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VOLUME 4


FROM THE EDITOR This is the end of 2015, the beginning of 2016. It is a time for things to be made new. The stories and poems of this quarter, including the works of #MICROVEMBER, are all here, and all have something to say about the cracks we have and what we fill them with. The title of this volume, “kintsugi” (Japanese: 金継ぎ), represents the traditional practice of repairing broken pottery with gold or some other precious metal. This is an act of preservation, of restoration, of acknowledging the history of an object – where it has been, where it is now, and where it is going. We hope to continue in the future with an energy that recognizes how we began this year, an energy that transforms this new thing into something truly memorable. My sincere gratitude goes out to everyone involved in our first year, the supporters and the crack-fillers, be they reader, author, staff, or just someone who shared a piece with their friends. Best wishes and warm regards, Nolan Liebert December, 2015


PLASTIC SCISSORS Travis Englefield ‘I don’t know what we were waiting for. The boy with the sand in his hair kept saying this is the news he was waiting for, that he doesn’t know why it’s not four inch headlines on the front of every newspaper on the planet. But I couldn’t see what he was talking about, even though I felt like I knew.’ The room is clean, like a prison cell. Outside the convent the sun is beating down. The van was made for short people and there was a metal bar obstructing my view of the desert, splitting the earth from the sky, like a brain split into two halves. When the van stopped, when we needed gas or needed to piss, and I could see everything completely, it was like a riddle had been solved. ‘I used to think this kind of country was all false memories, life going so slow the landscape is populated by ghosts and it’s hard to remember if something actually happened or you just saw it on T.V..’ ‘Like you could travel for weeks hearing the same story again and again?’ The guy chose two random Latin words from a dictionary and called his house Corpus Callosum. It was big. Really big. He was an accidental millionaire. ‘The sheriff had been run out of town because he’d been sticking his nose where it wasn’t welcome. Death threats, burning dog shit on the doorstep, cars without headlights following him down empty roads, all of it. The next day there was a story in the newspaper almost exactly the same, only the town was hundreds of kilometres away. I figured the innkeeper just repeated something he’d heard, for something to say, maybe even really believed it had happened there. In the next town we heard it the same as he said and the name of the sheriff matched the photograph in the newspaper. ‘Every time we heard the story, it was like it’d happened just last week. There was no projection of distance from what happened, as if the sheriff could flatten time.’ I take a long shower without turning the light on. The moon is out and I can see the stars floating above the courtyard through the bars of the tiny window. In the middle of the entrance hall, there was a stuffed tiger, the same tiger he swore saved his life. There were other people living there, people like us, but he kept us all apart. Eric paused to take a sip from a can of coke and the van hit a pothole. The coke spilled all over his shirt and he cursed under his breath. The other passengers, none of whom spoke English, turned and stared. After a failed attempt to clean the mess, he unbuckled his seatbelt and took the shirt off, tossing it on the floor amongst empty crisp packets and bottles of water.


Emily sits on the bed reading a book about nineteenth century evangelicalism we found in the drawer. She pauses to light a candle and stops to watch me dress. ‘The lama talked about the lesser lights, the spots on the horizon that look like far off civilisation, calling you toward them, asking you to keep going when you really don’t want to go any further and it takes all your strength to turn around and realise that the lights are where you came from. Only you turn around again and they’re not there. You’ve broken the thread, drifted out too far and there’s nothing holding you back anymore. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s just a thing.’ Eric escaped in the middle of the night. He asked me if I wanted to leave but I didn’t want to. That day the guy had shown us inside the locked room in the middle of the house. There were no windows into the room and you couldn’t see it from outside the house. If I drew you the plan of the house, I wouldn’t know how to fit it in. It was filled with sculptures, scale models of maximum security prisons from all over the world. I guess that explains the rheumatoid arthritis. ‘There are certain people who believe the corpus callosum may also inhibit certain faculties. For example, commune with the spirit world. The communication between the two hemispheres serves to undermine the truth of what each hemisphere experiences. The voices you can hear, the things you see in the dark, all of that is real phenomena denied by the consensus between the right and left, suggesting something is lost in between.’ Emily cuts my hair in the courtyard the next morning. The rough chop of the post office scissors reminds me of people knocking down the walls of ancient cities. We are all missionaries, he told me, all of us here. The day of the operation, we ate the same thing we ate every day. Chicken curry heat-sealed in little silver packets prepared by chefs who didn’t speak. We entered the operating room through the greenhouse, walking through thickets of indigenous plants mutating into something different. The van broke down just outside of the town. We could see it from the hill. The sun was setting and we didn’t have a lot to carry, so we decided to walk the rest of the way. I left my notebook in the van. As we walked, further than we expected, I tried to remember everything I’d written in it. ‘I liked thinking none of it was real, that I was moving just like the lights wearing nothing but the hole in my pocket I was trying to climb through, a hole in the shape of the sky. But then I looked out the window and saw a face in the street; I said that looks like a cloud and the lama said that is a cloud. I was confused, so I pointed at a building. He told me it was a building.’ The day after the operation, federal police arrived at the house. The guy was gone. They interviewed each person individually. The stories didn’t stick together; it’s like


you’ve all been living in different houses on different planets, they said. So they interviewed us all together. Emily hadn’t had the operation yet. She always left. ‘Nobody needs doctors anymore. People can just do it by themselves. Anybody can buy everything they need online. You don’t need to ask permission from people who just want to make money. Fuck space travel, the mind is the final frontier. You don’t have to choose a direction, just stick your thumb out and look both ways.’ I didn’t think I’d ever see Eric again. I told him that when we were getting in the van. And then I told him again when he was planning to leave the house. ‘Do you know all the songs on the radio are written by the same five or six people?’ At the bus station, we eat ice creams that melt faster than we can eat them. The bus is an hour late and there’s no one there to tell us whether we have or haven’t missed it. We don’t have anything to do except wait. So we wait, the wind kicking dust across the low light of the sky, freight trucks passing, marking time. — About the Author: Travis Englefield is an Australian writer who lives in Beijing. He has been published in Offset-13, Critical Animalia and Gore Journal. He writes short fiction about the things he wants to remember, even if they didn’t happen.


FORTRESS William Ables “Now for the Romans, they expected that they should be fought in the morning-“ Soldiers tell tales. We do it as a point of pride, a way of remembering, often only to pass the time. More than anything else we do it because we are alive, and because someone else is not. When a place is conquered it becomes someting new. Whatever it was before, what it was called, what Gods looked down on it, all these things cease to be. It’s simple enough: join or die, die and be forgotten. A name is defeated just like a city, it ceases to be alongside the dead. That is how Empires survive. “-when accordingly they put on their armor, and laid bridges of planks upon their ladders from their banks, to make an assault upon the fortress, which they did-“ The climb was brutal; seventy pounds of gear, armor plates baking like cheap skillets, and spongy leather that stank of months of my sweat. “Honor has a smell,” the men said. It was just unfortunate it happened to smell a lot like shit. My foot kicked through something wet and I slipped; my bad knee creaked. Someone up the line had puked their breakfast. My stomach rumbled; my head said I should vomit, guts said I should eat. “You think they’ll put up much of a fight?” the soldier beside me asked. “They know they are going to die. In my experience, that means a lot of us will too.” “They picked a hell of a place to hole up.” They called it a hill. Generals always did that; a child could tell this was a god damn mountain. The ancient fortress sat on a cliff side at the very top, commanding the valley in nearly every direction. I hated everything about it: its piss yellow bricks, the phallic towers that leaned. I’d looked up at it for fourteen months, dreaming how I would tear it down with my bare hands. It was all held together by a people too cowardly to just surrender. “You ever met one before?” the soldier had kept talking. “Who?” The solder shrugged toward the fortress.


“They aren’t like the others. These are fanatics, zealots.” Next to me, the soldier laughed. “Sure, then again we’re the ones climbing a cliff just to kill them.” “You sound like a politician.” “I was a pig farmer.” “-but saw nobody as an enemy, but a terrible solitude on every side, with a fire within the place as well as a perfect silence-“ The men at the front would just be reaching the gates. The sounds of battle should have come resounding down the path, but there was only silence. The kind of quiet that gives fighting men nightmares. “You hear anything?” the soldier asked. I shook my head. The line had stopped moving. “I can’t see a thing either.” Whispers began to work their way back. Rumors spread like dysentery through an army, only quicker. There wasn’t any fighting, there was no battle. “Maybe they decided to surrender after all,” said the soldier, now on his tip toes, trying to see through rows of helmets ahead. “I’m going to take a look.” I adjusted my pack and shouldered through the clump of men in front of me. Some were already sitting, a few even had broken out canteens and bits of leftover meals. Waiting was what they did best. All the way to the very top men were just passing the time. They wouldn’t die today, so they were already bored. “At length they made a shout, as if it had been at a blow given by the battering-ram, to try whether they could bring anyone out that was within.” The fortress gate was a massive slab of oak, it stood over a dozen feet high and was nearly two feet thick. It was open. A handful of soldiers leaned against it, playing a game of dice. I walked up to their captain. “What the hell is going on?” He didn’t look up from the game, but motioned with his head. “Take a look yourself.”


“Did they surrender?” asked the pig farmer, now perched next to me. The captain only laughed as he tossed a handful of dice. I could still hear him when I stepped into the cool shadows inside the fortress. A congregation was waiting. They were all sitting, warriors together, some families holding children. Even the old and infirm had been brought out into the sun, placed beside the others. They were all in rows, facing toward the west. Their backs were to the gate, like they had arranged themselves with care. A few had slumped to the ground, but most were upright, legs crossed; there was a single clean wound cut into every neck. The blood had already begun to dry. I swatted at a fly, others were starting to appear. The pig farmer looked like he wanted to wretch. “God, it reeks.” “Did they have a name for this place?” “Hell if I know,” he said. “Go find someone who does.” “When Masada was thus taken-“ — About the Author: William Ables is a writer from Nashville, Tennessee where he currently lives with his wife and their two dogs, Athena and Dr. Jones.


HOUSE FOR SALE Christina Dalcher House for Sale: Three-bedroom, three-bath house in idyllic setting. Duck pond, weeping willows, two acres of rolling green land. Perfect for small family. Recent upgrades include all-new copper plumbing and extensive renovations to kitchen and baths. Price reduced. Don’t miss this golden opportunity to escape town and experience the bucolic country life! Diary Entry, April 2 Our new home is beautiful—so beautiful I feel as if I’m on holiday in someone else’s place. The air is fresh and clean; the tap water sweet. What a contrast to the pollution of the city. And we have space! So much space for the little ones to run and play. When they tire of chasing the ducks in the pond, they collect catkins from the two weeping willows flanking the house. I time them, one runs to each side, and they meet on the front porch after their minute is up, each proffering a bucket of spoils to count while I watch with amusement. Diary Entry, August 2 What a drought we’ve had this summer! The duck pond has dried to a shallow puddle and the grass is a sickly scorched shade of brown. Even my roses are having a hard time. The only survivors are the willows, standing tall and full and lush, tenacious sentinels. I don’t know how they manage to do it. With school out, the children spend hours hiding from the heat, shrouded in the green tentacles of the trees. I tell them not to climb too high, and they laugh at my worry. Diary Entry, December 2 We’ve had the plumber out three times in as many weeks. He doesn’t know what’s wrong with the drains. The kids are annoyed because they can’t have baths every night and we’re down to one working toilet—when it works, that is. Everything is grey outside, even the willows. Winter has turned them into scraggly monsters, clutching at the house with bare branches. I hate the sight of them this time of year. Diary Entry, April 2 Our water situation hasn’t improved and I’ve taken to harvesting the springtime showers using rain barrels. Even the girls help out, setting their plastic buckets on the stoop, hauling them into the kitchen when they’ve been filled. I know they’d rather be collecting the catkins that dangle, tempting them to the race, or chasing ducks, but the ducks have all gone. What an imagination my little darlings have—I can hear them playing in the dry bathtub, counting their pretend catkins, screaming with delight. House for Sale:


Three-bedroom, three-bath house in idyllic setting. Duck pond, weeping willows, two acres of rolling green land. Perfect for small family. Recent upgrades include all-new copper plumbing and extensive renovations to kitchen and baths. Price reduced. Don’t miss this golden opportunity to escape town and experience the bucolic country life! — About the Author: Christina Dalcher is a linguist, novelist, and flash fiction addict from Somewhere in the American South. She writes long stuff and short stuff and nothing in between.


ADAGIO IN F Haley Gill Brick walls, asphalt, pouring rain. A plastic bag turned parachute inches out of view, fighting the rain and dragging against damp concrete. The forgotten space between buildings, blades of grass heavy with drops of water, a weed-flower poking up between cracks in the sidewalk. These are the things I notice as I float over the street, airborne. I am flying. My heart thuds faster and faster as I sail above the street, trying to catch my breath. I watch the rain mark its time in fleeting prisms of light. Each drop greets my face, my hair, and my skin with accented explosions, soft, slow, adagio. Adagio, like the force that sends strands of hair crawling closer to my face, that makes everything seem like it could be underwater. I exhale. The sound is wind, a howl into the deafening silence. Street signs, headlights, skating bicycle. I do not have the time to think about my sister, who turns seven tomorrow, or my father, whose call I still need to return. I don’t think about my boyfriend, who I’m supposed to meet at the bookstore in five minutes. When you are launched unexpectedly from the seat of your bike, when there is a car screeching to a halt behind you, when you are airborne – you do not have the time to think of all the time you will not have. Metal, rubber, asphalt everywhere; asphalt speeding up to meet me far too fast. I am already clutching my arms around my head, bracing for impact, knowing instinctively this will not be enough but doing it anyway. My heart pounds against the walls of its doomed prison, flooding my system with desperate last-ditch adrenaline, but all I can do is chant oh shit oh shit shit shit over and over again in my head, staring at the white lettered and rainbow beads undulating around my wrist. Blue, yellow, red, F for Fiona. There’s a melody in the back of my head, a song I had been humming to myself before the car. What is the name of it? — About the Author: Haley Gill is a college student majoring in English and Philosophy. She lives in Colorado for most of the year and enjoys reading and hiking.


LINER NOTES FROM DETROIT Michele Finn Johnson Detroit Soul Fire Records SF 19890 2-Sided Disc CD Audio Side: 1. You Caught Me Goin’ Spring Break, Ft. Lauderdale. On my way somewhere else. You stop and throttle me in a new direction. Forward? Reverse? TBD. 2. It’s the Touch Or the touch before the actual touching. The eye-sizzle. Your desire transfixed on my collarbone. Your seeming like a man, yet still a sophomore. I am a senior, but that hardly seems the case in our carnal matters. 3. Too Far Distance Unreliable dorm hallway phones. “Todd!” They yell up the hall for you. When you call me, it is with laundry quarters—plunk plunk—you squat in the hallway in a dingy tee shirt. Sacrifice. 600 miles. Too far. 4. Selling Detroit It is Chamber-of-Commerce you that shows off Detroit to me. Tigers game from left field; the UFO-ish fountain at Hart Plaza; Joe Louis’ massive bronze fist; the Renaissance Center (“Say Ren Cen,” you tell me, “or you sound totally tourist!”) at night, lit up like an enormous pipe organ. Greektown smells like Ouzo and lemon. Opa! Cheese set ablaze, your mouth open in anticipation. 5. Two Many Years Sixteen plane flights; an impressive 457 combined letters and cards; twice-a-week phone calls (minimum). Two years; too many to wait. Her name, you say, is Kimberly. 6. Kimberly Bitch. Bitch. Bitch.


7. Kimberly Gone It should be ME gone. My feet would not uproot themselves. The victory is weak. 8. Detroit Leaning Graduation. Kimberly gone. Decisions to be made. Georgia v. Michigan. You will win. You win. 9. Shaming Mr. Ford My Subaru is a disgrace. UAW town. Tires could be slashed. We drive your Escort hatchback everywhere, even though its tires are shiny slick. It is the danger that draws you to things. We drive south on Inkster into gangland and your hands pulse electric, illuminating the dash. 10. Things I Should Have Noticed The way you rock back and forth when you are upset; your hatred of meat; your distrust of silence; your rocket-thrust anger; how you won’t let me touch or even look at your feet; your obsession with an early death. 11. Driving Way Too Wrong The Escort hatchback is under my control, you too full of Michelob and Jagermeister shots, yet you still commandeer her from the passenger seat. “Slow down. Change lanes. Use a signal for fuck’s sake.” Two more miles until I can breathe again. Red light. Passenger door opens. “I’m walking,” you say. “Get back in here,” I say—and then I scream, “Todd, get back in here!” And there you go, stumbling into the grooves of the asphalt swale meant for rainwater diversion, swept into night. 12. Understand You come back broken. Tales of Dad hitting Mom. Tales of you smearing feces on the wall behind your crib. Tales of your sister being watched in the shower by your stepfather. You Nostradamus your own death—age 25, in November, by your own hands. 13. Things I Now See I could not save you. You left the note, but could not bring yourself to end yourself. My feet can uproot themselves when they have to. We all need to save ourselves. When the sun hits the rounded face of the Ren Cen, the windows glow bronze, a color brighter than gold, stronger than Joe Louis’ fist.


DVD Side: Filmed Acoustic Performances of: It’s the Touch** Selling Detroit Kimberly Understand** Things I Now See Extensive Personal Introductions by the Artist ** This song contains some adult imagery Credits Produced by me, as I am ultimately responsible for myself. Engineered by you, always you. Deftly, silently. Until you no longer were allowed to engineer. Mixed by both of us (except for “Things I Now See”) Recorded at Tempermill, Detroit, MI Mastered by no one. Photography by your Aunt Dot, who grabbed the camera and said “My! You two will make such beautiful babies!” All Songs Written by Michele Finn Johnson © 2015 Michele Finn Johnson (not a member of ASCAP). All Rights Reserved. Thanks to Todd, for lessons learned. — About the Author: Michele Finn Johnson’s narrative nonfiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Puerto del Sol and the anthology Fractures, and won an AWP Introduction to Journals Project award. Her fiction has been published or is forthcoming in Necessary Fiction, The Conium Review and TheNewerYork Press. Michele studies creative writing at Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver, Colorado, and holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and a master’s degree in water resources and environmental engineering, both from Villanova University.


CONSTRUCTION OFF LINCOLN AND COLLINS Michael Ashby The enlightened traveler, sifting and shifting and ever-changing in the midst of a falling generation of gangs and groups and hoodlums of clergymen. Hoof first, then paw, then foot, then something undefined. It was our timing, and the loss of control, the concrete slipped from our hands creating a dent in the sidewalk splintering into pieces, defining, rewinding, and undoing everything we tried so hard to create. Hard hats and caps and pre-packed lunches that dripped down in greasy marks onto our orange jumpsuits. Half-dead, half-man, one hoof in the world and the other somewhere strange. We aren’t even well traveled! We aren’t even educated! The definition of our stance was swirling into something unpredictable or inescapable. There were birds flying over prisons, laughing at our gowns, cawing at the stains on our t-shirts, and we ran and hid from whatever shame we were capable of. Yes, these are nice metal walls. Yes, these are good stone pillars. Yes, it will be so much better when we’re living a floor higher, a floor higher than a floor lower, a floor. Results, yes, results, that we created, yes, we created, though the stone was already there, and the metal already there, and I’ve never truly seen anything come into being. We created. — About the Author: Michael Garrett Ashby II is a writer and poet based in South Florida. He is an independent author and the head of Mute Publishing. His works have been published in literary magazines and journals such as Spark Anthology, Digital Papercuts, eFiction India, Touchstone Magazine, and Coastlines Literary Magazine.


INTO SLEEP Cathy Ulrich I was always falling asleep on dates then, suffering from a specific kind of narcolepsy. I’d wake to their kisses, like Sleeping Beauty, they liked to say, but Sleeping Beauty slept through the kiss, and the sex, and the birthing, only waking when one of her babies sucked the poisoned needle out of her finger. She didn’t have any say. She married the prince who’d fondled her sleeping body. Is that so, they’d say, but they never really cared. I’d close my eyes again, while they kissed me, and finally, after they’d gone, I’d escape back into sleep. — About the Author: Cathy Ulrich’s dream date includes a break for a nap. Her work has recently been published in Maudlin House, Spelk Fiction and Spry Literary Journal.


THE VAPORS Christopher Mulrooney the crankcase and so forth to the top of the line give such an emanation even to the Firth of Forth there be dragons it may hap — About the Author: Christopher Mulrooney is the author of toy balloons (Another New Calligraphy), alarm (Shirt Pocket Press), supergrooviness (Lost Angelene), and Buson orders leggings (Dink Press).


YUAN FEN Stephanie Lu you can’t stop talking about the red string of fate but imagine this: red thread through a needle pushing into your heart and slipping out of mine and my mouth stitched to yours and the thread wrapped around our fingers— imagine reaching the end of a love story and seeing the boy and the girl in a small taut bundle tied with bloody twine like a raw rotisserie chicken — About the Author: Stephanie Lu likes reading things that make her laugh. Find her in California or at stephluwrites.tumblr.com.


OUTSIDE Paz Spera There’s a man outside my window whistling with the voice of my dead father. That sounds like something a gunman would say in a black and white western. Or maybe it sounds like the lyrics of a softly sung folk song. I think I’d enjoy the poetry of the sentence a lot more if there wasn’t a man outside my window whistling with the voice of my dead father. — About the Author: Paz Spera lives and writes in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She’s also a big fan of referring to herself in the third person.


SCRATCH Sarah Kedar A patch of dried blood; scratching it off, as instructed; nail chips off–finger pricks at rough wood. Fresh drop of blood…Scratch; keep scratching it off–scratch, scratch, scratch; Do not stop–scratch, scratch, keep scratching it off; nothing to be left behind. They are here–watching me break my nails off. I’m in a glass cabin with a wooden floor; have to scratch and scratch till it all clears up. I speed up–chip more nails–all of the ten are gone. Fingers bleed, but why can’t I stop. I stand up and stare at them–the voices laugh and I swear at them. I fall on my knees–keep scratching, then I hit the glass with all my might; punch, kick, bang, scratch–scratch it. I scream and pull my hair–then hit the glass and cry. Why won’t you let me out, I say; why don’t you let me out, I scream. They say you are to be here for eternity–scratch and scratch at the dried blood till your fingers bleed; and scratch some more–then die in pain. — About the Author: Sarah Kedar lives in Dubai and manages an e-zine, The Fable Online. She is about yay high.


FREQUENCY John C. Mannone They killed his friend; he escaped into the night-crowd carousing by the bonfire. His own shadow danced hot with guilt. Soldiers staggered into him. “Hey,” they said, “You’re one of them!” He pushed the drunks; hid his face, “Hell no. You’re nuts!” Those words searing his heart as a rooster crowed three times. Peter cried. — About the Author: John C. Mannone has work appearing in The Southern Poetry Anthology (Volume VII, NC), Still: The Journal, Town Creek Poetry, Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, Negative Capability, Split Rock Review, Agave, Tupelo Press, The Baltimore Review, The Pedestal and others. His poetry collection, Apocalypse (Alban Lake Publishing), is forthcoming. He won the the 2015 Joy Margrave Award for creative nonfiction. He’s the poetry editor for Silver Blade and Abyss & Apex, and an adjunct professor of chemistry and physics in east TN. His work has been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize in Poetry. Visit The Art of Poetry: http://jcmannone.wordpress.com


AT HEAVEN’S GATE Ron Gibson, Jr. Abilene’s memory began as a zygote. From wooden porch, he’d tell story of it. Tell the dream of eleven women, with elk heads and scorpion tails. Said they danced around a blinking orb of light, billions of eyes surrounding him like stars in the sky. Being a zygote he didn’t know what the hell to make of it. Said he had no brain. (I say he still don’t.) Taking a pull off a bottle of Buckhorn, Abilene’d get real sad. Said it was peaceful-like there. Said his life was stumble-footed. Said he was always searching for that peace again. Said he never found nothing but shit each step he took. Said he could end up at the glittering gate of Heaven and still find a fresh one. Only thing that broke Abilene out of black moods was when he’d tell of the revelation. His old eyes’d get wide. He’d tell of the morning he woke up next to future wife number three. Said he started remembering his dream as a zygote. Said he saw the eleven women, with elk heads and scorpion tails. Saw the dancing, the blinking light, the sea of eyes. Said it all made sense. Said woman done gave birth to the universe, and the universe done lived and died eleven times, and the light was the hubcap of it all, and the dancing was a celebration of life, and the elk heads was some Indian hoodoo a soft-palmed college sort might know, and the scorpion tails meant be wary of woman’s strength, and the eyes was everyone alive on Earth. Skeeters bumping into the screen, he’d look into the darkness, cicadas buzzing like sawyers. He’d say he saw the end of everything, too. Said it’d be quick. Said it’d be no fuss. — About the Author: Ron Gibson, Jr. has previously appeared in Exquisite Corpse, Word Riot, 521 Magazine, Smokebox, Stirring, etc…, forthcoming at Maudlin House, been included in various anthologies, and been nominated for a Pushcart. @sirabsurd


THIN PLACES Amy Orazio C-shaped section of a river for bending or laying when loss makes room for what happens at the water’s side — About the Author: Amy Orazio’s work has appeared in H_NGM_N, Bitterzoet, Revolution John and The Curator, as well as a limited-edition letterpress chapbook from Archteype Press (as Amy Neilson). She lives in Portland and belongs to the Partial Tongues writing collective.


YOU WIN A PRIZE S. Kay I message: “u like the bot more than me amirite.” You reply with a sad emoticon and a QR code for a free kiosk latte. — About the Author: S. Kay is a Canadian lesbian writing a tweet at a time. Debut book RELIANT is out in 2015 from tNY.Press. Follow @blueberrio.


AUGUR Robb Dunn Afraid to sleep. Black empty dreams augur an afterlife – alone. Devoid of comfort. Eternal sucking silence knowing nothing but the nothing of knowing — About the Author: Robb enjoys unraveling life’s mysteries thread by fragile thread, then reweaving these into odd bits of fact and fiction. Sometimes the line gets blurred. Find other fragments clinging to the web at such places as Unbroken Journal and freeze frame fiction.


ZENITH AND NADIR Brian Michael Barbeito ZEffulgence. She walked out from the doors and stood to look around. Bright and careful in her movements. Lithe. Locks wisp. Silver is somewhere remembered. Zygomatics splash up and towards perfectly wrought ears. The leaves come there in the autumn. The scientists say chlorophyll leaves the leaves but in truth they give up their ghost in order to give us a different sense of beauty. Most people don’t care. Oh, that’s nice. I am not saying I dislike it. Fall can be wondrous. But then in an instant it is more than that. It is sacrosanct. For she. For she that calls herself she and says, This is she. And what of it? Part Native American and part something forever unknown. There is denim and a kind of heavy thread count blouse. A woman. A poem. Straight back. The sun. And the leaves dance themselves round and through the world like attractive artifacts come alive and escaping some house of fire. NLurid. The greater world has gone away. Now there are still some streets and avenues but they are cold in real and emotional temperature. The blouse woman. She cannot escape her life. Affluent homes line the boulevards way but their quiet yellow lights and warm interiors are not for the ones forlorn. Her past is over and her future a mystery. The woman cannot eat and needs to cry but cannot allow herself such a release. Snow. It falls on cement forms abandoned for the cold and though it may fall like some silent calming song for some, it cannot help her. She is not poor but she does not have a footing in the world. Alien. Others have left her to find themselves and their own light. They have left her in the winter darkness but worse, in the lightless racing of her own psyche. Left to herself with no God or other, she begins a slow but sure descent into nothingness. — About the Author: Brian Michael Barbeito is a Canadian poet, writer, and landscape photographer. He has work currently at CV2 The Canadian Journal of Poetry and Critical Writing and is forthcoming at Fiction International in July 2015. Brian is the author of the book Chalk Lines, [FOWLPOX PRESS, cover art by Virgil Kay (2013)].


THE GUESSING GAME Gen Del Raye The game is to guess things about each other. The audience laughs whether you know the things or not, but of course you are expected to know them. Frank’s father is there, in a tuxedo Frank rented for him at the Daiei down the street, and Frank’s mother is there too in a green dress. They don’t know about the game because there’s no English translation. Shoko’s parents know what’s going on though, and Frank can see them shake their heads each time Frank gets a question wrong. This is bad, because he gets many of them wrong. Shoko puts her hand on his, to steady him. She’s changed out of her wedding dress and now she’s wearing green, like his mother. This is all part of the schedule. After the game is over and before the waiters come out with the dessert she’s supposed to change into a midnight blue dress with silver sequins. Years later, Frank will think of this as the moment when he first understood what it is like to marry across borders, to become a permanent expat. He will remember the glare of the lights and the closeness of the questioner, one of Shoko’s old high school friends, breathing into the mic. He will remember Shoko being kind, whispering the answers at him except she’s trying not to move her lips and the words come across all mangled. He’s not sure whether she’s saying Maki or Maggie. The question is about a band she likes and either of them could be it. Frank opens his mouth helplessly. He wants to tell Shoko to speak up, that he can’t understand, but instead he looks away to where the audience sits in the shadows, watching him sweat. — About the Author: Gen Del Raye was born and raised in Kyoto, Japan and first left the country for California when he was eighteen. Currently he is writing and studying marine biology in Honolulu, Hawaii. He has been selected as a finalist for the Glimmer Train New Writer’s Award.


BOMB FRAGMENTS James R. Gapinski I am tasked with reconstructing the explosive device. Most forensic departments analyze via computer these days, but I still do it by hand; I collect bomb fragments and piece the object together. It’s like working on the world’s most complicated jigsaw puzzle. Many of the fragments are twisted from the explosion; I need to reverseengineer the blast pattern, bending and reshaping the warped pieces into their original configurations. After my labors, the pieces still do not fit perfectly—I don’t make mistakes, so I know I must be missing some bomb fragments. I ask the detectives, and they say there is still shrapnel from the hospital, extracted out of each victim’s wound. The detectives are reluctant, but they eventually surrender their precious evidence. Even with the bloody shrapnel, I’m still missing something, so I return to the scene with a microscope and tweezers, and I find smaller particles overlooked by the crime scene investigators. The metallic jigsaw makes more sense now, gaining definition with each granule. It is not a grenade or a pipe bomb—the emerging shape is too big. I work on the finer features—divots, dimples, cracks, lines—matching every single metal piece to its corresponding microscopic gap. Gradually, the pieces form a recognizable, singular entity. When each bomb fragment finds a home, I have reassembled the shape of a human being, smiling and happy, on the verge of breaking into fiery pieces. — About the Author: James R. Gapinski is managing editor of The Conium Review, and he teaches writing at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston. His fiction has recently appeared in Word Riot, NANO Fiction, theEEEL, Juked, and elsewhere. Find him on Twitter @jamesrgapinski


THE GARDENER Sylvia Heike In the summertime, city dwellers like me flock to their allotment gardens. The village of one hundred postage stamp plots–with their vibrant cabins, lush gardens, and eversmiling residents–looks like it’s been transplanted from a children’s book. Bill and his purple cabin on Plot 29, next to my yellow 28, are no exception. His abundant hanging baskets, lush peonies, and award-winning roses are not only the envy of his neighbours, but their pride. In a community like this, we’ve come to share not just gardening tips but our joys and sorrows as well. When I hear the news about Bill, I can’t breathe. The man who tends to his little patch of land with devotion, making it burst in brilliant colours year after year, won’t one day be able to see the bloom of his own garden. Bill is losing his vision due to glaucoma. But he doesn’t give up. He sows, mows, nips, and trims. Perhaps more than ever. Perhaps as much as when his wife Rebecca died seven years ago, soon after I lost my husband. He builds a patio and re-paints his cabin–a deep, soothing shade of lavender I suggested. At the end of the summer, I join Bill in his garden. He doesn’t talk about his impending darkness, but the way he admires his flowers at close range rather than a few steps away, tells me it’s slowly descending. Every bulb and seed he plants, he does without knowing whether he’ll be allowed to see its rise from the soil. He tells me of his plans to donate some of his precious roses because their thorns give him trouble. I tell him he needn’t do that if he teaches me how to prune them. He takes my hand and calls me the light in his darkness, but it’s him who’s the light in mine. After all these years, something sown in two dark places has finally begun to bud. — About the Author: Sylvia Heike lives in Finland. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in freeze frame fiction, Flash Fiction Magazine, and other publications. When not writing, she enjoys long walks in the forest and deciphering birdsong in her garden.


SAGEBRUSH CRAZY Garry Gunnerson The sheriff and deputy reigned in just out of rifle range of the cabin. “What makes a man do what this sod-buster done?” the deputy asked. “Life’s hard out here,” the sheriff said. “Two years drought, cattle all rustled. Wife and kids dying over the winter, not buried till spring. Gets to a man. Twists his mind.” “You oughta know, being as you was a sod-buster yourself when you first came west.” The sheriff just grunted by way of reply. A figure showed itself in the doorway as a signal the two lawmen could approach. The sheriff left the deputy in the yard with the horses and walked straight into the one room shack. Ignoring the shotgun on the table where the sod-buster was sitting, the sheriff pointed his finger and said, “Don’t lie to me, you know what you done.” The sod-buster looked away, unable to face the accusation. “She was only six years old.” A tear trickled down the side of the sod-buster’s face. “This only ends one way. You know that.” The sod-buster upended the shotgun. The sheriff pulled his pistol. It was over in an instant. The blast from the shotgun blew the sod-buster’s head clean off his shoulders. Out of the corner of his eye the sheriff saw something land on top of the cast-iron stove; heard the sizzle as the meat began to fry, recognized the sickly-sweet aroma. He scooped up the tin plate and two-tined fork from the table and ran to the stove; the sod-buster’s fully intact brain turning a rich, creamy white, as he scrambled it with the fork. It would need salt. There had to be some salt in the cabin—somewhere. — About the Author: Garry Gunnerson lives in the city of Windsor, Ontario, Canada just south of Detroit, with Valerie, his wife of many years. Following a successful career in sales and marketing, Garry now devotes his time to Tai Chi, travel and writing short fiction.


(FORGET ABOUT GREENLAND CALVING NUMBERED ICEBERGS) Eldon Craig Reishus Beside the woods behind our campus, we both had the same mummy model sleeping bag. They refused to zip together and in one we couldn’t fit. I woke in the dandelion glow of dawn, our spooned forms the continents before the drift. I wish I could tell you how beautiful you made me feel the world felt. Long-run, against nature, there’s only one possible outcome: lose. Before my broker became a broker she soaked her clientele by hawking shark liver oil to hold down cholesterol. Each stock she recommends already has The End of the World figured into the price. Gewinn. No site is sacred when it’s sitting on valuables. Arunda G. at the flash fiction workshop: »Yes! Let go! Let go! Reach deep into the marginalia of your memory banks! What springs forth must have the jeweled momentum of a fudged armed train heist!« Dieter wrote more indiscriminately than any of us would ever care to read. But his pancakes were as fluffy as those I remember from the Union Pacific restaurant wagon. (If those weren’t hickeys on his neck, if that wasn’t a fishnet toupeeing his head – I don’t wish to know.) Admiral Cedric Iverhomme at the National Security Summit: »We no longer announce worst-case scenarios – once the next unforeseen eventuality ineluctably hits, we have to totally revise. Why hazard believability?« But come the end of the day it’s all about what fits on no scoreboard. Pundit Tim Hanson spilling his take to The Guardian: »The shot at the buzzer crowned Jerusalem champions. The world hasn’t witnessed an upset like this since the disappearance of the dinosaurs.« Arabella Tower, Munich. Born global-warming disbelievers regurgitate the lessons of the womb. Seven storeys below, up and down, row by row, three cars searching for the lone space filled by zero. Your bedspread shredded by the sheer death struggle of five folks making love. — About the Author: Eldon (Craig) Reishus lives beneath the Alps outside Munich (Landkreis Bad Tölz – Wolfratshausen). He’s an old school Exquisite Corpse contributor with recent work featured or forthcoming at such venues as Literary Bohemian, Am Erker, B O D Y, theEEEL, Sein und Werden, Corium, Word Riot, decomP, Lunch Ticket, and New World Writing. A German-English translator and an all-around web and print media pro, he originates from Fort Smith, Stuttgart, Dachau, Owatonna, Bloomington, Granite Falls, the gone Ytterboe at Saint Olaf, Minneapolis, Portland’s State Street, Berlin’s Schlossallee, and Munich’s Schellingstrasse. Visit him: reishus.de


BASEBALL & WINE Claire Polders “Baseball,” the French student of postmodern literature said, “is as symbolic for Americans as the word ‘home’. ” She looked into the faces of the American writers present in her professor’s living room and saw that she had failed to hit a home run. Fortunately, she was allowed another shot. Holding up her glass of wine as a token, she added: “This is why the French pity the Americans. Baseball tastes like nothing, whereas ...” She drank her wine and did not finish her analogy. — About the Author: Claire Polders is a Dutch author of four novels. She holds a double master’s degree in Literature and Philosophy and has studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. Her short prose has appeared in anthologies and magazines in The Netherlands, Belgium, and France. Currently she’s finishing her first novel in English. You can find her at @clairepolders.


SOFT IN THE MORNING LIGHT Julia Kingston I want to kiss burnt and firework-skinned Paint splattered and alone — About the Author: Julia Kingston is an itinerant Australian with an unhealthy obsession with myth, dead languages and the circus. She spends a lot of time scrawling poetry and short stories, and upside down on a trapeze. Not usually at the same time. She has previously been published in Synaesthesia Magazine. You can find her on Twitter @kitemonster.


THE LOST EGG Rebecca Harrison Jenny found the egg in the wood. It was the colour of winter rain. She warmed it with her hands. It felt sea smooth. She followed sparrow flit and blackbird dart and showed it to all the birds. She tapped her nails on trunks to call woodpeckers. She tried to match the egg to nest shadows. It didn’t fit. She took the egg home and tried to find it in pictures of eggs in books. When she couldn’t see it, she tore the pages out and made them into a nest. She put the egg in it. She curled round the egg and whispered all the names she knew of birds. When she got to the end she started again. One day, the egg started to creak. She hurried the nest outside to show the birds. The egg cracked and shook and hatched into a grand castle. Jenny stared at the turrets and flags. She crossed the moat bridge and peered in the windows. Then she moved in. Year passed. Jenny lived in the stone halls and towers. One morning, as she gathered lavender in the wood, the castle grew wings. Jenny watched the castle soar past the bird flocks. She saw it glide into the clouds. She climbed into the treetops to get closer to the sky. She is still watching the skies for her castle. — About the Author: Rebecca Harrison sneezes like Donald Duck and can be summoned by a cake signal in the sky. Her best friend is a dog who can count. She’s been nominated for Best of the Net, and was a finalist in the first Wyvern Lit flash fiction contest. Her stories can also be read at Mount Island, Maudlin House, Luna Station Quarterly, and elsewhere.


SCENES OF SCENERY Brad Perry From where you sit, the park unfurls like a morning yawn – open and profound and wonderful. A stretch of green races off to nowhere, radiating the sunlight in an emerald haze above the grass. You squint against it, peering out over the manmade lake. Although there’s a bit of a breeze, the water remains still. Not a single wave wrinkles the surface, yet the trees are alive with the wind. Branches wave, their leaves swishing together. You always loved that papery sound, like rustling newspapers or the pages of a too-long novel. You grin. It was an odd impulse to go to the park this morning, but you’re glad you acted on it. Things have been hectic lately. It was time to unwind and get back to normal. You take in a deep breath and sigh it out. You don’t have to be anywhere for another half hour. Take the time and drink in the scenery. Along the water, an old man is practically oozing into a picnic table. His head is dipped well below his shoulders, his posture essentially liquid. A stringy white beard flaps in the wind, and you wonder if it makes the same sound as the leaves. His eyes are half closed, and his shirt is dirty. Could he be homeless? You look away, unmoved. {Dammit, Jim needed a drink. No, not booze. Just water. A tall glass would be just what the doctor ordered. It was too hot. He shifted, his eyes glancing down at his shirt. Christ, he looked bad. He was stained from head to toe. Maybe he’d try to see Amy again. She always knew what to do. She always helped. Amy. Amy.} Three young mothers push strollers along the sidewalk. Their outfits are almost identical, from the flashy white sneakers to the neon tank tops. Matching ponytails are funneled through the backs of baseball caps, bouncing with every enthusiastic step. All three wear sunglasses far too big for their slender faces. You scoff. Is this what motherhood boils down to? Ignoring sleeping toddlers in strollers while you gossip with friends? {Shauna was so annoying. All she ever did was talk about going back to school, and it made Marie sick. So what if she was getting her Master’s degree? To hear her tell it, she was the first in the history of womankind to do it. Wait – was Shauna still talking? Marie shot a glance to Stephanie, who suppressed a giggle. Thank God someone felt the same way. Shauna blathered on, the baby kicked his little legs in the stroller, and Marie lost herself in the casual tide of her annoyance.} Behind the mothers, moving in the opposite direction, is a jogger. He moves fast, each stride confident, each foot that slaps against the sidewalk a bold step into a better life. You lean to get a better look at him. He’s older than you initially thought – maybe in his forties or fifties? God, you’d love to have that kind of dedication. You only exercise sporadically, usually in unrelated bursts of fervor brought on by fitness infomercials or self-loathing. The jogger continues on, moving off the sidewalk and onto the grass. With one hand he checks his pulse, checking his watch with the other. What the hell inspires people to work that hard? You shake your head.


{Steve was doing okay, but he could be doing better. He had already gone two miles in less than twenty minutes, and that was pretty damn good for a guy his age, but it wasn’t good enough. Steve’s mind drifted back to its focal point, its centerpiece, its sun: Bill. If only Bill had exercised the way Steve had, maybe he’d still be here. Maybe they’d be grabbing a beer, or seeing a movie, or sitting down to dinner with their mother. Steve clenched his fists. The heart attack. That fucking heart attack. Steve pushed harder, trying to outrun his paranoia, his grief, and his brother Bill’s untimely death.} A woman (a girl, really) is reading beneath a tree. She isn’t too far away, and you can make out the title of the book. It isn’t one you’ve heard of – The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. A bit of an odd, old-fashioned title, yet it seems to fit her. She’s pretty in an outdated sort of way. Cascades of auburn hair blow in the breeze. Thick glasses frame her view, resting atop high cheekbones. Long slender fingers, each nail painted a different color, tap against the book. Weirdly, she’s wearing a dress and high heels. In one of her hands is a pen, and every so often she stops reading to scribble something down in a notebook sitting next to her. You smile. {It was hard for her to describe what it all felt like. That was the hardest part, right? Jessie could describe the sights, sounds, even the smells of the park that morning, but she always had a hard time melding it all together into a uniform entity. She took off her high heels and wiggled her toes, feeling the wind slip between them. If she was ever going to be a successful writer, ever create characters as beautifully built as her beloved Kavalier and Clay, she’d have to be more in-tune with the world around her. “Existence is truth,” Mrs. McCarty always said, “Writers must make us believe it.” Jessie gritted her teeth. What kind of cryptic nonsense was that? She rested her head against the tree and looked up at the swaying branches. The word “dramatic” appeared in her mind. Would that be an intriguing word to describe an old tree? Dramatic? Could trees actually be dramatic? She sighed, jotted down the word in her notebook, and shook her head. Writer’s block was hell, but she was irritably optimistic. The words would come, but she didn’t know when.} Although you like the old-fashioned girl with her contemplative face and curious novel, you are distracted by a pair of teenagers sitting at the lake’s edge. It’s a boy and girl, and neither look a day older than sixteen. They both appear nervous, but maybe it’s just the puberty. You’re glad to be done with all that nonsense. {Should he hold her hand? Could he hold her hand? He glanced down at her legs, which dangled just above the water. Good God, she had nice legs. She had nice everything. His eyes darted back to her hand, resting too close to his own. What did it mean? Everything? Nothing? Did she like him? He just didn’t want to screw up. What if he took her hand and she rejected him? What if she wanted it, but he never went for it? Sweat beaded on his forehead. What was he supposed to do?} You chuckle, then glance at your phone. Shit, it’s time to go. You stand, brush some wayward blades of grass from your shorts, and take one last look around. There are plenty of people you don’t notice (the children playing tag, the college girls studying


for an exam, the loner walking his dog), whose stories you’ll never know {the children are at the park without permission, two of the college girls are unwittingly dating the same guy, the loner is planning to kill himself, but is worried about what would happen to his dog}. But how could you? You leave the park without another thought. Only the wind, with one less person to push, registers your absence. — About the Author: Brad Perry is an English teacher from Michigan who reads and writes a lot. He has previously had work published in Page & Spine magazine.


UNTITLED C.C. Russell I will be the one cracking voice standing out from the choir, the one off-key hope half buried in the tones of your song. — About the Author: C.C. Russell enjoys putting words together in different ways. From time to time, others enjoy how he has arranged them and they publish them in various places online and in print. He can be found on Twitter @c_c_Russell where he constantly struggles with its enforced brevity. He lives in Wyoming with his wife and a particularly amazing fiveyear-old daughter.


DARK LOTUS, BLACK NOISE Ryu Ando We don’t need other worlds. We need mirrors.” — Stanisław Lem The infinite, dark lotus that haunts our waking dreams, Lurks just below the surface of these frozen seas, Reminds us that we are old men now, wrenched from time; The euphoric ouroboros, it says, will swallow us whole; Gorged full on remembering, we are destined to bottom Out, like echoes from dead wells, seven generations Into the heart of the pale spiral and elide into black noise. The oceans of our youth are not the same seas That cover us now; they were never the same Anyway, so they say. Every time you slid Into them they were new, reborn; just like You were never the same each time you stepped Back into yourself, bringing with you (as you awakened From slumber) that spark of consciousness, Cupped in your hands like a firefly with its wings torn off To keep it still, to keep it safe; but the spark will fade, As always, muted and smeared, and you are erased By the eternal sleep, until you reappear again awakened And lit by some divine phosphorescence. The pearls that were mine eyes are not pearls Of wisdom, merely the decorations of false gods; And the alien sun recedes from us, As if it would break upon contact, To the arctic edge where shadows encroach Upon this outer world’s perfect circle; And winter comes early (or maybe it never left), Building a living architecture in crystalline Composed only of ourselves. The auroras spit light upon our failing eyes: Beaten rods, broken reeds Cones of silence, staffs of wonder; But we are no closer to you (As we analyze and split you Consume you and extrapolate you, Hammer you into the thin, golden God-like mask we wish to wear) No closer to that lurking dream-like lotus And our last chance sinks beneath the surface.


— About the Author: Ryu Ando writes speculative fiction and poetry. He lives and works in Los Angeles. Inspiration for a lot of his work strikes while sitting still in long meetings, an occupational hazard. His work has appeared in speculative magazines such as Strange Horizons, Unbroken, Liquid Imagination, and more.


THE WIZARD Chris Bedell I went to bed without dinner one night shortly after my 13th birthday under the pretense of not feeling well when in reality it was about the fact that the feeling that someone had been following me for the last week was unshakable. The hairs on my back pricked up hours later at the sighting of a faint outline of a man with red eyes hovering in my bedroom. Screaming didn’t even matter since no one came to my aid because the man must have knocked out my parents, as it was the only logical explanation. Each end of the man’s tailcoat spurted at me, breaking into a total of four pieces while they wrapped around my hands and feet. A fog dragged us through the air and I made a loud thumping sound after landing in a shed. I then shuffled to the exit, attempting to open the door only to discover it remained locked. * The 1,470 tally marks on the walls of the shed from the chalk the Wizard provided screamed out to me. It was as if it were some sort of sick torture since the Wizard wanted me to know how long I had been held captive. There was also a fourth wall, which was scarred with pink, green, and purple tally marks, proving other people had been previously held captive because the Wizard only provided me with blue chalk. The rays of the descending sunlight poked into the shed, signaling the start of dinner. A cloud crackled through the air, making a plate of toast and glass of water appear on the table. I shuffled over to the table, shoving the piece of toast into my mouth in one sitting before gulping down the water in case the Wizard decided to take it away as a punishment. Perfume wafted through the air, as if the Wizard realized it would make me nostalgic for my Mom. A shadow slashed by the window hours later since a daily evening check was another part of the routine. The only problem was this evening was different because flames flowed out of my right arm, making me pierce the night with agonizing shrills. It must have been my


punishment for trying to open the door at the end of the maze during my exercise hour in the morning today. Tears trickled down my face all night at the realization that enough was enough because the threat of being killed no longer mattered. Sneaking into the Wizard’s tower and stealing his wand during my exercise hour tomorrow morning was the only option. It was ultimately the right decision because he might have taken naps during that time since vigilance wasn’t required. After all, magic was the only way out of the maze since the Wizard needed a way to go between Earth and his world if he wanted more victims. The door to the shed opened the following morning, as if on cue, which meant it was time for exercise. I darted out of the shed, scanning the property before making my way to the tower. Climbing up the wisteria was easier than it first seemed, as the Wizard ended up being in the middle of a nap. I slid through the window, making sure not to make a noise while grabbing the wand and climbing down the wisteria again after flinching when the Wizard almost woke up. The maze got smaller and smaller while clipping through it, and I arrived at the door, waiving the wand. The door dissolved and I stepped through it before waving the wand again, causing it to seal as the neon light of an open sign glowed in the distance, revealing that it was time to rejoin civilization. * The train honked, waking me up from my dream before rolling into the train station while slicing through the fog. Getting off the train proved more difficult than it should have been as a result of having to push through the crowd of people. “It’s good to see you Lucy,” said a guy’s voice as I stepped off the platform and onto to the ground. “You too Javier.” The two of us embraced for a quick hug before pulling back a moment later. A missing poster containing a picture of my face popped out at me in the distance, causing me to scoff. Someone must have forgotten to take the poster down or something, which was odd because that should have been done a little over a year ago.


The wind whistled in the background, pushing forward a poster of another missing girl who also happened to be a blonde like me. “It’s nice you’re finally visiting me. I mean you’ve been home long enough…” I flipped my hair over my shoulders. “Well, you are my boyfriend.” He grabbed my hand while we trekked towards the parking lot. “I know, but your parents have been kind of strict lately.” “It’s because they don’t believe my story since they still think I’m the girl that lied about not getting expelled from middle school.” Javier stared at the scar on my right arm. “How did you get that?” “It’s not important.” “Okay. No problem.” A lump lingered in my throat. “You believe me, don’t you?” He rolled his eyes. “Yes, I do. But they never found the man Lucy.” “That’s because they aren’t looking in the right spot, and his name is the Wizard.” “Is he the one who gave you that scar?” Javier asked. “What do you think?” Javier had one thing going for him; he was more patient than my therapist. But knowing the truth still mattered though because Javier and the rest of the world would find out, just not today, which was okay because nobody would take away my hope. As for the wand, it remained hidden in a drawer at my parents’ house because the Wizard was smart and must have had emergency magic even if his wand was gone. There was no doubt about it. He lurked in the background somewhere, waiting to prey on his next victim. — About the Author: Chris Bedell’s previous publishing credits include essays on the online magazine Thought Catalog, and 2 short stories on online literary magazines, which include “Surface Tension” on Crab Fat Literary Magazine and “A Little Accident” on Quail Bell Magazine.


THE UNCANNY DISAPPEARANCE OF FISHBOY Charles L. Crowley I’ve got the bear-eyes in my stomach, a pocketful of hellfire-grade LSD, and I’m walking through the front door of my second-floor apartment, downtown in the fourth ring of hell. Mephisto is leaning in the hallway, body tall and arching. My terrible fire-licking halfbrother, I love and hate every inch of you. “Where’s Mom,” I say, and I snap snap snap to show my urgency. “Doesn’t matter. Don’t come over here,” he says, pushing me away, keeping me from the hallway. “I need to see her now!” “She’s literally in the middle of giving birth.” “It’s already happening? Dammit! I need to get in there! Ifel will be here in half-an-hour tops—I owe him mad cash like you would not believe.” My brother looks past me as we speak, eyes set beyond my scaled skin. He never looks at me. No one ever looks at me. “Sorry, Fishboy, no hard feelings.” He’s watching the tube while he’s trying to settle me down. “Turn off the fucking TV,” I say. “It’s the X-files!” “Oh my God. They’re re-runs!” My chest is hot, my heart is bursting, and I swear I may be melting. Fish-men don’t sweat. I’ve got no sweat glands to release this fire-hot pressure, just scales and light blue leathery skin. “Whatever, I’m setting up the altar,” I say. “Fuck, man—she won’t like that.” “Listen, I’ve got the father-fucking bear eyes in my gut. I’ve gotta move fast.”

The stone altar in our living room is cold. I drag it out onto the red shag carpet—draw the concentric circles all around—take a mandrake root from the pantry and lay at the


bottom of my sacrificial stone. I stick two fingers down my throat and cough up the bear-eyes. “Aye dios mío,” Mephisto says, “It’s the episode with the father-fucking genie again!” He clicks up a few channels and now he’s watching Seinfeld. The bear-eyes are soft in my hands. I look at my watch. Ifel will be here any minute. I’ve got the LSD, the eyes, the root…I need that damn baby. I set the bear-eyes on the altar, and then I jump up and make for the unguarded hallway. I leap forward for the bathroom, where I hear screaming and shouting and splashing. “Hey Fishboy, stop! Don’t go back there!” “Mom, I need the—” I open the door. She has the newborn halfway in her mouth, and she’s pulling the rest down her throat, dragging the body with her forked tongue. Why am I trapped here? In this cliché-hell full of Lucifer’s and Satan’s and whatever other three-headed monsters… I wish I lived with demons who saw me and looked at me and loved me scales and all. Everything’s set to go—it’s all ready, all waiting. But I need a chimera, like that baby or my mother or my brother or myself, something half-devil and half-clam or dog or whatever. I watch what was the final piece of my ritual’s puzzle be eaten up by my mother. Light and defeated, I fall backwards down the hallway—a weightless body swimming through the air, like a fish floating through the water, drifting belly up and hopeless. I hear pounding on the front door. Mephisto catches me mid-fall and drags me down the hallway, away from the bathroom. Inspiration is a lightning bolt, cursing me always with her brilliance. Again I hear the pounding. “Where’s the rest of my LSD, Fishboy!” Ifel says, his voice coming in muffled. “Brother, you know I’ve always loved you. But I’m out of time.” I turn around and bite my brother’s neck, pull him by the flesh to my altar and then I let go and lay him across the top. “I want to be seen the same by everyone,” I say, loud enough hopefully for my lords to hear me. My brother gasps and I tear into his skin again with rows of toothcomb-sharp fishy teeth. My scales disappear. My skin disappears. This is me becoming invisible.


The ritual glow fades, and I grab the bear-eyes to remember this moment always. Ifel smashes the door and he looks right at me, sees right through me, gropes hopelessly in light of the netherworld for me. — About the Author: Charles L Crowley lives in Pasadena, California. His work has appeared in or is forthcoming in the West Wind, The Los Angeles Review of Los Angeles, Unbroken Journal, Whale Road Review, and Eunoia. Aside from writing, he enjoys chasing chickens, watching Godzilla films, and consuming coffee and comic books.


INTERVENTION Manek R. Mistry 1. This is how it goes: you end up at a meeting, but you don’t remember how you got there. People are sharing — “My name is Bill, and I’m an addict” — just like you’d expect. When you say “I don’t think I’m supposed to be here,” everyone nods, and agrees: “That’s how it was for me,” they say. “No,” you continue, talking past the sympathetic faces; “I’m not addicted to anything — I don’t even drink that much.” The woman next to you puts a hand on your knee. Not in a creepy way, but you jerk your leg back and smooth your skirt, wiping off her touch. She’s not offended; she returns her hand to her lap, her smile serene. “Seriously.” You’re annoyed. “I’ve never even smoked pot. Ever.” Somehow, you end up with a sponsor. 2. “You think you’re alive,” your sponsor tells you. “You think you’re walking around making your own choices. But you’re not. You’re a slave, and the drug is your owner.” Bullshit, you think. But you don’t want to be rude. After coffee, your sponsor invites you outside for a cigarette. “I don’t smoke,” you say. You can’t keep the smugness from your voice. 3. You sit there, fuming through every meeting, arms crossed, refusing to speak. The others try and chat with you over doughnuts, but you’re not chatty. You do take a doughnut, though. “I think your husband might be an enabler,” your sponsor says. “Do you know what that is? Enabling?” Of course you know what enabling is. You’re not an idiot. Everyone treats you like a child these days, like you don’t know anything about anything. “I have a master’s degree,” you snap. Your sponsor ignores your peevishness. “Does he support your recovery?” “He thinks this is all bullshit.” And in your head: This is all bullshit. Your sponsor nods. “That’s part of the problem, then.” They give you a 30-day chip: a red coin that has “To Thine Own Self Be True” on one side, and the serenity prayer on the other. I can’t wait to be done with this shit, you think. You think of your higher power as Big Brother, always watching you and ready to punish you for any missteps. “I’m not sure that’s healthy,” your sponsor says, and suggests you try finding a church or temple to attend.


What the hell, you think, and you drop in on a Catholic mass. They serve wine, which they pretend is the blood of Christ. That seems a little fucked up, so you don’t go back. 4. When you go before the judge and she congratulates you, you feel proud in spite of yourself. “You’re on the right path,” she says. “Good job,” your lawyer whispers before the next case is called. Clusters of people occupy the long wooden benches in the hall outside the courtroom. Some look at you as you walk toward the elevator, but most stare at the gray carpet. They’ve tried to dress up, you can tell — this one has a button-down shirt, that one’s wearing a skirt and nylons — but their clothes are dirty or wrinkled or ripped or just illfitting, and the hall smells of b.o. and alcohol and perfume and anxiety. Losers, you think. You keep your gaze forward, and make it to the elevator. 5. “I think you’re holding me back,” you say. “Fuck you,” your husband says. He moves out, and later you hear that he’s staying with Teresa, who you thought was your friend. “Just keep working the steps,” your sponsor says. Fuck you, you think. 6. Everyone slips up, you tell yourself. Everyone. Relapse is part of recovery. That’s what your sponsor says too. You get another 24-hour coin — starting over — and commit to seven meetings a week. Your friends — the ones you still have from before you started the program — complain that you’re no fun anymore. “I’m doing this for myself,” you tell them. Soon, your new friends are the only ones you have. That’s ok, though; they share your new values. 7. You have reached the evangelical stage, and you are feeling judgmental. Anyone who’s not in the program — especially so-called social drinkers — they’re ruining their lives and hurting everyone around them. You tell them so, and invite them to come to meetings with you. You talk about your higher power, and ask them to say the serenity prayer with you. Your sponsor suggests you back off a little. You decide it’s time for a new sponsor. “I just think you’re holding me back,” you say. 8. You have another slip-up, and you’re back to starting over, with a new 24-hour coin. You feel like a loser. The judge orders you to spend a weekend in jail, where you reconnect with Teresa, who has sent your ex to the emergency room with a stab wound in his stomach.


That makes you happy. “He’s a fucker,” Teresa says, and you agree. Teresa thinks recovery is bullshit. She’s been through the twelve steps at least a hundred times. She thinks it makes things worse. She thinks the two of you should move in together after you both get out, and share expenses, and get high every night, and cover for each other when probation comes over. When your weekend’s up, she stays inside. Later, you hear that she got 10 years. 9. You have a new boyfriend. “That’s great,” your sponsor says. “But take it slow. Is he in recovery?” “Of course,” you say. You’re not about to mess things up with another drunken douche. You let him move in, and everything’s fine at first, but then you discover he’s nothing but a sober douche. “I’m a sex addict,” he whines. “Oh, please.” You kick him the fuck out. In your pocket is your 6 month blue chip. 10. “I don’t know why you have to ruin everything,” your mom says when you ask her not to serve booze at her 70th. Your sister accuses you of acting superior. Your step-dad has always thought you were a little bitch, ever since he tried to kiss you in the bathroom. Your brother? Well, he hasn’t talked to the family for five years. You’re beginning to think you understand why. 11. Here you are, now, ten years sober, then twenty. Thirty years. You still hit at least one meeting a week. They never change the format. One day at a time. You’re old, you realize, and you find yourself looking back a lot. You remember that miscarriage, and wonder. You think about your first husband, and your second, but you resist going online to track them down. You may be an addict, but you’re not batshit crazy. Your nieces graduate from college. One of them gets married; the other has a child. Your sister alternates between bragging and complaining. You tune her out, most of the time, but you look at the pictures on her phone. Your mom goes into a home, and then passes away. At the funeral, your sister cries ostentatiously, and her daughters roll their eyes and comfort her. “Mommy,” she sobs as the casket goes down. Then she gets drunk and passes out at the reception; her daughters help her new husband carry her out to the car when it’s time to go. The three of them argue. Your brother shows up at the end. He looks old, and tired, and sad. He sits down and talks to you, but doesn’t really share much about his life. He’s gay, you realize. Well, duh. At your mother’s house — vacant since she went to the home — you sort through her


stuff and think about death. It’s been on your mind a lot, since your mother got sick. No, even before then. You’ve spent the last few years looking ahead to your own death, and looking back at your life. You still don’t believe in God, but you’re tempted to believe in the afterlife. Wouldn’t that be nice? A second chance? Damn, your mom had a lot of crap. 12. That’s it. The whole thing. They know you don’t want a priest, but they send one to your bedside anyway. He’s nice enough, a young kid, 40 or so, and he doesn’t insist on praying or talking about God. Instead, you chat about the way the town used to look, and how things were before the Google cars, when everyone had to drive themselves around the city. Your sister’s there, and your brother makes it, only to stand uncomfortably in the corner without talking to anyone. The nieces come with their kids — your great-nieces and great-nephews — all grown up now. One of them has children of her own; the brats won’t keep quiet even for a minute, despite shushing and warnings about upsetting the old lady. Someone props you up so you can see the sunset, but you drift off and miss it. Your last one, possibly, and you slept through it. You wake up as your sister’s saying goodbye, and the nieces help her out of the room. Your brother puts a hand on yours, and then he totters off as well. Soon, the only people left are one of the great-nieces, painting her nails in the corner, and the priest, dozing in a chair. What are you thinking about? The clock is ticking down through your last minutes. You’re remembering your first time. The spoon and the lighter. Shaking as you fumbled with the tourniquet, worried about getting the needle in just right. Then the warmth, the relaxed, mellow full-body orgasm. If you could score some now, it wouldn’t hurt anyone. It would be the last thing you feel, and it would be so worth it. You look from your great-niece to the priest, but you know neither of them could hook you up in the short time you have left. It’s the first time you’ve cried in decades. — About the Author: Manek R. Mistry is an appellate public defender in Olympia, Washington. Most of his clients are inmates seeking a new trial or a lighter sentence.


INVENTED ANYWAY EVERYDAY Joseph Patrick Pascale I rubbed the flecks of white stubble on my chin as I sat at my desk at work, longing for the day I wouldn’t have to drag myself into the office every morning—if that day would ever come. My mind entangled itself in my current invention—not much of an invention at that. I always fancied myself an inventor. When I was a little bucktoothed kid and people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d squeak, “An inventor!” But an inventor’s not an easy thing to just become (hence my job running assessment reports). Almost everything’s already been invented—to my tiny brain at least. I never manage to come up with sweeping visionary ideas, just tinker with what’s already been done, try to improve. I guess I’m a tinkerer more than an inventor, but no one will pay me to sit and tinker all day, thus I’m stuck here in the suffocating false-light of this office. I have this book only because a friend didn’t want it–even though this book could save my life. You don’t need a plot to tell a story, obviously. When I admired it on his shelf, he said, “Go ahead—take it. I don’t want it. He’d said the same thing moments earlier when I admired the green tea ginger ale in his fridge. Don’t trouble yourself with wondering how which words appeared where when. Let’s just say there’s a certain magic to these things. I only have the shredded memory of best thing I ever invented. If I recall correctly (which of course, I may not), I conceived of the idea and explained it to a neuroscientist I had been acquainted with at a conference. It was exactly in line with the sort of work he’d been doing—isolating memories—and I think he was the only one in the world who could have done it. In my marketing materials, it says: Re-read your favorite book. For the very first time. Few people knew about the invention other than ourselves and our families. When his son defeated the purpose of the machine by turning himself tabula rasa, the neuroscientist forced us to forget how the machine was made. He could probably figure it out again if he ever wanted to. What amazes me is not only the fact that there’s so much out there in the world created by humans, but that every day, often before dawn, they wake up out of their warm beds, leave their families, and board busses, trains, cars, and planes in an effort to keep this massive society moving, functioning, and expanding. Of course, my best extant invention was actually invented by Jorge Luis Borges—he was far ahead of his time—of course. He created a Library of Babel. Jeff Marsh created an


Espresso Book Machine. Coca-Cola invented the Freestyle Coca-Cola Machine. I’m a tweaker, I told you. I invented the Flavor Your Own Book Machine. Just imagine how many times this same exact conversation is happening every day: “Hey, how’s it going?” “Oh, I can’t complain. It wouldn’t do any good anyway!” It must be happening hundreds of thousands of times every day. I’m counting slight variations, of course. Every second, two people are saying, “I can’t complain. You wouldn’t listen anyway!” and guffawing in the camaraderie of acquaintances stuck at work together. I’m sure the technology existed since word processing became standard. A basic example being the Wordle. See, here are the most frequent words, common prepositions/articles, etc. omitted, in Ulysses:

[editor’s note: Happy belated Bloomsday!]


Or here’s Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason:

And here’s Shelley’s Frankenstein:


Now this is basic, just running a report to isolate the most frequent words, and enlarging the most common ones. However, imagine if you expanded this technology to deal with millions of words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs—tagging them into categories, and rearranging them into books? See, my invention works like the Coke machine. First you choose caffeinated or noncaffeinated beverages—say, Literary, Mystery, or Sci-Fi/Fantasy—then put in your flavor—lime, cherry, vanilla, etc.—say humorous, tragic, philosophical, etc. But when you’d already be sipping a bubbly soda, you’d still be inputting your book preferences. And—voila! Over a hundred combinations of soda may be impressive. But we’re nearing an infinite number of books. As I approached the square on my way home, I caught a glimpse of my reflection in a storefront. In my full suit, but with long hair, a beard, and a big camping backpack, I looked kind of cool and mysterious. But inside, I felt lost and defeated. Who knows what you put in to get this— — About the Author: Joseph Patrick Pascale’s work has been published in Birkensnake, Literary Orphans, FullStop, 365 Tomorrows, Off the Rocks, Instigatorzine, The Apeiron Review, Seven by Twenty, and On a Narrow Windowsill: Fiction and Poetry Folded onto Twitter, among other journals and anthologies. Pascale studied under poet Mark Doty when he earned his master’s degree in literature from Centenary College. He worked as a farmhand, reporter, auto parts deliverer, and reference book editor before becoming educator, and he currently oversees a writing center at an urban community college. His website is www.josephpatrickpascale.com.


IN THE PELOTON Yoni Hammer-Kossoy Tucked around a hurricane’s eye speed is sensed through slightest twitches that ripple from rider to rider. Under front and back wheels the road writes a ragged scar through tawny fields I do not see. There is no skin and bone, just breath and blur, we become a vee of hawks, a place without place, we are the windblown shimmer of an olive grove, the ache of a new machine wanting only to go further, faster, faster. — About the Author: Originally born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Yoni Hammer-Kossoy has been living in Israel for the last 16 years with his wife and three kids. His work has recently appeared in The Harpoon Review, The Jewish Literary Journal, Stoneboat Journal and Bones Haiku. He also writes on Twitter as @whichofawind, where he experiments recreationally (but responsibly) with various short poetic forms.


Pidgeonholes, Volume 4, Copyright 2015, Pidgeonholes and individual authors. Contents may not be used or duplicated without permission from all parties. Learn more at: http://pidgeonholes.com/ Edited by Nolan Liebert

Pidgeonholes Volume 4: KINTSUGI  

Volume 4 concludes our first year. It includes dispatches published on the website between October and December of 2015.

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