Hulltown 360 Literary Journal Volume 2 Issue 1 January 2011
Managing Editors Jim Burfoot Jonathan Golden (Fiction) Tom Vanderlinden (Art & Graphics) Sandra Zona (Poetry) Contributing Editor Rick Burfoot Founding Editor and Webmaster Jim Burfoot Journal Design Tom Vanderlinden Handwriting by Janet Rowland. Hulltown 360 is published online quarterly. Please check the web site for publishing schedule and submission guidelines: www.hulltown360.org Hulltown 360 acknowledges the help and support of family members, friends and all the outstanding literary journals we read online and in print. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of literary journals on the web and/or in print. We love to read them. H360 is our contribution. We want to publish the work of emerging writers and artists—local and everywhere else—and so to make public the best new work. Hulltown 360 Literary Journal holds First Electronic Rights and First North American Rights. We are the first publication to feature the works online and in print. ISSN 2158-1363
360 Literary Journal
Volume 2 Issue 1
J.S. MacLean 5 Barns
Daniel W. Davis 6 Breakfast
Steven McCabe 10 Eliza Barnwell Heyward (1849-1871)
Benjamin Nardolilli 11 Cold Metal, Friendly Teak John Duffy 12 Watching Battleships Brittany Clark 17 Tangle
Ricki Garni 18 Sophie’s Choice
Bonnie Watson 20 Weapons Caster
Deborah Reed 21 Lana’s Cousin Cindy Len Kuntz 26 Big Oak Thomas McKinlay Vanderlinden 27 Returning from the Burial Henry Brasater 28 The Trouble with Jimmy
Geoff Peck 38 February, PA
Gary Beck 39 Disasters
William Hicks 40 The End Christine Stoddard 42 The Price of Green Grapes Thomas Michael McDade 43 The Pleasure Ernest Williamson III 49 Peace in the White Room William Doreski 50 The Death of Small Pets
52 Authors and Artists 54 Where is Hulltown 360?
Welcome to Hulltown With very little fear but a great deal of ignorance I created, edited and uploaded Volume 1 Issue 1 of the Hulltown 360 Literary Journal way back in September 2010. Thank goodness for my two contributors and their accompanying talent ! Driving on I-95 North to work in early November, my brain more on the next issue of H360 than the road, I kept hearing “no man is an island entire of itself” rattle around in my head. (If you Google that phrase right now you’ll get about 200 million hits.) I took it as a message from my mom, the high school English teacher, who passed away three years ago in December. Thanks, Mom. So that brings me to Volume 2 Issue 1. What a difference the help of editors more knowledgeable than I brings to our little magazine! Welcome to Jonathan, Tom, Sandra and Rick. They are all citizens of this e-community called Hulltown. They are always welcome here. And welcome to the writers and artists of Volume 2 Issue 1. Ride along with them through words and pictures. This is a journey I think we think you will thoroughly enjoy. Thank you, JiMB January 2011
J.S. MacLean Barns I theorize that alien families shipwrecked here long ago
disguised themselves as heartland barns, acting servants to human folks
where they find familial comfort, because they never can go home. Mothers hay, a mewling haven
just beyond the Guernsey realm;
fathers boards, clapping at fastballs
flung by boys with World Series dreams;
dusty rafter kids peering through cracks at kisses stolen behind.
They slouch when their people move,
but look as if theyâ€™d straighten up if others arrived to settle down.
Even when newly raised or splashed
that red, they appear like landscape, spooning in curves of woven crops behind billowing copses. They
lean on the wind towards the houses, arching spines like those sleepy dogs
that settle by hearths and under suns that warm the kindly farms of Earth.
Daniel W. Davis
Sheryl thought for a moment that Kyle was going to break up with her. He had that look on his face, the kind that said, Okay, here it is, let me get this over with and then you can cry. Sure, they’d been having some rough times—she was in graduate school, he was working two jobs. That was called living, though, that’s what people like them did on a daily basis. Wasn’t he up to it? She’d thought he was. Instead of splitting with her, Kyle said, “I want to move to Seattle.” The word stopped her for a moment, caused her to blink at him. Had he said it? He had. Seattle. She closed her eyes so she wouldn’t say the first thing that came into her mind. Seattle. Jesus. He really wanted to, that was the problem. She’d caught that wistful look in his eyes—the look that said, Things are better in the city, we’ll be okay, we’ll get along. The look that said, You’re wrong, Sheryl, let me prove it to you. When she felt safe to speak, she said, “Kyle, we’ve talked about this.” And they had. Extensively. Or at least Kyle had; Sheryl’s answer had always been “no,” followed by some string of qualifying words that added little to the discussion. She hated Seattle. Hated it. “These small towns,” he said, as if they lived in more than one at the same time, as if Murphy was a conglomerate of all Pacific Northwest towns, everywhere but Seattle rolled into one. He should’ve known better; he’d lived in Murphy his entire life, same as her. They’d been coming to Bee’s Diner their entire lives, the past year as a couple. They’d walked down Maine Street
Daniel W. Davis
(and how he hated the pun), they’d hit the local bar (The Place, because there was no other), they’d made out at the local make-out spot, and they’d gone boating on the reservoir. They’d done all the little small town things their entire lives, and suddenly, in the past six months, he’d gotten sick of it. His word. “Sick.” Like a cold. “I can’t breathe here,” he told her. He always emphasized the word “breathe.” “I need somewhere…somewhere…” “Somewhere you can be yourself,” she told him. He smiled. “Yes. Exactly. There’s so much happening in Seattle.” Again, same emphasis. Breathe. Happening. Advancement. Dream. Words with power. Words that conjured an image of Seattle, or at least a big city. To Kyle, Sheryl was sure, big cities were all the same, just as small towns were all the same. If they’d been in Illinois, he would want to go to Chicago. Seattle meant nothing in itself. It just meant…opportunity. She wanted to ask what he planned to do there; but, knowing the answer, she just shook her head and took another bite of her pancakes, turning to look out the window at the street. A quiet morning. Wintry but calm. Not much traffic. The kind of morning she liked. Behind Sheryl, an elderly woman was complaining about a daughter who never called. Sheryl made a note to pay a visit to her own mother in the home. It’d been at least a week. “Look,” Kyle said. He pushed his plate away and stood; again, Sheryl had an image of his leaving the diner, turning his back on her and just walking out. …he closed the bathroom door Instead, he said, “I need to go completely, whereas she left it open to the restroom. Think about crack, for ventilation. it, okay?” He went towards the back of the diner. She watched him leave, then turned back to her pancakes. Think about it. His going to the bathroom? He sat down to pee; he’d been embarrassed about it, had babbled and blushed the first time she caught him at it. She’d laughed at his embarrassment, laughing even harder when he took it the wrong way. It took a long time to convince him she didn’t think him less of a man; and to this
Daniel W. Davis
day, he closed the bathroom door completely, whereas she left it open a crack, for ventilation. She’d even heard him lock it on a couple of occasions. What did he do in public restrooms? Surely, someone who preferred to sit would be uncomfortable using public toilets. Sheryl was; she didn’t go unless she had to. Did Kyle put toilet paper on the seats, if those flimsy seat-covers weren’t available? Did he hover over the seats? He had terrible balance; she pictured him tripping, falling into the toilet, and laughed so hard her latest bite of pancakes flew onto the plate. A lady sitting at the table opposite her— middle-aged and resenting it—glared at her. Behind Sheryl, the old lady said, “I’d just like a phone call, Diane. One phone call, to let me know she cares if I’m alive.” Someone (Diane?): “Merriam, you know she cares about you. She’s busy.” Another stressed word: busy. One that Kyle didn’t use here, but one he would surely find a need for in Seattle. Seattle. The thought of being surrounded He wasn’t used to the sharp by all those people…perhaps, to her as well, all big cities were the same. But corners of small towns, small towns were different, each with not in his truck. their own personality. She was attuned to Murphy. It was her home. She wouldn’t leave, even if it meant disappointing or—dare she think about it—losing Kyle. She noticed the screech of tires peripherally, the way she noticed the glare of the woman across from her, and the hurt in the old lady’s voice. Part of her acknowledged the fact that whatever made the screech was big, heavy. A large truck, perhaps. In fact, it was a flatbed semi, hauling freshly cut trees from the northern end of the state. The driver was running late; he’d gotten lost, hence his appearance on Maine Street. He wasn’t used to the sharp corners of small towns, not in his truck. A green light was a green light, and when the truck turned too wide, he overcompensated, turning the wheel too sharply in the opposite direction. Another man sometime earlier—hung over, most likely; that’s the way it goes, isn’t it?—had failed to secure the tree tightly enough. They were mostly up to standard, as investigators would later determine; but one latch hadn’t been as secure as it should have, and the sharp turn was the last in a series of give-and-takes that snapped the latch open. And when one went, as Eisenhower warned us would happen way back when, they all went,
Daniel W. Davis
all the latches, and one tree—not the uppermost, but one nearer the middle, on the outside, with the pressure from other trees atop it—flew out, hitting a lamppost that had been installed against most of Murphy’s residents’ wishes (they felt it detracted from the rustic décor of the downtown area). The lamppost saved Sheryl’s life; it displaced the tree’s momentum just enough so that, when it came bursting in through the front window of Bee’s Diner, Sheryl—and the other patrons sitting nearby, the glaring woman, the old lady, and someone who may have been named Diane—were spared its full impact. Instead, the glass caught them first, cutting their faces and ripping their clothing. Then the tree hit them, knocking them all onto the floor. If the tree had not hit the lamppost first, it would have fallen on top of Sheryl (the other three would’ve been spared), crushing her, causing her a slow, agonizing death as firemen struggled to pry the tree off. Instead, it came to rest across the tables, directly on top of her pancakes. It rolled for a second, appeared ready to topple off the tables, then stopped. Sheryl lay in the glass on the floor. She wasn’t cut as bad as the old lady or her friend, but she was bleeding more than she ever had at one time. Her mind went somewhere else: to Kyle, in the restroom, sitting daintily on the toilet seat, cocking his head to wonder what all the commotion was. “Stand up and be a man,” she said, and the waitress who was kneeling next to her gave her a tender pat on the back and said, “That’s right, be tough.” Sheryl laughed, continued laughing, and the waitress joined her, all the while glancing at the tree and wondering just what was so funny about all of this.
Eliza Barnwell Heyward (1849-1871)
Benjamin Nardolilli Cold Metal, Friendly Teak The steel was made by human hands, Poured through machines designed By engineers waiting for Friday
And the next cup of tepid coffee. It was heated, cooled, then bent,
The metal was forced into a shape, A steady diet of more machines
Choreographed and posed the steel. The steel was given a new life,
Not hidden away in a building,
But placed inside this living room For everyoneâ€™s seating pleasure.
Except mine, I am taking my recline In the sun and on soft wood,
The fresh air has its advantages
Over reading in a regulated climate. The wood has its benefits as well, All my indoor furniture schemes With plots to overthrow me,
And leave me sitting on the floor. I cannot trust the shining tubular steel Bent through effort and force,
It was made into unnatural shapes
And now they want to be straight again.
Bubba Linkous went to every store in town that would let him write the check over the amount of purchase. He wrote checks for a Reese’s cup plus ten over, a soda plus five. At Lowe’s Foods he bought a 2 pound bag of peppermint disks and got a twenty-dollar bill back as change. He sat in the parking lot with his minty fresh breath counting money. Just over $100.00. With the full tank he bounced another check for, Bubba had enough gas and cash to make it from Blacksburg to Va. Beach. And back…maybe. He turned his small pick up into the trailer park, careful to miss the green trash can sleeping in the middle of the one paved road throughout. He pulled in next to their weather warped deck and cut the knocking engine. Bubba’s green eyes surveyed the trailer. He waited to hear music, the TV, or crying. Anything. The silence upset him though he knew noise would’ve been just as off-putting. He worked his tall bulky frame out of the truck and stepped softly up the six steps. He stood on the deck. Bubba saw the torn diaper package and knew he was doing the right thing. “Everyone needs to getaway sometime.” he said. The smell of cigarettes and kerosene met Bubba as he entered. Ruckus, their tabby, ran towards him, mewing. “Honey, didju feed Ruckus?” He looked towards the hall leading to the bedrooms. He put the store bags on the kitchen peninsula. Dumping cat food into an old Cool Whip container, he spoke to the silent hallway.
“Honey, you wanna go to the beach? You said last night we oughtta getaway…we can go today if you wanna…” Bubba walked down the narrow hallway, the brown paneling bowed out to meet his shoulders. She was wearing a stained, blue shirt with TALLADEGA written across the back. Her hair extended down to the small of her back. She sat on the edge of the bed smoking a cigarette. Bubba could smell her from across the room. What’s it been, 3-4 days since she showered up? “Honey, you wanna go to the beach? I got some money and time, if you wanna go? Truck’s all full up with gas and everything.” She reached down to the floor in front of her and picked up a diaper. She held it up so Bubba could see the name “Marie Faith” He sat in the parking lot written across the unused material. with his minty fresh breath “You like Marie Faith? It’s a pretty name counting money. for a girl ain’t it Daddy?” “Yeah, honey it sure is…You gotta boy’s name today?” “Butch Carson Linkous…that’s a good boy’s name ain’t it Daddy?” She lifted another diaper. It had blue trim at the top. “Yeah, honey it sure is…you wanna go see the beach today? You always been wantin’ to go and I got some money and time. Truck’s full o’ gas.” “I know you ain’t got any money. We got too many babies for you to have money…” “I got some extra money Mama.” She turned to look at him. Her face was gaunt with tired dark blue eyes. Thin lips puffed white smoke as she said, “Bubba. You never call me Mama. Not since. That’s not nice.” “I’m sorry Honey.” “Did you make hotel reservations online? That’s what people with extra money do these days. The use their computer internet stuff to make sure they got reservations.” “I got some extra money, Honey.” “Enough for food too?” Forum
“I been shopping all morning honey. We got plenty of food for a trip to Virginia Beach.” “I don’t have a bathing suit.” “I betcha they sell ‘em down there by the beach side.” Bubba said. “They call it an ocean front, or a boulevard.” Honey said. “So, you wanna go? I figure it’s about five hours ride from here.” “I’ll shower up some.” Bubba smiled. “We’ll have a great time at the beach Honey.” “Don’t forget the twins, Bubba. They need a getaway too.” * * * They were just outside of Bedford before either spoke. Honey kept quiet when Bubba pulled out his hand written directions. He didn’t go the computer internet like he was supposed to…She thought. Honey sat in the truck’s passenger seat bouncing two diapers on her knee. She sang Elmo songs softly. “Look Honey. That store has a tree growing through the roof.” “Pay attention to the road Bubba. You gotta family to look after.” “Ok.” He knew there was a word for it, but didn’t know how to say it, or if it was the right word. Bubba watched the small towns drift by, places he’d only see once, maybe twice in his life. Some folks know they’ll never do much, or see many things. Bubba Linkous knew the moment he saw Honey waitressing at Denny’s she was all the world he needed to see. When he was drinking he …it was useless…she would tell her how he saw the oceans in her deep never felt either of them blue eyes, snow-capped mountains on her pale move again. flesh, and how, sometimes, her lips were as sweet and plush as a rainforest. She’d giggle. He’d say, Naw, I mean it. Love was the simplest word but he sure there was a better word for he and Honey. “I need to pee somewhere and Butch Carson wants to get out of the seat a while.” Honey said suddenly. “Ok.” Bubba said. He pulled into a convenience store along 460.
“Here…” Honey said, “…you hold the twins. You know how they don’t like strangers. Plus, all the perverts out there…” Bubba took the diapers from Honey’s hand. She hurried inside. The baby shower was held at the Grange out in Floyd County. Honey was excited about the pregnancy, the babies kicking, the cake, the whole shebang… Bubba was looking for cash only work when Honey came back to the trailer with dozens of gifts. When she slipped on the top step she screamed but could feel it was useless…she never felt either of them move again. She wept without end. Bubba made it to the hospital an hour later. Honey was on the bed, with two diapers in her hand. The ER Nurse said Honey wouldn’t calm down unless they gave her two diapers. It was two months later when she started writing names on them. Bubba lost track of the names and the number of diapers he’d bought on behalf of his dead twins. * * * When they pulled on Atlantic Avenue, Bubba said, “There it is Honey, just like you wanted. The Ocean. Damn, it’s huge ain’t it?” He glanced over and saw her eyes become misty. Bubba parked the truck outside The Commodore Travel Lodge and rushed in, handing the clerk a peppermint candy. “This is our first real getaway, me and Honey. Everyone needs a getaway.” The motel clerk smiled despite himself. Bubba’s eyes were wide, electric. Bubba forked over $42.00 of their bounced check money and went outside to get Honey and the diapers. Their room smelled musty but seemed clean enough to the couple. It was off-season. The beach was empty and the Boardwalk, which Bubba thought was a one-lane paved road like back home, was quiet. Honey carefully set the diapers on the bed closest to the large window. There were two beds and Honey decided the Twins would sleep farthest from the door. Bubba looked at her as she ran a hand across the top of the diaper labeled Marie Faith. “You’re both beautiful.” She turned and smiled at him. He opened the patio door and stepped on the balcony. The chilled wind
lifted off the Atlantic as Bubba marveled at the lumbering gray ships on the horizon. “Honey, I bet them are battleships headin’ over to Iraq. You know, I was gonna join the Navy once. Be a sailor.” “Keep it down, the twins. Shhhh…” “Ok.” He waited for the ships to move, and growing bored, moved his eyes up and down the beach. Back home, on TV, the sands were covered with half-dressed women, tan lifeguards, and bucket toting kids sporting sun screened noses; but Bubba only saw the brownish-white sand of an October beach. He grinned. Who would ever sell their land to strangers and give up this view? He decided that part of his Lottery Winning dream would be to buy a beach somewhere and only visit in October. He’d take Honey and the twins along and the four of them would bet on battleship races. He popped a peppermint disk in his mouth. Honey walked out and stood next to him. “Oh Bubba. This is… I mean.” “Just like you always wanted?” “Yes.” She began to cry. “It’s so far from Home here. But still. It…” “It feels like home too.” Bubba said. “Yes.” She held onto him tight. He put his arm around her. “I know this ain’t real Bubba.” “What ain’t real?” “This. I mean….the twins. I ain’t crazy. They’re just diapers with names I wrote on them.” “Ok.” “I just can’t…” She gripped him tighter and reached up to kiss his cheek. He felt her tears on his cold skin. “You ain’t gotta ‘til you’re ready.” Bubba smiled as a battleship made its way across the horizon. There was a better word for he and Honey. He just didn’t know what it was.
Brittany Clark Tangle For L I can feel my pulse in my neck, my wrist, my temple… and so can you. It is the same pulse, pulsating a rhythm of unity.
But at times, it isn’t the same.
It can be a tangle of syncopated beats, missing count of one another, passing by without notice.
It is beautiful in every sense of the world. (and by “sense” I mean the five) (and by “five” I mean:
the taste of understanding, the smell of existence, the feel of
invincibility, the sight of
harmony, the sound of poetry). I need you to know that I am not an “I,” and you are not a “you,” and we are not a “we,”
and “I” was forced to write that letter to “you” so that “we” would end…
But we both know there will never be an end. Everything is (always) what it is meant to be.
Ricky Garni Sophieâ€™s Choice
Lana’s Cousin Cindy
None of this would have happened if I hadn’t had such a plain face. Or if Lana (whoever she is) hadn’t got the flu. Or if Mrs. Post hadn’t encouraged us to bring friends and relatives to the party. Or if I hadn’t found that skirt… I could go on and on. Suffice it to say that many circumstances came together to bring about the events of last night, none of which, I’m sure you’ll …a wallflower even agree, were my fault. in church. I guess I should start at the beginning. The Bible class is so big, you see. Big enough to have its own little cliques, none of which I belong to. Oh, I tried to fit in, for a while at least, but everyone already knew everyone else before I joined the class. And I just didn’t seem to have the social skills necessary to break into the alreadyexisting groups of friends. So I would just sit there every Sunday, alone in the back of the large room, a wallflower even in church. I tried to tell myself that it didn’t matter, that one does not go to church to socialize, but it did matter and that is probably one of the reasons I am here right now. If only one person had paid a little attention to me, none of this would have happened. I almost didn’t go to the Halloween party—I mean, what was the point? But Saturday nights are so lonely for me, and I had been invited after all. Sister Margaret had said the party was for the whole class and I was a member of the class, wasn’t I? So yesterday afternoon found me rummaging
through closets for a costume. Nothing scary or evil-looking, Sister Margaret had instructed. No masks. I had changed my mind about going several times before I found the skirt. It was a little long on me, but the wide black waistband fit me snugly, and its voluptuous folds hid the fact that I really had no hips. It was black with little silver diamonds that shimmered when I walked. It was obviously a party skirt, not meant for church or office, but this was a party, wasn’t it? Once I saw the skirt, and how great it looked on me, I decided I definitely had to go. Nothing scary or evilA black scoop-necked blouse complemented the skirt perfectly. I arranged it so that my looking, Sister Margaret shoulders were showing and stood in front of the had instructed. mirror to gauge the effect. With the right makeup No masks. and jewelry, I would look just like a gypsy. I had no makeup or jewelry, but Mom did, and she agreed to not only loan me hers, but to help me get dressed. The rose-beige foundation hid the little imperfections of my complexion, giving me a youthful, glowing look. The blush accentuated my cheekbones, making my round face look slimmer and somehow more sophisticated. It took several layers of jet-black mascara to coat my sparse eyelashes and several minutes to apply the gray eye shadow correctly, but it was worth it. Sister Margaret had said no masks, but it was almost like I was wearing one. Having a plain face has its advantages—you look totally different with makeup on. My near-flat chest was a problem, one I solved with tissues and a strapless bra, rationalizing that it was, after all, a costume. A large array of long gaudy necklaces around my neck and huge silver hoops in my ears completed the outfit. I stared at the mirror incredulously. I looked stunning. I didn’t even look like me. I felt different, too, as I walked the three blocks to the church social hall— more confident and, well, almost pretty. Two guys I passed actually turned to stare at me as I walked past them. That had never happened before. I began to get nervous, however, as I approached the brightly-lit hall. The double doors were wide open, revealing a large, gymnasium-type room decorated with plastic pumpkins and black and orange streamers. Loud music spilled out into the mild October night.
I paused several feet from the door, my confidence ebbing, trying to summon the courage to enter the room. I was sure that, once again, I would be totally ignored. “Cindy?” The voice behind me startled me. I realized someone was talking to me. “You’re Cindy, right? Lana’s cousin?” I recognized Marion Jenkins immediately, despite her princess costume. Makeup hadn’t changed her face as drastically as it had mine. But why was she calling me Cindy? “Lana told me to be on the lookout for you. Is she feeling any better? I guess not, since you’re here by yourself. Don’t be shy, we’re all friends here. I’ll introduce you around.” I could do no more than stare at her stupidly. This Cindy person was obviously Lana’s cousin, but who was Lana? Apparently one of Marion’s friends, one I had yet to put a name to. It occurred to me that Marion didn’t recognize me either, although I was unsure if it was because of my costume or simply because she had never bothered to notice me. Regardless of the reason, she now thought I was Cindy, cousin of the sick Lana. I was just opening my mouth to disavow her of that notion when Carolyn Masters joined us. “Carolyn, I’d like to introduce you to Lana’s cousin, Cindy,” Marion said. “Hi, Cindy, is Lana feeling any better?” I was beginning to envy Lana, whoever she was; everyone was so concerned over her health. “A little,” I found myself saying. Marion grasped my elbow and propelled me into the hall. Carolyn began to chatter about how much fun were we were going to have and how they were going to introduce me to all their friends. Cindy, it seemed, was short for Cinderella, and it looked like I was going to have a great time at the ball. * * * And I did, for a while. Have a great time, I mean. Everyone seemed so happy to meet me, thinking I was the cousin of the popular Lana and wanting me to feel welcome. I slipped easily into the role, graciously thanking everyone for their effusive compliments on my costume, smiling sweetly when introduced to people I already knew, even flirting with the male members of the class.
There was dancing, and lots of food, and several activity booths. Cindy, I decided, was an excellent dancer and I found myself dancing almost every dance, graciously accepting glasses of punch from my attentive partners, and exchanging mindless chatter with my new friends over the buffet table. Everyone wanted to meet me and except for the fact that I was growing weary of discussing Lanaâ€™s flu, I was having the time of my life. I eventually grew tired of dancing, and Marion and her friends had wandered away, so I decided to visit the activity booths. But the Haunted House was not a bit scary and the pumpkin I carved at the pumpkin-carving booth looked ridiculous. I was getting a little bored and was toying with the idea of summoning my coach before it turned into a pumpkin when I saw the bobbing-for-apples booth. One more activity, I decided, then home to bed. I was sixth in line for the bobbing. Sister Margaret was manning the booth, enjoying herself immensely as her students pushed their faces into the chilly water, mouths wide open in futile attempts to catch the elusive apples. Each one tried for only a few seconds before arising, laughing and shrugging as if they didnâ€™t bother to try too hard because it was impossible anyway. For some reason, I decided to prove them wrong. It suddenly became extremely important that I catch one of those apples. And the little gift that was given to successful bobbers would make an excellent souvenir of my magical evening. When it was my turn I, too, dipped my face into the water. I immediately saw the difficulty of the task. No wonder the others had given up so easily. Each time I tried to grasp an apple with my teeth, it would slither away before I could capture it. My lungs were just beginning to signal to my brain that perhaps I should breathe now when I hit upon the idea of pushing an apple to the bottom of the tub. I half-stood, face still in the water, and immersed myself almost to the waist in the large vat, pushing a small apple to the bottom as I did so. I opened my mouth as wide as it would go and bit into the skin just enough to secure it between my teeth. I stood up, dripping wet, gasping for breath, the apple still in my mouth. This was my first lesson on what you can do if you really set your mind to it and I was triumphant. Dripping wet, but triumphant. I blinked the water from my eyes and stared at the others, most of whom were staring at me. I had a sudden picture of how ridiculous I looked, what with an apple in my mouth and all. My costume was soaking wet, including
the tissues, revealing the extent of my deception. Mascara was streaming down my face and dripping onto my blouse, which was so waterlogged that it was clinging to my skinny torso. Water was dripping from me in torrents, forming a wide puddle at my shoes. I had once again made a social blunder—I should have realized that looking nice at a party is more important than catching an apple in your mouth. Everyone continued to stare as I removed the apple. Then Marion narrowed her eyes, studying my now-bare face. “You’re not Cindy, are you?” …an excellent souvenir I just stood there, dripping and saying my magical evening. nothing. “You told me you were Cindy,” she accused. I shook my head, sending little drops of apple-water to nearby partygoers. I could think of nothing to say. Marion turned around to face the others behind her. She had everyone’s attention now, including Sister Margaret’s. “She told me she was Lana’s cousin. She let us think that all night.” I had said no such thing, of course, but it was close enough to the truth that I could not in all honesty object. I remained silent. The crowd began to turn ugly. Apparently passing yourself off as the cousin of a sick friend was a major crime to this set. They began to murmur loudly. Just who did I think I was, what a despicable thing to do, just what was I trying to prove? I, of course, was not trying to prove anything. I had simply wanted to make friends. My heart began to pound wildly as they slowly walked toward me, fury in their eyes. I know this sounds melodramatic, but I was almost in fear for my life. I backed slowly away, hitting my hip on the pumpkin-carving booth. I reached behind me and found the knife. I wasn’t going to use it, please understand that, I just thought they would leave me alone if I had it in my hand. You’ve got to believe me when I say I never meant to stab Marion, she just got too close, it was like a reflex reaction. Charging me with attempted homicide is ridiculous. I would never harm anyone on purpose. Okay, I’ve written my statement like you asked me to. Now that you know the whole story, you can see that it was just an accident, can’t you? Please believe me. I want my mommy. I’m only ten years old and I want to go home.
Len Kuntz Big Oak I am busy holding myself together. In the mirror I am pulleys and strings and wrong answers. My sister claims I am thinner than her, a broom handle. She says she can make bows out of my skin. She tosses candy wrappers at me and chuckles. Mother watches from the kitchen, blurry-eyed and bored, drawing hard on a cigarette, as if self-immolating. Our house is a bear trap that I hate. The walls smell like sins and sewers and burnt things, so I go out to the backyard. I make sure no one’s watching. I hide behind the big oak, use my hands to dig, fingertips going raw in seconds. I shouldn’t have buried it so deep, but it’s hard to be trustworthy with the world. The planet feels heavy and sluggish, a jug of gasoline, sloshing forward so obese. I dust dirt off the metal box and open it. Unwrap the cloth and take out the photograph. We were three. My twin looked like me, maybe a little smarter with his lip cricked. I feel guilty that I can’t remember him. We would have shared meals together, TV time, sang. We might have played tag round this tree. Dad said we were playing Hide and Seek and that he didn’t see Jesse tucked behind the rear wheel. I might have been the only one who believed him. Still, he shouldn’t have killed himself. Losing both of them has dried up all my sweet spots. I hear the new man’s truck pulling up, coughing like a dragon, stereo thumping full blast. No matter what she says, no matter how many times she hits me, I’ll never call him Dad. I put back the box, bury it, stand up and watch the sun dart through the leaves of the big oak as if it’s a playground and the spackles of light are alive.
The shapes and colors of the land below me are most amazing. Ancient. Unchanging. And yet it is a roaring sea of tumult, as mountains have risen apparently just last week, and sand dunes are throbbing in barren basins between growth and death. Chlorophyll life forms crawl up the foothills, crowding at the waist of stony peaks whose cliff-sides are splitting, falling and then shattering into steep sliding slopes of jumbled rock. Clouds chase over the landscape easy as antelope or wildebeest across a great valley. Rivers twist and wriggle in agony as they struggle to free themselves from the heavy burdens of water, tumbling gravel, silt, and a billion fish and frogs and tennis balls and old tires.
Returning from the burial of my mother, 14 August 2010.
The Trouble With Jimmy
Abelard Raine’s ringing phone jangled his nerves, causing him to spill the last sip of whiskey that he was raising to his mouth. The alcohol fell onto his lap and not the couch. “Abe, you busy?” It was Molly Brown’s voice. With his free hand he pushed tax papers away from him. “Nope.” He looked down at his wet lap. “Millicent Neff is with me. She’s got a photograph that I think you should see.” “Photograph? Millicent Neff? Is it one of her in the nude?” “Are you in your cups?” “Far from it. I haven’t had a drink since…. What time is it? Anyway, since I spilled it in my lap when the phone rang. Why didn’t she come directly to me, instead of you?” In a lowered voice, Molly replied: “She’s afraid of you.” “Afraid of me? Why?” “Because you’re not from Lancaster County. Can we come over?” “Now?” He looked at the clock and again at his wet pants. “Not too late?” “Never for you, babe…and, the nude septuagenarian calling herself Miss Neff.” “Abelard!” The phone went dead. He had confidence in Molly Asmara Brown, ‘Asmara’ meaning ‘beautiful
butterfly’ in Eritrean. If she were concerned there might be a puzzle to look into. Standing, he looked down at the wet spot and rushed to change pants. * * * “I thought I might be lucky enough to…get a picture of…Hettie’s ghost. She’s been seen, you know, at times…with her broom on the front porch. Uh… President Buchanan’s housekeeper, you know. But…but….” She was looking down at a small photograph held too tightly by her slim fingers. Raine was well aware that the fifteenth president of the United States and his …he looked down at the ‘housekeeper’ had been dead long enough for reported ghost sightings in and around the old wet spot and rushed to residence; at the least, it was a good business change pants. gimmick for tour guides to talk about with visitors from Altoona. Millicent Neff finally reached the small photograph out to Raine as they both sat on each end of the couch with plenty of space between them. She was a diminutive and frightened bird-type creature. Looking over her shoulder was a habit of hers during much of each day when she was out of her Chestnut Village apartment; she did so now, glancing furtively toward Molly Brown who was seated in a wing-backed chair near Millicent’s end of the couch in the great room of Abelard Raine’s villa. The photograph showed a front view of Wheatland, President James Buchanan’s house located a mile down the road toward Lancaster city center. It was a colored photograph and obviously taken in the late afternoon with too many deep shadows to be called a really good candid piece of work. “I…just got my pictures back from CVS this evening. Uh…”—Millicent looked again toward Molly Brown—”their one-hour service, you know. Only…I didn’t pick them up exactly one hour after I turned them in. I didn’t get to the drugstore until after dark and…I didn’t look at them immediately after getting home…I put a cake in the oven….” Her voice trailed off as she realized the beginnings of jabber, something that she had a tendency to do when feeling anxious. Raine nodded. “…Standing on the Marietta Pike sidewalk to take this, looks like.” Millicent Neff pushed her lips close together and nodded. Her eyes were
big as she glanced back and forth between Abelard Raine and the photograph that she had handed him. Raine studied the shadowy picture of a well-preserved Federal-style home with three-floored wings recessed a few feet on each side of the central structure. He recalled reading somewhere that Buchanan had given campaign speeches from the Doric-columned front porch of the seventeen-room mansion. “A beautifully preserved old home; photogenic,” Raine said reaching out to return the photograph to its owner. Millicent Neff stared at Raine without taking the photograph. “It’s not just the house, Abelard,” Molly Brown interjected. “It’s what’s on it, or rather, hanging from it. Take another look at the left side of the building.” Millicent Neff nodded agreement and took in a deep breath. He looked at the photo again, shaking his head. Then, Raine tilted his torso toward the lamp light at the end of the couch while bringing the picture closer to his eyes. “A magnifying glass would help,” Molly Brown said. Not taking his eyes off of the picture Raine replied: “…The lamp table drawer near you….” He continued shaking his head slowly, not certain about what he might be seeing in dark shadows on the home’s east side. Molly stood in front of him holding out a magnifying glass. Raine moved the glass up and down to get the right focus for his eyes. Finally, he said hoarsely: “…Well, I’ll be….” Millicent Neff nodded again. “…It’s…it looks like—” “—A body,” Molly finished his sentence. “…A rope around the neck of”—he moved the glass up and down, again— ”looks like…a man…with the rope’s other end tied at the chimney!” Raine moved away from the lamplight and sat back on the couch. He blinked his eyes a few times. He leaned in to the lamplight and put the glass again to the photograph. This time, he slowly nodded: “…It’s a body hanging down from the east wing roof line…in deep shadows made more difficult to see because of contrasting last rays of late afternoon sun striking some of the mansion’s west side.” He squinted his eyes. “A man, I think; paunch belly, toped
hair, tail coat—is that a tie or neckerchief flowing away from his high shirt collar? He’s dressed…in…a costume—” “—Or, clothes from another era,” Molly whispered. “It’s him,” Millicent Neff said. She started bobbing her head up and down again. “Him?” Raine asked continuing to exam the photo. Millicent Neff’s voice held a tone of awe: “…The President, James Buchanan!” She looked at Raine and then up at Molly Brown. “…Uh, his ghost, don’t you know?” * * * He braked his Porsche 911 to an abrupt hault with the front wheels sliding off of the blacktop parking lot behind Lancaster’s Historical Society and Buchanan’s old home. Raine extricated himself non-decorously from the seat …he chanced flashing the that seemed to get smaller every year and light long enough to see immediately began throwing his flashlight a Lancaster omnipresent beam past a large privy and over to the lagomorph… Stauffer memorial brick walk and garden. He took care on the curving brick walkway until finally the flashlight’s beam caught the east side of Buchanan’s home. He trained light on the east wing chimney while continuing to walk slowly. Stumbling once, Raine stopped to tilt the light slowly down the east wing all brick wall to the ground; the same location where the hanging body was seen on Millicent Neff’s photograph. Nothing. He swirled the flashlight beam all around the side of the house. He switched the light off and stood quietly. ‘Do all ghosts make sounds?’ he asked himself. Nada. With no traffic on Marietta Pike and President Avenue, he turned the flashlight on again sweeping the east wing wall a second time. Still nothing. He involuntarily turned the light off when he heard a noise. Something scampered past his right leg and he chanced flashing the light long enough to see a Lancaster omnipresent lagomorph run through low slung crape myrtle and Korean dogwoods and toward the Historical Society building. His breathing was deep and his heart pounded hard while beginning a cautious circumnavigation the entire house without the aid of the flashlight until he wound up back at his Porsche.
Upon returning to his Chestnut Village villa he phoned Millicent Neff to inform her that he had not found a body, or any anomaly at the late President’s home. Her response carried disappointment as well as confusion. Promising to continue looking around next day and that he would keep her informed, Raine pushed the button on the phone and dialed another number. “…Who’z’t?” came a surly voice on the other end of the receiver. Raine simply said: “…Me….” “Youse! What t’hell y’callin’ t’is time a’night? You’re in trouble, right? Better yet, yuh finally done it an’got yersel’ thrown behin’ bars where yuhv belonged ferever! You’re usin’ yer one call an’ decided t’dump yer misery on me!” “None of that.” “Oh.” Homicide detective Thomas Cohan sounded genuinely disappointed. “So…?” “Got a question for you, cop.” “Whatzit?” “Uh…heard anything about some body hanging around Wheatland?” “Somebody loitering? Wheatland, y’say?” “Uhmm….” “See someone what oughten t’be there, did youse? Tuhnight?” “I didn’t see anyone when I was there a while ago, but another Chestnut Village resident caught something.” “I’ll call. Ask fer a car t’go ‘roun’ the place an’check’t out.” “Thanks Timmy. I owe you one!” “Y’owe me more’n one, bub! I’ll call y’back in a few minutes.” Lancaster homicide detective Thomas Cohan was good on his promises as well as being prompt; Raine knew that. Settling down next to the phone he picked up his latest copy of National Geographic. A feature by a blond American babe showing pictures and providing comments about how terrible it was for Ethiopian, Kenya and Tanzania women to carry water everyday caused him to throw the magazine onto a nearby recliner and exclaim aloud to the author: “…You’d be a damned sight more healthy and look better if you did that for a month, sis!” He frowned when his thoughts came back to the hereand-now. Again, he spoke aloud: “…If Buchanan died in an upstairs bedroom from a cold and complications, what the hell is his ghost doin’ hanging by a
rope from the east side wing of the house?” * * * Cohan’s phone call reporting nothing had been seen at Wheatland, prompted Raine to drive again the following morning to the Historical Society and Buchanan home parking lot. He sat in his Porsche studying the east side and back of Buchanan’s home as best he could through Dawn Redwoods, Franklin Trees, Cutleaf Japanese Maples and Southern Magnolias; he saw nothing unusual from the east wing chimney down to the ground. His attention turned for a few minutes to a handful of tourists beginning their Wheatland tour at the President’s Shop and Visitor Center, then he drove home. He phoned Millicent Neff to make another report and obtain the time of day that she had taken her photo; he would see what his Minolta captured at Wheatland. Molly Brown accompanied Raine to Wheatland at noontime when Raine took twelve pictures, carefully noting the time with each number. Molly had a previous appointment that she could not break for the evening, leaving Raine standing on the Marietta Pike sidewalk in front of Wheatland at about the same time that Millicent Neff had taken her pictures the previous late afternoon. Raine snapped the remaining twelve pictures on his roll of film, carefully noting times, positions of the setting sun as well as moving back and forth on the sidewalk to obtain slightly different angles of Wheatland. He walked the driveway on the west side of the mansion causing him to traverse the entire back of the house to his car. He saw nothing out of the ordinary and said hello to three people leaving the Historical Society several yards east of Wheatland. Leaving his film at CVS for one-hour processing, he drove to the Chestnut Village café for a late dinner that he knew would cause him indigestion. Raine went back to CVS after dinner and with parking lot lights filling his 911 he tore open the CVS photo packet. Early afternoon photos were sharp, showing various angles of Wheatland. When he shuffled to the second half of his pictures his body jarred causing his hands to shake and drop some pictures in his lap. Sundown pictures showed a barely discernable body hanging from the east wing of the house by rope attached to the chimney. With photos in his lap and on the floor by his feet, Raine gunned his Porsche out of the CVS parking lot and straight north. He took the green
light at the intersection of Good Drive and Marietta Pike and his car squealed around the corner while he gunned it for the mile and a half east to President Avenue turning right at the Historical Society and right again into the parking lot. The Porsche slid to a stop on the blacktop. Photos fell from his lap as he flung the driver’s door out leaving it open as he ran past the outhouse in back of Wheatland and to the east wing side. With no flashlight to aid him, Raine’s eyes strained to see something, anything, dangling from the roof. There was nothing. He ran his hands up and down the solid brick wall as he peered up toward where the photographs showed a hanging body. An owl hooted from nearby, startling Raine and causing him to curse out loud: “…Damned bird! You know something about all this?” The cursed fowl let night silence be its response. * * * “What’s going on?” Molly Brown’s brows furrowed as she held Millicent Neff’s photo out in her left hand and Abelard Raine’s in her right hand. “It reminds me of hoodoo,” Molly went on. “Voodoo?” “…Voodoo is a religion, hoodoo is magic. And “…Voodo is a religion, not that ‘Ouija Board’ stuff, but the heavy hoodoo hoodoo is magic.” rootwork magic practiced in my grandma’s back yard in Asmara!” The hour was closing onto midnight as Molly sat with Abelard Raine on the sofa in his villa great room. She had walked over immediately upon returning to her own residence a couple of blocks away on the Chestnut Village campus. She had entered her home and hit the answering machine play button. “…My Minolta got it too,” she heard Raine’s voice say. “Come on over when you hear this; I’ll be up!” She did an about face and double-timed it to Raine’s place. * * * Raine looked at his Omega as they stood late afternoon the next day in a that portion of the Tanger Arboretum located between Lancaster’s Historical Society and the Buchanan home. “About that time,” he muttered to Molly Brown. “Keep your eyes glued on the east wing wall, especially at the chimney level. I’ll look at the Society building.” She looked quizzically at him. Forum
He noticed. “Or,” he went on, “I can look toward the Society building and you can check the east wing!” “Uhhuh.” They stood with legs pushing aside some delicate crape myrtle branches that surrounded a spreading sycamore that had seen better days—reportedly planted by the man himself—and an American elm, both of which dominated a narrow patch of ground separating the Society’s west driveway and the home’s east wing. In the dark shadows Molly Brown let out an involuntary gasp: “Oh!” At the same time, Raine was sweeping his eyes around the chimney and the Historical Society’s west side underground garage. He smiled. There it was. The last seconds of dying sunrays struck a large diameter night light housing above the Society’s garage doors; for brief seconds the silver light housing caused a strong line of light to move out through the trees and bushes of the Arboretum and hitting portions of the great sycamore and elm tree in just such a way to cause…. “…Jimmy’s hanging there!” Molly exclaimed. Her camera went up to eye level and the shutter snapped. “God! Jimmy B. —oops! He’s gone! It’s gone!” she screamed. Raine had turned as his eyes followed the sunrays from off the light housing but caught only a suggestion of a shadow form on the home’s east wing wall. He looked back to the light housing above the Historical Society’s double door garage; the streak of sunlight that had bounced from it seconds ago was gone. The sun had dipped behind homes and a plethora of trees on west Marietta Pike. They stood for many seconds without speaking in the early evening shadows amongst the bushes and oriental trees of Tanger Arboretum. * * * ‘I’ve talked with Bob White about such occurrences,” Raine said to Millicent Neff and Molly next morning as they were once again seated in his great room. Millicent handed back Molly Brown’s photograph of the previous evening,
Molly having rushed from Wheatland to CVS for one-hour developing. “Bobwhite?” Millicent asked. “Not the bird, Milly,” Molly said comfortingly. “Robert White, Raine’s friend over in the Franklin and Marshall psych department.” “Oh.” “Basically,” Raine went on, “White told me that it is not uncommon for people to see shadows, designs, even juxtapositions of items in the lawn that present startling representations of persons or things; especially, if more or less expecting to see something specific.” Raine noticed Millicent’s vacant stare. “…Anyway, we know that we three have experienced what may be termed an optical illusion based on a brief and coincidental cooperation among a few natural items, including the sun! Using his Dell, Bob White logged on to the University of Oregon’s Solar Radiation Monitoring Laboratory where we looked at a sun path chart for this month. Knowing Lancaster’s latitude is 40.13 with longitude of minus 76.3 we added the approximate times that our photographs were taken—and not forgetting Molly’s and my own eyes—we found the solar azimuth at James Buchanan’s home to be approximately 65.5 degrees west at seven in the evening, with an elevation of five degrees. Based on the time of year, in another day or two we can go to the President’s home at the same time that our photographs were taken and the optical illusion will not present itself!” Silence reigned among the three. Millicent Neff continued staring at the man seated across from her, apparently mesmerized by what Raine had said. Feeling abashed for having burst Millicent Neff’s ghost balloon, Raine cleared his throat. “…And,” he went on self-consciously, “…White said there was probably a bit of the old ‘power of suggestion’ involved amongst us. That is, probably we three have some sort of idea that Wheatland could be—or, should be—haunted. When Miss Neff brought a picture first to you, Molly, then I saw it, we collectively fixed in our minds that there was a man, or ‘ghost,’ captured by her camera. Well, our imaginations grabbed the ball and ran with the idea, so to speak! White threw a lot of names out as is his pedantic want; such as James Braid, Bernheim, Freud and even William James. But, the bottom line is that the three of us constructed our own local pilgrimage to Lourdes!” Millicent Neff winced. Raine then fiddled in his jacket pocket, finally extracting a small notebook.
“White gave me a quote that seems to fit our threesome situation.” He flipped pages. “Ah, here it is. Earl Nightingale—an authority on the subject of suggestion—once said or wrote: ‘Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will one day become a reality.” Raine returned the notebook to his jacket and leaned back in his chair. His was a sheepish look toward Millicent Neff. He attempted to be reassuring. “I trust, Miss Neff, that I have presented a satisfactory solution for what we all briefly thought was a real person’s body—or ghost—hanging from Jimmy’s house.” “…Jimmy’s house, Mister Raine?” Millicent Neff said with disapproval in her voice as she arched her back. “…Er…” he shot a glance at Molly Brown who had an eyebrow raised, “… that is to say, President Buchanan’s home.” The correction pacified Millicent Neff. But, her expression continued to show disappointment, perhaps because what three cameras had photographed was not the ghost of James Buchanan. She nervously glanced at her watch. “I must be going. I…” she looked sheepishly at Raine, “…I am going to take my camera to the President’s home and see if I can get…a picture of Hettie Porter’s ghost sweeping the front porch!” After Raine’s front door had closed behind Millicent Neff and they were walking back into the great room, Molly asked: “…I wonder if she will ever get her ghost picture?” “Yes, I think that she will,” Raine replied. “It’s in her mind to do so, therefore—according to Bob White—she will get something on a photograph which she will consider to be a ghost. At the least, she will see a ghost that may be gone by the time that she gets the camera viewfinder to her eye! Millicent Neff will see her ghost because ghosts reside here!” He tapped his head as he stopped at the liquor cabinet to begin fixing late afternoon drinks. “Remind me,” he said while glasses tinkled, “to call old Timmy Cohan and give him the good news that there ain’t any bodies hanging out at Jimmy’s house!” He handed a glass of Madera to Molly. “At least we know one thing,” Abelard Raine sighed: “The trouble with Jimmy B. is that he ain’t there!” The beautiful butterfly retorted: “…He ain’t anywhere in our world, is Jimmy B!”
Geoff Peck February, PA Westerns played on the ceiling. Jesse sat on the floor with his head leaned back against the kitchen cabinet where he watched Clint Eastwood meander through the desert, the scene rendered surreal, like a Dali painting, by one corner of the projector resting on a paperback. Musicians who would never leave Pittsburgh strummed acoustic guitars at the front of the room. Blocked from Jesseâ€™s view, they provided a soundtrack to the distorted images above him, and the dissonance of indie folk and spaghetti westerns caused his high to swell. He turned to his ex-girlfriend and smiled, thinking something implicit passed between them. Jesse saw her recoil when she felt the dampness of his hair. He heard her ask how long he had been outside in the snow, but Jesse was caught in a stupor. He thought of being lost in the desert with her: clocks melting in the heat and cigarettes dissolving on their lips as they wandered back towards western Pennsylvania. 38
Gary C. Beck Disasters Fortunate survivors often reminisce
about the horrors they escaped, frequently confusing their capabilities
with just plain good luck. As time and distance
cloak traumatic events
in vague or exact remembrances, diverse interpretations, or fading perceptions,
it may be useful to accept
that despite the best preparations to confront dangerous situations
the appearance of chance results in salvation.
William D. Hicks The End Sixty words
Are like the topping On a cake
No one knows what It’s truly
When it comes
To the last bite Is it life
On a head trip
Where you exist In an altered
State of consciousness? Do you savor
every flavor of every word
For a long time, but not forever As a ghost
Who remains gainfully employed? Do you still
Hate your job?
Is this heaven or Is this hell?
Or, as Goldilocks said, Is everything “Just right?” Forum
William D. Hicks
Is death a sleep So fulfilling
So full of wondrous dreams You never feel tired? You wish
You could nap Into eternity
The perfect ending Perfect for a story With a point
Have a drawn out
Stupidly exhaustive, Lingering,
Where you never awaken Where everything ends
Where everything is over Until all time
Ceases to exist
Forever and ever Amen
The Price of Green Grapes
Thomas Michael McDade
“Tom Sanford, are we losing you?” asked Owen Small’s mother. “No, just resting my eyes.” “Welcome back, Drifty,” said Owen. I was really wishing I’d stayed on our ship docked in Newport, RI. I’d weakened when Owen told me his family lived near Lincoln Downs Racetrack. I do love the ponies. Hell, I could have just caught a bus, skipped the heavy drinking and flirting at the Paddock Bar with a beautiful, very pregnant woman named Faith that Owen said was nothing more than a barfly. A barfly is okay with me but not around a shipmate’s family, better a dive in Norfolk or Barcelona. A lucky day at the track would right all I reasoned as I caught a blond-headed boy, ten or eleven out of the corner of my eye, crawling to the back of the couch. Popping up, he covered Owen’s eyes with his hands. “Bet it’s my loony brother Todd. And I hear he’s weirder than ever, wants to join the Marines when he grows up.” “Least they don’t wear Donald Duck suits,” said Todd, rolling over the couch and landing feet first on the rug. “Todd Small, you’ll ruin that couch and break your neck besides,” cautioned Mrs. Small. After introduction, Todd tried to guess my home state. After five attempts, I told him Ohio. “Seventeenth state,” he said, offering to recite the admission dates of all fifty.
Thomas Michael McDade
“Not now, Todd,” said Mrs. Small, “be a good boy and pour me some coffee.” “So, you want to be a Marine?” I asked. “Could happen…I think I’ll call you Ohio Tom...I gotta get tough anyway so I can be a Hollywood stunt man someday,” he said, returning the pot to the coffee table and standing on his hands. “Couch stunts and handstands big in the movies?” teased Owen. “Shut your face, swabby,” snapped Todd as the front door opened. “Ain’t that nice talk,” said the rugged man entering, who I guessed was Mr. Small. He appeared to be much older than his wife was. His face was dark and leathery; he wore a crew cut. When he took off his coat, I saw his name over the pocket of his work shirt: Carl. Over the other pocket, Lincoln Building Products was stitched. Seconds later, a man about thirty, “He was rubbing Faith’s wearing an old Army raincoat, walked in with damned belly…” a slender teenage girl. She had sharp cheeks and long red hair, mighty pretty, from where I sat. I’d sobered up enough to know I was seeing true. The red stone in her class ring on her finger grabbed the light and my eye. I guessed she was Owen’s sister Francy though the pictures I’d seen hadn’t done her justice. The man I supposed was Keenan, the backward cousin Owen used to imitate when he got drunk. He blinked nervously. They all made a fuss over Owen except Mr. Small who was brief. When introduced to Francy, I offered her my hand. Pushing it aside, I got a quick hug. She came up to my chin, just about. I’m five eleven. Keenan lingered off in a corner, playing with his Red Sox hat. “Get over here, Keenan,” shouted Todd. Keenan obeyed, held his hand out to me as if I he were sticking it into a fan. I shook his clammy offering. “The pleasure’s all yours,” stuttered Keenan. “Yippee, you did it,” shouted Todd, slapping Keenan’s back. Keenan beamed. I wanted to laugh but I waited for the others, soon in hysterics. Mr. Small managed a hint of a smile but looked about to explode. Then he released a salvo at Owen. “Goddam, Boy, when you gonna learn the Paddock Bar ain’t the mud closet to this house? Eight months away and you gotta pay your respects to it first?”
Thomas Michael McDade
Francy moved to the piano, ran her hand over the top and absentmindedly clapped away the dust. She put a finger through the padlock, glared at her father. She looked as though she might lash out at him. Keenan twiddled thumbs and Todd held a small transistor radio to his ear. I wished I were somewhere else, anywhere. “Many the days you came home through that same mud closet, Carl,” said Mrs. Small. “I hadn’t been gone eight months,” returned Mr. Small. “When you’re away a minute, it seems eight months to a year,” said Mrs. Small, dramatically. Mr. Small smiled through a badly fitting bridge and kissed his wife. Keenan clapped timidly. I thought the storm had passed, but Mr. Small raised his voice to Todd. What a temperamental bastard, I thought. “Bring that radio over here and don’t move a finger,” he ordered. Todd boldly marched to him, dropped the radio in his father’s hand. Mr. Small increased the volume. The Beatles were singing “A Hard Day’s Night.” “We got two perfectly good Country stations now,” said Mr. Small, “fine, drug free music. Hell, I remember when there were no country stations around here, had to stay up all hours hunting for WWVA. American Music, Boy.” “It’s not booze free,” injected Francy. “Watch you mouth, girl,” said Mr. Small, finger pointing at her. “This has gone far enough, Carl. What mud closet did you find your way into on the way home? We have company. Let’s act like it.” Owen laid back his head and closed his eyes.” “Back to mud closets, huh?” responded Mr. Small, “a couple of fellows at the pharmacy told me our company took some interest in the future unwed mother.” He spit out the last two words. Mrs. Small and Francy rolled their eyes. Mrs. Small sighed. I felt myself reddening. “He was rubbing Faith’s damned belly,” he added, eyes bulging but never facing me. “Wonderful,” whispered, Francy, walking over to pat my arm. “She’s my idol. We’re like sisters.” “You liked her fine when cousin, Ellis was alive and he and Faith were living together,” Mrs. Small reminded her husband. “She was close to family then but then again, they never married,” Mr. Small said.
Thomas Michael McDade
“She’s got a womb full of kin now,” stated Mrs. Small before adding, “For God’s sake, let’s have lunch and try to act civil.” We went to the dining room. My chair faced a wall where a large painting of Jesus hung. The pink tablecloth was the same color as Faith’s T-shirt. A vase of purple silk flowers was the centerpiece. After serving bowls of mushroom soup and homemade bread, Francy sat next to me. I imagined one of the fake flowers in her hair. Keenan made short work of the soup while filtering out the mushrooms. Todd did the same and they both made sandwiches of them. “Look at them,” said Francy, to her mother, “they’re embarrassing.” “I don’t care how they eat as long as they eat, “said Mrs. Small. There was silence. I ate the delicious soup slowly, enjoying every spoonful. I remembered to tip the bowl away when I was finishing up. My mother always corrected me on that one. I watched Mr. Small butter a piece of bread as if the spread were frosting. Two sparrows chowed down at the birdfeeder outside the window. As I was trying to get a sidelong glimpse of Francy, she spoke to me. “That baby’s going to be beautiful, Tom,” she said, “You saw how beautiful Faith is and Ellis was handsome as a movie star.” Mr. Small shook his head. “That child is going to be just like Keenan, the way Faith smokes and drinks,” he said. Mrs. Small was a bit more optimistic. “Let’s hope the child gets its fill and doesn’t bother with those vices again. Too bad gambling wasn’t included,” she added. While Francy helped her mother clear the first course dishes, Todd and Keenan went into the living room. “Gimme fifty,” ordered Todd. Keenan dropped to the floor and started doing pushups. When Mrs. Small returned from the kitchen with a platter of sliced ham, cheese, lettuce and tomato, she quickly set down the food and rushed to them. “Just what do you think you’re doing, young man?” she asked Todd. “I’m playing drill sergeant,” he answered. “Both of you get back to the table and you’d better learn to respect your elders, Todd Small. Suppose Keenan got sick on the rug? “Keenan never gets sick and he’s not an elder, he’s just Keenan,” said Todd to his mother. I was hoping Keenan would give shit-bird Todd a backhand, but I didn’t let it interfere with my appetite. After three ham sandwiches I still had
Thomas Michael McDade
room for two servings of chocolate ice cream. When I turned down a cup of coffee, Owen asked, “Can you imagine a sailor not drinking coffee?” Mr. Small answered, “I can’t imagine anyone, sailor or not, skipping coffee.” No one else offered an opinion. I didn’t drink coffee because my grandmother on my mother’s side told me when I was a boy it would turn my stomach into tractor…just another trailer tire rubber. More than that, unpleasant taste tunnel I believed it was like booze: just to pass through another unpleasant taste tunnel to toward wired. pass through toward wired. Booze was enough for me. “Tom,” said Mrs. Small, “Why not take a little nap? Francy will show you around town when you’re rested.” “Ma, Tom came here to go to the races,” said Owen. “Oh, I forgot about that,” said Mrs. Small. “I can go to the track,” said Francy, “I’ve been before.” “You will not and you have not,” said Mr. Small angrily. “Where do you think Faith got started?” “Started at what?” asked Francy, staring blankly at her father. He grimaced. “Tom can take Francy to the church dance tonight. What do you say to that, Tom?” asked Mrs. Small. “Fine with me,” I said, thinking Francy didn’t really look ridiculously young. “Isn’t anyone going to ask me who I want to take me to the dance?” questioned Francy. Running from the room, Todd mimicked her. He quickly returned with a guitar and stood in a corner. I guess it must have been leftover buzz from the Paddock behind it. Without a second thought, I was on one knee asking Francy to allow me to escort her to the dance. “The pleasure is all yours,” she said, smiling at Keenan. He burst out laughing as we all did except Mr. Small. “Are you and Maureen going?” Francy asked Owen. “Don’t think so,” said Owen. Francy giggled.
Thomas Michael McDade
“What’s so funny?” Owen asked, in a threatening tone. “Oh, nothing, chocolate ice cream always makes me giddy,” she explained. Todd played his guitar and Keenan sang “I Walk the Line” off key. “This is our punishment for not saying ‘Grace’,” said Francy. “Grace is for dinner,” said Mr. Small. “The Lord isn’t interested in lunch, besides Keenan is in fine voice.” I didn’t think Mr. Small noticed Todd was playing the Beatles’ “P.S. I Love You” on his guitar but when Keenan stopped singing, he said, “Keenan, how about teaching this young heathen how to play American chords?” “I thought I fooled you, damn it,” said Todd, snapping his fingers. “I didn’t come in with the morning milk, Sonny,” Mr. Small said, winking and flashing a grin. “And in the future don’t damn me, you little snot!” When Owen headed out to pick up Maureen, we talked a few minutes on the porch. Todd’s piercing “Hi Yohio Tom, Away,” trailed us. “Don’t forget Francy is my sister,” were Owen’s parting words. I said I wouldn’t and was hurt that he felt he had to remind me. The hurt was all I needed to grant myself license to imagine her whispering, “The pleasure is all ours.” 48
Ernest Williamson III
Peace in The White Room
William Doreski The Death of Small Pets Discussing the death of small pets with a woman with broccoli hair, I explain that kidneys and livers rebel after years of canned food
and the unnatural lifespan imposed by domesticity. The woman
agrees that her husbandâ€™s head mounted above the fireplace
represents too much coddling, too little exposure to the wild.
She denies killing him for food,
although decades of unemployment left him eager to be eaten
by the first carnivore he met,
which happened to be his beloved.
I wouldnâ€™t have thought to accuse her, but something unholy nourished that powerful branching hairdo.
I describe the cat burial plot
behind my house in the pine woods
and she agrees that children deserve little plots to tend, so why not
bury them beside their hamsters and goldfish, encouraging them to claim a bit of real estate
before theyâ€™re too old to enjoy it? Iâ€™ve stayed in this conversation at least five minutes too long,
so back away and express regrets. The broccoli shivers, and now
I see that it is snakes. The legend
claims a glimpse turns men to stone; but as my angle of vision shifts the snakes relax into broccoli
again, and the womanâ€™s artless and pleasant smile assures me the death of small pets rarely applies to men as shy as me.
Authors and Artists J.S. MacLean Barns Mr. MacLean is a Canadian of Celtic extraction. He has been published in a variety of poetry publications in Canada, USA, UK, and Australia. He tries to write poems that are at once accessible but that will continue to reveal themselves over time. His writing goals are his own enjoyment and to leave a record.
Daniel W. Davis Breakfast Mr. Davis is a graduate student born and raised in Central Illinois. His work has appeared in such journals as “Necessary Fiction,” “Blue Crow Magazine,” “Tidal Basin Review,” and elsewhere. You can find him at www.dumpsterchickenmusic.blogspot.com .
Steven McCabe Eliza Barnwell Heyward (1849-1871)
Born in Myrtle Beach SC, raised in Norwich England, living in Goose Creek, SC.
Benjamin Nardolilli Cold Metal, Friendly Teak Mr. Nardolilli is a twenty-fiveyear-old writer currently living in Montclair, New Jersey. His work has appeared in the Houston Literary Review, Perigee Magazine, Canopic Jar, One Ghana One Voice, Baker’s Dozen, Thieves Jargon, Quail Bell Magazine, Elimae, Poems Niederngasse, Gold Dust, Scythe, Anemone Sidecar, The Delmarva Review, Contemporary American Voices, SoMa Literary Review, Gloom Cupboard, Shakespeare’s Monkey Revue, Black Words on White Paper, Cantaraville, and Mad Swirl. In addition he was the poetry editor
for West 10th Magazine at NYU and maintains a blog at www.mirrorsponge.blogspot.com .
John Duffy Watching Battleships Mr. Duffy is a writer living in Virginia with his wife & four children. He attended Virginia Tech and studied poetry under Nikki Giovanni until discovering bill collectors had no sense of humor. He’s worked as a cemetery plot salesman, truck driver, pizza cook, and construction worker. At last count, he is 40 years old.
Bonnie Watson Weapons Caster Ms. Watson has had several pieces of literature published through the Chesterfield Writer’s Club: short stories The Third Child and The Portrait, and poetry False Security. Through the Anthology of Poetry: Mists of Clouds Hung in the Sky. Her background in illustration has earned a small reputation with several authors. Her works have been published in the form of book covers, such as River Passage, Homemade Sin, and Lives.
Brittany Clark Tangle
Deborah Reed Lana’s Cousin Cindy
Ms. Clark is a graduate from George Mason University —majored in English, Concentration in Poetry with a minor in Secondary Education. She currently teaches high school English. She lives in a room with an octagon window and a fish.
Ms. Reed currently resides in a small bedroom community in Central Texas with her daughter, grandson, and two dogs. She is a retired Science teacher who now works in Code Enforcement. She has recently been nominated for the prestigious Pushcart Prize for her short story “Leah and Her Stuffed House”.
Ricki Garni Sophie’s Choice Mr. Garni is a graphic designer living in Carrboro, NC. His work has been published widely, most recently in YES, POETRY and THE EVERGREEN REVIEW. His books can be found at www.tinyurl.com/rickygarni , which include over twenty works ranging from a single prose poem about the Town Hall of Prague (LOZE), to a goofy tribute to Gerard Depardieu ( A LA RECHERCHE DU TEMPS DEPARDIEU) to a very too long compendium number (MAYBE WAVY, 580 pgs) to everything in between, whatever that means, in this case, a book about his Hawaiian shirt and tab collars.
Len Kuntz Big Oak Mr. Kuntz has had some good fortune placing over 180 stories in lit journals like JUKED, GHOTI, ELIMAE, MUD LUSCIOUS and others.
Thomas McKinlay Vanderlinden Returning from the Burial Tom is Art and Graphics Editor for Hulltown 360 Literary Journal.
Henry Brasater The Trouble with Jimmy Mr. Brasater and his wife live in a Lancaster, Pennsylvania retirement community. Originally from Illinois, his interests include travel by automobile, photography and reading biographies and literary
novels. His first published story is “The Goatman,” printed in The Black Mountain Review, Spring, 1956 when he was a high school student. “Ride Out, Killer!” was accepted in October, 2010 for a The Way Of The Buffalo podcast (non-exclusive rights). “The Book Of Lives,” is in Daily Flash: 365 Days of Flash Fiction anthology, Pill Hill Press, 2010.. “Window Man,” is in the summer, 2010 issue of Pagan Imagination and the print anthology, A Magical Summer Time, 2010 by the same press. “Aunt Polly,” is in Black Petals Horror/Science Fiction Magazine, summer, 2010. Mr. Brasater has written/delivered convention papers in past years having to do with academia and science fiction/ fantasy.
Geoff Peck February, PA Mr. Peck works full time in the medical billing industry but dabbles in writing when he can. His writing has appeared in The Citron Review and is forthcoming in The Driftwood Review.
Gary Beck Disasters “Disasters” is from “Displays”, an unpublished collection of poetry, is about the shocks and surprises to Americans struggling to cope in the Information Age. Poems from “Displays” have appeared in Shine, Dance to Death, Hemingway’s Shotgun, The CusterHawk Gazette, Calliope Nerve, Rattlesnake Review, Motherkisser, Ann Arbor Review, Blueprint Review, International Zeithschrift, Chronogram, Greens Magazine, Star Line Magazine, Alura, Noneuclidean Café Journal, Sentinel Poetry Journal, Enigma, Menda City
Review, Hudson View Poetry Digest and others.
Learn more about Christine at www.worldofchristinestoddard.com.
Mr. Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theater director and worked as an art dealer when he couldn’t earn a living in the theater. His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway and toured colleges and outdoor performance venues. His poetry and fiction has appeared in hundreds of literary magazines. He currently lives in New York City.
Per Ms. Stoddard, “‘The Price of Green Grapes’ is a commentary about how everything in our society carries a monetary value, even Mother Nature. Most obviously, you will notice the barcode in the upperright, but there is also a pile of dollar signs just by the chipmunk’s tail. I created this image by both handdrawn and digital means.”
William Hicks The End Mr. Hicks is a writer who lives in Chicago, Illinois by himself (any offers?). Contrary to popular belief, he is not related to the famous comedian Bill Hicks (though he’s just as funny in his own right). Hicks will someday publish his memoirs, but most likely they will be about Bill Hicks’ life. His poetry has appeared in Highland Park Poetry Muse Gallery, Outburst Magazine, The Legendary, Horizon Magazine, Breadcrumb Sins, Inwood Indiana Literary Magazine, The Short Humour Site (UK), The Four Cornered Universe, Save the Last Stall for Me and Mosaic. His art appears in Highland Park Poetry Muse Gallery, Foliate Oak, The Legendary and as cover art in Anti-Poetry and Sketch.
Christine Stoddard The Price of Green Grapes Christine Stoddard is a writer, artist, and performer. She is also the founder and director of Quail Bell Press and Productions, LLC. www.quailbellmagazine.com . Her alter ego is Luna Lark www.lunalark.com . When she is not creating, she is learning, playing, and dreaming.
Thomas Michael McDade The Pleasure Mr. McDade lives in Monroe, CT with his wife, no kids, no pets. He works as a computer programmer writing and maintaining retail & wholesale plumbing supply outfits. His fiction has been most recently published in THE UNHEARD MAGAZINE, poetry in POT LUCK and THE DELINQUENT.
Ernest Williamson III Peace in the White Room Mr. Williamson III has published poetry and visual art in over 300 national and international online and print journals. He is a selftaught pianist, singer, and painter. His poetry has been nominated three times for the Best of the Net Anthology www.sundresspublications.com . Professor Williamson, who is (ABD), is also finishing up his Ph.D. at Seton Hall University in the field of Higher Education Leadership. Visit his gallery www.yessy.com/budicegenius .
William Doreski The Death of Small Pets Mr. Doreski’s work has appeared in various e and print journals and in several collections, most recently Waiting for the Angel (Pygmy Forest Press, 2009).
an Cal gar y, A lbe r
Len Kun tz S noho mish , WA
Where is Hulltown 360? If you take a heading, as the crow flies, from the middle of Hulltown to the home city of each of our authors and artists, this shows (to scale) the angle you would depart from, and how far you would travel. Our most distant contributor is Len Kunz, at 2,336 miles away (ignoring the fact that you’re going to have to change elevation to fly up and over the Rocky Mountains).
e Re h ora
, TX on t l e
bor oug h, N H
W illia mD
N� � t�
s Ar ling ton Heig hts, IL
Monroe, CT Thomas Michael McDade
Benjamin Nardolilli Montclair, NJ
Gary Beck New York, NY Geoff Peck Newark, NJ Ernest Williamson III
Lancaster, PA Henry Brasater
ffy arn C Steven i C re arrb McCabe we Goose oro Creek, S , N C , VA C
W. Davis Charleston, IL
Bonnie Watson Richmond, VA Christine Stoddard Thomas McKinlay Vanderlinden Victoria, VA Brittany Clark
for the home page.
Click Forum to discuss with others.
Published on Jan 29, 2011