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oxmag

thirtieth anniversary issue winter 2015


For Debbie, whom we miss in a thousand different ways.

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Masthead Managing Editor Joe Squance Editor-in-Chief Matt Young Fiction Editor Joe Thornton Poetry Editor / Events Coordinator Emily Corwin Nonfiction Editor Joe Franklin Digital Editor Nathan Schaad Staff Readers Andrew Bergman Evan Fackler Joshua B. Jones Chris Maggio Corey Marleka Jessica Marshall Mosisah Mavity Michelle Pancake-Christensen Ian Schoultz Laura Tabor

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Table of Contents Cover Art: "Ablaze" by Taylor Meredith Watermark: “Berlin in the 1920s” by Allen Forrest Matt Kish Queequeg 10  .......................................................................................................................................  1   Anthony Ramstetter, Jr. 35  Ways  of  Making  Love  .................................................................................................................  2   Sit  ............................................................................................................................................................  4   Facebook  ..............................................................................................................................................  5   Matt Kish Herman  Melville  ................................................................................................................................  6   Rodney Nelson Making  Warm  .....................................................................................................................................  7   Caitlin Thomson Young  Neighbors  ...............................................................................................................................  8   Christopher Kuhl A  Simple  Poem  ....................................................................................................................................  9   Daniel S. Jones Excerpt  from  “An  Accidental  Profession”  ...............................................................................  10   David Ebenbach Date  Night  in  Richmond,  Indiana  ..............................................................................................  21   James Jackson Aketeko  ..............................................................................................................................................  23   Matt Kish Queequeg  12  ....................................................................................................................................  24   Nora Bonner Last  Attempt  .....................................................................................................................................  25   Paul Green Red  Mist  .............................................................................................................................................  26   V!  ..........................................................................................................................................................  27   Bret Anthony Johnston Republican  ........................................................................................................................................  28   Taylor Meredith Stripped  .............................................................................................................................................  52   Brenna York Reasonable  Damage  ......................................................................................................................  53   Jennifer Champion Ballet  Class  .......................................................................................................................................  54   Aquarium  ..........................................................................................................................................  57   Matt Kish The  King  in  Yellow  .........................................................................................................................  58   J. Bradley #careertipsforgirls  –  Mama  June  ..............................................................................................  59  


Kristina Webster Shue vanity ..................................................................................................................................................  60   this  is  why  you  dream  of  being  alone  ......................................................................................  61   Megan Giddings Twenty-­‐Five  Minute  Wait  ............................................................................................................  62   Alana I. Capria Excerpt  from  25-­‐Hour  Diner  ......................................................................................................  65   James Reiss Backyard  by  a  Farm  Road  ............................................................................................................  67   Jack  ......................................................................................................................................................  69   Run-­‐Ins  with  Writers  ....................................................................................................................  70   Matt Kish Queequeg  5  .......................................................................................................................................  72   Christopher Michel Waiting  for  the  Shaman  ................................................................................................................  73   The  Ostensible  Point  .....................................................................................................................  74   Darren C. Demaree Arum  ...................................................................................................................................................  75   How  Vital  Sport?  .............................................................................................................................  76   I  Understand  the  Lions  .................................................................................................................  77   Matt Kish Flask  ....................................................................................................................................................  78   Erica Bernheim Dear  Astronauts  ..............................................................................................................................  79   Victim  Reveals  Her  New  Face  .....................................................................................................  80   With  the  Hair  Dryer  On  ................................................................................................................  81   Guy Traiber Space  for  Loneliness  ......................................................................................................................  82   Matt Kish Dagoo  ..................................................................................................................................................  83   Michael Czyniejewski Pascal  Q.  Debrosiac  ........................................................................................................................  84   Taylor Merideth Incoming  ...........................................................................................................................................  89   Contributor  Bios  .............................................................................................................................  90  


OxMag

Matt Kish

Queequeg 10

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OxMag

Anthony Ramstetter, Jr.

35 Ways of Making Love I can get more women than a passenger train can ha-aul.—JIMMIE RODGERS, ‘Blue Yodel #1’ 1.

Yelling out prayers, or meditating, or chanting mantra, or yodeling

2.

Moving furniture around your apartment

3.

After a longish lunch at Golden Corral with your boss

4.

After a stiff drink or two at your favorite bar with a nice lady named Rhonda, for whom you just re-floored her doublewide

5.

Counting out loud – “one…two…”

6.

To the song “Me and Mrs. Jones” and on a bed of rose petals, or to any song by Barry White or Marvin Gaye, avoiding Boyz II Men at all costs

7.

Practicing Brazilian jiujutsu

8.

Blinking at the moon, using your eyelids as highway exit signs

9.

Using feng shui as an approach to undressing

10.

During a “coming of age” moment

11.

With your childhood best friend

12.

Completing, via trapeze, a dazzling, show-stopping circus routine

13.

Smoking chronic and getting your mind blown out of this world

14.

Watching the beloved classic “The Wizard of Oz” during ‘Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead’

15.

To a person covered in Post-It Notes

16.

Using only simple machines

17.

On Halloween at midnight with an unidentified person dressed as the Ghost of Christmases Future

18.

With a wise, old hermit

19.

While watching the first MLB non-fielded triple play and wishing you never did

20.

Interviewing for that next big promotion

21.

On a lazy Sunday during a walk with your chiweenie

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OxMag 22.

Anthony Ramstetter, Jr.

Ordering an intricately catered delivery of one thousand wings from Domino’s Pizza

23.

The night before your wedding

24.

With someone you divorced 18 months ago

25.

Without being in love at all

26.

Saying: “So, how was your day?” / “Fine, thank you. How was your day?” / “Oh, just fine”

27.

Officiated by an NFL referee without whistles

28.

Watching MTV’s Jersey Shore and fist pumping

29.

On a prize-winning yacht near the Fiji Islands with Fabio of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! fame, though not on Fabio’s yacht exactly

30.

Feeding grapes to twenty flappers in a Parisian bordello in 1928

31.

In the middle of a paused movie

32.

Not saying the words “I love you” at all costs, then saying those words gratuitously

33.

After being sick in bed all day

34.

Spinning around and around and around and around and around

35.

Ripping off Miller Lite labels and discarding them on the side of the bed

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Anthony Ramstetter, Jr.

Sit I really feel like I’m losin’ my best friend… — Myself lady hair lemonade with ginger wore naturally wavy hairstyling &&& spoke French rainbows my kind inquiry gave her a / sweater as if I had in / someway given her / solace swallowed by translation blankets, in short, because we have enemies, she rained infinite in sorrow tears, shed the dark light which disturbs: “I’ve never been so humiliated” / she cried / soft chaos / surprise kiss she cried curtains curtains with pink shadows holsters with squares a yellow balloon a bellow deathblubber, all attention drawn into shatters, thoughtful alarm sprung out of body, shaping the unsound to wrap her horizon with my arms taking her death gaze in all at once near-all possess my Latino blood: “My, colombe bleue, no need now to feel ashamed,” “You are safe here. No dead flowers in your mind.” “You okay?” This is the best thing I have ever said.

I

/ stuttered

She

/ vomited rainbows

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OxMag

Anthony Ramstetter, Jr.

Facebook I want certain words more than a thousand kisses or convolutions of this hypertetradimensional life this likely commentary on promotional sharing insulating me who knows what from whom on an (anti)social mix-tape interface. Privacy ahoy! Let's flash our fictions to all on that blue sky and write our selves down in a style of leaves growing: “Oh my wrought up heart oh this oh that oh well let’s tick this floral interclock towards available light.” Why privilege any one status update or busted link? Our wilding menu of links moves all feasts to violet. Something’s gotta give in this you/me status operandi. How bourgeoisie me and my kibbutz of permanent motions towards an inanimate mouse devouring my forever clicks.

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OxMag

Matt Kish

Herman Melville

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OxMag

Rodney Nelson

Making Warm the May gave only more brown floodwater and ended in a tree-outrooting wind and you took it disremembering where you used to go in better hill country but say you walked into the next day on a lake beach and the immediate note of oriole sight too and dragonflies more than might have been along a dream road would you remember how to take the sun and one loon cry on a midafternoon beyond the May let it make warm of you in the same hill country of the minute

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OxMag

Caitlin Thomson

Young Neighbors Where did they come from, the children? Scraped and pried from work, cleared with a broom from boards, discovered like so many coins under the sofa, smashed out of a jar, landing, cushioned by mud. Dirt slick in the house, on boards but not fingernails, not dresses. We encourage them to wait outside as we sweep dirt into clouds, dust mirrors, and bowls. The whole lawn fills with children, holding mason jars, tea lights illuminating faces and curls, grins spreading softly from work, smears still, here and there, of dirt. A boy comes in crying, mud up his leg, his hand split by a jar, scraps of shell in skin.

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OxMag

Christopher Kuhl

A Simple Poem My hair came out in tufts. I looked like a beat-up, old Stuffed bear. I felt beat-up. But then My brother stepped in: He shaved my head clean, Worked lotion into my scalp, And I knew that he loved me.

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OxMag

Daniel S. Jones

Excerpt from “An Accidental Profession” Along the edge of my office windowsill, ladybugs lay dead like popped kernels of corn, red shells split open, wings flayed in flightless tranquility. It happens every spring. Cardinals slap their bodies against sheets of glass, from ceiling to floor, to jab at the prey they see through the pane. Wings spank a frantic rhythm against the building, often six or seven red-crested birds at a time. Sharp beaks peck. Just twenty feet behind them, the once barren bushes already give way to budding green trees and lush, emerging earth. Requests from the building’s cleaning service remain unanswered. Coworkers stop by my office on their way to the instant coffee machine to witness the frustration of birds. Now and then they ask me about myself, how long I’ve been here, what I do, but I change the subject when I can. Like the birds, their lives are more interesting. As a result, I know much about them, personal things that no one in their right mind would share with a complete stranger. But we are coworkers, so I guess that makes it all right—that I have written it down to share, stories of the women and men who work for this company, their appearances and behaviors, the objects of their love and hate, their dysfunction, drunkenness, where people are having sex right now in this office building, who steals petty cash or supplies, and general gossip, of course. Our company attracts a variety of employees from across the country. As such, our sources, so to speak, are everywhere. If nature abhors a vacuum, then what our company hates is uncertainty when it comes to “private” lives. We are walking down sidewalks to eliminate it, peeking through windows to root it from coffee shops. We are picking up take-out orders and overhearing conversations and asking for more details than propriety might allow. We are paying attention in the locker rooms at our office’s workout facility. We are buying the drinks that make secrets spill and when that doesn’t work, we are making friends with the guys in IT to get access to email accounts, texting histories, instant messages. It’s not unlike the Aeneid, where Virgil describes a goddess covered in

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feathers, swift of foot and wing, with a thousand eyes, a thousand ears, and a thousand mouths. That goddess is Rumor, so much more enabled now than then. But sometimes, it’s much simpler than that. The clearest details are freely given when there is bragging to be done. Outside my window the birds perch and eye their delicacies before attempting again to crash through the glass. It is difficult, actually, not to compare them to the employees fluttering around the office. It is impossible not to notice, for example, how at impact their oily wings smudge the glass, whitish stains with patterns like fingerprints, or augury. How the ancients sliced birds’ bellies and read the future in slippery gray livers or how they watched the sky to divine holy will from the movement of birds. Emperors once caged fleets of pigeons and released them right-bound across their palace gardens to garnish good favor from the gods, left-bound flocks making for ill omens. From what I can tell, there was no interpretation for birds that dive head-on, only to collide with invisible blockades. So what am I to think when two cardinals flutter against the window, beaks clutching oak seeds, now dropped to stab at a plusher quarry? That this office knows the most intimate details of its employees’ lives? How as coworkers we somehow feel entitled to know such things about each other? That these non-business-related details often find their way into an employee’s permanent, access-restricted record in Human Resources? How at night, I dream of budget numbers in endless columns—of birds on this windowsill, of a gun that I do not own, that I pick these creatures off one by one, but more will fly from the canopy, leaves tumbling from vernal branches, each one red, suspended for a moment, then sent hurling towards me and yet I keep firing. I don’t know. Wallace Stevens, the poet, worked his entire life as an executive for an insurance company and I often think of him while sitting at my desk, as I do now, birds tapping gently against my window, whether he ever fired someone or calculated a P&L (i.e. a profit and loss) analysis or attempted to squeeze margin (i.e. net sales minus the cost of goods and services sold) from tired, overworked

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portfolios. I only know about Stevens because of a poetry class I took a lifetime ago and I like to think he didn’t have to do such things. Anyway, I keep a copy of Harmonium on my office bookshelf, between The Ultimate Corporate Strategy Resource and The Fundamentals of Accounting. What would Stevens think to see or hear the appetites at work between these walls? That money too is a kind of poetry? Or perhaps: I do not know which to prefer, The beauty of inflections Or the beauty of innuendoes, The blackbird whistling Or just after. What follows, then, will be the story of the employees I encounter over the course of my work. Although I have no idea what will walk through that door, who will be wandering the office hallways or the sort of messages that will be sent across the company’s email system, an office being what it is, I can already say that these stories will be filled with all varieties of sex, drinking, adultery, betrayal, lust, gluttony, peculiarity, and absurdities of every kind. Others will come as complete surprise. And thus: The box of flowers on A——’s desk is scarlet, has a company’s one-eighthundred number printed on the side, and carries a card that reads FROM YOUR SECRET ADMIRER. She was not expecting flowers. The contents of the box, now displayed on her desk, are wads of baby’s breath, a thick glass vase, heavy and squared with a slanted opening that looks like the cut of a diamond, and two dozen roses, pink, red, and white. Already the women from our office stand over the display with more than a little jealousy in their smiles. “You really have no idea?” they ask. Our office houses roughly two hundred employees, more than sixty percent of whom are women, most under the age of thirty, with more than a

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Daniel S. Jones

few who were on their college’s cheerleading squad immediately prior to working here. And while flowers appear only a handful of times throughout the year, the distribution of flowers is a clearly defined ritual. A deliveryman leaves the package at the front desk, which is at the center of the office, adjacent to the elevators, an open space seen by everyone. The administrative staff—there are generally three stationed at the post—position the box upright on the desk, whereas all other mail is thrown on the floor, out-of-sight. Rather than deliver the package right away, a box of flowers can stand in place for up to an hour, like a lighthouse or bonfire or distress signal. Over the course of that time employees find many reasons to wander past the box and try to read the name on the delivery tag. Today the happy event benefits A——, which is ironic, since she had expected today to be an exciting day, though admittedly, not flower-delivery exciting. She runs through, and dismisses in turn, a list of candidates who might qualify as a secret admirer. If it was her husband, she reasons, he would have mentioned it, or signed the card. The men in her pottery classes, for example, don’t know where she works, nor do the usuals where she camps and hikes. She’s been married just long enough to make ex-boyfriends unlikely, if not improbable suspects. It could also be coworkers, who feel compelled to meddle in each others’ affairs. “My husband never sends me flowers,” more than a few employees say, sometimes under their breath, as they pass the display. While the assumption is reasonable, it is nonetheless incorrect. “Neither does mine.” So A—— spends the remainder of the day trying to focus on her job, which has to do with marketing, and cannot help but to peek up at the flowers every few minutes to beam. A—— is conspicuous with her straight, brunette hair, more often than not pulled back in a ponytail, leaving whips of renegade hairs to tuck behind her ears during planning meetings in our conference rooms, like the one she will host later this morning. She started here five years ago, known for the childish look in her demeanor, an innocence her marriage

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Daniel S. Jones

changed dramatically. She prefers long flowing skirts and boots with high heels and hippy-style blouses that dip to her cleavage, where a dream-catcher dangles from a thin silver chain. A——’s smile, her most distinguishing feature, is more a function of crinkling her nose than broadening her cheeks, which pulls her lips and teeth into a girlish, playful position. All this happens on the side of the building farthest from my office. Cardinalis cardinalis originated as a southern bird—a species found in Mexico and Central America—that learned to thrive in northern climates stretching to Canada. Males puff their bright red chests in the spring air with black masks around their eyes and beaks. Females coo beneath ruddy brown feathers, or olive with a reddish hue, and sing with clear faces devoid of masculine blotches. For the moment, no cardinals flutter for my ladybugs. Instead, the birds hover over nests like teacups stacked in the branches, three and four eggs per brood, white shells with a green, brownish tinge, taking nearly twelve days to hatch—to peck their way through to the chilly spring air. Here in the top drawer of my desk are a few pictures taken from our most recent Employee Appreciation ceremony. The annual event is three days of rahrah meetings, a black-tie awards ceremony, and an almost endless supply of booze and hotel bedrooms, in which it is not uncommon for married employees to leave their rings in their rooms, on the bedside table or bathroom counter for the duration of the trip. Professional photographers are hired to chronicle the happenings and photos are posted to the corporate intranet, of which, one shows A—— seated at the welcome dinner. Her expression is playful, flirtatious, engaged in some interesting topic like reincarnation, a picture that must have been taken sometime after the second course. A—— is wearing a black dress, with a modest knee-length hem counterbalanced by a plunging neckline, itself counterbalanced with a long, black shawl. I am wearing a suit that has never fit quite right, also black, loose at the shoulders and waist, a pressed white shirt and a wide, but older pink bowtie. A particularly large bird then thuds into the window behind me. No matter how often it happens, I still flinch and now I can hear several employees

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Daniel S. Jones

laughing at me from out on the main floor. On a few occasions, I tried halfheartedly to reach the ladybugs with a paper towel but my desk is set in such a way that I can’t lean all the way over to reach them. Plus, I don’t mind the company. The laughter quiets, somewhat, when I emerge from my office and head over to Conference Room Two, where there will be a meeting to get ready for our upcoming conference in Los Angeles. At several times throughout the year, our company attends national conferences as a vendor, which means we set up a large booth in an exhibition hall, perhaps two hundred feet square, and try to sell our services and products to the conference attendees, which are college and university administrators who have some small fraction of the billions of dollars in budget money to spend. I peek through the window to the conference room and wait to enter. The kickoff meeting is a big deal and the conference room adds a certain degree of formality, another instance of office ceremony. Conference room space is extremely valuable in our office, as a company we’ve grown to the point where either we employ too many people, or we conduct too many meetings for the number of rooms we have to accommodate them. Several employees begin to line up outside the door and check the time on their phones with more than a little aggravation. When the time comes, a stampede of sorts will occur, a rush to grab the seats closest to the executives and the opportunity for careerenabling chitchat. She stands directly beside me now, clutching a pile of folders across her chest, smiles as the conference room door opens. This is A— —’s announcement and meeting, her performance and domain. She smells of the rose bouquet. Around here, being chosen to attend a major conference is less an obligation and more like a reward. For that reason the room is filled with office dignitaries, Vice Presidents of various divisions, top-performing sales reps like B——, C——, D——, and several of the marketing and product managers. Unlike other large meetings in these conference rooms, everyone is smiling

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because we know how these events typically go—drinking, parties, some work, more drinking. The parties get so out of control, in fact, that employees now sit through a two-hour seminar on proper corporate behavior. This means no sleeping with clients, though we know half the people in the room use these events to hook-up with certain clients when the time comes to renew their contracts for another year. The irony of course is that the Vice Presidents sitting through the presentation are the worst offenders—it’s how most people believe one becomes a Vice President—but sit through it they will, as the big boss herself is trying considerably to change this aspect of our corporate culture, which no one will dare challenge to her face. “Thanks everyone for coming,” A—— begins. “You’re all fired.” She can barely get the line out without smiling. It’s a standard, if morbid, way to start a presentation at our company and the nervous halflaughter from the crowd varies depending on how secure each member of the audience feels in her or his employment. The truth is that the joke works because to some degree we are all aware of the possibilities that await us. A—— stands at the front of the room, then, and begins her announcement. Her hair is different in this light, with faint reddish bangs combed towards the front of her head and cut just above her eyebrows. After the opening remarks, a welcome, the first major portion is the part where she outlines the acceptable level of alcohol consumption when attending a client dinner. When she knows she will be in front of a large group, her hair is sleek, multi-layered, cut below her shoulders with defined ends and those splitting front bangs scarcely protecting her face. Her next slide covers the issue of hosting client meetings in an employee’s bedroom (frowned-upon) rather than the designated hotel conference room meeting space. Like the other topics, A—— only has to mention these kinds of things because they have been attempted in the past, the way credit card bills have a line on them that reads, PLEASE DO NOT SEND COINS. We’ll be staying at the Sheraton Downtown Los Angeles for our meeting,

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which is near the Convention Center. A—— details an exhaustive schedule and itinerary of events for the conference. For most employees, the meeting will last four days, though for A—— the event includes an extra two days of setup and teardown for the exhibit space. Upon arrival, a chartered bus will drive us from the airport to the hotel. A few hours will be provided to check email and get settled into our rooms. Most will use this time to scope out the hotel lobby bar and other bars or dance clubs within walking or stumbling distance. Another chartered bus will pick us up around six in the evening and drive us to our welcome party, which is for employees only, and this year, as a twist, (A— — seems rather proud of the twist, though it’s a cost-cutting measure) will be hosted at the home of our Executive Vice President who lives just outside Los Angeles. After the party, we will be bussed to an additional client appreciation event and then left to our own devices. Everyone assigned to the exhibition booth must report for duty by seven the following morning, which should cut down on late-night hijinks, but doesn’t. The remainder of the week, including the client party on the second night and the farewell, not-to-be-missed employee-only party on the third night, is also described in considerable detail. A—— works through the list with patience and clarity and the meeting is finished when our CEO stands up and says how proud she is to employ such a professional workforce and not to disappoint her or prove her wrong. Her glare seeks, and finds, several Vice Presidents in what is not a veiled threat. Only time will tell. People begin to push their way from the conference room into the halls. Chairs are scattered in a loose circle at the center of the room. After A— —’s date at the Vietnamese restaurant, I wonder if she will be happy, clearly she deserves to be, or at least deserves to seem to be, despite the fact that her crinkly smile is far less frequent. I am the second-to-last employee to leave the room and glance back through the window at A——, who is crumpling her papers at the podium. Her gaze is elsewhere; mine is fixed. Tan blinds cut the window in long, thin bars, stripes that blend any reflection in the window with an image of A—— wearing a grey jersey-knit dress with its folded collar and shapely skirt. A blue ribbon

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ties around her waist. A—— drops a wad of paper into the trash, her fingers clammy against the steel can, with no sound but that of her wedding ring, vestigial, tapped against the metal. The overhead lights hum in long straight shafts. In a sputter of light she glimpses herself in the window, beauty lines showing in the yellowish light as they would on most faces her age, at the corners of the mouth and eyes where she smiles and squints. In the reflection of the trashcan A—— admires her legs, just below the hemline where her calves tense like knotted rope. Her scars are invisible in this light. I turn from the window and head back towards my office as she flips the light switch. The bulbs waver and go dark. “Give me a minute,” A—— says to me as she leaves the conference room. In addition to this general planning meeting, each employee attending the Los Angeles event—or any event, for that matter—must present an “event plan” to A—— by the end of the day, a document that outlines the client meetings that we have set up, what days and times those meetings will happen, how long the meetings will be, and what availability the employee will have to work the company’s main presentation booth. Most years, an employee must confirm a certain number of client meetings during the event or else they will not be able to attend. Finding enough people to cover the booth is one of the most challenging aspects of A——‘s job. Having some kind of threshold, I think, cuts down on the number of co-workers who come to the events simply for the alcohol and chance to hook-up with someone from the office. I follow A—— down the hallway and into the stairwell. There is a certain tug from her grey dress that twitches the soft fabric each time she takes another upwards step. The blue ribbon around her waist stubbornly holds everything in place. I had not noticed her shoes while A—— stood behind the podium, but now the click of her two-inch heels, blue to match the ribbon, echoes in the stairwell. The walls are beige, barely-painted cinderblocks, with miscellaneous pipes running up and down the shaft and fire alarms placed strategically on each landing between the staircases. “How is your day going?” I ask.

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Daniel S. Jones

“Pretty busy.” I follow A—— to a meeting space called an “innovation room,” which means that instead of the gray metal chairs of a regular conference room, the space is decorated with contemporary Scandinavian furniture—couches, cushioned chairs, funky tables—all in muted versions of colors like lime green and cream and burnt orange. One entire wall is composed of windows that overlook the workspaces, which gives the room all the privacy of a birdcage, while the opposite wall is covered in a special paint that turns the wall into a gigantic whiteboard. This is where the “innovation” seems to come from. On each table, and in piles on the floor, dry erase markers stand at the ready, turned into business ideas on the wall. Concerning these walls, office etiquette dictates that when employees are done with their brainstorming sessions or scrums or whatever it is they call the meetings where they sit on couches and write on the walls, employees are to erase their work. Today, however, someone has circled their hieroglyphs, which look like some kind of organization chart, covered in red X marks, with the words DO NOT ERASE written to the left. “So,” I say. “Pretty busy?” “Yeah. Do you have your event plan?” I hand the paperwork to A——. She begins to note the dates and times of the seventeen meetings I have confirmed. This year’s cut-off was fifteen meetings. “Are you comfortable using the booth’s presentation equipment?” “Yes,” I say. “I have used the system before.” “Then everything is in order. See you in Los Angeles.” With that A—— stands from her place on the couch, flattens the front of her dress with the palms of her hands, and opens the door to let in E——, who is next in line to review his event plan. E—— is six-foot-four, with dark skin, eyes, and a crop of shortly kept hair. His background is unknown, but everyone supposes he is from or near Central America. E—— is a junior executive of the company, a “wonder boy” as they are known, one of the few in

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the building who occupy their own office with a door that closes. Most employees sit at desks in the open space where everyone can hear their phone conversations. The company, to its credit, holds a vendetta against cubicles. E—— is handsome, has a broad smile with bright teeth, is married and has two young children. E——, it must be said, is also one the employees Human Resources is most concerned about for misbehavior on trips such as the Los Angeles conference, although I am certain A—— would have nothing to do with him. “Nice flowers,” E—— says as he sits on one of the curvy cushioned chairs near the whiteboard. “Did your husband send them?” “I don’t know who sent them,” A—— replies. “When was the last time you sent flowers to your wife?” “The question you should be asking,” E—— says. “Is when was the last time my wife bought flowers for me.” This is the kind of direct, no-nonsense statement that helps E—— advance through our company’s ranks. “That makes you sound like a real asshole,” A—— says. “Do you have your event plan?” Several years ago I was part of the team that interviewed A—— for employment. For a while, I was part of every new hire interview, typically during the later rounds of the process, once a candidate had made it through the first few hurdles. My role was primarily to determine if the candidate would fit into our company’s culture, the open workspace environment, the corporate casual attire, etc. I would typically ask the candidate to describe something outside of work that held their interest. A—— spoke at length about the wedding she was planning, specifically, a disagreement with her fiancé about an arrangement of roses she hoped to have on each table at the wedding reception. They were her childhood favorite, she explained, but her fiancé was put off by the high cost.

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David Ebenbach

Date Night in Richmond, Indiana On those nights we dragged Route 40 for something. There was the Applebee’s, best atmosphere in town, said the readers of the Palladium Item, where we got appetizers and desserts; the coffee shop with the okay soup and the evangelical vibe; the Holiday Inn basement, that semi-fluorescent bar, hardcarpeted like an office floor where everybody smoked. The idea was to talk but we didn’t know how. I had my new students that you could only picture and you had our baby, and all day in an apartment where you couldn’t see out of the windows. You could go outside, where there was nothing to block the sun. I walked to work, and back, along that same broken interstate with the trucks that shouted and the dead buildings; even the army recruiter had gone out of business. We wanted somewhere none of it was happening except us. But we weren’t happening. The Mexican place where the walls were bright with amateur murals, and the booth seats raised, like an illustration of festive—we sat there one date night and fought again, eating their chips and ketchup salsa. The waiter didn’t come around until we got quiet. We had to stop; there was nowhere else to go but back. I watched the wall of windows, the red of cars passing behind you. Sometimes we were happy after. Sometimes we’d hold hands in the parking lot and agree what the problem was. Either way it was back to Route 40 and its flickering box stores, and just off that the streets of that neighborhood where there was nothing to block the night and so we had to drive into it.

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David Ebenbach

After a substantial meal, at a performance of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and these saxophones glitter like so much honey in the bowl of this our spoon

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OxMag

James Jackson

Aketeko soft purchased lumber. even though inside I rub my hand along the surface and feel the splinter and wait for a worm, for a prayer, for modesty beyond a simple thanks. underground is four thousand miles deep. i walk afloat at zero and wait for your wails to wake me up

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OxMag

Matt Kish

Queequeg 12

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OxMag

Nora Bonner

Last Attempt You have ten seconds to get your dog out of the street before that truck runs him over. Drako squirmed out of his leash again and now all the neighbors are watching; at least, the woman across the street is watching. The one who still needs to put away her plastic jack-o-lantern, her gauzy spider web: she’s standing in the window, through the web above the jack-o-lantern and she’s looking like what in the hell is wrong with you, why haven’t you bought a leash that fits your dog, why haven’t you learned to control your dog? This woman feeds the feral cat your dog has lunged for. That cat is saying terrible things from behind the jack-olantern, taunting him in tones only the two of them can hear, sounds not built for human ears. That cat is coaxing death out of your dog. Drako doesn’t put much stake in what you say and everybody knows it. He doesn’t listen. You should have trained him by now to listen. But maybe he can’t hear you. Maybe your voice isn’t built for Drako’s ears. Drako is a bad dog. A bad, bad dog but if you don’t do anything he will be a dead dog and your attempt at doing one thing right, your attempt in taking this trembling creature from his kennel and giving him a couple of bowls and a bed, your attempt at putting another creature’s well-being before your own, your attempt to counter to your uncle Harry’s comment about “have you grown up yet?” (and by “grow” he means do you want to be alone forever? do you even want to have a child one day?), every attempt you ever made to appear normal will crush beneath the tires of that truck. And you will never trust yourself again. At least not right away. At least not until you start seeing a shrink. That shrink will tell you to adopt another dog and you will fight it, you will say no, you will fight the memory of your flattened dog’s coat meshed with blood. You have three seconds. Your dog is stiff, paralyzed with fear and you are now the one running into the street in front of that truck and waving your hands, ready to risk your open forehead on the pavement for this dog who has yet to adjust to this life you’ve coaxed him into living. It is you who is screaming loud enough to wake the dead.

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Paul Green

Red Mist red mist in his helmet don’t push me I’m close to the iron age corralled by headbutting camcorders you need to format a result they’re twerking for Vlad in Siberia we have to learn working with them like a hard family but your prefects have burning fiddles dancing Frankenstein fell all over the Towers all this ongoing in a biosphere drying out attack via the click-bait of martyrs and a turret pisses fire the mutawa doing good business

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OxMag

Paul Green

V! Zero hour contracts/the cut throat you and yours are hung men gambled away in a blaze of pixels to grow the business of Mister Men the goblins derive on their derive doing the works of the One God a crucifixion of jobsworths ‘Show me some peeps or I’ll bottle your orgy for a lifestyle doggy show upending the tit machines’ the memes were mimsical so s/he turned on hrs sex and coded the sauce We signed on at the yellow sign to script it across the whole blitz The Matter of Britain bubbles under the putrified forests we danced around a golden pot that burst our futures we must dance off to melt it right down ‘You’re nothingness with twinkles’ The old nasal Beast voyeured it all so bust out of your demographic lumpings They will shout STAY IN YOUR BODIES but keep flipping the gyres I! E! A! O! U!

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OxMag

Bret Anthony Johnston

Republican A section of the newspaper, rolled into a tight cone and flaming at the top, stuck out of the cook’s ear the first time I saw him. This was early June, in Corpus Christi, Texas, when I was sixteen and had been hired as the delivery driver for La Cocina Mexican Restaurant. The cook was sweating. He sat cross-legged on the stove in the kitchen, eyes and fists clenched, with two waitresses beside him. One of the women was dribbling salsa into plastic to-go cups. The other fanned the blue-black smoke away from the cook's face with a laminated menu. The night before, I’d called about the ad in the paper and was told to show up the next morning for an interview. My father made me wear his pink tie, his only tie, though I’d just expected to fill out an application and learn that I lacked adequate experience. Aside from helping out at my father’s pawnshop, I’d never held a job. But there’d been no paperwork at La Cocina, no discussion of previous employment. The owner asked if I had a valid driver’s license, a reliable car, any moving violations or outstanding warrants. She asked if I was an honest person, and I said, “I try to be.” The answer seemed to surprise and please her, as if I’d solved a riddle that had stumped other drivers, then she told me to go into the kitchen and ask if there were any orders yet. She also told me to tell the cook that if another customer complained about the menudo tasting like beer, she’d call immigration. When the waitress fanning the smoke saw me, she said, “Bathroom’s down the hall.” “I work here,” I said. The cook’s head was parallel to the floor, the smoke from the newspaper ribboning toward the grease-blotched ceiling. He wore a mustache and a V-neck T-shirt. A half-empty beer bottle sat next to him

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on the counter; he reached for it without opening his eyes and brought it into his lap. The kitchen smelled of cilantro and eggs and burning ink. I said, “Mrs. Martinez just hired me.” “You’re white,” the other waitress said. Her eyebrows were penciled on. Both of the women looked tired to me, fierce and old. She said, “Ay dios mio. Affirmative action at La Cocina.” The cook mumbled something no one understood. The flaming newspaper made me think of the downtown curio shops where old women rubbed oil on your palms to predict your future. The cook said, “Am I being fired again?” “Fired,” the waitress said, eyeing the burning newspaper. “Now he’s a comedian. Now he’s Cheech and Chong.” “I’m the new delivery driver,” I said. “My name’s Julian. Everyone calls me Jay.” “Julian,” the cook said. “Julian, what kind of car do you drive?” “A Cadillac,” I said. The waitresses glared at me. I saw that the one holding the menu was a lifetime younger than I’d originally thought. It occurred to me that she was the other woman’s daughter. My father’s tie suddenly felt tight around my neck. An hour earlier, he’d tied it on himself in the mirror, then loosened the knot and slipped it over my head. Now I wished I’d left it in the car. I said, “It’s a convertible Fleetwood.” “The King of the Cadillac line,” the cook said. “Exactly.” “Julian, when I own this restaurant—” “Ay dios mio,” the older waitress said and took her tray of salsa cups out of the kitchen. Her daughter rolled her eyes and started fanning the smoke again. Her hair hung in thick spirals, her nails were glittery vermilion. She said, “Carlos, Jay’s worked here for two minutes and already you’re starting with your fantasies.”

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Carlos raised the beer to his lips and awkwardly tried to sip without disturbing the newspaper in his ear. I wanted to ask why it was there, but also wanted to act unfazed, like I encountered such things daily. When Carlos couldn’t manage a drink, he extended his arm behind him and emptied the bottle into a pot of simmering menudo. “Julian,” he said, “when I buy this restaurant, you’ll deliver tacos by limousine.” … The Caddy was cream-colored, a 1978 Brougham. Whitewalls, chrome, power windows, locks, and mirrors, and leather seats and a retractable antenna. Even at thirteen years old, the Fleetwood wasn’t a car my family could normally afford—my father drove a Datsun pickup, my mother a Chevy hatchback—but an old woman had pawned it, and when her loan expired, my father brought the keys home. Things had already soured in their marriage by then, but my mother had always coveted a convertible, and my father knew her boss drove one, so he must have hoped that a luxury sedan could turn things around for our family, deliver us to a different destiny. He was the manager of Blue Water Pawn, and he believed everything you’d ever need would eventually float through the pawnshop doors. My mother’s opal earrings and pearl necklace, her espresso machine and electric range and Tiffany lamps, my ten-speed bike and computer, my cordless phone and bowie knife and Nikon camera, all of it had once belonged to someone else, and either the owners or the people who’d robbed them had sold the stuff to Blue Water for pennies on the dollar. My father once paid twelve bucks for an acoustic guitar that had belonged to Elvis Presley, and he gave it to my mother for one of their anniversaries. I’d been forbidden from telling my friends about the guitar,

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but I regularly bragged about it. Sometimes I lifted it from its fur-lined case and strummed its strings. That the Cadillac came through the pawnshop surprised everyone except my father, and for a while that surprise buoyed my parents. Every couple of weeks they soaped the car with sponges and waxed it until their reflections emerged in the hubcaps. They took it to open-air restaurants on the Laguna Madre, and on weekends they drove into the hill country with the top down. When they returned, the seats were littered with pine needles and mesquite leaves, the floorboards dusted with sand like confectioner’s sugar. Once, they stopped at a rest area outside Austin and had someone snap a photo of them with my Nikon. They’re wearing sunglasses, leaning on the Fleetwood with the tawny hills rolling into the horizon behind them; the landscape looks like a solemn, arrested wave, and studying the picture closely, you can almost sense that my mother is poised to tighten her scarf around her hair and walk out of the frame for good. On the second anniversary of the night she moved to Arizona with her boss, my father calmly walked outside and cut the Fleetwood’s ragtop into ribbons with my bowie knife. When he came back in, he said, “Pop quiz.” Ever since I’d started high school he’d been quizzing me: Name the capital of Delaware. What was the shortest war in history? Who invented wallpaper? When I botched the answers—I’d never answered one correctly—he’d say, “Time to hit the books.” My father had his GED. I couldn’t tell if he knew I’d watched him shred the vinyl, so I tried to act casual. I was also worried he’d ask me about my mother. She called me every other month, but sometimes my father answered before I could reach the phone. I hadn’t heard from her in a while, so we were both anticipating her call. I said, “Ready, professor.”

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“Tonight’s prize is a 1978 Fleetwood Brougham, the King of the Cadillac line.” I didn’t know what he’d done with my knife. Maybe he’d stabbed it into the steering wheel or one of the whitewalls. My father twirled the keys around his finger. He’d been trying to unload the car for two years. He said, “What's the beginning of wisdom?” I knew the answer immediately. A bronze plaque with the words engraved on it hung in his office at Blue Water. I said, “The beginning of wisdom is the acquisition of a roof.” “Touchdown,” he said and chucked me the keys. Later that night I walked by his bedroom and heard him crying. His door was closed, but his sobbing was hard enough to carry into the hall. His room wasn’t the one he’d shared with my mother—he’d converted the master bedroom into a storage space and pushed his bed into our old study—though when I pictured him, I couldn’t help imagining the furniture as it had been before she left. I saw my mother’s vanity under the shuttered window, saw my father trying to muffle his weeping with one of her tasseled pillows. “Jay,” he said through the door. “Jay, are you out there?” “Just returned from my maiden voyage, professor.” For a moment I thought he hadn’t heard me, thought maybe I hadn’t spoken at all. Then he said, “I left the paper on the counter.” I wondered if this was a new kind of quiz. I said, “Ready, professor.” “Roofs cost money. I’d say it’s time you found gainful employment.” “Right away,” I said. I thought he’d say something more, or that I would, maybe I love you or Thank you or I’m sorry Mom hasn’t come home, but finally I just walked into the kitchen and read the classifieds. I called La Cocina because a delivery job would afford me more time in the Caddy.

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Bret Anthony Johnston …

When I’d worked at Blue Water, the man who stocked the Pepsi machine would brag about free lap dances when his route took him to the Landing Strip out by the airport, and a customer—a young guy who delivered newspapers and always pawned his fishing rod—said he’d twice happened upon a married couple having sex in their front yard, but most of my deliveries went to construction sites or businesses where women wore suits and bifocals: banks, other restaurants, a fabric store, a podiatrist’s office. Mornings were our busiest time, and there was usually a lunch rush, but by mid-afternoon our phone stopped ringing and Mrs. Martinez tallied our receipts. I swept and watered the potted ivies and ferns behind the cash register. At the end of my first week I asked Melinda—who was Alma’s daughter and a year older than me—why we didn’t stay open for dinner. She said, “The only ones that come after lunch are wearing suits.” She was wiping down the tables before I flipped the chairs and balanced them on the Formica. When Melinda leaned over to spray the surface, I saw a butterfly tattoo on the small of her back. “Suits? You mean, businessmen?” “Health department suits,” she said. “If we fail another inspection, they’ll chain the door.” Before I’d left with my last delivery, Carlos had been chasing a roach around the kitchen, swatting at it with a menu. The stove was gummy with caked-on lard, and I’d watched Alma drink from the milk jug before pouring a glass for a customer. I said, “I guess a flaming sports section in the cook’s ear could be considered un-sanitary.” “Aire de oído. Like an ear infection. The smoke draws it out,” she said. “I know. My father—”

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“How do you afford that car?” she interrupted. She was scrubbing the seat of a booth, trying to remove dried enchilada sauce. There were no more chairs to upend, so I was just waiting, watching her butterfly. She said, “Carlos says you sell drugs, Mama thinks you have a trust fund. I haven’t asked Mrs. Martinez because she’s all pissed.” “How do you think I afford it, Melinda?” She plopped herself into the booth and looked me up and down. I tried to puff out my chest, and hoped she wouldn’t notice my ears, which I knew turned red when I got nervous. She sucked in her cheeks, pursed her lips, squinted. Alma rolled a bucket and mop into the kitchen. Melinda said, “You sell Avon. No, you mug old ladies. No, you’re a hot-rodder. You won it in a midnight drag race.” “Close,” I said, trying to sound serious. I remembered what my father told our neighbor when he asked about our new riding lawnmower. “I won it in a poker game.” She laughed so loud that Mrs. Martinez poked her head out of the office and whipped off her glasses. “Melinda, have you started making the hot sauce?” “Ya mero,” she said. After Mrs. Martinez closed her door, Melinda said, “So, drugs or trust fund?” Why I answered her the way I did is still a mystery to me. The words surprised me as much they did Melinda. I said, “The car was my mother’s. She died two years ago. I inherited it.” Melinda squinted at me again, studied me in a softer way than before. I was waiting for her to react—to accuse or curse me, or start laughing again—when Carlos began singing in the kitchen. It was a Spanish song I’d heard playing on his transistor radio earlier that morning. Melinda continued assessing me. I stared at my shoes, at the restaurant’s chipped linoleum. Sliding out of the booth, she said, “Losing that pink tie after your first day was a good call. You look more like yourself now.”

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Bret Anthony Johnston

“You just met me,” I said. “Does that matter?” she said. “Maybe not.” “You’re cute,” she said. “Especially when your ears turn red.” … I never repaired the roof on the Caddy, and after a month of delivering tacos, I’d forgotten my father had ruined it. Summer in Corpus is glomming. Thick, viscous heat, and there’s no rain unless a hurricane is churning in the Gulf, so I just left the top down. I enjoyed smelling the baking asphalt, the far-off briny bay. When I saw someone I knew, I saluted them from behind the wheel. Or I turned up the stereo and pretended not to recognize them. In July, Mrs. Martinez catered a wedding in Portland, the little shrimping town across the ship channel. It took me two trips to deliver all the food—two hundred enchiladas, vats of beans and rice, and bags of flour tortillas that I had to stash in the trunk. (A bag had flown out of the backseat on my first trip. When the wind lifted it into the night, it looked like a jellyfish swimming in black, black water.) By the time we’d set up the buffet it was ten o’clock. I’d thought I might drive Melinda home, but she had to serve coffee to the guests. She said, “If you stay, you can ask me to dance.” “I don't know how to dance,” I said. “Then stay and you can ask me not to dance.” I spent the next hour pacing outside the reception hall, pretending I’d just married Melinda. I stole glances at her serving flan and leaning down to ask if people wanted decaf or regular, and the simple fact of her knowing my name amazed me. The prospect of meeting her after dessert sent my heart kicking. I wondered if she was a virgin, if she knew I was. I almost vomited into a pot of azaleas.

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Bret Anthony Johnston

When I looked up, Mrs. Martinez was standing over me, telling me to drive back to Corpus and make sure Carlos had locked up. The last time he’d been in charge of closing, he’d polished off a fifth of tequila and pushed each of the refrigerators into the dining area. She said, “Next morning, what do I have? Rotten food and a cook in the hospital with a hernia.” “Can Melinda come with me?” Mrs. Martinez touched my cheek. She said, “Sweet Jay. Melinda just left.” As I drove back, moonlight marbled the slatey sky, and the bay under the Harbor Bridge stretched out like an endless expanse of deep, rich soil. I imagined Melinda riding beside me, her long hair whipping around us. I heard her small laugh that always reminded me of a sparrow bouncing into flight. With the Caddy coasting along Ocean Drive, I could almost feel Melinda reaching for my hand across the smooth seats. I’d only kissed one girl at a homecoming party, and I’d been too nervous to enjoy it. Our teeth knocked and scraped together, and her mouth tasted of meatloaf and wine coolers; after a few minutes of kissing, she fell asleep and I tiptoed out of the room, feeling simultaneously relieved and despondent. I thought Melinda’s mouth would taste of cinnamon. “Melinda,” I said aloud. “My Mexican lover.” I thought nothing of the few fat drops of rain that pelted me, nothing of the first thunderclap or the shudder of pink lightning or the heavy, muscular-smelling air that precedes a storm. But within a mile, rain was bouncing off my dashboard and drenching the seats and pooling under the accelerator. The windshield wipers sprayed the water back into my eyes and face, and the Fleetwood fishtailed around corners. Out of dumb instinct, I flipped the switch to raise the roof. The hinges lurched and moaned, a low steel-on-steel grinding like a hurt animal, and eventually the jagged strips of wet, ruined vinyl slapped down against me. I was a mile from home, but with the blurring rain and the

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wind pushing water over my windshield, I could only inch forward. I had to pull over when I couldn’t see the lanes. The ragtop draped over my shoulders, like I’d gotten stuck in an automatic carwash. When I unlocked our front door, the phone was ringing. I’d heard it when I was hustling up the slippery driveway, but I’d figured it for the sound of traffic sloshing by. My father’s antique grandfather clock— another boon from the pawnshop—was about to hit midnight. For a beat, I allowed myself to believe Melinda was calling, but I knew better. In two years, my mother had never grasped the time difference between Corpus and Phoenix. When I picked up, I heard, “Julian. This is Carlos, the cook from La Cocina.” I hadn't even said hello. I’d almost fallen trying to answer before the phone woke my father, and I was shivering in my soaked clothes. A puddle formed around my shoes. “Is everything okay, Carlos?” With the storm, I’d forgotten to check the door at the restaurant. “I’m calling to say we’ve never had a better driver. When I own the restaurant, I’m going to give you . . .” His voice trailed off, and it sounded like he was knocking a bottle against his forehead, trying to jog the word he wanted. I thought he might say promotion or raise, but he said, “A trophy. When I own La Cocina, I’m going to give you the blue ribbon.” My teeth wouldn’t stop chattering. I said, “Thank you.” “Julian,” he said, “the true reason I’m calling is for a small favor.” A ride, I thought. Through the front window, I could see the Fleetwood parked by the curb. In the streetlamp’s amber glow, with the rain streaming over its body, the car looked immaculate and reposed. The upholstery was getting ruined, and I was to blame, but seeing the car like that, I felt an inexplicable pride. Carlos said, “What I need, what I really need, is for you to bring me an accordion.”

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Bret Anthony Johnston

“An accordion?” “This is life or death. I truly need this instrument,” he said. “I wonder if your mom or dad plays the accordion, Julian. Maybe they have a spare.” “We’re not a very musical family,” I said. “Because here’s my idea,” he said, then took a long pull from his drink. “When I own the restaurant, we’ll have girls posing by the door in Santa costumes. They’ll wave in customers. Or maybe they’ll be naked except for Santa hats, and they’ll play carols on accordions.” “The health department might frown on that, Carlos.” He knocked the bottle against his head again, then drained it and dropped it in the trash. I heard him pop a top with a bottle opener. Sounding suddenly sober and grim, he said, “Julian, you’re right. Even with pasties, we’d be in trouble.” “Unfortunately.” “You’re an idea man, Julian. Manager material. When I’m the boss—” The line went dead. I was about to call Carlos back when my father said, “How was the old girl tonight?” I didn't know how long he’d been behind me. He was leaning against the sink, wearing pajama pants and no shirt. The scar where he’d had his gall bladder removed looked like a centipede on his stomach. I said, “That was Carlos, from work.” “The cook calls you at midnight?” “He was drunk. He wants an accordion. I told him to check Blue Water.” My father wasn’t listening. He was peering over my shoulder, seeing the Fleetwood in the rain. Wet tallow leaves were stuck to its hood like leaches. The tattered roof looked like a busted garbage bag. Our air-conditioner cycled on. I crossed my arms over my chest, which only made me colder.

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My father said, “Pop quiz.” “Ready, professor.” He fixed me with his eyes again, then averted them to the car. He said, “What happens when a yacht fills with water?” The question seemed deceptively easy, so I considered each word individually. Yacht. Fills. Water. But I couldn’t think of any answer beyond the obvious one. I said, “It sinks.” “Touchdown,” he said. Then he left me alone, trembling. … Carlos had gone outside after the phone went dead; he thought lightning had struck the shopping center; the floor and walls had jolted, like an earthquake. But there’d been no more lightning, just gusts of wind that blew the rain sideways and sent shallow waves rippling over the dark parking lot. He was about to return to the restaurant when he saw the downed telephone pole, then after he shelved his hands over his eyes, he recognized the car smashed under it, heard its weak, droning horn, and saw the headlamps shining dimly through the darkness. The driver was a college student named Whitney Garrett, and if Carlos hadn’t carried her to his truck and driven her to the ER, she might’ve died. I’d taken the morning off to bucket out the Caddy’s floorboards, but that afternoon Carlos recounted everything. He was frying flautas, dancing around the kitchen with his spatula and beer. He said, “Cook saves princess, earns handsome reward.” “How handsome?” “Julian, by the looks of Mama Garrett, I won't need to borrow your accordion again.” “Carlos, I don't own an accordion.” He slid the flautas onto the plate, spooned on extra rice and beans, then rang the bell for Alma to take the order to her table.

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Carlos said, “Yet. You don't own an accordion yet.” … But the reward never came. Days, then weeks, passed after he saved Whitney Garrett, and still Carlos heard nothing. He called me every few nights to talk to me while he drank. He asked if I’d enroll with him in classes to become a rodeo clown, and another time he told me the story of catching himself in his trouser zipper and getting stitches. He said, “Julian, that’s happened to me twice, so please be careful.” He told me that as a boy he’d wanted to be a mariachi singer, that his father had owned a monkey that smoked cigarettes. He talked about how he’d spend his reward money—he planned to buy La Cocina as well as a shrimp boat and recording studio, to outfit Alma with a new wardrobe, to send Melinda to college. He asked if I could think of why Mrs. Garrett would promise to visit the restaurant, but hadn’t. “Maybe she's planning something really special,” I said. “If someone saved my daughter, I’d give them the keys to my house. I’d send thank-you cards every morning. I’d call every night and sing them to sleep.” … “Why does Carlos always talk about buying the restaurant?” I asked Melinda. We were eating a late lunch and trying out one of his new recipes. When he brought out the plates—steak picado in a taco shell bowl—he’d said, In my restaurant, this dish goes on the menu. The Melinda and Julian Special. Melinda dabbed her mouth with a napkin and stared out the window, thinking. Puddles of heat radiated on the sidewalk, the grass across the street was as dry and blond as hay. I felt lucky to be in the

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air-conditioning, eating food that tasted of beer. The phone rang, and Mrs. Martinez answered, then walked the order into the kitchen. This was my favorite time of the day to look at Melinda, when her lipstick had worn off and her ponytail was loose. I imagined her looking this way just after waking. I wanted to stay in that booth forever. She said, “Because Carlos is an optimist, like you.” “Like me?” “He’s always jabbered about owning a restaurant. For years he played the lottery, before that it was bingo. Now he thinks this girl’s mother will be his ticket. Carlos thinks money will fall in his lap if he just waits long enough.” “And me? What am I waiting for?” She took a long drink of sweet tea, crunched an ice cube. She said, “Me.” Mrs. Martinez ambled across the restaurant and handed me a bag of taquitos. She said, “To Beechwood Nursery, on Padre Island. Vamos, before the causeway gets bumper to bumper.” After she’d left I stood and looked down at Melinda. I said, “If I wait long enough, will something happen?” She took a bite and chewed slowly, staring at me and smirking. “Do you think Carlos will ever buy La Cocina?” As often as he’d mentioned it, I’d never really considered that possibility, and realizing that I didn’t have an answer puzzled me. I felt shamefully confident that he’d never hear from the Garretts again—a month had passed—but that alone didn't preclude him from owning a restaurant. I said, “I hope so.” “Me, too,” she said. Then she winked at me. “Plus, if he gets his own place, he’s naming it Melinda’s.” I thought she was joking, but then it clicked. I said, “You're Carlos’s daughter?” “Stepdaughter,” she said.

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Then, before I could stop myself, I said, “Melinda, I lied about my mother. She’s not dead. She left my father to live with a lawyer in Arizona.” She took another bite, and my palms went clammy. Mrs. Martinez started feeding her plants behind me, though I could feel her leering at us. The phone rang again. I knew I needed to leave before I got stuck with another delivery, but my feet were rooted, like I’d stepped in drying cement. Finally, Melinda said, “So it all makes sense.” “What does?” “Your father,” she said. “He’s another optimist.” Driving to the nursery, I thought about this, my father being an optimist. He threw horseshoes alone in our backyard and listened to Bach suites while tinkering at his workbench. He read books about surviving divorce, and maybe because a book advised it, he’d started writing in a diary that he hid in his nightstand. I’d read a few pages, but then guilt swamped me, and I returned the notebook to its hiding place. He’d lectured me on responsibility because I’d ignored the ragtop, and when I told him about Carlos saving Whitney Garrett, he said, “I hope she wanted to be saved.” Roundtrip, the delivery took me two hours because the causeway had clogged with civilians leaving the Naval Air Station after their shifts. By the time I made it back to La Cocina, the health inspector had come and gone. The restaurant was empty, the door locked. The CLOSED notice and our failed inspection were posted in the window like new, elaborate menus. … At home, my father was watching General Hospital. He sometimes watched soap operas before work, maybe because my mother had

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Bret Anthony Johnston

watched them. The shows always left him cross. When he saw me, he clicked off the television and asked if I’d been messing with Elvis’s guitar again. I had been in his closet, twice in the last week, but I hadn’t played the guitar. I’d just wanted to see it. I’d started thinking that my father only kept it around to punish himself, and holding the case, I felt sorry for him, and furious; I wanted to cut the strings in half, bash the guitar against the concrete. I said, “I lost my job today. The health department shut us down.” My father levered himself from his recliner, set the remote control beside the lamp. He said, “Maybe now you’ll have time to work on the ragtop.” I nodded. I felt my ears going scarlet. “So, have you been fooling with the guitar?” “No,” I said. “It’s a collector's item, Jay. I shouldn’t have to remind you how much it’s worth. When I gave it to your mother, she—” “Professor,” I interrupted, “have you seen my bowie knife?” … I drove by two and three times a day, testing the lock and pressing my forehead to the window. The restaurant was like a diorama, and the longer I was kept out, the more I wanted back in, the more I felt that I’d never worked there at all. I loitered in the parking lot, hoping Carlos or Melinda would happen by, but they never did, and nothing ever changed. The notice stayed on the door, the chairs waited to be lifted onto the tables. Through the windows I watched the leaves of Mrs. Martinez’s plants wilt and fall to the floor. Eventually, a moving crew carted the booths and tables and refrigerators onto a flatbed trailer; two weeks later, a wig store opened in our space.

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Bret Anthony Johnston

When the phone rang one evening, I expected to hear Carlos’s slurred voice on the line, but my mother said, “Do you hate me as much as your father does?” Outside, I could hear him tightening a bolt with his drill. I remembered watching him thrash the ragtop, hearing him cry in his bedroom. In his journal, he’d written, I hope Jay never loves someone the way I love you. I said, “He doesn’t hate you.” “That’s a surprise,” she said. “Your father, he’s a—” “An optimist,” I said. I liked saying that, liked how it made me think of Melinda. “An optimist. That’s sweet of you. You’re a good egg, Jay,” she said. “Do you know when I think about him most? Around an election, when everyone blabs about Democrats and Republicans. Remember? Republican.” Every pawnshop has a code that it uses for pricing—a ten-letter word with no repeating characters—and Blue Water’s was Republican. Each letter represents a numeral (R is 1, E is 2, all the way through 0), so pawnbrokers can openly discuss how much to buy or sell merchandise for without betraying anything to customers. My father had taught us the code years before, so when he said he’d paid I-N-N for the Caddy, I knew he’d bought it for seven hundred. I’d tried to explain the code to Carlos one afternoon, and he said, “Julian, you shouldn’t discuss politics at work.” My mother said, “I loved hearing the pawnshop guys talk that way. It excited me, a language you didn’t hear if you didn’t speak it. I still size things up like that. I’ll think, Do I want to pay A-L for a blouse? Is an espresso really worth B? Is R-N-N-N too much to send in my Jay’s birthday card?” “I never got a birthday card,” I said.

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Bret Anthony Johnston

She went quiet. I listened to the static crackling on the line, to my father putting away his tools in the garage. He'd been working out there for hours each evening, and I’d been dodging him. My mother said, “Maybe my calling was a bad idea, maybe I’ll let you go.” “I’m glad you called,” I said. “That’s nice to hear,” she said and started crying a little. Once she’d composed herself, she said, “So, the check’s in the mail, as they say.” “Thank you.” “And Jay, when you get your money, treat your father to a fancy restaurant. Or, one night when he’s not expecting it, bring him home a steak and asparagus. That’s his favorite meal, and he’d like you showing up with it.” Outside, our automatic garage door started closing. The light on the driveway diminished, diminished, diminished, and I heard my father run water to rinse his hands with the garden hose. I said, “I'll deliver it in a limo.” … For the two years between my mother’s leaving and my father giving me the Cadillac, he intentionally left the keys in the ignition and the doors unlocked. He said he wanted someone to steal the car so he could file an insurance claim. I’d believed him at the time, but after La Cocina closed, I found myself thinking more about it and doubting him. He’d never put an ad in the paper or a FOR SALE sign in the window, so I suspected that he wouldn’t have reported the car stolen or tried to claim any money; I think he wanted the car gone, but couldn’t bear to get rid of it. My father, I think, was an idealist.

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Bret Anthony Johnston

I worked at Blue Water until school started up again. I loaned thieves and addicts money for mounted javelina heads and leather jackets and leaf blowers; I sold stolen pistols to cops and widows and preachers. I listened to men lie about women and fishing, brawling and hunting, and my father taught me how to study a diamond through a jeweler’s lens, to see how its imperfections determined its beauty. He quizzed me on how much to pay for solitaires, how low to sell princess cuts. We spoke in code. We skirted the topic of the Fleetwood’s roof. In September, the heat relented and troughs of cooler air brought bands of rain in from the Gulf. If I saw thunderclouds carpeting the sky through Blue Water’s windows, I’d run into the parking lot and cover the Fleetwood's interior with a tarp. I weighted the corners with barbells someone had pawned, and after the rain dispersed, I wadded the tarp into a ball and shoved it in the trunk. One Friday night—Blue Water’s busiest because everyone needs loans for the weekend—I pulled out my tarp and uncovered a bag of tortillas from the wedding Mrs. Martinez had catered in Portland. The tortillas had slipped under the spare tire and were fuzzy with gray mold. My stomach went whispery, my ears burned. I wanted to throw the bag into the street or on top of the pawnshop’s roof, but I left it where it was and slammed the trunk shut and drove home. The phone was ringing when I got to the house, but I didn’t answer it. My father had barged into Blue Water’s parking lot as I was accelerating away, and I didn’t want to hear how I’d disappointed him again. He called a second, third, and fourth time, but I only stared at the receiver, unable to will myself to answer. He’ll tell me I’m irresponsible, I thought. He’ll say I lack discipline. When I finally picked up, his voice was tight and deliberate. “Stay there,” he said. “We need to break bread.” “Will do, professor.” Five minutes later he called back. I answered by saying, “Still here, professor.”

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Bret Anthony Johnston

“Julian? This is Carlos. Maybe you remember me. I used to work— ” “Where are you?” I asked. Then I was out the door.

… They lived in a section of Corpus called The Cut, a neighborhood crowded with rusted, broken-down cars and dirt lawns and boxy tract houses. If the stop signs hadn’t been stolen, they were spray-painted with looping gang tags. White-shirted men anchored street corners; women sat on porches and rocked crying babies. A German shepherd lunged against a chain-link fence as the Caddy crawled by, and the air was tinged with mesquite smoke, someone barbecuing or burning branches. A young girl was pinning wet sheets to a clothesline. The streetlights were flickering to life when I saw her, and in the darkness, it looked like she was raising long flags of surrender. Carlos was doing figure-eights on a BMX bike in the middle of his street. He looked like a child learning to ride without training wheels. When he saw me, he laid the bike on the curb and sauntered to the Fleetwood. He’d holstered a beer bottle in each of his front pockets, and he gave one to me. We leaned against my rear bumper, watching the night sky thicken. “A toast,” he said. We raised our bottles. “To La Cocina. May she rest in peace.” He’d been working day labor, taking the bus across town each morning and waiting outside Home Depot until someone hired him to clear brush or build a fence or fix a toilet. Melinda had started school again, and Alma was cleaning houses. No one had heard from Mrs. Martinez. That day, Carlos had helped a crew dig up a Country Club yard and install a sprinkler system; he’d worked for fourteen hours, then called me when he came home. He finished his beer and lobbed it at a

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Bret Anthony Johnston

trash can, missing by a foot. He held his arm in the air like a basketball player after a jumpshot, and I smelled his sweat. The odor wasn’t foul, just that of a body after a day’s work. It smelled vaguely of La Cocina, of the last summer. “A wig store moved into our old space,” I said. “It’s kind of sad, I guess.” He nodded twice, shoved his hands in his pockets, and stared into the darkness. I guessed he’d visited the restaurant, too, and was remembering the old days, but he said, “If I owned a wig store, I’d have full-bodied mannequins instead of the little heads. I’d leave them naked except for the wigs. That way, when there were no customers, I’d have something to look at besides hair.” “No health code violations in that,” I said. Down the street a man pushing a rickety snowcone cart argued with a teenager. The teenager whistled a hard, sharp whistle, and the man trundled away. I took a drink of my beer and tried to think of a way to ask if Melinda was home. “Julian, driving the King of the Cadillacs out here was maybe not your best idea,” Carlos said. “Two weeks ago, they shot a deaf guy because they thought he was making gang signs with his hands.” I’d heard the story at Blue Water. After the shooting, my father took each of his pawnbrokers aside and told them to be vigilant about background checks before selling guns. But standing with Carlos, I wasn’t scared, and I hadn’t been afraid navigating the streets. The world seemed random and unknowable to me, but not utterly cruel, not terrifying. Sometimes circumstances put you face to face with people you never thought you’d see again, and with that possibility in mind, you could make a life. “Pop quiz,” I said to Carlos. I’d turned around and was unlocking the trunk. I said, “Why did I rush over here tonight?” “Julian, if I owe you any money—”

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Bret Anthony Johnston

“You don’t,” I said. “Guess who I ran into.” I took my tarp out of the trunk. I’d handed Carlos my beer, and when I looked up at him, he was scratching his head with it. He said, “Julian, I’m not so good at tests.” “Mrs. Garrett. Whitney Garrett's mother,” I said. “She came to La Cocina trying to find you. I was up there, looking in the window.” Carlos swigged from my beer, then swallowed hard and swigged again. He said, “Julian, are you fucking with Carlos?” “She wanted to thank you for saving her daughter. She wanted to give you your reward,” I said. I lifted the case from my trunk and clicked open the latches. In the violet moonlight, the strings shone like spun silk. The fur-lined case looked like a jewelry box. I said, “For you, Carlos.” “A guitar,” he said. “It used to belong to Elvis Presley,” I said. “It's worth—” “She must have known I love music. Maybe I said something at the hospital.” “Probably,” I said. “You were probably trying to take her mind off the accident.” “Carlos knows how to comfort the ladies.” He admired the guitar at arm’s length, then held it close and strummed an open chord, then another and another. When the notes died away, I suggested he sell the guitar and put the money toward starting his own restaurant. He said, “Julian, I’ll never sell this.” “Where are we going?” Melinda said from behind us. She’d climbed over the door and into the driver’s seat of the Fleetwood. Behind the wheel, she looked exhausted and beautiful, just as she had on the day she'd told me Carlos was her stepfather. “Field trip in the Fleetwood!” Carlos sang. He jogged around the front of the car, strumming his strings. He set the guitar on the backseat first, then lowered himself in beside it. I

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Bret Anthony Johnston

sat in the passenger seat. I must have ridden that way when my mother owned the car, but I couldn’t recall ever sitting there before. With the night sky starless and heavy above us, those days seemed part of another boy’s life. I didn't know what to say, and had I spoken, I wouldn't have recognized my own voice. Melinda fixed me with her eyes. I thought she was waiting for me to pass her the keys, but even after I did, she kept looking at me. “Hey, you,” she finally whispered. Then she winked and cranked the ignition. She hung a U-turn and wound her way out of The Cut. She headed straight for the freeway and floored the gas once she hit those clean wide-open lanes. She took the car to speeds I never would, the speedometer needle trembling toward eighty, eighty- five, ninety. The streetlamps whizzed by like comets. Carlos was strumming and singing in the backseat, but I could barely hear him over the engine and the air whooshing around the windshield. Melinda’s hair swirled wildly, and the scent of her honeyed shampoo wafted. It seemed we were floating. I’m not sure when I realized she was driving to La Cocina, or when I realized she didn’t know the restaurant was gone. Maybe I knew it when she exited the freeway doing sixty and it felt slow as walking. Maybe it was when she braked at an intersection and the speed had left her giddy enough that she leaned over and kissed me so hard and long that drivers behind us laid into their horns. Maybe it was when I looked back, worrying Carlos would be angry, and found him fast asleep, cradling the guitar. Or maybe I realized it when the night sky opened and the rain poured. Before I could stop her, Melinda flipped the switch to raise the roof. I thought of how disappointed my father had been by my neglecting the ragtop and how I’d been avoiding him because it shamed me, too. With the rain drumming on the hood and streaking the glass, I thought of him finding the house empty tonight. I’d never disobeyed him like that before, but now I thought he’d forgive what I’d done, maybe even approve

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Bret Anthony Johnston

of it. As a new pristine ragtop eased down and the rain grew quieter and quieter, I saw my father working those many nights in his garage: He’s stretching the vinyl taut over the roof’s ribs, riveting the corners, oiling the hinges. He’s listening to the intricate music of longing and weeping when he must. He’s watching the clouds. He’s waiting and waiting, whiling away the hours until a storm gathers and his son can appreciate the painstaking labor of hope, the coded, sheltering lessons of sorrow.

(Originally published in Ploughshares)

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OxMag

Taylor Meredith

Stripped

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OxMag

Brenna York

Reasonable Damage Two years tougher and less Afraid. My job is a certain Kind of rationalizing That gilded apple. Today wrote my finances Over and over In a little blue notebook. We have a lot still To bring out in each other. But I think I meant what you said too permanently. I was the one To get a dessert. Then discuss "in the meantime." You said you thought I was about right, about finished.

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OxMag

Jennifer Champion

Ballet Class First performed in She Walks Like A Free Country (2013), a commissioned spoken word show for Lit Up Festival, Singapore. For Georgina Champion.

In ballet class, they teach you to stand your ground. There are five standard positions. This is the first. Your palms are candy dishes for melted chocolate. Your feet out-turned like a penguin as you’re told to try to walk like a swan with other little girls who are luckier than you to at least look like ducklings. It's all a little awkward. But you are five and you don't know how adorable you are. You do know in the kindergarten across the block you never learn to read or write or put up a fight when they tell you to go play in the back. Not because you’re tall. No. To build your own wall out of wooden blocks. The only phrase you know: wo bu zhi dao In the second position,

your arms open hoping someone will take you up on your endless capacity to love as all little children do. Today, it is your birthday. People are nice when you have candies to bring to class. Su Chen says she wants strawberry. Su Chen also threw out the present you bought for her party.

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OxMag

Jennifer Champion

The same snake-and-ladders you have at home which up until then has satisfied you. Because it wasn’t polly pocket. The third position is for catching pinkie promises in the crook of your elbows to counterbalance what you think you deserve. Now you learn love is bending. Grasping the right grammar to hammer down your frame. Never tell people your real name is Champion. Avoid the accusation that you must be ‘merican or damn hao lian. Being ignored is easier than facing ignorance. For that, you like boys with their natural indifference but this is a convent school and you’re expected to behave like a lady. I always thought BFF meant boy-friend-friendly. because the other girls would crucify you if you crossed the line. Never cross the line. Stick to Home when you play classroom catching in the dark. Or better yet, play in your own home with your new polly pocket. That christmas, you wrote your requests carefully: Brand new, without missing tokens so at least you can make-believe there’s a tiny world where you exist. In primary four, I decided this. That if I had known the word ‘Fuck’ back then, I would have said: “To FUCK! with these... meanies.” I raised my arm in fourth position.

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Jennifer Champion

Released the grasp of the sneer, and stuck my foot out like a door stopper. and jumped and sprained my neck. Too used to looking down for so long, I never went back for ballet again. One rotates through these positions and learns to accommodate as adults do. But sometimes I think back to that room of mirrors where the little girls gallop in my mind, illuminated only by the glow of an exit sign, past reflections of themselves, of our selves, of my selves, of the children before us and what we bring back for the children in and amongst us today. We walk away but we never walk free. Each exercise – a rehash of history. Till we build enough muscle to stand in fifth. Because we are not born with strength. We acquire it.

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Jennifer Champion

Aquarium “Doch der Haifisch lebt im Wasser / so die Tränen sieht man nicht.” (But the shark lives in the water / So no one sees its tears) – ‘Haifisch’ (Shark), Rammstein

In this house of all window and shadow we know: this is how the sky should be. It is noon. The stingray – like the gecko – rests guard on the ledge. Sleepy eels echo suit, cocooned in coral hedge. But the moral of the pregnant seahorse remains tirelessly misunderstood; that is: it is not in a man’s nature to be so selfless until nature leaves him no choice. An elder turtle further ruminates on the stone verandah: If it is a school of fish – it follows – it must be an aquarium of babies, learning to trawl the bottom for breath with eyes open, the way dying people forget to keep theirs sealed. He envies the sharks and the eels their third eyelid. Their double-glazed protection. No last closing action of the priest – the explorer – the thief – in that least known country. Some inhabitants just know better. Some folks learn quicker what space they inherit. And have taken all the garden paths. Must keep circling their routes round this house of all window and shadow.

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OxMag

Matt Kish

The King in Yellow

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OxMag

J. Bradley

#careertipsforgirls – Mama June Record yourself rubbing your palms. Record yourself grinding your tongue against your teeth. Play it all back while you sleep. Choose something to break. Choose where it lands. Choose whether you want an audience: yes, always. Practice until you ruin. Practice until you become ruin; America loves to pick at ruin like meat, pinch their noses before each swallow.

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OxMag

Kristina Webster Shue

vanity Tiny canals of halved dirt tunnels looking just-born, damp with rain--an ancient language, mysterious until I remember worms shrinking off sidewalks. Ants’ spitty mandibles polishing constant stalagmites underfoot. Thousands of termites billowing inside a single channel far below, dead-eyed, white. Billions of half-inch lives throbbing the dirt alive--and the roots, drinking it all up into capillary trees. Steadfast, hiveminded pillars of the Earth. Selfless in their selfishness creating this singularity--utopia of living and dying. I dip my pale hands in among them: a ground puddle, coffee-blonde and cold. Tightly cupping fist-sized clumps, my pulse, in this stillness, beats through me, across the watery soil, back into my arms. The held ground like a surgery-extracted organ—outside the body, not yet disconnected. Its pebbly abrasion against my skin feels clean and pure, rubbing off layers fluorescent light. I spread it over my arms, my face, scrubbing away the synthetic. Salivary mix of rain-water with unsourced dirt and the lives of so many insects, organic and still-squirming. The smell of imminent rot, of what green is before it reaches the sun. So many sacrifices made for me in offering myself. No number of iron-watered days can get rid of the dirt mixed in my veins.

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OxMag

Kristina Webster Shue

this is why you dream of being alone you brush the tangled curiosity from your hair, one hundred careful brushstrokes. you rinse your mouth of the words sung into your mouth, of the words printed carefully for propriety’s sake--until each tooth glistens like the shell grinding the pearl. you wipe the love from your face before climbing the ladder into bed. because you want to look at your singular self—want to be clean of obligation, of culpability, of debt: this why you dream of being alone, like a book. the stamps in your back keep you awake. only by the warm edge of moonlight can you sleep, steeped in shrapnel memory.

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Megan Giddings

Twenty-Five Minute Wait 1.

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Bunny tells Janet about her latest idea for a story. It's about a glamorous woman who's decided she is finished with her current lover. To symbolize she is over him, the woman plans on burning the speedboat he gave her. The specials today are southwestern chili, spring-green salad with beef, a six-dollar lunch of salmon pinwheels. Janet isn't paying attention to Bunny. Her brain is wrapped in a serotonin-high hug from last night. Bunny is words around Janet's ears, a face across the table, chattering teeth saying, "We should order wine." The waitress having a bad day feels as if each misheard order, each spilled glass of water, each dropped plate is inevitable. Her angel hair pasta DNA strands are filled with genes to give her long curly hair, slightly too big feet for her frame, and a tendency toward clumsiness. There's enough people present to give the air its own presence: arms brushing against brand-new arms over and over. This is what Bunny does when she and Janet lunch together. She brings a list of short story ideas hoping Janet will say, "Yes, I should definitely write that." If she does not do this, Bunny is afraid she will blurt out how she really feels. The silverware design is called Michelangelo. The handles have elaborate raised vines. The heads below the tines have small diamonds cut out. The waitress having a bad day has been slowly stealing utensils since she fell in love with their design on her first day. The only story Bunny ever presented Janet considered writing was about an old woman who lived in a cottage by the sea with her three beloved Newfoundland dogs. The old woman finds a winning lottery ticket half-buried in sand, but dies that night. The dogs eventually eat the old woman. Last night, Janet stood in the house she was told was most definitely haunted, unsure if her heartbeats were real, substantial rhythms, not phantom beats allowing her to pretend that she was still corporeal, fooling her into thinking she was still able to experience new sensations. While exploring, she was consistently startled by the tread of her boots on the creaky floor. 62 Â


OxMag 10.

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Megan Giddings

Bunny's current idea: "It should be about the type of woman who likes to look out windows and reminisce about her first yacht's name as if she were thinking about a lover or a beloved pet horse." The men at the counter are talking about Unsolved Mysteries and Janet wishes she was dining with them. The one most enthusiastic about ghosts has long hair that makes him look like an adventurer. Bunny has a voice like a cork being popped, champagne fizz in a glass. In an e-mail to her best friend, the waitress having a bad day will write: "Imagine knowing a part of you on a microscopic level ensures that you will trip walking up stairs, you will spill spaghetti sauce down your blouse, you will fall into bushes while wearing high heels, you will meet the most beautiful woman you could ever imagine and you will have chocolate sauce smeared across your left cheek. That is my life." Every table gets a glass of water nine-tenths full with a lemon perched on the rim. "A reenactment showed a man in a three-piece suit walking upstairs muttering, 'When will she arrive,' over and over again. In post-production, they gave him this spectacular glow. It reminded me of that time I thought I saw my grandfather walking my dog, a week after he died." Bunny notices a fly. She does not like how casual it is, as if the restaurant was actually a secret place only catering to the sixlegged. She would kill it, but Janet is the type of person who likes to save bugs. Janet's voice is filled with high notes. The long-haired man smiles when he overhears her voice. Each sentence, an aria. If the restaurant had a signature perfume scent it would be: topnotes of ground coffee, lemon spritz, roasting meats; mid-notes of bacon, hot fudge, garlic; and base-notes of basil, gorgonzola, and people. The waitress having a bad day smokes a cigarette outside and mentally composes e-mails to send later. The house Janet broke into last night was at least one-hundredyears old. She doesn't think that houses have "an energy" or anything quite like that. But she does like to enter the spaces and try to think who caused that dent, who made that scrape, who painted the walls that color. She says it stimulates her creativity. 63 Â


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Megan Giddings

Bunny takes an empty coffee cup from the not-yet cleared table next to them and captures a fly to avoid looking at Janet's thick black hair, the sheen of her light brown skin. Love slaps up in her throat. She opens her mouth to finally say it, but Janet says, "Isn't he handsome?" Janet orders the pinwheels while thinking about death and history. Bunny orders the spring-green salad, pomegranate dressing on the side, thinking if she eats enough vegetables, she'll live to be at least ninety. The waitress having a bad day looks at Bunny's freckled cleavage and wonders if she should leave her phone number on the bill and scrawl next to the salad order: "You are beautiful." The women waiting for seats at the bar finish their drinks. One mutters, "I swear to God, those people and those people too came in after us." Janet will approach the man before he leaves. Bunny will go home and search Craigslist's w4w listings. The waitress will be fired next week when she's caught, spoon in purse. There are so many people talking in unison, the voices rise to the ceiling, they push at the windows, they rattle the glasses on the tables. (Originally published in SmokeLong Quarterly Issue 42)

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OxMag

Alana I. Capria

Excerpt from 25-Hour Diner There was a velociraptor outside, its thick neck muscled against a newspaper vending machine. Its sides heaved whenever it snorted. It was a fall heavy with allergens and so the creature huffed and puffed, and kneed whatever man came too close, two quarters in one hand, five dollars’ worth of change in the other. The velociraptor's tail wagged slowly, stiffly, the erect muscle moving back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, and in the neon lights coming off the DINER sign, the sharpened claws glistened like fresh butcher's knives. Sometimes, the velociraptor lifted its tail to flash the diner patrons its engorged genitals. Look ma! No pants! But it never said that. Some women with short skirts and perverse appetites came around the dinosaur's side, touched the scaled meat, and went in for the kill with their mouths. There was a reason that the dinosaur could kick back so hard. Claws hit the women in the face, slashing the cheeks open like rare meat, knocking them onto the sidewalk. It happened. It still happens. Even now, outside, one dinosaur after the next, led here following an evening's walk around the block, a leash around the vending machine or a handicapped parking sign or the diner railing. Whenever I come into work, the dinosaur is there. Which means, the dinosaur is always there, because I'm always at work. I don't remember the last time I slept. I can't remember. But I remember pie. I slice pie. I pour coffee. I butcher cattle flesh without rubber gloves. Too often, I lose my nails among the meat cuts. It's like a little surprise, a bit of enamel love, for whoever gets the right steak. I can't help how long my nails are tonight, like I can't help how long my nails were on previous nights and lunches and mornings. No one can help anything here. The velociraptor can't help how long its owner takes nibbling tuna melts while eyeing up the red-faced truckers trying not to fall asleep in their burgers and fries. An extra coffee splash for their

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OxMag

Alana I. Capria

faces. A man went for me. A mediocre man with a trucker's hat, the CB radio still crackling in his pocket, and he pinched me between serving pie and growled, [You've got a pie I'd like to have.] His tongue flicked in and out, then he pounced. I was slippery. I still am slippery, but not as much. But then, at that moment, I was like a squid, with ink pouring out, but in my case, instead of ink, I spewed oil, and so the man grabbed my wrist and I slipped right out. I slipped out and around him. I slipped beneath the table. I slipped down the aisle. I slipped in and out of booths. I slipped and slipped and when I was done slipping, I got behind the counter, turned around, and flashed him my ass, lifting my skirt up with a quick flick of my hands. He stared and whistled. His fists pounded against a bowl of individually-packaged creamer and the tiny plastic thimbles cracked open, pouring milk over everything. Smoke 'em if you've got 'em, someone said, stirring hydrogenated oil whipped cream into a watery triangle of pie filling. Maybe the pie was apricot. I still think the pie filling was blueberry. Something was wrong with the color. Something is wrong with my memory of it. My attacker came out of his table, went around the counter, grasped me by the wrists, and pushed me down. Pies shook on their racks. There was cream swallowing cream. There was cream over everything. There was cream filling chipped coffee mugs and half-shattered glasses. I watched everything in the chrome adornments set into the Formica countertop. Whenever the man rose, I fell down. Whenever I pushed forward, the man gave into gravity. I thought of things. I thought of blueberries and whipped cream and velociraptors and butchering and carved knives and curved blades and hooks and hanging racks and tears in the booth seats. I thought of fabricated leather and plastique cushions.

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OxMag

James Reiss

Backyard by a Farm Road 1 By the mudroom’s rubber doormat a dead hummer iridescent below gnats and midges its tiny eyes shut quill beak needle-sharp feathers speckling the floor trowel-scooped by an old timer laid amid crab grass and tree leaves spreading its honey-drop scent 2 to a rat-tailed cat-sized mama whose pig nose sniffed it that night scavenging compost and mud-colored trashcans jouncing her pouchlings when she clambered over a moss bank and lit on the limp darter set out like the winsomest tidbit she growled at and mouthed 3 coughing alongside a truck tire sandbox pissing inside it hissing at mud hens then curling onto her side to nuzzle the pink pouchlings wee as inchworms suckling with click clicks she heard before waddling onto macadam

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James Reiss

4 smack into blackness crushed by the right front tire of a pickup whose driver sneezed before hearing a thump turning up Dylan running stop signs beside houses past bean fields blowing in the wind

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OxMag

James Reiss

Jack (for Constance) Spare me the details: how you went out to lunch with him, how back home he said he didn’t feel well & lay down for a nap, how you looked in on him after a while & his face, his arms, his legs in shorts were purple. I don’t want to think about how he won the Bancroft Award for Mockingbird Song, how he wore a straw hat & spoke with a Virginia lilt while his hat’s brim lifted & dipped as if he jounced over roads not far from Charlottesville. Don’t e-mail me that JPEG image of him smiling up at the camera, vegetarian-slender in his office chair beside three metal file cabinets, with a yellow legal note pad in his left hand, his right hand dangling out of the lens’s reach. Don’t let me see him with his pink skin poking through the neck hole in his crewneck UVA sweatshirt as if he’s about to tell me you are the Tidewater stretching to the Piedmont, the lonesome pine on the Blue Ridge where he’ll return like a songbird forever.

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James Reiss

Run-Ins with Writers James Baldwin, 1961 The night he visited Deerfield, Illinois, he lit up the dining room. He was terribly interested in civil rights, though he wasn’t sure about President Kennedy. Alongside our Unitarian minister host, he glared across the Parsons table and said he was terrifically glad to be here. Wasn’t I a student at the University of Chicago, where Malcolm X had visited my dorm to speak with a few of us over dinner? He flashed a gap-toothed smile and said he’d once been a young writer like me. When he stood up to leave, I thought his diminutive, wiry frame was a lightning rod. Truman Capote, 1968 At his door in Palm Springs when he asked, “Can I bring you a dwinkie?” he’d been sharing cocktails with Hollywood’s Richard Brooks and Jean Simmons. They both snapped, “Hi there!” then continued schmoozing with Truman, who scratched the ears of his cream-colored bulldog. After the Brookses left, he said In Cold Blood had been a bear to write and a bore to film—he was glad that was over. He toyed with a coffee table New Yorker he called “the only rag printed in disappearing ink”; you could skim it—“after that, poof!” Would he work with us on another Self-Interviews? That depended on “sundry projects,” including another collaboration, nothing compared to the draft of his chef-d’oeuvre, Answered Prayers, which would swallow New York in gossip. He pointed to his patio pool. “Too much swimming makes Truman a dull boy. I’m gonna stick to indoor sports if you know what I mean.” His giggle rippled flesh I’d seen on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. The next day he returned our book’s typescript with its pages jumbled. Sober, benign as an auntie, he stood at the door, shook his head, and said, “Toodle-ooh.”

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James Reiss

Norman and Norris, 1975 After I buzzed them in, late-night lovebirds, they plopped on my found-in-the-street couch. Norman reached for my hand, which I shook, but he said, “Let’s wrestle,” and grabbed my thumb with his own. “I’m the best wrestler west of Brooklyn Heights,” he said, winking at gorgeous Norris. “Let’s see how good you are.” At two-thirds his age and twice his size, I scooted my chair. Our thumbs gyrated till I seized his, which slid from under my own and landed atop mine tight as pliers. “Give up?” he said. “Let’s do it again,” but before I could twiddle, he was all over me, only now his thumb bore down like a vise, and when I smirked, “Is he always like this?” Norris said something so steeped in an Arkansas drawl that I groaned before crying uncle.

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Matt Kish

Queequeg 5

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OxMag

Christopher Michel

Waiting for the Shaman We're driving to Cincinnati tomorrow so mom can have the voices in her head expelled and I can get a chili cheese dog, the kind I can't find back East. Thursday we will view Emerson C. Burkhart's 1946 portrait of Roman Johnson at the Columbus Museum, with the saddest face, and mom will sit with it for five full minutes looking, then pronounce it a painting she understands despite her affliction, anhedonia, which makes art as meaningless as anything else. On Friday morning the doctors will once more electrify her brain for both the depression and possibly the voices, both of which see sees as a soul thing. So today we drive to Cincy to see a Shaman who shall, it is asserted, re-soul my mother, or at least drive the cruel gods from her skull. Nothing helps. Nothing yet. Nothing, nothing. I never even knew a person could get so low, did you? asks mom, and boy I have no idea or even options, I can't think about much beyond a possible coney with cheese and some wonder about what a Shaman's house is like. Quite nice, it turns out. Lots of aged wood and slate rocks, piled oddly in the guest room sink, evoking, I suppose, naturality. Then Wednesday night, because she does not want to be alone, mom will come with me to a debate held on a college campus between an embittered former-pastor-atheist, and a former-atheist-pastor, a man whose fervor for the Lord fumes from him like a salesman's cologne. We will sit in the far back, for an hour and a half, mom wishing only for a cigarette, watching them argue the case for and against a God.

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Christopher Michel

The Ostensible Point Before I speak he blurts I'm fine, my father, pixelating, skipping positions on the screen, as jittery as he would be were we faced physically, though the sound is itself. I still think about drinking. The admission so finally frank that, like the sea change it is, begins rearranging ground in the crash and haul of his wants. His granddaughter, the ostensible point of our contact, toddler-bored, wanders off my lap and commences breaking wooden somethings behind me. He squirms under gaze, like an alcoholic at a first meeting, but worse. I know his name.

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Darren C. Demaree

Arum All shadow, no factory, a beast of a man drifting ashes as apple seeds, selling the bright lights as actual honey. It was a stumble to lose the Korean the way he did, but then again it was never his boy against the lion, nor his fields, set to burn forever.

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Darren C. Demaree

How Vital Sport? It has to be something. The poverty, the many fathers & miles of family held up by canvas, canvassed by the other bloke. I think the whole worlds of the fighters should stand in the corner with them, teacher, trainer, mother, & the spectacle should be forced to fit inside the bucket of humanity, what’s left of it. It has to be something more than what it looks like, or we have taken warriors, men who could be great men if they lived long enough, men led around like horses, beaten like horses, buried like soldiers with no flag.

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Darren C. Demaree

I Understand the Lions Strain of song, blood notes, the revival of teeth in men, of meat in men’s mouths appears to be glory from animals, taken to be decorated & why? It’s a sham, a half-measure to be perfect in sport & allow such death. If we are going to eat each other, dammit, let’s get to it.

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Matt Kish

Flask

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OxMag

Erica Bernheim

Dear Astronauts Dear Astronauts, I’m betting lots of money you have veal bones in this joint, the essence, the confit, the retreads, a little of nothing, a lot of everything, mostly nine different ways of measuring kindnesses: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

Avoidance of conflict Lack of a cellular phone Cheap jackets, expensive ties Complete views of the backs of hands The romance of bunk beds No lighter fluids Nature cruise disappointment abounds A seven minute guarantee The curved falsature

We all hate the same guys. We all have a purse. You can see us grow old over the course of one fight or flight. You can see us coming from blocks away: pigeon-killers, turtle flippers, howler monkeys, a circus for the dead and a séance for the living. Somewhere, a gallery is growing. The managed spectacle speaks of being covered in shame, discovered amidst a pile of dust and big pictures of structures abandoned before. We have been told our bodies are the most fragile without these vitamins.

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Erica Bernheim

Victim Reveals Her New Face Some said it was her true face all along, that affixing it to something no longer there was an formal informality informed by a malady, undiagnosed but present, a gift for every Sunday’s brunch, a gamesetting record, the shorthanded gifting of that face, the change of pace to be blameful, (national forests too thick to re-plant) don’t flinch at the abhorrent sounds made by an army of whisks and trachea. I hit my daughter and nothing changed. You cannot live without staring at her. When home is the planetarium, dinners become impossible; your friends will wear opera gloves made of hair. They will not look at you. Think of everything, all you planned to do with it, the places to go with that face for the perfect way, and know in your new face, the cork precedes the bottle, more second-rate than a flashlight strobelight working overtime. Perhaps you will re-learn where to put your hands when it is impossible you are not dancing with the new pretty slumped girl you have become: it is a long time in stopping.

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Erica Bernheim

With the Hair Dryer On It was a key, not a depression, a move towards the heat that blisters its own ideas, and hers as well, asleep next to the plate of lashes burned and twigged. Twentyfour years it took to be caught on guard, to see not one but seven relics of the arms of Pieter Canisius. The happiest organist says everyone looking to the right is saved. When you go on a date, be sure to turn it off. It is collapsible, the grabber, easily dissuaded and ignored. It is backed into the dentistry of language, no clear exit but through anger in one’s voice. The need to read and to fuck, to see that on a foggy day, you can’t see castaways from the car’s window. Through the window, through the steamrooms of angry mushrooms, the signal of your fan is off. The monkey book says it has been studying your silent organisms and has found them wanting in all but this: the bill morphology of the warbling antbird. Each island is a closet filled with your closest relatives, each outlet you try will never work. You be the subject, I’ll be the object. You be the boy, I’ll be the squid. I’ll talk about the succulence of your front yard, and you’ll act like you’ve never seen anything ever before.

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Guy Traiber

Space for Loneliness for Zohar

I will not get off the mountain, you said because there is space for loneliness there It’s the middle of the night and the full moon stands in center of the heavens. I am thinking about far away things, like inherited or hereditary, about stupidity and the languages of others. The courage to do is the lack of fear to live intensively, to sell the body to finance the soul. It seems you are right about loneliness and density. Loneliness is more calm and satisfying when it is cool.

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Matt Kish

Dagoo

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OxMag

Michael Czyniejewski

Pascal Q. Debrosiac When the old woman appeared in my shop, four men in black suits parenthesizing her, I thought she was the president. The suits locked the door, patted me down, asked if I had weapons—my work station a tableau of scalpels, scissors, stuffers, and needles. They confiscated it all, said I could have it back after. Then they left her with me, the mounted fish, and the stuffed game. When she told me what she wanted, I was shocked. When she said who, it all made sense. “Pascal Q. Debrosiac.” Pascal Q. Debrosiac owned everything in town, the county, this corner of the state. He owned hotels, restaurants, and shopping centers, and if you had a road, house, or building to build, he paid the men to build it and sold them the materials. Pascal’s Bakeries were his. So was Pascal’s Towing. Pascal’s Home & Garden. Pascal’s Dialysis Center. Most of the local university’s buildings I could name were his, the Debrosiac Dormitories and the Debrosiac Performing Arts Center, Debrosiac Towers and Debrosiac Laboratories. The only half-exception was the Ellaria Debrosiac Women’s Recreation Center, named for his wife of sixty-seven years, the woman in my shop. In front of his buildings, Pascal Q. Debrosiac erected statues to himself, young Pascal, old Pascal, Pascal in bell bottoms and sideburns, Pascal with angels’ wings, Pascal with adoring children at his feet. The statue in front of the labs portrayed Pascal riding a stallion, an eagle on his shoulder, a troop of foxes at their feet. The statues were of bronze and marble, one a bust of of solid gold in the lobby of his headquarters. This left nothing to be said of the paintings, too numerous to count. Pascal Q. Debrosiac’s image would not be forgotten. He’d seen to that. Pascal Q. Debrosiac wasn’t dead yet, well into his second turn. When his time did come, there would be one more statue and I was going

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Michael Czyniejewski

to make it. Ellaria’d researched my reputation, liked I was the only woman in the book. She just had one question. “Can I trust you?” ~ So began my Pascal Q. Debrosiac death watch. I could not say anything to anyone while Pascal Q. Debrosiac was alive, could not contact him or Ellaria, could not go near either of them, their home, their places of business. When the time came, someone would deliver a fake Pascal—I asked no questions—to a parlor and the real Pascal Q. Debrosiac would come to me. I would have as much time as I needed, be supervised by someone from the family. I could not make a mistake— Ellaria cited those smiling, big-eyed animals online—or else I wouldn’t be paid; it was implied I’d also “face consequences.” If I did my job, Pascal looking Pascal, I’d never have to stuff a bass, deer, or anything else again. I was forty-seven. I loved the idea of retiring at forty-seven. Pascal Q. Debrosiac didn’t die when I was forty-seven. I never wished anything bad to happen to him, always assuming it wouldn’t be long. I turned fifty when Pascal Debrosiac turned ninety-nine. I found myself studying statistics, how often someone lives to be a hundred, how long after. The percentages were tiny, but most people weren’t billionaires, a team of doctors and bodyguards on hand. On Pascal Q. Debrosiac’s hundredth birthday, the party at his mansion was the lead story on the news—he owned the TV stations, too. I watched as this antiquity cut into a sheet cake the size of my bed, a hundred candles snuffed by his still-mighty breath. The bastard looked seventy, maybe sixty-five, a virile creature who licked frosting from the knife like a vampire sucking blood from a vein. Why won’t you die? I caught myself whispering. I hated myself, but I thought it again: Why won’t you die?

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Michael Czyniejewski

A few months after the centennial, Ellaria Debrosiac succumbed. She had cancer, maybe diabetes. I didn’t listen. I saw her picture on the screen, her birth and death years underneath. She was eight-one, once a child bride. The Debrosiac camp released a statement, declaring Pascal devastated. This is it, I thought. This will do him in. Then I wondered if Ellaria would have wanted preservation as well, together in life, together in death, side by side in some hidden display. I waited for a call, for an ominous van to arrive. Nobody came. Nobody called. Ellaria was buried in the Debrosiac crypt behind their estate. I began wondering if anyone besides Ellaria knew about our arrangement. ~ A decade later, Pascal Q. Debrosiac still kicking, the Fish & Wildlife Commission closed the slough across the road from my shop. It’d been overrun by lily pads, the whole pond nothing but lily pads, a living Monet, no space for tracker boats or bobbers. They drained the whole thing that winter, pulled out all the lily pads, then refilled and restocked the following spring. It would be two years, maybe three, before anything mount-worthy got snared. I had to close, find another lake, a lake in need of a taxidermist. Those didn’t grow on trees. I moved to town, taxidermied for regular clients out of my apartment (not entirely legal), making ends meet frying fries at the Burger King. My brother Cyril died that year, too, in Idaho. At his wake, I found myself evaluating the mortician’s handiwork. I speculated I could’ve done better. I wondered if his wife Alice might want him around, pictured him in his den, reading a book, maybe in the corner of the dining room, arms akimbo, grinning like a jackass. At 112, Pascal Q. Debrosiac had a stroke, lost the use of an arm, but perservered. He took a new bride, a woman not half, not a third, but

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Michael Czyniejewski

a quarter his age, a girl who could have been my granddaughter, though lovelier than any woman in my family. Of course she was. By the time I reached proper retirement age, Pascal Q. Debrosiac was breaking records, the oldest man to do this, the oldest to do that. He still ran his business, grew his empire, and through some miracle, fathered twins at 114. I got proactive in those years, making calls to his personal assistant, his security chief, anyone close to him, implying Ellaria’s offer. Everyone denied everything. The police dropped by, accused me of harassment. They could smell the formaldehyde through the screen door. Within minutes, I had my equipment hauled away, was fined several thousand dollars, was warned to never taxidermy again. Not the early retirement I’d anticipated. ~ The day Pascal Q. Debrosiac died marked the only time I’d ever met him. It was Labor Day, and as always, Pascal served as Grand Marshal of the parade, his still-young wife and identical boys by his side, waving and throwing candy to the crowds. Town kids scavenged Tootsie Rolls and Dum Dums, some running up to the car to shake Pascal Q. Debrosiac’s hand. I approached the same way, smiling and waving, an old woman out to engage the great man. Nobody batted an eye. As Pascal Q. Debrosiac grasped my palm, I grasped him tightly, leaned in, and described Ellaria’s visit, told him I was waiting, even described possible poses. Pascal Q. Debrosiac responded with a guttural moan, pulled his hand away, made a face like he’d sucked a lemon. Debrosiac goons restrained me as his car crawled away. A policewoman asked what was wrong and the goons handed me over, said I’d attacked Pascal Q. Debrosiac, said he was intent on filing charges. I was in handcuffs and processed before I could blink.

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Michael Czyniejewski

That afternoon, I was held in the city lockup, no DAs on call on holidays. The guards ordered pizza and shared a slice, let me watch TV. They asked why I’d attacked Pascal Q. Debrosiac, the oldest and richest man any of them knew, and I said I hadn’t. They hated holding me, they admitted, but were under strict orders. Pascal Q. Debrosiac owned the police. News broke that evening that Pascal Q. Debrosiac had died, had jumped down from the back of the convertible at parade’s end, breaking his ankle, his hip, and his skull, banging it against the blacktop when he went down. They rushed him to the hospital—the Pascal Q. Debrosiac Trauma Center—the top doctors in the state teaming to bring him back. The swelling never subsided. He was pronounced dead at 4:15. Just before midnight, a man with a briefcase entered the station and spoke with the officers. I couldn’t hear, but saw the man point to me. The desk sergeant handed him his ring of keys. All the cops disappeared. The man approached and I assumed he was there to kill me. Instead he unlocked my cell, poured me a cup of cold coffee, sat me in a swivel chair. He instructed me to extend my hands in front of me. He gauged their steadiness, pressing them down, checking for shakes. Satisfied, he dialed a number on his phone. He told whomever to pull the car around. Then the briefcase man stood me up, stared me in the eyes, and asked one question. “Can we still trust you?”

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Taylor Meredith

Incoming

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Contributor Bios

Contributor Bios ERICA BERNHEIM is Associate Professor of English at Florida Southern College, where she also directs the creative writing program. Her first book, The Mimic Sea is available from 42 Miles Press (Indiana University South Bend). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in DIAGRAM, Columbia Poetry Review, and Court Green. NORA BONNER finished Miami University's creative writing graduate program in 2010. She now writes and teaches writing in Tallahassee, Florida. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Shenandoah, the Bellingham Review, the North American Review, the Indiana Review, the Best American Non-Required Reading, and elsewhere. She is originally from Detroit. J. BRADLEY is the author of the graphic poetry collection, The Bones of Us (YesYes Books, 2014) and the forthcoming prose poem chapbook It Is A Wild Swing Of A Knife (Choose the Sword, 2015). He lives at iheartfailure.net. ALANA I. CAPRIA is the author of the short story collection Wrapped in Red (Montag Press, 2014) and the novel Hooks and Slaughterhouse (Montag Press, 2013). She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Capria resides in Northern New Jersey with her husband. Her website is http://alanaicapria.com. JENNIFER ANNE CHAMPION is a poet and essayist. She is a regular voice in the Singapore spoken word scene. Her poetry has been anthologized in SingPoWriMo and A Luxury We Cannot Afford (Math Paper Press, 2014). Her first solo collection, A History of Clocks, launches under Red Wheelbarrow Books in March 2015. MICHAEL CZYZNIEJEWSKI is the author of three collections of stories, Elephants in Our Bedroom (Dzanc Books, 2009), Chicago Stories: 40 Dramatic Fictions (Curbside Splendor, 2012), and the forthcoming I Will Love You For the Rest of My Life: Break-Up Stories (Curbside Splendor, 2015) . He is an assistant professor at Missouri State University, where he edits Moon City Review and serves as Managing Editor for Moon City Press. In 2010, he received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. DARREN C. DEMAREE is the author of As We Refer to Our Bodies (2013, 8th House), Temporary Champions (Main Street Rag), and Not For Art Nor Prayer (8th House). He is the Managing Editor of the Best of the Net

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Contributor Bios

Anthology. Currently, he is living in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children. DAVID EBENBACH’S first full-length collection of poetry, We Were the People Who Moved, won the Patricia Bibby Award, and will be published by Tebot Bach in 2015. He is also the author of the poetry chapbook Autogeography (Finishing Line Press), two collections of short stories— Between Camelots (University of Pittsburgh Press) and Into the Wilderness (Washington Writers’ Publishing House)—as well as The Artist’s Torah (Cascade Books), a non-fiction guide to the creative process. Ebenbach has a PhD in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and he teaches creative writing at Georgetown University. Find out more at www.davidebenbach.com. ALLEN FORREST was born in Canada, bred and in the U.S., he has created cover art and illustrations for many literary publications, he is the winner of the Leslie Jacoby Honor for Art at San Jose State University's Reed Magazine and his Bel Red painting series is part of the Bellevue College Foundation's permanent art collection. Forrest's expressive drawing and painting style is a mix of avant-garde expressionism and post-Impressionist elements reminiscent of van Gogh, creating emotion on canvas. MEGAN GIDDINGS is an MFA student at Indiana University and the Executive Editor of SmokeLong Quarterly. Her fiction is forthcoming from or has been recently published by Wigleaf, The Vestal Review, Gargoyle, and Sou'wester. PAUL A GREEN is based in Hastings, UK. The Gestaltbunker Selected Poems was published by Shearsman Books in 2012 and his fiction includes The Qliphoth (Libros Libertad 2007) and Beneath the Pleasure Zones (Mandrake of Oxford 2014). He has also written radio plays for BBC, CBC, RTE and Resonance FM. JAMES CROAL JACKSON dips his feet in the waters of music, film, and poetry. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Bitter Oleander, Glassworks, and Lines + Stars. He was born in Akron, Ohio but currently lives in Los Angeles. Find more of his writing at jimjakk.com. BRET ANTHONY JOHNSTON is the author of the multi-award-winning Corpus Christi: Stories and the best-selling and internationally acclaimed novel Remember Me Like This. He's the editor of Naming the World and Other Exercises for the Creative Writer. He holds degrees in writing from Miami University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. The Paul and

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Contributor Bios

Catherine Buttenweiser Director of Creative Writing at Harvard University, he can be reached on the web at www.bretanthonyjohnston.com DANIEL S. JONES lives in Cincinnati Ohio where he is a husband and father. In addition to writing fiction, he is currently Director of Business Development for Pearson Education and an Adjunct Assistant Professor in philosophy at Xavier University. Waxing Press is an independent book publisher based in Cincinnati, OH dedicated to literary excellence in fiction and otherwise. An Accidental Profession is the winner of the 2014 Tide Lock Prize and will be published in Spring 2015. MATT KISH is a self-taught artist who has also enjoyed stints a groundskeeper, a DJ in a strip club, a bookseller, and a high school English teacher. He is currently a librarian in Ohio where he lives with his wife, their two frogs, and entirely too many books. CHRISTOPHER KUHL has been writing all his life, starting with comics and in high school switching exclusively to poetry, in which he has been widely published. His current interests, in addition to poetry, include the study of the "Great War," colored pencil drawing, and Hebrew. TAYLOR MEREDITH is a 26-year-old freelance photographer from Sarasota, FL. This is her first year in Ohio and she's currently taking photos for the Oxford Visitor's Bureau, as well as copywriting for the photography blog/online store Photojojo. She enjoys taking photos of a wide variety of subjects, though her latest interests lean more specifically toward portraiture and landscape. You can find more of her work on taylormmeredith.com CHRISTOPHER MICHEL is a former editor of Oxford Magazine, a current online associate editor at Rodale's Organic Life, as well as a runner/writer/father and Brooklyn transplant living in the wilds of Eastern PA. You can reach out to him with harangues / eclogues / offerings at christopher.j.michel@gmail.com, or wipe your finger across his dusty old website at christophermichel.tumblr.com. RODNEY NELSON'S work began appearing in mainstream journals long ago; but he turned to fiction and did not write a poem for twenty-two years, restarting in the 2000s. See his page in the Poets & Writers directory http://www.pw.org/content/rodney_nelson He has worked as a copy editor and lives in the Great Plains. Recently published books and chapbooks include In Wait, Hill of Better Sleep, Felton Prairie, and Words For the Deed. Born in Cincinnati, ANTHONY RAMSTETTER, JR. began studying singing at the age of eight, music history at the age of fifteen and poetry at the age Â

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Contributor Bios

of twenty-one. After editing Oxford Magazine (2013-14), he is now earning the Master of Fine Arts Degree in Creative Writing at Louisiana State University. An award recipient in literary nonfiction and poetry, Anthony's writing has been published by Five [Quarterly], Oxford Magazine, the Poetry Foundation: Harriet Blog, and The Puritan (CA). After founding Miami University Press in 1992 and teaching at Miami for 42 years, JAMES REISS, a husk of a human being, retired to the North Shore of Chicago to skulk in the footsteps of many of his students from New Trier High School and cry out late at night under full moons, “O Oxford thou hast made me a zombie!” Once in a while the Muse has continued to nag him, and in January 2015 his sixth full-length book of verse, The Novel, was published. One poem in The Novel, and in OX MAG’s anniversary issue, “Jack,” is a tribute to Miami’s late, great W. E. Smith Professor of History, Jack Temple Kirby, and to his companion, Miami’s brilliant and lovely Professor of English, the novelist Constance M. Pierce. KRISTINA WEBSTER SHUE'S written work has been featured in print and webzine editions of The Recap (for which she worked as an editor), Steer Queer, The Blue Route, and the anthology Literary Sexts. Her photography has been included in ReCap and Midwestern Gothic webzines. Kristina's written work has been featured in print and webzine editions of The Recap (for which she worked as an editor), Steer Queer, The Blue Route, and the anthology Literary Sexts. Her photography has been included in ReCap and Midwestern Gothic webzines. GUY TRAIBER studies Sociology & Political Science and Chinese Medicine and finds that they all relate to poetry and to each other. His writing has appeared in (very) few journals and rejected by many. Say anything to him: o13m@yahoo.com BRENNA YORK lives and teaches writing in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

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Profile for Oxford Magazine

Oxford Magazine 30th Anniversary  

Our 30th anniversary issue featuring art from Matt Kish, fiction from Megan Giddings and Bret Anthony Johnston, and poems from Anthony Ramst...

Oxford Magazine 30th Anniversary  

Our 30th anniversary issue featuring art from Matt Kish, fiction from Megan Giddings and Bret Anthony Johnston, and poems from Anthony Ramst...

Profile for oxmag
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