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Spittoon 2.4


Spittoon

Volume Four Issue One Gnomon Spring 2014

www.spittoonmag.com

ISSN: 2166-0840


Spittoon 4.1

Fiction Editor Matt VanderMeulen

Poetry Editor Kristin Abraham

Creative Nonfiction Editor Kristin Abraham

Front cover art by Todd Donery: Rooted. Digital photograph. Back cover art by Todd Donery: St. Croix. Digital photograph. Title “Gnomon” from Derek Gromadzki’s poem of the same name, published in this issue.


Spittoon 4.1

Table of Contents Wayne Lee Thomas

The Black Bear

fiction

1

Parker Smith

Influence

fiction

2

Patty Somlo

About to Be Born

nonfiction

5

James Mathews

Speaking of the Circus

fiction

7

Special Section: Created Perceptions, Photography by Todd Donery Carol Guess and Kelly Magee

With Locust

23

fiction

28

Lori Lamothe

Flight Plan

poetry

33

Derek Gromodzki

Gnomon

poetry

34

Alex Greenberg

Fishing

poetry

35

Geoff Collins

Below the North Avenue Bridge

poetry

36

Tantra Bensko

Better Half After Half a Year He Mentions Sled Fever

fiction

37 39

Contributors

41 44


Spittoon 4.1


Spittoon 4.1

The Black Bear Wayne Lee Thomas

The black bear has cinnamon pelage. He’s the strongest animal in the swamp, but he’s already lived a long twenty-two years. He chewed into a row of canopy trees because he wanted to be left alone. Now, his tooth hurts. It’s almost noon, and he can’t sleep. He was born in late winter and weighed under a pound. He was born blind, with fine, gray hairs and hind quarters that didn’t yet work. His momma would sit with him and his twin brother between her legs and hunched over and blow her warm breath on them. To this day, if the wind catches him just so, he’ll raise his head and close his eyes and purr. He doesn’t remember his mother, he doesn’t know why he mumbles at the wind. The black bear crouches onto a bed of pine needles. He craves honey. He wants bees to fly into his mouth. When he was a cub, he’d search tree-to-tree for honey, tree-totree for hours on end. One day, while searching for honey, he turned, and his mother wasn’t behind him anymore, running to keep up. When he was a young adult, he’d get excited when he heard a buzz. He’d tear a tree apart, bust one down for a hive. Now, he yearns for bees to fly into his mouth. His tooth is abscessed. Eight summers before, the black bear found a half-full jar of raspberry jam. He learned to unscrew the lid. He ate the jam in one sitting. He was happy. The next night, he found the jar again. He learned to screw the lid on, to unscrew it. He hoped for more jam. He did this several times a night night-after-night until he rolled over in his sleep and broke the jar. He paws at his jaw.

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Spittoon 4.1

Influence Parker Smith

1. X squints at the parking lot across the street and notices a previously imperceptible slant in the black top. 2. In the kitchen, Y digs through the garbage can with both hands, ignoring the stench and the texture. 3. She can’t find her wedding ring. 4. She believes X has thrown it away. 5. All the houses in this neighborhood were built simultaneously and people of a uniform demographic filled them. 6. The demographic is young but well-established white couples, some with small children and others expecting them. 7. X and Y belong to this demographic. 8. X believes his house was built over something sacred, something charged with mystic hostility toward him and Y. 9. Y doesn’t know if she should pretend to as well or try to talk sense into him. 10. Not deciding, Y knows, is, in a way, deciding. 11. She helped him, for example, mulch raw steak so he would have enough blood to coat the doorframe, not knowing how to say no or any other way to get blood. 12. The contents of the trash bin remind her of this. 13. X wonders if the black top has slanted only recently, if this speaks of some kind of movement beneath it. 14. He sees shadows on his lawn with no bodies. 15. He sees shadows at hours of the day when nothing else casts a shadow.

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Spittoon 4.1 Smith, Influence

16. The shadows move quickly and he doesn’t worry that Y can’t see them. 17. Y worries what would happen if she were to become pregnant. 18. In all of this X has remained a prolific lover. 19. Y wonders if the stress of pregnancy would make the situation worse, if he might attribute the pregnancy to something other than himself. 20. This is easy for Y to imagine. 21. She can think of the vocabulary he would use based on other fears he has described. 22. She has scattered the contents of the trash bin on the floor and still can’t find the ring. 23. X claims to have lost his ring too. 24. He claims things have disappeared around the house frequently since they moved in – significant things: his grandfather’s pocket knife, a watch his parents gave him for graduating college, a box of the letters Y wrote to him before they married, and now the wedding rings. 25. The letters turned up later, shredded to fuzz and scattered over the wet lawn. 26. Y was devastated and X hysterical. 27. “What next?” he shouted over and over. “What will it take to make you believe me?” 28. For a week after that scraps of the letters surfaced around the house, sentences in Y’s handwriting dissected and reassembled to spell out awful things. 29. Eventually the scraps ran out. 30. The last car on the parking lot is pulling away. 31. X follows it off the lot with his eyes, careful not to glance at the dark shapes convulsing at his periphery.

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Spittoon 4.1 Smith, Influence

32. The embodiment of black energy. 33. Something evil accumulating under his grass and in the corners of his home. 34. He thinks of more rituals and how they might be practical. 35. He knows Y won’t stand anything else with blood. 36. He worries if her reluctance to participate in the cautionary rituals might be proof of some influence over her. 37. Y has the mop out and almost has the kitchen back in order. 38. It hasn’t been easy to make friends in this neighborhood. 39. Yesterday she heard about a group of women who go jogging every morning. 40. She wonders if a casual run in with the group would lead to an invitation. 41. She is willing to babysit, housesit, walk dogs if the owners are out of town, anything to get out of the house. 42. It’s not that people don’t seem friendly; she just doesn’t know the protocol. 43. She won’t let X become an obstacle. 44. If a baby comes along, well then it will come along. 45. The trash is back in the bin and needs to be taken out. 46. She cinches it closed and lifts it, placing a hand underneath in case it rips. 47. X hears the door open and knows it is Y. 48. He takes their wedding rings out of his pocket, pops them in his mouth, and swallows. 49. They go down like ice-cubes swallowed by accident. 50. He hopes they will be safe.

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Spittoon 4.1

About to Be Born Patty Somlo

A small blond girl wades out to the place where she can no longer touch. The water is saturated turquoise. The girl is four foot some inches tall, missing a tooth in front. The gap waits to be filled by a larger tooth that will stay with her from then on. If she slides a wet index finger into her mouth and sucks, the knuckle will taste sour. Instead, she plants her eyes on that turquoise water, blindingly bright in the sun. No one has taught the girl but somehow she knows. There’s a rhythm to this, calmness the first sign. The water stretches into aquamarine silence. The girl might tell you that the water spreads so far, she doesn’t have a clue where it might stop. She doesn’t bother thinking about such things or wondering if the water and waves will always be there. For she is only six, about to turn seven in a month. Her life consists of sun that warms her shoulders and skin covered by a thin saltwater wash. The girl’s legs are short. To be in the place where a wave is born, she must paddle out and let the water hug her. Otherwise, she will drown. Her feet kick while her arms and hands plow, the water heavy with salt. She has learned that smoothness will soon give way, pulling water away from her. At that point, she will feel the water tug. In minutes or even seconds, the water lying still in its turquoise silk sheet will rise up, up, up, then barely begin to curl over. The girl will hold her breath, as the tip of the wave beckons with its slender fingers. A wave, she knows, is about to be born. She has the chance to ride it all the way to shore. If the girl gets it right, she will ride the wave through a glorious birth all the way to where water and dry sand touch. If wrong, she will be thrown under and tossed around, the wave angry at having its birth thwarted by a girl lacking knowledge and skill in nature’s force. If she is lucky, after a terrible thrashing, she will get slapped against the shore, seconds before the wave departs. When it works, the ride is what the girl imagines flying to feel like. She has learned to back in, while the wave unfurls. Patience, she understands, is required. But waiting isn’t enough. At one point, she must start. Her hands paddle, her feet kick, as if life depended on it. Some days out there along that lonely coast, the waves

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Spittoon 4.1 Somlo, About to Be Born

rise, reaching higher than the top of the girl’s head when she stretches all the way up. A lifting comes. A tiny tug. The wave about to be born whispers to her, “It’s time.” The wave takes over. It knows what to do. The girl’s only there for the ride. She does not think about anything as she and the wave being born hurtle toward shore. There is nothing but water and wave, inexorable flow. A girl in love with water, her heart about to explode. Her body stretched out flat as a board. Over and over, all afternoon the girl repeats this. There is nothing she would rather do more.

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Spittoon 4.1

Speaking of the Circus James Mathews

I. “Michael? I hope you’re not asleep.” “You hope? Really, my dearest?” “Your brother’s wife is here. She’s downstairs.” “Lucy?” “Does Eric have more than one wife? Jesus, don’t just lay there.” “Why are you mad at me?” “It’s after midnight.” “You should have told her I was asleep.” “I did. She said it’s important. She said it’s about your brother.” “My brother, my brother. Where’s my t-shirt? God, is it really after midnight?” “You know I love your brother, babe, but if ‘it’s important’ has anything to do with money…” “You don’t love my brother.” “…or a place to stay, we can’t afford it.” “Did she say that?” “What else? Anyway, she has that look. Like the Virgin Mary herself pounding on the inn door, pleading for a room.” “My, my, we’re in a blasphemous mood, aren’t we? How do I look?”

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“Like an innkeeper about to hand over the keys.”

II. “God, I woke you up, didn’t I? I’m so sorry.” “Don’t be silly.” “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t important.” “Seriously, it’s okay.” “I was going to mention something to you at the wedding. But since you couldn’t make it…” “What can I do for you, Lucy?” “Uh, could we go outside? On the porch?” “Sure. After you.” “You have a beautiful house, by the way. I didn’t think they made houses so big.” “Big houses, big debt. Welcome to modern suburbia.” “Kinda muggy though, huh?” “You see these mosquitoes? They’re all direct descendents of the last swarm that tried to eat me.” “They’ve never bothered me. Something in my genes, I think.” “Mosquito catnip is in my genes. Eric’s too. Maybe between the two of you, you’ll have a normal child who’s only moderately worth sucking.” “Uh, sure, you bet. So…how is everything?” “Everything is late. As in, after midnight.”

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“God, listen to me ramble. I feel so embarrassed coming to you like this. Especially with what I need to say. I can’t imagine what your wife thinks. It’s Rachel, isn’t it? Anyway, I know that you and your brother haven’t had the best of relationships. What with the accident and all. But you might be surprised how he’s grown. While we were in the hospital together, he talked a lot about you and let me tell you, it wasn’t all bad.” “So this has to do with Eric then…?” “Yes, that’s right. Absolutely. I don’t know how to tell you so I’ll just say it. I mean, I could give you the whole back story…” “Please. Just say it.” “I recently discovered that Eric…that my husband, your brother…is a…a clone.” “Ha, and you’re just now finding out? Trust me, honey, he’s been a clown since his first step. Takes after our mother. I would have warned you about him if—“ “No, no no. Not a clown. A clone.” “A clo--…wait, what do you mean?” “As in, exact genetic duplicate. Right down to the limp, the scar, and the lazy right eye. I don’t know yet why it was done, but I’m certain that the FBI is behind it.” “I see. And how do you know this exactly?” “Because…” “Because…?” “Because they’ve been trying to kill me ever since I found out.”

III. “I need my wallet and car keys.” “Where’s Lucy?

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“On the porch.” “Well what did she say?” “You don’t want to know. Seriously, I need my keys.” “To drive?” “No, to eat. Of course to drive. Now look, I want you to call my brother….” “Oh god.” “Call him and tell him I’m driving Lucy home.” “What’s going on?” “Just call him. Tell him not to worry, that everything is fine.” “Which means it’s not fine. Oh god, Michael, what’s going on?” “It’s not what you think.” “Okay so she’s not preggers and she’s not having an affair. What else could it be? Did she rob a bank?” “Just call Eric. And break out the cortizone. I’ve lost a pint of blood.”

IV. “You didn’t have to do this. I’m perfectly capable of driving.” “I insist. You’re obviously upset. Plus it’s dark and...well, it’s muggy too. Anyway, I just want to make sure you get home all right.” “You think I’m crazy, don’t you?” “As a rule, I don’t think anything after midnight. Besides, I probably don’t know you well enough.”

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Spittoon 4.1 Mathews, Speaking of the Circus

“Turn left up ahead. They’ve broken into the trailer a few times.” “Who?” “The FBI.” “And why would they do that?” “To poison the food.” “Oh.” “Not its food, of course. Just mine.” “How do they know the difference?” “Your brother’s favorite meal can be summed up in a three words: Frosted. Flakes. Beer.” “Check, check and check. But doesn’t that prove something? That he’s really Eric.” “Are you serious? You can’t be that naïve. God, you sound just like the doctors.” “Speaking of doctors, how long has it been since you were discharged? From the hospital, I mean.” “It wasn’t a hospital. More like a prison. Your brother is the only reason I got out of there in one piece. He has the soul of an angel. He took me under his wing. His angel’s wing. I mean, after I got committed, I almost went insane the very first night. They stuck me in with a cutter. Do you know what that is?” “Sorry.” “It’s someone who cuts themselves. Not the best roommate, trust me. Your brother knew what I was going through. He talked me through those first few days. He showed me the ropes.” “He knows the ropes alright. He’s been in and out of that place so much over the years, he’s probably got his own suite.” “Sure, the real Eric. Anyway, we only knew each other a week before he proposed. One week.”

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Spittoon 4.1 Mathews, Speaking of the Circus

“True love, thou art ignorant of time.” “What?” “Nothing.” “Time doesn’t exist in that place. It’s all compressed. And no matter what the treatment is, sooner or later it all comes down to mothers. Every single patient in there is in various stages of reconnecting with his or her mother. Once the doctors are convinced that you’re sufficiently reconnected, they dope you up, throw a party, and let you out.” “Sounds…festive.” “Actually, Eric was the one person in there that actually did have a mother issue. You of all people should be able to appreciate that.” “Listen, Lucy…” “During group, he talked about nothing but his mother. And sometimes about you. Aren’t you curious what he said? I can tell you are. Of course, we’re not supposed to reveal what’s said in group.” “Okay.” “But I will if you insist.” “I don’t insist. In fact, if you—“ “Fine, it was about the accident. And the pain, the betrayal. He said the car crash was the cause of the rift. He said you were supposed to be driving, but you gave your mom the keys at the last minute even though she was drunk.” “He must be remembering a different accident. It was a long time ago.” “That’s not the way it happened?” “With all due respect, Lucy, this isn’t group.” “Who said anything about group? Besides, I’m not supposed to talk about group.” “Am I going the right way? Is this even a road?”

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Spittoon 4.1 Mathews, Speaking of the Circus

“Keep straight and hang a left on Cedar. Don’t worry, I know you’re not familiar with this part of town.” “I’m not worried.” “It was before the accident.” “What was?” “Whatever it is that’s blocking your brother.” “Blocking?” “It’s a group term. Anyway, something happened right before the three of you got into that car. Your mother drunk at the wheel. You and your brother in the back seat.” “I was in the passenger seat. And she wasn’t drunk.” “Something happened between him and your mother…” “And that something was…?” “Something you don’t know about obviously. He swore it was the one and only thing he’d never talk about and he never did. Only the two of them knew, he told us. And she died with it. Oh shit, turn right here!” “Jesus.” “Of course, he bears the scars.” “He blames me, doesn’t he? For giving her the keys.” “Is that what you think?” “It’s what you’re suggesting.” “I wasn’t there. But you did walk away without a scratch.” “Is that what he told you? Is that what he told group?” “She died, he’s a cripple, and you’re--”

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Spittoon 4.1 Mathews, Speaking of the Circus

“Enough! Okay? Enough. I’d like to try blocking for a while. Can we do that?” “I’m sorry. I get pushy when I overheat. Eric hates it. His clone does too. It’s been ten times worse for me since I got sprayed.” “Sprayed? Did you say, ‘sprayed’?” “That’s right. The FBI does it. They sneak up behind you in the mall or the gas station and they spray chemicals on you without your knowledge. It’s like the poison. It doesn’t kill you right away.” “If they do it without your knowledge, how do you know about it?” “You’re being naïve again.” “Of course. Look, maybe we shouldn’t talk about this anymore.” “Why?” “They could be listening.” “Who?” “The FBI.” “You think I’m crazy.” “I don’t…Like I said, I’m tired and I don’t know you well enough.” “I’m your sister-in-law, Michael. We’re family now.” “Well, sort of, yes. I just—“ “Turn left at the stop sign. Could you do me a favor? Even though you don’t know me well enough.” “Sure. Anything at all.” “Please don’t tell Eric’s clone that I know the truth. It will only complicate things.” “I can’t imagine how.”

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Spittoon 4.1 Mathews, Speaking of the Circus

“Promise me.” “Lucy…” “Please, please, please—“ “Okay, okay. I won’t tell him. Are we getting closer? Any of these trailers look familiar to you?” “There. The one with the light on.” “Great.” “He – well, it -- must be awake. It must be waiting. Don’t forget your promise.” “No. No, I’ll try not to.” V. “How’s she doing?” “Asleep, finally. She can get pretty wired. She’ll probably sleep all day tomorrow.” “That’s good. I was just looking at the pictures on the shelf there.” “Mantel.” “What?” “It’s a mantel, Michael. Yes, even trailers have mantels.” “Anyway, you’ve got a few of mom that I don’t ever remember seeing.” “Maybe it’s because you never stepped foot in my house before – excuse me, my trailer.” “I can see where this is going.” “Why did you drive her here?”

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“She showed up on my door step out of the blue. I was worried about her.” “Did she make a scene in front of your rich neighbors?” “I’m leaving.” “Wait a minute. Michael! Seriously hold up. What happened exactly? Rachel said she didn’t know anything.” “Look, it’s late and – can we go back inside at least?” “What’s wrong with the porch? My neighbors couldn’t give a shit if we make a scene.” “But the mosquitoes give a shit and I’d prefer not to be devoured more than once a night.” “I don’t mind. You’d be surprised how much it takes to cause me pain.” “Look, I tried to do you and Lucy a favor. If you don’t--” “What did she tell you?” “Nothing. She’s…she’s concerned about you.” “So you drove her home and had Rachel call me in a panic?” “Eric, you have to know. You have to.” “What? Know what?” “She’s got issues, man. She needs help.” “I’ve got issues.” “You know what I mean.” “Crazy, right? Then say it. And be loud and proud about it when you do. You think I’m ashamed? Let me tell you something, big brother. There’s nothing easier in life than loving a crazy person.” “I’ll take your word for it. Christ! Look, the mosquitoes are killing me so-“

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Spittoon 4.1 Mathews, Speaking of the Circus

“Like I said, I don’t worry about mosquitoes any more. I don’t even see them. That’s the biggest difference between us. You look around and see mosquitoes. I look around and see a full moon, the night sky, the stars. Why are you laughing?” “Sounds like something they say in group.” “What do you know about group?” “Not a thing.” “If you did then you’d know that what’s said in group stays in group.” “Have I said something that was supposed to stay in group?” “You brought it up.” “Your wife brought it up. And no, she didn’t violate the sacred credo of group. She just said you…” “What?” “Well, that you talked a lot about mom. And the accident.” “And that surprises you? I guess you never talk about it. Or think about it.” “I’ve moved on.” “Sure you did. You’ve got a great career, a big house, a pretty wife. What could be more appealing than moving on?” “Moving on isn’t something you need a big house to do.” “God you disappoint me, Michael. Did she tell you that too?” “Sadly, no, she didn’t pass along your insightful observations of me. But she did say…never mind.” “What? What did she say?” “That there was something you wouldn’t talk about. Something that happened right before the accident.”

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Spittoon 4.1 Mathews, Speaking of the Circus

“Oh that.” “Okay, so what was it? Lucy said you swore never to tell anyone.” “That’s not exactly true. I’ll tell you, brother. All you have to do is ask and I’ll tell you. You and nobody else.” “Sounds like a trap.” “The truth is scary.” “I didn’t say I was scared.” “You will be when I tell you what happened.” “Then maybe you shouldn’t.” “You remember how I saved all my money up that summer? I cut every lawn in the neighborhood. With a damn push mower to boot! By the end of three weeks, I had exactly 110 dollars saved up. I thought it was all the money in the world. I tucked it away in my church shoes at the back of the closet. And then came the day mom just absolutely had to go to the casino. Of course, she didn’t have any way to get there because she was dead broke and was also the only woman in the state who couldn’t drive. But hey, that’s what asshole boyfriends and sons are for, right? Only her latest asshole boyfriend had skipped out on her. So that left you and that ratty used car of yours. But she couldn’t leave the little brat behind. A family that plays together, et cetera, et cetera, right?” “Eric, listen…” “But wait, what was she going to do at the casino once she got there? She didn’t have any money, remember? So you know what she did right before we left? Before we piled into that 1983 Toyota Corolla wagon –“ “1985.” “--and drove off? Before you handed over the keys to a drunken woman?” “She wasn’t drunk. Besides I was only sixteen. She would have beat the crap out of me if I didn’t give her the keys.”

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Spittoon 4.1 Mathews, Speaking of the Circus

“But here’s the thing. She waited until you went outside and then she took me like this--“ “Stop.” “I’m just going to show you.” “You can show me without touching me.” “You won’t understand if I don’t touch you. C’mon you sissy.” “Eric, seriously. I said –“ “Like this. This is how she had me. And she put her face right into mine like this. And then she said, ‘I want the money. I want every last cent.’ And when I cried and asked her why, she shook me and said, ‘Because you owe me, son. You. Owe. Me.’ Just like that.” “Can I have my head back now? Okay, so you coughed it up. Big deal. Jesus, do you know how many times she took money from me? She was an addict.” “But here’s the thing, Michael, I didn’t give it to her. I was only ten, but I knew damn well that if I gave her that money, it would just get gambled way and washed down with a fifth of vodka. So I lied. I told her I didn’t have it anymore. I told her you stole it. I told her you said that mom steals so it’s okay for you to steal. I told her you took it and spent it on a new necklace for your pretty girlfriend, Rachel.” “It wasn’t a necklace. It was a bracelet. And it sure as hell didn’t cost 110 dollars.” “I know, but that’s what I told mom. And you know what she did?” “Eric...” “She got sad. The quiet kind of sad. The kind of sad where she licked her lips and teared up and got all slouchy like she had the weight of the planet on her back. You know the look I’m talking about. And that’s why she took the keys from you.” “Eric...” “That’s why she wouldn’t speak to you or even look at you. She was hurt, Michael. For herself and for you. Maybe even for me. For one brief moment, she saw what she had created and realized how ugly and irreversible it all was.”

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Spittoon 4.1 Mathews, Speaking of the Circus

“Don’t you think you’re giving her transcendental skills a bit too much credit?” “I don’t know what that means.” “It means maybe she was just bummed because nobody had any money.” “Trust me. Every addict goes where she went – but it only lasts a few minutes. It’s the few minutes when you’re not an addict any more. You see the world clearly. You see the future. And then it’s gone. You’re back to who you are. You’re back to who you’ve become. And you don’t care anymore. What, no laughter? You hear stuff like that in group all the time.” “I’m not laughing because you’re not making sense.” “What I’m saying is that she drove us into that ditch on purpose.” “She lost control of the car. The road was slick.” “Sure it was. And I’m a track star.” “She was crazy. And yes, maybe she was a little drunk.” “She was born to die. If it hadn’t been that night, it would have been another.” “So why all the fucking anxiety? Why this big haunting secret that’s too deep for group, but you just have to – have to -- lay off on me?” “Because I lied. It was all because of my lie.” “No, it was because she was drunk. She was drunk and she was crazy.” “Did you love her, Michael?” “What kind of question is that?” “Were you ever happy for her?” “Sure I was. Like every day was Christmas.” “Mom used to say that the reason she didn’t like me as much as you…” “She never said that.”

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Spittoon 4.1 Mathews, Speaking of the Circus

“…was because I took after her too much. She said you didn’t take after her at all because she bought you from a gypsy. Not me though. I was all her.” “She was right about that. Maybe even about the gypsy.” “No matter how many pictures I find of her, I can only see her face as it was the last time I saw it. Angry. Demanding the money. Then sad. Then dead. It’s the only memory I have.” “She could be better than that. It’s hard to believe, I know. By the time you were old enough, she had pissed it all away. But she had a good side, Eric. And that was the side she gave to you. ” “How so? Tell me, Michael.” “A sense of humor for one. You both have the same twisted sense of humor. Which you definitely needed in this family. I remember something she used to say. Before she died.” “Christ, I hope it was before she died.” “You see? That’s exactly the kind of humor she had. Anyway, whenever she had friends over, she would always introduce us by saying, ‘Speaking of the circus, have you met my family?’ I was young when she used to say it and I probably didn’t really understand the joke, but it always cracked me up. Always.” “Still a circus. Still.” “Get Lucy help, Eric. You need to get her help.” “I’ve found my soul mate, brother. I’ve found her and I never want her to be anyone else. Maybe you’re here because you’re still looking for yours.” “Rachel and I are very happy.” “You can’t lie to me. Not under this sky. These stars.” “I’d never lie to you.” “Not even once?” “Never.”

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Spittoon 4.1 Mathews, Speaking of the Circus

“Okay, then. I believe you. And I’m happy for you. Can you be happy for me? If I don’t change a thing and I’m the same exact person I am now for the rest of my life, can you be happy for me?” “I’ll try.” “Promise?” “Yes. I’ll try.”

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Spittoon 4.1

Special Section: Created Perceptions

Photography by Todd Donery

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Artist Statement Todd Donery

Created Perceptions is a series of photographs that represent my perception of the organic geometry and balance found in nature. When mirroring images of trees, water, or plant life two to four times, I found that for me the natural form takes on a element of being human made. To me this is one more way that I can connect with nature.

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Eloise

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Four Oaks

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Weeping

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Spittoon 4.1

With Locust Carol Guess and Kelly Magee

First my neighbor's kids dropped Kool-Aid in the fish tank, turning the water blood red. Then I found a frog in my bathtub. Next, I got lice from trying on hats at the sporting goods store. Then I woke up to flies on a pie I'd left cooling. After that, an outbreak of mad cow disease at the petting zoo. Soon I developed a feisty case of what my doctor called "adult acne." Finally a tree fell on my car during a thunderstorm. "Why have you forsaken me?" I cried into the phone. The automated voice at the insurance company droned on. # At work I listed my misfortunes to all who'd listen, joking about a plague of locusts. "Well" said Daniel, "That would make sense. You've just listed the first seven plagues of Egypt." "I'm glad I'm an atheist." "Whatever you do or don't believe, maybe you shouldn't discount the metaphor." After work, Daniel and I had sex for the eighth time in as many years. It was a ritual when his wife went to Aspen. But this time, even though we used a condom, I knew I was pregnant. I could feel it happening. "Daniel, did you feel that? A special feeling?"

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Spittoon 4.1 Guess and Magee, With Locust

"Did you come, too?" He pulled on his pants. I walked home through the garden instead of taking the bus. # I knew I was different from the beginning. It was a slow build. I didn’t have any of those other symptoms, morning sickness or exhaustion. The bump in my abdomen didn’t grow. Not until the seventh month, anyway. What I did get was a buzz. The noise, which thrummed just under the skin. But also in the way people say when they get drunk. I was giddy. Lightheaded. I couldn’t see well or make sense, and I loved everybody. I loved everybody. Suddenly I couldn’t get enough love. I threw myself at the bartender, the UPS deliverer, the librarian, my neighbor. I understood later that I was making a swarm. They were everywhere, in my elbows and earlobes. Behind my eyes. The buzz in my ears came from my ears. Sometimes wings grew out with my fingernails. I was infested. Infected. There was so much exoskeleton inside my body that I crackled when I walked. The good thing was that I had a lot of time to prepare. The bad, that I didn’t know what I was preparing for. It might happen the traditional way, with me belly-up on the exam table. Or they might burst right from my skin. I’d watched the nature videos. I’d seen how they did it in the wild. But nobody knew whether or not I was the wild. Behind my eyes, their beady black eyes. In my hair, their lacy wings. My skin began to itch, and no amount of lotion would make it stop. I began to understand I was going to molt. # My skin began to feel like a sweater I needed to take off. I held onto the couch and pulled myself through my back. Stepped out. The shell clung to the couch arm. I was

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Spittoon 4.1 Guess and Magee, With Locust

brand new. My skin was shiny and olive-colored, and I had brown hair now instead of blonde. I knew without looking that my eyes had darkened. There were other changes, too: smaller breasts, darker arm hair. An ass. I could feel my body weighted to the other side and knew that I was left-handed. The locusts were still inside, and would be for months still. I was in it for the long haul. But I was someone else now. It kept things interesting. The bartender and librarian liked me just the same. The neighbor was loyal to the old me and kept asking where I was. I couldn’t just point her to the shell still attached to the couch, so I said I was a new roommate. She was okay with that, but she wouldn’t even let me put an arm around her. The UPS delivery guy changed every time, and frankly, I didn’t get that much mail. So he didn’t matter. The neighbor – a woman named Helen – kept coming over to check on us. She wanted to make sure I was settling in. She brought me a zucchini bread. She asked about the old me a lot. She’d been in love and I hadn’t even known it. # I had the nagging feeling that the current skin wasn’t right, so it was no surprise to me when it became clear I was going to molt again. I noticed the symptoms from before: the locusts inside quieted down so that suddenly I could hear again – I didn’t realize how much I’d become accustomed to the buzzing until it was gone – and they stopped moving around so much, too, so that everything felt still and eerie for several days. I didn’t want to see anyone, and when Helen came knocking, I didn’t answer. She became worried, called the house repeatedly, but I couldn’t answer. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. Something big was happening inside, and it required all my concentration. Each time was like its own birth. The first time, it didn’t hurt, and that made me feel better about the possibility that the locusts would be born that way, through the skin. It was satisfying, like pulling off dead skin or a layer of dried glue. Like when I’d once made a wax mold of my hand. Like finally shedding a scab. But the second time, it did hurt. Not a lot. Enough to notice. Enough to make me worried about the future. #

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Spittoon 4.1 Guess and Magee, With Locust

I'd never read the Bible, but kept thinking of what Daniel had said. At work he hadn't noticed my hair, my skin; but he'd grabbed my ass and pushed me up against the fire door. We were fucking in a supply closet when the power went out "C'mon," he pleaded, "lemme finish," so I did, crackling, buzzing around him, pulling him inside me harder, until he groaned; harder, until he stiffened to a shell. I pulled him through me, and even though I couldn't see a thing I knew his skin was shiny and his hair was brown. Wings whirred between us. He'd left his shell standing between a mop and a broom. "You get used to the buzzing and you can eat anything." We walked outside. The whole city was dark, blackout including stars. "Darkness is nine," he said. "There are ten plagues altogether." "What's number ten?" "You don't want to know." # We walked all night, and if we sounded like a swarm, it wasn't on purpose. "We can't paint every door in the city," Daniel said. "There's not enough time and not enough red." "Didn't you say I should think metaphorically?" "Okay. Who are the slaves and who sets them free?" "Maybe cows? Like, cows that die and get turned into hamburgers?" "Cows are totally slaves," he agreed. "So we should slaughter a whole bunch of sheep and smear blood on cows' foreheads." "We're not doing that, Daniel."

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Spittoon 4.1 Guess and Magee, With Locust

"My wife's still in Aspen. I mean, no one can see us. You smell so good." We came to the corner of a four-way stop. Even through darkness we could see that one of the stop signs was twisted backward, an accident waiting to happen. I reached up and righted it. Electricity sizzled through our wings. Buildings blew fuses and stars smoldered. Neon rained down, hot pink and fuchsia and magenta, staining doorways and passers-by. "One good deed," said Daniel, excited. "That's all God wanted." I thought it was the Department of Transportation, trying to get things fixed on the cheap. # The next day at work Daniel acted hungover, like he didn't remember a thing. I took a sick day and went home early. That night Helen brought me lasagna. I waited for her to say that she loved me. Instead we helped her oldest, Moses, with his homework. Then we sat on the stoop and talked through the night.

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Spittoon 4.1

Flight Plan Lori Lamothe

November is hollow as the bones of birds. Behind clouds, the sun shines pale as a moon— intensity flickering on and off like a dying lightbulb. Summer’s the only heavy thing. Its red galaxies fall onto yellowed grass. I suppose you could say the orchard is full of wind, that the light hangs low on its branches but you could be wrong— the substance of absence always open to debate, always negotiable and/or negligible. Across the distance, hunters clad in neon are stalking life. The bells of their dogs jangle clumsy melodies—happiness of platform shoes, for example, or Irish coffee confessions— spilt emotion and the kind of dancing you drink straight from a bottle. Meanwhile, the sheet music of sparrows flings ghost notes to May. Close your palms. There’s no map in constellations of teacups, or dreams of leaves. All our trajectories are scattered.

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Spittoon 4.1

Gnomon Derek Gromadzki

egyptian written with an unstrung bow three

springs from

fables leaks gray

chance on a weathering stone like inked reeds

whistle

centrifuge

stains

circle

schist and dance grisaille in a zodiac glow that wheels twirl like glamour on a wheel and tie for rotation in ringlet suns with the tint pulse touches imped to ibis wings

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Spittoon 4.1

Fishing Alex Greenberg

On the water, we had whitened wrists. Our watches carried on The day at home While here, The sun was either rising Or setting. The ocean, Approaching its grumble Or sulking away from it. It was a pleasure not knowing. The rod sat straight in its lock Then bent and snapped forward Like a javelin. The eyes came out And then the crimson body. We took it in by the tail Until the flag of its gills Ceased flapping, surrendering over The nation of its body. The hole in its cheek showed us Everything there is to see.

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Spittoon 4.1

Below the North Avenue Bridge Geoff Collins

Yes, there is a field of rag and hawk weed where there used to be a switching yard. Yes, you need to find the right dead end and hop a chain link fence to get there. And yes, all those things you warned us against were right and true and we did them. Oh, laughing like ragged ghosts patched with glue, sliding down snow slopes to the river. Watching gray traffic on the roadways above us, trash floating in gray water at our feet. Digging in the old tannery, abandoned in its yellow bricks, burying what treasures you left us. Downriver, the power plants still spewed white clouds of whatever into washed out stratus. Dogwood and alder still grew from the tracks. Doves still flew into the gathering dusk. We were hidden from the world, alone in time, our home nothing more than an empty word.

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Spittoon 4.1

Better Half Tantra Bensko

You know, when you live in the city, you have to fold yourself in half, he cautioned. Are you sure you want to move there? He asks, his voice deadpan. I think about how our marriage seems to have killed all the pans. Peter Pan youthfulness forever. Pan the horned goat god of lust. The Panoply of desires. All left to look forward to is Pandemic. Pantera, if they approached us, walking down the road, would grab a handful of blackberries, and get the hell out of here. The countryside is endlessly wasting its time with us, and it shows. It twiddles its thumbs and waits until we leave. Or at least, until I do. It's not like he has to follow me. He being Erik The Downhearted Man. I tell him it's going to be OK at 4 in the morning so often I ask him to turn on the sound of the water to drown himself out. He turns on the water in the tub and comes back to bed. He cries slightly, moaning as usual. But the sound of the water helps. I rock back and forth until I go to sleep. And dream of being folded in half like a greeting card, walking down the street in stretch pants, Capris, like Mary Tyler Moore wore. Then, I dream I am wet from Erik tears that are overflowing the sewage and that I will soon be able to float out away from this place, and find myself on an island, with Dick Van Dyke. I will not care that he is gay. He will not care that he is gay. Erik the Downhearted also plugged the tub, it turns out. Water from the bathroom has flooded our room. The mattress we sleep on on the floor is soaked with flavored water; the water escaping the tub knocked the glass jar of vinegar off the side of the tub. Everything smells like Easter. I think I will go to the city alone. I will have my other half to keep me company, folded over against me. Erik is becoming tinnitus. A scratching, annoying ringing in my ears I can't make stop. Some say tinnitus happens from too much alcohol. Or maybe it means you need more of it. You know, he says, if you move to the city, you have to stop chewing on things. No more gnawing on the corners of the steps out front, or the bench at the post office. I see the marks, you know.

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Spittoon 4.1 Bensko, Better Half

No problem. Seriously. You know, I say, that if you move to the city, you will have to learn how to twist yourself up and back down again like lipstick in a tube. Here, let me know you how to do the twist. It's popular. When I twist him hard enough, he decides the city probably isn't for him. I want him to be sure. To make the right decision. I say: And also, in the city, you never have birthdays. Are you ready for those to stop? If you stay here, maybe one day a woman will come out of the cake. He wondered every birthday about that. He would stare at his cake, anyone's cake, with eager anticipation audible in the tapping of his toes. He tended to wear tap shoes, so that was no small thing. That's it, said he. I will stay here. I'm sorry, honey bunny. You know I love you. But the elusive cake-woman is what I live for. We should get a divorce fast if you go, so if a woman comes out of my cake, I have the option of marrying her straight away. Nothing complicated holding me back. Sometimes, you know, I've wondered that. Do you hold me back. Sometimes, I think you do. And the city, I say, is no place for the Downhearted. Only happy people live there. What happens to the sad ones? Aghast, his face pops out of itself. They get folded into paper wads and thrown away. What will you do if you go? I will be happy every day.

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Spittoon 4.1

After Half a Year He Mentions Tantra Bensko

I tell my boyfriend David Bowie is making a come-back. He says he knows, he sees him every week at work. You DO? I say. Considering the shed is covered in my paintings of him. How does that work? Well, fuck, you never told me. I had been thinking of getting rid of my boyfriend. Can you get something to him for me? What do you mean? Like, one of your paintings? Or my pelvis? I laugh. Ha ha, well, you know, I could tell him how much you smell like fish. I could walk right up to him and No! Don't you dare! Don't you rockin' dare! What are you going to do with me, once he has your pelvis, little missy? Be true to me always? Me with my tan lean agile body? Me with this long hair shiny hair. He meanwhile is sawing my body in half at the waist, savoring the experience more than I think he should, to be frank. My bottom half walks long leggedly, with a new-found wiggle, toward a box, and gets in. My legs cross themselves. They move with an elegant jumpiness like the newest songs. I never knew my legs were so long and thin. I am going to miss them more than I thought. But that means they have a chance. They grab the lid to the box with their toes and pull it over top of them the best they can. I nod at him, and he sighs with too much gusto if you ask me, and covers it and tapes it up. I'll always be here for you, the top part of me tells him. You are my muse. I reach out and touch his nose, right on the nostrils, and he backs away suddenly. A little too

39


Spittoon 4.1 Bensko, After Half a Year‌

much rejection of my touch, I would suggest. How does he think that makes me feel? Really, now. He ties the rope around my pelvis box. He says he'll give it to David tomorrow. And what am I going to do for him now? I wash his hair, and curl it for him, curl his nose-hairs, his eye-lashes, and, running out of things to curl, I curl my own eye-brows, humming to the sound of my feet whapping together in the box.

40


Spittoon 4.1

Sled Fever Tantra Bensko

The orangutan didn't understand the point: a barbiturate before sledding? He had enough trouble keeping awake during Pauly, his raconteur friend's claptrap about being bathed by humans. Pauly claimed to have been captured, put in a “zoo,� then given a second chance at life in the wild. Sure thing, buddy. But Pauly had brought barbiturates to the jungle, so everyone pretended to believe what he said. That, and he'd acquired a mean jujitsu. Some combination of persecution complex and infantilism, it appeared. People feeding him, in cages. Ha. The sleds synced up on the edge of the crazy-high hill, foliage destroyed by humans. Sounded better than having to play nomenclature games with furry frenzied sisters; they seemed to have something like a case of internal bees. Always going on about something blah blah buzz bzzz. He teetered as he got on the sled. The barbiturates made it to his forehead. He and Pauly, who was wearing a frilly doily on his head, took off with a blast. He felt his stomach slosh and his sleep-state thrive and froth inside his brain, his eyes somewhat open to continue to thrive while zinging down the biggest hill he knew of. Pauly, supposedly used to being pandered to, called to him that something should be done to keep them from sinking into snow at the bottom, because the base angled at 90 degrees. Otherwise, they would plow their sleds into the ground, and be thrown for yards. He said it would probably be good if someone were there to catch them. Strange timing. He started yelling back at Pauly, sounds trailing behind them. Pauly couldn't have really just said that. Pampered bitch. Claimed to have mingled with animals no one else had ever heard of. That only exist in the zoo. He fell asleep. Ah little bumps and bleems of the sled turned into coconuts in dreams, beds of coconuts he could roll around on. And throw at Pauly. It wasn't until his forehead felt a storm inside did he wake, to see Pauly slinging another half formed snowball. Ha ha, nailed ya! Yelled Pauly. OK, look, up ahead. The slide down was becoming as straight as a tree. He made a firm commitment to set aside time later for pondering deeply why Pauly set them up, knowing what a disaster the bottom was. He had never ventured down that hill before, but apparently Pauly had. What sort of twisted mind did he have? Pauly reached out his hand and grabbed hold of him, and with him, lunged sideways. He only had a split second to wonder what sort of bamboozle this might be.

41


Spittoon 4.1 Bensko, Sled Fever

Apparently, it was Pauly trying to be normal. They whooshed away from the hill's juncture with the flat ground, which the sleds impacted with full-force. Bang bang! This is what the barbiturates are for! Yelled Pauly. The straightness of the “incline� had left them entirely inhabiting the air, and Pauly's comingled leap sent them into a flying barby dream. Time slowed down immensely. Out of the snow-drift, raised two human heads. We can't let this happen! Fuck nonintervention. OK let's tackle'em NOW! I knew they'd been watching me, said Pauly. Since they let me out of the zoo. Now you belieeeeeeeeeeeeeeee? The man and woman team threw back the trap doors of their orangutan-watching hutch. They winked at each other, turned on by the excitement. By being under cover for so long, and suddenly coming out. They had been wondering if Pauly'd spotted their location. Secret, they both thought. Secret. In the most smoldering way. They wanted each other so badly. They threw themselves on the ground to cushion the fall of orangutans. Orangutans landing on them merely made them sink into the snow. The sheer animalism, the weight of another body on theirs, made that moment their last as unencumbered single people too sane to date. ARRRROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO yelled the woman. Pauly leaped up, as she rolled toward the man. They grabbed each other and breathed warmth into each other's jackets, keeping them zipped around their mouths. They warmed each other's lungs until growing dizzy. They embraced, and breathed, feeling each other's chests raising and falling against their cheeks inside the moist jacket-cave. Very little oxygen. They couldn't tell who was who and what was what and they didn't care. They all fell into a freezing slumber-pile jumbled up together in snow, but because it was the jungle, it didn't kill them one bit. In their dreams, they wore pelts of strangeness, forever strangeness, and that kept them warm.

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Contributors

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Wayne Lee Thomas writes fiction, plays, and essays. “The Black Bear” is a moment from his novel-in-progress, Birth of the Okefenokees—for which he was awarded the Baltic Writing Residency in Riga, Latvia. He teaches creative writing at a small college in northeast Tennessee. He is Editor of The Tusculum Review. With John Branscum, he co-edited Red Holler: Contemporary Appalachian Literature (Sarabande, 2013), winner of the Linda Bruckheimer Prize in Kentucky Literature. Parker Smith is a writer of fiction and poetry living in Salt Lake City, Utah. His poetry has been published in likewise folio and in Inscape. His fiction has appeared in Bodega. He currently teaches elementary school in a town near where he lives. Patty Somlo is the author of From Here to There and Other Stories and has been nominated for the 2013 storySouth’s Million Writers Award and the Pushcart Prize three times. James Mathews grew up in Texas and now lives in Maryland. His short stories have appeared in many literary journals, including Painted Bride Quarterly, The Florida Review, and The Northwest Review. He is the author of the story collection Last Known Position, which won the 2008 Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction. His website is www.jamesmathewsonline.com. Kelly Magee’s first collection of stories, Body Language, won the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction. She is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Western Washington University. Lori Lamothe is the author of three chapbooks, Camera Obscura (Finishing Line Press), Ouija in Suburbia (Dancing Girl Press, 2014) and Diary in Irregular Ink (ELJ Press, 2014). Her poetry has appeared in Bitter Oleander, Blackbird, Goblin Fruit, MiPOesias, Superstition Review, The Nervous Breakdown and other magazines. You can email her at lorilamothe29@gmail.com. Carol Guess is the author of thirteen books of poetry and prose, including Tinderbox Lawn and Doll Studies: Forensics. Follow her here: www.carolguess.blogspot.com. Derek Gromadzki’s most recent work is forthcoming in Barn Owl Review and Drunken Boat. He currently lives in Providence, RI, where he studies poetry at Brown University.

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Alex Greenberg is a 15-year-old aspiring poet whose work can be found or is forthcoming in Able Muse, Spinning Jenny, The Boiler, and The Louisville Review, among others. Todd Donery’s photographs have appeared in Anti-Poetry, Crack the Spine, Midwestern Gothic, as well as in numerous exhibits, calendars, CD covers and other publications. www.todddoneryphotography.com. Geoff Collins has lived in Wisconsin for most of his life, and currently resides with his wife and two daughters in a small farm town where he works in the local public schools. He has been writing stories and poems for a number of years and has had the honor of having his work published in a variety of great magazines, including Blue Earth Review, Whitefish Review, Amoskeag, Interim, and SLANT. You can see samples of his published work here: Wisconsin People and Ideas Contest Winner, Peninsula Pulse 2011 1st Place, Petrichor Review Issue 2, Stone Highway Issue 2— Short Fiction. Tantra Bensko teaches fiction writing online, has books plus over 200 stories and poems in journals, publishes others' work through LucidPlay Publishing, and lives in Berkeley. http://lucidmembrane.weebly.com/.

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Spittoon 4.1  

March 2014 Featuring work by Carol Guess and Kelly Magee, Wayne Lee Thomas, Tantra Bensko, Geoff Collins, James Mathews, Lori Lamothe, Patt...

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