From the Editor A dear friend recently asked me if I have a strong female role model. I responded immediately, without hesitation: “Yes. Diane. If it weren’t for her I probably wouldn’t be writing today.” Diane saw something in me—and my angsty, irrational teenage poetry–that I didn’t. She was both my sophomore English teacher and my mentor, and today she remains my friend. When others were telling me to play it safe, go to school for nursing or teaching (both in demand at the beginning of the 21st century), she was telling me to follow my dreams. When I went to school for psychology and later nursing, she sat by, supportive yet silent, but when I returned to school for English and creative writing she pipped up: “Finally! I always knew you would pursue writing; you had too.” And I think that is true of many of us who write: we pursue it, like it or not, because we have to. There is something that compels most poets and authors to write; it is something we are required to do, because–lets face it–why else would anyone choose such a grueling, emotional, and (many times) thankless profession. As Raymond Federman once said “I write because I have to write, and whether or not what I write is valued or devalued, I don’t give a shit.” When I began writing, I didn’t “give a shit” (I was also six years old and simply wanted to tell a story). But the same was true when I turned ten, thirteen, twenty-one, and twenty-eight. Sure, the content has changed and tone shifted throughout the years, but I always wrote for me. When I first embarked on this journey and filed the paperwork to make Transient Publishing—an online literary magazine and Philadelphia-based writing community—a legal entity in the fall of 2011, I did not know what to expect. Of course I had hopes and dreams, aspirations and goals—I knew I wanted to create a space where poets and writers of all genres could come together and share their works, words, experiences and advice—but all plans look great on paper. The trick was turning these dreams into a reality, and that was something I knew I could not do alone, especially since half of Transient is its content (provided by poets and authors) and the other half of Transient is you, its audience. I worked diligently to establish a presence online and in the city of Philadelphia, to cultivate the business end of Transient if you will, and began reaching out to my very talented peers, colleagues, family, and friends. Their response was humbling and overwhelming, and this issue is truly a testament to their work and unrelenting support. In this issue there are contributions from writers, current and former students, and instructors from Kean University, Drexel University, Rutgers University, Neumann University, the University of Miami, Rosemont College, and the Community College of Philadelphia. Their backgrounds, life stages, and careers are diverse. For some, this is one of many publication credits; for others, this issue is their first time appearing in print. But what they (and we all) have in common is a love for the written word. And in such a transient time, they are the markers, the voices, of many generations coming together and speaking as one–reminders of where we have been and where we have yet to go. We hope you enjoy this issue of Transient and encourage you to share your story with us in the future. And to you, Diane: You always hoped I would dance, and I finally am. —Kimberly Zapata
Table of Contents 4
Jeffrey Markovitz Biography Il Cielo Dei sospiri by Jeffrey Markovitz
In Recognizing that I am Near the Age of Plath at her Death by Jeffrey Markovitz
Smoke Bay (Iceland) by Jeffrey Markovitz
Kelly McQuain Biography
Magic Washing Machine and Old House by Kelly McQuain
Midiyna Bass Biography A Toast by Midiyna Bass
Stephanie Scordia Biography
Mapmaking and Siddhartha’s Song by Stephanie Scordia
Josh Burnett Biography Yes, I’m from New Jersey. No, I don’t Know Snooki by Josh Burnett
10-99 by MM Wittle Alla Vilnyanskaya Biography
Thief by Alla Vilnyanskaya
Don Rutberg Biography
Genetically Mapped by Don Rutberg
Amanda Davis Biography
Safety Net by Amanda Davis
About this Issue Owner/Editor-in-chief: Kimberly Zapata Copy Editor: Amanda Davis Layout/Graphic Designer: Jon Loudon
Jeffâ€˘Mark \[â€™Jef][Mahrk]\ n. Wrote Into the Everything in 2008 after immigrating to Philadelphia where he continues to write and is a Professor of English. His grandfather said he would never publish a novel before thirty. He was twenty-nine when he did. Into the Everything can be purchased from Amazon.com. Blog: http://jeffmarkauthor.blogspot.com
Il Cielo Dei sospiri Stone parkless pebble planted, Venezia in summer, a quiet labyrinth sinking. Fresco island, pigeons flap by broken English graffiti and cannot find places to land; they’ve been here, tourists with feathers and carnival masks, caramel girls in alleys winding, feet clapping the rooted stone as my heart’s applause sounds like unison. One frame per minute, progression to slow motion. Terra cotta shale bakes sky cloudless, I peak around corners, attackers sightless; only at three a.m., pissing on a glass storefront in a lit alley, apologizing to it, do I let my shoulders sink, to breathe is to sing. Beyond the bells the tower is empty only ever.
To be lost in side streets that open to canals at floating wooden docks, ever unaware of where the me that was ever is; that, beyond the bright business, is the Celestial palatial seldom sonorous displaced dispatch that breathes and breaks life in wake waves at each tip of each toe of mine at the crux and corpus of daily days amidst the everything that always is, but was never more anything to rest upon, a head, on stone; goodnight, thank this, yes. Dust particles fan pushed dance erratic in a single shaft of sunlight through wooden shutters opened the night before so the world could be slept in.
I happen upon a sudden square, the traveled stone of its ground white washed marble and illuminated as it flares a pleasant sun. All is noble in its archaic stance, wall erected piecemeal decade to decade, I become a neophyte with a camera, a historian, alive in the tenure of this building’s life. A basilica. Museo. Names with sharp pronunciations that mean nothing to me.
In Recognizing That I Am Near the Age of Plath at Her Death White-bound tumbling letters shout posthumous ordinances in their fire proof fire box. The mall near where I grew up has changed beyond recognition, and while I sit in its food court, I realize, so have I. Late print editions, Bell Jar’s perfect bound, in neat repetitive rows, Plath Plath Plath like tumbling droplets from a broken sink; I touch briefly their spines and smell almost—honey hair. We are, hidden under home there, the same age. What dalliance in the hummed liaison, starched black-and-whites; abrupt, a lookaway chessboard Queen surrenders— such sharp distances once covered in your strange diagonals. A poet tells me, “We’re the only animals that don’t run from fire,” and like a match head, was never anything but a sandpaper strike away from effigy. The sulfur, the song remaining. Art, not meant to stay, as days, in their each museum beauty, end daily.
Smoke Bay (Iceland) Cliffsides match at ocean-lengths away, where once they were clasped hands. Now, hundred-foot plummets project homing birds with foot-tied messages and wings akimbo to a lover—now another country—or, waves smack wildly to send droplets of a kiss up onto top soil that is no soil. Separation in bas-relief. Distant the lava fields, with milk blue hot ponds, sky glaucoma, God watching from a tiny island. The black corrugated stones once flowed, then became moments of frozen popped bubbles, pock-marked peppered endlessness that char only to hide their once-blazing orange. Fissures teakettle steaming ready, church bells sound the hours, and underneath, the Earth waits to again make mountains by belching its bile at the sky. The wind laughs, racing across the landscape like so many children, and stops to flirt with emerald-melted puddles, oblivious to their own anachronism, perfunctory in their being there. And around, the mountains— some bald, some full snow-headed— wrap it all, proud proud grandparents. The Westernland is a fat baby’s arm reached out and fisted, punching through birth out of the womb. In its fist are the stalks of a red-petaled, red lighthouse, darkened, on a cliff’s face staring out to open sea, at all that is taken away by shifting plates; such an inconsistent world.
The immobile bird holds firm, wind caught, and wonders how anyone could believe in solidarity when the Earth itself breaks itself. The bird sets to float permanent. Volcanic ash, erupting erroneously from the center of a glacier, floats carefully onto its steady wings, darkened. Puffins pull up grass to only hold, their red beaks full at an off lighthouse’s base while a trawler watches, treadmill ocean underneath. Soft ground cliff’s edge inevitable; the old thoughts: a final dive a vertigo peer handstand at the end of the world. Lovestruck poison-lipped Romeo Pangea. Nothing breathes; the wind just rushes into noses, and the puffins don’t even know they’re on edge; their wings, lying parachutes, never know falling. It isn’t really so cold.
has twice held Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowships and has twice been a finalist for the Pew Fellowship in the Arts. He is a past winner of The Philadelphia City Paper Writing Awards in both fiction and poetry. His writing has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including The James White Review; The Journal of Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Identity; Obsessed; Best American Erotica; Best Gay Erotica; Men on Men; Skin & Ink; Philly Fiction 2; Kansas Quarterly/ Arkansas Review; Art & Understanding (A&U); The Harrington Gay Men’s Fiction Quarterly; Texture; Painted Bride Quarterly; American Writing; and more. He is an Associate Professor of English at the Community College of Philadelphia. You can hear him read “First Dog” at The Philadelphia Inquirer website, where he recently represented Press 1: http://www.philly. com/philly/blogs/entertainment/148259065. html. Visit his blog at http://kellymcquain.tumblr. com.
Magic Washing Machine I take off everything—shirt, pants, undies, socks. Throw it all in. Shoes, too. Detergent and bleach next. I want everything all white again— blank paper white, bright-light white like the clouds Heaven must sit on. I want my new-baby smell back and damned if I know how to get it. So I put it all in, even the things that won’t fit easily, like the Internet, lies I told, Thoughts of you. My soul.
Old House I go home to the refrigerator and give myself a relish facial from a half-empty jar hiding in back of the top shelf. I smell my oldest book, lick a page at random, and then go stand in the shower in my winter coat. I stick my head in the dryer and look around; capture a dust ball in a living room corner, make a wish, set it free. I push my nose against window screen, breathe metal, rust, rain.... Ah! this old house—suddenly new again.
I shut the glass door and watch it all chug round and round, a blur of water and soap. I use up all my quarters and then use poker chips, bus tokens, a Mexican peso from last year’s trip. I put in all my plans. I sit on top and wait for the magic washing machine to be through. My brother got re-baptized, thinks Jesus is that magic washing machine. Maybe He is. But how do you pull Jesus out of the sky? I like Jesus. He makes my head spin. Round and
Midiyna Bass was born and raised in New Jersey. She is the third of five children and considers herself a creative and passionate person. She is a third year student at Kean University, working on her BA in English (with a concentration in writing) and a minor in theatre. She plans on pursuing her masterâ€™s in Writing in two years but, at the moment, she is a twenty year old with the dream of becoming a voice actor in cartooning/gaming and a theatre critic. With that, she has loved the idea of writing poetry and the feeling that poetry gives her since grade school, for poetry is her favorite genre to write and read.
A Toast To music in the morning in a hot shower that alarm that gets you moving The commercial that made me laugh for a minute and thirteen seconds to that officer that didn’t give a ticket a break from work a smile from a handsome stranger in the hall; you made my day that 260-calorie cherry Coca-Cola from the fridge that book you got for free a hug from my little sister these dreams, we plan to make reality A first love, who said your weren’t good enough that friend who became your right hand, who called you perfect that penny facing heads up that gave you some luck a blog that takes up no wasted time those feelings you wish you never had but they taught you a lesson a lesson from your mom, who taught you all. A toast to spell check getting me through school a passion-pink nail polish for 99 cents a football game that’s not rigged a poem that’s not written in heartbreak to a boy a phone call you didn’t expect but didn’t mind, either. A toast to love and the lies we tell ourselves about it for reading this note and for adding your own toast.
Stephanie Scordia is a full-time English instructor at the Community College of Philadelphia. Stephanie has a MA in English from West Chester University and is the Director of the K-12 literary magazine Philadelphia Stories, Junior. When not reading, writing, or teaching, she is usually taking photos for her Tumblr blog, â€œThe Philadelphia Experience,â€? or watching old episodes of Law and Order on Netflix. Though she has been writing poetry since high school, this is the first time her work has been published.
Mapmaking Freckles on white skin Kissing constellations Your back, the sky— Fingertips trace the stars. A timid cosmonaut, I’m lost in your vastness.
Siddhartha’s Song It never seemed true— the OM in the river’s current. Sitting by the Delaware’s banks, Silver sunspots flash— to dizzying effect. I could hear nothing. No universal voice, no big bang, not even a whimper. My father, rod held in hand, slackening the line— allows the current to take the baited hook downstream—never letting the red and white plastic dimestore bobber out of his sight. I can’t see his eyes— they’re in shadow, hidden under the brim of his Molson ballcap. I look at my line— altering between slack and taut. I don’t care for fishing. The cruelty too much for my young heart to bear. But to sit by the river, to let the shadows lengthen, to feel the warm breeze here on the banks of the Delaware, I’ll humor my father— indulge his unspoken wish his firstborn had been a son, and feign interest in catching catfish only to toss them back into the brown, murky depths. It never seemed true— the OM caught in the river’s current. But we were frozen in time then.
Josh Burnett has been a writer since grammar school, first developing an interest in journalism around the fifth grade. After graduating from Carteret High School and being sucked into the retail vortex for ten long years, he finally completed his bachelor’s degree at Kean University in 2010 (Media & Film). He’s currently in the process of writing his master’s thesis for the English Writing program at Kean and working as an Academic Specialist at Kean’s Writing Center. “Yes, I’m From New Jersey. No, I Don’t Know Snooki” is his first published creative piece, if you don’t count those poetry books that publish anyone who’s willing to buy the book from them. Josh has also been published in numerous scholarly journals for a research project on how video games can teach teachers about how children learn, but those articles are pretty uninteresting, because academics can even make video games boring.
Yes, I’m From New Jersey. No, I Don’t Know Snooki. Hi. My name is Josh. I’m what you might call a Jersey boy. Born and raised in the armpit of America. I can call it that, being from Jersey and all. Unless you’re one of the eight million, seven hundred and seven thousand, seven hundred and thirty eight other people from New Jersey, you can’t. … New Jersey gets a lot of grief—more than any other state than I can think of, except maybe California. But California gets really nice weather in the southern half, really good wine in the northern half, The Terminator for governor, and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. So they can just deal with it. New Jersey doesn’t get any of that. It’s too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. Fall and spring last approximately three weeks each, and that’s dwindling every year. The beaches are okay enough, but unless you go very far south, the water’s a murky brown at best. Our governor’s not the Terminator; he looks more like Rush Limbaugh than Arnold Schwarzenegger. Our previous governor nearly got himself killed by not wearing a seatbelt while on travelling on official government business; the one prior stepped down from the office following a scandal involving an extramarital affair with a male staff member. Scandal is something of a rite of passage in New Jersey politics. New Jersey is the red-headed stepchild of the Northeast, drawn into the gravitational pull of New York City or Philadelphia. Ask many people from northern Jersey and they’d associate their existence—where they work, what sports teams they root for—with New York; the same for southern Jersey and Philadelphia. It takes a special soul to be
proud of New Jersey. … The following famous people were born in New Jersey: Thomas Edison, inventor; Frank Sinatra, Chairman of the Board; Buzz Aldren, second man on the moon; Whitney Houston, singer; Ray Liota, actor; Kevin Smith, filmmaker; Zakk Wylde, former guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne; Kal Penn, actor and former Associate Director to Public Engagement for the Obama administration; and more professional wrestlers than I can count. Of course, Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi are from New Jersey as well. And alright, fine, Sammi Sweetheart from Jersey Shore too. … I love the state that I’m from. I willingly admit to where I was born and raised when I’m outside of the state. A New Jersey Devils hockey sweater is a mainstay in my wardrobe, especially when I’m traveling. If I ever get a tattoo, it will probably be an outline of the state on my lower leg. Being from New Jersey is a point of pride for me. It’s is not an easy state to call home. The cost of living is ridiculous here because of the proximity to New York City. We’re over-industrialized and probably sick with all manner of airborne toxins from breathing the air near exit 13 on the Turnpike. For what it’s worth, I’m from exit 12 on the Turnpike. Yes, I know that’s another form of ridicule, asking a Jersey boy or girl “What exit?” when they tell you they’re from New Jersey, but you know what: I kind of like it. Maybe it’s because my hometown is literally split in half by the New Jersey Turnpike, so I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that I’m from exit 12. Or maybe it’s because Exit 12 would make a kick-ass band name, if I were to ever start a band again. …
The official state dance of New Jersey is the square dance. I do not know anyone who square dances, nor do I know anyone who knows that New Jersey has an official state dance. While we’re at it, the official state bird of New Jersey is the Eastern Goldfinch. The official state insect is the European honeybee. The state dinosaur is the Hadrosaurus foulkii, the world’s first nearlycomplete dinosaur skeleton, found in 1858 in Haddonfield. New Jersey is one of only six states with an official state dinosaur. “Sorry Washington, D.C.,” but “capitalsaurus” doesn’t count as a real dinosaur, nor do you count as a real state. … I’m from a town called Carteret. Exit 12 on the New Jersey Turnpike, as you know by now. Our big claims to fame are as follows: • Hometown of three-quarters of 80s powerpop band The Smithereens (the singer, Pat DiNizio, is from nearby Scotch Plains). • Baseball Hall-of-Famer Joe “Ducky” Medwick grew up on Union Street in the Chrome section of town. • The “Carteret Lights” event, a UFO seen in the sky over Carteret on July 16, 2001 by at least 75 witnesses, including those within town, on the New Jersey Turnpike, and across the Arthur Kill in Staten Island, New York. That’s really all you need to know about my little section of New Jersey. It’s a decent enough town to grow up in. Okay schools, good friends. Relatively safe, at least in the neighborhood I grew up in, which is admittedly one of the nicer parts of town. In a word, Carteret is suburbia—no different from any other suburb in New Jersey or elsewhere. …
I’ve never met The Situation, nor do I have any desire to. … The following famous people were not born in New Jersey: The Situation, JWoww, Snooki. In fact, nor were seven of the eight cast members of Jersey Shore. So please, stop bringing it up whenever I mention I’m from New Jersey. Most of New Jersey doesn’t much care for Jersey Shore. There’s even been an official Quinnipiac poll on the matter: 51 percent of New Jersey residents hold an “unfavorable view” of the show. And that’s the nice way of putting it. 11 percent have a “favorable” view of the show. Interestingly, about 11 percent of New Jersey residents also like Jerry Springer, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, and all of the garbage VH1 airs these days. I may have made that last statistic up. The title of this piece came from my default response while in Chicago in the summer of 2010. I’d wear t-shirts that suggested I was from New Jersey (as I mentioned earlier, a point of pride for me), and the second question anyone would ask after “Are you from New Jersey?” would always have something to do with Jersey Shore. This would occur without fail, multiple times, each day I was there. The point is, New Jerseyans in general just don’t like Jersey Shore. We view it as a poor representation of the population, as an embarrassment to the actual Jersey shore, as an affront to the state of New Jersey in general. When I say I’m from New Jersey and someone comes back with “Do you know Snooki?” or “Is your father in the mafia?” it’s really no different than if I were to ask an Alaskan if they know Sarah Palin or someone from Canada what their favorite hockey team is. Although, admittedly, hockey is usually among the first subjects I broach with anyone I meet from Canada. I guess some stereotypes will always die hard.
… Yes, I like Bruce Springsteen. But really, who doesn’t? And I like Sinatra too, in small doses. No, I don’t really care for Bon Jovi, but, if forced to, I’d say I like his 80s radiofriendly hair metal better than his 90s radiofriendly adult-contemporary rock or his ‘00s radio-friendly pop-country music. … A few other things: The name “the Garden State” is not a myth. Laugh all you want, but you probably eat tomatoes, corn, blueberries, and cranberries grown in New Jersey. There’s an amazing amount of farmland within this most-densely-populated state if you travel twenty minutes away from the highways and tourist destinations. While I haven’t traveled extensively in my 28 years, I have left New Jersey often enough to know how to pump my own gas. While I can’t be certain, I suspect most of us have. We’re not too lazy to do it, either. It’s officially illegal to pump your own gas in the state of New Jersey. As an aside, Oregon also forbids pumping one’s own gas, but rarely do I hear them antagonized for it. No one from New Jersey calls it “Noo Joizey.” For the most part, our hair is not what one would define as “big” and hasn’t been since the 80s.
Some can’t wait to leave. I suspect the vast majority of us probably fall into all three categories, depending on time of day and mood. I get frustrated with New Jersey when I’m on the Parkway at rush hour or when I see teenagers play into the Jersey Shore stereotypes at the beach, but ultimately, this is my home, and I’ll probably never leave it. … And as long as you stop asking me about Snooki, we’ll get along just fine.
… I don’t like to admit it, but when I’m excited, I do fist pump sometimes. I can’t help it, and it’s a habit I’m trying to break, but please don’t hold it against me. Tiger Woods does it too, and no one accuses him of being a lost Jersey Shore cast member. … Look, what it all boils down to is this: New Jersey, for nearly nine million Americans, is home. Some of us love this place, others are here for jobs or school or because it’s just where they wound up and are indifferent. JOSH BURNETT
MM Wittle is a Professor at Neumann University. MM has an MFA from Rosemont College in Pennsylvania in Creative Writing. Her thesis, “Family Guidance” and “The Education of Allie Rose” are two plays that won Thesis of Distinction from Rosemont College. “Family Guidance” had a reading at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia and was selected for a honorable mention at the 5th Annual Philadelphia Theatre Workshop’s Playwriting Competition. “The Education of Allie Rose” was a finalist in the Philadelphia Ethical Society Playwriting competition and was shortlisted in the Windsor Fringe Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama in England. For the past seven years, MM has been a member of the fiction board of the local non-profit literary magazine, Philadelphia Stories, and has written many book reviews, interviews, and countless blogs for it. MM has also written four book reviews for the creative nonfiction magazine Brevity, www.brevitymag.com.
down at his feet. He wonders if his toes are too big.
“What’s the address we use again?” John asks the unkempt man next to him.
The instructor comes in the room. He is a tall man with an orange shirt, with the letters “Transient Trainer” monogramed in white. His tan trousers are crisp, and John can’t help following the ironed creases in the man’s pants.
“Fuck, they said it twelve times. Pay attention.” John looks down to his hands. His right foot begins to jiggle. “I was looking at the donuts,” John says as he wipes the crumbs from his face. His mom used to take him to The Donut Shoppee™ every Sunday after church. John, a creature of habit, would pick the sugared jelly donut and for the rest of the day his mother would be swiping sugar particles from his face. “Put this building’s address. They even wrote it on the board.” John looks up. The building’s address is on the board and in bold letters it says Use this address. He wishes he paid more attention to things. John scribbles the address down on the form. He gets stopped again when the form asks if he is a business, independent contractor, or other. Thinking maybe the answer is somewhere close, he scans the white board and is rewarded because in red it says Check the box that says Independent Contractor. He checks that box and mentally pats himself on the back. He signs his name, John Christian Rhoades, and dates the form 10-01-10. All those ones and zeroes remind him of his former job. He thinks when he gets back on his feet he’ll buy himself a lottery ticket. Then he’ll hit the big money and he will finally have enough money to buy back his apartment from Kristen and get a new pair of shoes. Those new running shoes that separate each toe really frighten and intrigue him. He wonders how the shoes know how big a person’s toe is. What if a person’s toe is too big for the shoe? Can one take the shoe back? Does a person get measured at the store and then, three weeks later, one’s shoes come from someplace like Africa? John looks
“Okay, people. Here’s the deal.” The instructor waits for the room to settle down. The woman across from John reaches out her grubby hand and pulls three more donuts off the plate that rests in the middle of the faux oak conference table. John tries to follow where she puts the donuts, but she’s had lots of practice hiding precious items and John loses track of them. She grins at him, showing she has four teeth. John shudders and looks back at the instructor. “From the hours of nine to five, you will be stationed outside one of the surrounding Dada’s Convenient Stores, Inc. Your job is to open the door for the customers and ask if, on the way out, they can spare some change. We will provide you with baseball hats to assist with the collection of cash.” Deep within the room, a voice calls out to the instructor, “What kind of baseball hats? I won’t wear any damn Mets hat. And you can fuck your mother if you think I’ll put a Florida Marlins hat on this head! Don’t know what they were thinking trying to win the pennant against us!” The instructor, without so much as a pause says, “Actually, we had some guys stationed at Pattison during a Phillies Hat Day giveaway a few months back. We still have enough hats for all of you.” A grunt from the corner allows the instructor to continue. “Have your patrons deposit their change in your hat. Once they are out of site, put the money in your pocket. Once your pocket is filled, walk to your nearest
supervisor to change-out.” “Change-out?” Finally the guy next to John didn’t know something. John smirks and his neighbor glares back. “This means going to your supervisor and getting bills for your cash. Also, the supervisor will record how much in-take you have. Remember, we will match everything you take in ten cents to the dollar. That is after your membership fees, your security fees, and once your draw is estimated for the day.” John’s visibly confused. He raises his hand. The instructor acknowledges his hand with a nod. “How do we know what these fees are?” The trainer points to his shirt with the white lettering. “I’m your trainer. Financial stuff is handled by your supervisor.” Another female voice is heard, “What’s a draw?” “When do we get the permit?” Another man asks from the back of the room. John notices the man’s shoe soles are worn away and there is a brownish black sock poking out. John sees the man has big toes. He would certainly need to import his shoes from Africa. The man’s bookbag looks like a free giveaway bag rich people get for staying at a resort in HappyTown ™. The instructor begins to laugh like a mechanical toy. “Permit? Where do you think you are, Orlando?” “No. But…”
“We, here at the Transient Training Seminar™, give each and every one of you the proper training and skills one needs to extract the most amount of money in the least amount of time. We also provide onsite training to avoid those pesky police officers who are trying to tell you it is not your God-given right to ask others for some spare change, for a sandwich, or for a cup of coffee.” The man removes himself from his chair, places his HappyTown™ bag over his shoulder and walks out of the room. The instructor looks genuinely hurt. John’s donut stealer pipes up, “I heard we were getting lunch. When’s that?” Regaining his composure, the instructor informs her “Lunch is served at 1pm. It’s still an hour off.” “Are you taking orders? I want ham.” “No, you all get tuna.” “I don’t like tuna, it gets stuck in my teeth,” she grins at the instructor. He winces when he sees her four teeth. “Don’t think that will be an issue. Getting back to the training. Now, with your patrons, be respectful. Tell them your name. People are more likely to give you money if they know your name. You become human to them. We need you to be human. Say ‘God’ a lot. That will get you the old guilt factor you need.” John forgets to raise his hand and blurts out, “What if they don’t believe in God?”
The instructor controls his laughter, “Look, only in Orlando do you need a permit to ask the hard, working class people who take their family on vacation to HappyTown ™ for change.”
“Those people wouldn’t be giving you their cash anyhow, so that’s a mute point.”
“So why do we need to be here? And sign with you?”
“I have a Harvard degree; I know the difference between mute and moot.”
“It’s moot.” another woman from John’s far right calls out.
“And I was a high school English teacher.
It’s moot.” She gives him the “teacher” stare down glare. The room fills with the sounds of people moving uncomfortably in their chairs. The instructor snaps back, “And now you’re homeless.” She stands up. “What website did you get yours from?” Without waiting for an answer, she walks out of the room. John doesn’t know there is a website where a person could buy degrees. That information would have saved John five years of his life and he would never have met Kristen. He would have his apartment. His cat wouldn’t have died from what Kristen said was tainted kitten treats. He’d still be employed. The instructor calls after her, “Hey, I worked hard on my computer making that degree. Latin is a shit language.” The room is uncomfortable. Everyone is looking at different spots on the floor or the wall. Another man with an orange shirt with white lettering that reads, “Transient Trainer Supervisor,” and navy pants flings himself into the room. “Let’s take a break. Todd, can I see you for a moment?” He gestures to the instructor, and the instructor says, “Yeah, okay. Take five, everyone. Meet back in here.” No one moves. The instructor leaves the room. Still, no one moves. John clears his throat. His neighbor drums his fingers on the table. An older man with a very overgrown beard says, “You all know this is a scam, right?” John doesn’t know that. Everyone else in the room nods or grumbles. Princess Donut of the Four Teeth says, “Yeah, but at least they feed us lunch.” John’s neighbor huffs, “You don’t like tuna.” “But they got other stuff,” she motions to the now empty plate on the table. Then she moves her head towards the cabinet that a few minutes ago had three water bottles on it. She grins again. John feels his stomach lurch.
John thinks he isn’t cut out for the homeless life. Is anyone really cut out for this life? Do little kids walking down the street tug on their mother’s pant leg and scream with delight, “I want to be like that guy, Mommy” as they point to the man with a sign that reads, Homeless…Need help. Scamming people also isn’t John’s thing. He knows he’s not good at lying to people or paying attention. If he was good at those things, he wouldn’t be in the situation he’s in now. John thinks about Kristen. Maybe Kristen will let him come home. Maybe she will be one of the people he holds the door for at the local Dada’s Convenient Stores, Inc. and will feel so guilty for putting him out of his place, she’ll let him back in. Maybe Hell will have ice water. If John could take back his indiscretion with her sister, he would do it in a matter of seconds. But Kristen and Kara are twins. If anyone was wronged in the situation, it was John. Princess Four Teeth (John shortened her nickname in his head) is still grinning at him. This will not be his life. John gets up from the table and his neighbor snickers, “Where are you going, friend?” John stops moving at the word “friend.” Kristen’s boss used to call him “friend” all the time until he was fired. “Gill?” “It’s about time you recognized me.” John stands over him. “I thought you were in D.C. now.” “Nope. After I paid all the fines and legal fees from the sexual harassment case, I had nothing to get me to D.C.” “Oh. Kristen didn’t say anything about that.” “Considering she’s the one who blamed me for harassment, I’m not surprised.” John feels the wind knock out of him.
“What? She said it involved someone from accounting.” “I guess she was a-counting my money.” Gill cracks himself up with his own joke. A few others in the room, who are thoroughly engaged in their private conversation, start laughing as well. “She’d never do that.” John isn’t too sure of anything regarding Kristen now, but he wonders why she would go after Gill. It’s not like she was next in line for his job or anything. Gill snorts, “She would and she did. Be glad she only kicked you out.” “How’d you know?” “I’m around. I hear things.” Gill takes a long breath and seems to be enjoying knowing all about John’s life. “So what happens now?” “For starters, you sit down,” John takes his cue and sits. “Then, we plan.” Sitting next to Gill, John is filled with a renewed purpose. He likes the idea someone else has a plan. However, before Gill starts talking about the new plan, the instructor comes back in.
Ginny but they do not report to their Dada’s Convenient Stores, Inc. Instead, they head for Washington Square Park. “Gill, your spot is like two blocks the other way.” John pulls on Gill’s sleeve, but Gill yanks his arm out of John’s grasp. “Don’t you think I know that? I’ve lived in this city for almost ten years. I know where all the Dada’s Convenient Stores, Inc. are.” Gill walks faster and makes John keep up with him. John knows they won’t be reporting for duty. He’s concerned because he filled out paperwork. They have his social security number. “They can steal my identity,” John blurts out. Gill looks at him and laughs. “You’re homeless. What can they steal?” John looks down at the street and mutters, “I won’t always be homeless.” “Listen, they will throw out your information when they realize you didn’t go to your site. Your identity means nothing to them and identity theft is too complicated. They work in cash only.”
“Sorry about that folks. Where were we?”
Gill and John make it to the park and sit down at the first available shaded bench. They are silent. John watches a nanny walk by with a pram of twins. He sighs.
Gill answers for the group, “You were just about to tell us our assignments.”
“What?” Gill notices John’s eye direction. “You got a thing for nannies, too?”
“Was I? Oh, okay.” The instructor looks to the cabinet and notices the water bottles are missing. Princess Four Teeth begins to chuckle. He finds the folder and begins to give the directions. John and Gill are paired up two blocks away from one another. They are told to see Ginny on the way out for their hats and envelopes to hold their incoming cash.
“No. Kristen’s a twin.”
They get the hats and envelopes from
Gill cracks with laughter. “What are you laughing at?” “John. I heard all about how Kara and Kristen got you out of your own apartment.” John falls silent. In his mind, pictures flash. Kara and Kristen drinking tea out of his favorite mugs. Kristen and Kara hunched over John’s computer. Kara sleeping on his
couch. Kristen running an errand. Kara in bed with John. Kristen suing him for alimony for emotional abuse. John losing his job because his employer had a morality clause in his contract. “So, what’s the plan?” Gill looks out over the park. “How should I know?” “But you said you had a plan.” “No, I didn’t.” “Yes, you did. Back in the meeting room. You said you had a plan to get back at Kristen.” “No, I said, we plan.” John gets up and starts pacing, smacking the brand new hat in his left hand as he clutches it with his right. Gill screams, “That’s it!” John freezes thinking if he moves the idea will move with him. Gill continues, “I got it. Give me your hat.” “How’s my hat going to get back at Kristen?” Gill stands up and moves in front of John. “Don’t question me. Give me the hat.” John complies. Gill pushes him down and, with a speed of a coke addict chasing a high, runs off with John’s hat. John sits down and waits for Gill’s mysterious plan to come into focus.
Alla Vilnyanskaya was born in the Ukraine and moved to the United States with her parents in 1989, at the age of eight. She has been writing poetry since she was sixteen, mostly in English, and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Creative Writing at Miami University. She has also recently begun working on a translation project with a local Ukrainian poet. Her work has been published in numerous journals including Mad Poets Review, Fox Chase Review, and Compost. She also hosted her own reading series combining poetry and music in the Philadelphia-area entitled “Blend.” You may reach her at email@example.com.
Thief He sees her like a vision Steals her like a jewel Lulls her like a baby Unwraps her like a chocolate He uses her like a sheet breaks her like a twig Buries her, like a bone
Don Rutberg has a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Southern California and is a published author of books, children’s books, stage plays, comic books and magazine articles. His recent book, A Writer’s First Aid Kit, is a proactive approach to writing and selling books and scripts, designed to shorten the learning curve and help writers acquire show-biz savvy without moving their families or selling their souls—well, at least without moving their families. Don teaches various writing and communication courses at the Community College of Philadelphia and Drexel University. He lives in Andalusia, Pennsylvania when he’s not traveling to Los Angeles to meet with producers and tell them about his 25 year plan for overnight success. If you see him around, and he looks familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen his appearance on The Dating Game in 1978 on the Game Show Network. He gets that a lot.
Genetically Mapped I’m the first victim of genetic discrimination and I have to tell somebody how it all happened.
“Sorry,” the ward leader said. “We just received your genetic map and the party leaders, both parties as a matter of fact, decided that your voting rights should be rescinded. Now, don’t take this as all bad news. It was the first time both parties actually agreed on something.”
It started innocently, which was the first bad sign.
“You’re rescinding my right to vote? Why?” I asked. “Am I a criminal?”
I volunteered to have my human genome mapped. I figured, “What could go wrong? It could be helpful, learning about my genetic predispositions.”
“No, but we don’t want any crazy people voting.”
Months later, I’m unemployable and suing the world. Why? Because everybody, not just me, received a copy of my genetic map; even the car insurance companies.
“No, but I can read a genetic map all right. And this one clearly indicates that insanity flows through your DNA.”
“Sorry,” they said. “Although you’ve been a perfect driver for almost 30 years, the genetic research says you’re a bad risk.” “Risk for what?” “Going blind.” “When am I going blind?” I asked with alarm. “Sometime in the next 75 years.” “I’m only 51.” “But it could happen tomorrow, according to these charts. You see, your mother’s grandparents had degenerative vision.”
“Are you a psychiatrist?”
“Not my mother’s grandparents again!” I wailed. “All they did was crash their buggy a few times. They weren’t crazy…they were blind.” “This map shows that you have the predisposition for psychotic episodes, given the proper stimuli.” “Arbitrarily take away my right to vote and I will get crazy!” I shouted. “See?” the ward leader said, holding his palms up. “Besides, what’s the difference if you vote or not. Elections are never that close anyway.”
“They lived in Europe. They drove a horse and buggy around the village.”
The ward leader walked away and started wrangling with leaders from the other political party.
“And crashed into a few huts, we suspect.”
“Is that what genetic mapping is all about? Branding me a bad driver? Branding me anything you like? Isn’t that illegal?”
“No! Chinese food!”
“It’s too new to be illegal. And please don’t ask me about life insurance. We don’t sell it to your chromosomal class.” Shaken, I walked over to the polling place to vote.
So I couldn’t drive or vote but I could still work, or at least that’s what I thought. I applied for a job within walking distance of my home, as a typist. “I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications, a Master’s Degree in
Fine Arts, and I type really fast,” I told my interviewer. “Sorry,” she said, tapping my genetic map. “Wait a second. How’d you get that?” I wondered. “Off the Internet,” she revealed. “And it says right here that a mutation of chromosome 17 predisposes you to carpal tunnel syndrome.” “I didn’t know I had a chromosome 17,” I admitted. “We would be loathe to hire someone like yourself, only to have you incapacitated by wrist pain, unable to perform even a simple task like typing. We’d be paying you for nothing. And even if we wanted to do that, our medical insurance would never permit it.” At least the woman asked if I needed parking validation. After a long walk, I arrived home and noticed a man waiting at my door. “Who are you?” I asked. He handed me his business card. He worked for the Department of Corrections. “You must be looking for Elaine in apartment A,” I blurted out. “She spends a lot of time in Florida. I live up here in C.” “I have the right address. I’m your probation officer.” “Excuse me?” “Your genetic map has that insanity gene, remember? Or have you conveniently and insanely blocked that out?” “How could you be my probation officer when I’ve never been convicted of any crime?” “Insane people commit crimes,” he told me as he handed me the front page of my newspaper. “Read all about it.”
“So, if I’m hearing you right, and I know I am because I also lip read, you’re simply getting a head start, before I actually do the dirty deeds.” “It’s the prudent thing to do.” “Sure. Sure. Tell me, does my genetic map indicate which psychotic crime I’ll be committing?” “You tell me.” “I haven’t really thought about it.” “Wow, you really are a psycho.” “Even if I am thinking about it, right now, I can’t go to jail for what I’m thinking.” The officer put away his handcuffs. “You can’t. But, fortunately, you can be assigned a probation officer.” “Why don’t you come back later?” I asked. “I will, just as soon as I hear about your crime spree. Do you prefer pepper spray or the stun gun?” “Both.” “These maps never lie,” he muttered as he walked down the steps and began knocking on Elaine’s door in apartment A. Trying to stay calm, I made a phone call to inquire about medical insurance. “How overweight are you?” the medical insurance agent asked me over the phone, and I could hear her tapping the chart with my genetic map. “Maybe a pound or two.” “That’s not what the map indicates.” “I work out five times a week.” “Try mixing in a salad.” “I have a salad every day.”
“Oh!” she half-sang. “I find that hard to believe–you eating salad, especially carrots, with those bad teeth.” “I have two crowns. Is that —” “The tip of the iceberg? It sure is.” “I eat a lot of hummus. Very little chewing; saves wear and tear,” I reminded her but I knew I wasn’t changing her mind about my being an unacceptable insurance risk. “Have any more cyst operations?” she asked warily. “My last one was in 1966.” “Allergies?” “Yes–to poison.”
affects your right wrist, which the chart says it will, then they’ll shoot high on your blocker side. Either way, goal scored, they win. We lose. Try soccer.” In other conversations, I learned I could eventually be bald, asthmatic, impotent, mole-ridden, insulin-dependent and tone deaf. But through it all, I never accepted my new label as “genetically less fortunate.” And it was this “stubborn” gene, which went completely undetected in all the mapping tests, by the way, that motivated me to overcome my genetic deficiencies. I became stubbornly litigious, sued everyone mentioned above, including my own lawyer and lifetime friend, Al.
“Do you mean rat poison or the perfume they call, ‘Poison?’”
I walked into Al’s trendy, downtown office. He smiled sadly, then unstrapped my goalie mask. I handed him an envelope.
“Retirement speech?” he asked.
“Consider yourself served,” I barked.
With my options waning, I asked for and received a ride to the street hockey court in New Hope. At least I could work up a sweat and release some tension during the spirited game. The team captain, Al, a friend of mine since high school, a hockey teammate in college, a kindred spirit and my lawyer, approached me. He put his hands on the goalie mask I was wearing. “I saw your genetic map, man, and I’m sorry.”
“You’re suing me because I won’t let you play goalie?” he shouted in amazement. “It’s not only me. You’ll have to serve papers to the whole team.”
“I feel pretty good,” I answered. “No, I mean, sorry, you can’t play goal anymore,” he said as he unsnapped the straps and took off my mask. “What? Why not?” “Chromosome 17. I mean, if you get carpal tunnel syndrome during the game, what chance do you have to make any saves? If it affects your left wrist, the other guys will shoot high on your glove-hand side and if it
“I’m walking there now.” “The jury will never take your side. Never. Trust me. I’m your attorney.” The jury was on my side. All of them had recently been laid off because of “genetic predispositions.” I earned $7,300,000 in damages, which were tripled by the Appellate court judge, who was also on my side. He was about to be forced into retirement because his second cousin had Alzheimer’s disease. The judge was 49 years old. I wrote a book about my experiences. At first, no publisher wanted me as an author because it was discovered that my grandmother wore orthopedic shoes.
“How will you be able to stand around, signing autographs at book stores,” publishers asked me. “Huh?!” But then I heard about an agent who had been fired because his great-uncle had diabetes. He started his own agency, read my book and signed me to a contract. Then he sold my story to a publisher who had started his own company after a large publishing house fired him upon learning his grandfather had degenerative vision. “Someone found out he drove a buggy into a hut in Europe in 1902,” he said softly. “Yours, too?!” I yelled. I’ve had three books published about human rights, human dignity and fundamental freedoms. The story of my life will soon be made into a feature film. The movie studio hired a full-time typist to transcribe the screenplay gently mentioning something about a “Mutated Chromosome 17,” which, by the way, is the film’s working title. I still can’t afford medical insurance; not after my dad’s prostate surgery or my niece’s gallbladder attack. The moral of my story? That’s easy: If you’re always feeling sluggish and think you’re getting diabetes, lay off the cheesecake. If your siblings need heart surgery, eat less steak. If you feel, deep down, that you’ve got a mutated chromosome 17, get some wristrests for the computer, damn it. Whatever you do, don’t let them map your human genome.
When Amanda Davis was four, she learned to spell—and she hasn’t stopped writing since. Over the years, her passion for the craft has grown. In high school, she fell in love with editing, and while at Rutgers University, she became a willing passenger on the “sinking ship” known as journalism, graduating with a degree in Journalism and Media Studies in 2008. Now Amanda writes about science and technology to earn a living. After hours, she writes and publishes creative non-fiction pieces to express herself to the world. She also loves working with other writers to help them come out of their shells and get to the heart of what they’re trying to say. Finally, Amanda concludes, “I’m terrible at writing conclusions.”
Safety Net Sometimes I can feel myself slipping down a sinkhole, my heart quickened and consumed by fear and doubt. Of depression and a waning sense of self-worth. Feeling expendable, as a faceless, meaningless shape in the masses. There’s nothing setting me apart, nothing pulling me up, nothing holding me back. And it’s when this feeling of having nothing left to lose sets in that my safety net prevails again. The sharp, cold as an ice cube solid truth that the one, if only, thing I’ll always be able to rely on is myself. This ego that successfully stands in my way of true insanity. This person that loves to sing, draw, write, lie on her stomach and listen to the rain. The girl that shared her last Seattle sunset with no one and will play a chorus ten times in a row just because it feels good. Fingertips and eyeballs express what the spoken word fails to pinpoint. I return to this place and realize that my safety net is not my savings account, my stable job, or the pillow beneath my head. I know at once these things can vanish, all too briskly these things can be stripped away and when they do, the only one I’ve left to answer to is myself.
Transient is a quarterly, online literary magazine. Our goal is to collect and, most importantly, share the works and words of various poets...
Published on Jul 28, 2012
Transient is a quarterly, online literary magazine. Our goal is to collect and, most importantly, share the works and words of various poets...