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Vol. 1 Issue 2 New York London Hong Kong Philippines


The Meaning of Nothing


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New Reader Magazine Vol. 1 Issue 2 June 2018 Cover Image By Jazzia Creative Staff Marie Dominique dela Paz Editor-in-Chief Janette Tolentino Managing Editor Kem Enon Layout Artist Kota Yamada Publicist Roseilyn Herrera Researcher

Contributors Huzaifa Pandit,Gerry Fabian, Judith Skillman, Stephanie Roberts, Michael Janairo, John Franklin Dandridge, Beatriz Fernandez, Doru Radu, Denise O’Hagan, Rachel Rose Teferet, Emily V, Sergio Ortiz, Montana Svoboda, Ankita Anand, Gabriel Kunst, Yuan Changming, Philip Brown, Lana Bella, Cameron Morse, Shelly Rodrigue, Fred Miller, Pat Tompkins, Marc de Faoite, Andy Tu, James Snowden, Michael Glazner, Ben Mason, Tim Nickels, Cameron Morse, Jenna Collett, Lynda Nash, Catherine Mullins, Andrew Davis, and Glen Holland

Marketing and Advertising Laurence Anthony

Subscriptions Phone: 1 800 734 7871 Fax: (914) 265 1215 Write to: 100 Church St. Suite 800 New York, NY 10007

All Rights Reserved New Reader Media

Editor’s Note It’s been an exciting year for us at New Reader Magazine. Since the release of our first issue in March, we’ve had the incredible privilege of meeting all sorts of amazing people doing incredible things from all over the world. You might recognize Jan Sunday from’s Artist Profiles; we’ve caught up with her to see what she’s doing now and how she’s helping to change the artistic landscape of the Philippines—right in her hometown of Cebu. From Kōchi Prefecture, Japan, we met a group of very different people brought together under the same roof by a shared love of loud music and the punk philosophy of “Live and let live.” From Staunton, Virginia, Angus Carter spoke to us about his art and how it helps him make sense of the world around him. And of course we have poems, stories, and essays from an array of different voices from Kashmir and Malaysia, Canada and Poland—even all the way to Alaska. This issue we’ve got a story by Marc de Faoite, author of Tropical Madness and co-editor of TRASH: A Southeast Asian Urban Anthology Book; poems by two-time Pushcart nominee, Sergio Ortiz; pieces by Pøst- cofounder and co-editor, Gabriel Kunst; as well as poetry and fiction from emerging writers like Andrew Davis, Jenna Collett, Judith Skillman, Pat Tompkins, and many, many more. This issue we’ve even got a humorist essay by Reg Franklin, who looks at the parallels between Chaucer and the cult classic, The Room. We hope you enjoy this issue as much as we enjoyed putting it together. Like Rob Siltanen said, “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently.” Here’s to you, New Reader.

Contents Feature


Artist Profile: Angus Carter A painter, filmmaker, and photographer from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.


Music: Enjoy Much Noise! Chaos is Home at Chaotic Noise, Kochi Prefecture, Japan


Exhibit: Umbra Is A creative collective aims to strip off underlying patriarchal notions and the traps of the male gaze through fine art photography.

Marketing and Publicity


Beyond Entertainment “Film adaptation can be likened to kite making: the novelist shapes the kite, the director holds the thread, and the screenwriter makes sure it flies.�


On Visiting My Old Classroom Huzaifa Pandit


Literary Work


Disposition at an Inquiry Commission Huzaifa Pandit writes poetry, literary, and cultural criticism on



Judith Skillman’s poems have appeared in FIELD, Cimarron Review, Shenandoah, Tar River Poetry, and in anthologies, including Nasty Women Poets, Lost Horse Press. She is the recipient of a 2017 Washington Trust GAP grant.

“Oh hi, Chaucer.” A Comparison of Parallels Between The Room and The Canterbury Tales Reg Franklin has a BA in English from Vancouver Island University, Canada. Additional writings may be found on his website




The Crash Gerry Fabian is a retired English instructor. He has been publishing poetry since 1972 in various poetry magazines.


Disconnected Alarm Gerry Fabian


Doubt Judith Skillman

East of the Pass Judith Skillman


Sweat Jenna Collett is a South African lecturer living and working in Hong Kong. She knows less about finance than fiction, and more about sonnets than skyscrapers.



Never Was the Girl Next Door Stephanie Roberts has work recently featured or forthcoming in numerous periodicals, in North America and Europe. A 2018 Pushcart Prize nominee, she was born in Central America, and now explores reverence from a wee French town just outside of MontrĂŠal.


Some Place Else Fred Miller is a California writer who specializes in penning short stories with eclectic themes, his first selected by Constance Hunting, the New England poet laureate in 2003.


Dear Applicant Michael Janairo has been published in re:asian Magazine, Mithila Review, Lontar, Long Hidden, Eye to the Telescope, and Star*Line, which nominated his work for a Pushcart Prize. A former journalist, he works at a college art museum in upstate New York, where he lives with his wife and dog.


Position Closed Michael Janairo


Rejection Michael Janairo


Experience Michael Janairo


Your Time On Earth Is Finished Jim Snowden has placed fiction in Pulphouse, Mind In Motion, The Seattle Review, The King’s English, and MAKE. Dismantle the Sun and Summer of Long Knives, his first two novels, were published by Booktrope in 2012 and 2014, respectively.



Excerpts from a Job Interview


Beatriz Fernandez is a poet and university reference librarian in Miami, Florida. She’s the author of The Ocean Between Us, (Backbone Press, 2017) and Shining from a Different Firmament (Finishing Line Press, 2015). She’s a former grand prize winner of the Writer’s Digest Poetry Award and has read her poetry on WLRN, South Florida’s NPR news station.

Andrew Davis lives in Lowell, Massachusetts, with his two cats, Fluffy and Teddy. He enjoys writing stories that push boundaries and make people think.


Reflective Thought Wave John Franklin Dandridge received his MFA in poetry from Columbia College Chicago. His chapbook, Further Down Rd., was published in 2010 by Fast Geek Press. He has poems published in past issues of Callaloo Journal and Former People, among others.


Red Kryptonite



Chores for the Body Natushka and the Wolves Catherine Mullins currently lives in Oregon, USA, and enjoys reading and writing both fiction and nonfiction. She has previously published non-fiction on and elsewhere.

Nate’s Volcano Michael Glazner teaches English in the Houston area, and when not writing about strange suburban situations or spooky carnivals, hangs out with his dogs or takes photos.

John Franklin Dandridge


Mistress Prynne Dreams of Her Youth Beatriz Fernandez

John Franklin Dandridge


The Little Sunfish


End of Summer Doru Radu is a Romanian-born living in Poland who writes poetry in English. He holds degrees in Management and English language. He also translates poetry between and amongst Romanian, English and Polish.


99 89

Untitled Doru Radu


Sailors’ Cross Doru Radu


The Value of Nothing Pat Tompkins is an editor in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her shortest fiction has appeared in Nanoism, Mslexia, and KYSO Flash.



Marc de Faoite lives on an island off the west coast of Malaysia. His short stories, articles, and book reviews have been published both in print and online. Tropical Madness, a collection of his short stories, was long listed for the 2014 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize.

105 Psyche Gets a Haircut Rachel Rose Teferet’s work has been published by Page & Spine, Slink Chunk Press, Manawaker Podcast, From Sac, Necon E-Books, Sierra College Literary Magazine as the winner of the 2016 Flash Fiction Contest, and more.

And the Nuns Wore Lipstick

106 Not Knowing

Denise O’Hagan is an editor and independent publisher. She holds an MA in Bibliography and Textual Criticism, and worked in publishing in London (Collins, Heinemann) and Sydney (Harcourt Brace, State Library of NSW). She is a member of IPEd, and proud to have been shortlisted for the inaugural Rosanne Fitzgibbon Editorial Prize, 2017.

107 Repining

Honolulu Breakfasts Denise O’Hagan


The Lift

I Am Lucky Denise O’Hagan


Steven Duncan is a Utah Valley poet whose writing has been published by Silver Birch Press, Rock Canyon Poets, Prolific Press, Brevis, and more.

Steven Duncan

108 Bipolar Is Emily Vieweg is a poet originally from St. Louis, Missouri. Her work has been published in Soundings Review, Art Young’s Good Morning, Proximity Magazine, and more. Her chapbooks are for sale through Plan B Press and


Say Hello, Social Anxiety! Emily Vieweg


Delete Writing to Lynda Nash is like eating— something she needs to do to feel energised. She wrote her first story, “The Green Bone,” at the age of six, and in a recent attic clearout found a book of cringe-worthy poems from her teenage years. She hopes her work has improved somewhat since then.


Dilapidated Sergio Ortiz is a two-time Pushcart nominee, a six-time Best of the Web nominee, and 2016/17 Best of the Net nominee. He is currently working on his first full-length collection of poems, Elephant Graveyard.


The Meaning of Nothing Sergio Ortiz


Monolith Ben Mason’s fiction and poetry have appeared in Your Impossible Voice, Calliope, The Pacific Review, BRILLIANT Flash Fiction, In Parentheses, The Commonline Journal, Perigee, and Recto Verso.

128 Against Instinct Montana Svoboda is a non-binary writer from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and now lives in East Lansing, Michigan while studying Plant Biology.

129 And I Spoke to Discover My Voice Was the Raven, Was the Fire Delete Montana Svoboda


Peace Treaty Ankita Anand’s writing has travelled through India, Pakistan, Singapore, Ireland, South Africa, Canada, the US and the UK. She also facilitates writing workshops. An archive of her publications can be found on www.

132 How to Build a Mother from Scratch Gabriel Kunst was born on Friday the 13th, but he is not scared of black cats. His work in English and German has appeared in VAGA Magazine and Vielfalt. He is cofounder and coeditor of Pøst-, an online poetry magazine based in Montreal.

133 Introduction to Etymology Gabriel Kunst

134 Flowers in the Field, Grass in the Greener Paths of Life that I Trample On Andy Tu likes being mysterious and hidden, which is why he has no author page or Twitter, and why he keeps his Facebook generally deactivated. He also likes to fill his bios with information relating to this fact.

138 Close to Granville Street, Friday Evening Yuan Changming edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Yuan and hosts Happy Yangsheng in Vancouver; credits include ten Pushcart & three Best of the Net nominations, Best of the Best Canadian Poetry, BestNewPoemsOnline, Threepenny Review and 1,409 others across 41 countries.

139 Metamegaphysics Yuan Changming


140 Berkeley, CA 1972 Philip Brown has had his short fiction published in Voices West, Farmer’s Market, and Strong Coffee. His story “Helpless” won a PEN Syndicated Fiction award.


Road Music Philip Brown

142 Naked Stranger Andrew Davis lives in Lowell, Massachusetts, with his two cats, Fluffy and Teddy. He has had work published in Apeiron Review, The Oddville Press, Black Heart Magazine, The Rain, Party & Disaster Society.

152 Reading One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish to my NewbornSon while Listening to Conor Oberstand the Mystic Valley Band Cameron Morse

154 Bonam Noctem, Praeceptori Shelly Rodrigue is a poet from New Orleans, Louisiana. Her poems have appeared in Fourth & Sycamore, Ellipsis, Guide to Kulchur Creative Journal, the Borfski Press, Her poems have also won the 2017 Andrea Saunders Gereighty Academy of American Poets Poetry Award.

145 Farrago of Fleurs-de-Lis, Diaspora Lana Bella is a four-time Pushcart Prize, fivetime Best of the Net & Bettering American Poetry nominee. She is an author of three chapbooks, has had poetry and fiction featured with over 450 journals.

147 Victoria, I’m on Fire Tim Nickels is a constant reader and occasional writer who’s been publishing fiction since 1986.

150 Reading Cameron Morse taught and studied in China. Diagnosed with a glioblastoma in 2014, he is currently a third-year MFA candidate at the University of Missouri—Kansas City and lives with his wife Lili and newborn son Theodore in Blue Springs, Missouri.


Play Therapy Cameron Morse

157 Daddy, You Bastard Shelly Rodrigue


160 Mack’s Flight Glen Holland’s work has been in the field of painting and drawing, most recently cartoon paintings with the words obscured. Find his work at

New Reader Media

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

Writer’s Corner

179 Events, Conferences, and Awards 10 | NEW READER MAGAZINE

Artist Profile

Artist’s Profile

ANGUS CARTER MARIE DOMINIQUE DELA PAZ There’s a primal energy in Angus Carter’s art that makes it feel like it would be as much at home on the side of Uluru as it would be sprayed onto the side of an apartment building in Brooklyn or Queens. Or in the MoMA next to an original Basquiat. A painter, filmmaker, and photographer from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, Angus tells us he always had “a deep love of art throughout childhood.” For as long as he can remember, he tells us, he’s been making art, and with anything he can get his hands on. Angus pursued this love after high 12 | NEW READER MAGAZINE

school and got a bachelor’s degree in photography in 2003. For some time, he was a professional photographer and lab technician, but Angus quickly found the world of commercial photography lacking. He followed his love of art again, and this time, he said, “I bounced around between various collectives and studios, experimenting with different forms of expression and various mediums. That’s when I began utilizing my knowledge of photography to make various short experimental films, which have since gone on to be screened at various film festivals worldwide. It is also during this period that I began

I bounced around between various collectives and studios, experimenting with different forms of expression and various mediums.

Arts and Culture | USA

When I first started painting, I was just figuring it out as I went along and mainly doing these comic pop art–style paint sketches of various musicians and poets I like.

teaching myself to paint, which would ultimately lead to my favorite medium and lead me to where I am today.” Inspired by early art brut artists like Madge Gill, Adolf Wölfli, Martín Ramírez and the like, Angus’s art is also informed by African tribal sculptures and masks, Oceanic art, and Aboriginal Australian paintings. Quite strongly, too. On every canvas, characters straight out of dreamtime seem to stare out at the viewer. Of these figures, Angus says, “It seems like in all my work, some form of strange creatures end up popping up. Sometimes just odd faces, sometimes weird animals, and very often this primitive cat I always enjoy drawing. The meaning of those shifts from piece to piece, but they always pop up.” Angus talks about being disillusioned, “be that with politics, relationships, the general structure of society or just mundane hang-ups that keep me from being as functional as I’d like. That’s not to say I think of the work as dark, though, but more that I’m trying to recognize those forces and play with them a little bit till they loose a bit of their power and I can just laugh at them. A dark joke playing up, I suppose.”

Who Cares | 2017


Artist Profile

It’s readily apparent that his art is as much about idealism as it is about these dark jokes. There’s a stubbornness about his canvasses, like a child sticking his tongue out at the stodgy adult world that says no touching, no playing, no loud noises, sit down. While he does not outright say it, Angus seems to see his art as a way to get in touch with something outside of himself—a different plane of consciousness, maybe. A kind of therapy. Self-hypnosis? “The intent of my work has never been to translate a clear vision into paint but more to strip away the veil of consciousness and allow the recesses of the back of the mind to take hold. Abandoning formal thoughts, forms develop from there, slowly taking shape and illuminating thoughts that are often vague in my waking mind. Often those ideas manifest themselves in chaotic forms and abstract figures, that mirror my sense of disconnection and disillusionment with the world at large. As I proceed deeper into it, my work becomes a world where I don’t know what’s going on anymore. A world struggling between idealism and harsh realities. One where childlike figures intermingle with macabre forms, in a disjointed dance upon the canvas. A world that simultaneously


A Transgression of Time

But once I let go and let the subconscious take over, I truly found my voice there, and the floodgates have been opened ever since.

Arts and Culture | USA

embodies all my hopes, dreams and aspirations along with my fears, insecurities and failures and one that I’m still trying to reconcile and make sense of as I create it.” His style, as improviso as it looks at first glance, was not easily won. Angus tells us he had to go jump through a whole load of reservations and mental hurdles, perhaps developed after many years of school-study and commercial art, before he finally found his voice. “When I first started painting, I was just figuring it out as I went along and mainly doing these comic pop art–style paint sketches of various musicians and poets I like. But even then, they all had this loose feel to them, with broad brush strokes and an almost childlike representation of the features. I did get better at those but kept feeling myself called back to the looseness of the early ones, and then one day, I just let go and went at it with no preconceived ideas and, to my shock, liked the results. It was as if I had been holding myself back, scared of what I might come up [with], or maybe just scared of failure. But once I let go and let the subconscious take over, I truly found my voice there, and the floodgates have been opened ever since.”

High Hopes

Angus will be having two solo exhibits at Larkin Arts and RR Smith Center in 2019. “I’ll be focusing a lot of energy and preparing a solid body for those exhibits. Currently I’m looking at those thinking that they will be reflections on my current disillusionment and dissatisfaction with the state of this country and the political course we are stuck in. I’m hopeful that will all change by 2019 but I’m sadly doubtful about that and think we will be seeing the ramifications of where we are today for some time to come.”

There are Millions of Suns Left


Divine Horsemen

His art can be found on Facebook and Instagram at and @ angus_carter_art. “Also,” he adds, “if you folks are ever in Staunton Virginia, you can swing by my studio and say hi. It’s right downtown, and most people know me. I’m kinda a townie like that.”




Chaos is Home at Chaotic Noise, Kochi Prefecture, Japan

MARIE DOMINIQUE DELA PAZ The first punk gig you ever attended: You were sixteen, maybe younger, and definitely not meant to be smoking cigarettes or drinking beer or listening to this devil music that your mother’s pastor warned her against. Which you can’t blame the guy for, really, because you were drawn to punk exactly because it looked dangerous and forbidden and more than a little weird. There’s a lot of romanticism and demonization and mystery that comes with the whole punk image and sound, but depending on who you ask, it’s actually a pretty simple concept. It’s just like any other group of people coming together to dance. Home is where the mosh pit is, and it’s pretty much the same feeling wherever you go, whether it’s your first gig or your hundredth, whether you’re from Massachusetts or Melbourne or Japan. Most cities have at least one spot that like-minded people can call home, and for the Kōchi Prefecture, that spot is Chaotic Noise, a music venue, label, and record store with an innocuous basement front right in the middle of the city. 16 | NEW READER MAGAZINE

Sound engineer and photographer James Anderson

Arts and Culture | JAPAN

their set lists are short and the music is highspeed and energetic. Once Wall of Trash begins, things get next level. A four-piece band of local, veteran musicians who describe their sound as “powerviolence,” fronted by vocalist Oden, a woman who literally makes her presence felt as she collides with people in the audience. The crowd engage—yelling, pushing, and lifting her to surf along waiting hands. She collides briefly with my left hand and leaves it sore for the remainder of the show. Oden runs in between and around people, not minding too much where she will eventually end up. This is all spurred on by the ferocity of Yoshio (backing vocals and guitarist, and owner of Chaotic Noise), Coppy (drums), and Tomokazu (bass). The music is intense, loud, fast, and dangerous—but every person here is respected and safe. This is Wall of Trash’s domain, and because they are familiar with the venue and the audience, they can play to their best with ease. In true punk rock fashion, the show ends quickly. James Anderson a sound engineer and photographer based in faraway Melbourne, found himself quite at home in Chaotic Noise. James wrote to us about his time there: Chaotic Noise is a small venue and record store in Kochi, Japan, which, as I’m about to find out, lives up to its name. I descend down stone stairs where punters loiter—smoking, drinking, and conversing. Tonight’s show is a small warm-up gig for local band Wall of Trash before they embark on a European tour. The venue is filling up with a group of people who are known to each other, and the atmosphere is a relaxed one. The opening acts warm us up;

We all head outside for post-show banter. I struggle to communicate with the musicians and fans. Some things are understood while other things require translation. I am met with warmth and acceptance, which has been the case right throughout my time in the country. I’m even invited to stay with people I’ve only known for a few minutes! I realize that tonight I’ve understood very little of what was being said in the music or in the crowd,. and I was running purely on vibe and feel. But that’s what punk has always been about regardless of wherever you are in the world: culture and community—in spite of any personal, cultural, or social barriers.



“I love that I get to see not only punk and hardcore bands, but artists from all kinds of underground scenes that have never played in Kōchi before.” James came about Chaotic Noise after he befriended Takao, who has been the sound engineer for Chaotic Noise since it opened eleven years ago. They met while James was helping to promote Filthfest in Victoria, Australia, which Takao’s band, ITHAQUA, was playing in. “I remember Tim [of the Australian band BØG, who James was promoting Filthfest with] saying to Takao, ‘James is a sound engineer,’ and Takao was as well. So we bonded over that.” It’s not uncommon for people in the music scene to be somehow connected, no matter where they live. People in this scene always seem to find each other somehow, even before the internet became such a big, all-encompassing thing. And now, in a world where the internet allows you to connect with other “punters” in a matter of nanoseconds, there are fewer than six degrees of separation. The network gets wider. The tribe grows. “Over the eleven years I’ve started working in this scene,” Takao tells us, “I feel like the hardcore and punk scene and the network of venues has linked up and expanded pretty quickly. So I think it would be great if it were even easier for Japanese and foreign bands to tour, and to jumpstart more interaction.” What Takao loves about the punk scene in Japan and, he adds, in local scenes everywhere, is that, “you can interact with people regardless of race, gender, and age.” This seems particularly true in Chaotic Noise. Opening for Wall of Trash that same evening was the band DIAVOLO (not to be confused with a US-based band of the same name), made up of fifteen to sixteen-yearolds turning up to their gigs after school, still in their uniforms. James remembers what happened when he told them they were really great: “Dana translated what 18 | NEW READER MAGAZINE

I said and they were so thrilled—they were jumping up and down. I asked Dana why that was and she said something like, ‘Are you kidding? Of course they’re excited. You’re an adult and you just told them their music was awesome!’” Dana Berte, an interpreter originally from Massachusetts who has lived in Kōchi for about eight years and in Japan for eleven years, says that while she wouldn’t define herself as punk—“I just love the music, and noise, and noisy music”—the punk scene in Japan means a lot to her. “It’s one of the few places I can go where no one really cares about what country I come from, and no one asks me to teach them English. I love getting to be in my own little headspace, and be surrounded by other people who love ear-splitting music.” Kōchi is relatively small, with just over three thousand people living in the city. Dana speaks about it with a lot of familiarity and affection. “The nearest larger cities are about a two-hour drive away, and major cities like Kobe and Osaka are four or five hours away. Kōchi is backed up against mountains in the north, and is flanked by nothing but small towns, rivers, and forests on each side. This means that not only the punk scene, but the city in general, is really light. The vibe here is much friendlier than your average Japanese city, and if you’ve been here a while, you’re almost nevermore than two or three degrees of separation from any person you might meet. It’s pretty laid-back and seems quiet, but people love to go out. It’s beautiful here and hard to get anywhere else, so why not just live and have a good time? Some people think of Kōchi as the New Orleans of Japan—very distinct from the rest of the country, and they like their booze and music. I really like living here.”

Arts and Culture | JAPAN

Punk, while not at all a new concept in Japan, has had a complicated relationship with mainstream Japanese society, though Dana says that attitudes toward it today seem to be friendlier and more relaxed. Dana says, “I’ve heard it used to be very different in the past, but I think most people these days just have a ‘live and let live’ mentality. I’ve also seen many instances of Japanese people asking Japanese punks what country they’re from, and that’s always amusing.” The “live and let live” mentality seems to be a popular one in Kōchi, which is probably what drew Yoshio, owner of Chaotic Noise, to open up the venue in the first place. That and “there wasn’t a venue space in Kōchi that we could use the way we wanted to,” he told us. Over the next eleven years, Chaotic Noise quickly became the place for hardcore and punk bands to play, although Yoshio, who aside from being the owner of Chaotic Noise, also plays guitar for Wall of Trash, SPEED!! NOISE!! HELL!!, and Conga Fury, says he’s never really thought of himself as being a punk. “I think it’s great if old guys over fifty want to make a fuss about being punk, but for me, I am who I am, and I don’t really like to be categorized.” Yoshio is in his fifties now and still loves the punk sound, though he listens to and is passionate about all types of music. His own music is heavily influenced by Japanese hardcore, “but I don’t think that influence is immediately apparent in the music. I put forth a sense of hardcore within myself. There’s quite an age gap between myself

and the other members [of Wall of Trash], though, so I’m sure their influences are something else entirely!” (Just so our readers know: Coppy is 34, Tomokazu is 41, and Oden is 37.) Work is play for Yoshio and Takao, who both express a love for a lot of types of music. Takao says, “I love that I get to see not only punk and hardcore bands, but artists from all kinds of underground scenes that had never played in Kōchi before.” As for Yoshio, his favorite part about owning a venue like Chaotic Noise is “being able to encounter new music, not only punk and hardcore. This life is always motivating and inspiring.” And the hardest part about owning a venue like Chaotic Noise, according to Yoshio? “The fact that it’s not even slightly profitable. I’ve been poor for the last eleven years!” When asked if there were any other venues in Kōchi that are like Chaotic Noise, Dana replied with a definitive, “Nope. Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of music venues in Kōchi. Just currently none that are anything like Chaotic Noise.” Find Chaotic Noise online at and on Twitter @CHAOTIC_NOISE. Follow James’s photography on Instagram @jamesasound. Special thanks and a giant shoutout to Dana, Takao, James, and Yoshio. You’re all legends.



UMBRA is Breaking the Frame

Photo by Shainezz Rica


Arts and Culture | PHILIPPINES

Nothing happens in the world that doesn’t happen in art. And even the arts have bad days too. Artistic expression used to be an exclusive occupation for men. Women were discouraged from creative pursuits. Denied opportunities to study. Prevented from drawing nude models. And if they did get a chance to train or practice, it was from home with their fathers or a male relative who had spent time in art school. Even now, the work of men in galleries, museums, and auction houses far outnumbers that of women. Here and there are residual biases extending beyond the art. Lynn Hershman Leeson, feminist artist and filmmaker, shared her own experiences of being shut out from the art world in her documentary, !Women Art Revolution. In the documentary, she recalls how an art dealer returned her work the moment he found out that the artist was a woman. Leeson also tried to donate some of her works to a local museum, only to have them all rejected. Even the most talented women have been limited by exclusion and discrimination in the art world. Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris featured Annette Messager only after more than

Photo by Banawe Corvera

40 years of mastering her art. The grand Museo del Prado of Madrid took nearly 200 years to open its doors to the first solo exhibition dedicated to a woman artist. Math like that is not at all easy to reconcile. Women seen as a sideshow some century-plus ago just doesn’t add up. But have things actually gotten better? The Deconstruction of High Art It’s been said that art is defined by its frame. The frame becomes the platform of the artwork; a stage that separates it from reality. Back when men almost exclusively made up the art world, the framed work was to be regarded as a monument in itself—a self-regarding, self-contained piece. That same sense of detachment from the rest of the world was reinforced by the illustrious patrons and supporters of the art who wanted to keep art a privilege shared by the chosen few.

Balance by Jane Maraat

That was then. But art is a landscape that is continuously evolving. It was not until around the late ’60s and the ’70s that we started seeing art go from an elitist preoccupation to something more conscious and committed. Lucy Lippard moved the needle on the emergence of conceptual art and



Virtue of Selfishness by Glen Quilat


Arts and Culture | PHILIPPINES

spearheaded the first all-women artists’ exhibit in 1974, an exhibition that veered away from established norms of expression and centred on what women artists can do differently and authentically. Collective movements on the deconstruction of high art started around the same time, slowly exposing its rigidity. These movements were further strengthened by the second wave of feminist thought, taking cues from Carol Hanisch’s essay The Personal is Political, bent on redefining male privilege and undoing the dominant visual and political paradigm. The Guerrilla Girls and their bold protests, one of the most influential collectives, inspired the breaking of the frame by pioneering inclusivity. People began to realize that for as long as the work is openended, grounded on life, and for as long as adrenaline flows through it, there is no contest—interests and method wise—as to who should do it and who can do it better. Anyone can make art. When art started moving away from traditional framing and spilled into present realities, women artists plunged right into their element. “For Women, As Women” We caught up with a contemporary art collective, Umbra, on the last leg of their black-and-white photography exhibit in Cebu, Philippines, to get an ears-on-the-ground sense of women’s movement in the arts and the evolving active role they play in the community.

Photo by Martie Dejos

Umbra, founded by Jan Sunday and Banawe Corvero back in 2016, is rooted in the idea of changing the limited representation of women in the arts. This collective of allwomen artists—later joined by Gail Geriane as one of the founding artists and producer in the second instalment Umbra 2.0 last year—is stripping off underlying patriarchal notions and the traps of the male gaze. “The wheels started turning at the second exhibit. People were inspired—including men. They were inspired by the artistry and appreciated women’s photography through Umbra. I gained this sense of appreciation, especially from the people I look up to,” says Sunday. Umbra promotes self-image awareness and takes on an empowering stance against the objectification of women. Jan Sunday, a multidisciplinary artist, points out that regardless of form or medium, it’s the “intent that defines an artist.”

Bust by Jan Sunday



Orgasm by Patrice Patalinghug

“You can feel the impact of Umbra on the opening night. It’s when you see the women behind the lens. What I love seeing during the presentation is the look on the audience. Faces fire up. You can sense the power emanating from the audience as it fills the room. People really come out of their shells, dare to go out of their comfort zone, which for me is what this exhibit is all about,” shares Sunday. When asked about the prevailing theme of this year’s Umbra 3.0, the third instalment since its inception, Sunday said, “Womanhood as a theme was purposely chosen to make it broad and open for interpretation. Going against being objectified is the prevailing interpretation of the theme this year. Though it’s not just women who do get objectified, also men. There’s also empowerment in the form of battle scars.” Photo by Caroline Garces


Arts and Culture | PHILIPPINES

Some of the crowd-favorite pieces during the exhibit includes Manila-based photographer Pao Sancho’s portraiture of a working woman in her studio, which contains a rawness that has nothing to do with sentimentality. Patrice Patalinghug’s contributed pieces, Orgasm and Youniverse, highlighted feminine energies. According to Patalinghug, “Womanhood represents the subtle feminine energies of the universe. Beauty and creation are embodied within our flesh and bones, radiating outwards like stars in space. Our sexuality is sacred—we are orgasmic, sensual beings: the cradle of all life.” Architect and photographer, Katrina Sagemüller, depicts how “women are often objectified and underestimated, prohibited from having a voice in a world ‘dominated by men.’” The featured works of Umbra this

year share a similarity as a whole in a sense that they all insist on vulnerability, societal pressures, and renewed sense of faith in humanity. Sunday shares her vision for the group and the themes they have yet to explore: “We’re considering the thought of creating a follow-up event that will focus on empowering women. We always do our collaborative exhibits on March in line with women’s month. We’re looking at doing another one this year, a sub-exhibit, in October, in time for breast cancer awareness month. I’m also interested in doing an introduction to goddess worship. Introduce and re-introduce into the consciousness the

Photo by Jennifer Ruby Baylon

Photo by Dar San Agustin



Seeing You Seeing Me Seeing You by Grois Enayo

Photo by Ching Manching


Seeing You Seeing Me Seeing You by Pao Sancho

Arts and Culture | PHILIPPINES

women in history, especially ancient history going toward the present time. Most cultures consider goddesses as the giver of life in contrast with the patriarchal practices of some religion. We’re also thinking of partnering up with a few organizations or establishments that can support our advocacy. I’m excited to see what else is out there, opportunities that can open up more doors for women artists because of Umbra,” says Sunday.

Photo by Katrina Sagemüller

Gender imbalance is in the phase of auto-correcting and levelling in different artistic avenues. Female artists are gaining more ground in the art world. Important galleries are now considering selling off some of their prized, malecentric collections to make room for pieces created by female artists; a clear sign of the times moving toward the expansion of inclusiveness in enclaves—one world at a time. Check out the complete photo lineup of Umbra 3.0 and their upcoming exhibits by visiting their Facebook page www.facebook. com/UmbraPH1. Special thanks to Mia Lora of ASpace Cebu for providing the venue for the interview.

Photo by Keshia Stephanie Lim


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Paper to Film

Beyond Entertainment

THE MAKING OF AN ADAPTED SCREENPLAY Novelist Andre Aciman finds himself in a compromised position. In an article he wrote for Vanity Fair, he shares that while he was standing at a location shoot in Italy for his novel Call Me by Your Name, he knew then that “very little in the film would correspond to [his] novel, and like any author, was wistfully resigned to watching [his] story morph under someone else’s vision.” The main characters of the story, Elio and Oliver, whom he originally wrote as “mirror images of each other,” look the exact opposite. Even the last scene, where we see Elio crying his heart out in front of a burning hearth after learning of Oliver’s engagement, is a far cry from the novel’s ending. Though plots in books and in films move in the same vein, the cuts and trims in the latter are more merciless. A dialogue that occurs in prose requires more time and space on the page compared to a dialogue that happens in film. What takes ten or more pages in writing can be distilled in just a few seconds during filming. A nervous pause or a longing glance on screen could lay bare the heart of the protagonist in ways that the written word never could. It is the difference between hating something completely one minute and then suddenly loving it so unreasonably in the next. Aciman concurs that what he does as a writer and what a film director does are not at all the same. “A writer chisels a statue down to its finest, most elusive details. What a film director does is make the statue move.”


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There’s always a tension between plotting and knowing what the character wants. It’s a constant balancing act. One dial moves the storyline horizontally and the other moves it vertically. If you hit the right balance, you get a diagonal— which is not at all an easy feat to achieve. What you don’t want to happen is something sticking its head above the parapet. The person who makes sure this doesn’t happen is the screenwriter. What a screenwriter does is far more difficult. Film adaptation can be likened to kite making: the novelist shapes the kite, the director holds the thread, and the screenwriter makes sure it flies. The screenwriter is responsible for molding the story into both the shaper’s and the holder’s vision. The screenwriter needs to let the story go where it needs to without compromising either vision or the integrity of the story.

Original to Optioning Screenplays Screenwriters are known to take the highway or the paid way. They “either pitch original ideas to producers, in the hope that they will be optioned or sold, or are commissioned by a producer to create a screenplay from a concept, true story, existing screen work or literary work, such as a novel, poem, play, comic book or short story.” On the first route,


screenwriters complete an original speculative (spec) script and register it with the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA).This way, there’s proper credit and there’s no question as to whom the rights of the script belong. They then submit the same to a film production company or pitch it to a film executive or a producer. If all goes well, screenwriters get paid once the rights to their work are sold off. This process could take a few months, or at times even years before the work gets submitted for development. Screenwriters have to hunker down for the long and arduous wait. On the other hand, established screenwriters—the ones who get paid before starting on the work—take the second route. A film company or a producer selects a screenwriter to work on the screenplay based on an already published story idea. Most highly paid screenwriters take their cue from the “franchise guys.” Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the duo behind six Marvel productions, including this year’s highly anticipated Avengers: Infinity War, got their huge Hollywood screenplay deals by starting off with the classic Chronicles of Narnia adaptations. It all depends on the quality and subject of the work and whether or not the film industry, especially the paying audience, is ready for it. Film production and distribution fall under the discretion of film company executives.

Paper to Film

What a screenwriter does is far more difficult. Film adaptation can be likened to kite making: the novelist shapes the kite, the director holds the thread, and the screenwriter makes sure it flies. When Farrar, Straus, and Giroux published Aciman’s novel in 2007, producers Peter Spears and Howard Rosenman optioned the rights of the book for screenplay. In Hollywood, to option the screen rights of a book means that the buyer bought the “exclusive right” to purchase the screenplay. This is an accepted standard in the film industry and also a cheaper alternative compared to actually buying the screenplay even without a guaranteed funding for production. To “option” is to have the exclusive right to buy the work sometime in the future when the budget for production is secured. Contracts may vary in duration, but the usual time frame is within 12 to 18 months. Producers or film executives use that time to put together the financing aspects of filming in place.

After Spears and Rosenman optioned the screen rights of the book, they invited their colleague, James Ivory, to produce and write the screenplay. When Luca Guadagnino came onboard, he agreed to not only produce but to codirect the film with Ivory. Both of them then worked on the screenplay for about nine months. Aciman commended their work and approved the screenplay some time in 2015. The screenplay was essential in getting financing for production. With the support of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism and funding from Frenesy Film Company (Guadagnino’s own company), France’s La Cinéfacture, Brazil’s RT Features, M.Y.R.A Entertainment, and Water’s End Productions, the producers secured a $3.5-million budget for film production.


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The screenwriter is responsible for molding the story into both the shaper’s and the holder’s vision. The screenwriter needs to let the story go where it needs to without compromising either vision or the integrity of the story. Filming and Distribution During production, Ivory stepped down as co-director of the film and stayed on as the main screenplay writer. Guadagnino took the directorial reins and lived with the production team and cast in Crema—a small region in northern Italy. Filming started around May and wrapped up in June 2016. In his interview with Steve Weintraub of Collider, he admitted that the first cut of the film was four hours long. After a month of post-production editing, the film was featured at the Sundance Film Festival and considered as one of the most soughtafter properties. A report from Variety confirmed that Sony Pictures Classics (SPC) bought the worldwide distribution rights for a whopping $6 million. From its limited release date in November 24, 2017, representatives from SPC reported domestic gross earnings of $18 million. After the film award season, wherein the film received numerous nominations and bagged the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay award, SPC opened the floodgates and set the film’s international release last January. The film’s earnings skyrocketed to $40 million— Sony Pictures Classic’s third highest grossing film to date.

and the book. The song played in the final shot of the movie (Elio’s devastating close-up), called “Visions of Gideon,” stunned Aciman after watching the film for the first time at the Berlin Film Festival. The final song stayed with him, long after he walked out of the movie theater and, as happens, so rarely, into the next morning and the evening after that. The ending captured the spirit of the book—a remembrance of a profound love and lost. There’s no guarantee that anyone can get through this story without being made transparent— to anyone, to the whole world. There will be no dry eyes; it’s a disconcerting porousness. An emotional overcoming, distant from joy, more like melancholy—if melancholy is the recognition of an almost unbearable beauty. It’s simply too risky to experience the story’s evolved and adapted form in a well-lighted room. That’s the kind of comfort for books. But in cinemas—a shared four-walled enclosure with a big screen— you’ll be safe.

Killing Your Darlings In the same article, Aciman admitted initial misgivings in Guadagnino’s sound choice. He’s been known in the industry to personally handpick the artists he works with in his films. In an interview with Indiewire, Guadagnino wanted “a voice that functions as a sort of emotional narrator to the film,” an evocative voice that would resonate through music the story’s setting in 1980’s and stay as close as possible to Elio’s perspective. He found that voice in Sufjan Stevens. Stevens, a contemporary artist known for diffusing his Christian faith in his work, recorded and emailed sample songs after a few conversations with Guadagnino and after reading the script


Sony Pictures Classics This article was originally published on WayFairer Magazine.

Literary Work

Murdering a lover was never far from any beloved’s mind— but before your regime, it wasn’t the general practise —Dard



Disposition at an Inquiry Commission HUZAIFA PANDIT We will evacuate our grief Won’t you rent our empty hearts?

We gaze out from the prison window Won’t you blow out green stars and the moon?

We will forsake our creed Won’t you be the Prophet of heresy?

We too call caged friends, Faraz Won’t they reply with tidings of a massacre?

We will prevail upon Death Won’t you outbid it at the auction?

Kya beet gayee ab kay Faraz ahl-e-chaman par Yaraan-e-qafas mujhko sada kyun nahee detay

We have disowned desire Won’t you accept our turn of phrase?

Faraz, what have the residents of the garden Suffered this time around? Why don’t caged friends answer my greetings back?

We forgot your name Won’t you silence our conversations? We scheme we will be faithful Won’t you seduce us in skinned custody? We have abandoned our homes Won’t you house us in mirrors of history?

Photo by Vlue


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On Visiting My Old Classroom HUZAIFA PANDIT I grew up aimlessly and too slow. I might be aging for light fades quickly. Yet I have harboured a notion of an art. As I grew up I numbered my years. I still keep those numbers and stare at them. They lie besides me for old ghosts do pay a visit, sometimes to their graves.



The former SS headquarters, Free City of Gdansk by Mariusz Niedzwiedzki


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“Oh hi, Chaucer.” A Comparison of Parallels Between The Room and The Canterbury Tales REG FRANKLIN


n the late fourteenth century, Geoffrey Chaucer began work on a collection of stories told by pilgrims on the road to Canterbury as a way of reflecting his values upon the world. In 2003, an immigrant to America began filming a completely incomprehensible mess of a melodrama which he was convinced would be held up as one of the greatest productions of all time (it was not). On the surface, Geoffrey Chaucer and Tommy Wiseau have absolutely nothing in common: Chaucer not only wrote in his native language, he invented whole new portions of it over the course of his writing, sculpting his words, building his scathing critiques of society while also telling compelling tales that he was unable to finish. Comparatively, European immigrant Wiseau bludgeons words together with little to no care, barely understanding English syntax or grammar, all for the purpose of trying to make himself famous, as well as to critique women the world over. But despite these differences, the “Citizen Kane of Bad Movies” has more in common with The Canterbury Tales than people may think, mainly in terms of inversion of Chaucerian archetypes. In that, a reading of Chaucer can provide a whole new point of view when 38 | NEW READER MAGAZINE

looking at other works, no matter whether they are widely acclaimed as brilliant works of art, or if they fall under the “so-bad-it’s-good” header. Now, when speaking of a film like The Room in the context of comparing it to Canterbury, first and foremost one should examine its writer-director-producer-star, Thomas Pierre “Tommy” Wiseau. After all, Chaucer wove his own experiences into Canterbury, including himself into the story in a self-deprecating role; and Wiseau’s role as Johnny is clearly autobiographical at points, although his role can be seen as more nearsaintly than Chaucer’s attempts to poke fun at himself. Admittedly, what information exists about him is mainly anecdotal; the man is secretive to the point of paranoia. Information relayed to his friend and co-star, Greg Sestero, hints that Wiseau hails originally from an Eastern Bloc country, then escaped the communist regime to Strasbourg, France, and eventually emigrated to America; first to the small town of Chalmette, Louisiana, then making his way to San Francisco (Sestero 192194, 207-208). Now, granted, this is all hearsay, but it is hearsay directly from Wiseau himself.

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Canterbury view in summer, Kent, England by Alexey Fedorenko


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Photo by Skdesign, London


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What is generally public knowledge is that when Wiseau came to San Francisco, he sold souvenirs at Fisherman’s Wharf, and through a canny business sense was able to buy high-value properties around San Francisco, renting some out and using others for his new business venture “Street Fashions USA,” which dealt mainly in knock-offs of name brands like Levi’s. And in his free time, he tried to break into acting. Sestero details in his book, The Disaster Artist, how, following the two of them seeing The Talented Mr. Ripley, Wiseau decided that if Hollywood would reject him, he would reject Hollywood and make his own movie (188). The Room is, in a technical sense, an utter mess of a film. Plots and subplots are introduced and dropped just as quickly. A new character is introduced in the last twenty minutes of the film, but his dialogue indicates that he’s been in the movie the whole time. Three sex scenes occur in the opening halfhour. And yet, the movie, while autobiographical at points, is a strange parallel to The Canterbury Tales. Briefly summarizing the film’s plot, it is the story of Johnny, a well-to-do banker, and his “future wife”1, Lisa. Despite the seeming perfectness that they live in, Lisa is so dissatisfied with the apparent stagnation of their relationship that she seeks out an affair with Johnny’s best friend, Mark. The climax of the film comes when the affair is exposed, and in a fit of despair, Johnny commits suicide by shooting himself in the head. Now the obvious question is, of course, what does any of this have to do with The Canterbury Tales? To begin, the idea of plots and subplots being introduced and nearly instantly dropped is similar to how some of the Tales go on nearly unrelated tangents. For example, the Knight’s Tale stops dead towards the end to describe the rules of tournaments in general (2537– 2560). Before she begins her comparatively brief tale, the Wife of Bath details her romantic and sexual history in detail, which bears no relevance to the tale in question. In addition, like Canterbury, the film is a collection of stories. Every one of the primary cast members has a story to tell over the course of the picture, some even having two or three. Mark tells of how a girl he knew ended up in a hospital due to her numerous infidelities. Mike retells a story we already saw about how Lisa’s

mother caught him retrieving a pair of his underwear. Lisa’s mother, Claudette, tells numerous stories regarding herself, her friends, and her relatives. And with Johnny, aside from his own narrative that follows the film’s timeline, we get backstory explaining how he met Lisa due to an incident involving an out-of-state cheque. He reminisces over an occurrence he witnessed at San Francisco’s “Bay to Breakers” marathon. But, more importantly, it is his condo/apartment2 that is where all the characters repeatedly converge. In that, Johnny is The Host, Harry Bailey. And like Chaucer’s host, Johnny is “a [future] husband, speaker, and member of this male community” (Williams 383). Most pointedly is this latter descriptor that Williams uses in that Johnny is frequently in the company of his male friends, whether it be to simply talk or break into an inexplicable game of tuxedoclad alley football. And even then, like Harry Bailey, Johnny is an “inept governor, whether of the pilgrims or of his own [future] wife” (Williams 384). Pilgrims in this case referring to the myriad ancillary characters, such as his younger friend Denny who turns to drugs. So, if Johnny is the Host of the Tales, then what of “future wife” Lisa? One could simply say she represents the Wife of Bath and be done with it, but that is not sufficient. Although Alisoun of Bath is who Lisa most closely parallels, female characters from the Tales contribute elements to her as well; particularly Alisoun of The Miller’s Tale and May of The Merchant’s Tale. Aside from their willingness to engage in extramarital relations, all these characters go to extremes to deceive their spouses: Alisoun goes along with an insane idea to fake a second great deluge in order to engage in sex with Nicholas, May invents a story (albeit with divine inspiration) to further deceive Januarie, and Lisa even goes so far as to fake pregnancy just to “make it [the affair] more interesting.”3 Now, in at least one sense, Lisa has less in common with Alisoun of Miller: namely that it is Nicholas that initiates his affair, while Lisa is the one who could be interpreted as grabbing Mark “by the queynte” (as it were) (Milt 3276). But like the climax of Miller, Lisa’s infidelity and Johnny’s status as a cuckold is revealed to their community towards the end of the film. In fact, until the scenes involving the birthday party, Lisa and Mark manage to keep things


It is interesting to note that at no point in the movie is the word “fiancé” used. Lisa is solely described as Johnny’s “future wife”, and Johnny as “future husband” in terms of their relationship. In The Disaster Artist, Greg Sestero details how Wiseau is violently opposed to the use of French (253), which may be the reason that “fiancé” seems to be a forbidden word. 2 It’s not exactly clear where everything happens. There are exterior shots showing Wiseau entering a townhouse, but throughout the movie his and other characters refer to the setting as an apartment building. 3 In The Merchant’s Tale, May also makes a possibly false claim regarding pregnancy. Coincidence?


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relatively private, again not unlike Alisoun and Nicholas. But towards the end, they begin to lose their attempts to maintain their “pryvetee,” and are caught first by their mutual friend, Michelle, then by latecomer to the story, Steven, and then by Johnny himself first during their slow seductive dancing, then when he reveals the recorded phone call. It is during this former event that his status as cuckold is revealed to all those remaining who were unaware. To whit, it is his fall from the rafters. Now, in Merchant, May is quite happy to take advantage of Januarie’s onset of blindness . . . which is again not unlike Lisa in its own way. While talking to his friend Peter, Johnny almost begs out the phrase “Love is blind,” despite knowing that Lisa has already lied about him hitting her, and already having planted a recording device to get evidence that she is cheating on him. Johnny has subjected himself to willful blindness in the name of love, Januarie has quite literally gone blind following a spate of lovemaking in his walled garden— his “outdoor room,” if you will. Both their partners take advantage of this condition, although Lisa at no point uses Johnny as a physical stepping stool to get to Mark. Januarie’s encomium, “To take a wyf it is a glorious thing,” (MerT 1268) mirrors Johnny’s unending praise of Lisa’s sexiness and beauty until the climax of the film. In describing The Miller’s Tale, Gila Aloni comments that, “In the Middle Ages women in both secular and religious contexts were presented as segregated, that is, confined within the domestic sphere of the house” (164). Alisoun is described as being in a cage. May is kept within the garden. Lisa never seems to leave Johnny’s dwelling. Certainly, she returns home once from a shopping trip with her mother, but we never actually see her leave. As such, all three women engage in their adultery within the home they share with their male partner. But what of Alisoun of Bath? Although she has been repeatedly married, she at no point admits to any infidelity on her part, while Lisa of San Francisco absolutely wallows in it. But they are united by the force of animus, a “recessive maleness in the psychology of women” which can manifest itself as “independence, assertiveness, ambition, and intellectual striving” (Fritz 164-165). Alisoun describes herself as not only sexually voracious, but admits that she marries for money. Lisa’s sexual escapades go without saying for viewers of the 4

film, but in addition she admits that she “[doesn’t] mind living with Johnny,” which is reinforced by her mother Claudette’s nagging that “Marriage has nothing to do with love,” as “you can’t live on love! You need financial security!” And like Alisoun, Lisa is a contradiction. Alisoun claims she’s promiscuous, but craves support. Lisa at one point decries her mother’s influence, asserting her independence—“I’m going to do what I want, and that’s it!”—and in the immediate next breath asking her lover, Mark, “What do you think I should do?” Both characters’ motivations are at conflict with themselves. And on that subject, what of Mark? Like Alisoun and Lisa, he is a deeply conflicted character. He thinks of Lisa as manipulative, calling her a pejorative term to one of the ancillary characters, but seems unable to stop himself from engaging in the affair. In addition, he seems continuously confused by Lisa’s repeated attempts at seduction, repeatedly asking, “What’s going on?” or “What are you doing?” And we cannot look to a statement of profession as to who we could parallel Mark to: at no point is his occupation stated, unlike Johnny the banker, or Lisa who is by her own admission in “the computer business.” To gain a clue, we have to look at what Mark himself, Greg Sestero, says in The Disaster Artist. In order to try to get some sort of sense for the character, Sestero proposed that Mark be a police officer in the narcotics division4 of the San Francisco Police Department (195). Also, this idea had actually been devised by the creators of a Room-inspired flash-based computer game three years before The Disaster Artist saw publication. So, yes, in his willingness to continue his affair with Lisa, Mark has a bit in common with Nicholas and Damyan. But with his possible profession as a police officer, he then has something in common with the Knight. The Host has an admiration for the Knight, which parallels Johnny’s admiring friendship for Mark. Like the prototypical “knight in shining armor,” Mark comes along to the rescue of Denny when the latter is threatened by drug dealer Chris-R, taking charge of the situation and the violent felon’s firearm. Before the film’s climax, Mark is, despite his continual befuddlement, something of a romantic; enjoying the illicitness of the affair once it is consummated for the second time. Chaucer’s Knight is also a romantic figure in his telling of Arcite and Palamon. And, in fact, the relationship

The fact that this also explains why Mark keeps a stash of marijuana behind a false brick on the building’s rooftop is simply the icing on the cake.


Essay / Humor

Photo by Claudiodivizia

between Johnny and Mark is a strange parallel to that of the Knight’s characters. Towards the end of the film, Johnny and Mark could be said to almost duel for the affections of Lisa. However, this idea is subverted in what could almost be thought of as a clever inversion of Chaucer, where instead of Palamon winning fair Emilye after Arcite’s death, Mark shoves Lisa away for her role in the passing of his companion. Like Chaucer’s knight, Mark has “No riding out . . . in search of adventure” (Wadiak 164). No, like Arcite and Palamon, the story stays, for the most part, in a singular location. And like Arcite’s passivity in sneaking back into Theseus’s court for the purpose of simply observing Emilye, Mark is passive in his, for lack of a better term, “wooing” of Lisa, seeing as she is clearly the dominant force in their relationship. Upon first viewing the film, several reactions are typical. Chief among them is “What did I just watch?” In its initial two-week run, the film achieved a dismal box office of merely twelve hundred dollars against a six-million dollar budget. But then it achieved an underground cult status, with Wiseau and the cast being interviewed about it for Entertainment Weekly and CNN. There is a documentary, Room Full of Spoons, funded via Kickstarter that will be coming soon. Many of the cast (excepting Wiseau) also used Kickstarter to produce a comedy series/mockumentary regarding their current status in the wake of their cult popularity. Greg Sestero’s book, The Disaster Artist, has been made into a film directed by and starring James Franco, winning awards and accolades. Wiseau himself has 5

a series on the US streaming service Hulu5, and has plans for two new movies as well as a possible sequel/ prequel to The Room. And while the movie has become an underground phenomenon unlike any seen since The Rocky Horror Picture Show, a reading of Chaucer does not change one’s viewpoint of Rocky Horror like it can The Room. Chaucerian archetypes are present in Johnny, Lisa, and Mark, then show inversions of those same archetypes. The film strangely parallels elements of both The Merchant’s Tale and The Knight’s Tale to certain extents, with inversions also occurring. Reading Chaucer can give one a new appreciation for works literary as well as cinematic by bringing these Chaucerian archetypes and themes to the reader/viewer’s attention. In that, watching a cinematic masterpiece such as Citizen Kane can become a new experience. But so also can watching a cinematic disaster like The Room. Did Tommy Wiseau read Chaucer at some point and take inspiration from it in crafting his opus? No one can say for sure with his trademark evasiveness. What we can say for sure is that no matter how terrible The Room can be, it is a deeply fascinating piece of Americana, and that fascination can be only heightened by incorporating a knowledge of a classical work such as The Canterbury Tales. But perhaps the best way to look at the film or even The Canterbury Tales comes from Wiseau himself: “I always say that you don’t have to like [it], but you will discover—maybe a tiny little thing—and say, “‘Wait a minute, maybe I want to see more.’”

By most accounts it is terrible. And not in a “so bad it’s good” sense, but a “please turn this off” sense.


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The Crash GERRY FABIAN I collect your old lies like bad debts. Some are overdue; some show just the withdrawal. All of them are in red. You have destroyed their creditability. And What about me? Stuck in this red blood of love slop. The next time those ledger blue eyes s i n k to foreclose; I’m giving you an October 1929 kiss.

Photo by Andrii Klemenchenko



Disconnected Alarm GERRY FABIAN I immediately sense Nothing is going to go well. She instructs me To follow her lead. I want to save her Now before she Cancels all the good That she intended.

Photo by Thomas Gowanlock


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October JUDITH SKILLMAN The river marches in place, blue-gold against gold trees. One shuts the blinds against night’s early coming, lights a candle, makes a wish, leaves the flame to burn. How many symbols of age in a single month? The half moon shines all day, shy behind mother mountain. A front comes to blow the dead tree over. See, here it lies, sprung from the ground, orange-rooted. Listen, the wind’s alive with leaves and limbs. Look, a new gouge comes in the earth, a place to hide oneself.


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Photo by Tuahlensa

Doubt JUDITH SKILLMAN I like to drink the ink. It was all much better then. In the suburbs, with a comrade or two. Walking in snow, hearing the crunch beneath our boots as stars ground the sky toward another bone-tinged dawn. Sleep? Not on our watch. Dreams? We didn’t need them. We lived with our daemons. Their hunger fed on any three squares. I like to chew the wee hour until it howls. Like the gray coyote they put down, the one who lingered near the golf course. That animal wasn’t afraid of the human. Liked the taste of dog and cat. I like to entertain the certain death that is my own— pure in its salt-sure, half-witted visions of heaven.



East of the Pass JUDITH SKILLMAN Wind trembles branches, sky leans on mountain. The front lowers a knotted bruise-blue cloud. The skein twists—a snake molting its skin. Until pressured cumulous lies side-gouged. Mortar and pestle, fragrant with humus— clotted leaf, curled twigs, orange-yellows filling the field of view—insanity’s sway. Comes afterbirth’s silence, and illness. Comes the reign of depression, currency’s stiff draught, October’s nascent prize— rebirth of the same mole swimming mazes. Let the trees burst into flame, the hunters smoke venison, and wild turkeys leave cloven prints patterned with rain’s rain-poor sieve.

Photo by Atakorn Daengpanya


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nd Jesus Said, ‘Out of the heart comes evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality […]’” (Mathew 15:19-20). He covered the bases right there my friend. Did Jesus specifically mention dudes getting it on with other dudes? No, but what else could he have possibly meant by ‘sexual immorality’? (Posted by David269 - 134 likes)

Flash Fiction

These comment sections were getting predictable. I didn’t even have to scroll up to know the first three. One comment for the gays, one against, then the middle ground Christian cop out: “Jesus said nothing about homosexuality.” This would likely be accompanied by a pixelated meme that had been doing the rounds since before Christ, but, like I said, I didn’t have to look. Next up, someone would mention Leviticus 18:22, and the whole thread would disintegrate into a pseudo-religious debate: Old Testament abomination and all that fiery jazz. Same old-school doom and gloom on a Tuesday. I flicked my thumb down the screen, setting a satisfying roulette of comments flying. Every day after work I scroll the web aimlessly, waiting for the sun to set so I can go for a run. I click on some article, and, even though I know I shouldn’t, I head straight for the comment section. Digital selfflagellation is the one religious hangover from my Baptist upbringing. That, and praying in airplanes. Just in case.

I don’t know exactly what I’m looking for in threads like these. Maybe for someone to mention the separation of Church and State, or to point out that in the whole wide universe it’s pretty unlikely that a Republican-leaning God is hanging out on Pluto with Satan and a scoreboard. “Jane put her clitoris in Sarah’s mouth? Minus fifty points for Gryffindor!” Just a few more comments condemning us all to hell, and then I’ll get my trainers on. Finally, the light begins to change in my apartment, a signal that I should get off the couch, cut the aircon, and head down the network of smaller, quieter streets to the piers. It was Hong Kong hot outside: no fucking respite. The pavement was throbbing with the day’s heat. Warming-up, I thought of my friends in Malaysia. Their Facebook statuses in support of the US Supreme Court ruling on Marriage Equality were the real signs of solidarity. Speaking up in a country with sharia and anti-sodomy laws—now that’s ballsy. But these posts


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were quickly taken over by the backlash of brothers and aunts and uncles crying heresy, sin, and the degrading influence of the WWW—the Wicked, Wicked West. An uncle quoted the Quran on killing sodomites. One particular aunt lamented that the rainbow bars of her niece’s profile picture would surely imprison her to hell. Their next family dinner was going to be pleasant. Hijabs and Hallelujahs and Hail Marys—a mantra for tonight’s run. I began the gauntlet at the Star Ferry end of the promenade. The humidity alone was worse than anything I’d read about in Revelations, but the crowds indicated that the rapture unfortunately hadn’t happened yet. I planned to run the busy section first, start slow, and then enjoy some space at the Hung Hom ferry pier. I only managed a kilometre and a half before I had to take a breather. I was in a vest, shorts, and sneakers, but I could have been wearing a boiler suit. I thought of my friend Farrah, a devout Muslim. Last year, we ran a marathon together in Kuala Lumpur. She did it in sweat pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and a head scarf. The thought of her in all those clothes brought a rush of nausea to my throat. In some defence I took my shirt off and slung it on a railing, scanning the crowds for onlookers who might be shocked by the sight of an unsolicited female belly button. People seemed nonplussed. I thought about Adam and Eve’s own smooth stomachs and began to run again. The next kilometre felt better. I kept moving, ducking and weaving through tourists and couples. The night crowds were thick at this hour. I wiped my hand across the sweat running


down my stomach. It was gleaming red: the city lights reflecting off the harbour water and onto my skin. I dived under a selfie stick, hitting the 3k mark, shorts creeping up my stomach. The sweat was keeping me cool in a way it never had before, as the light wind off the water hit my torso. I hovered near a railing where a cluster of Koreans were taking pictures. It seemed as good a place as any to take my shorts off. Now I was running. Strides lengthening in the glow of my lumo yellow sports bra, purple underwear, and neon pink trainers. I couldn’t tell if people were looking. It was 32 degrees but I was cool, soaring along the now emptier promenade, legs unhindered, circling like pistons. I only made it 700 metres before stopping again, pulling the sports bra over my head and flinging it, flailing, into the harbour. Then came my underwear, off, and off, and off into the black sea. I shivered. There was air on… everything. Now nothing was between me and the city. Nothing to shuffle against, or snag on, or ride up. Nothing to account for. The absence of all sound except the pounding of my sneakers. I ran on, bare as the moon. I flew past two young men on a bench. They looked wilted but hopeful in pressed black trousers, starched white shirts and black ties. Their matching haircuts were mathematical, their name tags attached by someone who knew how to solve for X. I caught a snatch of Mandarin between them and the confused looking local they had managed to corner. They could only have been Mormon missionaries. Salesmen didn’t look this happy. I slowed down and rounded back, jogging on the spot a few feet from the boys. The local teen looked

Flash Fiction

up from his conversion and took us in: three foreigners, two white boys fluent in Mandarin, and a woman jogging, naked. It didn’t take him long to disappear. I sat down on the bench, breathless and grinning. The boys did not move. The closest to me had forgotten to take the smile off his face. He was frozen there, poised at the edge of some great revelation. I gathered up his hands in my own and pulled them, gently, to my wet chest, my wet heart beneath, beating like a tide. I took a few deep breaths. “Go ahead,” I said. He must have thought I was going to kill him. He didn’t move. “Go ahead,” I said again. He looked at me with the same horrified smile until I squeezed his hands, jolting him to speech: “Go ahead?” He repeated, only the sightest rise of inflection indicating a question. He didn’t move his fingers, but we were sliding together down the slope of my sternum. We were there, each of us, between my breasts, where the heart beats oldest. “Go ahead,” I said one more time, moving our hands down my body. “Save me.”


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Photo by Kasto

Never Was the Girl Next Door STEPHANIE ROBERTS


last year, a large bough of the leaning apple tree snapped in September; the burden of fruit is not always pie. this year, no May flowers means no fall crumble. a season without trauma, this neither good nor bad.

in East New York, you fear genuine danger: New Lots at night, powerlessness, police, humidity.

i say East New York, not just Brooklyn, when i don’t want to be mistaken for a midwesterner, living in Williamsburg, raising Japanese hens calling white friends n____, afraid of that same kwel skin in the dark.

wherever i am, i am never here nor there. not the back break of August full to bursting with gunfire matched nights, nor the pure laine of northern flocks, none-to-happy over black sheep or black metaphors. i traded face for safety neither good nor bad.

i left Never tracked the north star up to this broken cold-often of Canadian apple trees.


Photo by Janifest


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Some Place Else FRED MILLER

Photo by Illu


Short Story


is name was Hector. He’s gone now, dead, and I wonder why. Hell, it was my fault. If I’d just owned up to what I’d done, we’d still be rapping and cackling over a steaming sink where we washed dishes together. There was no future there, but we didn’t care. We were just marking time until something better came along. Some Place Else, the name of the haunt where we hung out, was a peeling clapboard structure hidden behind sprawling weeds and shimmering neon, a real jewel in the rough. And if you happened to stumble into the cool recesses of this joint, you could expect to be greeted by cheap roadhouse memorabilia strewn helter skelter around the walls and a pungent odor that refused to dissipate. The outdated music on the jukebox was loud and the food was awful, but the beer was cold and that’s all anybody cared about anyway. This senseless folly of mine started one Saturday night when we were finishing up the last of the dishes, both of us quaffing shots of rye slipped into the kitchen by our favorite booze bearer, Miss Vicky, the sole bartender in the place that night and, by chance, a walking cosmetics ad. Mike, who owned the bar and manned the grill, had already left for the night. Hector thought Vicky was sweet on him. I thought better. We were both drunk. Hector elected to wait for her to close the place down while I staggered down the back

steps and fell headlong into a sandy thicket of ferns. The soft ground felt cool against my cheek. I couldn’t move, but that didn’t matter. Around dawn, lasers of sunlight danced across my face and caused me to blink. In a golden haze of humidity, I looked around and attempted to recall where I was and how the hell I’d gotten there. I could hear the soft rumble of the breakers in the surf nearby and remembered the excuse of a rental Hector and I shared a quarter of a mile up the beach—a long quarter mile in the stifling summer heat. And a kettle drum solo happened to be warming up in my head. I blinked, rolled over, and stretched, my hand bumping up against something soft and pliable in the bushes behind my head. I parted the fronds and peeked in. A bag. I slowly pulled it toward me and eyed the contents. Money, gobs of it, all in small bills. Damn. Through the sand dunes I shambled along in the tall saw grasses toward home and deliberately skipped the worn path in hopes I’d not be seen. By anyone. Not now. My hand was fused to the grip of the black leather bag. Watching sun diamonds skip across a restive sea, I saw three men down by the water. About the same time, they spotted me, so I dropped to my knees, my heart pounding. Still woozy, I rose and tore down the path in a zig-zag pattern toward our beach house.


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When I reached the door panting, I wheeled around and looked back. Nobody. Maybe just three beachcombers. On second thought, not a chance. Suits in street shoes looking for something or someone. Hell, maybe me. The house was empty. Good, let the platinum Miss Vicky have her way with ole Hector. Do the boy some good. Me? I had a plan. But something in my head announced a more immediate agenda. I shoved the bag under the bed, crashed, and passed out. “You gonna lie there ‘til dark?” he said. “Hector.” “Well?” “Well what?” “You gonna get up today?” he said. “Eventually.” I yawned. “Vicky’s having a few people over tonight around eight and you’re invited,” he said. “Thanks.” I rolled my arm over my eyes to blot out the light. “You comin’?” he said. “Um, maybe,” I said and opened my eyes. Hector was combing his mane in front of our crazed mirror. My mind focused on the trove of cash that lay just beneath me. But maybe it had just been a dream. I waited. When I heard the front door slam, I rolled over and stuck my head under the bed. In front of my eyes sat a squat black bag full of lucre. Hot damn. Gotta stash it. But where? Tomorrow I’ll rent a bank box and remove temptation from any greedy eyes and hands nearby. Monday business, first thing. My grimy clothes flew into a pile in the corner as I shuffled toward the shower. Abruptly I stopped and did an about face. I stared down at the unassuming valise and remembered a small hook on the wall in the shower. That’s the ticket, I mused. Not lettin’ this sucker outta my sight for a second. Nyet. Nada. In the kitchen, I found a roll of sandwich wrap we’d scrounged from the bar and covered my new treasure with it. Then I hung it in the shower so I could keep an eye on it while I washed the sand out of my hair. This honky-tonk beach town is about to be history, I thought. Just need to get organized. A bank box, a car, new clothes, and I’ll be a travelin’ man, outta here, bro. Where to? Doesn’t matter. Just get a million miles from here. Not leavin’ a trace. Gotta be some angry slicks out there aiming to hunt me down, get their money back. Gotta be careful. 58 | NEW READER MAGAZINE

When I turned the shower off, I heard voices in the other room. Chills danced down my spine. I tip-toed across the room and cracked the door. Hector and Vicky stood by the dresser, talking. I eased the door shut and breathed a little easier. Wait a minute. Where can I hide this damn thing? Can’t go in there and say, Oh this? My dopp kit. Yeah, carrying a lot more stuff these days. I looked around the room, scratched my head, and looked up at the ceiling. Ah, acoustical tiles. I stood on the chair we used for wet towels and removed one of the tiles. Ah hah. I gingerly slipped the case through the opening, placed it on another tile and slipped the original back into place. I wrapped a towel around my waist and strolled into the bedroom. “Ah, Miss Vicky, you’re just in time for the floor show,” I said with a smile. They both laughed. “Vicky’s asked me to move in with her, bro. Hope you don’t mind,” Hector said. “Nah, I think that’s grand,” I said. Especially now, my friend, I thought. “I knew you’d understand,” he said. “I’ll pay my part of the rent till you can find someone else to move in.” “No problem, I can cover it. You just look after that sweet lady,” I said. You better believe I’ll be better off with you outta here till I can get my act together and disappear, I thought. “Matt, I hope you’ll come by tonight. This is kind of a celebration, you know, the two of us getting together,” Vicky said. Standing there in snug shorts and a halter, she gazed at me and smiled. Funny, I’d never given her a second look before. Not bad. But maybe it struck me that way because she’d just become forbidden fruit. “Sure, I’ll be there. Wouldn’t miss it for the world, Vicky. I’m really happy for the two of you.” “Thanks,” they both said. Within minutes they had all of Hector’s worldly belongings in a few paper sacks and were out the door. I waved as her rusty clunker coughed and squeaked out onto the beach highway, her tail lights vanishing in the darkness. Shuffling back into the bathroom, I hopped up on the chair and removed a tile just enough so I could feel the leather. All safe. I replaced the tile and eased down to the floor. Now dressed, I peered out toward the water. A pale moon was rising and the beach appeared deserted.

Short Story

Back in the bathroom, I brought the bag down long enough to grab a roll of bills and stuff it in my jeans. Shambling up the path toward town in my flipflops, I took a deep breath and savored the sea breeze in my wet hair. Ahead, I could see the blinking lights of the Paradise Café. My empty stomach had begun to nag at my ribs. A rare steak and a beer, I thought. Time to chow down and plan a new future for this guy. “Yo, Tina.” “Whatcha say, Matt? Burger and fries special?” she said. “Nope, T-bone, rare, baked potato, salad, and a cold Bud, babe.” “Ooh, Mister Big Shot tonight. Why not spend some of that jackpot on me?” she said and laughed. I eyed her carefully. “Rare, you say?” “Yeah, Tina, thanks,” I said. She nodded and headed back toward the kitchen. I scanned a copy of The Packet, the local newspaper, to see if anyone had been robbed of a bag of cash. Nothing. Just the usual domestic disturbances, city council minutes, and local gossip. The waitress reappeared with a plate of food and a frosted bottle of beer. “Say, that was quick,” I said. “Sunday night, Matt. Not much goin’ on. Anything else?” “Um, no, Tina. This’ll be fine,” I said. “Say, let me know if you wanna spend some of that loot on me,” she said with a wink, and walked back toward the counter. I felt a spasm in my cheek. “Sure, Tina, sure will,” I said with a nervous cough. Damn. Could she know? ‘Course not, it’s just a coincidence. She knows nothing. Gotta keep my cool. She’s never seen me order anything except the burger combo special before tonight. She couldn’t know, forget it. I scanned the rest of the paper, my eyes pausing over the police blotter: two DUIs, one stolen car. I looked out the window, my fingers drumming the table, my mind racing back to Tina’s words, “Spend some of that loot on me.” When did I last see her in our bar? Must have been Wednesday. Yeah, late Wednesday night with a group of dudes flashin’ money around. Damn. She’s onto to me. Gotta get movin’.

I eased out of the booth, moved up to the register, and pulled out the roll of bills. Her eyes widened. Great move, Matt, I thought. “The steak okay, Matt?” “Just fine, Tina, thanks.” She gave me change and I turned to drop a tip on the table. Better not overdo it; that’d be a dead giveaway. I dropped a few bills on the table and walked toward the front door. “Come again, Matt.” “Sure will, Tina.” I opened the door and jumped back, my heart leaping into my throat. Two uniformed cops stood square in my path. Holding the door open, I froze. Both assessed me with their eyes as they walked by. “Thanks, fella,” one said and nodded, I suppose because I was waiting for them to enter before I made a move. “Anytime, officer,” I said walking out, but not looking back. My dinner did a flip flop in my gut and I was no longer sure it intended to stay there. Hell, what else could happen. If Tina blabs to the cops, they’ll be right behind me. Can’t run, they’ve got wheels. Wait a minute. Vicky and Hector are expecting me. I can take the beach path through the apartment complex across the street. Once I’m between buildings, I can race to Vicky’s, maybe lose them. Dodging high season tourist traffic, I crossed the street and ducked behind a hedge. I looked over the greenery and saw the two cops on stools talking with Tina. I turned, made a mad dash up the path and disappeared between the buildings. “What took you so long, Bro?” Hector said. “Welcome,” Vicky shouted across the room. A scent of tanning oil wafted about the room while a window air-conditioning unit appeared close to giving up the ghost. The place was packed. Squeezing into the kitchen, I grabbed a cold beer and stepped back into the crowd. And almost bumped into a petite lass whose looks might have qualified her for a VOGUE cover shot. “Hi,” she said batting her eyelashes. “I’m Jan.” “Hi, Jan. I’m Matt. You a friend of Vicky’s?” I said. I knew Hector could never score with a classy chick like this. If he had, he’d never have moved in with the bar maid at Some Place Else. “Well, you could say that. Vicky and I were both in the front hall retrieving mail the other day when she invited me to the party. I live in the building.”


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Photo by Belchonock

“Well, it’s nice to meet you, Jan,” I said nodding and immediately saw her frown. “Um, no, I’m not brushing you off. I mean, this must be my lucky day.” I knew it sounded stupid once I’d said it, but I was not about to let her slip away so soon. “Why don’t we step out onto the patio where it’s not so noisy,” I said. “Sure, Matt, let’s,” she said. A few couples engaged in ritual tete-atetes milled about, taking advantage of a gentle ocean breeze and the quieter venue. “What do you do, Jan?” “I studied elementary school education and had a position subbing for a teacher who was out on maternity leave, but she’s back now. So, currently, I’m with a local bank until something better comes along. How about you?” “Um, I’m doing kitchen duty with Hector down at Some Place Else until I can land something better. I’ve got a business degree and I’m looking.” “It’s tough out there,” she said, and I nodded. “Jan,” said a fellow crossing the patio. “Hi, Bret. Bret, this is Matt,” she said. “H’lo,” I said, as if I hoped he’d disappear. But come to think of it, maybe I should be the one taking a powder. Why give this lady the impression I’m available just before I split town? Talk about being on the fence. “Bret, you here with Alice?” she said. “Yeah, she’s inside announcing our new addition to anyone who’ll listen.”


“Oh, you guys are gonna have a baby. That’s wonderful, Bret,” she said. “Yeah, a big step for us, I guess.” He turned toward me. “What’s your story, Matt?” “Well. I—” “Careful, Matt. Bret’s a plain clothes detective for the county,” Jan said with a grin. I blinked. And then decided to look him right in the eye just to show him I wasn’t afraid. But I was. “As I was saying to Jan, Hector and I work together. How about you? Got any hot cases these days?” Sweat beaded across my forehead and a tic beneath my eye decided to make its presence known. “Nothing special at present, Matt. I’m working cold cases.” “Sounds like interesting work,” I said, and wondered how I could gracefully get out of this encounter. “It is,” he said, and turned as a woman stepped out of the kitchen and called his name. Before he could return his attention to us, I raised my bottle and said to Jan, “Believe I need another.” She nodded, and I walked around the two of them as the other woman approached our group. In the kitchen, I put my bottle on the countertop and meandered through the crowd toward the front door, where I planned to make my escape. Vicky appeared to be opening the door for newcomers when I spotted the two cops from the café in the hallway. I dropped my head and slowly moved back toward the kitchen. Passing the detective on the patio appeared to pose less risk, I decided.

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Jan was standing alone on the patio when I emerged from the apartment. “I thought you were getting a fresh beer, Matt,” she said. “Um, yeah, but I just remembered something I need to take care of right away.” “Well, it was nice meeting you,” she said. “Um, yeah, let’s get together sometime,” I said. “Let’s,” she said as I eased into the darkness. To say I had a restless night would not have described my mental state clearly. Every thump, knock, or creak in that old house brought my eyes wide open. And if two mosquitoes had collided in midair, I swear I would have heard them. Shortly after the digital clock on my bedside table read 3:30 A.M., I passed out. Monday daybreak brought the voice of a local DJ barking in my ear. I hit the snooze button and rolled over. The next thing I knew, I heard sirens. I leaped out of the bed and raced to the window in time to see a police cruiser pass in a blur. I rubbed my eyes and thought, Gotta get the money in a safe place first thing. I yawned and stumbled toward the shower. Most banks leave a similar impression with me: the gleam of slick marble, a drowsy security guard in one corner, and female tellers who are prepped to dress for success even though they can expect to be paid almost nothing. I scanned the room, looking for a bank officer at a desk, and presto, there was the woman I’d met at Vicky’s party. The desk plate read, “Janice Turner, Customer Representative.” “Well, you said let’s get together, but I didn’t expect you so soon,” she said. “I’m a man of action,” I said and blushed. “Um, actually, I’m here to open an account, Jan.” “Well, do sit down. I can help you with that,” she said, eyeing the black bag in my hand. She went through the usual routine, and though I was sure I’d never use it, I opted for a low-cost checking account, and then I asked about safe deposit boxes. Looking again at the valise now in my lap, she must have figured what I was up to and took me to the vault to see the sizes available. Ten minutes later, I’d stuffed two large boxes with cash and had a folder with starter checks and two bank box keys in my hand. And when I left, I also had Jan’s cell number. Finally, I was wide awake and feeling light as a feather.

When I strolled into the bar kitchen that evening, I walked up behind Hector and slapped him on the back. He jumped and wheeled around with a butcher knife in one hand. “You okay, bro?” I said. “Yeah, Matt, you just startled me. Didn’t hear you come in.” “Sorry. Say, how’re the new digs, Hector?” I said, trying to ease his tenseness. “You saw the place, Matt.” “Yeah, but I didn’t see the bedroom,” I said and laughed. He tried to laugh but I could see his mind was elsewhere. I slipped on my gloves and went right to work. Hector remained quieter than usual, so I just left him alone. Then I spoke to Mike, who faced the grill behind us. He grunted his usual greeting. The man rarely smiled, but he was fair with us and that’s all that mattered. With nothing else to occupy my time, I thought about Miss Janice Turner, my new bank customer representative, and my stash now safely tucked away in a bank vault. Since something totally unexpected was about to unfold, it’d be useful at this point to know there are two doors flanking the kitchen grill that lead into the bar, one marked “IN” and one “OUT.” About 9:30 P.M., we heard a loud ruckus in the bar. I turned and saw Mike hurry through the “OUT” door. I followed and peeked out into the bar. Three swarthy dudes in fine threads had Vicky surrounded and one was poking her in the chest with his finger as he shouted at her. Mike, who’d done a stint in the Marine Corp and had never showed fear of anyone as far as I knew, waded into the crowd. One of the three slicks got behind him and pulled something from under his coat. Next, the five of them marched lock-step toward the “IN” door to the kitchen. Without thinking, I moved through the “OUT” door just as they entered the other. While everyone in the bar eyed the other door and awaited new developments, I eased out the front door of the joint and broke into a dead run. There was little doubt in my mind who those guys were and what they were after. I just needed to stay one step ahead of them. Once back at the beach house, I grabbed a couple of shirts and my bank box keys, and ran up the path toward town. Where I was going,


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I didn’t know, but I was confident those three would be looking for me soon. Real soon. In the shadows of the parking lot of the Paradise Café, I stopped and gasped. Where the hell could I go now, I thought. Wait a minute. It was a long shot, but there was only one option I could think of at that moment. “Jan?” I said on the phone. “Yes?” “It’s Matt... you know, from the bank and Vicky’s party,” “Sure. Hi, Matt.” “Say, I know this is short notice, but I was wondering… well, maybe you might consider joining me at Louie’s for shrimp cocktails and a nightcap. Maybe we could get to know one another a little better.” Nothing I was saying sounded cool to me, and I could envision a quick “No, not tonight” coming when I heard her say, “Gee, Matt, I’m so engrossed in the Seinfeld rerun on TV right now…” My mind raced for a way to back out of my proposal without sounding like a fool when she started laughing. “Okay, sport,” she said, “You gonna pick me up or do I meet you at Louie’s?” “Why don’t we meet there in say, thirty minutes. Okay?” I said. “See you there, Matt.” Louie’s, our one upscale seafood eatery and bar in town, sits on a picturesque point where late diners can listen to soft piano jazz and watch shrimpers on the horizon wink in syncopated rhythms. The seafood is fresh and can be pricey, and that’s why I chose it for our date. I had money in my pocket and a plan that included impressing this foxy lady. Decked out in a white sundress and sandals, she walked into the bar with a smile. “Hi, there,” she said. Immediately I realized I was underdressed, but what the hell, a firestorm was brewing in my wake, and I couldn’t go back. “Hi, yourself,” I said grinning. Nibbling on shrimp cocktails and sipping a fine chardonnay, we made small talk while I wondered how this might play out. Before she arrived, I’d considered a champagne, but thought she might realize what I wanted to happen. Yet it happened anyway, and soon after we discovered we both adored a couple of mystery writers, we were back at her place sorting out plots we’d remembered.


The next morning after she’d showered, dressed, and promised to meet me for lunch, she left for work. I then rolled out of bed and strolled over to the Paradise Café for breakfast. I picked up a copy of The Packet and saw my worst fears confirmed in a headline: TWO BAR EMPLOYEES BADLY BEATEN, TWO MISSING. Mike and Vicky were in critical condition in the local hospital and Hector and I could not be found. My strategy changed. I needed access to the bank vault. And to disappear—fast. I eyed Tina talking to another diner down the counter and prayed she hadn’t seen or heard the latest news. “Tina, how goes it?” I said when she came over to warm my coffee. “Same old, same old, Matt. You?” “I’m good. Hope your day goes well,” I said. “Yours, too,” she said and moved down the counter. I dropped some bills beside my plate and took the newspaper with me. I thought of dropping coins in The Packet box outside the door and taking all the papers so Tina wouldn’t see what had happened. But then I thought better of it. She’d find out soon enough anyway. When Jan walked into the Sandwich Nook to meet me for lunch, it was all over her face. “What the hell is going on, Matt?” I’d no option other than a full confession. I spelled it all out to her, including the size of the stash: one hundred thirty-seven thousand dollars. “Wow. What will you do now, Matt?” “Good question,” I said. “I think I should clean out the bank boxes and split. What do you think, Jan?” “You really wanna know?” she said. “Yeah,” I said, but I wasn’t sure I did. “If someone in the bank spots you, he’ll alert the bank manager and she’ll call the cops.” “Yeah, but who knows me at the bank other than you?” “You name and ID are now in bank processing. If one of the clerks makes the connection, she may tip off bank authorities,” she said. “We need a plan,” I said and immediately wondered how the word “we” slipped into the conversation. Twenty-five minutes later, I was in her car in the bank parking lot, awaiting my accomplice to ring my cell phone. She said she’d alert me once the bank was full of people, and I could slip in, sign the box entry form, and grab the cash. And she said she could provide a bank

Short Story

canvas bag for the loot. Then I’d wait in her car until she could fake a sudden illness and leave for the afternoon. The plan was to drop me off at the bus station in the next beach town, where no one would be looking for me. All went as we’d laid it out until I dropped the bag in the car trunk and hopped in the car to wait. The time was 2:00 P.M. Forty-five minutes later, she still hadn’t come out of the bank and I was getting nervous. And that’s when I saw a police cruiser pull into the bank lot. I was sitting on the passenger side of the seat with her car keys in my hand. I slumped down in my seat, pulled map from the glove compartment, and buried my face in the map. I knew if they saw me, I was done. I waited. Then I saw her coming out of the bank grinning ear-to-ear. She walked right past the two cops as they entered the bank. “Let’s get the hell out of here,” I said. “What’s with you?” she said. “You saw those cops. Somebody tipped them off.” “I doubt it,” she said, still grinning. As she drove out of the lot I asked what was so funny and what took her so long. “Relax. You’re in the clear, honey.” “I am?” “Yep. I spoke with my daddy on the phone and he laid it all out for me,” she said. “Your daddy?” I was stunned. “Cool it, Matt. Dad’s an attorney in Tallahassee. I gave him a hypothetical, you know, what if someone found a bag of money on the beach…” “And?” “And he said under the laws of the State of Florida, the finder engages an attorney who runs an ad stating that an amount of money has been found, and if someone can correctly identify the amount and location, they are to call the attorney’s office. If no one claims it in thirty days and it isn’t money stolen in a bank heist or store robbery, the finder can legally claim the property. The police are never involved unless they can convince a judge they know the circumstances of the lost money.” Silence filled the car as we sped toward the next town twenty miles away. I looked out the window and thought about the money. There was enough to take me through a state university MBA program. “Well?” she said. “Cool,” I said. “I guess we’re in the clear.” “Yeah, but you’re pissed because I called my dad, aren’t you, sweetheart?”

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll get over it.” “Daddy figured it wasn’t a hypothetical, so I told him everything,” she said. I stared at her. “He said you could come to Tallahassee and deposit the money in a bank there. And he’d represent you pro bono since you are a friend of mine.” “Say, that’s great, Jan.” I couldn’t think of anything better to say. “Yeah, and he said you could stay in our guest house by the pool until the matter is settled and you’ve made your plans.” “Gosh, Jan. You’re too good to me.” She reached out and squeezed my hand. “I’ll come home this weekend and we can hang out while you’re waiting. And I’ll show you some of my old haunts around the university.” “I like the way you think, Jan. This is all falling into place. What else can I say?” “Nothing yet, sport. Just be yourself. We’ll have a lot of laughs over this,” she said as she pulled in to the bus station. She rolled up to the curb, put the car in park, and reached over to kiss me. I felt a stir in my chest as her hand slid around my neck. “Till the weekend, honey,” she said, handing me a slip of paper with an address in Tallahassee. “Till the weekend,” I repeated. I grabbed the bag from the trunk and stood on the curb as she wheeled out of the lot. I gazed around to see if anyone had noticed us, but people appeared to be moving about minding their own business. I walked into the bus station and stepped up to the ticket window. “Yes, sir.” “How much for a one-way fare to Atlanta?” The clerk looked down at a book of tables and said, “That’d be $72.50, one way, sir.” I maintained a grip on the duffle bag and looked down at the scrap of paper with the address she’d given me. A small heart appeared below the address. “Sir, you want a ticket?” “Sorry, um, how much for a ticket to Tallahassee?” “That’s $27.50.” In the mirror behind the clerk, the late afternoon sun slipped into a canvas of vivid pinks and reds. And a lone palm in the distance bowed to gentle breeze and seemed to beckon any who might drift in its direction.


Literary Work

Position Closed MICHAEL JANAIRO Dear Applicant, We regret to inform you the position has been closed due to an administrative decision beyond our control though we have a pretty good idea. Something occurred among or with one of the higher-ups the administrators with double-private workspaces of outer and inner offices, and windows with views, and hand-picked assistants who work for no one else.

Dear Applicant MICHAEL JANAIRO Dear Applicant, This is just to say your application has landed in our inboxes and will be reviewed. Should we need to know more or set up an interview we will contact you. Do not reply to this auto-message Your interest greatly warms our hearts. — Human Resources


Something to do with sex or money isn’t that the way of these things? While we, squeezed in cubicles in an open office plan, must slog on without clear evidence for the change. It’s just that we liked what we saw in your application materials and invite you to return to our Applicant Tracking System where new positions are marked by the welcoming glow of a yellow light. — Human Resources


Experience MICHAEL JANAIRO Dear Applicant, Thank you for your query regarding our recent job posting and what we mean by “experience.” “Experience” resides in the balance of gains and losses between the hope-filled maps you’ve been presented and the gift of finding yourself in uncharted brambles, walking about with puzzled look, stumbling and falling into weeds.

Illustration by Nuvolanevicata

Rejection MICHAEL JANAIRO Dear Applicant, We’ve hired a candidate who isn’t you

And like a wanderer treading the night, when the mazy stars neither point nor beckon, and no road is sure, and your own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat leave you speechless, and you see the milestones dwindling toward a horizon and slow fires trailing from abandoned camp-sites, over which scavenger angels wheel on heavy wings. Yet you go on, half-certain in your gut, uncertain in the discordant mesh of map and terrain, the grand confusion of the world, a vision neither steady nor whole, but revealing enough of a path ahead to act. — Human Resources

and whose application letter revealed a real understanding of us unlike yours, which struck like a single pellet out of a shotgun fired blind into the internet striking our inboxes, initiating eye-rolls and a process that ends with this auto-message sent once the truly qualified candidate has signed the dotted line. — Human Resources


Literary Work


Short Story

Your Time on Earth Is Finished JIM SNOWDEN


rom time to time, people still ask me about the guy in the background, totally ignoring us, during the last scene of Dope Dealers from Outer Space. To get things clear, he wasn’t part of the cast or the crew. He was just a guy, and I’ll tell you what I know about him. We were up on the Mt. Hollywood Trail in Griffith Park on December 17th, 1968, shooting the scene. It was a little past three in the afternoon, so whatever we were going to do we needed to do it fast before the sun went down, but we didn’t make it through our first take before Howard screamed “cut” and ran down to the hiking trail to shoo away a couple of passers-by who’d wandered into his shot. He screamed at them the whole way down, and even though they seemed surprised and apologetic, he didn’t let up until they were scurrying around a bend and out of sight. I turned to Jack and asked him, “Shouldn’t there be people stationed on the trail to make sure nobody wanders into shot?” “That’d work if we had permission to be up here, but we don’t.” “We don’t have a permit?” “Nope.” “Why not?” “Ask Howard, Trish. I don’t know.” When Howard came back our way, I asked him. He glowered at me and told me to mind my own business. I couldn’t believe it. This was the same man who hugged me like a lifeguard who’d just saved his child after I auditioned for him, and my first question got me his stink eye. That cockroach! I’d had to get to Griffith Park

by 5:00 a.m. to help the crew lug all this junk up Mt. Hollywood to this spot so we could shoot this damned scene, and this was how he treated me. I held my feelings inside, so my insides were smoking. After Howard got a little further up the hill, I said to Jack, “So we could be arrested for being up here?” “I don’t know about arrested,” Jack said, “but they could throw us off the mountain and fine Howard. It wouldn’t be as bad as the last time I worked on a movie that didn’t have permits.” “What happened that time?” “The local sheriff threw us out of town and threatened to sic the Klan on us.” “You’re kidding.” “Sure, Trish. That’s my strange Canadian sense of humor.” I’d have asked him to tell me the story then, but Howard called places. So I found my mark in the underbrush and started my Alexander technique. Three deep breaths, thinking on each, who I am, where I am, what I want. I’m Cindy. I’m in the hills near my house, and I’m saying goodbye to Tleary, the reformed alien drug pusher, who needs to beam up to his ship before the police arrest him because they think he, not LoMar, killed Mrs. Weatherby, Scout, and the Petersons’ poodle. “Action.” I ran to Tleary and grabbed him. He was crying (Jack could really bring the tears on cue. Red cheeks and mucus and everything. I had to know his technique) and he yelled out, “Why must I be persecuted! The others killed.


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I refused to kill. To hurt. I wouldn’t go through with the plan. Why do you persecute an innocent? Why?” And I launched into my lines. “Tleary, your time on Earth is finished, but you go carrying with you the better angels that I gave you, and you can rise from hell to heaven on wings of decency to heights of good behavior lifted by the winds of my faith that in the end you are good.” And I was crying, too, by then. As dumb as this scene was, we somehow were really into it. I did Equus with Jack about ten years later, and we did all right as Martin Dysart and Hesther Saloman, but even though the play was 1,000 times better than the Dope Dealers from Outer Space script, we never found this intensity or chemistry. From up the hill an anguished “cut” smashed our imaginary moment, followed by six more rapid fire cuts, and Howard was bounding down the hill again, right past Jack and me toward this guy in a blue suit and a red ascot who was setting his camera on a tripod. “You!” Howard shouted, “You! Faggot!” “Oh, Jesus,” Jack said. “What did you say to me?” said the man in the suit. “I said get the hell off this hill. Can you see we’re trying to film?” Howard, who was shorter than this man by what looked like a good half a foot, was in close to his opponent, like a baseball manager arguing a call at the plate. I expected him to start kicking trail dirt on the man’s shoes. “Why should I get off the hill? I’m taking a picture. I have a right to take a picture.” “Not when it’s coming out of my goddamn pocket!” “What do I care about your g.d. pocket?” “You’re an inch away, you fucking pansy. An inch. I’ll spread you wide and you’ll stay spread!” When I saw fists balling up, something possessed me to get down there and in the middle of things. Wedging in between them, I pushed Howard and the man in the suit apart, shouting, “Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Hold it!” Once they were separated, I looked around and noticed that three or four other people were now on this part of the trail watching us. “Howard…” “What are you doing?” Howard took a step forward. His face was red enough to take away Superman’s powers. “Howard…” “That’s Mr. Zez to you.” Oh, Jesus. “Look, Mr. Zez, you’ve got to stop yelling at everybody that comes on this trail. We don’t have a permit to be here, and you’re going to get us in trouble.” 68 | NEW READER MAGAZINE

I swear Howard’s eyes turned black, completely black. And he screamed, “You don’t fucking tell people that!” And he lunged at me. If the man in the suit hadn’t pulled me back, Howard would’ve gotten his hands around my throat. Now Jack was down on the trail, and he and the man in the suit were between me and Howard. Members of the crew were also racing down the hill as fast as they could. “Tell her she’s fired. Tell that woman she’s fired.” Howard said to Jack. I stepped around the man in the suit. “Hey, Zez, I’ve already got another job. A better goddamn job.” “Tell her to go, Jack.” “Why am I telling her anything?” “Tell me yourself, asshole. Say it. ‘You’re fired, bitch!’ I’ll go!” “Look, can we calm down, please?” Jack said. “Who the hell does he think he is, David O’Fucking Selznick?” “To hell with you.” Howard stalked down the trail. “Trish,” Jack grabbed me by my shoulders, “Let me handle it. Just stay here, okay?” I looked at Jack’s hands on my shoulders. Did he think we were playing a scene right now? I plucked his hands off me one by one. I was still mad, but for some reason a grin was forming on my face. “What’s the magic word, Jack?” Jack rolled his eyes. “Okay. Please.” “Why do you care if I get fired?” “A bad director got me a good scene partner. How likely is that to happen twice?” “Point taken. Go.” Jack scampered down the trail to Howard. The man in the suit sidled next to me. “Your boss is a breath of stale air, isn’t he?” “You just have to get to know him.” I said. “Then what?” “Then you’ll really be sorry.” The man in the suit laughed. His laugh took the form of a series of enormous HAs that shook the trees. When he’d recovered he asked, “Are you okay?” “Fine. Thank you. And thanks for pulling me back.” “It’s okay. I take it you’re shooting a movie?” “You got it.” “What’s it about?” “Dope dealers from outer space.” The man in the suit looked at me as if I’d just said “Spider penis.” “You asked.” “I did. I did ask.”

Short Story

“What are you shooting?” “I come up here every day, and I take a picture from this exact spot.” “Why?” “No one reason. To record how the light changes. To record the city in the background, whether it’s clear or in smog or rain. I just like to look at the pictures and think about all that’s going on in them. Including the things I can’t quite see but that the picture hints at in the grain. You know?” “How long have you been doing this?” “Two years. The thirty-seventh one I took the day my Mom died. It was clear, and I know that somewhere in the city, while I was taking the picture, the undertaker was with her in the funeral home, somewhere over there.” He pointed toward Pasadena. “That’s in the picture even though you can’t see it. I think about that. And how on another day something like that may not be true for me, but it’s true for somebody, you know?” “Well, your picture missed today’s excitement.” “Maybe. But it’ll give me a reason to remember this one.” He checked his watch. “I’ve got to get to it. Sure you’re all right?” “Yeah. I’m Trish, by the way. What’s your name?” “Allen. Allen Stubbins.” Allen, Allen Stubbins shook my hand. “Remember me fondly.” I stuck by Allen’s side and watched him snap nine pictures. When he started packing up his camera and lens in this weatherbeaten leather satchel, I turned around and saw Howard trudging back up the hill. When Jack jogged over to me, Howard shouted at him, “Tell Trish to get her butt up the hill and into place!” “He does know I can hear him, right?” “Our esteemed director wanted me to tell you he’s not speaking to you anymore.” “So I can go?” “Sorry. You still have a job.” “How?” “I threatened to quit if he fired you. So did the DP and the sound guy.” “Thank them,” I said, “And tell them I’ll get them for this.” “Will do.” Jack and I returned to our marks. Howard shouted his notes for me to Jack, who yodeled —yes, yodeled— them to me. If it weren’t so ridiculous, I’d have found Howard’s refusal to talk to me insulting. We started a third take, but before I made it through “your time on

Earth is finished”, two cops came up the trail and broke up the scene due to complaints from other hikers. The officers ordered Howard to either show our permit or clear out. Howard, making an amazing transformation from snarling doberman to tremulous worm, didn’t yell at the cops, instead going out of his way to tell them what a beautiful job they were doing. So we packed up and schlepped all the gear back down Mt. Hollywood to the parking lot. Howard praised Jack’s performance before he told him to tell me that my next call was 6:00 a.m. next Tuesday. When Howard was a little further down the hill, which he managed easily because he wasn’t lugging anything, I asked Jack, “That movie you did where the sheriff threatened you, was that more fun than this?” “Please. I once stepped on a jellyfish, then fell onto two more jellyfish. That was more fun than this,” Jack said. Later, when I was at home trying to get off book for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, I had to keep stopping because of thoughts of Allen Stubbins. I wasn’t in love with him, though he was cute in a fussy way, but he seemed like a guy worth getting to know better, so I decided to go back up Mt. Hollywood at a little past three in the afternoon to see if I could catch him. Day jobs and rehearsals prevented me until Saturday, when after our brunch, I got my friend Dana to come with me to Griffith Park. We made it up the mountain in time, but Allen Stubbins wasn’t there. Over the next few weeks, I tried several times to find him. I looked him up the phone book, but the only A. Stubbins I found was a very confused and easily annoyed green grocer from Sherman Oaks. I even had a friend who worked for the L.A. Times check the morgue for stories about him or obits, but there was no sign. I never did see or hear from him again. I don’t know why he stopped taking pictures. I hate to think it had anything to do with his fight with Howard. Maybe he finally figured he saw all there was to see. I don’t know. What I do know is this. I started taking pictures from the exact same spot he did, at a little past 3:00 p.m. on the 17th of every month. Here’s one of them, taken March 17th, 1969. I don’t know if Allen’s in there somewhere, lurking among the grains, but I like to think he is, doing something pleasant, while I remember him fondly.


Literary Work

Excerpts from a Job Interview ANDREW DAVIS

Photo by Mrdoomits

Q.) What inspired you to apply for this position? A.) Well, I was standing in line at the grocery store last Thursday, and the woman in front of me had a baby, who violently sucked her thumb. I mean, I actually started sweating under my armpits. I was afraid she was going to fly out of her seat and devour me like a piranha. Then, a really cute guy gets in line behind me. He’s got some yogurt and a couple energy bars. He’s wearing one of those expensive cycling costumes, and he’s snapping his mint gum in rhythm with his throbbing pecks. He smiles at me, and it occurs to me that outside the store’s windows are streams of people with backpacks and purses slung over their shoulders, suitcases in hand, phones to their ears or eyes to their screens. Just walking, walking in both directions, like they’ve got all sorts of places to go. And here I am between a gorgeous American male and a slightly rundown, but still acceptable, American female caring for an American infant, who’ll probably grow up with some kind of fetish that’ll lead to the destruction of all of us. Really, if I took myself out of the picture, the three of them would have made one hell of a family portrait. Anyways, I guess I applied for this gig because I’d like to remain invisible a little bit longer. I don’t know exactly how long. But long enough, so that being seen by others doesn’t feel like death. 70 | NEW READER MAGAZINE

Short Story

Q.) Sounds good. So, what is your greatest strength? A.) I’m a good liar. Like not, big lies. You have to get a college degree for those kinds and end up in a career field where they serve tiny ham and turkey sandwiches and huge chocolate chip cookies with tiny bags of chips and tiny waters at team meetings. I tell helpful lies. Like, judging by the current state of yourself, if your wife called and needed you to do something for the millionth time while you were napping under your desk, I’d just tell her that you were training the new girl. Ashley. Used to be a model but ruined her career spending too much time in the powder room—wink, wink—but’s recovered and a strict vegan yogi, and desperately wants to help all those in dire need of intervention. Long story short, by the time you got home, you’d find your wife in the basement ready to haul the rest of your stuffed animal collection upstairs to your master bedroom. Trust me, after a month, you’d find me so helpful that you’d swear I was Jesus under the right fluorescent lighting. Q.) Really? So, that being said, what’s your greatest weakness? A.) Well, I’d say I care too much about others. Q.) Noble. What makes you the best candidate for this job? A.) I don’t know if I am or could be or if there is one. I don’t even know if I’m the best for anything. My parents always told me I was the worst. If my mom had one of those cords in her back, like the toy dolls, she’d be the cheapest piece of crap that no one would want to buy because all she’d say is, “You’re the worst.” And my dad, well, he’s hated me since the day I asked for a Barbie and her pink convertible. I still dream about that pink convertible. I wish I had a real one, so that I could drive out to California and laugh with the unknown comedians until we cried when the venue’s manager threw our drunken asses out. We’d find a party. For sure. I’d be the life of it, and I wouldn’t have to pay for the drugs, and people would be bending over backwards, so I could do a line off of them or inject them with what some stranger gave me.

By the end of the night, I’d be asleep with my new lover in an Airbnb when my pink convertible’s alarm blared, and the two of us would wake up, confused, then aware, smiling, before he grabbed my keys to make sure all was okay and returned without having to say a word. If I could travel to another planet, I’d like to go to a place where everyone reads minds, except for me. Q.) Not what I expected. But okay. You understand you would need to take a drug test for this job? A.) Does a monkey eat bananas? Q.) And pass it? A.) And throw its shit with the same hand? Obviously. Q.) Glad to hear we’re on the same page. Where do you see yourself in ten years? A.) Seriously. Haven’t you been listening to anything I’ve said? It’s clear where I end up. I end up in a place that isn’t entirely crap, but, to me at the time, it’s complete crap, so I go out trying to be better than I am, like I have a million times in the past, and end up in the same spot but a different place with less time to continue the cycle. I’m sure you can relate. You wake up, kiss your family, kiss your stuffed animals, come here and serve customers you think you know, but you don’t. You only feel that way because they’re covering up stuff just like you are. You understand that life is a series of cover-ups and those who don’t conceal things are devoured by the world. I’ve been devoured thirty times in my life. From the first time the light stung my eyes until visions of the color black kill me, I’ll be devoured by every second, minute, hour, day, year . . . you get the picture, chief, old sport, son. Not mine, obviously. But you were someone’s son and now you’re a dad, but probably only consider yourself that when your kid does something that makes other adults congratulate you. I hope to God no one dares congratulate me for something I didn’t do. That’s the worst. It’s the hardest to avoid, and when it strikes, it guarantees that you’ll never know who you could have been if others left you be. Q.) Wow. Quite the deep thinker. We’ll be in touch. But before you go, any questions for me? A.) Sure. Yeah. No. I think I’m all set. I’m good. I’m real good.


Literary Work

Photo by Voyata



Reflective Thought Wave JOHN FRANKLIN DANDRIDGE She whispers, “Timber… timber… timber, timberrr.” Though it’s not clear if I’m the axe or the tree until the metaphor is over and I’ve fallen through a bottomless pit under her pillow. But my hands are tied to strings, strings that are tied to her fingers. And I’ve mapped out a trail back to my thought wave from the reflection of her cheek bending in the glass on the night stand to the heat from her flesh coasting off her forehead. Her hair is tethered to her ancestors who were born into tiny computers. And they’re sending us warnings to retreat beneath the sheets until the human race is ready to start over from scratch. I can’t make the blanket of what happens next. One minute, I’m clinging to a patch of naked mattress, attaching booby traps to our hearts, so if we ever tear apart, we’ll really tear apart. And in the next, she leads me to the bed’s edge, where she swears there’s a rift in between what’s real and what’s really real. If we act quickly, we can access the precious data that’s hidden on microchips between our teeth. She grits hers, then whispers, “Timber.” Though this time, the tree happens to be every tree in America. And it’ll take the lot of them to build a labyrinth intricate enough to hide it. Cuz you know. Once one calls it the truth, the truth gets out. It gets sold. Pretty soon it becomes a lie. And then folks really begin to believe it, when it’s best not to refer it as anything at all. Knowing that, I guess it’s the difference between being woke and being awake. Shit, knowing that, it’s perhaps best to pretend to be asleep. So I’m wrapping these strings around my neck, not the lumberjack, nor the axe, tying these strings to a branch of the tree. But she gets me hip to her secret tunnel that digs from her pajama bottoms up the through the doghouse. This only gets us as far as the mailbox, but her mailbox has transcended to the other side of town. Now, anonymous in the midst of yesterday’s people who pray to the same god devils pray to, who watch some clock that sits in between the most photographed tits in the city, this is only the beginning. My pocket protector’s getting all political about tossing all these soft bullets. But I’m not so much a good, honest man who’ll keep lies to himself, or tell children it’s too late for ice cream. Perhaps I’ll be more strict with our descendants. So, “Oh baby, please don’t go on that picnic.” Never mind. “Oh baby, please take me with you on that picnic. I promise not to cuss in public. I’m gonna tie our wrists to that comet. Just tell me where to leave my toothbrush.”


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Red Kryptonite JOHN FRANKLIN DANDRIDGE pass a fire/pass a fire half a friend/ twice a lover red kryptonite also comes in/ black and silver over hear/ in the corner shy on drugs/ secret prison pass a fire/twice a lover half a friend/also comes in over hear/shy on drugs/ black/ silver secret prison/in the corner


pass a fire/kryptonite/over twice half a friend/also shy in/comes on drugs pass a fire/ over kryptonite half a lover/comes in corner/twice a secret over pass/silver kryptonite/ comes in fire red friend/silver drugs shy in secret also prison over a lover


Photo by Ryan DeBerardinis


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scouting reports BY JOHN FRANKLIN DANDRIDGE The mousetrap on the table between silver worn utensils, sleeved between saucers. A cup spills. Then snap! Two mice gripped between a death metal, spoiled bean. Never knew it wasn’t cheese. A seamstress sews them bodies to nice linens, cuts when company comes over. Only important though. Roaches have been tacked to the floor, just beneath a window sill, where frozen bug spray dripped them to permanent sleep. Lethal. Last seen leaving the movies. Took a double taste. For every death, 1 million sperm, strong, and a fresh egg to hold them. For every death, halfwords spread like sour anythings. Anti-children are taking over. Go war during the week. Come home on weekends. Trade generators for prostitutes. And ever since tripping over his 104 characters, for a final time, the Secretary of Offense has tried to fix his Doomsday device. Said, “my God ate my homework”, but never mind, there’s a riot in the Complaint Department. This is carpentry, a darker version. Rippled sentences on wet paper. Words once written underwater, when Mars was still alive, when Earth was a virgin. Photo by Sompob Tapaopong



Chores for the Body JOHN FRANKLIN DANDRIDGE Royal Numbers are sanitary, only calculated by known bodies with an omniscient touch. They give them to their daughters and sons who are poised for supreme refection. Seen in the mirror, but not in the room. They’ve been banished to a daydream. Awake by vibration. Become their own toys.

Now, everybody out of the bathtub! We’re having celebrities for dinner, a president for dessert. It only hurts if you forget to chew. Make sure no one tells the neighbors. Those lonely butchers won’t leave the table until there’s no breakfast left. Let them feed on their infant witches. That smell will last forever in their kitchen.


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Natushka and the Wolves CATHERINE MULLINS


Flash Fiction


Photo by Zacarias Pereira Da Mata

atushka sat on her wooden board, her bare legs dangling in the icy water. She couldn’t see them yet, but she knew they would come. Month after month, day after day, hour after hour and minute after minute they came as they had come since the beginning of time. Natushka paddled a little further out from shore, her eyes scanning the horizon. Then her eyes stopped. There in the distance, barely distinguishable from the sky was that which always signaled their arrival. The first sign a new pack was forming. Natushka threw her body flat on the board with a thud, and began to kick her legs feverishly while gathering the water with her arms, propelling herself towards those first rises in the water that always marked the arrival of the wolves. Then, all at once they were upon her, baying and howling in a loud roar, their white teeth foaming at the crest, their long snouts rising ever upwards towards the clouds. Natushka loosened the rope that tethered her ankle to her board, her leash, and struck at them. One snarled at her baring his teeth, then opened his jaws wide till the top of his snout curled over and crested above her. She gazed into the inky black chasm of his mouth. Then the next wolf began to do the same, and the one after it the same, till all the dogs stood in a long line, jaws agape forming a near tunnel. Suddenly Natushka was swallowed up. The pack of dogs crashed down on her with bone

breaking force. Natushka struggled for her life, kicking and clawing, as their paws and teeth and bodies came toppling over her, scratching, biting, crushing till she was bloodied and ground into the sand beneath. Then, in one single movement Natushka’s head thrust through the water. She gasped for breath as she struggled not to hit or be hit by her giant wooden board. It too, had survived the onslaught, but barely. Natushka cleared the dripping water from her face with her hand. They had disappeared. They always did, ever driven towards the shore to seek other prey there. But more would be back. More always came. And with this thought the young girl flung her body, sore and a little bloodied, onto the board again, and more determined than ever, she pushed out into the open ocean. There, once again, she saw that distant swell on the horizon. And once again, she went out to meet it. Only this time, she did not draw out the leash to beat the wolves back. She did not hesitate. Instead, she flew at the wild dogs like a wild animal loosed from its cage, herself, moving towards them faster and faster. They stared at her and bared their teeth again as they gained speed towards her. But she only paddled harder and harder, staring them in the face. And as they opened their jaws to crest, she sprang up over their heads onto their backs, turning her board as she did so that it face the shore. And triumphant, she rode them all the way to the sands. Natushka had tamed the wolves.


Literary Work

The Little Sunfish BEATRIZ FERNANDEZ Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, 2017 how his hands cradled my body like a relic how he programmed my mission into my brain how I dove into darkness at his direction how debris swirled around me like motes of dust in sunlight how I swerved past the seven burnt-out bodies of my brethren


how some had names like Snake and Scorpion and some had none how on the third day I arrived at the bottom of Unit 3 how cores of molten uranium rods stared back like surprised eyes how I, Manbo, the little sunfish, succeeded in my divine mission how I served the life above me and how I survived—this time.


Photo by Andrea Izzotti


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Mistress Prynne Dreams of Her Youth BEATRIZ FERNANDEZ

Photo by Antonio Guillem



I dream of the wood’s green silences and of you—your long legs striding easily over fallen trunks, fording small brooks breaking our path. How we spent those few languid hours we owned together—as if the world beyond did not concern us—never thinking we were but leaves chattering in the wind, and it was the world alone that mattered. In the forest, thinned out now and too far from town for my aching limbs to wander— I was born a woman, wild and free, not because I danced with the Devil in a clearing by the light of the moon, as they once accused, but because I dared to dream of a different life, all left behind in the green with you.

They heed my advice now, these young girls in sober black— who once would have fled before me like crows in a cornfield from a man of straw— straw inside, which I once saw bloom raw and golden in your eyes— that was, before the scythe. They run reverent fingers over my samples of embroidered linen worked with silken threads, their bright eyes curious on the scarlet glowing from my breast. No one shuns my handiwork now, despite my robin-red chest— all the rumors have bled out. Now my sin’s become my art.


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can’t see at night. Two blocks away, the volcano pokes its head above ranch-style house and even I can see it. Nate paid less than twenty thousand when he bought the house but could get one point three million easy if he put it on the market today. No one really knows how much a volcano adds to home value. Nate said it just appeared one morning. That’s gonna play hell with his electric bill. Homes from the 80s don’t have the best insulation. Maybe that’s why the party invitation calls it a “housewarming party.” “Don’t forget our dream,” says Sam. I pull out the picnic basket and reach for Sam’s hand. She bats mine away then takes it a second later. “It doesn’t really matter that I didn’t bring my own dream to the party, right?” says Sam, leaning away from me and holding my hand. I peer into the picnic basket’s darkness to look at both our dreams but only see the old plastic horse dad gave me when I was five and sick with chicken pox. Saddlerump. I always wanted to give him to my— “Your dream works as both our dreams. Right?” Sam wraps her fingers around my upper arm. It feels like her fingers want to be there. That makes me feel loved. “The invitation says, ‘Give up your dreams to find your dreams.’ I grew up with Saddlerump. You didn’t.” “We’re husband and wife,” she says. “We should have one dream.” “Remember when you threw him out of the house and broke his leg?” I hold Saddlerump in my hands.

“Yeah, that was a long time ago. Before we lived here.” Sam rubs the seam where we glued the broken leg back to his body. “We were lucky selling the old house gave us enough money to make a down payment on our house,” I say. Sam holds Saddlerump between our faces. “Yeah, and Saddlerump’s still with us and maybe this can be our dream.” She tucks him back in the basket. “Just look at how Sally feels for her dream. Do you feel that way about Saddlerump?” Sally Criswell—underwater on her mortgage—walks into Nate’s house with eyes that look like she stopped crying a few minutes ago. She clutches a large blue ceramic cat tight to her chest. “Fine. Whatever.” Sam tosses the miniature leaning tower of Pisa from her keyring into the picnic basket. “Now we both have a dream. Happy?” Sam drags me towards Nate’s house and the volcano but her hand doesn’t feel like it wants to be there. *** I drop Aaron’s hand once we’re inside. He stands just inside the door with the picnic basket and Saddlebutt or whatever he calls that damn horse! I can’t wait to throw that thing in the volcano. We mingle through the party over to Nate’s fireplace. Jason and Kewon, neighbors from down our street, are talking with Liszeth and Allan.


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“Sam and Aaron!” It’s a party. No one really knows who’s speaking. It’s hugs and handshakes all around and like that we’re part of a group and know people. “What’s everyone doing for the summer?” Jason says something about soccer for his girls; Candace—age eleven—plays defense for her soccer team and Claire—age nine—wants the same but should focus on piano. Liszeth wants everyone to know her children are going to summer camp for two weeks; Brian—age fifteen—who acts so grown up but still needs his mom and Ashley—age fourteen—who has every teacher her brother had the year before and overcomes their bad memories of him with more poise than most adults. Sometimes Aaron asks me about having a family. I say I’ve never really thought about it and he doesn’t ask again for a year or two. But who really wants a man in love with his childhood toy and obsessed with real estate to father her children? “Aaron and I are going to Bali this summer!” I yell. If I don’t, how will people standing behind us know? “What? When did we talk about that?” Aaron’s ears have a ten second delay. Unless I whisper something about his horse when he’s sleeping upstairs and then he shoots up in bed and runs for his damn toy. “I made the reservations yesterday. Whoops. Forgot to tell you.” I’ll have to make the reservations when we get home tonight. Aaron can believe I already did it. Liszeth says, “I love the beach. I get tan so quick and even my dark hair gets highlights too.” She takes a sip of her drink—I wish Aaron would get me drinks—and pushes her hair behind her ears. Reddish streaks appear in her dark brown hair; her face, neck, and arms darken and it’s not because someone has dimmed the lights. Two half coconuts appear in front of me with straws and umbrellas sticking out of them. Aaron wraps his ridiculously long arms around me and says, “I never remember if you like Sex on the Beach or Mind Erasers, so I got one of each.” Fuck or forget. I don’t remember either and take the one of the right. No one wants to talk about kids or what they do when they don’t have kids. They want to talk about the dreams they gave up and the dreams Aaron and I will give up. Naomi—a tall blonde woman who thinks she threatens me because she has three kids but totally doesn’t—joins our group. “Sam!” She runs her hands through my hair. Naomi says it’s her way of saying hi. Saying hello shouldn’t make someone feel like a dog but I still bark. 86 | NEW READER MAGAZINE

I wish I had a dog for those nights Aaron works late. We all turn when we hear a real bark answer my fake bark. Which reminds me that dogs shed hair. That they’re like little kids and if we have a dog, we can’t travel whenever we want. A second bark doesn’t come from the kitchen. “What’s your dream Sam?” She pulls the picnic basket out of Aaron’s hand. “Is this where you’re hiding your dream? Show us. We already threw ours into the volcano.” Naomi grows taller; in reality her feet don’t touch the floor. “Show us what you brought. We’re dying to see.” Now her feet are back on the ground. I’m suffocating. Kewon clutches his chest and Aaron grabs his throat. Liszeth’s face turns pale white and flecks of blood cover her lips when she coughs. “I mean, we’re not literally dying. We just want to see your dream,” says Naomi. Liszeth’s face returns to its normal café au lait color. Kewon releases his chest. Aaron breathes normally and I don’t feel like something is smothering me. “Oh, what’s this?” Naomi pulls out Aaron’s stupid plastic horse. “That’s Saddlerump!” Suddenly my mute husband who can only talk about home prices has a voice. “I’ve had him since I was five.” Aaron takes the stupid horse out of Naomi’s stupid hand. “We’ve always been together.” “Why is this your dream?” “I always wished I could give Saddlerump to my—” “Did I tell everyone that we’re going to Bali this summer?” No one cares. If Aaron wants to talk about his damn horse, you can’t stop him. Before you know it, everyone at the party will listen to him tell the adventures of Saddlerump and Aaron. “Dad gave me Saddlerump, my best friend—” I can’t stand to hear the stupid story of Saddlerump and slink away. *** Sam leaves and I realize I never wanted to give Saddlerump to my kids. He’s mine. I stop my story in mid-sentence, put Saddlerump in his basket, and slip outside. The volcano doesn’t radiate heat and doesn’t dominate the backyard. Sam would say it’s cute. Nate’s built a wooden stair case of three flights that ends in a platform at the crater’s edge. It’s not the best job. My

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realtor calls work like Nate’s stairs non-equity building customization. Sally Criswell walks up the stairs holding her blue ceramic cat. On the first landing, the cat leans into Sally’s chest. I can’t be sure. I don’t see well at night. By the second landing, anyone can see the cat rubbing its head on Sallie’s neck. Sallie’s hand slides up and scratches the cat’s side. At the top of the stairs, Sally looks down the volcano’s throat. She runs one hand from the top of blue cat’s head all the way to its haunches. The cat stretches up its head and nuzzles Sally’s nose. Then the ceramic cat jumps out of the Sally’s arms and into the volcano. Sally leans as if to follow it but thinks better of it and around and walks off the platform’s edge. The added value of an on-property volcano minus the cost of an on-property death is a wash. Nate won’t realize one red cent from the volcano after Sally plummets to her death. She doesn’t fall. She floats down and looks a little sadder but a little healthier. A little lighter. Lightness through loss. It’s time to go up. From the platform, I can see everything. I see everyone’s backyards. The Wilmores never finished their addition. It’s just a hollow shell. The Martinizes began an outdoor kitchen. It’s still a barbeque pit with bricks next to it. Further down the street, a tree has fallen in the Kingman’s backyard. I was wrong about everyone’s home values. I follow the street away from Nate’s house and all the way outside the subdivision. The houses get farther apart. I can see the doorknobs of each house. I can see where the window screen was installed incorrectly. I can see whose gardens need weeding. The houses stop and the road stops and my eyes keep looking across the flat prairie, scrub bushes, and ashe juniper. Then the plants stop and it’s flat to the horizon. A horse with a saddle and no rider stands at the edge of the world. He walks away from me and I want to run down the stairs and catch him because I remember when Sam threw him out the front door of our first house, how a car hit him and sent him flying in two pieces, how I felt scared I had lost my only connection to my dad, how if I lost Saddlerump, I would really be alone. But I can’t stop looking at the horse on the horizon.

From behind me, I hear “Whoops” and “I-didn’tmean-to-I-just-picked-up-the-basket-and-it-slipped-outof-my-hands-when-I-looked-down-the-volcano.” Sam pulls me away from the horizon. *** I want to jump off the platform but Aaron says no. He tugs me down the stairs. We don’t touch every step as we go down. It almost seems like we’re hopping down the steps because gravity doesn’t hold us tightly anymore. Assertive Aaron plows us through people milling around Nate’s kitchen and living room. Who is this guy dragging me through the house? We’re out the door and at the curb before I realize what I’m looking at. Two kids, a boy and a girl, maybe seven and eight, holding the reins of a horse. Saddlerump. “Hi, buddy!” Aaron says it just like he said it to the plastic horse he carried around since he was five. He strokes its neck and I just about die because this strange horse that we’ve never seen before turns its head and nuzzles Aaron. Aaron’s eyes look bright and shiny. The way a person’s eyes look when they finally get to do something they’ve wanted to do for a long time. His fingers twine Saddlerump’s mane and he whispers in Saddlerump’s ear. Glisten. His eyes glisten. I’ve never seen his eyes glisten. Not even sparkle. Something pulls the back of my pants. It’s the kids. When I squat and look closer, I see things I missed. “You have eyes just like us.” The boy reaches out and wipes both hands over my eyes. “You have hair just like us.” The girl’s hands move through my hair and it feels nice. Not like Naomi running her fingers through my hair. When the little girl runs her hands through my hair, I want her to linger in my hair, to stay there, to surround herself with me. I want her to do that. “Let’s go home.” I take a kid in each hand. “I’m not coming,” says Aaron. It doesn’t hurt. It sounds right. That he shouldn’t come home with me. The three of us walk down the street to my car and Aaron leads Saddlerump in the opposite direction. Without meaning to, I tell the kids how much each house on the street costs.


Literary Work

Photo by Leonard Zhukovsky

End of Summer DORU RADU Two poems lie on the low white pages of an open book,

as we also lie together on a white bed sheet,

bare and open, unable to see what’s written on other pages,

bare and open, unable to see behind walls,

so close, yet so far, sentenced to each other.

so close, yet so far, sentenced to each other.

I read them to you and you say they are us,



Untitled DORU RADU "The Scream/Shrik," by Edvard Munch, 1893

The committee for rehabilitation of painted faces has been established. Its role—to intervene when appropriate.

Chagall’s green violinist tried to change the creature’s tune. Vermeer’s lacemaker came to weave her way to the creature’s heart.

First on the list—Munch’s frightened creature, surrounded by waters in strong colours and a tumultuous orange sky.

Lempicka’s self-portrait parked her green Bugatti in front of the creature. The car was soon withdrawn for such a frightened face would produce traffic disasters.

It hangs in a Norwegian museum, and screams. A horrified expression on its face.

Mona Lisa was sent with a special shipment. The two of them were placed face to face. The creature did not look impressed.

Hanging for more than a hundred years, the scream has not lost in intensity. The committee members compete to solve the problem.

Moreover, Gioconda’s smile lost its intensity, became a grimace. The specialists did not want to compromise another painting and closed the case.

What does it see? Where does it go? What was it doing before it started screaming? What did it have for breakfast?

They went on to solve another assignment. It’s said next on the list were Rubens’ three graces, considered much too exposed, too naked.

Is it because of love? Is it a wisdom tooth? Is it because of weather? And many other questions without an answer.

But they could not be dressed. It was too difficult to find something suitable for their sizes. All designers work on 36-24-36.

Too much despair in a single painting. Characters from its world were brought one by one.


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Sailors’ Cross DORU RADU There’s an anchor placed on the ground in this old town market square. It’s dark and massive. I saw it this evening while having a walk. At first I thought it was lost. Abandoned by a retired captain or ship. Too heavy to be lifted or stolen. Too strange to fit the landscape. Passers by looked at it reluctantly. As if an anchor belonged in waters only. As if it didn’t prevent settlements from drifting while put on land. As if it wasn’t the sailors’ burdened cross. As if we weren’t all sailors. I like anchors. Their shape and purpose. I like them because they’re amphibian. Because they’re adaptable and accept to live whenever they’re thrown. Because they have something saintly and make me think of prayers. Because my prayers always end in the name of the Mother, the Sister and the Sinful Flesh.

Photo by Carlos Aragon




Literary Work

The Value of Nothing PAT TOMPKINS


hen Martin approached the driveway display, the selection looked as if it were late afternoon, not morning. Was he too early? There were no other browsers and little to browse: no mirrors, seascapes, exercise bikes, or battered appliances. Only these: • An army-green blanket draped over a card table • An empty, refrigerator-sized cardboard box • A heap of crinkled pink imitation taffeta • One faded wooden yardstick • A Maroma Fuerte cigar box The ranch house was Martin’s third stop this Saturday. The neighborhood was the type he favored: lower middle class. An elderly widower without children and no Internet savvy was his ideal seller: unsentimental, happy to clear out junk, not a haggler. But such widowers were as rare as attic Picassos.


A woman in a lawn chair said, “Let me know if you have questions.” Martin circled the items. “Is this it?” He didn’t shop as a collector. He wanted bargains, a name piece of furniture, pottery—even an ashtray— something sellers didn’t know had value. Instead of spending money on a hobby, he made money reselling stuff. Lately, he’d done well with mid-century Scandinavian pieces. She frowned. “What we lack in quantity, we make up for in quality.” She stood and pointed at the shabby table. “Here is the finest secret cave. It’s also a fort or submarine. It offers shelter and a cozy spot for meetings. “This box is a portable playground, especially suitable for rolling down hills. It’s good for endless games

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of peekaboo. It’s also a tunnel, igloo, covered wagon, spaceship—very versatile.” Who was this woman? Con artist? Fool? In her khaki shorts, sandals, and navy polo shirt, she looked like Normal American Suburban Mom. A flicker of suspicion: Was this a joke? Was someone filming them? Spray from the lawn sprinkler hit Martin’s shins. Not a dream—or nightmare. “Princesses and brides have worn this finery,” she said, holding the dingy fabric. “Cape, ball gown, ballerina’s skirt, dragon’s tail—just a few of its uses.” She held the yardstick as though weighing it. “A rifle in its time. A pirate’s sword, hobo’s stick, acrobat’s tightrope.” She ran a thumb along its edge. “A classic.” Next, the cigar box—“a treasure box with treasure.” She offered it to Martin, as though inviting him to select a rare Cuban cigar. Inside were dozens of buttons. “Metal

and plastic, no two alike. Ideal for playing checkers or hopscotch. Plus a fine pair of cat’s eyes.” She displayed the marbles as if they were Tiffany earrings. “If these things are so wonderful, why are you getting rid of them?” “My children are grown. I don’t need them.” “I wouldn’t give you two cents for the whole lot.” “That’s okay. They’re not for sale.” “You mean you’d give them to me?” “No. I’ll give them to someone who appreciates them.” He shook his head. “Lots of luck, lady. Even Goodwill doesn’t want a cardboard box.” Martin drove to another garage sale. After a full morning of scouting, he returned home empty handed. Sometimes there weren’t any good deals.


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Photo by Volodymyr Ivashchenko



And the Nuns Wore Lipstick DENISE O'HAGAN On occasion We used to holiday In the small towns of northern Italy or drive further north, across the border to Switzerland, which to my childish eyes glistened, gleamed, and looked so prosperous. All was new and neat and tidy Even the leaves seemed to fall tidily From boxes of optimistic flowers Beneath the window sills. Such persistent cheerfulness Left me nervous I must admit. Everything was accounted for, no loose ends, no unclaimed parts, Cuckoo clocks and countless watches ran to time. (No bomb scares, no gypsies, no beggars) So, we strolled through mountain villages, Sipped hot chocolate in pretty cafes, Climbed into chair-lifts, (my mother’s desultory step not quite in keeping with those of eager tourists). Once, we passed a group of nuns and my father shook his head. ‘Did you see that?’ as his pace slowed. ‘They’re wearing lipstick!’ The disbelief, the quiet horror in his voice stayed with me long after the other images receded like slides, and took up their ordered places as mementos of a distant time.


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Honolulu Breakfasts DENISE O'HAGAN It is the breakfasts that stick in my mind maple syrup light slashing through bamboo walls sloshing over our pancakes, toast and coffee as, morning after morning, (how long a week can seem) we climbed the wooden stairs to a rickety corner cafÊ we called our own gorging ourselves on blue skies, and palm trees swaying and sashaying like elegant ladies, over the pale curve of beach pitted with tourists in the background the glitter glare of glass of luxury hotels hard, moneyed places (you could see how those brochures came to be written) and in the evenings we moved easily among people laughing people as they tequila’d their time away so easy to live as if you are happy too sometimes I even believed I was. Photo by Alena Ozerova




Photo by Fabio Formaggio

Not everyone Is as lucky as me And that knowledge Sits on me Guiltily, snugly Really, who am I To dare to write Of the agony of choice When choice Is denied so many? But still, I reflect (chronology forcing a coherence of sorts) How I came here On a flight I paid for (no visa required) leaving behind two countries a broken relationship my parents my friends my job the hoard of little familiarities that make a place your home.

So, I started again I opened a bank account I rented an apartment I got my tax file number I found a job I fumbled my way towards new friendships in time, I even got married again and had my sons crafting a home in possessions accrued and phrases mimicked from train trips and offices playgroups and cafes and now that funny accent doesn’t sound funny any more. And yet the country that has been my home for over ten years has never appeared in my dreams.


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Short Story



he likes you,” said Bollocks as soon as she left the room. “Go on in there and ask her if she needs help with the tea.” I shook my head, refusing to be drawn, sinking further into the clammy recesses of the ancient armchair. If Dan heard he gave no signs of it, nudging a sod of turf with the toe of his boot, the sheen of his weathered skin reflecting the orange glow of the fire. “Go on, will you. She’s a good yoke to go. No one would blame you for it.” I had only known Bollocks an hour, relieved when he pulled in on the roadside, red brake lights glaring in the churning mists of blue exhaust. I climbed into the passenger seat, backpack propped on my knees. He was heavy-jowled, late-forties early-fifties, gravity and time victorious in the battle against the elasticity of his skin, straggling strands of greasy hair making a poor attempt at hiding a pink and shining scalp. His fleshy hands lazily held the steering wheel, a wedding ring

embedded in the usual place, cheap aftershave failing to mask the stale beer on his breath. “Feck that there in the back seat, give yourself a bit of room.” I did as I was told. “Good man. Are you waiting long? You’d not see much traffic on this road this time of day.” “Hour and a half,” I said, rubbing my hands in the warm air hoarsely exhaled from the dashboard vent. “An hour and a half? Fuck sake. And no cunt’d pick you up in all that time? At least you had no rain. There’s that.” “There’s that,” I agreed. “Thanks for stopping. Thought I’d be standing there ‘til dark.” “Ah sure another hour and the bus would’ve passed. He’d have stopped for you. Decent skin like that so he is. So tell me, what has you up these parts?” “Looking for work. I’ve to see about a job.” “A job, is it? Well, good luck to you. They’re few and far between these days. I’ll tell you that for nothing. What line are you in?”


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“The unemployment line.” “Hah. A comedian, is it? Well here’s one for you then. Why is a line of trees smelly?” “I give up. Why?” “Because it breaks wind.” I forced a laugh. It sounded insincere and Bollocks fell silent. I watched the world buzz past: narrow roads, furze-topped embankments, bramble-strangled ditches, potholes whose unknowable depths were masked by murky brown water, farmhouses, silent cow sheds, the rise and fall of the land, all veneered and double-exposed with windscreen reflections of skeletal trees. “Could you hurt a fella?” asked Bollocks, breaking the silence. “I mean if you had to. If it was needed. Would you know how to turn a blind eye?” I said nothing. “Because I might be able to use a young fella like yourself. The money would be good.” “I doubt it,” I said. “What do you mean?” “It’s just paper, or numbers. There’s nothing inherently ‘good’ in money.” “Inherently good? Sweet jaysus. I took you for a comedian, turns out you’re a bleeding philosopher, is that it? Well you can drop that act straight away. I’ll have no truck with it.” “No truck?” “None.” “Maybe a small van then?” That bought a grin to his face. “Not a van. There is a tractor though, mind.” “A tractor?” “Yeah. All shiny and new.” “Like a …” I started. “Don’t even go there.” “Looks like it rained here anyway,” I said, trying to steer the conversation to safety, earning my lift. Most people pick up hitchers for the chat. Altruism is never truly devoid of a kernel of self-interest. The road was a winding wash of gleaming silver and grey, the near-spent winter sun low in the sky, blinding light stuttered by shadows of sycamores and ash, the trees biding their time, the sap gone to earth, waiting to surge and fuel the budding and spreading of spring’s sun-hungry leaves, and later seeds that would helicopter to earth, seeking fertile soil to sprout and to root. Unruly slow-motion battles would ensue between seedlings and


brambles. Replication, continuity, the lift of the sap, the fall of the seed, life’s angry lust for more. “Listen,” said Bollocks. “I’ll drop you into town, but I’ve to see to a small matter first. Shouldn’t take long. Or I’ll let you out here if you like and you can take your chances. If you’re still waiting when I’m done I’ll pick you up on my way past.” The memory of the cold roadside and the patches of frost in the shade were still fresh. The car was cosy and warm. “I’m in no rush,” I said. “Grand so,” said Bollocks. “With a bit of luck we’ll get a cup of tea. Or something stronger.” We travelled down a narrow road hemmed in by low stone walls. There were fewer trees. The landscape opened up. Rushes and dock and rusted bracken filled fallow fields that dipped into small valleys where unseen watercourses made their cold damp way across the land, all fed by the runoff from low rounded mountains tinged by rock and heather, crosshatched from the same palette as bruises. The broken tar gave way to twin muddy ruts bordering a central line of grass. The car bounced and bucked. We were in the middle of nowhere. I began to regret not getting out while I had the chance. “Nearly there,” said Bollocks, as if reading my anxiety. “I’ve to see about payment on that tractor I was talking about. Sure don’t I know full well they can’t pay, they’d hardly have the money for the diesel, but I’ve to put in an appearance. And either way I’ll have my pound of flesh.” A shadow of smoke hung over the house, the steeppitched slate roof speckled in the faded verdigris and rust and yellows of lichens, the deep damp-loving greens of furred moss. The walls might once have been white, but any paint had weathered down to bare grey cement streaked with patches of dark mould under the gutters and lighter stains of leached saltpetre elsewhere. A low hill, more like a mound, sat directly behind the house. A drumlin. The house was built into the rising ground, as if half-buried, like the entrance to a much larger organic structure or the antechamber of a megalithic tomb. Bollocks parked beside a beat-up Hi-ace with bald tyres and a few bales of hay piled in the back. The air was clean and cold and fresh and rich with the smells of nettles and sheep droppings and recent frost. The sheep themselves were a short distance from the house, in a pen made by more stone walls, their

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dishevelled winter fleeces daubed in lurid colours by an unartistic hand. A man and a woman stood side by side near the door. The man wore a cap. He was red-faced and largehanded and smoked a cigarette. The woman had dark hair tied in a thick plait that hung over one shoulder. She wore a heavy woollen jumper, jeans, and rubber boots. Her arms were folded, hugging herself against the cold. She was much younger than the man, closer to my own age, maybe younger, hardly more than a girl. She was not unattractive. “There’s a sack of spuds there in the boot,” said Bollocks. “It’s not locked. Bring them in there with you, there’s a good man.” I hugged the sack, feeling the hard rounded shapes through the thick brown-paper. “Desperate Dan. Dan the man,” said Bollocks. “So how are you?” The man nodded in reply, taking a long drag on his cigarette before erupting in a fit of coughing. “Well, if it isn’t the auld bollocks come to darken our door,” he said when he recovered. The girl watched us warily, unsmilingly, offering no greeting. She took the sack of potatoes from me and went into the house. “She’s the daughter,” said Bollocks in a low voice as we followed Dan indoors. “Didn’t the wife go and die on him. Left the pair of them to fend for themselves. There’s a son, but sure he’s beyond in England these years now. Lost cause altogether. Gobshite if you ask me.” There was a step down, as if the room had been dug out of the ground. With the door closed, the only light came through a small window and from a flickering fire. The sulphurous smell of over-boiled cabbage and the throaty burnt caramel tang of turf hung heavy in the air. One side of the large fireplace was formed by a rotund, half-fire-blackened rock, a granite boulder abandoned long ago by some ungrateful and unfaithful glacier headed north. The boulder was making the most of it, in out of the weather, snuggled close to the fire, as much a central presence in the small family as Dan and his daughter. “Set yerself down,” said Dan, nodding towards the greasy armchair. I did as I was told. The cushion was still warm. “An assistant ye have now, is it?” said Dan, addressing Bollocks, who was sitting halfway into the fireplace on a small wooden stool.

“Ah sure everyone needs a bit of assistance now and then, Dan, as you know only too well yourself.” “And does he take a drop, this assistant of yours?” “He might. We’ll see.” “Ah, no thanks,” I said. “I’m grand.” “Suit yerself,” said Dan. “The offer’s there.” “You won’t taste better poitín around these parts,” said Bollocks, already taking a small glass of clear liquid from the girl. “You’ll have a cup of tea then,” said the girl. Her voice came as a surprise, deep and melodious and confident. “I’m grand,” I said again. “I’m making one for myself.” “Alright, in that case I will.” My eyes tracked her as she left the room. “So any old news, Dan?” asked Bollocks when I failed to rise to his bait and follow the girl. “Had a shape caught up in the barbed wire down the back field. Cut herself badly trying to get free.” “Was she alright?” “She was. With a feed of spuds and carrots.” “You ate her?” “A lash of meat or the price of a vet and the antibiotics? A’course we ate her.” The girl came back with a mug of tea. “We’ve no sugar,” she said. “Thanks. I don’t take any.” “Sure isn’t he sweet enough as he is?” jeered Bollocks. “Nearly as sweet as yourself.” The girl stood with her back to the fire, halfsilhouetted in the dim light. She had changed out of her jeans, now wearing a dress much too light for the season. “I’m stealing your chair,” I said, standing. “Gallantry,” said Bollocks. “That’s the spirit. Speaking of which—any chance of another dropeen?” “You’re grand where you are,” said the girl, speaking to me. I sat back down, scalding my tongue on the tea. As the girl poured the poitín, Bollocks placed his free hand on her thigh, sliding it upwards, lifting the cloth of her dress. She acted as if she didn’t notice. When she was done pouring, he watched her step away, narrowing his eyes, a smug smile on his lips. “You’ll have a drop,” she said to me, raising the bottle. “It’ll strengthen your tea.”


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“Watch that girl, now,” said Bollocks. “She’ll strengthen more than your tea.” “I might,” she said, stepping closer. “If you made it worth my while.” “Oh well holy jaysus now,” said Bollocks slapping his thigh and laughing. “There it is. You brazen little hussy, you.” Dan didn’t react. He sat as if alone in the room, staring into the fire, the only indication he heard anything measured in the muscle pulsing in his jaw. “It’s getting awful warm in here,” said the girl. “Come on out for a breath of fresh air.” She grabbed me by the arm, practically wrenching me up, almost spilling the tea in the process. I set the mug down on the floor by the chair. “Go on you boyo you,” said Bollocks. “Get her nice and warmed up.” Outside I saw she was wearing makeup. Mascara and lipstick that had been hastily applied. “We can do it in the shed,” she said. “Do what?” “Oh for fuck sake, did you come down with the last rain? Did the bollocks not explain? The tractor?” “I’ve nothing to do with him,” I said. “Sure I only met the man an hour ago.” “You’re not with the bank?” “I was hitching and he picked me up.” “You’re having me on. Really, you don’t work for the bank?” “Why would I be hitching if I worked for a bank?” “You’d be like that bollocks, trying to get something for nothing.” She was still wearing her rubber boots. Her foot poked at a length of frayed blue baling twine embedded in the barely-thawed frost-hardened earth, her leg rhythmically swinging as she kicked the hard ground again and again. “I’m not like him,” I said. “Do you have any money at all? How much will you pay?” “I won’t pay anything.” But even as I said it, I felt there was more than the precious wad of money in my pocket itching to be used. “So you are just like him. You just want it for free.” “That’s not what I meant. I mean we don’t have to go to the shed.”


“You don’t like me?” she asked, looking up, abandoning the decaying twine still anchored in the soil. “Is that it?” “Ah now, that’s not what I said.” She brought her hand to the back of my neck, working her fingers up into my hair. “You’re nice. Handsome too. Sort of.” My scalp tingled at her touch, goose-bumps working their way along my arms and back, like water rippling in a breeze. “Am I pretty?” she asked. Her nose was small, almost like a child’s, her skin smooth and pale with the faintest trace of last summer’s freckles, her lips plump with promise, the faintest trace of soft dark hair above them. “You are,” I said quietly. “You’re not just saying that?” “I’m not.” “Come on in the shed with me.” “I can’t.” “I’m not asking for money.” Her teeth worried her lower lip. She looked out towards the mountains and the horizons hidden beyond, seeking out an escape route. She turned back to me. “Kiss me then,” she said. “You can do that, can’t you?” Whatever her intentions, I decided I could. I leaned towards her. Our mouths met and we clumsily kissed, teeth clashing, the mutual hunger of it frightening and exciting. I put my hand to her lower back, pulled her close against me. She was shivering. “You’re frozen,” I said. “I’m grand,” she said. “It’s only cold.” I opened my coat and brought her arms inside around my back. She put her head to my shoulder. Her wind-tugged hair tickled my face while my heart pounded. “Take me with you,” she murmured. “Take me away.” “Ah now. I don’t even know your name. Besides, I’d be of no use to you.” “I’ll fucken top myself if I’ve to stay here,” she said, loosening her grip, stepping away. “You could move to town. Find a job.” “There’s no jobs. Everybody knows that.” “You could emigrate.” “And go where? And do what? All I know is feeding chickens and looking after sheep and me da. Anyway, I

Short Story

Photo by Ying Feng Johansson

don’t even have the price of the bus fare into town. How could I be emigrating?” “Are you two love birds finished?” Bollocks stood at the door, his face reddened by the drink. “Take me away,” she said again, and then turned, walking towards the shed, arms crossed, hands clasping her hunched shoulders. Bollocks followed her with a swagger. As she opened the door to the shed, I caught a glimpse of the tractor. It was covered with a large tarpaulin. The wind lifted a corner of it, revealing the glossy sheen of the green and yellow paintwork, the machine as unlikely as a spaceship hidden among hay bales. Bollocks stepped inside after the girl and pulled the barn door closed. I turned and walked to the stone pen. The sheep were crowded together for warmth. I envied their

oblivious ovine ways, neither knowing nor caring about the next episode in their uncomplicated lives; the ramming and lambing, the shearing and slaughter, replication, continuity, life’s ravenous craving for more of itself, the spiralling cyclical finality of their inevitable fates, meaning nothing to them. Bollocks reappeared, alone. “Are you coming or what? Face on you like a wet weekend.” I climbed into the car beside him, the wad in my pocket grown thin. When she next fed the sheep she’d find what I’d left behind weighed down with a stone on top of the pen wall. Some of what I’d left behind. We drove in silence. When we got back out on the main road I turned to Bollocks. “Were you serious about that offer of work?”


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Psyche Gets a Haircut RACHEL ROSE TEFERET Psyche gets a haircut chops off those long dark locks shaves the sides of her head dyes the spiky centerline pink. Cupid says she looks cute but Cupid is biased. It’s hard for anyone  to sport that magenta mohawk, but Psyche thinks tattoos will help. She draws monarchs, swallowtails,  on skin laid bare; they clash with her hair but Cupid doesn’t care.

Photo by Dmvasilenko77


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Photo by Captblack76

Not Knowing STEVEN DUNCAN After Elizabeth Harlan-Ferlo Today was the fifteenth day of not knowing how you’re really doing. Because I can’t ask you now, I guess. Tomorrow will be the sixteenth. I’m not saying there weren’t opportunities (there were) when I could have asked. I certainly wanted to. I mean started to. Like when we stood still beneath Orion’s notch, just paces apart on the bouldered road, behind the fence of small talk we had built together. There was something about the dark we weren’t ready to encourage. I think we agreed or something. Because we’re not hurting each other anymore or something. Perhaps overlooking Dry Canyon trailhead, I should have shouted up an echo. There’s no question the mountains remember us.



Repining STEVEN DUNCAN Have you ever seen a pinecone fall down on its own? When the wind hurled itself into another town and there, in a quiet park as you’re walking by it just drops from a sky pocket, some faulty needled shelf and the thud of its weight cracks grass uninvited— tree ovulation from above, the earth a magnet for unborn lives clumped into brown masses, reminding the pines that every tree must be born by falling.

Photo by Jatuporn Saengthaksin

Have you ever been there for that?


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Bipolar Is… EMILY V First let me tell you what Bipolar is not. Bipolar is not a mood swing. A swing is youth and joy and innocence with ear to ear walls of teeth, eyes closed, arms embracing the wind, accepting the moment of free fall, knowing the chains will support me until I reach the other high and a swing is smiling, I can’t help but enjoy this freedom of spirit and body flying safely across the gravel pit below, knowing I can step off at any time when I am ready and stable and scuffing only my shoes. That’s a swing. Bipolar is not a mood swing. BiPolar is… a mood dance, performed without sheet music. To dance The Bipolar one must sleep with the conductor and percussionist so you know when to crash the cymbals and bang the gong. Go from Fox Trot to Tango to Waltz and back without a metronome and Bipolar is feeling fabulous in a pair of pants so you pull out the new plastic to buy every single color, and three days later realizing that golf-club plaid looks good on no one and neither does camel toe, so you dive into the dumpster with the other rats to dig out 14 tags to stuff in the pockets and Bipolar is trying pot with my sister because she’s always been popular so she must be right. right?


and Bipolar is waking to the blaring smoke alarm in your dorm but you stay put because getting snuffed out with your pillow feels safer than trying to survive and Bipolar is knowing you can fly so you climb the to the roof and sit because just in time you remember you are afraid of heights and Bipolar is meeting a guy forgetting the condom and not really caring but soon you’re pregnant and you skip the appointment at the clinic, lose the agency address, and ultimately choose to birth the baby who gave you a hundred and four fever because maybe you’re allergic to him but what if instead he saves your life and he does and Bipolar is sleeping through breakfast, so your fiveyear-old savior feeds himself and you fall deeper into the wormhole wondering if the knives are sharp enough or if the pills are strong enough or is it easier to just drive off the bridge and Bipolar is calling mom at 7 pm on a Thursday to please come get me I need to come home because I haven’t been to work in two days and the meds aren’t working and I don’t even know who I am and Bipolar is wearing lead boots when you’re barefoot and fresh bread is sandpaper on the tongue so mom comes on Friday to sleep on the sofa for a week and dad comes down for Christmas and my sister cries because she was a mile away but that mile was


Photo by Kirill Ryzhov

further than the moon and Bipolar is higher than a bar stool and lower than the kid’s table at Thanksgiving and Bipolar is delta brain waves playing footsie with Serotonin levels and progesterone and the Trileptal pills screw with my birth control so there’s miscarriage number two— and Bipolar is hanging an anvil from the choker around your neck, the chains on your wrists are keeping you in bed and the shackles are not fuzzy or fun but you fuck anyway so at least you feel something even a quick cum is better than a stale hole in the wall and I’m sorry for the language and I’m sorry for the visuals and I’m sorry for the triggers and I’m sorry for the stories and I’m sorry for the sorries and I’m sorry It’s just that—

• Bipolar is the outsides meeting the insides and you’re the door between seeking stasis in crisis— • and Bipolar is ups versus downs and highs versus lows and wants versus needs versus acceptable— • and Bipolar is seeing what you want in your rearview mirror every moment, wondering why typical is out of bounds— • and Bipolar is a vulture picking at your bones while your heart still beats and you are slowly wishing for dark then you wake up again to more vultures— • and Bipolar is pain. Sloppy sobbing into your pillow then laughing at the snot and finding calm in the between until the triggers fire again and you wake up elated to face the day, when everything is possible, even flying— so you leap, arms outstretched to gather the wind and instead of flying you fall lower than the gully at the end of the creek and higher than the anvil cloud raining on your funeral. So you let go and trust someone with both feet on solid ground and Bipolar is hitting the snooze button again one more time putting your big girl panties on to do it all over again tomorrow because you are just a passenger on this train.


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Say Hello, Social Anxiety! EMILY V

Photo by Katarzyna Białasiewicz



In Kindergarten I was so painfully shy that my vocal chords went on strike. My piano recital happened without me, I cowered behind daddy’s back. My parents tell me my first sentence inside the classroom was “Japan, Land of the Rising Sun” and I was deemed the best pray-er in class. I am still a people-pleaser. The worst punishment to me was “I am so disappointed in your behavior, Emily” so once when I was nine I begged for a spanking because it wouldn’t hurt as much. See, now it’s different. I can stand on stage exposing my ... everything to a house of strangers and I will be applauded for it. because, for no other reason than it’s the North Dakota Nice thing to do and you will laugh with me at me because here I am safe, but once I step down and sit, I will shrink, and hope to become the furniture on which to sit so someone will come to me for comfort and I will wrap you in my snuggie arms and heal my hurt cuz I couldn’t even meet a stranger for a burger and fries last week—

See, my tongue grew to the size of a cobra, flooding my mouth with a cow’s cud and venom, ready to spit at the nearest threat. My heart attacked my ribs and before I could say “yes, sure!” I changed my mind and now someone else thinks I’m a freak but I don’t care because my couch houses my cat who does not judge me tonight. and the words “I’m sorry” are the ice cream after midnight on a New Moon Friday so I will look at myself in the mirror in the morning and lie until they come true— “Emily, You are Beautiful You are Smart You are Brave You are a Good Mom You are worth it!” But tonight and I’ll eat my Raisin bran for dinner in my college sorority t-shirt from 1995 melt into the couch cushions and grandma’s afghan, then push the power button on my Smart TV remote to stream Golden Girls because I don’t even have the strength to choose socks and really—I really want to be with people— alone.


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t had a square head. A peculiar creature that lived, Samuel presumed, at the back of the grocer’s shop next door. It crept ninja-like up the fire escape and appeared on his kitchen window sill just as he was about to write the truest sentence he knew. And it distracted him. A brown-and-grey shadow behind the glass that he thought, the first time it caught his eye, was his own reflection. Startled, he’d pressed too long and too heavy on his keyboard and shot a row of S’s across the page he’d preliminarily entitled “Chapter Two.” He’d tried to ignore the animal, but its charcoal eyes bore into the side of his face like two masonry drills.

Boxhead, as Samuel began calling it, didn’t visit every day— if it had, he might have become accustomed to its presence as one would a splodge on a wall or a loose thread on a jumper, but since he couldn’t be sure when it would appear, Samuel found himself glancing sideways while he typed, waiting for the light to change, for a dark patch to appear in his peripheral vision. Spring waved goodbye and outside the air was starting to warm again. Good mouse-hunting weather. Samuel thought of Boxhead burrowing in the long grass, stalking its prey, emerging with blood and guts on its chin. One or two days without a visitation wasn’t unusual, but after an absence of ten days, Samuel decided that the killer feline had probably found another writer to haunt or had been eaten by weaning fox cubs. Relief blew in like fresh air from the creaking sash window he was now free to open. Smells blew in from the butcher’s, sounds blew up from the street, the taste of smoke from the allotment fires was bitter on his tongue. Ideas flew from Samuel’s imagination, down his spine, his arms, his hands, and from the tips of his fingers and formed themselves into words. The words united into sentences, but these sentences lacked truth, and each evening Samuel erased the day’s work and printed a zero in his notepad under the heading “Word Count.” A sadness, a nagging melancholy, lurked like a ghost. Days blurred one into another. Absence was present.

Flash Fiction

One afternoon, when the sun blurred the screen, Samuel stopped the flow from his fingers, found a handful of pennies and popped down to the fruit and veg shop. To buy an apple, he told himself, large and red: he’d not had one of those in a while. “Haven’t seen the cat for a few days,” he said to the woman behind the counter who said her name was Margo but referred to herself in third person as Marcia. Around her head she wore a thick yellow scarf that made it seem as if she’d always just washed her hair. “Marcia is sorry you’ve lost your cat,” she said. “Sad when an animal just vanishes and you don’t know where to. Edna, you know Edna from the butchers? You know, the old lady, not Will’s wife? Her dog ran off a couple a years ago. Got out the lane door and just kept going. They thought it’d scented a bitch but I ask you, who in their right mind’d go out a-courting when you’ve got all that meat at home. She didn’t get over it. Edna kept seeing it ’round the house. Terrier it was. A white one. With a stump. They shouldn’t have had it docked, you know. Like cutting off a finger. Or a leg. Anyway, sorry about your cat. It was a cat, wasn’t it, that you lost?” “No.” Samuel shoved the apple in his pocket and walked out, his brain spinning like a circular saw. No wonder the shop was always empty; no wonder crates of rotting vegetables were piled up outside each night. No wonder Boxhead had vanished. He’d been tortured with mindless chatter. Nattered to death. Samuel’s spinning brain paused to let in a gust of guilt. It had come to him for a reason. It had wanted—it had needed—help. The charcoal eyes weren’t boring, they were pleading. “Save me,” they had been saying. “Save me from a constant stream of words.” Halfway up the fire escape that led to his flat, Samuel turned on his heel and marched back to the grocers. “It’s your cat,” he said. “Your cat is missing. How could you have not noticed?” “Please join the queue, sir.” Margo scratched under her turban with a pencil. “Marcia will serve you when it’s your turn.” Samuel stood behind a man in a canvas overcoat, buying beetroot. Margo severed the purple-leaved stalks with a serrated knife and they bled like slit veins. She

rubbed her hands on a rag and smiled like a satisfied assassin. Samuel walked out again. In a whodunit, the killer is always the person you least expect. In his novel he would subvert this trend. He would astound his readers. The killer would be the person they most expected but least expected because they were the most expected. He worried that if every writer used the same tactic, then how long before the subversion had to be subverted and bluff became double bluff became double-double bluff? It could go on infinitely. Samuel typed and deleted, typed and deleted. He decided to work in the living room so he wouldn’t be inclined to wait for Boxhead, who may or may not have been eaten by foxes or chattered to death, and who may or may not reappear at any moment. There were no animals in his novel. It was lacking. He’d make a place for Boxhead, his little friend; he’d open up a storyline and immortalise him. Or her. *** It smelt of fishy meat. For a second or two Samuel thought of Trout Fishing in America and, unfathomably, the use of sausages for bait. The smell seemed to be coming from his ear. Then it hit him. A head. A square head bumped his cheekbone like a lump hammer, once, twice; before the third blow Samuel swung an arm out of bed and swiped his attacker to the floor. “Meow,” it said and stared up at him from the rug. Boxhead looked a lot lighter on this side of the glass. Its fur was free of snail trails and rain stains, its whiskers ivory white, its ears pale pink on the insides. Its eyes green. Without the glass to distort its appearance, its angular head looked even more angular. An ugly bastard, Samuel thought. In warm weather, Samuel slept naked and he felt suddenly exposed, as if the cat were judging his physique the way one might judge roadkill. He gave Boxhead the remains of his cheese on toast supper but it sniffed, stuck its legs in the air, and licked its bottom. It had been twelve days and there appeared to be no fox bites. “There’s a pattern to it and God knows if it’ll ever work again.” “Aye, I know what you mean.”The voices


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were below his window. The first one belonged to Old Man Watts; the second sounded like Gary Shine. Samuel heard metal on stone and the scrape of a ladder being extended. He grabbed a cushion, covered his manhood and backed into the bathroom. Boxhead followed. Together man and cat hid under the sink from the window cleaner, played pat the toothpaste cap, and waited until the windows were washed and the coast clear—twenty minutes or so, give or take. They ate breakfast, played chase the balled-up tin foil, and hid behind the kitchen door from the postman who treated the flat like the neighbourhood parcel depot. Man and moggy ate a lunch of overpriced tuna flakes from the grocery shop, played Schrödinger’s Cat with the vacuum


cleaner box—now you see him; now you don’t—and holed out in the living room from two Mormon missionaries, the Southern Electric meter reader, and Wendy, the landlord’s wife. Together, on the settee, they took an afternoon nap. All this in an amiable silence. Between hidings, games, and savoury snacks, Samuel, with Boxhead curled on his knee or sitting on his shoulder like a furry familiar, stared at his laptop. Waiting. Listening to the voices below the window that drifted in and out like waves on a calm sea, fading into the distance like a receding tide. “Chicken or beef for Sunday dinner?” “Mabel’s home perm’s playing havoc with her scalp.” “That bloody pothole outside the doctors...” A female voice with a hint of tobacco talked

Flash Fiction

of sudden storms and flash flooding. Batten down the hatches, stock up on bread, and don’t wait till the shops are out of candles. Candles. Candles… Samuel placed the cat with a square head gently on the armchair, tucked a cardigan under its head, and wrote the truest sentence he knew, which was, In August 1984 lightning struck. He knew this to be true; the fork had split the sky at the same time his wife shrieked her last contraction and pushed out what they thought would be their first child. Emily Amelia Jane or Canaan Elvin Samuel, all mousy-brown hair, hazel eyes, and soft skin. No midwife or nurse present because labour had come unexpectedly and a fortnight early. He’d been typing when the emergence happened; a sudden burst of inspiration had taken him to his laptop. Abnormal disarmament. And she’d screamed a scream so loud and piercing that it cut the thunder and must have woken the neighbours though no one came running, bringing towels and water and bottles of gin or a casserole that would sit in the fridge until it developed a blue crust. An ambulance with sirens blaring delivered his wife to the infirmary. A collection of cells, said the doctor. That’s all. No, it wasn’t animal, you should never think that. It isn’t possible. No, not even a throwback. No, definitely, no. Yes, that was its head, but don’t think about that. Look forward now. That’s the way to go. Forward. Samuel was sure he’d heard the man retching in the azaleas by the front wall. The delete key jammed with the force of Samuel’s middle finger. The curser ran across the screen like a linear Pacman. Boxhead flinched and opened an eye. The force of Samuel’s fist slamming the lid sent the laptop off the table into the empty vacuum box. Kneeling among biscuit crumbs, he peeped inside as if expecting to see… to see what? A movie still of Brad Pitt pasted itself to the back of his eyelids. Brad kneeling in the dirt. The box. Se7en. The scene. That scene. Delete. Delete. Delete. Boxhead butted the box. “Shoo.” Samuel nudged him away. Boxhead butted his arm. “Shoo!” Samuel stood and toed the cat towards the door. It scurried under the kitchen table. “I’d like you to leave.” The charcoal eyes flared from around a chair leg. “Go. Now. Go and be alive somewhere else.” No movement in the shadows. “For Christ’s sake, stop bothering me!” Samuel snatched a spatula from the cutlery drawer. Flashed it sword-like in the space where Boxhead cowered. Inanimate connected with animate. A flurry of grey-and-brown vanished through the open door and off the edge of the fire escape like an Olympic diver. The florescent tube on the kitchen ceiling flickered. Candles. He needed candles. Perhaps in the drawers there was a stub or a tea light left by the last occupant. A quick rummage came up fruitless. Let there be light. And there was no light. Samuel closed the windows, locked the door, and waited for the storm to pass.


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Dilapidated SERGIO ORTIZ You left the island on my lower back deserted. Today my own carnivore flagpole eats at me from the inside. The carousel begins. It spins around red orbits on fire. I know I am the center of a dying planet. My headband kisses the ground, while I imagine my scrotum exploding. The walls of my body wrapped with small jelly beans, our misfortune rejoicing. They urge me to this pressing urgency. Convulsed, out of ordinary words.

Photo by Pichai Cheawsarikit



The Meaning of Nothing SERGIO ORTIZ There was a certain sadness to it all, grey moss and violence remained —sorrow music I could not disclose kept floating by me, aging pure and perfect, pounding its inescapable presence, a vow of eternal ownership. It was a warning the kind discovered when sentences start with “it must have been.” As with the things that must have been, there is never an offering of a revelation or meaning.

Photo by Yan Yuan Yuan


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get a call from my business partner, Chet. “Anton? Can you hear me? I’m on the boat.” He always has to tell me he’s calling from the boat, like it’s the moon, like I’m supposed to be impressed. If anything, it just reminds me of how much I barfed the one and only time he talked me into setting foot on the goddamn thing. Not to mention the fact that my financial well-being is tied, at least in part, to a man who regularly wears a Speedo and nothing else. “What can I do for you, Chet?” “We have a problem. A shooter’s got a hostage in New Mexico someplace.” “So?” “So the guy’s wearing one of our t-shirts.” “Oh.” “The NRA called me. They’re pissed. They’re threatening to pull ads.” “How fast can you meet me at the office?” “An hour or two? Three tops. I’m on the boat.” “Yes, I know you’re on the boat, Chet. I know you’re on the boat. But if it’s not too much trouble, will you ping me back with an ETA? I mean, it’s not like I’m busy or anything. It’s not like I’m working on something that’s basically gonna change everything.” In case it wasn’t clear, I’m working on something that’s basically gonna change everything. That’s why I haven’t been to the office for such a long time, and that’s why Vijay hugs me when I get there. “Anton,” he says. “What’s going on?” “I’ll fill you in when Chet gets here,” I say, noticing how chilly they’re keeping the place these days. “He should be on his way.” “Oh. Is it the New Mexico thing?” “Ahem.” I clear my throat, point towards the cubicle farm, towards the mostly unfamiliar-looking coders and developers and lawyers. “I’m sure some of ’em


BEN MASON have heard, but I’d like to keep a lid on it as much as possible.” “Gotcha.” He puts his hand on my shoulder, guides me into his office. “Tell you what: Let’s watch the news in here. Odds are it’ll all be over before too long. If not, I have an idea.” “Good. I’m on a pretty strict idea budget at the moment.” “I’ll bet,” he says, sitting down behind his desk. “Does it have a name yet?” I sit across from him. “I’m calling it ‘Monolith.’ But that’ll probably change a few thousand times before all’s said and done.” “Still. Wow. ‘Monolith.’ I love that.” “Thanks.” “So?” he says, flipping channels on the giant, in-wall flatscreen. “I don’t suppose you’re prepared to, you know, spill the beans?” I point to the TV. “One thing at a time.” “Right, right, right,” he says, unleashing a bunch of his weird little nodlets. “Of course, of course.” “Will you relax? You’re funding my R&D, for chrissake. It’s not like I could do anything without you. He’s still facing the TV, still flipping—but manages to hit me with appreciable side-eye. The thing is, I really couldn’t. For months now, I’ve been out of the loop, in my basement, eighteen hours a day, seven days a week, essentially—and I have to be careful not to give too much away here—rewriting the program that is American culture. Chet, last I heard, was searching for sunken treasure off the coast of Año Nuevo Island with some obscure member of the Cousteau clan. At this point, we’re just names on the website—famous names, yes, but day-to-day, hour-to-hour, Vijay is the only one who really knows what’s going on with the business. The business, incidentally, is this:

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Photo by Belikova

(from the website) About From the snowy tundra of Aleutians East in Alaska to the blistering desert of Zapata in Texas, over 3,000 utterly unique and distinctly American counties make up the backbone of these great United States. Home to enchanting hamlets and bustling megacities, billion-dollar stadium projects and church-sponsored pie-eating contests, this is where ordinary Americans turn their good will, hard work and patriotism into extraordinary lives. If recent history is any indicator, however, this year, approximately 16 counties will also serve as venues for a very different type of American phenomenon: horrific mass shootings that will cut roughly 52 of those lives tragically short. In a show of faith in our common humanity, and in the interest of freeing our homeland from the tyranny of those who would have us live in fear, that most un-united of states, helps put a righteous US back on the map—by turning the map into one big, exciting, and socially conscious game of bingo. How do you make a difference? It’s simple: Pick a county or counties from our interactive map and make a $2 donation for each selection. Fifty percent of the proceeds go to the prize pool, which continues to grow... CURRENT PRIZE POOL TOTAL AS OF 11/7/15 11:34PM EDT: $55 million ...until there’s a mass shooting. Then, the person or group of people who’ve selected the county in which the shooting takes place wins the pot. More important, the remaining $1 from each donation benefits community and school outreach programs that are working tirelessly to stop the next mass shooting before it starts. CLICK HERE to Place Your Wager/Make Your Donation NOW.

(Etc., etc.) Vijay finally lands on CNN, turns up the volume, sets down the remote. “Okay, here we go.” On the TV, there’s a jerky aerial shot of a rundown strip mall. Half a dozen crawlers crisscross the screen— though they all basically sum up the anchor’s call-in interview with some rube from the local paper who happened to be gassing up his Taurus down the street.

“Here’s what we know,” says the rube. “The owner of an adult bookstore here in Gallup, New Mexico, is being held hostage. The captor, an as yet unidentified white male, was caught on security camera as he entered the premises.” A grainy black-and-white photograph pops up on screen. “Ah, for shit’s sake,” I say.


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“Ooof,” says Vijay. The guy’s looking directly into the camera. He’s got the half baffled, half terrified look of a volcano-fleeing early hominid in an encyclopedia illustration. It’s a look that says he thinks the camera is the eye of god, or Satan’s anus, or the source of tinfoil-cape-necessitating gamma rays. Except he’s not wearing a tinfoil cape. There, framed perfectly between the wispy ends of a mangy beard and a sawed-off shotgun barrell, is a camouflage t-shirt. “Somehow I didn’t think it’d be this bad,” says Vijay. “So what’s this idea of yours?” Before he can respond, his phone rings. “Sorry,” he says. “Hold that thought.” He listens for a few seconds, looks at me. “Yeah, Anton’s here.” He moves closer, like he’s gonna hand me the phone—then stops. “Wait. What’s that? Oh. Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. Yes. Okay. Talk to you later.” “Who was that?” “Chet.” “Where the hell is he?” “On the boat.” “On the boat?” “Yes. But he said to tell you that he trusts you implicitly. And that he’s confident we’re in good hands. And that he can’t make it because his winch is broken.” “His winch?” “And that the NRA wants to talk. Bruce and Bruce should be here any minute.” “Here? As in here? Not, like, calling from Virginia?” Vijay shrugs. “Apparently they were on vacation in wine country.” “Christ.” “I’ll go make sure the conference room’s open,” says Vijay, and jogs off down the hall. I turn back to the TV, where some kind of Viagra mini-drama is unfolding. A man, alone on the range, lassos a calf that’s wandered off. Back at home, he lassos his wife as she cooks dinner. They both throw their heads back and cackle. There’s a second of blackness, then the jerky chopper footage, crawlers, and crackly phone conversation all pick up again. “We’re looking at Wildcat Adult Bookstore in Gallup, New Mexico,” says the anchor. “Correct me if I’m wrong here,” he says to the rube, “but I’m assuming this is the type of place that’s popular with consumers in search of adult books?”


“That’s right,” says the rube. “There’s also a pretty wide selection of DVDs and even a few VHS cassettes. Or so I’ve heard.” Vijay sprints back up the hall, sticks his head in the doorway. “They’re here. In the conference room. You ready?” I don’t answer. I wave him over to me. He obliges, brow furrowed. “What’s up?” I lean in, speak softly. “Just curious. What percentage of our ad space are they buying these days? Ten? Fif—?” “Fifty.” I close my eyes. “Jes-us.” “Oh, thanks for reminding me,” he says, grabbing my elbow and leading me out of the office. “It looks like Bruce has maybe––. Well, it looks like he might have had some work done. So, you know, don’t be caught off guard.” “What, Jesus-related work?” “No, no,” he says, picking up the pace as we hit the hall. “‘Jesus’ is what I said to myself when I saw it.” “Wait. Slow down. What is it, exactly?” He reaches the conference room door, puts his hand on the knob, flashes a shit-eating grin. “Here we go...” “Wait,” I whisper. “Which Bruce?” But it’s too late. He flings the door open. “Gentlemen, as promised, here’s Anton.” Long story short, when I follow him in, Bruce and Bruce look no different. That is, they look identical. That is, one of them looks completely different. “Bruce,” I say, nodding, shaking one hand, then another. “Bruce.” They start right in, take turns talking. I forget to listen. I forget not to stare. Even after five, ten minutes, I can’t figure out who’s the original, who’s the doppelganger. “Anton?” says Vijay. “What do you think?” “Think?” They’re all silent, all looking at me. “I, uh—. I think last time I checked the Second Amendment was still in the Constitution.” The Bruces nod, keep talking. Their clothes don’t help. As best I can recall, they’ve always dressed alike, and today’s no exception. Both are going for the off-duty red-state senator look: khakis and oxfords with cashmere sweaters draped over their shoulders, not-yet-broken-in NRA ball caps. “Do you agree, Anton?” asks Vijay.

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“Do I agree? Well, I suspect I definitely do.” “Yeah, me too,” says Vijay. “Sorry, go ahead, Bruce.” The Bruces go ahead. A transformation like this would represent Liberacelevel plastic surgery, but there’s none of the telltale waxiness. I see no sign of scars as I study their necks, their hairlines, their chins, their eyelids, eyebrows, and temples. Vijay kicks me under the table. They’re all staring at me again. “That wasn’t a rhetorical question,” says a Bruce. “I want an answer. Why, when you boys are always going on about the importance of your ‘mission,’ would you trivialize your brand by putting it on something you’d wear to a barbecue?” “That’s, um—. You, you raise a great point,” I say, staring directly into Bruce’s nostrils, terrified that my eyes will wander up to his hat. “What was it again?” Vijay throws me more side-eye. “The fact is, gentlemen,” he says, “we didn’t always have the financial stability that comes with reliable, respectable advertisers like the NRA. A few years back, when we were still a startup, we made the t-shirts to hand out at casinos.” “Casinos?” says a Bruce. “Have you ever met the greasy sons of bitches from the gaming association? I assure you, you do not want to be in business with—” “All right, all right,” says the other Bruce. “We’re getting off track. We didn’t interrupt our vacation to come all the way down here and”—he makes air quotes—“‘discuss,’ so I’m gonna bottom-line it for you: If you wanna maintain this relationship, we’re gonna need swift and definitive action.” “Absolutely,” says Vijay, sitting up in his chair. “We—. Uh. We’re carefully reviewing our options. Various plans. Bear in mind, they’re multi-pronged, so. . . You know?” The Bruces look at each other, close their eyes, sigh. “Fellas,” says one, “if you really want to be in business, serious business, ‘reviewing your options’ isn’t going to cut it.” “What Bruce means is,” says the other, “we recommend you very, very quickly put your heads together and figure out a way to get to the shooter.” “Mmm-hmm,” says the other. “It’s only dumb luck that a full-blown goddamn tragedy hasn’t happened yet. Before it can, like Bruce said, you need to find a way in there and—well, obviously—you need to convince that bastard to take his shirt off.”

There’s a pause. Vijay and I look at each other. “Sorry,” I say, “but if we could reach him somehow, wouldn’t disarming him, or convincing him to disarm, be the thing to do?” The Bruces glare at me. “Son,” says one, “are you pulling my leg? You just said you believed in the second amendment.” “I am pulling your leg,” I say, chuckling. “Naturally, I mean we need to ‘disarm’ him with a cogent argument for why he should take the shirt off.” “Bruce, Bruce,” says Vijay, “before we get any further, I suggest we check the news and make sure nothing’s changed, nothing that would affect our planning.” The Bruces agree. I agree. Vijay points the remote, turns on the bigger-thangiant conference-room TV. More commercials. This time, the man in question throws a football through a tire swing, turns to his wife, and winks. Simultaneously, a real young, real timid-looking girl—an intern, I’m guessing—cracks the door, sticks her head in. “Sorry. Vijay, you have a call. She said it was important. Mrs. Nesbitt from—” “Okay, okay,” Vijay hiss-whispers. The girl gets the hint, pisses off. Bruce and Bruce are oblivious, gawking at the TV, where the wife, who’d been watering the garden, feigns insult and chases her husband with the hose. Vijay leans into me. “Shit,” he says. “She’s from the Anti Gun-Violence Coalition.” “Oh.” “Somebody’s gonna have to talk to her. You want to? Or do you want to stay with these guys while I deal with it?” The on-screen couple, damp and worn out, engages in some light petting on the porch while the narrator runs through about a million side effects. When he reaches “an erection that lasts more than four hours,” the Bruces turn to each other, waggle their eyebrows in unison. “I’ll talk to the lady,” I tell Vijay. “Okay,” he says. “Just—. Real quick, though. What’s their ad spend like? They’re buying, what, fifteen percent of our space? Twen—?” “Fifty.” “Sure, sure, sure, sure.” I’m doing the nodlets now. “Of course, of course.”


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I go back to Vijay’s office, turn down the volume on the TV, pick up the blinking extension. “Hello. Anton speaking.” “Oh.” The lady sounds a little stunned—and very far away. “You mean...the Anton?” “Yes—or, you know, just Anton is fine.” “I must say, this is unexpected.” Her words are very parp parp-ish, like she’s speaking via Victrola. I picture Lovey Howell on a fainting couch. “Yes, well, I wanted to personally assure you, Mrs. Nesbitt, that we’re monitoring the situation closely, and that we’re doing absolutely everything we can to ensure a favorable outcome.” “I appreciate that, dear,” she says. “Naturally, I’m very, very interested.” “Naturally.” “Every life lost to gun violence is a tragedy, an almost unimaginable tragedy.” “I couldn’t agree more.” “But to think that someone could be blown to smithereens by a gunman who is, for all intents and purposes, promoting our biggest advertising partner? That it could all play out while the nation looks on? I most certainly could not have imagined that.” “I know, I know.” “This goes without saying.” She pauses. There’s a burst of twee, high-pitched tinkling—not unlike a servant’s bell. “I would never, ever want that to happen.” “Of course not.” “If it were to happen, however, in spite of our best efforts, just think of all the publicity.” I open my mouth. Nothing happens. “That will be all, Truxtun.” “I’m sorry?” “Oh, never mind, dear, never mind.” She takes a sip of something, smacks her lips daintily. “I was just saying that, if the best case scenario were to play out—which is to say worst case scenario—one could easily imagine, my goodness, perhaps a million new visitors popping by our internet page.” “That is one way to look at it.” “So anyway, I’m not suggesting in the slightest that you engineered this somehow, that you had anything to do with it.” “Wait. Excuse me?” “All the same, I thought I’d give you a jingle and say ‘well done.’”


“No, no, no.” I shake my head a little too vigorously, have to sit down. “And I want you to know, I will not sit idly by and watch an opportunity of this magnitude go to waste. The sadists at the Pediatric Cancer Foundation think they’ve cornered the market on pathos, on public health, on private fears? Well, I think not. We’ll show them what a dash of violence brings to the mix. When we’re finished, Marnie Gladstone and her Bulimia Prevention Network cronies will vomit with envy. Bloomberg will choke on his Diet Coke. I believe a hundred-thousand new donations is entirely within reach—perhaps even two-hundred-thousand. And that’s to say nothing of the mindshare for the AGVC, darling, nothing of the mindshare. For the scourge of gun violence, too, of course.” “Please listen. We are in no way involved.” She tee-hees. “Of course not, dear. It’s all right. You don’t have to give anything away.’” “No, truly—.” I’m fairly certain she’s shushing me. Given the quality of the connection, it sounds like a sparkler, or a just-plunked Alka Seltzer tablet. “All right, all right,” she says. “Let’s change the subject before this gets too tiresome, shall we? I know: Why don’t you fill me in on the big secret project I keep hearing about, the one that’s kept you so scarce of late?” “That would be premature, I’m afraid. And besides—” “Anton?” The girl, the intern, is leaning in the doorway. “Vijay told me to tell you to check the news.” I shoo her away. “Seriously now, Mrs. Nesbitt, I feel I need to clarify—” “It appears,” says Mrs. Nesbitt, “something is happening. Is your television tuned into the news?” “Yes, I was just—. Okay. I’m looking at it right now.” The rube, it seems, has been sent back to the bush leagues, replaced by blonde, network-caliber talent. Even though the sound is still off, even though a handheld mic is hiding her bottom lip, the reporter articulates so aggressively that I figure out what’s going on way before the ‘gunman identified’ graphic pops up. I take a deep breath, exhale. “Oh boy.” “Indeed,” says Mrs. Nesbitt. “That is not her shade, darling. She looks like a streetwalker.” “Mrs, Nesbitt, please.” I turn the volume back up. “Joining me is Roland V. Adair,” says the reporter, pulling a stubbly, red-eyed old man into the shot. “Now,

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Mr. Adair, you say you know the gunman. Can you tell us his name and exactly how you know him?” “Well,” says the old man, scratching the back of his head, scowling at the microphone. “His name’s Red—or Fred. Fred, I think. One of those. My hearing’s shot all to hell.” The security camera photo from earlier takes over the screen. After a couple of seconds, ‘unidentified white male’ is replaced by ‘(f )red.’ The broadcast cuts back to a live shot. “I bump into him around the bookstore quite a bit,” the old man continues, still staring at the microphone, ‘Roland, Bookstore Patron’ now running across his midsection. “We have similar—however you wanna call it. Tastes, I guess. Weaknesses.” “Very good.” It’s hard to tell whether the reporter’s thoroughly professional or thoroughly oblivious. Either way, she doesn’t dwell. “And why do you think Fred—or Red—might be doing this? Is it personal?” She arches an eyebrow, cocks her head. “Ideological?” The old man puckers his lips, thinks. “Well, he definitely hates Eun Mi—you know, on a personal level. But that’s mostly ’cuz he’s got an ideology problem with rewind fees.” “And Eun Mi is the owner?” “Yep. She charges 25 cents if you don’t rewind. But Fred’s always saying it’s not fair since it’s just him and me that rent those particular tapes. He says he doesn’t care if I don’t rewind ’em, so long as I don’t care if he doesn’t rewind ’em. Honestly, I don’t care. But Eun Mi cares, and they’re her tapes.” Mrs. Nesbitt huffs in my ear. “Sounds like a typical small-time extortionist.” “Eun Mi tells him just to buy a damn DVD player,” says the old man, shaking his head. “Thing is he already has one. But he doesn’t like it, ’cuz sometimes when he’s loading it up, the back of the disc-thingy catches his reflection. He says that’s an invasion of his privacy.” The reporter nods gravely. “The question on everyone’s mind, of course: Is he troubled enough to harm—potentially kill—Eun Mi?” The old man finally takes his eyes of the mic, squints at the reporter. “Did you hear what I said about the reflection?” Mrs. Nesbitt chortles, catches herself, fakes a cough. “I beg your pardon.” “’Course, I know something he doesn’t,” says the old man. “Eun Mi’s basically got a bazooka back there by the

cash register. All the grief he’s given her, I figure she’d love nothing more than to blow his ass away. She’ll do it, too, if she gets half a chance. She’s Korean.” “Well, there you have it,” says the reporter, the camera pulling in tight, a new crop of ‘eun mi’ and ‘bazooka’-related crawlers appearing at her elbow. “A tense standoff here in Gallup, New Mexico. Still no shots fired, but with both assailant and hostage armed”—she arches her eyebrow again—“and dangerous, it’s difficult to imagine that will be the case for long.” She tosses to the anchor, who tosses to commercial. “Ah, shit,” says Mrs. Nesbitt. “Pardon?” “Will the senselessness never end?” she says, disgusted. “The vigilante justice? The Wild West mentality?” “Maybe it’ll fizzle out. Maybe neither of them will do anything.” “Don’t be a child,” she says. “The question is, what are you going to do now that your little plan has—I hope you’ll pardon the expression, darling, but it’s clearly backfired.” “My plan? No, no, no. I told you—” “Make no mistake. If Mister Manual Stimulation is slow on the draw, he won’t be the only fatality.” “Mister what?” “Your brand will be center stage when this oriental Annie Oakley becomes the poster child for justified gun violence. And we can’t be associated with that, darling, naturally.” “But we had nothing to do with—” “That’s all. Pull up your boots. Put on your thinking cap. Fix it posthaste—or we’ve nothing more to talk about. Tough love, dear, tough love.” “Can I just—?” “Cheerio.” She hangs up. I put the phone down, walk slowly—very slowly— back up the hall. I open the door. On one end of the conference room, Vijay is pinned against the whiteboard, convulsed with pain, his arms spread wide, his face twisted. On the other, Bruce and Bruce, each brandishing a pair of fleshy finger-guns, pump his torso full of imaginary bullets. They make classic pee-ew pee-ew sounds. Vijay says something like bwugh on his way to the floor, where he lands in a heap, legs twitching. Bruce and Bruce are in the middle of a high-five when they spot me. “Come here, you bastard,” says one, walking towards me, grinning.


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“You brilliant son of a bitch,” says the other, following a step behind. “Me?” I say, pointing at my chest. They descend upon me. There’s a flurry of handshakes, slaps on the back, hair tousling, hahas and attaboys. Vijay pops up, bounces over, joins in. “Really,” I say, “This has nothing—” “Now, now, now,” says a Bruce. “Just hold your tongue. We don’t need to know.” “Hell,” says the other, chuckling. “We probably wouldn’t understand, anyway.” “We probably wouldn’t understand, anyway,” says the other, shaking his head. “Aren’t I always telling you he’s a genius?” says Vijay, smiling at Bruce and Bruce. He turns to me. “The man with the plan,” he says, slapping me on the arm—hard. “That’s what he is.” “Well,” I say, rubbing my arm. “I do my best.” “Shit,” says a Bruce. “I’ll tell you this: You boys definitely had us going.” “You had us going,” says the other. “But now,” says the other, suddenly serious, “all we want to know is, when’s Mata Hari gonna light this motherfucker up?” “Well…” I look at Vijay. His smile’s still in place, but his eyes are desperate, pleading. “As far as I know— inasmuch as I do know—which is not to say that I have, in any real sense, information that might be construed as conspiratorial . . . it could be any minute now.” Bruce and Bruce high-five again. Vijay sighs, rubs his forehead. “Pardon me for just a sec, will you?” I say, trying to slip out. “I’m just gonna run to the—” “Hold up there, Mr. Genius,” says a Bruce, seizing me by the wrist. “In the meantime, how about a headsup on this—whatever the hell you call it—prototype thing Vijay keeps talking about?” “Something tells me we might be real interested,” says the other. “We could very well be in a position to help you out,” says the other. “I wish I could, fellas. But—” “At least tell us this,” says the other. “It’s still firearmrelated, right?” “Well, it’s still in development, so I really don’t want to make any big pronouncements. Suffice it to say, though, it’s everything-related.”


“I like what I’m hearing,” says a Bruce, nodding. “Go on.” “Yeah, go on,” says the other. “Yeah, go on,” says Vijay. I pause, look around, rub the back of my neck, throw my hands up. “Okay. Fine.” They all smile, sit down. “All right,” I say, “imagine you’re on the freeway, driving home from work. You had a bad day. You’re pissed off, stressed out. Some guy in front of you—let’s call him Ken—wants to get over so he can exit. You’re like, ‘Fuck you, buddy,’ and you cut him off.” The Bruces look at each other, chuckle. “Now, imagine you had, right in your dashboard or on your phone, access to a real-time data stream about the consequences of cutting Ken off, data that was compiled using information provided by social networks, GPS, big data, public records—basically everything available to us via the internet and modern technology. Which is to say, everything.” “What kind of consequences?” says Vijay. “I’m glad you ask. Within seconds, your Monolith feed shows you a picture of Ken and tells you that he was on his way to Ken junior’s baseball game. We also see a picture of Ken junior. Very cute. Sort of like a young Derek Jeter. Anyway, because you cut Ken off, he’s gonna be late. Furthermore, Monolith tells you that kids who have parents who are late to their little league games are eleven percent more likely than the general population to become felons. Oh, whoops. Now Monolith says that Ken’s a recovering alcoholic. He’s been sober for years, but who knows? Maybe he had a bad day, too. Maybe you cutting him off was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Maybe he says ‘fuck it,’ skips the game, and gets drunk instead. In that case, Ken junior, now the child of an active alcoholic who doesn’t come to his games, is fifty percent more likely to commit a felony, twenty percent more likely to develop an eating disorder, and is virtually precluded, based on anecdotal evidence anyway, from ever becoming an astronaut.” “And do all these other people have Monolith feeds of their own?” asks Vijay. “Yes, but it gets complex real quick,” I say, nodding subtly at the Bruces. “So for the purposes of this explanation—’ “Doesn’t Ken have a wife?” a Bruce interrupts. “Where the hell is she?”

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“Excellent question, Bruce. Based on Ken’s history, his wife, Sandy, is very much part of the story. By way of introduction, Monolith shows you her picture, and—” “Is she good-lookin’?” says a Bruce. “She got big tits?” says the other. “Yes. Sure. Whatever. Now, Ken has never been violent. But non-violent alcoholics are more likely to be the victims of violence at the hands of their spouses. So when Ken comes home, Sandy says, ‘Ken, you’re a loser, and I hate you.’ Then—and this speaks to your gun question, Bruce—she shoots him in the face. Guess what happens next?” “She takes her blouse off?” says a Bruce. “’Cuz it’s got blood on it, I mean?” “Okay. Yes. Fine. But also, Monolith informs you that, because a homicide has taken place there, the value of Ken and Sandy’s house plummets. As a result, the value of other houses in the neighborhood go down, too. The neighborhood itself declines, and given Ken junior’s at-risk status, Monolith predicts he has a seventy percent chance of becoming a drug dealer.” “So if you did let Ken over,” says Vijay, “then it’d just give you different scenarios?” “Exactly. Ken makes it to the game, so maybe Ken junior has a better chance of going to an Ivy League school. Maybe he becomes a major leaguer. Etcetera, etcetera, ad infinitum.” “A major leaguer for which team?” says a Bruce incredulously. “No, no,” I say, “It’s not what will happen. It’s a wellinformed examination of the things that could happen.” “So in the second scenario,” says a Bruce, “maybe Sandy still gets naked, but now it’s, you know, just a special treat for ol’ Ken—for being a good dad, I mean.” Vijay considers. Nods. “No,” says the other Bruce. “Ken won’t be home. He’ll be at the game.” “She’ll do it later,” says the other. “He shouldn’t be punished for being a good father.” “The point is,” I say, “all actions have wide-ranging consequences, and anything is possible. Monolith, by laying out real-world scenarios based on real-world data, reminds us of that. And, hopefully, it allows us to make decisions that will benefit us—and those around us—in the long run. It’s that simple.” “Sounds like you’ve been practicing your pitch,” says a Bruce. “Not sure I get it,” says the other.

“Is it done?” says Vijay. “Almost done?” “I’d say ‘almost.’ There are still some bugs.” “Like?” says Vijay. “Well, they mainly have to do with my feed, strangely enough. Like, because I spend so much time in the basement, I guess, it keeps telling me I’m more likely to interact with radical, fringe-y political groups. Obviously that’s—well, that’s just not true.” “Oh shit! Here we go!” says a Bruce, bounding over to the TV. We all follow. Vijay turns up the volume. “Possibly as many as six shots have been fired,” says the reporter, her face framed in an awkwardly tight closeup to accommodate a new, even larger set of crawlers. “We have no reports in terms of injuries, and police have yet to make any attempt to enter the premises.” “Hot damn!” says a Bruce. “She went to town on him, huh?” says the other. Coverage switches to a chopper shot. “As you can see,” the reporter continues, “there’s a small skylight on top of the building, and our helicopter pilot is trying to get in as close as possible to see if we can glean anything from—” “Skylight?” the anchor interrupts. “Am I right in assuming that’s a sky-based light of some type?” “Precisely,” says the reporter. “The desert climate here—” “Holy shit,” says Vijay, jumping up, pointing. “Ha!” say the Bruces in unison. On the screen, through the skylight, small but unmistakable despite the shaky camera, is a pair of bare feet lying on the floor. “I beg your pardon,” says the anchor. “But there appears to be at least one injury—or, one assumes that’s the case given what we’re—” “Yes, I see it!” says the reporter. “It’s hard to tell whose feet those might be. Perhaps if the helicopter—” “Ha!” says a Bruce. “Those are a man’s feet.” “How can you tell?” says Vijay. “Toe length,” says the other Bruce, pointing at the screen as the shot pulls in tighter. “See, look there. Some gals have big feet, but never long toes like that.” “Hmm,” says Vijay. “I’m not sure about—” Suddenly the chopper shot swings wildly from side to side, goes up towards the sun, then back down to the building, starts to spin, rights itself briefly, then starts to spin again. “Whoa,” says the reporter.


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Photo by Belikova

“Whoa,” say the Bruces. Coverage cuts back to the anchor. “We appear to be having technical—” “No, no, no!” says the reporter. “Oh god—” “Sorry?” says the anchor. “What’s—?” “No, no, no!” says the reporter. “Pull up!” We all look at each other, back at the TV, back at each other. “Sorry?” says the anchor. “I can’t—” “No, n—. Ahhhhh hell,” says the reporter, exasperated. “What’s happening?” says the anchor. “What the hell’s going on?” says a Bruce. Now there’s a live shot of the reporter, a plume of gray smoke visible over her shoulder. “The helicopter just crashed right into the roof of the bookstore,” she says, annoyed. “I see,” says the anchor. “And it would appear the structure is now burning.” “Yep,” says the reporter, reacting neither to a loud boom behind her, nor to the subsequent burst of orange flame that licks at the sky. 126 | NEW READER MAGAZINE

“Ah, shit,” says a Bruce, whipping his hat off and throwing it to the ground. “Son of a bitch,” says the other. Vijay turns off the TV just as the intern slinks into the room holding a small piece of paper. She weaves tensely around the Bruces, reaches me, gets on her tiptoes, whispers in my ear. “Sorry,” she says, “but Gladys Nesbitt called again. She said it’s imperative that I deliver her message immediately.” “Yeah? What’s the message?” She looks around nervously, cups a hand around one side of her mouth, leans in even closer. “Bravo,” she says, looking down at the paper. “Bravissimo.” *** A few weeks later, I’m back at the office for a press conference. Vijay stands at the podium, Chet and I on either side. The Bruces and Mrs. Nesbitt flank us. Half a dozen or so members of congress flank them.

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Videographers jostle. Cameras click. Notepads rustle. The intern signals Vijay, and he starts in. “Thank you for coming,” he says. “You will no doubt recognize, standing with me here on stage, many longtime adversaries in what might, without hyperbole, be called the ‘gun wars.’ Today, however, I’m pleased to announce that they are united by a common cause. After much soul searching and deliberation, and with the guidance and mediation of myself and the team, they have come to the realization that the chiefest threat to our nation’s happiness and prosperity is neither the restriction of guns nor the absence of said restriction. Rather, it is the manner in which you, the American media, carelessly insinuate yourselves into a dialectic that would, in due course, resolve itself. The consequences of your meddling are always dire—and often deadly, as was so concretely demonstrated by the recent events in New Mexico. As such, we’ve gathered here to announce that we, with the help of our allies from both sides of the aisle, plan to introduce new legislation that will finally hold the media accountable for the ways in which it libels, interferes with, and demonizes those who use firearms, those who are firearm-abstinent, and those who participate in any way in the surrounding debate. In short, we will no longer be bullied, and we refuse to be the objects of hypocritical finger-pointing by those whose fantastical, inflammatory narratives leave them, there is no doubt, with blood on their hands.” Everyone on stage claps. The press looks perplexed, starts to murmur. “Now,” Vijay continues, “I’d like to directly address the everyday Americans who share our ire. Brothers and sisters, I invite you to join the struggle. By sharing your thoughts and telling your stories using hashtag STOPTHEPRESS, you can wrest the dominant narrative of American gun culture away from those who would manipulate it to their own advantage. In the process, you’ll create a new type of story, one in which every character, whether large or small, is the author of his or her own destiny.” The murmurs increase, become a roar. Several audience members raise their hands. “Sorry,” says Vijay. “No questions.” He waits a beat, continues. “Furthermore, for those of you who’d like to contribute monetarily, we’ve set up www. There, thanks to our proprietary

Monolith platform, you can create an account and donate without—I repeat, without—having to enter a cumbersome code or series of wavy numbers to prove you’re not a robot.” The people on stage clap again. More hands shoot up. “Sorry,” says Vijay, “but that concludes this press conference. Members of the media who do not vacate the premises within 2 minutes will be arrested for trespassing.” He turns away from the podium, shakes hands with the politicians while a gang of burly security guards file in and start shooing the reporters out of the room. The people on stage break ranks, mill about, chat in gleeful little clusters. Chet saunters over to me. “So,” he says, “your Monolith thing, uh, evolved a little, huh?” “Yeah.” “Advertisers shot it down?” “They were worried about—I dunno. ‘Diluting users’ convictions by overemphasizing the concept of cause and effect’—or something.” “Hmm,” he says, nodding. “Makes sense.” “Does it?” “Well, yeah,” he says. “It’s like, the galleon I’m looking for right now—or, in layman’s terms, the shipwreck. See, ‘galleon’ is a type of—” “Cut to the chase, Chet.” “There’s liable to be millions down there, man. I gotta keep my eyes on the prize. I can’t worry about why the damn thing sank, or what happened because it sank. None of that matters. It’s just there.” “Something tells me the crew would beg to differ.” “The crew?” “Of the galleon.” “Ew.” He crinkles his nose. “You think they’re still in there?” “Jesus, Chet. I don’t know. The point is, no matter what you do, even if you’re doing it at the bottom of the ocean, you’re gonna leave a footprint.” “No, I’m not.” “Quick question: You do know I’m speaking figuratively, right?” “I will be making no footprints.” “How do you figure?” “Trust me,” he says, patting me on the shoulder. “If there’s skeletons down there, you can rest assured JeanPhillippe will be making them on my behalf.”


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Against Instinct MONTANA SVOBODA

Photo by Pitiwat Koyata


Again, another reminder— Frost falls beneath what is now The past and the thaw Erupts and the soil is malleable Again—I press my hands into damp mud Of a path that soon will be caressed By the river and I call it a crush Love that is not love but purpose erupts Purpose and history—the cry of a baby wildflower Reminds me that I am fertile and forgiving And I am mud now ready to be seeded and sown Thus forward momentum carries sudden Fantasies of fulfillment joy cross-pollinated, As if what will be will be a sunset seen illuminated By the wildfires of summer but each action closer to But not actually closer to carries the reality of what Is known-a petal plucked with prayer Unsure of wish yet aware that necessity Outweighs need and I have made myself to be A sizable pile of kindling


And I Spoke to Discover My Voice Was the Raven, Was the Fire MONTANA SVOBODA

Photo by Marcelo Alexandre Rabelo

All there is is sugar Cascading alabaster mountains of impermanence Drifting like latent hands brushing Through fevers of late summer wheat Though the wheat remains Fleeting atemporal a stain upon-neigh a warm afterglow Overcome but never entirely seizing actualization And I walk leather bound to this plateau Reach out with knots woven soon Deeply of distant luminosity Stretch out an arm the inner Child giddy with excitement As the wind rips from me A tooth and I Rip from the wind A handful of soft crackling embers Sown whisperless in the river basin


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Peace Treaty ANKITA ANAND If I voice all my desires for youIf I force open my clenched fists, Unfurl my toes, Shake open my set jaw, Unconstrict my heart— Will I be free of them? Will your weeping ghost Curled inside me like a fetus Then finally find peace And leave? Before it does, will it remember To put everything back Where it was So there are no empty spaces, no vacancies left?


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How to Build a Mother from Scratch GABRIEL KUNST

Photo by Citalliance

I. No word for the betta that swims in circles So say the betta that swims in circles No word for the split lip that bleeds gold So say strawberry wound nothing more My mom always said let me cut your hands Therefore I know the torture of the lungs Alveoli expand shrink sing bloom Honeycomb breath in whiskey throat Can you read the mouths that feed the birds Prepositions verbs nouns and teeth? Just follow the syntax of my bellybutton And you’ll know where my voices lose their roots II. My mouth is not a mouth For it contains waves That swallow rocks and featherless Trees If you look close enough you can See gastric concertos Being written into flesh The logic of maceration


III. Crimson flesh in Pond Fly over hills That speak in tongues Coming-of-age rivers That run dry In Fractured eyes Two fingers that Break Can make a song Or so they say IV. My face has no meaning If you take all the &s and the slashes That structure it Or if you eat frostbite Off my tongue Surprise my nerves with light strokes On the spine Feel the vertebrae that crack Like knuckles on poised Sundays At church Mom sticking out her insides so I feed Off her love

V. Bedroom: 20 paper planes x 18.7 paper planes Conjuring the spell of geometry I count in fallen bodies And artillery Occupy my space And see my arteries Open up While I collect Paper cuts & cold sores VI. Knuckles are cracked open [sometimes in the horizon] Rationed pecan pie for the wounded Work steals the breath But only salt scars the feet


Introduction to Etymology GABRIEL KUNST So what now I ask / the name you gave me does not mean anything anymore you carved it out of whispers / that I can’t make out so what now? Insert coin in slit / lip and labium come from the same place and so does coin if you ask me / one horizontal one vertical geography (or geometry) knows the difference

Photo by Aimy27feb

Stretched skin about to tear / equals orgasmic parting of the legs leg and labium come from the same place perhaps blazes sprout outside in the winter cold I can still think our bodies with my hands / every hair every patch of fragmented skin / muscles made of mud wires and joints I don’t need a name just yet / I always just a letter tiny dot like head / skinny body like line (when lowercase) or branchless tree in forest (when uppercase) and name always just letters too / that can’t fill a mouth or a lake


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Flowers in the Field, Grass in the Greener Paths of Life that I Trample On ANDY TU


mber. Michelle’s best friend in the whole wide world, in that second grade class, who she trusts, because they pinky promised to stay by each other, always. They play hopscotch at recess, sit on top of the slide, and guess what the other is thinking. “Ice cream?” Michelle guesses. “Nope. But you’re getting closer.” “I give up. Just tell me.” “Sorry. Rules are rules.” Amber curls down the slide, then waits as Michelle spirals down to join her at the bottom. “My Uncle Steven wants to take us somewhere today,” Amber says. The pink in her cheeks have faded into a pale grey like the clouds in the sky. “Do you want to come?” “I thought we were going to watch movies at your house.” Michelle doesn’t like when plans change, because her mom doesn’t like when plans change. “Come on. It’ll be fun.”


Michelle looks into Amber’s green eyes. Green like the ocean. Maybe they’re going to the beach, like her parents took her last week. That sounds like fun. “Okay,” Michelle says. She gulps, but she doesn’t know why. Is she excited, or nervous? “But only if you tell me what you were thinking about.” “Fine. I was thinking about...” Amber looks up, then back at her friend. “Vanilla ice cream.” *** Uncle Steven steps out of the white van, one hand in his pocket, wearing a black shirt and blue pants. Michelle doesn’t really like how he looks, but doesn’t the man at church say something about accepting everyone? Even their sign. Or sin. What is a sin, anyway? And why does everyone at church feel bad? Is it the same bad feeling she has now, even though she doesn’t know why? Uncle Steven crouches down.

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Photo by Matthew Gibson

“How are you girls doing?” He places his hands on their shoulders. Michelle doesn’t like being touched, but she stays silent while looking into Uncle Steven’s eyes, whose black pupils are unusually large and take up the entire iris, the light in them as small as pin drops. They are different. Maybe special. Good, they say. “Now let’s go get some ice cream,” he says. Vanilla, chocolate, white and black, but Michelle won’t discriminate. She loves them both, can’t hate either flavor because of a color or a scent. Three dollars and seventy-nine cents for one large scoop. A dollar more and they’ll make it two. “Would you like an extra scoop, Amber?” If Amber gets two scoops then I’ll get two scoops, thinks Michelle. “No, that’s all right, Uncle Steven.” His hair falls over his eyes in blond goldilocks, like the three bears whose soup is too hot and too cold and

just right. His hair looks just right. But this ice cream is too cold on Michelle’s growing teeth that have barely sprouted from the gums and can barely cut through bread and rice or meat. “Let’s wait here a while,” he says. So they sit outside across a bench on the lukewarm day under fluffy white clouds and a sky filled with the same color as Michelle’s eyes. But where’s the sun? The sun that shines the golden yellow of Amber’s hair? Where are you, sun? Michelle misses your warm energy. She’s getting cold out here without you, even though it’s quite all right now, but she keeps licking the vanilla ice cream when her arms are already shivering from this wind by the pier. And the sky doesn’t look well. Is it sick? Where did the blue go? Michelle doesn’t feel well either. Something hurts. The center of her head. She misses her mother who always smiles and her father who caresses her back to sleep. Maybe she should’ve just gone home today after school. She wishes she were wrapped in her bed, hugging her fuzzy bunny rabbit. And something feels off. Something


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different that tells her something is wrong. She senses it in Uncle Steven—in the way that he walks and the way that he talks like he is as young as Michelle but only looks older, and the black, large pupils of his eyes that make him look like the big bad wolf. But how can she know? No one has anything to hide except when they’re playing hide and seek. I’ll hide and you come find me. But no peeking as you count. That’s cheating. Now close your eyes. “Close your eyes,” Uncle Steven says in the van. “It’s a surprise. When you open them, we’ll be somewhere so fun you’ll thank me you waited for it. Right, Amber? Remember last time I told you to close your eyes? Remember where we ended up? What happened?” Uncle Steven winks at Amber. Amber winks back. “Yes,” Amber says, but her smile disappears like the sun has. “Michelle, close your eyes. No, cover them with your hands so we know you’re not cheating. This is going to be fun. So fun. When this day is done you’re going to be so tired from everything we’re going to do. But a deal’s a deal, so close your eyes.” But where’re Michelle’s parents? They should be here now. Michelle misses them. And she feels alone, even though she’s with Amber, and she’s her best friend, who she trusts


Short Story

more than any other friend at school. And Uncle Steven, she doesn’t know why but she doesn’t feel good with him. “Close your eyes, Michelle,” says Amber. “Look, I’ll close mine with you. And I’ll hold your hand, too. That way we both don’t know where we’re going and Uncle Steven can surprise us both.” “Okay, I’ll close my eyes.” She closes her eyes, and sees her mom’s face, feels her dad’s warmth, but they disappear and all she sees is dark and blurry, and she feels a little scared, so she wants to cheat and take a peek. So she peeks through her closed eyes and cracks them open just a tiny bit so that if Uncle Steven looks in the mirror then he can’t see her cheating. She sees Amber peeking back at her, making sure that she’s not cheating, but Amber said she wouldn’t look so she’s cheating too. But Amber doesn’t say anything and that makes Michelle feel weird. So she closes her eyes

again before Uncle Steven finds out, and sees her dad. Peek a boo, I see you, he says. The rumble of the car goes bump bump bump and shakes like an earthquake which she only experienced one time but didn’t get scared from. She gets a special feeling, like the color blue. Not a pretty blue but a blue that’s covered by grey like the clouds today. The car radio plays a soft woman’s voice: “Flowers in the field… grass in the greener paths of life…” Dead flowers. Dead flowers are what she sees. Dying, yellow grass, faded into concrete. Where is she? A tall stone wall surrounding her and some branchless trees. There’s just one red flower that survives in the field. It looks like it might rain. Clouds that are white and green, scattered patches of blue left in the sky. But where’s the sun? Where’s the sun? Where’s the sun?


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Close to Granville Street, Friday Evening YUAN CHANGMING All construction noises gone. Except fewer And fewer cars swishing by. A vegi dinner I watched wolf warriors. She stared at Her smartphone. No visitor as on every Other eve. I thought of making love I want. No! She is no longer a woman Let alone mine. No internal communication of Any kind. So aged we can no longer go to bed Earlier or later. I wandered awhile online Trump again. Doklam standoff continued No fire between Guam and NK. No body Contact either. No more. The bed is too small For two big different dreamers. However Always too large for a small stanza

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Metamegaphysics YUAN CHANGMING Few are really aware of Such universes Existing beyond our own Even fewer of so many other versions Of selfhood living In each of them, let alone This simple secret: At the depth of consciousness Lives a quantum Or soul as we prefer to call it A particle, demon and/or angel dancing The same dance afar, far apart In an entanglement


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Berkeley, CA 1972 PHILIP BROWN

When the man’s body was discovered in the hills near Santa Cruz, she thought, well, that seals it. It had been a deal she struck with the dealer she met in Berkeley. His house high in the hills. She’d been— she never understood the what of the construction. They met somewhere between the truth and the lie. He owned three guns. Two handguns and a rifle he cleaned with determined intensity. She never once saw him fire one. But there were nights when he slipped the metal in the back of his jeans. Put on a jacket to cover the bulge. She visited farmer’s markets. Purslane and kohlrabi she poached with salt and butter. Watercress and kale. Meat once a week to keep him interested. Lamb shank infused with garlic and rosemary. She served it rare. Too rare for her taste. Were she to have a taste for it all. She had only been passing through. Or so she thought. But the bat-shit craziness drew her in. She met him in the bookstore on Telegraph where she’d talked her way into a job. Sold him a book. Play it Safe its title. On his third visit, he asked her out. Dinner across the Bay. Genuine Italian, he claimed. Dark, red wine, a dimly lit room. She learned almost nothing about him except for his ease with the waiter. The host. His business is his business, she told herself.

Photo by Ulrike Schanz

He’d been away the weekend it happened. The coroner set a reasonable time of death. The officer didn’t say the coyotes had sniffed him out, but they had made it difficult. Two, maybe three weeks was as close as they could narrow it. She left without packing. One change of clothes. One pair of shoes. She walked down the hill. She still didn’t have a car. So little she owned. The road was dark and quiet. Quiet right up until the coyotes started their mad-hatter chatter.



Road Music PHILIP BROWN Years ago, I hitchhiked from Chicago to Boulder, back when the possibility of un-tainted adventure was still alive in the air. My travelling companion carried a syringe he kept on the side of the road and only snatched up when the car had a girl or girls aboard. A lone man, or men together, he passed. Told them we would wait for a ride that was going further. Complicated destinations and such.

Photo by Christingasner

In Boulder, a scrubbed-faced girl from New England was unlucky enough to offer us a ride. She was attracted to something. Did not consider attraction possessed both light and dark. Her high cheeks had a spray of freckles only visible when the brilliant mountain sun kissed them awake. We sat on the floor of an uninhabited house. She sang in a beautiful voice while my companion strummed a guitar—tossing off fast little runs when the melody allowed it. They stayed up all night. I was asleep, then not. I listened to their hushed voices. Hers even lower when he brought out the syringe. I prayed we would all see morning. The light it offered. And not be discovered by whoever owned this dark, empty house.


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Naked Stranger ANDREW DAVIS

Photo by Vojtech Vlk


Flash Fiction


et the naked stranger inside your mind run free. Attempts at domestication will only drive him mad and cause him to run out of your orifices. When you least expect it, you will wake up sweating and find the naked stranger standing above you, expecting you to retract like a bug. Embrace him. He poses no real threat. You are the only one who sees him. So bring him to work and have him slash your boss’s tires because you have been criticized your entire career for being sloppy and lazy. Trust me, the naked stranger will show you how to be a go-getter. You will be the one comforting your boss when he discovers he won’t make it home for dinner. Let the naked stranger take care of your expense account and emails. Don’t worry. And when you drive your boss to his home, the naked stranger will massage his neck and yours and you’ll feel so good that you’ll go to your pub where you’ll ask out your favorite bartender, who secretly wants to cure your impotence. Let the naked stranger drink straight from the Guinness tap. After her shift is done and you have finished making love to the bartender, who discovers impotence is easy to solve, the naked stranger will spoon with the two of you while he hiccups, and you will realize this won’t work. The naked stranger will consume your food, drink your beer, leave the toilet seat up, snore, giggle like helium, waste your money, snort coke, shoot heroin, smoke meth, and trick your bartender and boss into fucking each other at the company holiday party.

One night, you will wake up and find the naked stranger passed out, gnawing on a frozen turkey breast, and, in the morning, your bartender, boss, and estranged family will request your presence in a nondescript hotel room. The naked stranger has cooked his turkey and is waiting also. How he got there before you is a mystery. While chewing on a slice, he’ll tell you to sit down, and one by one everyone who says they love you will tell you it’s time and not to worry because the naked stranger, who is a rare kind of interventionist, will take you to a good place. The program will be hard, but you’ll work it as long as he is there, whispering, massaging your skull, while other patients describe their addictions and blame the world. They don’t know, he’ll say, they haven’t met their naked stranger yet, but when they do, they’ll listen. After you are home, working, marrying the bartender, discovering your family, the naked stranger will leave you for his next client, but don’t worry, on certain occasions he’ll return with stories. Then the day will come when he dies, and with everyone dressed in black and white you will do the only thing you can. Get naked and run wild around the cathedral until everyone joins you because these clothes they only wear to funerals are unbearably hot and itchy and tight. It’s time to live more naturally.


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Photo by Marina Vdovkina




Farrago of Fleurs-de-Lis

Let me cradle your touch a hunger pinch, like splitting daffodils from  their roots. In between the hundred pillared plenty, I gave you the ruches of soft sleeves over chest, the elate colors of starched salt and blue frost, smoothing your swan throat with the turn of my fingertips. Sitting by the pour of whisky, you fingered dear over keyboards moving pale, as if the workings of lines and shadows cast into the break of a metallic life could hold me at still, the way one lapses under water and stays there. My form cohered between yours and love and bright bits of silver in your hair, bonearmed and glowing, floating talk I would nest like fruit and clover for you.

LANA BELLA Dowered in salt, I am living late and dusk beam-beveled, holding a ready girl alone at the edge of sate. There, time is bent dark and oratory suggests the whispering of tongue that speaks through us, brittle ends bark into the excess of her beauty, every bit of it slender and spare. Fording consonants on fingers released, hungered, paining the intoxication of the demiurges, I smoke buds to Debussy, feeling the spillage of her calypso thighs. Earth piling earth, ovate our bones into bruises into flesh, where no renal lines its wall, where oocytes recharge by blood steeled liberal in oxidation, stinging, lit with holy fire.


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Photo by Marina Vdovkina


Short Story

Victoria, I’m On Fire TIM NICKELS


he Piggy Room was soft like its name and hung like a teardrop over Bazaar Piccadilly. It was seventeen years into the Third Victorian Age but a Papish aberration had robbed us of a month. Let me say this now: a yearning had come and gone. The inland reservoirs were so flush that the great salt experiment remained academic and the trawler men starved anyway. Dried fish propped up beam trawlers from Dogger to the New Found Lands yet little was spoken of it. Let me say this now. No one hitched up the blower and said: “Victoria, I’m on fire.” Let me say this: Victoria was sleeping over Bazaar Piccadilly with credit cards streaming from me pocketees. Me pocketees blazed while the other piglets hung about, doped and out of anger. The sickness left off that day so me and what’s growing inside of me—so we’ll call us we—took the lady-maid stairs straight down to the kitchen. Rachael slouched next to a deep fryer in whalebone and a crinoline. She’d got an itchy sort of face, pallid and pushy. We said: “Rachael girl, we’re out into the soup. The pigs will hang for another week.” She looked up from nowhere. Said nothing. We nibbled her stays, rattled the eyelets—

prattled like Dr. Stanley, her dour, latinless lover. Expected darkness and got it. The diners in the restaurant, hunched and chewing like children. There was a man we knew from the University, fighting with a Jerusalem artichoke as it took over his beard. Demon scientist. We said: “Hello, William.” William said: “Hello, Victoria” back. Knew him, see. All’s well. William was a todcatcher and a scalleywag and demon scientist and looked after the little piggies. We checked our Pigling Bland was safe in our snuffity. Never leave home without him. Good little piggy. Luck. Yes. Loose in Victorialand and a cabby within ten minutes, take or give a second from the Vatican. He was quite a sparkler, the hansom man. “How doin’, guv?” he inquired, not even looking at Victoria. “Mother Goose, sir. It ain’t much to tattle but all’s well. Could be worse,” we replied lustily. He dickered on. Quite a card, pricking his horse into a canter through Strandwise as the foetid wind blew down from Barrowsea. There was an organ lying on the pavement in Johnny Adam’s Street. It was full of church whiff and angels. People walked by. All the flat people. All


Literary Work

working to a method. Wouldn’t say: “Blah” to a duck or Dan Leno’s Mother Goose, or: “Victoria, we’re on fire.” The cabbie muttered and strapped his player on tighter. Synthi-pumps and EDU’s Introduction and Allegro popped from his ears as we scored riverwards. The gas lamps curled up like swans in pig iron, shedding an unwholesome light. We told old ‘ansome to brake up by the water, gave him a touch of the plastic and so he was gone. There was some scatter in the gutter. A brace of boozies and a sheep cart coming from the University with nothing but air on board. And some old gal keeping just out of the light. She’d got a pipe and some satans and the air reeked. She was a dog all right; a real owl watcher and a ten minute bob-a-job. She scratched her thin beard behind the pipe smoke, wheezed some archaic footsie through a dalmatian’s lips. Victoria sidled up and said: “There’s a touch of plastic for you, mum. Following some jolly jack with a todboat. William. University man. Got to get down there, mother, but your petties don’t come into it.” Mum lowered the hem of her dress, inhaled impossibly, kept her tail out of sight. The wizened head came closer, caught like lard in the gaslight. We could see she’d been growing ears for the University: “Got some old Virgin for me, nipper?” Had a baccy scrap in our trailcoat. She grabbed it, stuffed it into her pipe like an onion into a cock. “Some shack full of warm parts down Wallop way,” she cackled. “Willy boy’s known. Take all yer boot leather so skip easy, sweetheart.” We scarpered in-city away from the river. Slates dropped, chimney sweeps hanging on like thin cherubs from hell. Hit the music hall turnout, engulfed in tarragon and porter. Children carried helium porcupines floating on strings. Lots of sailor suits. A feller with a walrus strapped on his lip recognised us. He was a dubious New Found Lander and tried a come-on for another dealer wheeze. He had a string of whale-boned admiresses. He wanted to cut out the middle man. We told him we were William’s little piglet. We told him we were a good little piggy. We told him we could read with pictures. All’s well. But he was flat. Just methoding. Forget it, Victoria. He disappeared into the fog, telling us we were his anyway. Nothing into nothing. As light as a flame, Victoria. We skipped on easy, as Mother said. We licked the buildings like masonry paint.


Two thousand steps on and a chlorine lamp murmured to itself outside an all-night ostler’s. The sign said Wallop Spares and Victoria slid the big door back leaving the street behind us. A boy sat at an accounts book on a table: the table was awash with a wax glacier and a candle mountain. Red hair, light whiskers, the world’s only pair of purple spats. He was a fearsome little rag and he let Victoria have it pretty good for a ratboy. But he told us where William was. The rats hung in celluloid behind him. Sometimes one would wiggle. There were some children wharfside, playing ten-stick with dodos. None knew about a todboat. Victoria told them we were a good little piggy and we read books with pictures. Small bats over the yard watchman’s lamp like acoustic leaves. The watchman was in the all-night over the alley listening to the thrash revival from Scandinavia. Victoria watched him through the window. Victoria touched her growing part. We are a good piggy. We are porcine with a purpose. We passed through the gates into the boatyard. There was a rank of oxy in the air and the concrete was littered with copper shavings. Hulks lay all about us. Salty coffins. Fossilised with depth-flattened barnacles: wood crushed into a strange stone. No tillers or props. Just big old bodies full of silence and taking up space that something else could have used. We pulled Melville from our snuffity. Books with words. A lorry shuddered by in the street. A pair of mother’s daughters leant against the all-night creating a vulgar pantomime for those inside. There was a hand on our shoulder and we turned. William. Demon. “All’s well?” we simpered. “Looking for foxes, Victoria?” He had us bad on our ears, tried to unstitch the stitches. His breath smelt dead. He wore a wide-brimmed hat. “I’m your Jolly Jack and I’m ‘ere. Want to try some jolly with me, boss? Ha! ha!” He looked close into our eyes, had his tiny light out peering deep inside us. “Nearly time, little piggy. Feel your head clearing, little piggy?” He kept barking and threw us on the ground. There was a small blast and a dark lantern was swaying above him, winch-hooked and sudden. A big blue tarp lurked in the new light. William’s lips were set to silence as he strolled over and hauled back the covers. It was a ship’s boiler tank, sliced open. Streaks of oxidation ran in thin brown fingers. From

Short Story

the murky interior, three pairs of eyes glowed occasionally twinkling as the searching rays of the lantern touched retinas. It stunk. It was a real stink, Victoria. But we know what they say, Victoria. The fox cubs slugged in a corner together. No fine stout boys were these. No Mr Tods. We remembered the book from the University: “He was of a wandering habit and he had foxy whiskers; they never knew where he would be next.” They’d been crushed by urbanity and the flat people. Straw clung to them and their snouts were rimed with canine glue. They never knew where they would be next. William was at us again. “Look lively, dearie. Keep yer vapours and look again. What d’you think?” His hat had fallen from his head. Fine head of hair, surprising. “Come on, piggy, come on. Say nothing, eh? Take one of these fancy foxy boys for yerself. I’d give yer the lot, dearie, but we need a brace for the faculty Michaelmas raffle...” But he soon lost interest in Victoria; was on his knees keening in at the things inside. We turned away and turned again and he was gone. They never knew where he would be next, with his fox’s brain. With its spleen and liver. Crossing some sunlit field, always gone when we came closer. The watchman was back from the fjords and it was a slippery deal getting lost out of there. We spied the old gal on the way back to Nurse Rachael’s. She had some tars curled around her and the Virginia rose like an umbrella. She glanced over, gave us a yellow dental cackle and turned back to put her mouth to better use. All’s well. Could be worse. The Pope had come up trumps again. It was so late it was nearly early and dawn’s small beer from hell filtered through the fumes and touched the ground uncertainly. There was a scrap of park in them days and we crossed the brown to the coffee vendor. He’d thrown a shack by a dried-up fountain. Feller’s a card, a fine feller. We had a thing with him once. We said: “Good morning, Stanley.” And Stanley said: “Good day to you, Miss Victoria. A fine morning, give or take an hour. Mocha and a sodium finger, Miss Victoria? Fingers fresh out of the oven...”

We hitched the bustle and sat on the fountain edge. Stanley handed over breakfast in a new pail and Victoria munched and slurped and felt empty just the same. We looked around but the park was still just creosote and a sun-up with no one to watch it. No flat people. Not even methoding. It was seventeen years into the Third Victorian Age but let us say this now. A yearning had come and it had gone. Things had come and gone so quickly. We said: “Nice mocha, Stanley. Is she here today?” He stopped in mid-cup polish, looked sly, a touch of wink, a bit of the old finger: “She’s a touch peeky this morning. Can’t keep her out long.” He looked down his clipboard. “But as this is your last visit, Miss Victoria...” Stanley reached down behind his counter, slung out the wooden pencil box. There was quite a shiver inside us. The foxes had cleaned us out. We eased back the lid, reached in and helped the harvest mouse up into the air. It was in a bit of a way. Its snozzle was dribbly and it had the quakes. We thought of those foxes - as still as if they were stuffed - in William’s half-boiler. They’d be on a cart up to the University by now. Or on a todboat across the German Sea or out to the New Found Lands. Locked in the frozen holds, hanging like warm pigs. Growing the new things for the old people. Crossing the dusty oceans of a planet that had finished with itself. The mouse shivered like a house in a hurricane. No stitches, no supernumerary growth, corpus intacta. New words, Victoria. We’re such a special piggy. Without thought we touched our abdomen, trying to sense the new life within — but then smiled at our foolishness. We stroked our head and smiled again. We looked up at Stanley who was already scrubbing up. Rachael girl was there too, bits of nail varnish in her examination gloves. And the New Found Lander from the music hall, his skull shaved and ready for his new piece of us. We held our Pigling Bland inside our snuffity, both given to us on our first day of thought. Our books with pictures. Victoria’s yellowbacks and tracts and primers. We are a good little piggy. Victoria thought: And we shall not stray. But I said: “Victoria, I’m on fire.”


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Reading CAMERON MORSE Craned neck raises his head high above Lili’s clavicle to fasten his eyes upon mine because I am reading, the reading is coming from me. He answers with Oh! forming the vowel whole in his tiny toothless mouth. He says oh the way we do, as if for the first time understanding this thing called reading, this human technology we wield with our eyes and mouths. How we lift our voices. His eyes move from mine to the page where mine are looking. Then they move back to me and I raise my eyes from the page and now we’re looking into each other’s eyes for the first time and he smiles big toothless smiles and he makes me smile and brings tears to sting my eyes with the dry saline burn of pure joy.

Photo by Jozef Polc



Play Therapy CAMERON MORSE My little sister asks me to describe the sand. I lay a hand in the tray and say the sand is fine, cold and coarse. Long after our therapy session the sand ingrains in me pearls like a clam, its grit an irritant, a call to action.

Photo by Dmitry Rukhlenko

She asks me to create my world using toys. Winter sunrise yellows the window panes of my world like curry powder. I stand a doctor in the sand. A tarantula the size of a Volkswagen surfaces at his feet. Shadows of mullions cage the couch I’m sitting on, and the pin oak stretches its long shadow over my face. In another corner I arrange furniture. I stand a woman and a boy. The light enables me to see spider webs in the glass, silver lines like fractures. In the sand, my woman is photographing the boy. Both of their feet are buried. In time, the dunes will swallow the bed and coffee table. The dunes will rise to their kneecaps, their waist-lines.


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Reading One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish to my Newborn Son while Listening to Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band CAMERON MORSE



Where do they come from, I can’t say. But I bet they have come A long, long way. —Dr. Seuss I sprawl across the carpet, raising the pages above him. His gray eyes clamp down upon the procession, nameless creatures trailing across the snowy slope to the turquoise sky. There’s a place to go when the winter’s cold, the song says, when the dog water freezes and the mouth of the dripping spigot fills with ice and its fang grows long, there’s a place to go and the animals must be going there, proceeding, single-file,

as if to board an ark. My son coos. You gotta get me out of here, say the animals in the song. His limbs jitter and jab on the play gym mat as his nervous system develops. My nerves are damaged, but work well enough to hold the pages open. The song says, No bones, no ghosts, I threw my passport in the trash. My son sighs, a sign of comprehension.


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Bonam Noctem, Praeceptori For Dr. Stephen “Prof ” Pearce, Esq., PhD “And we may say about him that he was in his time the best of all men we ever encountered.” —Plato

SHELLY RODRIGUE You see, I have heard that a man should come to his end in a way that calls for measured speaking— but I cannot tell night from mourning, living every hour leaden since you left. I’m holding my grief in my teeth as if dogged canines could gnash to goodbye as if space and time do not stop at your horizon. The impact crater of a single life might never be filled. I am crumbling like Roman fried cookies, shaken with the violent need to disrupt continuum and cause Earth retrograde to share a final moment before the horses’ heads were set toward Eternity. “One never understands poetry until one has written some. Write poetry,” you instructed me. An impossibility when one pities Plato and scorns Socrates’ company. How, my teacher, my friend, will you guide me when all time seems to be no longer than one night?



Photo by Viacheslav Nikolaienko


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Photo by Akkarapol Ditpattarakorn



Daddy, You Bastard SHELLY RODRIGUE you, first memory of pain, screaming louder than I could cry striking me, a toddler then, again and again for baby powder dust I’d spread across the floor. no concept of “mess.” you, face-grabbing terror, squeezing disordered pop and click into my temporal-mandibular joint, burst by-standing capillaries— tell me what seven-year-old purchases a bag of chips and pays with spider veins in her face?

you, gigantic handprints still trying to asphyx the gay out of me, the air as heavy as your grip and when it came down to survival versus strangulation, at nineteen, I knew my base instinct. animal claws ready to tear flesh, to rip the jugular from your neck. then it wasn’t you of whom I was afraid.


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The Magic Man SHELLY RODRIGUE Grandpa Rodrigue was a Coonass, but really he was a shaman. Turning mudbugs into meals, he stirred the great boiling pot, chanting songs from the fais do-do to enhance a roux or a brew. He told me how the rabbit lost its foots, its entrails dancing in the sink by the power of his hands— hands that coaxed green things from soils of nothingness, charmed fish out of water with illusions of worm skin, snatched hatchlings from she-gators unscathed. There is no element would not bend. Even the Rougarou knew to fear him, knew hunger spells would consume anything wouldn’t eat him first. Rainbow birds, too, he enchanted not for eating, but for illegal trade over State lines. Magic obeys no laws but its own. And yes, magic dwelled in him in the way he rubbed his hands together, reciting the ritual, “Gris gris madi sha.” He watched as we wiped away our tears, never once knowing the healing incantation of our childhood was “cat shit.”



Photo by Wernerimages


Glen Holland


Comic | Mack’s Flight


Glen Holland


Comic | Mack’s Flight


Glen Holland


Comic | Mack’s Flight


Glen Holland


Comic | Mack’s Flight


Glen Holland


Comic | Mack’s Flight


Glen Holland


Comic | Mack’s Flight



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 random order, New Reader Media’s reading list for the second quarter of 2018.


Tools of the Trade PHILIP PERSINGER Sex can be the means to an end, but what happens at the end of the means? Woody Steele is one of the richest men on the planet. Sadly, one of his greatest assets has been recently downsized. Ivan Greenbriar, his nemesis and creep extraordinaire, turns every activity into a pissing contest. Sargent Scanlon doesn’t know what fear is until he must match wits with his odious fourteenyear-old stepdaughter. Meanwhile, looking down from above is Colonel Pavlenko, the world’s oldest practicing Stalinist. This is a real-time, real-world story about manly men—and their women, who are ready to break through the glass ceiling, even if they have to use their mates as battering rams.


Readjustment TOM PEAVLER Readjustment is the continuing saga of Charley Johnson. He is an ordinary mechanic who discovers a way to adjust carburetors so that they can achieve 100 MPG. He is granted a patent, but his life is threatened by Big Oil and the Big Three automakers. He faces attacks from street gangs, ninjas, the French Foreign Legion, an army of out-of-work automakers, all the while dealing with his deceased partner’s three sons.



Saltbox CALVIN MOIR There is a void inside of Creech Jones—a void that he thinks can only be satisfied by revenge. The prodigal son returns home, not to be reunited with his father, but to deceive and betray his entire clan.


Marita’s Misery MARILYN FRIESEN On a boat fleeing the British Isles for the Canadian wilderness during World War II, two mothers meet and develop an instant bond. One is a young, anxious war bride, and the other has married a widower with two children of his own. Does Nova Scotia hold home or peril?


It’s [Not] All About Liz! JUDY RANKIN, LIZ RANKIN, CLARA CASSIDY, AND JOE RANKIN It’s [Not] All About Liz! is a heartwarming memoir of a family’s battle with breast cancer. Liz, Judy, Clara, and Joe tell their stories of what Liz’s battle with cancer has meant for them, and how they continue to fight the good fight. It’s [Not] All About Liz! is a story of heartbreaking darkness—and unexpected light.



Lies, Deceit, and an Innocent Man REE COLLINS Todd Bainbridge had his life all planned out. He and Katie were going to get married. He was going to be a doctor, and Bradford’s local doctor, Dr. Chandler, had offered him a partnership in his practice. But it all fell apart when Katie was found dead on the moor—with all the evidence pointing to Todd as the murderer.


Parental-Alienation Playbook and Three-Quarters Custody: A Father Speaks Out JULIAN ANDREWS Julian Andrews presents an overview of parent alienation syndrome (PAS), how you can recognize when it’s happening to you, and how to speak out to defend you and your children. Based on his personal experiences with his ex-wife and their three children, Andrews illustrates how the outdated court system facilitates PAS and how an alienated parent can make themselves be heard. Andrews proposes the concept of three-quarter shared physical custody as a national solution and a bridge against parental alienation forces in the 21st century. Parental-Alienation Playbook and ThreeQuarters Custody promotes momentum toward three-quarter custody arrangements so parental alienation can become a thing of the past and children and parents can be free of the divisive nature and consequences that PAS creates.

Miracles: Your Impossible Is Possible! GARY AND LEEANN DYCK Gary Dyck and LeeAnne Dyck share stories of God working miracles in their lives in Miracles: Your Impossible is Possible! This book will encourage readers to anticipate God working miracles in their own lives, doing impossible things, and making the impossible possible. This autobiographical collection of miraculous stories includes tales of God providing healing, overcoming infertility, meeting financial needs, helping in work situations, multiplying food, finding lost items, and even bringing the dead back to life—all because God cares about each moment of his children’s lives.




Weirdness Happening LEVER MCGEE A group of young teenagers want what any group of young teenagers want: a summer that they will remember forever. They get their wish, but soon realize that all of their lives are in danger. Now they have to figure out how to undo this wish before the summer is over—or else!


Understanding the Ark ABID SHAKIR Abid Shakir was drafted into the United States Army in 1969 and spent a year in Vietnam as an infantry soldier. After serving time in the military, he started his own business and later spent much of his time studying the teachings of Imam W.D. Mohammed. Shakir later wrote Understanding the Ark based on his understanding of these teachings and a desire to enlighten the modern world.


The Five Fierce Tigers of Rosa Martinez BURT KEMPNER Rosa Martinez is seriously ill. She has the loving support of her mother and grandfather and a doctor who takes good care of her. And she also has a secret weapon. Rosa can summon five tigers to come to her aid when she’s ailing or in trouble. Her disease may think it has the upper hand for now, but wait until it encounters Gautama, Arik, Vashti, Selena and Quan—the five fierce tigers of Rosa Martinez. Young readers will delight in their daring adventures and may even be able to call forth guardian animals of their own when they need them. “An excellent and inspiring story, beautifully illustrated and expertly crafted to capture a child’s imagination while conveying a reassuring message of personal empowerment.” —Rick Boling, Amazon customer.


Spiritual Essays: A Personal Collection


CHARLES P. ARNOLD JR., PHD This book of essays provides answers to many of the questions in the hearts and minds of many modern Christians, like “Why is my life seemingly a mix of blessings and sufferings?” or “If Satan is real, what threat does he pose for me?” or “Why is God such a jealous god?” Many Christians today are seeking a more inclusive religion, one which promotes a greater role for them in their relationship with God. Arnold has found some very significant theological evidence that an inclusive Christianity is precisely what Jesus Christ had in mind for his Church. In these 25 essays, Arnold hopes the reader will discover the meaning of life and will become engaged in a sincere and heart-filled study of the Bible.


A Tale of the Tail of Nine Stars An Inner and Outer Space Odyssey LAWRENCE L. STENTZEL III The planet Om, home to some of the universe’s most advanced beings, has operated on the policy of observation and non-intervention for over twenty thousand years. They do nothing but watch as, in the last thousand years, the Kundabuffer Empire took over planet after planet of humanoid populations, though Om has always had the technological power to end the suffering caused by this tumor-like empire. But now Om is in danger. An alien race is killing off whole planets through three different galaxies—and Om is its next target. A yellow sun human of the Hub Galaxy and a member of Om’s Clear Light Order of warrior monks will need to unite and travel to the Xegachtznel galaxy to confront this threat and end the destruction once and for all.

Worlds Spinning Round Part 1: Discoveries T.E. GREENE Mike Wallingford is out of school, out of work, and out of place, trapped in a decaying society of the early commercial space age. Thirsty for excitement and an opportunity to escape a crumbling home, Mike takes a chance on a mysterious company and finds himself on a venture stranger and more dangerous than he could ever have possibly imagined. This book is the first in the Worlds Spinning Round trilogy. 176 | NEW READER MAGAZINE



Conflicted Power Obama’s US Foreign and Strategic Policy in a Shifting World Order ZUBAIDA RASUL-RONNING Conflicted Power is a review of the implications of Obama’s Pacific focus and its implications for US relations with Europe, China and Russia. A look at Afghanistan, Pakistan and US policy in the Middle East.

A Wife’s Prayer Journal


Praying for Your Husband through the Book of Proverbs INISHKA LLOYD Author Inishka Lloyd’s A Wife’s Prayer Journal: Praying for Your Husband through the Book of Proverbs talks to Christian wives about how to use the Word of God to speak life and wisdom into their husbands and their marriages.


The Final Audit In Pursuit of Nazi War Booty DR. CARNIE MATISONN The Final Audit is the true story of author Carnie Matisonn’s fascinating life, and his lifelong wish to trace valuable artwork stolen from his family by the SS in Nazioccupied Norway during World War II.



The Weight Loss Bible A Scientifi c Approach to Lose Weight and Keep It Off ZACHARY ZEIGLER, PHD The Weight Loss Bible is a marvelous guide and an invaluable tool for the weight loss and maintenance journey. The chapters of this book discuss the hard facts on weight loss, why it is so hard to lose weight, and the many principles that need to be mastered for successful weight loss.


With Love A Caregiver’s Journal MARIAN E. WRIGHT With Love: A Caregiver’s Journal is an authentic and loving documentation of what it means to care for others. It is the true, heartfelt account of the author’s daily experiences as her elderly mother’s primary and sole caregiver for over five years.



A Courageous Story of Addiction, True Love, and Forgiveness EILEEN P. DECLEMENTE This courageous story recounts the details of an addiction so consuming it nearly killed a woman and destroyed her family. In this raw and riveting memoir, Eileen shares her fight to recover and live.


Adventures in Entomology


THOMAS MILLER This book is a personal account of how a research professor of entomology used a background in physics and electronics to solve research problems in insect physiology and toxicology and address horrible pest problems affecting crops of cotton through California and Arizona.


The Ditch Dog. The Hedge Cat. MARY BARR Ditto is a dog full of adventure, and Giggles is a cat that wanders too far away from home. The Ditch Dog and The Hedge Cat are two stories by Mary Barr, lovingly written for children and the child-at-heart.

The Education of a Teacher:


Lessons a Small Town Taught a Teacher NOEL NATION The Education of a Teacher is the true story of how one teacher learns that the most valuable lessons come from the simplest of places.


O’er the Ramparts NANCY FOSHEE Laurel O’Malley is the nineteen year old daughter of a highly regarded country doctor living just on the outskirts of Baltimore, a city under threat of attack by the British in 1814. Several tragedies befall her as the war becomes more and more real and her thoughts turn from romance to survival.



W R I T E R’S CORNER Events, Conferences, Awards

JUNE LIT FEST When: June 1-15, 2018 9:00 a.m. 10:00 p.m. Where: Lighthouse (Room TBA) 1515 Race St Denver, CO 8020 What: Perfect for those who want to partake in the glamorous night life of Lit Fest. The Glitterati Pass ($180 members l $290 non-member) includes all salons and parties: • The Kickoff Party • Good Art, Bad People • Writing in a Ruptured World • The Other Half of the Story • It Takes: The Art of Literary Partnership • Making the Mountain (food truck on-site) • I Married a Writer • Conventional vs. Unconventional Smackdown! • Genre Jumpers: A Path to Literary Breakthrough • Just Add Aliens: How to Learn from Bad Advice • Closing Party Drinks and catered eats will be served at all of these events! Evening readings are free and open to the public. AUTHORS AT LARGE 2018 FALL RETREAT The International Writing Life Application deadline June 7, 2018 Registration deadline June 11, 2018 September 23-28, 2018 in Orkney, Scotland Two workshops in nonfiction travel writing and fiction

WRITE CLUB ATLANTA: YELLRAISER 7 Hosted by Write Club Atlanta June 13, 2018 at the Highland Ballroom Doors and Bar at 8 p.m, Show begins at 9 p.m. or thereabouts $10 gets you in for a lively night of shouting and boozing.

NEW YORK PITCH Application for New York Pitch is on June 14-17, 2018 New York Pitch editors are looking for serious and light Women's Fiction, Mystery/Crime, Thrillers, Adult and YA SF/F, Suspense, Historical, Memoir, Narrative NonFiction, General and Upmarket Literary Novels. The New York Pitch Conference and writers workshop is held four times a year and features publishing house editors from major houses such as Penguin, Random House, St. Martins, Harper Collins, Tor and Del Rey, Kensington Books and many more who are looking for new novels in a variety of genres, as well as narrative non-fiction. The event focuses on the art of the novel pitch as the best method not only for communicating your work, but for having you and your work taken seriously by industry professionals.


TALK ON CHINESE CLASSICS: A STUDY ON NEUTRALIZATION THINKING OF HUANG DI NEI JING Date and Time: Saturday June 23, 2018 at 2:15 p.m. - 3:45 p.m. Venue: To Kwa Wan Public Library (Extension Activities Room) Speaker: Dr. Fong Moon-kam To promote the Chinese Culture and the appreciation of Chinese classical literature among people, a series of talks on classical Chinese with various topics is jointly organized by Hong Kong Public Libraries, Leisure and Cultural Services Department and the Hok Hoi Library. Free admission on first come, first served basis. The talk will be conducted in Cantonese.

COSTA BOOK AWARDS Deadline: Wednesday June 27, 2018 Launched in 1971, the Costa Book Award is one of the UK’s most prestigious and popular literary awards and recognises some of the most enjoyable books of the year written by authors based in the UK and Ireland. Along with First Novel, the prize has four more categories– Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book–with one of the five winners selected as the overall Costa Book of the Year. Books are entered by publishers and entry for the Award closes at the end of June each year. This is one of the best literary awards to get your work noticed.

June 20 to July 18, 2018 Mentors: Jake Skeets, Angela Vasquez, and Byron Aspaas NEW READER MAGAZINE | 181

DRUE HEINZ LITERATURE PRIZE Call for Submissions 2019 Manuscripts must be received during May and June 2018. That is, they must be postmarked on or after May 1 and on or before June 30. You can win $15,000 and publication by the University of Pittsburgh Press with this prize, awarded for a collection of short fiction. You may submit an unpublished manuscript of short stories, two or more novellas or a combination of novellas and short stories. Your total word count should be between 150 and 300 typed pages.

FROM PROSE TO FILM: “IN SPITE OF ONESELF” LITERATURE AND FILM ADAPTATIONS Friday June 29, 2018 6:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. Venue: Hong Kong Central Library Lecture Theatre, G/F “In Spite of Oneself” is a film produced by the students of the Academy of Film of Hong Kong Baptist University in 2016. It was adapted from the prose written by Mr. MAK Shu-kin. It's about three high school students, Shu, Tang and Jing, who have different ambitions for the future. They meet at the swimming pool four years after graduation. While everything stayed the same, they have changed. With the presentation of the directors and actors of “In Spite of Oneself”, this session is going to share the process of adapting a literary work into a film, and its difficulties and challenges.

JULY TUESDAY WRITE-INS AT THE FLATIRON WRITERS ROOM Tuesday July 3, 2018 6:30 p.m – 8:30 p.m. EDT (Every Tuesday the whole month of July) The Flatiron Writers Room 5 Covington Street Asheville, NC 28806 United States Communal writing time at the Flatiron Writers Room each Tuesday in July from 6:30pm-8:30pm, hosted by members of Asheville's Flatiron Writers group. Bring your laptop or paper and pen, beverage and snack of your choice, and any other items for your writing comfort (headphones, lumbar pillow, a sweater if you get cold in air conditioning). There's free wi-fi and a library of craft books and screenplays to peruse. Your $5 donation (pay through Eventbrite or at the door by check or cash) helps the FWR stay up and running. Space is limited to fourteen participants per session.

LAKEFIELD LITERARY FESTIVAL July 13-15, 2018 Lakefield College School - Lakefield, Ontario In its own words, the festival, “showcases Canadian authors and promotes the joy of reading and writing among children and adults.” It includes author readings and masterclasses in writing for all ages.


HONG KONG LITERATURE: CENTENARY WRITINGS - LIU YICHANG Sunday July 15, 2018 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. Hong Kong Central Library Exhibition Gallery, G/F. As an editor since 1948, Liu Yichang has nurtured many distinguished local writers. His works The Drunkard and Tête-Bêche (Intersection) spearheaded the development of modern Chinese literature. On the grandmaster's 100th birthday, Mr. Matthew Cheng will bring us to review Liu's contribution to Hong Kong literary scene. Jointly organised with The Centre for Humanities Research, Lingnan University, it's free admission on first come, first served basis. Please arrive 10 minutes prior to the talk for admission.

SEWANEE WRITER'S CONFERENCE July 17-29, 2018 University of the South Sewanee, Tennessee The longest event, spanning 12 days, Sewanee is built on a workshop model. Each participant is assigned a workshop that meets every other day, combining lectures and informal exchanges. Each one is led by two faculty members, but attendees can also meet with faculty one on one. The focus of this conference is on finishing submitted work, not generating new pages. This conference is great for those looking for an immersive workshop experience with room and board included. www.sewaneewriters. org/conference"

MIDWEST WRITERS WORKSHOP July 27-28, 2018 at the Ball State Alumni Center Muncie, Indiana Friday 8:30 a.m. through Saturday 12:30 p.m. ($199 fee) A dynamic day-and-a-half with a decidedly different structure— shorter, smaller, less expensive, with a strong emphasis on helping you reach your writing goals. This MWW Craft + Community super mini is designed for writers of every level in their careers. Our programming focuses on key areas such as craft improvement, genre knowledge, finding critique partners, and forming writing support groups to help improve your writing. Get feedback from experts and friendly peers. Sharing your work and reading your work will allow you to pinpoint sagging plot lines, breaks in character and more. The give-and-take, along with honest feedback, is a win for all."

TALK ON CHINESE CLASSICS: TWO TOPICS ON THE APPRECIATION OF CHINESE CLASSICAL LITERATURE Sunday July 19, 2018 2:15 p.m. - 3:45 p.m. City Hall Public Library (Extension Activities Room) To promote the Chinese Culture and the appreciation of Chinese classical literature among people, a series of talks on classical Chinese with various topics is jointly organized by Hong Kong Public Libraries, Leisure and Cultural Services Department and the Hok Hoi Library. Free admission on first come, first served basis. The talk will be conducted in Cantonese.



AWP CONFERENCE Eary bird registration opens Augus 1, 2018 March 27–30, 2019 Oregon Convention Center Portland, OR The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) is one of the largest and most popular writing conferences in the world. With more than 15,000 annual participants and 800 exhibitors, it’s more than a conference or book fair–it’s an event. AWP is an essential experience for writers, students, teachers and academics alike. This massive fourday event features 550 readings, panels and craft lectures from 2,000 participants. Everyone should go to AWP at least once. www.awpwriter. org/awp_conference/registration_ overview”

BYRON BAY WRITERS FESTIVAL Date: August 3-5, 2018 Venue: East coast of Australia. Program due out mid June.

WHEN WORDS COLLIDE A Festival for Readers and Writers August 10-12, 2018 Delta Calgary South, Calgary, Alberta Readers, wriers, editors, publishers, agents and other artists attend this festival, which highlights commercial and literary fiction. When Words Collide welcomes writers of most genre fiction, YA, children’s books, nonfiction and poetry.

Pitch Perfect session 9:00 a.m. on Friday, August 10, 2018 One-Hour Pitch Slam time slot on Saturday, August 11, 2018 The Writer’s Digest editors bring you this annual conference with resources for craft, career and creative inspiration. More than 50 agents and editors participate in the infamous Pitch Slam, and dozens of industry experts lead educational sessions. THE BREAD OF LOAF When: August 15-25, 2018 Where: Bread Loaf Campus of Middlebury College in Ripton, Vermont The oldest writers’ conference in America founded in 1926 by, Bread Loaf’s main conference runs 10 days each August. There are 10 workshops in fiction, seven in poetry and three in nonfiction. Each participant submits a manuscript, for which he or she gets feedback during the conference. NEW VOICES AWARD Manuscripts will be accepted from April 1, 2018 through August 31, 2018 and must be postmarked within that period. Presented by Lee & Low Books, this award is given for a previously unpublished children’s picture book manuscript (of no more than 1,500 words) written by a writer of color.


New Reader Magazine Vol 1 Issue 2  

New Reader Magazine is a print publication and digital media collective dedicated to finding brave new voices in art, literature, and cultur...

New Reader Magazine Vol 1 Issue 2  

New Reader Magazine is a print publication and digital media collective dedicated to finding brave new voices in art, literature, and cultur...