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THE MADISON REVIEW FALL 2018


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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. Two-year subscriptions available for $15 (2 print issues, 2 online issues). One-year subscriptions available for $8 (1 print issue, 1 online issue). 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 2018 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

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POETRY

FICTION

Editors Drew Quiriconi Wyatt Warnecke

Editors Molly Biskupic Aaron Durlauf

Associate Editor Tori Tiso

Associate Editors Tess Allen Chloe Christiaansen

Staff Audrey Bachman Ben Brod Hannah Goldbaum Benny Koziol Ryan Maguire Tyler Moore Tori Paige Sarah Shaw

Staff Emma Cholip Emma Cooper Emma Crowley Max Harms Quinn Kennedy Nisse Lewison Katie Mamrosh

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Editor’s Note Dear Reader, The Madison Review is thrilled to bring you our Fall 2018 issue! We here at The Review have been working diligently to compile an impressive array of work spanning a diverse range of style, subject matter, and perspective. The Fall edition includes the recipient of the Ron Wallace Prize in Poetry, a contest that awards an exceptional poem with $100. We hope that these short stories and poems published in this edition provide insight into one’s own life, spark worthwhile conversations, and ultimately enrich the lives of those who read this collection of compelling literary work. 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. This issue would also not be possible were it not for our amazing team of undergraduate students who balance reading, discussing, curating, and designing The Review on top of their already-busy lives. Lastly, we would be nowhere without you, dear reader. If you’ve picked up a copy of this book, 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, and we’re proud that you’re part of our community. The Madison Review would also like to thank our program advisor, Ron Kuka, for his constant encouragement, advice, and help. We would also like to thank the UW-Madison English Department and the Program in Creative Writing for their support. Happy Reading, The Madison Review Editors

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Table of Contents

Fiction

Annie Kolle | He Should Hear it From You Matthew Rickart | Palms and Palms Tom McEachin | The Succinctists Anne Colwell | Screech Owl Michael Austin | The Ways Ice Can Freeze

4 20 34 48 52

Poetry Stuart Gunter | The Measure of All Greenness Autumn Cooper | Will All of This Require My Body in Real Time? Christa Forster | Two Poems Marjorie Stelmach | Maneuvers at Equinox Deborah Allbritain | Just Before Sleep Richard Brostoff | The Patience of Snow

2 18 32 46 68 70

Artwork David Weinholtz | Bukowski Cover David Sheskin | William Shakespeare and Jane Austen in Paradise 19 Herman Melville Reincarnated as a Great White Whale 50 The Reincarnation of William Shakespear as a Great Dane 51 Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf in Paradise 69

Contributor Biographies

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The Measure of All Greenness Start Gunter

In honor of Theodore Roethke and Allan Seager

The trees of childhood are touchstones of all later trees, the backyard grass the measure of all greenness. Other lights fail because they are not the true sun that brightens those trees, that grass.

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He Should Hear it from You Annie Kolle

The yolk breaks the moment it hits the pan. Lydia’s telling me a story, but I’m not listening well enough because I’m trying to cook Clem’s breakfast and I keep wasting eggs. I crack another two successfully. The first will be mine. I turn off the radio to hear her better, which is probably for the best. The constant news surrounding Robert Kennedy’s assassination depresses me. “So then Siri’s head cracks on the post of the jump because of it.” Lydia pauses, I assume for emphasis. “They may not let her compete on Saturday.” I turn to look at my daughter, and a fleck of hot butter hits me right above the elbow. I put the spatula down on a dishtowel. “Why is Siri already jumping? You’re not already jumping.” Lydia huffs and it reminds me of Clem. “Siri is twelve, mom. I’m only nine. Nine year olds don’t jump.” Her voice is high for her age, and her words are not yet crisp. I’m startled to see how sharp her elbows are when she crosses her arms. The bad egg slides easily from the pan onto my plate. “Twelve seems a little young to be jumping, Dear. And the girl’s so small. She can’t be any bigger than you. How does she control the pony?” I place white bread in a new pan. “She is bigger. And you wouldn’t know, mommy. You never rode.” I hear her chair push back and I’m about to tell her to sit down and be patient when she shrieks, “Daddy!” His hand is on my hip and I feel his face in my hair. “Smells good, Dotty.” I’m not sure whether he means the eggs or the hair. I washed it last night and it still hangs lank at my shoulders. I back my hips into his and he moves his hand to my stomach. When I suck in and flex, he lets go. The yolks have turned a lighter, sickly yellow. They’re too cooked and I burn my thumb trying to take the pan off of the flame. When I swear Lydia gasps in a way that feels overwrought. I suck my burn, close my eyes, and I pray to Mother Mary for patience. My lips move around my thumb and I brush my tongue lightly across the nail. Clem lowers his voice in that way he does when he talks to Lydia. 4


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“Who’s sitting in MY chair?” He’s standing bow legged, stamping his feet. “What little Lydie DARES sit in my chair?” I watch their ritual, sucking my thumb. Lydia’s smile is so big that her crescent eyes almost disappear. She inherited them, their shape and their pale blue, from her father. The chair faces away from Clem, hiding his daughter except for the gap between the wicker seat and back. She curls her body into a ball, pressing her hands hard against her mouth, suppressing laughter. Her face will stay flushed after the game is up, like a tiny, red-bearded Viking. Once Clem stoops to the table, he scoops Lydia over his shoulder and spins her around. She’s still in her nightdress, and it puffs out, revealing her skinny legs and her underwear. He puts her down and sits in the chair. She’s panting, her eyes tiny moons. “Lydia, Dear, come grab your Daddy’s breakfast for him and then run go get dressed.” My daughter, huffing, stares at me. Her teacher calls her a slow processor, and I wonder if this is what she means. “Lydia. Now, please.” My tone is harsh enough that her father turns around. Lydia doesn’t speak, instead taking the toast out of the pan and placing it next to the too-hard eggs. There’s a piece of hair stuck to her lip and I reach to brush it away, but she turns back to the table before I can help her. I watch her leave before picking up my plate and sitting by her father. Clem grabs my hand and kisses it as I’m about to cut into the egg. The dull side of the knife I’m holding taps against his forehead. “Be easy on her, Dot.” “I don’t think I’ve been severe. If I speak to her too soft she doesn’t understand me.” “Well she does perfectly fine with me.” His eggs run when he cuts into them. He shakes pepper into the yolk and mops it up with his bread. When his mouth is full, he turns to me, shuts his eyes, and smiles as big as he can without opening his mouth. I laugh, like I have since I first cooked for him. I don’t know where this habit came from. He only does it during breakfast, which I don’t think his mother was ever present for. It must have been their cook. He swallows. “So, what’s on the agenda for the day?” “Are you going to be able to get to the horses this morning?” Clem looks at his watch for what seems like a beat too long. “Not 5


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this morning. I have a few big meetings today and want to get in early.” “Well in that case Lydia will spend the morning with the horses, which will take a while considering she’s still a little girl.” I only have one egg, but I try to eat slowly so we finish at the same time. I nibble on a piece of crust. “Then we’ll head to my parents’ for lunch.” Clem frowns. “And you’re going to watch her.” “Well, God, of course. Do you think I’d leave her alone with those things? If I knew the first thing about them I would help.” He nods, takes the last bite of his eggs. “I know you will. I would just kick myself if I didn’t say anything.” He puts his napkin on the plate, pushes out his chair, and stands. “Beautiful eggs, Dottie.” Clem kisses me on the head and turns to leave the kitchen. “When do you think you’ll be home tonight?” I say. “Oh I don’t know. Early, maybe. I want to have dinner with my girls.” When he reaches the doorway, he turns around. “I love you, Dottie.” I wait to get up until he’s shut the door. I grab both of our plates and take them to the sink. Clem has left for work by the time Lydia comes back downstairs. She’s wearing the blue jeans I laid out on her dresser, but she’s replaced the buttercup yellow shirt with a ratty Baltimore Colts one her father gave her. Her blonde hair puffs out from her head like a halo. She brushed for too long, and single, static hairs drift skyward. I put down the dish I’m washing. “Come here, Dear. Why don’t I give you braids today.” Lydia smiles and nods. She watches me intently, without talking, while I refold the dishtowel and drape it over the rack. She looks like she’s studying for an exam. “Go sit on the stool over there.” My daughter’s hair is soft like mine but light like her father’s was when he was her age. She smells musty, and I remind myself to tell her to bathe later. When I lean closer, I recognize her baby smell underneath. Leah said she can still smell the baby on her teenage son. I wonder when I’ll lose it on Lydia. I sift my fingers through her hair a few times to strengthen the smell before I start braiding. “Can I go to Grandma Joan’s pool today?” She starts to turn to look at me before she remembers the braids. “You need to take care of the horses. You know that’s your responsibility in the summer time.” 6


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“After?” “We’re going to Grandma Ellie and Grandpa Hank’s for lunch.” I tug the braid a little harder than needed. “I go every Wednesday.” I can’t see my daughter’s face, but her shoulders sag in an almost comical interpretation of disappointment. “Their house isn’t fun.” Lydia’s pout is palpable in her voice. “I know.” “And they don’t have a pool like Grandma Joan.” “Lydia.” I think of Clem and soften my voice. “Lydia, no one in all of Baltimore has a pool at their house except for Grandma Joan.” “Really?” “I don’t know. Not many people do, that’s for sure.” I tie off the second of Lydia’s braids. “All done. Now why don’t we go on outside so that you can take care of those horses.” I kiss her on the stop of her head, close my eyes, and inhale her smell. My daughter spins around on her stool without standing up, craning her neck to make eye contact. “When is Leah coming back? Can she take me to the pool?” Lydia was at a playdate when her nanny was fired, but I’m surprised she still thinks that Leah is coming back. I wouldn’t let Leah say goodbye and I last saw her standing with her thumb out on the side of the road. By the time I returned from picked Lydia up, Leah was gone. I tell Lydia to ask her father. “He knows Leah much better than I ever did.” My daughter’s shoulders tense, but she doesn’t say anything. She stands up and walks out, and I’m left to wonder what she understands. Lydia goes outside, and I sit on the back porch so I can avoid the sun and have my morning cigarette. I can watch her carefully enough from here. The back yard slopes upwards, the paddock on the topmost part of the property before the tree line. The horses, along with the spring rains, have torn up the grass and left wide, bald patches of dirt and mud in what I call the yard. Clem and Lydia have taken to calling it the pasture. Clem used to board his horse, but now that Lydia is old enough for her own, he’s moved them into our yard. They built the paddock themselves, which leans a bit to the left. Lydia is wearing the black rain boots Clem bought her. They’re too big and she has to walk duck footed in order to keep them from falling off. She looks like a fawn from here, still unsure of her footing. She weaves around the patches of mud, stopping every once and a while to catch her breath and to turn and wave to me. I ash my cigarette and 7


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wave back. I get nervous once she makes it to the barn. I can’t fully see her anymore, only through the large, unglazed windows Clem left in the sides. I get glimpses of her when she brings the hose in to fill their buckets and when she circles around back to get the oats. I can smoke two cigarettes in the time it takes her to finish. During the second, I promise myself I’ll go at least halfway up there with her the next time. Leah always helped my daughter, and I doubt she had ever seen a horse before Clem’s. Lydia comes from around back of the barn, stopping to wave with both hands above her head, like a shipwreck survivor hailing a plane. I exhale so hard that I cough. I put out the cigarette and stand up, waving both arms above my head back at her. Her descent is slower. The boots look like they’re cutting into the soft spot behind her knee, and she leans back at an exaggerated angle so as not to fall forward. She slips in a mud puddle, landing hard on her hands and back, and I go inside to find a new pair of jeans and the buttercup yellow shirt. Lydia is still picking the mud out from under her nails when we get to the car. I told her to use the nailbrush in the downstairs bathroom, and I wonder whether she left dirt there on purpose. She’s a fidgety child, and I can imagine she thinks it’s fun to pick it out. “Can I sit in the front?” She stops a few feet from the car instead of moving toward a specific door. “Yes,” I pause before getting in. “But only if you go wash your hands again. Scrub under the nails this time, please.” Lydia turns around and runs back to the house without a word. I get in the car and roll down the front two windows. I light a cigarette. The air is too heavy this time of year, and I can feel the weight of each particle. I open the door and swing my legs out. I don’t want to put my back against the seat until it’s necessary; droplets of sweat are already rolling down my spine. With my free hand, I pull the back of my dress off of my skin like a tent. I hear the screen door creak, and Lydia runs up to me and holds out her hands, palms to the ground. She’s bitten down half of her nails, but the longer ones look clean again. “Flip them over, please.” Her hands no longer resemble a baby’s. She has calluses where she holds the reins and a bump on her middle finger where she holds her pencil. Brown lines are embedded in the hard parts. 8


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“They look good, Dear. Hop in.” I ash my cigarette and start the car. We’re early to my parents’, so I park two blocks down. When Lydia complains, I tell her the exercise will do us both some good. “Just because it’s hot doesn’t mean we get to be lazy.” When she runs ahead, I notice two circles under her armpits. I wonder how long she’s been sweating like an adult. She starts to skip, and when I tell her not to go too far ahead, she spins around mid-leap, skipping backwards for a few steps before stopping. “Isn’t that cool?” She’s trying not to breathe too hard. “I saw Siri skipping backwards and it turns out it’s really easy. Claire tried but she tripped over a root.” “Come back and walk with me.” I stop and wait until she’s by my side. “You certainly have some clumsy friends. Was this before or after Siri fell off her horse?” “We’re just kids, Mom. Kids fall.” “Well,” I pull out a braid that has gotten caught in her collar, “I certainly hope you’re careful, at least.” We walk slowly. The blocks are shorter where my parents live. The houses loom over their small yards, and I can remember thinking they were mansions when I was little. I imagine they might still look like that from far away. Up close, I can see the two front doors with two addresses, and the way the shutter colors change halfway through. I don’t think Lydia really knows what a duplex is, and I wonder if she thinks the houses are as big as ours. My mother is sitting on the porch, and she stands when she sees us. Lydia grabs at my hand, but I pull away. “Lydia.” I put a hand on her back. “Run up to the house and give your grandmother a hug, please.” Lydia jogs at an almost comically slow pace. I hope that my mother, who is unfamiliar with my daughter’s exuberance, doesn’t notice. My mother walks down the porch steps to meet Lydia, resting her hands on her lower back as she waits. She wears a red apron over a pale pink dress although I doubt she’s made anything more than sandwiches for lunch. After hugging her granddaughter, she holds her out at arm’s length. When she tells Lydia how beautiful she is, my daughter thanks her. The two wait to walk inside until I join them on the porch. The house doesn’t have any foyer, so we see my father immediately. He’s sitting in the chair he’s had since I was a child. The table next to him 9


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already has three cans of Natural Bohemian on top. When Lydia goes to hug him, her elbow knocks over the one that’s still half full. My father swears, and although it’s not directly at my daughter, I rush to pick up the can before he can get up. Lydia has backed away, her eyes wide, her mouth in a stupefied slack. “Jesus Christ, Lydia.” I face my father as I talk, monitoring his reaction. There’s still a quarter of the beer left in the can. I place it back on the table, grabbing its empty neighbors. Lydia stares at me, then her grandfather, then the spill on the table. I kiss my father on the top of the head before turning back to her. “Take these into the kitchen and ask your grandmother for a dishrag.” My daughter nods without closing her mouth. When she grabs the cans from me, I kiss her on the top of the head, too, putting my hand below her chin. Although I mean to close her mouth lightly, I hear her teeth click against one another. My father chuckles when she leaves the room. His eyes are usually large like mine, but today their lids are heavy, and in their half closed state, they look more like Lydia’s. He picks up his can, jostling it to measure its contents before bringing it to his mouth. “Your daughter is all elbows, Dot. She’s nothing like you were.” He empties the can and hands it to me. “She looks like those horses of your husband’s.” I nod and place the can back on his table. “She’s a wild one.” I can’t think of anything else to say. My father doesn’t seem to mind, reaching for the newspaper he left on the floor. “They’re still fixing the goddamn mess the Negroes made in April during the riots.” He shakes out the newspaper, tilts his head back and tries to find his place in the article. Lydia returns with the dishrag, but I motion for her to go back to the kitchen. “The funny thing about everything is that,” My father looks toward the kitchen before continuing. “They only messed up their own neighborhoods. Agnew had the right idea, yelling at them. If they want to be treated like adults,” He looks to me for the first time. “They ought to act like them.” I send Lydia to open all of the dining room windows when we sit to eat. It’s gotten hotter, and my dress now clings to my back. My mother has put a beer by my plate, and I hold it to my neck, my forehead, before cracking it open. The breeze coming through the window is little help: the air outside feels damp and makes my arms sticky. 10


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“You should get an air conditioner like Grandma Joan.” Lydia sits back at the table, folding her napkin in her lap as she speaks. My father takes a sip of his drink. My mother responds first. “That would be nice, sweetie. I’m sure we’ll look into that soon.” “If we could get Grandma Joan over here to chat sometime,” My father winks at me. “I’m sure it would happen sooner.” I put my napkin back on the table and excuse myself to the kitchen. I bring my beer with me. My mother’s telephone is a pale pink that may have been fashionable a decade before. Before I pick it up, I take a few sips. The beer tastes like dirty water but it’s easy to drink quickly. I put it down on the counter before dialing Clem’s office. “Clem Francis’s office, this is Gail.” “Hi Gail,” I hope I sound cheerful through the line. “This is Mrs. Francis. Is my husband in?” “Oh how are you?” She doesn’t pause long enough for my response. “How’s little Lydia?” “We’re great, Gail. Hoping to have Clem home for dinner. Any idea whether that will happen?” I like Gail. She’s older than most secretaries, which I’ve found makes her more genial. “I’ll transfer you to him now.” Before I can answer, I hear a click. I trace Clem’s name on the wall with my finger. “Dotty.” He says it as a statement. His voice always sounds different on the phone, but I’m not sure if it’s the phone line or his setting. I wonder if this is how he sounds in board meetings. “How are you, Baby.” “Hi, Clem, Dear.” I wrap the cord around my finger. “What do you say about dinner at home tonight?” He exhales for a moment too long. My shoulders feel heavier. “I don’t know baby. Something came up.” “Well what is it? Can it wait a day?” Clem says something to Gail that I can’t make out before returning to the phone. “It’s just bank stuff, you know. I’ll try to make it, okay? But don’t wait on me.” I drop the cord. I try and swallow the knot forming in my throat. “Clem, don’t do this. Please, honey, not tonight.” My voice sounds smaller than I want. He doesn’t answer for a while. I try to listen to his breath over the line, but I can’t hear anything. I wonder whether he’s covering the receiver. “Baby,” His tone has changed. He sounds tired “I don’t know 11


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what you’re talking about. I’m going to be in my office, I’m just going to be late.” “I know that. I never said you weren’t.” “I know, Baby,” he says. “Look. Let’s drop Lydie at my sister’s this weekend and go to the farm.” “I’d like that, Clem.” I hang up before he can sound relieved. Clem’s family farm is where we first made love. It was a hot day and I remember being embarrassed because I was sweating. I hadn’t let him hold my hand when we had walked to the garden earlier. We sat in the living room eating the strawberries we had picked. I think my legs were tucked under me on the couch because Clem was on the floor, his head in my lap. I don’t remember what we talked about, but after a while, Clem sat up. He leaned over me, traced my lips with his half eaten strawberry. He kissed off the juice, but an uncomfortable stickiness remained. It was my first time, but I don’t know if it was his. We had never been that close before. I remember wanting to crawl inside of him. I was too nervous to look into his eyes, and I concentrated on the carpet, grabbing a fistful with my hand. It was the closest I’ve ever felt to anyone. We held each other for a minute after. I tried to tell if I was wet with his sweat or mine and I pulled away to wipe off my neck. When he came out of me, so did everything else. Clem’s cum had diluted my blood into a marbled pink, but it still looked dark against the white carpet. I don’t remember how soon I started crying but I remember Clem’s laugh. He kissed me hard on the lips. He told me I was being silly, and he kissed the bloody spot on the floor. “I love every part of you. I love this part, too.” We spent the rest of the night trying to get the stain out. When we couldn’t, Clem packed the carpet up and brought it with us. He never told me where he hid it, but after we got married it showed up on our bedroom floor. I stay in the kitchen for a moment. I half-dial Clem’s office before hanging up the phone. Lydia has finished her sandwich by the time I return, and she and her grandfather are laughing. He turns to me, swallows, and smiles. “Your baby there is just as hungry as you used to be. She’s going to be 12


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as tall as a bean stalk.” He looks back at her and raises his beer as if in a toast. “She may be skinny like your husband, but she’ll fill out strong like you.” Lydia’s eyes disappear into her smile. She sits up, trying to look taller. I am just as surprised as my father when I hug him. He hugs me too, after a moment. He rubs a small circle in my back. “Dot, if that’s all I had to say to get you to crack a real goddamn smile, I would have said it ages ago.” I don’t reply. I think this might be the first time Lydia looks prouder to be my daughter than Clem’s. My father wouldn’t understand, since I was like Lydia, too. I return to the kitchen to get my beer and then join them at the table. At seven o’clock I stop hoping Clem will make it home for dinner. The shadows from the barn stretch almost completely down the hill and I can only just make out the spot where Lydia had fallen. The yard looks less glaring at this hour. I try to remember the word for the golden hue in western films. It’s cooler than it had been, and I can sit on the porch without sweating. I close my eyes and hold the tip of my cigarette as close as I can to my wrist without causing pain. The warmth it gives off makes the rest of my body feel chilled in comparison, and when I open my eyes, I can pretend it’s fall. The low sun would mean it were only 4:30. If we wait any longer to feed the horses, it will be too dark to watch Lydia from the porch. I find her lying on her stomach in the library, playing jacks in front of her father’s leather armchair. She’s taken out her braids, and her hair falls in front of her face, making a curtain between the two of us. She’s trying for three jacks on one bounce. I can’t picture what she looks like when she concentrates, and I have the urge to brush back her hair and check. I clear my throat instead. I smoke on the porch while I wait for Lydia to change into the dirty clothes from earlier. I laugh when I see her. She frowns at me, and I try to explain what juxtaposition is. “It’s when two things go together, but they’re very different. See your clean neck? See how silly it looks against your muddy collar?” She tilts her head, trying to see herself. “I’m just laughing dear, because it looks like the mud knew where to stop. It looks like it didn’t want to mess up your pretty skin.” Lydia pauses and then laughs, too. I’m not sure she really gets 13


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it. “You’re right, Mom. I guess it is pretty funny.” She waits for me to smile at her before heading up the hill. Flakes of dried dirt fall as she walks, duck-toed. I almost run after her to tell her to wear the older, better fitting boots. Her foot comes out when she steps in a mud puddle, but she grabs the handles on each side and unsticks herself. I say a Hail Mary when she enters the barn to get the leads. My fear of horses embarrasses me. Clem says that the younger we give her this responsibility, the more knowledgeable she’ll be. I try not to think about her slow reaction time or her too big shoes. Lydia comes out with the longer lead first and walks to her father’s horse Maple. Backlit by the sun, she looks like a shadow. Her little friend Claire had shadow puppets at her birthday party, and I calm myself by pretending I’m watching a show. I imagine one stick coming out from beneath Lydia and two coming from Maple. The horse doesn’t turn around when Lydia approaches. My daughter walks around Maple, momentarily obscured except for her legs. She clips the lead on the bridle and pulls. Maple gives a brief shake of her head, as if bothered by a fly. Clem’s horse is much larger than Lydia’s and my daughter looks dwarfed by her, her head barely reaching the horse’s neck. When Maple doesn’t budge, Lydia circles around behind her and pushes from the rear. My daughter knows better. I put out my cigarette and walk to the edge of the porch. She pauses. When I pray to Jesus that my daughter will walk back around to the horse’s front, my voice cracks. Instead she bends down and adjusts her boot. Lydia’s head grazes the horse’s hock. The response is instantaneous. Maple throws back her left leg, kicking her hard in the head. Lydia flies backward, landing in the mud. Her head snaps back and hits the ground last. I ram the screen door with my hip, and then I’m climbing the hill. I fall early and lose a flat in the mud. I slip off the other and keep running. Lydia feels miles away, and then I’m kneeling next to her. I don’t check for a pulse. I know my daughter cannot be dead. I lift her and carry her down the hill. Lydia is lying across the front seat with her head in my lap. The hair by her temple is dark like mine now, and I can’t tell if it’s mostly mud or blood. Her blood streaks down her cheek. It has blossomed across my skirt and made my slip stick to my legs. My red haloed daughter 14


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slips in and out of consciousness. “Shhhh baby, baby, baby. Baby shhh. Baby.” I know she can’t hear me. “I’m going to shoot that horse. I’m going to take your father’s hunting rifle when he’s asleep and, Baby, I’m going to shoot that horse. Maybe your daddy, too.” I stop talking when she moves. The woman next to me in the waiting room is smoking menthol cigarettes. I want to move away, but she’s taken the only ashtray in the whole place. She’s fat and short and I wonder whether she knows that there’s a small bald spot on the top of her head. Her upper arms sag and wiggle unattractively when she brings her menthol to her mouth. I go to the payphone when I finish my cigarette and dial our number. I let it ring longer than I should before I hang up. It’s pitch black out by now. The house will be dark when I take Lydia home. I didn’t turn on the lights before I left, and I worry she’ll trip on something when she walks through the door. I dial Clem’s office next. I sit on the ground, cradle the phone on my shoulder, and wrap my arms around my legs. The fat lady is looking at me. She’s too rude to look away when I stare back. Her mouth is like a cod’s, and she doesn’t seem to blink as much as a normal person. I feel my face turn red, and look down at my hands. I scratch a dried patch of blood off of my index finger. Clem doesn’t pick up and, eventually, the phone clicks and goes silent. The fat lady is still staring and she’s lit a new cigarette. I sit up straight and grab the phone with my hand, holding it to my ear. I speak loudly so the woman can hear me. “Hi, baby.” I pause as if Clem is answering me. “No I understand. I guess it’s time to hire a new secretary, huh?” “There’s been an accident.” “No, baby! Calm down. I’m okay.” I look at the woman, who has picked up a magazine and holds it at a funny angle. “It’s Lydia. She was doing your chores and Maple kicked her. They haven’t let me see her yet.” “I know, baby. I know. Stop crying. I know you won’t.” I lean my head against the wall and close my eyes. There’s a buzzing coming from somewhere down the hall and a shoe squeaks against the linoleum. My legs are damp under my dress. “I love you, too. Yes, so so much. I’ll see you soon.” Lydia’s awake when they let me back to see her. They’ve washed 15


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the dark out of her hair, but when she turns to me, I see that they’ve shaved the other half off. The two sides of her wound are pulled together, puckering under the thick black string. The underside of her right eye is purple and swollen. “Hi, Dear” My voice sounds strangled and I cough. It feels like I’ve swallowed glass. “Hi, Mom.” Someone has left a chair for me next to her. I grab onto her hand, which is clammier than I’ve felt it before. “You gave me quite a fright.” My daughter tries to scrunch her nose, winces, and straightens her face. She looks expressionless, but her eyes scour me. “Is that all my blood?” “Yes, Dear.” “Mom?” She tries to keep her face relaxed. “Yes, Dear?” “Where’s Daddy?” She winces again and I can tell it hurts when she talks. I can’t tell her where he is. I kiss her hand and hold it to my mouth. I count her callouses with my fingers and try to smell her baby smell. The whole room reeks of antiseptic. Even swollen, Lydia’s face has a glow mine never had. I used to think that she inherited this, too, from Clem, whose ruddiness is almost preternatural. Now, I think she inherited it from his untouchable lifestyle, from her infallible father and their games, their horses and the pasture. It’s this feature of theirs that feels like the biggest difference between us. I can’t tell her where he is. I close my eyes before I answer. “He doesn’t know that we’re here. You were incredibly irresponsible today, and I don’t think it’s my job to tell him about it.” I stare at her chin. “He wouldn’t be happy at all. He should hear it from you when we go home.” Her jaw sets and her eyebrows twitch but otherwise, her face, and her complexion, stay the same. “So he’s not coming then.” I wish I had brought her her jacks. I wish I had brushed her hair back earlier and looked at her face. “No. Not right now.” When the doctor tells me that they’re keeping Lydia for the night, I go home to change. I hold my breath as I pull into our driveway, letting it out when I see that the garage is empty. I stay outside for a while. I smoke a cigarette and listen to the cica16


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das scream. This isn’t their year, and I wonder about the few who’ve hatched early. I don’t think they’re aware that they’re out of sync. I put out my cigarette and walk inside to change. My zipper is stuck, and it takes me longer than usual to get my dress off. I stand in front of my bedroom mirror and watch it fall to my ankles, blooming around me. I don’t know what to do with it. It’s ruined, but I’m not sure if I should throw it away. I leave in on the floor and step out of it, watching myself. The softest parts of my thighs, my stomach, are pink. Blood is caked on my neck and clavicle. I look for the stain on the carpet but it isn’t that easy to see anymore. I remember it being close to the wall and I crawl across the room, my knees sinking into the rug. It’s faded to a brown the shade of Lydia’s muddy watercolors. My palm can cover it completely. The carpet is soft against my back when I lie on top of our stain. I run my hands over my body with my eyes closed and try to sense what Clem thinks when it’s me he’s touching. I squeeze my breasts. My fingers brush over my nipples, then pinch them until it hurts. I move my hands down. I curl my fingers under my ribcage. My stomach is softer than it was, swelling out above my crotch. It’s been that way since Lydia. I linger. My eyes are still closed and my fingers trace my stretch marks like brail. My stomach is the secret message that my daughter left me, a foreign language her father cannot read. I roll over, spreading out my legs and my arms, starfishing on the floor. I push my stomach out, softening, pressing it into the spot as hard as I can. I fall asleep there, smothering them both.

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Will All of This Require My Body in Real Time? Autumn Cooper

I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to live the life of animals, just as I don’t understand the love between others that are not me. But I have a question. Why do rabbits run away, even though I would never touch them? I grew up thinking other animals knew the true nature of humans, and the older I get, the less I want to hold a cat, the less I want others to hold cats, or guinea pigs, or exotic birds. I have read that the more you use “I” and “me” when talking to someone, the more obvious it is that you are not in a position of authority. Those are the only things I call myself. All of the animals I have ever known didn’t care about mirrors, but I have— one, two, three, four mirrors in my apartment, each bigger than the size of the Mona Lisa. Imagine a girl/woman (me), pretending she is a different girl/woman (a better me) who gets turned into a sparrow (I), all of these creatures characters in the form of a fairytale. Then, all of that painted on a piece of china. On the plate, the breast of a bird. How pathetic. Sometimes I hold my cat up to the mirror and ask her, tell her, “That’s you.”

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Palms and Palms Matthew Rickart

The fingers start in the early evening. She is only eight, and she can hear them running up and down the ridges of the window blinds. Slowly, then sharper, a scraping of vinyl, and then the blinds shaking, as if in the wind, possessed. She runs to her parents. They tell her to calm down, to breathe. They walk in the room with her and everything is peaceful. They tell her to keep the windows shut, although the windows are shut. In the morning she says to her mother, it was not my imagination. Her mother says, “It was. Quiet. Eat your breakfast.” Her father is an art teacher, a painter, and his fingers are stained ochre at the tips. He says nothing. Her imagination continues to work, even as her sister remains oblivious. Hands and nails scratching the wall. Shadows and shapes. Hallucinations, but ones that walk, are tactile. One night, she wakes up to find a woman in bed next to her. The woman is not exactly old, or not exactly not old. She has a child’s shape and features but her nose has drooped and her eyes are wizened, though more like a cat than a grandmother. The woman smiles at her, puts a finger to her lips, they fall back asleep. Years later her mother says, “I’ve had two miscarriages, and both in the living room, so if any room is haunted…” But it’s not the living room, though no one knew about the miscarriages, except maybe their implacable father, who just shrugs. She ages, the hauntings dissipate or disappear or were never there. Or perhaps she has just grown used to them, like planes overhead or birdsong - background noise. “New England is old,” her mother tells her. “This house is old.” So she goes to school to study textile design in Southern California, and she stays there. If it is haunted too, she doesn’t notice. The only ghosts are in her photo albums, her phone’s contact list. Mostly dumb ghosts, rude ghosts, a few well-meaning ones - a procession of them, all silent. She alternatively looks like a startled animal or uncomfortably 20


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constipated, but she is never serene. She can tell this bugs Teddy, who is used to women who can be categorized by bodies of water: choppy sea, tranquil lake, stagnant pond. Her large eyes, her tiny pupils. He looks directly into them. “You’re beautiful,” he says and she hits him, not hard, playfully like a cat paw, but on the face. They are both members of the wedding party. He has read a poem, she has fit uncomfortably into a bridesmaid dress. At 1 a.m., she insists over and over that she is not looking for a relationship, that she’s not looking for sex. But in her room, she reads his tarot. The six of cups, the eight of cups, the empress…so much feminine energy, she says. “I’m used to it,” he tells her. “A lot of female friends.” They kiss and she tells him that of the hundreds of people she’s kissed, she can’t remember someone she’s enjoyed kissing this much. He asks, “Who have you been kissing?” Six months ago in the dead of winter, but an LA winter, so for her a sort of belated autumn, she rolls over in a bed. The bed is in a Highland Park duplex, fitted in tall and narrow among the hills. It looks like a lighthouse and she always has to climb three sets of stairs to get to Patrick’s bedhearoom. It is an empty apartment, without books or artwork. He is gone for weeks sometimes. But in LA space is commodity, and all this emptiness is expensive. That morning, Patrick is in the shower, so she picks up his phone and enters the zig-zag pattern of numbers to unlock it. She has watched the movements his thumb makes when he does this. She started watching last month. There aren’t any names, just numbers and conversations and pictures. The conversations are staccato, messages deleted haphazardly as he went along. Missing phrases and promises and re-quests, so that most of what is left are emoticons, as if these tell no story. Still, there is enough: kissy faces, selfies of women in mirrors, women’s sun-burnt breasts, the folds of their mouths sexual, desiring, women’s curly pubic hair or lack thereof. She waits for him to get out of the shower, not out of courtesy but to compose herself. “Hey,” he says. He is also tall and narrow, and much stronger than her. He must know by how she sits on the edge of the bed. He must know because his phone is next to her. He turns away, drops his towel. She can see his penis hang between the gap in his thighs and she wants to scream, rip something. “What’s up?” he asks. Who are they? she asks. What are their names? How long has this been… 21


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He tells her with shocking nonchalance. He is matter-of-fact, answers every single question, even excuses himself for ten minutes to make coffee. When he comes back, he brings her some in her favorite mug, almond milk that he keeps for her turning it a sweet hazel. He doesn’t apologize. “It was a bad idea,” he says. “I didn’t mean any of it.” Or: “I wish I hadn’t.” Or: “Things get away from you.” One woman in Florida he has been seeing for four years, since before he moved to LA. They’ve talked about marriage, about children. His face is so clean-lined, effeminate but for the careful wave of stubble. So, she’s not only the cuckold, she is the other woman. She is culpable. You know I’m leaving you, she tells him. “I understand,” he tells her, looking her in the eyes before they sharply shift left, out the window behind her. She turns. There’s a guy climbing the palm outside, roped to the tree by a leather belt. He has a machete to hack at the dead fronds. The two men have locked eyes. Growing up, her family had a dog named Hawkeye, a broad-faced labrador. She brought him into the bedroom each night, to protect her from evil spirits, from the unusual shadows and the heaviness that weighed on her chest, that kept her from getting up for water or to go to the toilet. For a year or more she woke each night at 3 a.m. and thought to herself, “The witching hour...” though she couldn’t remember who told her that. But there was Hawkeye, eyes closed, legs motoring against some dream current. When she said his name, his eyes opened, and without getting up he looked at her, his tail thumping heavily. Eventually she could fall back asleep. Teddy on his red couch via a Skype feed. They always talk like this. He props his computer up on a stack of books. The wall behind him, the clock and the side table with its framed photos—it has the familiarity of a late-night talk show set. “What time is it there?” he asks. Two hours earlier, she tells him, still two hours earlier, always two hours earlier, but he asks it a lot, as if maybe someday they’ll be temporally closer. “Anything interesting going to happen in the next two hours you want to warn me about?” he asks. “Will the Cubs win?” She has a name like a magician, a circus owner, an exorcist. Teddy likes saying it out loud. “Come visit,” he says. I am, she tells him. “Come visit noooow,” he 22


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says. He sounds like a child. It’s only two weeks, she tells him. Time confuses her, sometimes upsets her. She has a watch that she never wears, an heirloom of her grandmother’s; it needs to be tuned. Her father thought this might reconcile something between her and time, as if they were old friends turned sour. But she hated her grandmother, a bitter bitch of Neapolitan peasant stock, unhappy in America. “You get fat,” the old woman would say to her, jowly and with skin that grew olive-grey in the indoor lighting and air conditioning. “You do not grow curves but fat, and you will find no husband.” She was fourteen. She is early for everything. She understands time that well, at least. She lives in it without feeling it, like air, except when it rushes through her, like wind. Drinking a Hefeweizen at an airport bar, three hours early for her departing flight. A man in army fatigues approaches her, or maybe approaches the seat next to her. He orders a vodka tonic and introduces himself. His name is Dan, today is his thirtieth birthday. That sounds lonely, she tells him, being in an airport on your thirtieth birthday. “It’s not so bad,” he says. Friends and family have been texting him non-stop, calling him. He had to put his phone on silent. He asks where she’s headed. Chicago. You? He’s going to Germany, and then to Afghanistan. He flies drones, he tells her, then a moment later he says: “I never tell people that. People don’t like to hear that. About the drones. I don’t know why I told you except you have these eyes... you probably hear that all the time. You look like you’re dragging a lake or something. You must pull secrets from people.” A long silence. She orders another beer, which comes in an enormous mug, a sad rind of orange lining the foam like a forgotten pool float. Dan asks her what she does. I’m in-between things right now, she says, knowing she has been in-between things before, and the before links to the right now in a straight, uninterrupted line. Two years’ worth of in-between things. “A rock and a hard place?” he asks. “What do you do in that free time?” he asks. I used to weave, she says, and tells him about the loom in the basement of her parents’ home, which she has been unable to find space for in her apartment these seven long years in LA. She misses the feel of the notches in the warp beam, the shuttle like a lost organ, a separate heart, dormant and a continent away. 23


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In truth, she’s more prosaic than this. Maybe it’s the beer. He pulls his phone from his breast pocket, where his surname is stitched, and types in his password. She reads his fingers. That’s an easy one, she tells him, It’s your birthday. She talks with her father more now than when she was young. But virtually, through a smartphone Scrabble game. He uses words like AUTOCRACY. She uses words like SADNESS and QUIET, waiting patiently for a reaction. There’s something living in my room, she’d told him, as a child. It was at the dinner table. He’d brought his own bottle of wine, which he drank slowly to the dregs from an old jam jar. Her sister told her that it was the same glass he used to wash his brushes, that sometimes he just drank the varnish. “Last we spoke,” he replied, “there was something not-living in your room.” She told him about the invisible weight on her chest in the night. The fingers that slowly pulled at her toes, one by one, even under the blanket. The shadows she could still see, even in the pitch black. “It’s your brother playing tricks on you,” he said. He was large and balding, even then, his hair grey for as long as she could remember, his face handsome in the way all fathers are handsome, but growing more fleshy, his nose no longer just aquiline but distended, rounding at the tip, reddening. It’s where all the wine goes, her sister told her. I don’t have a brother, she told her father. “Your sister then,” he said. She might have had a brother, of course. She thinks of the miscarriages. Had that been a joke? She types a note to her father using the in-game messaging chat. It’s the only way she can get him to text. She writes, I once again bow down to the reigning Scrabble champion. Go ahead and gloat. You’re lucky I love you so much. In Chicago, she has an outbreak of eczema. She shows the spot to Teddy, scratching at it. “Hey, hey,” he says, and puts his hand over hers. Hay is for horses, she tells him. It happens when I get stressed out and anxious, she says. “When I get stressed out I just cry a lot,” he tells her. She doesn’t know if it’s a joke. Ahhhhh! she says in the morning when they are kissing in his bed. She looks at the ceiling and says, What am I doing in Chicago? Ahhh! Her voice loses modulation sometimes, gets away from her like some 24


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strange bird flying from her mouth. But around Teddy, whose voice is so simple, nearly monotonous, she tries to level it. She’s been told she sounds like a Muppet, or, once, by a jilted lover, like a demented parakeet. Not even the dignity of a parrot, a cockatiel. He makes an omelette for her with swiss cheese and avocado. The avocado is warm, baked into the eggs, the texture all wrong. She can’t bring herself to finish it. “I don’t know what I was thinking,” he says. Me neither! she says. Then: Sorry, she says. What am I doing in Chicago? They have sex, though Teddy would not put it as prosaic as that. “Your eyes,” he says, “are so intense during sex, like you’re asking some life-changing question.” That’s just my resting-sex face, she tells him. Lovingly, he touches the stubble at her ankles. He asks about the stray strands of hair at her nipples, as if they are old friends. I pluck them, she says, every Friday. He is strange like that. They walk to the lake, which is stupidly large. He says it first on the way there, and then he’s right, and so she says it: Stupidly large. There is no need for lakes this large. They go a mile along the promontory, the waves lapping at the lip of the concrete like water at the edge of a tub. She picks up a flattened stone and skips it - three hops. Do you ever skip stones? she asks. He doesn’t. My dad taught me, she says. She finds him a stone, shows him the form. He gets two hops on his first, then his second sinks like the stone it is. You’ve got to defy weight, gravity, she says. “Well it all gets pulled down to the bottom eventually, he shrugs. He seems suddenly in a bad mood. She watches him skip his third. His big body, his heavy shoulders, nothing balletic in his throw. “What are we doing here?” he asks, echoing her. I have no idea, she tells him. I told you at the wedding… But here she is. She says, We don’t need to talk about it. But he will press it. Not personally, not interrogatively, but existentially. He will touch her face over a steaming and fragrant bowl of Vietnamese pho and tell her she is beautiful. Perhaps he is just speaking to her eyes. How can he know she is beautiful when they haven’t even known each other a month? He asks her if she’s happy being here in Chicago with him. It’s like you’re the girl and I’m the dude, she sighs. “You saw all the cups,” he says. “The cards warned you.” He shows her his paintings. They are clean-lined, like art deco book covers. Geese in flight, but only the outlines of geese, cropped in rigid squares and perfect circles, all evergreen and earth tones. This is ex25


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traordinarily masculine, she says. He asks if that is a compliment. The morning before she leaves, they get coffee at his favorite shop and walk to the lake again. Further north, they enter a dog beach through a gate. Dogs are everywhere, tiny and large breeds, lanky and heavy with fur, dogs with beards and handkerchiefs and tight curls of fur or cascading white tresses. They’re uninterested in people, having found this funny Shangri-La. Free of the pressures of the couch, the food bowl, the daily walk, they dive, chase, trade tennis balls, feint, leap over and weave under one another. She is grinning. She is ecstatic. “We should’ve come here on the first day!” she says. Moved, she embraces Teddy, inhales the soap-sweat scent of his neck. And that’s when she sees him, over Teddy’s shoulder. He’s running again, leaping and diving through the waves like a spindle through weave on elegant Labrador legs. It’s him, Hawkeye, she’s sure. He sprints past her. He has no time to say hello again. Five and a half months earlier, she is staring at her own phone. She picks it up, examines a crack that arcs down the screen like the lifeline of a palm. She makes the calls, telling the other women. The other other women, as she has come to think of them. She dreads each one. Nothing but voices at the other end, but so personal. What would be easier? Smoke signals. Does she feel guilty? No. He’d left her alone with his phone, more than enough time to take the numbers, place them in her own contacts. How stupid, how silly. Or maybe she was just doing him a final favor. Saving him the trouble. After the calls are done, she spends long hours looking at their pictures, their online presences. She’s seeking some clue, some indication of what distinguished them. As if they’d been marked from birth, as if it were just shitty destiny. One woman, Edna Goodwin Prentice, who with a name like that should have been a stately old New Yorker, an Astor, but is really 23 and a hipster barista from Silver Lake, just says, “Not again…” and sighs. She’s not interested in the specifics, the scope of Patrick’s fuckery. “I’ve got a social media block function and that’s all I need.” How long, if you don’t mind my asking. “Eight, nine months. Late last spring,” says Edna. “You can never tell the bad ones,” Edna says in a world-weary voice. “If only you could tell the good ones.” Can’t tell ‘em much, she says, and Edna giggles but it’s clear that 26


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neither knows what is funny about it. Clare is the woman in Florida, a 32-year-old R.N. The relationship had started in Tampa, they’d lived together for a year before Patrick moved to LA. Long distance, he’d gone back to visit once every two months. Her conversation with Clare is messy with tears and phlegm. Apologies. What are they apologizing for? On whose behalf ? Then suddenly, with a hiccup, Clare turns formal, stoic. Clare says, “Thank you, this can’t have been easy,” and hangs up. Are you going home for the anniversary? her sister texts her. No, she texts back, no money. Also, Teddy is coming that week. Week! Ah! But she doesn’t mention this to her sister. Her sister is older, works in insurance in Santa Barbara, carefully pencils her eyebrows every morning. She talks about her boyfriends from time to time, always boys and always plural. Skinny college and grad students in board shorts. Wish me luck, her sister writes. They have me staying in your room. Did you know they turned my room into an office? There’s a computer and an exercise bike in there. That’s what they call an office. Dad has played DISAPPROBATION in online Scrabble. She texts him, Story of my life. Skype feed of Teddy on his red couch, where she too has sat, has lain, has come. There is a succulent in a pot shimmering like fish scales on a table - it’s new. She asks about it, a tiny hiccup of fear rising in her. Why? “Oh that,” he says, “I got that the other day. Bring some life into this place.” It’s pretty! she says. “You’re pretty!” he says. A week! He’ll be there in just a few days. She shows him her bedroom, its blue walls, the woven tapestry she made in college and hopes he’ll ask about. He doesn’t. “Let’s see if we can stand each other for that long,” he says. Or maybe, she says, we’ll be finishing each others’... She waits for him… “Sentences,” he says. Sandwiches! she says. A part-time job, ten hours a week, keeping books at a design firm. Her boss doesn’t understand finances. “Oh brother,” he’s always saying, shaking his head. “No one told me I’d need to understand finances.” Dad is being weird, her sister texts. But he made this new casserole… Sometimes, she wishes she had a brother. A stoic stone of a confidant, an emotional anchor in the tempest of her family. More texts: Mom is such a bitch sometimes. “This place is dying,” says Teddy. “Jesus, it’s like the end of the 27


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world. Or 10 minutes before.” He’s fit clothes for a week in a backpack. A week. She hasn’t slept with someone in her bed for a week ever. How? She’s not sure - it seems both implausible and obvious. Perhaps it is her sense of time. There was Hawkeye though, who curled at her feet in his old age. “Everything here is so strange. The palms look like Dr. Seuss trees,” he says. Making out in her car. “You’re my favorite person to kiss,” he tells her. My lips feel like two hot dogs, she says. Among her friends he is alternatively amiable and distant. When not engaged, he stares into the middle distance - or pretends to. He tells everyone he works in marketing, but to the women he adds, “I paint in my spare time.” She asks about this. He says, “You guys are hippies and I’m just a yuppie interloper,” which is not an answer. She leaves him on his own. Talks to people across the room, across the yard, across the driveway or porch. She needs this perspective on him, this air between them. When she starts yawning, she takes him by the hand and leads him back home. The first night they undress and, both naked, she says, I have a yeast infection. We can’t have sex right now. “That’s okay,” he says. “We can...” I’m not feeling very sexy, she tells him. “That’s okay,” he says. In the night, she nearly pushes him off the bed. “Whoa,” he says, halfwaking her. She pulls a heavy arm over her, curls into it. The morning is cold for July. She offers to make pancakes. He doesn’t touch her. He sits on the bed and stares at his hands. She gets up to mix the batter. “Should I leave?” he says, coming into the kitchen. I’m making pancakes! she says. But he doesn’t understand what she means by this: Not now! Please! She asks him, Do you not believe me about the yeast infection? “It’s not that,” he says. “You’re distant. I think I should go.” I don’t know, she tells him, I don’t want you to. What she doesn’t say: She does not want him to waste his return ticket. She wants him calm, placid, at arm’s length. She will draw him in at night, have him cover her like a blanket. Don’t go, she says. They wake the morning after a party miraculously not hungover. They kiss in bed. I need food and coffee, she says. He runs to a local cafe and comes back with an almond milk latte, a bag of scones. Too many scones, she says, and he begins singing “Too many scones...” Back on the covers of the bed they kiss again. He tastes like coffee and blueberries. He pulls up her dress and licks at her through her underwear. I can’t, she says. But. But... Her head flushes, her neck goes warm. Hold on, she says. Just not that. After, she goes to the bathroom to pee, the currents of the orgasm 28


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still lingering at the ends of her fingers, the balls of her feet. But she isn’t flushed of herself, she is still here, still her. What was she expecting? Back in her bedroom, the smell of rising bread dough. Teddy, nude in the bed: “I believe you,” he says. “But I’m glad we did.” Museums. They stare at haystacks and portraiture and frames of graffiti. She points out that all of his favorites depict natural scenes, peasants, and always lit by magic hour light. “The magic what?” Teddy asks. She laughs, but he is genuine. How can she explain this to him? “Is it like a Perfect Day? Like the Lou Reed song?” No. They become distracted by a Frank Stella. “Stella!” he yells too loudly. They relocate to an old bar in Pasadena - a foreign neighborhood to her. Her phone chimes three times in quick succession. It is her sister, staying in that childhood bedroom. This room is fucked, her sister texts. Like super weird. I swear it’s haunted. Did you know it’s haunted? I keep waking up with a weight on my chest, like someone’s sitting there. And there’s weird shadows everywhere there shouldn’t be shadows. I like hear things. Things coming from the window blinds. Yes! she texts back. They never believed me! She shows Teddy. “They didn’t believe you?” he asks. “Why?” In my family, she says, if you’re haunted, you better just grin and bear it. As she drives them home, the sun arcs a gold-blue ring over the city. He sings to her, “Oh, it’s such a magic hour... I’m glad I spent it with you...” Show me your palm, she says. He gives it to her with the ceremony of a gift. She studies it, the soft creases, the calluses at the foot of each finger. She picks at one. “Rowing,” he says. Another callus, a raised bump like a bubble of bone on his right ring finger. “Paint brushes,” he says. “Pencils. Pens.” She looks at his lifeline, tracing it with a nail. Hm... she says. “What?” Nothing. Never mind. She looks at his hand from the side, angles his pinky, counts the notches in the skin: One... Two... “What’s that?” he asks. Love lines, she says. “How many?” he asks. Always hard to tell, she says. “Can’t tell ‘em much,” he says. “You’re all palms and palms, aren’t you?” The week grows warmer, the air briny. Twice he comes out of the bathroom in a towel, skin wet, and tells her she is distant, that she flinches when he touches her. He speaks softly, sadly, but it’s still an accusation. “You’re like a cat,” he says. “You want to be petted until you don’t, and then you bite.” Mom is finally listening, her sister texts. She got some holy water from the church. It’s in a Poland Spring bottle. This is absurd, her sister adds. 29


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“I’m falling in love with you,” he says. “Did you see that love line? On my palm?” No, she says. It is cruel, but she says it. No. He is a bath filled to the tub’s lip. And she must try to get in without spilling any of it? Maybe you love too easily, she says. Maybe you’re too intense. “Could the sum of your life be anything other than the sum of your loves?” he asks. Yes. Yes. Of course, she says. Time comes to her fragmented. Everything in shards, polaroids, bite-sized candy bars. But is that time or memory? For instance, how often was the room haunted? Had it been a continuity of haunting? Had it been two, three incidences, the stuff of nightmares, of childhood perception. The summer is over. Once again, she’s home, lying on her childhood bed, staring at the ceiling, sun dappled and water stained. She’s here to buy a loom, lightly used, small. She’ll drive it across the country in the back of a station wagon. She’s sold her old one to pay for it, for the trip. But this new loom will fit in the best-lit corner of her bedroom, by the window with the orange tree. It’s hard to remember this now. Teddy sends her texts. He left LA a day early. She counted three silent tears rolling down his cheek as she drove him to the airport. Silence for two days, then he began texting. She read them and put her phone down. I didn’t sign up for this, wrote Teddy. But he did, she knows. He not only signed up but put money down. There is so much food. She eats endless plates of leftovers, pasta, chicken piccata, saltimbocca. Her father has rediscovered cooking. He calls it painting with basil and wine. Her parents have no more dogs, just cats. She loves them all the same. She wraps them in her arms and dances with them, swaying back and forth. When had she become a cat person? And yet, alone in her childhood bedroom, she feels lonely. There are only two more nights left before she picks up the loom in Pennsylvania, and then drive long hours, alone. The Midwest highway, a galactic lightyear. “These have not been light years,” her father says one night at dinner. He has put on more weight, seems to be vanishing into flesh. He cooks for her but does not speak much. “They never were before,” says her mother. This loneliness makes her tired, makes her bones heavy. Where are 30


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the ghosts? she wonders. There’s no rustling of voices in the blinds, no fingers along their ridges. All this silence, the cats move like air, have none of Hawkeye’s comforting nail-clicking, tail thumping, panting. The lightly used loom belongs to a young woman named Sara. A teacher in rural Pennsylvania who has no time for weaving anymore, loves only her students and her plants. “Sara like Fleetwood Mac,” says Sara. Over tea, she will tell Sara about Teddy, about Patrick, about her father’s strange disappearance into himself, physically and mentally. After, she will say to Sara, There is more to me than men and my relationships to men! I swear! Sara will tell her, “You’ll find it. Don’t worry.” But presently, in her old bedroom, a rustling at the blinds. She turns, says, “Brother? Are you there?”

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Two Poems

Christa Forster

Jane moved her stove into a field. I asked what she meant, what her actions pointed to, and she told me they meant just that—the stove in the field. ***

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My brother, who shoots heroin in some North Oakland alley, calls me from a pay phone whenever a redheaded girl passes him on the street.

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The Succinctists Tom McEachin

Mr. William C. Gray Editor, Provo Daily Herald Dear Sir, I found your editorial attacking the tradition of tipping (July 2, 1960) tedious and dull, but worse, your entire premise was flawed. “Tips” could not possibly be, as you argued, an acronym for “To Insure Prompt Service.” Unless you find an underwriter who issues policies protecting one from shoddy waitressing, the proper word would be “ensure.” Are we to assume, then, it is “teps” you oppose? Regards, H. Branyard Biddington Provo High School (Ret.) Dear Mr. Biddington, For the past year, we at the Daily Herald have endured your weekly scoldings over grammatical issues in a spirit of enrichment and fair play. However, I believe you have crossed the line in your most recent attack. Can’t we act like grown-ups? Sincerely, William C. Gray, Editor Dear Sir: A “grown-up” should be able to tell the difference between essential and non-essential clauses. I have found four misuses of commas in yesterday’s edition alone. H. Branyard Biddington Provo High School (Ret.) Biddington, I’m sorry retirement is going badly because, clearly, you have more time on your hands than you know what to do with. Perhaps you need a hobby more satisfying than the counting of commas. (I hear bowling is good exercise.) For the record, we ascribe to the United Press Inter34


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national style manual and its rules of grammar, including essential and non-essential clauses. Gray Sir: For the record, I have no qualms with UPI style; your comprehension of said manual, however, is sadly lacking. A former colleague of mine suggested you were the least sagacious editor in the history of journalism. I have set him straight, however: you are the most unsagacious editor in the history of journalism. HBB Biddington, Helen Waite is our new editor in charge of essential and non-essential clauses. If you have anything further to say on the subject, you can go to Helen Waite. Gray Sir: It is bad enough to endure the incessant assaults of shoddy grammar in your publication, but I won’t stand for profanity. What is truly sad about your tenure at the Daily Herald is that your presence there deprives some village of its idiot. HBB Biddington, Look, pal, I’ve had enough of your daily drivel. Your letters are no longer welcome at the Daily Herald, so take it somewhere else. Gray P.S. You may find Wednesday’s lead editorial of particular interest. Editorial, Daily Herald, July 6, 1960 ERUDITE SHOWBOATING For the past year, the editorial pages of the Daily Herald have carried stubborn correspondences from Mr. H. Branyard Biddington, a former Provo High English teacher who has taken his self-appointed role as guardian of the language to annoying levels. It appears our learned scholar (ret.) is masking his own insecurities and dwafling comprehen35


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sion of the more relevant issues of our day with his weekly bombast. Therefore, we will no longer subject our readers to his relentless, often irelevant diatribes. Sir:

“Irrelevant” is spelled with two r’s, but beyond that, the cavalier attitude displayed by the Daily Herald on Wednesday recklessly undermines one’s ability to communicate. Without precise language, every aspect of our human experience, even our comprehension of “the more relevant issues of the day,” is diminished. Regards, H. Branyard Biddington Provo High School (Ret.) P.S. “Dwafling” is not a word, you obtuse, pontifical twit. Western Union, July 8, 1960

BIDDINGTON, YOU CANNOT WIN, NOT WHEN I BUY INK BY THE BARREL. GRAY

Western Union, July 8, 1960 SIR, IF IGNORANCE IS BLISS YOU MUST BE ECSTATIC. BIDDINGTON

Salt Lake Tribune, July 12, 1960 Linguists from around the state, clad in tweed jackets and bow ties, descended upon the front steps of the Provo Daily Herald yesterday to protest the newspaper’s editorial policies. Mr. H. Branyard Biddington, a retired English teacher, staged a mock debate with a scarecrow, which had the name of the Daily Herald’s editor, William C. Gray, scrawled on a placard around its neck. When the editor confronted Mr. Biddington, the linguists shouted him down with cries of “Verbosist!” and he retreated to his office. Mr. Gray later returned to the steps in an attempt to negotiate, but again they shouted him down. “To heck with it,” Mr. Gray shouted back. “If you can do better, go ahead and try.” The editor stepped aside and gestured toward the front door. To his chagrin, dozens of protestors, armed with hardbound copies of Elements of Style, charged the building, shrieking “Verbosist!” as they stormed by. Reporters and copy editors scrambled out of every exit and within minutes the intruders had seized control of the newsroom. 36


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Fearful the situation might escalate into violence, the Daily Herald’s publisher allowed the drama to unfold rather than risk intervention from the authorities. Salt Lake Tribune, July 15, 1960 Three days after the initial “Provo Uprising,” a group of radical linguists appears to have full control of the Provo Daily Herald. The linguists, who call themselves “Succinctists,” reflecting their passionate dedication to concise language and proper grammar, didn’t immediately seize the entire building, thanks to strong resistance from the letterpress operators. “I don’t care who you’re with,” foreman Eddie Vagance reportedly told the Succinctists. “If you don’t have a union card, you ain’t coming back here.” However, once the standoff had lasted forty hours, the pressmen went home due to the Succinctists’ refusal to guarantee overtime pay. Salt Lake Tribune, July 16, 1960 Editor William C. Gray’s bid to retake control of the Provo Daily Herald failed on Friday when only one member of his staff, Society Editor Lorraine Applebaum, showed up to challenge the Succinctists. Mr. Gray was stunned not only by the ferocity of the grammarians and their growing legions, but also by the mass exodus of his former underlings. He had notified his staff by telegram they were to gather in front of the building and, once amassed, Mr. Gray would lead the charge. When only Mrs. Applebaum showed up, however, Mr. Gray settled for shouting taunts at the Succinctists, who remained inside and ignored him. “Four days and you still haven’t published!” Mr. Gray yelled at the front door. “The news isn’t as easy as it looks, is it?” Salt Lake Tribune, July 19, 1960 Seven days after seizing control of the Provo Daily Herald, the first issue of The Succinctist Review went to press on Monday. The two-page broadsheet consisted mostly of poetry, book reviews and grammar lessons. Daily Herald editor William C. Gray continues to hold vigil in front of the building, shouting taunts to the Succinctists inside. “Ha!” Mr. Gray called out yesterday, pinching the publication like a soiled diaper. “Two pages! You call this ‘all the news that’s fit to 37


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print’?” Mrs. Lorraine Applebaum, his lone confederate this past week, snatched the threadbare journal from Mr. Gray’s hand, offering a quick inspection before marching up the steps. Peeking inside the front door, Mrs. Applebaum announced, “If you ever need a food editor, I have some pithy recipes.” The Succinctist Review, Vol. 1, No. 1, July, 18, 1960 Table of Contents Page One – Editorial Comments, H. Branyard Biddington Page One – Poet’s Corner, H. Branyard Biddington Page Two – Ode to the Cryptogram, H. Branyard Biddington Page Two – On Essential and Non-Essential Clauses, H. Branyard Biddington Mr. H. Branyard Biddington Editor, The Succinctist Review Sir: I find your publication lacking in relevance and your dwafling obsession with grammar rather prissy. William C. Gray Editor, Daily Herald (Ret.) DEMAND LETTER July 21, 1960 FROM: The Law Firm of Jenkins, Connolly, and Jenkins RE: An Order to Cease and Desist. On behalf of the Provo Daily Herald, you are hereby ordered forthwith to immediately surrender control of the Daily Herald newspaper building. Failure to comply with any and all demands to cease and desist your occupation of said building within twenty-four (24) hours may lead to legal action and prosecution against you, which could result in a severe response, including, but not limited to, fines or possible prison sentencing.

F

Wordy; revise and resubmit -HBB

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The Denver Post, Aug. 11, 1960 Within a month of the uprising and with troops numbering well into the hundreds, Utah’s Succinctist revolt has pushed northward from Provo into Salt Lake City. Under the guise of a tour group, a company of Succinctists infiltrated the Salt Lake Tribune newsroom Wednesday. Using donuts to lure reporters from their desks and bombarding editors with scripture passages from Strunk and White, they seized control of their second Utah newspaper. Utah Gov. George Clyde has ordered the National Guard to be on alert but so far has indicated he does not plan to intervene. The Succinctist Review, Vol. 1, No. 12, Oct. 3, 1960 CIRCULATION SOARS AS SUCCINCTIST MOVEMENT GROWS With this issue, our publication is now being mailed to all fifty states, even Mississippi. More important, the physical presence of the Succinctist Movement is pushing outward, with chapters currently in Denver, Los Angeles and Berkeley. Others in Detroit, Birmingham and Chicago are in the organizational stages The Succinctist Review, Vol. 1, No. 15, Oct. 24, 1960 NIXON SCORES FRIGHTFULLY LOW Perhaps the biggest contribution we Succinctists can make to next month’s presidential election is to rate candidates on the issue of grammar, the most important component of statesmanship. We have critiqued the language of all four Nixon-Kennedy debates and have found the scores alarming. Vice President Nixon started poorly with his incessant use of the verbose crutch phrase, “There is no question but that . . .” throughout the first debate. The second round was marred by Mr. Nixon’s reference to “Senator President Eisenhower.” In last Friday’s final debate, the vice president showed an abnormal reliance on non-essential clauses. All four debates have been tainted by Mr. Nixon’s run-on sentences. Therefore, it is imperative we throw the full clout of the Succinctist Movement in support of Mr. Kennedy. The election is expected to be extremely close and we implore Succinctists to make our votes count. The Succinctist Review, Vol. 1, No. 18, Nov. 14, 1960 SUCCINCTISTS DECIDE PRESIDENTIAL RACE! With Mr. Kennedy’s election – or more precisely, Mr. Nixon’s defeat – as our crowning achievement, we Succinctists have proven our vital39


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ity and influence. Our chapters are thriving, and our puissance surely will continue to grow. BULLETIN: Succinctist founder arrested PROVO, Utah (UPI) Nov. 20, 1960 – A siege on two Utah newspapers by the Succinctist Movement ended today with the arrest of the group’s founder outside his mother’s home. Acting on a tip from neighbors, Provo Police took H. Branyard Biddington into custody this afternoon as he arrived for Sunday dinner. Mr. Biddington went quietly with police and immediately ordered the Succinctists to surrender control of the two newspapers the group had seized earlier this year, the Provo Daily Herald and the Salt Lake Tribune. The Denver Post, Jan. 18, 1961 Utah’s Succinctist Movement came to an unceremonious end on Tuesday when founder H. Branyard Biddington was sentenced to three year’s probation for his role in seizing control of two newspapers. Mr. Biddington, 67, had quietly ended the revolt in November after his arrest at his mother’s home. During his initial court appearance, he pled guilty to charges of criminal trespass and inciting a riot. Under terms of his probation, Mr. Biddington is to have no contact with disreputable characters and English teachers for three years. He also is prohibited from writing letters to the editor during that time. * * * MEMORANDUM From: H. Branyard Biddington To: All former Chapter Presidents Date: June 6, 1964 For the past three years, I have watched and listened. Today, I am ready to speak. I call on all former Chapter Presidents to join me in a revitalized Succinctist Movement. With the upcoming presidential election, I invite you to renew the fight for statesmanship by voting to elect Sen. Barry Goldwater for president. California Chapter Report Sept. 26, 1964 Dear Mr. Biddington, I regret to report that there doesn’t seem to be much support for 40


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Sen. Goldwater in Berkeley. In fact, I had to take down his signs to avoid getting beaten up. On a brighter note, I am happy to announce that other groups are joining us, setting up their tables next to ours, gleaning inspiration from our cause. The area is developing into a hotbed of political activity, and it’s starting to roar at full boil. Your loyal representative, Delbert Oyler MEMORANDUM From: H. Branyard Biddington To: All Chapter Presidents Date: Sept. 28, 1964 Congratulations to Mr. Delbert Oyler for his success in Berkeley, California. His information table at the corner of Bancroft and Telegraph not only has become our most successful chapter, we appear to be causing a stir on the University of California campus. I must, however, remind Mr. Oyler to be vigilant in guarding against the mixing of metaphors in chapter reports. Mr. Biddington, I am happy to report I am earning favor with the other groups. I came up with succinct monikers for the hip, radical students (“hippies”), and a group that wanted to call itself WIDE – Women In Demand of Equality – I have dubbed “feminists.” I’ve also helped a group I call “gay liberation,” although I won’t delve too deeply into that at this point. Seeing the vibrancy of these groups, I feel we must get with it, or these important social issues will pass us by. Oyler Mr. Oyler, Our group shall in no way become “with it,” whatever that means. We will not align ourselves with this or any other of today’s vernacular. Remember, there is no more important social issue or higher calling than purity of language. H. Branyard Biddington Mr. Biddington, You will be happy to know I have become acquainted with members of a group that shares your passion for language. They call themselves 41


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“Beatniks” and they have invited me to one of their poetry readings. Respectfully, Delbert Oyler Mr. Oyler, This “Beatnik” crowd sounds like the sort of group with whom one should associate. Please keep us apprized. H. Branyard Biddington Biddington, These Beatniks are far out cats, man. They took me to Oakland, where I rapped with another cat named Huey Newton, a Negro revolutionary. He is dynamic and I believe the world will be hearing from him in the near future. (He seemed to like the name “Black Panthers” I suggested for the group he is forming. He called me his “brother” and gave me this far out handshake.) Afterward, Huey introduced me to his friend Gray, a cat from Utah who seemed to know who you were. They both also believe we need to get with it. Power to the people, Delbert P.S. Think paisley, man. Think revolution. Mr. Oyler, Clearly you have lost the focus of our mission. I have no choice but to relieve you as Berkeley Post President. A replacement is en route. H. Branyard Biddington Biddy baby, All I can say about replacements is far out and right on, man. We need all the dudes we can get. Better hurry, though. This cat Gray is taking us underground. Find us if you can. Your servitudant, Moonglow (aka Delbert) P.S. Lose the bow tie, man. Turn on. Tune in. Drop out. The Denver Post, Nov. 12, 1964 Utah’s Succinctist Movement appears to have died a second death as the trouncing of Barry Goldwater in last week’s presidential election 42


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was as humiliating to the Succintists as it was to the Arizona senator. While acknowledging a “reorganization,” Succinctist founder H. Branyard Biddington insists his alliance is simply taking a sabbatical. However, virtually all of the Succinctist chapters also have been abandoned. The lone exception is the branch in Berkeley, Calif., which has been seized by radical students. Official minutes, Succinctist Board Meeting, Nov. 14, 1964 The meeting was cancelled due to lack of a quorum. *** Saturday Review, March 14, 1971 Tobacco Trickery Mr. H. Branyard Biddington, founder of the short-lived yet arguably influential Succinctist Movement of 1960, has surfaced after more than a decade of silence to take on tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds. The old fashioned school teacher has taken offense at the advertising slogan, “Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should.” Biddington ridiculed the company for the use of “like” as an adverbial conjunction instead of the grammatically preferred “as a cigarette should.” “This recklessness with our language cannot be tolerated. I call upon Succinctists everywhere to wake their silenced voices,” Biddington said at a press conference in North Carolina. Biddington hopes to recapture the spirit of the ’60s, when his group of revolutionary linguists caused a minor stir in Utah. Letter to the editor, Saturday Review, March 28, 1971 Your essay regarding my battle with R.J. Reynolds earns a failing grade in the areas of accuracy, thoroughness, and fair play for its woefully incomplete reporting and its trite, condescending tone. This “minor stir” to which you refer encompassed dozens of regional chapters and all fifty states, influencing the outcome of a presidential election – not to mention a notable resurgence three years later that helped bring form and order to the chaos of a generation. Also, I take offense at your labeling me “old fashioned”; the compound adjective must be hyphenated. Such omission in a magazine of your stature is shamefully negligent. Worse, on three occasions in your last edition, you ended sentences with prepositions. I dare predict the “short-lived” Succinctist Movement shall outlive your amateurish publication. H. Branyard Biddington Founder, The Succinctists 43


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Biddington, Just read in Rolling Stone about you sticking it to Big Tobacco. Beaucoup congrats. Thought you’d like an update on the work you helped us start here in Berkeley. Last week, Gray and I met the granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper dude. (I think the chick, Patty, said she was Symbionese, but she didn’t look foreign to me.) Anyway, she and Gray have ideas for finding the bread to finance our entire organization. Peace, Moonglow P.S. Gray said to tell you he’s going to call us the Anti-Succinctists, but he’s just hasslin you. Op-Ed column, The New York Times, March 4, 1972 Editor’s Note: The author of this column, Mr. H. Branyard Biddington, is founder of the Succinctist Movement. Cigarette advertising has been expunged from the airwaves and will never again appear on American television, thanks to the revitalized Succinctist Movement. Our success can serve as a lesson to all. Our modest grass roots organization has succeeded over the course of the past year in bringing about great changes, not just within a giant corporation, but to an entire industry. As our voice and momentum grew, Winston launched a feeble rebuttal in a new advertising campaign – “What do you want, good grammar or good taste?” – but the industry was no match for the Succinctists, who bombarded tobacco vendors and smokers alike with our message. Letter to the editor, The New York Times, March 11, 1972 It was with great amusement that I read Mr. H. Branyard Biddington’s dwafling Op-Ed piece in the Times (March 4, 1972). In an effort to be succinct, Mr. Biddington has taken a shortcut through the truth. His preposterous claim to have been responsible for ending tobacco advertising on television is both delusional and comical. My only surprise is that he did not also take credit for the lunar landing, the invention of the calculator and the breakup of the Beatles. He did, however, manage to eminently succeed in one important area. Mr. Biddington has identified for us the real verbosists of this world. William C. Gray Location undisclosed 44


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Letter to the editor, The New York Times, March 18, 1972 An open letter to Mr. William C. Gray: I surrender. The Succinctists have launched revolutions, influenced a presidential election and made the tobacco industry quake, yet we are no match for the pitiable stubbornness of your poisoned pen. I refer, of course, to the split infinitive in the penultimate sentence of your recent letter. I shall let this embarrassing gaffe pass without further comment, however; we shall instead allow it to stand as your lasting legacy. Godspeed, Mr. Gray. Respectfully, H. Branyard Biddington Provo, Utah

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Maneuvers at Equinox Marjorie Stelmach

Sunlight enters unannounced, a scroll slid furtively under my door— no message, only transparent distraction to keep me from spotting a scimitar leaning against the dresser, another swiping a slice from my drapes, while a hundred slim needles sieve through the grid of the window screen: this is a full-on assault. And now, a detachment of thick gold beams unfurls to tangle my steps as I stumble downstairs. It’s a dangerous thing, a season in transit. Downstairs, I find that the kitchen is already taken: a slick, presumptuous dawn has dispatched single spies from afar to tongue the rim of my cup, taste the print of my lip gloss, lick at the sugar grains scattered on the placemats. Fingers of sun are sliding the curve of the creamer; they know how I want to be stroked. All this, a deployment of lust to test my defenses—all tactic, all tease, this winter sun.

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But I’m no fool. Faithless, I say to myself, every golden inch. And this? It will pass—a brief fever. I know. I’ve been burned. Luscious, yes, but nothing a woman might lean on later. In her need. In her dark. Just one more late-life lover disguised in glistening sweep and sheen. Like the swipe of a sickle, one wicked-quick kiss before the long cold.

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Screech Owl Anne Colwell

Danielle listened at the dark window. The screech owl had come back to the hickory in the side yard just at the end of August, just after Don left. She couldn’t see the owl now, but she squinted out toward the dark shape of the tree and imagined the bird as she’d seen it two mornings ago, just at dawn, a small, startled softness with round eyes and mottled gray markings. She’d gone looking for it, put on her shorts and running shoes in the dark and wrapped herself in a plaid flannel shirt that had been Don’s a long time ago. Then she snuck down the stairs as though there were someone in the house to wake. She started across the lawn, stopping when the owl stopped, rationing even the breath that bloomed in front of her in a white cloud, trying to pull herself into herself so as not to frighten the thing. She walked heel-toe across the grass that wet her ankles and needed mowing. It took a long time. That was one of the things that had been surprising her lately. For most of her life, time had been boxes, numbers, lines. Places to be, lists to check off. Time moved lockstep, marching across an ordered calendar. Now, time was water. It rushed around her, moving her forward, or it pooled and held her still, as it did now on the dark lawn. Sometimes she felt like she could reach out her hand and dip it into the day as you would a river. She moved toward the woods and the sky above her lightened. She hadn’t heard the owl for a while. So long that she became sure it had flown or gone to sleep. Soon the other birds started, thrush and sparrow and the wren. The day birds began and she crept toward the edge of the yard where it met the trees and put her hand on the trunk of the hickory. She looked up and there it was. She only saw it a moment before it erupted into flight, so she’d never be sure, but she imagined the owl was female and thought she heard something almost womanly in the bird’s startled cry.

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Again, tonight, she heard it. The cry had woken her. A different song. What Peterson called “a descending whinny.� Loud, now, insistent, over and over. Protecting territory, marking the boundaries of home. Good luck, lady, she thought, and tucked her cold feet up under her and rested her forehead against the wood of the windowsill. The cry began again, slid down the scale and disappeared into a pool of soft chirping, the late September crickets, crying about the cold.

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The Ways Ice Can Freeze Michael Austin

Dillon’s girlfriend was late again. At least this time she called. He appreciated that. Usually he was left to stew, watching minutes come and go, estimating the damage it might do to call and ask for an update. “Unmoored” was how their most recent break-up had left her, and although it was not a word Dillon would have used, as he considered it, that was exactly how he had felt, too. Now that they were together, he felt tethered—more in the sense of being confined than connected. She needed another hour. The clock above Dillon’s sofa showed seven-fourteen. He puffed out his cheeks. “Let’s just say eight-thirty,” he said, claiming the extra sixteen minutes for himself. It was like losing a drawn-out tennis match to her and then dropping one of her balls into his bag as she shook hands with fans. It was something. With every passing day anymore, he needed to take something. “Why not eight-fifteen?” Megan said. “I promise I’ll be there at eight-fifteen on the dot.” “Because it’s seven-fifteen right now, and it’s going to be seven-seventeen before we get off the phone,” Dillon said, careful not to overemphasize any syllables. “I’m going to go for a run.” “A run?” she said. “I wanted to do it earlier but I didn’t think I’d have time before we went out,” he said. “You could have gone for a run,” she said. “No, I couldn’t,” he said. “Not if I was going to be ready by seven.” “You could have just said you needed more time,” she said. “But we said seven. We could have said seven-thirty, or I could have said that I don’t want to go out tonight. I was just sticking to the plan.” Hearing that, she went quiet, and he realized he had said too much, in the wrong tone. “Okay?” he said. Ignoring her silence was his attempt to make her forget about it. “I’m going to go for a half-hour. I’ll take a shower and be ready by eight-thirty. That gives you more than an hour. It’s fine.” He took his usual route, walking to the corner and leaning into a light pole to stretch. His fingers were cold already, and he knew his lungs were going to sting since he had not gone for a run in so long. 52


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He tried to recall what had kept him from running lately, but the few events he could remember folded into one another. It wasn’t a series of things—it was just one long thing for the past two months. Late nights at work. The steady routine with Megan. His inability to act on, or even develop, his nascent thoughts. All part of the same flowing river. He crossed the street, entered the park and descended a set of flagstone steps before breaking into a slow trot, so slow that someone could have walked next to him and kept up. He had learned that from Smythe in college. Every time the two of them ran together, Dillon grew impatient at how long Smythe waddled along. Twenty minutes later, when Smythe quickened his pace, Dillon would struggle to stay with him. At times, Smythe disappeared around bends on the lakefront path, and soon Dillon would regain sight of him, either from behind or face-to-face as the two of them passed in opposite directions, Smythe already heading back to their starting point. Dillon always felt better after a run with Smythe. It was the accountability, the rising tide that Dillon could not generate on his own. Tonight, Dillon was alone. Long past sunset, the lights and the snow, matted and shiny in spots, illuminated the park in a way that made him take notice. He swiveled his neck as he ran, and considered stopping to behold the park’s moody radiance from all angles. Thin black tree branches tangled with each other, making spider webs against the backlit sky, and when Dillon reached the crest of a meadow, he slowed to a standstill at the sight of an igloo. It would have rendered him speechless had someone been with him, and in his aloneness, his mind went blank. He scanned for people, some clue as to why he was seeing what he was seeing, and then he set out slowly for the quaint little house of snow. Practically walking in place, he circled it, bending to glance at the entrance but not kneeling to look all the way inside. He ran his bare hands along the dome—firm like white ice. Symmetrical, smooth. It must have taken days to build. A parent and children, teenagers, a school group. It could have been there for weeks. Dillon’s feet were in motion again, away from the igloo, toward the lakefront. Even before he quickened his pace he could feel endorphins producing their familiar waves of euphoria and numbing the pain in his knee. It was then that he asked himself, as he did every time he ran after an extended break, Why don’t I do this more often? His strides were becoming more fluid, his breathing more regular. He inhaled on every fourth step, and exhaled over the following three. Plenty of path ahead, he told himself. Longer, not faster. 53


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A huge white moon hovered over the black water of Lake Michigan, and it occurred to Dillon that the moon’s radiance was part of the glow he had been taken by in the park. The entire frozen night was ablaze because of that moon. On summer afternoons, the lake’s countless shades of green and pale blue inspired comparisons to the Caribbean Sea. It was hard to fathom that this was the same body of water—oil black with a strip of white running from Dillon’s feet all the way to the Michigan horizon. A moonglow highway to the other shore. He imagined the curve of the earth, and the curve of the lake’s surface, the same curve that made Chicago skyscrapers appear to sink as Dillon sailed north on Piedmont in the race to Mackinac Island. He knew Milwaukee was not far ahead when he could see only three Chicago buildings poking out of the water behind him. When they were gone, the long part of the race began. Curved water, he thought, a water hill in the middle of the lake. These were thoughts that came to Dillon effortlessly when his endorphins were in control. Maybe he had overreacted to Megan’s tardiness. It’s an hour of my life, he thought, and I get to run through the park and along the lake during that hour— and still get to go to dinner with a woman who is crazy about me. He picked up his pace, anticipating luxurious extra minutes in a hot shower. He sprinted across the pedestrian bridge spanning Lake Shore Drive, and when he was back in the park he accelerated even more, slashing through an imaginary finish line. Fingers interlocked on top of his head, he closed his eyes momentarily and then, in the distance, he saw it again. Curved, smooth. His mind was clear and open as his fingertips alighted on the vinyl mesh of his running shoes. Bent and relaxed, he was in harmony with himself, free of the body’s constraints, almost formless. He straightened up, shook out his legs and walked. Soon, his hands were sliding along the contours of the igloo again, and when he leaned into it he could reach the top of the dome, where a perfect hole had been made. He kneeled in front of the entrance. The floor was smooth like the outside walls. He crawled in, bathed by brightness and sound-deadening calm. “Hello,” he said, the word stopping sharply on the final “o.” “Igloo,” he said to the same effect. Above him, the hole revealed a patch of black sky and the gauzy evidence of electric light. He scooted around the interior perimeter, back pressed against the wall, eyes trained on the space beyond the hole above. Branches squirmed into the sky and back down again like the snake hair of Medusa, and a knife of moonlight landed on Dillon’s chest. He slid down until the back of his head 54


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touched the floor and when it did, moonlight covered his face. His arms found each other, linking across his chest. He closed his eyes. Dillon wished he could relax. He wished that lying down in an igloo and closing his eyes would be comforting, and a certain kind of warm. But it felt like a trick. Just a little longer, he told himself, until something happens. He slowed his breathing, drawing tiny amounts of air through his nose, just enough to keep his lungs working. The park was as quiet as he could remember it being in the nine years he had lived across the street from it. No radios, no games, no birds, bicycles, picnics or pedestrians. No footsteps. No leaves on the trees, no wind. No whoosh of traffic on Lake Shore Drive. Only Dillon in an igloo, Dillon and his silent breath, his thumping pulse, his coursing blood. When he awoke, he was not startled. He knew he had not slept for long, though it had been long enough for him to dream that Megan came to him. She crawled into the igloo and lay beside him in silence. He knew that she knew. She did not try to nuzzle into him for fear of the sound it would make. The two of them lay on their backs, feet wedging together down the entrance tunnel. Eventually they began to talk, but there was no sound. The words passed from one of them to the other in silence. “I’m late,” Dillon said. “I know,” Megan said. “It’s okay.” “I need more time,” Dillon said. “I know,” Megan said. “Take all the time you need.” “I need an hour,” Dillon said. “Or a year.” “It’s okay,” Megan said. “Take the time. We don’t have to be anywhere.” “Thank you,” Dillon said. “We have a reservation,” Megan said. “They don’t take reservations,” Dillon said. “You just wait.” Dillon awoke with those words in his head: you just wait. He crawled out of the igloo. His body temperature had dropped, sweat had evaporated from his skin, and parts of his clothing were wet. Run-walking through the park and up the flagstone steps, he thought about asking Megan if she would be okay with staying in and ordering Thai food instead of going out. He could see her dropping her hands, accusing him of passive-aggression. She would say that they still have plenty of time tonight, that they would have been standing around drinking this whole time anyway, waiting for a table to open up. By now, she would argue, the place is probably starting to clear out a little. He imagined himself saying that it was not about time—it was 55


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just that he did not feel like going out anymore. But we made this plan, he could hear her saying. I just spent an hour getting ready. An hour? he would say to himself. Or two hours? When Dillon returned to the light pole at the corner where he always stretched, Megan was walking away from his building. She moved steadily in heels and her formal wool overcoat. “What are you doing?” Dillon said, jogging up to her. “I was going home,” she said. “It’s freezing. What are you doing?” “I’m just getting home from my run.” “I can see that.” “Come on,” he said. “I’ll be quick.” Dillon put his arm around Megan, and in that moment all he wanted to do was comfort her. He wanted to be strong. To treat her to the charms of their city. He had often thought of Megan’s tardiness as a kind of control, or disregard at best, but just as often he reminded himself that some qualities of hers far outweighed that one. Shivering on his sidewalk, he lived through that truth yet again. She had a way of dipping her chin almost imperceptibly, and adjusting her eyes to meet his, that forced him to relent no matter what had been holding him or them back. He chose on this night to be grateful that she was a part of his life. I could be married to Megan, he thought in the shower. The things they differed on were not as bothersome to him as they had been with other women he had dated. Plenty of path ahead, he reminded himself, endorphins still firing. Longer, not faster. He wiped his feet dry one last time and stepped out of the bathroom. Megan was sitting on his couch, still wearing her dark coat, a red scarf around her neck. “Aren’t you hot?” Dillon said. “I’m fine.” “I’ll dress fast. You want anything?” “I’m fine,” she said. Hair still wet, Dillon walked toward her, sliding one arm into his sport coat. Like a bird angling through the sky. He straightened up and shook out his sleeves, tugged his lapel and slapped it flat against his chest. “Everything okay?” he said, asking more about his clothing choices than her mood. She nodded. “Ready?” he said. She nodded again, and he knew to take a seat next to her on the couch. He was struck by how petite and lovely her ear was, especially with waves of her brown hair tucked behind it. He 56


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waited for her to look at him. “What’s going on?” he said. “I don’t know,” Megan said. “It’s like ten o’clock.” Dillon looked at the wall clock behind them. “It’s nine-twelve.” “By the time we get a taxi, drive there, wait for a table…” she said. “You said it would be clearing out by now,” Dillon said. “I never said that.” She pivoted to almost face him. “Well, you’ve said it in the past around this time,” he said. “We’ll walk straight to the best table in the house. You’ll have a piece of super white tuna in your mouth thirty minutes from this very moment.” Her eyes were fixed on the far end of the hallway. She swayed her head back and forth as if to say, “That’s debatable.” “Come on,” Dillon said. She did not move, did not respond, and he let out a sigh for effect. He took off his jacket and draped it over a worn leather wingback chair that matched his 19th century apartment but not the other furniture in it. She looked at him for the first time since the sidewalk. Dillon’s arched eyebrows were a substitute for having to ask, “What now?” He moved his eyes quickly to the shelves full of wooden crates, and back to her. She answered with the most subtle shrug. He worked up another sigh as he reached into a crate for the spiral. “Just pick one,” she said. “Forget the book tonight.” “Why? What’s the difference?” “I’m just sick of the book,” she said. “But it’s information. It’s useful. I mean…I’m not an expert. Are you, all of a sudden?” “But it’s not that serious,” she said. “Just pick one and open it.” “It’s not that serious but it is very expensive and rare, and there’s no reason to like…squander it,” Dillon said. “Why not make it work in our favor?” “How bad could it be if you picked the wrong bottle?” she said. “I don’t know,” he said. “It wouldn’t change our lives, but there is no reason to take that chance. It takes two seconds to read the notes.” “Fine.” “Jesus,” he said. It was his way of announcing that the power dynamic had shifted, that he had regained a foothold. “Okay. What are we ordering? Sushi? Thai? What?” “I don’t care,” Megan said, unraveling her scarf. “You don’t care?” he said. “No—you pick.” 57


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He pulled the spiral notebook open, flipping several pages at a time. He had already decided on Thai. “Red or white?” he said. “I don’t care,” Megan said. She was unbuttoning her coat. “Riesling,” Dillon said. Megan soured her face just enough for Dillon to know that of all wines, that was the one she would rather not have, but okay, she would drink a glass if he opened it. “Just not too sweet,” she said. “Spatlese.” “Kabinett,” he said. “Are you telling me what I like?” “No,” Dillon said. “I’m telling you the name of what you like.” “Okay, Kabinett—whatever.” “Oh, please,” Dillon said. “It’s just what it’s called, and it’s written right here in front of me. I don’t pretend to know this stuff. That’s why I always go to the spiral.” She closed her eyes and nodded, as if to say, You’ve made your point. “It’s foreign to me, too,” he said, softening. “It’s not like I knew the word ‘Kabinett’ a year ago.” Christ, he thought. Has it been a year already? It was cold the day the wine was delivered, but was it December or February? “When did my uncle Jack die?” he said. “January,” Megan said. “Middle of January. The twelfth?” “So, eleven months,” he said. “He’s been gone eleven months.” “Why?” she said. “Just…you know…I said ‘a year ago’ and it reminded me of the day the wine came.” “It was kind of snowing, wasn’t it?” she said. “I don’t remember,” Dillon said. “I don’t think I even went outside when the truck got here.” “Do you miss Jack?” she said, glancing at the wingback draped with Dillon’s blazer. “Yeah.” Megan walked to him. She cupped the back of his head with her hand. “You were a good nephew to him,” she said. “He appreciated you.” Dillon nodded his head like a boy. He knew he would not cry but he also knew not to speak, because the words would get caught and that would cause Megan to comfort him even more and say, “Shhh,” and he did not want the night to turn into that. She pulled his head down onto her neck and shoulder. Dillon surrendered, one hand on the small 58


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of her back, the other clutching the spiral. “I’m okay,” he said, lifting his head. “I can’t believe it’s been almost a year.” He moved toward the shelves, and before returning the spiral to one of the crates, he held it up. “I think this is my favorite thing,” he said. “The wine’n’wingback are great, but the spiral is the best. All of his little notes and doodles.” Megan had been the one to dub Dillon’s inheritance the “wine’n’wingback of Jack.” When she suggested that Dillon could sell some of the wine soon after it arrived, he told her that he would never do that, and she should not bring it up again. “Let’s eat some Thai and drink some wine,” he said. “Not too sweet. From Germany—or Denmark. Wherever the good stuff is from.” His feigning ignorance brought a smile to Megan’s face. “I’ll prepare a slurry,” he said, his face lighting up at the mention of the fastest way to chill a bottle. It was yet another thing he had learned from the spiral, and he tapped its cover in recognition. Megan nodded an acknowledgement, a surrender. “It’ll be ready to drink in fifteen minutes—twenty tops,” he said. She gritted her teeth and offered up a low growl, a sound that stood in for a playful, “I want to kill you right now.” “What?” he said, now teasing her. “Do you think I have a Kabinett Riesling chilling and ready to go at all times?” He looked at the label. “A Kabinett Riesling from Mosel?” “Oh, is that from Mosel?” she said. “And who is the producer?” “Why, thank you for asking,” Dillon said. “This particular Kabinett Riesling comes to us from…” “Ahh-ahh-ahh,” Megan said. “I don’t even want to know.” “Well,” Dillon said, slouching to run the joke to the end of its line. “It’s from Mosel. The Mosel region. And it’s a Kabinett. A Kabinett Riesling. From Mosel.” This time she said it out loud, as she often did when she was feeling buoyant: “I am going to kill you!” Dillon turned dramatically toward the kitchen, playing the part of the stiff wine steward, carrying the bottle as if it were a newborn. By the time the noodles and curry arrived, Megan had finished two glasses of Riesling, and Dillon could tell she was starting to feel it. Her eyes and speech trailed just behind the movement of her head each time she turned to address him. The room was starting to glow for him, too, and he was wondering if they were in for a beautiful, warm night, or if a vicious fight was on its way.

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Dillon finished putting the leftovers in the refrigerator before rinsing out the wine glasses and brushing his teeth. Megan was asleep in her clothes on his bed. He removed her shoes and unzipped her skirt, pulling it down over her hips and draping it on a wooden chair piled with books. He unbuttoned her blouse, slipped it off her arms, and pulled it out from under her. She made little noises that said Don’t bother me and Thank you at the same time. Dillon pulled his sheet and blanket up to their necks, and they slept. In the morning, Megan left early. Dillon had not bothered rousing himself awake, saying “bye” without opening his eyes when she clacked toward him to kiss him on the forehead. When he awoke two hours later, there was a note on the bed. “Thank you for dinner. Sorry last night was kind of a bust. It’s probably my fault. Have a great day. Love, Megan.” He had received enough of those notes to know that he would not be seeing her that day. This was fine with Dillon because the sunlight warming his bedroom gave him energy—energy he did not think he would have had after drinking the equivalent of a bottle-and-a-half of wine himself. His legs felt tight, and fatigued, reminding him of his run the night before. He was going to do it again. The day was open and expanding, and he would not be accountable to Megan at all. They probably would not even talk on the phone. In the shower, he planned his day: lunch, some reading, a run. He opened his mouth and filled it with water from the shower head, spitting it against the wall and singing snippets of songs that jumped into his head. With a towel around his waist, Dillon walked to his front window and looked outside. Sweaters and light jackets were in motion, everywhere. The temperature had risen by at least thirty degrees overnight. Change of plans. He would run first. Outside, the air carried the damp fragrance of early spring, despite winter being far from over. Dillon loved having to wear sunglasses in winter. To loosen his stiff legs, he spent longer than usual stretching against the light pole at the corner. Something was welling inside of him, some kind of strength. He set off on his usual course across the busy street, into the park, down the flagstone steps and up to the crest of the meadow. The igloo. It looked pathetic. Grotesque. Melted and misshapen. Dirty. Caving in on itself like a fallen soufflé, or a beach ball losing air. Dillon jogged down to it, recalling how perfect it had looked in the previous night’s glow. Now it was close to being gone forever. He looked toward the sun, as close to its center as he could without hurting his eyes. The hole that had been a foot in diameter and perfectly centered in the igloo’s dome was now four feet wide and warped as if 60


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Gaudi had designed it. On the lakefront path Dillon felt a heaviness on his chest. No matter how deeply he drew breath, he could not fully inflate his lungs, so he slowed to a walk as he approached the North Avenue Beach House, hoping he could catch what a coach from long ago had referred to as a second wind. Sometimes the lungs need stretching as much as the muscles do, Dillon said to himself. Wisdom like this came to him on his runs. Most of it did not make it home with him—it lived and died on the running path—but on this day Dillon told himself he had received a sign, even if he did not fully believe in such things. Awash in nautical whiteness, with cobalt blue portholes and rounded doors, the beach house was a building made to look like a ship. Two faux smokestacks poked up from its rooftop, an expansive deck overlooking the limitless churn of Chicago’s inland sea. But it was on ground level where Dillon saw the words: LIFE GUARD. In black Art Deco letters, above louvered blinds and blue railings, the words seemed like instructions to Dillon. This was not one word, he reminded himself. A lifeguard was someone who kept swimmers safe. These were two words, and they were telling him to guard his life. Someone needed to, and he could not imagine anyone else doing it. “Kabinett,” he said, starting to jog again. “Not Spatlese, not Auslese. Kabinett. Nothing wrong with a nice Kabinett Riesling.” Dillon was mildly interested in learning about wine. It was not something he thought about other than when he was flipping through the spiral notebook, searching for an appropriate pairing. He read nothing about wine other than his uncle Jack’s notes. Yet he appreciated that his inheritance was valuable, and rare, and he was committed to giving it the attention he thought it deserved. It was not a difficult subject to casually explore. It was not ancient documents in a foreign language, or bugs under glass. To Dillon, it required more effort to reject the wines and the spiral, as Megan sometimes did, than to embrace them. He took in a deep breath, filling his lungs and expanding his abdomen like a shallow dome. When he let out the air, his body throbbed with purpose. Days passed, and through the beginning of the workweek Dillon felt the same resolve he had felt when he saw the words on the side of the beach house. Megan sounded his buzzer for a few seconds too long, as usual. “Thanks for coming over,” he said. She kept her eyes on him as she dropped her coat on the wingback. 61


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“What’s going on?” she said, offering the faint smile of someone prepared to relent. “You want some wine?” Dillon said. “Okay?” she said. He reached into the wooden crate closest to him, pulling out the first bottle his hand touched. “What are we drinking?” Megan said. “Not sure,” Dillon said, cutting the bottle’s red foil capsule so he could get at the cork. He looked at the label. “It’s a Burgundy.” “Pinot noir,” she said. Too late, he thought, you can’t start caring now. But he made sure, as his resolve surged, to raise the corners of his mouth and nod, for civility. “We’re going to need some bowl glasses,” she said. Oh, somebody was paying more attention than she let on, Dillon thought. He filled both glasses just under half, and gave the bottle a quick twist after each pour. Not a drop spilled, or even ran down the outside of the bottle. “You could work in a restaurant,” she said. He handed her a glass and picked up the other one. “Cheers,” he said, touching the lip of her glass with the body of his. “Cheers,” she said. They drank, both of them sucking air through the wine in their mouths, Megan laughing as if it were the first time she had ever done such a thing. She lurched to keep wine from dribbling down her chin. “That’s amazing,” she said, looking at the bottle. She then tried to swirl the wine in her glass, but managed only to make it heave from side to side. “I am never going to be able to do this.” Dillon shrugged. She sat on the couch, set the glass on Dillon’s coffee table and tried again. More lateral heaving. Dillon did not know how to get into this, how to start, and seeing Megan slosh her wine brought a wave of sympathy over him. “Forward and back,” he said, standing over her. “Not side-to-side.” She tried it. “Make a little oval shape,” he said. “Or a diamond.” Soon, a garnet tornado whirled in her glass, bringing a full, uncontrollable smile to her face. Dillon joined her, his tornado whirling in the opposite direction, the two glasses like magnets repelling each other when their orbits got too close. As the wines went calm and flat in their bowls, Megan raised her eyes to meet Dillon’s. “How are you?” Dillon said, the words spaced out just enough to sound awkward. 62


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“I’m okay,” she said, eyes now down and focused on nothing. “How are you?” “I’m okay,” Dillon said. She nodded slowly, deliberately, more times than she needed to. When she stopped, she puckered her lips. “Do you…?” she began. “Is there something in your head?” That’s a strange way to say it, Dillon thought. “What does that mean?” he said, genuinely curious. “I mean, is there something you want to talk about?” Megan said. He paused. “Yes.” Dillon sat in the wingback, and she nodded slowly, like an adult encouraging and comforting a child who is about to make a difficult confession. “Do you…do you know?” she said. “Do I know?” Dillon said. Megan continued to nod, showing sympathy, compassion. It confused Dillon. “Wait,” he said. “Do I know what?” “Do you know about me?” His stomach dropped. “You’re scaring the shit out of me right now,” he said. “It’s okay,” she said. “It’s going to be fine.” He wondered what kind of guy she had been with. Where they met. How long they had been doing what they were doing. He thought he might need the bathroom. “Are you about to tell me that you cheated on me?” he said. A smile opened up on Megan’s face. “God, no,” she said, stopping just short of rolling her eyes. Dillon’s mind spun again. Pregnant. He imagined having to tell his parents. His mother. But Megan was drinking wine, right now and a few nights ago with the Thai food. As lax as she was about some things, pregnancy would have brought out her rigidity. “I wanted to tell you the other night,” she said. Dillon felt another jolt in the stomach. “I’ve known for a while but it’s been really hard,” she said. “I’ve been kind of ashamed. Mostly just scared to know what I know, and to say it out loud, especially to you. The only people who know are my parents and my sister.” “Oh God, just tell me,” Dillon said. She rubbed her thumb over a smudge on her glass. “What?” Dillon said. 63


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Her lips straightened, the smile left her face. “I’m sick,” she said. Dillon noticed himself blinking, unsure of how much time had passed—a few seconds, or much longer. The satisfying percussion of his eyelashes drew his attention from the news, an attempt to stop time like the shutter of a camera, perhaps, or to push the news away entirely. He pictured the blue louvers of the LIFE GUARD window at the beach house, and he could hear them clapping shut, shooing away seagulls hovering over crumbs on the sand-blown concrete. “What do you mean?” he said. “It’s pretty bad.” He waited for her to say more. She could take all the time she needed. He was already thinking about reaching for her, pulling her into him. Or sliding to her if she was too overwhelmed to move. “I have lupus,” she said. There was a wildness in his gut. Just hearing the words “I have” was enough to produce that, and then there was the disease itself. The word expanded in his head. He looked into Megan’s eyes, trying to see through them and into the part of her mind that was available to him. Lupus, he said to himself, hoping it would jump into her head and bounce back to his with more information. The word was familiar, and he knew it was bad without knowing how bad it was, or what kind of bad it was. If he believed in signs he might think he had just received another one, to show him which way to go. “What…does that mean?” he finally said. “It means that I might not live as long as I thought I would.” Normally Dillon would have heard aggression in a statement like that, but in this case it took on a tone of solidarity. He joined her in anger, and then softening, squinting, pulsing with fear, he touched her shoulder. “What does that mean?” he said—the same words, but this time as gently as he could. Megan looked into her lap and ran her thumb along the inside seam of her jeans. She poked her index finger into the corner of her eye socket and dragged her fingertip over the bridge of her nose. “The doctor said I could live a very long life if I’m lucky,” she said. “That’s his word—if I’m ‘lucky.’ But some people die within ten years. No matter how long, there are all kinds of symptoms. Debilitating symptoms.” He would not press her on that, not at this point. “When did you find out?” he said. 64


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“Remember that time we met at McKenna’s after work?” Megan liked to schedule her doctor visits late in the afternoon so they did not divide her workday. She could work straight through until two or three and then go to the doctor without having to return to the office. McKenna’s, Dillon recalled, had been their most pleasant outing in months. They slurped oysters, and tried to whistle as they crunched on saltines. They clanked thick mugs of cold beer and looked at each other with resolve and clarity. Everything was right in those moments, those hours. They emerged from the subterranean bar, met surprisingly by the remaining sunlight of the day, and they walked home along the lakefront. At times Dillon put his arm around Megan’s shoulder and kissed her on the cheek, or bunched her hair into a pony tail and held it gently as they walked. They had argued often leading up to that day, picking at each other about lateness, rigidity, indifference, the spiral, friends getting engaged. But in the calming twilight of that lakefront walk, copper yolk of sun sinking into Lake Michigan, it was as if neither of them had ever had an unkind thought about the other. “That day?” Dillon said. He could not believe she had been able to conceal such dire news so completely. “Not that day,” she said. “But that was the visit where they found the thing that made them want to do tests.” “Did you go there because something was bothering you?” he said. “It was just a check-up. I had no idea about any of this—they just called me a couple weeks later.” “So when did you go back?” Dillon said. “I don’t know. About a month later. I went back twice.” He tried to resist letting on that he felt betrayed for being left out of the process, but Megan could see that he was hurt, verging on angry, and that he expected whatever justification she could provide. “I didn’t want you to worry,” she said. “I was hoping it was going to turn out to be nothing—and then I would tell you.” He looked away, afraid that some tiny speck of resentment might well up inside of him. “So…” he said, and she knew it was his way of asking how this all might affect her. She shook her head before she spoke, showing contempt not at the implied question but for what she was about to say: “I will probably start getting fatigued a lot. And then, I don’t know—rashes, joint pain, organ damage. They gave me a list.” “Organ damage,” he said. “What does that mean?” 65


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“Like, failure—organ failure.” He leaned in and held her. She did not hug back right away, and when he pulled her in tighter, she surrendered. She buried her eyes in his neck, and sobbed. The tighter he held her, the louder she cried until her crying went silent and breathless. The words that came to him were You’re going to be okay, but he knew not to say it—knew she would not want to hear it. She pulled away slowly, walked to the bathroom. The faucet hissed, and the light spilling into the hallway disappeared as she pulled the door closed. Dillon lifted his legs onto the couch. He lay flat, one arm covering his eyes. He was surprised when his mind went to the igloo and the view the hole in the dome had provided. Dark infinity. Tangled branches against the sky. Knifing moonlight. He recalled how uncomfortable he had been when he awoke in the igloo. Cold and damp. It gave him a shiver, even now. And then the white and blue beach house. The pure, relentless breeze coming in over the waves, the graceful bend of seagull wings. His breathing was short and shallow, and when the bathroom door whined and the light switch clicked, he sat up. Megan lingered in the darkness of the bathroom, only the vague outline of her face pushing out into the hallway. “Hold on,” she said. “What were you going to say?” “What do you mean?” Dillon said. “I mean…why am I here?” she said. She had to know, Dillon thought. How could she not? How could she not feel the same way? How could she be surprised by this? Megan emerged from the darkness and stood waiting, across the room. “I want to be there for you,” he said. “I will be there for you. Whatever you need. But let’s just see how…things go. Between us. Don’t you think?” She placed her hand over her eyes, as if blocking the sight of him would give her relief. Dillon watched her walk down the hallway, past an empty laundry basket and into his bedroom. She let herself fall, face-down onto his bed, her feet dangling over the edge. Dillon slumped back into the couch and told himself again that she must have known how he had been feeling in recent weeks. The timing was horrible but worse yet would have been to comfort her for a month, or a year, and then leave. A year could go by so fast anymore. He fell asleep on the couch, and both of them slept for hours, roused awake in darkness by a car alarm. Dillon walked down the hall and joined Megan in his bed, sliding in softly, careful not to make contact 66


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but also careful not to feel too distant. They did not acknowledge each other, and soon they were asleep again. In Dillon’s dream he was back in the igloo, lying still, pierced and anointed by the sliver of moonlight that had found him there. He wondered what it all meant, and as much as he searched his mind, laid out as it was on the bottom of the lake, turquoise and aglow, he found no answers. He wondered why Megan was not there with him, and why suddenly the inside of the igloo was warm—so warm and comfortable he worried that it might melt and cover him before he could move. THE END

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Just Before Sleep Deborah Allbritain

I miss telling him which one I used last, how I pick one from the little file hidden inside the clavicle all varied shades of plum with labels like easy over, bridge under the Seine and spank me. I miss waking up feeling his fingers pulling on things fluted and exceptionally soft. Tonight, he’s probably watching the eleven o’clock news as I’m sprocketed over the ottoman like hunger, holding the silken rope in my mouth, watch him tie knots under my ribs, around both ankles. I know how to keep him awake even though I’m in the next town reaching under the bed for the black paddle, demanding he conduct those curious experiments, letting me choose the one most rinsed in sweat.

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The Patience of Snow Richard Brostoff

My father stands in the lit sunroom, midafternoon, as snow covers the yard. “What kind of work do you do?� he asks me politely. A cardiologist once, he turned ninety last month. The room is filled with the sharp edge of his silences, his nodding head, his several short naps. His bifocals tilt on his cheekbones, his glasses flecked with white bits of dry skin like a man lost in a snow squall.

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Through the glass doors, the day is filled with the garden’s erasures, with the patience of snow. It fills the vacant flower box leaning away from a window, buries the path to the woods. As the yard softens and blurs, the world feels suspended. Slowly, I am being erased in his mind. In a white year, my father leaves me slowly, one bit at a time. The silent work of the snow must be done.

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Contributors Stuart Gunter is working toward a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling and lives in Schuyler, Virginia. He likes to paddle the Rockfish River and play drums in obscure rock bands. His poems have been published in Broad Street, Waxing & Waning, and The Artemis Journal, among others. Annie Kolle is a writer living in Missoula, Montana. Autumn Cooper is a creative writing student, traveler, and poet from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her poetry is an exploration into the dichotomy of the self and of life, and the spiritual implications embedded in the seemingly insignificant details around us— as well as the humor in the darkness of it all. She has been published in her school journal, The Paper Lantern, and has recently found a home for one of her poems in the online journal, Subterranean Blue Poetry, but has otherwise withheld from submitting my poetry up until now. This summer she attended the Cambridge Writer’s Workshop in Paris, where she wrote and workshopped with poets and fiction authors from all over the world. She is also an assistant editor for the Twin Cities based journal Poetry City, USA. Matthew Rickart was born in New England and lives in Chicago. His work has been published in Short Fiction Break, Danse Macabre, Plain China and Wading in Ladies. Christa Forster earned an MFA in poetry from the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program, where she studied with Edward Hirsch and Adam Zagajewski and served as poetry editor of Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts. She has won multiple Individual Artist Grants in Literature, attended the Tin House and Naropa Summer Writing workshops, and written for and performed in live bands and theater productions, including several original onewoman shows. Her literary work has been published in print anthol72


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ogies and in online literary journals. Additionally, her feature work appears in the Houston Chronicle, Cite magazine, The New York Times, The Round, and Sculpture Magazine. Also an educator, Christa has taught poetry workshops to adults, teens, and children through Inprint, Writers in the Schools, and The Hines Center for Spirituality and Prayer. She teaches high school English full time at The Kinkaid School in Houston, TX. Tom McEachin is a graduate of the MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. His fiction has appeared in South Dakota Review, Limestone and The Dos Passos Review. He teaches English at Laredo College on the Texas-Mexico border, where he has been for the past twelve years. Prior to that, he spent twenty years in the newspaper business in Utah. Marjorie Stelmach is the author of five volumes of poetry, most recently, Falter (Cascade). Recent work has appeared or is upcoming in Boulevard, Cincinnati Review, Gettysburg Review, Image, Iowa Review, and Prairie Schooner among others. She is the 2016 recipient of the Chad Walsh Award from the Beloit Poetry Journal. Anne Colwell a poet and fiction writer, is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Delaware. Her first book of poems, Believing Their Shadows, was published by Word Poems in 2010, her second book, Mother’s Maiden Name in 2013. She received both Emerging and Established Artist Awards in fiction and poetry from the Delaware State Arts Council. A chapbook of poems, Father’s Occupation, Mother’s Maiden Name, received the Dogfish Head Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in several journals, including: Bellevue Literary Review, California Quarterly, Southern Poetry Review, and Octavo.

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Michael Austin is a writer whose work has appeared in Esquire, GQ, Outside, Puerto del Sol, Printers Row Journal,and City of the Big Shoulders: An Anthology of Chicago Poetry (University of Iowa Press, 2012). He collaborated with Oprah Winfrey’s personal chef, Art Smith, on the cooking and lifestyle book Back to the Family (Thomas Nelson, 2007), which won the Special Prize of the Jury at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Beijing. Austin also plays and teaches bodhrán, the Irish traditional drum. He lives in Chicago. Deborah Allbritain holds a Master’s Degree in Speech Pathology from University of the Pacific. She hopes to begin study next fall at San Diego State University’s MFA program in poetry. Publications include: The Antioch Review, The Cortland Review, B O D Y Literature, Front Porch, Verse Daily, One, Michigan Review, Connecticut River Review, the Cimarron Review, Eclectica and others. Her poetry has been anthologized in Stand Up Poetry: The Anthology, The Unmade Bed, Harper Collins, The Book of Birth Poetry and In the Palm of Your Hand, Tilbury House. She received two Pushcart Prize nominations in 2015. Her poem “The Fire” was a finalist for the Wabash Poetry Prize. Richard Brostoff’s poems and essays have appeared in Rattle, North American Review, Atlanta Review, Poetry East, Verse Daily, and many other journals. His chapbook, Momentum, was published by La Vita Poetica (2007). A second chapbook, A Few Forms Of Love, was published by Finishing Line Press (2012). He is a physician with a private practice in Lexington Massachusetts. David Sheskin is an artist and writer from Bethel, CT whose art has been both exhibited and published extensively over the years. His four images in this issue come from two digital series he has recently created entitled “The Reincarnation Chronicles” and “Luminaries in Paradise.”

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David Weinholtz has exhibited and sold work throughout America, in private and juried shows. Additionally, he is frequently commissioned by patrons to create anything from abstract pieces, to portraits and landscapes. “It’s as simple as this, I have to create. Whether it be creation via drawing or painting, it is in my marrow, and has been ever since I was a child. Truthfully, I have no clue why or where the impulse began, but I have followed it and tried my best to stay true to it throughout my life. Everything from Logical Thoughts, Observations, Spirituality and Mysticism, Diverse Muses, Messy Complicated Emotions, and Gonzo Curiosities act as impetuses in my creative process, and have resulted in me pursuing several different drawing and painting genres. Each drawing and painting I create does have a personal story, and if asked I’m sure I could unfurl a flowery digression on the psychology of each piece, but underneath it all, it is very simple: a pure unquenchable desire to create.”

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Profile for The Madison Review

The Madison Review: Fall 2018  

The Madison Review: Fall 2018  

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