ISSN 2164-4802 Volume 0, Issue 1
1 2 -FFS
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! s u o l Fabu
P. Q. Leer Team From the editor Starting a new project can be a truly humbling, frustrating, and exhausting experience, especially when youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re doing it alone. Which is why I would like to personally thank everyone who helped us make this first issue a success. We couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have done it without you.
!Photos on this page: All rights reserved.
Art & Photography Carceri All 2 Caroline Souza
Piled Up Houses Eleanor Bennett
Leap of Faith Nick Francel
False:Fear::True:Trust Jillian Lambert
Poetry The Menaced Assassin Howie Good
News Hounds Gary Beck
The Death of Fashion Howie Good
Ifâ&#x20AC;Ś Vonnie Thompson
Love Letters From the Dead Sheila Erwin
Echo Speaks Stephanie Showalter
Prose In Alaska Hillary Walker
Them That Believe Lindsey Walker
Ceramica Dolll Meets the Chinaman A. Molotkov
Film Michael Benedict
From Our Staff
As a special feature in this preview issue, we would like to introduce ourselves with examples of our work. Joy Elayne Kuletz
On the Analysis of Poetry R. Joseph Capet
Metaphysical Rebel S.D. Capet
Bycatch Ivan Kuletz
Call for Submissions
The Menaced Assassin Howie Good When you knock on a door, do you knock just once? Do you prefer your biography be written in Braille? There’s a man on the corner holding an umbrella over his head on a cloudless day and five men in the café with hats before them on the table. I won’t pretend to be a great scholar of the term Kafkaesque. Under one of the hats is a revolver.
News Hounds Gary Beck Every week the media informs us of another rampage, a killing spree. Every day the media informs us of another murder, an innocent child. We love bad news, print, electronic, that lets us tolerate endless violence.
In Alaska Hillary Walker We’re driving around in your father’s expensive car. The signal goes click-ah click-ah click-ah. You laugh. I can tell you’re sad though. I can always tell. “Where are we going?” I ask. “Anywhere you like.” Like when we saw that girl you used to be in love with. You were sad then, too, and I could tell, and I didn’t ask you who she was because I wanted to be kind. Instead, I commented on the way all New York diners have the same ridiculous mirrored interior. “In Alaska, they don’t have so many mirrors,” I said. “Do you want some of my bacon?” The thing is, though, I can see your face in the mirror. So I can see your face twice, and I can see how sad you are, and how hard you’re trying to keep your eyes away from my eyes. I pour some milk in my coffee, and the cakes in their case spin and spin. I stir up the milk. Your eyes are the color of the Long Island Sound. They land on your hashbrowns, and then on my breasts.
Carceri 2 Caroline Souza
The Death of Fashion Howie Good I can tell from your face just what you want me to say. You want me to say you look good in the dress. OK. You look good in the dress. But you look better, I almost add, with no clothes on at all.
Ifâ&#x20AC;Ś Vonnie Thompson If Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d been fearless, I would have embraced poverty and written poetry every day, eating and drinking words, living in the turn of a phrase. No meaty fiction for me, only the sweet but meager measure of a stanza. But I was afraid, and I chose instead the dull nutrition of steady pay, two bathrooms and cable TV. And I starved anyway.
Piled Up Houses Eleanor Leonne Bennett
Them That Believe Lindsey Walker Everything came unloosed for the pastor, first a little, then a lot. One Sunday evening Eustace knelt in the snake den in the back of the trailer where his congregation, the Watchelet Holiness Church of God with Signs Following, met three times weekly. The pastor worked, cleaning the shed skins and waste from the snake tanks. The serpents hissed and rattled their tails. What Hell sounds like, he thought, with a stench to rival brimstone. He transferred the twenty-seven rattlers and copperheads into pillowcases knotted at the tops while he changed the water and replenished the substrate. He returned them to their homes and was dumping in the feed rats when his wife Birdie knocked. Their daughter Lily on her hip, she leaned through the doorframe. “The Padgetts want you to talk to their boy,” she said. “Got a minute?” Sun-burned and skinny, Birdie’s arms looked too thin to contain their wild two-year-old much longer. “I’ll be along,” Eustace said. “It’s Corey. Been asking things they can’t answer.” Eustace nodded. Of course it was Corey; Dell would never. Corey and Dell were the Cain and Abel of Polk County, one rotten, the other good. “Just get Lily outta here. It’s dangerous.” Birdie did as she was asked, with the countenance of a woman who’s been told more than twice. Damn kid, he thought. After wrangling the snakes, he wasn’t in the mood to go toe to toe with some punk. Teenagers never questioned; they attacked. They dissected every biblical phrase like a coroner would, their tongues wielding scalpels, their grey matter working the scripture with a bone saw. But it’s a pastor’s duty. Eustace delivered the last rats to their final resting places. He closed the door behind him and turned the knob to test the lock. The church only had the assembly room, the snake den and the bathroom. The narrow singlewide’s dingy walls had whiter patches covering damages caused by congregants flailing wildly with the Holy Spirit. Folding chairs lined up in rows near the back, while the front of the room hosted the pulpit, a drum set, and a handmade lockbox with the inscription “Wait on God” where the reptiles rested during service. Empty space spanned the room’s middle. His hands still smelled like snake piss when Eustace met with the boy. Corey sat in one of the metal fold-up chairs in the front row, picking at his black painted fingernails. Ready for a showdown, the pastor thought. “Y’all clear out,” Eustace said, shooing the others outside. He dragged another chair around to face the boy. Hair’s too damn long, Eustace noticed, longer than church regulations allowed. “What’s on your mind?” Out came the knives. The boy argued against predestiny, digging holes in the holy text. Eustace kept up but admitted to himself that the boy was sharp. The Padgetts had enrolled their son in some public school down near Opossum Hill that taught science, Cain’s religion! The boy had a knack for words. Corey could make a fine preacher himself one day, if he’d just pull his head out of his ass. Probably wind up a politician. “So what you’re saying is,” Corey said, cocking his head to the side, “god made us so he could implant original sin. He knew he would kill his own son, himself, which is suicide, right? Deicide? Then he wants us to worship him, just so he can destroy us in the apocalypse anyway!” Devils lived inside the boy; Eustace knew it. Ain’t no other way he could make those impious words. Corey needed a cleansing to cast them out. The pastor felt his throat tighten as he considered. The boy was on a one way trip to Damnation, and Eustace needed the right words. He needed to tame his tight throat and deliver God’s Word. He paraphrased Romans. “It’s God’s will to make some of us for noble purposes and some for common use, to test the true believers.” He felt his voice tremble as an unexpected desperation crept in. “Look, God chose you Hisself when He made you a Christian. You lucked out! Mercy for some, wrath for others. That’s how He teaches! When we suffer, we learn to recognize His gifts.” “Unacceptable.” The boy stood. “He can’t blame me for doubting if he’s the one who made me this way.” Corey headed for the door.
“You need to repent!” Eustace said. “If you got doubt in your heart, you ain’t got room for
“Pastor, if it’s true what you say,” Corey said, “then god’s a dick, and I won’t worship him anyway.” The boy shoved the door, and the cold air conditioning rolled out, slithering low down the mountainside toward the valley and the Ocoee River. Eustace felt a coldness as black as crow feathers spread through him. He tried to follow Corey, but the boy moved too fast. Corey trampled the tall grass and wove through the forest of table mountain pine, pitch pine, and white oak. The Padgetts seemed let down but unsurprised by Corey’s flight. Eustace, however, felt shaken by the experience, and that feeling dogged him. Sure, there were some philosophies he’d muddied for himself, things he didn’t care to dwell on, but Corey’s desperate anger had tugged a deeper root. For the first time in thirteen years, doubt unfolded its wings full-span inside the pastor. He questioned his ability to complete the chain of God’s truth: from God through the pastor to the congregants. A pastor must do more than relay information, and if he couldn’t convey true faith, then what good was he? “Ain’t you hungry?” Birdie asked him at supper. “Thinking, I guess,” Eustace said. His black-eyed peas and cornbread had cooled to lukewarm on his plate. “She won’t eat unless you do,” Birdie said. Lily shoved peas up her nose, then exhaled hard until they rocketed out onto her high-chair tray. Glee spread over the girl’s chubby face. Eustace tried to explain it to Birdie, his sense of let-down, his uncertainty that God may not back up his words. She fixed him with her eyes, colored like flint: mostly grey with chips of brown and green. He could see those stony eyes looking past him. Her ears listened because it was their duty, but he knew she couldn’t relate. Birdie stood as immovable in her beliefs as the mountains she grew up in. She had been raised Signs Following, unlike Eustace who’d found the light in his later years. Eustace had grown up Catholic, a rare thing in the north Georgia woods. He’d mumbled Hail Marys and Our Fathers and learned the names of saints and martyrs through rote memorization. He knew when in church to sit, stand or kneel, and when to make the sign of the cross. He knew all the rituals like he knew his own name, but his prayers left his lips with all the zeal of a robot. When Eustace became a man, he moved away from home. He went north into Tennessee seeking adventure, shedding his dead prayer skin as he climbed through Appalachia, and eventually settled in Watchelet, up high in the Unicois. One Wednesday night by accident, he found his path. Music led Eustace to the church, the rhythm he’d followed from his back yard through the pine woods. Ain’t no sound finer than a Pentecostal band! The melody dragged him through the door, a ragged sinner bathing for the first time in the Holy Spirit’s flame. The throng rippled primal, chaotic and alive in a way Eustace had never known in Catholic Mass. Mouths dripped angelic languages, and up front they danced with venomous snakes. Fear melted in him, and he, tingling from his head clean down to his toes, took up a copperhead that night. But that’s the trouble with converts. Once one has shed his old religion, peeled it off like a pair of dirty drawers, once one has scoured off an essential piece of himself, a lurking fear emerges. A fear of changing his mind. Why not? Perhaps his stint as a pastor was some temporary madness he must overcome. Maybe. Maybe not. Now the pastor, with a congregation depending on him, laid his head on the kitchen table, his apostolic abilities in question. Birdie held his hands in hers until Lily chucked a hunk of cornbread at the two of them, signaling supper’s end. Wednesday night Eustace almost put his doubt to rest. From the pulpit, he said what he always said, “There is death in this box,” and gestured toward the snake crate near the altar. He pointed to a covered Mason jar full of strychnine, and said “There is death in this jar.” A couple people started singing out of tune and time, but when the guitars and drums started up, the bedlam fused into a joyous noise. The windows rattled with stamping feet, and Fat Lemon Skog, who always helped with the service, started passing the snakes around to those who felt graced. The congregants held the writhing serpents over their heads, exposing pale, shiny underbellies, and let the snakes slip over their limbs as they danced !
and turned and clapped. The Padgetts were there with their son Dell, who at seventeen was still not old enough to engage the snakes, but who did roll out a glorious glossolalia, as fiery as the magma composing the good earth’s unstable core. Corey was absent, as far as Eustace could see. A damn shame, truly. After the snakes and strychnine, they laid hands on the sick, including blind Edna Dee and Shel with a bulging growth on his neck. They prayed for Corey to surrender to God and obey His Laws. Eustace preached that night on the perils of faith without works. Service wrapped up with a song and let out when the terminal tambourine jingle absorbed into the white walls. Outside Lily examined a green junebug near the woods’ edge, picking it up and letting it walk on her arm. Eustace and Birdie chatted with the Padgetts and Fat Lemon. The round man was trying to unload some deer jerky. “Good sport, but more’n I can eat.” That dubious statement set Eustace’s mouth in a grin; he doubted there was anything Fat Lemon couldn’t eat. Before his laugh could get him into trouble, he heard Lily scream. His blood froze in his veins, but his feet ran to her, and he had Lily in his arms as fast as loose mercury. Tears wet his only daughter’s face and she bled from two red jabs just above her right knee. “She’s bit!” Eustace said, panic invading his throat. “Lily, no, God, no!” Birdie swooped Lily from his arms and carried her back into the church with Eustace and the others following. “Lay her here,” Fat Lemon said, putting his jacket down as a blanket. “God, oh, God. Shhhh, it’s ok, honey, ok.” Birdie stroked her daughter’s head. “Don’t be scared.” They were no strangers to snakebites, but they’d never seen an injury to someone so small, so small, and they’d never seen anyone die. The skin around the bite had already swollen purple. Lily’s sobs dipped to a lower volume; perspiration seeped from her baby skin. Birdie laid the toddler on the floor. So small! Praying hands. Eustace put his hands, healing hands, on either side of Lily’s head and prayed. Birdie’s eyes glistened as she held her girl’s tiny hands, dimples on the backs of her chubby knuckles, her little round fingernails. Still bleeding! Birdie prayed, and Eustace prayed, and Dell and his parents and Lemon laid on their hands and prayed. God, not yet, God, don’t take her! What gives You the right? Shallow breath, stabs of oxygen. Why aren’t You helping? Lily’s skin felt like fire as her heart slammed. Then it stopped. And Lily, all purple and blue and white, the pale of hydrangeas. Later there were gravestones to choose from, inscriptions to decide on. And the coffins so small and satin-lined; they chose a white one, lined pink with a pink pillow, and air-tight, of course, so the creepy-crawlers can’t get in. The tiny dress, all white ruffles, and the ringlets on her head. And the people sent flowers, great heart-shaped arrangements in pastel, propped like fainting actresses around the viewing room at the funeral home. “We’re sorry for your loss,” the people said, taking turns to offer hands, to squirm in their shoes. “If there’s anything we can do...” And the pastor from Opossum Hill drove up to perform the service, because Eustace could not, just could not. The morning oozed through the living room windows, clear lymph on a scrape wound. And Eustace was a skinned knee, scabby; every time he moved his wounds reopened. Insect noise filled the air as the sunshade shifted from orange to the indigo of nightfall. The pastor stretched out on the couch to sleep, because Birdie wouldn’t let him into their bed. He wondered about God’s plan. The sofa cushions conformed to his body, and he waited, and he didn’t understand what good could come from a little girl’s death. Who is God to take? In the next days, Birdie scrabbled always away from him, always just outside his line of sight. She didn’t make dinner anymore, and Eustace took to eating pinto beans hobo-style, straight from the can. Trivial possessions triggered varied outbursts from her when Birdie ran across one of Lily’s barrettes or socks. On a good day, Birdie cried; on a bad day, she chucked the clock radio at her husband. Once, Eustace found a wire barb in his coffee. Demons in her, he thought. Did he still believe in demons? Maybe the Opossum Hill preacher could cast them out. “I’m going,” Birdie said. Behind her, a fly circled the room, lighting on the mauve lampshade. She wore a faded floral dress, the one he bought her before they married. Through the years the cotton had softened and thinned; it was her favorite thing she owned. “You gone to your momma and them’s?” Eustace asked. “Prob’ly. For a while. Liable to hurt you if I stay. Can’t stand looking at you.” !
“Pray for me.” “Can’t stand it. Blaming God. Ought to blame yourself! He wouldn’t have took her if it ain’t been for your doubt.” “Birdie, I-” “Brung His vengeance on this whole house.” Eustace couldn’t face her eyes, but he felt them, double-barrel grey and aimed right for him. He fixed on the fly rubbing its forelegs together, its praying hands, but who did this insect pray to? The bug resumed flight, and Birdie must’ve left. The spring-loaded screen door smacked. Eustace squashed the fly with one of Birdie’s shoes. In the night he thought he heard Lily cry. He rose from his bed and crossed the hall to check. He flipped the light switch. He had forgotten. Alone, he slumped in bereavement’s murk, alone in the house too big and too quiet. The only noises to accompany his breathing came from the surrounding woods, the crashing of squirrels in the treetops, crows with hacking caws, the trill of nocturnal insects. Alone, a godless heathen, the pastor grieved. His hair grew long with wiry greys; his breath and skin soured; he bent to no expectations. He felt rigid and hollow, a prayer box without the snakes in it. When his tears ran out, and Birdie still hadn’t come back, he packed. Eustace threw all of Lily’s clothes into black, plastic garbage bags. All of her plush toys and barely-worn shoes. Nothing to it. He slung them into the truck bed and glanced back once in a while to make sure they hadn’t jumped the tailgate. Driving into Benton, he took zigzag roads that unlaced the Unicois like a busted old corset, groping mountains like titanic tits. Eustace laughed, his throat ragged with inelegant freedom, unsure if the sound suited him, a reckless man with a truck chock full of a dead girl’s things. He dumped the bags at Thrifty Missy’s Secondhand Kidz Boutique. He just pulled right into the parking lot and handed them to an old gal in blue eyeliner, smoking brown More cigarettes. Nothing to it, he told himself. Just dropping off some clothes, nothing to it. The pastor stopped his empty truck at the Golden Gallon to fuel up for the homeward trek. Maybe he’d get himself a beer, while he’s at it. Ain’t touched a drop in over a decade; might be nice. Can’t even remember what it tasted like. He put thirty bucks in the tank and grabbed a six-pack of Michelob. The amber bottles looked elegant with their black labels and gold trim; they clinked together while Eustace passed the pumps toward his beat Chevy. He opened one up and drank it right there in the lot, bright as a citrus burst, cold on his tongue like spilling a glacier. Just having a beer, nothing to it. “Pastor!” Eustace jumped slightly, caught off guard. He spun and faced Dell, who again said, “Pastor!” waving his arms and crossing the lot to meet Eustace. The pastor swung the cardboard carton of beer behind his back, hiding it as best he could, but the empty one rested still in his guilty grip. Eustace watched Dell as he approached; the boy’s eyes flickered from alarm to pity. When Dell got closer he said, “Pastor, how you holding up?” He hugged the preacher. “You look bad.” “Glad you noticed,” Eustace said, wresting out of the embrace. He must’ve looked rough in his unwashed skin and greasy clothes. “I don’t mean it like that. Just never seen you so...” Dell said. He sucked in his cheeks and chewed on their insides. “It’s good you getting out of the house and all.” “Huh.” Eustace tossed the empty bottle into the garbage can fixed to the concrete divide separating his pump from the next. He shifted the beers to his other hand. “Yeah.” “We been driving down to Opossum Hill for service now. Long ways, but Jesus calls. Going tonight, too.” “Uh-huh.” “Had me a birthday. Old enough now to follow all the signs. Hey,” Dell said, his eyes suddenly fired up like tiny angels lighting bonfires in his sockets, “you oughta come by tonight for service. We’d love to have you.” “Don’t think so,” Eustace said, head beginning to throb. He opened the truck door and slid the beer across into the passenger seat. “We all been praying for you.” “Don’t,” the pastor said. He couldn’t stand looking at that boy anymore, just couldn’t stand it. !
He cranked the truck, which rumbled like God clearing His Almighty Throat, and drove, leaving Dell standing dumbly. Eustace cracked another Michelob, watching the trees thicken as he moved toward the edges of town. The hills climbed, and pines replaced the hardwoods. The tires on the blacktop lulled his senses, or maybe he was only drunk. A hard meanness had settled inside him, and he didn’t like himself for it. Why’d he lashed at Dell back there? He couldn’t explain. Was it the boy’s stupid optimism or his naïve pity? Eustace didn’t think of himself as a man anymore; he was a husk, all scooped out and dry. He remembered Lily’s face, the shadow slipping across her as the coffin lid closed. The pastor killed off the beers as he twirled up the mountainside. By the time he made it to his neck of the woods, he felt fully inebriated. He was pretty sure he’d heard Corey call it shitfaced. Yeah, just getting shitfaced, nothing to it. Suddenly, he realized he didn’t want to go home. The thought of the empty house caused involuntary tremors to run through his skeleton. He’d detour by the church instead. He pulled into the gravel drive and cut the engine. A tapping noise rose from under the hood as it began to cool. It took some time for Eustace to fit the key into the lock, but he got it. He slung his keys on the small table in the entryway; they skidded across and landed with a jingle on the floor. He left them where they fell. The assembly room stank. The odor of the snakes crept from the snake den under the crack of the door; he hadn’t cleaned out the tanks or even fed the monsters in a few weeks. Wan sunlight pressed like dead hands against the window glass. The pastor left the lights off; he enjoyed the way the cool rays drowned in the corners. He wouldn’t mind drowning. His head still hurt, but the beer kept him from caring. He wished for people here, for dancing feet, for butane fires and drums. Eustace knelt on the scuffed floor, on the very spot where Lily died. The hardness ached his knees, and he prayed the rhythmic prayers of his childhood, of a Father in heaven and a Mary full of grace and for the intercession of his patron saint. Passionately drunk, he prayed for ignorance; he prayed for belief unshattered. He prayed that God would view his desire for faith as equal to blind following. Echoes in a tomb, his words bounced back to him. Either no one listens, or no one cares. The pale sun’s fingers retreated, and Eustace felt the spreading cold. No! It doesn’t happen like this! Not this way. His pulse raced as he pulled himself up, swaying as the alcohol rattled the walls of his arteries. Eustace found his keys in the gathering dark, loosed the thin silver one, and unlocked the snake den. The scent reached out and sucker punched him. The snakes dreamed coiled in their tanks, except for two that nosed the wire mesh lids; he would come for them last. One at time he pulled off the lids. He picked up the first few easily in their sleep, two rattlesnakes and a copperhead, but his sloppiness roused the others. The rattlers shook their tails; the copperheads struck toward him with open mouths beating against their glass enclosures. The pastor took them up, every last one, the scaly legless demons climbing him. They twined his arms and legs and throat, their patterned skins a living cloak for him. They bit him, but he was not afraid of their hooked fangs, venom, hissing. They bit him, and he prayed that his prayers were enough.
Leap of Faith Nick Francel
Love Letters From the Dead Sheila Erwin The phone rings and Your voice speaks of tired elegance, Yellowed pearls spilling from its tether But you are never really free And I can’t stay away, though I burn Crows caw inside my phone When you are gone, I cultivate gloom And navigate between two worlds, your arrival and your departure I ride inside a golden carriage drawn by toothless jaguars Though it’s always my cortege, not yours “Dying so long, the dead know the way.” Circe calls down from her tower She sings the siren’s song Your feet have turned cloven and you’ll never leave I am but a shadow I have learned to be invisible The open sky is the ground I walk
Ceramica Dolll Meets the Chinaman A. Molotkov Ceramica Dolll dancing to the sounds of repetitive music. Clay limbs twist, rotate. Clay fingers rotate, twist. Rotate and twist all around. The building begin to shake and rattle. Rattle and shake the walls. Shake and rattle street, city, continent. Now the entire world dancing with Ceramica Dolll! Dancing to evaporate! As the landscape fall dispersed, lobotomized Dolll dancing away the future, events and intentions fell scattered around us! Around us scattered thoughts and memories, scattered around us situations and premoni-tions. Faces and feers, facts and funny feelings! Now the entire scope of Universe dancing with Ceramica Dolll! You snatch a situation – thank you – pleese – thank you – pleese – and here you are. You are here. We are addressing you from the inside of the situation. We are the ones who did it to the Dolll. You know what we meen. Would you like another one instead? Pick any one. Or two. Take three free if you wish! We have plenty! Scattered and dispersed, dispersed and scattered. You take, you accept. You accept, you take. Now, YOU dancing with Ceramica Dolll! But who knows one from another, and this from that? Who remembers the difference between? Who can still discern? Did we ever knock upon your door without a question that could not be answered? Have we bothered you with notions that allow practical application? When was the last time that we made sense? So, you interrupt the dancing. You walk away from the window, the fall-apart exhibition left behind. Behide in the labyrinths of life, and we shall befind you. You shall not be alone. But what is it? The carnival has penetrated the Building, and now the insanetary frigs are dancing inside. The Dolll, mounted on a bed of human hands, is being carried in. Be where of Ceramica Dolll! Dancing inside we are dancing inside. Dancing inside finally dancing inside. Ceramica Dolll we shall take her inside, she dance for us, she dance in front of us, before our very eyes dance Ceramica Dolll. Hold the key to all connections in one hand, the net of time in other, she dance. She dance, Ceramica Dolll; clay limbs rotate, rotate, twist, twist. Clay fingers twist, twist, rotate, rotate. Now, the Building IS Ceramica Dolll. Ancient pillars rotate, twist. We twist, rotate among them. How escape? Now, snatch out of her hand what we need. Take what we need, we need, we need. We need to take what we need. We need the need. Shall be insanetary and mind-bleek. Bleek as the skin of Ceramica Dolll. Let’s snatch and have. Make Ceramica Dolll dance for you! Ceramica Dolll works for us. You know what we meen. It is we who operate the Dolll. We are addressing you from the inside of the moment. You can pick any second you like. Pick it now! Have an hour if you wish. We have plenty! The transcendent energy of dancing is accumulating in our brains. We want to manipulate! Operate and rule, rule and manipulate! You know what we meen. In transient nowhere of our dreems blank spots of your imagination are being filled, waiting to merge with Ceramica Dolll. We need the Dolll to have you, but you need us to be with the Dolll! You want to be with the Dolll. With the Dolll you want to dance, with the Dolll you want to rotate and twist! With the Dolll and only with the Doll, nowhere without, no before, no after, twist and rotate forever more. Not tomorrow, yesterday not. No other time, no place other. No nothing else! Now, YOU dancing with Ceramica Dolll! Dolll, give YOU your hand! Take her by the hand, leed her into the circle, dance her, strangle her with music. Take a cord, wrap around her neck. Take a melody, wrap around her waist, waste her. Take a note, kick her on the clay head. Kick her head with note of music! Dancing oblivion with Ceramica Dolll! Proclaiming emptiness everyone be lobotomized like the Dolll! Frustrated energy of mind let free through the hole of skull! Let breethe air through hole, let knowledge pass in soft pleasant waves right from the Dolll into your mind. Your mind be open like shell. ENTER THE CHINAMAN. !
Many a time broken limbs he come. Many a crack on his skin. He not dancing, but jingling all over. To the rhythm of his jingling, Ceramica Dolll now dance! Who knows what the first what the second. Dancing to the music or musicing to the dance? Meenwhile, the Chinaman, he combined of fragments and pieces, all ever broken apart now come together within him. All fragile, yet solid like iceberg. All jingling, jingling moving along, minds absorbed in hypnotizing repetitive sound. Now realize: the Chinaman has been jingling all along. Now you can heer. Ceramica Dolll dancing with the Chinaman, the Chinaman musicing with the Dolll. What hold together, how come not collapse? Hot clay love now Sex Supreme! Orgasm forevered into parallel times, climax projected onto all possibilities. Everywhere be Sex, no place to stay sex-free. See shapes and feetures of future clay, the future reflected in clay, the past burned afire. Ceramica Dolll, she the symbol of Oneness. The Chinaman, he the emblem of Inner Separation. Together merge. See what you can behold, listen to what you can heer! Mass raw energy emitted into clay as Sex continue. Hot around us, and hot around you. A tongue of fire lick walls, snack on paintings. Another tongue lick away curtains. Licking and snacking, hungry fireâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ire. All raw energy emitting, jingle and dance, dance and jingle. You hot too. Cannot notice, cannot control yourself. Just hot, and Sex all over, all around. Now dance and jingle, you too find so. Jingle and dance, dance and jingle. Behold what you can see, heer what you can listen to! Now YOU dancing jingling with Ceramica Dolll, Chinaman! Clay limbs twist, rotate, touch in Sex Supreme! Clay torsos rotate, touch, twist in hot permanento! Clay lips and tongues touch, twist, rotate in innuendo end! All around too, and all inside. All inside, and meenwhile, all around. Now, all between, and in the first place. Now, as a matter of fact, and forever more. Now, maybe because, and sometimes already. The Chinaman works for us. You know what we meen. It is we who crafted him out of china. Need more be said? We are addressing you from inside yourself. Pick yourself out of all options. You can try it for a week, and then exchange. Take two if you wish. Get a package of personalities. We have plenty. The transcendent energy of musicing is accumulating in our brains. We want to manipulate! Operate and rule, rule and manipulate! You know what we meen. In the fleeting never of our illusions closed doors of your perception are being opened, waiting to merge with the Chinaman. We need the Chinaman to have you, but you need us to be with the Chinaman. You want to be with the Chinaman. With the Chinaman you want to music, with the Chinaman you want to jingle and jangle. No otherwise anymore. To be so. Jingle forever more. So to be. Approximate all in subliminal harmony. No need for detail, not need to be specific either. No time to measure, not any location to be determined either. Unattached. Untouched. Welcome Ceramica Dolll, welcome the Chinaman! Dance, jingle us into oblivion of lobotomonotonous life. Jingle, dance us into forgetfulness of head-hole breath! Let all inside, then outside. Let all outside, then inside. Criminal action upon any penetration of the dance, the dance to be continued. Criminal enforcement upon any dislocation of jingling, the jingling to prolong. Welcome all, dance jingle in clay perfection. Clay symbol upon the skull of earth, clay stamp upon the face of eternity. Persevere! Feel all you can touch, as we recommend. We twist, rotate in disjoint dance. You rotate, twist in the arms of Ceramica Dolll. The Chinaman embrace all, hold all firm as he jingle. Ceramica Dolll never stop, all that is motionless nonexistent. Dimensions of dance, time by jingle. Rotate and twist clay, clay twist and rotate. Now, WE dancing with Ceramica Dolll, jingling with the Chinaman! NOW LOOK OUTSIDE.
Look outside, all unstoppable and insanetary bleek. Look as all move, no atom to stay in place, all to shift, rhythmically. Rotate, and as you rotate, do twist. As twist, do rotate too! As rotate and twist, jingle too! All outside quite as we are, rotate and twist. NOW LOOK INSIDE. All inside quite as we are, twist and rotate. NOW LOOK BEYOND. All beyond quite as we are, jingle. Now WE jingling with the Chinaman, dancing with Ceramica Dolll! All merge, all one. All situations together, all time in knot. Choose one, choose two, or more. Choose all. Dance off the reality, jingle off the coincidence. Ceramica Dolll works for us. The Chinaman works for us. You know what we meen. We want you and you want us. You are Ceramica Dolll, you are the Chinaman! Twist and rotate, rotate and twist, shake and rattle, dance and jingle. Permanent orgasm lobotomized, insanetary frig Sex Supreme no stop to be envisioned. Touch all you can feel, as we recommend.
Film Michael Benedict It was still early when Patrick merged onto I-5 and began to move south. A thick fog blanketed the Skagit Valley, an occasional other car looming up out of the haze. He knew that the dark mood, as with all his many dark moods, hadn’t been caused by much, and that there was no reason to keep it around. He tried to will it away, to move on to other thoughts, but it clung to him like the smell of smoke. As he neared home the fog began to thin. He watched as focus was slowly etched back onto the world. Patrick looked in the fridge for a moment, then shut it and returned to his seat at the kitchen table. The newspaper still lay open to the classified ads, the red pen still uncapped. He picked up the pen and, starting at the last marked entry, began moving slowly down the page. Still he couldn’t focus. After marking a few more ads he put the cap back on the pen, set the pen back on the page, and shut the newspaper over it. The study needed to be cleaned, he remembered, relieved to think of another way to occupy himself. The study was a room only slightly larger than a walk-in closet at the back of the small house. There was a pair of bookshelves, a filing cabinet, and a desk on which sat their old computer. His girlfriend Penny used the room for writing letters and paying bills; Patrick hardly used it all. Lately the desk had become a repository for odd bits in need of sorting – receipts, old bills, letters from his grandparents, Penny’s pay stubs. Penny had been dropping hints that it needed to be dealt with. He flipped on the lamp and dropped himself into the rickety office chair. He began to sort some things into piles, flicking others into the garbage. Just as he’d put the final receipt into its pile and crossed his arms, wondering how to continue, he heard the front door open. He heard the door close again, a bag dropped to the floor, keys on a hard surface and then the two syllables of his name in a singsong voice, "Pat-rick." "Back here," he said. He heard her footsteps down the hallway and saw her face in the doorframe. Penny smiled at him. "What are you up to?" "Just sorting out this mess." "Well aren’t you the greatest?" "Guess so." She came around the desk and sat down on his lap. She swung her legs up over the side of the chair, put her arms around his neck, and kissed his cheek. He said, "Hey, do you want me to keep all these receipts? I mean, do you store them somewhere?" "If they’re cash, you can throw them away. If they’re credit card receipts, there’s a folder for them in the filing cabinet. What brought on the cleaning?" "Couldn’t think of anything else to do." "How was your little field trip?" "It was a bust. Total waste of the morning. This joker shows me the car and tries to tell me how–" "Wait, wait. Tell me at dinner, okay?" "At dinner?" She looked at her watch. "I just came by to grab my jogging stuff. Dustin’s leaving early so I should be able to get out early too. Will you meet me at Peso’s at five?" He looked at the stack on the desk and sighed. "Oh come on. Like you have something else to do." "Yeah. I’ll meet you." She kissed him and swung back onto her feet. "Love you," she said, walking out of the study. He turned back to the receipts and began resorting them – credit card slips into a pile on the desk, cash receipts into the trash. When he was done he took the stack over to the filing cabinet and began shuffling through the rainbow of folders, each marked with a label in Penny’s neat script. He found a
blue one marked “Receipts” and deposited his stack, then lingered over the other folders for a moment. One marked "Letters from Jackie," another "Car stuff." He opened it and found the whole history of her old Ford – oil changes, tune-ups, new tires and tire rotations. It made him smile, this little window into her personality. He raised his head to call out to her just as he heard the front door slam shut. He shut the top drawer and opened the bottom, hungry for more. The bottom drawer was less organized. Things yet to be sorted, he gathered, and in the back of the drawer a few small trinkets. Some orphaned keys, an empty jewelry box, a few loose pens and pencils. His fingers closed over something else, and he held it up to the light. A roll of film. It was black, with a matching black label and a brand name he didn’t recognize. He thought to ask Penny about it and, not wanting to forget, tucked it into the pocket of his jeans. After exploring a moment longer he shut the drawer again. He returned to the sorting, eyeing the pile of old bills and trying to remember if there’d been a folder for them. If not, he wondered if she had blank folders around somewhere. The morning had been a waste, but his bad mood was finally fading. "Of course he’s thinking someone will walk one down to him, but David just winds up and slings the beer off the edge of the porch. Now David was a pitcher in high school, mind you." She nodded, her lips bent into an amused little smile. Sometimes she would barely listen. Or, if she was in a bad mood, she might interrupt to tell him how many times she’d heard this or that story. Other times, like now, she would listen and give him that look, an expression somewhere between ‘I love you’ and ‘You are such a loser.’ "And it was a perfect throw, would’ve been a strike. It hit Matt right in the forehead. Of course he was mad as hell and just about broke David’s arm when he got back to the porch, but in an hour he was laughing about it too." He shook his head, still wearing the afterglow of the memory, thinking of the next story it opened into, and the next, and the next. He looked at his nearly empty plate and shoved it back, crumpled the napkin off his lap and dropped it on top. Penny said, "So the trip didn’t go so well?" "God, I hate to even think about it. First off the car’s a lot more banged up than he said it was. Plus it’s a 92, not a 94. And then he’s telling me why it’s worth so much more than it looks. How it’s got pretty new tires and just got a new battery and all this other bullshit." As his temper rose she gave him a concerned look. "Sorry." He shook his head. "I’ve gotta learn to take the clues from the ads. You want rich people who don’t really care, who just want to get rid of the car. People without money know what every little thing is worth. They want more money if the gas tank’s full." The server coasted by, clearing their plates and leaving the check. Patrick felt around in his pockets for his wallet. His fingers closed around the roll of film. "Hey, do you know what this is from? I found it in the back of the filing cabinet." She took it from him and turned it slowly. She shrugged. "Don’t know. Don’t recognize it.” "Pictures of you with your other boyfriend?" "Could be." "Such a tramp." She laughed. "I’ll drop them by the drug store tomorrow and we’ll see what’s what." When they left the restaurant he marveled that it was the evening of the same day he’d started, driving through fog as thick as a storm cloud. It was perfectly clear, the setting sun washing the streets of Anacortes in burnt orange. It was beginning to cool. He put an arm around Penny. She slept nine or ten hours a night, the heaviest sleeper he’d ever known. Over the course of their relationship they’d fallen into a natural pattern. She would fall asleep as he sat in bed next to her watching television. He would stay up an hour or two later – watching more television, reading the sports section, standing in the kitchen eating a bowl of cereal or drinking a glass of water from the tap. After they got home from Peso’s she quickly changed into pajamas. She crawled right into bed with a book and he said, "Party animal." She looked up and grinned, then looked back down to the page. 21
He turned on the television and flipped through the channels. A late show, a news show, the replay of a college basketball game. When he glanced down later she was already asleep. He watched the rest of the basketball game. There were a few interviews after, and then a boxing match came on. He turned off the television. He leaned back against the headboard and closed his eyes. When he opened them again he got out of bed, walked across the room to the one low bookcase, and crawled back under the covers with an old photo album. The first thing he saw was himself. Longer hair, slimmer build, a patchy beard. Himself in the old Lund, himself with a beer in each hand, himself with his arm over David’s shoulders. All pictures from their many trips to David’s family’s cabin on the San Juan islands. There were pictures from the time they’d brought a keg out to the cabin. They’d found themselves caught in a rare spring snowstorm, and the massive weight of the keg increased the challenge of their crossing. They vowed never to bring a keg again, but cheered each other heartily upon tapping it, each beer that much sweeter for the effort by which they’d earned it. There were pictures from the time they’d brought David’s young puppy. They’d gone on a walk across the island to a steep cliff overlooking a cove. The puppy had charged forward after a squirrel and, to their collective terror, gone tumbling over the cliff. But terror turned to relieved laughter when they stepped forward and saw the puppy: wagging his tail, barking, a hundred feet below and miraculously uninjured. Patrick looked up and reached for the phone, thinking briefly to call David. His eyes fell on the alarm clock and he saw that somehow nearly an hour had passed. It was late enough now that David would be asleep – he worked for the forest service and kept brutally early hours. Patrick decided to call him the next day. He turned on the television again. Still grinning, still remembering. His newest fix-up had turned into a pain in the ass. There was a problem with the transmission, but the part he suspected needed to be replaced was buried deep within the engine. He was at work on it, deeply focused, when Penny came into the garage. "There you are," she said. "Was beginning to think you’d run out on me." "Hi," he said, looking up. She leaned into him and kissed the side of his mouth. He held his hands away from her blouse as he kissed her back. "Don’t want to get you dirty." “How’s it going?” she asked. “Shitty. I swear to God I don’t know what the Japanese are thinking sometimes. If there’s a stupider way to organize everything under this hood, I sure can’t guess what it is." She stepped away, giving him that concerned look again. He fought to control his temper, shaking his head. “Anyway, it could be worse.” “Well maybe I’ve got something to cheer you up,” she said, holding up a small plastic bag. "I picked up those pictures today." "Oh yeah?" he said. He set the two pieces down on top of the toolbox. "Mystery solved?" "Mystery solved. They’re pictures of you and David and Devon and all those guys, from one of your trips to the cabin." "No shit?" he said, breaking into a huge grin. "Let me see." "Hey," she said, holding the package away from him. "You don’t want to get them dirty." He gave her an irritated look but agreed. He followed her into the house. "I don’t get it," he said, throwing on the water and spraying dish soap onto his hands. "Where did that roll of film come from? How long had it been in that filing cabinet?" "I don’t have a clue, Patrick." He dried his hands quickly on his jeans and took a seat next to her at the kitchen table. He pulled away the plastic bag, the brown envelope, and looked down at himself and David looking over their shoulders in the old Lund. "No shit," Patrick said again. "You’re like a kid on Christmas," Penny said, getting up from the table and beginning to put away the groceries she’d bought. 22
He turned to the next picture – himself behind David as David split wood. And the next – a big group of them, the angle slightly off. A picture taken with a timer, he presumed. He moved his attention from one face to the next. Himself, then Matt when he’d had a beard. David and Devon giving each other rabbit’s ears. And then a face he couldn’t place. Another boy their age, tall and thin, wearing a plain gray t-shirt and jeans. Thin, long hair, only barely smiling. His face eerily pale, almost skeletal, and his eyes turned slightly away from the camera. Patrick studied the face intently, still failing to place it, before turning to the next picture. Someone diving into the surf. Then a nature shot – the gentle curve of a cove and the sunset behind it. And then another picture of the boy he couldn’t identify, standing with David in the woods at dusk. Patrick studied the picture, looking closely at the boy. He wore the same outfit as in the previous photo. Again he looked just to one side of the camera. Patrick felt a tingling sensation crawl over his skin, working down to his core. He heard a whisper of madness, and felt the irrational sense that the world may have changed somehow, or the rules to the world’s functioning. He didn’t know what he expected when he looked up, but maybe something terrifying. The walls melting, strangers in his house, the color drained out of the world or colors he’d never seen before. But instead he saw Penny, carefully folding the grocery bags and stacking them in the pantry. He shook his head. "This is weird." "What is?" He flipped back in the stack and held up the first photo that had bothered him, the photo of the boy he couldn’t place. "This. I can’t remember this guy. Not just his name but anything about him." "Yeah, I guess that was a long time ago. Ten years at least, right?" "I know, but it’s so strange. Mostly it was the same seven or eight of us out there every time. Sometimes there were more, but I remember all of them. Once David’s cousin. Another time one of Matt’s roommates. I mean I don’t remember all their names, but I remember them being there." "Patrick, every story you tell me about being out at that cabin involves lots and lots of alcohol. Maybe your memories of that particular trip are a little hazy," she said, pointing to the stack of photos in his hand. She had her purse back over her shoulder. "But listen," he said. He flipped to the photo of the mystery boy and David in the woods. "Look at this one. That’s a madrona behind them. There are no madronas on that entire island." "I don’t know what to tell you, Patrick. One tree escaped your detailed inspection." "I’m not joking. I’m telling you there’s not." "I can tell you’re not joking," she said, leaning down to kiss him. "But what’s the big deal? So you forgot about a tree. Or maybe that’s not a madrona, it’s just some other tree that looks like a madrona." "But it doesn’t make any sense for–" "Baby, I’ve gotta go. My class starts in fifteen minutes." "Okay, okay," he said. She moved her hand over his shoulders and walked away. When Penny had gone, when silence replaced the sounds of her preparing to leave, Patrick was bent over the photos again. For a long time she’d planned to learn Spanish. She had several Mexican-American customers at the bank, and had always found herself attracted to the music of their accent, to the language itself. But for as long as she’d been planning to learn Spanish, she’d also been finding reasons she couldn’t. Telling herself it would take up too much time, or would cost too much money. Then one evening, feeling a sense that her life had become stagnant, a deep hunger for a new challenge, she drove the 20 miles to Skagit Valley College and picked up a course catalog. It cost 340 dollars for 12 evening sessions. She made enough money to pay for it on her own, but she put the question to Patrick like it was a decision on which they needed to agree. He turned slowly from the television and looked at her. "I guess the way I always feel about it is that this is America. I mean I know a lot of people here speak Spanish, but maybe that means they oughta learn English." She shrugged. He shrugged back. He returned his attention to the TV. "But if you want, have a ball. Knock yourself out."
She was excited on the first day of class. She expected a challenge and was prepared for hours of work and study. But to her surprise it came to her easily – like something she’d known once and forgotten; like remembering instead of learning. She quickly picked up the smallest details – conjugations, slang, nuances of different dialects. And watching the others in the class wrestle with the foreign sounds, she felt a sense of pride. Tuesday evening became hours to look forward to. She bounced up the steps to their front door that evening, in a good mood as always after leaving class, having forgotten entirely about Patrick and the pictures. He sat at the kitchen table, and she wondered if he’d moved the entire time she’d been away. All the things that had covered the table – his classified ads, a phone book, the salt and pepper shakers, the napkin holder – had been set on the counter or the floor. He’d spread the 24 prints out in a grid and was bent over a piece of paper, scribbling. He looked up. "This is so fucked up, Penny. I don’t think this trip ever happened. At first it was just a handful of pictures that bothered me, but now I see something new every time I look. Look at this picture of me. Look at the coast behind me. Where is that? I don’t recognize that. That’s not the island or any of the islands around it." For a while she tried arguing with him about his memory of the events. Couldn’t he have forgotten that face, that tree, that day? But her questions made him angry, vitriolic in his self-defense, and she slowly stopped asking them. She took a deep breath. She tried to think of something to say. He held up a picture – himself and David in a small boat. “At first I thought I remembered this. But now I don’t know. Maybe the whole trip didn’t happen. Or maybe some of it did and some of it didn’t. Or maybe,” but he didn’t finish. He sat staring at the photos, at the sheet of notes he’d compiled. She lowered herself into a chair next to his. "So what do you think it means, Patrick?" "I don’t know. I can’t even begin to figure it. Like I had some kind of black out, or brain damage, or... or I don’t know. Or like it’s some kind of weird prank. Some kind of really fucked up prank." She studied his face – the shade of his skin and the look in his eyes. The expression he wore was like none she’d ever seen on him. Not in the four years she’d known him, the three they’d been a couple, the two they’d lived together. He looked up suddenly. "That film. It was some weird brand. What was the brand?" "I don’t know. Something foreign-sounding." "Can you remember? Try to remember." She did. "God, I don’t know, Patrick. I think it started with a T. Maybe an S. I remember thinking it sounded Japanese, but maybe I was wrong." "Do you have the receipt? Maybe it says on the receipt." She picked up her purse, trying to feel calm, like this was any night in their relationship. She found the receipt and handed it to him. He studied it intently for a moment, then flicked it and looked back up at her with a grimace. "Nothing. But the store’s open until nine, right?" "Yeah, but what are you going to–" "I’m just going to see if they remember the brand. If they can tell me anything about it. I’ll be right back, okay?" "Patrick, can’t this wait until tomorrow? They close in twenty minutes. Just go in the morning." But he was already pulling on his coat. "Have you eaten?" The only thing she could think to say. "I’ll be right back, okay?" And he was gone, the door slamming shut and leaving the apartment silent. Penny closed her eyes. She exhaled every molecule of air in her lungs, then slowly filled them back up. She opened her eyes again. There were the pictures, spread out before her. There was Patrick’s face. Patrick on a boat, Patrick among the evergreens of the San Juans, Patrick with a hundred beers and a thousand cigarettes. He was smiling in every picture. She thought how foreign the expression looked on him, how rare his smile was. The kid had long, greasy hair in a ponytail, bad skin, a nose ring. He looked about seventeen. And he was just not getting it. 24
"I’m just asking about the roll. The little canister the film was in. Do you have the roll?" The kid asked again, "Was there a problem with the pictures?" "No. I mean, not how you’re thinking. Not like that." "Like what, then?" "Look," Patrick sighed. He leaned on the counter. "It’s a simple question, okay? Here’s my receipt. The pictures were picked up this afternoon. Do you have the roll the film was in?" The kid shrugged again, now looking at Patrick like a lunatic. "We throw those away. They’re in a dumpster out back or else they’ve already been picked up by the truck. In which case they’re at the dump or in a landfill or wherever. I just don’t get what the problem is, man." For a moment Patrick thought of asking about the dumpster. He imagined himself digging, waist-deep in garbage, the hundreds of empty canisters. He looked up at the kid and said, "Never mind. Thanks for your help." He found the front door locked. The kitchen light was on, all the other lights off. He took off his shoes and walked quietly down the hallway. The bedroom was dark, and he could hear the soft, even metronome of Penny’s breath. He walked back out to the kitchen. The pictures were in a grid as he’d left them. He sat down and leaned over them again. He saw the piece of paper laid on top of them. Written in Penny’s neat script, "You’re scaring me." Patrick and Penny’s relationship had begun with an awkward first date. It ended uncomfortably and afterwards he did not plan on calling her again. But over the next few days his mind kept turning to her. The way she’d insisted on splitting the check. How her purse was not a vanity but a perfect tool, seeming to contain every object she could ever need. Here was a woman who could take care of herself, who was gifted in the simple acts of daily life, who knew what she wanted, who had answers. Three days later he found himself dialing her number. His love for her had not at first been overly passionate, or even something he thought about much. But over the years it had built and built, gaining strength and nuance, overwhelming other crushes he held and eclipsing doubts about their relationship. He loved her, and what’s more, he respected her. She had overcome a dreadful childhood, she lived well, and he valued her opinions. He valued her advice. When he found the note, he thought – She’s right. He went to the bedroom, changed into shorts and a t-shirt, and got into bed next to her. When he woke in the morning his mind went quickly to the pictures. But he thought to himself – She’s right. He tried to go about a normal day. He brewed coffee and made himself eggs. After eating he opened the door to the clammy coastal morning and brought in the newspaper. He skimmed a few articles on the front page before turning to the classifieds. There were several promising leads. He reached for the phone to call one of them, slowly thinking of the pictures again. He wondered again if it was possible, actually possible, that the strange boy in the pictures, the boy who never smiled, had been on the trip. That Patrick had really just forgotten him entirely. But there were the other details – landscapes he couldn’t place and poses he didn’t remember holding. Aspects of pictures taken inside the cabin that seemed to show things incorrectly – a window that hadn’t been there, shelves where there had never been shelves. "Hello?" a voice said, the tone that of someone who has just woken up. Patrick had forgotten entirely where he was, what he was doing. "Hello?" the voice said again. "I’m sorry, I think I have the wrong number," he said quickly, and hung up. He picked the phone back up and dialed David’s number. It rang a long while and finally he heard David’s voice leaving bland instructions. Patrick hung up just before the beep. He went out on a walk, thinking it would be good to get out of the house, hoping to distract himself and failing. When he arrived back home he called again. He waited through the message and said, "David, it’s Patrick. Calling to see how you’re doin’. Wanted to ask you a question, too. Call me back when you’ve got a minute. Alright."
When Penny came home he could feel her watching him for signs. He put on his cheeriest face and asked if she wanted to make dinner with him. He got charcoal ready as she cut cheese and formed patties. They cooked the burgers and sat at the kitchen table, eating them and drinking bottles of beer. He kept wondering if she would ask about the pictures, or mention the note from the night before, but she said nothing. He wondered if she was thinking about it, or noticing the moments when he slipped back into wondering. But her mood was sunny. She seemed content to drop the memory behind, happy to return to the status quo. "You want to watch a movie?" he asked, and she agreed. They lay in bed with the lights off. As much as he tried, he hardly followed the plot at all. After an hour he noticed she was asleep. He let the movie run while going to the closet, while throwing a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt over his shoulder. He cracked open the bedroom door. When he turned off the movie he watched her, but she didn’t move. Her breathing continued, slow and steady. He dressed in the living room. It was very cold outside. As he drove he studied the details of the yellow dashes rushing by to his left, the hint of the coast in the moonlight, the sudden appearance of an overpass flashing by overhead. Remember this, he thought. Always remember this. -
"Were you asleep?" "No. Headed that way, maybe. You want a beer or something? Think I’ve got a few somewhere in
"Yeah. A beer would be good." He watched as David picked through the fridge. David, dressed in an old sweatshirt and Levis, socks and sandals. Patrick took the beer and watched as David sat across from him. "Welcome to my humble castle. You’ve been here before, haven’t you?" "Yeah. Once or twice," Patrick said, looking around. It was not dirty but cluttered. Not stylish but functional. Stacks of papers on the counter, a few dishes on a drying rack. Pictures of David’s family on the wall. And a space heater humming quietly in the corner. "How long you been here now?" "Jesus. About three years, I guess. Feels like maybe half that." Patrick nodded, feeling the weight of the photos in his pocket. "Got something I want to show you." David flipped slowly through all of them. He started out grinning, his face gradually drifting into concentration – brow slightly furrowed, lips pressed together. He flipped through a second time, just faster than the first. Finally he turned to the third photo down, the one that had first bothered Patrick. "You know who that is?" Patrick thought – Redemption. "No! I’ve thought of every one of those trips, every single time out there, and I’m telling you I never saw that kid before in my life." "You remember that time Devon brought his roommate? What was it – Anthony? Alex?" Patrick shook his head. "It was Andrew. And that’s not him." David looked at the picture, slowly shaking his head. "Strange thing." "I know it." David put the pictures in the envelope and handed them back over to Patrick. "So what’s going on? What’d you come to talk about?" "What do you mean, what did I come to talk about?" "Out on the porch there you said it was urgent." Patrick stared at him. He tore open the envelope again, flipped to a picture and said, "Look at this. Look at the coast, there. Where is that? Tell me where that is."
He set the photo down on the cleared half of the table. He flipped to another picture. "Look behind Matt. Look at those shelves. Now that’s your fucking cabin. Tell me those shelves are in your cabin, or were ever in your cabin." He set the photo next to the other. He turned to a third picture, a group shot. "Now look at that kid again. That fucking kid. Tell me what he’s doing there." Feeling wired, deeply agitated, needing to do something, anything, Patrick got up and emptied the remaining half of his beer in three hard gulps. He crossed over to the refrigerator, opened it and took out two more beers. He returned to his seat, cracking one can and trying to hand the second to David. David glanced up from the photos, turned down the beer with a shake of his head, and looked down again. Still holding out the cold beer, Patrick studied David. In the last few years he’d thought of him only fondly, remembering all the good times. Now, slowly, he began to remember something else. A way David had begun to make him feel during their last year of high school and the summer after – during the last few trips to the cabin. He began to refuse beers as the night wound down. He began to lock up the .22 when they started drinking, to refuse to go out in the Lund after they’d gotten drunk. How Patrick felt as a younger man, the feeling he got a surge of while sitting there with the beer in his hand, was not particularly logical or fair. A child’s emotion. The sense of betrayal you might feel towards the first boy you knew who had a girlfriend. The boy who first took that step which was unthinkable at the time but which was, looking back, inevitable. Patrick set the second beer down next to his chair, holding it in reserve for himself. He looked back up and saw David studying him. Patrick said, “I mean, what do you make of it?" David shrugged. Patrick said, "I find this roll of film in a filing cabinet. I develop it and I get these. And what I want to know is, what the fuck is going on? Am I losing it? Am I just going fucking crazy?" Patrick hung his head and clasped a hand to the back of his neck. Expressing complex emotions had never come easily to him. He was not as articulate as David, as Penny. He tried to think of the words to tell David how hard life had become, how difficult it was to find peace in his daily existence. Buying cars, repairing them, selling them for a narrow margin of profit. Going to Alaska three times a year to work on a trawler. How these were the only ways he knew to support himself, and how much he hated them both. He tried to think of the words to tell David how those things which he did enjoy – drinking, television, talking about the old times – he enjoyed only because they allowed him a moment’s escape, because they allowed him to think of when times had been better or to dream of how they might become better again. He tried to think just how to explain how isolated he felt. How Penny was his only real contact with the rest of humanity, and how much he loved her, and how much he lived in fear he would do something to lose her. How David, sitting there, was the one Patrick thought of as his closest friend. How he’d felt abandoned when David had gone to college and how disappointed he’d been when David, instead of returning to Anacortes after graduating, had gone on a long trip around the world. And how even after returning he’d moved here, to Bellingham, a long hour up the coast. And how they saw each other, what, five or six times a year? Some of it must have come across in his posture and his breathing, as when he looked up David reached out and put a hand on his shoulder. "Take it easy, alright? Patrick said, in an urgent whisper, "What the fuck am I supposed to make of this?" David was quiet for a long while, looking at him. He finally began to speak. "I want to tell you about something. Something that happened to me a couple of years ago." Patrick nodded. "I’d been back from that big trip about a month. I’d helped my folks move to their new place, out in Wisconsin, and then I’d moved myself in here. I was just about to start work. "I started having trouble sleeping. The damndest thing. One night I was dead tired but I snapped awake about five in the morning, just six hours after I’d gone to bed. The next night the same thing happened, but I woke even earlier. It kept on that way and by the next week I was waking up every night, the middle of the night, and no going back to sleep until the next evening. 27
"I didn’t know what to make of it. My whole life I’d slept as sound as anybody. I was worried, too. I was about to start my new job and I wanted to be rested. But I wasn’t rested. I felt weirder than I’d felt in my whole life. The exhaustion was making my mind work a whole different way. "Then one day after another bad night’s sleep I began to feel dead tired, pretty early in the afternoon. Tired like I’d never been in my whole life, like I could have fallen asleep standing up. I crawled back into bed, still in my jeans, and I fell asleep in about ten seconds. "When I woke up it was pure dark. The very darkest hour of the night. I sat up in bed and reached for the light, only the light wasn’t there. I fumbled around a bit. The nightstand wasn’t even there. I stood up slowly and staggered around until I found a light switch. I turned it on and stood staring at a room I didn’t recognize, full of things I did. "My mom’s knitting. A stack of my dad’s books. A family portrait and a painting on the wall, a painting that was in my house when I was a little boy. I walked out of the room and into the strange house. I turned on lights and wandered until I found the kitchen and slowly it came to me, where I was. Somewhere I’d been before, just once. I found the front door and walked out, in my bare feet, onto the driveway. I walked down to the end of the driveway and turned around to look. I was standing outside of my parents’ house – my parents’ new house in Wisconsin." Patrick watched David’s face, but David betrayed no emotions. "I turned and looked out down the street. The night was perfectly still. I closed my eyes. A warm breeze came up and blew over me." Patrick said, "What did you do?" "I went back inside. I found a pair of my old man’s shoes I figured he wouldn’t notice were gone, and a jacket he wouldn’t miss either. I remembered my parents were out of town for the week, visiting friends, and I was grateful for that. I had my wallet in my pocket, and I was grateful for that too. I walked out of their neighborhood and walked until I found a gas station. I had the attendant call me a cab, and I had the cab take me to the airport." David paused. He grinned. "Went back to sleeping fine after that." He turned serious again. "Now you’re the second person I’ve ever told that story to. And you can tell me that I somehow sleepwalked to the airport and bought a ticket, or that I was drugged and kidnapped and brought there by somebody, or that I was transported there by magic, by some mystical longing for my parents. I’ve thought ‘em all before. But none of ‘em I find particularly satisfying. And I don’t know if I believe there is an answer. I don’t know, if you had a camera on me that whole night, what it would show. If it would show anything." Patrick looked down again. He put his face in his hands. He thought of the pictures and again he felt the deep, insidious unease filling him. He tried to think of the words to tell David that his memories of the cabin were deeply important to him, that they formed the tiny solid point at the center of an ever-changing world. He tried to think of how to describe the way these new pictures had unsettled everything. How he suddenly didn’t know which memories were true and which might not be, and how that was ruining them all. He looked up again and asked, "How do you live with it? What do you make of it?" David shrugged. "Mostly I try not to think about it. Of course for a while I thought about it all the time. It scared the shit out of me. I worried that I’d gone crazy or worse. But with time I managed to move on. I decided that there are just some things that happen in this life that are beyond our understanding. I’ve got other things to think about. I’ve got my job and I’ve got my hobbies and I’ve got my family," he said. And now it was Patrick’s turn to study David. He thought of David the boy he’d known and then of David in that time when he’d begun to change. Patrick imagined the way David’s life must have looked to him – how he’d been smarter than the rest of them and saw already where the path they were all headed down might end. How it ended in the unhappy place where Patrick was now. And Patrick felt he understood David a little better. And Patrick forgave David the betrayal he’d felt back then, when they were no longer children, when David was growing up that little bit faster than the rest of them. Patrick closed his eyes. He tried to think of what else he had to think about. He tried to lock down one thing, just one thing, that was important to him.
It was only a few miles to the bay. He drove along the winding road until he found a sign for a park. He took the turn and followed it down to a long strip of grass with swings and picnic benches. Beyond the grass was a bank of rocks, and beyond those rocks the water. There were just two other cars in the parking lot. A soft rain fell around him as he got out of the car and shut the door behind him, the sound as deafening as a gun shot in the silent air. He stood on the rock embankment, the envelope full of photos in his hand. He knew what he wanted to do and he visualized himself doing it. Except also he didn’t want to. Also it seemed the pictures were the most important thing in the world, and that what he was visualizing would be a tragic error. But how good it would be for him, to have them gone from his life. All it would take was one quick motion, the briefest flurry of action. The envelope sailed out into the night. He stood looking for a moment, trying to make out the shape against the tumult of the surf. He turned around, not knowing what exactly to feel, and so feeling anger. He was angry with David. He was angry with himself. He was angry with Matt and Devon and all the other friends he used to have. And he was angry with the stranger in the photographs. The boy who never smiled. The boy who scared him so much. Was the boy really out there somewhere, living a life of his own? Was he older, was he happy? Or had the boy ever even existed? Was he a ghost, or the image of a ghost, sent to haunt Patrick’s mind? He stood for a while, just inside the door of the small house. As he’d driven the drizzle had slowly built to a downpour, and now the only sound he could hear was the drops beating against the roof. He kicked off his shoes and walked down the hall. It was dark, but even as he entered the room he could tell Penny was awake. He wondered if she could see him, though there was no light by which to see. He took off his jeans and sweatshirt. He got into bed next to her. She didn’t move to touch him and he sat, back against the headboard, staring into the darkness. Her voice came from beside him. "Where did you go?" "Went to see David." She said nothing. "I suppose you could guess what about." Quickly she said, "I wish you’d never found that film. I wish you’d never cleaned the goddamn study, that I’d just ended up doing it like normal." He rubbed his face in the dark and said, "Me too." They were silent for a long time. He wondered for a moment if she’d fallen back asleep. He heard movement and then felt her reach for him, felt her arms wrapping around his body and her face pressed against his chest. "Don’t you love me?" she asked. "Of course I love you,” he said, recognizing it as a pure, simple truth. "I love you too," she said, her voice sleepy, already drifting away again. It was silent in the room but for the steady thrum of rain drops overhead. It was almost perfectly dark, the only light emanating from the red digits of the alarm clock. Patrick put his hand on Penny’s arm. Slowly he moved up to rub her neck. He gently moved his fingers over her face, tracing the angles. He called her face to his mind. He wondered if he could trust his memory of the image.
Echo Speaks Stephanie Showalter You must read this aloud so that I can say it. Life is full of misunderstandings and unrequited love but rarely with this tacit complexity. Here is my story that you can tell: I was not chosen to distract Hera, I sought out her stark company. Never had I seen such ravishing graveness. They accused me of prattling for love of my own voice. Has a lover never undone you? My words were incessant. I danced, sang, recited, played, just to see the solemnity lift in her raging and broken eyes. But this is not the story you know. You tell it, so I can say it. All I wanted was for her to lay her tense ropes of red hair gently across my breast, intertwining fierce limbs with supple ones, wordlessly.
False:Fear::True:Trust Jillian Lambert
Envoy (1897) Francis Thompson Go, songs, for ended is our brief, sweet play; Go, children of swift joy and tardy sorrow: And some are sung, and that was yesterday, And some unsung, and that may be to-morrow. Go forth; and if it be oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;er stony way, Old joy can lend what newer grief must borrow: And it was sweet, and that was yesterday, And sweet is sweet, though purchased with sorrow. Go, songs, and come not back from your far way: And if men ask you why ye smile and sorrow, Tell them ye grieve, for your hearts know To-day, Tell them ye smile, for your eyes know To-morrow.
FROM OUR STAFF
Allow us to introduce ourselves! We are an unconventional small publishing house with big dreams. As our culture falls out of love with the printed page, we hope to retain the romance of tangible media while also embracing the beauty and accessibility of our newly digital world. For this reason, we offer all of our publications in both printed and electronic formats. The original mission of our journal was to give a voice to underrepresented writers from western North America and the Pacific Rim. We are dedicated to publishing essays, works of poetry, short stories, plays, and other extraordinary written works from local authors. But we just can't turn down a moving piece of literature. We are also open to submissions from around the world in English, Spanish, French, German, and Esperanto. We believe it’s important to get to know the people behind a new publication. For this reason, we have included a few samples of work from members of our editing staff as a special feature of this preview issue. We hope you enjoy getting to know us. Elayne Kuletz
Joy Elayne Kuletz
On the Analysis of Poetry R. Joseph Capet When confronted with Tennyson’s Hendecasyllabics, the true poet is filled with an uncontrollable sense of repugnance. The verse whose opening lines encapsulate the degeneration of poetry from honest art to Victorian parlour game, O you chorus of indolent reviewers, Irresponsible, indolent reviewers, Look, I come to the test, a tiny poem All composed in a metre of Catullus[...]
appropriately ends in the author’s self-emasculation, O blatant Magazines, regard me rather Since I blush to belaud myself a moment As some rare little rose, a piece of inmost Horticultural art, or half-coquette-like Maiden, not to be greeted unbenignly.
Tennyson’s poem is a dead thing—a wretched corpse of metrics from which the soul is long departed. There is nothing of the human experience which he wishes to communicate; indeed, nothing at all beyond the dexterity of his own genius. Such a poem is a fit prey for the professors of English. It is meant to be analyzed clinically—a delight only to the mandarin initiates of ‘classic’ literature. Neither is it alone. There are as many examples of such writing as there are ranks in the Terra Cotta Army, and they are just as bound to the musty earth. Tagged and catalogued, they impress but they do not inspire; the fineness of their execution enforces no aesthetic arrest nor does it transport the beholder. They are mere things of man. Other poets, however, cannot be read this way. The English professors will try to crush the life from Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Vincent William Brady, but they will never wholly succeed. That Elysian space will always exist between the student’s reading of the assignment and her arrival in the lecture hall in which the poem has been free to work upon her, to affect her, to move her. In that evanescent hour a true communication takes place—a Mohammedan night flight to Jerusalem—in which the reader is connected to something authentic and intuitive in the poet’s experience. (All of which is not to say that the ideal of poetry is a raw stream-of-consciousness, nor an existence devoid of artifice. There is a place for artifice, but only when acting upon art.) Let us not deceive ourselves that the meaning of such a poem is accessible to analysis. No, it is not to be crudely decoded by such means. Poetry, like all worthwhile human endeavours, is irrational. It is an effort, however feeble when measured against its aim, to communicate directly the epiphanous recognition of transcendent Truth. The meaning of a poem is no more to be probed by the immanent mind of man than are the fathomless depths of God, for the subject of all real poetry is the Truth. It is Truth which shows itself in paradoxes and parables revealed to the wandering poet only in those brief moments when he stands above Friedrich’s sea of fog—those moments in which he transcends reason. Analysis, however, is essentially rational, and therefore alien to the very spirit of poetry. Just as, in its creation, the art of the poem was a thing channelled (though its artifice may have been crafted), so likewise the appreciation of verse must occur by means of the irrational. The impression which it gives must be allowed to spring naturally from the divine intuition of the reader. It is a secret kept between the poet and his God, and only God can reveal it. Poetry is a speaking in tongues. Though it comes opaque from the babbling mouth of the poet, it is made clear by the inner light of every hearer. Let it be read, like Luther’s Bible, by each man in his own home and in the comfort of his own conscience. It is not in the space between the poet and the reader that the poem becomes intelligible and the reader is let in on the secret; the poet has already made his best effort to betray the confidence. As for Tennyson’s parlour games, it may be admitted that they are entertaining, and that their entertainment is enhanced by a knowledge of the rules, so long as they are not confused with poetry.
Metaphysical Rebel S.D. Capet In this ozone womb in this gravity womb you clothe us with desperation, revenge and hunger the sun rises on bullets and sets on blood. My stomach stretches and houses too easily Schrödinger’s child. I reject it and am Schrödinger’s soul. When there is too much death in life I find solace in the pain I find comfort in the death that keeps out too much life.
Bycatch Ivan Kuletz United States Coast Guard, Legal Branch Interrogation Transcript Case Number: AG8734-01 Interrogator: 1st Lt. Neil McManus Subject: Alex De La Hoya Case Background: At 0236 Pacific Time on November 17th, 2012, USCG Station [CONFIDENTIAL] received an EPIRB emergency distress signal off the California coast from the 80-foot F/V Justine. Weather conditions did not permit search and rescue efforts to be conducted until approximately 0700. At 1329 the Justine was located, run aground in the Channel Islands. Rescue teams found the partially dismembered body of an adult male in the doorway to the galley. After waiting for armed backup, the rescue team searched the boat, finding trails and splashes of blood and other bodily fluids and tissues on most surfaces. Two more bodies were found in the engine compartment. The victims had all died from non-firearm wounds. What are presumed to be a fourth and fifth body were discovered in the galley. Inside the wheelhouse, the search team found an unconscious man at the helm. It was necessary to medevac the man to [CONFIDENTIAL] where his wounds were treated and he was held in custody for questioning. A search of the ship’s log revealed that the crew had originally numbered seven men, though only six had been found. One is presumed lost at sea, and recovery efforts are under way. The following is a transcript of the surviving crewmember’s interrogation four days after the events of November 17th. Lt. Neil McManus: Please state your name. Alex De La Hoya: Why? You already know it. M: It’s interview protocol. D: You mean interrogation. M: You’re in the best position to explain what happened on the boat. Now, can you state your name? D: Alex. De La Hoya. M: Occupation? D: Fisherman. M: Place and date of birth? D: Seattle, Washington. December 4th, 1983. M: Do you know where you are? D: Hell. M: Mr. De La Hoya, we’re trying to establish the reliability of your mental state and thus your statements.
D: Whatever. I’m in [CONFIDENTIAL]. M: Good. What was your relationship to Francis DeSalle? D: He was my employer. My skipper on the Justine. M: How did you meet? D: I knew a guy on his boat who knew I could fish. He knew I couldn’t find work, too. He said he needed deckhands for his boat, the Justine. It was an old boat, and not just for squid, so it wasn’t a perfect setup. M: Did he say that he was fishing illegally? D: Only after we’d been at sea for a bit. Can’t say I was surprised. It happens sometimes. I figured if I kept my head down, I could get paid and not go back to jail. Besides, it wasn’t like I was dealing or anything. It was just fishing. M: We’ll discuss that later. Can you describe your relationships and meetings with Sergio and Tomas Genovese, Marius Kowalevski, Parker Webb, and Luke Denton? D: They . . . were the other deckhands. They’d fished for Frank before. Met ‘em for the first time at the dock, except for Parker. I knew him from high school. I bought him some drinks, and he had my back a couple of times. Good guy. Sergio and Tomas were brothers. Marius and Luke, they were the old hands. All of ‘em were okay guys, I guess. Stop looking at me like that! I already told you it wasn’t me! M: You were found unconscious at the ship’s helm. The rest of the crew was dead or missing. We also found several ounces of cocaine in the skipper’s bunk. D: You think this was some bullshit drug thing, don’t you? M: You’re the only survivor, and you have served a sentence for drug possession. D: So you already think I’m guilty. M: We want to hear your story. D: You won’t believe me. M: Just tell me what happened. D: Fine. But you’re gonna say I’m crazy. M: You can begin whenever you’re ready. D: Yeah. (pause) Frank . . . he even said he had a good feeling when we left port. M: Frank? D: DeSalle. He didn’t like bein’ called Francis. M: Alright. Continue. Which port did you leave from?
D: [CONFIDENTIAL], California. We got way out, where no other boats were, and then he told me we were fishing without a permit. I was mad at first, but like I said I needed the money, and if I told the cops I wouldn’t get jack and I’d never get to fish again. It’s just like that. M: Let’s get back to what happened after you left port. D: (sigh) We were fishing for squid. Couldn’t find anything until the fifth night. “Almost there!” Alex called out to Marius, the winchman on the Justine. “Is it a good haul?” Luke asked as he stepped out of the cabin and shrugged into his heavy raincoat. “Think so,” Alex replied, motioning for Luke to hand him the mug of coffee sitting near Marius’s console. Luke handed it to him and leaned over the railing to look down at the net as it came up. The water danced with artificial light from the massive spotlights on the masts. It was late, past midnight, but Alex wasn’t sure how late. Squid fishing was night fishing, and with no clocks it was difficult to keep track of time. “Doesn’t feel right, does it?” Luke said pensively. “Huh?” Alex said over the creaking of the three-foot-wide, rusted winches. “Using these lights for squid,” Luke explained, nodding at the huge spotlights pointed down into the water. Alex shrugged at the older man. “Look at how pretty they are,” Luke said, gesturing at the squirming, bioluminescent horde caught in their net, “These little guys come up for food and mates, and they think they’re following the moon when they see our lights. Instead, we catch ‘em by the ton and they get eaten. Don’t seem right, tricking the little guys like that.” “Hey man, no use getting worked up about it. It’s just fishing. Besides,” Alex said with a grin, “serves ‘em right for going where they shouldn’t go.” Luke snorted and donned his heavy rubber gloves. “And what about us?” Luke said, glancing up towards the wheelhouse where the skipper piloted the boat from far above the deck, “Think we should be here?” The net writhed and dripped forearm-sized squid back into the water as it was hauled up and over the deck. Without warning, the load began to bound and thrash wildly, nearly hitting the two men. “Hey, Marius, ease up man!” Luke shouted to the winchman’s position near the cabin door. “It isn’t me,” Marius yelled back. Alex gave the hand signal to lower the net to the deck. The net eased down a few feet before swinging around to crash against the tiny aluminum skiff set on the stern of the fishing boat. “Get back!” Luke yelled to Alex, who scrambled clear just in time. “Drop it!” Alex shouted at Marius, who had already brought the thrashing net to the deck. The door to the wheelhouse banged open. “What the hell’s going on back here?” Frank yelled. “Somethin’ big is in the net,” Alex shouted up. “Marius!” the skipper roared, “I don’t pay you to smash up my boat!” The three men on the deck stayed silent except for Marius’ acknowledgement. After a few moments, the wheelhouse door slammed shut and the cabin door creaked open. Tomas and Sergio, the brothers, stuck their heads out. “What’s up?” Sergio asked. “Somethin’ big is in the net,” Luke said, “and we’ve got a big haul. You guys can finish dinner later. Get your gear on, and get Parker out here too.” Luke and Alex each picked up one of the gaffs near the winch and moved toward the quivering pile. Each gaff resembled a short baseball bat with a long, smooth, stainless steel hook attached towards the end. As the two fishermen kicked through the mound with their heavy rubber boots, the galley door opened and cast a wan orange light on the scene for a few moments before it shut. “Damn,” Parker grumped as he came out on deck, “it’s colder than your mom, Alex.” Alex turned to reply, and as he did he heard Luke gasp in surprise. Alex looked at the squirming pile at Luke’s feet, and what he saw made him recoil. 40
“What is it?” Sergio asked, finishing his coffee. “I – ” Alex said falteringly, unable to finish the sentence. Luke’s feet carried him slowly backwards, as though he were being pushed away. Marius loped over to look. “Je-sus . . .” he whispered as he stepped up. “Well? What is it?” Tomas called out. The three men near the thing said nothing. Tomas listened for a reply, but he could only hear the high whine of the machinery, the buzzing of the floodlights, the flopping of the squid, and a strangely labored sound. Tomas glanced at his brother and Parker, but before they could move towards the others the skipper came out of his wheelhouse and clattered down the short stairs. “This ain’t break time,” Frank huffed as he stumped toward the group. Parker and the two brothers followed on his heels as he shoved Marius aside. “What’s this all abo – what in the hell?” Frank said in revulsion. The three deckhands behind him gasped as they saw it. Alex felt his initial shock begin to wear off and forced himself to study the thing. It was roughly the size of a man’s thigh. A multitude of appendages that resembled gelatinous elephant trunks protruded from one end. Though he didn’t see any eyes, Alex felt certain that the thing was looking at him. At least a dozen luminescent spheres the size of marbles traveled around its body just beneath what might be called its skin and shone with a strange greenish-white light. The end opposite the tentacles was bulbous and heavily ridged in spiraling patterns that continued along a collection of crab-like limbs set nearly perpendicularly into the body. Between the two ends of the creature there was a strangely shaped seam. As Alex puzzled over the crack, it split to reveal a collection of hard, bony plates and grotesque tissues that could only be its mouth. Though the creature was the same blue-black color as the ocean, the inside of its mouth was streaked with white and red. It rolled slightly to protect the opening with the rest of its body. The group gasped as the creature changed color to match the slick brown deck boards. It shuddered and oozed a blue fluid from one corner of its mouth and made a sound that was like the emptying of a full drain. Whatever the thing was, it was struggling. “It’s still alive,” Luke said, “we should get it back in the water.” “Are you crazy? Nobody’s gonna believe us!” Sergio said. “Who cares?” Marius shot back, “It’s just some weird thing that was after the squid. Chuck it over and let’s get back to fishing.” “As if!” Parker protested, “Somebody would pay good money for something like this.” “We at least gotta take some pictures,” Alex said. “We’re not taking it back, we’re not reporting it, and we’re not taking pictures. Over the side,” Frank said in a cold voice and jerked his thumb. “Fine,” Parker said sourly, “We’ll get rid of it . . . where the hell did it go?” The men looked around – it had vanished. “Who moved it?” Frank demanded. “Nobody did,” Tomas said. “Well, find it,” Frank said, “We don’t want something like that going into the holding tanks.” Cursing, the deckhands began a search. It was Parker that found the trail. “Was this blue gunk on the deck before?” he called out. “No,” Alex said as he came over and inspected the faintly glowing stuff, “but that thing was bleeding some blue stuff when it came aboard.” Parker pointed over Alex’s shoulder at the end of the blue trail, where a pool of the liquid was growing by a steady drip from a tightly secured bulkhead. “But where is it?” Alex asked and reached towards the bulkhead. He cried out when his hand connected with the bulkhead sooner than he thought, and the weird creature seemed to materialize under his touch. Alex leapt back and crashed into Luke, who had come running with a gaff in his hand. The creature detached itself from the bulkhead with a wet sound and began to shift its color and skin texture rapidly, becoming almost indistinguishable from the detritus around it as it wriggled into a dark, protected corner. Parker snatched up the gaff from where Luke had dropped it in surprise and lunged for the camouflaged creature. “No!” Luke shouted as Parker slammed the long hook into the hidden mass. There was a meaty sound as he struck it, and the creature abandoned its attempt at disguise as it writhed on the end of the 41
hook. The color of its flesh shifted rapidly between purple and green in a dazzling iridescent display. The thing made burbling sounds as it struggled to free itself from the gaff. Parker twisted the gaff harder to ensure that the thing stayed firmly on the hook, eliciting a long, keening moan from the unknown animal. “It’s already in enough pain,” Luke protested, “just put it over the side.” “It’s just a fish, Luke,” Frank said. “Parker, get it off the ship and get back to work.” “Look out!” Marius shouted and pointed at the creature. The crew’s attention snapped to Parker just in time to see a black, feathery appendage uncoil itself from one of the swirling patterns on the creature’s main body. It rose like a cobra, then lashed forward and brushed against Parker’s exposed face. Parker screamed in pain and collapsed to the deck, releasing his hold on the gaff. The creature fell heavily to the deck with the tool still lodged deep within its body and flopped in a rapidly growing pool of its own blue fluid. Frank picked up the gaff and heaved both it and the creature it impaled into the night and the sea, where it sank motionlessly out of sight of the fishing lights. “He’s choking,” Luke said helplessly, cradling Parker’s head. Frank knelt and checked the crewman’s pulse at his swelling neck. He brought his hand back quickly, a three-inch-long black barb stuck in his finger. Hissing, he yanked it out and chucked it over the side. He felt for Parker’s pulse again. “Jesus Christ, his heart’s going too fast to count,” he muttered. “Get some vinegar, quick,” Frank told Sergio, “any kind. Maybe it’s like a jellyfish sting.” Sergio nodded and lurched away to the galley. Parker’s breath wheezed as he choked out delirious words. “Touched me . . . I saw . . . pictures. A kid . . . and lights. So many lights.” “Don’t worry, man,” Luke said, gripping Parker’s hand, “we’re gonna get you fixed up.” “We’re heading to port,” Frank said, “We’ve been patrolling in circles for a long time. We’re not more than half a day from port. Put him in the galley. It’s warm and doesn’t rock much in there.” Frank wiped the sweat that dripped from his forehead and scrambled up the ladder. Moments later, the floodlights cut out and the boat began to turn. The galley door crashed open and Sergio ran over with the vinegar. Tomas took it and emptied it over the strange wound on Parker’s face and throat. Though the swelling seemed to lessen, the web of black lines under his skin continued to spread incrementally from his wound to the rest of his body. “Let’s get him in the galley,” Luke said, and hoisted Parker up with the help of Marius. Alex and the Genovese brothers stayed outside and stared at the vinegar that had slopped onto the deck. “You think he’ll be okay?” Sergio said numbly. “I hope so. He’s got a little girl, you know,” Alex said, thinking of the brown-eyed little Camilla Webb and her tomboyish ways that her father loved. “Was that why he said something about a kid?” Tomas asked. Alex nodded and didn’t fight it when the brothers reached out their hands to form a prayer circle. When they were finished, the seas had changed. “Wind’s picking up,” Sergio said as he looked around, “We should prepare the deck for rough weather.” The other deckhands nodded, grateful for something to do. As they worked, the winter waves began to grow and take on an ominous chopped appearance. Marius came back out. Alex and the brothers looked at him, but he only shrugged and began to help clear the decks. The moan of the wind seemed to swell every few moments with the rising waves. “This is gonna be a rough one,” Marius said grimly. Soon, the deck was clear. A heavy rain began to slash in on the men. “You guys go inside,” Marius shouted over the increasing wind, “I think there’s another first aid kit in the stern storage. I’m gonna see if I can find it for Parker.” The other men nodded and quickly ducked inside the hallway leading to the galley. They had just gotten their coats off when a wave sent them crashing against the walls of the passageway. The men froze as they heard Marius’ terrified cries for help. Alex was the first to the galley hatchway. “Marius!” Alex shouted into the wind, scanning for the other man. “Alex, help!” Alex looked portside and saw Marius dangling from the railing before he disappeared over the side with a scream and a splash. “Man overboard!” Alex roared. Tomas and Sergio came out on deck and simultaneously lunged for the intercom. 42
There was no reply from Frank over the speakers, but the engines roared and the boat shuddered as it came sharply around into the punishing waves. Alex ripped one of the tethered life rings from the bulkhead as he lurched to the port side, searching in vain for the bright orange colors of Marius’ work gear. “See him?” Tomas shouted as he reached the railing, another life ring in his hand. “No,” Alex said, a leaden and cold feeling spreading through his stomach and throat. “Sergio’s watching starboard,” Tomas said, searching the rising and tossing waves with frantic hopelessness. As they crested another enormous wave, they felt the ship continue to turn. “What . . .” Alex said in the moments before a wave took them broadside and threw the crew to the deck. “We’re in the trough!” Alex gasped, holding his ankle. Tomas helped him to his feet and felt at the injury. “I think it’s broken,” he said as Alex cried out. “You guys keep looking,” Alex gritted through his teeth, “We need to find Marius now.” He hobbled up the ladder to the captain’s wheelhouse, a rebuke already on his lips when he found the skipper convulsing on the floor, white foam bubbling from his mouth. Alex braced himself as the ship rocked heavily, then fell to his stomach to assist the twitching man. “Frank? Frank! What happened?” The skipper didn’t reply, and only convulsed harder. His arm flopped out as he shook and trembled, and Alex went cold and still as he saw what had happened. The skipper’s arm was covered in the same black, spidery lines that had spread from Parker’s wound. Alex reached up and hit the intercom. “Tomas!” he shouted, “Frank’s down. That thing got him like it did Parker!” It was several moments before Tomas came back over the intercom. “Sergio’s coming to get him and the EPIRB,” he said, his voice breaking, “we can’t help him. We’ve gotta keep looking for Marius. Radio for help, get us outta this trough.” “Hurry,” Alex urged. “Frank!” Luke’s voice shouted anxiously over the other intercom, “What the hell’s going on?” “Sergio will explain,” Alex said as the Genovese brother appeared in the doorway. The two men looked at each other in despair for a moment, then Alex pulled himself up to the steering console. Sergio picked the unconscious skipper up in his arms and backed out the door with the floating emergency EPIRB beacon. Alex scrabbled for the radio and pleaded for help, but only static replied. “I don’t know what I’m doing,” Alex said to himself as he threw the radio microphone down, “I just want to find Marius. Please, please let me find Marius.” He stared out the rain-spattered windows into the heaving dark. Pain was beginning to radiate from his ankle. The life jacket he wore under his coat chafed at his neck and forced his head up as he sat. Alex licked saltwater from his lips and peered through his wet and shaggy black hair. He flicked the forward mast lights on. All he saw was the thrashing ocean and the streaking rain, the drops turned into a meteor shower by the intense lights. There was no sign of the lost man. The boat slammed sideways twice, and just as Alex reached for the intercom to check on the crew, a panicked voice erupted from it. “Alex! Get out of –” came the voice, and then nothing. Alex beat at the intercom and shouted into it. “Tomas? Sergio? What’s going on? Did you find Marius?” There was no reply, but there was a strange sound coming up to him from the deck. He was about to turn and look when the other intercom switched on. It was Luke. “Don’t move, Alex,” Luke said quietly. “What?” Alex replied, “What’s going on, Luke?” “Listen to me, Alex,” the older man’s voice said with a slight quaver that made Alex’s hair stand up on the back of his neck. “Turn off all the lights,” Luke said, “All of ‘em. Stay in the cabin, stay out of sight, and stay quiet. You need to get us to the nearest land. The nearest land, you understand? Stay quiet and out of sight. Don’t use the intercoms anymore.” The intercom clicked off, and Alex sat numbly in the cabin for a few moments before he robotically followed the other man’s orders to switch off the lights. Afterwards he sat in the skipper’s chair, facing the bow of the ship, adjusting his eyes to the nauseating coal-black night 43
outside. He began to hear strange sounds and feel vibrations of an unknown source thrumming through the ship. There were sounds like the rustling of dry leaves and the creaking of rusty gates coming up to him from the lower decks. His heart started to pound so hard that he could feel it in his throat and in his ears. Below, someone screamed. He turned the chair, and as he looked out the rear windows he felt the part of his mind that woke him up from nightmares shrivel and die. There were lights on the deck, a great swarm of them. The lights were spherical, and shone with a strange green-white fluorescence. Some were no bigger than seashells. Others were the size of portholes. Alex looked down into the water, and there he saw a great many more lights that quivered and swirled and hinted at things too vast to be real. The smaller lights were pouring over the gunwales and onto the seawater-logged deck, and more were coming every second. Alex began to shake, and as he turned to the controls of the ship, he heard tortured howls from below, and his vision faded to darkness. Lt. Neil McManus: Mr. De La Hoya . . . Alex De La Hoya: You don’t believe me. Of course you don’t. I wouldn’t believe me. M: I mean, really Mr. De La Hoya; monsters? D: I don’t care. It happened. I know it did. M: Mr. De La Hoya, I’m afraid I’m going to have to recommend you for a psychiatric evaluation. You’ll be escorted to the doctor’s office. It’s not far from here; it’s next to the children’s hospital. (pause) Mr. De La Hoya? D: (long silence) Oh my God. That’s it. That’s why. M: I’m sorry? D: (sobbing) That’s what Parker meant. Oh God, it was a child.
Gary Beck Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theater director and worked as an art dealer when he couldn’t earn a living in the theater. He has also been a tennis pro, a ditch digger, and a salvage diver. His chapbook ‘Remembrance’ was published by Origami Condom Press, ‘The Conquest of Somalia’ was published by Cervena Barva Press, ‘The Dance of Hate’ was published by Calliope Nerve Media, ‘Material Questions’ was published by Silkworms Ink, ‘Dispossessed’ was published by Medulla Press and ‘Mutilated Girls’ was published by Heavy Hands Ink. A collection of his poetry ‘Days of Destruction’ was published by Skive Press. Another collection ‘Expectations’ was published by Rogue Scholars press. His original plays and translations of Molière, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway and toured colleges and outdoor performance venues. His poetry and fiction has appeared in hundreds of literary magazines. He currently lives in New York City. Michael Benedict Michael Benedict divides his time between Moscow, Idaho and Seattle, Washington. He is an MFA candidate at The University of Idaho. His work has previously appeared in The Rejected Quarterly. Eleanor Leonne Bennett Eleanor is a 15 year old photographer and artist who has won contests around the world with the likes of National Geographic and The World Photography Organisation. She has had her photographs published globally in numerous exhibitions and magazines including the Guardian (2010), RSPB Birds (2010), RSPB Bird Life (2010), Dot Dot Dash (2010 and 2011), Alabama Coast (2010), Alabama Seaport (2010) and NG Kids Magazine (2010). She was the only visual artist published in the Taj Mahal Review this June. She was also the youngest artist in Charnwood Art’s Vision Exhibition (2009), New Mill’s Artlounge Dark Colours Exhibition (2011), and Grey Sparrow Press (2011). She was a featured artist in Able Muse this year. Sheila Erwin Living in the almost constant rainy gloom of Portland, Oregon for four years has altered her perspective on life. It has given her a more gothic outlook. Yet, she is also grateful to the darkness, for it has kept her quietly tied to her desk. And she has accomplished more there than she ever had in sunny California.
Nick Francel Nick Francel is a printmaker currently working in St. Louis, MO. He is often confused with being handsome and intelligent, neither of which are true. He does not believe in aliens or ghosts, or really much of anything. Howie Good Howie is a journalism professor at the State University of New York at New Paltz. He is the author of poetry collections Lovesick (Press Americana, 2009), Heart With a Dirty Windshield (BeWrite Books, 2010), and Everything Reminds Me of Me (Desperanto, 2011), as well as numerous print and digital poetry chapbooks, including most recently Love Dagger from Right Hand Pointing, To Shadowy Blue from Gold Wake Press, and Love in a Time of Paranoia from Diamond Point Press. Jillian Lambert Jillian has been drawing since age three, and animals are some of her dearest inspirations. She is an alumna of The Art Institute of Portland and has had the pleasure of calling the Pacific Northwest her home for the past four years. Her online portfolio may be viewed at jillianlambert.com. A. Molotkov A. Molotkov is a writer, composer, filmmaker and visual artist, and co-founder of the Inflectionist poetry movement. Born in St. Petersburg, he arrived in the U.S. in 1990 and switched to writing in English in 1993. He is the winner of the 2011 Boone’s Dock Press poetry chapbook contest for his “True Stories from the Future”, and an active participant in the Portland poetry scene. Visit him at www.AMolotkov.com. Stephanie Showalter Stephanie Showalter is a poet based in San Jose, CA. Much of her work is inspired by mythology, fairy tales, old wives’ tales, and finding the story within the story. Von Thompson Von Thompson is a wife, mother, poet, and actress living in the beautiful Sky Valley of Washington state with her husband, two boys, and the Triangulation of Tabbies. She is also, at times, an office manager in the automotive aftermarket. She believes in the power of words, sunshine, and really good soup. Hillary Walker Born and raised in Anchorage, AK, Hillary Walker recently graduated from Williams College with a BA in English and astrophysics. She currently works with the Alaska 49 Writing Center, and she will begin a PhD in literary theory this coming fall. Her work has appeared in Trans Lit Mag. Lindsey Walker Originally from Chattanooga, Lindsey Walker writes all of her prose and poetry with a strong southern flair. She is a student of creative writing and is the managing editor of the Licton Springs Review. She lives in Seattle with a boy and a dog.
Editors R. Joseph Capet is a poet, playwright, and essayist from the West Coast whose work in English and Esperanto has been published in a variety of magazines all over the world, including decomP, The Montreal Review, Taj Mahal Review, and ITCH. A former editorial assistant for the Alaska Quarterly Review and guest editor for KannenBright, he is currently an editor for The 22 Magazine and a poetry editor for P.Q. Leer when he is not teaching English to students at North Salem High School in Oregon or, by the power vested in him by modern technology, to students across Latin America. S. D. Capet is a poet and writer originally from Anchorage, Alaska whose poems have appeared in publications such as River Poets Journal and Midwest Literary Magazine. She began writing songs and poems in elementary school, and has never stopped since. She also has an awesomely useless degree in philosophy, enjoys debating feminist philosophy and metaphysics, and hates writing bios. Miranda Davie is a barista, writer, and freelance costume designer in Chicago, Illinois. When she’s not peddling coffee across the street from Wrigley Field she spends her time daydreaming about Honolulu, running, and looking for a wealthy benefactor to trick into marrying her. An avid procrastinator, she is very pleased to have finished writing this bio, and now plans to go back to talking about working on her novel. Ivan Kuletz: Combine equal parts naturalist soul, scientific mind, and excess body hair in a shaker. Agitate for 26 years, adding sense of humor once the shaker gets a dent or two. Pour over rocks (granite works best) in an old-fashioned glass. Garnish with a turn of phrase and serve with a grain of salt. Food pairing suggestions: sushi, lamb, ribs, pie, pizza, corn dogs, fruit, seafood, land food . . . really any sort of food. Editor-in-Chief Elayne V. Kuletz is an artist, editor, and instructional designer from semi-rural Oregon. An avid reader and a self-professed technology addict, she hopes to see paper books and modern communication technology complement one another (rather than grudgingly coexist) to create a beautiful reading experience. She also teaches education and technology courses at her local university. Editorial Assistant Intern Katrina Pettigrew is an author who writes everything from poetry to fan-fiction. A sophomore at Western Oregon University, Katrina is majoring in English Literature with a minor in Writing. In her spare time and in addition to writing, Katrina enjoys reading, knitting, watching movies and dinking around on Tumblr. An active participant in NaNoWriMo, she is one of many that has pledged to read the printed word. 48
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
We accept submissions year-round. The deadline for our first full-featured issue is February 1, 2012.
Submishmash! It may sound like a kitchen gadget designed for flattening potatoes, but itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s actually our new submission management system. We are currently accepting work in all categories for our next issue. Please visit pqleer.submishmash.com/submit to review submission requirements, login, and upload your work. We welcome submissions (in English, Spanish, French, German, and Esperanto) from around the world. We DO accept dramatic works, musical compositions, and rhyming verse. We also accept simultaneous submissions at this time.
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