Real 39 2

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Regarding Arts & Letters

39.2

Spring & Summer 2016


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regarding arts & letters {vol. 39, no. 2} Spring/Summer 2016

Editor in Chief Michael Sheehan Consulting Editors John A. McDermott Andrew Brininstool Editorial Assistant Karen Perkins Readers Mary Perkins, Erik Campos, Emma Pearl Ramsey, Lauren Reagan, Josh Hines Views expressed in RE:AL do not neccessarily reflect those of the administration or the Board of Regents of Stephen F. Austin.

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Bus trip


contents

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words poetry

kate wisel fourteenth summer 16 girlship 18 making do 20 doug bolling the lostness 21 tony mancus from the future is different / all the ways we get / there from here 33 how to warden. how to yearn 34 and the simplest way of saying one thing is maybe to say it every way, or quit ringing that bell 35 one great equal sign 36 flatlands 38 joshua garcia this day to day 64 a moon of jupiter 66 when it comes 69 jim davis zarzuela serenade in midnight blue 87 mad slanting ropes in pretty light 88 adrift on the agean after fleeing 89 kathleen kraft the downward rising 112 i got a shala 113 holly day where we went wrong 128 y 129 that night 130 thea brown sky, a dove 132 death by death by 133 the story of your newly 134 corpse reviver #2 136 front 137 paul edward costa once the strings are cut, all fall down 142 re:al


fiction nick kocz creams and salves 10 christopher maier elephant 22 nate brown immaculate 40 sean gill the heroes of cherry, remembered 76 gary fincke a short history of hair 90 devin murphy the end of the road movie marathon 114 dumpster bear 119 the traveling roshannas 124 justin hamm elegy for sounds forgotten 138 museum guard’s blues 139 eric blix dallas b. crumb makes and unmakes dallas b. crumb 144 gary a. berg re: death of a faculty member 152 essay donley watt junior’s world 168 images courtesy of the east texas research center at stephen f. austin state university.

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editor’s note Lately I find myself thinking about the Voyager probes, the Golden Records attached to their sides, launched almost 40 years ago, which for over three years now—since the last presidential election season—have floated freely through interstellar space. The records contain images and sounds, including a selection of music, meant to give intelligent life in the far future and distant depths of space a brief glimpse of the life on Earth. They present only the good, the best of us, but their creators also understood the darker possibilities of the future they were voyaging into—one that might feel familiar to us. As Carl Sagan wrote in Murmurs of Earth, his book about the selection process for the Golden Record, “Events are occurring at a breathless pace and no one knows what tomorrow will bring—whether our present civilization will survive the perils that face us and be transformed, or whether in the next century or two we will destroy our technological society.” But mostly, the Golden Record reflects a profound optimism, not just that it will ever be found, heard, understood, but that there is something good and lasting and meaningful about humanity, civilization, culture—a pluralistic, global view of culture, in fact, that embraces as much of civilization circa 1977 as could be fit onto a golden LP. There is an optimism in launching an issue of a literary magazine that is perhaps not terribly dissimilar to that of launching a probe meant to be a beacon to alien civilizations, in the event they exist anywhere, ever. REAL 39.2 is not an interstellar vessel, but it does share an excitement to connect with you and share a slice—as much as could be fit into an ebook—of the writing and ideas that we’d like to be remembered, that we feel communicate the best of us.

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The structure of this issue includes artifacts from the past—images of East Texas spanning the 19th and 20th centuries—contrasted with writing that is fresh and immediate, current and new. Like these images, the writing is at turns absurd and profoundly human, emotional and reaching and fi lled with longing, cosmic loneliness, as well as connection—good and bad—and free, wild intellection. These writers illustrate and demonstrate and (de)construct the world circa 2016 just as they ask the questions haunting us, driving us to reach out, to look past the known, to hope beyond reason, to send a signal deep and far away with the aim not that we will be around for the reply but simply that the message will be received. So, this is us, in East Texas, from our part of the pale blue dot, sending a sample of writing from right now, with an optimism that this collection of poems, pictures, stories, and an essay will make contact, will reach you.

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creams and salves

nick kocz

“I’ve got herpes,” Julie said to me after the boys were asleep. We were washing dishes, scraping the caramelized stains of onions and garlic from a copper sauté pan. I thought I misheard and squeezed lemon Palmolive into the running faucet water. We had finally started having sex again earlier in the week after a ten-month-long cold spell in our marriage, and I had hoped actual love would soon rekindle for us from this sexual re-connection. She clutched either end of the dishrag and peered at me, assessing my reaction. Then, like the jaw of a mouse trap snapping shut, I understood. “You probably have it too. Maybe you’ve already noticed it,” she said. She swept the fraying dishrag over a plastic Scooby-Doo dinner plate our youngest son loved, leaving streaks of moisture in its wake. “See a doctor. There are creams and salves to deaden the pain.” I didn’t know how to respond. Over the years, as we became entrenched in our careers, we graduated from a run-down basement level apartment into an ivy-covered three-level brick colonial surrounded by manicured lawns and flower beds. Copper cookware hung from the stainless steel kitchen pot rack, state-of-the-art HD televisions in almost every room. Even when our bickering was at its worst, neither of us was prepared to walk away from the comfort our combined incomes afforded. A woman of Filipino descent cleaned the house twice a week and our nanny, a part-time college student majoring in child development, watched our boys during the hours we worked. “Say something. You’re always so quiet.” “How long have you known?” I asked. “A couple of months.” My mouth opened. It didn’t seem possible. “Months?” She picked up a coffee mug I placed to dry in the dish

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rack, wiped her dish towel over it. “Yes. Months.” The previous Saturday night, she grabbed me in the middle of a football game I was watching and led me to the guest bedroom, where she had slept for months. I thought she was bringing me in there to show me some minor repair requiring attention—a faulty light socket or a doorknob that didn’t quite work—but then she flung open the door. A dozen red candles flickered from crystal candlestick holders placed atop her dresser and nightstands. She had planned the evening for days, if not weeks. Cones of sandalwood incense burned from copper bowls. She let her plush bathrobe fall to the carpet and asked if I was ready. The moment I had prayed for was finally occurring. It had been too long. I put my hand on her breast and she fumbled with my belt and then we were on the bed and I reveled in the sensation of her shuddering beneath me, arching her back, pressing against me. I thought myself blessed—how else does one describe the reappearance of bliss after months of frustration?—but now I saw the act for what it was: a wanton attempt to pass her infection onto me. As if once was not enough, we made love every night since then. Last night, she brought her things into my room for the first time, tossed her blouses in the drawers they used to occupy in her bedroom bureau, hung her skirts again in the closets. We were slowly, I thought, reclaiming our old life, our old love. I opened the cupboard to put a teacup on its shelf right next to our dozen other teacups. More than even the anger roiling through me, I was aware of the necessity for maintaining my calm. Whatever I did or said next would have repercussions—not only for me and Julie, but also for our boys—and I had to hold my shit together. I stuttered, trembled, picked up a kitchen knife that needed washing. Horror flickered over Julie’s tightly drawn face. She thought I was going to kill her. My intention was just to wash off the lilac cake frosting from the night’s desert that clung to the

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kocz knife’s blade, but the panic in her eyes worried me, for in this rattled state of mind, I feared I was capable of lunging at her, harming her, perforating her. Time seemed to slow down and I felt the heft of the knife’s hilt, heard the splatter of water from the faucet pouring into the sink. I opened the fingers of my hand, felt the knife slip from my grip, and it was like no connection existed between my hand opening and the cake knife falling to the tile floor, but after the knife dropped, I gasped. Julie grabbed my wrists, pulled me close, her breath smelling of coffee. She had recently started wearing her hair differently, attacking it each morning with a curling iron to create a wavier effect. I still wasn’t sure how I felt about her new styling but, this late in the day, all evidence of the waves had disappeared and her hair was as straight and flat as it had been for the decade we had known each other. “Don’t leave. The boys need you. I need you.” “But you-” “I know I did,” she said, interrupting me. We had stopped sleeping with each other out of necessity—she had slipped on a patch of ice on the concrete steps outside of her downtown office building the previous winter, fracturing her femur. Her cast chafed horribly, making it hard for her to sleep in anything other than a sitting position. After a couple sleepless nights trying to make a go of it in our bed, she moved her pillow and the scratchy green blanket she preferred out to the leather recliner in the den. Days after her cast was removed, we rushed her back to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. Depression set in, a by-product of her double traumas. She moved her things into the guest bedroom. I thought it was just a temporary relocation. That was five months ago. Once, during dinner, I asked when she was going to return to our bedroom, prompting her to put down her fork. “But I just put new window curtains up,” she said, pouting.

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creams and salves I tried to be calm, but as we stood, almost holding each other, the thought that pierced me most was that she wasn’t apologizing. She had rehearsed her seduction of me, rehearsed moving her things back into the bedroom we had shared, rehearsed probably the very manner in which she would announce her STD. I had never known her to be so manipulative. She had planned this entire stream of events that led to this moment. I had every right to be mad. “But you put me at risk. You purposely exposed me to- to-” Unable to stand for all my trembling, I collapsed onto the floor. She started to cry. The more she cried, the angrier I became. The faucet was still running. Water overflowed the sink basin and streamed onto the tile floor around me. Holding my shit together was no use. Meaningless words— bitch, whore— shot from my mouth. As soon as I said them, I knew some line of demarcation had been crossed that would prevent us from ever regaining a shared life. Although she had committed the offense, sleeping with someone, yelling at her made me feel I was the offending party, yet I could not stop myself. I screamed, letting her know how badly she erred, and she stood there, her dish towel dangling from her hand. She stood there, standing, despite how I screamed, despite how I hoped she’d run off—either into the arms of whoever infected her or back into the guest bedroom—and because she stood, absorbing my anguish, I gradually understood that, in some crazed way, exposing me to her virus (is that what genital herpes was?) was her attempt to draw us back together again; she had made her decision: she had chosen to stick with me, despite her affair. Upstairs, the boys awoke because of my screaming fit. The moment I heard them crying, I stopped yelling. Sitting in the puddling water, water seeped into the seat of my pants, and I realized I knew very little about her condition. Or disease. Or whatever it was. I started to wonder how long it

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kocz would be for herpes sores to appear, how long it would be before I’d have to smear myself with whatever creams and salves doctors might prescribe. She put her dishtowel on the counter, bent down to touch my cheek. A pitter patter of little feet came down the staircase, a sound that normally induced a smile. Upon entering the kitchen, Taylor, our seven-yearold, spotted the sudsy water spilling down to the floor and sensed immediately something was amiss. He brought his hand to his open mouth. I felt for him, for he was astute enough to surmise the tension. He stood in terror, bracing himself against the doorjamb, afraid to join us in the wet kitchen. Michael, our youngest, however showed no hesitation. He trotted into the room in a footed blue sleeper. He was two years old. We had been trying to wean him from his pacifier for months and my first thought was one of disappointment, for he was sucking on that thing again. He too had been crying but he looked up at us in wide-eyed amazement and leapt into the puddle. “Water,” he shouted, splashing himself. Goaded by Michael’s example, Taylor inched into the kitchen. He was a light sleeper and this was not the first time he awoke because of our arguments. Some children are naturally bold, naturally rambunctious. He was not among them. He bent down and touched the widening puddle. I loved my boys equally, but it was Taylor I worried about most, how lost he seemed at times, how needing of a good hug. “Are you okay, buddy?” I asked. “Why are you sitting in water, Daddy?” One of the buttons was missing on his plaid pajama top, which had become too snug for comfort around the arms. Soon it would be time to buy him clothes in the next size up. We’d been tossing his old clothing in a box to give to

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creams and salves Michael, doing the responsible hand-me-down thing to cut costs down the road. Indeed, for most of the previous year Julie and I had been living in a kind of stand-still, thinking that doing nothing was the responsible thing because the only other alternative was to burst apart and separate like so many other young families we knew. Who was I kidding? A lot more besides her femur and appendicitis had come between us, and now, dish water pouring onto the floor, we looked at each other with the sad realization that the madness—lifelong acrimony, separation, divorce—was just beginning. Because of how the floor sloped, the water around me was a quarter inch deep and getting deeper. Taylor inched into the puddle, joining his brother. Why none of us turned off the faucet was a question beyond my current powers of thought, but soon I knew we’d need to dig out the wet vac from the garage and start cleaning. Taylor splashed Michael, or maybe Michael splashed Taylor, and they splashed each other, giggling, oblivious to our despair. We were going to have to dry them off with bath towels, dress them in fresh pajamas, coax them back to sleep with lullabies and bedtime stories, but for now we watched them splash about. Though Julie had been home for hours, she hadn’t changed out of the linen pantsuit she wore to the office. She kicked off her black Ferragamo flats and slid down onto the floor beside me. The boys looked at her and laughed. She dipped her hands in the water, cupping a handful, and dumped it on my head. Her intention was playful, but I was in no mood for it. There would have been times earlier in our relationship when I would have responded in kind, dumping water on her. She cupped another handful, but when she saw my expression, she just let the water trickle away between her fingers. Even the boys stopped laughing. “What are you doing?” I asked her. “You’ll get wet.” “Uh-huh,” she said, as if getting wet were the very point of what we were doing.

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fourteenth summer

kate wisel

It starts with the lemons. Your best friend knows everything about sex – à la Cosmo. How unafraid you are to change in broad daylight. She squeezes fresh juice over your head then prays for bright, violent sunlight splayed on a wet, black trash-bag. Inside, baked and different, she searches for scissors, tweezers and Cutex, neon polish, older sisters, glossy pages: six tips on how to get loca loca. With a senior! Later: laxatives, you pass out on a track field,

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wear push-up bras as outerwear, go together everywhere. You’re twisted closer, like Pull ‘N’ Peel Twizzlers. She tilts your chin up in mirrors, slips a needle through your tongue, holds you still, fries your hair to wisps, cuts it, plucks peach fuzz from your tummy trail. If you’re friends for now, she’ll tell you it won’t hurt much. If you’re friends forever, she’ll break your nose straight.

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girlship

kate wisel

Raffa’s in from New York. You and Jess meet her at South Station then head to Swish for sake bombs. Jess holds the menu like it’s artwork but keeps her hair braided with the clip she’s had since high school. You pound the table as shots drop. Jess throws her head back, the diamond on her finger lighting up and up like an elevator. Raffa texts her boyfriend but breaks to eat the noodles you’re holding out with chopsticks. The three of you dash out with hoods up, your cheeks ice pink against the freeze. You cancel the Uber and sprint in heels to Red Lantern where you sneak through a line longer than a ladies room. Raffa flicks her cigarette as the bouncer shines 3D light over your expired ID, arguing in vicious Turkish till he shrugs. She pulls you by the elbow through the dance floor, Jess’s hair whirling out her clip, unbraiding as she bangs her head against the beat. You throw a strobe-light hand between your faces and pretend you’re on spring break. A stranger took a photo of the three of you mid-step on the stairs, later at The Lenox,

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Jess roaring her head back in laughter while Raffa falls against her shoulder from behind, you a step ahead with one hand locked in Jess’s, your eyes shut but sure of where you’re going.

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making do

kate wisel

I make another shoebox for five years ago. I stripe my old yellow bedroom with a Mr. Sketch, draw in wallpaper with precision. I make closets with cardboard, bend back paper clip hangers and sew finger-size dresses with nylon. I arrange Alyssa on the rug, leaning forward to paint her left toe black. Did you borrow that sheer top? I shake her head between my fingers. In the kitchen a mirror from a button is propped above the sink and Raffa’s wooden face is in it, rolling her eyes, doing all our dishes. Jess’s sprawled on the couch watching TV, the box I shellac with a cut out from US Weekly. I douse her with Light Blue, bleach her stringy hair with a tablespoon of Nice-N-Easy. Here comes that heat wave! I remember, turning a blowdryer on high over the box. I take Raffa to the bathroom sink, slip off her tanktop and wedge a cigarette between her fingers, the tip I make glow with watercolor. I overflow a bowl from the faucet and strip us. Crowded in the bath, we pass the cigarette, our little wooden fingers about to catch fire.

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the lostness

doug Bolling

Absence is such a vast house that you will walk through its walls and hang paintings in the air. One Hundred Love Sonnets, Neruda The rooms of life so huge so unmeasured so empty. I remember them, the voices, how each word carved the silence before it died. How a language builds the mirage by which to imagine a beginning an ending as though the fruit of solace hangs from a willing bough. The people come and go inventing a fullness of their spaces. They discover themselves in invisible mirrors and believe what they see. They paint themselves on walls of air to make the nothingness go away.

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elephant

christopher maier

I hide at the edge of the curtain. Behind me, my girlfriend lies in the darkness, coiled like a cat beneath the blankets. “What is it?” she asks. Three stories below, a blue Nissan jerks to a stop in front of the dumpster behind the donut shop. Two people step out. I watch them lift the dumpster’s lid, heft a pair of large trash bags into the car’s trunk, and wipe their hands on some sort of washrag they pull from the glove box. It’s a man and a woman, probably the same age as my girlfriend and me. They leave the car running. My girlfriend’s face and shoulders have emerged from the blankets. She’s leaning on her elbows. “Them again?” I nod and tap a cigarette out of the pack. As I take a drag, I watch the orange tip glow against the window. Beyond the glass, the Nissan’s engine growls and the exhaust pipe coughs a heavy smoke that looks blue when the beams from the floodlight catch it just right. The sheets rustle behind me. My girlfriend wouldn’t typically be awake at this hour, but she hasn’t been able to sleep lately. “Open the window if you’re going to do that in here,” she says, fanning the air around her. In the past month or so, she’s become a sort of health nut, and she keeps talking about trying to conceive — a larger commitment than I think she realizes. Kids don’t take care of themselves. And who are we to try to lead a kid down the path to contentment? “What if they see you?” she asks. I step away from the window. “They can’t see me all the way up here. And even if they did, I mean….” After all, I have nothing to hide. They’re the ones sneaking into an alleyway behind a donut shop in the middle of the night, boosting hundreds of stale donuts from private property. They’re the ones who are waking an apartment

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building full of people as they slam on their brakes and clang metal lids. They’re the ones disturbing the peace. “Come back to bed,” my girlfriend says, her voice softer than it was before. She doesn’t understand why I get up every time I hear that car turn into the alleyway. She doesn’t understand why I care. I can tell by the changing light outside that the car is pulling away. I hear rubber over pebbles. “I can’t sleep,” my girlfriend says, through a sigh. “I’ve tried everything. Thinking of summer camp. And field trips to the zoo. Going to my grandma’s when I was little. Just making my mind blank. Nothing’s working.” “Try deep breaths,” I tell her. “One in, one out, one in, one out. Concentrate on the act of breathing.” The room fills with the sound of air whooshing from her lungs. I glance out the window — the alleyway is empty. I can’t sleep either. I go to the kitchen, pour a glass of water, and try to imagine what I would do if I had two hundred stale donuts and tank full of gas. * * * * Two weeks earlier, after my girlfriend had fallen asleep, I was sitting by the open window smoking a cigarette when up pulls the car. The woman throws herself out of the driver’s side with urgency, as if her seat’s on fire. The man gets out of the passenger side and walks calmly around to the woman. He snatches the keys out of her hands, leans in close to her, and says something. I don’t know what he says, but she steps backward, eyes him up, and then lets go of this wad of spit that lands right beneath his eye. Almost as if he expected it, he lifts his t-shirt and wipes his face clean. Then he drags her to the ground by her hair. For a few seconds, the world freezes and they’re just staring into each other’s eyes. Somewhere in the distance a dog barks, and the man breaks

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maier his stare. The woman stays on the ground for a minute or so while he begins collecting the donuts. Then she picks herself up, brushing some gravel from her jeans, and lends him a hand. They clean the dumpster out and then they leave. The next morning, lying in bed, I told my girlfriend what I’d seen. “You didn’t go down and stop the guy from throwing her around?” I hadn’t expected this angle. “You have to pick your battles,” I told her. “I agree,” she said, looking through me. “When we first met, you would’ve gone down there and stopped it. That’s the kind of guy you used to be.” I tossed away the sheet and stood up. “Well, what kind of guy am I now?” She didn’t answer me. “Listen,” I said, stopping at the bathroom door, “you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into when you surprise people in an alleyway like that. Besides, I don’t think she wanted help. I think she liked whatever little game they were playing.” I turned on the bathroom light, which made me squint. “Maybe that’s what you think,” my girlfriend said, “but nobody likes that kind of thing.” Then she rolled over and went back to sleep. * * * * My mouth is dry. I pour myself another glass of water and turn on the TV. The nature channel is showing some sort of program about elephants that get attacked by crocodiles at the edge of watering holes in Zambia. An enormous croc lunges from the water and clamps hard onto a calf ’s trunk, trying to wrestle him into the depths, while the mother trumpets and swings her own trunk at the crocodile. Then

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elephant the mother lifts herself onto two legs. But the croc will not be intimidated. Just when it looks like the game is up, the calf whips its head from side to side and shakes the crocodile off. There’s thrashing and stomping and wailing before both elephants retreat out of sight. “With his mother unable to protect him,” the narrator says, in a British accent, “the calf is forced to learn an important lesson in self-survival. His wounds are severe, but he will live to see another day.” When I was a teenager and convinced that I’d grow up to be a veterinarian, my father gave me a book full of animal trivia. In it, a chart listed every sort of animal you can think of and then gave you the gestation period for each one. The animal that carried its young the longest was the elephant — nearly two years in the womb. Longer than the bison, or the hippo, or the ape. More than double the human. All that work to get the calf into the world, I think, and the thing is almost wiped out by a single hungry croc. The bedroom door clicks open and my girlfriend comes around to the couch. “Nature shows again?” “I can’t sleep.” “Me neither,” she says. The light from the television makes her skin look blue. She steps around the couch and sits down beside me. A family of elephants appears on the screen, another wateringhole drama about to play out. “Somebody out at the dumpster again?” she asks. I shake my head. “Why can’t you sleep, then?” She turns to look at me. “What’s on your mind?” “Not much,” I say. “Just awake.” I know she wants me to say I’m wrestling with weighty contemplations of fatherhood. Truth is, I haven’t begun to prepare for the courses that I’ll start teaching at the community college in less than a week, after the holiday break. I don’t even want to teach them. I’m bored of it. I

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maier don’t want to go yuk it up with other discontented adjuncts while we wait in line behind the Xerox machine to run copies of our syllabi. I don’t want to help nineteen-yearolds understand the flaws in their arguments. I don’t want to spend another year in this town, making no money, making no progress, making no waves, just sitting back and watching my twenties waste away. I don’t want to settle. And, at 3:45 in the morning, I really, really do not want to talk about any of it. “Oh, God!” my girlfriend says. On the TV, a very young elephant calf is dragged beneath the water’s surface, the other elephants moaning horribly onshore. She picks up the remote and turns off the TV. “That’s devastating.” “I was watching that,” I tell her. She doesn’t say anything. The refrigerator begins to hum, the wine glasses on top of it rattling lightly. We stare at the dark sky just beyond the windows. After a minute or two of silence, my girlfriend asks, “Do you remember that time we went to the Main Street Festival over in Bloomington?” When I nod she lays her hand on my thigh, palm up. “Remember I paid that lady two bucks to read the lines in my hands?” “I do,” I say, though the memory is vague. “This is the one that really got her excited.” She reaches for my hand and leads my finger along a deep groove that crosses the length of her palm. “You remember? She said I’m a giver, a provider, a rock, full of more love than most.” She holds onto my hand. “That means I’ll be a great mother, you know, if I ever get the chance.” I shake my head, smiling. “I have no doubt you will,” I say. “Be a good mother?” she asks. “Or get the chance?” “It’s late,” I tell her. “Way too late to start a conversation like this.” “Right,” she says, and waits a beat. “It’s always too late,

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elephant isn’t it?” “I just think we have some more adventures in us before we get there,” I say. “Maybe that is one of our adventures, you know?” There’s another minute of silence. I can feel her eyes on me. I grab my pack of cigarettes from the coffee table. “I really wish you wouldn’t smoke in the apartment,” she says. “You’re right.” I lean over and kiss her on the forehead. “Sorry. I know you want to talk about this. But my head’s off tonight. You should hit the sack. I’m going to have a smoke outside.” She turns the TV back on. The show has gone to a commercial break. A woman who looks like an obese Dolly Parton is peddling a CD called “A Family Affair.” In the background, Harry Chapin croons, “When you comin’ home, Dad? I don’t know when. But we’ll get together then, son. You know we’ll have a good time then.” “Come back soon,” my girlfriend calls. “Will do,” I say, and I close the door behind me. * * * * Some sort of scraping sound fills the hallway. It’s coming from around the corner, near the elevator, and when I get there I see the elderly Mr. Fuller dragging a folding chair and duffel bag — hefting the chair a few feet, dropping it, dragging the bag until it catches up, then back to the chair. Mr. Fuller moved into the building in his early twenties to live with his mother. Now, sixty years later, his mother is dead and he’s still here. “Let me help you, Mr. F,” I say, scooping up the bag. “Where are you going at this hour, huh? What are you working on here?” “It’s up,” he says, wagging his head as if he’s finally

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maier surrendering to some unavoidable truth. “I’m getting on with things. Look it! Now is the time.” Mr. Fuller’s strange manner of speaking, and the way he sometimes sits by the elevator and stares at people as they wait to ride down to the lobby, makes my girlfriend feel a palpable discomfort around him. I don’t necessarily feel it, though. Mr. Fuller and I slowly make our way toward the elevator. “So you’re going somewhere?” I say. “Gotta go,” he says, his voice hard to hear above the sound of his shuffling feet. “Look, gotta go.” “Where you heading, Mr. F?” He stops and, for the first time, looks up at me. “Starting with that elevator. See it?” He shakes his hand toward the end of the hallway. “Then downstairs. Gotta go outside.” “And then where, Mr. F?” I take the chair from him. “What do you have in mind then?” “Everybody’s got these plans,” he says, breathing heavy. “Everyone. I just gotta go. Gotta go far.” I start walking back toward his apartment and, without even realizing he’s doing it, he follows me. An aroma of fried eggs is wafting into the hallway from behind somebody’s closed door. “It’s dark out there,” I say. “Nobody should start a big trip like this in the dark.” Even as I hear myself talking, I feel shame. Who am I to condescend to Mr. Fuller? To take this old man back to the life he wants to escape? That he’s probably been trying to escape for the past sixty years? Still, I say to him, “You can start in the morning, when the sun’s out and there are plenty of buses that can take you wherever you want to go.” We walk into his apartment. Heat is rushing out of the vents near the floorboards. I find the thermostat and tick the temperature down to 75º. In a corner of the living room, I set up his folding chair,

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elephant and I stash his duffle bag in a nook near the utility closet. The heat stops; the apartment becomes silent. Mr. Fuller walks into the bedroom, moving without lifting his feet. “Rest up,” I call, before leaving. “Tomorrow could be a big day for you.” * * * * I stand in the shadows at the north side of our building. When I come outside to smoke, this is where I go. There’s nothing over here but generators and the entrance to the building’s furnace room, so the only person I’m likely to run into is the building manager, and that’s only in the afternoon. A light December wind brushes across the neighboring lawn, stirring up brown leaves and rattling the chain-link fence. The weatherman says the winter’s first “snow event” will arrive within a couple of days, but every week these people warn of some sort of impending natural disaster, and nothing ever happens. That said, there is a hint of Canada in the wind. I cup my hand around the cigarette and flick the lighter three or four times before the flame holds. Trapping the smoke in my lungs, I feel dizzy, and then I exhale two even plumes through my nostrils. My eyes follow the smoke as it rises into the air and disappears. Above me, the sky looks blank and dark — hardly any stars and just a sliver of moon. A clicking noise disrupts the silence. A thud follows, and I recognize this sound as the door at the back of my apartment building opening and shutting. I tuck my cigarette behind me and, still hidden in the shadows, glance around the corner. Mr. Fuller, now wearing some sort of thick brown cap with earflaps, is standing in the doorway, the light from the stairwell casting him in a yellow glow. I try to determine whether or not I should put him to bed

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maier for a second time tonight, but before I have the chance to decide, the alleyway is lit up by a pair of headlights that turn in from the main road. As the lights ease closer, I see that it’s the couple’s car, returning for a second round. I drop my cigarette and step on it. As the car comes to a stop beneath the bright floodlight at the back of the donut shop, I can see there’s only one person inside. I hear the emergency brake crank into place. The woman steps out of the car. Her face is pink and swollen — I can tell she’s been crying. She’s younger than I thought — probably in her early twenties — and she’s prettier, too. Her blond hair isn’t really blond, but some shade of darkness hidden beneath a haycolored sheen. I like that her roots are exposed. At first, she bends over, scanning the ground. Then suddenly, frantically, she’s on all fours, digging her fingertips through the small ponds of gravel that fill the potholes near her front tire. Then her fingers curl into fists and she drops her head against them. Her body shakes. Mr. Fuller, who hasn’t moved since the woman arrived, steps out from under the eave and walks toward her, stopping a few inches away from her feet. He stands in that spot for probably a minute, maybe longer, before she notices he’s there. She doesn’t startle, not even a little flinch, but instead just turns slowly, lifts herself, and looks at him. “This is hopeless,” I can hear her say. Mr. Fuller takes off his cap and holds it, two-handed, against his stomach. “Gonna need help? I gotta go, but I can help first.” “It’s just a stupid necklace.” She shakes her head, and as she does her moistened cheeks glisten against the light falling over her shoulder from the back of the donut shop. “I didn’t really want it anyway.” She left the car door open and some sort of beeping is coming from inside.

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elephant Mr. Fuller drops his duffel bag to the ground and unzips it. The woman watches him as he roots through t-shirts, slacks, underwear. When he stands again, he’s holding a necklace — a man’s necklace with a silver cross on a thin silver chain. In the past, as he’s held his position outside the elevator doors, I’ve seen him wearing it. He hands the necklace to the woman and she takes it. A soft, genuine smile settles into her mouth and eyes. She lifts the necklace over her blond hair and lets it fall around her neck. “Thank you,” she says. Mr. Fuller re-zips his bag. “Gotta go,” he says. “Well, not sure where I’m going,” she tells him, “but you’re welcome to tag along for a while.” In between the buildings at the end of the alleyway, I see the first hints of dawn begin to color the sky. The shadows that had been covering me are moving away, and if the woman turns around she’ll see me standing there, watching, not more than fifteen feet behind her. But instead she spins toward the car and nods for Mr. Fuller to get in. “World’s so big,” he says. “I really gotta go.” “I can get you as far as Kentucky,” she says. “But you’re gonna have to man the radio.” Mr. Fuller steps around to the passenger side and gets in. I hadn’t expected things to go this far, and now that they have I’m guessing that Mr. Fuller will be lucky to make it to the Broad Avenue bus depot before she kicks him to the curb. But I no longer feel an obligation to save Mr. Fuller from his journey — even if it’s a journey that’s likely to bring him right back to where he started. In fact, I envy him — getting into that car, seeing where the open road might lead, seeing how far he can make it. They shut the car doors and the engine shifts into drive. The tires begin to crunch over the pebbles. I can see Mr. Fuller reach toward the radio, and suddenly loud music

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maier shakes the car. The woman jumps, then laughs. As the car beings to pull away, I step out into the alleyway and look up at our apartment window. The slight flicker of the television illuminates the glass. Behind that glass, my girlfriend is watching elephants try to fight off their relentless predators. She’s wondering why I’m taking so long, wondering when I’m coming back. “Hey!” I yell, running to the center of the alley. I’m waving my hands. The car continues toward the street. “Wait!” I call, but the music is probably too loud. Then the red brake lights flash. I wave again. The car kicks into reverse. I realize that my girlfriend has probably heard all the commotion by now, so I don’t look up at our apartment window. I focus on the taillights moving in my direction. I imagine the rolling landscape of Kentucky and I wonder if the hills there really are blue. I draw in the deepest breath I’ve taken in years and I wait for the car to come to a stop beside me.

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from the future is different / all the ways we get / there from here

tony mancus

The beginning of time is a distinction fabricated as much by the mouths that speak it as it is by the ears that receive it. Time began and there was nothing to qualify. Or nothing began and there was time but no qualification. The devices used to measure anything were sorely misplaced and we were only born like a source could be born. I mean, I woke up one morning and my face was a part of this body and I knew what I knew and could not refuse to be placed elsewhere, at least without the assistance of many prescreened fabrications. Take the line. Either poetic or manufacturing. Take the timeline, itself a flattening of something spherical, someone that can warp and bend due to forces that exist exterior to it. Say that life is a cure for circles and there will be no geometrical spheres to calculate how effective our sense of proportion can be. I watch the weather become more of itself and then quit. Humane construction of likenesses between things only obscures the essential quality of each thing being compared. Or does it clarify? They say metaphor is stronger than simile, but like a rock is stronger than amalgamated roofing. If we spend our energy comparing analogies, paring sentience down to its split colon, we will have many currents to fjord. The natural is another divisional entity. An other divided entirely. But with its edges bleeding there comes a time where whatever version of the future we’re granted, we will inevitably blame others for the pieces that remain undefined or continue to receive the same house asking if we could have done a great disservice to this point of view. Comparing the previous sentence to what was provided by the device serving as an assistant, you would be able to divide the word choices like a country being split into factions. And potentially give it a thumbs up. Parcels crossing porous borders. Whatever hyphen comes between our era and the next remains unimagined until it is placed.

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how to warden. how to yearn

tony mancus

What steps make up a dance. That’s what the knife is for and why the cheese never gets enough, standing alone, little smelly. We’ll be partying here forever in this memory. If you take that cow by the horns it will still be a busy day. Traffic all the way to town. The nature of things to disturb their edges – only acting and strings of text, ideas of our voices inside themselves

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and the simplest way of saying one thing is maybe to say it every way, or quit ringing that bell tony mancus I woke up with the faucet of june stuck on in my throat and all you did was slip past the edge of the covers and down onto the ground like your entire being was made of fluids I took the remote control to the dentist’s office and it was beautiful The drills stopped humming at once and when I pressed go, smoke and buzzing mirrors became the backdrop for all advertising involving numbness or numbers or the flap of skin you get when you’ve lost your soul—some organism deflected from the staggery cannon of your throat

regarding arts & letters

Every fiddle fits a hollow where

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one great equal sign

tony mancus

might prove our commune insubstantial i look at the glut of stars dead and on their way you put a foot on the ground you’ve touched the end of something the trees fall over when the sound goes away thirsty black birds on your shoulder statues don’t erase from afar everything looks like light the bridge burns and burns and i bury the flashlight

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in my mouth hoping my eyes grow brighter once you’re dead who will remember everything else that wasn’t said here the cut and stitch of a fire alarm the show interrupted by a sun going caput we’ll have dinner together every last page has a turn

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flatlands

tony mancus

i put the land in the position of the land on paper it is a line and a lie continuous all those vowels in our mouths make a vacuum once a cartoon imbecile, always an anvil simply put there is no here there is no there there is no yes or so we’re told

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a cut out in the shape of a city - anyone lost sounds like an elegy in every person there’s a donut hole waiting for its ring

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immaculate

nate brown

Julie slept with Ira for the last time on a cold Saturday at the end of March. The lease on his new apartment would begin the following week and, as she’d expected, Ira had waited until the last moment to come get the boxes he’d left in the entryway when he’d moved out in the fall. She’d expected that things might turn this way when he showed up—that her boredom and loneliness would turn into a pitiable softness rather than into the apathy she’d attempted to cultivate in his absence. Who was he to hurt her? Who was he to leave his shit in her apartment for four months? Who was he to flirt once he’d returned for this junk? Julie had known about the girl, the one from the museum where Ira worked, and she didn’t know whether Ira and the girl were together or not. She felt it was better not to ask, especially once she found herself naked from the waist down on the couch, Ira’s head in her lap, moving with that urgent steadiness that never failed to make her come. So what if Ira and the museum girl were still together? Hadn’t the museum girl lured him away? Wasn’t this tit-for-tat or just desserts or whatever? It wasn’t really cheating, after all, when it was your own ex-boyfriend in your own apartment on the bed that the two of you had picked out at the Mattresses Plus together just two years ago. In any case, Julie thought, it wasn’t like she and Ira were going to get back together, so maybe this event—the picking up of stuff, the surprisingly passionate fucking—marked the end of the apartment as their apartment and the beginning of it being Julie’s alone. Maybe it had to be this way in order for her to move on. What Julie had not fully considered when she’d arranged to let him come for these last things—his toaster oven, two boxes of books, a toiletry bag containing shaving

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cream and nail clippers—was how she might feel when she saw him. She wanted to feel love or regret or forgiveness clearly, but over the course of the winter, even the enormous sadness she’d initially felt when he left was being replaced by something else, something she couldn’t name. The memory of Ira seemed larger and better than the Ira who no longer had a key to the apartment. She’d had to buzz him up when he rang as if he were delivering furniture or groceries. Just after New Year’s, she’d met him at a coffee shop and had him surrender his keys. His hair was even longer now and his face slimmer. She wondered if he’d been exercising. She touched his shoulders, which were firmer than she’d remembered. “Hey,” she said, and he looked up at her, his head resting on her thigh. “Yeah?” “Have you been working out?” “I joined a gym,” he said before continuing. It started there in the living room, but they’d ended up in their old bed. When he came, he pushed hard inside of her and released a deep breath. He buried his face into her neck. She’d wanted to sleep with him, but it didn’t feel how it should have. She thought once more of the museum girl, though it annoyed her to do so. What’s she doing right now, Julie wondered. After a moment, Ira’s back relaxed and he seemed to fold in on himself. He let his arms and legs go slack. His forehead rested against her ear and jammed the post of an earring into her flesh, but she ran her fingers though the thick hair on the back of his head. These were familiar motions, and she made them without much thought. She felt his voice vibrate on her skin but his words were lost in the space between the curve of her jaw and the pillow. She asked him to repeat himself.

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brown “Nothing,” he said, turning his head slightly and speaking directly into her ear. “It’s just—I should probably get out of here.” Ira picked up his head but didn’t pull away from her immediately. Instead, he arched his back and reared up, holding his head away from hers so that he could focus on her face. He looked at her forehead, her eyelids, her thin lips, and then looked back up to her hairline. It was a vague and searching gaze, the look of an infant placed in front of a mirror before it can recognize itself. And even though Ira worked for an art museum—spent every day of his working life surrounded by irrefutable aesthetic grandeur—this scrutiny was as impersonal and cool as a dermatologist’s. Julie wanted him to stop looking at her but didn’t want him to leave. After a moment, he pulled fully out of her, sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. Exposed to the open air of her bedroom, Julie’s flesh jumped to attention, every follicle on her body tightening into gooseflesh. She pulled the sheet over herself as Ira walked into the hallway and headed for the bathroom. She pulled four tissues from the box next to the bed and placed them between her legs. A chill shot down her back and she pulled her knees together and up to her chest. She adjusted the covers and began to rock from side to side, warming herself. Her knees smelled vaguely musty but alive, like rising dough. She listened as the shower started and then, after a short time, was shut off again. Ira came back into the room with one of her new towels around his waist. He was moving quickly and slick, transparent footprints pooled on the parquet floor. He hadn’t gotten his head wet, so while his body hair was pasted darkly against his skin, the dry flow of hair on his head made him look weirdly top-heavy. He bent to the floor and pulled on his boxer shorts,

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immaculate tugging them up underneath the towel to conceal himself like an embarrassed eighth-grader in a men’s locker room might. As if she hadn’t seen him naked before. As if they hadn’t just had sex! “You’re shy all of a sudden,” she said, still rocking under the covers. He looked up and with his boxers now in place removed the towel. “What are you doing?” “It’s cold in here,” she said, hugging her knees more tightly to dramatize her desire for warmth. “And, I suppose, I’m incidentally increasing the chance of conception.” “Har har,” he said, bending to the floor to pull on his jeans. “You’re still on the pill, aren’t you?” She rocked. She looked at the ceiling. “Julie, are you still on the pill or not?” “Calm down. I’ve been pregnant plenty of times.” Ira laughed. “God, I hope you’re talking about the video game.” The video game. It was a time-waster. A free download called Oh, Baby! that she played at work. Ira thought it was stupid, but then, he’d always worried about actual pregnancy. She was surprised that he hadn’t insisted on using a condom this time or that he hadn’t at least pulled out. How pathetic she must have looked to him, she realized. He must have been able to tell that she hadn’t been with anyone else since he’d left. He glanced around the room, spotted his sweater on what had once been his side of the bed, retrieved it, and tugged it over his torso. He fastened his watch, checked his pockets for his phone and keys, and looked at Julie who had quit rocking but remained tightly packed into a ball of limbs and torso. He was weighing things, she could tell. She’d forgotten how much she hated these moments with him. She’d seen this look so many times before, in the grocery store, at the lease signing, in restaurants and bookstores. He

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brown said he was a discerning person, and that he liked to know all of the facts about something—which wine to drink, which movie to see—before making any decisions. As he watched her, she imagined him calculating odds, visualizing all of the permutations of the various potential futures that spread out in front of him from this place and moment. Had it been a good lay or bad lay? A mistake or a goodbye? A goodbye or a new beginning? Should he stay or should he leave? Julie or museum girl? “I’ll leave my new address on the fridge,” he said, reaching out as if to pat her foot but hesitating and pulling his hand away. “You know you can always give me a call.” “I don’t think I’ll need it, Ira.” “For forwarding and whatnot,” he said. “Pretty sure the Post Office handles that,” she said. “Okay. Well,” he said. He bent down and kissed her forehead. “You should go.” What was this feeling? This new scratch at the back of her throat? It wasn’t just the apparent finality of Ira’s leaving. He’d been gone since November, and he’d seemed gone a lot longer than that. Maybe it was something about the apartment. The entry should have seemed much wider without Ira’s things cluttering it up, but somehow it didn’t. As far as Julie could tell, the apartment was nearly as empty as it had been when the broker showed it to them. But when she closed her eyes, she could feel the place clench a fist around her. Ira’s stereo and television were long gone. His pictures were off the walls. Two chairs, a rug, various refrigerator magnets and two bookcases had disappeared with him, and he’d just hauled away the cluttered miscellany. She got up and pulled on her underwear and a shirt, but they felt tight, so she took them off again and dug out her pajamas, blue flannels that had pilled with age. They were

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immaculate baggy but they kept her warm as she swept the floors, which were clean. She rearranged and fluffed the couch cushions and attempted to straighten the rug in the living room so that it squared with the walls and wouldn’t slip off its mat. She did the dishes, but even with a third of the plates and pans gone, she couldn’t seem to fit everything into their right places. She brushed her teeth, but her movements seemed coarse and imprecise. When she was done, her teeth still felt grimy, so she brushed again, harder the second time, brushed until there were streaks of blood in her spit. When pulling back the shower curtain, she accidentally ripped two grommets off of the liner, which folded over and stuck to itself like a damp animal skin. She washed with water hot enough to paint her skin bright pink. Getting into bed, Julie could feel her loneliness fill the small space of the apartment. It was a slow-moving, indoor storm that pushed at the windows. The panes seemed to bulge outward, and though there was a flurry outside in the streets—wet, frenetic flakes landing hard and caking the ledges of the building—she cracked the windows to let in the air. She breathed in the cold and rested a hand on the tight knot gathering below her belly button. That was the last she’d see of Ira. She promised herself. Julie worked as an executive assistant at a firm called IDS: Idea+Design+Strategy. She’d studied political science and philosophy, but after graduation, her roommate’s sister had helped her set up an informational interview at IDS. It would be a good starter job, the kind of thing that gets you to move to the city so that you can move on from there. Six years later, she’d had three respectable raises, good insurance, a decently performing 401(k), and a glut of unused vacation days. IDS had even helped pay back some of her college loans, and if she stayed four more years, the slate would be clean.

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brown Her mother and father were far away, but she spoke to them often, and her mother continually urged Julie to look into law school as she’d once planned. But Julie had grown into her job, or else it had grown so used to her that her bosses were willing to pay her enough to make the possibility of leaving seem particularly wrongheaded. “Golden handcuffs,” her mother had said of the situation. “You never wanted to be a secretary,” she would tell Julie, reinforcing her own belief that her daughter should have rank and pride as well as an income, none of which she’d ever really had for herself. “I’m not a secretary,” Julie would remind her, “and I’m happy.” Almost always, Julie ended conversations with her mother with some mention of how good things were going or how content she felt, words that Julie knew were little more than trump cards played by the children of worried parents. “Well, happiness is what’s important,” her mother would say, usually in a tone that communicated tiredness or resignation rather than conviction. Julie could hear the disappointment in her mother’s voice, but what was she supposed to do with it? She had enough disappointment of her own. When she started at IDS, Julie assumed that it’d be temporary and that there was plenty of time to move ahead in any number of ways. She could have kept up her dancing, which she quit in the seventh grade. She could have taken more than the required two years of French in college and polished up her language skills, maybe even gone abroad for a semester. She could have at least taken the LSAT and applied to law schools. Those things hadn’t felt so distant when she’d moved to the city. Now, though, she sat behind the front desk of IDS wondering how she’d become an adult. Before she took the job, she’d imagined that it might teach her a lot about design. She welcomed the idea. She

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immaculate imagined her wardrobe changing dramatically and that she’d buy (and really need) smart looking glasses and understated, expensive accessories. But the truth was that her work at the front desk had very little to do with the work that IDS actually performed. As new projects came up—remodels of hotel lobbies, blueprints for impossibly beautiful restaurants—her job didn’t change one bit. She typed names and numbers on the standard in-house and municipal forms and sent them via FedEx or email to the firm’s attorneys or the clients or the clients’ attorneys. Julie had lost track of just when the monotony came to feel like stability, but it was around the time she met Ira. IDS had been hired to redesign the conference rooms and offices at the art museum where he worked, and Ira had seemed so intelligent and discerning. She learned that he spoke French and Mandarin, and not long after work on the museum began, Julie found herself looking forward to his occasional visits to the office. They’d moved in together a little over a year later and things seemed surprisingly correct and in line. Worries about law school and her mother began to fade. With Ira, adulthood seemed to fit better. Day to day, she was still answering phones, coordinating calendars, putting together lunches and writing routine emails, but it began to seem like enough. Upon her second promotion, she was asked to assist an executive vice president of the firm, Gunter Maurer. He was a tall, balding German who wore glasses with transparent acrylic frames and hard-looking leather shoes. Gunter spent a lot of time traveling for the company, courting clients as far off as Sydney and Mexico City. When he was traveling, Julie took the opportunity to sit in his office and admire his Spartan decoration. It was like the set of a movie. There was a slim, Maple desk, a thin laptop and a brushed aluminum flowerpot to match. The pot contained a greenish-gray

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brown succulent whose petal-like arms reached up and out of the soil expectantly. He had no art on his walls (he often said that he was “more interested in color than image”), but there were a few bright silver frames showcasing Gunter’s family on the shelves behind his desk. His three children looked out from their places, and his wife smiled from a shining frame beside Gunter’s phone. Really, Gunter was paid to organize and travel, to find new contacts and clients. He was a model, of sorts, Julie assumed. He’d been a designer, but now he mostly talked about design. Julie filed his expense reports. Gunter drank on the job—it was part of his job. Sure, he worked all the time, but what work it was. And because Gunter didn’t have to work particularly hard, not in any traditional sense, anyway, Julie didn’t have to work particularly hard either. This was true of most clerical staff at IDS. When Julie first started at IDS, she’d heard an associate client manager reprimand an assistant for ordering the wrong brand of mineral water. “We can’t drink this,” the woman said, pointing at the miniature, dimpled bottles in the break room (Gunter and the designers called it a “break pod”). “And we certainly won’t be offering this to any of our clients. How stupid would that make us look?” The morning after that final, awkward night with Ira was bright and clear. Even on a snowcapped Sunday in the city, she couldn’t come up with anywhere else to go or anyone to call, so she decided to go to the office. So many of her friends were Ira’s friends, and of those who weren’t, there were only two or three she’d told about their breakup. They must have heard, but getting in touch with them would require too much explanation and too much history. Even her parents didn’t know that Ira had moved out. At least at the office she could reorganize her filing system as she’d meant to long ago, empty out the junk drawer in her desk and

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immaculate update the portfolio binders with recent photos of current projects. She reached the building just before ten and was relieved that the lights were off. On any given weekend, the chances were good that at least a few designers were there, staring at their widescreen displays, sweating under a deadline. Julie’s desk was large and shaped like a horseshoe. She sat at the zenith of the shoe facing the bank of elevators, the long hall of offices and conference rooms stretching out behind her. These spaces were walled in by tall sheets of frosted glass and from virtually anywhere along the main hall, you could make out bodies and colors through the glass, though the details were lost. Julie had become so used to the space that she could identify individuals by their postures and the blurry hues of their clothing. Julie set her bag down then hung her cardigan over her chair before taking a seat and turning on her computer. She planned to drink a cup of tea, check her email, and play a little Oh, Baby! before getting down to business. When she was settled and her tea had steeped, Julie looked at her computer and selected an icon that looked like a baby rattle. An animated woman walked from the far left edge of Julie’s monitor to the center of the screen where she stopped and turned to face Julie. She was bald, naked, and formless, a digital mannequin. A cursor blinked above her head. Julie held her fingers above the keyboard and thought for a moment of Ira, the museum woman, and the long night cleaning her immaculate and empty apartment before typing in a name for this woman. She tapped it out quickly: Tracy. Julie’s track record playing Oh, Baby! was impeccable. Since downloading the game, she had grown 22 extremely healthy girls and 9 healthy boys for various women—Claire (who Julie named after her mother), Misty (after Julie’s childhood cocker spaniel) and Amy (after her best friend from college) among them. But the names were just the

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brown beginning of Julie’s choices, and this is what she liked most about the game, its seemingly endless permutations—that and it killed a lot of time. Time Julie should have spent filing, ordering office supplies, cleaning the area around her desk, re-organizing the portfolio binders, and double-checking that she’d returned phone calls and emails flagged urgent. Instead of doing any of this, or even pretending to do work that could wait, Julie chose Tracy’s eye-color, the style of her maternity dress, her skin tone, the weight and height of the father, who, to Julie’s dismay, she never actually got to see during the game. After dressing, naming, and impregnating Tracy by a 5-foot 9-inch, Caucasian man with dark, curly hair, light eyes, and a medium build—not unlike Ira—Julie clicked the Begin Game button. On the screen, Julie watched the familiar sight of small icons bloom up around Tracy. They made electronic blips and buzzes when clicked, and Julie knew what each one did. There was a prescription bottle and a vitamin bottle that rattled, a pack of cigarettes that puffed and wheezed, a snake-entwined caduceus that represented a trip to the doctor’s office and that registered an optimistic sweep of bar chimes, a bottle of wine that made a gluttonous gulping sound, a rolled up yoga mat that inhaled and sighed deeply, a cheeseburger that belched, a broccoli stem that mmmmd with satisfaction, and a syringe that made an ominous moan when clicked. Above Tracy’s head was the symbol for Mars, a circle with an erect arrow that protruded north-north-east from its circumference. That icon, Julie knew, represented the faceless father of the child and when selected there was no sound but instead a shower of small red hearts fell on Tracy, the representation of an off-stage partner’s support and affection, a husband’s, or at least a father’s, love. Given that it was a simple game, a free game that was available in 11 languages and that had been downloaded by hundreds of thousands of office workers, assistants, and

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immaculate college students, Julie was surprised by all of the options she had. She was in nearly total control of Tracy’s life, as well as the life of Tracy’s unborn child. In the upper right-hand corner of the screen a calendar tracked the progress of the pregnancy. Julie could accelerate gestation so that all three trimesters would occur within the space of 30 minutes, or she could play in real time, spending nine actual months of work days logged in and tracking Tracy’s every move, every meal, every surreptitious cigarette or glass of wine. Julie liked to have the pregnancy take one month, covering roughly two weeks of Claudia’s or Misty’s or Amy’s pregnancy in a single day. But Julie decided that Tracy’s pregnancy would be quick and dirty. It would only take a week for Tracy’s body to bloat, her skin to stretch and her breasts to sag and become sore. Over the course of Tracy’s pregnancy, depending on how Julie chose to direct her, her health and the health of her unborn child would either improve or worsen. The smart strategy, Julie knew, would have been to give Tracy a healthy dose of vitamins from the start, provide her the love of a husband/lover/impregnator, and send her immediately to the doctor. Instead, Julie gave Tracy a cigarette, let her pop a pill, drink some wine, and shoot heroin. It was nearly dark when Julie got home. She had stopped by the large market near the office but had only picked up one bag of groceries, which she cradled in her arm as she attempted to select the correct key with her other hand. She hadn’t purchased her normal bag of salad greens and vegetables, hadn’t, to her surprise, wanted a bottle of wine. Instead, she’d been craving eggs, briny olives, a strong cheese and something incredibly sweet. She’d settled on an ice cream that was shot through with caramel, fudge, cherries, and hunks of dark chocolate. On an impulse, she bought

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brown a pack of cream-filled chocolate cupcakes at the checkout stand. She ate one while waiting in line and saved the other for later. She’d eat it with some ice cream. Upon entering her apartment, Julie was greeted with a strong, warm draft that resisted her and made it difficult to push the door open, as if a pile of sand had grown up behind it. What hit her wasn’t the familiar metallic rush of radiator heat that she was used to. Instead, the air in her apartment was thick and smelled earthy, like beets. Maybe hay. For a moment, she thought that Ira might have come back, that he was there cooking them something for dinner. Perhaps there had been something more complicated the previous night in that searching, clinical look of his. Maybe it hadn’t been disappointment or pity on his face at all. She hung her key on the small hook near the door and with her free hand flicked on the lights. There was no Ira, and the earthy smell faded quickly. As she stood in her small entry hall preparing to take off her coat and hang it in the closet, she could not believe that she’d felt so suffocated the night before. The apartment seemed enormous to her now, palatial, and Julie felt small and hard as a beetle scuttling around inside it. The ceiling seemed too high, and the windows were so tall. The floor spread out for what seemed like acres. She put her jacket in the closet, set the groceries on the counter, and looked around. When she finally put the groceries away, the ice cream, which had been rock hard in the outside air, was softened mush. On Monday, Julie decided to pull herself together. She showered, washed, and conditioned her hair, scrubbed her arms, legs, and the undersides of her feet. She scrubbed her armpits, elbows, and knees in the same manner, until the hot water and scrubbing made her skin tender and, in some spots, a little raw. She dried, wrapped a clean towel around her body and another around her hair and went to her

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immaculate bedroom to dress for work. She left her apartment early and stopped into a boutique near the IDS offices where they sold mineral makeup, hand-milled bars of soap, and unbelievably expensive and beautifully packaged skin-care products. It was more than Julie wanted to spend, but she picked up two good shades of organic lipstick, a non-toxic brown eyeliner, a tin of eye-shadow, tube of concealer, and a hand and body lotion combo infused with elderflowers and mint. There were a few designers already in the office when she arrived, but Gunter wouldn’t be in until 10, and the phone calls wouldn’t pick up until the afternoon. Julie removed her coat and hung it on a hook in the reception area closet and leaned over the front of her desk to turn on her computer. She went to the break pod and brewed a cup of green tea. She’d been considering cutting out all caffeine, and she would, eventually, but she was taking it slow. No more coffee. She’d phase out the tea gradually. Returning to her desk, Julie pulled out her chair, sat, and wheeled up close to her keyboard. She clicked on the rattle icon, selected the Tracy pregnancy that she’d saved, and was greeted by an eight-weeks-pregnant Tracy whose morale meter was low, whose shoulders were slumped and who still hadn’t seen the doctor. Julie clicked an arrow at the bottom of the screen, and Tracy turned 90-degrees to the right so that she was in profile. She had no visible baby bump yet, and Julie assumed that the risk of miscarriage wasn’t out of the question this early on, so she opted to give Tracy a vitamin. Tracy looked hungry, but Julie clicked the hamburger icon instead of the broccoli. Stupid Tracy, thought Julie, stupid, stupid, stupid. Don’t you know you shouldn’t be eating fast food, especially when you’re pregnant? When Gunter arrived, Julie shut off Oh, Baby! and opened a spreadsheet that had nothing to do with any of the work she could have been doing. She’d once used it to keep

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brown track of Gunter’s favorite restaurants, but now she used it to fill her screen with something that would seem innocuous and office-like when she needed to. “Good morning, Gunter,” she said, cheerily enough to surprise them both. “Gutentag, Julie,” he said, separating the syllables in an equally surprising sing-song-y German accent: “You’re looking nice today,” he said. “Did you get a haircut?” “No,” she said, “I haven’t had it cut in a while, actually.” “Ah, well. It looks nice. Did you have a good weekend?” They talked for a few moments longer, and Julie informed him of his lunch date, confirmed his reservation, and forwarded and replied to a few emails before standing to stretch her legs and head back to the break pod for more tea. During lunch, she fed Tracy two burgers, gave her a cigarette and four glasses of wine. Then she clicked the yoga mat and let her relax. Tracy’s morale meter went up just a fraction of an inch. Julie didn’t think that there was an irrefutable clinical connection between depression and miscarriage, but for the purposes of Oh, Baby! the link was ironclad, and Tracy’s lousy morale meter readings were troubling. Julie knew that the best way to avoid the loss of this child would be to shower Tracy with her lover’s affection and send her to the doctor more regularly. But she wasn’t going to give her any quick fixes. Instead, Julie sent Tracy to six yoga classes. Six deep, electronic sighs escaped her computer’s speakers. This kept Tracy out of the danger zone. Then Julie gave Tracy another smoke. That night, Julie came home and cleaned her apartment. She changed out of her work clothes, put on jeans and a green tee shirt that had a picture of a flamingo on it, and got to it. The baseboards were dusty and the drain

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immaculate in the kitchen sink emitted an unpleasant vegetal smell. The rug in the living room was all poly-fibers. She would vacuum it and get rid of it. It wasn’t old or particularly worn—Ira had rightly insisted that there be a no-shoes-in-the-house policy when they moved in together—but who wanted a rug that was made of plastic? It was potentially toxic. Better to go with wool. Julie remembered hearing about a couple who’d nearly killed their infant daughter when a poly-fiber rug caught fire. The fumes could have suffocated every living thing in their house. After she cleaned the rug, she rolled it up and dragged it out to the hallway. She set it near the trash chute with a note that read Free! Clean! Like New! (But plastic!). She disposed of many more things. The dishtowels were so stained that she threw them out rather than launder them once again. The pots and pans that had nonstick coatings went straight to the trash because she’d heard a piece on the radio about how the chemicals from those coatings wound up in your bloodstream. She inspected the curtains, which looked clean until you saw how much dust had been trapped in the folds. It was the small things that made a home dirty. Sometime after midnight, she’d nearly exhausted herself, but all of the floors had been scrubbed. The bathtub, bathroom sink, and toilet sparkled. She’d been through the refrigerator and had thrown out all fruits and vegetables that were either too old or not organic and almost all the dairy (including the strong, stinky cheese that she hadn’t yet touched and excluding the ice cream that had refrozen into an icier version of its former self). Kneeling down to go through the meat and crisper drawers, she could feel the hard lump inside her tighten and relax. It was a strange sensation, and combined with the strong, green smell of wilting celery, Julie thought she might be sick. She stood up, went to the window, and let in the cold.

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brown That night, Julie did not turn on the cold tap when she showered. She could feel the cleansers and detergents in her skin. She had used bleach powder on her sinks and though she’d worn gloves, she could not escape the smell. It was in her hair and on her fingers. After she showered, she took a bath. Then, because she imagined that the tub water was a filthy soup of cells and traces of her own fluids, she showered again, dried off, and used her new body lotion. After she pulled on a camisole and her pajama bottoms, she walked toward her bedroom, stopping in the hall to look at her rug-less living room. Clean, she thought, Not perfect, but pretty clean. Julie spent Tuesday morning ordering new dish towels. She also found a rug she liked from a manufacturer in another state. It was made from 100% wool and was colored a soft shade of cocoa using a natural plant dye. She called the number on their website and placed the order. The man who answered the phone sounded kind. The edges of his words were soft, and his vocabulary was polite and endearing—so different from Gunter and the designers and city people in general. She imagined this man had a beard. He likely smelled like coffee. He was probably a carpenter. He changed the oil in his truck himself. She wanted to know what he looked like. She wished she had something better to talk to him about than his company’s rugs. “I read on your website that the sheep that provide the wool are organically fed,” she told him, “but do you know if the plant dye is also organic? I mean, are the plants used in the dye organically farmed, I mean?” She had the rug shipped by air. She ordered two matching chairs for her kitchen table to replace the two that Ira had taken with him. She ordered two bookcases and called her mother to ask her what kind of

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immaculate television she had. “I thought you and Ira had a big TV,” her mother said. “We do.” Julie thought quickly and said, “We’re just looking at another one, maybe for the bedroom.” “That’s a terrible idea,” said her mother. “Do your love life a favor, and don’t do it.” Ultimately, she decided against the television, but she ordered herself a table radio and a new toaster. She went to the website of a gourmet kitchen store and ordered a 6-piece set of enameled iron cookware that looked sturdy. She also spent a long time looking at Tracy in profile. At twelve weeks, Tracy was showing. At the end of the first trimester, the heart is almost fully developed and can be heard with a doctor’s Doppler machine. A new icon appeared on the Oh, Baby! screen, shaped like a heart—not an anatomical heart, but like a Valentine, which Julie had always found strange. This was a good sign. So long as the heart icon was red, not blue, the fetus was alive, if not well. After work, Julie went to the grocery store to restock. She avoided fish and shrimp. She decided to buy the darkest green vegetables that she could find and plenty of fresh fruits. She compared whole-grain cereals and read the list of ingredients in the various loaves of whole wheat bread. She avoided sugar and tried to buy locally grown goods, though that was harder to do than she’d thought it should have been. She wasn’t so far from farm country that she shouldn’t have been able to find a local apple, she reasoned. Instead of lugging the groceries home this time, she paid extra and arranged to have them delivered. When she got back to her apartment, she hesitated at her front door. The brass apartment numbers, 3C, seemed strange to her. She so wanted this to be her home, to be a place she might look forward to coming back to after work or a trip, had she decided to go on one. She knew that she’d

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brown feel safer and happier once she was inside, but standing in front of her door, she worried that the place that she wanted to rule—shape, color, and fill with comfortable things and art and good food—was ruling her. Since Ira had taken those last few things, she worried that her lack of vision—for the apartment, among other things—was taking her places she hadn’t intended to go. What in the hell did the apartment of her dreams look like, anyway? When she entered, the earthy smell was back and was stronger. It was a pleasant surprise, in a way. It was softer and less irritating than the sprays she’d used to scour the countertops and clean the windows. She left the lights off, and found her way to the bathroom where she had a new beeswax candle purchased at the same boutique where she’d gotten her new makeup. She lighted it and carried it on its small glass plate to the living room. Someone buzzed her apartment from downstairs and Julie jumped, jostling the candle on its plate and causing a small eruption of wax. It flowed down the candle’s edge and, cooling, pooled on the edges of the plate. A few of the drops fell to the hardwood and quickly stiffened. She set the candle on the coffee table and walked to the intercom. It was the man delivering her groceries. “Come up and leave them outside the door,” she instructed. She removed two twenty-dollar bills from her purse, slid them under the door and waited. Moments later, she heard the man set the box down, pick up the bills, and say, “This is too much,” and when Julie didn’t respond, he said “You already paid!” loudly before walking away with the money. Opening the door, the bright fluorescence of the hallway made her squint. The organic produce looked alien under the tube lighting. The rich forest green of the kale she’d selected and the grass green of the bok choi seemed bleached, but when she dragged the box inside (it was too

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immaculate heavy to carry), they looked better. They smelled good and were firm. She put them in the crisper, and put the rest of the items away by the light of her candle. When she woke on Wednesday morning, it was because she’d felt herself nearly wet the bed. The urge had pulled her from a complicated dream that reminded her of a classics course she’d taken in college. Something about the pre-Socratics, basic parts of matter, amorphous globs of life and pre-life. In the bathroom, she washed her face and, for maybe the first time in a long time, really took notice of herself. What she saw surprised her. Her hair, long and dark, was glossy but seemed to hang limply from the sides of her head like a wig. Her cheeks seemed hollow which, considering the fullness she felt under her skin, confused her. In nearly four days, all she’d eaten was that cupcake, some ice cream, the occasional handful of almonds from the break pod and several cups of green tea. How could she feel so fat? Her refrigerator contained a lot of good, healthy, clean food, but she couldn’t touch it. The only things from her closet that felt right were a few items from what she called her fat period. It had come shortly after college, when she took the job at IDS. She’d been anxious about the city and her job. Her energy level had been low, and she drank frequently with her college friends and her new co-workers. She’d only actually gained twenty pounds, but in those first months with the company, she’d used a substantial portion of her paychecks to buy several work-appropriate outfits. The hooded sweatshirts and sandals from college were not going to cut it. So she had baggier blouses, slacks, and coats that had cost a good deal of money and that, even after losing the weight, she’d kept as an insurance policy. She dressed in a slightly too-large cream-colored tank

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brown top and a smart, fitted jacket that hung over her stomach. Her pants were black and loose enough at the waist that, had she done a jumping jack or play a round of hopscotch, would have fallen. When Gunter stepped off of the elevator at nearly noon, Julie was deeply involved with Tracy and did not look up to greet him. Tracy’s morale meter had dipped low and the heart icon was tinted purple. She didn’t bother opening the spreadsheet—for what? Posterity? Job security?—but reported to Gunter who’d called for him that morning, where his lunch meeting was, and reminded him that he had an afternoon drinks thing with a client at a hotel bar. She listed these things quickly and casually. “Thank you, Julie,” he said. “Everything okay?” “Fine.” she said. “You look tired. Sure you’re feeling all right?” His voice had taken on the higher tones of concern that he thought should come from any decent boss. “I’m really good,” she said without looking away from the screen. “Could be my new makeup. I’m not sure this stuff is doing me any favors.” Late in the afternoon, after returning calls from people wishing to speak to Gunter and ushering in a client for a meeting with two associate designers, Tracy’s morale meter fell to nearly zero and the little heart icon turned light blue. Julie spent most of the afternoon worrying the silver ring on her finger before finally sending Tracy to the doctor. Clicking on the caduceus, the small tinkling of bar chimes registered loudly from her computer speakers, but there was nobody near enough to hear it but Julie. Tracy’s morale meter went up and the baby’s heart reddened. That night, Julie made a small salad and sat at her kitchen table to eat. Of the things she missed about Ira, she missed eating meals together the most. Eating alone seemed

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immaculate clinical, shoving that food in your mouth with a fork, wiping your lips with a napkin. It was like following dance steps without actually having someone to dance with. She could shove a fistful of greens into her mouth and drink straight from the tap, and who would care? Still, she drank water with crushed ice and a lemon wedge, and poked at the salad. The greens and reds on the plate looked appealing, beautiful even, but they didn’t taste good or bad. It was as if her tongue had ceased registering bitter, sweet, salty, and sour. She could barely even taste the lemon in her water. She felt full after only a few bites and she sat back in her chair and pushed its front legs off of the ground. She rested a hand across her belly. It felt concave and dense, like the slim, shallow crater of the worry stone Ira had sent her while on one of his trips to China. On Thursday, Julie showed up late and Gunter was already in the office. She walked down the hall and knocked lightly on his door. “Yes, come in.” Gunter sat behind his desk with his hands folded in front of him. His blonde children looked at her from the frames that hung behind their father’s head. The succulent looked cared for. “I want you to go home today,” he said. “You don’t look good at all.” He removed his glasses and looked at her. Julie looked down and saw that the side seam of her skirt had crept around to the front. It was loose enough to swirl around her hips, so she adjusted it and petted her waist. Then she brought her hands to the sides of her head and smoothed her hair. “Okay,” she nodded. “I’m just feeling under the weather this week. I’ll check my email and go.” “You seem stressed,” he said. An even tone had crept back into his voice. “Go home and relax.”

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brown “Okay.” Julie went back to her desk and turned on her computer. She went to the bathroom and applied a thin coat of her new lipstick. Looking at her mouth in the mirror, she dabbed the pigment against the thick heart of her lower lip, then lightly touched it to the smaller point of her upper lip. The color was subtle and muted in the tube. It was called Rose Dust, and Julie had supposed that it was classy, but even under the full-spectrum bulbs of the IDS bathroom, Rose Dust seemed garishly bright against her skin. Julie brought her right index finger to her lips, pressed deeply into her lower lip, and left two waxy Rose Dust fingerprints over her reflected eyes on the mirror. At her desk, she blotted away the remaining lipstick and stayed as quiet as she could. She opened Oh, Baby! and was only a little surprised to see that the baby’s heart has turned a deep, black-ringed blue. Tracy’s morale was at zero. Overnight, the baby had died inside of her and the game was over.

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this day to day

joshua garcia

I can normally tell from silence what work you are on but I can sense deception in this intense lingering; imagining dragons on the outerbanks of a coastline where a fair maiden robed in golden mist beckons to ride; imagining god with equal intensity; imagining html, C++; vinegar on oysters from the briny and sweet waters near Winter Point; I blame the coffee. Your hand is glowing in a persistent fugue state; memoriless light blue as the day darkens, a tone for the danger of more work, your glance like an actor’s face at the end of a tragedy; your voice a different tone; you won’t be bursting into duets from Disney, fingers in a fit, tapping the keyboard in the bedroom; it’s dusty; again that silence punctuated by fingertaps on another keyboard, dust flies as we slide into midnight.

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You take your anxiety and pulse forward hours at a time; lose yourself to focus, sketch a dark obelisk for your bosses, and send it off, and sleep with the rising sun; I should know at this point where the silence has landed you, to be able to trace the deception like Shakespeare; you put on the silk chemise with a fading pink heart; as you drift I steer these words to yours; The day to day won’t ever be the future, and the future, it’s what you imagine. A stroll along Friday’s edge into the weekend, a morning plate of smoked salmon and a chilled glass of lime and gin for the longest sunset. What could be better than that.

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a moon of jupiter

joshua garcia

You can sleep as late as Summer light in Ireland; amble on the low low clouds that swallow Carrickfergus, drop your feet on fog along the castle-rock; hear the world spin on its oblong route towards heaven and let the men in white coats label noise we will call music; pull the cotton sheets with your roll, like a child sliding his socks on the carpet to make sparks, and kiss, cool my hot blood from a midnight boil; make a channel for the mist and dream it to me, be all the sea things I’ve never seen in action: my anchor, port and lighthouse, and all the day to days I see too often: my dock, A/C and charger; remember me with the sapphire eye of a smartphone,

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carry me with the perfect connection, but—dream your dream; I can see you with a beaded sundress and great lights above an American flag, telling a country what its anthem should sound like, but I’d rather fade with your mist, have you carry as you are as you wish as you desire, there is no need to say why, or to say it, as if talking could change Truth; there is life on a moon of Jupiter, there is water on a planet that’s not ours, there is a spirit trapped in our cells and proof thereof is only ever for dreams; this heart will beat as fast as yours, and these eyes will age for a second every second and for no other time; mine is a journey of one elastic moment made bright by the embrace of wonder in an age of discovery;

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garcia you, as enigmatic as terrain blanketed by a white dense enough to rest in my palm, it smells like rain, and that says there is a sky out there; I can walk along your rocks all day, talking to the seas; I can love, and hope for us, and pray, but no power is stronger or truer than beliefs, thicker than blood, coursing like arteries through a dream that none of us can end.

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when it comes

joshua garcia

Today, I think I want you to kiss my forehead and say, like you say, “Just rest.” Tomorrow, you may ask me to do something different. To hold your hand and whisper, “I will see you shortly.” Not that we need a plan. In fact, I’d rather it be spontaneous.

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the heroes of cherry, remembered

sean gill

It was a peculiar chain of events, and one that had led me from the swanky, Fifth Avenue offices of a Manhattan production house to a silverfish-infested motel on the ragged outskirts of Cherry, Ohio, a backwater so insipid and corrupt that it defies description, or at least discourages it. I don’t know why the caged bird sings, but I do know why the lunatics in the asylum bash their heads against the walls. # I had been working as a production coordinator on Poop Chompers, a television program produced by Chisolm Entertainment in association with the a three-branched media conglomerate, Trangle’s Triangle™. They had purchased the rights to a YouTube sensation known as “shit-chomping,” a popular series of videos whereupon unsuspecting human beings were unexpectedly fed samples of their own excrement to the amusement of friends and onlookers. It came on the heels of a number of similar internet fads that had evolved into cable series, from “wombwhomping” (videos of unexpected sucker punches to the female stomach) to “vows on da ground” (videos of grooms being abruptly depantsed in the midst of their wedding ceremonies) to “tears n’ beers” (videos of tear gas canisters being discharged unannounced in crowded bars). Medically speaking, shit-chomping is a harmless “prank” because the victims are only ingesting material that has originated from within their own digestive tracts; though, quite obviously, the usual shit-chomping victim does not appreciate such a disclaimer. Of course, with its elaborate set-ups (the creative ways in which perpetrators obtain their victims’ excrement and the innovative methods of redelivery), shit-chomping lent itself quite well to the halfhour stand-alone format. It was a terrific hit, and lost none of its integrity in the transition from the computer screen to the television one save for the title, which Standards and

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Practices revised in the name of being kid-friendly. I had a phobia about shit-chomping, but it paid the bills. I swore I’d quit after one season, and a year later I swore I’d quit after two. By season four, I was looking for a life preserver. I’d sent out feelers with other friends in the industry, but there was a bit of a hiring drought (and plenty of unsolicited advice to move to Los Angeles). I compulsively began to look over my own shoulder, as if a job opportunity might creep behind me at any moment, possibly dressed as the Grim Reaper. Then I’d get drunk and talk about quitting it all and learning how to be an EMT or a public defender, some occupation with a modicum of social value. Of course, that was just talk. A friend of a friend put me in touch with a producer named Portia Alger, a middle-aged, wealthy Park Slope liberal with a mouthful of fresh veneers and a wadded-up nest of silver hair. She seemed a strange combination of naïvete and abundant enthusiasm; half slob and half mover-and-shaker. After a brief and frantic meeting, she offered me a position on a new series called Honors of War. The operating theory behind this program was that “we always hear about the horrors of war, but rarely the honors.” Though staunchly pacifistic, this show would apparently follow veterans and veterans’ descendants who used war as a springboard for child-rearing, bootstrap-pulling, and community-improving. A nice thought. She casually-but-not-so-casually namedropped Studs Terkel a number of times (as if he had some involvement), though it was unclear if they had ever actually met, or if she knew he had died five or six years before. I suspected that no matter how underpaying or unsatisfying, anything had to be better than Poop Chompers, so I took the job. Generally, when you meet a maniac on the street, you’re immediately tipped off––perhaps they’re swaying from side to side and threatening to drink your blood, or perhaps

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gill they’re singing in an invented language while chewing what looks like gum, but what is really a wad of cigarette butts. However, in some cases, the maniac within is not so immediately discernible––sometimes you’re charmed by similar politics, lofty principle, or simple politeness. Like the fly who has accepted the spider’s parlor-invitation, you realize far too late that you’re in the hands of a full-fledged maniac. Portia Alger was such a maniac. # Cherry, Ohio had a rich history of warfare. It was the site of a few skirmishes in the Northwest Indian War, was located a mere six miles from the Revolutionary War’s Battle of Cherry Ridge, and for a time had been one of the northernmost stops on the underground railroad. The town had sent many dozens of strapping young boys off to meet their destinies during the First and Second World Wars, and the “Welcome to Cherry” signboard boasted that 18 Sycamore Street was the birthplace of Air Force Commander William E. K. Lodge, who’d rained eye-bursting hellfire on Hanoi in December of ‘69 while the little boys and girls of Cherry popped bits of chocolate out of their advent calendars. Portia Alger described the people of Cherry as “simple but honorable patriots,” salt-of-the-earth types who were so damned genuine that even the most zealous left-winger from Brooklyn or the most rabid conservative from Iowa would find them to be equally heartwarming and unobjectionable. This, she confided, was the secret behind capital-G, “Great” television. She had discovered the gem that was Cherry, Ohio while at a cocktail party with a medical tycoon named Jerry DeVille, whom she claimed was something of a corporate anomaly––both a progressive thinker and a women’s rights activist. By that, I gathered that he had given her some money. I have no evidence of this, but I suspect he

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the heroes of cherry, remembered bankrolled the series as a means to laying a few more bricks upon the foundation of his own, small-town-boy-makesgood mythos, and certainly a television show is an effective means of putting a small town “on the map,” so to speak. # “This is it,” said Portia, “I’ve found our family.” Portia was referring to the Nightblooms, whose response to our ad in the Cherry Day-Gazette appeared to be the most promising, and one that appealed to those elusively critical “multiple demographics.” There were three generations of women living under one roof (the lovably eccentric, pseudo-intellectual Grandma Ruth; the shoppingobsessed mother, Katie, who made her living peddling arts and crafts on eBay; and her daughter, the pubescent spitfire/ budding town beauty, Angela) and they were joined by Katie’s college-age son, Brad, whose bright future was as likely to involve his achievements as a star quarterback as it was his burgeoning rockabilly band “Midnight Bouffant.” The Father, Dustin, was a deceased veteran who had met his maker four months earlier while on a family vacation, an unfortunate event that played to the heart-strings and brought us back to the military content of the series. “The only way it could work any better,” explained Portia, “would be if one of them were black.” We began at the crack of dawn with an introductory interview at the Nightbloom home, focusing privately on Angela and Brad, our would-be stars. We shot some uninspired vérité of the children cooking breakfast (a perennial favorite for the documentary filmmaker who doesn’t know where to begin) while I prepared the releases and began to think of questions I ought to ask. As the crew set up the lights, I got a feel for the home, which was adorned with well-meaning Midwestern kitsch: dreamcatchers, Hummel figurines, paintings of unicorns, novelty tea-kettles, a Felix the Cat clock, and several couches buried

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gill beneath layers of blankets. Poor taste aside, it seemed a very cozy dwelling, and not unlike the childhood homes of many of my close friends (I’m an Indiana boy, myself). Portia informed me that during the interview proper, I was to remain silent unless I had something to add in regard to fact-checking, which, in addition to securing releases, was my primary field duty. She warmed the kids up with questions about football, their friends, who they were dating, what they did for fun, and what about their mother annoyed them the most. They were good-looking, flaxen-haired youth with innate likability and wholesome banter, and I could certainly see them going far on television. Just when I supposed Portia was about to commence with the serious questions, she began winding down the interview. “What about war?” I whispered to her. “What about it?” she said. Without thinking, I addressed Brad directly, pointing at his football jersey. I hoped to address Cherry’s martial past, using their high school’s politically (and grammatically) incorrect mascot as a launching point. “I see that your shirt says, ‘Cherry Shawnees.’ Is that a reference to the Battle of Ohio?” “Oh, nice,” said Brad, “but if you wanna talk Battle of Ohio, you gotta pick a side.” “I’m sorry?” “Bengals or Browns, man! And don’t say Browns, or I’ll hate you forever.” He let out a friendly chuckle. “Oh no,” I said, “I meant the Battle of Ohio from the Native Am––er, from the Indian Wars.” He looked back with flat blue eyes and said, “Oh. Well, I don’t know anything about that.” He turned his gaze toward the carpet. I blushed. You can insult someone pretty badly by mentioning something they don’t know in a tone that says they ought to. Portia glared, saying, “Anything else, Paul?”

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the heroes of cherry, remembered “Uh,” I stammered, “I have a few quick fact-checking questions.” “Go ahead,” said Portia. She was irritated with me. “Your father, Dustin,” I said, flipping to a clean sheet in my notebook, “where did he go to school?” “I don’t know,” said Brad. “He had a degree.” “Yeah,” Angela chimed in, “he definitely had a degree.” “You’d probably have to ask Mom,” said Brad. “Sure, no problem,” I said, not wishing to duplicate my previous mistake. “Where did your mother grow up?” “Cherry, I think,” said Brad. “No, she came from elsewhere,” said Angela. “Oh,” I said. “Where was that?” “You’d probably have to ask her.” Her tone was spiteful, as if I had asked about the color of her mother’s underwear. “And her maiden name?” That was something I didn’t really need to know, but I figured I’d lob an easy one so they’d feel useful. “I don’t know,” said Brad. “I know,” interjected Angela, “I think it was... uh... oh, I can’t remember right now. Ask her if you want to know.” “Thank you,” I said. “You’ve been very helpful.” # Later that afternoon, Portia arranged to have the entire family interviewed together on the shore of Tarbuckle Reservoir, so that we could see them interacting amid the beauty of nature. The only problem was that the Reservoir was a man-made lake, with a shoreline consisting of sloping slabs of concrete poured at thirty-five degree angles. Portia appeared not to observe the bogus landscape and instructed the family to meditate upon the vastness of nature and the honorable life of their departed patriarch.

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gill “I feel like he’s looking down on you right now, and he’s very proud,” said Portia. She was noisily eating day-old pâté out of a Ziploc bag with a plastic knife. “That’s sweet of you,” said Grandma Ruth. “But do you think I could have a seat someplace?” “We’re not going to be very long. I think it’d be better if you all stood––don’t you? Consistency.” Grandma Ruth wobbled and adjusted her fourpronged cane. A motor roared suddenly to life, and a groundsman operating a ride-on mower began to travel in our direction. The smell of gasoline and freshly cut grass wafted toward us in a cloud. “Should we tell him to stop?” I whispered to Portia. “No, we’ll fix it in post.” “Okay...” I said. “Now, Katie, tell me about your husband,” Portia instructed. “What was it like being married to a hero?” Katie was a large blonde woman of about fifty, wearing a periwinkle sweater knitted by her own hand. She puffed out her chest and said, “I’m very proud. I celebrate his life and our time together.” “Could you incorporate my question into the sentence? They’re not going to hear my voice, “ Portia explained. “Being married to a hero made me very proud. It still makes me proud. We’re blessed to celebrate his life on camera with all’a you.” “Good,” said Portia, “but don’t reference us, or the cameras.” “Is this broadcasting, live?” asked Brad. “No,” said Portia, finishing off the last of the pâté and licking the plastic knife clean. “Say,” I began, “I can’t help but notice that Grandma has a Marine Corps hat, and Angela’s got a Navy tank top–– which branch of the armed forces was Dustin in?”

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the heroes of cherry, remembered “He was in several,” said Grandma Ruth. “Yes,” said Katie, “he was in the Navy, and then he left and joined the Army.” I imagined this was possible, but unlikely. I asked my next question: “What war did Dustin fight in?” “I only know what he told me,” said Katie, “I know it was very hard. Those boys at war. I’m so proud that he served.” “Was it the Persian Gulf War? Vietnam? Or was he in the reserves in the States, or perhaps he was stationed in Germany?” I asked. “No, not the reserves. He was injured. He has the Heart––had the Heart. Bless him.” “The Purple Heart?” “Yes, that’s the one. Maybe I can show you. We keep it locked in a safe, someplace.” “Where was he injured?” “It happened overseas, someplace. Some kind of war.” “The United States was embroiled in a lot of... I guess you could say secret kinds of wars throughout the 80s. Was it something he wasn’t allowed to talk to you about?” “No, no, it was one of the big ones. And he was quite a talker.” I smiled. “In our line of work, a talker is quite an asset. Do you remember any stories he used to tell?” “Stories?” “War stories. About his friends, his experiences, his travels?” “Oh, he’s telling stories now. Tellin’ ‘em to his friends and his fellow warriors, in heaven.” “That’s wonderful,” said Portia, overtly regaining control, “tell me more about his warriors in heaven.” And so Katie and Portia began a dialogue that really could have been about anyone, or anything. Katie punctuated

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gill each new idea with a tearful glance toward the heavens and a sentimental clutch of her heart-shaped necklace. The thought occurred to me that these people were con artists who so desperately wanted to be on television that they had fabricated their father’s entire military career, Purple Heart and all. But then an even darker thought emerged––the idea that they were telling the truth. “It’s such an honor to speak with someone’s family who fought for our country. Paving the way for the rest of us. I salute your husband,” said Portia. “Hey, that’s a good idea! Why don’t you all salute the camera? Together. On the count of three... One... two... three... salute! No, Brad, no, do it when I say ‘salute,’ not on ‘three’...” I began to zone out. I found that my own life no longer appealed to me. We were applying a veneer to an already superficial world, smearing the shellack just thickly enough to obscure the complete lack of depth. We were laying waste to decency, to memory. I could see it all, at once, and knew exactly how it would play out on the television screen. Poop Chompers at least called a spade a spade; Honors of War was a much more intricate sham––while Poop Chompers sent ‘em off to bed with an empty head and a goofy smile, Honors of War would instill a false sense of weight, of substance. The less-attuned viewers would feel as if they’d actually gained some insight, which led me to ponder the terrible hypothesis that perhaps there was no difference between genuine and counterfeit profundity, so long as they both impressed the beholder with a tingling sensation of knowledge and self-improvement. Is there really a difference between a placebo and an actual medicine if the sickness still regresses? Maybe as a culture we were testing ourselves, adapting and lessening our minds to a point where we could learn that 1+1=3 and still feel a sense of accomplishment. I don’t know. And the Nightblooms––how could they be so

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the heroes of cherry, remembered oblivious? Did they speak to one another? Did they listen? Did they even care about their patriarch?––of course, I mean beyond the warm and fuzzy feelings of gratification at the funeral when “Taps” was played and the nice young men in uniform handed over the folded flag and fired twenty-one bullets into the ether. The Nightblooms’ memories existed only to be briefly and publicly cherished, cashed in for pity’s value, and then locked away in a dark place and forgotten, as forgotten as the Purple Heart that lived God-knows-where in a moldering safe, to be excavated only for purposes of selfadvancement. Perhaps Dustin’s “honor” of war was to be consigned unto oblivion––in body, in spirit, and in memory. Then I was struck with the feeling that I was a Fascist––or worse, a New York snob––come down from the mountain to tell the masses that their lives are inauthentic, that their existence is a mockery, that their feelings aren’t really feelings, but delusions. Who am I to say, really? Aren’t their tears still tears? There was a palpable and sinister melancholy, as if a huge, tedious machine were thrusting the world onto a downgrade and I was a wheel in that machine, albeit a useless one, spinning in vain and to an unknown purpose. I used to lie to myself about “reform from within.” There is no such thing. The machine lumbers on, free from inside or outside interference. You’d be better off reforming cliché itself. The sparkle and flash of reality television has always been about debasement and spectacle, but the morality has always been about the simplification and universalization of whatever is complex or unique. It tends to play with the same few core messages, in part because reality is mostly rewritten in the moment by producers, who, lacking creativity, must traffic in clichés. One is “family first,” the idea that family is the most important thing no matter what, that “these are the ties that bind,” that “blood is thicker than water.” Another is that “a lesson must be learned,” no matter how

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gill inane or frivolous; in fact, sometimes a lesson isn’t learned at all, but the upbeat music or pleasant ringing of a bell fool the audience into thinking there’s been a moral to the story. The last, and perhaps most essential, is that any number of negative character traits or acts of bad faith may be nullified and forgiven if the wrongdoer “steps up to the plate.” What, exactly, this means is entirely subject to the mechanical impulses of the producer and can be as simple as a statement of imagined fact: “so-and-so really stepped up today!” Eventually, life imitates this thing that I hesitate to call art, and the subjects begin to regurgitate the clichés of their own volition. Finally, families who aren’t even on television begin to live the clichés, believing them to be an acceptable means to an actual lifestyle, pretending in private that they’re known worldwide (if a tree falls in a forest...), and the illusion transplants reality. I’ve met ordinary families who believe themselves to be under universal scrutiny; they eat canned fruit and ramen noodles so as to afford Louis Vuitton bags, Rolex watches, and the like. They feel a true sense of achievement, but of course, no one’s really watching and the cupboards are still bare. They bask in the palest glories of their degraded culture, gladly chomping on the shit that’s been dished out to them. They have become con artists of a kind, but their only marks are themselves... # I escaped these darker rumblings of my mind and brought myself back to sunny, gasoline-scented reality. “This one’s for Brad and Angela,” said Portia. “What was it like having a hero dad? Is the beauty of this lake, the beauty of this town... are they fitting of a hero? Are they sort of a tribute? Like the world he kept safe for future generations? Answer me in your own words.” Brad stuck his thumbs through his belt loops and looked toward the sky. “Well,” he began, “it’s a good world. Dad would have liked it.”

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zarzuela serenade in midnight blue

jim davis

“The man who has experienced shipwreck shudders even at a calm sea.” - Ovid

Certain notes within the hymns remain: have a mission, make percussion, praise the infinite restlessness. I am carving a hollow cane for the blind man hiding a blade. Peregrine falcons icky thump into buildings who’ve lost their sense of humorous meandering. Charmed. Before I was a boy I was a beehive in the whale’s belly. I’m not welcome in the stained new city. I am not unique. I am lost in sweet fractals of a labyrinth where ships are always sinking. My lips tight to the lips of night, stable breathing. Ovid, sobbing, was swallowed by angels who sing the colors of terrible unsheathing.

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mad slanting ropes in pretty light

jim davis

The opening bell makes me want to feel like coaches at the ring’s right angle. Sweat like apparition sprays into blue distorted grief. Time stops. You make ranch dressing erotic. You make fire by purring: meow is two syllables of self-harm: ouch is a sofa I can’t see because it’s a duck blind: Venetian, your city is sinking! Goose, Venus says don’t play games in your pants. I can’t help it. Abstraction is seltzer to the vodka of truth. In light of one thousand spectating flashes, slow motioning your fall to the canvas, this fresh loveliness, you look exactly like you used to.

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adrift on the agean after fleeing

jim davis

Syrian refugees float a complex coastline in a skiff made of PVC, bodies, & twine. When the motor breaks down, they play a game called where are we going now that all sense is gone? Blue air cools under the red sky, dotted by a martyr’s calming moon. The ritual begins when the potter, stuck with sweat & proximity to the farrier, bites his thumb & whispers the chorus of a lullaby his mother sang to ward off wasps & bad dreams. Then the priest, the florist, the gravedigger join to chant the chorus, which quickly wakes a childish Titan, who sinks them like a toy.

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a short history of hair

gary fincke

Near the end of the first night of Hell Week, just after five a.m., Mike Rogers made our pledges play Woom! Ball. Rogers was Pledge Master, and Hell Week was his show; I was there because I was an early riser who ran five miles almost every morning, and Rogers had told me I’d come in handy if I showed up by five-thirty. “You remember this, right?” he said, and he had the fifteen of them circle up, using me to demonstrate how they were supposed to slam a football broadside into their neighbors’ guts. “Like this,” Rogers said, slapping that ball into my stomach as soon as I had my hands in place. He pulled it back, but I stayed tight, so when he slammed it into me again my expression didn’t change. Woom! They had to shout it when they slapped that ball between the receiver’s hands that were cupped like they were running backs to keep themselves from harm. Woom! The ball would travel clockwise because all of them were right-handed, and they were expected to take and deliver pain from the strongest side. Woom! It was the first Monday morning in May, and they had five more days of Hell Week to endure, a half hour of sleep and six and a half hours of proving themselves per night. I had to admit I was interested in finding out who the pussies were, the ones who moaned and doubled up and said they were hurt after four or five times around the circle. The ones that got lucky standing to the left of a pledge who was weak with his delivery until Rogers had them change places to weed them out. One by one Rogers gave the pussies brooms or dust mops or bottles of window cleaner with rags. He told them to do women’s work, be something other than useless until only men were left standing. Woom! After twenty minutes, there were still six

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pledges left in the circle, and now Mike Rogers stepped into the circle to thin the herd. Woom! Two pledges went down, but the other four hung on. “Get in here,” Rogers said, and I stood across from him, taking a few shots from a skinny kid who surprised me by being ferocious while Rogers told the last four how Woom! Ball used to be worse, that every pledge test had been softened for the likes of pussies like them. Woom! Until a kid named Jim Ulsh took that ball point first and looked to have come apart inside. Woom! Until another named Dave Mazur clutched himself as if he’d cracked a rib because a ball from Rogers thunked wide. Rogers and I were between the two pledges left, screaming Woom! as if the sound itself could take the air out of somebody. Woom! Rogers shouted once more, but then he seemed to lose heart and tossed the ball to me so unexpectedly that I had to bat it away before it hit my face. “Let’s get this run over with, all you pussies,” he said, herding the pledges upstairs and outside, keeping Ulsh and Mazur for a trip to the emergency room “just in case.” “Let’s go,” I said. I loved running. I’d run third or fourth on Kent State’s cross country for three years by then. The pledges broke for the road that ran out of town. I was taking them a mile out, a mile back, and I ran beside the last two Woom! Ball survivors, matching their strides, the three of us watching for lights in windows at quarter to six, not one of those pledges asking me about the blond hair I didn’t have the last time they’d seen me. Sunday afternoon, Art Arthurs, the only other English major in my fraternity, and I had washed our hair with peroxide. He was a senior, but he’d pledged with me, spring, 1968, as a sophomore transfer. Unlike me, he kept his hair short, and there was a scattering of butch and femme jokes when we decided to room together. King and queen ones, too, because my cross country letters didn’t carry much

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fincke weight. “You’d be Guinevere,” Art had laughed, “if anybody even remembered who the fuck that is.” He lived with his mother and younger sister now, saving money, and I’d had my own apartment since January, so we’d soaked our hair in his bathroom sink and gone outside to lie in the sun, drink beer, and wait. We checked every half hour, looking in the bathroom’s mirror. By the end of the afternoon, we were solidly blond, though maybe because my hair was longer and darker to begin with, I had streaks of orange. Art Arthurs was scheduled to graduate in June, but we had one class together—Middle English, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at noon. We sat around a table, only eleven of us, and listened to Ralph Macklin recite poetry with all the proper inflections, stopping every few lines to badger us with questions about what we made of the symbols and allusions. All stuff I was used to, but Macklin leaned on steel crutches for the full hour. Polio, we’d heard from a grad student, back in the 1940s. He didn’t have any leg power, but he had a massive chest and thick biceps from working out, we’d been told, in his home weight room. If he’d asked what I made of his thick torso, I’d have said “compensation” without struggling to imagine what else it could have stood for. “The Harley is America’s horse,” Ralph Macklin had declared the first day of class. He dropped a thick anthology on the table around which we sat. “Is it not?” he said, leaning heavily on the crutches, his eyes moving over us as if he hoped someone would disagree. He told us to open our books to page twenty-eight and began to recite the poem that was printed there. I had to admire the way he pronounced and declaimed, syllables where none showed themselves on the page, inflections

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a short history of hair where my interpretation was flat and prosaic. The poem looked like hack work, something preserved because everything else written before the year 1300 had been burned or lost in a failure of the pass-it-on of oral tradition. “There,” Macklin said. “The horse and rider motif. The mounting. The saddle. We know where we are here; we recognize, do we not, the activity.” Macklin looked like he’d been storing all of this up over the holidays. He leaned over the table in what looked like a practiced way. “Listen to the rhythm of these lines, the thrust of them, the galloping. This is the wellspring of literature, the primal emotions of man.” Women looked to be excluded. I glanced at the four who were there, all rapt with note taking. Macklin had slapped the anthology shut and brought his hands together in a prayer clasp that seemed to threaten his balance. And then he’d called the first name of the roster and grinned—“Arthur Arthurs,” he said. “No shit. We need to talk some day about your parents.” Now, the term winding down, Macklin didn’t say a word about fire motif with the ROTC building in ruins. He didn’t suggest the National Guard on campus was anything like a Crusade. For sure, I didn’t say a word about how Art Arthurs and I had bitched the whole way across campus about missing the rally for an hour of allegorical sex. Macklin spouted sixteen lines from The Faerie Queen that neither Art Arthurs nor I had bothered to read. With four classmates absent, probably at the rally a couple of hundred yards away, I concentrated on working up something semi-smart to say about what I’d just heard. So when Macklin finally let us go and we walked out into chaos, it felt like when I was a freshman in high school and coming out of gym class after Kennedy had been shot while we did the two-mile run for our fitness test. The gym teacher was my ninth grade basketball coach. He’d made

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fincke fun of me when I couldn’t get up the rope, failing that part of the test, but that two mile run was something I did better than anybody in my class. A gym class record, what I was celebrating until everybody started talking about how Kennedy was dead. “The fuck,” Art Arthurs said as we tried to get at the details of what we’d just missed, but at last somebody passing by said there were dead students, that the Guard had used live ammunition. “The fuck they did,” Art Arthurs said, and all I could do was echo. It didn’t take long to be sure the university was shut down. When I told Art I was going to hitchhike home to Hamilton, all he said was, “See you fucking when.” I was so used to not having a car, hitching was like taking a bus. I packed a suitcase full of dirty laundry and headed out. I didn’t want to see anybody from the frat house. We had guys in ROTC who’d spent Sunday cursing protestors and saying they’d like to kick some ass. The pledges were in limbo just like the rest of us, and right then, I could only think ahead as far as the length of my next ride and the time it took before the next one. Ten hours after the shooting, four dead and nine wounded confirmed on the news, I sat outside my parents house on one of their three cheap outdoor chairs that barely fit on the small cement porch. The seat and back were made of cross-hatched green and yellow plastic woven around a hollow aluminum frame. So light and unstable there was always a chance you could tip it. So poorly made it could tear out from underneath anyone over 150 pounds. Which, at 6’2”, 180, is what I’d done to the discarded fourth chair. Anger was so thick in my head, I opened my mouth wide and closed it and opened wide again as if that might lessen the pressure. I didn’t move for another half hour. Let a bottle of my father’s Schoenling beer go warm in my hand. The nearby houses, all of them divided into doubles like ours,

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a short history of hair stayed lit. No one else came outside. Those neighbors, like my father, were going to work in the morning. I was going to wake up with nothing to do but breathe. I started to shiver. My mother had hugged me and my father had shaken my hand, his gaze fixed on my hair. “Thank God you’re safe,” my mother had said, and that had been it. At ten-thirty they were in bed, and out in the night by myself I couldn’t hear words, but the voices from inside the closest house reached me, and those intermittent hums and buzzes swirled around like gnats. By the time all the lights in all the nearest room swent out, it was almost midnight, and I dumped the beer into my mother’s azaleas and went inside. I’d gone to one class blond, but the next late afternoon I had my first picnic as a blond with my parents and the family of one of my mother’s brothers, who had promised me, during spring break, that he would get me a summer job at Hamilton Caster. He was white-collar, a manager and, according to my mother, “a bigwig.” Before I’d finished my first hamburger, he told me, “You have to get a haircut or I can’t speak for you. Nobody wants hair like that around machinery.” His fifteen year-old daughter Sharon chimed in. “I think it’s cute. He looks like one of the Beach Boys. Like a surfer.” My uncle frowned. “We don’t need surfers at Caster.” “I can’t even swim,” I said. “That’s right,” my mother said. “You failed that test at summer camp three years in a row.” But my uncle went off on a different tack. “You don’t know anything,” he said. “You and your blond hair. It’s like a flag that says you’ll surrender without a fight.” “So there wasn’t any reason for the Guard to shoot yesterday, right?”

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fincke My uncle pushed his chair back like he was going to come after me. “You for or against the National Guard?” “Against.” “Then they should have shot you while they had the chance,” he said. He stood and told his wife he was ready to leave. “Your boy’s in trouble, Billy,” he said to my father. “I feel sorry for you.” My mother chased after him, but he didn’t slow down all the way to his car. “Karl has his beliefs,” my aunt said, leaving her half eaten burger and baked beans. Sharon and her little sister Beverly shook their heads, but they followed their mother. “This is what you get when you ask for it,” my father said when my mother got back. He’d cut off parts of each half-eaten burger and put them on his plate, leaving just the bitten side of each. “Your father doesn’t mean that,” she said. “He’s just worried.” “Way past worried,” my father said. He picked up one, sw it had ketchup on it and tossed it back on Beverly’s plate. “Your father thinks the blond thing is too much,” she went on. My father made one of his “now what the fuck faces.” Something seemed stuck in his throat. He turned toward me and squinted as if fog was seeping onto the side patio. “Can you make me out?” he said. “Or has she gone blind in her good eye too?” “Your father doesn’t mean to be cruel, but sometimes he can’t help himself.” “You should be glad your other uncle wasn’t here for this. Your Uncle Frank would show you his gun cabinet if he heard you were a protestor. He’d tell you he was ready to put on his old uniform if the times called for it.” “Billy,” she started.

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a short history of hair “There, that’s better. Now she sees me. Mention my big brother and you get some attention.” He started in on Sharon’s burger, one with tomato and lettuce on it. My mother said, “Don’t pay him any mind. Let’s just be thankful you’re here in one piece.” “I won’t be able to get you on at the school either looking like that,” my father said, the first I’d heard he’d been thinking of having me, for the summer, do janitor’s work like he did in the city schools. “He’ll let Leo trim it back,” my mother said. “He knows he’s too old to just mow grass.” For the first time since I’d gotten home my father’s mouth relaxed. “Leo will get you straightened out,” he said. “Maybe he has a way to wash all that shit out of your hair while he’s at it.” He was up and walking around now, pacing with my aunt’s quarter-burger in his hand. “You won’t be a lawn boy anymore. You don’t get to come and go as you please.” “I always kept my appointments,” I said. “I worked every day except the rainy ones.” “There’s no days off at the school when it rains.” I let him go on like that because I knew what he really wanted to say is “Your fucking hair makes me sick.” Finally, he said, “You weren’t part of that mob of misfits, were you?” “No,” I said, the truth coming in handy for once. “Well thank God for one small thing. You know, don’t you, that bleached hair like yours would have made you a target for some.” I didn’t say anything about how everybody already knew two of the dead weren’t protestors, that there was nothing about either of them that made them targets. I didn’t answer at all, which seemed to satisfy him. The next afternoon I cut the grass. My blond hair stuck to my neck and shoulders. I was shirtless, sweat

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fincke forming quickly. Our neighbor Walter Ratliff nodded my way as he stood smoking on his back porch. It wasn’t a friendly nod. It was the sort of nod that might ID a criminal in a lineup. He was a union man, a teamster. His son, two years younger than me, was in Vietnam, volunteering for the Navy fresh out of high school. My mother was waiting in the kitchen when I came inside. “Your father will be happy you went straight out and took care of the grass,” she said. “I’ve been doing it for years,” I said, but she placed a hand on my arm as if she needed my attention. “Your father won’t say it, but he’s worried that you’ll let your hair make you miss your chance.” “Chance at what?” “Real work,” she said, drawing her hand away. “Being useful.” “Somebody he can be proud of,” I said, letting bitterness seep into my voice. “Yes,” she said, but she looked stricken, her lips pressing together as if she’d revealed too much of a longheld secret. She opened her left hand, the one that she’d kept at her side, and showed me a five-dollar bill. “If there’s change,” she said, “you can keep it. Just do what needs to be done.” A half hour later, CarolAnne Ratliff said hi when she came out for the mail. She was a year older than me and a lot friendlier than her father. A secretary now. Used to riding back and forth on a bus into Hamilton. “My Dad said you looked like something the cat dragged in. I can see what somebody like him would think.” “He and my uncle Karl would be friends,” I said. “But you’re so blond. That’s new. And anyway, my Dad is probably jealous, him and his chrome dome since I can remember.” “He didn’t look jealous. He looked like he wanted to

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a short history of hair come over and slap my face.” CarolAnne smiled. “You want to know a secret?” she said. “My Dad said you didn’t look like anybody who was worth a good god damn.” I took my mother’s tiny bribe and knew she’d call her brother before I got home. All I had to do was endure Leo the barber’s jokes. He’d cut my hair since elementary school, half of those years just trimming down my flat top and selling me occasional tubes of gunk that kept it stiff. If I came home with hair above the collar like she expected, she’ wouldn’t say a word about kissing the ass of somebody who wished me dead. Leo smiled as I got in his chair. “Time to look human again?” he said. A man my father’s age reading a Life magazine laughed, which seemed to inspire him. “Bleaching your hair like that makes you go bald faster,” he said. “I bet that makes you think twice about keeping up with that nonsense.” More laughter from behind the Life. “Take one inch off all around,” I said. “I can clean you up right,” he said, looking at me in the mirror. “One fucking inch,” I said, keeping eye contact. He narrowed his eyes, but didn’t do anything except start in. “Your father’s a friend,” he said after a few seconds, “so I’ll forget that.” The man with the magazine acted as if he’d found something important in his old issue. A few minutes later, I used the change to buy a Coke with two slices of pepperoni and anchovy pizza. Two hours after that, laundry washed and dried, I packed it back in my suitcase and walked to the interchange to start the trip to Kent and my tiny, upstairs apartment.. Back in January, I was happy to rent from an old lady who’d decided to rent out single rooms and bathroom access

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fincke above where she lived. Once Art moved out, living by myself seemed like what I wanted to do. “You don’t have one of those big record players, do you?” was her only question. “Those things are so loud they wake the dead.” “No,” I’d said. “I don’t even have a television set.” “Good,” she’d said. “I hate noise coming from up there. Anything else is your business as long as it’s quiet.” “Suits me.” And it had, though the other rooms had stayed empty, which kept the place extra quiet for her. I wasn’t back forty-eight hours when Art Arthurs stopped by to ask whether I wanted to make a road trip, an odd question with his little sister Eileen standing beside him. I knew she was graduating in a few weeks from some all-girl’s private school where she had a scholarship. Art’s mother worked in Akron and drove her back and forth every day, but every time she was around she laughed about how she’d almost lost the scholarship every semester since her sophomore year. She liked my hair. “So much cooler than Art’s,” she said. Eileen ran one hand through her own light brown hair and flipped it while I tried not to stare at her tanned legs that ran right up to tight short shorts. “You know what I heard about how the Romans used to do that way back when?” she said. “No idea,” I said and worked my eyes up to her face. “Pigeon poop.” “Who told you that?” “I go to an all girls’ school,” she said. “Hair is a big deal.” And then she flipped hers again and Art told her to knock it off and save all that for the high school boys at the party he was driving her to. “It’s eight miles out,” he said, looking my way, “and I have to pick her up again at midnight. Keep me company.”

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a short history of hair “You think he’s making that up, don’t you?” Eileen said, but I knew her mother well enough not to blink at the news. She did the thing with her hair again. “I have a boy friend who’s pre-law at Miami and I’m stuck with a bunch of baby boys. Come and get me at eleven. Rescue me. I’ll say I’m sick.” So I rode along and listened to Eileen pout, but when we arrived at a house I could tell featured an enormous stereo that was pumping out The Doors, she was out of the car in a second, saying, “Midnight. And don’t you dare come to the door.” My mother called the next afternoon. “Tommy Ratliff has been killed,” she said. “The word has been getting around here all morning, and I thought you’d want to know.” Two years ago Mr. Ratliff had told me and my father Tommy had joined the navy to be out of danger. He hadn’t got any argument from me. It was more dangerous to ride in cars with my friends. Speed was mandatory. Drinking was too. Nobody wore a seat belt. “Maybe you should think on that,” my father had said. “You know. If this thing doesn’t end before your done at the college.” I went to work on the papers and outside exams my professors had lined up. The campus was shut down, but professors could get into their offices. My ID could get me past the guards to hand everything in. Art Arthurs was doing shifts at the Burger King whose back parking lot was across the street from his house, but I needed real money. If I go everything from school cleared up, I could thumb home and wait for my mother to convince my father to make his pitch for me. I finished the outside history exam and started in on sociology. I ran every morning, even when it rained, which is when, walking the last three blocks to cool down, Denny

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fincke Naugle pulled up beside me and wound down his window. He’d been my Big Brother when I pledged, but now he was married and had bought a house in town. “I knew it was you,” he said. “Nobody else would be out running in the rain.” I gave him my best I-don’t-mind shrug and waited. “I’m having some of the guys over tonight,” he said, “Cook, Rogers, Bob Bowers. I’m glad I ran into you. Unless you gave up drinking beer, I’ll give you directions to the house. You can walk it.” Rich Cook had lived next door to Mike Rogers, who had lived across the hall from me and Art Arthurs during my sophomore year. Cook had given me rides in his car that stunk from being parked near a creek that flash-flooded hood high. A telephone had hung on the wall between his door and Rogers’. Three times during that year Cook had torn loose the black receiver and carried it into our room after two a.m., each time silhouetted against the hall light, spitting, “It’s for you.” Cook, it turned out, was in the Pennsylvania National Guard to avoid Vietnam. I knew Naugle was a teacher to get a deferment. Enough of an incentive that, after finishing my third beer, I told Naugle he had a sweet deal facing seventh graders instead of rifles, and Cook looked at me like he’d been hanging out with my Uncle Karl. “Fuck you,” he said, sounding drunk and angry and ready, he said then, “to shoot you if history repeated itself.” He said he had a pistol in that long-ago flooded Ford I could see through the screen door where white moths were frantic to enter, and he wondered out loud if I’d piss myself if he decided to show-and-tell me just how cowardly I could be up close with him and Rogers and Bowers, who was just back from two tours with a pair of Purple Hearts, somebody who’d survived Hamburger Hill and a shitload of night patrols.

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a short history of hair “You a Communist now, Blondie, or just some big-mouth asshole drinking free beer with somebody like Bowers here who’s proved he’s worth a shit.” Naugle didn’t say anything, but Rogers looked like he was just remembering every “Fuck Nixon and Governor Rhodes” I’d ever uttered every time the war came up. Bob Bowers was so tight-lipped I was ready to apologize for whatever he asked me to be sorry for.. For a few terrible seconds the overhead kitchen light beamed in a way that made me think of interrogation rooms, but what it did was flicker once when the refrigerator hummed into life just before Bowers said, “Fuck the Guard” so matter-of-factly I heard the period drop into place, ambushing one argument, at least. I laid low for three days, finishing everything that was due, using White-Out to edit my typing. Mrs. Akers, my landlady, looked in on me when she came upstairs to clean th empty rooms that never dirty. “You’re a funny one,” she said. “How’s that?” “Quiet as a church mouse. There’s not many keep their promises anymore. And never a visitor. I’d know if you snuck somebody in.” “All my girlfriends are in archives now,” I said. “What kind of talk is that?” she said and glanced around the room as if I’d given away a secret. “I don’t know.” “Well,” she said. “then think about that,” turning away as if she’d solved whatever puzzle she saw in me. For once, I took the main road out of Kent when I started my run, counting out fifteen minutes after I cleared the last stop light. When I got back to Kent, the return trip taking seventeen minutes, I stopped and walked until I got to the Tastee-Freeze. I sat on a bench and licked my chocolate cone as slowly as my mother had licked hers when I was a

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fincke kid, “making the good times last.” When I finished, I bought a second cone, licked it while I walked, but a block later, I had to keep running my tongue around the cone top to keep the ice milk from running down onto my hand. Another half block of that and I tossed the rest of it onto the front lawn of the first house I saw flying an American flag. I dropped by Art Arthur’s house. His desk was covered with the scatterings of a paper in the making, but he was reading a comic book by the window closest to the back of the Burger King, using the dim light from its drivethrough sign to make out the words. “I’m done with mine,” I said. Art didn’t smile. “You turned it in early?” He sounded like he was in third grade, like he’d decided not to turn in anything for his classes and quit. “Like when we were good pledges memorizing the Greek alphabet back then,” I said, hoping to rouse him. “You get a kick out of Woom! Ball when you helped Rogers out?” Art said. “Get your sadism fix?” “Ben Hur was the sickest.” Art seemed to perk up. “You don’t get hit in Ben Hur, you just feel shitty.” “But it was early in the night and more guys were watching,” I said, happy to see him put the comic book down. Ben Hur was all of us pledges as galley slaves in underwear seated in an inch of water on the fraternity house basement floor. “Row,” the Pledge Master commanded. “Row.” Our oars were the wooden cases glass soda bottles were delivered in for the machine in the small weight room that shared the basement. Empty, they seemed light, at least for a few minutes, but soon we were rowing faster—ram speed--and being sprayed with water from a hose, the floor puddling deeper around us. The brothers we wanted to live with started to

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a short history of hair handicap the race by placing empty bottles in the cases—six for the stronger guys, three for some, none for the ones who looked to be ready to drop out. I was glad to get three. An empty case meant weakling. “Row. Row. Row.” There was a chorus now, everybody who’d stayed up to watch us struggle yelling out the rhythmic command. I remembered a fourth and then a fifth bottle in my case as the first galley slaves collapsed. “Flat on your stomachs, face down,” they were told, a kind of dead man’s float because that’s what they were now, bodies tossed into the sea. A sixth bottle settled into my case. Art Arthurs and two others were left when I collapsed. I discovered there was enough water to keep me from breathing if I followed directions. “I never finished higher than fourth,” I said. Art made a rowing motion with both hands. “I made second twice. Think how I felt coming so close.” “Yeah,” I said, but id didn’t say a word about how I was terrified I’d quit before the guys who never had anything but empty cases to row with.” Art looked out the window at the Burger King as if the idea of a Whopper was irresistible. “We need the fucking Avengers,” he said, nodding at the comic book. “They’re on America’s side, aren’t they?” I said. “They’d know which side to be on if they were the Avengers.” “I’m hitching home day after tomorrow. Three o’clock and I should be gone,” I said. “I need to work all summer somewhere else besides here.” “Whatever,” Art said in a way that made me think I hadn’t done anything to keep him from drowning, but then he rallied. “Hey,” he said, “you want to play some touch football tomorrow. You know how, don’t you?”

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fincke

Art’s buddy, the Burger King assistant manager I’d met once, was at the high school field, and eight more Art said had graduated from high school with him in 1966. I got a few head nods like Mr. Ratliff ’s, a couple of “Hey there’s” and then one of the head nodders said, “Vets against pussies” with no sign of a smile. The assistant manager and four other bunched together like they were ready to huddle up. “Vets versus college dudes,” Art said, but the head nodder just smirked. “What’s that called, a synonym?” he said. “Line the fuck up.” He might as well have said America—Love It or Leave It. As if there were a dress code, all of them wore their hair short, and none of them had sideburns. But I noticed right off that I was the only college dude who had long hair. We held and took over on downs. By then I wasn’t thinking about team names until I went out for a pass, Art tossing a perfect spiral my way. Just as I extended for the ball, the world spun out of control. I lay on my back for a few seconds to get reoriented. “What happened?” I asked when I got back to the huddle. “You were clotheslined,“ Art said, and two of the college dudes in the huddle laughed. Nobody else said a word. I didn’t even know which of the five vets had thrown a forearm under my chin and spun me head over heels. I hadn’t been paying any attention at all. Everybody’s name was a mystery. A few plays later, my legs back under me, I caught a short, sideline pass and turned up field, taking one step before I took a shoulder and forearm in the chest. I fumbled, but the ball slipped out of bounds. I sank to one knee and tried to get my breath. “Good hit,” somebody said, and because my head was down, I didn’t even know which team he was on. I understood I was getting an evaluation. Art’s friends thought they knew me for a coward. “It’s ok for me to be 106

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a short history of hair blond,” Art said when we were back on defense. “They know me. But blond and down around the shoulders? It means faggot hippie protestor asshole.” The vets won four touchdowns to three, enough for them to celebrate but not to bring up pussies again. They seemed to have forgotten about me, at least until that first head nodder sat beside me in one of the townie bars in Kent. “I’m Mel,” he said. “I don’t care what your name is, but if you cut your hair like it oughta be, you wouldn’t be laid out like you was out there.” “So everybody oughta?” “That’s how it’s always worked until these draft dodgers got together. Everybody pitches in when it’s their turn. Nobody looks like a fucking faggot.”” “No questions asked,” I said like I was finishing his sentence. He smiled. “Yeah,” he said. “Now you’re getting it,” but he was looking past me at a table where he’d spotted a guy in a flag shirt. “Look at that motherfucker,” he said. “Tell me that ain’t a cunt right over there who needs an ass whipping.” “I’d never wear that shirt, if that’s what you mean, “ I said. He clapped me on the back. “Maybe there’s hope for you yet.” I turned back to my beer and drained it, eager to buy the next pitcher to smooth things over. I topped off his glass and filled mine and heard a loud laugh that had the pitch of wasted from across the room that snapped his head around so fast I knew it was flag shirt. I tensed, but then my new buddy said, “Fuck it” and drank off half a glass. By the end of the pitcher I had to piss. Mel followed. “Fuck,” he said, “I just didn’t want to be first.” He laughed then, but just as we finished, flag shirt and another guy I remembered seeing at his table walked in. Flag shirt went straight to the sink and threw up. “Fuck me, I’m fucked up,” he said, laughing. Mel took two steps and laid a fist into the regarding arts & letters

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fincke middle of that flag, the guy folding up and dropping to the floor. “Fucking cunt,” Mel said. The second guy stared, evaluating. “You want some, too?” Mel said. The guy knelt beside the man who was down. “That’s what I thought,” Mel said, and I stood there as paralyzed as Ralph Macklin, afraid to say anything for fear it would sound like I’d read it in a book. The next day, while I was checking around the room for whatever it was I should be worried about forgetting, Mrs. Akers called up the stairs. “You have guests,” she said, but by then Art was coming through the door, his sister just behind him. “What a shitty bachelor pad,” Art said. “You’ll be one forever if you bring anybody here. You need some decorating tips. This looks like a wino’s room.” Eileen laughed. She looked giddy. “I hear you thumb rides all the way past Oxford where Miami is,” she said. “Sometimes. Hamilton’s down past there.” “I want to surprise my boy friend. He’s in spring term and trying to do all his work even though everything’s messed up. I don’t have anything to do until graduation.” “I’m out the door in fifteen minutes.” “I know. Art says he’ll drive us out to 71. He wants me off the road while it’s daylight.” “I want you off the road, period, but Guinevere will take care of you.” Eileen looked at me and laughed. “I saw that movie,” she said. Art gave us a great start, but it took six rides to reach Columbus. Everybody who picked us up was an older guy who wanted to ask questions about us being a couple on

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a short history of hair the highway. One bought us Cokes when he stopped for gas. He wanted to stand around and talk and imagine himself with a girl like Eileen, who said, between the third and fourth rides, “They’re all so nice, but I bet they’re not.” After the fifth ride she said, “They’re all so old and creepy.” Finally, twilight about to settle in, we climbed into the back of a car the driver said was going to Kentucky, meaning this ride would leave us at an exit less than half an hour from Oxford. The guy in the passenger seat leaned our way and said, “Your worries are over now.” I relaxed and watched the landscape turn rural as it rolled by in the gathering darkness. After it became too dark to see much of anything off to the side, I began to drift until the radio skidded up to near roar level. I sat up, recognizing Led Zeppelin just as the driver jerked his head around and said, “Fucking great shit.” I nodded, but Eileen looked apprehensive, as if the radio’s volume signaled something, and for the first time I calculated the difference between one man and two in the front seat of a strange car. The car began to slow, and a moment later we were rolling onto an exit ramp, not even a gas station waiting near the upcoming stop sign. “What’s out here?” I managed to croak. The driver swiveled almost completely, and this time, grinning, he said, “Dinner. The best hamburger you’ll ever eat.” He rolled through the stop sign, accelerating at once onto a two-lane that twisted into forest. “Pictures of Lily,” a masturbation song by The Who came on, but I searched along the floor with my shoes, hoping to touch something heavy and hard. I needed a weapon, and that car was immaculate with emptiness. The fingers of Eileen’s right hand dug into my thigh. She was staring over the driver’s shoulder, reading, I imagined, the speedometer for the first small increment of deceleration. The thought came to me that these guys might shoot me before they raped and strangled Eileen. My next thought

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fincke was that there would be a moment as the car slowed down when she and I could open our respective doors and throw ourselves out, getting to our feet and running. That might save me, but I couldn’t imagine Eileen outrunning them. The woods thickened right down to the shoulder. I expected to see a dirt road turning off to where I was going to die. I searched along the floor with my hand as if something valuable had escaped the notice of my shoe. I wondered if Eileen carried a curling iron in her small, overnight bag that sat on the seat between us, whether my set of three keys might be fashioned into a weapon. “Eight Miles High” was next on the radio, the Byrds at speaker-threatening volume. The guy in the shotgun seat turned and stared back at us so pointedly that Eileen brought her arms up in front of her breasts. “Isn’t this the greatest fucking song ever?” the man said. I saw a break in the woods, a turn off, and I braced myself, watching for what would be in the man’s hand when he lifted it higher than the back of the seat. The car slowed. I could hear Eileen’s breathing as she strangled my thigh. I tried to focus. And then the car drifted by the turn off, rounding a bend to where a diner sat back off the road within a grove of trees. The driver pulled in and said, “Here we are,” leaving the motor run until the Byrds were finished. “Perfect,” the shotgun seat man said. “Fucking perfect.” I had to agree. I was as happy as I’d ever been, and I climbed out and followed them, pausing only when I was in the doorway to look back to where Eileen stood near the car like a small child who’d been hoping for McDonald’s. The driver waved her on. The three of us waited until she walked toward us. “What, not hungry?” the driver said. “Don’t worry. We’re buying.” Like a father, he ordered for the table, four specials , three drafts, and a root beer. “We’ll take you all the way,” the driver said as we left

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a short history of hair the diner. “Great,” I said, “but I can grab a bus in Oxford after Eileen gets out.” Half way to the car I looked around, but she was still near the cash register. “Maybe she’s getting some of those York mints,” I said. “We can wait,” he said, and we did, almost a minute before Eileen got inside. When we finally arrived in Oxford, Eileen didn’t say anything until after the car pulled out, more Zeppelin blasting. “Art said you were smart,” she said, her boy friend’s dorm lit up behind her. “Glad to hear it,” I said. She looked past me as if she was checking to see if the car had turned around and was coming our way. “Do you remember what those men looked like or what they were wearing?” I was quiet for a moment as she slapped the overnight bag against the side of her leg. “No,” I said. I could name every song that played on the radio, but I didn’t remember anything about them except they were maybe about thirty years-old, clean-shaven and white. “Root beer,” she said. “That perv.” “He thought you were under age.” “Yes, he did. And you acted like you were happy while you were eating,” she said. “What did you think, that those guys were our friends?” As she walked toward her boy friend’s dorm, her tight jeans showed the exact shape of her thighs and hips. And when she turned near the door, her look let me know she’d decided I was a fool.

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the downward rising

kathleen kraft

Here I am again in my dog— sparking kinetic light, happy like a child barking. Here I am, a loose root on rocky soil. I look forward to lunge, press my palms together and raise them—hopeful— then lower down, stepping back to another dog. Wag, wag again. Calm now. Heed the back bend, the twist—oh this joyful wringing towards God? A matter for another time—Here I am, in the V of life, quietly barking.

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i go to a shala

kathleen kraft

I go to a shala to stand on one leg, plant inside winter’s darker heart. I go to a shala to rise for the sun, swim in the burble of being. Floorboards creak, a radiator clanks— We gaze at the steadily falling snow. Balance, our desire, stalk to sunflower’s eye, black light in summer’s sway— How to divine this wobbling, what is before and beyond inherited traits? I go to flow in unknown straits— flip and twist until we come ashore to raise our necks, listen to what we need to say then lie down and die for a while.

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the end of the road movie marathon

devin murphy

My wife, Stephie, and I meet outside of Mt. Sinai Hospital in Chicago at seven. Her eighty-seven-year old grandfather, Papa Jack, was brought here by a screaming ambulance after he collapsed in his local grocery store, crashing into and pulling cereal boxes onto the tile floor with him. He lost all feeling in his hands and feet and despite the array of tests and machines strapped to him there is no diagnosis as to what’s wrong. “I’ve got floppy hands,” he said when we first visited him, lifting his elbows off the bed so we could see his limp wrists and hands bob back and forth like dead squids. Stephie has brought him a bagel and lox with sliced red onion and tomatoes in a Zip-Lock bag, and slices of homemade quiche she wrapped individually in tinfoil. We keep him company as she feeds him and he talks about what he read in the newspaper that day. He’s read The Chicago Tribune cover to cover every morning for the last fifty years. In the hospital the nurse unfolds the paper on his lap so he can pinch the page between his forearms, bring it to his mouth, and peel each back with his teeth. At eight-thirty, Stephie and I walk across the street from the hospital to eat dinner at the Greek restaurant, The Parthenon. We eat spanakopita, moursakas, and gyros and talk about Papa Jack’s health. After we eat I walk her to her car and she drives to our little house two towns over. It is our first home. We made the down payment with the gift money from our wedding which Papa Jack contributed handsomely to. Stephie drives off to spend the night in our house and I drive to the Econo Lodge by O’Hare Airport and put the leftovers in the small refrigerator in the room I rent by the week. “This is hard on me too, you know,” Stephie told me. “It’s always all or nothing with everything in your life, and

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that’s exhausting. I need a break from it.” She had recently called me out on the long moping rut I’d found myself in. I’d been dwelling in what I thought of as my secret unhappiness with settling and being stuck in one place looking for a job I didn’t want, nesting, getting ready for her to have our children. The prospect of that life made something inside of me sink, and without whispering a word of that to her, I couldn’t find a way to recover before she sensed it. “I don’t have the energy for all your cycles.” She was crying when she said that, as after that phrase came out, she asked me to go stay somewhere else for a while. Over the four years we have known each other, I’ve never fully realized I was depressed until she got angry with me about it. And in her rages her words held up a mirror that showed me that same sad person I had somehow always managed to be. Just before Stephie and I married we moved from Colorado, where I would spend at least two days a week hiking in the mountains, back to Chicago so she could be close to her family. In Colorado, deep in the mountains, I felt a calmness brought on by being humbled by such a vast and wild place. In Chicago, I’m too uptight and nervous about my new life. Things here feel cluttered with too many people and things to want. There is nothing quiet about the place and very soon after I arrived I felt inept, frantic and small and it should have come as no surprise to me that my heart was calling out for large, empty spaces. In my hotel room I watch movies until late on the TV and look out the window at the airplanes sloping in and out of the sky. I’m not lonely without Stephie. I shut my eyes and fantasize that this is some hotel room outside of Kansas City and that I’m on my way to Colorado again—that I’m about to avoid making the great shift in my life from possibility to responsibility. I no longer have to pretend that I’m not terrified of Stephie, the long slog of marriage, or

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murphy becoming parents, which she is so excited about. I grew up in the shadow of a disastrous marriage that festered without ever breaking apart, and the notion of doing that to some child rises up and freezes me. Though I wake in the morning, begin looking for work, and meet Stephie outside of the hospital in the evening without ever mentioning any of this to her. Tonight, Stephie meets me in front of the hospital. We walk in silence but put on our happy faces when we see Papa Jack who gives us his dead hand wave. Stephie kisses him on the forehead and I rest my hand on his boney shoulder. Papa Jack looks tired and weak but he peps himself up and wants me to go through the paper that has fallen to the ground next to his bed. “You have to see this article in here. It’s incredible,� he says. I rifle through the pages on the ground and find it. The article is about a new museum opening up in Dawson City, in the Yukon. Back when the very first motion picture reels were made, they traveled around to the big cities by trains and horse coaches. Then the steel canisters they were held in started making the circuits of smaller cities, and then towns, until they crossed the whole country, and started working their way through Canada. By the time they got to Dawson City, everyone else in North America would have seen the movies, so the films tended to end up there. This happened for years until the collection of these old films became intrusive. So in 1912, the piles of steel containers were buried in a local dump. Though in 1965, a bunch of miners who started following a silver vein under the dump accidently unearthed the heap of old films. The permafrost and the steel drums kept the films in perfect shape, and the mine kept them all in a storage shed until now. Now they opened up a museum with all those old films playing back to

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the end of the road movie marathon back in every room. They’re going to call it, “The End of the Road Movie Marathon.” “Isn’t that something,” Papa Jack says when I finish reading. Stephie is feeding him a few pieces of the pumpkin bread she brought and it is strangely comfortable to be in the room with both of them. There is something sweet and tragic about watching her minister food to her old grandfather. At The Parthenon, I order a braised lamb shank in red wine. Stephie tells me she misses me but doesn’t want me back yet because she can see on my face that I’m still having doubts about our life together. She seems so stern when she makes these big sweeping statements and I can see in her face how she’ll age, how if not with me, with someone else, she’ll become a mother, and grow more beautiful with each passing year. Her unhindered ability to love will keep morphing into a lovely form of grace to those she holds close, and just as she kisses Papa Jack’s head, settling him in for what could be one of those among the last nights of his life, she’ll kiss my head before she gets into her car and drives to the home that is covered with pictures of us. Someday she’ll kiss a child’s head every night as she ushers it through the world, and I am suddenly ashamed I let something so simple scare me so deeply. I read Papa Jack’s article again in my hotel room and can’t stop thinking about it as I watch the planes coming and going from O’Hare Airport. As I pick at cold leftover Greek potatoes I imagine what life for those old miners was like, at the edge of the north, the end of the road, waiting for some stories of life happening to come to them. I imagine them willfully walking down subterranean corridors. Wooden beams prop up the earth’s crust above their heads. They’re bundled in down and denim against the permafrost that freezes the ground solid for four hundred and fifty feet. It is so cold the cave walls are lined with cucumber-slice-sized pieces of whore frost crystals that

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murphy grow out of the dark and shine in the glow of head lamps. Watching the planes I imagine those miners dipping back into the dark searching for silver. I image what it would have been like to unearth all those old containers, to drag them up and project them against the wall for the first time in fifty years. I can see those lonely miners looking at the old images of the past dancing across the wall. They must have wondered who were those people in black and white films, shaking at the edge of a rocket fueled century—where we have now seen so many moving pictures, heard so many stories, that we foolishly think our own lives hold such a variety of options, that we are frozen by indecision when the time to choose a life comes, and marred by regret at all those lives we did not, or now cannot live.

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dumpster bear

devin murphy

The adolescent grizzly bear that spent the day lurking around the backwoods pillaged the dumpster at night. The next morning the parking lot was littered with trash and I had to go around with a ski pole poking loose sheets of wax paper and plastic bags and stuffing them into a sack before the wind lifted it into the Douglas Furs where it would get stuck and tatter to shreds making the diner look like a dump for months. So the next time the bear came sniffing around out back something came over me and I ran out the screen door waving a broom over my head and whooping like a lunatic. The bear was so confused it sidestepped away until it got to the line of trees where it abruptly turned back and started running back at me. It ran within ten yards of where I was standing, stopped, and swatted the gravel with its shovel of a paw. A cloud of gray dust floated across the swath of its matted brown fur. It snorted and even that lifted a puff of dust from the gravel lot. I hadn’t planned on doing something so crazy, but I took whatever adrenaline rush was coursing through me and started sweeping at the gravel in long exaggerated arches making a cloud until the bear slowly sauntered off into woods where its shadow shuffled back and forth and lingered in the forest. After that first time, that process became a daily game. The bear would creep up to the dumpster and I’d chase it off. It would quickly lumber away and then turn back, giving me that bluff charge where he stopped ten yards away, snorted and tossed gravel in my direction before heading into the woods a hundred yards until it was clear to come back a few hours later. I put the dumpster lids down so he wouldn’t get in but he sat on his enormous rump and pushed them back with his paws. When I put cinder blocks on the lids he knocked them off the same way, so I put more on, but the bear chewed the plastic lid to ribbons when I was inside and climbed into the hole he made and gorged on leftover pie crusts and chunks of

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murphy ketchup soaked hamburger buns. The cinder blocks jumped up and down on the hinged lids as the bear’s knot of muscle smacked the underside of the cover. I swatted at the side of the dumpster with the broom handle but once it was inside it wasn’t going to leave. For all I know he slept in there, as after I shut the diner down and left for the night he was still back there. It was one of those perfect days where the big blue sky was full of light and the trees on both sides of the road swayed with the breeze. I was feeling good about myself after chasing the bear away from the dumpster. The truth of it was that I hadn’t been doing very well and the bear was helping me. Chasing it off was something a confident person would do, and that was a good feeling, one I hadn’t had for a long time. The new guy, Gerry, who was at the grill, nodded his head to the dining area. There were four adults standing at the door in identical glossy teal zip-up jackets. Each jacket had their names embroidered across the left breast pocket. “How are you doing today?” I asked. “Good, thank you, ma’am.” The man’s jacket read, Bernard. There were three men, Bernard, Timothy and Paul and an oval faced women with graying-blond hair pulled back into a tight ponytail, Rhonda. They took the round table by the front windows and I started handing them each a menu. “I think we know what we’d like,” Bernard said. He had paper white hair and unruly eyebrows that curved up at the corners said as he raised his flattened palm up to refuse the menu. “Okay then. What can I get you folks to start with?” “We heard about your strawberry pie,” he said. “We’ll take four slices of that and four Cokes.” The other two men at the table were both smiling in agreement, both thick headed, middle aged men, with

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dumpster bear hair cut close to the scalp, and the woman had the same happy expression, a goofy smile and hair that shined under the florescent light like a chord of silk. “That’s easy enough,” I said and walked back to the kitchen to plate the pies. Gerry was waiting for their order and I shook my head, “Just pie.” He shrugged and kept wiping off the stainless steel coolers. It’s a habit to open the glass pie case quickly to avoid a glimpse of my reflection—thick across the waist, fat legs, locks of dry hair I have to brush product into to keep alive and a slack, wrinkled face burdened by ministering food to strangers for too long. Once they had their cokes and I had a plate of pie in each hand and two riding on my right forearm I laid the slices down in front of them, serving Bernard last. “Do you work together,” I asked and pointed at their jackets. There was no insignia or logos on the sleeves or backs. “Yes we do,” Bernard said. He had dimpled cheeks and a road-rashed, pocked neckline. His eyes squared on mine and he leaned the heel of his fisted hand hard into the tabletop so the prongs of his fork faced the ceiling. “We do the most important work together.” He leaned closer to me. “Let me ask you, ma’am. Have you accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?” All four of them were looking at me. I heard the hiss of steam behind me from Gerry splashing a cup of water on the grill plate to clean it. A dab of sweat rolled off the small of my back and sunk into the waist of my jeans. “Can I get you anything else?” I stuttered, slowly backing away from the table. Gerry gave me a wink when I walked behind the counter and it was comforting. He was in his mid-fifties, balding, beer-bellied, and tattooed around the forearms. He looked like every minute of his life had been difficult, but he was pleasant with me, chit-chatty, and diligent in

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murphy the kitchen which he kept as clean as if he were still a young galley hand in the Navy. “Bible-thumpers,” I whispered to him and rolled my eyes over my shoulder to the table. The way the white haired man asked me his question, putting something so big and specific in a stranger’s lap, rattled me a bit. I’d been in a long stretch after my divorce where I had few friends, none close, and had became comfortable without talking much of god or any big question that made me feel any more insignificant. I liked it that way—liked being left alone in the mountains. “Ma’am,” Bernard called out from his table and his voice wormed into my ears. He held up his pointer finger and helicoptered his hand around in front of him. “Can we have another round of strawberry pie?” “Yes, sir,” I said, noting how quickly they’d finished their food. Gerry cut up a new pie from the cooler and slid four more pieces through the window, a job I’m sure no one saw themselves having at his age, and as I took the slices to the group in teal I thought the same thing of myself—was it one decision I’d made that led me here or hundreds. When the last of the second helping of pie was laid on the table Bernard who spoke for his group reached out and rested his hand on my forearm. “I’d like you to think about my last question.” “Yes, sir,” I said, wanting to get the broom from the back and chase them out of the diner. “Really think about it,” he said, and the way he looked at me then made something flip inside my stomach. “I’ll tell you what,” I began, “I’ve spent a lot of time with that question in the past and found the best place to mull it over is in the woods behind the diner. When you’re done with your pie you should go for a stroll back there. It’s beautiful and you’ll find the kind of religion people around here adhere to.”

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dumpster bear “Is that so,” he said. “You want to see the lord’s work in these parts, you don’t have to go further than that,” I told him. I knew it was a cruel thing to say to those people, but I wanted them to go outside where the young grizzly bear foraging for food would give them a mock charge. I wanted them to see the toothy face of the woods on a trash-crazed bear—see how the lives of the people who live here and the natural world bump up against each other and strike an uneasy balance, and that’s often all we get from our days. I wanted them to see how hard that balance was so they’d lose the certainty that I needed their kind of saving in the first place.

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the traveling roshannas

devin murphy

When I was a girl my mother brought me along with her to a family wedding at a hotel in Davenport, Iowa. On the road we called ourselves the traveling Roshannas because we shared the same name. Roshanna. The way it’s supposed to be said, the ‘r’ purses the lips and the ‘anna’ rolls off the tongue like the start of a song. Not even my father, who my mother secretly called an oaf and who was left to tend the yard in Wisconsin, could say it the right way. It was a cousin of hers on the Russian side getting married. My mother had a long history with that side of the family but they had grown apart after her own marriage. Before the service she brushed my hair and helped me slip into my little white dress with a red sash tied in a loop in back. In our room she rolled her deodorant stick across the palm of her hand and rubbed her palm up my arms. At the service, the dark haired cousin floated down the isle covered in a brilliant white cloud of a veil. The groom was a blockheaded Russian man with cropped, bristly hair, wide set eyes, sloping shoulders and thick arms that ended in giant gardening spade hands. I kept watching them during the service and afterwards when everyone had dinner and the music started. The groom’s hands covered most of the bride’s lower back as they danced. If he wasn’t touching her he was reaching for little glasses of vodka men dressed in the same black suits gave him that he drove up to his mouth so hard his head tossed backwards and his chin popped up toward the ceiling. “Na Zdorovie!,” they yelled. Halfway through the dancing part of the party when I was still running around with other kids, some who didn’t speak English, my mother took me back to our room. “Why don’t those kids speak English?” “They’ll pick up English in school and from

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television,” my mother said. “At home they learn Russian to start so they’ll always have it.” “Why don’t I do that,” I asked. “It was harder for you. Your father doesn’t speak Russian.” I had to take a bath because I was so sweaty. My mother cupped the water in her hands, lifted it to my bare shoulders, and combed the soap from my hair until it slapped wet and heavy against my skin. She’d given me a pack of toy sponges shaped like animals that were the size of my fist when dry but expanded in the water until they were large enough to cover my whole chest if I squeezed them between my arms. “All that dinosaur on the inside is getting out,” my mother said as we watched the little dinosaur shaped sponge grow plump beneath the surface. Hours after my mother put me to bed and went back to the party came the first knock on the door. Soft. Quick. “Roshanna,” a man’s voice whispered, saying the name just right. “Yes,” I said. “It has been so long. Let me in.” I didn’t say anything. My teeth nibbled at the blanket pulled up to my knees like a cloak. “Roshanna.” My heart hurried across my chest wearing small tap shoes. “Roshanna. I don’t know why you left,” the man said. There was moment of silence, then a wide thud against the door and the sound of bottle sliding down it. “Roshanna, I love you. Can you hear?” A moment passed. “Yes, you hear me.” I still didn’t dare to move. Then I heard a quick sucking of breath followed by the first of his soft sobs. “Roshanna,” the man said again, this time pleading, hungry for something. It was then that some pull brought my

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murphy bare feet off the bed, touching the carpet as if it were cold water, and then walking over it like a tiny miracle. I snuck to the bathroom and pulled out my mother’s flip open pocket mirror from her makeup kit. When it opened there I was, very much a little girl. I stuck the fold of the mirror under the one inch gap between the carpet and the door to get a look into the hallway. My head was angled funny but I saw the shadow in a black suit, back to the door, clear bottle next to him. Then he slammed his head backward into the door so hard it shook on its hinges. “Answer me. You hear me don’t you?” he said and slammed his head back into the door. I pulled myself into a little knot on the other side as he became angry in an unannounced flash and kept slamming his head backwards. He was crying now. Weeping. Big sobs followed by gasps for air. No one walked by in the hallway. No one stopped or questioned the man howling at the door. “You should have never left,” the man said. “You should have come back more often.” My shoulders were pushed against the dull peach colored wallpaper and the pocket mirror was clasped shut in my hands. “I still love you.” Another moment. “You bitch.” And another. “You ruined my life.” With this he started swinging his head back violently and mumbling. Sloppy, raw words slipping from English to Russian and back flooded from him. Whatever awful feelings of love and hate he’d been carrying around in him were fighting their way out at the same time. I thought he was talking to me. I was a girl. What did I know of love in my own mother’s life? What did I know of her past? Something was squeezing the man beyond the door and his tears were proof of it. He was compressed until wet, and then he kept expanding and things kept welling up in him until he couldn’t take anymore and it started seeping out,

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the traveling roshannas pooling the confusion of the past and uncertain future into a puddle at his feet, which seeped under the gap between the door and floor and soaked into me.

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where we went wrong

holly day

Someday, I will be able to step back from this present with the passionless objectivity of the grunt laborer excavating Pompeii, the lab tech filling slides with smallpox filled with cancer and regret I will be able to step back from this present alphabetize these memories, nod knowingly and cluck acceptance of the past.

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y

holly day The beast inside me is screaming free the dead thing inside you is still dead either way, I can’t go home under the light of early sun violet streaks across the sky what the hell am I doing

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that night

holly day

On the other side of the closed door, there was this guy I fucked and I could hear him talking, he wasn’t alone. On the other side of the closed door I could hear a party going on, people drinking, laughing and I was supposed to be on the other side of the door and not here, crouched in the shower, wondering how to get from here to Point B. There is a protocol to this, when fucking in the bathroom where afterwards, one person slips out casually, nonchalantly, leave the room outside the door and maybe goes for a walk, smokes a cigarette. The second person can then slip out of the bathroom a few minutes later as if they had just been in there taking a shit or a piss all alone, and anyone standing outside the door would have thought they had just missed seeing that person come in. But there is no way a person can slip out of a bathroom and walk right past the person they just had sex with, minutes before against one’s better judgment and especially in hindsight, can not just walk by that person and his friends without making some sort of comment, conversation, at least a brief acknowledgement. I hate it when guys can’t follow directions. I fucking hate stupid guys.

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sky, a dove

thea brown

___ It’s five o’clock in Tucson and everything’s malignant. Is it morning? Maybe. I am filling in the gaps, gulls in the parking lot, I say. I say, It is the first day of the rest of my life. ___ Twitchy with lightning, slate clouds lumber past the dawndusk to burden a landscape cleared of meaning but open. This is less ominous, more expected. The relief of it, the cold smell. We’ve all come outside now, colonizing the patio furniture. Don’t tell me you don’t know what this means. ___ Desert creature, I see your eyes glint on the horizon, subtle twitch. Hey, focus—your volley’s weak. You trek a lonesome locale, sand-eyes. Meticulously matted furball, snarl-fed crank, you. It’s raining a little. Hey desert creature, as long as you’re out there? Do a dumb trick for me. Teeth-bared panic face, I’m invested in your safety. Cacti find me distant, I know, but I cannot be moved. I say, I am reinventing the canvas or I’m staring out into the abyss. I say, I am facing my future with a glaring light, an indiscriminate, absorbing gaze and yes I am fearful for the planet. Yes, misaligned historicism tugs at my smallness, yes, my history looms past my present, reads an ending point peached overripe. Desert creature, your full face is unavailable to me. Your face, overcast. The boneset you sent sits covert in my cupboard. Its use delayed. ___ I am not really healing. A missive to matched prey: stay in your caves. The end won’t be pretty, but the wildflowers will blaze out in measured harmony.

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death by death by

thea brown

Lights burn on in the apartment kitchen, glinting from tea kettle, spilled cream. Battling dawn’s bluing horizon, staggered like a bar graph by buildings, what bravery this scene imparts to me who’s watching it. What chill. Vigilant and anemic, a narrator warms to cozy glare as a new sun forces dew to fog. Now, then: The wallpaper’s aspen eyes. The poisonings downstairs. The way the staircase cuts back under itself, mud caked around the banisters. The hedges grown over the windows. The sparrows in their dollhouse inside. My insides look like burnt toast and you look like a thief. The vines curl up the walls as the house foretells its disintegration, re-deliverance to a future forebear, the chattering swamp not yet reestablished former glory. Here’s another: No sun glints from the monument in daylight. A mind heaves its stone door into place like the lid of a crypt. I’ve lost my perfect pitch. The ballerina crumples under the weight of __X__. Heavy oil portraits loom, look on __X__. Please __X__. I’ve stopped wishing I were more corporeal since it’s not so bad. Under life’s eye, under that optimism, wonder like pixels on the sill’s white expanse. Redbuds when they said they would and steamy riverbanks pushing blades toward the sun. Life’s eye in the shade still sought for retinal detailing. A mix of slush and prize, unearth and emergence. Yipping ever faithful to our buzzing lines, crackling correspondence with you not knowing I’m listening. It seemed like the right thing to do, that marker gliding and gliding. Call it edits, hungry. No dial tone. What denotes the silence but __X__. The distance and dread and hovering distraction. The building begins to crumble, brick by brick. Return to the ground, infinitesimal. I will remember, though. I will. Until the day comes back and you fall in line with it.

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the story of your newly

thea brown

Hollowed cheek, the story in cinderblock, hallways dimmed for comfort despite an endless tiled hum. Doors all sealed and silent goes the mind’s stretch. It seems night’s when the apparition rises, the life rushing back into place—you, compromised, promised a life better full than hotel carpet remainders, Grecian scrolled. A ghostly slot machine winks wildly down the way, shuddering and crying through its newly useless arm. There is no silence now as your tongue finds your teeth, runs their length, dry scrape. It’s alone, you’re alone, together before a looming dawn. You can’t find you, keep losing dimes, losing track of the credits on your tracking card but they know where you are, what you need. Reflections glinting in the coin tray keep you coming back. A few clear drinks. Is this the blaze of glory you’d hoped for in the exit light? Shadows blinking you awake? Such a quiet, steady ghost makes the rules around here, all windows stuck with electrical tape. The 134

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machine begins to quiet. The fire starts the floor below and you hear it crack, follow the smoke’s tidal roam across the carpet. Crouching now, the apparition condensates and settles at your feet.

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corpse reviver #2

thea brown

It is chiffony but only as it approaches? Fat on or in skillet. Abrasive on or in fire. And then some. The change comes clanging to the slot from inside. Pools of change, buckets even. Deep depending on lucky pulls and ding, then ding, then ding, then ding, ding. Poor devils reel, rotated back from low glare as digital wheels pretend to slow as though whirring came so easily. Here, we always are lonely because the alternative would be brutalizing. The gas cloud approaches Sagittarius A* 26,000 years ago and might have will disrupt its circling light halo or show us finally its viscosity. Like honey or water? Wasn’t it is always the question.

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front

thea brown

Throwing gale, why not one compass, tracing arcs in red pivoted along a central point – thin-arced as the dark edged across the parking lot, orange edged the cold front, organ pink the clouds’ darker parts and the vents ticked on in the hallway, carpeted maroon – the sole windowed place in the place, one thought, at least home erases the lunchroom linoleum – six mocking birds calling car alarms, two deer chewing petunias, one snake, dead and dried – the office park’s meadow, zephyr autumn deficits breed interiors clawless as inventory unaccessed – as afternoon pivots back closed preemptively, a nosy kidney ache forces the rootless malaise unadopted and framed by metal sill – every minute clicks in swoops and less sleep, objects outlined in red in the dark – desk, vessel, man – why not become one, O

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elegy for sounds forgotten

justin hamm There is a theory, claims a recent TV show, that words may live inside the artifacts of the distant past, ghost vernaculars cut into the details of a vase or a bowl, what the potter sang or said working wet clay at his wheel. And this possibility, like so much else, sends one man tunneling back into his own sacred notions, causes him to wonder about the lies and truths we all must say to survive—how these spectral recordings, were we to unlock them, might contain nothing of these lies or truths, but only laughter long, long forgotten. This is something the man does from time to time. He crawls down into an invented notion of what used to be, the same way he crawls into Clarence Ashley’s clawhammer banjoing or curls up inside Billie Holiday’s reedy cooing, and when his wife calls out to him from the next room over, the only sound he can distinguish is the sound of his own internal mechanics processing the dead. Later he sits in the dark of the present moment, the future flickering like some star raging at an impossible distance, and he feels sick over marriage verbiage carved into their years, words which someday someone may find in some old thing of theirs, words he might better remember if only he’d been listening.

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museum guard’s blues

justin hamm There was this old man who always wore blues player’s hat just like the one I liked to wear. He would cry in front of the romantic landscapes in a way that made you want to hold his hand. The walls and the ceiling were transparent. Outside, you could see when the thunderstorms were gathering with menacing intent. The president at this time was a person history would not remember with kindness. A know-it-all woman stood in a shadowy corner, passing on spurious information about the French and Indian War. There were dozens of mournful sculptures from different historical eras. To me they all seemed to be wailing in a single voice. I had something like thirty dollars in my bank account and I was crazy in love with a performance artist who played classical music badly on purpose. I didn’t get it and she refused to explain. Sometimes I would look down at my own fingers in the cloudy dishwater or resting in my lap and they would seem to me the most foreign objects. They were capable of doing things, even if I was not. I would pick up the guitar and they would find the chords even when my mouth could not find the words. My fingers never seemed to care. They were of their own mind. I had a child somewhere back there in my past but the mother had put her up for adoption. She would have made a good mother. I’d lived in three states in the past year alone but none of them had felt anything like a final destination. I have to wonder about people who think they have it all figured out and will even tell lies about the French and Indian War just to prove it to their own fearful hearts. The museum had once been my place of refuge. Now it just made me think about the history of my own misdeeds. I could see that the paintings hung along the walls were just a long, pretty documentation of an eternity of lies. I knew nobody would ever remember me after I was gone.

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hamm It was a comfort to think this way. I wanted to let my fingernails grow long and twisted like this man whose picture I’d seen once in a book. I wanted to do a kindness for someone and watch from a distance as they felt grateful toward a stranger. My father once told me that the real measure of a man is his ability to grant forgiveness for all things. I wanted to believe that. My nose has always been a little crooked on my face because of him.

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once the strings are cut, all fall down

paul edward costa

After a while, he stopped turning on the lights when he got home at night; the darkness felt familiar, like an old blanket. He knew what sat there in the shadows and where. In the sudden blackout a woman down the hall hit all the speed dial contacts on her cell phone at once, awakening a dissonant surge of voices who trip the breaker of her thoughts, but the night like a nightmare has no bottom no nadir, sight gives way to blindness, sound gives way to deafness, until absence without limit arrives fashionably late just to mock the calls of a hopeful search party. In the vacuous eternity, those versed in chaos’s braille navigate the void between stars by feeling nothing.

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In the vacuous eternity, those versed in sense’s warm logic huddle like children on lunar outposts, delicately singing the alphabet aloud in the vacuous eternity:

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dallas b. crumb unmakes and makes dallas b. crumb

eric lloyd blix

Dallas B. Crumb then concluded this was aloneness and that merely studying Sharon Rutherford’s B&W senior portrait above her loopy signature and ironical quote, “I’m going to Disney World,” on pg. 17 of the John F. Kennedy Senior High School class of ‘85 yearbook would not curtail his unpleasant feeling. Such an act would, he sensed, subsequently fail to give form to the bright valence he previously felt had fused him into relation with the living world and its ideals, that any more moments of gazing could only deepen his aloneness. It was a crisis that he underwent. Dallas B. Crumb listened past the public radio personalities. He considered his Toyota hatchback’s unused cargo hold. He nearly screwed up the commute home, as he missed the Volkswagen in front of him only by swerving onto the yellowing median. Horns wailed to all his sides. Dallas B. Crumb began a supplementary regiment of kissing Sharon Rutherford’s senior photo for a number of minutes TBD each night before falling asleep. This left wet impressions over the majority of Sharon Rutherford’s softfocus ¾ profile and threatened to spoil the integrity of pg. 17’s glossy surface. Still he kissed, most often in the chair by the dresser, where, despite Dallas B. Crumb’s general lack of guests, these gestures of affection remained most private. Dallas B. Crumb tried the popular and ubiquitous digital realm. He sought out Sharon Rutherford on Facebook, where he quickly discovered that she was now Sharon Rutherford-Ross. This came much to his chagrin, as he was a hopeful if not persistent and industrious fellow, and so gave it a try cycling through her photos. The majority of Sharon Rutherford-Ross’s Facebook photos were shot in color though some were altered into sepia and yet more B&W tones. A particular photo of Sharon Rutherford-Ross at what was very obviously a professional networking event—

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he could tell by her sharp smile and the aggressive sociability displayed by the company around her, even while posing— caught Dallas B. Crumb’s attention. Sharon Rutherford-Ross (née Rutherford) sat with her hands wrapped around a neon blue libation, staring out from Dallas B. Crumb’s glowing screen. A miniature pink umbrella/pineapple wedge was placed decoratively over the curvy glass’s rim; a straw rested angled between her swimsuited breasts. A tingle went up Dallas B. Crumb’s slim leg. Dallas B. Crumb increased his regiment of photo kissing so that he did it, too, while he was at work, in the back of an ambulance. The photo of Sharon Rutherford-Ross (née Rutherford) smiling and looking optimistically beyond the school photographer’s shoulder as though in accordance with their class slogan, “Onward Toward the Future,” began to wilt from the steady application of saliva. Dallas B. Crumb imagined the tropical vacation photo as he kissed that in the yearbook before going to bed. He held up one hand, pretending to cup the curvature of Sharon Rutherford-Ross’s great breast. However, that Dallas B. Crumb’s aloneness would persist even with this regiment was soon evident. A photo— especially the one of Sharon Rutherford (-Ross) parting her dark lips so that Dallas B. Crumb could see a slight fulcrum of teeth so startlingly white that the colors suppressed by the photo’s B&W template (those of her blue sweater and the sheen of her pink cheeks and curly chocolate hair) came for him into vivid life—could not engage him in communication or any number of other real physical and/or emotional intimacies. He found himself frequently sulking, and he could not administer CPR on victims of heart attack or stroke unless he pretended they were Sharon Rutherford-Ross, or at the very least her photo. It seemed suddenly better that he could be with her. Dallas B. Crumb obtained the address to Sharon Rutherford-Ross’s office at Schumann & Meyer Ltd. via a simple search of Google. This failed however to provide

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blix any home mailing address though did produce one e-mail address, ‘sharon.rutherfordross@schumannmeyer.com,’ in the Schumann & Meyer Ltd. employee directory. This was unfortunately of little to no use as one could not transmit portions of one’s being through cyberspace. Dallas B. Crumb first sent a lock of hair. He snipped a small sprig from the top of his head and bound it with a yellow bow. It made a neat and affectionate little gimcrack. Dallas B. Crumb slid the gimcrack into an envelope with a blue & white speckled interior and sent it to Sharon Rutherford-Ross’s office at Schumann & Meyer Ltd. on the twentieth floor of the Willis Tower on S Wacker Dr where he imagined hordes of people speaking various forms of jargon and communicating via innuendo and inside jokes as they strutted together during their lunch breaks. He pictured their faces as the points of metaphysical connection, flat and reflective like the broad downtown peaks containing them. Dallas B. Crumb wore a big red stocking cap to conceal the new unevenness in his hair. The stocking cap slid over his eyes when he handled the defibrillator. Though it did not necessarily hinder his work performance, his co-workers laughed at the preposterous sight of him. Soon they, too, came to work in the early a.m. hours wearing large caps of different kinds. These became progressively larger and more comical until one day Louis McGinty arrived with a giant foam cowboy hat colored purple with Adrian Peterson’s #28 printed on its sides in white. He paraded in circles behind Dallas B. Crumb. Louis McGinty was thereafter referred to as “The Hat” by his more sardonic co-workers. The Hat felt obligated to wear the big purple hat to work every day, because, as he and the rest all sensed, it was the most effective comical representation of Dallas B. Crumb’s earnest appearance. The rest followed suit: a ten gallon hat, a wedge of foam cheese, an arrow through the head, &c. “Would you guys knock it off ?” Dallas B. Crumb

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dallas b. crumb unmakes and makes dallas b. cumb said. “It’s a joke, man,” the Hat said. “Relax.” “Just,” Dallas B. Crumb looked about the room, “can you take it easy?” “Why don’t you?” the Hat said. “I’m just being ironic.” Dallas B. Crumb seethed. He maintained his devotion to the photo of Sharon Rutherford-Ross (née Rutherford) contained within his J.F.K.S.H.S. class of ‘85 yearbook—which he kept in his supply bag as recourse—as well as his efforts to re-connect with her via U.S. Post. He kissed her photo on his lunch breaks. When no response arrived from Sharon RutherfordRoss within his calculated ETA—no envelope containing a curly lock of her own—Dallas B. Crumb sent an inquiry to sharon. rutherfordross@schumanmeyer.com. A response, “I am out of the office this week . . .” returned within the minute. He tried not to worry that her photo on pg. 17 began to leave ink on his lips, wearing away her satiny visage. Being so persistent and industrious, Dallas B. Crumb considered his situation. Perhaps, he supposed, his hair, while an artifact of himself, was insufficiently personal, too steeped in the simultaneous traditions of unchecked sentimentality and romantic obsession, and therefore not entirely his own. Dallas B. Crumb supposed that he would have better luck dealing with abstractions. That is, tearing them away from the realm of thought and into the material world, where they could be held and understood. He mulled this in the bunk room at work while his co-workers sat and snickered in thoughtful postures—their chins resting on their raised fists—as they let their feet dangle from the upper bunks, and the big hats covered their faces. After all of this initial thought, which evolved quickly into detailed planning, Dallas B. Crumb devised a way to eliminate abstractions. He spent the 10 p.m. hour in his bedroom doing unnatural stretches of his limbs and torso, often crossing parts of his body that had never previously met.

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blix His shadow formed in the light thrown from the lamp on the nightstand. Its indeterminate and changing shape gave Dallas B. Crumb the impression that his body was a thing free floating, rotating in midair. After fine tuning the intervals between sessions of deep and shallow breathing, Dallas B. Crumb, without entirely noticing it, stretched convexly and paused in the gap between inhalation and exhalation, eliminated from his body a splinter of dignity. It became immediately stuck in the carpet, as its shape was that of a tiny blade. Dallas B. Crumb then kissed Sharon Rutherford’s B&W yearbook photo for nearly 15 full minutes. Dallas B. Crumb practiced this abstraction elimination technique each night before the pre-sleep yearbook kissing regiment, and also during the slow periods at work, where he would breathe and contort in the bunk room. He began to eliminate portions of the various abstractions dwelling within him: honor, despair, shame, hope, and the like. This process caused him no great pain but did leave him feeling quite fatigued; it was like one long, complicated sneeze. The head paramedic, generally opposed to the oversized hats, commended Dallas B. Crumb for his commitment to physical fitness and, by extension, his desire to perform well in resuscitating victims and aiding wounds; Louis McGinty and the rest of Dallas B. Crumb’s young co-workers spoke ironically about their collective inability to touch their toes. Soon his technique was refined, and Dallas B. Crumb could eliminate abstractions at will. The first abstraction that he chose to eliminate for the purpose of re-connecting with Sharon Rutherford-Ross was the sincerity of his desire for mutual, unadulterated communication, even if it was only to be done through the mail. He was sure, however, to leave some of this sincerity inside of him, so as not to compromise the authenticity of his actions. Dallas B. Crumb was surprised by how his sincerity looked after it was

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dallas b. crumb unmakes and makes dallas b. cumb eliminated. It glided in circles and figure 8’s on the tabletop and reminded him very much of a silver minnow. He shipped it in a small wooden box with holes drilled in the sides, large enough for air to pass through though too small for the object to escape and swim free. He was afraid it would suffocate and whither. Something in his face felt like it was sealing shut as he drove to the post office, a sensation for which he could not find a word to describe. Dallas B. Crumb awoke the next morning to find that everything radiated a salt colored light. He rubbed his eyes and felt his way down the stairs and into the kitchen, which had a particular brightness due to the high volume of a.m. sunlight. Dallas B. Crumb sifted through the junk drawer and found a pair of shades. This dulled the glare of everything and turned it all to a bunch of hazy silhouettes. He did not take the shades off his face whether at home or at work. Following the pattern of the headwear, the Hat wore increasingly and comically large shades until eventually he settled on a pair that spanned from the top of his forehead down to his cheek bones, flaring out past his temples. “The better to see you with,” he said, as Dallas B. Crumb paced around the bunk room floor. True, the vision problem compounded the wearing-away problem of Sharon Rutherford-Ross’s yearbook photo. Dallas B. Crumb sat up one night sending e-mails and refreshing his inbox, trying to cut through the perpetual haze by squinting. He was so jittery with the mouse that he had to move his bourbon off to the side so that he wouldn’t tip it over. Each new message he sent yielded the same result: “Message failed; recipient: sharon.rutherfordross@schumanmeyer.com is invalid. . .” Dallas B. Crumb grunted. He stared at his keyboard as it became suddenly explicit to him that he was sitting in a lit room. The little gold lamp chain swung lightly in its socket from when he had turned on the light. It traced rhythmically a tiny arc. Dallas B. Crumb thought vaguely of his contorted body’s shadow, reneged then and there on his photo-kissing regiment and undertook to write Sharon Rutherford-Ross (née Rutherford) a

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blix song. He grabbed a pen and paper, scribbled and scratched things out until he came up with “Sharon, Sharon, My Heart’s Red Baron”: Sharon, Sharon My heart’s Red Baron. Flyin’ past and Leavin’ me starin’. Gun me down, yeah And soar on by. Sharon, baby Don’t leave that sky. Ooh ooh, yeah, Sharon, Sharon . . . Dallas B. Crumb composed a guitar tablature to accompany the lyrics. The next morning he called in sick and went down to the music store to pick up a guitar and an electronic tuner. He squinted at the lyrics and guitar tab and practiced all day on his new instrument, breathing and contorting during his breaks, until he thought he sounded halfway decent. Then he poured some more bourbon in last night’s glass as he imagined the Who or the Stones did it, to work up some courage. Dallas B. Crumb fully eliminated his sincerity regarding Sharon Rutherford (-Ross). The slightness of the remainder’s appearance surprised him. It was nothing but a golden wisp that slowly pulsed at the ends as though to further curl or uncurl. Dallas B. Crumb wrapped it in white tissues. He lined a small container with foam and gently sealed the sincerity inside. With a black marker he wrote on the parcel, “FRAGILE.” He sighed and drank. Dallas B. Crumb decided to deliver the parcel himself. He removed the big red stocking cap and styled his hair into a bowl cut. He traveled 350 mi. southeast, squinting at the road signs, with the parcel resting on the passenger seat. He left the thing in the car when he parked and entered the the Willis Tower on

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dallas b. crumb unmakes and makes dallas b. cumb S Wacker Dr. He rode the elevator to the lobby of Schumann & Meyer Ltd’s office suite on the 20th floor, where he bungled the lyrics of “Sharon, Sharon, My Heart’s Red Baron.” Dallas B. Crumb wailed on his guitar until a couple of guards grabbed him beneath the arms and he was kicked out of the place, cussing and spitting.

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re: death of a faculty member

gary a. berg

SENT: Monday, January 22, 8:14 AM TO: Campus Community FROM: Charles.Dean CC: President’s Office RE: Death of Faculty Member I am writing to report the untimely death of an esteemed colleague. Professor James Daniels was found unresponsive by the cleaning crew in his office last night. Paramedics were called and he was pronounced dead at the hospital. The campus police were summoned as a matter of course, and a report is being prepared. I caution against circulating unsubstantiated rumors about the incident. Professor Daniels was a long-time, respected colleague. Our sympathies go out to his family. Charles Dean, PhD Dean FORWARD SENT: Monday, January 22, 8:15 AM TO: Martin.Shapiro FROM: Stephen.Morrison RE: Death of Faculty Member Dibs on his corner office. REPLY SENT: Monday, January 22, 8:16 AM TO: Stephen.Morrison FROM: Martin.Shapiro RE: Death of Faculty Member I’ll take his Spring Sabbatical. 152

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SENT: Monday, January 22, 10:07 AM TO: President FROM: Charles.Dean RE: Report on James Daniels Incident This is to update you on the death of James Daniels and subsequent events. I was called at home by campus police late Sunday night. Evidently, Prof. Daniels had been found dead in his office, with what the police called “compromising materials”. Naturally, I quickly made my way to the campus to take control of the situation myself. I won’t give you the details here in writing, for obvious reasons, but I can say that the scene in the office is not an image that I’d want to leave behind as a legacy. I instructed the police to keep the specifics under wraps as well as they can without interfering with any required investigation. SENT: Monday, January 22, 10:37 AM REPLY TO: Charles.Dean FROM: President RE: Report on James Daniels Incident What kind of operation you are running over there? I am getting calls from donors and parents. Fix it now! SENT: Monday, January 22, 10:38 AM REPLY TO: President FROM: Charles.Dean RE: Report on James Daniels Incident “Operation” will be fixed.

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berg SENT: Monday, January 22, 11:31 PM TO: Sylvia.Martin FROM: Charles.Dean (private email) RE: checking in Tough day--I thought I’d connect online. I know you are probably rolling your green eyes as you read this, but I have been thinking back to those days after college when we used to get together as a group at that dive bar near the pier. We were so earnest and carefree. Everything seemed possible. I even felt that way for years after we broke up. Now I squint my eyes at myself in the mirror in the morning and can almost see the wall behind me. Thanks as always for being there, kid. C SENT: Tuesday, January 23, 10:11 AM REPLY TO: Charles.Dean (private email) FROM: Sylvia.Martin RE: checking in Oh, Charles, I am rolling my eyes. What am I to do with you? I too occasionally think back to those days, but you know, there is no turning around. Stop your fading and get going again. You need a change.

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re: death of a faculty member SENT: Tuesday, January 23, 4:31 PM TO: Gertrude.Steiner FROM: Charles.Dean RE: Your Attitude Once again I must take the time to formally reprimand you for the attitude you displayed today at our faculty meeting. The man in question just died! Do we really need to censor him as well? Sincerely, Charles Dean, PhD Dean SENT: Tuesday, January 23, 9:32 PM REPLY TO: Charles.Dean FROM: Gertrude.Steiner RE: Your Attitude Shove it. Sincerely, Gertrude Steiner, PhD

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berg SENT: Wednesday, January 24, 8:31 AM TO: Charles.Dean FROM: State Auditor CC: President’s Office RE: Request for Public Information This email is to inform you of a formal request for information regarding your travel expenses. You will be contacted about the need to supply specific documents. Please note the following: You may not destroy any paper documents or electronic files until the request is completed. Any attempt or evidence that you have done so will be grounds for personnel and/or legal action. Have a nice day. SENT: Wednesday, January 24, 11:32 AM FORWARD TO: Elizabeth.Turner FROM: Charles.Dean (personal email) RE: trip to Italy Liz, You may be contacted by an auditor about our trip to Italy. It would be helpful to me if you’d back me up on the “research-related” trip to Positano. I know it is a sore subject, but I hope you understand. BTW, any idea who made the public information act request? C.

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re: death of a faculty member SENT: Wednesday, January 24, 3:31 PM TO: President FROM: Charles.Dean RE: Follow up with Police on James Daniels Incident I met with the Chief of Police and it seems there is a complication. Daniels had been secretly photographing people, with a smartphone in his pocket, and then making satirical assemblages of them. There was half a bottle of Scotch, and photos pinned up all over his office. He was found with his head cut open, lying on the ground in his chair. The Chief of Police surmises that Daniels fell backward in his chair. There was an odd expression on Daniels face like he was choking with laughter. The Chief agrees that none of this detail needs to be in the formal report. The recommendation is that the professor died in an “office accident”. Unfortunately, photos popped up on the Internet. I need to advise you that one of the satirical drawings is of you in a suggestive position with the school mascot. SENT: Wednesday, January 24, 3:52 PM REPLY TO: Charles.Dean FROM: President RE: Follow up on with Policy on James Daniels Incident My “assemblage” seems to be making its way quickly across campus! I want to talk to you about a succession plan for yourself.

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berg SENT: Wednesday, January 24, 3:53 PM REPLY TO: President FROM: Charles.Dean RE: Report on James Daniels Incident Very unfortunate. If it is any consolation, there are worse images of me. Succession? SENT: Wednesday, January 24, 11:53 PM REPLY TO: Charles.Dean (personal email) FROM: Elizabeth.Turner RE: trip to Italy Daniels asked me about the trip at a faculty meeting. SENT: Thursday, January 25, 6:52 PM TO: Sylvia.Martin FROM: Charles.Dean (private email) RE: checking in again I went by the office of a dead colleague today. No surviving family coming forward. Sad in the end that all that remains can be collected in boxes that often Goodwill won’t even accept. I was looking through this guy’s stuff and he wasn’t a bad scholar at the start. Showed promise. Meant well. I have to speak at his funeral, how do you think “meant well” will go over with the audience? C 158

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re: death of a faculty member SENT: Thursday, January 25, 9:19 PM REPLY TO: Charles.Dean (private email) FROM: Sylvia.Martin RE: checking in again Just stop it! Look at this photo attached. Remember that old oak cabinet we got at a garage sale? Still have it. I found the photo inside the other day. If you examine it in the right light you can still see us. God we were young--especially you. And how deeply stupid we were to think anything would work out between us. SENT: Friday, January 26, 8:07 AM TO: Charles.Dean FROM: University Counsel CC: President’s Office RE: Public Information Request Dean Dean, we need to talk about this request for information. I find your response incomplete at best. You are putting the University in a precarious position. Please respond to the following immediately: 1. What was the nature of your trip to Positano, Italy? 2. How do you justify a research meeting with 12 unnamed university “officials” on a glass-bottomed boat? 3. How did you manage to run up a bill of over $300 for laundry? 4. Prof. Turner seems to have a different narrative of the purpose for your trip. Can you explain? regarding arts & letters

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berg SENT: Friday, January 26, 11:32 AM REPLY TO: University Counsel FROM: Charles.Dean CC: President’s Office RE: Public Information Request I must say I’m getting tired of this inquest. I have a lot of responsibility and can’t be expected to recall everything from a trip over a year ago. Here are my responses to your inquiry: 1.

What was the nature of your trip to Positano, Italy?

Research and international outreach. Positano provides a rich opportunity for the kind of cross-disciplinary research that we value here at the University. The U. also continually states that it wants to instill global views in students and therefore we need to nurture international partnerships. 2. How do you justify a meeting with 12 unnamed university officials on a glass-bottomed boat? This event combined an opportunity for real world research, and bonding with potential international partners. The meetings in Positano were exploratory. 3. How did you manage to run up a bill of over $300 for laundry? Hotels charge an arm and leg for laundry service, and I was traveling for two weeks. It’s either that or purchase new clothes and charge the expense to the University. What do you prefer? A laundry bill, or one for new Italian shirts? 4. Prof. Turner seems to have a different narrative of the purpose for your trip. Can you explain? No. 160

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re: death of a faculty member SENT: Friday, January 26, 2:10 PM REPLY TO: Charles.Dean FROM: University Counsel CC: President’s Office RE: Public Information Request 1. Why out of all the places in the world (some much less expensive) did you need to go to Positano, Italy for “research”? 2. You still haven’t given me names and institutions represented at the glass bottom boat “event”. 3. Explain why you did not bring enough clothes for two weeks. Were you unexpectedly delayed on the glass bottom boat? 4. “No”? This is a non-responsive answer. SENT: Saturday, January 27, 9:01 PM TO: Sylvia.Martin FROM: Charles.Dean (private email) RE: hello again Funeral today. Let me say right now that I don’t want anyone doing something like that for me. Luckily the deceased man had the perfect excuse for non-attendance. It struck me how normal and day-to-day the whole thing was. One minute alive and kicking, the next, ho-hum, dead on the floor of your office. I keep thinking about going to work and driving right past the offramp and keep going. I stay on the road, and with each mile I imagine white-paper memos streaming out my tailpipe. I park at a rest stop and fall into a black sleep on a suit coat pillow. C

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berg SENT: Sunday, January 28, 11:03 AM REPLY TO: Charles.Dean (private email) FROM: Sylvia.Martin RE: hello again You are scaring me, C. SENT: Monday, January 29, 10:01 AM TO: Charles.Dean FROM: President RE: Succession Plan I was serious about the succession plan. I want your plan on my desk by the end of the week. SENT: Monday, January 29, 10:35 AM REPLY TO: President FROM: Charles.Dean RE: Succession Plan Right. I think I’ve earned the right to leave on my own terms. SENT: Monday, January 29, 10:37 AM REPLY TO: Charles.Dean FROM: President RE: Succession Plan We need to do what’s best for the U. first. That should always be foremost in our minds.

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re: death of a faculty member SENT: Monday, January 29, 2:17 PM TO: Charles.Dean FROM: Payroll RE: Abuse of Blood Donation Plan It appears that some employees have been abusing the generous policy of compensatory time in exchange for donations to the blood bank. Payroll has received an unusually large number of requests for work time credit from employees throughout the university. We believe this is likely to be a point of interest in the upcoming audit. Please remind your faculty and staff that the policy is intended to encourage occasional donations, and should not be abused. When approving these requests, ask yourself the following questions: 1. How many times has this employee submitted a similar request in the previous month? 2. Do you see evidence of actual blood withdrawal (band aides, etc.), paleness? 3. Does the employee exhibit signs of substance abuse or erratic behavior? SENT: Monday, January 29, 3:59 PM REPLY TO: Payroll FROM: Charles.Dean RE: Abuse of Blood Donation Plan Erratic behavior? I supervise faculty. SENT: Tuesday, January 30, 10:17 AM TO: Charles.Dean FROM: President RE: Official Termination This email and letter attachment confirms our conversation yesterday. regarding arts & letters

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berg SENT: Tuesday, January 30, 10:18 AM REPLY TO: President FROM: Charles.Dean I’ll take your suggestion under consideration. SENT: Tuesday, January 30, 5:32 PM TO: Sylvia.Martin FROM: Charles.Dean (private email) RE: hello again I’ve been fired. Not unexpected, but irritating. I refuse to be bullied. Now they’ve pissed me off. SENT: Tuesday, January 30, 10:03 PM TO: Charles.Dean (private email) FROM: Sylvia.Martin RE: hello again Let it go, Charles. This is the best thing that’s ever happened to you. SENT: Tuesday, January 30, 10:04 PM TO: Sylvia.Martin FROM: Charles.Dean (private email) RE: hello again No. I can’t help myself.

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re: death of a faculty member SENT: Wednesday, January 31, 9:02 AM TO: campus community FROM: President’s Office RE: Retirement of Dean Charles Dean This email is to announce the retirement of Dr. Charles Dean. We thank him for his service over the past two decades. A national search for his replacement will begin immediately. Dr. Dean has declined the offer of a retirement party. In lieu of this public recognition, please take the opportunity to say goodbye to him as you deem appropriate. President SENT: Thursday, February 1, 8:33 AM TO: President FROM: Charles.Dean RE: Academic Affairs meeting Please add me to today’s agenda. I have a proposal regarding the blood bank controversy. SENT: Thursday, February 1, 8:56 AM REPLY TO: Charles.Dean FROM: President RE: Academic Affairs meeting I’d prefer you not attend. SENT: Thursday, February 1, 4:51 PM TO: Charles.Dean FROM: Payroll RE: Blood Bank and meeting today Dr. Dean I want to thank you for backing me up on the need to bring order to the time credit in exchange for blood issue. Nice to have a cool head in the meeting. 165 regarding arts & letters


berg SENT: Thursday, February 1, 5:11 PM FORWARD TO: President FROM: Charles.Dean RE: Blood Bank FYI. Happy to useful. I’ll follow up with her. I think we need a consistent interpretation of suspicious “paleness”. SENT: Thursday, February 1, 5:47 PM TO: Charles.Dean FROM: President RE: Blood Bank Let me remind you that your employment ended two weeks ago. SENT: Thursday, February 1, 5:49 PM REPLY TO: President FROM: Charles.Dean RE: Blood Bank The U always comes first, as you say. So I intend to follow up on blood bank controversy to the bitter end. SENT: Friday, February 2, 9:15 AM REPLY TO: University Counsel FROM: Charles.Dean CC: President’s Office RE: Public Information Request My apologies for the delay in responding to your numerous questions. I will forward an assessment of the amount of time it will take me to respond so that we can properly bill the inquirer for employee time. Also, I suggest you confirm with the President’s Office that my time should be used on this matter. 166 re:al


re: death of a faculty member SENT: Friday, February 2, 10:12 AM TO: President FROM: Charles.Dean RE: Follow up on with Police on James Daniels Incident BTW, it seems there is one more assemblage of you that hasn’t made it to the World Wide Web yet. SENT: Saturday, April 2, 10:11 PM TO: Sylvia.Martin FROM: Charles.Dean (private email) RE: hello again I just keep coming to the office every day. I attend meetings. At first people looked at me strangely. Now they seem resigned to me continuing. I still receive paychecks, etc. Evidently, the national search is now stalled because HR can’t post while I’m still in position. God I love working in higher education. It’s been so liberating to be fired. I may never leave.

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junior’s world

donley watt

We’re cruising Gun Barrel City, alert for a decent place to get some lunch. Junior Reynolds drives, his big frame hunched over the steering wheel of his new Mercedes. “A little one,” he had said when he picked me up at the Flame Motel in Athens this morning. Then he laughed, gave the leather dash of the car an affectionate pat. “My baby here. Can’t afford a big one.” Junior has this self-effacing way about him, a modesty that draws some limits. But he gives you a dot here, a dot there, then another, and next thing you know you’ve sketched the picture—the one he wants you to see. Let him choose the facts, he’ll let you tell the story. If Junior had been a stranger and not a high school buddy from way back, where we grew up together here in this edge of East Texas, I might worry about being good-old-boyed by a pro. We spent all morning looking at land, small acreage. I want something with some open pasture, enough woods for a scattering of shade, a creek--or at least a dry creek that has enough watershed to be dammed up for a good-sized dug tank. I’d stock it with fingerling bass and crappie and sun perch. Maybe a few channel cat. I want a place that will give me a destination out of Austin when the city starts to overwhelm me. Probably a bad idea born from a fistful of deep-seated reasons. Junior has been a trader all his life. He traded cows for a while, renting a pasture from his uncle to hold what he could pick up cheap. Pretty soon it was oil leases and royalty, always buying and selling, keeping a percentage here, an override there. He pumped the oil scouts from Tyler when they stopped in Athens once a week for coffee at Robinson’s Drug Store. There, rumors of lease plays or possible gas wells or dry holes came in to the pay phone that hung from the wall, jarring the coffee drinkers to attention.

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Then the oil bust came in the 1980s and Junior hunkered down; then when things started back up he fell back on land. “Land is the source of all wealth,” he told me when I settled into his Mercedes first thing this morning, and I’m convinced he believes it. Junior knows every piece of ground in the county, from the Trinity River on the west to the Neches River on the east. That’s why I called him. Now in Gun Barrel City Junior spots a cafe at the edge of this new-blown town. Although it’s almost noon, only a couple of cars are parked out front. Not a good sign. “Probably belong to the help,” he mutters, and wheels the Mercedes through the parking lot and back towards the crossroads that marks the center of town. We pass a mechanic shop cum junkyard down the street. Two fellows in grease-smeared overalls peer around the raised hood of a truck as we hurry by. They stare at Junior’s Mercedes, with envy I figure. Junior offers them his, How you fellows doing? sort of non-committal wave, and they nod. The metal building behind them flaunts a sign, hand-painted with threefoot letters: AIN’T GOD GREAT! I ask Junior about his mother, how she’s getting along now as a widow. Always courteous, he acknowledges my mother first, regrets that she “passed on the way she did a few years before. “But sudden can be a blessing, he says, something that I accept with a nod. “Mama’s doing fine,” he says. “Just fine. She still lives in that same house right off the square, where I grew up. And I guess I’m lucky—she’s almost eighty now and still walks to town, drives her car a little, enough to get to the Piggly Wiggly and back, anyhow, and to daytime church.” Junior glances around. “There’s nothing to eat in this place. Let’s head back to town. Can you wait? It’s a wash out here in Gun Barrel.” Without waiting for an answer Junior guns the Mercedes, aiming it east out of town. We rush by a whole string of new

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watt stores: Bill’s Dollar Store, the Buck and No More Store, and the Way Too Cheap Store. “Place looks prosperous,” I say. “Dallas money,” Junior says. “This isn’t the fifties, good buddy. Everything’s different now. For good and for bad.” He shakes his head. “You asked about Mama. Well, you know Mama keeps her house all locked up. Day and night.” Junior’s voice has moved up a notch or two now, agitation creeping in. “She reads the Dallas News every morning, has for fifty years, and watches all the blood and guts on TV morning, noon and night. She’s scared and I’ll be damned if I can blame her. She won’t even answer the door unless she knows who it is. And somebody’s always stopping by—black dudes, you know, or Mexicans—wanting to trim her trees, wanting to mow her yard. Junior stops a minute. He runs his hand through his combed-straight-back hair. “Hell, I sound like a racist, don’t I?” He glances over my way, slows down from seventy-five to sixty. I loosen my grip on the armrest. “Here I am going on about blacks and Mexicans. You must think I’m redneck racist white trash.” “Never thought that, Junior,” I tell him. Not white trash, although redneck racist had crept across my mind. One voice somewhere inside urges me, “Go on, tell him what you think, don’t let him slide by with those easy racial comments.” Another voice snorts, “Sure, tell him, you know just what everybody should say, what they should think.” “It’s hard,” I finally say, taking the easy middle ground. “For the old folks here. I’m sure it’s hard.” “You’re right, old buddy. It’s hard on the old folks, and hard, to boot, on some of us not so old folks.” In Austin Junior would have a knotty time navigating his way through the politically correct alleyways. He would have, I suspect, bolted home to East Texas--or been chased

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junior’s world back. But around here he is regarded with reverent suspicion. Reverence because of the success he has achieved, but suspicion that one leg might be swung over on the socialist side of the corral, for he is a self-admitted Democrat. To me Junior is the area’s resident philosopher, sort of a Henderson County Heraclitus--with variations. Not the Greek philosopher’s, “You cannot step twice in the same river,” but Junior’s infinitely wiser, “You should not step twice in the same cow patty.” We cruise on in to Athens. Junior’s now obsessed with the way things keep changing. He points out the vacant Gibson’s Discount Store, run out of business by the K-Mart across the street, which was closed down by the new Wal-Mart on the other edge of town. Junior laughs. “Yeah, Wal-Mart turned K-Mart into a mighty fine bowling alley.” We glide past the courthouse and find the highway that leads east towards Tyler. “New churches everywhere,” he says, waiting to see how I react, maybe afraid that I might be a closet born-againer. In a minute he goes on. “What did we have, growing up here? Two Baptist churches, Methodist and Presbyterian, Church of Christ, a couple of Holy Rollers. That was it. Man, now churches are everywhere. It’s Four Square this and Full Gospel that, packing them into those Red Dot metal buildings. Spanish churches, too.” “Hell of a ways over from Spain,” I say. “Must not have many members, huh?” Junior laughs. “You know what I mean.” He squirms a little and quickly points up ahead. “This is it. Best cafe in the county.” It’s a cafe, for damned sure not a restaurant. Pickups and cars parked out front every which way. Junior slides the Mercedes across the gravel and stops it far out to one side where it won’t get any door dings. When the screen door bangs behind us I take in the noise that is an inseparable part of cafes such as this. The good-

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watt natured bantering and the stew of voices rise and fall and rise again in some ages-old rhythm that has been transported hidden generations before from taverns and pubs. The clink of solid, heavy plates and the stir of spoons in oversize tea glasses, the clank of flatware and the ring of the cash register--all of this lessens, subsides appreciably when move to the cashier’s counter to wait. All heads in the place turn towards us, it seems, helping us to search the banks of booths and the scattering of tables, and finally even the row of red-topped stools at a counter for a place for me and Junior. But the place is packed. And almost in that same moment, just a fraction of frozen time later, Junior goes to work, nodding and waving and trading verbal jabs. He moves over and massages the shoulders of a fellow in a suit before giving out a laugh and delivering a slap to another’s back. The noise in the cafe slowly reestablishes itself, once more filling the room, and eyes for the most part turn back to what was more immediately before them; the men to their potatoes and meat and cornbread muffins, and the women (the few there are) to dumping the powdery sweet contents of little pink packets in tall, plastic glasses of tea. They touch, adjust their generous hairdos, their eyes not back to the meal before them, but furtively still on Junior and the stranger who is with him. This attention focused on Junior has caught me off guard. It must have to do with money, I figure. Here in Texas, whether you made it and kept it or made it and lost it didn’t seem to matter. Once you had been touched by money something special clung to you that never went away. The Texas good old boy version of a golden aura. Then with a shuffle of boots and a grabbing of hats, all the time Junior insisting, “Now don’t y’all hurry away on our account,” a booth freed up and dishes got stacked in gray

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junior’s world plastic tubs and the table wiped (more or less) clean. And almost magically two ice teas and two bowls of what resembled banana pudding slide across the slick table top before us. Dessert served up front to reinforce your expectations of things to come, I figure. “Two specials,” the waitress asks? “Taters, maters and meat,” she adds with a laugh. Junior nods. “Chicken fry,” he half whispers as she hurries away. “Not much choice. Not at lunch, anyway. This is Monday. You can have chicken fried steak or chicken fried steak. Tuesday, too. But it’s not half bad.” Then Junior leans forward, drawing me close in that engaging way he has. “Now listen,” he says, halfway apologetically, with a little grin across his ruddy face. “I don’t want to go on much more about changes around here. That’s out of our control. Mama will have to adjust. You and I will live through it. But I want you to look around for a minute.” I do. “What do you see?” I shrug. “Lots of folks I don’t know.” “Right. Most are from around these parts—a couple of salesmen from the Ford dealer; over there a table of bankers from Farmers and Merchants. The usual. But if you look close,” and he tilts his head to one side, gesturing towards a table with three couples crowded around. “Those are Dallas folks. North Dallas. Range Rover outside is theirs. Down for the day, soaking up some genuine country cooking. Starvin’ for it. Couldn’t wait to get out of Big D.” “And?” I’m puzzled, have no idea where Junior’s taking me. “Change, old buddy. You anticipate the changes, you come out on top.” “Here you go.” The waitress slides the plates between us. Cream gravy overflows almost everything. The check floats upside down on Junior’s pinto beans. “Looks okay, huh?” Junior grabs the check by a dry

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watt corner to claim it. “It’s been a while,” I say. “A good thing, too.” Junior laughs, saws off a crispy end piece of the steak, dips it in the gravy and holds it suspended on his fork. “Anyway,” he says,” these Dallas folks, they don’t want all this change. Scares ‘em. They want things the way they used to be, when they--or their mamas-- grew up. What they want is a country store, a farmers’ market, a place with corn meal being stone ground while they watch. Sorghum syrup, homemade jellies and jams. Homegrown tomatoes, blackeyed peas. The whole works.” I lean forward slicing off an edge of fat from my steak. “But were things ever that way?” I ask. “All I remember about little country stores are cans of Vienna sausage and some rat trap cheese and saltines. Maybe a Nehi Orange and a RC Cola stuck down in a tub of ice.” “That’s it, old buddy, you’re exactly right. That bunch over there, they don’t want what was back then, with no refrigeration and bad food and flies everywhere. They want what they think it should have been, the way they wish it had been and still could be. Has nothing to do with the facts at all.” The six from Dallas slide back their chairs to leave. The women, trim and blonde, in blue jean skirts with ruffled Laura Ashley blouses, plenty of glittery jewelry; the men with pointy-toed lizard boots, Stetson hats, nicely faded jeans and pearl snap shirts. “You see,” Junior says, swallowing hard, “reality has nothing to do with it. Look at Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Six Flags. Folks don’t want reality. They want a break from reality.” “Then where does that leave us?” I ask, overwhelmed by Junior and his talk, the heaviness of the steak and mashed potatoes and all of that gravy. But if I had a slice of white bread I’d sop my plate.

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junior’s world “With opportunity,” he says. “If only we’re smart enough to see it.” On our way back to the Flame Motel for my pickup, Junior makes his pitch. “I know this much. You don’t want to pick up a blow-sand piece of land up here. Mess with cows and grassburr pastures and broken down fences. Might as well pour your dollars down a shit hole.” He nods, leans back a little. “With those same dollars we could partner a farmers’ market. I’ve got the concept, the connections. You help by bankrolling it. We’ll make a killing.” “A killing,” I say, nodding my head. “There would be one for sure. I’m still married, you know.” Junior laughs. “Well that’s one mistake—just don’t make another one.” We glide into the parking lot. He pulls in next to my pickup. “You think about it,” he says. We shake hands. “Take care,” I tell him, and mean it. He tells me to stay in touch. Maybe I will. I drive west with the windows down. Junior’s fantasy farmers’ market fades away. A few miles out of town a stand of wildflowers brightens up a field, a golden swath touched by the afternoon sun. I feel the pull of the land, smell its sweet and fecund richness in the creek bottoms that I race across. Something essential, both inbred and ingrained, stirs within me. I could move out of the city, back to a piece of this land that I owned, run a few cows, plant a few fruit trees, sprig coastal Bermuda for a hay meadow. Another patch of golden flowers spreads across a pasture to my left, a little closer to the road, and now I can see that the flowers are the blossoms of bitterweeds, and that the spread of the weeds has choked out all possibilities of grass in the field. I remember a saying I picked up once wandering through Mexico: “It is one thing to talk of the bulls, and quite another to be in the bull ring.” Yes, and it’s one thing to speak

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watt of the land, and quite another to work it. I’ve been away too long, too much has changed. My world has tilted on its axis, and with this new angle, both sunlight and shadows fall strangely across the land that no longer can be my home.

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contributors Gary A. Berg MFA (UCLA) is the author of short stories and eight non-fiction books. His short stories have appeared in numerous publications including New Plains Review, Euphemism, Santa Fe Writer’s Project, Summerset Review, Burningword Literary Journal,Synchronized Chaos, Cheap Pop, Vending Machine Press, and Work Literary Magazine. Eric Lloyd Blix earned his MFA from Minnesota State University, Mankato. His writing has appeared in such journals as Western Humanities Review, Caketrain, The Pinch, and others, and it has been reprinted at Longform.org. He currently studies in the creative writing PhD program at the University of Utah. Doug Bolling’s poems have appeared in Water-Stone Review, Red Earth Review, Visions International, Redactions, Wallace Stevens Journal and many others. He has received several Pushcart nominations and a Best of the Net nomination and is working on a collection. He earned the MA and PhD from Iowa and has retired after teaching literature and writing at colleges in Kentucky and the midwest. He lives in the greater Chicago area. Nate Brown’s fiction has appeared in the Iowa Review, Mississippi Review, Five Chapters, Carolina Quarterly, and elsewhere. He lives in Baltimore. Thea Brown’s recent poems can be found in Prelude, Hidden City Quarterly, Better, The Volta, Inter|rupture, and elsewhere. She is the author of the chapbook We Are Fantastic (Petri Press, 2013) and the full-length collection Think of the Danger (H_NGM_N, 2016). She lives in Baltimore, where she will be the 2016–2017 Tickner Fellow at the Gilman School.

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Paul Edward Costa has published fiction, non-fiction and poetry in publications such as Timber Journal, Entropy, Thrice Fiction, Emerge Literary Journal, The J.J. Outre Review, The Eunoia Review, Songs of Eretz Poetry Review, The Bramptonist, The Bookends Review, and Alien Mouth among others. His areas of interest are illusion/ reality, minimalism, surrealism, genre fiction, weird fiction, the grotesque, and the absurd. At York University, Paul earned a Specialized Honors BA in History and a BA in Education. He is a writer and a high school English teacher with the Peel District School Board. Visit him online at: https://m.facebook.com/PaulEdwardCosta/ Jim Davis is a Master’s Candidate at Harvard University and has previously studied at Northwestern University and Knox College. He reads for TriQuarterly and his work has appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, The Harvard Crimson, Portland Review, RHINO, Midwest Quarterly, and California Journal of Poetics, among others. He has received multiplePushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominations and won many contests, including the Line Zero Poetry Prize. In addition to writing and painting, Jim is an international semi-professional American football player. @JimDavisArt Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minnesota, since 2000. Her published books include Music Theory for Dummies, Music Composition for Dummies, Guitar All-inOne for Dummies, Piano All-in-One for Dummies, Walking Twin Cities, Insider’s Guide to the Twin Cities, Nordeast Minneapolis: A History, and The Book Of, while her poetry has recently appeared in New Ohio Review, SLAB, and Gargoyle. Her newest poetry book, Ugly Girl, just came out from Shoe Music Press.

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Gary Fincke’s next collection of stories The Killer’s Dog won the 2015 Elixir Press Fiction Prize and will be published in early 2017. Earlier collections are from Georgia (Flannery O’Connor Prize), West Virginia, Missouri, and Coffee House. He is the Charles Degenstein Professor of Creative Writing at Susquehanna University. Joshua Garcia lives in New York City. He is currently working on the courage to perform at Nuyorican Poets Cafe after a ten year hiatus. He is also working on a novel about baseball, which he does not completely understand (neither the novel form nor baseball). His day job is as a lawyer advising on financial technology regulation. Sean Gill is a writer and filmmaker from Akron, OH. He has studied with Werner Herzog and Juan Luis Buñuel, played a rock star for Martin Scorsese on Vinyl, followed public defenders for a National Geographic documentary, and worked behind-the-scenes in television (in various capacities) for over a decade. His latest stories may be found in McSweeney’s, Word Riot, decomP, and Akashic Books. Justin Hamm is the founding editor of the museum of americana and the author of two poetry chapbooks Illinois, My Apologies (RockSaw Press, 2011) and The Everyday Parade/Alone With Turntable, Old Records (Crisis Chronicles Press, forthcoming). His work (poetry and fiction) has appeared, or will soon appear, in Nimrod, The New York Quarterly, Cream City Review, Hobart, Sugar House Review, Big Muddy, and a host of other publications. Justin earned his MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 2005.

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Nick Kocz’s short stories have most recently appeared or are forthcoming in Atticus Review, Entropy, Passages North, and Pinball. He is the recipient of the 2016 Washington Square Fiction Award. He lives in Blacksburg, VA with his wife and three children. Sometimes he blogs atnickkocz.com. This is his second story to be published in REAL: Regarding Arts and Letters. Kathleen Kraft’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in many journals, including Five Points, Gargoyle, Sugar House Review, and The Madison Review. Her chapbook, Fairview Road, was published in February 2015 by Finishing Line Press. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times, and attended the Sewanee Writers’ Conference in the summer of 2015. She lives in Jersey City, NJ, where she teaches writing, yoga, and movement. Christopher Maier is a writer, storyteller, and events organizer living in Washington, DC. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in magazines including Ninth Letter, Redivider, Sou’wester, Image, Spork, and more, with new work forthcoming in Queen Mob’s. He’s founder of Little Salon, which curates one-of-a-kind experiences that spotlight creativity in the nation’s capital, and runs Made By Little, a boutique creative agency that works with brands and communities to craft stories and curate experiences. Tony Mancus is the author of a handful of chapbooks, most recently City Country (Seattle Review), and collaboratively with Magus Magnus, a section of eckClogs (Furniture Press). With Meg Ronan he co-curates the In Your Ear reading series in Washington, DC, and with Sommer Browning he co-founded Flying Guillotine Press. He currently lives in Arlington, VA with his wife Shannon (the doctor), and three fuzzbucket cats.

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Devin Murphy ’s recent fiction appears in The Chicago Tribune, Glimmer Train, and The Missouri Review, The Michigan Quarterly Review, and New Stories From the Midwest as well as many others. He is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Bradley University. Donley Watt, who now lives in Santa Fe, NM, is the author of five books including Can You Get There from Here? which won the Texas Institute of Letters' award for best first book of fiction. His most recent essays have been published in Texas Monthly and the Los Angeles Review. Kate Wisel lives in Boston. Her fiction has appeared in The Drum, Mad Hatters’ Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, Fiction Southeast, Compose Journal, and her poetry in The Altar, The Blotter, Philadelphia Stories where her poem “The Fight” won “Editor’s Choice” and Neon magazine where she was nominated for The Forward Prize. She was awarded the Keach Prize in Poetry at The University of Massachusetts Boston. Her poem “Special Sauce” won Mass Poetry’s “Poetry on the T” contest. She has attended writing workshops in new Hampshire and Guatemala and was awarded a scholarship to the Wesleyan Writers Conference. She will be a first-year MFA candidate at Columbia College in the fall.

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images Pages 72-3: Barbershop, “Barbershop located on Church St., Nacogdoches, Texas; four African American men in early barbershop, ca 1900 (?). Gift of Stone Fort Museum, February, 1983. (P65S _21)” Back Cover: Boss Fidlers of East Texas, “Boss Fiddlers of East Texas; Nacogdoches, Texas, musician’s group, ca. pre1900.” (P86M _1) Pages 68-9: Boy and a Mule, “A photograph of a boy and a mule with a lumberyard visible in the distance. (P90T_299)” Page 3: Bus Trip, “A group of young adults sitting in a bus. In the foreground there is an older gentleman in a white cowboy hat. Directly behind him are two women in pinstriped clothes (possibly a uniform). Luggage can be seen on the overhead shelves. (KFP 136.jpg)” Pages 6-7: Campus Map, “Map of the Stephen F. Austin University campus, 1965.” (Map 421) Front Cover: Carnival, “People at carnival in downtown Nacogdoches, Texas; no date. There is a ferris wheel, ‘Lady Glass Blowers’ and a ‘Kinodrome’ theatre.” (P70E _1) Page 173: Civil Rights March, December 1968 (#1), “Picture of African American Paul Jackson at a Civil Rights March at West Side Washateria. Another march was held around the same time in downtown Nacogdoches, Texas, in December 1968.” (A202, Box3, Folder59) Page 173: Civil Rights March, December 1968 (#2), “Civil Rights March at West Side Washateria. Another march was held around the same time in downtown Nacogdoches, Texas, December 1968.” (A202, Box3, Folder59)

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Page 137: Cub Scouts, 1968, “A group of African American boys preparing for a musical program. The back of the picture says “Den 3 Pack 514 Cub Scouts with a cardboard stage set show boat they made for a musical program we did. Nacogdoches, Texas” 1968” (A202, Box3, Folder57) Page 61: Duck Dash, Rubber ducks used in the Duck Dash, sponsored by the Alumni Association. Page 127: Homecoming Float, “Students preparing their club’s float for the Stephen F. Austin State College Homecoming parade.” (Robinson, SFA Homecoming, 1962) Pages 70-1: Inside Bessmay, “An interior view of the Kirby Lumber Company’s Bessmay Mill with log cutting machinery and a group of employees.” June 1939 (p90k _89.jpg)

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berg eric lloyd blix doug bolling nate brown thea brown paul edward Costa jim Davis holly Day gary fincke joshua garcia sean gill justin hamm kathleen Kraft nick kocz Christopher Maier tony mancus devin murphy donley Watt kate wisel gary a.

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{vol. 39, no. 2} S&S 2016