ENHANCE January 2013
ENHANCE January 2013
Editor in Chief Sopphey Vance Literary Editor Lily Fleur Poetry Editor Nathan Alan Schwartz E-Pub Editor Matthew Guerruckey
Letter From the editor The Editor Brain over analyzes. It is courageous, yet despondent at times. It never turns off. It makes any leisure reading a chore with its beeps and fumes over technicalities. Iâ€™m a long sufferer of the Editor Brain. The constant beeping might never end, but it does not deter me from my love for reading. Does not take away the joy of editing. The joy of bringing Enhance together. In fact, it makes a greater joy swell through the pages of the final piece. This issue is a collection of pieces gathered throughout the year. Itâ€™s a murmur of perceptions from different moments in life. A short insight into the colorful world of thought, as well as a blimp in the myriad of our sanity.
Con t e n t s
Go To Your Heaven by Karissa Hultgren
The Great Escape by Bobby Fox
Flock of Sparrows by Craig W. Steele
Pieces of Me by Dana Dampier
Reap What You Sow, or Sing by Shae Krispinsky
The Prodigal Son by Jacob Fons
Blood by D.Z. Watt
Man in the Street by Oscar Hughes
We Collect Obituaries by Orion Meadows
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Fairy Bugs and Sunshine by Claudette J. Young
Enhance, On Impression, On Impression Books, and the On Impression Network are entities owned by Sopphey Vance. Visit www.onimpression.com for more information.
Intriguing dream (a Naani) by Pamela Smyk Clearly
No Return by Linda G Hatton
Or insanity, the line has long blurred. Sopphey Vance
Go to Your Heaven by Karissa Hultgren Go to your heaven Your heaven of rage, Rage so disparing...it don’t have no caring For a people. but instead for a steeple Where you are free to toss one son out and deny a daughter the dad she should have had Would have had... If you had gone to my heaven My heaven is for those that have suffered Lost lovers and brothers and mothers and others My heaven is for writers and fighters Do not take this wrong... my heaven is not pussy shit For those to complain about their unlived lives But the lives lived; those who long to forgive others Who raped them berate them and irritate them GO TO YOUR HEAVEN my friend Leave mine alone... For you my heaven is hell, for you it aint swell You won’t fair there well Until You claim what you did and you rid Yourself of sin you don’t shame For what you did to my mother left her in the rain to kiss the pavement While you tossed my brother to the system when you didn’t listen So read YOUR bible filled with libel and hate For those who aren’t “right” For those who use words like queer and fag to hide their fear Using color as a tool to define right and wrong Kicking my friends to the curb for being this way or that I say a rit and a tat to the sense that you “make” When you talk and you speak all I hear is weak Father weakness... and that a shame Whose to blame For the shame that you feel... for the blame that wont heal My pain is real But do you feel the pain that you cause When you notice my flaws... becoming bigger and bigger You pull the trigger AND BANG I’m in my heaven with the great philosophers Who looked for independents and never found it But walked around it Cause that weren’t right lost the fight for the light
The Great Escape by Bobby Fox Teddy and Chloe had been waiting for this moment for weeks. They would have done it earlier if it were possible, but the timing was never right, as was so often the case in trysts such as this. When the opportunity finally presented itself, they knew they couldn’t pass it up. Their adventure (or the “The Great Escape” as they nicknamed it) began at 6:30 in the empty parking lot of a municipal park. He arrived promptly at 6:30. She arrived fashionably ten minutes late. As she pulled into the parking spot to the left of his, they smiled at one another through the windows of their cars. Mixed in with their smile was a dual expression that suggested Are we really doing this? Indeed, they were. And it was about damn time. Teddy got out of the car, looked around to make sure their cover wasn’t blown, then approached Chloe’s driver side window. She rolled it down. “Good evening, madam,” he said. “Good evening, monsieur,” she replied back. “Care to join me?,” he offered. “You don’t mind driving?,” she said. “Because I can drive.” “Well, I think the gentlemanly thing to do is for me to drive. Unless, you’re opposed…” “Let me grab my things,” Chloe said without hesitation. She then grabbed her purse, got out of her car and proceeded to grab her a small duffle bag out of her trunk. Teddy took the bag from her and placed it into his trunk, before proceeding to open the passenger side door. “Thank you,” she said, while getting in, trying to recall the last time she was treated this way. “Such a gentleman.” “I try,” Teddy said with a smile, before getting into the car. Teddy leaned in for a kiss, which was done with surprising grace and familiarity. “So, where to?,” he asked. “I’m game for anything,” she replied. “Anything?,” Teddy said seductively. “Well, anything involving food… for starters. For dessert, I can be open for anything,” she said with a
seductive grin. After mulling over their dining options, they both agreed on the safe confines of Applebee’s. After all, it was their favorite restaurant. When they arrived, Teddy opened both the car door and the restaurant door for Chloe. Once inside, they quickly decided to sit at the bar, leaving considerable space between them. They then both looked around for people that would recognize them. Booths were for families and tired, mundane couples. Bars were for occasions such as this. They proceeded to order margaritas, which quickly morphed into two margaritas, followed by a third for good measure. They supplemented their drinking with two appetizers, followed by entrees. As time wore on, the initial space between them closed and by the time they got started on their second margarita, the gap was not only completely closed, but to the point where their legs were now full intertwined, along with flirtatious glances, gestures, leg pats and a smorgasbord of sexual innuendo. If it were legal, they would make love right then and there. By the same token, they were relishing the rush of horniness coursing through their veins – something neither one of them felt in months … if not years. They normally settled for going-through-the-motions sex married couples usually get so accustomed to at some point when the honeymoon period fades into the sunset. Around the middle of their third margarita, a mutual colleague approached them, catching them both by surprise. They tried their best to act natural, feigning professionalism by restoring the safe distance between them, although at this point, it was already too late. The damage was done. But fortunately, they were too drunk to really care. When they were left alone again, the conversation shifted to married life, a sobering reminder of the reality this island of a night was surrounded by. Each vented briefly about their spouse and it was as though they were talking about the same person – the neglect, the irritation, the indifference, the lack of intimacy on all levels, the lack of sexual chemistry – all reasons that justified (in their mind, at least) this night’s very existence. They both agreed that they married good people, but just not the right people, as was so often the
case. They both agreed that they loved their spouses too much to ever leave them. Realizing the conversation was taking too much of a somber tone, they ordered another round of drinks and returned to their flirtatious state and restoring the hormomal levels, which were temporarily lowered by their colleague and conversation about their “real” lives. They reminded one another that for one night, nothing else mattered. Nothing else existed. The night was theirs and only theirs. When they finished eating, Teddy picked up the tab – despite Chloe’s insistence on splitting it. “Next time,” Teddy said optimistically. Chloe relented. It was now time for the dessert that they were both so eagerly awaiting. On the way out, Chloe playfully held the door open for Teddy, who returned the favor by opening the car door for Chloe. They passionately kissed one another in the car, tasting one another’s booze-soaked breath, which only turned them on even more. They then promptly headed to a nearby Motel 6, making fun of themselves for the cheesiness of it all. They then proceeded to make the best love of their life – from pre to post-coital – climaxing together in perfect harmony, while simultaneously erasing any doubts about whether or not this was all worth it. They followed up with two additional encore performances. They were both amazed by how different it now felt. They fell asleep in the spooning position, reminding them of how good it felt to fall in love in somebody’s arms so madly and deeply in love. They woke up early the next morning. Teddy drove Chloe back to her car in the parking lot of the municipal park. They kissed one another goodbye, wondering if they would ever get to experience such a “great escape” ever again. They had their doubts. It took months just to coordinate this one. Only time would tell. Once inside their own cars, they waved goodbye to one another, before heading back to their ordinary lives, which felt even more ordinary after their tryst with the extraordinary. Following their great escape, reality brutally captured them and was returning them to their rightful place: life. Minutes later, Teddy and Chloe both pulled up
into their driveway of the home they built together 10 years ago, gratefully reminded of why they married one another to begin with all those years ago. It was still the best decision they ever made, despite life’s ability to make one think otherwise.
Flock of Sparrows by Craig W. Steele I am only a sparrow amongst a great flock of sparrows. —Evita Perón A flock of sparrows crossed the sky like fish within a shadowed ocean. I looked on high and wondered why this flock of sparrows crossed the sky. What could their action signify? Then I inhaled their wild emotion: my flock of sparrows crossed the sky, like fish within my sunlit ocean.
Pieces of Me by Dana Dampier Stacks upon stacks; invisible stacks of thoughts, feelings, memories. Fragmented and whole, the words on display only my eyes can see. Affecting none... affecting everyone who walks within its space. Pieces of me float about, taking ahold of the place. Unrecognizable to the untrained eye, though signs are everywhere. Lists and lists of ideas hanging unseen upon the air. Traces of facts, traces of lies... paragraphs of sizable size, Absorbed by all, even those who never knew Pieces of me now reside in you. Do what you wish with the knowledge I give I know not whether I affect the life you choose to live
Reap What You Sow, or Sing by Shae Krispinsky In southwestern Virginia, just outside of Roanoke, it’s summer, and it’s hot. The hills lounge in their hazy, violet-tinted greenery. Down in the valley, in a weatherworn house, the musician sits at his kitchen table, drinking coffee, staring out the window at the birds that swoop and slice through the air, ignoring the heat. Every morning he rises, makes coffee, sits at his table. Sometimes he notices the hours melting past, but most often not. He sits. The coffee cools, congeals. He should try to be more constructive, should try to do something, pick up the guitar at least—he shoots it a glance, in the corner of his living room, propped up behind an end table. The instrument holds no appeal. It used to be the fire in which he forged the visceral into the expressible but now it sits, cold. For over twenty years, he plucked at those strings until they were hot beneath his fingertips. True, it’s his livelihood. True, it bought him this house. But right now, he’d rather just ignore it, hope it will go away. Or, come back. He’s not sure. He lost the girl with the harp a year back, and with her, the desire to play. She took his heart, which, for most artists, would be fodder. For him, he needed that blood pump to stoke his music. He needed that slow, soft reassurance of being alive. Now, what did he have? Bitter, cold coffee. The thud as the newspaper hits his front stoop. The newspaper he doesn’t even read, just uses to wrap up the old coffee grounds. She read the newspaper. Always with toast and marmalade. Before her, he had never met anyone who ate marmalade, but then, there was a lot she did he never knew anyone else to do. She played the harp, after all. That takes a certain stature, a certain acceptance of peculiarity. Guitar, drums, keyboards, bass—these were the instruments that guaranteed a long career of collaboration. Not harps. It worked for her. That is, she wore her idiosyncrasies well. He missed that uniqueness, the smell of marmalade and the perfume oil she wore. He asked the scent one time, it had a strange offbeat name and a sweet, green smell. Like fresh cut grass, green tea and new tennis balls, drizzled with some herb. Basil, maybe. Sage? They were all so similar to him, bitingly verdant. The greenness of the perfume was so lush, so mouth-watering, he wished he could bite into it.
If he remembered the scent, he could buy it, along with an atomizer with a red squeeze ball like she had, and spray it around the house. Even if he could remember the name, he knew he’d never do this. Best to just get on with it, with life, no matter how empty or numbing. It’s wasn’t just her food or her scent. Everything around her, everything she brought into her realm was strange, alluring. Her tiny little shoes with the pointed toes, gold embroidery, kittenish heels. The flowing patchwork dresses with all the buttons up the back. The books she read. He wasn’t much of a reader—he read, but wasn’t compelled to do it ceaselessly, nor did he feel the need to finish what he started. Novels remained halfread, splayed on his one bedside table, or on the chaise in the sunroom, covers blanching. He picked sentences like berries and discarded the shrubbery. This was enough to sustain him. She, though, read with a hunger. Saturday mornings were her time to go to yard sales, flea markets, the used book stores in town, seeking out new old books, books with leather covers, gold-leaf titles, musky pages. Those, all those books, were a bitch to move at the end. Small boxes—any larger would have been too heavy to carry. Dozens of them. Hundreds, it seemed. Back and forth, from the house to her friend’s borrowed truck with the hitch and trailer. What knowledge, what sadness. He was not glad for the end, but was at least glad that particular day had already passed. She gave him a book once, wrote a dedication on the first page, the title page, in her swirling handwriting, purple ink. After she left, he stowed it away up in the attic, deep in the bottom of a chest. He hadn’t read that one, either. Sometimes, as he sits there at the table, his coffee mug between his hands, he wonders what brought the end. People grow apart, they say. People change. But do they? He felt mostly the same as he had felt every other day of his life. So is it just that everyone else changes? Is it that everyone else moves away? Was he the anchor, they the current? He wanted to be the water. It had been two years together. Two years of music, playing in churches, and bars, and bookstores to audiences, some more rapt than others. Him lugging her harp from venue to van so she could stop to chat with the teenagers with tear-streaked cheeks and greasy hair, hundred-dollar jeans and Chuck Taylors. He didn’t
appeal to the younger crowd and he accepted this. Those who came to see him were more reserved, came with less a fiery fury, waited until the show was over to pat him on the back, say, “Good set, man,” and then offer to buy him a beer, no fake ID necessary. She was asked for autographs, photographs, hugs. He got handshakes and Pabst Blue Ribbons—he felt he got the better bargain, since he also got to watch her, and climb into the van with her at the end of the night. Those days and nights on the road, in the van, just the two of them, fed him more than a religion ever could, taught him more than any university. A lesson in existence. She called this mindfulness, being present, in the moment. He called it allowing himself to breathe. He realized he hadn’t done that before. Not when he was in New York, not when he was in San Francisco. Even when he had tried to slow himself down, give himself some space, everything felt as though it were closing in on him. Too many buildings, too many people, just too much. All too much. During the stretches of hours on highways, winding around America with her, he finally felt his heartbeat. He finally got it. And then it was over. That morning when she looked at him with pain-puddled eyes and said, “I’m moving back to California,” he had respected her—and loathed himself—enough not to ask why. Instead, he just nodded, rubbed his hands on the knees of his jeans and nodded some more. As though it were inevitable. As though he had been expecting this. Finally he cleared his throat and said, “I guess it’s going to get pretty quiet around here.” She turned and fled the room, her sobs trailing behind. He was right. Days went by where the only noises were the dripping coffee and the evening rain against the windows. Once, he tried listening to the radio, flicking it to AM, trying to find the classic country stations. There had to be some, right? Eight million people in the state of Virginia, there had to be a deluge of broken hearts on any given night. If not country, what were those people listening to? All he found was static—where was Hank when he needed him?—so he gave up, unplugged the radio and shoved it deep into the hall closet. He didn’t need any reminders of his failures, regardless of how
small. Regardless of whether or not he was to blame. So now he sits in silence, slowly sipping. If he were to try to open his mouth to speak, clouds of dust would fall out. If he were to look into the mirror above the sink in the bathroom, he would see a gaunt, heavy-lined face and hair more grey than he would like, but he doesn’t look. He washes his hands with eyes lowered, sometimes not even bothering to turn on the light. He figures that when he needs to see more than the mountain country outside his window, he will. And when that guitar calls to him in the low of the night and tells him, finally, to pick it up, play it and sing again, he will. He’ll ignite like a match to gas-soaked rags and will burn for hours until all that remains at his feet are embers of her memory and enough songs for his next album. Pitchfork will call it a meditation on the growing and dying flames of love and give it an 8.6 out of 10. On the road, he’ll get offered more beer from guys nodding their heads, raising their cans and saying, “Been burnt one too many times myself. Ain’t it a bitch?” It just hasn’t happened yet.
The Prodigal Son by Jacob Fons “His temperature last time was 102.2, right?” “Right.” “And it’s been two hours since we checked last?” “Yeah, the Doctor said to check him every two hours, give him Tylenol every four hours, and if his temperature gets over 103.5 that we should then take him to the emergency room.” “103.5! That’s way too high. Are you sure that’s what he said? Goddamn it, I knew I should have gone with you. I’m going up to take his temperature again.” “Fine, I’ll come with.” “What’s it say?” “Well it’s gone down a bit so that’s good.” “Jack, it’s been four days now. Four days of him with this fever. He’s in and out all the time. He hasn’t eaten. He’s taken down very little fluids. This isn’t right. I’m calling the doctor. I can’t just sit here and watch him like this.” I smell shit. Shit, piss, and mold. God, I’m so hot. Why am I all wet? Not much is making sense. I can make out some of the things they are saying. I can hear yelling. Someone’s coughing. Everything comes in flashes. Like if you took a movie reel, cut it into a thousand pieces, then randomly selected four strips and taped them together. That’s what I am seeing. Church. Hamburger. BMW. Frosty the Snowman. Wow, am I out of it. I keep seeing these flashes of lights too. Kind of like a car driving by the house at night and you just get a quick glare of the headlights through the windows. Yeah, they must be headlights. But in my room? And what’s that slow dripping sound? “I think she’s dead, man. Let’s get out of here.” Who’s dead? My head is pounding and I feel like I’m going to puke. So fucking hot, yet I’m so cold. I hope I can beat this. “Honey, the doctors know what they’re talking about. If we take him to the ER they will only send us back home.” “Those fucking doctors are idiots. I’m going to give him some more Tylenol and see if that helps with the fever.”
so bad. I can’t tell if I have blisters on my tongue or if I just bit it a bunch of times. Shit, everything hurts. Horse. Baby. Cheerleader. Desert. I hear more random voices. Mostly guy’s voices and very quiet. Maybe more doctors? Cold sweats. That’s why I’m all wet. I pissed myself. I hear light footsteps going up or down stairs. It’s probably just Samantha getting ready. God my stomach is cramping. Why does it smell like shit and mold? “Jake? Jake? You alright?” “He’s gone man let’s just leave him.” “OK…Ok, let’s go.” “Can you believe he’s on fucking vacation for the next week? My God I swear that doctor is out of the office more than he’s in it. Can you go to the store and get some Motrin? Let’s see if that works any better.” Man I must have passed out. My fingers feel stuck and frozen. I can’t feel my feet. Who opened the window? Close it for fucks sake, I’m freezing. Mom?Mom? I can’t move anything anymore. Coffee. Socks. Woody.Jesus.God it’s really dark in here. I hear clicking then see quick flashes of light, but not headlights. Lighters maybe? Damp too. Smoke. I’m starting to see shadows of people. I don’t think I know them. Hard to see. The dripping is getting louder and the smell is getting worse. Shit, mold, and death. “He’s too sick to be moved, Jenny. Think about it. Let’s get some cold washcloths and if that doesn’t work, we’ll put him in a cold bath, ok?” “I’m calling St. Lukes to see what the hell they think we should do.” “Fine, I will get some cold washcloths, and you call the hospital. Where am I? I feel like I’m glued to my bed. Can’t lift my head, hands, or fingers. Sounds are louder now. I can definitely hear people running down stairs. Flowers. Shark. Fireworks. Mountain. “Jake, wake up. We got to get the fuck out of here. Now!” “Grab him. Let’s pick him up.” “Fuck this, we got to go!” “See you when we see you Jake, be safe.”
Oh my lips. So dry and cracked. I can actually slide my tongue into the broken bloody crevasses they’re
Mom? Mom where are you? I can finally start to feel my hands and legs again. Finally able to slowly lift my
head up, and open my eyes. My stomach is more painful than ever though. My skin is burning, like a million needles are being pushed into me at once. Black and white static. Jesus even my insides are burning. Oh fuck this isn’t good. I’m dying. I wish I was dying. “Where the fuck am I?” My eyes. They burn. My mouth tastes like decaying meat. This looks like…a basement? It seems familiar. I’ve been here before. Yeah I have, this is the house on 16th street.Oh fuck, I’m sick. Syringe. Beethoven. Puppy. Football. I need a hit. I need a hit bad. Oh shit, there’s still a needle in her arm with some dope in it. Fuck, I can’t reach. My arm is wedged in something.Shit it’s frozen to the floor. I need that hit. Pull. Pull harder. Oh God, the sound of my skin peeling off the pavement was as bad as the fucking pain. Not much bleeding though. How long have I been out? Gotta get the “H”. Just one more time. I swear to God, just one more time. Roll over and yank it out. Gotta get my shoe off. Come on, come on, come on, fuck, my fingers won’t work. I can’t untie my fucking shoes. There’s no sole left on this one. Socks already have holes. Oh shit, three of them are fucking black. That won’t work. Big toe still has color, must have some blood in it still. Rip the sock. It’s in. Push. “Oh…my…God…” The hurting stops instantly. Head stops pounding. Stomach soothed. Thank you Lord Shiva. Now I just need to lay back down and…Who is that anyways? Samantha? “Hey baby wake up. Sammy?” God, her face looks blue. It’s hard to see down here, but I swear I can see every vein in her face, neck, and arms. Kind of looks like blue and purple spider webs. “Sammy”? Jesus Christ, my heart. It’s really starting to… Samantha. Beach. Light. Mom. “What happened? What took so long?” “Sorry, damn meeting went on forever. God, it’s cold out there tonight.I’m going to hop in the shower and head to bed.” “Did you eat dinner? I can make you something quick if you’re hungry.” “Dan and I stopped at Moe’s and got something to
eat. Thanks anyways.” “Hey Honey, you’re phone’s ringing.” “Can you answer it? I’m already in the shower. If its work, tell them I’ll call them back in 20 minutes.” “Hello?” “Hello, I’m looking for Mr. Donahue?” “This is Mrs. Donahue, can I help you?” “This is Officer Peter Benson, with the Chicago Police Department. I’m calling in regards to your son, Jacob Donahue.” “This is about Jake? Oh God! What happened? I haven’t heard from him in over ten years.” “Do you have a moment to talk?”
Blood by D. Z. Watt The smell of blood is thick and sweet. Albert hasn’t realized this before, but it isn’t exactly something to think about unless it’s right here like this, in abundance, to make it obvious. Blood everywhere. Fingerprints of it on the walls, on his cigarette lighter, his shoes, of course his clothes, he probably has it on his face and hair, too, he’ll have to check in the mirror before leaving. Not as thick a smell in here as it is on the loading dock, where trucks back up in the slanting morning sun to load the halved and quartered carcasses of yesterday’s mooing cows for the markets. In here, it’s well below freezing and while the temperature keeps down the smell, it also turns blood on the concrete floor to red ice, and he has to toss handfuls of rock salt around to keep from falling. Each beef has a muslin sheet over it, held on by thick stainless steel pins, something that quite surprised him when he walked in on this, his first morning. The cloth protects the outer layer from freezer burn and discolouration but to his horrified amazement sometimes he can still see the twitching of a yet-unfrozen muscle under it. Even though the head and legs and tail and insides have been gone since yesterday. His job is to pull the pins out by their looped tops, from meat that’s been in the freezer overnight, so he can tear the shrouds off. Then he pushes the beef, hanging from its hook, along the ceiling track to the end of the row where it’s drawn onto a ceiling conveyor that takes it out to the inspection dock. There, two government men in white coats and quilted hunting caps mark each beef several places along the side with blue-inked rubberstamps to show it’s been inspected. Sometimes when he peeks around the corner, these guys are talking about a football game or their girlfriends or they’re laughing about something and stamp away without looking at the meat, the flesh could have maggots hanging out of it singing the national anthem and they wouldn’t be any the wiser. Albert is glad he’s vegetarian. Which causes a stir among his co-workers at lunch, all sitting on the dock to warm themselves in the hot sun before heading back into the freeze for the afternoon. It’s his peanut-butter and banana sandwich that
catches a guy’s eye, who announces it loudly to the group and everyone turns to look, to snicker, to make remarks or stare blankly at him while they tear carnivorously at their food. Though their jokes quietly annoy him, Albert accepts their derision. After all, most of them left school and started here maybe cause their father or uncle or brother already worked here, and they have kids and a wife and a tv at home, and a refrigerator shelf full of beer every Friday night. For the rest of their lives till they die. Or retire and then die. They can laugh all they want, he tells himself. At least he doesn’t share that trap with them, he knows that in two months he’ll be travelling through Southeast Asia, sampling remarkable cuisine in opulent visual settings. For a whole year. The last thought makes him smile to himself, and the guy who remarked on his sandwich gives him a dirty look but doesn’t say anything and Albert keeps from making eye contact. Whatever superiority he might feel to these guys, he has to work with them, and some carry razor-sharp knives in sheaths at their sides. Walking home Albert notices the blood and fatty tissue caked over his boots, he’ll have to take them off before he goes in, and decides to leave them behind the apartment building. Pulling them off by the garage he thinks about all the other guys doing this, too. In the hall, the smell of bacon frying makes his mouth water.
Man in the Street by Oscar Hughes Ben used a wine glass properly only when he ate at the dinner table. Any other time, when his mom was not at home, he filled it with whiskey. He had a wine glass just topped off with whiskey, at arms length away, on a small table to the left of his bed. The sound of the garage door opening tipped him off and he could hear her voice in his head, “Those are for red wine, NOT whiskey.” He dropped the book he was reading, quickly got out of the bed and returned the whiskey bottle to his closet shelf. He hid the glass full of whiskey behind a stack of books on the windowsill before lying back down. Ben had an interview earlier that morning. It went well—but even when it went well nothing came of it. He didn’t care how it went anymore. He rolled over and reached behind the books to fill himself with a gulp of whiskey. He propped up on his elbow, staring at the wall; the same wall he stared at in high school when all he wanted was to get the fuck out of the house. But he was back in the house; back in the same no-name town where, he would tell you, if you stayed long enough you would be trapped forever. “I’m never going to find a job,” he thought, collapsing onto his back. “I’m gonna marry a hometown girl; watch her grow fat and ugly. Buy a house; watch it turn into an anchor. Have kids; lie to them about the future. And then, I’ll get a disease and die.” He inhaled deeply, clamped his mouth shut and forced the air out through his nose. His Mom had made it inside. “Ben! Are you hungry?” she yelled up from the bottom of the steps. “No!” he yelled, his eyes hidden behind Algren’s Neon Wilderness. “Well, can you come down here anyway? I want to hear how the interview went.” He closed the book, shaking his head. Then took down another sip of whiskey and started for the door. At the top of the stairs he paused, cupped his hands around his nose and mouth, breathed out, and instead of heading downstairs he turned and went towards the bathroom. “Ben!” What the fuck? “Dang, I’m coming!” he yelled. “I’m in the bathroom.”
She wanted to encourage him, but most of what she said was beginning to just irritate him. He had stopped looking forward to things, and anyone that did bothered him. “Where’s Mikey?” Ben asked, barreling into the kitchen. He took a seat at the table. “He’s not eating?” “No, he’s out on his bike with Randy.” For the past month, almost every night after dinner, Ben played ping pong against his little brother in the basement. He had shit to do now. “Some mail came for you.” His mom slipped two envelopes from the stack she was holding and shimmied them around in the air. He didn’t say anything as she tossed them on the table. “So,” she said, “how’d the interview go?” “Mom, does it matter? I’ve been on I don’t know how many interviews. Honestly, does it really matter how the interview went?” “Ben, it does matter,” she said. “How’d it go?” “They asked me the same dumbass questions they always ask. Then I left.” “Ooo Ben, stop it. You can’t have an attitude—you aren’t going to get anywhere with an attitude like that.” He looked away, staring off to the side, hoping the picture on the wall, or maybe even the clock, would respond for him. “Why the fuck do you think tomorrow’s going to be a better day?” he wanted the clock to say. Staring at the clock, he eventually said, “I’m not getting anywhere, anyway. No matter how much I show them I want the job—do I get the job? Hell no, I don’t get the job. I might as well go to Pat’s Pizza. But they probably won’t even give me a job.” “Ben, there’s a lot of people looking right now. You have to stay positive, though, and keep at it,” his Mom said. “You’ll get one. I know you will. Now, what do you want to eat? I know you’re hungry.” “I’m not hungry,” he grabbed the two envelopes and got up. “I ate a grilled cheese earlier.” “Do you want to go get ice cream?” “No, I’m alright. Really, I’m alright, Mom.” “Do you have any other interviews this week?” “Tomorrow’s Friday,” he answered. “But I’m hoping I
can get a few more rejections next week.” “Ben, quit talking like that. You won’t find a job with an attitude like that,” she told him. “It’s right around the corner. You watch, I know it is.” “It always is,” he mumbled to himself as he left the kitchen and went back up to his room. He tossed the envelopes on the bed, closed his door and turned on his i-pod, before going over and securing the glass of whiskey from behind the books on the windowsill. The spirit in The Root’s “Radio Daze” floated out like a cloud from the speakers, and hung over the room. The sound knew him and he knew it—it had a way of easing the load he felt. It had a way of waxing his despair, making him feel as if he could peel it right off. While the emotion from the song gnawed at his angst, he sipped the whiskey and fired up his laptop with a new, fresh sense of urgency. “I’ma find me a job,” he said, snatching one of the envelopes from his bed. He tore it open—the whiskey in one hand and the letter in the other, he began reading. He sipped the whiskey several times while reading, taking more down with each line. He finished reading, dropped the letter on the floor and cut off his i-pod. He cocked his head back and bounced the whiskey down his throat, leaving the empty wine glass on his desk. When Ben got in his car he was hoping that Paul Caulley would be posted up at one of the handful of bars that people their age frequented. They weren’t friends in high school, but ever since Ben moved home after graduating from college, the two were becoming good drinking buddies. Paul was always at the bar. Not to mention, Thursday was the official start of Caulley’s weekend and Caulley only did two things on the weekend: party, and party after the party. Ben pulled into the parking lot at Shamrock’s. Thursday night at Shamrock’s is ladies night. Ben knew that because when he saw Caulley at Danny and Eddy’s on Sunday night, Caulley brought him up to speed on where to go, what day and when. “Have you been to Shamrock’s? You should hit Shamrock’s,” he was saying. “It’s hit or miss, but a lot of
people usually go on Thursday. It’s ladies night, the best night to find a little something to bring home with ya.” Out in the parking lot, with a minor buzz going, Ben was calling Caulley to see if he was planning on hitting Shamrock’s. No answer. “Whatever,” Ben thought, “Caulley or no Caulley, I’m going after the older ladies tonight . . . fuck their brains out. Make them a sacrifice to my youth. Someone has to appreciate my youth.” After turning off the car, he sat for a moment then pulled his key from the ignition and got out. He quickly cleared off the backseat and emptied into the trunk a pair of shoes, some socks, a bag stuffed with trash, a couple books, a few musty t-shirts, a bunch of scratched up burned CD’s and an old ass N64 game. Now, if he found a lady he would make due with what he had—a clean backseat. Before slamming the trunk closed, his eyes landed on the side of a cardboard box. It had been in the trunk for over nine months now. Opening the box, he was wondering where it came from. Inside, he saw his college diploma and remembered. He remembered how he felt—a little bit like a failure, a little bit misled—the day he moved back home. He closed the box and then slammed the trunk down. “Fuck this,” he said and got back in the car. Going inside the bar was like going back, and that feeling of going backwards made him jam the key back into the ignition and take off. He drove, and drove, and drove. He drove out of his town and into another, out of that town and into another. He had no idea where he was going but he was driving like he had somewhere to be. Both of his hands on the wheel and his foot clamped down on the pedal, his eyes wide and fastened to the road. He appeared focused on the road ahead of him, but his attention was drifting. Trapped in a thought. Trapped in his mind. “I take breaths but I am not able to breathe. When I run I keep up. I run to keep up. When I stopped on my bike once I felt left behind. I live, but I am not alive. Not having a plan is cool. Not having a plan is a plan. Having a plan is a disaster and disasters strike all the fucking time. I hate clocks. I own only one clock and if I could get rid of it I would. I ripped the hands off my roommate’s clock freshman year. I should rip the hands off every clock. I should get some drugs. I like smoking
drugs. I like where it takes me. No, don’t get pot. I can’t smoke too much. Not having anything to care about depresses me. Bums inspire me but I don’t know if I could ever be one. Basquiat was a bum. He was a worldclass fucking bum. He knew how to make choices. I have trouble making choices. Rich animals make the trains the safe animals choose to ride. Poor animals die. The sound of a train coming makes me cringe. I choose things but I didn’t choose this. This chose me.” Ahead of him were restaurants and bars and stores. The lights flashing in the windows freed him from thought. “Joe’s!” he shouted, “Two dollar drinks!” He pulled over into Joe’s parking lot. Nobody at Joe’s bar knew him. Nobody in that whole damn town was going to know him. He got out and walked over to the gas station. He wanted to buy some cigarettes before he got his buzz back. “Don’t ask me for a fucking penny,” he thought the second he saw a homeless man standing out front. He pulled his phone out and acted like he was texting something as he walked by him. The homeless man said nothing. He went in, purchased a pack and exited the store. On his way out the homeless man stopped him. “Sir,” he said, “could you spare some change? Whatever you have . . . ” Ben quit opening the pack and looked up but then quickly looked away. The man’s face made him uncomfortable. “I wouldn’t be asking you if I didn’t need it.” “Maybe next time,” Ben said with no disrespect. “Man, c’mon, I wouldn’t be out here if I didn’t have to.” “I wouldn’t be out here if I didn’t have to, either,” Ben thought, then told him, “How ‘bout you give me something . . . How ‘bout you give me what you got.” The homeless man got frustrated. “Just help me out a little? All I’m asking is for is a little help. Don’t do da man-in-the-street like dat.” Neither of them knew the other’s situation. “I got nothing, man, serious. In fact, I owe fucking money – $29,000 – how much do you fucking owe?”
We Collect Obituaries by Orion Meadows Death is no stranger to us. It reaches out to us like the picture of Christ. You know the one with his arms outstretched, beams of light radiating from His heart bursting out from his bosom that you always see hanging in those Catholic churches. After a while we develop a tolerance become semi-immune because we are so intimate with it while we’re young and unknowing. We become fascinated by it, develop a fetish as we collect obituaries— the way suburban white boys collect baseball cards— and pour liquor and tag R.I.P.’s on dilapidated walls. This death frolics with and teases us. It taunts us as it haunts us and if it doesn’t want us and says no it’s not your time to go we provoke it. Brushes with its presence don’t intimidate but enthrall and titillate our darkened souls desensitized to human suffering amidst the clamor of gang violence. His last temptation— and when I say his meaning a friend of mine— was a gamble, a bet of ghetto roulette when he put the barrel to his head, and said, On the ‘g’ I’ll pull this trigger.
We all laughed mockingly cause we were high and swore he wouldn’t do it. That’s when Cavell blew it. Literally. We yelled in shock, watched the gelatinous mass of nerves spread out like a beam of darkness.
Fairy Bugs and Sunshine by Claudette J. Young Scummy water held her callused hands prisoner. She spent her life on menial chores. Days blurred into lines of seemingly worthless activity. Would she never be free of it? “Mom,” called her youngest from the back door. “Do you have a jar for lightning bugs?” When she didn’t answer at once, he called out again. “With a lid, I mean.” Hoarded strength escaped her in a sigh as she retrieved her wrinkled hands and dried them on a ragged dishtowel. She bent to reach under the sink for the bug jar, complete with holes in the lid, fleeting memories flickering behind her eyes. “You have only a half hour to catch them and don’t forget to put leaves in with them,” Margaret told her bright-eyed son. She saw his smile of pure joy as he claimed the old salad dressing jar from her hand. “You’re the best, Mom,” he said as he whirled and stumbled down the steps toward the edge of the back yard where twinkling lights punctuated threatening darkness. Though she was too tired to feel laughter bubble inside her in response to her son’s, Margaret found a smile’s worth of happiness. She turned back to the sink, pulled the plug and watched the grime of supper disappear down the drain, allowing regrets and could-have-beens to flush away with it. Five minutes later, with kitchen clean and ready for tomorrow, she poured a glass of iced tea and went outside to sit on the steps and watch Wendell catch fairy bugs. Fairy bugs! That’s what her oldest called them when she was five. Patience believed they were fairies that only took the appearance of bugs when people were around. Margaret’s lips broadened to a wide smile. That girl always saw magic in the world. Everything held magic, she said. When they’d talked about it many years later, Patience had told her that it was true. “Think about it, Mom,” Patience had said. “Without magic, nothing would ever have come to be. There would be no flowers, no animals, no people, nothing--not even the universe. God’s the most fabulous magician of all.” Margaret considered that philosophy as true as any other when she looked at it. What was magic, anyway? Not that thing that stage magicians did, but real, honest magic.
The question wedged itself in her brain the way stick-tights did to Wendell’s socks when he ran along the edges of the fields. How did a person define magic? What God did was as far above anything defined as magic as the Moon was above Earth. Weren’t miracles really examples of magic in action? Margaret felt around inside her mind for her belief. How else could a person know that magic existed without some kind of demonstration? She thought back over her life, looking for all the examples of such demonstrations. She found happiness throughout childhood. Love trapped her before she finished school, but it had led to a wonderful marriage and family. Her two children, so far apart in age, graced her life with laughter and wonder. Losing Lloyd just after Wendell was born had nearly driven her mad with loneliness, fear, and anger. Not that she’d had time to explore any of those emotions. She had tiny Wendell to raise and Patience to finish raising. Poor Patience had somehow understood her father’s death much better than her mother had. Life’s demands forced Margaret to cope. Endurance became a habit. She sipped her tea and watched her son zigzag across the yard in pursuit of a lightning bug doing dive-bomb maneuvers. He delighted in such simple things, even now at eleven years old. Not that he’d get much older. Wendell wasn’t slow of learning. He could learn anything that caught his interest, regardless of complexity. His spirit kept him encased in the mind of an innocent. Laughter pealed across the darkened yard. It grew louder as her son wrestled with the jar lid, hopping in circles to keep his prey in constant sight. A grunt of surprise punctuated the laughter. He’d tripped on the sprinkler in his enthusiasm to watch the sky but didn’t fall. Margaret smiled again and shook her head. She could count on her son’s antics to shore up her own sense of play. She could watch him and listen to his view of the world and feel her heart lighten and her spirit ease. “Time to come in,” she called as she stood and moved to the door. “As soon as I get this one last big one,” was Wendell’s only answer. In the kitchen she rinsed her glass and put it in the
drainer with the supper dishes. Only one more day before the freedom of the weekend. Glancing out the window, she came to a decision. She’d take Wendell and a large picnic lunch to the nearest state park for a day away. They hadn’t done that since the previous summer. She nodded sharply. The idea felt right and she liked that feeling. Margaret saw Wendell leap up, jar lid in hand, scoop up a lightening bug with it, and put lid on jar all before coming back to earth. Shaking her head, she turned aside and waited. He’d be coming in soon. A grin twitched at the corner of her mouth. Her youngest was her private ray of sunshine. He would be her poet forever, always bringing her verses to read. His was a mind that experienced the moment, the essence of things. Her bedside table acted as file drawer for all of his writings. Today’s poem had gone on top of the stack. Cloud whispers of snow, Warning geese of migration, Life’s cycle moves on.
“That’s fine, sweetheart, but take a quick shower first. Then you can read to me from ‘The Little Prince.’” “WooHoo! That’s my favorite one. Fifteen minutes, I promise.” Slight unsteady steps took Wendell out of the kitchen and toward his bedroom. Margaret’s eyes followed him until he was lost to sight. One day in the near future her sunshine would leave her to catch fairy bugs by herself. How would she fare without her nightly ritual of bedtime reading? She sighed, ready to close the day. She’d listen to him read his favorite book, hear him do all the voices and explain what each thing meant. She didn’t know how many times she’d heard him read “The Little Prince“? It didn’t matter, not really. Hearing the story again would get her through another night. She left the kitchen, flipping off the light switch. There were things to do before Wendell was ready to read. She had to make a quick call to Patience; a quick prayer for guidance. It was time to witness magic once again.
Margaret remembered when Wendell discovered haiku in third grade. Afterwards, he wrote one haiku each day to preserve his observations. She kept them to make into a book; a book published under his name that would reveal his uniqueness to the world. Her son’s life would mean something to more people than just her and Patience. When the time came for Wendell to discover the magic beyond this world, she would make sure his legacy would bring a smile to many. “I got enough, Mom,” Wendell’s voice pierced her thoughts. “I’ll take them to my room and then read you a bedtime story. Okay?” Four feet of boy stood, shifting weight from foot to foot, impatient to be about his business. Blinking bug jar, with requisite leaves, was held in both hands against his chest. That thin chest heaved slightly with each breath, even as he smiled with his whole body. His sparking blue eyes never left Margaret’s face. Margaret stepped toward him, involuntarily, her last thoughts still echoing in her mind. At the last second, she paused. Fatigue warred with pleasure on his face. She reached out one lean hand, slow fingers pushing back Wendell’s thick forelock.
Intriguing dream (a Naani) by Pamela Smyk Cleary Disturbing dream, intriguing seeds of someone elseâ€™s truth scattered in my garden, sprouting doubt
No Return by Linda G Hatton You left a wrinkle in the mattress. Five years later, I can still see you there. You left a hair in my comb. The one we used to smooth your sickly fibers back. You left a wardrobe in the closet, loose, alone, hanging around for your return. You left your photo by my bedside, fingerprints turned to dust now frame your face. You left us here missing you, holding things you once held all thatâ€™s left.
About the Authors Pamela Smyk Cleary (a.k.a. PSC in CT) is probably best described by these “clippings” from her blog’s profile poem: …Dabbler in photography, nature, plants and flowers (has been known to sit, sometimes, and watch the birds for hours) …intermittent poet, sporadic – if you choose (frequently requiring a swift kick in the muse). You may find more of her work on her blog: “Wander Ponder Poems & Pix” at http://wanponpopix.blogspot.com Dana Dampier is a stay at home mom of three young boys and one husband who struggles to find herself through poetry. She has been writing poetry and short stories since her grade school years, but she’s still growing as a writer. Read more of Dana’s poems at her blog: http://www.crazypoeticlife.com Jacob Fons grew up on the urban streets of MiddleAmerica, and has seen, and experienced too many appalling things to even mention. Yet, with age, and fatherhood, he’s also realized that this world can hold immense beauty, and sincere forgiveness. He spent the majority of his life traveling the United States as a singer/songwriter, living mostly in Los Angles, California, and Nashville, Tennessee. He’s been writing stories his entire life but has just recently begun submitting them for publication. So far in 2012, he’s had four stories published through three different Literary Magazines. There’s one thing that he promises; his writing will always be honest, and heartfelt. It may not always be pretty, but it will be real, and full of emotion. Bobby Fox is the award-winning writer of several short stories, plays, poems, a novel and 15 feature length screenplays. Two of his screenplays have been optioned to Hollywood. His works have been published in the The Naked Feather, The Medulla Review, Lap Top Lit Mag, The Path, Contemporary Literary Review India, Yareah Magazine, One Title Magazine, The Knotted Beard Review, Bareback, The Zodiac Review, Fortunates, Airplane Reading, Untapped Cities, The Lyceum, Detroit News, Dearborn Times-Herald, TravelMag and in Travel Magazine. His website is foxplots.com. Or follow him on Twitter @BobbyFox7 Linda G Hatton has a BFA in Acting from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Her writing has appeared in “Rainy Days,” The Writing on the Wall, on VeggieMama. com, in Cul-de-Sac literary magazine, Volumes I and
II, in Poetry Quarterly, Visceral Uterus, on various blogs, has work forthcoming in Curio Poetry, and more. Additionally, she has produced, written, and acted in numerous theatrical productions over the past 30 years, and also runs her own online literary magazine, Mouse Tales Press. You may read more about Linda on her Wordpress blog: http://lindaghatton.wordpress.com Oscar Hughes is a young author from Chicago. Karissa Hultgren grew up all over the United States but now lives in Dorchester, Massachusetts. She takes her inspiration from people she meets and their experiences as well as her own. She is currently studying to get her masters at Wheelock College in educational studies. She has been writing all of her life. Shae Krispinsky (http://dearwassily.tumblr.com) grew up in sub-rural western PA and graduated from college in Roanoke, VA. Now living in Tampa, FL, she is the singer, songwriter and guitarist for her band, ...y los dos pistoles (http://ylosdospistoles.tumblr.com), contributes to Creative Loafing Tampa and is an aspiring crazy cat lady. Her work is forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, In Between Altered States, Corvus Magazine and The Writing Disorder. Orion Meadows writes. Craig W. Steele is a poet, a writer of fiction and nonfiction, and a university biologist whose creative musings occur in the urban countryside of northwestern Pennsylvania. His poetry has appeared recently in Poetry Quarterly, The Edge Magazine, Sketchbook, The Lyric, the Aurorean, Astropoetica, Popular Astronomy and other journals, and is forthcoming soon as the featured poet at Stone Path Review. Claudette J. Young has lived in many areas of the country, preferring to experience places for longer than vacations allow. Along the way, she’s collected characters, dialects, impressions, that get translated into poems, essays, and stories. Claudette began sharing those translations in 2009 and continues to write with passion and determination. Her success is defined by her own criteria and satisfaction. D.Z. Watt has fiction published in Flash: The International Short-Short Fiction Magazine, The Ranfurly Review, and Kerouac’s Dog. Visit his fiction blog is at http://dzdubya.blogspot.com
ENHANCE January 2013