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Issue 2, April 2012

Editor-in-Chief Craig A. Hart Cover Design Paul Brand

Published by Sweatshoppe Publications 1


TheRustyNail CONTENTS Manuscript Found In A Bottle by Edgar Allan Poe………………...Page 15 Hidden Inventory by Sergio Ortiz…………………..…Page 19 The Chill Season by Lylanne Musselman…………...Page 20 Jeopardy Double by Gary Ives….….…….…………..Page 21 Kimberley Country by Roslyn Ross.…………….….….Page 22 Bushfire by Roslyn Ross……………….……Page 23 Broke Expression by Eric Boyd……….……………….Page 24 Dangerously Hers by Kyle Hemmings………………...Page 26 Freeman School Will by Beau Boudreaux….……….….Page 27 Two Witnesses by Bruce J. Berger….…………....Page 28 Loofa Sharp and Serrated by Len Kuntz..……………….……Page 28 When Trees Won’t Dry by Tracy E. Hauser……….……..Page 29

Image: Kenneth Cratty / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Scrambled by Alice Slater…………………………..Page 4 the sun will shine again by linda m. crate….….……….………..Page 5 Reformation through my Faith Love of a Vagabond by Sonnet Mondal…...…………………Page 6 the taste of passion by Christina Murphy…………………...Page 7 Black Umbrellas Cigarettes by Kim Johnson……………………..…Page 7 A Hole in Time Found Poem by Steve Klepetar.……………..………Page 8 Tears of Autumn by Kyle Owens….……………………...Page 9 Catskill Mountain House by William Doreski ………………..…Page 10 Lovely Rust by Eleanor Leonne Bennett………...Page 10 Bone Rising Melody With Light A Changing Of The World by David Groulx……………………..Page 11 Wrath of Ages by Ralph Warth….…………………..Page 12 Walking the Labyrinth by Suzanne Feathers……………….Page 13 Tonight the Stars Speak Dock My Father’s Car by Nicholas Johnston………..…….Page 14

The Rusty Nail Staff Editor-in-Chief Craig A. Hart Associate Editor Dr. Kimberly Nylen Hart Graphic Design Editor Paul Brand Consulting Editor Jacob Nordby

www.rustynailmag.com rustynailmag@gmail.com The Rusty Nail magazine is based in Pocatello, ID.

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The Rusty Nail Back for Round 2? Well, here we are again, already hocking Issue 2. It has been a crazy time at Rusty Nail headquarters. Website maintenance, submission review, magazine design, and public relations have all combined to make the past month a flurry of activity. It has been great fun, though, and I can’t stress enough how grateful we all are to everyone who has chosen to be a part of this venture. While there is much yet to be done, the future looks bright for The Rusty Nail and we could not have done it without you. I would like to mention a few of the highlights that have occurred since we started.

Want to Submit? Short Prose - There is no minimum word count for prose, but we do ask that it be kept below 3,000 words. Poetry - We accept many different types of poetry. There is no strict length limit. You may submit up to 5 poems at once. Essays - There is no minimum word count for essays, but we do ask that it be kept below 3,000 words. Book Reviews - Between 200-500 words. Artwork - We accept illustrations, cartoons, and visual art of other forms.

I am happy to report that the editors at The Rusty Nail are now offering editing services. This service is apart from the regular operation of the magazine and is available to any writer who wants an editor to take a look at their work before sending it off to their favorite publication. Full information about editing services can be found on the website. The Rusty Nail continues to resist the pressure to accept advertising on the website and in the print magazine. This type of venture does take money, however, so we do have the option to Donate set up on our website and also opportunities to purchase through our store. If you enjoy The Rusty Nail, please consider supporting it in some way. Thank you! Just one more thing before I let you run wild through this month’s issue: The Rusty Nail exists based on your support. Please do not hesitate to tell your friends about us, either personally or through social media venues, such as Twitter and Facebook. Together we can see to it that The Rusty Nail stays around for a long, long time.

- Craig Hart, Editor-in-Chief

For full submission information, please visit the website at: www.rustynailmag.com.

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LAST MONTH


He goes on top, as usual, and as soon as he’s pushed it in, he starts sweating and talking into my neck and shuddering, and I just lie there and let him get on with it. I stare at the ceiling and listen to the creak of the bed and the snags in his breath and the muttered words, half lost into the crook of my neck. “You’re so wet,” he says. “All gooey, like egg white.” It only lasts a minute or two after that. I don’t feel any different, apart from afterwards when his mayo is all over my thighs and I feel like a chicken sandwich. “Did you come?” he asks and I just shrug. “You better take a pill,” he says. “I don’t think I pulled out in time.”

Scrambled by Alice Slater

I

don’t want to count my omelettes before I’ve cracked any eggs, but Tara Fontaine just told me she reckons she’ll be on the blob for the swimming gala next month. My heart French skips as she tells me. “That’s ages away,” I say, all cagey in case she’s pulling my leg. We’re sitting next to each other in biology, copying diagrams of the human eye and printing neat labels next to the important bits. “Trust me,” she says. “My crimson tide’s in sync with the moon.” “It”s what?” “Clockwork, like the moon. Crimson tide. Get it?” I don’t understand what she’s on about, but it doesn’t matter. I say: “can’t you plug it up?” “I don’t want to lose my virginity to a tampon,” she says, leaning over her text book to squint at the eyeball on the page. “Does that say choroid or clioroid?” “Choroid,” I say. “Anyway, it doesn’t work that way. Tampons, I mean.” “If I’m gushing, I’m out,” she says firmly, as the bell rings. “You’ll have to swim in my place.” I arrange to meet my best friend Laura Darling at the fag bins to tell her the good news. “She said she’ll get it around the Tuesday,” I say, taking a Marlboro from Laura’s pack. “So she’d still be clotting on Friday, right?” “Dead cert,” Laura nods. When she nods, her chins quadruple. “But can’t she use a tampon or something?” “She’s not popped her yolk yet,” I say. “She thinks virgins can’t use tampons.” “Man, that girl’s stupid.” That’s why Laura’s my friend. She tells it like it is. •

I don’t take a pill. Instead, I go swimming. The pool is open late on Thursdays, and I’m the only one there. It’s just me and Elvis, the life guard with the quiff. He sits on the special high chair and stares into the water, eyes glazed like he’s unraveling an equation in double maths. I slip into the turquoise water and it envelopes me. It is clear and smooth and roars in my ears as I slam up and down the fast lane. Everything turns to white noise in the pool, and I forget about Elvis and I forget about Laura Darling, about Colin Chance and Tara Fontaine and eyeball diagrams and orgasms and swimming galas and swallowing pills. I swim forty lengths. When I climb out, my limbs ache and I shiver. Outside, it has grown dark. •

When my rag’s two weeks late, I start to get a bit worried. I’m not like Miss Regular Knickers Tara Fontaine, but I’m not that irregular either. I call up Colin and he says, “can’t you deal with it?” “I’ll deal with it,” I say, and he says cool. I arrange to meet Laura in town. She’s eating a cheese and onion pasty. Crumbs stick to her lip gloss and dust her jumper like flakes of pastry dandruff. “Aunt Rose is MIA,” I tell her. “You’re baking a bun?” “Don’t know, do I?” “Did you and Colin have an accident?” “We did it Catholic style last week,” I say, and she swallows a lump of pasty with wide eyes. “Nicole, everyone knows that doesn’t work. It’s designed to produce more Catholics.” “I didn’t think it’d matter,” I say. I have a test in my handbag, so we go to Wetherspoons because Peanut Brittle works on Fridays, and he always serves us because he has a crush on Laura. She orders us voddy cokes, but gives me a funny look and says, “you know, you can’t drink that if you’re up the spout.” “I won’t be up the spout,” I say. “You might be.” “I won’t be.” “If you drink when you’re pregnant, you’ll give birth to a beak and an eyeball,” she says. “Maybe that’s what happened to Peanut Brittle,” I say and she laughs. We take our drinks into the ladies’ and I open the cardboard box and pull out a plastic stick and sheet of instructions. Laura squeezes into the cubical with me, and

I meet Colin Chance at the swings after school. He smells of sweat and deodorant and Polo mints. He wants me to go back to his place but I know he’s just sniffing after sex. I’m not really that bothered about shagging. Laura thinks it’s because I’ve never had an orgasm with a boy. I’ve polished plenty of guns in my time and they always go off without a hitch - unless the guy gets stage fright or brewer’s droop or whatever - but for some reason I’ve never managed to get over the orgasm hump myself. I tell Colin and he says it’s because I always make him use johnnies. We have had this conversation a thousand times before, but he won’t give up until I give in. “It’s like sucking a strawberry split with the wrapper on,” he says. “It’s pointless.” “I don’t want to get up the duff,” I say. “You won’t,” he says. “I’ll take care of it.” We go back to his place anyway, because his dad’s dead and his ma works weird hours at the sandwich factory, so he’s always got a free house. We’re squirming about on the bed, and before I know it I’m completely starkers and he’s on top, rubbing himself against me and saying, “Go on, Nicole, go on... I know you want it, go on...” 4


The egg fits into the palm of my hand. Chlorinated water drips from my hair and my eyes are smarting. Somewhere, in the distance, Elvis blows his whistle. It echoes around the empty pool. The shell of the egg is iridescent. It shines blue and pink and yellow and green, like the oily surface of a puddle at a petrol station. It is warm, and precious, and mine. I am still wondering what to do about it when I see a faint crack.

she holds our drinks whilst I drain my lettuce over the plastic wand. “I still say you should’ve just waited for your painters,” Laura says whilst I stare into the results window. “It’s like nature’s pregnancy test. And you would’ve saved a tenner.” “It’s already proper late,” I say. The little window stares back at me, blank as a difficult exam question. And then a minute trickles by, and a little pink worm appears in the white space, and then another. “Oh shit,” I say. “Oh shit,” Laura echoes, and we stare at it together in silence. •

Alice Slater has an MA in prose fiction from the University of East Anglia. Her work has been short- and long-listed for various prizes, included the Bridport prize in 2010, The Fine Line Short Story Competition in 2011 and she received a special commendation from Fleeting's Best Short Writing in the World 2011. She blogs about writing at http://acageinsearchofabird.wordpress.com/.

The cramps start over the weekend. My mum puts cold flannels on my forehead and hot wheatie bags on my abdomen and makes me swallow ibuprofen the size of mint imperials. I feel like a queen being waited on, and I suspect my body is purging itself of the unwanted bun, but the pain is excruciating. It hurts so much I’m sick, a thick syrup of phlegm and bile dribbles from my lips and my mother has to change my pillow case. I call Laura. “This is the worst. If it doesn’t stop by next week, I’m out of the swimming gala. I can’t even train.” “Exercise is good for rag cramps,” she says. “You should go swimming.” “I can’t even stand up.” “You should try,” she says, and I know she’s right. I can’t get behind. I imagine my muscles turning into mashed potatoes as I stagger about my bedroom, plucking my swimming costume from the radiator and wrapping my special swimming shampoo and shower gel into a large green towel. •

the sun will shine again by linda m. crate

rough nights dance their shrapnel upon me in droves of insults, cutting me on the wings of their cynicism — I used to sit and wait for someone to cleanse me from those painful burns, but I realized that I was the only one that could wink these monsters away on the brave wings of hope and courage, I had to remind myself that the sun would shine again — even if he wouldn’t show his face right now, I just had to keep pushing through labyrinths of cynicism and apathy that wished to swallow me whole, they wanted to spit my yellowed bones out as a pyramid to be eaten by armies of sand; yet I knew that I couldn’t give in no matter how hard it hurt because pain is only temporary, life goes on.

The pool smells of chlorine and chip fat from the cafeteria. I swallow two ibuprofens in the changing room, then patter out to the pool side. Elvis is asleep in his chair and the pool is empty. I submerge myself like a submarine and swim along the bottom for as long as I can hold my breath. Laura is right. I feel the cramps wane with each stroke. I swim forty lengths, then decide to push for another twenty. When I get out, water splashes from my hair and limbs, and I leave a long wet trail to the changing rooms. I can feel a swollen bloat in my guts, so I hobble to the toilet. I roll my swimming costume down to my ankles, sit on the plastic seat and strain. Sweat prickles up my back. I curl my toes and gasp as a hard pain ripples through my crotch. I gingerly probe with my fingers, and feel that my vagina has expanded. It’s wide enough to fit a fist inside me. I shake and convulse, and feel a sudden sense of release: a large plopping noise ricochets around the tiled toilet. I take a fistful of loo roll and blot my vagina. The tissue is a brilliant crimson, slick with viscera. I keep dabbing, waiting for the tissue to come away clean, but it keeps going. Finally, I stuff a wad of loo roll against my vulva, pull knickers from my gym bag and slip into them. I hesitate, one hand resting on the flush. I can see something bobbing in the pink water, white and oval. I reach into the bowl and pluck it out.

Linda Crate is a Pennsylvanian native and graduate of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. She has a Bachelor's in English-Literature. Her poetry and short stories have been published in several journals. 5


Poems by

Sonnet Mondal Reformation through my Faith I feel my body in an eagle nest hanging from the thinnest stem of the tallest oak, allowing me to watch the world from Nature’s lap. The thrust of strong gales, twisting me in various shapes infuses a new blood in weary veins; makes me feel like a trapeze athlete swinging at an aesthetic will. I am a stray vagabond turned out of society to taste the sands of hunger and disgust for my dare was unprecedented; my affair was a death drug for the keepers of

Love of A Vagabond

Now, Renunciation of an unusual type, departing from the walls of religions and taboos seems to shape itself within me as my breathe grasps and consumes the molecules of the republic airstream.

I would prefer a second round of death until you promise to roll down from the peak at my feet. The lords would know then, they had the magnet but lacked the love's will. They had built a high ancestral wall; The motor and bricks were blood and heads of those who tried to break customs.

The branches seem to prepare themselves to hang all butchers of love. Their weapons of religion and customs will fall from the hands of the departed and they would rust to death. None will worth the floor of the poorest museum or pages of history for the worms will eat off their mentions.

The fence which once bloomed with roses have crumbled down to leave hungry thorns guarding like unkind demons. I was a wanderer roaming outside. Smelling your love songs my blood crossed the fences fought with the knights and now falls torn apart for you were the daughter of the King himself.

I will happily swing and consume the fragrance of catastrophe.

You smile like Lady Lazarus. Your slaves hold spears whose sharp tip shines in front of my neck. You fear, if I start the same love song, a princess like you would belong to a vagabond. I had heard of the enemies of Love but now I see love itself, in its colours of deception. 6


the taste of passion by Christina Murphy sounds can burn or poison ripeness is found in the echoes as blossoms fall through moonlight and candles mark the solitary hours

Christina Murphy lives and writes in a 100 year-old Arts and Crafts style house along the Ohio River. She continues to be amazed at how the Arts and Crafts movement—like the painter Piet Mondrian-- found such artistic integrity (and solace) in straight lines and simple (yet complex) forms. She tries to emulate the same idea in her poetry. Her poems have appeared in a range of journals and anthologies, including, most recently, PANK, Poetry Quarterly, POOL, Contemporary World Poetry, MUSE, MiPOesias, Quantum Poetry Magazine, Blue Fifth Review, and Counterexample Poetics, among others.

the exile writes a letter, sips his wine in isolation and dreams of passage home but no angels come, only sea creatures stir there are no winds for sails, no wings for flight across a scalpel blade of sunlight that splits the blue of open spaces sacraments are the boundaries that heavy hearts fill with prayer each soul seeks the silence but opens to the call of be with me all else—and even that—is chaos Isaac will tell you: in a crowded garden where not even roots take hold or care to, only saints have visions of better days lived in piety and stripped of the infinite praise of memory and the doubt of clenched fists; sweet magic, fiery hearts, the taste of passion and all of it giving way, getting free

Black Umbrella I remember how misty it was and there were black umbrellas everywhere. The cemetery, very old and quaint. His open casket…touching him and what came back was not his usual warmth and bounce, but stiffness – This is not the man I had adored all my life – Father.

Cigarettes Magenta matchbook, clove cigarettes, Bentoel, I think. Hot pink lighter, yellow-stained fingers, gray, curling smoke floats upwards deep inhale into the lungs. A pleasant taste with espresso on the side. An ideal combination. What an addiction in bloom!

Kim Johnson has had five poems published in online zines and has been writing for the better part of six years. She has taken many writing classes in hopes to improve her skill and style. She has a BA in History from the George Washington University and a MA in International Affairs from American University. She currently lives down the Jersey Shore and is hoping to get a MFA in Creative Writing in the near future. 7


Steve Klepetar A Hole in Time

an elderly man at ease, bowing graceful at the waist a marionette of time a twisted spoke

Image: dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Found Poem

nails hammered through splintery boards

Dear Campus Community: Due to a forecast of inclement weather the Wednesday morning photo session has been altered. Instead of using a hot

work gloves stained with oil

air balloon, which requires clear skies and winds less than 8 mph, we will attempt to shoot an aerial shot

rags and

of students, faculty and staff in their Husky red and black attire from the basket of a construction lift.

empty eyes of a mad wolf

Show up in your Husky logo wear at 8:30 a.m. in front of the Administration Building/Miller Center and say cheese.

broken and torn from wrists of rain Steve Klepetar teaches literature and writing at Saint Cloud State University in Minnesota. His work has received several nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. His most recent chapbook, "My Father Teaches Me a Magic Word," has recently been accepted by Flutter Press. 8

cold mouth hung in burning sky


Tears of Autumn

by Kyle Owens

I

The sun was losing its wings against a cant of sky, declining its light across rolling fields versed in groves of trees branching out into calm shadows. The frail sounds of a distant dog barking entered the ears of heads bowed in thought and wonder of"What's it like to die?" "I don't know. Nobody knows for sure. Some people think they know, but no one really knows until they die." "I don't want to die." "I'm afraid you can't stop it." "I will." "How are you going to do that?" "I don't know. But I don't want to die. That's all." "We're all going to die one day. You do know that, don't-" "Stop it. I don't want to talk about this anymore. It's scaring me." "Okay. I'll not say anything more about it." A gentle embrace of wind cooled the clouds that grassed the blue vault of sky as the sunlight fainted into a final repose behind the green colored hills. Overflowing shadows, bold and thick, impaled the nightscape of Tuesday's mark. Lightning bugs meadowed the yard sky in broken columns of illumination and constant quiet. Drapes of shadowed branches paused the eye inside the pavilion of beech trees that filled the forest. "What do you think Granny is seeing right now?" "How do you mean?" "Can she see us?" "I don't know." "Why do we have to die for?" "It's the way it has always been. Nothing you can do about it really." "It just don't seem fair does it? You live for what- eighty years if you're lucky, then you die. That's it. There's nothing else. Why? Why's there nothing else?" "Maybe they are." A door peeped wide beneath the open moon. A push of life's survivors exited the arched way in quiet realization of their mortality. Dead leaves awaken beneath measured steps. Casual whispers furled placid inside the depths of dark. Car doors click and slam. Engines turn. Spiraling constellations of yellow light gleams the eyes, before retracting into a final fading sphere and invisibling silent.

n the long shadows of evening's edge, children sit on sweeps of grass as thoughts maze their minds until couraged aloud inside the fells of"Why you reckon they made us come out here for?" "I guess they didn't want a bunch of kids around the coffin." "I wouldn't of knocked it over." "Maybe it was they thought it might be too traumatic for us." "What's traumatic?" "Scary." "Why would it be scary?" "Have you ever seen a dead person before?" "No." "Some people can't handle it. They become emotional and stuff." "Do you mean like crying?" "Yeah." "Oh." "Do you think it would scare you to see Granny dead?" "I don't know. I don't think it would." "You want to go see?" "I thought we couldn't?" "We can go around the back and look through the window if you want too?" "I don't know." "I'll not make you if you don't want too." "I don't think I want too." "I understand." Unfolded flowers, in the soft summer dusk, reflect the sound of song to tribute the way home and visit the parted soul for our own selfish needs. Tears in flow are swallowed by the fear seeded in us all. Eyes gaze hard at the walled painting of the lamb winged out into the sacrificial position, spiked wide and crowned sharp which haunts the room in reverent petition of supplication. "What exactly happened to Granny anyway?" "She got dementia." "What's that?" "That's when you forget everything." "Why?" "Just something goes wrong with the brain and you don't know who you are or who anyone else is. You're just in a state of confusion and there's no way out." "Like always being alone?" "I guess it is." "It's kind of like Granny died twice ain't it?" "Yeah."

• • •

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LovelyRust by Eleanor Leonne Bennett

Catskill Mountain House by William Doreski Thomas Cole’s Catskill Mountain House features scraggly umbrella pines direct from Italy, and slopes too abrupt to hold much soil. The house itself is a sprawl of marble much like Blenheim, a structure I can’t believe so crusty a mountain would retain. The façade rests on a ledge and the front door opens on a drop a hundred feet straight down. Cole may have heard about but surely never saw this house. William Henry Bartlett drew a more plausible version seated on the lip of a steep slope but facing a field and shallow lake. His house has the arbitrary ramshackle look familiar to all Americans. Probably nothing’s left, even the foundation crumbled like last year’s coffee cake, but I’d like to hike up there someday and poke at the site and see if I can rouse some ghosts, then inventory the trees and discover how many came from Italy just to sample the climate and salt our scenery with the merely picturesque.

Eleanor Leonne Bennett is a 15 year old internationally award winning photographer and artist who has won first places with National Geographic,The World Photography Organisation, Nature's Best Photography, Papworth Trust, Mencap, The Woodland trust and Postal Heritage. Her photography has been published in the Telegraph , The Guardian, BBC News Website and on the cover of books and magazines in the United states and Canada. Her art is globally exhibited , having shown work in London, Paris, Indonesia, Los Angeles,Florida, Washington, Scotland, Wales, Ireland,Canada,Spain,Germany, Japan, Australia and The Environmental Photographer of the year Exhibition (2011) amongst many other locations. She was also the only person from the UK to have her work displayed in the National Geographic and Airbus run See The Bigger Picture global exhibition tour with the United Nations International Year Of Biodiversity 2010.

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Bone Rising Trace with your finger to the end of this body a little while words will follow a song and the tongue

the poetry of

David Groulx

of this body A Changing Of The World stretch your love to me Slave gangs gather

Rise

The rain clouds Without peace

Forgive me

Or sleep

I live inside you this bone that only draws

They gather the rain

on your love words

With that thunder That can change worlds Melody With Light Fireflies make melody

A

with light

new

Memory flashes of summer

law

Sparks of love

A

naked tips of sun

new

glimmers of love

song

wake my heart Night gnaws the light

and drink

away

David Groulx was raised in the Northern Ontario mining community of Elliot Lake. He is proud of his Aboriginal roots – his mother is Ojibwe Indian and his father French Canadian. David’s poetry has appeared in over a 125 publications in England, Australia, Germany, Austria, Turkey, India, New Zealand, Scotland and the USA. He lives in a log home near Ottawa, Canada. 11


WRATH OF AGES by Ralph Warth

F

ning to pain his eyes; he had to walk directly into the eastern fire. He wished he had taken the time to put on his Ray-Ban sunglasses. People were looking at him oddly. Hadn't they ever seen a young man in love? Frantic horn blowing alerted him to the danger of not paying attention to traffic. He had to watch for the walking signal to cross the street, better not get run over on the happiest day of his young life. He took the four steps to Betty Lou’s porch in two strides. He pushed the familiar brass door bell. He was hoping his doll would answer the door; it was answered by a teenager about four years younger than his girl, but she resembled her. Maybe she was the younger sister who had been away at Boston College, he thought. He called out, “Hey! Sweetheart, are you related to Betty Lou?” “Yesssss”, she answered tentatively. She had an odd expression and backed uncertainly into the parlor. “Well, Baby cakes, I'm Betty Lou’s beau, glad to meet you, Kido. Will you tell her I'm here and reporting for duty?” The girl started edging backward toward the stairway. He figured he had come on too strong and was scaring her, but he just couldn't contain himself. He felt higher than the Hindenberg. The girl called plaintively up the stairs, cupping her hand near her mouth seemingly so he couldn't hear her. “Motherrr…can you come down here right now? Grandpa’s here. It’s worse than the last time he walked away from the Alzheimer home. Now he thinks grandma is still alive.” He sank to his knees…and then to the floor. He grasped his skinny knees with his mottled arms. His frail body convulsed and heaved. His unbuttoned yellow pajama top parted showing ribs straining to burst through his pale blotchy skin. From deep within his shrunken body…an animal-like moan began…increasing in volume…ricocheting from the walls…and up the stairs…and into the ears of his horrified daughter.

reddy Brown awoke with a slight headache. The sands of sleep drifted slowly from his eyes. For a moment he didn't know where he was. Let’s see, he thought to himself. I am in my bed, there’s my TV. There’s the door to my bath, there’s the sun streaming through the louvered window. Maybe I shouldn't have had that last glass of Morgan David last night. Or did I have any wine last night? Okay! he thought… I got it now. Fully awake, he hurled the plain white sheet off his slender body and bounded from the white enameled metal bed. The coiled springs sang a ringing melody of promise. A generous smile parted his thin lips. “Today is the day,” he thought! He was twenty-five, in the prime of his young life, ready to kindle the planet. It was the spring of the year and the spring of his young life. His brain hummed with excitement as he remembered that today was the day he would ask Betty Lou to be his bride. After years of working and going to college full-time, he had finally gotten his degree in Civil Engineering from Akron University and he was ready to embark with his fair young maiden on the sea of life. Oh! What a life he had planned. Yesterday, he remembered, he received the letter notifying him that he was accepted to a position in a large construction firm in Hawaii. He was to help design and build the many hotels and custom luxury homes that were blossoming on the dark rocky shores of the Big Island. A dream job in a dream location and he was going to share it with his dream girl. He looked in his one closet and noted the few clothes he owned. Oh well that, he knew, would change once he began making the big bucks of a civil engineer with a premier company. He rapidly dressed in his pale yellow trousers and donned a matching yellow Hawaiian shirt he had saved for the occasion; at least he hoped it would pass as Hawaiian. His brown deck shoes resembled slippers but they felt comfortable and light. He left his stark bachelor room and swept past the other boarders who were just awakening. With two hands he burst through the glass double doors with power and grace. He heard a strident alarm bell sound. In his excitement, he thought, he must have gone out the emergency exit by mistake. The lady at the desk called loudly after him but he didn't have time to discuss exits or rent or whatever. No time for breakfast. He scanned the parking lot and finally located what he thought was his car, but these days most cars looked alike. Now, he realized, he must have left without his car keys. Oh well, what the heck, he could walk the half mile to Betty Lou’s house. He had to look down to see if his feet were touching the ground. He hadn't felt this grand since the Japanese surrendered. His shirt flapped brazenly against his thin torso. The morning sun was already raising globs of perspiration on his wrinkled brow. The unrelenting sun was begin-

• • •

12


e h t g n i k l a W h t n i r y La b by Suzanne Feathers Suzanne Feathers was born in Philadelphia Pa. She now lives on a small farm in east-central Pennsylvania where she had raised and trained horses for many years. She now currently has a boarding kennel business and raises and handles shows dogs. Writing numerous poems, prose and short stories throughout her life, she is now finally settling down to have her works published. Her work “FIRST LESSONS� has been published by Flashes in the Dark publications. Her first novel The Deal Breaker is submitted and awaiting approval.

In the fall of the Year in which I now exist, I am Earth. On the surface, I am the many particles of dust that moves from the lips of wind scattering the who of me to ever changing places I am surface whimsy of paw prints of passing fancies I am the bed of sleeping seeds; the unawakened. I am used...a constant vessel of full and empty Bathed, bothered and battered by sun, wind, rain, and fire my openness penetrated by uncountable seeking roots I go deeper, below the blowing Hints of warmth and wetness invite allies who massage and move through me; loosening, stirring, shifting, changing, blending; Healing the healer. Deeper still, deepening to the core never found Deep peace place of ageless secrets; ancient wisdoms and fossils of hidden mysteries yet unfolded The existence of many millions multiples of self; myself within self The seed within the seed's seed...the sum of life unanswered. Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Nicholas Johnston Poems

Tonight the Stars Speak Tonight the stars speak of a time when you and I were lost in each other The morning will come and silence their voices allowing the day to come alive in the minds of everyone that isn’t us

Dock The end of the dock had been his home for the past year He never fished Just his thoughts and a bottle of the McCallan The silence was a continuous car crash But was the only thing that seemed to heal his inner and outer wounds

Our conversations with the son are meaningless unless we truly believe we are communing with our father Tonight the stars speak and we will let them talk I found the alter and explored a reply to the question that only Richard Dawkins has the answer for

When the weather became chilled he wore a coat there on the end of the dock

You were the song and I can’t sing You were the story and I can’t write I’ve only ever loved myself but I’ve done it so well

When the snow fell he wore a snow suit there on the end of the dock In the spring and summer when the weather was warm he wore shorts and t-shirts there on the end of the dock

Tonight the stars speak of your love and why I can’t seem to find the reason for it

The weather changed around him But his thought remained fixated on the water He thought once about jumping in to let the cool crisp water cleanse his every pore But those thoughts were fleeting The song of the water calmed him mesmerized him But Never to completion Never to resolution Never enough to leave the end of the dock

My Father’s Car For weeks I have stood longingly by the road searching for my father’s car. He left during the coldest night of the worst year of my short life. For my eleven years I have known nothing but love from by father. My mother tells me, “Your father is an asshole.” Why leave me behind , leave me with her, leave me without him?

Nick Johnston is a poet and high school teacher from Central Florida. He isn’t a starving artist and has never claimed to be but occasionally he does get hungry for a great hamburger. With a poetic style that seems uncontrollably sporadic, Nick strives to blend the “everyday” with the “once in a life time" but, occasionally misses the mark.

So I stand fractured glass and meandering eyes for my father’s car 14


Edgar Allan Poe CLASSIC WRITER

MANUSCRIPT FOUND IN A BOTTLE Our vessel was a beautiful ship of about four hundred tons, copper-fastened, and built at Bombay of Malabar teak. She was freighted with cotton-wool, and oil from the Lachadive islands. We had also on board coir, jaggeree, ghee, cocoa-nuts, and a few cases of opium. The stowage was clumsily done, and the vessel consequently crank. We got under way with a mere breath of wind, and for many days stood along the eastern coast of Java without any other incident to beguile the monotony of our course than the occasional meeting with some of the small grabs of the Archipelago to which we were bound. One evening, leaning over the taffrail, I observed a very singular, isolated cloud, to the N. W. It was remarkable, as well as for its color, as from its being the first we had seen since our departure from Batavia. I watched it attentively until sunset, when it spread all at once to the eastward and westward, girting in the horizon with a narrow strip of vapour, and looking like a long line of low beach. My notice was soon afterwards attracted by the dusky red appearance of the moon, and the peculiar character of the sea. The latter was undergoing a rapid change, and the water seemed more than usually transparent. Although I could distinctly see the bottom, yet, heaving the lead, I found the ship in fifteen fathoms. The air now became intolerably hot, and was loaded with spiral exhalations, similar to those arising from heated iron. As night came on every breath of wind died away, and a more entire calm it is impossible to conceive. The flame of a candle burned upon the poop, without the least perceptible motion, and a long hair held between the finger and thumb, hung without the possibility of detecting a vibration. However as the captain said he could perceive no indication of danger, and as we were drifting in bodily to shore, he ordered the sails to be furled and the anchor let go. No watch was set, and the crew, consisting principally of Malays, stretched themselves deliberately upon deck. I went below — not without a full presentiment of evil. Indeed every appearance warranted me in apprehending a Simoom. I told the captain my fears — but he paid no attention to what I said, and went below without deigning to give a reply. My uneasiness, however prevented me from sleeping, and about midnight I went upon deck. As I placed my foot upon the upper step of the companion ladder, I was startled with a loud, humming noise, like that occasioned by the rapid revolution of a mill-wheel, and before I could ascertain its meaning, I found the ship quivering to its centre. In the next instant, a wilderness of foam hurled us upon our beam-ends, and rushing over us fore and aft, swept the entire decks from stem to stern.

Image: federico stevanin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

O

f my country and of my family I have little to say. Ill usage and length of years have driven me from the one and estranged me from the other. Hereditary wealth afforded me an education of no common order, and a contemplative turn of mind enabled me to methodize the stores which early study very diligently garnered up. Beyond all things the works of the German moralists gave me great delight; not from any ill-advised admiration of their eloquent madness, but from the ease with which my habits of rigid thought enabled me to detect their falsities. I have often been reproached with the aridity of my genius — a deficiency of imagination has been imputed to me as a crime — and the Pyrrhonism of my opinions has at all times rendered me notorious. Indeed a strong relish for physical philosophy has, I fear, tinctured my mind with a very common error of this age — I mean the habit of referring occurrences even the least susceptible of such reference, to the principles of that science. Upon the whole no person could be less liable than myself to be led away from the severe precincts of truth by the ignes fatui of superstition. I have thought proper to premise thus much lest the incredible tale I have to tell should be considered rather the raving of a crude imagination, than the positive experience of a mind to which the reveries of fancy have been a dead letter and a nullity. After many years spent in foreign travel, I sailed from the port of Batavia, in the rich and populous island of Java, on a voyage to the Archipelago of the Sunda islands. I went as passenger — having no other inducement than a kind of nervous restlessness which haunted me like a fiend.

15


Thence forward we were enshrouded in pitchy darkness, so that we could not have seen an object at twenty paces from the ship. Eternal night continued to envelop us, all unrelieved by the phosphoric sea-brilliancy to which we had been accustomed in the tropics. We observed too, that, although the tempest continued to rage with unabated violence, there was no longer to be discovered the usual appearance of surf, or foam, which had hitherto attended us. All around us was horror, and thick gloom, and a black sweltering desert of ebony. Superstition’s terror crept by degrees into the spirit of the old Swede, and my own soul was wrapped up in silent wonder. We neglected all care of the ship, as worse than useless, and securing ourselves as well as possible to the stump of the mizzen-mast, looked out bitterly into the world of ocean. We had no means of calculating time, nor could we form any guess of our situation. — We were, however, well aware of having made farther to the Southward than any previous navigators, and felt extreme amazement at not meeting with the usual impediments of ice. In the meantime every moment threatened to be our last — every mountainous billow hurried to overwhelm us. The swell surpassed anything I had imagined possible, and that we were not instantly buried is a miracle. My companion spoke of the lightness of our cargo, and reminded me of the excellent qualities of our ship — but I could not help feeling the utter hopelessness of hope itself, and prepared myself gloomily for that death which I thought nothing could defer beyond an hour, as, with every knot of way the ship made the swelling of the black stupendous seas became more dismally appalling. At times we gasped for breath at an elevation beyond the Albatross — at times became dizzy with the velocity of our descent into some watery hell, where the air grew stagnant, and no sound disturbed the slumbers of the Kraken. We were at the bottom of one of these abysses, when a quick scream from my companion broke fearfully upon the night. ‘See! see!’ — cried he, shrieking in my ears, — ‘Almighty God! see! see!’ As he spoke, I became aware of a dull, sullen glare of light which rolled as it were down the sides of the vast chasm where we lay, and threw a fitful brilliancy upon our deck. Casting my eyes upwards, I beheld a spectacle which froze the current of my blood. At a terrific height directly above us, and upon the very verge of the precipitous descent, hovered a gigantic ship of nearly four thousand tons. Although upreared upon the summit of a wave of more than a million times her own altitude, her apparent size still exceeded that of any ship of the line or East Indiaman in existence. Her huge hull was of a deep dingy black, unrelieved by any of the customary carvings of a ship. A single row of brass cannon protruded from her open ports, and dashed off from their polished surfaces the fires of innumerable battle-lanterns, which swung to and fro about her rigging. But what mainly inspired us with horror and astonishment, was that she bore up under a press of sail in the very teeth of that supernatural sea, and of that ungovernable hurricane. When we first discovered her, her stupendous bows were alone to be seen as she rose up, like a demon of the deep, slowly from the everlasting gulf beyond her. For a moment of intense terror she paused upon the giddy pinnacle, as if in contemplation of her own sublimity, then trembled and tottered, and, came down.

The extreme fury of the blast proved in a great measure the salvation of the ship. Although completely water-logged, yet, as all her masts had gone by the board, she rose after a minute heavily from the sea, and staggering awhile beneath the immense pressure of the tempest, finally righted. By what miracle I escaped destruction, it is impossible for me to say. Stunned by the shock of the water, I found myself upon recovery, jammed in between the stern-post and rudder. With great difficulty I gained my feet, and looking dizzily around, was, at first, struck with the idea of our being among breakers, so terrific beyond the wildest imagination was the whirlpool of mountainous and foaming ocean within which we were engulfed. After a while, I heard the voice of an old Swede, who had shipped with us at the moment of our leaving port. I hallooed to him with all my strength, and presently he came reeling aft. We soon discovered that we were the sole survivors of the accident. All on deck, with the exception of ourselves, had been swept overboard, and the captain and mates must have perished as they slept, for the cabins were deluged with water. Without assistance, we could expect to do little for the security of the ship and our exertions were at first paralysed by the momentary expectation of going down. Our cable had of course parted like pack-thread, at the first breath of the hurricane, or we should have been instantaneously overwhelmed. We scudded with frightful velocity before the sea, and the water made clear breaches over us. — The framework of our stern was shattered excessively, and in almost every respect we had received considerable injury — but to our extreme joy we found the pumps unchoked, and that we had no great difficulty in keeping free. The main fury of the Simoom had already blown over, and we apprehended little danger from the violence of the wind — but we looked forward to its total cessation with dismay, well believing, that in our shattered condition, we should inevitably perish in the tremendous swell which would ensue. But this very just apprehension seemed by no means likely to be soon verified. For five entire days and nights — during which our only subsistence was a small quantity of jaggeree, procured with great difficulty from the forecastle — the hulk flew at a rate defying computation, before rapidly succeeding flaws of wind, which, without equaling the first violence of the Simoom, were still more terrific than any tempest I had before encountered. Our course for the first four days was, with trifling variations, S. E. and by South, and we must have run down the coast of New Holland. On the fifth day, the cold became extreme, although the wind had hauled round a point more to the Northward. — The sun arose with a sickly yellow lustre and clambered a very few degrees above the horizon — emitting no decisive light. There were no clouds whatever apparent, yet the wind was upon the increase, and blew with a fitful and unsteady fury. About noon, as nearly as we could guess, our attention was again arrested by the appearance of the sun. It emitted no light, properly so called, but a dull and sullen glow unaccompanied by any ray. Just before sinking within the turgid sea its central fires suddenly went out, as if hurriedly extinguished by some unaccountable power — it was a dim, silver-like rim, alone, as it rushed down the unfathomable ocean. We waited in vain for the arrival of the sixth day — that day to me has not yet arrived — to him, never did arrive.

At this instant, I know not what sudden self-possession came over my spirit. Staggering as far aft as I could, I 16


the endeavor. At the last moment I will enclose the MS. in a bottle and cast it within the sea.

awaited fearlessly the ruin that was to overwhelm. Our own vessel was at length ceasing from her struggles, and sinking with her head to the sea. The shock of the descending mass struck her, consequently in that portion of her frame which was already under water, and the inevitable result was to hurl me with irresistible violence upon the rigging of the stranger.

An incident has occurred which has given me new room for meditation. Are such things the operations of ungoverned Chance? I had ventured upon deck and thrown myself down, without attracting any notice, among a pile of ratlinstuff and old sails in the bottom of the yawl. — While musing upon the singularity of my fate, I unwittingly daubed with a tar-brush the edges of a neatly-folded studding-sail which lay near me on a barrel. The studding-sail is now bent upon the ship, and the thoughtless touches of the brush are spread out into the word DISCOVERY.

As I fell, the ship hove in stays, and went about, and to the confusion ensuing, I attributed my escape from the notice of the crew. With little difficulty I made my way unperceived to the main hatchway, which was partially open, and soon found an opportunity of secreting myself in the hold. Why I did so I can hardly tell. A nameless and indefinite sense of awe, which at first sight of the navigators of the ship had taken hold of my mind, was perhaps the principle of my concealment. I was unwilling to trust myself with a race of people who had offered, to the cursory glance I had taken, so many points of vague novelty, doubt, and apprehension. I therefore thought proper to contrive a hiding-place in the hold. This I did by removing a small portion of the shifting-boards in such a manner as to afford me a convenient retreat between the huge timbers of the ship.

I have made many observations lately upon the structure of the vessel. Although well armed she is not, I think, a ship of war. Her rigging, build, and general equipment, all negative a supposition of this kind. What she is not I can easily perceive, what she is, I fear it is impossible to say. I know not how it is, but in scrutinizing her strange model, and singular cast of spars, her huge size, and overgrown suits of canvass, her severely simple bow and antiquated stern, there will occasionally flash across my mind a sensation of familiar things, and there is always mixed up with such shadows, as it were, of recollection, an unaccountable memory of old foreign chronicles and ages long ago.

I had scarcely completed my work, when a footstep in the hold forced me to make use of it. A man passed by my place of concealment with a feeble and unsteady gait. I could not see his face, but had an opportunity of observing his general appearance. There was about it an evidence of great age and infirmity. His knees tottered beneath a load of years, and his entire frame quivered under the burthen. He muttered to himself in a low broken tone, some words of a language which I could not understand, and groped in a corner among a pile of singular-looking instruments and decayed charts of navigation. His manner was a wild mixture of the peevishness of second childhood, and the solemn dignity of a God. He at length went on deck, and I saw him no more.

I have been looking at the timbers of the ship. She is built of a material to which I am a stranger. There is a peculiar character about the wood which strikes me as rendering it unfit for the purpose to which it has been applied. I mean its extreme porousness, considered independently of the worm-eaten condition which is a consequence of navigation in these seas, and apart from the rottenness attendant upon age. — It will appear perhaps an observation somewhat over-curious, but this wood has every characteristic of Spanish oak, if Spanish oak were distended or swelled by any unnatural means. In reading the above sentence a curious apothegm of an old weather-beaten Dutch navigator comes full upon my recollection. ‘It is as sure,’ he was wont to say, when any doubt was entertained of his veracity, ‘as sure as there is a sea where the ship itself will grow in bulk like the living body of the seaman.’

• • • A feeling, for which I have no name, has taken possession of my soul, a sensation which will admit of no analysis, to which the lessons of by-gone time are inadequate, and for which I fear futurity itself will offer me no key. To a mind constituted like my own, the latter consideration is an evil. I shall never, I know that I shall never, be satisfied with regard to the nature of my conceptions. Yet it is not wonderful that these conceptions are indefinite, since they have their origin in sources so utterly novel. A new sense, a new entity is added to my soul.

About an hour ago I made bold to thrust myself among a group of the crew. They paid me no manner of attention, and, although, I stood in the very midst of them all, seemed utterly unconscious of my presence. Like the one I had at first seen in the hold, they all bore about them the marks of a hoary old age. Their knees trembled with infirmity, their shoulders were bent double with decrepitude, their shriveled skins rattled in the wind, their voices were low, tremulous and broken, their eyes glistened with the rheum of years, and their grey hairs streamed terribly in the tempest. Around them on every part of the deck lay scattered mathematical instruments of the most quaint and obsolete construction.

It is long since I first trod the deck of this terrible ship, and the rays of my destiny are, I think, gathering to a focus. Incomprehensible men! Wrapped up in meditations of a kind which I cannot divine, they pass me by unnoticed. Concealment is utter folly on my part, for the people will not see. It was but just now that I passed directly before the eyes of the mate, it was no long while ago that I ventured into the captain’s own private cabin and took thence the materials with which I write, and have written. I shall from time to time continue this journal. It is true that I may not find an opportunity of transmitting it to the world, but I will not fail to make

I mentioned some time ago the bending of a studdingsail. From that period the ship being thrown dead off the wind, has held her terrific course due South, with every rag of canvass packed upon her from her trucks to her lower studding-sail booms, and rolling every moment her top-gallant yardarms into the most appalling hell of water, which it 17


As I imagined, the ship proves to be in a current, if that appellation can properly be given to a tide which, howling and shrieking by the white ice, thunders on to the Southward with a velocity like the headlong dashing of a cataract.

can enter into the mind of man to imagine. I have just left the deck, where I find it impossible to maintain a footing, although the crew seem to experience little inconvenience. It appears to me a miracle of miracles, that our enormous bulk is not buried up at once and forever. We are surely doomed to hover continually upon the brink of Eternity, without taking a final plunge into the abyss. — From billows, a thousand times more stupendous than any I have ever seen, we glide away with the facility of the arrowy sea-gull, and the colossal waters rear their heads above us, like demons of the deep, but like demons confined to simple threats and forbidden to destroy. I am led to attribute these frequent escapes from imminent and deadly peril, to the only natural cause which can account for such effect. I must suppose the ship to be within the influence of some strong current, or impetuous under-tow.

To conceive the horror of my sensations is, I presume, utterly impossible — yet a curiosity to penetrate the mysteries of these awful regions predominates even over my despair, and will reconcile me to the most hideous aspect of death. It is evident that we are hurrying onwards to some exciting knowledge — some never-to-be-imparted secret, whose attainment is destruction. Perhaps this current leads us to the Southern pole itself — it must be confessed that a supposition apparently so wild has every probability in its favour. The crew pace the deck with unquiet and tremulous step, but there is upon their countenances an expression more of the eagerness of hope than of the apathy of despair.

I have seen the captain face to face and in his own cabin — but as I expected he paid me no attention. Although in his appearance there was, to a casual observer nothing which might bespeak him more or less than man — still a feeling of irrepressible reverence and awe, mingled with the sensation of wonder, with which I regarded him. In stature he is nearly my own height, that is, I mean about five feet, eight inches. He is of a well-knit and compact frame of body, neither robust nor remarkably otherwise. But it is the singularity of the expression which reigns upon the face, it is the intense, the wonderful, the thrilling evidence of old age so utter, so extreme, which strikes upon my soul with the shock of a Galvanic battery. His forehead, although little wrinkled, seems to bear upon it the stamp of a myriad of years. His grey hairs are records of the past, and his grayer eyes are Sybils of the future. The cabin floor was thickly strewn with strange, iron-clasped folios, and mouldering instruments of science, and obsolete, long-forgotten charts. His head was bowed down upon his hands, and he pored with a fiery unquiet eye over a paper which I took to be a commission, and which at all events bore the signature of a monarch. He muttered to himself, as did the first seaman whom I saw in the hold, some low peevish syllables of a foreign tongue, and although the speaker was close at my elbow, yet his voice seemed to reach my ears from the distance of a mile.

In the meantime the wind is still in our poop, and as we carry a crowd of canvass, the ship is at times lifted bodily from out the sea, oh, horror upon horror! the ice opens suddenly to the right, and to the left, and we are whirling dizzily in immense concentric circles, round and round the borders, of a gigantic amphitheatre, the summit of whose walls is lost in the darkness and the distance. But little time will be left me to ponder upon my destiny, the circles rapidly grow small, we are plunging madly within the grasp of the whirlpool, and amid a roaring, and bellowing and shrieking of ocean and of tempest, the ship is quivering, oh God! and — going down.

• • • Edgar Allan Poe was an author, editor, and poet. He was born in 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts. Originally named simply Edgar Poe, he was orphaned at a young age and taken in by John and Frances Allan. He attended the University of Virginia for one semester, then joined the Army, but failed at West Point. He published his poem, The Raven, in 1845 to instant success. He died in 1849, although the cause of his death is still a matter of debate.

The ship and all in it are imbued with the spirit of Eld. The crew glide to and fro like the ghosts of buried centuries, their eyes have an eager and uneasy meaning, and when their figures fall athwart my path in the wild glare of the battle-latterns, I feel as I have never felt before, although I have been all my life a dealer in antiquities, and have imbibed the shadows of fallen columns at Balbec, and Tadmor, and Persepolis, until my very soul has become a ruin. When I look around me I feel ashamed of my former apprehensions. If I trembled at the blast which has hitherto attended us, shall I not stand aghast at a warring of wind and ocean, to convey any idea of which, the words tornado and Simoom are trivial and ineffective! All in the immediate vicinity of the ship is the blackness of eternal night and a chaos of foamless water, but, about a league on either side of us, may be seen, indistinctly and at intervals, stupendous ramparts of ice, towering away into the desolate sky and looking like the walls of the universe. 18


SERGIO ORTIZ the work of

Inventory the tyrannical empire of the absurd the tears waiting

Hidden

at the curve the way you sheltered

Stolen rhododendrons in my hand—

my heart

the old imperfections of a heart at large.

the silence you dispensed like a wall in the dark

I draw near my rope’s end shrunk to common size,

lofts of desire

ignored in this tawdry harbor, hidden like a lizard,

the mother that died when you were a child

beaten by history’s hazardous lack of action. Unlucky hero born in the province of the stuck record

the kiss that rotted on our lips

where the most watchful tailors go jobless

the beach inhabited

and scissor cut their own patterns.

by worms the bed flying

Blameless children stand looking

in a void

at a field of horses, necks bent,

the avalanche of gods and myths

tails streaming against the green backdrop of sycamores.

everything given and taken the shit we relentlessly dumped on each other

Sergio Ortiz is a retired educator, poet, and photographer. He has a B.A. in English literature, and a M.A. in philosophy. Flutter Press released his debut chapbook, At the Tail End of Dusk, October 2009. Ronin Press released his second chapbook, topography of a desire, May 2010. Avantacular Press released his first photographic chapbook: The Sugarcane Harvest, May 2010. His third chapbook: Wet Stones and Bedbugs in My Mattress, will be released by Flutter Press, November 2010. He was recently published, or is forthcoming in: Fried Eye, Shot Glass Journal, Cavalier Literary Couture, and Touch: The Journal of Healing. He is a three-time nominee to the 2010 Sundress Best of the Web Anthology, and a 2010 Pushcart Nominee. 19

the bread we shared the caresses the weight of our open hands the child we never had


THE CHILL SEASON

by Lylanne Musselman

Old man winter – a bully, a brute, a frigid excuse for a solstice. A frozen soul with a trembling body brrrr. Winter butts in on Fall – nudging her out of the way with wicked winds and early snows. Winter cuts in on Spring – tripping her with cold excuses and cha cha ice storms. It’s hard to embrace winter wrapped in layers of sweaters, heavy coats, scarfs, hats, and gloves, the too short days and longer dark nights, the gray that hangs gloom in the air and bares bark around branches of trees that sway white in silence, the chill that frosts breath into wispy clouds inside the car, wind-slapped cheeks red.

Lylanne Musselman is an award winning poet and artist living in Toledo, Ohio. She teaches writing of all stripes at Terra State, Owens, and Ivy Tech Community Colleges. Her work is forthcoming, or has appeared, in The Bird’s Eye reView, Pank, Tipton Poetry Journal, Umbrella, New Verse News, The Prose-Poem Project, among others, and many literary anthologies. Lylanne is the author of two chapbooks: A Charm Bracelet for Cruising (Winged City Press, 2009) and Winged Graffiti (Finishing Line Press, 2011).

20 20


Jeopardy Double

by Gary Ives

S

four-eyed chick in a room close by the elevator and I knew right away she was a contestant on accounta the fruit basket. Her door was cracked, I pointed at her and said “Jeopardy?” She nodded her head. “Me too. Hey sweetie, wanna get high?” And I made the universal sign of tokin’ up. “No! Certainly not! And we are not even supposed to be talking!” “Ok, sweet cakes. Your loss. I’m gonna kick your ass on the TV tomorrow, bitch.” I laughed as she slammed the door. Next mornin’ a van from the studio picked us up. Four eyes wouldn’t even look at me without she give me the stink eye. Fuck her. I asked the other contestant, some black dude, if he had a cigarette and he looked at me like I was crazy. He tells me, “You are not supposed to be wearing jeans and a tee shirt with a beer logo. Didn’t you read your instructions?” I stared back at him and said in my best ebonics, “I din’ ax fo’ no fashion advice, jus’ a smoke, bro.” It was plain he didn’t like me so I added, “Not many brothers on Jeopardy, huh?” When we got to the studio my new friends ignored me which pissed me off so I tripped the black dude. Ha. He went ass over tin cup and smacked his head on the plate glass. His glasses were on the pavement and there was blood on the glass door to the studio. “Did you see that?” I yelled. “That bitch tripped the brother! She tripped his ass. I saw her! In the van she kept tellin’ him she was gonna smoke his ass!” It didn’t work. Some suit from the studio read me the riot act and two assholes in blue blazers escorted me back to the hotel, checked me out, and put me on a plane back home. They wouldn’t even let me keep the picture of Alex, the bastards. Back home I told everyone about how Alex and me hit it off and he let me drive his Rolls over to Pat Sajack’s and how we all got high and took turns spanking Vanna White, who really dug it and asked me for my phone number. In the morning I’m drivin’ my brother Jerry’s van up to my Uncle Bill’s in Arkansas. He won’t need a car for a while.

ix years ago the Jeopardy bus came to the Gulf Coast. Jerry, my identical twin, drove over and spent the day at the Holiday Inn in Mobile taking written tests and competing with a herd of other nerds and ending up getting selected. The next week he got a registered letter from Los Angeles with a non-refundable plane tickets, hotel reservations, and a cashier’s check for $400 travel expenses to fly out to LA the next month for the taping of the contest. Also enclosed was a contract Jerry had to sign in which he agreed not to disclose any Jeopardy information, follow the dress code, and other rules to obey while he was on the set. Rules, such as “Under no circumstances will a contestant argue with Mr. Trebec,” and “Under no circumstances will a contestant challenge the validity of any Jeopardy question,” and “Under no circumstances will profanity be expressed…” etc. Failure to follow the provisions of the contract or the on set rules would make contestants liable for all expenses, including the advance travel tickets and cash. Once signed, the scheduled date of the taping was sacrosanct and could be changed only by a death in the family or severe illness, verifiable by Jeopardy’s attorneys. Jerry signed the contract and would have flown to LA, had he not gotten arrested in Pensacola the day before he was to leave. He had been caught on video tape loading three flat screen TVs off the loading dock at Circuit City into his white van, and he’d been seen by the warehouse manager who picked him out of a police lineup. Our dad was so pissed about this that he stayed drunk and he refused to throw bail for Jerry who was in the clink until his court date. Me, I wasn’t havin’ none of this and frankly, since it was me, not Jerry, who’d boosted those TVs. The best place for my ass was out of state. I reckon it was kismet. I’d take Jerry’s place on Jeopardy. After all it’d save him from having to refund the travel money. Yeah we share the same DNA bein’ twins, but up inside our heads we have always been opposites and we have pretty much always hated one another. He’s a tattle-tale, pussy, nerd know-it-all, straightarrow son of bitch who hangs out with a flit of other faggy grad school nerds. For me school has always been a waste of time. When I found out I hadn’t made the football team, I quit high school and got me my GED thereby savin’ two years of good times. Anyway, lemme get back to this Jeopardy thing. First thing I did was borrow Jerry’s student ID card and driver’s license from his desk drawer. Then I cashed that cashier’s check, scored a quarter ounce, and headed to LA. Jeopardy contestants stay at the Raddison in Studio City – a really nice place. There was a fruit basket and a big envelope with instructions and an autographed picture of Alex Trebec in my room. Among the instructions, contestants, all of whom were staying at the Raddison, were cautioned keep apart and not socialize. Ha. I seen this

• • •

Gary Ives lives in the Arkansas Ozarks with his wife and two big dogs where he grows apples and writes. 21


Roslyn Ross is a journalist by profession with some forty years spent as a feature writer, sub-editor, layout sub-editor, and editor for newspapers and magazines. She now works as a manuscript editor. She took up oil painting three years ago and started with watercolours last year. Her home town is Adelaide, South Australia. She has been married to her best friend for 42 years. http://roslynrosssmallstones.blogspot.com/

Kimberley Country by Roslyn Ross

22


Bushfire

by Roslyn Ross

23


Broke Expression

by Eric Boyd

cat. Augie liked visiting the apartment, if only to pet the cat. “Alright, you gotta get going. Lucy’s coming over.” “You met her at work?” Augie asked. Fredrick worked at the AFC Theatres multiplex at the waterfront shopping area, an old strip of land that used to have steel factories, but was torn down for retail stores. You could see all of it from Fredrick’s apartment. “Yeah. I met her at the theater. She’s an angel. Now scram. Meet me at the café tomorrow.” “Fred, you better buy a fucking piece soon,” Augie said, picking up his painting and opening the door to leave. “Don’t call me that, asshole. Don’t call me Fred. It’s Fredrick. You see me dancing on the ceiling with Jane Powell? And close that door; you want the cat to get out?” “See you later.” • • •

“You remember the Steel Eye gallery wanted to hold a solo show of my pieces?” Augie asked. He sat in Fredrick’s apartment, holding a painting. “Yeah, I remember, it’s tomorrow, right? I called off work.” Fredrick said. “No, it’s a few days.” “I work, then.” “Well it doesn’t matter because they dropped the show.” “Good thing I didn’t call off work, then.” “I’m being serious.” ”Right. Well, y’know. That stinks, man.Your work’s gotten better, too. I like that one you brought. Nice colors.” “Thanks. Want to buy it?” Augie asked. “Nope. I’m broke.” Fredrick Anderson lived by himself on the top floor of the old Library Apartments building which was, obviously, less than a block away from the library on Tenth Avenue in Homestead, just outside of Pittsburgh. Being a writer, Fredrick was overjoyed to live so near the library. The building was falling apart. Fredrick’s apartment, number seven, was one of the nicer ones, but it was still in bad shape. The walls bulged with the weather; if they were hit, dirt and rubble could be heard falling behind them. A bird that somehow got into the apartment died in the heating ducts. Fredrick kept the windows open at all times so the place didn’t stink, even though it was almost winter. He refused to turn on the gas heater, which would have brought the dead-stink air through the ducts, and instead used electric space heaters, one in each room of the apartment. The space heaters were all run through extension cords and plugged into sockets in the hallway outside of the apartment. That way, Fredrick didn’t have to pay for the electricity. Nobody else lived on his floor, so there was no one to complain about the cords running under and out the door, all over the hallway. With the space heaters on at full blast and the late autumn air blowing through the windows, the apartment was both uncomfortably hot and bitterly cold. There was no middle area. It was all extremes, and that fit Fredrick well. He said he’d heard that the apartment building used to put up underemployed AIDS patients who couldn’t get housing anywhere else. Drug addicts, mostly. Now only three people lived in the building, including him. He used to have a roommate, but then he didn’t anymore. Something had happened, and Fredrick was arrested, with a court date in a few months, but he never talked about any of it; to Augie or anyone else. But anyway, he was happier alone. The apartment suited him. All two hundred pounds of him could walk around naked, from the writing room in the back of the apartment, where he clattered away on his typewriter, up to the old, crumbling porch he wasn’t legally allowed on. Now, thankfully, he was clothed. Despite everything, the place was nice enough; it had a good view of the Monongahela River, and Fredrick owned a

Augie Kaufman lived two streets down, on Eighth Avenue. He walked down to the apartment, checked his mail, and went up. He lived above an African clothing shop owned by a Jamaican woman named JoJo. The place was recommended to Augie by Fredrick, who tried renting it before, but was refused. Fredrick assumed it was because he was white, and asked Augie to try getting the apartment as confirmation. “If she didn’t rent it to me and I’m an Irishman, and she doesn’t rent it to you, a Jew, then we’ll know the score…” And when JoJo asked Augie what his occupation was and he said ‘painter,’ she smiled bitterly. Maybe Fredrick was right; she’ll turn me down for sure, Augie had thought. “Are you sure yo’ll be able to pay the rent, now?” “Yes ma’am. I’m sure.” But Augie ended up getting the apartment and Fredrick pretended like his racist social experiment never happened. Homestead was just beginning to look like a town again; and Eighth Avenue was the main drag. Shops like JoJo’s lined the street, though there were many more closed storefronts than open ones. The town used to be filled with stores where the steelworkers went to after work was over. In the sixties, the mills closed. A lot of workers hung on, sitting at the bars, hoping the mills would reopen. But the mills didn’t reopen, and when the bars started to close, the workers finally left. Homestead rotted for many years until, in the late nineties, the land where the mills were was turned into the Waterfront Shopping Centre. There were shoe stores and restaurants and the movie theater. The Waterfront was a huge area, but Eighth Avenue was still struggling. However, there was a sex shop on Eighth, as well as a daycare center, a deli, a tobacco shop, a free clinic and soup kitchen, a liquor store, some vintage shops, and the café. For being a relatively good location, Augie’s apartment was still a decent price at four hundred a month. 24


came and went with the bathwater. There was no time to get caught up in such thoughts. The rent had to be paid. Dried and dressed, walking down the steps and leaving the apartment through a side door of the African shop, Augie went across the street to the café, meeting Fredrick. “Anything new?” Fredrick asked. “Not a thing. Tried finishing a painting.” “Nothing doin’?” “Not a thing. You?” “My porch fell off last night.” “Is your cat okay?” “Yeah, he ran down to the apartment below mine. I got him pretty quick but now he won’t come out from behind the toilet.” “How did he get down there?” “Cops kicked in my door to make sure nobody was hurt,” Fredrick said sarcastically. “Why do you say it like that?” “The bastards stole my computer. Nobody else lives the building. The fucking cops stole it!” Fredrick slammed his fist on the table. “Jesus.” “Don’t say that. I’m Irish; I get to believe in Jesus. You don’t.” “Shut up. Look, I need money.” “How much?” “Two hundred.” “I barely have two singles.” “Know anyone that buys art?” “Sorry, I do not. If I did, I’d be making art to sell them,” Fredrick grinned. “I don’t know what to do.” “You finish that painting, I’ll buy it; but look at my new script.” “What’s it about?” “A magician.” “Eh, I dunno.” “Com’on,” Fredrick groaned, “we all need a little magic. Just look at the script and I’ll give ya five for the painting.” Five dollars? Augie would have been offended, but five dollars was more than Fredrick could afford. “Deal.” “I wish I could give ya more,” Fredrick sighed, “But it’s a broke generation.” “Yeah,” Augie mumbled. “Why don’t you offer her more?” “JoJo? More what?” “More rent money.” “I barely have half. Why offer more?” Augie shook his head. “You don’t offer it for this month, idiot.” “What do you mean?” “You tell her you’re tripped up on the rent, but not to worry. You’ll give her nine hundred next month.” “I don’t even know if there’ll be a next month.” “What’s that mean?” Fredrick chuckled, “You killing yourself? You don’t have the guts to do anything but take pills, and those cost money you still don’t have. Don’t be dramatic.” “It’s just that she’s probably gonna kick me out.” “Well make the offer and see how it goes…”

The apartment amused Augie. His bedroom had a window, but it opened up to a brick wall from a building next to the African shop, two inches between the window and wall. The kitchen wasn’t much but an offshoot of the living room, which had four windows, all facing out toward the avenue; big, tall windows. Augie had been working on a new series of paintings, but was feeling depressed. Why would the gallery contact him, only to cancel the show? They didn’t postpone it. They canceled it. Done. Over. Augie visited Fredrick in hopes of selling off a few of the pieces. The rent was due in two weeks. He had over half of it, but there was still two hundred to go. Augie made his living off of his paintings, only ever having enough money to do one series at a time. He could paint five or ten paintings, sell them to make the rent, and hopefully have some left over to make five or ten more. Now that the gallery had dropped the show, there was no hope. JoJo was kind enough to allow Augie into the apartment in the first place, but she was not going to be kind when the first of the month went by without a rent check. Fredrick was lucky, Augie thought. He knew the angles. At work, he could steal bags of chicken strips and French fries, and he could clean out a theater and find a wallet every few weeks. Augie didn’t have any real job. Fredrick weighed enough to donate plasma every few days without getting sick. Augie was too thin to donate blood for free, let alone plasma for money. Augie was a painter, and whether he was too dumb or too foolhardy to do anything else, he got by; barely, but just enough. Not this time though. He stared at a canvas in the middle of the living room, a sheet of plastic crunching under his feet. Augie’s paintings were made with ink splattered on top of airplane glue. The glue, used as cobweb fluid in movies, built up different textures. It could be globbed on in lumps or stretched across the canvas with a pallet knife, looking like muscle fiber. He could make a painting in twenty minutes, and whenever they did sell, they sold for about one hundred dollars. People called them Neo-Expressionist. What was the point? They weren’t going to sell this time. Why neoexpress anything when you couldn’t even make the rent? That damn gallery, Augie thought. That goddamn-yuppietrust-fund-kid-cock-sucking-hipster-shit-gallery. Augie hated them. Maybe Fredrick was right when he said the world resented Jewish artists. That damn gallery! Why wouldn’t they take his paintings? Figuring the piece in front of him pointless to work on, Augie watched the traffic through the windows and then decided to take a bath. The bathroom was simple; there was an old footed tub with a pull-around shower curtain. It also had gold and black wallpaper with a Victorian pattern, the black done in thin velvet. Whenever Augie bathed, steam filled the room, dampening it, and the wallpaper glistened. A man felt like a king in that bathroom. Augie enjoyed soaking in the tub; he could sit and think about things. Why did that gallery drop his show at the last minute? Why was the cobweb fluid so expensive? Did he have enough ink to make another painting? Why bother? Was it true that God could be mathematically proven false? Augie often soaked and thought. His small, lean frame held many thoughts, many sentimentalities, most of which 25


Augie did. And it worked. Damn Fredrick. Out of spite, Augie secretly wished JoJo would have kicked him out, if only because it meant Fredrick would have to take him in. Ha! There was a week and a half until rent was due, and Augie was still hoping of making the two hundred he needed. Actually, it was one hundred and ninety-five; Fredrick had bought the latest painting. In return, Augie read his magician script. It was okay. Augie didn’t know anything about screenwriting. It seemed pretty enough, though. Phone calls. Phonecalls. More phone calls. Hey, do you remember me? Augie Kaufman. We did a show last year? You did? Well don’t worry, because I have some pieces now that you’ll love. Jesus, I’ve become a damn salesman, Augie thought. A neo-expressionist salesman. Either way, Augie made forty more dollars; he sold a painting to an old yuppie who had wanted to buy something at an earlier show. Augie offered a new painting for cheap, and it worked! He still needed one hundred and fifty-five dollars. He had no idea how to make it. That night, Fredrick brought him a bag of unsold hotdogs from that night at the theater. “They’re still good,” Fredrick said, “But eat them soon and drink plenty of water.” “Why?” Augie asked. “I asked the plasma center how much I’d get if you donated. They have a referral program. I get a few extra bucks for getting you to donate.” “I can’t donate though! I don’t weight enough.” “That’s why you eat every one of those hotdogs by tomorrow morning, and don’t shit them out, either.” That was going be hard because Augie was a vegetarian. “For your first four donations, you’ll make one hundred and thirty. You can do all fours trips by rent day. Tomorrow’s Friday. We’ll go tomorrow, then Sunday, and then do it the same days next week. That next Sunday is the first, but JoJo won’t be taking rent on a Sunday. You put the money in your bank account and have a money order by Monday morning. It’s foolproof, which is why I’m not worried about you doing it.” For all of the insults, Fredrick had to have been the nicest guy Augie had met. “Then why did I offer her nine hundred to begin with, if you thought we could make the rent anyway?” “Good will. Plus, who knows? You could go in there tomorrow, get a major vein hit, and fucking die. You ever see that needle they use? It looks like a damn coffee stirrer.” So comforting. Despite Fredrick’s jokes, they took the bus to the plasma center uptown the next day. And like every other thing Fredrick ever said about scraping along, it was true. The plan worked fine. Augie made one hundred and thirty dollars. Fredrick gave him thirty more dollars from the money he had made with the referral by getting Augie there. He said it was worth it to watch Augie stumble around like a drunken calf after that first donation. The extra five dollars Augie had left over was enough to cover the money order fee and buy a jar of black ink. Augie was always running out of black ink.

This story originally appeared in Pork & Mead issue #3. All rights belong to the author. Eric Boyd was born on October 16th, at 3:33AM, 1988 in North Carolina. He briefly studied at the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. Boyd began writing fiction after being released from Allegheny county jail; his work has been featured in several journals, both online and in print, including the Newer York, the Fourth River, and Velvet Blory. He also has fiction columns in Pork & Mead magazine and Writer's News Weekly. Boyd's first collection of short stories, Whiskey Sour, will be released in the spring of 2012 by Nervous Puppy Publishing. Eric Boyd currently lives in Homestead, Pennsylvania.

Dangerously Hers

by Kyle Hemmings

With her butterfly sunglasses and sleeveless wrap dresses, she left you with burning tongue and dumb jaw. You started scraping your kneecaps in places you couldn't remember. You stole pink rhinestones from unloved women. Then you dressed like her old boyfriend, the one who caused her months with a therapist resembling Woody Allen. On the next date, she bought you a drink while you sat spellbound on a leather bar-stool, flickering lights from mounted sconces. The rest was smoke and open cocoons. You woke up alone in a dull grey light. For the rest of the day, you felt like somebody's prize horse.

Kyle Hemmings is the author of several chapbooks of poems: Avenue C (Scars Publications), Cat People (Scars), Fuzzy Logic (Punkin Press), and Tokyo Girls in Science Fiction (NAP). He blogs at http://upatberggasse19.blogspot.com/

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POEMS by

Beau Boudreaux Freeman School The middle of a humid summer he had not made tenure and as an employee of the university I was sent to box his office

Will

one window looked out over the quad the married dorm with empty bicycle racks his wooden desk and four steel shelves full of journals, thin and thick—The Economist

I dated Jen, a nurse for less than a month

he never spoke nor smoked from his pipe collection

her sister invited us for dinner, husband and friends

the more I packed became a backyard pool

hilarious, more wine then a hand squeeze

emptying—no more kids’ splashing barbecue, laughter.

on my thigh, Rebecca the bi on my right unhappy, testing my relationship I was silent when the judge showed with nothing but a deep voice and empty glass as if he owned the house— and entire table had shared their wills. Everyone was lively and content with this life owning Apple shares or a field of cows death on my plate in each grin and toast

Beau Boudreaux teaches English in Continuing Studies at Tulane University in New Orleans. His first book collection of poetry, RUNNING RED, RUNNING REDDER, is forthcoming in the spring of 2012.

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I thinking in afterlife my glass untouched no hint of a breeze from any window.


Two Witnesses by Bruce J. Berger The First One last question posed And the shaken drawling man Cannot answer Head hanging Hands cover his face We lean forward To hear the breaking voice That so laden moment We knew would come But his sobs remain silent The Court has ordered every witness Not to speak of death He cannot answer truthfully Whatever question he thinks was asked The Second Strides into the courtroom Head held high He shakes the lawyer’s hand

Loofa by Len Kuntz Some say you survived the collision while I went under steel wheels eating silver spurs of molten metal. Some say you’ve been dancing Brazilian again even though the planet’s propped up with pogo sticks and antique axioms, me eating milquetoast. Some say you never age you never think twice you do not apologize. They say you are someone else’s new elite and that I I should slough away like useless epidermis, and I would, I would but I’ve been peeling the layers with a paring knife and now all I am is blood.

Now to face the questions His buddy fumbled He can do better He won’t pass blame In his mind everything was right A man finds the way to survive

Sharp and Serrated by Len Kuntz That is how I remember you, breeding black venom, eyes twisted metal, your uterus a backdrop blade. In summer when I go shirtless everyone stares at the scars riddled like shrapnel and when they say, “Thank for serving our country,” I never mention your name but reply instead, “My pleasure.”

Len Kuntz edits a lit journal--Metazen. He has published 600 poems and stories in various lit journals like Pank, Boston Literary Magazine, Lower Eastside Review and others.

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by Tracy E. Hauser

When Trees Won’t Dry the leaves and to make our road more swept up than 23rd’s, the street parallel to ours. We may not have realized it then but Dunbar spent more time ensuring our hedges were cut, that the dead leaves on my mother’s rosemary bushes were pruned, than my dad ever had. He once said in private to my little sister that he sometimes left piles of leaves in places next to other driveways so that our house could stand out amongst the rest. Whenever my mother heard him coming down the street she’d take out the washcloth that she had hung over the metal faucet over the sink and wipe her head with it. The more leaves on the ground meant less shade up above and you could see it when you went outside. This meant more work for her without my dad’s helping hand, in the heat without his relief. We had an oak tree on the corner of our street and to the side of it whose branches were so stiff from the hot temperature that they looked warped and wrinkled and tight at the tops. The leaves that were all on them were hanging from crisp stems too and most of them were dead and would fall off only when there was a hot wind that would come through. We had been waiting for rain and respite from the inevitable all summer, but what would come would just be a heavier weight than a blaze without shade, dominance without cover. Sometimes Oklahoma would get a swell season that would filter down to the south to where we were. We would wait for it from June through August, in the meantime taking turns jumping into our town’s local quarry. Meanwhile, my father was waiting for it too, turning himself upside and out, summoning good fortune from great distances away. On Thursday Dunbar came up the street early. Maddie, my four-year old sister, was already outside playing in the sprinklers and helping my mother pick out the dead weeds from the lawn. I’d slept in my bathing suit the night before. I picked up a ‘Landsdowne High School’ t-shirt from the floor and put it over me. I walked out in my bare feet and saw sweat beads on my mother’s forehead with her dress sticking to the top of her chest, the hose wiggling all over the yard. It was at dinner that I noticed the red marks on the palms of my mother’s hands from raking the dead grass, pulling it out of the dry soot to make room for the fresh roots which she’d watered. Outside her hat would fall below her head, heavy with heat, giving her face a droopy look, a film of sweat constantly above her upper lip. She was taking care of other things by herself too, like getting crackled leaves out of our rain gutters, or half-fixing the bolt that kept the doorbell up on the side of our entryway’s portico, half knowing

Image: Vlado / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I

t was the summer when I was nine that my dad left and it was after we’d gotten the blow-up pool in the backyard. This was when it was 90 degrees out every morning, when we’d wake up at 8:30 with all the windows open. I would open my eyes, stuck to the sheets sweating in my cartoon nightgown with the air coming through the window that made it feel like the heat was on. Our dad was a contortionist who actually worked for the city. He’d bend himself over enough to get into an upper storys’ crawl space where he’d fix electrical problems for buildings with power outages. Once I’d asked him if bending over all the time made him stay looking at life as if it were upside down. He’d winked at me and said, “My life is as exciting as the headstands I do swimming in our new blowup pool.” I didn’t realize until later that life with us was as exciting as rain not coming to water thirsty leaves, until a swell season came to breathe life into them both . Even while my dad still lived with us, we never felt like we had a man around the house. Dad had never been an ordinary guy. The only one who came close to one was Dunbar. He came as near to any stability that we could expect, waking up even the earliest rising mothers, as he was the landscaper of our neighborhood’s home owner’s association. I’d wake at seven each morning to the sound of him using the leaf blower against the curbsides to suck up 29


community college and to live with my roommate, Jess. It was more of a letter telling us what he had been up to than to tell us that he’d missed us. He’d been to Utah, to the salt flats, to New York, to prison, and to Guadalajara. He sent us postcards from then on out probably because he knew we couldn’t write him back and yell at him when there was no return address to do that to. I took one card to post to my room in my new apartment with Jess. It had a picture of a rock stream in Manitoba with the words ‘country livin is easy livin’ on the front. After that I started bending backwards in my own living room, seeing if I could bend back far enough to reach my head out of the underside of me. I did this all while watching the cartoons that we got when our bunny ears got reception, like for Porky the Pig. I showed off my backbends that Thanksgiving for my mom when she’d made turkey stuffing in the still stale heat of our country kitchen. She’d said to me “no man’s daughter is ever expected to bend backwards for him and no woman’s daughter is ever expected to ask why.” She’d finally opened up. She’d overextended herself trying to figure out my dad so he’d pay attention. In the end he’d left the plastic clowns on the clock she’d bought him for the real thing. He’d traded the still shot of the flame thrower she’d framed for him for one in action. Here I was trying to bend this way and that so I’d fit with him. But the purpose for my father bending himself out of shape didn’t include us. It was meant for a circus ring with five striped tents, yearning for attention from unknowns, and living in a lot of empty cargo space that was suited for a traveling, inconsiderate misfit.

how to keep it screwed into the wall. She didn’t mind asking Dunbar to help her with cutting down a loose branch that was leaning dangerously close to her bedroom window. She held back, however, when asking him to fix the broken leg on the in-table next to her bed stand. That was my father’s job. She started to back away from asking my father to help around the house, however, in part because he started to slowly spend more and more time away from it. He didn’t notice the tacky clock with clowns on it that my mother had bought for him above our fireplace’s mantel, or the picture of the circus flame thrower she’d placed above his dresser. Eventually more stuff started breaking around our home, like the inside of the kitchen. The blender that my grandmother had handed down to my parents as a wedding present stopped mixing when she’d stuck spinach leaves and kale into it, and the plastic lid of the laundry hamper broke when she’d opened it too fast. When the circus came to town, my father told my mother that they had paid him to help them set down the twenty pound metal stakes for their animal tents that they’d set up for their show on Friday. He even bragged that he’d shown them how he could bend backwards and he’d said that they’d ask him to do his tricks over and over again. He would hurry off to bed after these talks, turning an eye to my mother washing the dishes, leaving her to sponge over the ring of mashed potatoes that had dried around the inside of the big blue potato pottery pot. We got a letter one day from my father addressed to all of us. He said he would be joining the circus and that he would like for us to join him, but that he didn’t expect us to follow him along to where he was going. He’d been playing the limbo after work one day out in the mud flats where a guy named ‘the Giant’ was holding a stick while kneeling and singing a song about an old freight rail train locomotive. While my mother cried uncontrollably with her sisters in the kitchen, our friend Barbery sat around our blue area rug the next day telling us all about what he’d witnessed first-hand. My dad was able to bend so low that they asked him to do other tricks, to rock himself backward and forward like a rocking chair, to bend himself so far back that he could pat his stomach from the upside down. The Giant had told him that there was an opening for a stint in Maldova, Nebraska and that they could use someone with his kind of style. I never pictured my father to be the traveling kind. He didn’t go into the ocean that time when we went with our cousins to Galveston, he got car sick even when he tried sleeping in the back seat, and he’d watched Con-Air so many times that he’d said he swore he would never ever fly again. So it was a shock to all of us when he took off and got all adventurous; I pictured him trying to fall asleep on a mat in an old sleeping car in a wagon train that ran the gamut of the state. I had a thought that maybe if we’d tried traveling by train that it would have been enough for dad and that maybe that would have been something he would have kept up instead of this circus stint. My mother didn’t mention him again after that for several months. She went on cleaning the counters with the thin white washcloths that she bleached every Tuesday, and she never turned towards the couch where he’d sat like she used to, to laugh at the guy on Three’s Company. We got a letter once, seven years later right before I was off to the

• • • About Tracy E. Hauser: I read more than I clean and I usually leave my house with my hair wet. I usually only listen to depressing music in my car because that's what it's like to teach. I grade papers with a purple pen, eat hummus sandwiches, and miss Keith Oberman on the news. I enjoy recording live rock shows to study the lyrics for their content. Filtering is my favorite word because ‘unoriginal’ is my worst. Besides a pen and paper, keeping a wall near me is handy for knocking my head against until I can find the right words to describe…

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The Rusty Nail, April 2012, Issue 2