__MAIN_TEXT__

Page 1

the madison review

i


the madison review

We would like to thank Ron Kuka for his continued time, patience, and support. Funding for this issue was provided by the Jay C. and Ruth Halls Creative Writing Fund through the UW Foundation. The Madison Review is published semiannually. Print issues available for cost of shipping and handling. Email madisonrevw@gmail.com www.themadisonrevw.com The Madison Review accepts unsolicited fiction and poetry. Please visit our website to submit and for submission guidelines. The Madison Review is indexed in The American Humanities Index. Copyright Š 2019 by The Madison Review the madison review University of Wisconsin Department of English 6193 Helen C. White Hall 600 N. Park Street Madison, WI 53706

ii


the madison review

POETRY

FICTION

Editors Hannah Goldbaum Tyler Moore Drew Quiriconi Tori Tiso

Editors Emma Cholip Chloe Christiaansen Associate Editors Matthew Bettencourt Hannah Kekst Riley Preston

Staff Grace Barker Nina Boals Benny Koziol Tori Paige Evelyn Poehlman Sarah Shaw Milly Timm Sam Wood

Staff Emma Crowley Richard Horn Eloise Johnson Alex Moriarty Madeline Peterson Kora Quinn Nadia Tijan Megan Wittman

iii


the madison review

Editor’s Note Dear Reader, The Madison Review is thrilled to bring you our long-awaited Spring 2019 Issue! The staff here at TMR have been working rigorously to compile an impressive array of work spanning a diverse range of style, subject matter, and perspective. It is especially impressive considering all the barriers our literary magazine has gone through as an entity, but also for the staff members themselves, since the start of 2020. We hope the short stories and poems we’ve published in this edition provide insight into your own life, spark worthwhile conversation, and enrich the lives of those who read this collection of compelling literary work. We sincerely hope these pieces bring comfort and happiness during such a difficult time in our lives. The work we receive has continually impressed us. No literary journal can exist without the work of its submitters, and we cannot fully express how honored we are to be trusted with someone’s poetry, short fiction, or art and to dissect it in such a way that fills us with intrigue and excitement. We are endlessly grateful to the authors who have been so gracious with us as we navigate the myriad of issues presented this year, and we are excited to finally be putting these exquisite stories and poems out into the world. This issue would also not be possible were it not for our incredible teams of undergraduate students who balance reading, discussing, curating, and designing The Madison Review on top of their already busy lives (doubly so, with recent events)! Lastly, we would be nowhere without you, dear reader. If you’ve picked up a copy of this book, or are looking at it online on our website, we thank you for even opening the page out of curiosity and hope that you continue reading. Our readership pushes us to compile the best issue possible, we’re proud that you’re a part of our community. The Madison Review would also like to thank our program advisor, Ron Kuka, for his constant encouragement, advice, and unlimited support. We would also like to thank the UW-Madison English Department and the Program in Creative Writing for their help and support.

iv


the madison review

Table of Contents Fiction Shawn Rubenfeld | The Caretaker Steffi Sin | Headless Chicken for New Years Rich Bartel | Little Kids Neither David Canning | Dodge Julius

22 40 48 64

Poetry David Rosenheim | Leaving Manisha Sharma | Advice Greg Rappleye | Crash Injures Six Children; Two Serious John Belk | Seven Types of Caring

20 38 46 62

Chris O’Malley Prize in Fiction Hillary Behrman | Muskeg

8

Phyllis Smart Young Prize Cindy Juyoung Ok | Inventory Orientation The Carried

2 4 6

Artwork Silas Plum | Hercules vs. The Star Centaur The Beauty The Gardeners

Cover vi 39

Contributor Biographies

v

72


the madison review

vi


the madison review

1


the madison review

Inventory

Cindy Juyoung Ok For Jamila and Ayan Osman You imagine me in your acknowledgments, tell me you want to print my full name for the moth line, the line the poets are liars but they’re our friends, and for the tattoo you may get saying love is trespass on your arm, which I said in defense of gossip on our ride back from the airport, the far one. I like you awake so I can see you respond to the news that Arab music is impossible to steal because of microtones, and I know when I witness your panic what tea to make. And that you would never ask my body for any more grace. I interrupt you because I respect you.

2


the madison review

We collude against the aesthetic of charity and I promise to think of your sister every day of the year, not only the days she was born and dead. The brave are reckless but kind when they come to bed.

3


the madison review

Orientation

Cindy Juyoung Ok The stars are less bright than the pictures, and the birds sound more and more like car alarms. Some have begged for one that runs in a minor key, but quiet is so expensive in this calendar, which runs on a logic of paradise, i.e., of grief. Attitudes toward bells are proportional to proximity, as public music relies on the worship of intimacy, and a belief in the work: to foil regret, to regard cement as liquid, to fade eventually well. In love, the teenagers’ eyes widen and their grammar shrinks. Form outlives you, but barely.

4


the madison review

5


the madison review

The Carried

Cindy Juyoung Ok Here I am, poem appliance— a machine of obedience, have not yet been banished. When words do have freedom, they are at fault. Where you do remember, take this out of content. All lines I write as the firstborn but, no, there was one who died before me and it is fine because that one did not have a name. I have three. Keep things high resource, low patience. As a tenant of the language in which I meet you, I have rights. Like an ambulance bill that was charged twice—if I could, I would pay once for me and once for a ruined baby I eclipsed and I am not sorry. I want all the credit for my speed. One year I slept through every party, producing apology upon waking. The next year a friend from childhood wrote to say he had been nine years in prison and it was still shocking that when we were ten

6


the madison review

I had not seen a cow. I wrote back with attention to the orangeness of the shirt he wore the last summer, before rereading some easy thing like poems should be written rarely and reluctantly. Still we birth.

7


the madison review

Muskeg

Hillary Behrman “the term muskeg escapes precise scientific definition” From the Canadian Encyclopedia She didn’t know the word for it before she moved to Sitka. But she’d known about these places for as long as she could remember. She thought they were the product of her own imagination. More about longing than geography. A place molded purely from the desire to be elsewhere. It had rained almost every day for the past two months. Emma hadn’t seen the base of Mt. Edgecombe, much less the peak or any of the smaller islands in Sitka Sound, for weeks. Low clouds formed thick white walls around the town. She could be living anywhere. She knew hiking this time of year to any place real or imaginary on no discernable trail with a four-month old baby was stupid. She went anyway. Emma and Jacob had already hiked all of the maintained trails more times then she could count since they arrived in Alaska last summer. Every day held on to the light. Dusk descended close to midnight. There was always enough time to head up another trail after work. Hours and hours of light. No rain. No fog. No baby. Emma itched with the need to go somewhere she had never been. She needed to climb above the low hanging clouds. She needed to gain some altitude. She didn’t feel safe taking Ruby out on the water so she couldn’t kayak to the outer islands or into the long interior bays. Besides, being on the water might just feel like being nowhere. There was no visible horizon line. Nothing but grey water merging with grey air. Besides, being on the water might just feel like being nowhere. There was no visible horizon line. Nothing but grey water merging with grey air. At Ruby’s three-month well-baby check-up, the nurse practitioner warned Emma and Jacob that Ruby was still underweight, just barely into the 10th percentile. That night Jacob cried. Jacob started to feed Ruby on the sly, perfect little bottles of premixed baby formula, whenever Emma wasn’t around. It was Ruby’s shit that gave him away,

8


the madison review

At Ruby’s three-month well-baby check-up, the nurse practitioner warned Emma and Jacob that Ruby was still underweight, just barely into the 10th percentile. That night Jacob cried. Jacob started to feed Ruby on the sly, perfect little bottles of premixed baby formula, whenever Emma wasn’t around. It was Ruby’s shit that gave him away, diapers filled with rank smelling tidy mustard brown poop. Jacob said, “she slurped it up.” He marveled at the thick yellowish liquid in hygienic glass bottles, such an efficient nutritional delivery system. So much better than Emma’s puny cracked nipples. Ruby woke up anyway, no longer sated into extended slumber by the magic bottles of formula. They both fussed over her. Emma tried to get her to nurse, she kept turning her head toward Jacob pulling and stretching Emma’s nipple until it slipped out of her mouth, leaving a wasted trail of pale watery breast milk across her cheek. Six o-clock and it was still the middle of the night dark. Jacob rushed around the cramped kitchen. “Shit, Emma, I’m gonna be late again.” With her free hand, Emma shoved the keys to her precious white Toyota truck across the kitchen table. “Go ahead, just take my truck.” She wanted him gone so she could make a plan, get started. Without the truck Emma would have to walk five miles down the paved road that spread two tendril lanes out on either side of town, another two miles on a gravel logging road searching for the start of the route. She didn’t care. She left the house a little past seven. It was still dark. Ruby was strapped to her chest. Walking the road took longer than she thought. When she got to the break in the trees marking the unmaintained trail it was almost ten. Someone had tied a thin orange plastic ribbon to the spiny bare branch of a salmonberry bush to signal the way. It was the first good sign. She was on the right path. She scrambled off the gravel road into the drainage ditch and up the other side into dense underbrush. Lyle Pendarvis, a regular at the coffee shop, had told her about the trail. He leaned on the counter as she made his latte in a stained flowered mug with “Lyle P.” written across it in black Sharpie. When Lyle wasn’t drinking coffee, which was rarely now that the salmon had stopped running, the mug hung from a hook behind the cash register. Lyle talked as he scribbled a rough map on a recycled brown paper napkin. “Walk due north of the first switchback on the logging road straight as you can for about a hundred yards. Stop and listen for the sound of water.”

9


the madison review

He was reassuring, “really, just follow the sound, you can’t miss it.” And she didn’t miss it. She found the stream. Her forearms and the backs of her hands were coated with pin-sized hard raised welts from the berry thick undergrowth. She had to thrust her arms out in front to push away thorny branches to shield Ruby’s face. She followed the stream, a creek with no name or No Name Creek— she couldn’t tell what Lyle had written on the wet napkin in her pocket. She followed it, named or not. She climbed up the hill. The water ran down it. She knew that if she stuck close enough to the stream a real trail wasn’t necessary. She couldn’t get lost. She climbed up and over moss slick rocks and exposed roots. Sometimes she was able to follow a rocky path—a long dry channel the creek had abandoned for a better route during some past flood or spring melt off. Mostly she stuck close to the stream, picking her way over each wet bolder, keeping as close as possible to the creek without falling in. Ruby was half awake, facing inward in the padded strap-on baby contraption. Her chapped red check bobbed up and down against Emma’s sternum. Emma had found the bougie Baby Borne still in its original box at Goodwill before she and Jacob left Bellingham, before Ruby was born, another good sign. Another reassurance that she would be able to take the baby wherever she went—remain a “mobile unit”—a term Emma and Jacob both used without irony like “leave no trace.” It was weeks before they told Jacob’s mother, Marion, about the baby or about the plan to move to Sitka. A place so far away, so separate they couldn’t drive there. Emma had been renting the studio apartment above Marion’s garage for two years, working at the campus coffee shop and trying to finish school. Marion didn’t know when Emma started sleeping with Jacob, or if she knew, she pretended it wasn’t happening. Emma had wanted this baby. She realized early on that she wanted the baby more than she wanted Jacob. Jacob knew. He wasn’t angry. He knew how Emma felt. He felt the same way. Marion went along with the plan. What else could she do? She took Emma to Fred Meyers to buy maternity jeans. Emma didn’t want the pants and told Marion she couldn’t imagine wearing them. They stood side by side in the dressing room staring at the stretchy blue cloth panel bunched up across Emma’s flat abdomen, an empty pouch. They stood in the check-out line, and both surreptitiously read the headline on a tabloid magazine, “Secret Lesbian Commune Lures Frat Boy, Harvests Unsuspecting College Boy’s Seed. Never Heard From Again!” Marion

10


the madison review

paid for the jeans. Neither of them commented on the headline. Marion nodded her head back and forth. Emma didn’t know if Marion was registering disgust or agreement. But then their last week in Bellingham, Marion climbed the stairs that ran up the side of the garage to visit Emma in her apartment every chance she got. Something she had never done before. She lingered after dropping off empty boxes. Marion picked up random items out of Emma’s open plastic bins, a stapler, a metal mixing bowl, and held them briefly before putting them back down. Emma was packing up the last of her books, putting each one into a cardboard box to store downstairs in the garage as if she might need them sometime in the future. She’d been able to sell back the textbooks: organic chemistry, biology, calculus. But the university bookstore wouldn’t take the used paperbacks, on queer theory, thin volumes of poetry and novels, all by women. Marion offered to help with the packing. She studied each book, carefully reading the front and back covers as if trying to break a code, before placing them in the box. Later that night Emma overheard Jacob and his mom talking in the backyard. She tried not to listen but Marion’s voice, on the edge of tears, carried. “Honey, do you know what you’re getting into? Does she even like boys? Have you seen her books? She’s not normal... Jacob—don’t turn away. I didn’t mean it that way.” Jacob tuned his mother out. He didn’t care who or what Emma had slept with before him. They were going to have a baby. He told Emma it was tectonic. He was thrilled by this shift in himself. He refused to question it. Then just hours before they left, while Jacob was replacing the front tires on Emma’s truck, Marion ambushed Emma again on the stairs. She hustled Emma inside and pitched her voice low so it wouldn’t carry out the window and down to the driveway. “You know how Jacob and I care about you, right? But this doesn’t feel right. Are you sure about this—and Jacob? It’s early. You have options...” Marion’s voice trailed off. She didn’t usually express such strong opinions. She never had before. Emma said nothing. Marion gathered steam. She probably knew it was making things worse but kept at it, spinning out her fears and grief over Jacob’s departure. She must have hoped it would sway Emma, the odd strong girl, she said she admired, but barely knew despite living less than fifty feet from her for the past two years. Both women had been careful of the other’s privacy. Their lives never intersected past the shared

11


the madison review

recycle bin until Jacob. Finally, Marion slumped down onto the bare futon. She leaned forward and held her head in her hands. She wept. Emma settled down next to her and placed her hand firmly on the back of her landlady. Jacob appeared in the doorway. They got up. They loaded the truck together. As she hiked Emma wondered if Marion hadn’t been so far off. Since Ruby, Jacob had faded, each night his body more insubstantial next to her in the bed. His salty clean smell grew muted and vague, overpowered by Ruby’s milky scent. Emma had heard Marion whispering quietly to herself the last time she came to visit, “It’s just not natural,” like a mantra over and over again not caring if Emma heard. She’d flown up to Sitka on two days’ notice and stayed for a week, trying to stem Jacob’s panic about Ruby’s slow weight gain. Together they hunched over Emma’s laptop googling “failure to thrive” blocking the screen with their bodies and then leaving the browser history open for Emma to find. Jacob and Marion blamed the problem on Emma’s tiny breasts. Not her, they assured her. Just her small selfish breasts. Along the road Ruby had slept, but this close to the stream the water was deafening, and she woke up pushing hard against Emma’s chest with her taut little belly, kicking her legs against Emma’s hip bone. Ruby arched and reared backward, her head hanging free. Emma’s damp braid dropped down and brushed across Ruby’s face landing near her mouth. Ruby sucked on it. Emma felt the tug and pulled it out. Emma’s rope of hair was mostly dull brown now, course like a walnut. She used to bleach away all that was ordinary, dying it midnight blue, hot pink—sometimes a mermaid, sometimes a unicorn. Back then, sucking on the end of her braid soothed Ruby but it turned her lips and tongue sickly blue. One night Jacob checked on Ruby. She was too quiet. Her lips were blue. He thought she was dead. She must be oxygen deprived. Maybe she was smothered from sleeping face down pressed into the quilted crib bumper. They got rid of the bumper. Emma stopped dying her hair. Some mornings Ruby would have thick red grooves down her cheek from where she pressed against the unprotected wooden bars of the crib. But she wasn’t dead. No blue lips. They had driven Emma’s truck north to the ferry dock at Prince Rupert, eighteen hours straight from Bellingham so they could save three-hundred dollars off the ferry ticket to Sitka. The days were

12


the madison review

warm and clear. They never even pitched their tent, just slept on folding chairs on the deck. They weren’t allowed to use their camp stove so they cooked mac and cheese and ramen noodles in the galley microwave and ate a whole jar of peanut butter. They splurged on hot chocolate and coffee spit out of the vending machine. The old ferry crawled up the inside passage and Emma’s morning sickness lifted. Jacob had to lie on the online application he filled out for the job with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. He checked the box, “Currently domiciled in the State of Alaska.” Emma told him it wasn’t really lying. They would be living there by the time he had the job. It paid seventeen dollars an hour plus overtime with health benefits for both of them and the baby. The lie worked. Jacob got hired on as a Port Sampler, paid to count fish. The night they landed it was past midnight and still light out. They drove the truck a few miles down the one road out of town and pulled off into the Sea-Mart parking lot. They backed into a parking space by the seawall. They had a view of the water and islands from the bed of the truck where they lay. Neither of them could sleep, they were so hyped up on what they had done, what they had seen. They watched as scattered bits of land covered in dark pointed trees and rimmed with rocks disappeared in the brief darkness. The next morning, they found the “Chipped Mug” coffee shop. A barista had just quit to work on a fishing tender. Emma got her job. It all came together. The baby was a little worm growing in her belly bringing only good luck. Emma made six dollar lattes, americanos and mochas for the cruise boat crowd. The black board prices were jacked up high. You knew who the locals were. They always paid half the list price. Jacob spent his days and some nights down at the dock knee deep in salmon and black cod. He scanned for tags, cut heads off tagged fish. He put the severed heads in white plastic paint buckets, heaving them into Emma’s truck, carting them from dock to lab. The lab was next to the Police station, just around the corner from the small blue duplex they rented on Monastery Street. Ruby usually fell asleep when they walked, lulled by the sway of Emma’s stride and their matching heartbeats when Emma prowled the town’s small grid of streets before dropping Ruby at the babysitter and going to work. But now as they climbed Ruby stayed alert. The steep incline transformed the stream into a ladder of small waterfalls and pools. The water was black. Trees on either side of the stream were closesly

13


the madison review

packed second growth. They blocked what little light there was from reaching the water’s surface. Emma knew she had to leave the security of the stream at the base of a rock escarpment. The face of the cliff rose up above the old growth for more than hundred feet. The wet black rock was studded with tufts of florescent green ferns. The ridge stretched as far as she could see in either direction. This uplift of earth and rock transformed the stream into a massive free falling column of water, the spray drenched both of them. Ruby twisted and squirmed, straining toward the sound. For the first time all morning Emma had enough breath to talk to Ruby. She pointed and told her what she was seeing. Not sure if Ruby’s eyes were focused on the waterfall, but telling her about it anyway. Emma knew they shouldn’t stand in the spray for too long. The day had never warmed up, the temperature barely past freezing. So she turned in the direction she thought was North and skirted the base of the cliff leaving the waterfall behind. The surrounding peaks and ridges she had counted on to orient herself were nowhere, obliterated by thick cloud cover from above and fog from below. She had studied Google Maps before she lost cell reception and knew the route flattened out for a while before dropping down to a small lake and then climbed again. She kept her eyes trained on the ground, worried that if she looked up she might step off into nothing or worse, tumble downward, bouncing from rock to tree as she crushed and bashed Ruby’s perfect egg of a head. It wasn’t raining yet but the air was saturated. Fat drops of water condensed on Ruby’s head, clinging to sparse red curls. Emma had forgotten their hats. She draped her green army poncho over the two of them like a moving tent with just her own bare head sticking out the top. No hats. What the fuck had she been thinking? She knew she should turn around right then. But she didn’t. She continued to pick her way down between trees and boulders. The slope down to the lake was even steeper than the one she had just climbed up. It felt vertical - the toes of her mud slick boots canted down as she leaned back into the hill to avoid falling. She dropped to her butt and scooched along. A muddy ass was better than falling with Ruby. She dug her hands straight down into the mud and grabbed on to clumps of Salal and roots to slow her decent. Once they reached the lake the way became easier. Secure in her footing for the first time since she left the road, she reassured herself that this stupid adventure had been a good idea. When they reached

14


the madison review

the far shore she followed a game trail up a slight rise. She broke through every spider web that spanned the faint path. She brushed the creatures and their sticky silk from her face and Ruby’s head. In less than a mile they entered the Muskeg. Acres of Sphagnum moss and dwarf dogwood turned red and brown. Frost coated every leaf and tendril of grass. They scaled small tufted hillocks. They skirted tiny shallow ponds and smooth flat mud wallows. Here was the place that she had dreamed up and then recreated in miniature each year as a child. A place molded by her own will. The tiny terrarium world she had so carefully constructed in discarded Sara Lee foil tins. She had searched for and found patches of dark green moss and carefully harvested them—peeling them back from their rock surfaces in rare damp and shady hiding places in the suburban Midwest landscape of her childhood. She covered the bottom of the pans with a layer of pebbles and laid the velvety pelts across the top. She pealed the thorny shells from smooth brown buckeyes to make miniature boulders. She left space for a broken mirror pond and a porcelain deer her mother had saved from the Red Rose tea box. She had dreamed up this place while playing in the packed dirt under the rhododendron that circled her house. Now she recognized and greeted each small bent Shore Pine, each contorted Yellow Cedar. She brushed up against a Mountain Hemlock, its trunk a twisted octopus of limbs. Each branch thick with deep purple pinecones. She thought about pulling one off to take home to show Jacob. Then didn’t. Her eyes scanned back and forth over the open clearing. The soft peaty ground stretched in all directions. She couldn’t see where it ended. Clouds obscured the boundary between the flat expanse and the uplifted ridge. She knew the mountains must start to rise again not far from here. She saw a large flat-topped rock and picked her way toward it. Her boots sunk in, feet disappearing to her ankles in the spongy surface. She sat down on the edge of the rock and unhooked Ruby. She was sweaty warm and wet under the poncho. When Ruby’s exposed skin hit the cold air her eyes shot open and her mouth stretched wide. She shrieked. The sound was muffled by thick air and soft ground. She didn’t stop screaming until Emma was able to free her left breast from under her three insufficient layers of clothing and shove her nipple too hard into Ruby’s mouth.

15


the madison review

Her only plan for the day had been to get to this place. She was here. She thought the clearing would work some magic. She wanted Ruby to believe all the stories she would tell her. She wanted Ruby to know there were still places where nothing human was welcome. She couldn’t see the wild things, but evidence of their presence was everywhere. A pile of refuse left by a ground squirrel that had chewed a pine cone to bits. Fresh deer prints in the mud wallow, brilliant berry red bear shit on the gravel flats. When Ruby was done nursing, Emma laid her down on her back in the soft duff. Her small body was so light it didn’t even sink in. Emma stripped off her wet tank top. At least she knew better than to keep the wet cotton next to Ruby’s skin and her own. Bare chested and slick with cooling sweat she leaned toward the ground where Ruby lay so still. Only her eyes moved as they fixed and trained on Emma’s face. Emma checked her diaper. It was wet and full of shit. She had packed one spare diaper in her pack. She dug down to get it with one hand, placing her other hand flat on Ruby’s stomach as if she were on a changing table and Emma needed to prevent her from falling. She was safe on the soft ground. The diaper was damp from Emma’s sweat seeping through the thin nylon of the pack. When Jacob packed their gear he rolled everything carefully inside the expensive dry bags Marion gave him every Christmas in his stocking. Emma didn’t bother. Last winter when she was still pregnant, the coffee shop was dead most days. If it was slow down by docks, Jacob came by on his lunch break. He sat in the corner with his laptop and watched birth videos on YouTube and played online Dungeons and Dragons. She cleaned out the storeroom. She found boxes of old magazines, a treasure trove of glossy Vogues and People. She hit the jackpot with two years’ worth of Mothering magazine from the late eighties. They kept her transfixed and then full of rage. One issue had an article about “mother earth friendly” diapers made with Sphagnum moss. No shit. A “natural earth friendly mother” should use dried Sphagnum moss to soak up the piss and shit of her breast fed, well-nourished baby. The “natural mother” should gather the moss, pick out the bugs and twigs and dry it. Emma had no idea how exactly you were supposed to secure this “naturally absorbent” and “pesticide free product” to your baby’s ass. She and Jacob imagined picking bits of poopy moss out of Ruby’s yet to be born butt. They laughed about it. They thought it was a joke. It wasn’t. The editors of Mothering were deadly serious. Every page reminded Emma of all the ways she was sure to be and epic failure.

16


the madison review

Emma wiped Ruby clean with an unnatural scented baby wipe she’d bought at Sea-Mart and secured Ruby’s clean damp diaper. She put the dirty diaper and wipes in a ripped plastic bag she discovered at the bottom of her pack and shoved it into the mesh outer pocket. She hoped it wouldn’t leak shit down the back of her legs in the rain. Had she thought it would be warm and sunny up here? That she would lay her suddenly chubby baby down, clean and dry and naked on the moss covered earth to gaze up at the snow covered peaks to watch eagles riding the air currents far above? That Ruby would gain enough weight to satisfy Jacob, Marion and the standard growth charts? Emma couldn’t stop touching Ruby’s forehead, fingering her neck, checking her pulse. She was too warm. She must have a fever. She would have a seizure up here in this place, this precious Muskeg. She would become hypothermic, she would die. Emma would have to peel back the soft moss where she lay and place her in the peat. Tuck in and straighten her too skinny legs. Cover her up. Place a small red leaf over her mouth to keep the bits of dirt and twigs from falling between her parted blue lips. Emma wished she had some of Jacob’s stupid baby formula now. They would starve up here. If Ruby died Emma wouldn’t go back. She would follow the open bog land till she came to the base of the high mountains. She would climb up onto a ridge. She would follow the ridge to some rocky crevice on some unnamed peak. If she headed due east she would slam into a wilderness of rock and snow. That’s where she’d go. She would make it as far as she could make it and then lie down in rocks and snow and scree. Ruby’s body would remain perfectly preserved in the peaty grave till Jacob could find her. Emma would rot and scatter out in the open. The mist turned to full on rain. Large drops fell on Ruby’s face. She started to cry. The sound turned Emma on like a switch. She scooped Ruby up from the moss, strapped her close and tight against her own bare chest, stretching her wool shirt over both of them. She added her one layer of spongy wet fleece and draped the useless green poncho back over the top. When she stood up, her knees buckled and then steadied. Her back and neck felt fused together from hunching over and nursing for so long. There was no magic here. Just a cold wet baby and a stupid, selfish mom. Not a real mom at all. Marion was right. She was unnatural but not in any special magical way or badass lesbian separatist way.

17


the madison review

Sometimes, but only rarely, Emma had questioned her own decisions. One thing had always led to another. It generally worked out. She had dropped out of school one semester from graduation. A few months later Jacob returned home to live with his mother. One morning he started shooting hoops under Emma’s window. Emma came down the wooden steps that clung to the side of the garage to tell him to shut up. They ended up sitting together on the bottom step, passing Emma’s coffee mug back and forth. They talked about mountains and wild lonely places. Jacob stopped shooting hoops early in the morning and started laying around on Emma’s futon, lazily licking her long thighs. The sex was uncomplicated, nothing dark or edgy about it. Emma liked how she could feel where his skin began and hers ended. A bright clear buzzing line, so unlike her previous relationships with women. She could be with him and it was almost like being alone. They climbed Mount Baker together and she puked all over the summit. She figured it was altitude sickness. She kept puking for weeks. When they realized she was pregnant it didn’t feel like a colossal screw up. It felt like a revelation, like she was Wonder Woman. The baby was a shared idea, a figment, a clump of cells bringing them together. They were both surprisingly fine about it. Which made no sense, they agreed, but it was how they felt anyway. It could have gone either way. She might have bled it out or flushed it out with a pill. Until the dreams started. She dreamed the baby was born a summer sausage, not a baby at all. They wrapped the sausage in a blanket, carried it wherever they went. Jacob cooed to it. Emma sang to it. Then they lost it. They were making out on a bus and left the sausage baby neatly swaddled, sound asleep, under the seat. She was all alone in the next dream. Driving her parents’ VW bus full of naked babies, kittens, downy yellow ducklings, baby foxes - all of them loose and tumbling about. No seatbelts. No car seats. Her own legs suddenly too short to reach the brake. The VW careened down an impossibly steep hill lined on both sides with cars. Some of those cars were filled with babies too. The brakes didn’t work. Emma didn’t know how to drive. She had no feet. The dreams ceased abruptly when Ruby was born. Emma was not sure if this was because she had stopped sleeping or because the real harm she could reap upon Ruby was nightmare enough. Besides, she hadn’t needed a stupid dream to tell her she was a terrible mom.

18


the madison review

Ruby started to cry again when they finally made it back up to the ridge, not far from the waterfall. Emma had to stop, unhook everything, take off her shirt and nurse standing up with her back braced against a tree. Ruby bark coughed and cried as she struggled to latch on to Emma’s frozen, cracked nipple. When Ruby was done, Emma strapped her back on facing outward. She thought Ruby could watch their progress as she tried to find the way, retracing her steps. Climbing up the streambed she had been able to pull herself up holding onto roots and plant her feet firmly on rocks as she pushed off. But it was far steeper going back than she realized on the way up. She had to turn around and climb backward down some sections like she was on a ladder, both of them staring at the vertical ground just inches from their faces. She reached around and flicked off some mud and moss caked to Ruby’s lips. When she felt a small stick protruding out of Ruby’s mouth, she turned and dropped low to the ground. She inched her way along in a crouch from boulder to boulder. She kept compulsively checking her phone to see if she had service yet. She didn’t. She wouldn’t call Jacob anyway. But his shift was over, it was after six. She had to use the flash light function to light their way, to see her own two feet. They kept descending, moving at slugs pace. She could smell baby shit but didn’t know if it was coming from Ruby or from the dirty diaper she had shoved in the pack hours before. When they finally blundered into the thorn thick underbrush she welcomed the sharp punctures on her arms and covered Ruby’s face with the poncho again. She almost fell when they came to the drainage ditch. It was always that way. So easy to fall at the end of a hike. She could hear Jacob’s voice in her head, “walk like a deer, lift your feet.” It annoyed her when he said this. But she did it now, high stepping along like a fool. Emma made it to the paved road faster than seemed possible. She pulled the poncho back from Ruby’s face, placed her palm on Ruby’s forehead anchoring the baby flush against her own body. Ruby’s head was smooth and cool under her palm. She jogged along the edge of the road toward town. She used her free hand to shield Ruby’s eyes from the flash of the on-coming headlights. She didn’t recognize any of the cars that passed by. She listened for the distinctive rattle of her truck but failed to hear it. She rounded the bend at Silver Bay and there it was pulled up on the gravel shoulder. Jacob stood by the side of the truck. His back was to her and his head was tilted up toward the dark hills.

19


the madison review

Leaving

David Rosenheim You slept in the lee of a saguaro the dawn when a plane nosedived into the desert floor waking you with tequila eyes to the twin red balls of the flaming metal cocoon and the actual sunrise you, rising on stiff knees unsure which was your fault implicating yourself in the drama as usual as streams of birds flew like arrows or souls, you thought from the scene leaving, you though teveryone is always leaving.

20


the madison review

21


the madison review

The Caretaker Shawn Rubenfeld

His name was Ivan. In 1999, his wife, Marta, was pregnant for the third time. She had already suffered two miscarriages, so when she became pregnant again, the couple spent almost a year’s salary on prenatal care. She was forty-four. Ivan was fifty. They both knew it was their last chance. Her water broke on a Thursday evening in the middle of a furious snowstorm. They were in the kitchen, where pots and pans sat on every surface, stacked almost as high as the snowpacked outside the windows. In one swoop, Ivan cleared the big wooden island in the middle of the room and set his wife’s engorged body there. He held her hand as she delivered a beautiful boy, his skin scaly and cold like a fish. He realized a few seconds later that the boy wasn’t breathing. He rubbed his belly gently at first, then ferociously, as if he could force life back into his skin. He pushed his mouth against the baby’s and pumped and pumped. Marta was screaming, “Stop. Stop it. You’re hurting him. You’re killing him.” Then her head dropped quiet as if she too had died. He buried the corpse in a shoebox in the backyard, taped shut. One shovel for the snow. Another for the dirt. Later that week, Ivan found another shoebox hidden among his mother’s belongings in the attic. He had been looking through the quilts for something he could give Marta, for she hadn’t gotten out of bed since the stillbirth and was getting cold. When his mother died, he took it all—dressers of clothes, boxes of china, books of recipes she had collected from neighbors and family; though, most of the time, he left these things alone. There wasn’t much since everything of his father’s had long been confiscated. Strangely, his father’s name was written on the face ofthis shoebox, which had been crushed and wrapped in a quilt and lay at the very bottom of the heavy pile. His father was General Snow of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. In 1948, he had been given four bullets to the back of his head by the new Soviet government in Ukraine for being an anti-Communist terrorist. Ivan didn’t know his father. He was only three years old when they executed him. All he had were the stories his mother told, often in whispers. His father, clad in a three-piece pressed uniform and a trim, gray beard, an anti-Soviet, Nazi-killing guerilla fighter, trying

22


the madison review

heroically to liberate Ukraine from her occupiers. Then shot like a dog into a frozen ditch, the executioners pouring brandy down their pants to keep themselves warm, inhaling the dusty propellant as if it were smoke. “One day,” his mother said. “Everyone in this country will know his name.” In 1992, just months after Ukrainian independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union and two years after Ivan’s mother died of heart disease, the school Ivan had attended inhis small village in the Kirovohrad Oblast in South-Central Ukraine was renamed in his father’s honor, General “George” Snow Middle School of General Education, a brass placard of hisfather’s face—sedate, resolved— hanging in the entryway. Two years later, when the bronze statue of Lenin in front of the government building was pulled down, a statue of his father was erected in its place. For the next few years, Ivan looked on proudly as people from Kyiv and Odessa and Lviv made pilgrimages to their faraway village to see his father’s grave, which had been moved from the Orthodox cemetery by the river to a single plot behind the government building. Some years, so many would visit that the town considered charging admission. Ivan popped open the lid of the shoebox. Inside were postcards his father had exchanged with his mother, dated 1938 and 1939. Some of them were written like intense love letters out ofa Shakespeare play. Some included pictures attached by paperclip, which almost always showed a strong, determined man in uniform. Others wrote of jewelry as gifts—necklaces, rings, golden bands. Then there were the things he didn’t expect. In one postcard, his father mentioned receiving a note from the Reichsfuhrer and planning a visit to Munich. In another, he wrote of “the Jews” and “liquidation.” “We have been cooperating with the Germans,” he explained.“Their interests are ours. We won’t be a free nation until we rid ourselves of the influence of Judeobolshevism.” Ivan read them twice, three times, four times. He held them up to the dusty white light coming through the attic’s only window. He compared the handwriting from note to note. In all the literature he had read about his father and in all the stories he had been told about his role during the war, there had been nothing that said he was a Nazi collaborator. Only that he was a hero, a symbol of Ukrainian nationalism, who fought against the Nazis as fiercely as he fought the Soviets, who famously gave the shirt off his back and the boots from his feet to a peasant girl in the Carpathians, just because she asked.

23


the madison review

Ivan snapped the lid back onto the box and held it away from his body. He regretted finding it. Even stranger, he wasn’t sure how it could have been hidden here for so many years. But now that he was holding it in his hands, he felt as if he had to share it with somebody. He walked it down to the bedroom where Marta was wrapped in blankets like a newborn. As soon as she saw Ivan carrying the shoebox, she cried out. She threw a glass of water across the room. She pulled her hair from its roots and prayed for mercy. “It’s not what you think,” Ivan said, backing up, shielding the shoebox with his body.“They’re just postcards.” “Don’t come near me,” she yelled. “Get it away from me, you sicko. Get it away.” Ivan went outside. It wasn’t worth it. War made people desperate, he decided. Besides, his father was dead. Let him rest. Ivan taped the lid shut and buried the box of postcards in thebackyard next to his son. Again there were two shovels: one for the snow, one for the dirt. * When Marta died twelve years later, Ivan sold his dry goods store and took to tending her garden. He would listen to opera on a portable radio and wander around in a straw hat and cargopants identifying weeds to be pulled, the part of the work Marta had hated the most. With a rusty pruner, he would trim the shrubs, bushes, and trees. He expanded the flower bed and laid mulch for protection. Occasionally, people who had been visiting his father’s monument would stand across the way and watch him with curiosity. Sometimes Ivan waved. Sometimes he pretended they weren’t there. It must have been strange for these wealthy visitors to see the only descendent of a respected General crawling around the dirt, cradling a pot of water to his chest, his back hooked over rusted tools like the much older women at the other end of the street, who wore long wrinkled dresses and head scarves tied like a bow beneath their neck, who moved around gardens of their own slowly, deliberately, until they came to blend into the earth itself. One evening, when Ivan was one of the few still at work, trying to manage a sudden infestation of leafhoppers, a man and his two sons approached him and asked if he knew where the cemetery was. He ignored them. No one visiting town could miss the cemetery. Whether they were looking for the Orthodox cemetery, where his wife and mother were buried, with its impressive golden gates and hill of crosses that could be seen from almost anywhere in the village, or the single plot by the government building which housed his father, there

24


the madison review

were signs on every corner pointing the way. “Sorry to bother you,” the man said again. “The sunflowers look very good.” He spoke in broken Ukrainian. Ivan realized he wasn’t Ukrainian. He put his insecticide down and considered him. The man had a white baseball cap and thick beard scrub. His teeth were yellow. When he smiled, the veins on his neck formed neon rivers. His two boys, slouching behind him, looked bored and tired. The oldest one looked just like his father. The youngest was chubbier, with plump, rounded cheeks. Baby fat that looked like it might never go away. They were both wearing flip flops. “I speak English,” Ivan said. The man breathed a sigh of relief. “Sorry, can’t assume,” he said. “Who are you looking for?” Ivan said. “Rothstein. This is where my ancestors are from.” “What ancestors?” “My grandparents. They lived here before the war.” He gestured to the boys. “I wanted to take them.” Ivan hesitated. “Jewish?” “Yes, Jewish.” It was the first time Ivan could recall a Jew visiting the village. At least it was the first he had seen. Only once, in Kyiv for a few days, did he see Jews. But those Jews wore black hats and heavy suits. These Jews were wearing t-shirts and baggy shorts. It didn’t bother him, of course. A human is a human. “How long before the war?” “1880s about. Last one left 1920.” “One second,” Ivan said. He went back into his house and grabbed two pairs of socks forthe boys and a weed whacker. “Okay. Let’s go take a look.” Ivan walked them the mile behind houses with tall grass and flower beds twice as messy as his own, over dirt roads where cars and bikes were parked wherever they wanted and where clothes hung on a line from one green fence to another. Then, they trudged across a wide, weedy field to the unlabeled and overgrown Jewish cemetery. Everyone knew where it was but no one visited. It was a small plot, about thirty feet in either direction. A creek separated it from the street. “There’s poison ivy here,” Ivan said. “Ticks, too. Watch your skin. Make sure the kids have the socks pulled high.” The tops of a few headstones rose abover the shrubbery, like the hand of a person drowning in the ocean. Some of the stones had copper fences around them, which one could barely see beneath the

25


the madison review

vegetation wrapped around the pickets. A few of the stones had fallen outright, face-down. Others were chipped. Ivan used the weed whacker to clear a small path. “It’s beautiful,” the man said, which Ivan found strange. The Orthodox cemetery off the main road was beautiful. This was a garbage dump. There was a chance, even, there was a landmine or two here, though he didn’t tell this to the visitors. He figured if there was it would get him first anyway. The man turned to his boys. “Don’t you guys think it’s beautiful?” “It needs to be cleaned up a little,” Ivan admitted. They were only able to read a handful of the headstones since so many had become buried beneath feet of sharp twigs. In most of them, the lettering was faded and cut off. Many were in Hebrew, but some were in Russian. The dirt beneath them seemed to sink as if quicksand. In one, was a graffitied image of a hanged man with a Star of David. Next to it was a swastika. One of the boys took a photo with his phone, but the father swatted it away. Ivan said he’d get rid of it in the morning. “Is there a caretaker?” the man asked, picking a tick off his leg. Ivan hiked his pants. The question startled him, mostly because he hadn’t thought of it. No one here had. It was April—spring—though, like usual, it seemed a month late. Just over an hour until sunset. Across the street, where there was a row of small brick houses, three young girls sat on bikes watching Marcus, the village idiot, throw bread at dozens of ducklings. He was sitting in a striped shirt ripped down the middle, his bare feet splashing in the creek, quacking at the flock of ducks. The girls were laughing at him. Ivan kicked an empty beer bottle into the shrubbery. He thought of Marta, resting peacefully beneath the golden gates, the men who would sometimes play music for the dead. His father’s monument behind the government building, cleaned daily. “I am,” he said with a sudden conviction, as if reporting for service. “I’m the caretaker.” Embarrassed, he added. “Just a little behind at the moment, you see. It’s been a long winter.” Ivan wasn’t sure what would come next. Criticism. Sympathy. Suspicion. The man turned to his boys, smiling. “Amazing,” he said. “Of all the people we could have asked for directions here, we ask the caretaker. What are the chances?” His youngest son was holding a tick between his fingers, which he put up to his face. He squashed it. “It was like you already knew,” Ivan said, shrugging.

26


the madison review

* The next morning, Ivan returned with his tools. He trimmed the grass. He spread wildflower seeds. He built a thin dirt path where visitors could walk, not that he expected visitors. He worked on one plot at a time, clearing them of weeds, dousing the stones with water, scrubbing them with a rag. A few of the women down the street were standing in long skirts outside their homes, watching him. “What are you doing, Ivan? Have you lost your mind? I thought you retired.” “I’m just looking after the dead,” he said. “Of course,” one of them said. “It’s easier to look after the dead than the living.” Another woman laughed. “Yeah, because the dead don’t talk back.” The first woman hollered. “If they did, could you imagine what his father would say?” * In the months that followed, Ivan spent most of his free time at the cemetery. He built asmall bridge over the creek with planks of wood. He found a bench and moved it to the shaded spot by the tree so he could keep an eye on things. He scooped dog shit and duck shit into plastic bags. He intended to make the place look brand new. Surprisingly, Jews from out of town started to visit. They were from America, Israel, France. They thanked him for the work he had done. Many asked if he was Jewish. Because driving into town was difficult, such trips were soon organized and run by a man named Sasha, who lived just behind the Orthodox cemetery. He was about twenty years younger than Ivan. Ivan had known his father, who was also named Sasha, because they attended school together. That Sasha had always bothered him—he was loud and boisterous and would whistle at the women in class. This Sasha was quieter and more cunning. He told Ivan how he had sensed the opportunity for Jewish heritage tourism after watching an American movie about Jews who travel to rural Ukraine looking for their ancestry. Reverse immigration, he called it. He would meet these Jews in Kyiv or Odessa, where he would arrange lodging for them. Then he would drive them the four hours into town, where they would visit the cemetery and other sites of interest: a mass grave deep in the forest, the town square, and General Snow’s memorial and monument. Ivan would be with them, too. Sasha would tell him when the Jews were coming and he would meet them on site. Many took photos. A few prayed in Hebrew. All of them got strange stares from the locals.

27


the madison review

But only once did someone actually find an ancestor. It was a woman who looked like Marta—soft, round face, green eyes like grass, hair that curled down her temples—except she spoke not Russian and Ukrainian but English. “My aunt,” she said, dropping in front of the footstone. It was unique in that it was the only plot that contained a photograph—a picture with gold trim of a chubby woman with blackhair and unnaturally white skin. Ivan ran behind her and used a cloth to wipe some of the excess dirt off the photo. Sasha was beaming. “You know, this is your very special day,” he said. He was wearing cargo pants with both pockets so full they were about to burst. He had a loose button-up shirt buttoned only half way, revealing a toned yet smooth chest. His hair was wet and combed to the left. He put a hand on Ivan’s shoulder and clenched the skin. “Ivan, our esteemed volunteer caretaker, only found this plot two days ago. What a remarkable coincidence.” The woman turned to look at Ivan, tears clouding her eyes. She even smelled like Marta, like chamomile tea and rose petals. “You found this ​two​days ago?” Her voice was cracking.“How?” Ivan wasn’t sure where Sasha was going with this. It was obvious he didn’t respect this space like he did, that this was all a business opportunity to him. Still, he didn’t want to ruin the moment. Wasn’t that why he started taking care of the site in the first place? To bring people together again? To build bridges? To make up for the past? He imagined what it must feel like for this woman. To come home with a story like this, one she could tell forever—to kids, grandkids, newspapers. A story that would give others hope. What was the harm? “These branches,” Ivan said, pointing behind him then patting his chest. “Were up to here. Routine cleaning. I didn’t know anything was so far out this way, but then I found this one and thought now this looks like a beautiful woman. I was glad after all this time to see her face uncovered.” The American was shaking her head and blowing her nose into her shirt. She dug around for a rock and put it on the top of the stone. “I can’t believe it,” she said. “Two days ago.” “This doesn’t happen everyday,” Sasha said. “That I can promise you. Are you happy? Are you glad you came?” “Of course I’m happy. You can’t put a price on this. Never would I have believed...” She sank into Ivan’s arms, lost in thought. “You’re a hero,” she said to him. “We need more people out there like you.”

28


the madison review

“I’m not a hero,” he said. “You are,” she said. “I just believe in respecting the dead,” he said. “Jewish, Catholic, Russian, Ukrainian. No matter how they lived or who they were. The dead should be respected. That’s all there is to it. They’re witnesses of our history.” “Deep, Ivan,” Sasha said. “Can I take a picture of you?” Ivan didn’t want a picture. He saw such a photograph as an instrument of vanity, and he wasn’t doing this work for publicity or fame. Besides, he was suddenly ashamed of his missing tooth, the thinning hair, the boney limbs, the holes in the back of his shirt. He didn’t just look like a caretaker, he looked like he had risen from one of these graves himself—and at only sixty-six. Years of smoking and drinking had affected him. Marta hated it when he smoked, though she didn’t mind when he drank. There were some he knew much older than him who looked almost as young as Sasha. People who smoked and drank twice as much as he did. Genes were funny like that. Still, he obliged. And still he smiled. He didn’t need to be remembered, but he also didn’t want to be forgotten. The woman lifted her camera. “One, two, three,” she said. A flash. Then, “Sorry, it’sblurry. One more.” Ivan looked at the photograph on the footstone and then the American in front of him. Now he could see the resemblance. “You look very official,” Sasha said, winking. “Like your father.” He leaned into theAmerican’s ear. “He was a very famous General, you know. A very famous man. Very important for Ukraine. I’ll take you to that site next.” * The idea came from that. Of course it was Sasha’s idea. He contacted Ivan at the beginning of the next tourism season to see if he knew of a grave with the name Brover. Ivan said none of the graves in Russian or Ukrainian said Brover, but he didn’t read Hebrew so he couldn’t say either way about the Hebrew graves. Sasha was on site that night investigating. Ivan watched him from the bench while eating a pear. It was unbearably hot. His shirt was tied around his waist. Sasha was holding a phone up to the Hebrew graves, biting his bottom lip. Marcus, the village idiot, was back with his ducks, standing in the shade of Ivan’s bridge. The ducks had circled him, the quacking loud like a symphony.

29


the madison review

Sasha walked over to the bench. He pointed. “Maybe down that way?” “There’s nothing down that way,” Ivan said. Sasha scratched his chin. He spit into the grass. “Then no Jews here named Brover,” he said. “Shit.” “I’m sure many of the graves didn’t make it,” Ivan said. “What we have left here is very old.” Sasha let out a deep breath and looked around desperately. He pulled out a cigarette and, without offering, handed one to Ivan. “These are very rich people,” he said. “The Brovers.They’re from New York. Live in the Empire State Building.” “I’m glad for them,” Ivan said. “I’m trying to convince them to come down here. It’s good for the village. They spend a lot of money, these people. ​You’ve ​seen that, haven’t you? They’ll be in Kyiv for a few days. But they’re worried about the drive and want to make sure the trip is worth it. It’s one of those things, you know. How it always is. The wife thinks her grandmother is from here but no one can really ​say for sure because record keeping was so bad back then. You know that the Jews didn’t keep birth records? Nothing.” Ivan said he didn’t know. “What they do know is that her mother goes to America. 1900 something. But not her grandmother. Dead before the war. They’ll end up spending their time and money at Chernobyl or in God-forbid Moscow. Why come all the way down here if there’s nothing in it for them?” “Makes sense,” Ivan said, because it did. When did anyone do anything if nothing was in it for them? Sasha groaned. “This is a very small cemetery in a very small village. You know this, Ivan. It can be disappointing for people. They come a very long way for this. You should see the cemeteries in other towns. On hills. Huge. Big shiny tombstones. They have other buildings, too. Schools. Prayer houses. How does a place like this compete?” “This is all that survived,” Ivan said. “It’s nothing you can change.” Whistling, Marcus had emerged from beneath the bridge. Ivan turned to watch. He was moving toward them, his army of ducks following behind. “Keep those ducks away from here, Marcus,” Ivan yelled. “I’m tired of finding their shit everywhere. You know I’m the guy who cleans it. Just me.”

30


the madison review

Marcus stopped but didn’t look at him. Sasha rested a hand on Ivan’s shoulder. “Forget it,” he said. “You know the guy’s harmless. He doesn’t know his right from left.” Marcus turned and waded upstream. The ducks floated around him like stones. “See,” Sasha said. “Nothing.” Ivan could tell that Sasha wanted something and was busy figuring out how to get it. He took a long drag of the cigarette and stared at him. Sasha’s eyes were like bloodied amber. He was short, much shorter than Ivan. Much shorter than the other Sasha. Often the hair on his head would stick straight up as if spiked. Finally Sasha dug his hands in his pockets and said, “You remember the look on that woman’s face when she found that grave?” Ivan remembered it. What he didn’t say was that he had seen her face nearly every day since. How much she reminded him of Marta, his wife, who used to leave the butter out every morning so that it would be soft by the time he had his daily slice of bread, whose body was so warm beside his own, especially during the fierce winter. Sometimes, too, he thought about that photograph she had taken and wondered where on earth it would end up. Sasha sighed. “These people come from so far away. I mean, they’re happy no matter what, I guess, but that. That was really special.” Ivan agreed. “I want these Brovers to be happy like that. It’ll be easy.” “What’ll be easy?” “Giving them such a moment. Look, it’s nothing. I promise you it’s nothing. Just an idea I had.” Ivan felt himself grow skeptical. “Are you listening?” Sasha asked. “I’m listening,” Ivan said. “They tell me who they’re looking for, right? They give me the details. All we have to do is write these details down on a stone and stick it in the ground. Anywhere.” He demonstrated by stomping his foot. “When they’re gone we get rid of it. No one’s hurt. They don’t even know.” Ivan shook his head. “It’s not right,” he said. “You’re lying to people.” Sasha pursed his lips. “Everyone lies to everyone, Ivan.” Dark shadows dropped from the nearby trees. Ivan watched them as he had watched Marcus. He wondered: did his father lie to his mother or did his mother lie to her son? Did the President lie to the people or

31


the madison review

did the people lie to the President? Did Hitler lie to Ukrainians or did Ukrainians lie to Hitler? Sasha finished his cigarette and put it out with his fingers. He held the cigarette butt in his fist. “Ivan, my friend, let me ask you something and be honest: do you believe cemeteries are for the living or for the dead?” Ivan sighed. He wasn’t in the mood for an intellectual debate. He didn’t need his beliefs questioned. ​T he dead​, he thought, but didn’t say. Sasha answered for him. “They aren’t for the dead, Ivan,” he said, animated, his face reddened. “Think about it. How can anything on earth be for the dead? They’re for the living. They make the lives of those living just a little bit easier. We can do that. We can keep doing that. Think of how much they’ve suffered already. Think of the lives their ancestors lost because of the spineless German Nazi pigs. Those people who suffered like our ancestors suffered under Stalin, like our brothers suffer today because of the Russians. We can ease their suffering, Ivan. We can do that.” “How?” “What do you mean ​how​? By showing them that their ancestors rest here in peace. That people like you are watching over them. So all this work isn’t in vain. And look, if you need me to pay you, I’ll pay you. Five hundred hryvnia.” Ivan knew it was wrong. He was a caretaker. He took care of things. He had morals. But he couldn’t help but think of the shoebox of his father’s postcards in his wife’s garden, which he still tended on weekends, that American woman like Marta paying her respects to his father’s grave behind the government building, his own son who wasn’t given even a single breath, and the loneliness the people in the ground beneath him must have felt for so long. Nothing was worse than being forgotten, he decided. It was worse, even, than being alone. It certainly wasn’t a problem his father had. Enough visitors to last three lifetimes. And there was Sasha, smiling. “It’s for the good of our country,” he said. “Your father, the patriot, would be proud.” * The next week, Sasha left Ivan the details and a battered headstone. Marcie Brover. Died 1884. Birth year unknown. Possibly 1820. Ivan used a flat chisel and a hammer to carve into the limestone. He wrote in Russian. HERE LIES BROVER. On the top of the stone he carved a Jewish star. In the morning, he found a spot where the soil was light and wedged the headstone into the dirt. A few days later, the Brovers

32


the madison review

were there in sunglasses. Sasha was two steps ahead of them, gesturing anxiously to the cemetary. They all shook hands. “Good to meet you,” Ivan said. “I hear you’re from New York.” “You heard right,” the male Brover said. “Brover,” Sasha said. “Can you take us to Brover, Ivan?” “Yes, but please look at some of the others, too.” Ivan walked them around the cemetery—the headstones, the marble slabs, the footstones, the plots surrounded by a rusted fence. The Brovers stopped at each one, and Ivan felt a pang of relief. Sasha seemed irritated. Then, he led them to the Brover plot, which was shaded from the nearby tree. He rubbed dirt from the stone, which hadn’t been there in the morning. “Here lies Brover,” he said. “1884.” He read out the cyrillic letters. “Is this what you’re looking for?” Sasha stood tensely as the Brovers eyed the headstone. They didn’t say anything at first.The wife turned to the husband. She put a hand on her mouth. “Oh my God,” she said, almost in a whisper. “Do you really think?” The husband turned to Ivan. “1884?” “1884,” Ivan said. He looked at his wife again. “It’s hers. It must be her. I don’t know who else it could be.” Sasha breathed a big breath. He put his hands in the air. “It’s a miracle,” he said. “He found this the day you emailed. He came right out looking as soon as you gave me the name. It had been covered by weeds up to here. All the ones in this row. Up to here. And look at the condition. It’s like new. These things were built to last. Those Jews really knew what they were doing.” There were more fake headstones that year. A few footstones, too. Feinstein. Siegel. Malle. Yanovsky. Each one was easier than the last. They really fell into a routine. Ivan put most of the money back into the cemetery. He built a wooden gate on the other side of the bridge. He bought a second bench. He only kept what was left—sometimes treating himself to a nice dinner, a new shirt. Once, a young man visited town—short, messy black hair, a plain gray t-shirt. He was very polite, from the middle of America, a place Ivan had never heard of. This American said “Yes, yes,” a lot. He told Ivan and Sasha how the rolling hills and fields of wheat reminded him of back home.

33


the madison review

“You, me,” Sasha said. “We aren’t so different. For example, I love Israel. It’s an amazing country.” He winked at Ivan, who was walking him to a stone he had made with no first name because this man didn’t know the first name of whoever he was looking for. He took pictures of everything. One plot after the next. He even snuck a few photos of Ivan and Sasha. Sasha was wearing his heavy cargo shorts again. Ivan wondered how he could walk around all day with so much weight in his pockets. “Why not just put a stick down?” Ivan had asked. “If he doesn’t even know who he’s looking for? I can’t just make a person up.” “You’re overthinking it,” Sasha said. “He hardly cares either way. These are the easy ones.” Still, the man was very touched by the fake plot. It wasn’t for him, he explained, that he had come all this way. It was for his mother. Some of her family had disappeared during the war. They had been living here before that for a very long time. He was thinking he’d write a book about it, though he wasn’t sure yet what that book would be. What he really wanted was to understand himself more, to understand this part of his history, to be closer to it somehow. Sasha pointed at the footstone. “Your lucky day. What a good thing it was that you came out here. Isn’t it amazing? Still standing all this time? Wait until you tell your mother. Maybe even she will visit next?” * Some days Sasha helped with the landscaping. Together they would clear the path of duck shit and scrub rust from the stones. A few of the women from the neighboring houseswould walk over and offer the men food. They would eat on the bench by the stream—tired, worn. Sasha talked about expanding his business to other towns. Ivan hoped he would. That way he wouldn’t have to bother him so much anymore. When news of violent protests in Kyiv reached the village, the people decided to erect asmall museum in honor of General Snow, since he was a symbol of the free nation. Ivan hadn’t been consulted. In town, he had become something of a joke, spending his time among the dead Jews. He visited the museum anyway and found that it wasn’t a museum so much as a three-room display in the government building. The story was of honor and courage, of a man who loved his country and would do anything to protect it. A single board detailed how he would hide in the snow to trick his enemies. Ivan asked where they received all the information about his father’s character. He was told that it was well documented. Many people knew him, it seemed. Many knew of his cause. It was to bring glory to their nation, to

34


the madison review

establish the unified state they now, finally, had. “What about the Jews who once lived in our village?” Ivan said. The people he asked would roll their eyes. “What about the Jews who once lived in our village?” they said. “What became of them?” They pointed to the forest outside town. “The Nazis.” “But shouldn’t we do something to commemorate them?” “And not the millions that Stalin starved? Why don’t the Germans commemorate them? They’re the ones who did it all.” * By September that year, Sasha had another idea. Ivan would pretend that his house had once been owned by a local Jewish family. That way he could walk visitors through the house to show them an authentic Jewish building like one their ancestors might have owned. “But my house was built in 1952,” Ivan said. “They won’t know the difference,” Sasha said. “A house is a house.” Ivan knew it was going too far, but he was too deep in it now. What made a house any worse than a headstone? “But why would they want to see my house?” Ivan said. “There’s nothing to see.” “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” Sasha said, his eyes widening, as if it were a phrase he had thought of just then. “Let’s just try it, okay? We have to stay competitive. Already I hear about other tours trying to bring people to the country. They stole our idea.” Our ​idea, Ivan thought. “Think of them like family over for soup,” Sasha said. The next to arrange a visit was an old couple from Miami, Florida. The woman had been born in Ukraine, but left along with her sister when she was only two. They got out just before the war. Their family tree was big—less a tree and more a forest. Sasha did his usual research and gave Ivan two names: Shlomo and Perry Abervach. These were the woman’s parents. They were dead and buried the week the girls fled to America. Ivan worked on the headstone with his usual care. He picked a plot closer to the creek. It was one he hadn’t used before, but it was getting late in the season and the sun now was much lower in the sky. He forced it into the ground with a slant. He built a little brick wall about a foot high around it as if it were a house. “You really outdid yourself this time,” Sasha said. The plane with the Abervachs was delayed. Ivan spent the day they were scheduled to visit sitting on the stone wall. Sasha was already in

35


the madison review

Kyiv anticipating them. Ivan wondered if they would come at all. The news from Kyiv was getting worse and worse. People were demanding another revolution. The were shouting ‘Glory to Ukraine. Glory to the heroes.’ It was the phrase popularized by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. The visitors from Miami came two days later. The woman was wearing a long shirt withflowers on it. The man was in a suit. Both of them had thick round glasses. They were small. They walked very slowly. Sasha parked the van at the edge of the bridge, where he helped this woman walk over one plank at a time. Occasionally they had to avoid duck shit. All the while, Sasha pointed in a frenzy to the back of the headstone. “Wait until you see it,” he said. “It’s beautiful. Absolutely perfect. Clean. Undisturbed.” Marcus wasn’t in sight, though Ivan was sure he could hear him singing. Standing over the plot, all the woman could say was, “My mother. Is it really my mother?” “Yes,” Sasha said. “Of course. It’s a miracle.” Ignoring him, she looked at Ivan and waited. “Is it?” she said again. Her voice cold, flat. “Is it really my mother?” Ivan felt himself grow pale. He couldn’t tell her that it wasn’t, even though he wanted to. He needed to. It wouldn’t do any good. Not anymore. “We read a lot about vandalism before coming here,” the man said. “Kids digging up Jewish graves. Graffiti. Molotov cocktails. Has there ever been an issue like that here?” “No,” Sasha said to the man. “Absolutely not. Just a little duck shit, but that’s why we have Ivan. Look, we are not anti-Semitic here. That is just Russian propaganda. We enjoy all people. Right, Ivan?” The woman was still looking at him, waiting. After a while, Ivan opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. Later, when Sasha and the couple left, Ivan tore down the brick wall and took down the headstone. In its place he erected another one. On it, he chiseled only: HERE LIES. At the bottom he added: FORGIVE US. At home, he stood in his wife’s garden, over the two plots containing the shoeboxes he had buried all those years ago. He didn’t know which was which anymore: the remains of his son on one side, his father’s postcards on the other. His father, his son. The son, the father. What he did know was that it was nearing the end of another

36


the madison review

season, that soon, the flowers would die. Soon would be the first frost, the first snow. Soon was time to stock up for the winter. It came ferociously every year, like a visitor who wasn’t wanted but who wouldn’t leave, like another revolution, like another Ivan, another life, another village, buried there in the soil, somewhere between the two.

37


the madison review

Advice

Manisha Sharma Let’s start each day by pinching your nose and gulping two spoonful of castor oil, I promise, will make you slender like a palm tree You’ve kept your hair short so far. The bob is nice my child, now let it grow wild up to your elbow and until then every night I’ll feed your hair warm coconut oil, tips of my fingers pressing down on the roots of your hair you’ll mark lots of changes too, in your chest, knots, on your face, pimples sprouting like bristles, hair from places we don’t talk about It’s Sunday tomorrow, the detox day to gram flour, turmeric, cream add rosewater mix it in like oil paints—in it dip your fingers, mask your face neck, back, belly, legs, your whole body. And when the skin beneath begins to toughen, with the ball of your palm, like an onion, peel it. One last thing, cover your bosom when under the sun, shield parts of you A block of shaved, shaped, polished wood, blessed are you, my girl when you leave this world while he, your husband lights your pyre. You are fortunate

38


the madison review

39


the madison review

Headless Chicken for New Years Steffi Sin

“Who took my head?” Popo demands. My grandmother points accusingly at the chicken head on my brother’s plate. “Are you going to eat that?” He shakes his head. He’d perched the head on top of his hill of rice, so it watched him as he ate. “Give it back to Popo,” I tell him. “She lives to eat heads off everything: chicken, fish, you, me.” With his chopsticks, he hands it to her by lifting it over all the plates. Popo knocks the head from his grasp with her own chopsticks and catches it in her bowl. We all chew silently as bones crunch between her dentures. Gong Gong, my grandfather, chews gai lan with an enthusiasm only he and herbivores share. “Siu Yoon Zee, will you make tong yoon tonight?” he asks me. “You should make them. It’s Chinese New Year,” my mother says. “The whole family’s here.” I look pointedly at her and wait for someone to mention the absence of Uncle Tommy and Aunt Patty’s family from the dinner table or the fact that my grandparents will have to re-host New Year’s for the others the following night. “Do you have rice flour?” I ask. Carefully, I take my bowl of chicken bones and add them to the mountain of severed joints, fractured elbows, and mangled carcasses rising six inches high at the center of the table. “Dai bah,” Popo asserts. “We have enough flour to make tong yoon until your father’s sick of them.” Gong Gong gestures to the bottles and jars on the shelves lining the kitchen walls. “You can use peanut butter or black sesame paste for the filling.” Stomach full, my brother rises from the table, but Popo immediately orders him to sit back down and help us finish the chicken. He sighs and takes his seat. At fourteen, he only wants to go home and watch tv. As my mother places two meaty pieces in his bowl, he eyes the cold, yellow skin suspiciously. He leans over for the lemongrass and ginger sauce, and he whispers in my ear, “Dude, I can eat it if some of the feathers are still on, right?”

40


the madison review

“It doesn’t matter,” I tell him. “Popo will kill you if you don’t eat it. Each year, she risks losing her fingers butchering the chicken herself.” Popo waves her bandaged hands at us from across the table and cackles. With her crooked nose and hanging skin, she looks like a mad witch from the fairytales white people tell. I remember asking Popo a decade ago to pick me up from elementary school because I wanted to see all the blonde kids in my class run screaming for their mothers when they laid eyes on her. “Diiing,” my brother swears. “You’re no help.” My mother dabs the corner of her mouth with a napkin. “One year when I was a girl back in Hong Kong, your Popo brought home a New Year’s chicken. Her knife hadn’t been sharpened recently, and the chicken was particularly aggressive, so she missed half its neck. The chicken slipped from the chopping board to the kitchen floor and ran through the apartment. Blood spilled all over our furniture. Your Popo raced out of the kitchen covered in blood splatter, waving a butcher knife as she chased the chicken until it died from blood loss.” My brother’s ears perk up. “Really?” “Don’t listen to her,” Popo scowls. “Your mother is only good at making up lies.” “It’s true,” my mother insists. “It happened.” She turns to Gong Gong, her father. “You remember. You were there. I helped you carry ten gallons of bleach home.” Popo shakes her head at my mother. “What will you do when you run out of stories?” “You really don’t remember?” “I remember, but it wasn’t a chicken.” Popo turns to me, “It was your great-grandmother, your Tai Po. She was caught in bed with the village butcher, and your Tai Gong, your great-grandfather, went after her with a kitchen cleaver. Your Tai Po was a strong woman, and she fought back when he tried to hack her to pieces.” She pops out her dentures and rinses them in a glass of water. “Here’s where the stories are the same: the knife was dull, and your Tai Gong was a small-boned man who pushed papers for a living. It took him a dozen swings before the blade caught the side of her neck.” “And then?” I press. “Then Tai Po ran through the house with her neck gaping open. Tendons and veins were all that kept her head attached to her body. Blood spewed over the blue wallpaper and white furniture. He only caught up with her when she bled out and died.”

41


the madison review

I study the soft porcelain curve of my rice bowl and push the grains around with my chopsticks. I imagine Tai Po flying down the stairs in stages of undress, running from her husband as she bled, only to end up defeated on the kitchen floor. “Clean your bowl,” my mother reminds me, “or you’ll have an ugly husband.” I hear this at the dinner table at least once a week. The Chinese are accustomed to telling their daughters that each grain of rice they’re too lazy to scrape together accumulates into divots and scars on the face of their future husbands. It’s a myth, but Chinese girls know better than to tempt fate. Popo scoffs. She winks at me wickedly. “Clean your bowl, or Tai Po’s ghost will haunt you.” My mother rushes to tell me there’s no such thing as ghosts. My father tells my mother to tell Popo to rein in her imagination. My brother utters under his breath that real monsters don’t need to hide, but we’re too preoccupied to listen. Because I’m more afraid of confronting the ghost of my Tai Po than having a pimply husband, I leave nothing in my bowl. After tong yoon, I help Popo take the dishes to the sink. Everyone else squeezes onto the couch to watch tv rebroadcasted from Hong Kong. As the weatherman gives us the traffic and weather in Asia, I overhear my mother tell Gong Gong that Popo’s Alzheimer’s has mutated into something dangerous. People with Alzheimer’s shouldn’t confuse their own mother with a headless chicken. I want to turn around and tell them my Popo is not crazy, that they can’t just lock her away, but Gong Gong says he’ll call the doctor in the morning. Beside me, Popo stacks large plates in the sink and hands me a dish towel. I pray she didn’t hear what my mother said about her, but I know she still has her hearing. She tucks a strand of hair behind my ear and says to me, “Siu Yoon Zee, you should sleep over tonight. You haven’t done that in a while, have you?” “No, I haven’t.” “Remember when you were little, and you slept over all the time? I bought a twin-sized mattress for you, and you treated it like a trampoline.” “I haven’t seen it in years. What happened to it?” “We had to throw it out! You broke it.” I laugh and tug playfully at her tightly permed curls. I agree to stay. That night, I remember why I stopped sleeping over after they threw out the broken mattress. My grandmother’s fold-out couch has a crack that swallows me one thigh at a time. I extricate myself from its

42


the madison review

jaws, and uncooked rice grates against my feet. Popo doesn’t wear her glasses when she scoops rice from the bucket, so it scatters over the carpet and onto the couch. In the dark, in the small, studio apartment, a mattress creaks and blankets shift as Popo crawls from her own bed. She shuffles over and shoves me to one side of the lumpy futon to make room for herself. She tugs the small, itchy fleece over her bony shoulders. I complain when she exposes my feet to the cold. “There’s extra blankets in the closet,” she offers. “I can tell Gong Gong to take them down for you.” “No, Gong Gong’s sleeping already.” “Is he?” She grows quiet and listens to my grandfather’s rhythmic snoring. “I guess he is.” I turn to face her in the dim glow of a thumbnail moon. She smells of stale jasmine tea and Pine-Sol. I iron this memory into my mind the way Popo irons creases into Gong Gong’s trousers. She presses closer to me and tucks her icy-cold feet against my calf to warm herself. I nudge her feet away. “Why aren’t you in your own bed?” “Ngo doh fun mmm doe.” I couldn’t sleep either, she grumbles. “Tai cho-ah.” “What’s too loud?” I ask her. “The voices in my head.” “Gew kuy day mmm ho cho-ah,” I suggest. Tell them to be quiet. “I do, but they’re like you. They don’t listen to me.” “I’m listening now. Will you tell me about the ring?” “What ring?” I grab her hand from beneath the blankets and point to the ring on her right hand. Six small diamonds on a white-gold band breathe fire. I expect her to tell me a story that winds from the hills of rural China to here, in a new country she was forced to declare home. Instead, she says to me, “Your Tai Po was beautiful just like this, you know. Too bright and rebellious.” She goes on to tell me it was a pencil Tai Gong used on her, stabbing her in the left eye. And because Tai Po was rebellious and strong, she tried to pull the pencil from her eye. The lead tip was stuck in her socket, and she snapped the pencil in half. Wooden pieces splintered in her fist as she sank the jagged end of it into her husband over and over again. “No, not that story,” I say. “Then which one? I don’t have many.” “The ring. Who gave you the ring? It wasn’t from Gong Gong.” It’s the only jewelry I’ve seen her wear.

43


the madison review

“The butcher gave it to your Tai Po, and I stole it from her jewelry box when I was a little girl.” She stares into the rocks then glances over at me. “Do you like it?” “I guess.” I picture the butcher with ropey muscles and a thick, oiled mustache. I wonder if I’d risk my life to go to bed with a good-looking man or if I’d have the courage to take revenge on my husband armed with only half a pencil. Popo tugs the ring off her finger and slides it onto mine. I’d never been given anything precious before. My mother fought my aunt for the diamond watch and the diamond engagement ring. My mother won, and she keeps them locked away in secret. When I asked my father about the jewelry, he said he didn’t know where they were. He only knew they weren’t in our safety deposit box. “Why did you give my mother the watch too? Why didn’t you give it to Aunt Patty?” “Because your aunt never learned to hold a grudge.” She tugs my earlobe. “Why don’t you take off your earrings when you sleep? Why do you need three in one ear?” I squirm away, “Mmm ho lay ngo.” Leave me alone. She grunts, “What do you want for breakfast? I have coconut buns.” “You have loh see bao?” “Ye see bao,” she corrects me. “Loh see is a screw. Your Chinese is getting worse.” “It’s not that bad.” “It’ll only get worse when you go away for college and spend all your time with white people.” “Would you rather I didn’t go to school?” I joke. “Suy mui.” I laugh softly. She calls me a bad girl, a term of endearment she’s used since I learned to talk back to her in Chinese as a child. When neither of us says anything else, an easy silence begins to lull me to sleep. “Do you think your Popo ho mo yong?” “What?” Her words drag me back into the world of the undreaming. “Why do you think you’re useless?” “I hear what they say, you know.” “You shouldn’t believe them, Popo. I don’t.” “You should. Especially the rice myth about the ugly husbands.” “It’s not true.” “A nice Chinese girl would believe them.” “I’m not very nice.”

44


the madison review

“Do you think I’m losing my mind?” “You haven’t confused me with your other grandchildren yet.” “I only have one granddaughter.” She scrutinizes the constellation of dark spots on the ceiling. “What if it’s not Alzheimer’s? I got lost in Chinatown the other day. Did your mother tell you?” “I overheard her arguing with Uncle Tommy on the phone. Where did he find you?” “I sat at a table at a bakery. The nice people there gave me some milk tea even though I didn’t have my wallet with me.” “How long did you wait?” “I don’t know. Not long.” “I’m glad he found you.” “I used to carry you from your house in the valley to the hills of Chinatown on my back. I never needed a map or a phone. I always knew my way home.” “I know,” I tell her. “I believe you.” “Your mother says you want to be a writer. Is it true?” “Yes.” “What will you write about?” “I don’t know. Maybe I’ll write about you, about all the stories you’ve told me over the years.” “What if you forget the details?” “I’ll fill in the blanks with lies.” “And what will you do when you run out of stories?” “I’ll write about my mother.” Popo snorts with laughter and pinches my cheeks. “Suy mui.”

45


the madison review

Crash Injures Six Children; Two Serious Greg Rappleye

Does no one recall Saturday mornings, and the name of the show after Sky King, just before Game of the Week? The professor and a cop rolling fatals across the screen— pointing out the crumpled Buicks and Fords, tolling lost arms, amazed at the corpse found grinning in the dingleberries, how his high-tops caught the bumper and the body-was-dragged-this-far. It could’ve been avoided, they said, all so safe, had the salesman not guzzled five Jacks at a blind pig, had the troubled teen not been humping the clutch for pink slips, had the pretty cheerleader, with a prom king to die for, grasped the meaning of S-T-O-P, the concept of These tires have no tread. We were spooning Rice Krispies, that snap crackle pop drowned in powdered milk, all of us nestled at our black-and-white Zenith, laying down our bowls, our spoons, hiding moon-pie faces with tiny hands, peeking through fingers as the music began and the doomed coupe swept down the death-ramp. We’d yell, Slow down! and Watch out! But always that Looney Tunes, don’t-look-now, songbird in-the-sky camera work; a glide path of regret— the crash and silence, a stunned wailing, then sirens and lit flares, the crushed bodies and weepy next-of-kin, the bloody stolen lives. And what if God had slowed a second or-so As Mam’s Nash roared off to the Gold Bell Redemption Center? God recalling a double play from the Tigers’ game, for God sees

46


the madison review

not only as a dim umpire—a slow roller to second, Jake Wood toes the bag, leaps high over Skowron’s take-out slide, and fires to Cash at first. C’mon, we all know what happened in ’61! Was Yogi safe or out? And for those lost seconds, for the Lord’s jolly baseball reverie, the crash hadn’t— no fatal swerve, no careening across yellow lines, no deer paused at the crest of the road to sniff peaches at blush in a rolly-polly field and the death cars missing, each by inches, the DeSoto’s irate driver yelling, Christ, lady, watch where you’re going! And Mam oblivious, smiling, merciful God! All her children apoplectic, ducking below the dash as Mam speeds on, yelling Shut up! Shut up! Laughing and tippling gin-and-Tang from her double-cupped, upside-down witch-hat Dixie cup?

47


the madison review

Little Kids Neither Rich Bartel

It’s Sunday night and we’re walking around our little downtown, trying to be heroes, but the only problem is there ain’t nothing going on. And me and my buddy Brian are pretty fucking fucked up, shoving each other headfirst into parking meters and parked cars, yelling about what we’re going to do to the All’s Well Strangler if and when we capture his sorry, murdering ass. I’m like, “I’ll get him like this,” and I dive down on Brian and catch him in my signature move, the Flying Headlock. I put the squeeze in his fool skull and I can feel his ears getting all smooshed in my mighty grip. “And then I’ll get him like this,” Brian says from all up in my armpit, and he grabs the back of my boxers and yanks them up out of my jeans so hard that I have to let him go. He pulls away from me, laughing and pointing because he barely ever gets the best of me like that, while I pull the wedgie out of my asscrack. But he cease and desists his laughing straight fast when I get him by his coat sleeve and swing him around and around and around and launch him flying right smack into a mailbox. “Return to fucking sender,” I yell, and also I let out a big, old “Woooo!” Me and Brian know we are seriously hilarious but all this time Angie is walking like ten steps in front of us, with her arms crossed over her chest, just looking at her reflection in the dark store windows as she goes by them. She was our ride downtown and she has her Intro to Psych test tomorrow morning, so she’s not so drunk as we are. Me and Brian drank a bunch of the beers from my dad’s basement fridge earlier, but Angie, she only had a couple. I go to piss in the alley by the bank and there’s a dead pigeon there on top of a pile of dirty snow and leaves and newspapers and shit like that. I piss right next to it. Its feathers are all gray with no shine and it’s got no eyes no more and it’s all dried up and nasty. I pick it up by the tip of its wing and bring it out to the end of the alley to show to Brian and Angie. I’m like, “Lookit.” and Angie quick backs up away from me.

48


the madison review

“Be free!” I yell and I try to spin the pigeon flat like a Frisbee up onto the building’s roof but instead it just hits the wall near the top and rolls down the bricks to the sidewalk. “Gross!” Angie says, “You are definitely not touching me with those hands ever again, Frankie!” She’s all mad acting but she’s been my girlfriend for like three years now, ever since tenth grade, so I know when she’s really mad and when she’s not so really. And Brian’s just laughing his ass off. So I go over and pick up the pigeon again. “I said, ‘Be free!’” I yell, even louder this time, and my voice bounces up and down the empty street. I fling the pigeon again but this time I aim straight for the alley’s wall, full-blast, and it totally explodes against the bricks and a bunch of feathers float down to the ground on top of it. “Oops!” I say to Angie, “Sorry! I was just trying to help the little birdie escape the big city! So he could live all free and clear in the wild! I’m being environmental, is all.” “Environmental? No, you’re being disgusting, Frankie,” Angie says back. I go, “Then I’m environmental and disgusting! Hey, hey! I’m the Nature Boy Ric Flair, is who I am! Wooooo!” and I flex my biceps and kiss each one. Nature Boy Ric Flair is this old-time pro wrestler that my dad and me and Brian watch sometimes on YouTube and on Classic Sports Network down in the basement, a cocky guy with big, blonde hair, who wore all these flashy robes and big rings on his fingers and was the world champion a bunch of times way back in the day. He was my dad’s favorite from whenever he was a kid and he’s kind of like my old-school idol. He went “Woo!” all the time, too. And of course now Brian is just totally losing his shit. I mean like he’s laughing so hard that he’s seriously maybe going to lose his shit right into his pants, like right here, right now, which is something I’ve seen him do plenty of times before. And I’m not just talking about when we were little kids, neither. Like eighth grade was the last time I seen him do it. He calms down some and goes over to look at the pigeon where it landed and he’s all, “Dude, its beak is just barely on.” Then he barfs out a bunch of beer and microwave burrito onto it. Brian’s a puker, too, especially when we’re getting all stinky-drinky like this. He’s like a little baby, shitting himself and spitting up all the time, except he’s a baby already with pimples.

49


the madison review

We leave the barfbird there and start looking for the All’s Well Strangler again. When we catch him we’re going to seriously destroy the internet and be all over TV and the front page of the Aberfall Picayune and we’ll use the reward money to throw a raging keg party out at my dad’s cabin, like a total supersized repeat of the one we had when we graduated, with a bonfire and all that, except for this time we’ll hire a real band. Then we’ll use the rest of the money to buy us a place on the beach down in Mexico, in Puerto fucking Vallarta or someplace, like a hut or a cabana or something, where we’ll live all like royalty amongst the natives and it’ll be seriously fucking awesome. Except Angie of course will probably just want to use the money to move it on up to the real city, like she’s always talking about, so she can go to a real university instead of just community college and online. But I’m thinking it’s like if we catch the Strangler and we get the reward, then she won’t need no school no more because we’ll all be sitting pretty, loving life and shooting tequila shots under the motherfucking palm trees, and then even if the money ever runs out, alls we’ll have to do is get jobs as lifeguards or bartenders at some tourist resort down there, since we all three of us speak fluent English and swim good. So we keep walking around downtown, looking around for the Strangler, and the stores are all mostly closed. When we go by the bars we can hear the people inside laughing and arguing and stuff. My dad is around here somewheres, too, probably at The Office because that’s where his girlfriend Marlowe bartends. Props to my dad, by the way, because this Marlowe, she graduated just four years ahead of us and I can still totally remember seeing her back in the day when she used to hang out with her friends in the food court at the mall. She’s pretty cool and still okay hot, I guess, maybe just some little bit fatter than she used to be, so I can’t figure out why she’s going out with my dad. Not that there’s anything really wrong with my dad or nothing; he’s pretty cool, too, I guess. I mean he lets us drink at the house sometimes and stuff, but he’s like almost twice Marlowe’s age. Sometimes that’s kind of weird. Like there was this one time when me and Angie were going down to the basement to get blazed and maybe mess around some and we totally walked in on my dad and Marlowe bumping fuglies, right there on our fucking brown couch in front of the fucking TV where we all play fucking video games and shit. This was like the middle of the afternoon and my dad was just going right at it and breathing so, so fucking hard and grunting, like, crazy loud. He was kind of facing our

50


the madison review

way on the stairs, but he didn’t see us none because his eyes were all clenched shut. Forget about that dead pigeon, because my old dad and Marlowe smearing up the couch was seriously the nastiest thing ever eye-witnessed by anybody, ever. “Like father, like son,” Angie whispered, and I almost gagged out my lunch, Brian-style. We tiptoed back up the stairs and then we drove to the mall, where we got a ChocoQuake and dipped fries in it. By the time we got back home, my dad and Marlowe were already gone. You couldn’t even tell that anything had even happened down there, except that they’d knocked the ashtray-can off the little table. I try not to think of how often that kind of stuff might happen down on the basement couch with my dad and Marlowe, and the rest of us like not even thinking about it when we pick up and eat the chips and shit that fall onto the cushions when we’re gaming. I made Angie swear not to tell Brian or nobody else about it and she was like, “Why would I? I’m already past it.” Of course right now she ain’t telling nobody about nothing because she’s still acting all pissy about that shit with the pigeon. She’s walking way fast down Main and makes us run to catch up with her, which ain’t that hard to do, I guess, because she’s so short with her short legs and besides, where’s she going to go, anyways?—downtown Aberfall is like just five, six blocks long before it hits the tracks and then there’s the river. What gave us the idea to come downtown tonight was that after we got tired of playing Life Risk 3 that show 60 Minutes came on and they had this story about the All’s Well Strangler. He’s gone and killed five people in Aberfall in like five years, and he always gets his victims when they’re all drunk and leaving the downtown bars, and then he writes these seriously sarcastic letters to the Picayune about it. He signs the letters by saying “All’s Well, The Strangler” and that’s how he got his nickname. With this guy he killed a couple weeks ago he’s getting all kinds of national press. Besides 60 Minutes, he had a thing on America’s Serial Killers and he’s got his own Wikipedia page. This last guy he strangled worked as a cook at McGuinty’s Steakhouse and they found him all choked out in his car behind the QuickGo at the Sommerset exit. The engine was still running. I guess the guy used to go to Aberfall High with my dad because he recognized the name when he was reading the news on his phone when we were having breakfast burritos. At first he thought that maybe it was this guy’s son that got killed but then he saw the guy’s age and he was like, “Geez.”

51


the madison review

So anyways, 60 Minutes was talking about the Strangler and interviewing people in the town square, and me and Brian thought it’d be cool to drive down and maybe get on TV or something. But then when we got downtown there wasn’t nobody here and we realized that they must’ve already done all their filming back last week when all the other news people were here, like Angie’d said before we left the house. Duh on Brian and me, I guess. But then we were like, well, since we’re already here, we might as well hang out and see if we can catch the Strangler being all devious and murderous and shit and, you know, save the fucking day for everyone. When me and Brian catch up with Angie, I grab my last beer out of her purse and slam it and he does his too and we chuck the empties up onto the roof of the card shop. It’s prisonfuck cold out but I must’ve left my hoodie in Angie’s car or maybe back in the basement. I’m like, “Let’s see what’s happening at The Office.” It’s just down the street so we go in and it smells sour like old towels and it’s dark and there’s blasting classic rock. My dad’s at his corner seat, wearing his green Frank’s Construction jacket. Marlowe’s working behind the bar and she gives him a nod when she sees us come in. He turns his head and when he sees it’s us, he spins around and stands up and grabs my shoulders. “Frankie!” he says. He’s been laughing about something and his face is all splotchy and his eyes have water in them. Sitting next to him is Old Jack, this guy that works for my dad a lot and who crashes on our basement couch sometimes, too. Old Jack’s wearing this dirty wife-beater that hangs all loose off his shoulders. My dad says, “Hey, lookit, Jackie, it’s my boy, my one and only son, my pride and joy! And lookit over here with him is this guy! This guy, this guy: his buddy Brian!” He pretends he’s going to punch Brian on the shoulder and Brian of course flinches. My dad says to Angie, “Hey hey! What’s up, little lady?” And Old Jack is all, “What’s going on, kids,” and he’s drunk, too. His mouth don’t close when he’s done talking and his head swings on his rooster neck like a Pinocchio. Me and him shake hands and his is all rough and old-man strong. “What’s up, Dad,” I say, and I go, “How you living, Old Jack?”Old Jack gets all straight-up and says, “Whoa. Who you calling ‘old,’ boy?” Usually we only call him Old Jack when we’re talking about him, not right to him, because he gets all butt-hurt about it, but I’m kind of faded so I forgot. And besides, he’s definitely old, at least like sixty,

52


the madison review

maybe like seventy even. But it don’t matter none, because Old Jack has already forgotten about it, and his eyes lose the meanness and he says, “Hey, what are you kids doing out this late? Isn’t there a curfew?” Since the Strangler just killed that last guy, all kids are supposed to be at home by nine o’clock. “Well, we’re all over eighteen, Jack,” I say. “Yeah, Jackie. They went and grew up on us,” my dad says and then he says to us, “Hey, hey! Did you guys watch the game?” Me and Brian and Angie saw the Browns beat the Cowboys earlier, before video games and before 60 Minutes, but I seriously can’t barely remember even one single play from it anymore so alls I say is, “Yeah! Good game. They just got to keep doing that for the rest of the season.” My dad’s like, “Damn straight, son! Damn straight! Let’s just hope it’ll be that easy!” He high-fives us all one at a time and then he asks if we need anything, like money or something, but we’re all good. Then we all just kind of look at each other like idiots for a minute until my dad says, “Well, I guess we’ll see you later, then. You kids be careful. Go Browns!” And he turns back to the bar. Old Jack don’t turn around yet but he kind of mad-dogs me again while he leans back and says to my dad, “Listen to your boy, there. Calling me old. When we were that age, we wouldn’t talk to our fathers’ friends that way. Our fathers wouldn’t let us! Not a chance.” My dad laughs and says, “Listen, Jackie, you weremy father’s friend, too, before you were ever my friend! And look how I’m talking to you right now, you old fuck! Right? Get over it! That’s my advice!” Old Jack builds up a big, old gappy smile and slaps my dad’s shoulder and he’s all, “You’re right, my friend, you’re right.” He turns back to the bar and leans closer to my dad and he laughs some more and says to him, “He was a good guy, your old man. You know he was a much better man than you, don’t you, you dumbshit? Where would you be if he hadn’t started up that business of yours? Huh? Lucky, frigging son of a bitch. And your little dumbshit son, there, too.” He points with a beat-up thumb over his shoulder at us standing there behind them. My dad just laughs. Him and Old Jack are always like this, talking all kinds of smack to each other. Ever since I can remember. We go to leave and Marlowe asks us if we want some to-go cups of pop. Brian and Angie say no but I’m like okay and when we’re back on the street I take a sip and it’s mostly rum or something, could be whiskey, with maybe just a little bit of pop mixed in.

53


the madison review

Me and Brian both go, “Woooo!” but Angie just says, “Yeah. Thanks a lot, Marlowe. As if you guys need any more to drink.” It feels colder out now and there’s even less going on than before. There ain’t no Strangler lurking about, not so far as we can see, and besides, there ain’t nobody out here for him to strangle, anyways. It’s too early yet for anything to happen. So we’re like fuck it and decide to go up to the Cinerama by the mall. Maybe somebody we know will be hanging out in the parking lot. Angie drives again, and me and Brian pass the to-go cup back and forth over the seat. But there’s not really nobody in the Cinerama parking lot, just a few kids that are still in high school. So the three of us get tickets for the closest movie to our time but it’s just this one where these two old people fall in love and their grown-up kids get all aggro about it— something my mom and Dennis might like. We leave that movie quick and sneak into another one that’s already playing, about these college guys who discover how to travel through time and they smoke weed with George Washington and cavemen and shit. We’ve already seen it before and I almost fall asleep on Angie’s shoulder a couple times. I’m on like six beers plus over half of that rum or whiskey. When we get out of the theater the parking lot is pretty much emptiness and it’s getting close to midnight, which is when all the bars in Aberfall have to close on Sundays. On the drive back downtown there’s hardly nobody on the interstate, just mostly some semis and some swervers, so I lay my seat all the way back and just chillax and watch the yellow highway lights zip by my window, one after the other up in the dark sky. It reminds me of those old, old Flintstones cartoons when Bamm-Bamm has his club and he’s chasing Fred through the house and they run by the exact same stone end table with the exact same stone lamp on it, over and over and over again on some kind of background loop. And I just kind of zone out for a while, watching the light, black, light, black. Main Street is a ghost town but my dad’s car is still out in front of The Office so Angie parks down the street and we get out and sit on the bank steps. I go over to look at the dead pigeon from before and it’s still there, of course—it ain’t never going nowheres now—and Brian’s puke on it makes it look like a truth-or-dare version of chicken stew. After a while my dad and Marlowe come out of The Office and my dad ain’t wearing his jacket no more and he don’t even got his shirt on, for some goddamn reason; instead it’s just all bunched up and hanging out of the top of Marlowe’s purse. He leans on her back all heavy while she’s locking the door to the bar and I pull Angie and Brian into

54


the madison review

the alley and we watch them from around the corner. My dad’s singing fucking Springsteen at the top of his lungs and it sounds like two people because of the way it echoes off the buildings and he’s off-key. “Get off me a sec, will you,” Marlowe says, and she sort of shrugs my dad off of her. He straightens up kind of but then all of a sudden he turns and runs at his car like he’s going to dive right in, right into the front seat, but of course the door is still closed so he pretty much just faceplants into it and lands on the sidewalk. “Dayumn,” Brian whispers, “your dad is seriously fucked up.” “No shit,” I whisper back. Angie says, “So should we go help them, then?” “And just what do you expect us to do?” I like hiss at her. She shuts up about it. Marlowe goes over to my dad on the ground and says for him to get his ass up and she has to help him. Then she leans him backward over the hood of the car and holds him there with one hand on his bare chest while she digs around in the pockets of his jeans. My dad’s just kind of kicked back but Marlowe’s hand in his pants wakes him up a little and he pulls her on top of him with his lips all puckering in the air like a goldfish or something. He’s going, “Oh baby, oh baby,” and she says, “I’m just trying to find your keys, you idiot.” but she doesn’t sound all too mad so he just starts laughing and leans back on the hood again. He says, “Oh, baby,” one more time and farts all loud onto the side of the car. You can hear it from all the way in the alley. “Born to run!” he yells after his fart. Marlowe’s laughing too, now, and so does Brian a little bit behind me until I elbow him in the fucking stomach. Finally Marlowe finds my dad’s keys and hits the button to unlock the doors. She grabs him by the back of his belt as he goes rolling down the hood and helps him get in. They drive by us in the alley, barely a block away, and my dad’s already asleep, leaning on the window with his mouth hanging all open. Marlowe’s checking out her eyes in the rearview mirror and they turn the corner and they’re gone. We just stand there looking at the street and stuff until Brian’s like, “Well?” Angie goes, “Well, I say we get out of here. I have my test tomorrow, anyways. Forget about that All’s Well Dumbass.” Seriously, it sounds like a good idea, a great idea, because I’d truthfully kind of forgotten about all that strangler shit already, but it’s like, fuck. So I say, to kind of stall a little, “Hold on. I got to piss again.”

55


the madison review

I go a little bit more into the alley, between the recycling bin and the dumpster, and unzip and wait for my piss to come, but it’s taking a minute because it’s so cold out. After a while of standing there I can kind of see in the dark and in front of me is something all sprawled out on the ground, against the wall. Like with legs and a head and shit. I go, “What the fuck? What the fuck?” and Angie and Brian come running up behind me. They’re like, “What? What?” and I’m yelling like a character in a movie, “The All’s Well Strangler has struck again! He’s struck again! There’s a fucking body back here! Another fucking victim!” And I don’t know why but I also let out a big old Ric Flair “Wooooooo!” Angie screams and Brian’s yells, “No fucking way!” and “Holy fucking shit!” I take some big breaths and go in crouching to get a better look. I get out my phone to use its light. But already I can totally see the body that’s lying there and I recognize the jacket and I’m thinking, Oh no, please my fucking God, oh no. Because it’s Old Jack. Old Jack from the bar and sleeping on the basement couch and he’s my dad’s friend and he was my grandpa’s friend. And he’s just sitting there all pushed up against the bricks with his head kind of sideways on his shoulder. And his hands are in his lap and he’s got on my dad’s Frank’s Construction jacket all unzipped over his wife-beater. Brian behind me says, “Is that Old Jack? Do not tell me that that’s Old Jack!” He starts gagging like he’s going to barf again. Angie goes, “Oh my God! Oh my God!” and I wonder who I should call first: 911 or the news or my mom and Dennis or my dad. It’s seriously like Brian just said: No fucking way and holy fucking shit. I go up closer. Old Jack stinks. His mouth is open and I can see these silver fillings inside and there are flakes of dried skin or boogers hanging under his nose. But then one of the booger flakes twitches a little. I’m like, “Waitwaitwait! I think he’s breathing!” And I stand up and kick at his workboot and jump away. Old Jack moves his arm a little and mumbles. “He’s alive!” I yell. “He’s a breathing motherfucker! Fucking old, drunk motherfucker! Fucking old, passed out in the alley, drunk, breathing motherfucker!” Old Jack mumbles some more and I go back in and kick his boot again. I get up really close to him and I go, “Old Jack! Old Jack! Time

56


the madison review

to wake up! Time for school!” But he don’t wake up all the way. He puts his hands on the ground and tries to push himself up but alls he can do is lift his ass a little and then plop it back down again. His eyelids move some, but that’s about it. It’s like a quiver. Also there’s this dark, wet stain on his jeans. “Dude, lookit!” I whisper, “He pissed himself !” Now Brian starts laughing. Angie says, “Oh gosh. He’s wet? He’ll freeze. Let’s wake him up and get him home. We have to.” Brian says, all laughing still, “You think? ‘Cause I ain’t touching him! Not a chance in hell! No fucking way.” My jeans are still kind of unzipped so I open them up some more and I’m like, “Alright, alright. I know how to wake him up. What I got here, friends, is the Golden Shower of Power!” Brian laughs a little bit more but then he goes, “Uh, dude?” Angie’s all, “Wait, what? Frankie, you are not going to pee on that man.” I say, “Or what? I’m not touching you with my dick ever again? Listen, first of all is: it’ll wake him up. Second of all is: I’m just following his example. Right? He pissed on himself, and now it’s my turn! The Golden Shower of Power! I! Have! The poweeeeeer!” And I act like I’m going to start pissing on him, but I’m not really going to do it, but I assume the position and all, when just then all of a sudden I’m pushed, really hard, right into the fucking dumpster. It nails my shoulder and it surprises the shit out of me. It also makes me irate as hell, so I turn around, ready to fucking wreck whoever it was that did it, and who else do I see there but fucking Brian, all putting up his dukes and shit and I seriously can’t fucking believe it. It looks like Brian can’t believe it neither, because even though his fists are up, they’re all shaking and so’s his mouth. Angie’s yells out, “Frankie! Brian! No!” but I ignore her. “Don’t you worry, Brian,” I say to him, “You got to know I wasn’t planning on touching your dirty pussy with my dick, neither, don’t you?” I’m acting all calm, cool, and collected but of course my neck is tense as hell and my jaw feels like it’s metal. Brian’s all, “Dude! Dude! You were going to pee on Old Jack!” and his voice cracks. Does he really think I would seriously piss on some dilapidated, old man in the gutter? Because that ain’t me, and I would’ve thought he already knew it. I mean, I didn’t even have my dick out. So I strut

57


the madison review

toward Brian with my hands down at my sides, all nonchalant and shit, not even looking at him; like I don’t care about him slandering my ass like that. Then I zing a right jab at his face but I open my hand just before it hits and I get him with a good, old-fashioned bitchslap instead. He recovers quick and closes his eyes and swings big for me, real big, like for reals, but of course all sloppy so that I can duck under his arm and swoop up behind his back just like Ric motherfucking Flair and then Bam! I get him in my Flying Headlock again for the second fucking time tonight and I’m pulling in on my wrist, squeezing his fool head, and he’s yelling all high-pitched like a little fucking girl, “Get off me! Get off me, fucker!” And I am seriously, seriously glorious. I crank on his head a couple times. But then Angie, she starts calling me fucker too! Which is not what I thought would happen and this makes me so pissed that I take it all out on Brian, pulling him around the alley by his neck while he cries like the baby that he is and Angie is all the time smacking at my back and shoulders with her purse and motherfuckering me and I’m going, “Ow! Stop it, woman!” After a little while of this Angie finally does stop hitting me and just says, all quiet, “Oh.” I straighten up and turn to her, still holding onto Brian’s head. “What?” I ask her. She steps away all wide-eyed and she’s just standing there, staring at something behind me and Brian, and before I can turn around to look, this super cold hand clamps down all hard on my shoulder. I’m trying to read Angie’s face in the dark because she’s like speechless. Brian under my arm is going, “What is it? What’s happening?” But I know what’s happening. The All’s Well Strangler is what’s happening. Frankie, son, this is your moment, I think. The All’s Well fucking Strangler. So then I quick push Brian away into Angie to get them both out of the danger zone, and I whirl around out of the hand’s grip to turn to face the Strangler with both guns blazing. “Come on, motherfucker! Come on!” I yell, and, “Wooooo!” I’m seriously loving that Woo shit tonight. I bounce a couple times on my toes and go in for another right jab like how I did to Brian earlier—but for reals this time, not the little bitchslap I gave to him—but just then my brain’s like, Stop! Don’t! Because it ain’t the All’s Well Strangler at all.

58


the madison review

No, it’s just fucking Old Jack again and my head is going to fucking explode. So I pull back last second. Good thing, too, because Old Jack don’t try to dodge my punch one bit. He just stands there, all swaying, and stares at me with one squinty eye and one buggy one. “Wooo?” he asks me in a quiet voice. The squinty eye gets all bugged while the other one squints. Then both eyes focus on me. “Hey!” he says, “Hey! What the flying frig are you kids doing out here? What time is it?” He leans back on the recycling bin and pulls this old-school flip phone out of his pocket and looks at it. “It’s almost one o’clock in the frigging morning!” he says, “On a school night! And it’s freezing, frigging cold out here, and you”—he points to me—“don’t even have a coat on, you dumbshit! Don’t you have any sense?” He’s right. My hoodie was in Angie’s car when we were coming back from the Cinerama, but I forgot to put it on. “We don’t have school tomorrow,” is all I can think to say. “We graduated.” Old Jack points at me and goes, “‘We graduated.’ Yeah. Lot of good graduating did you, you dumbshit.” “Well, I have school tomorrow,” Angie says. Then he looks over at Angie and says to her, “And you, missy, why are you hanging out with these boys, anyway? Huh? You have got to have more sense than that!” Angie don’t answer one way or the other about how much sense she has about us, which is alright kind of but also kind of pisses me off for some reason. So I go back to her and put my arm around her shoulders and I’m like, “What do you know about sense, old man? Look at you out here, sleeping all on the fucking cold ground, for shit’s sake, by the fucking garbage! And the only reason that you have that jacket on is because my dad gave it to you! He gave it to you! And you’re talking to us about sense?” Now Old Jack don’t have an answer. He just looks down at the jacket sleeves on his arms. I keep going. “And look at your whole life! All drunk all the time and everybody laughing at your sorry, old ass—and not just behind your back, but right to your face!” I lunge up to him and go, “Ha!” really loud. That snaps him back some, almost like I had gone ahead and punched him for reals.

59


the madison review

Angie comes up behind me but I step out of her reach and point at Old Jack and say, “And now lookit you! Look! You pissed your fucking pants, old man! You pissed your fucking pants!” Old Jack looks down and touches the wet spot on his jeans and right away I’m sorry I said it. Like really sorry. “Listen, Jack,” I say, trying to calm down some, “We weren’t out here to fuck with you or nothing. We were just trying to catch the All’s Well Strangler, is all. We thought you were dead over there. And then we were going to wake you up and take you back to my dad’s house to sleep on the couch. Alls we wanted to do was to help you out some.” He’s still just hunched over with his arms out from his sides, looking down at his pants, not saying nothing. “Hey, Jack,” I say, “do you want a ride or what?” “Eh, I’m alright, boy,” he says. Angie asks if he’s sure and he says yeah so I grab her purse strap and me and her and Brian walk out toward Main, none of us talking. When we get out to the street I turn around to look at Old Jack and he’s finally moving around some back there, but he’s not following us or nothing. He’s facing the other way and I can see that his ass is soaked, too. I go to catch up to Brian and Angie. Then, “Hey! Hey, Frankie!” Old Jack yells from the alley. Brian and Angie stop and they’re both looking at me so I jog back. Old Jack’s still all crouched over. He straightens up. “So you guys were going to catch the Strangler, huh?” he shouts. It sounds stupid now. A cabana in Puerto fucking Vallarta? Yeah fucking right. “We were just messing around,” I yell back. “Just messing around? Ha! Who do you think you are?” he asks, “Sherlock Holmes? Huh? Scooby friggin’ Doo?” I’m all, “You know, I don’t know, Jack. But I do know that the Mystery Machine’s leaving in about a fucking minute and if you don’t want to freeze to death out here, dick first, you’d better come with us. Come on and get something to cover the seat. Old Jack says, “Oh, alright. Alright. Hold on.” He looks into the recycling bin and pulls out a big piece of ripped up cardboard. It flaps around behind him when he’s walking up to the street. Angie and Brian are already in the car when we get there. Old Jack gets in the backseat and I get in the front and Angie says, “Yeah, I’m like, so done with this.”

60


the madison review

Nobody has anything to say to that and she just pulls away and takes off. I am seriously beat. All that shit that went on before, like playing video games and walking around like idiots in the dark, it feels like it happened such a long-ass time ago, or like it happened to somebody else, but of course it was just me and of course it’s still all happening, I guess, and I can’t wait for it to stop but I don’t think I have the power to help it right now except for finally getting some sleep and here I was thinking I was going to be some kind of a hero or some such shit.

61


the madison review

Seven Types of Caring John Belk

I. I first loved a fish: the oily iridescence and overlocked scales; the always-quenched thirst. I didn’t have a word for it, but it was love. II. I have grown into making new homes in the rounded corners of the folds of my mind. There is an ocean of earth between me and the thickened summer of my childhood, but sometimes I return by smell of lilac or hum of fattened bee. I wonder at dreams of the dead: the bruises on her arms, gasoline, a quickened tremble of fingers or a deliberately missed word. And I dream in perfect language— of conjuring protections and phraseless winter evenings and the violence of everything. III. When I was ten I gave a girl honeysuckle and magnolia blossom for her birthday and daydreamed of endless affection. When I was seven, a tree fell on a barn. There is no one word for anything—a worry, a box of gauze, a test. When I was five my Uncle wept for love he no longer had .IV. Grandmother’s yard was filled with wild onions and hornets and partly-torn-down washing machines from before Grandfather died In summer, I would fall asleep outside, intimate and soft-warmed by sun. Happiness, because I had no other language for

62


the madison review

childish solarized heights. At night, I pacedin Uncle’s room, afraid of empty closets and dark spaces and restless dogs in twilight. V. In bed, you lie panicked, picking at tassels of blanket. We touch, your skin elastic, electric, new though I’ve known it for years. It is like dying and being born at once— constriction, dilation, pain. VI. I have grown into making new homes— five places now, and I wonder at dreams of past lives: the stonecutter, butcher, the maudlin fool. I have grown apart from lovers and, at times, long in tooth. I have grown thin-skinned. She had red hair, and when she came to me I had no words but flower names and insects and fish— things that cannot help. VII. When I was twelve a girl told me she loved me. When I was nine I fell asleep in a boat and dreamed in water and cloud. There is no one word for anything—tenderness, breathlessness, flight. When I was born—no, sure, my lord— when I was born my mother cried.

63


the madison review

Dodge Julius David Canning

I was going to make Dodge Julius a happy man. I was going to track down Bradley Cooper and cut off his face so Dodge could wear it as his own. Dodge’s community garden smelled like lilacs and grass after a rainfall and like a cool breeze in your hair and like a kiss from a honeybee on the lips. I sat on my bench, and looked at the manicured hedges of ivy and the blossoming hardy hibiscus and the rows of lavender that swayed in the breeze and the geraniums that lined the perimeter by the old black gate. I thought of my father. This would have been a great place for him to be with another man. To embrace someone he truly loved. To be able to be the man he actually was. But now, it was too late. He was still pretending to be in love with my mother. He was barely pretending to be alive. Dodge walked by and acted like he didn’t notice me. He was feigning interest in one of his new flower transplants, holding a stem delicately like a paintbrush, crafting some biological beauty on his canvas of dirt. He wore a Bradley Cooper mask. Not a real mask, but one he made himself from printed out Google image searches of Bradley Cooper. His blue eyes sank behind the punched-out eyeholes. He fastened string to each end and made a slit in the mouth for breathing through. He had different Bradley Cooper masks made for every possible emotion, all from different scenes from different movies. I’d never seen Dodge’s real face. “Tap. Tap.” His hunched back and rounded shoulders shuddered under my fingertips and he turned around to face me. “Hey, Rebecca,” he said through his paper face from the movie American Hustle. He touched my arm with his dead fish of a hand, cold, clammy and soft. “How’s your father doing?” He lowered his head in a somber way, out of respect, I think. But then again, he always held his head low, like gravity was pushing him down harder than the rest of us. “He’s still dying.” “I’m sorry.” He shifted in his baggy workman’s jumpsuit that was three sizes too big. Saying the words made me feel sad. And I didn’t like feeling sad. So

64


the madison review

I started to dance. I snapped my fingers until I found a rhythm and then I moved my tippy–toes forward and back. My hips swiveled and my knees bopped up and down. I twirled myself around in circles until I felt the rush of happiness come back to my cheeks. I thought of my father and how he must have felt in the times he could let down his guard– true and happy. “So, um, what have you found out about Mr. Cooper?” Dodge asked, moving this way and that, trying to get my attention. “It wasn’t easy, but yeah, I found that handsome sonuvabitch.” My dance turned into an Irish jig, filled with pure potato-famine-surviving excitement. Dodge turned away so I couldn’t see him as he took off his face. He folded it neatly in his hands and put it in his pocket and pulled out a new face. He unfolded it carefully with the crackling of old paper. The string slapped the back of his head, securing it tightly. He turned around wearing Bradley’s face from Burnt and it was so happy. Bradley’s cheeks were big and round and his dimples were piercing. “What-what’s he like?” His hands trembled like a sick Chihuahua. “Well, he’s pretty. That’s for sure.” A fly landed on my hand, and instead of shooing him away I just let him sit there, cleaning his fly hands with his fly mouth. “It’s funny, actually. The guy has like three different houses. All really different. Like, one’s really big and awesome and has a gated driveway. Another is in an apartment building, that doesn’t even really look all that chic. And another is a nice little Victorian place, with some nice flower planters on the front stoop. You’d like it.” The fly buzzed off from my hand, looking for greener pastures and I immediately missed him. “You know, before I left art school, I would draw him as myself portraits.” He looked down at the ground and hunched his back forward, as if he was hoping the earth would open up an early grave for him to fall into. “Everyone would draw themselves, with their beautiful faces, their perfect features, their noses so exquisite and proper. I couldn’t draw myself. I couldn’t find the beauty in it. So I drew him, from memory. It was something beautiful in my life.” He was overcome with emotion and had to sit down. I didn’t know if he was hurting or not, so I did a handstand to be on the safe side. “Look, it can’t be all that bad under there,” I said to his upside-down happy Bradley Cooper face. The blood rushed from my legs into my head and it felt weird and different and good. “Why don’t you just let me see?” I could hear the blood knocking on my cranium’s door to the beat of my heart. Ba–boom, ba–boom, ba–boom.

65


the madison review

“You have no idea!” His blue eyes underneath the mask twitched and blinked and rolled up to the back of his head. “No idea!” He shot up off the grass and flailed and shook like someone had forgotten to strap him down to the electric chair. He turned his back, ripped off his mask and hid his face in his hands. He dropped to the ground and rolled around in the grass. He rolled past a little boy who caught a glimpse of him and stared. “Get the fuck away from me!” Dodge covered his face with both hands. “Don’t look at me. Don’t look at me. Don’t look at me!” He shrieked and shook and trembled. The boy gave him the middle finger and walked off. He tore another face out of his pocket and he fidgeted with it around his head and he whimpered and shook and shook and shook and the blood in my head went boom and boom and boom. He got to his knees and let out a scream through Bradley Cooper’s angry face from Wedding Crashers and the birds of all different colors went flying off branches. I took small steps with my hands to keep my balance and thought of something to say to console him. “Do you want to see his place? You could sleep in his bed, wear his clothes, eat his food, whatever you want.” He stood still like a statue. “My God,” he whispered. “Does that sound good?” “I want to know what it’s like to feel his bathroom floor under by bare feet.” My hands hurt so I somersaulted to my feet and the world went back to right side up. I reached in my pocket and pulled out a halfeaten protein bar and handed it to him. “I got this from his trash.” He took it from me and stared at it like all the boys in fifth grade stared at the girls who came back from summer break with boobs. He licked the chewed end first, and then took little nibbles, making sure to savor every little bite and let the stale grains move about on his tongue and roll around on his teeth. “Thank you, Rebecca,” he said while starting to cry. “Thank you so much.” “I have to hunt him down to see which house he’s staying in. I’ll let you know when I do.” “More souvenirs, please.” “No problemo.” Bradley Cooper is a beautiful man. Even from afar. I could tell just by how he carried himself. It wasn’t like Dodge, who looked like he was carrying three to four larger than average cats on his shoulders all

66


the madison review

the time. There was no weight on Bradley’s shoulders. There was only air, from clavicle and trapezius muscle all the way to the stratosphere, just fluffy air with no hint of weather. His weight so easy on the lumbar. His features so easy on the eyes. I was watching him organize his mail from the mailbox when my phone rang. It was my mother. “Your father’s dead.” Her voice was quiet and calm like she was recalling a mundane dream. “He tried to talk. He choked on his words. Then he died.” She paused. “Do you have any questions?” “No,” I just sat there, like someone sitting in front of God, given permission to ask everything but not able to think of anything. When I was a little girl, he let me stay up late some nights and we’d put on plays in the living room. The couch cushions would lay on the floor as a stage and the quilt would be pinned up on the wall as a backdrop. We’d sing and dance, and when he’d put me to bed, I could hear him and mom arguing. So I’d get out of bed and go into their room and dance. I’d do the Mashed Potato and the Cha Cha as I looked to my mother’s wet eyes, and I’d do the Twist extra hard and extra twisty and follow the tears down her cheeks. I hung up the phone and waited for Bradley Cooper to carry the weight of nothing into another one of his homes. I wanted to call my father to tell him I loved him and that I wanted him to be happy and that I wanted everything to be okay, not like how it was now but like how it could be if we just had more time and if he wasn’t dead and if I could just call him but I couldn’t, so I called Dodge. It was time to tell him the truth. It was time to make him happy. “Rebecca?” His voice was so soft and quiet, like a security blanket in bed. “Dodge.” My hand squeezed the phone so hard I thought the lithium ion battery would explode and blow my head clean off my shoulders. “You deserve to get what you want in life. I can give you more than just a trip into one of Bradley Cooper’s homes.” “What are you talking about?” I squeezed until I could hear the edges of the phone cracking. “I want to give you his face.” I heard Dodge seem to squeal and sigh as I hung up the phone and began to cry. I couldn’t feel my feet as the blood rushed to my aching hand that kept squeezing my phone. Bile rose up and I tried hard to swallow it down. “I’m going to make Dodge Julius a happy man,” I said as tears streamed down my face. I started to dance the Cha Cha

67


the madison review

in my car seat. My arms wrapped around an invisible partner by the steering wheel and my hips went from side to side, Cha, Cha, and to the other side, Cha, Cha. Flowers. I’ve never seen so many flowers in a single house in all my life. But there they were in Bradley Cooper’s foyer that Dodge and I had just broken into through an unlocked window by the door. Piles of roses lied on a glass table. Yellow tulips sat in water in vases in every corner. Purple Bellflowers lined the ceiling in planters. The room smelled like Dodge’s garden. My oasis. A giant photo of Bradley Cooper hung on a wall above a staircase from chicken wire on a single nail. Dodge went around the room, in his Bradley Cooper mask, this one from the movie A Star is Born, smelling each one through Bradley’s paper nose above Bradley’s paper beard. I breathed in the air and wished I could photosynthesize like the flowers. I wished I could breathe in all the carbon dioxide in the world and breath out sweet oxygen and grow and reach in whatever direction the sun was shining. I tip toed into Bradley’s kitchen where there were more flowers and a chicken carcass on the counter and another giant picture of his face on the wall above a giant TV. I walked to the carcass, took the carving knife from the cutting board, and waved it around in small, quiet circles. The pitter-patter of bare feet came pitter–pattering towards us in the kitchen. My hands tightened around the base of the butcher knife and my knuckles went white and my face felt red and my heart was bursting out of my chest. Dodge hid behind the kitchen island. “Hello? Is somebody there?” Bradley’s voice effortlessly traipsed through the hallway to the kitchen and into my ear holes until his weightless body glided into the room and his beautiful eyes met mine and then darted down to my hand clutching the knife. “Dodge!” I yelled. I rushed Bradley and tackled him to the ground. The house shook and flowers fell. “Dodge! Help me hold him down!” Dodge staggered from behind the kitchen island and ran like a dog on all fours. He pounced on Bradley’s shoulders. I sat on Bradley’s chest and put the knife to his temple. “Please! Wait, wait! Let’s just talk about this!” he screamed through spit. “Mr. Cooper, sir, this is Dodge Julius,” I explained. “And he’s very unhappy.” Dodge took his dead fish of a hand off of Bradley’s shoulders and extended it. “So pleased to meet you sir. I’m such a fan.”

68


the madison review

“And the only thing that will make him happy, is if he can have your face and wear it as his own.” “Wait, wait, don’t!” he raised his hands over his precious face as I was looking for a good place to stab. “Hey! Hey, stop, please you don’t understand!” He reached behind his ears and pulled the skin up from his neck. “I’m not really Bradley Cooper!” It was a mask. More elaborate than Dodge’s print outs, or any mask I’d ever seen, but a mask nonetheless. I crawled off his chest and sat on the floor. The man who used to be Bradley Cooper put his fake face down on the dining room table next to the tulips. It landed with a limp slap of silicon on wood. He walked over to the floor-to-ceiling mirror and looked at us through his real reflection. He was an unassuming man, late 30’s with wisps of platinum blonde hair on his burnt red head. He was just some regular guy. “Where’s Bradley Cooper?” I grabbed the knife tighter. “What’s happening?!” Dodge shook and trembled and sweated through his crumpled paper face. The man rounded his shoulders and hunched his back and seemed to shrink two sizes smaller. “There is no Bradley Cooper. There’s no such thing.” I got up and speed–walked to him and stabbed the knife into the table and the tulips rattled in their vases and the fake mask jiggled like gelatin. “What do you mean there’s no such thing?” Dodge sat on the floor and began to weep. His cries were upsetting me, so I began to tap dance The Hot Honey Rag from Chicago. “Look,” I said as I shook my butt and flailed my arms and used the knife as a microphone. “It’s okay, Dodge. It’s going to be okay.” “There’s no Bradley Cooper. He’s just a face,” said the man who used to be Bradley Cooper. “He’s an image that a movie studio came up with to sell movie tickets. He’s, like, just an amalgamation of handsome leading men put through an algorithm and spit out the other end to focus groups. He’s just a mask that different actors wear. He’s a part to be played.” “But who are you?” “I’m an actor. I’m just an actor.” Dodge wailed in the corner. I sashayed and shimmied across the floor and gyrated my hips. “And you play Bradley Cooper?” My voice shook from the dancing. “Sometimes. A lot of us play him. Some people play him in

69


the madison review

different movies, some people play him for the paparazzi, like, when he needs to be seen out on dates and walking his dog and eating dinner in fancy restaurants. And some people play him during interviews, like I’m doing tomorrow on Ellen.” Dodge reached up to his face from A Star is Born and slowly lowered the mask. He showed his real face to me for the first time. I stopped dancing and he closed his eyes and sniffled a string of snot back up into his nose. He looked like a regular guy. His brown hair hung in front of his blue eyes. His nose was perfectly fine, a little bigger than average but fine. His face was symmetrical in a way that most faces are. I had thought he would look like a monster. I figured he’d be hideous or that he must have some disfigurement or scar from some accident. But he was just normal. “I can’t be me. And I can’t be Bradley Cooper.” Tears streamed from his blue and red eyes. He hunched forward like his spine had given up and turned to liquid. He opened his regular mouth to scream but nothing came out. Just air and agony. It made my heart break and so I reached over to a vase and grabbed a handful of tulips and shoved them in my mouth and I chewed the petals and the stems and felt the sunlight escape from their cells and I sucked them up into mine. The man grabbed the limp silicon face, walked over to Dodge and knelt beside him “You can be Bradley Cooper,” he said. “He’s just a mask.” He held up the face by the forehead between his index finger and thumb and shook the skin. “And anyone can wear a mask.” He put the face in Dodge’s hands. “Go be Bradley Cooper, Dodge. Go promote your new movie on Ellen tomorrow. It’s called “Tucked In,” and it’s about a man who becomes a boy and has to relearn how to not wet the bed. Tell Ellen that it’s both funny and sincere. It’s nostalgic but modern. And say that you had a great time working with Robert De Niro again.” Dodge got up off the floor and stood up with the mask. His back straightened. I never knew he could be so tall. He inhaled all the air in the room and took off his baggy workman’s jumpsuit. He slithered out of it like a snake out of old skin. He sucked in his gut and stood tall, like there was no weight on his shoulders. Just air. And he floated. People were surprised that I brought Bradley Cooper to my father’s funeral, but nobody really made a scene. My mother was dressed in bright red and stood toward the entrance of the funeral parlor, as far away as she could get from the body. Flowers lined the casket, carnations and chrysanthemums and orchids. They smelled like

70


the madison review

children playing outside in the summer under a watchful eye, safe and loved and cared for. My uncles and aunts and cousins were there and they all offered their condolences in soft and muted whispers and asked how I met Bradley Cooper. A man I had never seen before stood by the casket. He was handsome, older, with salt and pepper hair and a thin mustache above thin lips. He looked at my father’s body and bent down and kissed him on the forehead. He saw that I saw him. I felt happy, so I did a full split to the floor and then slid myself back up. He looked at me and climbed into the casket and lay on top of my father. He stroked his hair and caressed his lips. He climbed out and gave him one last kiss and then walked towards the door. I picked a blue carnation from one of the sympathy bouquets and followed him. I stopped him just outside the entrance. I put the carnation in his lapel pocket and smiled. He smiled back at me with happy eyes, maybe in the same way his eyes smiled at my father in dark rooms and in hushed encounters. He was happy. Maybe my father was happy looking down on him. I was happy to think so.

71


the madison review

Contributors Cindy Juyoung Ok is a writer and educator from Los Angeles. Her work has been awarded the James Merrill Poetry Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center, the Truman Capote Fellowship from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and scholarships and grants from the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts, the Bread Loaf Translators’ Conference, and the Banff Centre. Hillary Behrman is a student in the Masters of Fine Arts Writing Program at Pacific University where she received a merit based scholarship in fiction writing. One of her short stories, “Rocks” was recognized in the Top 25 list of Glimmer Train’s April/March 2018 Very Short Fiction Contest and published in the High Desert Journal in October 2018. She lives in Seattle where she has worked as a children’s civil rights attorney, public defender and social justice advocate. David Rosenheim is an executive coach and professional songwriter who lives in a solar-powered house by the sea with his wife and two boys. The Weather Band, Hugh, and Winchester Revival have released his songs on seven critically lauded records, and his poetry has been published or is pending publication in journals including the California Quarterly, The San Antonio Review, North Dakota Quarterly, The Adirondack Review, Broadkill Review, Frigg, and Common Ground. He is a graduate of Oxford University.

72


the madison review

Shawn Rubenfeld has had fiction has appeared in such places as Permafrost, Columbia Journal, Inkwell, and Portland Review. He is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he received the Vreeland Award for fiction. His first novel, The Eggplant Curse & The Warp Zone, is forthcoming in 2021 from 7.13 Books. Manisha Sharma is a winner of the 2020 CausewayLit Poetry Contest, Greenbelt Review Fiction Prize, a semifinalist for the Cultural Weekly Poetry Prize, and American Short(er) Fiction Contest. Her poems have recently appeared in Choice Words anthology edited by poet Annie Finch, in The Fourth River, Arkansan Review, Puerto Del Sol, TAB, The Bombay Review, and elsewhere. Her work across genres and disciplines addresses social issues. A Vermont Studio Center scholarship recipient, Breadloaf Writers’ Conference contributor, and AWP mentee, Sharma earned an MFA from Virginia Tech and is currently a lecturer in English and Yoga at New River Community College in Dublin, VA. Details about her work are at www.manisha-sharma.com. She tweets @_sharmamanisha and instagrams @ingagement. Steffi Sin is a Chinese-American writer from San Francisco. Her work has been published by Hyphen Magazine and is forthcoming in The Kenyon Review and The Los Angeles Review. She is also Nonfiction Editor of Hayden’s Ferry Review.

73


the madison review

Greg Rappleye’s second collection of poems, A Path Between Houses (University of Wisconsin Press, 2000) won the Brittingham Prize in Poetry. His third collection, Figured Dark (University of Arkansas Press, 2007) was co-winner of the Arkansas Prize in Poetry was published in the Miller Williams Poetry Series. His fourth collection, Tropical Landscape with Ten Hummingbirds, was published in the fall of 2018 by Dos Madres Press. He teaches in the English Department at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. Rich Bartel has lived in Cleveland, New Orleans, Scranton, and Albuquerque, where he and his wife still reside. His work has been published in Third Wednesday, tiny journal, iQ, and The Ear. John Belk is an Assistant Professor of English at Southern Utah University where he directs the Writing Program. His poetry has recently appeared in Sugar House Review, Crab Orchard Review, Salt Hill, Kestrel, Worcester Review, Crosswinds, Sport Literate, Poetry South, and Arkansas Review among others. His work has been selected as a finalist for the Autumn House Rising Writer Contest, the Cathexis Chapbook Contest, the Autumn House Poetry Prize, the Barry Spacks Prize from Gunpowder Press, the Comstock Writers Group Chapbook Contest, and as a semifinalist for the Vassar Miller Award. His scholarship can be found in Rhetoric Review, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Composition Forum, and edited anthologies. David Canning is an Emmy award winning writer living in Brooklyn, New York with his wife, Kasia, and their daughter Ripley. He’s been published in The Madison Review, Literally Stories and has won an honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest 89th Annual Writer’s Awards.

74


the madison review

Silas Plum challenges the idea of objective vs subjective value through assemblages of defunct currency, discarded photographs, and long-forgotten illustrations. He believes strongly in the tired old maxim that the true value of an object is more than the sum of its parts, that the gut is a truth-teller, and that the Aristotelian notion of learning-by-doing is the best teacher around. Judge his worth at silasplum.com.

75


the madison review

Rich Bartel • Hillary Behrman • John Bolk David Canning • Greg Rappleye Cindy Juyoung Ok • Silas Plum • David Rosenheim Shawn Rubenfeld • Manisha Sharma • Steffi Sin

76

Profile for The Madison Review

The Madison Review Fall 2020  

The Madison Review is proud to present its fall 2020 collection of poetry and short fiction.

The Madison Review Fall 2020  

The Madison Review is proud to present its fall 2020 collection of poetry and short fiction.