The Weekenders Magazine: Issue 8

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The Weekenders Magazine ISSUE #7 Sy Roth Kim Copeland Anthony Ward Ashley Perez Chuck Howe Bradford Middleton Michelle Greenblatt Kolleen Carney James O’Sullivan Caitlin Hoffman

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Virtual Reality by Bradford Middleton: 4 Slacker by Anthony Ward: 5 Piss-Flap Face! by Paul Tristram :6 Hunting Sense by Michelle Greenblatt: 7 Hearts by Kolleen Carney: 14 Dots by Sy Roth: 15 Where the Poppy Stood Alone by Sy Roth: 16 A Murder of So Many Words by Kim Copeland: 17 Black Lie by Kim Copeland: 18 Man’s Cayenne by James O’Sullivan: 19 Butch & Sundance Refried by Catfish McDaris: 20 Sandy Hook by James Sanchez: 21 Checkout by Jeffrey Grassley: 22 Absolute Center of Nothing by Jeffrey Grassley: 23 How to Talk to Women by Jeffrey Grassley: 24


Forgot About Me by Caitlin Hoffman: 26 Times are Different by Kent L. Johnson: 30 Alpha Girl by Crystal Wainwright: 35 Barstools and Dreamers by Chuck Howe: 38 The Crow Letters by Ashley Perez: 40


Allie Marini Batts (Various Work): 49

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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR Well, here’s Issue 8. It took a while to put together, and, like a lot of other issues, I did it in one night, but at least it’s finished. I love putting these issues together, however exhausting it might be. It reminds me that there is an audience out there (you) that loves what I put out for you to read (you). I can’t even imagine what else I’d rather do on a Sunday night. In this issue, you’ll see some familiar faces. You’ll see some writers you’ve read before (either in this magazine or in a different one)—and you’ll see some writers who, for the first time, have had their words put to the page. It’s a beautiful process, and I’m very happy you’ve decided to join me. I’m very happy to be doing this. That is all. Sincerely, Ryan Swofford, The Editor

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VIRTUAL REALITY By Bradford Middleton

These last few weeks have been a pain As technology continues to antagonize me Telling me I need to upgrade again But the life of a poet isn’t that of a rich man And how can I afford such luxuries on my lowly wage The internet has gone and for that I’m glad People tell me I need it and the lady at BT thinks it strange In this day and age when friendship is just a click away But all I need is an hour a day in the virtual world Cos I crave the interaction of the real world The one thing that keeps me going at my shit job Is that interaction that comes with every new customer Despite having never been a people person I shudder to my core when lads call me mate As they buy their dirty magazine and a crate of beer But at home there ain’t anyone now And I can’t afford to do much else as an hour’s pay Barely pays for twenty minutes fun in this crazy time So all I do is sit, smoke and drink as I write My strange little stories and poems

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By Anthony Ward I felt better today than I did tomorrow. First the train was early and I’d missed it after awaking lateThis did not stand me in good stead for the job, I may as well not have gone. They asked me awkward questions more awkwardly; Grilled me until I perspired profusely, As if standing trial for some heinous crime I forgot to commit. Secondly, my fiancé left me for not landing the job. She packed her bags without a moment’s hesitation Just as casually as if she were taking a holidayTaking holiday from me for the rest of her life. And who could blame her? I could, But I won’t. I’ll just sit here at this bar, Drinking to get drunk. Since this is what happened tomorrow I may as well enjoy today.

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PISS-FLAP FACE! By Paul Tristram

I walked to the corner shop earlier to get some gravy granules. And as I turned into the lane there were 2 kids, a boy and a girl, both of them about 10 to 12 years old, possibly brother and sister? arguing. The girl was saying, “Gemma Jones thinks you smell like rotten eggs and would rather kiss a lump of turd than kiss you!” The boy heard me chuckle as I approached, he turned red in the face, looked back at the girl and screamed, “PISS-FLAP FACE!” That was 5 hours ago. I’ve laughed so much that I’ve made myself ill and I just can’t seem to get away from myself. Me and the wife are calling each other it, she’s gone for a lay down, she threw up a little bit from laughing so much and so hard. Even the dog’s been called it a few times and is crouched up in her bed out of the way. God, I treasure Piss-Flap Face days like these, long may they reign.

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HUNTING SENSE By Michelle Greenblatt

White winter sky blurring into (an almost achromic) white -lacquered land, heading home, south from the ringing black streets of Philadelphia; where you used to go to hide; it’s a long drive to make at night, alone, Adan, on the flat track of the (now) Ohio turnpike in the aftermath of last week’s blizzard: still-buried cornfields, highways wearing plowed-drift blinders: ice -crusted, cinder -spattered, grey, and slow to recede as grief, & then suddenly sunshine, road turning silver, thin-twinned electric tracks, the ever-winter of us, our rotting Page 7 of 50

relationship, now I can see circle after circle, high -white pylons with huge, blackwide pinwheels turning endless cartwheels, spinning out from the nothingness of wind, the strange current: fierce, underground & in cables spreading far as New Haven Connecticut & out past Manhattan. * Sudden rumple of Indiana in the perilous wind-drawn trek, my car pulled by the wake of the trucks cruising further down south toward the rubble—what is still left of our home, the last hour of daylight throbbing tangerine on my left shoulder. I remember (once) a gladness, you’d turn your head on Page 8 of 50

your way home from hunting (I should have asked what) but then I’d catch your smile, catch it in my hands & hold it tight to where I kept my half -buried heart. You’d come home, set down your gun—these days I look everywhere, Adan, as if I’ve mislaid something rightfully mine; I walk in circles certain I’ve misplaced it, perhaps somewhere in my house: I’m searching for delight —a place, a time, once, perhaps you took me hunting, perhaps in a hushed voice you told me where the trout lay…or walking silently in the snow-cloaked woods, you touched my arm, pointing to where the quail take refuge, where they eat, sleep, & breed in the deepest bracken, & I didn’t—I wouldn’t (couldn’t)—see the pools & tracks of blood you always Page 9 of 50

made (or were planning to), using your fine-honed bullets & perfected hunting sense. * I am thinking of the word “memory,” from the Greek memare, to care for, which is to mourn, to look for, to go down underneath, & see —to dive inside the barnacled tangle searching for a gleam. & to dig, by feel, to dig down, to ferret inside the dark warren (: ferret, Latin, little thief) by sound, by scent, finding a softness, a quivering * Once: in Pennsylvania -cold moonlight we followed a black ribbon of frozen river, skating out on the frozen swamp—windswept, ice Page 10 of 50

so clear we were suspended between two mirrored skies. Scarves flying, we are playing crack the whip. & just like always, I’m the one at the end, receiving the skin -flayed bloodsting. But I never complain, because you’re there with me. The stars, the moon are whirling, the whole world is whirling in the wild cursive of these precious little anecdotes * Morning was sunning the deck & I was minding my business, pondering some clichéd, antiquated idea of the soul, where two hummingbirds whizzed by. I once saw a ruby -throat peck another to death—I took down my feeder until you forced me to hang it back up, berating me for wincing when I remembered the cruel black eye helmeted in slick green as he throttled up & threatened, Page 11 of 50

again, to lunge at the bloodied corpse. What folly, what blind compunction to picture & then follow the giant unknowable. It scared me—that much I knew, & I jerked away from the menace, real or imagined; even hearing your mocking laughter couldn’t stop me from gagging on my grief. It was his presumption you admired; his similarity to you. In two seconds he was gone from the porch & your mind, but a part of him stayed back, stayed behind, to haunt & shame me. * That week my tercets wanted to stay triplets, refused to expand to quatrain, contract to couplets, & in the end I felt there was too Page 12 of 50

much, too little, a few too many words, an uneasy imbalance that topples the pyramid of a three-part harmony. So I began to live twinned, unable from conception to be too far apart from you, some semi-close half-other, thinking about how every heart divides & subdivides, needing every hollow chamber; one side to fill, the other to empty. & every missing line is me missing you; not until you were gone could I see I wasn’t you, you weren’t me.

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By Kolleen Carney Their Fingers Were the Hooks They Hung Their Hearts Upon And he said one day you just wake up and you have all these things that you didn’t ask for: apartment, kids, cars. A wife beside you sleeping, oblivious. And you know you are drowning. You can feel it every morning: your boots heavy with mud, your legs atrophying so you can’t even run. and you just smile instead of screaming because it is easier to lie-- it is so much easier to pretend that you are happy than to actually be happy. His finger wrapped around her finger. Their breath fogged the windows. Outside, the dead trees stood guard and the wind kicked up the dirt around them. The air smelled like peppermint. They looked at each other without looking. And she said I don’t want any of those things. I just want you to cup my face in your hands while you’re kissing me.

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By Sy Roth Had I a funny bone in my body, I’d utter something like, “dot’s” right, to the question. But humor escapes me because dot’s wrong. Pointillated beings avow their existence-Lather themselves in showers, Run fingers like rakes through their scalps, Brush their teeth vigorously Ablutions to their dots. I am substance goes through their heads as they inhale the dots of the others. Dots that swirl around them. Dot’s right, an unbroken storm of dots that dot their landscapes with the dreams, the nightmares of the others. Caesar’s ghost rests among them, Yawning-proud Hitler prances there with glee, bowed Mother Teresa’s dot scrubs his feet, Martin’s dot proclaims freedom from the other dots that collide against his, a swirling eddy of dots. Inhaled, they spark coagulated energies. Exhaled they join the chorus of the air. Dots in and out of revolving orifices cram the spaces holes occupy before cataclysm sprays the fictitious, conjoined dots out into space to be eaten by infinity. Dots the end.

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Scrapes the tongue like spiny thorns on a Saguaro cactus. Crackles teeth with obnubilated remembrance. Tanks crushed them and Kalashnikov songs echoed in the square. iPhones splintered into quarters, then thirds and eighths, into masses of tissue, a field of splattered poppies litters the arboretum, disanimated beings piled like cord wood in its corners, discarded table ort swept to the floor splashed into foggy history. One poppy with a shopping bag stands before an Al-Khalid tank. It veers away from defiance. He moves with it amid a crescendo that puffs cobble stones liquidly into the air, leaves the avenue of eternal peace quiet and roped off cleansed where the poppy stood alone. Shovels scoop fecal piles, hoses and disinfectant slap the mounds until they are no more. Only a million piles of offal linger in the air, carrion smell to tickle buzzards’ olfactories.

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Sweep these words away, so they will stay unread, unknown, will sway no one's opinion. Sweep them from the stairs, as if they were light amber glass and ashes from a bash the night before. Sweep them into the tattooed arms of a belligerent Chicago wind, into the eyes of a south side mob, into the old Comiskey Park. Sweep them clean across state lines, into blue grass clad Kentucky. Paint them black and hang them from a yellow poplar.

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By Kim Copeland Climb out of the hole, deftly dug by your shovel of a tongue. Climb your way up the dark black of a lover's back. Straddle, grapple straddle, grapple roots with rookie hands. Stand, imagine his thick lips, his rigid skin of night, of youth slip further, worlds further from the purest, pearl white truth.

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MAN'S CAYENNE By James O’Sullivan

Swigging Ginger Joe's, speaking tongues Buying garments from Chinamen That horrid taste; all but one Rolling back like a man's cayenne. Counting hens like sheep; waking dreams Talk of titles both earned and read Not words, not lines there within Cold digits sang like man's cayenne. Leaving time enough for taller tales Busty gals; endless nights; boundless peaks; wondrous sights Told breathlessly after man's cayenne.

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Gazing out the window of Room 901, dancing pigeons on the ledge I checked my greenback situation & lack there of A strange noise flooded the atmosphere wires sparked & flames & smoke erupted, a manhole cover was 8 stories flying high like a Martian space craft afloat on a cloud Quintana met me & we made plans to head south, he said if we pull any jobs south of the Rio Grande we’ll need protection I handed him some condoms & a poncho, “You’re fucking funny cocksucker” I whipped out a hog leg & shoved it up his nose “That’s yours & here’s some grenades” his eyes smiled & mouth frowned from beneath his Emiliano Zapata moustache We hit a bank in Texas, made it to Mexico, took down an armored car, nobody got hurt, at Boca Chica where the Mississippi empties into the gulf they caught us, do we wish We had worked for a living, fuck no, you can crawl, walk or run it’s up to you, now it’s time for the great escape.

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SANDY HOOK By James Sanchez

Bullets are missteps Years of unanswered questions Missed hugs Near kisses Sudden glances Bathrooms powdered with asexual tissues Tears offered to an apathetic god Calluses on trigger thumbs Death as creation Voids filled with faux heroism Desperation as catalyst Good morning innocence

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By Jeffrey Grassley the exactness of a latch catching, footsteps away from a now lonely room-- full of potential, i can’t see her expression, just the image of her against the headboard, naked, with a pillow to her chest. dry eyed, wondering how the conversation went this way-- and i jam my key home turn the engine alive, slowly back out stray eyes at the window of Room 216, but the curtains hang, motionless, and i keep going, right turn onto East Garvey Ave. with twilight and the memory of a specific door closing—behind me.

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another twelve hour day of drinking, slipped down the neck of an empty bottle, and the television sets chant in unison, tribute to some running god, while a well dressed man, easy of tongue, directs my vision, a flying ball smashes the rim of a metal hoop. silence-then eruption, like a virgin in formally versed hands-- making a mess. i knock my beer over on purpose to stare at the amber run that finds the edge off the counter, pools at my feet-i put my face to the floor, counting the remaining threads of carpet with my teeth, but i keep losing place every time the beer touches my lips, so i keep having to start over again.

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HOW TO TALK TO WOMEN By Jeffey Grassley

Aries shrugs on my tongue while talking at the pretty faces, I come burning: a freight-train with cut brakes gunning running through a half dozen bound beauties, names to be forgotten if I haven’t already, and the clouds laugh their rain down, and Aries screams jumping free from my tongue a surgical strike on a fast moving smile, unbound, well endowed. Battle cry, pontificated on the hammer strikes of the falling rain, and that returned smile will be forgotten, those lips like every other pair will not last, and Aries rests the point of his spear down on my tongue, and I’ve grown to love the taste of blood, as he stands impatiently eyes roaming from smile to smile, waiting for his next turn to strike.

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My whole life I never craved the saviour, but the instigator. "Leave her alone. I said leave her alone!" "You gonna make me?" "Yeah." I finger myself up against my skirt and wonder, Do all girls go for the bad boys? Are we trained to crave belittlement, get off on disrespect? Whatever do my kinks mean for the feminist movement? I finger a loaned-out ashtray. On-screen The Breakfast Club continues its spicy, hormone-heavy melodrama. My eyes are looking out for the magic. There’s too much media. Above me I can hear some neddy techno-grub; beneath me are moans of masturbation laced up in a porn soundtrack. The lonely basement neighbour’s getting off on water sport clips again. Not that I’m one to judge, combing my clit to memories of narcissistic ex-boyfriends. My fingers push on a pulsing cherry-top but I can’t get off, not with that man’s muffled derangement vibrating my floor. The drunken upstairs neighbour’s smashing bottles again. He and his girlfriend are going at it, and not in the way that’ll heighten my self-swathed shame. Rage-phrases crack the bass, rocketing shards of "bitch", "cheating", "liar", and "jerk" to pop ecstasy tabs of their own. All those two ever do is fight. If only they had better taste in music. My hand stalls, wetness caked and going cold. Whatever does love mean, anyway? Does it all boil down to "bitch" and "jerk" and little glass kiss-cuts? I wonder what they do when the fever stops and they’re left to sweep up. That must be why they always have their ghetto-tech cranked. They need a vacation from awkward silences. Page 26 of 50

Below, the lonely basement neighbour’s getting ready for a big finish. His gritty, sweaty self-love grunts are the anti-thesis to my own arousal. "Hunh...fff...mmm..." His is the symphony of loneliness. They suggested a bubble bath, soothing music, warming lubricants—anything to soak the sponge of desire. One girl went back to her very first fantasy. All this mess of returning to your sexual roots. I think she called it "liberating". "Being bad feels pretty good, huh?" This isn’t working. Demon juices seep from somewhere, evoking psychological seizures I should have confronted long ago. "Hmh!..." one apartment under, this cry comes as a false spike, a peak that never was, a misleading wad of pre-cum. I can picture the hunched beer belly, some wiggling paunch, a contorted, dismal face. A face that should be warped with pleasure, but instead comes out agonized. What secrets does that expression hide? I wince, rewind. "Over the bra, under the blouse, shoes off, hoping to god..." "DON’T TOUCH ME!" comes the upstairs commentary from a voice so abject and shrill I can’t determine the gender. Fast forward. However could I feel so crowded though so alone? I still have a skirt and socks on but my soul’s stripped, bruise-wrapped and belly-up in a snow trench. The worst part? That’s exactly what I require. Other people get off on discipline, control, abuse. Just because you’ve got a nasty fetish doesn’t mean your overall psyche should be poorly reflected...? Freud was wrong. I attended enough of my Intro to Psych class to know that. From above the ceiling: Untsauntsauntsawrreeeee (Can that really be considered music?) Coupled with: "GO TO HELL!" Followed by onomatopoeias including (but not limited to): Smash, crinkle, stomp, and a SMACK which I can only assume means someone got slapped. Page 27 of 50

From below the carpet: "Nnnnnngh!!!" And a burst of finality: "Whoo!" At least someone’s puncturing nirvana tonight. My eyes water with a liquid I hope isn’t tears. That tremble below the abdomen is all but ossified now, left to crinkle with leftover Halloween wrappers. This body is one vacant space. I’ve witnessed a brutal summary of humanity through these walls tonight. Girls staying with boys who say all the right dirty words when they’re not playing Grover Alexander to a jug of Jack Daniels. (Or re-enacting Mike Tyson on your face.) What do we get if we deny ourselves the basic instinct of romantic relationships? The Breakfast Club/piss porn, huffing and puffing self-loathing from our genitalia. For a while I sought out "people like me". Lots of them were kind, many of them were creeps. All of them felt an affinity with pain. Most of them had always been that way. Thoughtlessly, my hand wanders back to my leaking inkwell. The drips are stale and my fingernails stick. I sit, screen flickering in the almost-midnight gloom, cautiously exploring this elusive body part, one that should, by all accounts, work to relieve me of certain stresses. A portion of anatomy which should be as much in my ownership as an eyelash or elbow. This vagina’s a mystery to me. And this hand takes me to places I’m not sure I can go. None of this belongs; I’m a crooked puzzle piece. People babble about g-spot stimulation and indiscreet vibrators while the only way I can moisten is by thinking of a man who... Do I not deserve to be treated as an equal? A being with a brain and the willingness to use it? All I ever wanted was someone who paid me cerebral attention as well as physical. Yet my fantasies demand the absolute opposite. The very thing I need is all that I abhor. "God you’re so pathetic." My slit trickles, anticipation rekindled for but a moment. Yet as the heat comes I will it to recede. Why the self-inflicted frustration? Why must my strokethoughts lead to such exhausting mental examinations? Page 28 of 50

I’m thinking too much. It’s possible everyone feels this way when they’re trying to reach an orgasm solely to shut the world off. It could be completely normal for a driven, independent, selfsufficient woman to question her inner desire to be undermined, humiliated and hurt. Or maybe I wouldn’t have any of these issues if I’d never been raped. "I hate you!" "Yeah? Good!" I switch the TV off.

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I poured a package of powdered cream into the inky coffee and stirred with a little stick. The black turned to blond and I pulled the stick out and watched the liquid swirl, creating an eddy that moved closer to the side of the cup, eventually stopping the movement. The cup was placed forward on the table and my pad and pen were positioned in front of me when I noticed him. I mean, really noticed him. He sat in the corner of a booth, next to a window. The midmorning light, illuminating him from behind. I paused, then stared at my pad, the yellow paper and neat little blue lines and thought about the ad copy I was being paid to write. I like to sit in the coffee shop and sip the strong brew and think. The caffeine, the smell, the ambiance, somehow force the creative juices from somewhere inside me and out to a report, a sketch, a clever saying. I've even been known to make up a riff, music, put a catchy phrase to it and we've got a radio ad that people will remember. That's how I made my living. I tilted my head up and at that moment, the man in the booth, opened a candy cane, the cellophane making a distinct sound as it slid off the green and white pole of hard sugar. He placed it in his coffee and stirred some cream into the cup, then removed the cane and placed it carefully on the small plate that held a scone just a minute before. A fedora, that was the style of his hat. You don't see people in hats very often any more. Yeah, a baseball cap once in a while, and if it is freezing out, perhaps a stocking cap, but not a hat that is meant entirely for fashion. I remember seeing those hats in old black and white movies shown late at night on a classic movie station. The men in those movies wore too big suits and pushed their hats down deep over their foreheads, at just the right angle to give the appearance of cockiness, or toughness, or perhaps comedy. It's funny what you can do with a hat; display a state of emotion or anxiety, with just the angle and gait of it on your head. Some of those men in the movies talked tough, or got Page 30 of 50

excited about a state of affairs and they pulled their hats off or readjusted them just before the shooting started sending the sound of gunshots echoing. They were a strange bunch, those old movie stars, but yes, they wore fedoras over slicked back short hair. The man at the opposite table leaned back after taking a sip of coffee and pushed his hat slightly lower on his head. A man in the early to mid twentieth century needed a hat. You wouldn't walk down Main Street without shoes would you? A hat was the same. We're in the twenty-first century now and most people don't wear hats, but the fedora, yes-still a classic. I looked up fedora in the dictionary one time. The best ones were made of beaver felt and brushed with a hatter's brush to a high sheen. They were classic and looked remarkable. My companion at the next table's fedora may have been made of beaver felt, hard to tell by looking at it. His fedora was covered with a shiny film of aluminum foil. He had make shift antennae adorned at various locations on the brim. I decided to talk to him, see what it was all about. I got up from my table and walked to his and sat down across from him. "Mind if I ask you a question?" His eyes were like tiny little tunnels reaching back into a chasm. The eyes didn't reveal much, and were small, like two little beads looking out over a thin, high nose. We appeared to be similar in age. "Depends," he replied, the inflection suspicious. "Who are you?" "I'm just a guy sitting here having a cup of coffee and I'm wondering about your hat. Fedora isn't it?" "Yes, what about it?" A slight flicker of life reflected from his eyes, like a candle reflecting off the sides of a mile long tunnel. "Never seen a man in a hat before?" His lips tensed and small creases formed in the skin above his lips. "Why the foil?" The look on his face was one of amazement. His arms tensed and fists rolled together tight. I felt that perhaps he might jump up and hit me. "To keep them from finding me. What else would it be for?" Page 31 of 50

"Who from finding you?" "The people that are looking for me...from the planet..." He turned and looked around the inside of the coffee shop, alert to others who were there. The shop only had eight patrons and more than a few were looking at my subject of conversation. It's not every day you see a man in a foil covered fedora, sipping coffee. For some reason, the man seemed perfectly normal to me before we started talking, but after he mentioned the planet... "The planet inside our own planet," he finally whispered. "In the core..." Again, he turned to glare at the other patrons. "You enter at either pole, but underneath, there it is, a whole civilization living under the earth's crust. The molten metal core provides light and warmth. They won't tell you about it, because they know what will happen up here on earth." His eyes were alive-on fire. "What will happen up here?" "Everyone will want to go down there. Just think what Kaos that will bring to both communities." "Why would everyone want to go under?" I prodded him. "Free energy, of course. No paying for heat, or gasoline, or anything like that. The molten core provides all the energy we need and because it is producing magnetic waves, we have magnetic vehicles that can whisk us from place to place with uncanny accuracy and virtually no sound or friction." I noticed he was very excited talking about this world. A few drops of spittle flung out of his mouth as he talked, landing mutely onto the tabletop. He picked up his coffee and whispered "Good to the Last Drop...Maxwell, Maxwell, Maxwell," before his took a gulp. "Why did you come up-I mean, if everyone wants to be there, then why did you come here?" He looked at me as though I was some sort of nut. Again he searched the room, gazing into the shadows and looking out the window before he turned and answered me. "Because of the mutations." "Mutations?" "Yes, they're turning into sand people. See there is no wind under. Without wind, you can't blow dust around so it just settles. Page 32 of 50

Some of these people are so content living down below that they just let the dust settle on them. Next thing you know, BOOM, they turn into sand people. They're still alive allrighty, it's just now, they have an eight inch layer of sandy epidermal skin over the top of them and their eyes have to grow stalks so they can pop them out of their skulls to see." He shook his head up in down in affirmation at me. I was beginning to think this was getting kind of weird. "So what are you doing up here?" "Getting cleaning women to go back down under and keep the dust off of the people. That way they won't mutate into sand people." He nodded and smiled. "Why do you think someone is out to get you?" I nodded at the foil-lined hat. "Some of the leaders have mutated. This hat reflects the magnetic waves into these concentrated antennae..." He pointed to the little antennae on the brim of the hat. "Then I send the magnetic waves back underneath without ever letting anyone know it found me, by drinking good strong coffee and stirring it with a candy cane." He bobbed his head towards the candy cane on the plate. "Candy cane?" I asked him. "How does that work?" "Only with the green candy canes and not the red ones. We all know what type of problems things red can cause." "Yeah, I know," I nodded towards him and shot him a knowing wink. "So, how is the maid hunt going?" "Amazing Maids of the Tri-city Metro Area. I've checked them out," he told me. "Good references, easy price and fully bonded at that. As a matter of fact, I've already secretly placed a crew underground and they clean so well, that a partial reversal of the mutation is now taking place." "Is that so?" I asked him. "That's so," he said. He lifted the green candy cane and stirred his coffee with it again. "Well, it's been a pleasure talking to you, and good luck with the Amazing Maids," I said.

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I lifted my head up and stared at the pad before me, and wondered how long I'd been asleep or passed out. The name of my client was listed at the top: Amazing Maids of the Tri-City Metro area. The yellow paper with neat blue lines was filled with copy. I read it twice. Perhaps I can make something out of maids with dusty mutants? I shouldn't take those medications before going to work. They always seem to knock me out. I was still in the coffee shop. I glanced to the table next to me but there was no one there. A fedora sat next to me on an empty chair. It was foil covered just as I remembered. I picked it up and looked it over. Funny, my name was written inside on a tag. "There you are Mr. Kenswick." A young man with big arms, dressed in white medical smocks said to me as he approached the table. "Who?" "Come on Mr. Kenswick, Mr. Maxwell Kenswick. You scared the staff back at the home-wandering off like that." I felt his hand under my elbow pulling up. I quickly placed the hat on my head. The foil crinkled as I pushed it down firmly. "Let's go back to the center, Mr. Kenswick. It's almost time for lunch." The man in white told me. I looked in a mirror they had on the wall of the coffee shop as we walked out. The hat looked good, but I couldn't figure out who was wearing it. Some old guy with deep eyes that looked about ready to die.

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By Crystal Wainwright "Fuck this day," she said out loud. She had had enough. Enough cleaning an apartment in the hood just to keep the roaches away. Sick of the paycheck that covered just enough to keep breathing. She stepped outside her studio apartment, lit menthol, opened a 40, which was nowadays called a 32. Plopped her ass on the cold concrete, and stared out into the early morning glossy light of the streets. The worst neighborhood in San Diego—El Cajon. Majorly Latino and black, and she was the one white girl. She had come home to find her man fucking the upstairs neighbor. She spent her lunch kicking the girl's ass and kicking her man out. It had been a rough day. After 10 hours on her feet, slinging shitty food to shittier people, she was ready just to stare out into the void. She sipped her malted liquor, as she finished a jug of wine for the month, and there was still three days left on the month. It was rice and beans and hot sauce. She had no problem with being poor or ghetto lean, but she had a problem figuring out many reasons to wake up the next day. "Hey girl," the voice came from the last row of doors before the concrete parking area, muffled, and low, like a cowering domesticated animal lost in the forest, and she knew all the people in her complex, and the voice wasn't familiar. She was 21, but she looked 16. The only gift from her genes. "Hey girl, my car broke down, and I need some water," he explained. Another fucking brother that needed some help. Of course. She was exasperated, and didn't feel like being kind, but she was raised better. "Yeah, let me get ya something." She found the jug from the empty wine and filled it with tap. This man was her age, dark close cut hair, not clean-white boy, but close, dark eyes, light skin. He was broken down in the wrong neighborhood. Page 35 of 50

It was almost 3 am. The crack whore was sweeping the middle of the street again. Stupid-ass white boy. She smirked, knowing that the only way she made it here was the man she just kicked out of her pad. Two brothers from the neighborhood had finished feeding their mean streets, and were walking past the stranger's car. The larger brother she knew as Dew, because of his odd choices of pantyhose or dollar store shower caps as dew rags to keep his pretty dreads hidden, clean. Dew chest bumped the man, as she rounded the corner of the apartments, and knew that this boy was about to get an ass-kicking. There was little she could do as Dew had knocked him down and kicked him before she could get to them. "Goddamn-it. You wanna beat up a white boy at 3 am and bring the god-damn cops to Rosewood?" Rosewood was the notorious street. It was the street. The drugs had filtered from the neighborhood north of there, and it was a place that people died just because. She made her way over to the dude, between him and the brothers, and made her stance. "You right, Crysta.” "Goddamn it. Go home," she demanded. Now she had some white brother to take care of. Fuck. His lip was oozing blood, and he clung to his ribs trying to make his hands to stabilize the throbbing pain. “You one damn lucky bastard,” she said, collecting him. He was tall. It was hard to get him up, but he manned up once on his feet, but still had to lean on her. She leaned him against his car, and looked into his eyes. “Got your keys, white boy?” He had found the blood on his pretty lips, and could only muster a nod. She locked the car. “Hey Dew,” she yelled down the street. “My car, you got it? Mine.” The black boys turned and Dew threw a piece to her. She had kept that boy from so many fights in her little studio. Dew Page 36 of 50

and her new ex, Ray, were odd buddies. Dew was midnight black, 6’5”. And sweet. Ray was 5’9” Latino mix. They were like lost brothers lost in a racial and economic reminder of how bad the Reagan era was for the poor. They also fought like brothers. She had earned Dew’s respect the night, cocaine fueled argument over music, and as the two boys stood face to face, ready to go, she took the lamp that dimly lit the room, and slammed it against the wall. In the darkness, she had a glow of fury, “NO fucking fighting.” Dew called her white fuck girl, and to anyone else, it would sound offensive, but she didn’t dangle her words, she used the words and her voice equally as a titan that surrendered power and might for some peace. But when she began her “fuck” diatribes, large men listened.

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Mugsy and I had taken our girlfriends out for the night. We had a great dinner, and ended up at O'Hurley's for drinks like we did almost every night. The bar was packed and it was a holiday weekend, so there were a lot of people there that we didn't know. From the moment we walked in a giant mullet head was eying Mugsy. That wasn't completely uncommon. Mugsy was a big scary looking dude. Other big scary looking dudes always eye each other. I wasn't a big scary guy, so I quickly forgot about mullet head and we found a table in the back. Between two German girls, Mugsy and Myself, we went through a lot of beer. A lot. Once the waitresses went off duty, we had to go up to the bar to fill our pitcher. I took the first trip and there was mullet head, eying everyone who walked by. I could tell he was just looking to fuck with someone. I'm not a violent guy, but I have to admit, I was kind of hoping someone would come in and kick this guys ass. I got my beer and hurried back to the table. By the next time the pitcher was empty, I had forgotten about mullet head and Mugsy volunteered to get the next round. Back in high school, Mugsy was known as a weight lifting bad ass. After high school he started smoking pot. Although he had mellowed out a lot, he was still pretty much a bad ass. He was only gone for a minute when there was suddenly a huge ruckus coming from the bar. We couldn't really see what was going on, but suddenly we saw beer flying through the air and the sounds of shouts and punches. I turned to Mugsy girlfriend and said, "I think your boyfriend is in a fight." "No." she said in a perfectly calm voice, "I know my boyfriend is in a fight." By the time we got up front, Mugsy was on the ground with three guys hitting him with bar stools. The two girls and I rushed up and sort of just stood in between Mugsy and the guys beating him. Two of the guys dropped there stools and kind of stopped once we showed up.

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The third guy was, of course, Mullet head. He was soaking wet, covered in beer. There was a very large, bleeding cut under his eye and it was already starting to swell up. He still held a stool, wanting to hit something. You could almost see the thought processes in his eyes. First he looked at my girlfriend, a small thin girl who wasn't much of a physical threat to anyone except for the time she accidentally hit me in the nuts with a tennis racket. He cocked back, but thought better of it. Then he looked at Mugsy's girl. I have to admit, she was a pretty tough looking girl (beautiful, but I wouldn't want to fight her) but again he thought better of it. Then he saw me. The only guy. He smiled a little and looked like he was starting to swing the stool right down on me. I held my hands out to the side, gave a big smile and said, "Go ahead, that will prove you're a tough guy." He actually stumbled back, as if I had hit him, and I saw the stool drop to his side. I immediately turned to Mugsy helped him up and got him out of the door and to the car. I looked at Mugsy, his shirt was torn, but he didn't even have the slightest bruise or red mark on him. "Dude, what happened?" "The guy looked at me funny, so I went to punch him. I forgot I had a pitcher of beer in my hand though."

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Dear Jack, The crows tried to bite me again today. They aimed for my breasts. I don’t know why they do this to me. The crows behaved better when you were here, Jack. They didn’t bother you as much. But now that you’re gone the crows aim straight for me. They screech when they dive. I swear there were hundreds of them. They turned the sky black and I thought of charcoal. Even when I ran inside the house, they still came for me; when they reached the glass they winged off to the side. They remind me of those Kamikaze fighter pilots that Mr. Young told us about in history class. The ones who would crash their planes into ships. I’ve been taking the pills, Jack, just like they told me to. One blue pill, once a day, every day. The more pills that are in me, the less I see the crows, but the more pills that are in me, the less I see you. I don’t like the crows or the pills. I saw the old lady yesterday walking up and down the block, stepping gingerly over each and every crack. She’s trying not to break her back I suppose. I can almost hear your laughter, Jack. You always do laugh at the stupidest jokes. She stared at me again. I was standing in front of the house, and I swear she stood across the street and looked straight at me for more than five minutes. I can’t stand her eyes. She’s got that crazy look to her. When she crossed the street and passed me I heard her talking to herself. She was muttering about getting lost in the maze. She’s getting crazier and crazier. You know what? She’s really letting herself go. She comes out of her house, standing on the lawn in nothing but a house coat. No shoes, her grey hair just sticking out in every which way. I went to a clothing store today. I saw a dress I liked. Can you imagine me being excited by a dress? It was a purple dress with a halter top and a skirt that flared out at the bottom. The purple is dark like grapes, with little black triangles patterned on it. The doctor would be proud of me. This is the femininity I am Page 40 of 50

supposed to embrace. He told me “No more shirts and jeans, you have to start dressing like a lady.” I didn’t buy the dress though. I couldn’t bring myself to spend money on something I would inevitable hate. No matter what I wear, Jack, no matter what it is that will not change who I am. Birth decided who we were to be and nothing the doctor says, nothing the sisters say changes that. I miss you. I wish you would come back more often. It gets harder and harder to hear your voice, especially over the noise of those damn crows. Love, Patty Dear Patty, Don’t be lonely, Patty. I see you often enough, but you know I can’t see you when you have too much of that medicine inside of you. You’re just not yourself, and it hurts to see you that way. Separation is never forever. I feel lonely often too, but I think it is because I don’t get out much anymore. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed your shopping trip. You know how I feel about that doctor, what’s his name, Doctor Johnson. All psychiatrists are scam artists. They tell you all these things they think is wrong with you. They get you on these pills so they can control you and tell you who they think you should be. You should embrace who you are without having to change who you are. I have seen that old lady you mentioned. She saw me once walking down the street, and she looked so afraid, so bewildered about me that she crossed the street and walked on the other side. It’s like she thinks that sharing the same space with me for five seconds will contaminate her air I actually went out to a bar yesterday. I felt too confined and just needed to get out. It was a chance to wear that new black shirt you bought for me. The one with the gold buttons. It was so tight around the chest, but after I taped up it was great. It looked like I had pumped up pecks. It wasn’t the same not having you there, but it was interesting nonetheless. It was one of those bars that had a mix of old timers sulking in the corners, Page 41 of 50

reminiscing about the times that used to be and the young kids, mixing it up on the dance floor. I was a baby face Casanova. I didn’t bring anyone home that night. I was still feeling off kilter, a side effect I suppose. You have to ignore the crows. Pretend they are not real, and they should go away. I know the noise gives you a headache. I know they are scary when they dive at you, but just close your eyes and wait until they go away. Sometimes it feels hard to form a thought Patty. It feels like the words in my head float around in a fog. I’m reaching out to grasp something solid, and all I get is mist. I don’t like this feeling, but I can’t shake it. All that makes it better is to go to sleep. Being unconscious is to let go of all worries. Dreams become fantastical, filled with images of a world that accepts me for who I am. Sometimes I have dreams where it is just me and you alone in the world. Those are the best of all. Of course there are other times when I’m drifting off to sleep I become afraid that I’ll never wake up and be me again. That fear jolts me awake and insomnia kicks in. One stretch of insomnia lasted for three days. All I did was walk around my room, marking the same square pattern that fills the rug. If my baby face was able to grow a beard, I probably would resemble a grizzly bear. I will see you soon, Patty, Jack Dear Jack, my Jack, I don’t like to hear that you go out to bars. I don’t want people to be mean to you, and I don’t know if I will like whoever it is you may meet one day. Strangers never accept either of us. They put me on new pills, Jack. I don’t know why. The ones they gave me previously “didn’t quite work” according to them. I couldn’t see your face after I started these pills. It’s like they are purposefully trying to take you away from me. I don’t want to take the new pills. They are bright pink and look like candy but taste like vomit. It’s like they want me to think it is Page 42 of 50

candy so I will be happy to take them. I want to run away. We can run away together, run away from the people and the pills that run our lives. I watched the people who came to my house to give me the pills. They are always dressed in white. They smell like antiseptic and make me want to throw up, just like the pills. My mother wouldn’t like them if she ever came over to the house anymore. She says she pays the bills so she doesn’t have to come over, but I know why she doesn’t come. She is ashamed of who I am, of who you are. I know she would rather pretend we are dead. I have started to keep a diary, Jack. It’s black, just like the crow feathers and holds all the memories I have of you. It’s becoming so hard to see your face. Maybe I can pretend that I swallowed the pills but spit them out when they aren’t looking. I do just like you tell me to. Whenever I see the crows or hear them, I shut my eyes really tight and hold my ears and they will usually go away. There have been fewer of them out since the start of my new medicine. I think the smell keeps them away. Love, Patty Dear Patty, If you can get rid of the pills without them knowing than do so. Just make sure to watch yourself, or they might become suspicious. I am afraid the crows might come back when you don’t take the medication, but I will be there for you always to chase them away. I will steal one of their feathers and make a quill that you can write in your diary with. What memories of us do you write about? Memories are an interesting idea, aren’t they? They can be good or bad and everything in between, but they hold a power over everyone no matter who or what you are. No matter what they do to us, they can never take away our memories of each other. Please remember that, Patty, they can never take away our past. Page 43 of 50

Please don’t be jealous when I go out. I get out so rarely that I always take the chance when I can get it. I wouldn’t worry about what anyone thinks of me. You are the more sensitive out of the two of us, but please do not worry. Besides, what other time can I wear my fancy clothes? I want to know what you write about. If you want to share. Love, Jack Dear Jack, One of the first memories I wrote down was the night that you first kissed me. We never got to talk about it after it happened. I always wonder what you remember of that night and how you feel about it. I walked out of my bedroom into the living room, and I didn’t notice you at first. You were lying on the couch in the corner in the dark. You looked so tired and sad. That is why I stopped, because it hurt so much at that moment to see you like that. I sat next to you, and we made idle conversation. I remember you were upset about something but didn’t want to talk about it. It started with my hands. You grabbed my hands with both of yours and just sat there holding them, feeling each individual finger. You asked me why I had my nails painted the way they were. Do you remember that? One finger was painted teal blue and the rest were grape purple. All I said was, “because I painted that one first three days ago.” You said you liked my hands, but I was in love with yours. They were rough with callouses and dry. You moved your hands to my arms and from there it was an exploration of my body. The feel of them against my skin sent shivers up and down me. You asked me if I was nervous, remember? I guess my hands were shaking. I don’t remember saying if I was nervous, but I know I shook my head. You smiled then. You held my foot like it was the most precious thing in the world before you ran your hands up my legs to my thighs, stopping right at the hemline of my short summer dress. Page 44 of 50

I remember we had to keep breaking apart because people kept coming into the living room. It was easy to spot them coming, their white uniforms stuck out like neon in the dark room. They only occasionally glanced my way before they kept moving. You looked me right in the eye and said, “Kiss me.” I did. It was just a small kiss because I was so nervous. It shocked me because your mouth was so small and soft, like a rose petal. It was a perfect contrast to your rough hands. You went back to exploring my body with those hands. You ran your hands down my back but stopped before you reached my bottom. You ran your hands across my collar bone and my stomach, right to the edge of my breasts. You never touched those though. It felt so pure. The part I remember the most is when you kissed my neck and back. You were still lying down and you curled around me like a snake. You scraped your teeth on my skin so lightly, but your kisses were urgent. I remained as still as a statue. Did you notice that? I didn’t know what I would do if I moved. I thought I would shatter. I wanted to hold you and move my hands across your body much in the way you were doing to me, but I was afraid. I am still afraid, Jack. I don’t want to take any pills anymore. I don’t want to lose these memories, and I don’t want to lose you. Please tell me what to do. The crows be damned. I will live with them if it means I can have you. Love always, Patty Patty, my darling Patty, I don’t want to lose you either, but I fear for the worst. They will eventually figure out that you are not taking the medication. They always do. Remember that one time they let you be responsible for taking your medicine, and you didn’t for a week? You left your house, and we spent a wonderful week together. Remember that crummy motel we holed up in. It had wallpaper I’m sure was decades old and the sheets weren’t clean, but we had each other. Page 45 of 50

Don’t get me wrong, it was the best week of my life, but they ended up putting you on the ward for a month. That was a lonely month for me. They had you jacked up on something good. Hey, get it? Jacked up? I hope that gives you a small laugh, Patty Melt. I want to run away with you. How would we manage it on our own? I fantasize about it quite often. Of course in my fantasies it always ends up amazing. We end up in Hollywood, cruising the boulevard or in Florida on some hot beach, or some beautiful remote place, just holding each other. I have my memories of you tucked away in my mind. No one will ever be able to take them away from me. I swear it to you. I will always love you, and I will always keep those memories safe. I remember the night I kissed you, too. You seemed so tiny in that dress, just like a porcelain doll. I wanted to touch your arms and legs to make sure you were real and wouldn’t break. I have to confess something to you, I was drinking that night. Please don’t let that take away from the memory. I have wanted to kiss you for a long time and lacked the courage to do it. Of course there are those dumb social conventions that would look down at us kissing. Drinking a couple of beers made me not care. I don’t want to get you in trouble. That’s probably why I never talked to you about it. It is one of the powerful memories I wrote about before. It has the power to lift me up when I am down. I don’t think the alcohol mixed well with my system. I don’t remember feeling anything in my body. The only thing I remember for certain is when you kissed me back it felt like lightning coursed throughout my body. It was amazing. I miss seeing you, Patty. Those pills are so strong. I bet they make you just sit there and not do much, huh? I have been getting such pains in my head. Like someone is jamming an ice pick in different parts. I bet you are, too. If only they can just leave us alone. I feel like a ghost, Patty. Each day I fade more and more. Should we try, Patty? Should we try to run away? I fear for us no matter which path we choose. I am with you always. The crows will hurt us, people will hurt us but we will always be with each other. Page 46 of 50

Love you always, Jack Dear Jack, They say it’s pointless to write to you anymore because you are gone forever. I don’t want to believe them, but I am afraid they are right. I haven’t been able to see you or hear you for three weeks now. I don’t want you to be gone forever. I tried, Jack; I tried to run away. I stopped taking the pills. I hid them for over a week. I thought I was acting pretty well all things considering. I dressed how they wanted me to, I did the activities they wanted me to; I didn’t even talk about you. They didn’t seem to notice anything different. Before I even had the chance to run away, it all went wrong. The tall woman with black hair, the day nurse is what my mom calls her. She went through my stuff and found our letters. Can you believe that? She went through my stuff! She told on me, she told my mom and the doctors. They forced me to a hospital. I don’t remember much after that. They gave me something to put me to sleep for a while. When I woke up my mom was there. All she said to me was that it would be okay from here on out. She wouldn’t explain what happened. I overheard doctor tell the night nurse they put a device under my skin, near my armpit. It slowly releases the medicine into my skin for weeks. They called it Metrazol. No more candy pills for me, now it’s just in me all the time. I don’t know what to do. They said if that didn’t work they would try electroconvulsive therapy. I don’t know if I spelled that right. I don’t know what it is. I haven’t done much since they brought me home. I just sit on the couch, sometimes I pretend to read but I get headaches a lot. The nurses and my mom seem happier with me this way. It’s like I’m not their problem now. My mom bought me that purple dress. She said it was for a new beginning. They said you are not real, that you never were. They found all of your clothes. I thought I hid them well. They were folded so neatly, ready to be packed whenever we ran away. My mom ripped the gold buttons Page 47 of 50

off of your fancy black shirt. She said they would look marvelous on a black dress. I don’t want to believe them. Please, Jack, please write to me. Come back to me. Love you forever no matter what, Patty Jack, The crows are slowly going away. One was actually in my room last night. Just one. It didn’t caw or make any noise, but it looked so sad and tired. Please come back. I am so lonely. Love, Patty Jack, It’s been months and nothing from you. Please don’t forget me. The crows are gone, and I am alone. I used to not be able to sleep because of the sound of their wings flapping against the window, but now I don’t sleep because of the silence. Remember when you would hold me until they went away? I will wait for you until the end of my life, but that can come sooner than I thought. Love, Patty

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END WORDS Sorry this issue is so short. I guess I’ve been running low on submissions lately, and maybe that’s just my fault. I’m not sure. I feel like lately I haven’t been a very good editor, or publicist, or whatever you want to call it. I do this out of love. I make no money. And I’m so blessed to have people read this thing—let me tell you, I’m ecstatic about it. But not a whole lot of people want to participate. It’s all good; it just makes for shorter issues. I want to start paying contributors soon. Maybe just a $5 token payment. I once was talking to a guy who basically ragged on me for not paying contributors, and I said, you know what? I would if I could. Well, now I can. I have a little bit of money in my pocket from working hard by moving someone’s logs around the forest, and now I can pay people. A few weeks ago, I put stones in the ground of a tipi for $200. Last month, I mowed lawns and walked dogs and took care of chickens. I don’t make a whole lot of money, since the economy is pretty much shot and I can’t get a job, but hey, at least I can make enough to give you all a piece of the pie. Out of love. Be still, my wallflowers. Ryan

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