. Donations to the American Cancer Society are requested.

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mar Dawson put down the paper. He was flooded with memories but not feelings. He thought about the time he saw Brad in a showcase production in a church basement in Manhattan probably forty or forty-five years ago and his talent was obvious. He went up to Brad in a bar afterwards and introduced himself. They spoke briefly and Omar watched him afterwards. Brad drank too fast and the actress he was with got angry when he touched her in a way she didn’t like. She walked out on him. Omar saw that Brad needed some help and thought he would make him an offer. The next night, Omar planned to be in the bar after the show when he guessed Brad would be in. His plan was to talk to him about being his manager for 10% of any jobs he got with his help. He didn’t want to make an offer while he was drinking but to establish a time and place to meet so they could talk. When Omar told Brad what he wanted, Brad grinned and looked around the bar. “You queer?” “What’s that got to do with it?” “I don’t want anybody thinking about me like that.” “Yeah…well, from what I saw last night you didn’t exactly score, did you?” Brad was angry. “That Bitch,” he said. “I think you have talent, but I also can see where you’re working against yourself and if you would let me manage your career, and yes, personal life too, together we could make some money. But we have to like and trust each other. Think about it, and if you’re interested, meet me at the Horn

and Hardart at thirty-fourth street at one tomorrow.” and he walked away. Omar walked the foggy streets and felt good about what he’d done. He played it straight with Brad and gave him the offer and left it up to him. He didn’t try and talk him into anything. Young actors have talent without the belief in their talent so they mess up their lives. If Brad would let Omar guide him, he could avoid those mistakes, but it was up to Brad. Omar got to Horn and Hardart at twelve-thirty and got a cup of coffee and sat at a table in the middle of the room. He watched the people and saw just what he was thinking. He saw people who by how they dressed or carried themselves or the expression they wore communicated hostility. In show business, if you get big enough, then maybe you can afford to offend people but that only comes after you’ve proved yourself to be a profit. Brad came through the revolving door and looked around the room. He was unshaven and disheveled. Omar raised his hand. Brad saw it and came to the table. Omar pushed a five-dollar bill towards him. “Here, buy yourself some lunch.” Brad stupidly stared for a moment before picking up the bill and walking away. Omar studied two ragged women with gaps in their teeth. They laughed a lot, he observed, for women living in misery. After several more minutes, Brad with a tray came back and sat. He started in slurping his soup. “So, what’s the deal?” Brad said. “I believe and invest in your talent and help you maximize your earning potential by advising you as to parts and people to work with and we agree I get 10% of anything you earn.”

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Brad chewed on his sandwich. “I don’t know,” he mumbled. “If I was your manager, you wouldn’t appear in public unshaven and your hair uncombed or let you get drunk in a public place…” “What the fuck, man?” “Show business is creating illusions. Sure, you can go out unshaven and have too much to drink but all that does is make you like everyone else. I would help you create an image, an illusion, of royalty. People love that. I don’t know why, and it really doesn’t matter. What matters is we fill that need in people. You have the talent and the looks, but you need me to craft it into a product for public consumption.” Brad’s jaws went up and down. “Marlon Brando doesn’t do that.” Omar laughed. “Okay, when you’re as successful as Brando, then, you can fire me.” Brad stared at Omar; his jaws up and down. “I would advise you on parts to take. Introduce you to influential people who could help your career. Schedule events with media coverage to promote your image. Get you interviews in magazines and on TV. Most actors at your stage don’t get offers of management because they haven’t shown they can make money for the producers. I’m taking a gamble on your talent and the hope that if I can discipline your behavior, we will make more money than if you were left to yourself. There are plenty of down and out, alcoholic actors slumped over Eight Avenue bars who are shells of the young and talented and hopeful actors they were ten years ago. There’s an empty stool waiting for your ass.” “No way, man,” mumbled Brad through the bread in his mouth. “Tell you what. Let’s spend some time together and see how we get along. Have you seen Jaws yet?” Brad shook his head. “How about we catch the three o’clock show tomorrow and you can think it over in the meantime.” “Do I have to shave?” Omar smiled. That night, Omar looked out his West End Avenue apartment and thought about Brad. He decided he was rough but had a humorous side to him too. If he could polish him, then, they would be off to the races. He thought he should start small and work incrementally all the while making sure he wasn’t pissing Brad off with his requests. It would be touch and go until the money came in and Omar could show something tangible to justify their relationship. But, first, he had to win Brad’s trust. Jaws was a hit, so the movie was full, and Omar and Brad were floored by Robert Shaw’s USS Indianapolis monologue about men in the water with sharks. As they filed out in a tight crowd, Omar called out,

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“Arthur, Arthur…” When they got out onto the street, Omar shook hands with the man named Arthur. “Arthur, I’d like to introduce you to a young actor named, Brad Stevens. Brad, this is Arthur Block, the assistant casting director at the Public Theatre.” Arthur smiled and shook Brad’s hand. “What did you think?” asked Omar of Arthur. “With the Trinity of Shaw, Scheider and Dreyfuss, how can you top that?” “It was great to watch.” “Good to see you,” said Arthur as he disappeared in the crowd. Omar turned to Brad and said, “First chance you get you should audition at the Public Theatre to capitalize on meeting Arthur today. This is the kind of thing I can help you with.” “And you take 10%?” “Yes. But I gave you an opportunity you couldn’t get for yourself.” “Do you know Marlon Brando?” “Brad, you have unrealistic expectations. Ten minutes ago, you didn’t know the assistant casting director at the Public Theatre, but now you do because of me. I’m sure I can find other young talented actors to work with if you’re not interested.” “What do we do? Sign a contract?” “Do you want to?” “Yeah, I guess so. Is that how they do it?” Omar started walking down the street. “Think it over for tonight and in the morning if you’re still interested, I’ll make an appointment with an entertainment lawyer to draw up a contract between the two of us. How does that sound?” “Okay.” “And yes, you do have to shave.” Omar grew up in Sudbury Massachusetts and went to Bentley College in Business Management and came to Manhattan to work on Wall Street but fell in love with the theatre and decided instead of selling stocks he wanted to work with talent. He knew of course that working with people was more difficult and the rewards more capricious, but the difficulty was romantic to him. Handling images, illusions, and imaginary events was more engaging that dollars and cents. He thought the whole thing was based on trust and two people working towards the same end was more efficient than one. The difficulty was that he had no way of demonstrating that until he and Brad started making money. He dated Daphne and liked her, but she seemed fickle like she was waiting for the results of his scheme to bear fruit. She was an actress and worked as a waitress at the Cedar Tavern.


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Omar looked at the ads in Backstage Magazine and read one for Sydney Pearlman an entertainment lawyer on West 31st street. He called and made an appointment. When he entered the office, Sidney was sitting behind a card table with some papers on it and offered Omar a folding chair. He was wearing a yarmulke and an open white shirt. He squinted his eyes behind thick glasses. “You want a manager – client contract, yes?” “Ah…yeah. Can you tell me what it does?” Sydney blinked his magnified eyes. “Very simple. It codifies the relationship between you and your client. If you help him get a job, then you get 10% of whatever he makes. It’s a way for you and your client to protect one from taking advantage of the other.” “Simple enough. How much?” “Fifty dollars for the contract. Seventy-five if you want it kept here in this office.” “Sounds all right.” “Names? That way I can get started and be ready when you come back to sign.” “I don’t have my client’s agreement yet.” “I’ll gamble he’ll say yes.” “Suit yourself,” said Omar. Omar and Brad sat at a table in Horn and Hardart. Omar felt good: Brad was shaven, hair combed, and a pressed collared shirt and khakis. “You make a much better impression this way than when you don’t make the effort. You’re giving others permission to dismiss you. Remember everything comes from within you,” Omar lectured. Brad’s forehead wrinkled. “What I mean is if you treat yourself poorly then others will too. If you treat yourself with respect then others will too,” said Omar. Brad chewed on a doughnut. He thought about what Omar said. “Sounds simple,” he acknowledged “The other piece,” continued Omar, “is that if you’re good at what you do, no one can take it away from you, and you don’t have to boast about it, others will see it. If it’s real of course.” “That’s cool, man,” said Brad as his jaw went up and down. “I think what I’m talking about is dignity. If you have talent you don’t have to demean yourself by bad behavior to get attention; your talent will do that for you. Actors that get into bar fights to get attention are sad and unnecessary, I think.” “That’s cool, man.” “It’s more than cool, Brad. Don’t you see how it liberates you from all the rubbish that people in this business do?” “Yeah, but according to you, I can’t go out in public without shaving or a pressed shirt. How’s that not a drag?” “Better that than a night in jail or a month in rehab. But it’s more than that – it’s a belief in your talent that comes from within you that no one else can compromise in anyway.”

“Man, I don’t know what world you’re living in. Actresses sleep all the time with producers and directors to get parts. You know that as well as I do.” “Yeah and I bet the majority of them end up with selfloathing.” “What’s that?” “They wind up hating themselves because they sold themselves out to get a part. Think about it for yourself, Brad. How would you feel if you performed an act on a director to get a part?” Brad grinned. “No way, man.” “See? But if you did do it, you would hate yourself, no?” “Totally, man, totally. I would do it if the director was a goodlooking chick.” “Of course, you would, Brad.” “That wouldn’t bother me at all.” “But what about a male?” “No way.” “Anyway, how do you feel about signing a contract this afternoon?” “I don’t like anything I can’t get out of.” “We can have it written up so either party can break the contract at anytime for any reason. I believe in your talent, Brad, and I think I can help you to a career you couldn’t attain by yourself. But it’s up to you. If I force you to do something you don’t really want to, then, it won’t work.” Omar sat across the table with his arms folded across his chest waiting for Brad. “Okay,” he said. Omar was right. The partnership worked out well for both. A couple of years went by, and Brad was living in an East side apartment engaged to a costume designer, and Omar and Daphne were unhappily together. No matter what money Omar made, it was never enough. They had an apartment on Third Avenue which didn’t have the status Daphne wanted. Omar lived with the feeling he was inadequate trying to satisfy an expectation that wasn’t real. Coming Out was published in the winter of 1977 and by the summer of 1978 was a highly sought-after play. It was a threeact drama about a gay son coming out to his fundamentalist father. Both roles were highly demanding acting challenges and were popular with male actors. It was written by Harold Strassberg and was his third play. In May of 1978 there were auditions in New York for an out-of-town try-out starting in Allentown, Pennsylvania that summer. Omar got Brad an audition for the Billy Lewis part, and while he knew, Brad had the looks, he wasn’t sure if he had the emotional range. Omar knew that a successful run in this show would advance Brad’s career. He talked to Brad about that several days before his first audition, and at first, Brad acted like he didn’t know what Omar was concerned about.

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“Have you ever had anyone, especially anyone close to you, question your identity?” Brad’s forehead knitted. “I don’t know.” “Come on, Brad. This is important for this audition.” “I score with chicks.” Omar knew that to be true. Before becoming engaged, Brad picked up waitresses and barmaids and shop clerks like they were passengers on his bus route. Omar was surprised he didn’t catch anything. “The Billy Lewis role is going to require some real, raw emotion.” Brad was quiet for a moment. “I can do it,” he whispered. The audition was crazy and crowded. Actors were all over the lobby of the Astor Place Theatre. They wanted a oneminute monologue which was the quickest way to eliminate the obvious wrong choices. The actors they wanted to see again they handed a mimeographed sheet with instructions to be prepared for a reading tomorrow afternoon at three. They reduced the number of actors quite a bit that first day. On the second day, there were two groups: one twenty-year old actors and the other: fifty-year old actors. The scene was between Billy Lewis and his father Franklin and had a nice speech for Billy when he tells his father he was made by God too. Omar and Brad spent a couple of hours the night before going over and over the scene and Brad felt confident about what he was doing. Brad’s one vulnerability was he wasn’t gay. They worked on his voice and movement and Omar helped Brad get a gayness without overdoing it. Brad didn’t know who would read the father and thought they paired actors sequentially. When Brad met Omar in the coffee shop, Omar could tell by his face. “You wouldn’t believe this old fart they had me read with!” exclaimed Brad, “he only took about a half an hour between cues, so the momentum fell through the floor. Jesus, it was frustrating! I would get something going and the son of a bitch would pause, pause, pause, say a couple of words, pause some more so we were a knuckleball when we should have been a fastball. That sequence where they go back and forth about the Devil should snap and spark and that old duffer made it sputter and stall.” “Brad, calm down, calm down. They can tell who’s doing what. You did your part all right, didn’t you? They can see you had to wait on your cues. They didn’t say anything to you?” “They told everybody they would be calling back tomorrow morning for the final audition.” “So, we wait. Welcome to Show Business.” The role of Billy Lewis came down to Brad and an actor by the name of Bobby Phelps and when Brad saw Bobby Phelps, he knew he wouldn’t get the part. The director offered Brad the supporting role of Billy Lewis’s friend who has a scene with Billy in the second act and the understudy of Billy Lewis.

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“You lost out on this part through no fault of your own so don’t for a second feel badly about it. Take the job you’re offered. You never know what might happen,” said Omar, “you can’t be something you’re not no matter how good an actor you are.” The Rodale Theatre in downtown Allentown was a church turned into a theatre. It had seating for two hundred and fifty. Omar went in early June to look over the theatre and investigate the area. He was having a hamburger in a diner and asked the waitress. “Bars? Oh, sure, The Noose in Bethlehem is the best joint for fun around here. It’s over on 378. It’s always packed though which tells you. Oh, Lordy we was there when my boyfriend knocked a guy cold with a pool stick. He did eight months in the state pen for that. You take 22 to 378 and it’s about eight miles on 378. You got to be careful of the curve on 378 – it comes on you fast and sharp and the people not familiar get quite the surprise. There used to be a sign but of course the kids during hunting season think it’s a target.” She got called away. She came back to take his plate. “It’s owned by The Deacon. He sits at the far end of the bar and sips water all night until the door closes and then he chugs whiskey. He was a Baptist preacher until his wife died of lymphoma and it happened quick and he came apart. He bought that old run-down roadhouse and fixed it up himself and soon the reputation was anything goes at The Noose. He told me one night how he harvests rubber daisies. Know what that is?” Omar shrugged his shoulders. “Me neither even though me and my boyfriend done it plenty of times. Sunday morning he says he goes out to the parking lot and harvests rubber daises that are left by the couples from the night before from the back seat of their cars after they got liquored up in The Noose. Says he’s got the biggest harvest of rubber daisies in the county. Oh, Golly and this from a man I remember as a young girl being very strict. Funny what life does sometimes. Check?” “Yes, please.” Omar decided to take a look at The Noose, and it was just like she said the curve on 378 came on him sudden and sharp and he thought there must be a lot of accidents on that road. The Noose was a bar, jukebox, pool table, darts, and condom dispenser in the men’s room place that had a few construction workers by mid-morning. He didn’t see any candidates for The Deacon and as he drove back thought: “Oh! I didn’t check for rubber daisies.” The company arrived by chartered bus from New York. There were five cast members and techies and box office people plus the director and stage manager. Omar could tell that Bobby Phelps was getting under peoples’ skin already with his haughty attitude. The women were in one house and the men in another. Omar and Brad shared a room: Brad in the


Fiction

bed, Omar on the cot. Bobby Phelps refused to share a room with Ralph Hartwell who played his father because he should be treated with more privilege than that. Ralph generously offered to pay for his hotel room but that made getting people around more complicated. Omar had a car he rented and Gene Dupree, the director, rented one. Housing was within walking distance from the theatre and now was a couple of extra blocks for Ralph. Rehearsals began the following morning. Opening night was two days from now on Friday and there would be New York critics to write reviews for the Manhattan papers. The company was tense; the outcome had a lot to do with many of them. Brad had two rehearsals a day, one for his part, and the other for his understudy. Gene Dupree told Brad to find his own Bobby Lewis and not to bother over how Bobby Phelps did it. Brad sensed Gene wasn’t enjoying working with Bobby Phelps. The box office staff reported that the first weekend was sold out. The tension built and built as it got closer to Friday. On Thursday afternoon, after rehearsal, Omar drove Brad to The Noose to have a quiet, relaxing beer. The place had construction workers, paving workers, a couple of drunken women who cackled and missed the dart board altogether. When Brad commented on the curve on 378, one of the men told him the locals call it the Coroner’s Count and one of the first things locals tell visitors is to beware of it. Omar saw a man at the end of the bar who he was sure was The Deacon. He approached him and introduced himself and his first impression was The Deacon was shy. He asked if they could have the cast party at The Noose Friday night after the show to wait for the reviews to come out. “How many?” “Fifteen to twenty.” “Sure. Beware of 378.” “You must have a lot of accidents?” “Not really and I don’t know why, but when we do, it’s a spectacular one.” “I bet.” The Deacon smiled to end the interview. By Friday afternoon, members of the company were openly snapping at each other. Bobby Phelps was being difficult with the costumer designer over the buttons on his second act shirt. It got so bad the designer threw a hanger across the dressing room after Phelps walked out. “I should have opened a Florist shop,” he yelled to no one. Brad’s nerves started to bother him around mid-afternoon, but he knew that gave him energy to perform. He didn’t want to eat before the show and walked around Allentown to burn off some energy. It got so the only thing the actors wanted was to get the show over with to release the tension. By ten of eight the house was full, and the box office sent word backstage the media was here along with George Treadwell a highly successful theatrical agent. Everything

was in place for a major success or a catastrophe for the cast of Coming Out. The first couple of scenes played flat. Gene Dupree went from the house to the Green Room to spur the actors. He heatedly spoke to Bobby Phelps and the next time he came out, he had high energy to the point of over-acting, but the momentum revved up and captivated the audience. In the climatic scene between Billy Lewis and his father in the third act, the drama played to its cathartic pitch. When the final curtain came down, it took the audience several beats to come back to reality before they started clapping and standing for an ovation. Bobby Phelps was a star. The cast took two curtain calls and Bobby Phelps three. The celebration made for a jumbled reality. The next that Brad knew he was in the car with Omar driving and Bobby Phelps in the backseat to The Noose for the cast party. As Brad watched the road in headlights, he felt envious of Bobby. At one-point Bobby said, “My interpretation of the Billy Lewis character will be definitive.” “Maybe, maybe not,” answered Omar. Bobby Phelps dismissively sighed. The parking lot of The Noose was half-full when they got there and there was cheers and applause when Bobby entered the bar. Over the next twenty minutes, carload after carload came into The Noose and the place was full. The lights were lowered, and a strobe light turned on. It gave a jerky pulse to everything like an oldtime movie. Everybody wanted to be around Bobby like he had some magical aura that could make them stronger, better, richer, and more charismatic. Bobby never reached for his wallet, fans were buying him food and drinks. All the actors were hungry from not eating before the show. The Deacon was in the kitchen helping with food. The strobe light mixed with alcohol gave an otherworldly cast. Someone said that George Treadwell wanted to sign Bobby to a contract which would change Bobby’s life. Brad walked out into the parking lot for ten minutes to clear his head. When he came back, he looked at a bloodshot-eye, swaying Bobby with a shit-eating grin. Someone came in with a copy of The Allentown Courier which ran the headline: Coming Out Big Hit at the Rodale. The event was hallucinatory. Bobby all of a sudden said he had to leave. He wanted to go back to his room to call his lover back in New York. People protested. Omar butted in and said, “Here take my car,” as he handed him the keys.

Jack Coey lives in Keene, NH.

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What? JACK COOEY buccaneer © 123RF.com

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H

e’d never had sex before that summer he got cast in a summer stock production in a town called Lewiston, New York. His name was McGee and he lived in Warrington New Hampshire and was seventeen years old. He saw the ad in the paper and drove to Concord to audition and had to make the trip twice before he was hired. He was cast as Billy Bob, the son, in a three-act comedy. His real father was all right with his son being away from home for the first time and his mother was hysterical. She was distraught with the idea he would be exposed to actresses from New York City – Oh My God! The Temptations! McGee thought the temptation would be wonderful and hopefully satisfy the consuming urges in his groin. He expected his father’s after dinner visit to his bedroom to warn him of the wages of lust and debauchery and nodded his head while thinking about vaginas. The next morning, he packed a suitcase and duffel bag and after breakfast drove with his father to Concord where he boarded a Greyhound bus to Niagara Falls. The bus wasn’t out of the city limits before anxiety set in. The Frontier House Theatre was a converted barn. It sat two hundred people and was supported by local businesses to attract tourists from Niagara Falls which was upriver. He had a room with the DaVinci’s. She was a retired Rockette who fostered young performers and he was a butcher named Sal who thought men in the theatre were fairies. That was the only reason he tolerated other men in his house because his wife, who was older, still had her body, and being a butcher, he knew what meat could do to people. McGee was polite and played up his I’m-a-hayseed-from New Hampshire shtick. McGee got drunk for the first time the second night when Sal and he sat at the kitchen table and drank whisky together. Sal had to carry him to his room. When he woke, his head was pounding, and he was embarrassed. Whatever he’d done, Sal’s attitude about him was different. Those Lucky Numbers was a three-act comedy about a welfare family who wins the lottery and their tribulations fitting into high society. The first read-through was at the theatre at one o’clock. The Director was Stanley Wallace who was a washed up stand-up comic and a recovering alcoholic who was making a comeback. Because of his own misery, he was acutely sympathetic to performers especially young ones. There was a round table on stage which the cast sat around and McGee noticed her right off. She played the maid the family hires to keep up appearances and she had a comedic role being familiar with the ways of the upper class and commenting on those pretending to be something they’re not. She had red hair and blue eyes that sparkled with devilment and even when reading she had command. Her character name was Miss Marsh. All the actors watched and listened as she read. McGee remembered his father’s talk in his bedroom and thought if he could commit debauchery with her, it wouldn’t bother him too much. She impressed

everybody at the table. He looked at his contact sheet and saw her name was Mona McPhee from New York City and he would have guessed she was somewhat older than him. His own reading was good, despite being nervous and hungover. Billy Bob had a scene with Miss Marsh where Miss Marsh tries to convince Billy Bob to change his name to William Robert and that reading got laughs from the cast on the first reading. The chemistry between Mona and McGee was obvious. Stanley, the director, looked pleased. In his notes after the reading, Stanley said the trap with comedy is when the actors ask for laughs rather than playing the reality of the event. The comedy is a byproduct of the human event that is real. The actors know it’s funny, but the characters don’t. That was the trick of it, he said, play it for real and not the jokes. The rehearsal ended with a call-back for nine the next morning. McGee didn’t know what to do with himself. He didn’t want to go back to the DaVinci’s because of the temptation of Sal and the whisky bottle. He decided to walk down the main street of Lewiston which was on the banks of the Niagara River downstream from the falls. He soon was engrossed in the lovely 19th century homes. That night at the kitchen table, Stella DaVinci told McGee that an important New York agent named Samuel Bloom had a summer home in Lewiston and if the show got a good review, he would see it. A couple of actors and one singer got career changing exposure from The Frontier House Theatre. That was more than McGee could contemplate at this point in his career; all he wanted was to do a good job and enjoy the confidence that would give him. Stella smiled and looked at McGee in a way that made him uncomfortable; it was too much somehow. McGee noticed too she acted differently when Sal was in the room; she was more perfunctory towards him which helped him relax around Sal. But then, she was at the end of the hallway when he’d come out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel. These New York people are different, he thought. He and Mona were rehearsing their scene and Stanley was giving them blocking when the stage manager came in and spoke to Stanley. Stanley called a ten-minute break and left the theatre. McGee and Mona stood on the stage until Mona went and sat on a folding chair. McGee felt nerves in his stomach but introduced himself to Mona. She commented on his being from New Hampshire like it was a foreign country and there was a strained pause until he asked her about New York. She talked about the theatres and museums and nightclubs and he knew he couldn’t live up to that. He knew how to track a deer or catch a bass or cross-country ski, but she didn’t care about that. His mind was racing – trying to think of something to say to her and he suggested they run lines and made her laugh when he gave his lines with a German accent. By the time Stanley was back, they were on their feet, off-book, and doing the blocking. Stanley was clever enough to know when

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you have two actors who work that well with each other, you leave them alone. McGee was giddy after rehearsal; he knew there was something between him and Mona, and that night at the kitchen table, couldn’t stop talking about Mona while Sal was behind the newspaper and Stella impassively smiled. Neither of the DaVinci’s commented or asked questions as McGee babbled on about Mona. McGee was self-absorbed until Stella asked him whether he wanted ice cream or pie for dessert. Later on, while Sal was watching TV, and McGee and Stella were on the porch, she put her hand on his knee as she told a story about being a Rockette. The feeling of her touch went straight from his knee to his groin. He was confused by her being able to arouse feelings and an organ on him when he thought of her as a mother-figure. And the way she kept smiling at him? McGee didn’t know what to think, he was exhilarated around Mona, but there was something going on with Stella too. From what he could see, there wasn’t much going on between Sal and Stella. Sal wanted his needs met and that was it. When he drank too much, McGee could hear them from his room, and Sal wasn’t gentle with Stella. Sal was lustful but not affectionate. McGee figured out that couldn’t be very enjoyable for Stella. He also knew he had to watch himself around Stella because Sal was very watchful of her and now he knew why Stella was willing to house an actor for the summer. He thought too drinking with Sal may not be what it seemed. He didn’t enjoy being with the DaVinci’s and stayed in his room. Stella knocked on his door to ask him if he wanted to watch TV and he said no. He realized he was a pawn being played in a bad marriage. Maybe he could talk to Stanley and get a different housing arrangement. There was a lot of excitement about Those Lucky Numbers. The rehearsals glowed with anticipation. Miss Marsh was a secondary character, but she did as Stanley said and played it for real and was funny in every scene. The more that Mona developed Miss Marsh the more McGee fell in love with her. McGee had the idea of asking Stella if she could ask Samuel Bloom to come to a rehearsal or performance to see Mona. At first, he thought that would only keep him involved in a situation he wanted out of but being able to help Mona transcended everything else. A couple of nights later when they were alone on the porch, he brought it up to Stella, and she said she would come see first before promoting someone to such an important person as Samuel Bloom. If she was going to put her reputation on the line, she wanted to see who she was recommending. McGee didn’t say anything even though he couldn’t understand if her career was over why she would care? Stella said she would come to a rehearsal. Then McGee didn’t know if he should introduce the two to each other? Turns out he didn’t need to worry about that because several nights later on the porch Stella brought up Mona and was quite complimentary about her. She said Mona’s comedic timing was

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impeccable. Many comedians, Stella said, don’t know how to pause that beat or two beats so the audience can process the information before the punch line, so the joke works. Stella sat in the back of the hall for that afternoon’s rehearsal. McGee asked if she would invite Samuel Bloom and Stella smiled and said nothing. McGee waited for her to say something, but she didn’t. He felt there was something unspoken between them, but Stella had to know he loved Mona. Sal drank himself to sleep with the TV on and McGee went into his room and it was several hours later, he woke with a start. He sensed there was a presence in his room and blinked his eyes. He heard the click of the door closing. His heart was pounding. He lay on the bed staring at the ceiling until the dawn crept into his window. In the light of morning, he doubted his sensation. Did he dream it or was it real? He watched Sal and Stella and they were themselves. He went over the conversation with Stella about Samuel Bloom and felt there was something unresolved about it. During that morning’s rehearsal he was insipid. He was slow picking up his cues which annoyed Mona because she kept hitting the brake instead of the accelerator. When there was a break, she asked him about himself and he said someone had been in his room while he was sleeping, and he could see she thought that pretty strange. He tried harder and only came across like he was forcing. Stanley was mystified by the deterioration of his performance. He apologized to Stanley and Mona and explained he was off that day but would do better tomorrow. After rehearsal, he walked the streets of Lewiston and thought he had to be there for Mona. She had an opportunity before her, and he didn’t want to hinder that. He questioned why Stella wouldn’t invite Samuel Bloom when she saw how talented Mona was. Who was in his room last night and what did they want? He decided to change his attitude toward Stella. Sal, with a beer can in his hand, sat at the kitchen table and watched his wife and McGee. They were laughing over a story told by Stella about a gay dancer being caught in a subway restroom by a transit policeman. McGee was doing some of his finest acting enjoying the company of Stella and her mute husband. He flirted and she flirted back. After about twenty minutes, Sal got up and went into the TV room. He came back into the refrigerator every twenty minutes or so. When they were alone, McGee was bold. He asked her about Samuel Bloom, and she answered if she were treated right it could happen. By the time he got up to go to bed, he knew he would sleep with her. McGee and Stella became more and more affectionate with each other, and it was a couple of nights later, early in the morning, he woke and felt a presence. “What?” he challenged. He felt the sheet move and someone get into bed and it was then he smelt beer.


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Vision of Love GALE ACUFF

Gale Acuff’s works have been published in Ascent, Chiron Review, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, Poem, South Dakota Review, and many other journals. He has authored three books of poetry, all from BrickHouse Press: Buffalo Nickel, The Weight of the World, and The Story of My Lives. He has taught university English courses in the US, China, and Palestine.

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My wife always kissed me with her eyes closed --I know because mine were always open. Suppose that I should close them and she be

or do they include the half-moons that wink back into the sockets? I'd ask her but she's snoring now. Well, not snoring--wheezing.

gone? Actually, on occasion, she would open hers--to see if mine were closed. Why don't you kiss with your eyes shut, she asks.

This is all very wonderful but I want a divorce. I see it in my eyes. So I don't shut them when we kiss because

Oh, I dunno, I say. It's not my thing, I guess. But it's more romantic that way, she says. Nah, my way's plenty romantic,

I don't want to be lost in un-desire. There's nowhere to escape but in her face when she's not looking. If I close my eyes

I say. Besides, I like to look at you when your eyes are closed, just like you're asleep but it's daytime--I see a part

I might blink and forget unhappiness and then I'd really be alone and I don't want to be the one who finds me.

of you I don't usually get to see. That's weird, she says. No, no, I say. That's love. It's like I'm dead and you're staring at me,

Or I'll get lost inside my self-made night --she'll be the one to suck me out of it and if I came then I would be saying

she says. No, no, I say. And besides, when you're dead, aren't your eyes open but they have to be closed? Like in the movies? Someone

I love you, you've discovered me again after I lost myself for love of you; we interfaced and shut down vision

finds somebody dead and her eyes are wide open, I mean the dead woman's eyes, though of course the one who finds her, his eyes are

simultaneously and went away from each other to remind ourselves of loneliness and how dark that is--then stopped

open, too, but you know what I mean--and so he uses his thumbs or whatever and closes them, the eyes, I mean, like you'd shut

our kiss and our eyes open like two suns dawn. We've overcome being overcome. I can't stand it anymore but I don't

the lid of an old-time secretary. Or maybe you have to weigh 'em down with heavy coins. Gold or silver or Ike

know how to tell her. My eyes are open but they don't say anything--they're speechless. Later on, of course, I do find the tongue

silver dollars. So it's not like you're dead at all. I mean you, not just somebody. All this fast-talking has put her to sleep and the light's not even out yet. I see the flesh of her lids but it's not the same angle I get when I'm kissing her lips

to tell her how I really feel. She's not happy and tells me so and curses me and says I took a vow and broke it. Granted: guilty. My eyes had deceived me then, though what you see is always what you see --even illusion's real. But she can't see that.

-to-lips. Not much sun shines there. No tan lines on her eyelids. Are those eyelids? Or are eyelids just the part that droops the lashes

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Fiction

Spark of Life SHARON FRAME GAY

I

'm the kid who did dumb-ass things growing up. I stuck fingers in light sockets, turned the gas on the stove just to smell it, crawled under porches looking for snakes. Folks said it wasn't fittin' behavior for a girl. Guess I should have played under a shade tree with a dollhouse and tea set. When my fingers got too big for the sockets, I poked at 'em with a fork. The jolt knocked me silly. I believe that's why there's a streak of white hair on my head like a lightning strike. Mama said it was a mark from the Devil, a reminder not to claim me when I die, 'cause I was even too much for Hell. That's how I got my name. Sparky. My birth certificate says I'm Luanne Reese, but nobody calls me Luanne. Not even when I'm in trouble. Speakin' of trouble, I guess it was no surprise I got knocked up at the drive-in movie by Lester Johnson. I had a pregnancy test six weeks later, and could hardly believe a baby was on the way. After staring at the results for a while, I poured myself a whisky from Daddy's stash. Helped myself to another. Then I got in my beat up old Ford and high-tailed to Lester's house. He lived across the river, on the other side of town. Cedar Mill is named after the mill, and the wood that rides through the saws every day. Here it is, 1962, and there's still no imagination in this damned town. Even the stop light on Main Street doesn't have enough gumption to do anything but blink yellow on and off all day, afraid to try something exciting like red or green. I swear, if folks around here had to think to breathe, dead bodies would be scattered everywhere.

I laughed like crazy at the notion. Kept it up all the way through the light until reality set in, and I remembered what was going on. When I got to Lester's, I woke him from a dead sleep. Boy, the fur flew then. Lester got a crafty look on his face and suggested that the baby might not be his. I clocked him under the right eye with a metal ashtray from Barney's Bar and Grill. "What do you want me to do about it, Sparky?" Lester dabbed at his eyebrow with the sheet, stared at the blood. He lit a cigarette and leaned back on the bed, regained his composure, lookin' like a judge instead of the one who committed the crime. "Hell, Les, I dunno," I said. "I can barely think right now." I sniffled, wrapped an arm around my stomach, cradled the cells growing there. Lester glanced over at the clock. "I gotta be at work in three hours. Why don't we talk about this tomorrow after we've both had time to think." He stubbed out the cigarette, scratched under an armpit, drew an old army blanket up against his chest and gazed at the door. I guess that was his way of telling me to go home. I looked hard at him. He was tall and skinny, a guy who folds into a chair like a jackknife. His gray eyes were so light they looked silver. I guess that's what I found most attractive about him. Sure wasn't his personality, or the way he treated me. But there was something about those eyes when he walked into the bar on a Saturday night that got me all worked up.

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I knew he had nowhere to go, so he wouldn't skip town. He was too stupid for that. So I slunk out the door like I had toilet paper trailin' off my shoe, got back in the Ford and cranked it up as dawn poked through the cracked windshield. On the way home, I pulled over at a picnic area by the river, got out and walked around. The water was flowin' easy that morning, leaves spinning in lazy circles, following each other downstream. By late spring the river rushes along, icy and bold from higher up. That's when local kids drown, carried away by the current until they give up and get pulled under, trapped by logs that escaped the mill. The wood forms arches under the surface, just waiting for some dumb-ass to get tangled in 'em. Then God shakes his head, fishes the sorry soul out of the drink, and dumps it on the shore of eternity. I lit a Camel cigarette. Still tasted Daddy's whisky in my mouth and wondered if the baby was likin' what I was already putting it through. It was shameful, but not enough to stop that very moment. I figured there'd be no keepin' this little baby, anyway. At least that was the reasoning at six o'clock on a Thursday morning. I never did anything right. Barely made it through high school, then worked at the Bar and Grill ever since, waitin' tables. College, or working in an office, didn't sit well with me. Mama and Daddy let me live in the back bedroom after I graduated. I frittered away every penny I earned, so it looks like there's no way I'd ever afford my own place. There was a rustling nearby, and a robin poked its head into the bushes with a worm in its mouth. Her babies set up squallin' for their breakfast, and the mama robin pushed it down their open beaks. That's when I put my sorry head in my hands and cried until the cigarette burned down and scorched my finger. I hopped around and cussed, climbed down to the riverbank, stuck my finger in the water. Then I dragged myself back to the car and headed home. I pulled into our driveway and squinted my eyes, wonderin' what the baby might think of my home. It needed a coat of paint. Most of the siding was worn down to the wood, as if the house cried itself silly and left smudges of mascara here and there. I put a hole through a window about three years ago. Daddy plugged it up with cardboard, duct tape, and a hunk of tar paper. So now the window looks like it has a permanent black eye. When I climbed out of the car, the scent of coffee and bacon rode through an open window. Everything looked the same, but it wasn't. Things had changed forever. I skulked into the kitchen. The screen door sighed on its hinges like it knew my secrets. Mama and Daddy were sitting at the kitchen table. I figured this was as good a time as any to make my big announcement. So I flopped down and started talkin'. Daddy banged his mug down hard on the table and ran calloused hands through his hair. It was red, just like mine. His had comb tracks runnin' through it, and skin poked out

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in patches where the hair decided to stop growing. His eyes were as mad as I'd ever seen 'em. But before he could open his mouth to holler, Mama cried into her hands, tears leaking out and dripping down on her plate. "A baby!" Mama moaned. "Oh, Sparky, how could you?" "Well, it actually wasn't all that difficult to do, and..." "Enough!" Daddy cut me off as he rose from the table, the whole floor shaking. "Who the hell did this to you?" he snarled, reaching for his coat like an avenger for a cape. "Now, Daddy, calm down. I'm eighteen years old and it's my business to figure this out." I tried to act grown up, but his angry stare made me feel like a little kid. I looked down at my nails, picked at a broken one, got all choked up. "I guess it was Lester." "Lester Johnson! That skinny, watery-eyed son of a bitch? Huh. I'd have thought he'd shoot nothin' but rain drops." "That's enough, Harvey," Mama said. After she soaked up her face with the kitchen towel, we sat together and discussed things. The conversation took a real turn when Mama said the inevitable. She slumped in her chair, aimed her gaze at me, warmed up her lips and fired. "Why couldn't you be more like your brother Wade?" This was a common theme. Wade was much older than me, and a better person than I could ever be. I was still a wild little tomboy when he went off to join the U.S. Army. Wade came home on leave in a scratchy uniform that gave him a "look of distinction", as Daddy said. Then, before you knew it, he went off to war in Korea. The next time he came home, he was lyin' in a coffin under a flag. Mr. Norris, the undertaker, said we ought to keep it closed on account of "the situation," meaning Wade probably looked like hell. Back then I was still young enough to wonder if Wade drank water in Heaven. And if he did, would it come leaking out of all those bullet holes like the cartoon characters I saw at the movies? So to be safe, I tossed a tin of band aids in the grave when all the mourners were walkin' back to their cars. Since then, Wade's been our local hero and our family idol, with me a far-away second. It sure wasn't getting any better now. I went up to my room, fell into bed and stared at the ceiling until the next morning when I heard Daddy leave for work. I took a long shower. Stared at myself in the mirror, sucked in my gut, tweaked my breasts to see if anything different was goin' on. Then headed downstairs. Mama was in the front room, watching "As The World Turns" and tapping her foot like it wanted to run out of the house without her. Her lips were pinched up, and she hadn't bothered to take her apron off when she sat down. Instead, she twisted it back and forth in her hands like wringin' a chicken's neck. I knew I'd better grab a cup of coffee and hear the verdict.


Fiction

"You ain't killing that baby" she said, each word dropping out of her mouth like it was pushed through her throat by Jesus Christ. I nodded. I already knew that. We're Baptists. We don't believe in killing babies. If I killed that baby, I would never see Mama or Daddy, or Wade for that matter, ever again. They'd be whooping it up in Heaven with God, and I'd be peering up at 'em like they were walking around on glass floors. All I'd ever see would be the soles of their shoes. I wasn't sure about much, but one thing I did know was I ain't about to go messin' with the Lord, and losing all hope of redemption. I'd rather go back to that river and let the lost logs find me. Mama stood up, turned off the television. All I heard then was a buzzing in my ears and the Logan's dog, Jimbo, barking in the distance like he was relaying all this to God. Mama sighed, stared out the window as if searchin' the sky for a script. Her voice sounded far away and sad. "Your Daddy and I had a talk, and we decided you can't stay here." "What?" I nearly spit out my coffee. Guess I hadn't thought that far ahead. "We won't be looked down on in this town because you do such stupid things. I called Aunt Lorna over in Des Moines. She said you can stay with her, work part time until you have the baby. Then give it up for adoption. We think you should leave by early next week. And Sparky, there's no other answer we'll abide, unless you marry that Johnson boy. Do you want your Daddy to talk to him?" I pictured Lester, eyes that look like silver dollars shot clean out of his skull with Daddy's pistol, and shook my head. "Naw. You tell Daddy I'll talk to Lester myself. Tonight." That part was easy. I found Lester right where I left him, scratchin' under his arm, with a cigarette hanging from his lips like a noose on a scaffold. He never bothered to lock the door, so I walked in like the Righteous, stared him straight in the eye, and lay my head off. "I don't know if you're the daddy." He relaxed against the pillow, relief seepin' out of his pores, and said "I always knew you was a whore." I nodded, walked away, heard the door click behind me and strutted out to the car with my chin up, then trembled all over. It was the only thing I could think to say. I didn't want to marry Lester. No matter what happened next, we were already a sad song. I sure as hell couldn't live under that silvery gaze for the rest of my life. "I took a bullet for you, Baby," I whispered to my belly. Then cranked the Ford and cut some pretty nice chunks out of his yard with my wheels, if I say so myself. Mama and Daddy helped pack my car a week later. It was sad to see what a small amount I owned. All of it fit old burlap bags, so dark I couldn't see what was inside them, like they were hidin' in shame. I couldn't see what was hidin' inside

of me either. But the past few days I felt something shift. Like when you walk out of the house one morning and know spring's coming, just from the way the wind decides to warm itself on your face. Daddy gave me a hundred dollars. Said I should use it for food so I won't impose on Aunt Lorna. He rubbed the crack in the windshield as though his sleeve would magically fix it, and I'd head out of here in glory like Wade. Only nothing happened but the Logan's dog barkin' again. They both kissed my cheek, told me to call when I got to Des Moines, and walked back to the house, closed the door behind 'em. I sat in the driveway for a while like a fool, with nothing to show in my life so far but a bunch of mistakes. Put the car in gear and backed away from home, watched it get smaller by the second. I drove out of town past the cemetery, stopped at Wade's grave. Everything looked so nice and perfect. The gravestone was clean, his name chiseled in an upright, heroic sort of way, as if the best thing you can ever do with your life is to lose it. Mama came every week and tended the plot, so it was a thing to behold. I sat on the grass next to him, and we talked for a long time. I left one of Mama's roses by his headstone, the breeze stroking the petals like a favorite child. Near a truck stop on the outskirts of Cedar Mill, there was a restaurant with a sign that bragged it had the best hotcakes around, so I settled at the counter and ordered the blueberry ones. I slathered 'em with butter and real maple syrup from Vermont, let it swirl in my mouth like words of comfort. Slugged down a glass of orange juice and took a sip of black coffee. Then everything rose up, and I ran to the bathroom, just made it before I clutched the toilet and watched it all flush down the drain. Right across the street was a drugstore. I walked in, and in a bold voice asked what was the best thing for morning sickness. Wandered down the baby aisle. I saw myself reflected in the drugstore window, loadin' up a basket with diapers, bibs, rattles, and sweet smelling lotion. I paid for everything and stepped out the door, held that bag to my heart just as tight as could be, and decided there would never be no lettin' go. Not today. Not ever. I could hardly see that crack in the windshield at all when I turned the wheel towards Des Moines. I turned on the radio and rolled down the window. Sang at the top of my lungs, one hand on the steering wheel, the other on my belly as we passed first one sign, then another, on our way out of town.

Sharon Frame Gay has been internationally published in many anthologies and literary magazines including Chicken Soup For The Soul, Typehouse, Lowestoft Chronicle, Crannog, Thrice, and Literally Stories. She has won awards at Women on Writing, Rope and Wire Magazine, The Writing District, and Owl Hollow Press and is a Pushcart nominee.

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On the Walls of the Old Fort FABRICE B. POUSSIN

Kaki shorts may not suffice to make the dream of a war complete. Toy guns shaped of fallen oak limbs and popping sounds from the mouths of babes. Distant images of boys and girls at play on a battlefield once of crimson rivers. Pondering the last days of a scorching summer an aged visitor leans upon a curvy stick. Scanning an endless panorama eyes closed the old warrior recalls confused memories. Summer dresses, sandals with flowery giggles and the surprise of a gentle fall in blades of grass. Stumbling with a deathly thump into a muddy pool surrounded by the darkness of many a running mate. Still on the prairie, the flaneur feels a teasing breeze as tears explode upon the face where once peace had a home. Child again, child at last, innocent of a genderless youth cries for the hours of ecstasy on the tragedies still echoing within the walls of the old fort.

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Boyan Dimitrov © 123RF.com

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Comaniciu Dan Dumitru © 123RF.com

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Drinking Her Essence FABRICE B. POUSSIN

Tasting the droplet on the tip of her tongue like so many times before the summer popsicle, she smiles, her body invaded by a shivering glee. Surrounded by an ocean of grassy meadows a vision comes alive within the gentlest soul fabrication of ancient memories from a childhood passed. Craning her neck, she arches her back to the azure seeking more of the freshness upon her skin she wishes she could simply dissolve into warm space. A soft diamond holding unknown treasures slowly slips tickling her insides as her body cools to a blue marble round as the statue of a goddess on Olympus. An ocean grows far below filling her with perfection sparkling on the surface of the soft wavelets below new skies unknown of the living above. Her hands glide upon this uncommon universe holding tight to every fiber of her breast she trembles certain that she has swallowed the essence of her self.

Fabrice Poussin teaches French and English at Shorter University. Author of novels and poetry, his work has appeared in Kestrel, Symposium, The Chimes, and many other magazines. His photography has been published in The Front Porch Review, the San Pedro River Review as well as other publications.

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Virgin Land FABRICE B. POUSSIN

Long ago the tremors ceased this land left untouched. Abandoned to the chiming of slow hours a desert grown from ancient vales. Once fertile grounds to extreme glee now silent as the coming day of doom. On islands in the midst of sandy oceans a gentle touch seems to persevere. She recalls the better years when winter ices thawed so upon her contented breath. The feeling beneath the pearly shroud and a shiver as life continued its journey. Now she longs for the old embrace the in-prints of sweeter decades. Too young for a last farewell she lies a virgin land in the desert.

Comaniciu Dan Dumitru Š 123RF.com

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A Stroke of Luck GAL SLONIM Kseniya Hunina © 123RF.com

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Fiction

T

he first time Johannes stopped talking to me was because I said something a little nasty about his Mom. We were in Johannes’ house and his Mom was preparing dinner. “Frau Obst, Johannes thinks the number thirteen brings bad luck, and that’s why you never have twelve floors in hotels. But I think it’s a lucky number. Three years from now they’re going to throw me this h-u-g-e Bar Mitzvah party and take me to Disneyland for my thirteenth birthday. My Mom won’t stop talking about it!” Frau Obst took a deep breath, she’d been doing that a lot lately. She bent to check if the pizza in the oven was ready. “Meine Süßen, we live in Berlin. There’s no right or wrong here. Three million people, three million lives, three million ways of living.” I didn’t like her answer, and told her so when we sat down to eat (the pizza was a little burned at the crust). “No way!” I said. “If thirteen is an unlucky number, how can it be lucky at the same time? And if it’s lucky, how can it be unlucky? There has to be a single truth!” Johannes looked down at the table, his face going a little red. His Mom took another breath, deeper than the first one, and made this strange pouting movement with her lips. “That’s quite enough. We don’t need to talk about these silly things.” The food was really bad. ∞ Next morning, I saw Johannes in the corridor before the first lesson and told him his Mom wasn’t as smart as I had thought she was. He started screaming that I was an idiot and I even saw a tear well up in his left eye and start to run down his cheek. I told him I was sorry, that I shouldn’t have said that, but he wouldn’t talk to me for four days. He agreed to talk to me again only when I came to him with a plan - we were going to find out which one of us was right! We wrote an agreement together and signed it in the bottom corner. The agreement stated that from that day until the following week, we were going to conduct an experiment. We would use the number thirteen to blame all the bad luck on (if Johannes was right), or give it credit for all the good luck (if I was right). In that way, we would find out the truth about the number thirteen once and for all! That night, when I prepared my schoolbag, I put thirteen pencils in my pencil case. It wasn’t easy to make room for all of them, and I had to swipe a few from Shahar’s (my older sister) room, but I’m sure she didn’t notice. When I woke up, I drank my chocolate milk in thirteen seconds exactly (I timed it with my watch!). Then I counted my steps on the way to school, jumping in the air after every twelfth step. Johannes also did everything that day according to the number thirteen. He swore to me that when he’d studied for English dictation, he’d memorized only thirteen of the twenty words. He went to gym class wearing a number thirteen Bayern München jersey, and at night he went to sleep at ten-thirteen (his Mom sent him to bed at nine thirty so he had to spend another forty-three minutes just standing by the bed and waiting). It took a few days for us to realize our plan wasn’t really working. No good luck had come to me, but then I hadn’t had any bad luck either. I got a B+ in my math test, and I was really hoping something unusual would happen on the U-Bahn, but the train wasn’t late or early all week, it was always on time. Johannes told me his Mom had a new boyfriend. He said the boyfriend was ugly and always smelled like cigarettes.

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Johannes’ Dad was hardly home anymore, he’d just drop by in the afternoons sometimes to ask Johannes what was up and take shaving cream or a pair of pants from the closet. Johannes said it was proof that he was having bad luck now. But I told Johannes it didn’t count because it was his Dad’s bad luck, not his. Besides, if we counted family in our experiment, then his Mom had had some good luck, because she was with someone she loved. He thought for a couple of seconds and just said, “Poor Dad.” And there was that tear again, running down over his cheek, this time from his right eye, though. ∞ So I suggested we add another clause to our agreement. The coming Friday, after it got dark, we’d go to Hasenheide Park together - because it would be Friday the thirteenth! Maybe something really bad would finally happen to us; or something really good. Johannes wasn’t sure about the arrangement. He asked me if it would be dangerous to go walking by ourselves in the park in the dark. “I’ve seen cops there a couple of times,” he said. “Looking to catch some bad people.” I explained to him that people who sold drugs weren’t bad people. On the contrary, they were good people because they helped other people to be less stressed by all their problems, and might even crack jokes about them. Besides, I told him, it was a good thing he’d seen cops in the park, because if we happened to have some really, really bad luck, we could always run and ask for their help. Johannes ended up agreeing to the new clause. He wanted to ask his Mom for permission, but when he went to talk to her on Friday afternoon, her bedroom door was locked. And when he knocked on it she pretended not to hear. Johannes knew she was awake because he heard the disgusting sound of kissing, the sort that causes lots of spit and lipstick stains, coming from behind the door. I didn’t tell my parents that Johannes and I were going to the park, just to Shahar, and she said it sounded really cool and wanted to come with us. She knew all about experiments, studying chemistry and everything, but I told her she wasn’t part of the agreement and there wasn’t any time to make changes in it. Being in the park was very scary, even for me, and I’m much braver than Johannes. The sun had just set and the streetlamps weren’t on yet. We walked over dry leaves that made way too much noise for leaves and sounded more like Pop Rocks. We couldn’t see a thing! We just kept walking deeper and deeper into the park between the trees. “Where are we going?” Johannes asked. “We’ll just walk around for maybe twenty minutes and then go back home. Did you hear that?” I thought I heard someone running behind us, and my heart dropped into my underpants. But nothing happened. It must have been a squirrel.

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“Johannes, stay close to me,” I said. In the distance, I could see lights flickering, maybe it was people taking a shortcut through the park on their bicycles, or maybe it was the flashlights of those black people from Africa looking to hide their stuff in the weeds. Johannes said it made more sense to think it was the ghost of some really old German who was looking to murder children. “There’s no one anywhere, what are we even doing here?” He was getting upset. Before I could answer him, I heard Johannes scream. “Ouch!” He fell to the ground. “What happened?” I knelt beside him and felt his body with my hands to check if he was all right. “Are you bleeding?” “I don’t think so. I think one of my feet got stuck in a fox burrow or something, and I lost my balance.” I took both his hands in mine and helped him get up. “What’s that awful smell? I think you must have stepped in some fox poop.” “My whole shoe is covered in poop. Scheisse!” Johannes was really bummed out, but to me it all suddenly felt so very funny that I started to laugh… and laugh… and laugh… Johannes waited until I was finished, and when I was finally quiet again, he whispered, “Now my Mom will know I went to the park on my own.” “Not on your own, you went with me.” “See what bad luck I have? Why else would my shoe be covered in fox poop? It must be because today is Friday the thirteenth. I won.” “What? Not even close! You got real lucky, because you fell and didn’t break anything and you can still walk! Don’t pretend to be stupid now!” “Coming here was a big mistake. I’m not talking to you!” “Again?” ∞ I couldn’t sleep that whole night. In the morning, I wrote Johannes a WhatsApp message. ‘Know what? You win. If your best friend isn’t talking to you twice in less than three weeks, it means you’re very unlucky.’ A few minutes later I got a smiley back from Johannes. I sent him back a smiley poking out its tongue. ‘Did you manage to clean the poop off your shoes without your Mom noticing?’ ‘You’re my best friend too,’ was his answer. I don’t like losing.

Gal Slonim was born in Tel-Aviv and has been passionate about writing Suggestion: for as long as he can remember. To be able to pay the rent and grab some Asian food, he works as a social researcher and teaches psychology. His work has been featured recently in the Berlin-based magazine “The Wild Word”.


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Taras Yakovyn © 123RF.com

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ROMANCE FOR A SUNDAY AFTERNOON JOHN GREY

Here in Eureka, it's a crap day. I've been nitpicking, backstabbing, chain-smoking, knuckle-cracking, nail-biting, ulcer-burning, spitting and cussing and crying and screaming and generally, overall, in toto, losing it. So I try to relax, make myself a coffee. And now water's boiling, kettle's screeching. If you care for me, pour me a cup. But if you're thinking of loving such a god-almighty son-of-a-bitch, go the whole goddam way, stick your hand in the steam. I did. I even screamed “Eureka!”

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Taras Yakovyn © 123RF.com

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THE WORD OF A FISH JOHN GREY

I’m silver, slithery and small. Nothing to brag about there. My open mouth swallows anything tinier than me. I’m at the mercy of whatever’s larger. It’s cruel if you’re the tiniest edible going. And gladdening when the food chain tops out at you. The rest of us are in between, predators at times, victims just the once. A man is at the lake bank, on one knee, looking down as I glide by. He knows I’m not important but at least he can see me. Just as I can see him through the surface blur. He’s nibbling on something. Probably algae, or its equivalent on dry land. And there’s a look of pain on his face. Must be because there are snapping turtles in these waters. One could be the guy he works for.

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Taras Yakovyn © 123RF.com

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PLAYING THE CONCERTINA JOHN GREY

Nothing else to do in a town of 868 folks (according to the last census) so I assumed a talent I didn't possess, figured that my ear, my natural musicality, would find me but instead they found me out, lacking in my fingering, even my folding and unfolding of the bellows.

John Grey is an Australian poet and US resident. Recently published in That, Dunes Review, Poetry East and North Dakota Quarterly with work upcoming in HaightAshbury Literary Journal, Thin Air, Dalhousie Review and Failbetter.

Forgetting the lopsided book-case I hammered together and the black-scarred rice pudding of my nascent kitchen endeavors, I launched into playing as if I was about to change the very nature of the instrument but, as mentioned previously, skill lagged behind intent. I am of a tribe that's forever trying something new: thus frail October afternoon, me on the porch struggling to convince eight Swedish steel reeds that this was not McPherson County, but a piazza in Rome, sun's epilog in the western sky, leaves loosening their summer chains, sounds shuddering in their leather box, fearful for what I plan to do to them.

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Shining of the Eternal Light HAREENDRAN KALLINKEEL

JRkorpa © Unsplash

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S

omewhere in the sky, two hours from Nedumbassery Airport, Cochin, and two hours to Changi Airport, Singapore...

To Have and Hold Sleep didn’t bless Nathan, despite the business class comforts the airlines offered. Curled in his fully-stretched seat, wrapped in a comforter, he shut his eyes tight and tried to close his mind to the nagging thoughts about his wife. Ten minutes of struggle to chase away the unpleasant memories only increased the discomfort they caused. His wife wields a gavel, keeps tapping his forehead, as if a judge in a courtroom hushing the murmurs of an impatient audience. Pushing away the comforter, Nathan stretched his arms sitting up and felt the cold blasts from the AC’s overhead duct on his chest. He had left home without informing Thara, his second wife, deciding he’d send her the divorce papers as soon as he got back from Amsterdam. At the last moment he couldn’t get a ticket from Mumbai to Amsterdam, a nine-hour fly time, and had to settle for the fourteen hours Singapore route. Like Reema, his first wife, Thara also became nagging after a couple of years of their marriage. “I know your daily workouts in the gym, the careful way you choose your attires…” she’d hollered. “Everything you do is focused on your need to hook up with the next girl.” Her lips, glazed with wine-red lipstick, quivered as her naked, stomping feet smudged the Italian marble with steamy smears. “Oh, c’mon, Thara,” Nathan said. “Gimme a break!” He walked into the study and slammed the door shut, warding off her verbal assaults. Yes, he was badly in need of a break; a break from a life that had become dreary despite all the goodies money bought; a break from a life hooked with a wife who clung onto her belief that marriage was the synonym of loyalty. She’s too judgmental to tolerate; the tapping of the gavel on his temple too harsh to bear. Yes, he deserved a break from the memories that kept coming back, shaking him out of sleep, like the turbulence of an aircraft trapped in cumulonimbus clouds. He had decided to leave for Amsterdam to spend a few days with Vinay, his childhood chum. Maybe, he could even come up with an article or two and make some money out of the trip too. His fame as a travel writer fetched him good returns. As he looked for the stewardess, she walked gracefully towards him, her tight, light-blue skirt revealing glimpses of her smooth, tanned skin above transparent black hose. “Yes, Mr. Nathan?” She offered him a broad smile, showing the gleam of white, even teeth below wine-red lips. He already had three doubles, on the rocks. This time he wanted it dry, hoping it might aid him to fall asleep “Same, airen. Double…”

“Got it, sir,” she said, giggling. It seemed to have pleased her all the more that Nathan called her a sweetheart in her native Mandarin dialect. “No, you didn’t.” The gold shimmer on her eyelashes sparkled as her brows arched. A cold, icy breeze so soothing after the grueling torment the gavel left on his forehead. Nathan winked at her and his eyes angled towards the comforter. “This time, dry.” “Sure,” she said, her smile deepening the color of her lips. The stewardess returned in a minute with his order. “There you are, Mr. Nathan.” She handed him a crystal glass, wrapped in a large paper napkin. “Thanks, fengmi.” “You do try hard and looks like it works.” Pleased again at the compliment, honey, she left, telling him he could call her if he needed anything, and wishing him goodnight. Sipping on his fourth double shot of scotch, Nathan leaned against his seat. The lingering tang of single malt, warm enough against his throat, was still not strong enough to check the onslaught of memories. Thara had her own unique ways of irritating him. Every time he received a call she’d be curious to know who was at the other end. She checked on him every couple of hours asking him where he was, when he’d be back. She expected him to account for everything; his time, his money, his aspirations. The judge’s gavel keeps beating against his desk’s surface. He doesn’t like the audience showing their emotion; he wants them to behave the way he sees fit. All the more exasperating was her never-ending eagerness to know whether he was dating another woman. Trivial tiffs leading to haughty arguments, mounting to everescalating tensions… What if he were dating another girl? Did marriage mean tethering your freedom to a vow of loyalty, confining all your energies to the service of a pestering wife? Nathan had the drink, held it in his mouth and relished its tang. He hoped the memories of a wife he had but couldn’t hold onto for long wouldn’t steal his sleep anymore. The gavel keeps pounding against his skull. From This Day Forward “‘A progressive degeneration’, according to the doctor, of memory and the ability to speak,” Vinay said as he dug his fork into a piece of beef from the croquette in his plate. “Adrian mostly remembers the evils that happened to him; the things he experienced and witnessed in Sobibor concentration camp; the taints of Dutch holocaust.” A slight quivering in Vinay’s tone, the way he cast his eyes away from Nathan’s gaze, revealed his feeling rather than concealed it from his friend.

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Whenever they spoke over phone, Vinay had never told him of the problems of the couple with whom he lived in Amsterdam, though he often hinted that his relationship with Adrian and Evelien Boele was much deeper than that of a tenant and his landlords. “Kroket,” Adrian, sitting at Nathan’s opposite side, said. “Goulash, better… flavor paprika…” He didn’t seem to Nathan like an ailing person at all. Alzheimer’s for three years couldn’t take away the brightness in his eyes or the glaze of his tanned skin. Maybe, the grace of his wife, sitting by his side, reflected on his body and soul; the mute radiation of her love tangible in the way she silently started to pick up the spoon when he dropped it; was held back because of her inability. Hemiplegia couldn’t deprive her of her warmth. Paralysis of her limb wouldn’t quell her desire to try. “Bad… bitch.” Adrian dropped his fork on the plate. “Sobibor good, lots of blood on the wall, paprika red…” He drew a deep breath. “Its overriding smell negating the stench of the inmates’ urine; the soldiers’ sweat; sweat pouring out of all their pores after they purge us of our filth; their occupied territory of us…” “The only time,” Vinay whispered to Nathan, and then looked at the couple, moving his gaze from one to the other. “The only time he speaks coherently is when he tells of the story of the torture.” Nathan watched Vinay’s large pot belly heave and then relax. A couple of years ago he was agile, lean. The trauma of a broken marriage and the pressures of his busy lifestyle in Amsterdam seemed to have piled up as extra layers of fat in his belly. “Don’t feel bad about what he says, son,” Evelien said, looking at Nathan. “No, yes… I mean, it’s okay.” Nathan looked into her large eyes, which had the slightest trace of wetness. She ran a hand along her silvery hair as if patting herself to calm. “His disease has obliterated all positive memories. Maybe, the negative ones are carved so deep that no amount of degeneration could possibly erase them. That explains the dominant negative valence in him.” Nathan felt like a vulnerable child, incapable to utter a few words to express his emotions. He cast a blank glance towards Adrian. “Sometimes, he becomes verbally aggressive and throws things around,” Evelien said, glancing at her husband who now had finished eating. She picked up another croquette with a fork and placed it in Nathan’s plate. “I’m already heavy,” he said. “We the Dutch don’t have a culinary tradition as rich as yours.” She served him a ladle-full of mustard sauce. “But you shouldn’t say no to our croquettes, no matter how full you are.”

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“Yeah, indeed they’re…” The clink of steel on glass made him stop half way. Adrian had thrown a fork at the window. Nathan could almost feel the fork’s vibration course along his naked feet as it fell on the marble floor. “It’s okay,” Evelien said without looking at Nathan. “You know, he sometimes engages in false accusations. Tells me I am an SS piece of shit. The reality orientation therapy doesn’t seem to work for him.” Nathan looked at her, wanted to tell something to soothe her. Her eyes, still fixed on Adrian, were calm and bright. He could detect brimming hope, not clouds of despair. Her eyes returned to Nathan, perhaps read his thoughts. “That’s how he said he survived Sobibor, hope still alive in the midst of miseries.” “Everything’s gonna be alright,” Vinay said. Nathan couldn’t have come up with a better lie, knew she wouldn’t believe what Vinay just said. To his surprise, Evelien repeated Vinay’s words verbatim, “Everything is gonna be alright.” Then she added, “From this day onward…” In Health and Sickness, to Love and Cherish “It’s his negative valence that makes things difficult for her,” Vinay said as he removed his jacket and hung it in the wardrobe. “But, in a way, he’s lucky,” Nathan said. “At least he doesn’t know… doesn’t have to deal with the pain of knowing.” “But, don’t you think, Nathan…” Vinay took in a deep breath. “The hell he lives in is far more hurting? You know, he has to masticate the horrors of Sobibor, every living moment. He believes he still lives in there for real. I think that’s what hurts her the most.” It hadn’t dawned upon Nathan yet that Adrian, in his mind, still was rotting in those dungeons, experiencing the pain he had gone through in his past. “Somehow…” Nathan looked at his friend and swallowed. “Somehow I had missed the point.” He felt his friend’s hand on his shoulder. “I’ve lived with them long enough to know.” Vinay didn’t bother to change his trousers and T-shirt and slumped onto the bed. He appeared to be more drunk than he usually did. Nathan sat on the other side of the bed, stretched his legs, leaning against the headboard. He badly wanted to smoke but decided against it. His thoughts revolved around Evelien’s words a week ago that everything was going to be alright from that day forward. He couldn’t guess what she meant. The next day, she said she had decided to have parties every night. “You know, Adrian liked to drink.” Her voice quivered as she spoke. “Earlier, I had allowed him but the doctor said it would exacerbate his degeneration.”


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Nathan remained silent. Silence had been his recent response to most of her talk. “So, I stopped stocking liquor at home. Now, do you think there’s any point anymore in denying him something he likes?” Again, he couldn’t think of anything to say to pacify her. His hand moved, wanting to hold her hand resting on the table, but he knew it was of no use. What was the point when her skin didn’t have the sensibility to feel the warmth of his touch? “So,” she smiled at Nathan. “We’d party everyday from now on. Binge… At least his body could find its happiness.” Nathan sat in silence and watched Adrian who had gone to the window, opened it, and put both arms outside saying, “Out ‘ere.” It was as if he believed that beyond the window freedom awaited him. “Maybe, that’d pacify him.” Evelien’s voice still rang with hope. Until Death Do Us Reunite Nathan’s return journey was a 19-hours flight from Amsterdam to Cochin with a stopover in Abu Dhabi. Vinay had dropped him at the airport and left immediately because he received a call from his office. After boarding the flight, Nathan had ordered a drink and relaxed in his seat, slowly slipping it. He had overstayed in Amsterdam by a week than he actually planned. Yet he didn’t visit the places he intended to. He did not write any articles either. But he had learned a lesson more valuable than sightseeing and moneymaking. When people had a real problem, they spent their lives trying to resolve it despite knowing that they couldn’t. When they had none, they spent their lives searching for ways to create one. Maybe, Thara behaved the way she did because of her love towards him. The way he carried on with his life may have made her feel insecure. Maybe, he was tapping on her head with his own gavel as much as he thought she did on his. Leaning further back on his seat, Nathan’s thoughts went back to Adrian and Evelien. When Evelien had told him about the partying, Nathan was apprehensive, thinking why she’d want to take such a suicidal decision. But when he saw Adrian enjoying the drink he thought she’d done the right thing. “These asparagus,” Evelien had said, serving him a salad of asparagus and cherry tomatoes in balsamic vinegar, “they’re from Limburg. The best you can get.” Nathan wasn’t much of a vegan enthusiast but he liked this variety’s earthy flavor, especially with the sweet tang of balsamic vinegar and cherry tomatoes. Their session had begun with jenever, a Dutch gin, and later Nathan had switched to whiskey. Adrian had three rounds of gin and then he carried on with a local variety of beer.

Nathan felt great relief to see that Adrian didn’t show any aggression and acted normal for his condition. He even had occasionally whistled some tune that Nathan was not familiar with. Evelien was right. What was the point in denying a dying person something he enjoyed? Then he hadn’t understood what she really meant. Now, everything made sense. On the way to the airport, Vinay had told him that the couple had invoked the “Advance Directives” of Netherlands’ law. It provided its citizens an option of euthanasia at the later stages of their lives if they had particular situation of suffering from which there is no scope for improvement. Evelien had made a request on behalf of both. A jerk of the aircraft, as it taxied forward, woke him from his reverie. Nathan decided to order another drink as soon as they’re airborne. He could raise his glass in a toast, to the memory of Evelien’s smile, the bright gleam of a light. Evelien had asked Vinay not to tell Nathan about her decision. Said she didn’t want to hurt him. But Nathan rather felt she had done the right thing. He would’ve done the same thing too if he were in her place. He felt his eyelids droop with the weight of sleep. The vision of a gavel in his hand loomed larger in his eyes and a sudden realization occurred to him. Maybe, it was his gavel that really needed a break, not him. 11 am… he texted Thara. Please, be at the airport. As the plane geared to takeoff, he called her. A slight pause after the second ring, then her sweet voice, “Hello, honey,” in accent free English.

Hareendran Kallinkeel lives in Kerala, India, after a stint of 15 years in a police organization and five years in Special Forces. He writes fiction, mostly short stories. His works have been published in online/print media. Aside from his family, he has two other companions; a Neapolitan Mastiff and a Siberian Husky.

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If You Value Your Life DEVIN GUTHRIE

Fuck off There are at least five better things you could be doing instead of reading me 1. You could kick around inflated rubber 2. You could plan your next five-year plan 3. You could make love to inflated rubber 4. You could lie in the grass and let bugs crawl on top of you before you’re dead Never read a poem’s last line Someone else’s end is bound to let you down Listen—do not listen There is no good part to get to on the next line Trust me I am just words that are wasting your time You have time to leave me to collect dust in your nasal cavities Guido Vermeulen-Perdaen © 123RF.com

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Breathe in your new sloughed skin Is your life about to begin or is there a sneeze building is there a pressure underneath your cheekbones that says “You’re helpless” that says “The motions of your eyes are circumscribed by the stars” If you’re on the same page we aren’t You think it’s too late now you’re almost at the bottom where maybe the Worth It will be waiting with a crockpot of stew and a kiss when you get back But no There’s only me gripping your hair in leathery fists dragging you up close to chipped wood lips screaming MADE YOU LOOK!

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Circular Thinking DEVIN GUTHRIE

Drifting on bed spread like laps of slow waves I think all my thoughts I have thought before Flitter-fluttering morphos make circles Around my head, drowsy, they drift as I Think curling thoughts wrap widdershins around Themselves & slink into oblivion Whirl-wisps breeze abandoned leave bones in fog Consciousness pulls itself slug like along Morpho Menelaus lilting and drunk On purulent plums alights here & here Leaves phosphorescent contrails so lovely I would rise to write them but words soft & Warm swirl past, trace my face’s well-worn paths Lover’s fingertips fragile rapturous Wings so softly circling I think I used To think I watch blue butterflies flutter & drift away Guido Vermeulen-Perdaen © 123RF.com

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Devin Guthrie is a disabled, genderqueer, asexual studying Existential Psychology at Texas A&M University. He is a three-time recipient of the James F. Parker award, and his work has appeared in The Notre Dame Review, Confrontation, Takahē, Hubbub, and the Adirondack Review.

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kylry © Unsplash

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Emmitt’s Homecoming Runs Into Second Act Problems JAMES SNOWDEN

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e don’t know where my Grandpa Julius is. He didn’t answer when we knocked on his door, Room 217 of the Chula Vista Holiday Inn. The desk clerk, an old white lady who’s only talking because Molly’s asking the questions, is ringing his room. Molly’s miffed with me. She gives me the quick sidelong glances that say Why am I the only one who ever talks when we’re dealing with clerks or cashiers? She doesn’t know how this old lady looked at me when we came in, like she’d already dialed six of the seven numbers for the cops and was just waiting for me to make one wrong move or say one wrong thing to dial the seventh. The last time I told her that, she asked if maybe I was being paranoid. I said, “Remember how mad you got when you told me about that movie director you picked up from the airport to take to the lecture who hit on you, and I said maybe he wasn’t? We didn’t talk for three days.” She remembered that, but I don’t think she took my point. Maybe I’m not as good at the silent treatment as she is. The desk clerk hangs up. “He’s not answering.” “Can you open the room?” I ask. Molly shoots another look at me. I say with my look back, You wanted me to talk. I talked.

“What is this?” The desk clerk says. “Ma’am,” I say, “That’s my grandfather in there. We’re supposed to pick him up, which means he’s supposed to be up and ready. If he isn’t, I need to know why.” The old lady looks me over close, as if I have words written on me in type too small for her to read. When she’s done, she snatches a key from the hook marked 217 and says, “You two stay here. I’ll look.” Out of the lobby she goes. “She and your Dad should go bowling.” I say. “You’re sure your grandfather knew we were the ones who were supposed to pick him up?” “I don’t know what he knew. I know what Dad told Mom to tell me.” “You don’t think he’d try to walk there or something, do you?” He might, I think. Once Grandpa Julius gets an idea in his head, it’s always hard to shift it. He might try it, bad leg and all, just because he got impatient waiting for us. We’re not late, but maybe he got bored hanging around, or this old lady pissed him off, or somebody next to him was playing music too loud. Who knows? Back comes the old lady. “He’s gone.” She hangs the key back up on the hook.

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“What do you mean gone?” Molly asks. “He’s. Not. In. His. Room.” The old lady says. “Did you see him leave?” Molly asks. “I don’t have any interest in the comings and goings of his kind of people.” The old lady says. “Are his bags still there?” “Yep.” “May I use your phone, Ma’am?” The old lady points a bony finger toward the pay phones in the corner. I pat my pockets for a dime. Molly hands me one from her purse, and I go over to make the call home. Mom answers my news with, “He probably did something silly like head out to eat before coming to the barbecue. He’s getting that age. Come on home. He’ll call. Your Dad can pick him up.” Soon we’re back in Molly’s car. She says, “Can you believe that desk clerk? Who knew that’s how Lurleen Wallace is supporting herself these days?” “Yeah, I can believe it.” We get to my parents’ place, a ranch style adobe house with a masonry roof that my Dad will brag about to whoever listens. “The adobe keeps it ten degrees cooler inside. I save a bundle on electricity.” Molly doesn’t know that he will say this to her at least three times today. It’s hard to find parking close. Everyone’s already here. We end up around the corner and up a block. We walk down a few steps before Molly reminds me to get my movie out of the trunk. I go back, open the trunk and pull out of our cooler the can containing my print of Birth of A Living Dead Nation. I wonder if I left it in the car on purpose. Molly would tell me I should be excited to show it, but she doesn’t know that my family doesn’t really get me or what I do. They won’t say they hate it, but they’ll say they like it in a way that makes it clear how little they think of it. When we get in and start greeting relatives on the way to my Mom, Molly seems at ease. I don’t know if she is at ease, but she seems that way. I’m glad. This is her first time meeting everybody here, and I was scared that, as liberal as she claims to be, she’d tense up. But no, she’s good. Finally, we get to the living room, and there’s my Mom. I show her the can of film. “Good.” She says, “Your Dad has the projector and screen all ready in the living room. You can set it up.” I turn around, and who do I see but Grandpa Julius, standing next to my uncle, both with coffee cups in their hands? Stunned, we greet him. He insists on giving Molly a hug. After that, I ask him where he was. “Oh, I came here. I didn’t like that hotel. And your cousin Grace is staying with friends instead so there’s some room for me here after all.” I ask Mom why she didn’t say anything. “Julius and Uncle Frank just got here. I didn’t know myself. But I’m okay with him staying.”

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“But his bags are back at the hotel.” I say. “Has he checked out?” A shift in wind direction carries the aroma of the meat smoking in the backyard into the house, and I suddenly want to eat everything in sight. No. I need to focus. Mom asks Grandpa Julius if he’s checked out yet. Molly shows me her watch. It’s 10:40am, almost checkout time. Molly volunteers to run back, get his stuff, and get him checked out. Mom takes the can of film from me and puts it by the projector. “Your Dad can set it up. He likes to show off how good he is at it,” she says. I’m not sure he is good at it, but I don’t have time to argue. Grandpa hands us the room key, and back we go toward the car. When we’re outside, I notice my older brother Charles is walking close behind us. He’s thin enough you could almost mistake him for one of our shadows, and maybe that was his idea. “What do you need, Charles?” I ask. “Can you guys give me a lift? I need to meet with somebody. It’ll just take a second.” “We’re in a hurry, Charles.” I say. “Get somebody else to drive you.” “But you’re going now. We can stop on the way back, can’t we?” “Stop where?” “The usual place.” “No way.” “Where’s the usual place?” Molly asks. “Forget it.” “It’s my car, so I have some say. Where?” “I know where.” I say. She doesn’t know it’s his heroin dealer, and we don’t have time for me to explain in a way that won’t start a fight. We’ve reached our car. “Can I at least ride with you?” Charles says. “We don’t get many chances to say hello. And I’m still your big brother, right?” “In the back.” I say. “Hurry up.” On the way, Charles won’t shut up. He gossips about everyone else in the family. I guess he has a lot of time to see and hear things since he still lives in his old room and works only part time at Uncle Frank’s Pitch and Putt. Molly must think he’s pretty pathetic, and he is, but what she doesn’t know is that he was supposed to be the promising one in the family. He inherited Dad’s math and engineering skills. He made the straight-As. He got accepted to CalTech. I’d been chasing him my whole life. I didn’t expect him to let me pass him. It doesn’t matter to my Dad of course. I still disappoint him, but I know I can’t break his heart the way Charles has. A few minutes go by, and we mercifully arrive at the hotel. Molly goes with us to open the door to Room 217, then she heads over to the office to check Grandpa Julius out while we load his bags into the car. He’s got a couple of big, heavy suitcases. Grandpa Julius doesn’t travel light, I guess. So I haul one out and Charlie comes behind me with the other. It’s


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only a short walk back to the car, but when we get there, my arms are tired and I have to put the bag down to get feeling back in my fingers. Just what is Grandpa Julius carrying that’s so heavy? He needed to bring his anvils with him? When I’m ready to open the trunk, Charlie says. “You should go check on her.” “Let’s put the bags in first.” “I’ll take care of them. You should see what the hold up is. Toss me the keys.” I hand Charlie the car keys. He opens the trunk and hoists the bags in. Molly’s car bounces on its tires. When Charlie shuts the trunk, he says, “She should get her suspension checked.” “What suspension? It’s a Bug.” “Good point. Go on. I’ll watch the car.” I head over to the office to find Molly standing behind an irate customer who’s complaining about the noise. I think it serves the desk clerk right to have to deal with someone like this, but it means we could be stuck here longer, and it could mean we’re going to have to argue with the clerk about checkout time to keep Grandpa Julius from having to pay for an extra day. I put my arm around Molly, and she leans her head against my shoulder. It’s the first time I’ve felt comfortable all day, and I look out the window and see Charlie driving Molly’s car away. “Molly,” I say. “Yes.” “Don’t overreact, but I think Charlie just stole your car.” Molly’s eyes widen. She pushes to get me off her and runs outside, screaming, “CHARLIE!” I run after her. We chase Charlie to a light, which turns green when we’re still about thirty feet from him, and off he goes. Molly leans against a chain link fence, panting and sweating. “Where. Is. He. Going?” I know. Once, he was supposed to be giving me a lift to the art store for airbrush paint, but instead he drove me out to El Cajon to this shitty apartment building. He told me he’d just be a minute, then he ran upstairs and left me there for two hours. When he came down, I knew he couldn’t drive, so I just walked around with him for another three hours listening to him talk the bullshit junkies like to talk. By the time we got back, someone had stolen our car, and we had to find a payphone to call my Mom and Uncle Frank come up and get us. That’s why nobody lets Charlie drive anymore. “El Cajon, I think.” “El Cajon. I don’t know San Diego. Where is that?” “Maybe 20 miles from here.” “How is he driving my car?” “He must’ve lifted your keys off me. He told me to go see what was keeping you.” “Shit.” Molly says. “How are we supposed to get home?” “I’m sure he’ll bring the car back.”

“Why? Why are you sure of that?” “Because after he buys his shit, he has no place else to go. He has to come home.” “Is your grandfather's luggage still back there?” “No. Charlie has it.” “Let’s hope he doesn’t sell all your grandfather’s stuff. Shit, let’s hope he doesn’t sell my car. Maybe we should call the cops.” “No.” I say. “No? Your brother stole my car. The usual procedure when that happens is to tell the police so they can get the car back.” “Yeah, they’ll get the car back. They might shoot him too. How would you like that?” I say. What I’m thinking is that it’ll probably come down to something like that sooner or later, because anyone stupid enough to pull something like this is bound to piss the wrong person off sooner or later and get himself killed, if he doesn’t stick too much in his arm first. I just…I just don’t want it to be today. “Did your parents ever get their car back?” Molly asks. “Nope. The Buick they drive now came from the insurance.” “Well,” Molly says as she stands up straight and wipes her brow, “If it doesn’t come back, at least I’ll have an excuse to visit my parents less. How much money you got?” I check my pockets. “Ten bucks.” Molly checks her purse. “I’ve got twelve. More than enough for a cab to get to your folks.” “You call them.” I say. “I don’t have good luck with cabs.” She doesn’t give me a quizzical look when I say that, so I guess Molly is starting to know some things. We go back inside and settle Grandpa’s room bill. Molly calls the cab and about twenty minutes later we’re back at my house. Charlie isn’t there (big surprise), so I have to tell Dad what happened. Molly and I go out into the backyard, which by now is crowded with relatives gossiping and joking and laughing while they wait to fill themselves up with the smoked meats that are, even now, making my stomach growl and howl, and we find my Dad. He seems to take it well. “Charlie did that?” “Yes. He did.” “Excuse me a moment.” Dad puts his tongs down on a folding table and unties his apron. He goes into the garage, which hasn’t had a car parked in it for as long as I can remember, and suddenly comes the sound of drums. Dad’s working the drum kit in there hard. The conversation around us subsides and stops as Dad does his Papa Jo Jones act. “Is this what he does when he’s angry?” Molly asks me. “Yep. Not just when he’s angry, though. It’s also a hobby.” “My Dad used to just hit us.” Molly says. “This is better.” I never really thought of it that way. But then, why would I have? Molly never said anything about her Dad hitting her before. “You mean Howard?”

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“Howard’s not my Dad. He’s my stepfather. I mean my Dad.” At a loss for what else I can say, I put my arm around her shoulders and pull her close. I guess now wouldn’t be the time to tell her that Dad did this when I explained I was dating a white girl. He pounded the drums for hours before Mom went in there—which she almost never did when he was playing— and they argued about us. I listened. I couldn’t help it. And Mom said, “You know what you being angry is going to do, Maurice? It’s going to drive the two together. You know that. It could be worse.” “How?” Dad asked. “You know damn well how.” Dad finishes his solo and comes back out, sipping an orange soda. He comes to Molly, “I’m sorry my son stole your car. I’m sure he’ll bring it back. If he doesn’t, I’ll see to it he pays you to replace it.” “Dad, if he had money…” I say. “He’ll repay.” Dad says. “If nothing else, I’ll pay you and he’ll pay me back.” “Thank you.” Molly says. “Not at all. It’s the right thing. Besides, I haven't thanked you yet for trying to help my Dad out,” Dad says. “You noticed the time and ran right back out to help him. I appreciate that. I hope you can enjoy our party and get to know the rest of us. And that starts with food. Excuse me.” Dad turns around, picks up his tongs, and calls Mom to start bringing out plates. We know better than to stray too far from the smoker now, but we still mingle with other family members. Word of what Charlie did has spread throughout the house and yard and now serves as something of an icebreaker for Molly. From her stolen car, the conversations go on to the great smelling food, parties past, and to mine and Molly’s surprise, a bit of chatter from my cousin Stephanie about the time she saw one of Molly’s stepdad’s movies—The Redlands Caveman—while she was serving on a hospital ship in the Pacific. They share a good laugh over how bad the movie was. And then the food’s ready. We all line up, grab plates, and take our pick of ribs or chicken pieces, done with the barbecue rub that helped Mom and Dad win second place in the Dana Point BBQ contest last year. Molly and I each take a mix, grab some of Mom’s cornbread rolls, and step aside to eat our fill. The hours pass. Dad, my Uncle Thomas, my Cousin George and Aunt Gaynell shoo people off one corner of the lawn so they can set up Dad’s drum kit and stands for a trumpet, a trombone and a sax, and then they all play bebop. It’s not great bebop. None of them are professionals and I can’t imagine that Dad, a chemical engineer at a paint manufacturer, George, a high school gym teacher, Thomas, a bar owner, and Gaynell, a wedding photographer, have lots of time to jam. But that’s not the point, I guess.

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I look at Molly, and there are tears in her eyes. I ask her what’s the matter. She says. “Nothing.” I say, “You’re crying over nothing?” and she says, “No. I’ve never been around a family that liked each other. I’ve never seen that work.” We hold each other as the music plays on. The sun’s going down. I’m not really thinking about the car or Charlie anymore. It just seems like a strange incident in an otherwise decent day. Charlie’ll come back. Molly’ll get her car back. Dad likes her now, so maybe things won’t be so tense around here. Everyone will watch my movie and have a good time, and I can say I’m not just Charlie’s brother. I created something. I shepherded it into the world. Now here it is, and it’s good. Then, from the kitchen, comes a horrible, piercing scream. George and Gaynell stop playing their trumpet and sax, but Thomas and Dad keep going for a four or two before they realize something’s up. Someone’s wailing in there. It sounds like Mom, but with all the music, my hearing isn’t quite back to normal. The door opens and Grandpa Julius comes out. He makes his way toward Dad and says something to him. Dad stops playing and runs into the house before I can ask him anything. Grandpa comes to me next. “They found Charlie. He crashed your car. He’s in the hospital.” Silence descends on the backyard. People start shuffling around, gathering their things, murmuring goodbyes. Molly and I head to the house. We’ll have to ride with Mom and Dad to get to the hospital and see what’s up with Charlie now. On the way to the driveway, we pass by the projector. I rewind my movie, take my reel off the spindle, and pack it away quickly. I don’t know when we’ll watch it, if ever. If Charlie still has a gift, it’s making his stories more compelling than mine.

James Snowden placed fiction in Pulphouse, Mind In Motion, The Seattle Review, The King’s English, and MAKE. His two novels, Dismantle the Sun and Summer of Long Knives, were published by Booktrope in 2012 and 2014. His novella, Escape Velocities, was named a notable story by the editors of StorySouth.


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Katarzyna Bruniewska-Gierczak © 123RF.com

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Poetry

Dead Fish CELMA LOUGREDO

hearts anchor fast as the days lap carelessly onto the soul like waves breaking in on fine sand, tide in, tide out not in crashing roars like the monuments shattering right into the coast from the Pacific, but wavelets, wrinkle-like, in a shielded bay, pattering days pass, like wooden motor boats, puffing from harbor to harbor like the small hands of a clock, hiccuping across time, to leave a straight white line across the calm waters of your mother’s brow days pass, and she tells you that before you’ve realized you should count the laps of those days softly wearing through the porous limestone of your youth, waves have turned into oceans, and decades are wringed into your skin like oil stains on the rough hands of boat mechanics days pass, and these waves that turned to oceans, these years that stuck themselves to your body like mollusks you keep, preciously— burden yourself in nets heaving dead fish, stuck in the stank of melancholy you carry a youth too heavy for your eroded bones

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Motel Drama CELMA LOUGREDO

let this be about the anatomy of my lost breaths, about the momentum, of my heart in my chest, when the breaks are pulledI was running from the lampposts on the highway I see neon pink and purple these days, bruises and cheap motel signs in a desert night, secrecy— I see blue and silver and soft, soft flesh, knuckles on dirty cheeks, bathtub blues I see carmine and crimson and coquelicot, flowers of pain blooming in your wake Let this be about the cartography of my fingernails digging into your palms, about the sound, of my high heels, running, too loud on the tarmacI’ll be flying by, flying- hundred miles an hour

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Poetry

Katarzyna Bruniewska-Gierczak © 123RF.com

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Katarzyna Bruniewska-Gierczak © 123RF.com

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Poetry

Figs CELMA LOUGREDO

I hide my secrets in a cubist garden of figs, where I used to run as a child— fingerless from counting, the years I had left — ‘till now. I hide my secrets in the purples and scarlets of bruised flesh, in the blues lining my shins, in the rainforest greens that swell with starvation in the midst of plenty. they lay buried, ten inches under sandy earth, together with the figs of these fruitful days— tombstones of hope. buried. and, last night, last night I dreamt that the cubist garden was rounded in a carpet of snow, the kind that always stays crisp, and bright, and pure, and makes every secret just that little bit softer

Celma Lougredo is a London-based Franco-Swedish poet. She is currently attempting to balance writing, acting, and a full-time bachelor's degree In Neuroscience. She tries not to include too many brain structures and neuronal circuits in her work but, unfortunately, they are very keen on inviting themselves in. Celma’s works have appeared in The Writer's Block and Page & Spine.

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vasya © 123RF.com

Love and Betrayal in the First Person Past Perfect Tense ROBERT VILLANUEVA

I

had no idea how it had escalated to this, but there we were in the Java Jones Café in Mega-Libro Bookstore downtown ready to rumble, two writers’ groups face-to-face in a confrontation that resembled a “Saturday Night Live” parody of “West Side Story.” Just beyond the Prose and Cons a coffee barista had leaned over the customer-free counter and watched our exchange as he sipped away at a foamy mocha-cappafrappa-something. The Prose and Cons was the other writer’s group whose members mentored recently-released criminals, encouraging them to use writing as a creative outlet.

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I had hated the Prose and Cons. Maybe not so much the whole group, but I hated their leader, Rich. He was a smarmy, egomaniacal 30-something substitute teacher who had a few publication credits in small magazines. To hear him talk, you’d think he’d won the Nobel Prize for literature. In that respect he had the makings of a fantasy writer. Rich had stepped toward me. His name isn’t really Rich, but the first time I saw him he was wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the adjective surrounded by lots of dollar signs. I guess it had been meant to be ironic, but I thought it underscored his


Fiction

nature, his superior attitude that even the bookstore clerks on occasion ridiculed when he wasn’t around. Until now, I had only vaguely heard about writer rumbles. They had remained the stuff of fiction, of dark lore whispered in shady bookstores where writers’ groups dealt in black market prepositions. Truth be told, maybe I should have been more concerned about facing a group that included ex-cons, but most of those guys were guilty of primarily misdemeanors, like bouncing checks or shoplifting. On the other hand, a couple of them, namely Marc the Narc and a guy they called Cutter, scared the baristas. I heard Celie “The Fist” even made one of them cry. “Time to settle this once and for all,” Rich said. I had sneered at him then nodded and grunted. There’s something to be said for that which goes unspoken, the sparseness of dialogue. “You guys pick three of ours; we pick three of yours,” Rich said. I had stared at him, trying to appear as if I was mulling it over but mostly trying to figure out if I should barter or something. What the hell did I know? I’ve never been in a writer rumble. So I waited for what felt like a respectable amount of time, then I nodded. In my head I heard a song about the Jets and the Sharks. I glanced over at Madison, one of the newest members of the Prose and Cons. She averted her eyes. “Ground rules,” I said. “Random genre selection.” “I select three, you select three, all from a mutually agreedupon list.” “Done,” Rich said, his beady eyes boring into mine. “Word limit.” It was no secret my short stories tend to run longer than average. And Rich knew it. “Determined by an impartial panel of judges,” I countered. Rich had recoiled. “The Pen Pals,” he suggested. Who was he trying to kid? The Pen Pals was another writer’s group similar to his own. Some of their members were even friends with members of the Prose and Cons. “No way,” I said. “The Write Stuff.” He had given me the same look I had given him for his suggestion, for the same reasons. Hell, it was worth a shot. “Dr. Shakespeare,” we said, in unison, like a harmonized line of a song, a song about a rumble. A kind of lame rumble. In truth, both of us had known where this rumble was headed. Dr. Shakespeare’s real name was Martin Adams, and he had a reputation for being a hardass creative writing teacher. Notoriously fond of quoting The Bard at the drop of a hat, he

had published three critically-acclaimed literary novels and a collection of short stories. There had been no chance of bias with him as a judge. He didn’t like anyone’s writing, unless they had gone through his creative writing program, and even there, there were no guarantees. We had known Dr. Shakespeare delighted in this sort of thing, not necessarily writer rumbles but opportunities to critique writers not in his program. He regularly held open readings, enlisting the aid of some of his better students to provide harsh critiques and practice literary evaluation. The professor would choose the location on campus. It would be neutral territory. The result of the writer rumble would determine once and for all the biggest point of contention between our groups: who would get the comfy chair corner at Mega-Libro. That’s what started this whole thing. The comfy chair corner had been coveted by both groups from the beginning. Unlike the other solid wood chairs used throughout the bookstore, the comfy chair corner had four overstuffed chairs that felt like settling into a warm embrace. It had been a source of contention for nearly a year, since our groups met at the bookstore at the same time. The spot went to whichever group had a member claim it first each time, and that had gone back and forth. It was going to be settled now, as we all found chairs in neutral territory, the Java Jones Café, to make our picks for participants. Rich and I had faced each other. Rich’s crew, all seven of them, sat at the tables behind him. The six members of my crew, the Easy Writers, sat at tables behind me. Let me say right now I’m not crazy about our group’s name. It makes us sound like we’re slutty word whores or something, turning tricks for an active verb or a well-timed onomatopoeia. Come up and see us some time, and we’ll make sure to take care of your dangling participle. But our group had voted from a list of three suggestions. So Easy Writers it was. Each group had huddled to confer about their picks. Our selections had been decided a few days ago. My fellow Easy Writers hadn’t known it, but this had been in the works for some time. “Madison,” I whispered to my fellow writers. “And Cutter and Celie.” “Why not Landon?” Jared said. “He’s new.” “New to the group,” I corrected. “We don’t know his background. For all we know he has more publication credits than all of us combined.” My fellow writers had appeared doubtful. “On the other hand, I happen to know Madison doesn’t write fast, and she’s never finished a story. Cutter’s writing is saccharine sweet, and Celie is practically illiterate.”

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“Seriously, bro, how do you know all this?” Brandon said. I had done my best to keep things as clandestine as possible, and now I had to fess up. At least to a point. “I’ve been doing some reconnaissance.” “What does that mean?” Kayla said. Her expression had denoted she was expecting a sordid explanation but not wanting one. I had spouted off a quick and innocuous account of having met Madison a few months earlier. Then I had diverted the conversation back to the matter at hand. They had known better, and I had known they knew. I hadn’t really cared what that said about me. I had glanced over at the Prose and Cons huddle. Every now and then Rich looked over at us with his beady, beady eyes. Madison had peeked over Rich’s shoulder, her blue-green eyes fixing on me for lengthy seconds before darting back to those in her huddle. When we broke huddle I didn’t even wait. “Madison,” I said, choosing our first opponent, even before Rich stepped in front of me. “Predictable,” Rich had muttered. Then he had selected Brandon and Lexie, and I had chosen Cutter and Celie. Before Rich had made his final choice he had paused dramatically. “And you,” Rich said. I had hesitated. I had wanted to say something like, “Oh, yeah? You want a piece of me?” Instead I had stood silent as a voice in my head said, “Crap!” It wasn’t so much the pressure of writing something on the fly or even the limitation of the word count or threat of an unfamiliar genre. It was the fact that I was going toe-to-toe with the one person on that team who I had blatantly betrayed. * * * Madison had always arrived for our informal chats late and left early. Her clothes often had appeared disheveled and carried the fragrances of her job at the Market Street Deli. She usually had smelled pretty gouda. To say I hadn’t known what I was doing would be a lie. It had started out as a chance encounter, but I knew enough to take advantage of it from the very beginning. I first had seen Madison at the Harrington County Public Library late one Saturday afternoon. For almost two years I had been visiting the library on Saturday afternoons to catch up on that week’s news by way of their cache of local newspapers, most of which are so small they have no Internet presence. I had watched Madison plunge her small hands between the puke-green cushions of an overstuffed couch at the open end of the last aisle of the Reference section. She had been sitting — half-turned toward the back of the couch — unaware I was

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standing in the last aisle, and poking out of the side pocket of her purse was a brochure for The Prose and Cons. When she had shifted into the most embarrassing position — her knees on the edge of the couch, her upper body hunched down, her backside prominently swishing back and forth due to her vigorous actions — Madison had caught a glimpse of me over her shoulder. “Lost my reading glasses,” she explained. Her translucent skin had held the burst of flamingo pink that crept into her cheeks. She grinned with all her teeth. “Don’t you just hate misplaced modifiers?” I had managed to say with a straight face. “Yes. Especially when they’re separated from a possessive subject,” Madison said, without skipping a beat. This had impressed me, but I knew what had to be done. I offered to help Madison in her search just as she pulled out a black vinyl case with the missing glasses. “Thanks for the offer,” she had said. “But I’ve found what I’m looking for.” “I’m Nick, by the way,” I said, not letting the opportunity for introductions pass. “Madison,” she said. She had straightened up and put the case in her purse. That’s how it had begun. That had been two beginnings. * * * Over the next 12 weeks we had met at the library on Saturday afternoons in a sort of spontaneous manner. I had made it known I was there every Saturday afternoon and practically begged her to drop by. We never called it dating. She had told me she was brushing up on elements of writing before committing to a reading at a Prose and Cons meeting. She said she was interested in community service, and the Prose and Cons provided that along while nurturing her creative writing. Some might say I stalked Madison, and I guess that was true enough, technically. But my motivations had nothing to do with her. She had just been the unwitting means to an end. To my wicked delight, Madison had told me about the members of the Prose and Cons, their best writers, their weakest ones. She confided in me that she had never actually finished writing a short story but had literally a hundred that she had started. Talking to her had been the easy part, so easy, in fact, that I had been surprised at our range of conversation. But to avert suspicion of my intentions, I had made sure to allow the digressions from the subject of the Prose and Cons to whatever topics she brought up only to work the conversation back to my true interest. At one point she had asked if I was seeing anyone, and if not, why not. She had admitted to noticing I didn’t wear a wedding ring but had explained she wasn’t being forward, just curious.


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Love, I had told her, was not my forte. I had told her it was probably because I had never had reason to take it seriously. Madison had described a more hopeful, yet just as unsuccessful, love life. She had been through a lot of mediocre relationships but nothing special. “I’m waiting for someone I want to hold hands with,” she had said. “Why hold hands?” “That’s the most intimate kind of relationship,” Madison said. “Your hands are what you use to reach for things.” I had just nodded, as if I understood. Whatever it took to convince her. I had always responded in a manner that made her believe we were becoming good friends, that I didn’t hold the same grudge Rich held. She had been aware, she said, the Rich sometimes seemed annoyed by our group, but since her shift at the deli on weekdays ended just as our groups met, she did not get to see the full show. She had been to only two meetings when I first met her. Madison seemed pleased to be able to talk about writing and our groups, and that had been the whole idea. It had been easier than I thought until it was time to rumble. * * * A small but respectable crowd of about 50 had gathered at Millay Auditorium, located in a historic building accented in wood that held darkness like guilt. Dr. Shakespeare directed six of his beloved students to act as monitors for the six participants. It was pretty straightforward: After random drawings for genre and form, each writer got a notebook and their choice of pen or pencil. No other materials, including cell phones or electronic devices, were permitted. To ensure no one cheated, each student was paired with a writer, sitting beside their matches to monitor them from beginning to end. Each team had to produce two short stories and one poem, each within the given genre. The work had no word limit, but a timer would be set for 60 minutes, after which participants would read before the panel of judges comprised of the students and Dr. Shakespeare. Points would be deducted if the work was unfinished and, of course, for any number of literary infractions. Our team had randomly drawn the genres of inspirational, romance and western. The Prose and Cons got mystery, science fiction and contemporary. We had lucked out, in a way: Brandon wrote poetry so at least he had experience in the form. But the rest had been a crap shoot for our team. An hour goes by fast when something is on the line. I don’t remember much once we divvied up the genres and began writing. Before I had realized it, time had been called, the works collected and the rumble got underway.

Cutter had read first, a poem about melons. Large melons. Large juicy melons. He pondered his inexplicable and mysterious draw to them, much like a moron wondering why he’s soaking wet as he stands in the pouring rain. I had wanted to shout to him to get a room and take his melons with him. The judges had seemed equally repulsed by the reading. It looked like one of them vomited in her mouth a little. Still, I had suddenly realized Cutter wasn’t spouting the saccharine-sweet fluff I had been told he wrote. In fact, despite the inappropriately amorous overtures to fruit, his writing alone wasn’t horrible. Brandon had gone next with a poem called “Fight,” and I wish I could say it had gone better for our team members. But Brandon hadn’t grown much as a poet since he joined us two years ago, fresh out of high school. He had continued writing painfully didactic diatribes that sounded like declarations of machismo, all about overcoming the enemy at all costs and proving worth despite the pain. He might as well have been writing about melons, too. In his pants. Next came Celie’s short story titled “Mr. Toots and the Meow Meow Mafia,” about a farting cat with mind control abilities. Something about the flatulence creating chemically-induced compliance in humans. At the end it turned into a furry bloodbath in which Mr. Toots had to face a feline mafia of cats with the same abilities that wanted him to join them. It was not pretty, but it didn’t sound illiterate either, and I felt a sense of uneasiness working its way into my mind. Lexie had volunteered to take the western genre for our team and came up with a story titled “Bad Day at Badham Creek Ranch” that told the tale of a rancher who has a run in with cattle thieves. If she hadn’t overused the phrases “Aw, shucks,” “Dagnabbit” and “Get along little doggies” it might have been quite a bit better. When Madison took the stage, I had been surprised how conflicted I felt. I had found myself searching the words for special meaning. Her contemporary story, “The Last Rites of a Dying Summer,” told the tale of a group of high school friends departing for different paths at the end of a summer together. The story had ended with the misfit group dancing in front of the screen at a drive-in movie that was closing that night. She had finished it. I was stunned and inexplicably happy. She had finished writing a short story. Something had been off about the whole thing. I hadn’t understood why she kept glancing my way during her reading, a knowing smirk on her lips. If anything I had expected scornful glares from her. Then, as she stepped down from the stage amid generous applause, she had been greeted by an enthusiastic kiss from Rich who stood from his front row seat and embraced her.

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These had not been casual gestures. They had been the actions of a couple. Then I had come to the slow realization of what was happening, unable to allow it to fully develop. I had been called to the stage to read. Maybe I had provided my own surprise; I’m still uncertain about that. I had finished my story with just over a minute to spare. It was simply titled “Spectacles.” The story was about a guy who met his soulmate at a Laundromat when she had returned to look for her missing glasses between the cushions of the cheap vinyl couch. In the story, the couple could not be together because the woman was engaged to another man and decided not to leave him. As I wrote the story I hadn’t known how it was going to end. I had meant the story to be a blatant representation of a calculated betrayal. As I read the words, I had been startled by my own truths. I had felt a flutter in my chest and a rush of blood to my face that alternated between self-conscious warmth and cold reality. Before leaving the stage I had managed a glance at Madison in the front row. I saw her grin falter. Something resembling sadness tinged her countenance. Her hands rested in her lap, despite the fact that Rich’s hand rested on her knee. * * * The critiques had been merciless. Dr. Shakespeare himself had called Brandon’s poem “a testosterone-laden turd” and sarcastically commended Lexie for bringing Yosemite Sam to life once more for the benefit of pre-schoolers. Despite these observations he did allow some elements were not complete garbage. Cutter was told by two of the judges he should seek therapy, while Celie was told by one judge to find a world beyond rectums. Again, the judges offered a few bits of praise amid the eviscerating comments. Madison’s work was called sophomoric by one judge but rated a bit above mediocre by most of the others, including Dr. Shakespeare. The consensus seemed to indicate the story was not great but at least salvageable. My short story fared about as well with the student judges, but Dr. Shakespeare allowed there was a “tiny spark of worth in a dimly-lit maze of literary mish-mash.” Then he went on to mutter something about me pissing on that spark with a heavy handed ending. It had taken the judges 20 minutes to compare notes and confer. The Easy Writers looked uneasy, but all I could think about was how Rich had muttered the word “predictable” when we chose opponents, how Madison never actually had worn the glasses she had been looking for, how Rich carried the glass case in his shirt pocket and wore glasses. When Dr. Shakespeare had made the announcement, he prefaced it with a note that neither group should win any

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awards. But in the end he had relinquished victory to The Easy Riders. Amid the screams and exclamations of our members and the flurry of hugs and high fives, I couldn’t bring myself to look at Madison. Rich, to his credit, had come up and shook my hand. But that just made me think of hand-holding. * * * The Saturday after our writer rumble I could not make myself leave the apartment. From outside, the sound of children laughing and shouting as they played drifted into my living room, echoing in its emptiness. Even the couch had felt different, as I shifted on its cushions to settle in, channel surfing without any real desire to watch anything the TV world had to offer. But I had wanted to shake predictability, to shed a part of myself somehow. Predictability was going to the library every Saturday. Predictability was how I had seized the opportunity to take advantage of what I had thought was a chance encounter. In the end, I had gone to the library anyway. I don’t know why. Or maybe I do. The bright day fell in great white beams of sunlight through the windows onto the library floor. I grew sick as I walked toward the back section of the building. I had rounded the corner with my heart in my throat only to find an empty couch, empty table and chairs. For the rest of that afternoon, I sat there, alone in the reference section, resting my head on the cool, slick surface of the table, thinking about things won and lost.

Award-winning author and former journalist Robert Villanueva lives in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Villanueva's short stories, poems and essays have been published in numerous print and online journals including The New Southern Fugitives, The Maine Review, The Summerset Review and The Binnacle.


Literary Work

Josh Pearce is an assistant editor and film reviewer at Locus magazine and has published short fiction and poetry in Analog, Asimov's, Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Nature magazine, and more. Find him on Twitter: @fictionaljosh or at fictionaljosh.com.

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Please Hang Up and Try Again JOSH PEARCE

fully aware of the (chunk clunk) coin-operated brain :it’s one thing to be conscious: and touchtone stimuli telephone :and another thing to be conscious of being conscious: the only one ringing in a bank of payphones with no one there to answer

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Semi-Rigible People JOSH PEARCE

sand dollar patella ulna made of burnedout fluorescent tubes brittle antique chamber pot pelvis (already and always filled with shit and piss) teacup skull and ribs: quill cartilage, empty hypodermic, wishbones misplaced (delicate handshakes) semi-rigible people (and never an embrace) dead coral brain easter egg face

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Slaves to the Weather JOSH PEARCE

Men in black business suits with their folded-up handkerchief dreams tucked in breast pocket (mostly for show) and ladies with parasols that shield them from age (every sunbeam an extra day) twirl across caketop ice rinks unstable on the whalebones of their feet. When the sky melts here they pair beneath the sight of God slaves to the weather: in this, alone together.

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Listless

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ALAN IRID FENDI

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he sun could be barely seen or heard, but the heat seeped into her, engendering the warts of sweat on her skin. In the bookshop’s window she saw herself, standing there. In her early twenties. In her tight jeans and tucked shirt, as a woman (a bundle of years older than herself) scrambled by, she knew that woman was her predetermined fate, to be realized in the upcoming few years. She was convinced and, in a way, contented with that. As long as she had what little time she had left.

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The obvious thing was her. Her form. Her clothes. Not clearly her face under a slight smack of make-up—she called it “slight” and her parents didn’t disapprove. She knew exactly what she was. All those years of nurturing and rearing, being set on the straight track towards Modesty like a wind-up toy. But that, as all knew, only came after what other people explicitly called: “Degradation”. Her mother and father owned her and cherished her, each in their own congenial manner. The mother mainly figured as a guide in how to be just like


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herself. The father, on the other hand, always grappled with the forced sensation that his daughter’s existence was a threat, a trap of femininity. For her to deny all that would be wanton stubbornness. She grasped the near whole of it. But it didn’t hurt to lie, at least to oneself. She looked at herself in the mirror, not pensively. But almost without an effort, she realized that she was a mere commodity. The idea of it constantly seemed appealing to her at first. She an item on a shelf in a gigantic shopping centre. With a price tag attached round her tubal neck. Everyone rushing in to behold her majestic serenity. She stood there, motionless, unattainable. Sour as lemon or an unreachable cluster of grapes. With glitter skin. She blinded those who dared look her straight in the eye. Her eyes met the very same eye that belonged to her in the shop window. With a start, the busy world around her began moving again, everything so sharp and pungent. And she entered the bookshop, her left hand in her “ass-pocket”—as she liked to call it among her friends—her fingers fumbling with a slip of paper. This slip of paper—with the name of a Ukrainian author on it—had enabled her to come to the city. She’d been wishing to do so for the last two weeks and she only needed a plausible reason. She’d tried the cinema, the Central Park, a stroll, “just some fresh, good city air.” To no avail. None of those pretexts worked on either parent. It took only either. For, she was of the opinion, as soon as one agreed, the other would loosen up their face and say yes, you can. The shop-attendant looked sweet in the way he leant over the book located between his hands. When he stood up, urgently, his face looked cube-ish. His spectacles jerked a bit at his surge from his seat. And there spread a benign smile across his jagged face. When she showed him—showed him because she didn’t like to utter foreign names or, generally, say the wrong things—he instantly dug into his desktop and fetched nothing. “Nothing,” he said resentfully, almost to himself. A sigh followed. And then he caught himself going against common decorum. At that he apologized for not having the book, or any book by that particular author for that matter. She told him it was alright; after all, the book meant little to her even though it was a book she wanted to read. It was nearly only an artifice. But he stopped her. She strutted back the step she’d just taken towards the unknown outside. She stood in front of him, sincere in her posture, expectant. He gave her a pen, and she didn’t refuse it. “Write down your name—please—and number. We will order the book for you from Beirut, and will phone you as soon as we get it. Takes less than five days.” She did as he said. Though he didn’t know the number she scribbled down was her father’s. It made her feel uneasy, lying to him with that earnest face of his. But she feared the by-

product of this interaction. Not because of anything. She just didn’t find him handsome, and his glasses, with their golden metal frame and round lenses, made him age ten years more than he in fact had lived so far. She noticed that her hand was inside her ass-pocket again, so she retracted it—it was not scorn. She made for the door, pulled instead of push, then pushed the door with all her might and was on the same street again. Reborn. For a second, she mistook this for the closure of her city trip. The wristwatch round her arm ticked another second, sending her mind into another level: Killing curiosity. The idea of her plan then came back to her. It had taken her days to plan this trip de joie, and now, in the presence of this colossal being, this city, it all seemed all too silly. The bookshop was in fourth place on her mental list; she did it first, however. Three items that slipped her mind. She was cleverer than to ignore the fact that a list of more than three things is highly forgettable, especially a list of thrilling things. She was cleverer, but a glutton anyhow. Slowly, dejection started to take hold of her. She flipped the list in her head upside-down, and from side to side, back to front: Nothing. Being one of the few she knew could keep their head, she set out walking in one of two directions. The first oncoming street sign failed, due to fainted lettering, in doing its sole task. She made out the last and first words: Kinan (…) Street. It was no use waiting around, she reasoned, with what little time she had. A street name meant nothing to her, anyhow. She only wanted to see as much as she could, and for now that was the only item on her mind. She wished to keep it that way until she found her bearings in this peopled puzzle. Then, she considered going to the pictures. Or the mausoleum of the local saint. Or maybe, even more exhilarating, a hookah café. She paused her hopping train of thought, herself still heading in the selfsame way, now and then checking her left and right, on the lookout for a larger street or, preferably, a promenade. Anew, she had too many items on her list. So she discarded the grimmest of them.

Syrian writer, Alan Irid Fendi (b. 1993), writes in Arabic and English. His poems have appeared (in English) in Sukoon, The Summerset Review, New Verse News and Leopardskin & Limes; (in Arabic) on Gaston Bachelard-blog and Al-Haraka Al-Shiriya. A refugee of war, he currently resides in Norway, where he is majoring in English language and literature.

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Identitarians TIM KAHL

In defense of their culture, more adults enrolled in the new welding program at the high school. There was no sign the cheap steel would stop leaking in over the border, and they wanted to be ready in case the new cannabis business didn’t take hold. Every year they imagined themselves as a different character in the nativity scene in front of Pastor Freitag’s home. They prepared for Feast Day in the event of the apparition of the Virgin Mary in the desert. But mostly they hung on as pest controllers, lot cleaners, fence fixers, code enforcement officers, owners of Dodge Avengers. One held the record for the red-ear sunfish. One member of the Round-Up Club was spat on by a spa frequenter. The collisions of beings outnumbered the collisions of becomings, even at the Regional Senior Center, where some wanted the breaded fish and potato bites and some wanted the cole slaw and mandarin oranges. Every choice that was made required a label to be fixed later while they spent their days as sitters in booths, dreaming of being happy customers, like in the old days when they were churchgoers and line dancers and carolers and wearers of beaver skin hats. They played the balalaika and left the pursuit of the almighty dollar until Monday came back to them again. They were not car-sharers or protectors against free radicals. They did not know anyone in the Gang and Narcotics Unit. They were outpatients who were later upgraded to stroke survivors. They were encouraged to become grief support group members before they, too, met their palliative care givers. Finally, they were handed over to the cremation specialists who shoveled all those precious particles of identity into a container for them, for that defining moment when their cremains would be released to the river’s flow of reason.

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Tim Kahl is the author of Possessing Yourself (CW Books, 2009), The Century of Travel (CW Books, 2012) and The String of Islands (Dink, 2015). His work has been published in several journals. He currently teaches at California State University, Sacramento, where he sings lieder while walking on campus between classes. His website is http://www.timkahl.com.

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Poetry

Give In to the Drift TIM KAHL

How does the blind trust in a book begin? Does it commence at first glance or touch— or are the measurements made in the middling pith, in the space between the sentiments attached to heaven’s wilderness and the sighs of inland seas that battle the ring of huts encircling them. What would the books made in such places contain? Would they trade in prayers there or imitate the dictionary in the way they speak about the rain? The way they pack all that language into place . . . it will fill up the interiors, the dry chasms where difficult feelings churn and eventually happiness awaits. You could go shopping or play a game and get there too, but why enter into negotiations of prices and faces and figure out the best deal, the best path to take. Then you’ll be committed to gaining more and more and the only direction you can travel is up and up as a regular contestant on Status Habit. But by now you could have been almost twenty pages in, winding through the posts, charging the thickets, settling that one bare foot onto a patch of mossy earth, and you might possibly be mistaken for a mental traveler, that one who navigated the treacherous rings of Saturn and never left the bedroom. Give in to the drift. This is how odd purpose can start to rear its head hitched to a team of sentences that pulls you along. You just need to trust where it’s going, forwards into the past, backwards into the future. Don’t you remember when you had time to read? But now that’s all done. I know. I should just shut up and bring you what you ordered.

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Hunt CLAUDIA SPIRIDON

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he air is thick with the smell of dead leaves and stagnant rain water. The sound of boots crushing twigs rings softly in your ears, like an echo. Your steps get lost in the heavy fog that hangs low, hugging your ankles as you walk. The heavy shotgun comes crashing against your back in a rhythmical cadence with every inch of the forest you cover. It’s quiet, aside from the sound of your breath and heartbeat. When you raise your gaze from the floor covered

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in rust coloured leaves, you see the two men ahead of you stopped in their tracks. “Jamie, move your ass over here.” The guttural tone of your dad’s voice makes you flinch, almost. You hurry your pace, heart sinking to the depths of your stomach with every step. Your older brother offers you a stupid grin - one of those smiles that is there to taunt you, ridicule you. You hate it. “What’s up?” you whisper, almost breathless, while adjusting the position of the shotgun on your shoulder. Your dad nods towards a thicket of trees. And now you can see it. Hiding between the old trunks of the trees, a buck is raising its head to smell the air. It senses the danger but,u, with a false sense of security, it goes back to sniffing the ground for food. Your dad stares at you intently now, eyebrows brought together to mark an intense expression. “Time to shoot, boy.” Even in a low tone, the words flying off your father’s lips hold a tinge of authority, make the short hairs on the back of your neck stand up. For a long moment, you stop breathing. You can hear the mad gallop of your heart, you can hear the rustle of the leaves as the wind travels between the contorted branches of the trees. “Do it already,” your brother mumbled under his breath. You pick up the shotgun - level it - stare directly towards your target. The buck stops now searching the floor. It raises its head and stares towards the heart of the forest. Your finger is quivering on the trigger and your vision is now blurred. You blink a few times, take in a deep breath. And shoot. “Fuck!” The shout next to you makes your shoulders perk up and your back arch, in an instinctively protective stance. “How could you fuckin’ miss?” Your muscles are now trembling as you hold the gun tighter, the impact of the butt of the shotgun with your shoulder making you ache. Your dad’s green eyes are decorated by animated flickers and you can barely make out what he’s saying above the high pitched ringing in your ears. You can’t hear your brother laughing but you can feel his eyes pinning you down with an amused stare. You shake your head and lift your shoulders in a forced shrug. “Sorry,” you murmur, almost to yourself as you let your arms lower. You sling the shotgun around your shoulder, feeling its weight pressing against your back. “It’s not funny, you idiot,” your dad commands in a roaring voice, directing his anger towards Rob - your brother - now. “Sorry,” the brunet to your left manages as he takes in a breath to calm down his giggles. He pats you on the back as your dad makes his way towards where the buck was a minute ago. “Good job, you pussy.” You let your hands curl into fists, your nails digging into the soft skin of your palms. As you let a shaky breath leave your chest, you watch the two men trek through the forest. The image of the buck is still imprinted on the back of your lids and, every time you blink, blood rushes to your head, making you dizzy.

“Come on!” your brother gestures, beckoning you to join them. And you do. When you take the first step, you notice your knees are weak - they almost give in, but you lean against the trunk of an oak for a moment. Then let your feet carry you towards the two men. You can see your dad whispering something under his breath and you catch occasional words. You don’t try to make sense of them, afraid the meaning of those mutters hold disappointment. You follow the men as they chase shadows through the forest, walking in the direction the buck sprinted towards. Your feet feel heavy and your insides are still upside down. You let your gaze follow the movement of the fog as you trudge through it and try to replace the nagging voice in your head with the sound of the wind sailing above the branches that stretch to the sky. From time to time, you raise your eyes to watch your dad’s stance. His shoulders are slumping with every inch of your walk that do not bring you closer to the buck. As you bend softly to make your way beneath a low hanging branch, rustling captures your attention. When you turn to investigate the sound, you meet two large eyes. The buck stopped in its tracks, a few feet away from you. It’s watching you, its nostrils large, as if taking in your scent. You feel your arm reaching for the shotgun. When you try to find the silhouettes of the men you were following, they are nowhere to be seen. A split of a second. Rustling. The buck is gone. You’re all alone. You feel a howl climb from your chest into your throat and then it erupts into the autumn air. You scream their names, steps unsure, eyes frantically searching. Almost wishing this is a bad dream, you close your eyes - listen to the rhythm of your breath and try to remember what your dad taught you. You curse under your breath when you realise you can’t recall half of the things he told you. Where was your mind wandering? And you hear yourself reply in the empty chambers of your own mind: anywhere but there. Anywhere but the reality where you had to listen to him talk about the trails and tree types and antlers and pelts… When you take in a breath, the scent of decomposed nature coates your lungs and, as you exhale, you take notice of the way your fingers are trembling. You pat your pockets, in search of the familiar shape of your cigarette pack. A sigh of relief escapes your chest as you pull out a cigarette and bring it to your lips slowly. You fiddle with the lighter, panic for a second when your shivering, cold fingers refuse to work with you and are antagonising you instead. Light illuminates your face as the flicker of the lighter consumes the end of your fag. The first drag is a long one and you almost choke on the smoke. But it works like a charm - it brings an elevation to your thoughts

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which want to cling to the deep parts of your mind. Paranoia slowly is erased from the lines that decorate the topography of your face. You let your back align with the trunk of a tree and close your eyes, listen to the distant sounds of the forest. There’s barely a tone to give away life. When you take another sip from your cigarette, the smoke reaches deep within your lungs and dislocates a stubborn cry, a scream that had been lodged in your chest for a long time. “I hate you, you stupid fucks!” The words ring in your ears with an echo, they bounce around your skull and almost give you a headache. You feel intoxicated. You know they won’t reach your dad or your brother but hearing them makes adrenaline course through your veins. You let a laugh erupt from your throat and ignore how the dying light of the day paints the forest in a crepuscular hue. When you open your eyes again, the sound of your own laborious breath inundates the chambers of your mind. And beneath the mutter of your respiration resides another noise. It’s the flutter of leaves. Your gaze is drawn instinctively towards your right. You meet his eyes. He blinks. The adrenaline shoots through your shoulders, making you flinch, and the half smoked cigarette flies out of your hand, almost on its own volition. Your breath catches in your throat as you stare at the animal. “Shit, shit, shit.” The words that smack against your lips are a whisper, faded and scared. You reach for your shotgun, all the while letting your gaze pin down one of the buck. You tell yourself this is exactly what you need - shove the fact you killed that buck in your dad’s face. Make your brother reel with envy. Make your mum’s smile falter because you know how much she hates the incessant killing. With a flutter of the ear, the buck is suddenly sprinting in the opposite direction from the end of the barrel of your gun. A shiver shots down your spine, makes your legs move in the hurried rhythm of a run. Your vision is blurry and branches collide with your shoulders, the shotgun in your hands pointed at all times towards the shadow that leads you through the forest. Light makes the sweat on your forehead glisten softly and you feel yourself baring your teeth, as if you’re ready to take down the animal with your own hands. You hear a distant voice in your mind shouting your name. Perhaps your conscience, you tell yourself - perhaps the only human part of your brain that is trying to stop you from your pursuit. And you ignore it. Tell yourself that when you’re living with animals the best defence mechanism is to act like them. The buck is fast and he seemingly has an unending source of energy. You feel your muscles burning, radiating warmth. Pain shoots through your soles, makes your Achilles heels

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feel as if they are on fire. But you don’t stop. Your gaze follows religiously the darting figure, as if your entire existence depends on pulling the trigger, seeing the buck down on his knees. The thought of having so much power over something so out of your control makes you dizzy, it drugs your senses. Your breath is heavy, rugged, inconsistent. The air is knocked out of your lungs, expelled with such force you find yourself completely breathless. You stop. The nature around you stops. The evening light is now dying fast. There’s only the memory of the sunlight now accompanying the fog decorating the forest. The buck is facing you, almost pleading. You take in a breath and your hungry lungs assimilate every last bit of oxygen. “Jamie!” The voice. The buck. Your finger on the trigger. You toy with the sensation of control over the being standing before you. Not too far, not too close - the perfect shot. You align the shotgun. “Jamie, stop!” You let your finger hover over the trigger, while you are playing with the idea of chasing the buck around the forest more before you finally decide his fate. “Jamie, stop right now!” You decide against it. The animal’s eyes remain trained on yours. “No, Jamie!” The shot is loud and makes you wince and cup your ears. It’s almost as if the sound is amplified by the monumental silence of the forest. Your eyes are closed - darkness surrounds your vision. “Jamie?” The voice in your head now moves, somehow, to your left. Your heart sinks in the depths of your stomach. You see your brother’s face. His eyes hold fear and anger and all the emotions in between. Something is wrong. You can feel your eyes’ surface slowly being blurred by tears. Your brother stares between you and the corpse. Your shot was perfect. Right in the center. And your dad gives his last breath still staring at you. You didn’t shoot the buck.

Claudia Spiridon is a new up-and-coming writer. She likes to push format and style in her dark, human experience-inspired works. She once studied Marketing but is currently climbing up the corporate ladder and writing about the world. She also likes breaking writing rules - which may be the reason why this bio is not written after a template.


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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 third quarter of 2019.

This Nation under Attack ALEX SALAIZ Rookie FBI agent Chad Winters recognizes an assassin is the link to the expatriated American whose goal is to bring US Congress down.

Unholy Terror Waged on Our Beloved Nation ALEX SALAIZ The story unfolds as soon as FBI Special Agent Chad Winters brings to justice the fugitive financier Roberto Dela Torri from Yemen.

Revenge Without Remorse ALEX SALAIZ The terrorist leaders had failed miserably to eliminate FBI Special Agent Chad Winters, a recurring thorn on their side. After having financed numerous failures, the ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, decided to go after Winters’ family instead.

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The Saltbox CALVIN MOIR A prodigal son returns under different identity to betray his family— this book unquestionably makes you turn every page.

The Dream Keepers LINDA KEEN A heartwarming story about family, friendship, diversity, and selfknowledge.

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

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

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God of no Religion ZEESHAN SALEHJEE This masterpiece is about love, finding one's purpose in life, fulfilling promises and embracing the essence of being human.

Buffalo Gals Volume One (1) BOB ROHAN Since 1995, this comic strip has been a friend to people who have read it in newspapers and in magazines. Revisit the characters and stories and expect to be entertained again.

The Haunted Dog House CATHY VENTURA HAPPE Fred, together with his friends, tries to solve the mystery. Is someone playing a Halloween trick?

Let My Legacy Be Love: A Story of Discovery and Transformation: Tracing Adult Issues to Childhood Hurts CHRISTINA BEAUCHEMIN This candid and heart-rending collection of true stories shares a series of "discoveries" that serves as an example of what it's like if we look at our childhood experiences through a different eye.

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Where You Can Hear the Sea and See the Sound DOROTHY J. HOWELL Join MacFarland's metaphoric journey-quest elucidating relationships with places, larger environments, the natural world, and realms beyond what we call natural.

Across the Creek KAAREN TERRY This is a contemporary novel where two families collide after a thief discovers a skeleton that belongs to a long gone relative.

A Passel of Hate JOE EPLEY Gripping, visceral, and full of intensity; this satisfying piece captures the heartache and triumphs of a war that brutally pits brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor in the western Carolina frontier in 1780.

A Passel of Trouble: The Saga of Loyalist Partisan David Fanning JOE EPLEY Told from the Loyalist's perspective, this meticulously researched saga describes how two young men, Fanning and his Quaker friend, Josh, find themselves at philosophical odds, yet allies to preserve the king's rule in the Carolinas.

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The Heavenly Worship Room RAELYNN PARKIN Discover the glory God has promised and read the deep truth behind what made Parkin change forever.

We Meet with Manners CHERYL ESPOSITO Demontrated through these colorful illustrations, this book reveals polite and respectful ways of expressing yourself in front of friends and strangers.

Who’S Pulling My Strings?: How I Learned to Free the Puppet and Feel Safe to Be Me MARDI KIRKLAND Undeniably taking readers beyond theory and showing them what it will be like to take life-changing steps and what to do when obstacles seem to be blocking your path.

Who’s Pulling My Strings? Companion Writing Journal: A Self-Discovery Adventure & Journey to Becoming Free MARDI KIRKLAND This writing journal is your journey inward to release what is keeping you from knowing the beauty that is you.

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WRITER’S CORNER

Events, Conferences, Awards

ART FESTIVALS CULTURA NOVA

DRAGON CON

Photo: L1

When: Aug. 23 – Sept. 1, 2019 Where: Heerlen, Netherlands Cultura Nova aims to amaze, evoke wonder and surprise, and to introduce a new audience to unconventional forms of theatre, dance, music, film and visual arts as well as to productions that explore and cross the dividing lines between the individual disciplines. Artists and ensembles from various countries will aim to move the audience in various – special – locations and stages throughout Parkstad Limburg. Cultura Nova has a leading cultural role in the region and creates a fertile breeding ground for regional, national and international artists.

Photo: Dragon Con

When: Aug. 29 – Sept. 2, 2019 Where: Atlanta, Georgia Dragon Con is the largest multi-media, popular culture convention focusing on science fiction & fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, and film in the universe. Call us a phenomenon, call us one of the most well attended popculture conventions in the country, call us the most fan fun you can have in five days. Dragon Con is where you want to be on Labor Day Weekend.

Ars Electronica is one of the world’s largest media art venues, a digital music festival, a showcase for creativity and innovation, and a playground for the next generation – Ars Electronica is a worldclass festival for art, technology and society.

Photo: Tom Mesic

ARS ELECTRONICA FESTIVAL When: Sept. 5 – 9, 2019 | Where: Linz, Austria

This year, Ars Electronica celebrates its 40th anniversary and as always turns its gaze forward, in an artistic and scientific survey of digital reality, its future prospects and our options for action.

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Events, Conferences, Awards

MAKER FAIRE

PLAZA ART FAIR

Photo: Maker Faire Milwaukee

Photo: Plaza Art Fair

When: Sept. 13 – 15, 2019

When: Sept.20 – 22, 2019

Where: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Where: Kansas City, Missouri

Maker Faire is a gathering of fascinating, curious people who enjoy learning and who love sharing what they can do. From engineers to artists to scientists to crafters, Maker Faire is a venue for these "makers" to show hobbies, experiments, projects.

The Plaza Art Fair encompasses nine city blocks and welcomes a crowd of over 250,000. Featuring 240 artists, the Plaza Art Fair is a top-ranked, national art event with three live music stages and over 20 featured restaurant booths. It continues to be a weekend of people simply celebrating art and each other, as well as Kansas City’s unofficial welcome to the fall season.

They call it the Greatest Show (& Tell) on Earth - a familyfriendly showcase of invention, creativity, and resourcefulness. Glimpse the future and get inspired!

LITERARY FESTIVALS The Writer’s Digest Annual Conference offers everything you need to advance your writing career creatively and professionally. Gain invaluable tips to improve your craft, explore publishing options and learn how to establish a sustainable career—all while being inspired by successful authors and your fellow attendees. And it’s all brought to you by Writer’s Digest, the experts at nurturing and developing writers at every stage of their career for 100 years. Photo: Writer’s Digest

WRITER’S DIGEST CONFERENCE When: Aug. 23 – 25, 2019 | Where: New York City, New York

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Events, Conferences, Awards

TRIBE CONFERENCE

FRANKFURTER BUCHMESSE

Photo: Lauren Davis

Photo: Bernd Hartung

When: Sept. 6 – 8, 2019

When: Oct. 16 – 20, 2019

Where: Franklin, Tennessee

Where: Frankfurt, Germany

The Tribe Conference is a marketing conference for people who don’t think of themselves as marketers. It’s a gathering for writers, artists, and creative entrepreneurs to grow their craft, share their work, and get the attention their work deserves.

Once a year Frankfurter Buchmesse turns into the world capital of ideas. It is the most important international trading venue for content of all kinds - from novels and children's books to scientific databases.

This three-day event is packed full of inspiring speakers, practical content, and unforgettable experiences. But this is more than an event. It’s a large-scale workshop that will give you a roadmap to find your tribe and give you the space to implement it. You won’t leave the Tribe Conference with a notebook full of ideas and nothing checked off your to-do list. You’ll set into motion a plan you can keep improving on for years to come.

Here, experts from global publishing meet partners from the technology industry and related creative industries such as film and games, from where new cooperations and business models take their course. At the same time, the fair is a major cultural event: around 7,500 exhibitors from over 100 countries, more than 285,000 visitors, over 4,000 events, around 10,000 journalists and bloggers make Frankfurter Buchmesse the world's largest trade fair for publishing every year.

TRIBE CONFERENCE When: Oct. 10 – 19, 2019 Where: San Francisco, California Litquake is the Bay Area's longest running literary festival, and each October attracts an audience of 25,000 book lovers in venues throughout the city and surrounding areas.

Photo: Litquake

Whether it’s poets reciting in a cathedral, authors discussing science versus religion in a library, or novelists reading in a beekeeping supply store, the goal remains the same: whet a broad range of literary appetites, present the literary fare in a variety of traditional and unlikely venues, and make it vivid, real, and entertaining. Now grown to the largest independent literary festival on the West Coast, Litquake continues its mission as a nine-day literary spectacle for booklovers, complete with cutting-edge panel discussions, unique cross-media events, and hundreds of readings.

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WRITER’S CORNER

Events, Conferences, Awards

UBUD WRITERS & READERS FESTIVAL When: October 23 – 27, 2019 Where: Bali, Indonesia More than 150 writers, artists, activists and performers from over 30 countries will converge for the 16th Ubud Writers & Readers Festival (UWRF), to share stories and ideas exploring this year’s theme: Karma. This year’s festival, named one of the five best literary events for 2019 by The Telegraph UK, will explore the impacts of our personal and collective actions on our social and physical environments. Photo: Wayan Martino

FILM FESTIVALS FANTASTIC FEST

VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Poster: Fantastic Fest

Poster: The Greater Vancouver International Film Festival Society

When: Sept 19 – 26, 2019

When: Sept. 26 – Oct. 11, 2019

Where: Austin, Texas

Where: Vancouver, Canada

Fantastic Fest is the largest genre film festival in the US, specializing in horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action and just plain fantastic movies from all around the world. The festival is dedicated to championing challenging and thought-provoking cinema, celebrating new voices and new stories from around the world and supporting new filmmakers.

Both in terms of admissions and number of films screened, VIFF is among the five largest film festivals in North America. Screening films from more than 70 countries on nine screens, VIFF's program includes the pick of the world’s top film fests and many undiscovered gems.

Fantastic Fest has been hailed as one of the “25 coolest film festivals” by MovieMaker Magazine, “the wildest film festival in America” by The Guardian, “a secret weapon for the arthouse market” by Indiewire as well as “the coolest film festival in the world” by IGN.

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Three main programming platforms make VIFF unique: the largest selections of East Asian films outside of that region, one of the biggest showcases of Canadian film in the world and a large and vibrant documentary program.


WRITER’S CORNER

Events, Conferences, Awards

HELL'S HALF MILE FILM & MUSIC FESTIVAL

THE NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL

Photo: Hell's Half Mile Film & Music Festival

When: Sept. 26 – 29, 2019

Photo: Film at Lincoln Center

Where: Bay City, Michigan

When: Sept. 27 – Oct. 13, 2019

After thirteen years, Hell’s Half Mile organizers continue to strive to be an innovative festival for genuinely independent films and original music. This festival is about connecting the filmmaker and the festival-goer. Period. Well, parties too.

Where: New York City, New York

The Hell’s Half Mile Film & Music Festival (HHM) is the perfect mix of independent film and live indie music. Their taste is eclectic, everything from quirky comedies to hard hitting documentaries to emotional dramas. Their goal is to find “the little film that could” — a bunch of them actually — and bring the filmmakers together to take over Bay City, MI. Their primary concern is community, and the filmmakers who attend our long weekend walk away with lifelong friends and future collaborators.

The 17-day New York Film Festival highlights the best in world cinema, featuring top films from celebrated filmmakers as well as fresh new talent. The selection committee is chaired by New York Film Festival Director Kent Jones and includes esteemed critics, curators, and programmers. Since 1963, the New York Film Festival has brought new and important cinematic works from around the world to Lincoln Center. In addition to the Main Slate official selections, the festival includes newly restored classics, special events, filmmaker talks, panel discussions, an Avant-Garde showcase, and much more.

BINISAYA 2019 When: Oct. 16 – 18, 2019 Where: Ayala Center Cebu Since 2009, BINISAYA Film Festival has been breaking the walls of Filipino cinema. Their creative influence, Filemon, is a character from a Cebuano Folk Song depicting a scenery of a cultural tradition. According to the artist, Jon Ahmed Durano, the art is the epitome of the current society in the philippines and the subtle art of not giving a fuck. Taking inspiration from traditional artists then blending it with modern vector surrealism, the artist himself intended to render a seemingly peaceful disturbance, a combination of both peace and chaos, serenity and destruction. Jon Ahmed Durano

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Profile for newreadermagazine

Vol. 2 Issue 7, "Herald"  

For this third quarter, New Reader Magazine's "Herald" pays tribute to unsung heroes and celebrates moments that aspire us to become better...

Vol. 2 Issue 7, "Herald"  

For this third quarter, New Reader Magazine's "Herald" pays tribute to unsung heroes and celebrates moments that aspire us to become better...

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