Two people look at a mountain. They do not see the same thing. *** Next Words: a title bound within the circle of itself. A title suggesting continuation while callously mocking origin, a title hurtling forth with planetary vibrations, a title seeking more. Next Words: a tail in the mouth, digestive trouble, afterbirth. Next Words: on and on and on âˆž As writers, we move through a common language of symbols in which certain concrete forms are employed to represent abstract ideas. A symbol, when presented to the mind of one versed in the form, conveys a hint, a nudge, a notion in a prescribed direction, although it never relinquishes the possibility of misadventure. With this edition of the Next Words series, we stray lightly from those before us, mindful that no matter what age we live in or what language we speak, our symbols tell the same
story: we proliferate, we graduate, and through the production of this book, we speak to one another, though long cycles of time may separate us. The wheel of academism rotates ad infinitum until the fault line of California bursts apart and CalArts is swallowed by flaming rocks. Still, there will always be more words. There is a certain circularity to every graduate degree program, indeed, to life. The circle is one of the oldest symbols in the world, and if taken alone, signifies the incomprehensible unity that underlies all manifestation. It is a symbol of life in contradistinction to form. It has no beginning and no end and no affirmation in space or time, yet the circumference suggests a limitation: one must be either inside or out. We hope you will venture into this book wide-eyed and childlike, willing to shave the square and propagate all that emerges from this moderately strenuous hike. There are several scenic overlooks scattered throughout the loop, and in certain light, the snowcapped peaks of the mountains appear magnificent. ***
Ani Bakhchadzyan ∞ 9 KT Browne ∞ 17
James Pianka ∞ 85
Joey Cannizzaro ∞ 23
Riley Raubacher ∞ 93 Diego Robles ∞ 100
Jade Hudson ∞ 33
Nick Saltrese ∞ 111
Djinji Jimenez ∞ 43
Chrysanthe Tan ∞ 117
Emma Kemp ∞ 51 Clay Kerrigan ∞ 57
Vesta Vaingloria ∞ 127 Robert Villalobos ∞ 132
Shishonia Livingston ∞ 67
Shana Mirambeau ∞ 77
Emerson Whitney ∞ 137 Adriana Widdoes ∞ 143
Information Age (an excerpt from the novel Fetish)
“Where can you buy ether,” Damian typed in the Google search bar. The clicks of the keyboard seemed to reverberate off the icy walls and the metal table as they echoed in his mind. Yea. Ether. This would work. I’m sick of all the screaming and fighting back. Mother used to slap me unconscious. It doesn’t work when I do it. They only yell louder. Google found 4,450,000 results, most of which stated “You will find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, as a private individual, to buy diethyl ether in most western countries due to its increasing use in illicit drug manufacture.” Fuck. Shit. There’s gotta be a way. Come on, druggies. Work with me. Wikianswers.com said, “You can buy it at a chemical supply house.” Where is the closest chemical store? I need specifics. He kept searching and when he discovered that many universities with science labs had it, Damian balled his hands into fists and shook with excitement. He soon realized that he could order it at sciencelab.com. Their website had over 20 types and prices ranging from $120-$3500 depending on the quantity and chemical purity. Damian’s fingers began to do a swift half-snap motion while he exposed an unscrupulous smile. Nerds to the rescue! Damian patted the extra lotion from his hands onto his 9
Information Age (an excerpt from the novel Fetish)
white scrubs and entered the resting room. Five women in matching white robes half-sat on the walnut brown leather couches with their feet neatly tucked underneath their torsos, in various positions. The stainless steel wall water fountain lulled the women to an almost-sleep. A “Quiet Room” sign hung on the door behind Damian. He quickly scanned the women and hoped for the thin, young blonde with full lips. “Amanda Lawrence? Is Amanda here?” Damian asked as he took several steps in their direction. “That’s me,” answered the blonde.Damian grinned from ear to ear. “Hi, Amanda. I’m Damian, and I’ll be your masseur today. Are you still interested in doing the 50-minute Swedish massage?”As she nodded Damian asked her to walk with him. He led her down a hallway while asking the same trivial questions he usually asked. They entered a dimly lit massage room that smelled of lotions. Serenity music hummed from the speakers and from Damian’s lips, “I’m going to step outside and I’ll be back in a few minutes. Please disrobe and place your belongings on the chair. There’s a cubby near the door for your shoes. Lie under the sheets, face down on your belly, and enjoy our heated bed. I’ll be back shortly.” There was eeriness at the base of his voice that was reflected in his body language. His fingers were fidgety and he did a constant half-snap motion while he spoke. Damian stared at Amanda without blinking and for the first time he noticed her analyzing him—as if he had bullets for eyes. There was barely a distinction between his iris and his pupil as they blended into one basaltic hue. “Are you ready?” Damian asked as he knocked. He stepped into the room and locked the door behind him. He walked
over to his oil and lotion station and asked Amanda if there were certain areas that she would like him to focus on. No. No? What do you mean no? I’d like to work on your perfectly carved upper glutes. “Very well. I’m going to start with your neck and work down your back.” Damian squirted some of the “Soothing Touch Calming Cream” onto his palms and folded the covers down to the beginning of her buttocks and began to rub. His hands worked like a puppeteer ’s as each finger ’s movement stroked the cords of her muscles. With each circular thumb motion, Amanda let out sighs of relief. “How’s the pressure?” Damian asked as he continued to apply medium pressure while swiftly karate chopping across from her left to right shoulder blades. “Perfect,” she whispered. After a few routine techniques, he covered half of her back with the sheets. It was time to work on her legs and his body let out a shiver. He folded the covers as far up as he could, without revealing her buttocks. He lifted, pulled, stretched out, rubbed, and serenaded one leg at a time, focusing on her thighs. My little marionette. That’s it. Nice and easy for now. One limb at a time. The wind tunnels in his mind were building a language of moan. Perhaps it was Amanda’s quiet moans. He could not tell. Damian had mastered this massage therapy thing for one year now. He painted a face over his face and hiding was what he did naturally. If only I could use the ether now. He began to salivate as he slowly stroked his hands from her ankles to her thighs. He couldn’t resist. He wanted to cut into her succulent thigh and suck the juice out. Damian’s excitement overwhelmed him. He paused for a moment. Unable to control himself, he gently sunk his fingernails deep into her skin.“What was that?” Amanda asked. Damian quickly sprang back up. “Oh, I’m sorry. My fingernails dug into
Information Age (an excerpt from the novel Fetish)
you. I hope that didn’t hurt. Are you okay?”“Yea, I’m okay,” Amanda answered. Damian revealed a sly grin and his erection grew harder at the thought of how easy it was. He grazed her body and felt her skin prickle with his touch. He rubbed his crotch on her feet as he worked his way around the bed. Her smooth, soft surface felt like melted butter. The sides of her breasts revealed themselves while her body lay there, pressed against the massage bed. He studied her physique, taking in one body part at a time. My libido is a terrorist. Mother, stop laughing at me! Why are you even here? Is it because I’m hard? You always liked seeing my dick hard, you fuckin’ whore. Damian quickly shook his head. At least he’d lost his erection and could now position himself near her head.“Go ahead and turn over, Amanda. I’m going to work on your arms and chest now. Do you mind if I give you a scalp massage?”“That’s fine. I’m going to wash my hair after the massage.”That a girl. Do as momma, I mean, I say. My little figurine. “Ouch that hurts!” Amanda shouted, and Damian quickly stopped. Looking down, he realized he had been pulling her hair during the scalp massage. He was at the nascent stage of this new career. Realizing that it might not be as easy as he thought, he knew he had to prepare more.“I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you,” he begged. He needed this job. To push the boundaries. To practice. To become flawless. “What the hell are you doing? I want to speak with your manager. Get out so I can change,” Amanda yelled.“I didn’t mean to hurt you. Pulling the hair follicles helps relieve tension. I hope you’re okay. I’ll throw in a free manicure. On the house.” “Okay. Just be more gentle,” she said in an unenthusiastic tone, but her smile revealed that she was, in fact, quite thrilled. He continued to caress her. She felt his eyes move over her,
touching each part of her deliberately, like a hand. His time was almost up. Thanks mom. You’re always fucking shit up for me. He hoped the words itched at her bones. Are you happy? Stop laughing! Stop laughing mom! Her laughter pelted his ears. The timer let out a high “ding” and Damian announced that their time was up. “Thank you so much for coming in today. I will leave a note for a complimentary manicure service and you can use it today or another time. Sorry again for the mishap. I hope you enjoyed yourself and feel relaxed. I’m going to step outside so you can get dressed. Thanks again,” Damian said. As Damian walked back to the empty receptionist’s desk, he searched for more information about Amanda on the computer. All she had provided was her full name and phone number. He quickly jotted the information down and put it in his pocket. Once his boss appeared at the desk, he knew he would have to explain the free manicure situation. Damian perverted the information by stating that he gave Amanda a complimentary manicure because she expressed so much gratitude and was pleased with his services. “Oh, that’s great! Maybe she will leave us a good review on Yelp too,” she said.
Yelp’s reviewers awarded Haven Day Spa an intermittent three out of five stars in ratings which varied from “If I could give this place negative stars, I would” to “I absolutely love this place.” This includes criticism about Haven’s decor, massage services, skin care services, spa amenities, products, parking services, friendliness, cleanliness, music, ambiance, and any other useful or useless information you can think of. Yelp, of course, is an important tool for assessing information about a multitude of businesses. It is especially helpful in
Information Age (an excerpt from the novel Fetish)
providing detailed specifics for first-time-goers. Yelp is a local business directory service and review site with social networking features. Yelp had over 100 million monthly viewers in January of 2013. You heard it. 100 million monthly viewers! Its revenue comes from local business advertising. Keep clicking, my friends. Keep clicking.
on our side, sugar plum. Within a few clicks Damian learned that she graduated from UCLA in 2011 with a bachelor ’s in business, had one brother, lived in an apartment with her dog, loved Florence and the Machine, and was single. Damian continued to look at her photos and stopped at one from last Halloween. There she was. Every glance, every encounter, contained within it a dark, expanding universe of intimacies, exploding like dandelion fluff at her slightest breath. Dressed in all leather with a whip and cat ears. Look at those tits coming out of that black pleather corset. You’re laced in so tight. You can hardly breathe. Oh I’ll tighten that up more baby. I’ll take out those huge tits, fasten you so tight in that corset, and spread eagle those legs in your thigh high boots. A sensation came over him and he grabbed the desk, threw his head back, and laughed devilishly.
When Damian arrived home, he threw his car keys on the table and walked towards the computer in the lightless room. With so many thoughts running through his head, he knocked over the mannequin head that carried his mother ’s blonde wig. “Oh I’m sorry mother. Didn’t mean to make your head roll,” he chuckled. Once he had sunk into the computer chair, he saw that the ether had shipped and should arrive within seven business days. Easy as pie. Let’s see what Amanda is up to. Facebook gods, light my way. Damian fingers tapped hastily to the rhythm of her imaginary moans. He typed “Amanda Lawrence” in the search bar. He went through the many Amanda Lawrence’s and didn’t recognize her in any of the profile pictures. Damn it. Where the hell are you? He opened another tab and tried Twitter. There weren’t any matches for Amanda Lawrence. Fuck! He looked at the phone number he’d scribbled and saw that it was an 818 area code. This meant she lived in the Valley. He narrowed down his search on Facebook and one of the Amanda’s lived in Sherman Oaks. This has to be you my little blonde princess. Lucky for him, her Facebook page was not private. He went through her photos and timeline and smirked at how effortless this was. In fact, the last place she checked into was “Haven Day Spa” with a comment that said “much needed.” Look at our connection. You knew you were in for some much needed time with me. Fate is
Damian rushed to the bathroom. He began to pee, but he couldn’t stop thinking about Amanda and how her full lips parted slightly as she moaned. He sprayed splashes of pee on the toilet seat as his erection interrupted the flow. The image of her thighs was implanted in his brain and he began to stroke his cock. He imagined her cuffed to his bed frame by her arms and legs, wearing nothing but leather fuck-me boots. Damian beat his dick faster and rougher with thoughts of her taking him in her mouth. Give me head, just like that. Give me head. He was on his knees and sitting on her face. He’d fuck her mouth and she’d gag and try to scream, but he wouldn’t stop. Give me your head. He loved the sound of them screaming. Oh yea, give it to momma. I mean, daddy. Just like that. Scream louder my little puppet. You like fucking me you motherfucker. Hahahaha. You’re a motherfucker. He’d imagine taking his dick out and
Information Age (an excerpt from the novel Fetish)
squeezing it into her tight virgin ass and then her wet pussy. As he fucked her, Damian would pull her hair as hard as he pleased and she’d scream more. He’d take his knife and gently carve into her thigh. He’d cover her mouth and she’d bite his hand and it would send chills all the way to his toes. The thought of blood oozing out of her while he was on top made him come. He shivered. His fluid ran down his hand, but all he could feel was her blood dripping down his legs.
Ecotone Even in deep winter Cheech and Milo would hobble back to the woods behind their home to watch the electric fence singe between geometric plots of property. “It’s dangerous between.” Cheech would say, watching the wires blow at even the slightest bout of wind, watching the wires shed off bright flashes like cotton balls, bright flashes mixing with the white ground, the gray skies; so much gray. Intoxicated by this sight, Cheech would often extend her hands towards the fence, coming dangerously close to touching a wire, but before she had the chance to make contact, Milo would slap her hand down and press it hard against her side. “Don’t.” He’d spatter, squeezing his sister’s fingers in the whitening clasp of his palm while the wires spoke wordlessly beside them in hums and buzz. When Cheech sleeps she spans strange distances quickly; speeding down the lanes, speeding forth through seasons, she goes incautiously into the black. Often in these dreams Cheech finds herself in strange motels on nights in which the sky presses heavily upon her; storms wreak havoc rather often there, the lights flicker in and out, and in. “Take shelter.”
“Find your hiding.” Strange voices tell her as she sleeps; and she listens, crawls into small spaces and waits out each storm’s remainder. With her knees huddled to her chest, in the dark and with cold all around her, Cheech shivers but is not scared; there is a melody to the way that the floorboards whine. She listens.
wavering and forthright and impatient. The boy unbuttons and unzips her, clipping the skin above her uterus between the metal for a moment. Cheech cries out as the boy unhooks her and kisses the bleeding marks on her abdomen with his chapped, flaking lips. “The burn will go away.” The boy whimpers at Cheech. “Just wait.” They then succumbed, altogether blindly into the cave of the sheets.
On a day between seasons, between hours at school between the halls, Cheech fumbles her fingers around the dial of a locker, attempting to spin the numbers forwards and backwards to open the door. The empty hallways, the empty classrooms echo unpinpointable sounds all around her; Cheech pauses spinning the dial and cocks her head to the ceiling and imagines all of the floors that lie above it, forever unto the sky. Then her eyes close, her heart palpitates, and she succumbs; Cheech screamed that day in school. The scream began at her feet and traveled through her shins, through her hip bones, all the way up past her ribs and out the back of her throat towards the ceiling; and as Cheech’s mouth opened to stream out the terrible wail, the ceiling slapped the sound back at her and knocked her shakily to her knees. As Cheech wrenches out tears atop the waxed floor in the middle of the school hallway, a boy passes by; he has wiry hair and streaks in his eyes and as he passes Cheech, his hand extends and reaches towards her, then presses down upon her shoulder blade until she quivers beneath the heat and the weight of an anonymous someone warming her. “Let me help you.” The boy mutters out, then clutches his fingers around Cheech’s shirt and lifts her up, then they’re off. In the boy’s bedroom afterschool, Cheech is a child. She is unsure and 18
That night, Milo gets blaringly, passionately drunk with his girlfriend at the kitchen table. Beneath a swinging lamp, they watch each other and they watch their thumbs—twiddling into invisible spirals, playing with the plastic-wrapped slices of neon-orange cheese that surround them. “Do you ever wonder.” His girlfriend begins to leak out. Milo holds his glass tumbler, like a crutch. “What it would be like...” Milo sips and swallows with his head, vapidly thrown back. “To fuck another?” Milo wakes intermittently throughout the night in many multiples while his girlfriend sleeps soundlessly beside him; his dreams are fragmented and ceased before their start, often reaching abrupt conclusions too early. Milo is tired when he awakes, manifesting into strange shapes and faces he doesn’t recognize; in the mirror over the sink in the morning, he stares. He doesn’t know himself, his face feels uncanny and new and beyond cognizant calculation. Taking his hands to his skin, Milo presses and pushes; he discovers new sensations, 19
new patches of foreign contours. Milo begins to press his eyes shut with the pads of his thumbs; he pushes until his sockets hurt, until he begins to see purple spots floating maniacally forwards and backwards beneath his lids. Then with two fingers taken to each eye, he pinches the thin skin of each lid between his nails. How hard. Milo stands before the mirror of his face that’s not his own with his fingers to his eyelids, pinching until the skin breaks. Do I have to wonder. Milo feels nothing as tiny bubbles of blood pool down the lids of his eyes. To know. There are streaks in the sky beyond him, and the streaks peek into the room by way of a molding, chipping window. Deep into the nights that follow, Milo remembers songs from long ago and sings along to them strangely between his neural fibers, tipping over into chromatic dreams trembling. The fragile space between two vastly differing terrains is called the ecotone. Sanctioned between two lives, in a sense, ecotones contain both remnants and developments—life and death. Often dense with vegetation, ecotones also contain a distinct line between two communities: this line is a sharp, transitional curvature to which only few species can comfortably ascribe. For the creatures who call this line—the ecotone—home, life remains in a constant state of flux: fragile, ungrounded states of being define their days, and yet they are comfortable here amidst such wild changing, for they know nothing more except of the constancy of the world’s incessant shifts. 20
hyperphonic translation (every youtube video trending on 11/2/13 played simultaneously)
waiting make way I rope sanctions fucking dog
watch me go
running circles its just stumble high cutting on we r.i.p.
twisting and me
the sun versions of leave fuck hey night it’s it’s night this is the number as long as run it through like you hop let’s just say you might have died because so you sew 23
fake phone calls
the flip of a coin
I don’t think
a continual number of outcomes
the swimming pool is GONE
dangerous fumbling howling fury
I never have to
what the believable
sugar we will
taking off sin
together . of
burn smoking turn
course you don’t remember
to me over the
the jails of the past
cloud a few
the best never
galaxies are totally
do not .
US DO THIS
and him . what’s
that ? hard
at work we don’t
the middle of the road
think about . if
out of control
inside the radio
it’s so flat too
dust off amazing
sunshine oh my
workforce what does it mean?
what this guy
the eye opening
roses get back
abduction . waiting cars
tongue you’d like
the other day
right ? same
we were talking
easy cellar door
you all made
I’ve never ! excuse
fun of me for
this blunt sick no
my leg is gonna
what if I
have a plan
help . this monster
is eating all
shutter no ! no !
my candy ! start
pills your kid
guess what ? this
song . shock
here we go
a thousand butter
the last spitting
swarms running riot
lay down flat
HA HA HA !
Egyptian collective steak
I can’t get up
3, 4 form fitting
demonstration build –
up feelings channel
spot on chief scratch
gold legend t.v.
antlers . ghost please
forces . guns . GUNS
look at him ! evil
GUNS . how can
summaries last ?
happens . do it ! every
lock stop . fatty
vote rococo !
tragic lady sings
today’s topic is
tin licking library
a-ok the doctor
said Saturday “um
who is this wacky
the elevator um red
character ? excuse
footprint I was
me do you have
lapping up I was
any condoms ? that’s
looking for this”
a good sun
fudge between us . wait
head for the
fort warm up
stay close and
bees are hardware
LEAVE THIS PLANET
lets mate . maintenance free
abomination and everybody is very interested
DRINKY TIME EDUCATION (AN EXCERPT FROM THE NOVEL SOMETHING IN NOWHERE WORLD)
As Grayson entered Godard Hall, which had previously contained numerous original artworks, he found the entrance hallway decorated with artistic renditions of Hobart’s Cheese Product. In the numerous still portraits, a block of artificial cheese was set in front of obscure celebrities that Grayson couldn’t recognize. Above each portrait were anti-slogans, such as “Be Yourself When You Can,” “Who’s Got The Drinky Time?” and “The Cheese To Appease.” Further down the hall, where teachers would have usually signed students into the placement tests, were a number of people standing around a giant colored wheel. A man dressed as a clown was speaking into a megaphone. “Step right up, don’t be afraid,” he boomed. “Everybody’s a winner, everybody’s special!” The loud noise and rabble were confusing and infuriating to Grayson. He edged around a great number of the crowd’s members, many of which were wearing Halloween costumes and variations of exciting underwear. “Everybody wins! Every time! Drinky Time doesn’t discriminate!” the clown shouted. After struggling for five minutes and finding the crowd too 33
Drinky Time Education
dense to navigate, Grayson had reached the limits of his frustration. He shouted at the clown, “Where the hell is the placement test?” The entire crowd broke into cheers. “Don’t worry Jimbo!” squealed the clown. “Placement is automatic. Everyone’s a winner here! But who will win the authentic Drinky Time Internship? Only the nastiest, most word Hobart will win!” “This is ridiculous!” howled Grayson. “I’m an Honor Student!” “I’m an Honor Student too,” howled a nearby, sixty-yearold woman wearing nothing but a thong. Four camera operators appeared from the corners of the room, they were wearing shirts that displayed two halves of two faces put together symmetrically. Above the constructed faces, on each shirt read the bold word, “BIASED.” After a bit of deliberation, the clown drew the crowd’s attention to the giant wheel. The wheel had numerous colored sections, each ascribed with the name of a professional degree. “Now settle down,” said the clown. “You’ll win your degrees in a moment.” Grayson was shocked by the absurdity of such a statement. Was this a joke? Win your degrees? As Grayson stood, nervously inspecting a fleck of dirt that was under one of his fingernails, a grossly obese, seemingly middle-aged white woman wearing nothing but a Santa hat stepped up to the wheel. She addressed the clown in English so fragmented as to seem like an alien language, “Bonko… mah… mah Bonko… m-mah name’s Shandy… un I just wancha-da-know… this issa… uh… Drinkylicious good time for my self.” A nearby camera man was silently celebrating the opportunity for money footage. “Drinky Time appreciates your so-so commitment to higher education as well,” said
Bonko, pretending to wipe a tear from his sweaty, makeupsmeared cheek. “Now… Shandy… spin The Wheel of Random Commendation!” The middle-aged woman grabbed a knob on the wheel and gave it a vigorous spin. After revolving five or six times, the arrow of the wheel slowly came to a halt over the color red. “Shandy, you’re in luck,” howled Bonko, “you just completed a PhD in Physics.” The crowd exploded into cheers. “Hoe yuh! Can’t believe!” Shandy screamed excitedly, “Ida all ways want atha… atha… letic stuff… now Ima live long dream, and… itsa lotta so-so.” At this, Bonko was livid, he put an arm around Shandy, looked into a nearby camera and smiled, “This happy moment is brought to you by Drinky Time Academy.” “This is ridiculous!” shouted Grayson. The camera operators quickly went to commercial. “That woman doesn’t even know what Physics is. How could she possibly utilize that degree?” Bonko put his hands on his hips. “Well, well, well, an unbeliever. Then step right up and spin. I promise you won’t be disappointed.” Grayson stood out from the crowd and addressed it as a whole, “I’m Grayson Morton Hayes, and I represent the sanity of the surrounding world. This clown is tricking you. These degrees are useless. As I’m of a right mind, I can tell you with assurance, there’s nothing you can do with such a useless degree.” The crowd was baffled and stupefied by Grayson’s argument. One or two within the crowd put their hands together, not knowing if they should clap or boo. “C’mon now,” said Bonko, as he failed an attempt at
Drinky Time Education
twirling around in a half-drunken trip, “who in this day, age, macrocosm, diaspora or economic climate wants to work for a degree? Who’s got the dough? After all, if you’re good to the dollar, the dollar’s good to you.” The crowd applauded and hooted. “What the hell does that even mean?” Grayson pleaded. The crowd laughed and Grayson felt his heart quicken. Bonko motioned for them to calm down. “Grayson, Grayson, do you want to work for your degree, or do you want your degree to work for you?” “I want to work for my degree, that’s why I’m here for the placement exam. I want a degree that’s worth something.” “Well, let me riddle you this: does your degree have worth because you earned it or does it have worth because it has worth? I assume you want to have a valued profession. Am I correct?” “Yeah,” said Grayson sheepishly. “If a degree you can struggle and earn over the course of eight to ten years is just as likely to provide you said employment as a no-sweat Free Degree from the reformed Drinky Time Academy, then why would you want to waste your valuable time and energy doing busy work?” “You mean work?” Grayson snapped. “All work is busy work,” Bonko retorted. “Well…” Grayson’s reasoning was becoming clouded in the context of the conversation as a whole. “I don’t just want a degree,” said Grayson, “I want to be the best.” “But everybody can be the best, can’t they Grayson?” Grayson was hesitant to respond. He hated loaded questions and this was the most loaded question of them all. It was evident to him that everybody wasn’t special. If everyone was gifted, thought Grayson, there would be no
substance to being gifted in the first place. There was an apparent, yet subtle, hierarchy overarching the academic and intellectual potential of human beings. Superiority was a spoil warred for and won by the powerful, not an innate attribute of merely existing. If people were all destined to be best, nobody could excel. Grayson felt the strong necessity to socially blend, but swelled with the desire to subjugate the seemingly lesser mortals around him. Grayson’s dumbfounded pause represented more than a gathering of thought. As its connection to the deepest well of his unconscious social self became apparent, small veins of sweat flowed between the interwoven folds of his hands. He scratched at an imaginary fly bite to further offset his utterly delayed response. He nervously avoided the painfully piercing eyes of the staring many that surrounded him. He swore for a second that he actually heard his brain’s fluid shift away from the antagonistic defense that represented the fiber of his every, fluctuating atom of existence. “Yeah,” he muttered, “I suppose everyone can be the best.” Bonko demonstrated that he didn’t buy the bluff, but he quickly recovered, “That was an immaculate response, and Drinky Time Academy respects initiative. Grayson, my boy… I’m going to the box.” The camera operators rushed back to the scene and the crowd gave a gasp worthy of a highly-paid TV audience. Bonko turned to a small, velvet-lined chest that was sitting open on a nearby table. With a sinister smile, he reached inside, retrieving a piece of golden paper. The audience hushed in suspense. “Hmm. Yes… Hmm,” said Bonko. He then bellowed in the decibel of a landing missile, “Grayson Hayes is the winner of the raffle!”
Drinky Time Education
“What does that even mean?” Grayson asked impatiently. “It means,” Bonko was struggling for words, “you have won an…er…internship… in…the Big City! You are to enter training for a position in The Government. How do you respond to that little nugget of Drinky Time awesomeness?” Much to the slurring crowd’s dismay, Grayson deeply contemplated the offer presented. Bonko clicked his tongue against his teeth and shuffled his over-sized shoes nervously. All time seemed to slow around Grayson’s response in a harrowing crawl. It was true that Grayson had often dreamt of working for the government. He’d also always questioned whether he’d struggle at a craft for a short time before banking his immense success. Maybe he could avoid that struggle altogether. Grayson had longed for the formal training that only an Ivy League College could provide. He had often dreamt about walking a stage before thousands of cheering spectators, in a cap and gown, shaking the hand of some proud dean and receiving a well-earned title. On the other hand, how could Grayson deny his ravenous hunger for absolute power and the fortune that such supremacy could provide? It seemed that a position in the government of all places would prove once and for all, to every person in the world, that Grayson Hayes was a methodical, confident, intellectual powerhouse— an insatiable leader to be reckoned with and respected. “Yes. I accept,” said Grayson sternly. At that, a portion of the crowd booed while the rest burst into unrealistic merriment and ear-splitting revelry. Members of the crowd patted Grayson on the back, excitedly shook his hand and promised to add him to their Facebook friends lists. Grayson felt a bit tipsy, though he hadn’t consumed alcohol. The school had obviously undergone an extreme change in
dogmatic ideals. Just the day before, he had seen a student slapped on the back of the hand for speaking out of turn. The reestablished school definitely had its pitfalls, but it also had its benefits. As the game broke down and Bonko began merely handing out doctoral degrees, Grayson was at war with himself. While the recipients of these degrees couldn’t possibly function in the work they were intended to enter, Grayson wondered whether any of these paper prescriptions of placement had ever actually mattered. Was it more valuable to have sat in classes for the sake of receiving the rubber stamp of approval or was it better to have had actual experience in the world? For the first time, Grayson felt like he had grasped a truer form of power. He had gradated from Drinky Time Academy and it was time for him to utilize his degree.
TALK THE TALK (Excerpt from the novel Eating Dessert)
And there she was, sitting in my car telling me that her husband was out with a woman he just met on a Saturday night, and that she was okay with it. “That’s the way our relationship works, sweetie. And besides,” she said, reclining the seat some more, “he was married when we met five years ago. I knew what I was getting myself into.” “So his ex-wife probably looked more like me, and you back then probably looked like a more perfect version of yourself now, and so it was an easy decision for him, right? Because that’s what men do, they upgrade.” “Actually,” she said looking straight at me with those fake green eyes, “I’m not sure what she looked like because I never wanted to meet her. I’ve never seen one picture. Honestly, he could be out dancing with her right now and I wouldn’t care. And maybe she looked better or worse than I do but none of that matters now because papers are signed, joint accounts exist, and no matter what happens he is home with me before I go to sleep at night.” She sipped her bottle and set it in the cup holder. “What he engages in during his free time is none of my concern. If it’s something negative, that negativity affects him and I refuse to let it enter my experience. Our connection together happens when we are 43
Excerpt from the novel Eating Dessert
together. That’s all.” “You have a unique way of looking at the world,” I said. “So do you. Why didn’t you give Zander your number again?” “I doubt you’d understand, but I’ll try to explain again anyway. I just knew he would think of me as the fat girl. He was just being nice. He wasn’t truly interested. And even if we started something together, I’d end up being just like your husband’s ex-wife. The fat girl who got replaced.” “Well, she got forty-five percent of his income and didn’t have any kids so I think she turned out just fine. And don’t worry, all hope is not lost with Zander.” She dug around in her Texas purse for a minute and then handed me a small scrap of paper. “I think he was more interested than you assumed.” “How did you get this? Please tell me you didn’t ask him for it. I’m never going to call, you know that right? It would be the most embarrassing thing ever. Actually, I might call if I ever have a day when I’m sure that being rejected and laughed at is just what I need to get me through.” “I wish I would have brought a bigger bottle of Prosecco. Sweetie, honestly what could it harm? If you call and he doesn’t answer or doesn’t respond or says he isn’t available, then you just move on. If he says yes, then go out and have some fun with a cute guy. It’s a quite brilliant situation anyway you look at it.” I stuffed the paper in my car ’s ashtray. “If you think you’re so horribly fat, what do you think of that lady over there walking to her car? The one in last year ’s ballerina flats and the orange overcoat.” She tapped her pointer finger to her face and peered at the woman like she was a zoo spectacle.
I looked over at her. She took short, choppy steps and her walk was more of a waddle than anything else. Her arms were clenched together across her chest, and her face was composed of mostly cheeks. I looked at her waddling, and wondered if that’s how other people saw me. If that woman’s size was relatively my size. I remember seeing an article in a magazine where six different women were lined up, baring nearly everything in small white undergarments. They all had strikingly different body types. Some were pears, some were apples, some had stomach rolls, and others were muscular. There was one tall one and another who was significantly shorter than all the rest. The title was, “Do You Believe that all of These Women Weigh 152 Pounds?” I particularly couldn’t believe it. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I could in fact believe it, I just couldn’t believe that it actually mattered. No matter how much the women weighed, they all wore it differently, some better than others. That, to me, was what mattered. The fact that the short, round 152-er would be ridiculed and told to eat less and exercise more and would be subjected to the accusations that she wasn’t healthy and that her BMI was too high for her own good. The taller 152-er would be praised for having a healthy weight in comparison to her height and would be told nothing about her diet whether it was healthy or not. The bottom line is that in reality, these kinds of things aren’t always about health. It’s about whose looking. My perspective on the waddling woman was that she probably looked long and hard for a pair of jeans that would fit both her butt and her thighs. That was probably the only pair she had that she liked. Maybe she didn’t like them at all, but they were probably the only ones that were acceptable enough to be worn in public. And that orange overcoat was
Excerpt from the novel Eating Dessert
probably the only one that fit, and maybe she didn’t even like orange, but she had to pretend because that overcoat was warm and the only size sixteen available. I had no opinion about the ballerina flats other than the fact that it was pouring outside and her feet were probably soaked. I told Hunter I thought the lady’s jeans were a tiny bit too small, but that she had a pretty face so it wouldn’t be too hard for her to date. Some guys accept a bigger body in exchange for a really nice face. My face didn’t seem impressive to me. Not impressive enough to be able to bypass what was wrong with my body. Hunter spotted a couple walking out of the elevator. “Do you think he’s with her just because her face is good enough?” The man was fit. It was so obvious that he was fit. I think he wanted it to be obvious—that showoff. His shirt was skin tight, and he held his suit jacket open, spreading both lapels as if he was welcoming the entire world right into his abs. The woman though was short but wide in the hips. She had smaller breasts, and wide shoulders. She didn’t seem to be overweight, but she definitely wasn’t a Vogue woman like Hunter. The man let go of one of his lapels and hugged the woman with one arm as they walked. Her heels were loud against the concrete and they searched for their car while clicking the alarm button on their keys. “I think he’s with her because of her nice ass. Seriously, its big enough to grab but small enough to stay out of the fat category.” “But she’s not perfect, right? And she still managed to find someone to date didn’t she?” “No, she isn’t perfect. She isn’t you, Hunter.” “I’m perfect?” she asked with raised eyebrows. “Do you really think I’m perfect?” she asked again, this time scooting
up in her seat. I nodded in response to her question. She sat up straight and took off her jacket. Then she took of her cardigan, and then she grabbed the bottom corners of her shirt and began to lift. “Hunter, what are you doing? I appreciate you trying to help me and everything, but I’m not into whatever it is you think I’m into. I think you should go now,” I said, turning my head towards the driver ’s window and away from her nearly naked top half. “Look at me,” she said calmly. I could still hear the rustling of her clothes when she said it again. “Look at me,” she demanded, “before I freeze to death.” She let out a small laugh and I saw her reach for the heater ’s dial out of my peripheral vision. I don’t know why I looked instead of insisting she remove her bold and brazen self from my car immediately. I have no idea what irrational instinct took over as I turned my head and realized that my eyes landed right on her breasts and not her face. I guess curiosity got the best of me. The opportunity to really see another woman’s body, in person, I mean to really look at it, had never presented itself to me before. There were always rules: don’t look directly at your friends while they’re changing because if you do then they’ll think you’re crazy or hypersexual or a lesbian and then they won’t be your friend anymore. And maybe that was the best thing about Hunter—that she wasn’t exactly a friend—she was just some woman I had made pasta with, some woman who invited herself into my car, some woman who was sitting there showing me her scarred breasts. The indentations showed themselves through the shadows of the car. Her implants were obvious. Not because they were too big for her frame, but simply because her breasts seemed to look straight at me, upright and particularly perky. Round
Excerpt from the novel Eating Dessert
and full. There was no flat area that gradually led into the hanging mass of fats and tissue. There were only attentive masses with jagged indentations around the areola. “I tested positive for the breast cancer gene mutation about a year ago. I had a preventative mastectomy and then reconstructive surgery on these bad boys.” Hunter held her breasts in her hands. “I’ve showed them to so many women. Women who were facing illness and death. And now I’m showing them to you. The funny thing is I’m telling you the same thing I told them.” She slid her arms into her silk shirt and pulled it over her head. “No one is perfect sweetie. No one.”
Emma E. Kemp
Rock Paper Scissors In the truck I am small and contained. I rummage my feet through debris and pick up little shapes, cardboard letters sprayed fierce shades of pink and orange. An A, a T, an S. I arrange them on the dashboard alongside a length of painted wood. I found the wood discarded by the roadside and deposited it in the bed of his truck like a magpie. This happened several weeks ago and I am pleased but not surprised to see it here now, nestled in front of the windscreen, reflecting warm light like a beacon. In the seat I feel myself, the belt gripping my left breast in a rough way, my feet pressing hard on the carpeted ﬂoor. The floor is grey, almost smoky where scuffed white areas touch dark, hardened stains. We say little, listening to the sound of a stranger ’s voice. I look over occasionally, tilting my head very slightly to the left. I note the darkness of his eyes. If I close mine I smell the damp of cold caves and rancid creek water. A few weeks from now we will discuss the color of our eyes respectively, talking through the computer screen inside of rooms in our houses. In some small way he will compliment me, and in return I will steer the conversation to safer ground, away from our hands, smiles, what I like to eat for breakfast. We drive for a while until the road disappears, turning ﬁrst to a chalky dust, then a muddy ravine. There are many peaks and hollows and it is wildly exciting to drive fast, bouncing 51
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hard with the thrust of the engine. My body is soft. I mimic the loll of the wheels in motion, dropping my head frequently only to resurface and repeat. “Do you want to walk for a bit?” he asks. There is no indication in his voice as to whether he would like to or not. I take a long time to answer. Instead of thinking, I imagine the expanding black shape bridging our words. I look out of the window as he waits. We are parked at the top of a dusty canyon, the city spread out below like a dirty blanket. “Okay,” I say, swinging my legs around and sliding out awkwardly. I emerge as a seal in an oil slick, large and insoluble. He ignores my silent plight, bending to tie a loose shoelace. I consider the many environments through which this stray lace has trailed, the layers of filth accrued on its single strand of being and how a shoelace isn’t really so different from a person. As we walk I ask questions: “How high is the canyon?” “How far above sea level are we?” “Will our ears will pop, do you think?” I understand that this sort of exchange empowers my companion. In a confused way, it is my purest gift to him. We climb a little higher, commenting on ﬂowers and the dryness of it all. At some point a clump of rocks appear and we look for snakes in their crevices, then we both stop our fictitious search and stand deadly still. I am balanced on a taller rock, slightly elevated. I look down at him and he looks up at the same time. I picture this scene from an external perspective, the both of us perched on a broken plane with the whole city laid out below and the dead air and the dryness of it all. His sweatshirt is a khaki shade, camouﬂaged against the landscape. An eagle interrupts the motionless vista and I follow his eyes following the bird. In the wrenching air I realize the implications of my presence. Our mutual complicity in a predestined tragedy. I don’t know
if he knows it too, or if I am alone with this knowledge, fingering it delicately, soothed yet repelled. A man and a woman appear from behind a curve in the canyon wall. The man’s pink hand is cupped around the woman’s gloved hand. They seem very small from my place on the rock. I watch the couple intently, noticing the woman is wrapped from head to toe in white cloth. We acknowledge this peculiarity with a simultaneous raising of eyebrows. I wonder how long we will stay standing on these rocks, still and silent but thinking enormously and alone. I watch the sweat percolate on my sunburnt arm for several minutes then scuff my feet before the world gets too big. “Do you want to walk up a little more or go back to the car?” he asks quietly. I consider the consequences of both and decide it is too much already. “Back,” I whisper. He nods and we climb down from the rock pile. We encounter two women with two tiny dogs. Both women look down at my feet as we pass. They smirk and I think about this tiny moment we share, all the while knowing I won’t see them again. I think of two matches striking and how they are burnt out forever after. “They are laughing at my shoes,” I say to him, mock sadness choking my voice. I glance at my inappropriate footwear, purple suede clogs, beautiful and clunky. “How do you know it’s your shoes?” he says. “It could be your dress or your glasses or your hair.” He smiles and I pretend to be offended, although I am genuinely saddened by the perpetual recurrence of the game. Sometimes when in company it feels as though everyone is interchangeable. I wonder how I can be loved by all of these people and if it means, in relative terms, that I’m really loved by no one. Climbing back in the truck I am relieved, knowing the heaviness of the landscape
Rock Paper Scissors
Emma E. Kemp
is outside of me again. “Where to?” he asks, though it does not sound like a question. We are both very bad at making decisions. I believe this is because neither of us want to give any part of our selves away. This makes it hard for us to move, although, slowly we do get around. We drive, choosing left and rights at random and in turn. Winding through the mountains I point out various buildings of interest; lanterns, roof tiles, hand painted signs. He never responds but I know he is listening and forming the shape of me from my words and the timbre of my voice. Often, I get more excited than the scenery warrants. “Let’s eat,” I say, looking at the sun suddenly low in the sky. We stop at a small wooden store and select sandwiches from a dirty glass counter. They are wrapped in cellophane like soft bricks. I want to be wild and adventurous but there are only three ﬁllings, so we both end up with the same spicy tuna. We pay separately with little bundles of cash, soft with sweat from our cradling palms. He adds a paper tray of fried wontons to his bill for us to share. We sit on a bench outside, a row of parked cars in front of us and a small pot of dipping sauce between us. I think about how little we speak to each other given the proximity of our bodies and the hours we spend in this way. I wonder if it would make more sense to do these activities alone. I am conscious of the moistened bread sticking to the roof of my mouth. When the food is all gone, he takes our empty wrappers away. I consider the reduction of multiple, separate actions to a conjoined one. Back in the car he asks again where we are going. I say that we are either going towards the ocean or towards the mountains. I’m not sure which. “The ocean,” he says, and the big shimmering slate emerges. We stop at a red light directly adjacent. The light stays red for a long time, and
I think how nice it is to be presented with the fat sea and to be held there with nothing to do but stare. Small shapes disrupt the surface, people with surfboards and wetsuits and kites. Human activity of all kinds collected on the damask beach. We turn left and the sun spills a bucket of light on the water. We drive parallel to the ocean for a while and I calculate the approximate time of sunset. “We could stay here and watch it,” he says. “Maybe,” I say. I could have said any word in its place. Ahead, the road widens and splits, left for the freeway, right for beach parking. He straddles both lanes. I stay quiet. At the last moment he veers right and we park the car in silence. I take his camera from the glove box and we plod softly towards the pier. “The best place to see the sunset is from the top of the Ferris wheel.” I hear this but ignore him and keep moving. We weave among rollercoasters and bumper cars. Three men dressed in black sing the blues; one of them shouts something indiscernible and I wonder what he could have meant. I am embarrassed by all possible suggestions. Looking around, I notice everyone is wearing windbreakers and hats. The sky behind us surprises me, dark and looming, a raucous shadow on my shoulder. I watch the rain clouds clambering against hotel roofs. Looking out across the ocean however, everything is blue and luminous. We buy coffee and leave the pier, crunching on compact sand and broken shell all the way down to the sea front. The coffee feels good in my wind beaten hands. I rest my chin on the top of the cup, warming my face in the steam. My hair is batting my face from many angles. Because of this, I have to turn my head completely in order to see him, which makes me stand very still and straight, staring ahead for long periods. When I eventually turn around he is grinning. I am
Rock Paper Scissors
acutely aware of the both of us, rooted in the wet sand with the ocean licking our soles, gripping our coffee cups tight. He nudges me and makes a motion behind my back. I spin around, confronted with a huge rainbow hugging the clouds. Unusually, both ends of this prismatic effect are visible and the sky has turned a mystical gold, fading to a grizzly peach on the leftmost side. I am amused and appalled by such overt dramatics. If I turned to him now in the pouring rain, a saccharine sun pelting us with violent longing, teasing us with a slow dissolve, and if I took his hands, throwing the coffee cup to the wind, and placed them, warm from the steaming beverage, inside of my shirt, and let him feel the cold, empty sack of my body, would it be an appropriate and easier end? This is what I think about the whole time we are standing there, staring at the sky. Turning back to the horizon, I begin taking photos of the globular sun. I zoom right in so the ball ďŹ lls the lens. A big yellow ball. A big orange ball. A big red ball. It plops over the line and I feel sad. We are alone but decidedly together in this moment. It is a strange sensation. Very quickly the air turns a tubular purple then an angry grey, and splashes of rain slosh down on us. The Ferris wheel looks beautiful, lit up like lightening in the sheet-metal sky. My nose drips water and breathlessly, we agree to leave.
you and me and a blue faced dog in a diner, they served me a little shit burger so i threw a bowl of gravy fries across the room, patrons gasped. i went to the cool floor to lay with a white dog. you pulled at my shoulder to show me a woman, bare chest in snow skirts, and her husband, living in a grand old thing in the woods. your beard laced in paper, you brought me to a sunny corner of their living room where there was a smaller dog, also white but with a speckled blue head. the three of us pushed our faces together on the floor.
my bare knees are shifting themselves raw on the bedroom carpet. alex is gesticulating, sending his musk through the room in dizzying currents. he’s high, i’m stoned, ashley is listening. he cant stop changing the music, playing things I don’t think ashley nor I would ever seek out, but she is nodding. he changes the music again and my head is going to split but something small and black slips through my ear, pulling itself forward with thorns. a place dense with trees and stagnant water that sun does not reach is suddenly illuminated by echoing strings and small bells. i’m staring into this corpse when i ask who is this and alex launches off and i hear about people in forests distilling their own vodka to spite barcodes. i see each one of them, a clutch of screaming directed in bursts through mountain ranges and across deserts. they are japanese, they are turkish, they are russian, they are the races in clusters and suddenly joined by a wiry sixteen year old. they are running and circling bonfires. i look around alex’s room. the walls, his bed, his posters, each now a split pea green. the air is sweet with animal scents. there are two apes on either side of me. a few words fall from my mouth and i am made silent. the music has stopped and alex and ashley are now watching me so i state that one of my characters has been secretly schooled in a language that is necessarily hard on the ears.
It’s too wet out here the snow was never so wet and the fish and seadogs and the cubs are gone or never came and my stomach’s emptiness is ripping me apart from the inside but that little box with light at night alone out in the valley has my nose aflame but it’s closed up like a mussel by them brown creatures wrapped up in dry skins hunting and leaving their sour prints all over the snow they left a hole in the wall I’ll just put my head through one more time my paw might hit something tonight I’ll do anything for that smell to hit my tongue three nights of that damn bear, and if I’d brought the dogs, they’da barked when it came near, no broken window, but I left them with the Americans for the night, and those brats with cameras will pay extra for a look at a bear, they’ve never killed a thing, would cry at the sight of this hungry beast at their window, he’s got one paw through, now his head, those black eyes and that twitchy nose, he’s looking right at me, right past me, at the shelves stocked with crackers and bait, he wails, I take aim, my boys ain’t seen bear in a good long time, they’ll cut it up like I taught them and take it into town like true Inuit, a bullet in its shoulder sets it limp, tongue hanging from its head, I call my boys, tell them to get their knives and call the Americans we’re pulled out of bed at 3 am, grab our cameras, notice the dogs have disappeared, snapped their chains in the night, we hop onto a flatbed, head toward the water, the guys are howling into the wind, I’m unsure how to act, the dogs return, run alongside the truck, my team’s noise and the dog’s yipping indistinguishable, we pull up to the old man crouched over a mass at the shore, he points to one small black nick in the shoulder of an intact polar bear, its fur is a bit yellow, Tom lifts its paw, this makes me dizzy, another takes the bear ’s head, moves its jaw, does a voice, come on, guys, someone says, and the old man sets his boys to work,
two hours of pointing and pulling and hacking until the snow is puddled red, they find its stomach, a busted balloon, the first of several fists full of scraps tossed to the sea for the fish and the birds, the animal now lays in quarters beside a bucket of skin, its meat taken away in great bins, the guys start turning back, but Tom lifts its mango-sized heart from the snow, inspects it, hands it to me, warm and heavy, some blood runs down my arm, I notice Iâ€™m alone and drop the heart beside its spine and run after the truck.
THE GREATER HERD Some years ago, after an August visit to some old friends in Chicago, a flight delay left me stranded in the suburbs with 24 hours to kill. The airline placed me at the Hyatt, and after having spent my conciliatory meal tickets on lunch, I found myself wandering a narrow stretch of woods crammed between a highway and a row of airport hotels. I was surprised to find a river carving its way through the trees, so I followed it, stopping at several open banks. At the second or third, I heard an intense, droning buzz, like a swarm of bees in raucous festival. Poking through the brush to get to the edge of the water, the odor hit me before the sight of the animal did. At my feet was the bloated corpse of an adult female white-tail deer, lain on her side, her legs stretched stickstraight, like a Christmas lawn ornament tipped on its side in the night. Worms and maggots busted from her eyes and nostrils, poured from her throat and out from under her tail, crawling over each other and falling to the ground in little mounds. Her hair had been mostly worn away, exposing hard blackened skin. Her lips curled back from the teeth, her open mouth exposing a tongue that had been long ago reduced to what looked like the chewed end of a stick of black jerky. I walked circles round her body, searching for an apparent cause of death, and found no sign of violence. 61
She had just died, and it seemed that this stretch of forest didnâ€™t have any predators that could have made use of so much meat. I recorded a few short videos, thanked her, and walked on. I continued to follow the great circular flow of the river. I hadnâ€™t made it half a mile around the bend before I found the second corpse, also female, a bit smaller and much further decomposed. Sheâ€™d been reduced to black leather poorly stretched over brittle, gray bones, touched with a few bits of red hair. From what I could see, she had folded her legs neatly beneath her, making a nest of the tall grass lining the river. Throughout the course of my walk, I saw a total of eight deer that day. Six of them were corpses in varying stages of decay, none of them further than a few feet from the edge of the water. One had so recently fallen that his eyes were still intact, black marbles staring up into the canopy. The remaining two that had, thus far, survived whatever befell the rest were a pair, a buck and a doe, walking together in a broad circle around me as they made their way down the river. Despite their wide berth, I made an attempt to walk in pace with them, to move casually when they turned their gaze upon me, in an effort to communicate that I had nothing to do with what happened here, that I was on their side. They took little notice, blending seamlessly with the trees until they melted into the shadows. The only other human I saw that day was a runner following a trail on the other side of the river. He must have lived nearby, likely passed at least a couple of the fallen beasts during his daily jog, but what could he have done? I never saw a ranger or any posted signage, no
evidence of inquiry into the source of this strange local epidemic, though I would later discover that Schiller Woods Forest Preserve is a 600 acre stretch of protected parkland, open to equestrians and picnickers alike.
TOYING I’m six years old and crouching, my face pressed to the wet clay floor. I’ve got rubber dinosaurs and African mega-fauna in clusters, at the foot of trees and over sprays of moss. There is a low cobblestone wall that I use as a cliff ’s edge. I wander for hours over and around this frozen plane, making only minor changes to the animal’s positions as they slowly migrate, battle, suffer loss, regroup, rest. I climb the tallest tree, hanging a family of apes half way up, and join a rubber eagle at the top. We look out together over the backyard jungle. The afternoon pours through the bushes and I lay beside the elephant’s caravan for a nap, later waking to a feeling of unreality, timelessness, that I imagine characterizes their varied perspectives. When the sun sets, I’ll leave the toys over night to be exposed to the elements, the sprinkler system, to be imbued.
Immature Insects (Excerpt from I Hate My Shit Fuck Life Road to God: A Novel)
In Bed ‘Til 4PM: There is a figure behind me, pushing towards me. As if I’m in a car and a big wave is riding my ass. Or where exactly? It’s coming for me and I can’t stop it. I attempt to dodge the darkness and pretend it hasn’t touched me yet. I act as if I’m not in a bath of pain. Like it’s only small drops of water on me. Then it soaks deeper into my skin. I fake a smile and say, “No worries. I’ve only lost my toe,” when actually it’s taken half my body. I feel heavy. Between lying to myself and trying to keep my mind on anything else besides suffering, I realize I’ve fallen further. It’s penetrating through me and I’m sinking with nothing to hold on to. I’ve always been able to stay partially afloat. I wonder if this time it will swallow me up and I will drown. I Stare at the Wall for About an Hour or Two: But come to think of it, I’ve always felt downhearted, only this time more pronounced. Then it strikes me like an 67
Excerpt from I Hate My Shit Fuck Life Road to God: A Novel
invisible slap across the face. I was born with heartache because I’ve never known anything different. I have become my mother, of all fucking shit! Memories flood my mind of my mom’s crying spells over my father. She told me they were always arguing. Between the fights and makeup sex, I was spawned. Mother ’s pregnancy didn’t change things, at least not for long. Dad came home from work and spent time with her for a spell. Then things reverted to the way they were, only worse. He had other women...always. It was like she was the dishtowel that he used to wipe down the counter tops, and when he was done, he would wring all the juice out of her, as the fluid that kept her alive dripped down the drain. He wouldn’t come home for days, only to turn up when he needed something from the house. There my mother sat on the couch with a fat stomach wallowing in her hormonal pregnancy tears. I was a fetus marinating in heartache. If my dad felt so inclined, he would make love to my mother. This went on for years, long after I was born. One day he found someone else and stayed away for good. My mother and father are still married even though they are not together. As a kid, I remember she often drank alone and talked to herself, as if she was talking to my dad. I thought, “Jeez, what the fuck is wrong with this woman?” I woulda had an abortion, for Christ’s sake. Spare me the torture, but too late I guess. Of course, I didn’t know I had a heartache my whole life because I had a heartache my whole life. This revelation doesn’t make me feel any better, and I wish that Cole could feel my pain and stroke my hair around my face. I pretend he’s giving me a heavenly hug and pass out.
For Some Curious Reason I Decide Not to Break My Arm:
I wake up in the morning with a heartache hangover. I lay in bed in anguish and wish I had a broken arm. I’d take that over this. Then when the trauma is over, I’d heal up and the pain would dissipate and be gone forever. I wonder how I could break my own arm safely? Is this tactic really a good idea to take my mind off the aching? Like some mindfuck shit. But then I didn’t need to be mindfucked anymore than I already am. Cole messed my head up pretty bad. I’m still in bed when I hear the clock chime and my body sinks. I found this old porcelain clock at the thrift store and liked the hourly bell. But now the sound mocks me. Every time I hear the ding it reminds me that I felt like shit, yes, for another sixty minutes. With every strike the clock screams, “Ha, you’re still miserable without Cole, aren’t you?” or “Hear that silence? That’s Cole not calling you!” I should get up. Ugh, I have to ask a reliable institution to form money into an acceptable, secure document. I can’t be trusted—my slumlord isn’t accepting my checks anymore because I’ve bounced them so many times. So now I give them bank-issued cashier ’s checks or money orders. This is so much more work. When you live in chaos, another hour of time working on a some trivial matter is exasperating. I realize I’m late for work and bone out. I’m a server at a dive bar and they are cleaning up more than usual because of roaches. The ass behind the bar says that the roaches like the smell of rum. Through her pragmatic research, I guess she came to this conclusion. I think she interviewed a roach 69
Excerpt from I Hate My Shit Fuck Life Road to God: A Novel
and upon further questioning and investigation the roach said, “I always like the smell of rum in the summertime.” Hell, roaches eat anything. Me and my friends will just ask the bartender things to hear her know-it-all explanations. That’s the thing about bars; there’s always one pseudointellectual. Typically, there’s a patron whom I have to listen to, or at least pretend to, in order to get a tip while he talks about why you need to put things in the freezer to sanitize them. “Roaches don’t like the smell of pepper, so I am going to pour pepper down the drain,” the bartender explains. “Isn’t that going to clog up the drain?” “Well, do you want roaches or a clean drain?” She gives me her perfected ‘you’re so stupid’ look. I decide not to continue a conversation with her. I can amuse myself by egging her on, but this time I’m not in the mood. I watch her as she rummages through the shelves to find extra pepper. I feel like I’m watching the nature channel, witnessing a curious species and wondering why and what compels them to do such strange behavior. The interesting thing about this bartender is that not only is she an obnoxious know-it-all, she’s also passive aggressive. “Excuse me, can I get a Vodka Diet Coke?” Oh, she hears the drink order alright, but the bar bitch acts deaf, especially if the customer is a girl. I see her do this shit all the time. When they ask again, she snaps, “I hear you.” Then she still pays no attention and does whatever else she wants to. The bootlegg’n bar wench moseys over to make the drink when she feels like she’s made ‘em wait long enough, usually ‘til they get pissed. She practically makes chicks beg for a drink. Overall, her customer service is as bad as her breath. Even though most bartenders are passive
aggressive or alcoholics or both, she’s such an asshole I’m sure she’s a cokehead. That’s why I’m never gonna touch the stuff. Her bartending job is her little power trip. Individuals like her need this kind of upper hand and get into jobs where they have more ‘power ’ than the average Joe—kinda like a dickhead cop. But I mostly feel sorry for people who act like this. They could just be jerks because they weren’t loved as kids or something. Good thing I’m not a desperate drunk or a coke fiend.
Lines Off a Cockadoodledoo is Sooo Cliché: My friend Jenna stops by the bar. She works with me. On her nights off she swings by to have a drink or four. It’s midnight and crazy busy. I’m serving lots of liquor to people about to fall off their chairs. One finally hits the ground and I cut him off. Jenna disappears from her spot for what seems like hours. All the alcoholics scramble to the bar for last call. This includes Jenna. She says she met a guy. I’m happy to hear the news. She seems tipsy. But Jenna has a confession to make, and I know whatever she says I’ll still love her. I mean, she picks me up and drives me to my job when I leave my car at work because I’m too drunk to drive. Jenna tells me how awesome I am and what an idiot Cole is for not loving me the way a guy should. She tells me I’m not fat when I look in the mirror and say that I’m fat. I’ll love her forever. “I did all the coke,” she mumbles. I hate her! What a bitch! The whole bag? She says she
Excerpt from I Hate My Shit Fuck Life Road to God: A Novel
met a guy and they went to the bathroom and did all the blow. I’m at the point in my recreational-almost-pre-drugabuse that I need bumps to get through my shift. How am I supposed to make it through the night? “Did you guys hook up?” I feel myself mentally tapping my shoes loudly on the floor in my brain. “Yeah kinda gave him a blow job.” All I can scream in my head is, “Turncoat!” She does all the powdered donuts with her ‘new friend’ and I’m standing here, listening to this, mostly sober. Not where I want to be—I want to be drunk and high on coke. I feel betrayed, even devastated. “Do you still have the bag?” I ask anxiously. She hands me the small baggie with pixie dust on the inside—remnants of a good time. I grab and lick the little crumpled plastic bag and looked up like a guilty child. She’s surprised that I’m getting possessive about the empty baggie, but blow makes me feel confident and beautiful. “Don’t judge me and I won’t judge you,” I say and lick the inside of the bag again and put it inside my bra. I wonder what they did in the bathroom stall. I stare at her. Then spit out, “Girl, please tell me you didn’t do a line off his dipstick.” Her eyelids wince. “Yeah I kinda did.” She has this way of talking about her experiences in a ‘rich-girl-I don’t-care’ way, even though she’s definitely not a rich girl. “Ugh, snorting lines off a guy’s coked-out cock is so cliché. Why don’t we just all jump into a time machine and head back to 1985, old people land.” I take the empty coke baggie out of my bra and lick it again and return the empty baggie to my bra.
I’ve no choice but to take a shot of tequila. I make it through my shift wishing I had a better stimulant. At the end of the night we walk to the car. “Wonder if he’s gonna call me...” She breaks the silence. “Of course he is, you gave him a bag of blow and a blow job in the bathroom.” I clue her in. “You don’t find girls like that everyday.” “You don’t?” “No. You don’t. Jesus Jenna.” Working at the bar you learn these things. He’ll be back. I remember when Cole would call me back. We had a thing then. He did like me.
The Night I Cock-Block Myself in My Own Dream: I’m at Cole’s house in my dream. For some reason he has two houses. I open a drawer and don’t see any of his underwear. The bottom of the drawer is engraved with twisted circles that form beautiful shapes, similar to butterfly wings or waves. I ask why he doesn’t have things in the drawer, and he reveals that the house he is his temporary residence, his vacation house by the beach. He urges me to meet him at his other house later tonight. I agree, and he pulls me to the floor of his hallway. He kisses me and I feel true happiness. I know what’s coming. He holds my body and moves his warm hand underneath my shirt. I’m alive again. But then he stops and looks at me. He asks me what I want. I think I want him to fuck me, but I don’t say that. I say, “I want whatever you want.” I wake up from my dream. I’m so pissed that I’m awake. So what if it wasn’t real?
Excerpt from I Hate My Shit Fuck Life Road to God: A Novel
Now my own mind was cock-blocking me? What the fuck! All I have are my dreams of Cole and now I can’t even have those? Or is this some stupid metaphor? I don’t need a life lesson from myself, that’s for sure. Fuck that Jung shit. But why didn’t I just tell Cole? Maybe I don’t know what I want? I mean, what do I really want? And do I have the guts to say it?
The City Cities are dwelling places. Spaces that hold, connect, stir, shake and respond. Some people are invited in, others keep passing by and every now and then there are intruders; every city deals with crime differently. The city that I speak of is my body. It is a city of significance, once forgotten but now reawakened. It speaks to the multitude of meaning, which is me. When I was four, I lived in a small, growing suburban town thirty minutes from Los Angeles. In the morning, I would eat breakfast with my babysitter Lupe while my father worked his graveyard shift and my older brother escaped to second grade. My days were occupied by car rides with my father in the afternoon, play dates with my friends and dinner fit for us three: my brother, father and myself. My goal then was to finally be in kindergarten so that I could learn how to paint with the other kids. I saw how they stroked their brushes up and down the canvas and I wanted to do the same and bask in the multitude of colors. One afternoon after pre-school, we sat in front of the TV, my brother playing Mario Brothers and I waiting to play Duck Hunt. Our babysitter was our neighbor who lived three houses down. At the time, he was in our bedroom. â€œPssss, hey come here,â€? called my babysitter. I felt a heavy 77
uneasiness in the pit of my stomach and looked over to my brother for help, but he did not receive the signs and instead saw it as an opportunity to continue his game. “Go ahead, he’s calling you. Be a good girl and listen,” said my brother. I didn’t want to, but if I were bad then I would get in trouble. I walked over and my babysitter grabbed my hand and closed the door. He instructed me to lie on the bed, stomach down, and I began to cry. I could not follow through with his instructions to take my undergarments off; he did it instead. “Shhh, do as I say and don’t say a word.” I began to shake with fear as he shook within me with pleasure. I went numb and entered a dark shadow of me. I left my city that day. It became an unsafe place that created a memory that I wanted to forget. Years passed and I walked shivering through winter ’s storm everyday. A glimpse of Fiona Apple’s “Sullen Girl” is what became of me. Every man that I saw reminded me of the one who took something from me. He took my innocence and pushed me into a sexual act that might have been pleasurable for him but not for me. As years passed, I would play out ways to confront him in my mind, but still weekly nightmares of being raped appeared. Sometimes on the playground, other times on my school bus. Most common were the ones of me being chased by men I’d never seen before. Simultaneously, sex became an action of revenge, my weapon, but there was also a hidden space underneath all that anger that held a desire to be released and find my own place of pleasure. How could I do this? In the United States I was surrounded by a culture that constantly sent singular
messages, especially through social media, that my female pleasure was to be understood through sexual engagements with a man. I chose guys who were only concerned with the performance of my body. I repeated this destructive pattern because I didn’t feel or know that I was good enough, that I, with all my parts, was enough to be touched tenderly, heard eagerly and understood compassionately. Finally, I put those ludicrous thoughts of performing, of being a doll, of not recognizing myself in order to be noticed by another away once I read feminist literature. My classes, the literature and the community of women all gave me the courage to place fingers on my lips that were below my waist. For months, I touched the parts of myself that were abused and gave them tender love. My clitoris and I began a relationship; she began to speak and I listened. Sometimes all of us: my pussy, vulva, lips and clitoris, would cry together. I acknowledged a history of pain and without judgment helped us all release it. I took the time to travel my own city within and heal. I had a block, a shield protecting me from getting hurt. I also began to practice yoga. This helped me to create trust between my body and myself again. I listened to my inner voice and began a journey that didn’t rely on the exterior validation of the material world but one of spirit, of listening to the internal signs.
The snow had stopped falling and gray met the day as I stepped out of the cab. The snow storm had just passed the day prior and I, ejected from the shadow of my California gloom, escaped broken emotional ties of another boy wearing the skin of a man. I was exhausted from my third day at a
conference for writers. I was in a daze from the stimulation of intellectual rigor and questions of my tomorrows depending on what I might connect with within my todays. I ended the rollercoaster by following signs towards the doors that read exit. On Boston steps is where I first saw Him. With a buzz to his loft, the door swung open and I felt light enter and radiate through the blockages of my body, and there the tingling met me. He was cordial and smiled as we chatted in a flirty posture. With compliments in his palm, he opened up his hand and tossed them my way. I let the glitter of those words touch my body and thanked him kindly. I, still connected to my city, could feel the warmth of his city evenly, an appreciation of honoring from within. At twenty-eight, I stopped being a victim. Through years of therapy and self-motivation, I learned about love. I learned how to love myself first through self-care, boundaries and strength—the real strength, which left shame at the foot of the stairs and led me through the doors of vulnerability, fluidity, adaptation, patience, surrender and trust. As a woman, I am the ocean, the provider of life. I learned how to return to the stage of when I was a young girl and cuddle and heal the little girl within. It wasn’t her fault what transpired after the event, and it wasn’t her fault what took place in the room. Back in Boston, it was 3:30 in the morning, Eastern time. The sun had disappeared and night lay by my bedside but I, me, my city, lit up and expression leaked into your city. I walked to my garden and watered this new flower in bloom. I pulled back the veil of your city and shined light. I climbed down the stairs from the top bunk bed and in the kitchen I recreated. With magnets handy on the fridge,
I expressed how this new him made me feel; I smeared my own pollen:
In the past, I, me, my city had been abandoned many times over. I was too scared and fragile to face myself, my past, my pain; this city was shut down. Webs were hidden in dark tunnels where my lung and heart crossed and the land was vast, dry and bitter. Everyone who passed by was enamored with the scenery from the front and I, with gleeful laughter, performed my feminine gender well. But inside—the parts that people couldn’t see, the parts people didn’t want to see—lay tumbleweeds doubled over and buildings crumbling. The roads were unpaved and rocks covered almost all the land. It was dusty and I was scattered to say the least. Presently, I, me, my city is in visitation with a clamoring of thoughts. I’m honoring a path of another new beginning. I place seeds in the soil of the west wing of hearts path, for this is the part of my garden that needs tending now. Water drips down lightly, and I sit in soil and let the sun peek at my shoulders. As the wind of fear comes breezing by, I stand up and begin to dance with it. I sometimes skip a
Embrace our frantic tremble Bare when sweet I slit my pleasure Behind wild ache Whisper cares Ecstasy from above his rim Fondle breath Penetrate passions peek Wiggle yourself through my flickering wail
beat or it steps on my toes, but practice makes me more intuitive and understanding. No longer am I inclined to run away to other cities, nor do my buildings crumble. Instead I stay grounded, exploring the internal cues of reverence between shifts of adulthood.
A Peace Disturbed “The volume you requested vanished millennia ago in the Dancer ’s March. We have several in the vaults.” – Saman Mendris, Grand Librarian of the Tesseract “I’m far too old for this.” Laina spoke the words to her empty bedchamber for the third time that morning. She sat on the edge of a wooden chest and let her eyes fall to the floor. Her robe hung in limp folds from her shoulders, and her long, gray braid lay heavy on her back. Her breathing was calm and measured, but her heart pounded against her ribs like a child with a drum. The messengers had come only a few hours apart. The bird arrived first, landing in the castle’s aviary not long after dawn; the servant who delivered its message interrupted his lord’s breakfast. Soon after, a rider appeared at the gates. He had ridden a day’s travel in half that time. His hair and clothing were filthy with sweat, and his horse swayed on its feet. The guards had seen him racing toward the keep a mile off. Laina clutched the letter and let the messenger ’s words echo in her head. A circle of the Tesseract slaughtered—no culprit in sight. It happened in the night, he said, under the rain’s cover. The town at large awoke to find the tower broken 85
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open like an egg, its sour yolk of bodies reeking from inside. There had been three of them, Laina knew—the highest concentration of her order for a hundred leagues—and Priat Arcturlin, the elder of their circle, had known no small prestige as a shrewd and potent spellcaster. What kind of beast could lay them all to waste without raising an alarm? Laina rose from her seat and walked to the window in the stone wall. From here the countryside stretched northward, as clear as a map: at the base of the keep, the Baron’s minor town glinted and smoked in the sun, murmuring at this height with market chatter and anvil clangs. Oxen bounced wagons through the streets, concluding their journeys from the valley farmlands that rolled into the distance like a mossy quilt. Silver irrigation channels threaded through the hills and glinted between fields of harlequin reed and yellow mustard blooms. White cottages dotted the green like baby teeth. The verdant, sprawling trees of the Wellwood leapt up beyond that, hazy from this far, and the Andali highlands thrust stony knuckles from the earth where the forest ended. Above it all, ice-blue and barely visible through the clouds, a line of jagged peaks wound their way to the East. The mountains often held Laina’s gaze, but today the forest demanded her attention. The canopy steamed thickly in the sun, and even from across the valley Laina could see the dull glimmer of floodwaters seeping from between the trees. The rain, that strange and ominous rain, had withdrawn from the valley like a great spider stepping over the hills, but the woods still bled from its assault. Muddy streams drained out like tendrils and pooled on the edges of farms. Somewhere in those woods lay the walled market town where three of her order had been butchered. Laina squinted
hard in search of some break in the trees, but the fog and distance blurred the woods into a vague, featureless mass. She gave up the effort. A sudden regret at having never reached out to the mages stabbed through her. Was my reading so important that it left no time for colleagues? It seemed ages since she had arrived in the Baron’s keep to curate his library, but in those three months she had barely explored the town beneath her window. There had been a time when she would have saddled her mare and sought out the hidden places of the valley, meeting its people and trading for their stories, but every gray hair meant less wine in the evening, and these days her thinning frame called for the warmth of a hearth far more often than the chill of the open road. She had seen a great many cities, contributed her work to the Great Library, and seen the horrors of war. Now, though, she was tired. “Let the young ones have the adventures,” she had told her superiors at the Acropolis, “and leave me to the books. I’ve seen enough of the world.” The High Circle accepted her retirement and smiled, offering her a position in a number of libraries as far as Esha’s Reach. Laina had happily packed her belongings into a chest and booked passage north to the little kingdom of Ethene. She chose the distant keep of one of its minor lords not only for his collections of rare historical verse, but for the bucolic tranquility of the region he maintained. There was a certain peace in farmlands that Laina had always cherished, a rhythm of sowing and reaping that held her anxieties at bay. How quickly that peace had shattered… A clamor in the courtyard drew her attention below. The Baron’s soldiers were assembling, almost three-dozen knights and men-at-arms mounted and armored as if for war, squires
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in tow. Most wore an assortment of chain and splint mail beneath tabards of their house, but the tall knight shouting orders and pointing with his sword wore gleaming plate and a bright shield slung across his back. The soldiers shuffled into a column as he barked commands, and Laina could see that they were saving a place for her at its head. It was ostensibly an act of respect, she knew, but she suspected there might be some pity involved, and perhaps a little fear. These were provincial men, peasants raised to soldiers who knew little beyond the weight of a sword and the crafts they left behind. Laina doubted that more than a few of them could read. A mage in their midst was thus an alien thing, a creature to eye with caution. Some had shown her reverence, others disdain, but most of the castle’s inhabitants had treated her with an awed kind of fear. She had found obedient servants but few friends. Laina called for her serving maid now, the only member of the household with whom she was growing close. The girl arrived with a deliberate cheeriness and lifted the few provisions Laina had packed for the journey. The pack was small by any standards, and contained mainly a spare set of robes, quill and ink, a few leather tubes of parchment, and a thin volume of Tavarin love poems that Laina had been in the middle of reading and couldn’t bear to leave behind. The serving maid, a pretty girl of fifteen with chestnut curls and sunny freckles, took the old woman by the elbow as they spiraled down the tower ’s stairs. “I’m not too feeble for the staircase, child,” Laina said with a smile. The girl looked ashamed for an instant and then giggled, pulling back her hand. “Will you be back for the solstice, Your Apogee?” Her voice was anxious and sweet.
“I dearly hope so, Alice,” Laina sighed, “or else I might miss all the drama with Stephan.” The girl blushed at the young fletcher ’s name and continued giggling. “Do you think he’s really going to ask me to the festival? Hannah in the kitchens said she heard him talking with some of the stable boys about it, and I don’t know why else he hasn’t found a date yet, unless he’d rather go with that weaver girl from town…” Laina let her prattle on. The girl had seen many summer solstices, but this would be the first in which she would join the dance around the wicker effigy as it burned, filling the air with the fragrant smoke of lavender and clove. The girl’s eyes flashed excitedly as she spoke. Laina welcomed the distraction as they made their way through calm, sunlit corridors of the castle. The household was alive with the morning’s activities, but one as remote as the Baron’s only moved so quickly. They passed a few servants who nodded courteously behind trays of bread and fresh candles, but otherwise the halls were as quiet as Laina’s tower. The liveliest encounter was with one of the Baron’s sons, a roguish boy of eight, who sprinted by with his playmates in tow. Laina smiled as the children disappeared around a corner. The Baron himself would be in his chambers, writing his letter to the Tesseract. He had been fortunate to receive Laina, if only in her retirement, as most partnerships with the institute took place on a greater stage. Laina was no vizier, no shock force in the Baron’s military, but her presence set him high above his peers within Ethene. No doubt the Baron would promise the Tesseract’s High Circle retribution for the deaths, and instruct his messenger to convey the appropriate anger and consolation. There would be an inquiry, and riders from the Acropolis, but such a journey would take months
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to complete, and by then the trail would be cold. If anyone’s to make sense of this before the headstones grow moss, Laina knew, it has to be me. She prayed that the tower remained undisturbed. Alice continued to chatter as they passed through the great hall, but fell silent as they stepped into the sun of the outer ward. The armored column stood waiting. “Your Apogee,” the tall knight called. “We ride when you are ready.” Laina walked the column’s length and found her silver mare at its end. You’re just as gray as I, old girl. She patted its long neck, and the horse nuzzled against her hand with a whinny. Laina slipped her foot into a cloth stirrup and sprung upwards. She settled atop a pile of foreign carpets while Alice cinched her pack to the horse’s flank. “And here I am, Catus,” Laina replied, drawing her hood over her head. “Let’s see what waits for us in Harrin.” “Murderers,” the knight spat, lowering his visor. “We will root them out and string them from the trees.” May it be so easy, Laina thought as the column surged forward, its banners streaming high amidst a thunder of hooves.
The Taffy Lady Do you like taffy? Everyone in Daisey Beach likes Taffy. That’s because Daisey has the Taffy Lady. Her name is Antoinette. Antoinette makes all the taffy that’s served at Jolley’s Taffy, located seaside at the very top of Daisey Avenue. There isn’t a menu that you can order from. Whatever taffy you see in the window is what you can buy, taffy made the night before by Antoinette. She comes in after the store is already locked up, after the window shades are pulled so tight no light can get in or out. That’s when she’s there, all night, every night, making taffy. When she’s finished it’s morning and the employees are unlocking the door. Each says goodbye to Antoinette as they tie their pinstriped aprons. When she leaves, every employee rushes to the center of the room to admire her work and taste the day’s concoctions. And my, what concoctions! There have been the sweet more typical taffy flavors, such as almond, sweet cream, and watermelon. But what people really wanted were the uncommon flavors like seaside breeze, which when chewed creates the sensation of a salty breeze across one’s cheek. If you were lucky you would visit Daisey on a day when Antoinette made the flavor pure joy, which when consumed filled you from your stomach to your teeth with happiness and satisfaction. But the taffy doesn’t always make you happy. Occasionally a flavor will pop up, something like green 93
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dragon. Eat it, and you’ll feel jealous of the people around you who chose to eat a different taffy flavor. Many, many, many people have been curious to discover Antoinette’s secrets. None more so than Antoinette’s sister, Claudine. Years ago, their father had given the store, along with all its secrets, to Antoinette, whom he claimed possessed the ability to create magnificent taffy. From this point on, Antoinette and Claudine led very different lives. Claudine taught at Daisey Beach High, came home every night to share secrets with her cat, and cooked dinner for herself with vegetables from the greenhouse she built herself. Claudine did all this while Antoinette slept through the day so that she could be creating taffy all night long. Now Antoinette’s taffy is more famous than their father’s ever was. It wasn’t the success that really bothered Claudine, after all she didn’t have much of a sweet tooth until the year their father died. Once he was no longer in her life, his favoritism toward her sister began to eat away at her conscience. Maybe it was because of her cat, Cinnamon, who bore striking similarities to Claudine’s father. Dark, wide eyes and a twitchy nose, these resemblances became more prominent to Claudine after her father was gone. So when she got home at night from teaching and stared at Cinnamon while drinking her chamomile, she couldn’t help but think of her father, and his preference for Antoinette. There was a pit inside her body that growled and grew with the ending to every one of her monotonous days. She tried to fill the pit with garden fresh ratatouille, stir fry vegetable medley, and the occasional stuffed pepper, but her pit only yelled and screamed at her. The pit began to show its terrorization on Claudine’s face. Large gray pockets grew underneath her eyes, a dry brittleness overcame her hair, and
her cuticles seemed to develop anger and resentment. Cinnamon began to think poorly of his friend, ignoring her when she arrived home at night. There was one particular thing Claudine couldn’t get off her mind. Standing at the kitchen counter eating a second helping of mushroom salad, she would replay over and over a memory from her long ago lost childhood. The memory went a something like this: Claudine and Antoinette are around seven-years-old, standing beside each other in a kitchen almost entirely encrusted with a layer of dirt-colored dust. There’s a woman standing over the stove, thin, with elbows cutting the air like blades. It must be their mother. They had to have a mother after all, no matter how hard their father tried to pretend otherwise. Here, this woman, who must be their mother, is melting sugar over the stove, the smoke and fumes rising in colorful, wispy clouds that wrapped themselves around her hallowed cheeks. The stove hisses and sings, and this woman, who must be their mother, hums along with the stove, a sharp grin appearing at the corner of her mouth and revealing the absence of her right side canine. Turning slightly, her gaze meets theirs. Antoinette reaches over and holds onto Claudine’s hand. This mother says, “Sugar is not for the sweet. Sugar, my tinies, is for the weak.” Claudine had only been able to piece this memory together since the death of her father, who had always silenced the girls’ inquiries of their mother. She had drowned, when they were little, in Daisey Bay. That was all he had ever told them. Now there was this memory, and what was Claudine to do with it? She resolved to do something she hadn’t done in a while: talk to her sister. Knowing the only time to catch her would be while she was working, Claudine put the leftovers of her mushroom salad in the fridge and headed out the door.
The Taffy Lady
Cinnamon was content to see her go, as he got to sit on her couch spot when she was not there. Jolley’s Taffy was located at the top of the Daisey Avenue on the boardwalk. The neon sign was the largest and it hummed at Claudine as she approached the side door. No one ever went into the store while Antoinette was working. Back when their father ran the store, he refused entrance to everyone, until he decided Antoinette would be the child to learn the trade, and then she was there every night, and has been ever since. Claudine, hesitant to knock, pushed her ear against the door, curious about what she might hear. She thought she heard her sister’s voice mumbling to herself, but her words were indiscernible. Then Claudine heard something that caused the blood pumping through her body to slow down and deviate from her brain. A voice, a second raspier voice. Someone else was in the store with Antoinette, conversing with her. Curiosity was spilling out of Claudine’s every seam. Everyone knew it was only ever Antoinette in the store at night, cleverly making the town’s taffy. Knowing the door was locked, Claudine’s only option was to knock and hope for the best. The knock sounded shallow, like knocking on stone, and behind the door the voices hushed themselves. Claudine let her hand rest on the door. There was no answer to her knock, no movement was heard from the store, so Claudine pressed her face close and said, “Antoinette, it’s me.” Someone whipped open the door and pulled Claudine inside. For a moment she couldn’t see anything except for a thick purple smoke that filled the room. The air was warm, humid, and sweat beads were already erupting across the
back of Claudine’s neck. Antoinette’s form became visible in front of the door. Claudine had not seen her since their father’s funeral. Always disheveled and frail, she now appeared sickly. The bags under her eyes actually seemed swollen; her pallor, usually pale with tones of pink, was now an almost grey green, but she was smiling at her sister, “You’ve come. For years I wished you would come knock on this door.” More of the room was becoming discernible. The windows through which the taffy would be displayed and sold was boarded up tight for the night, and in the middle of the room the taffy was cooking in a large vat, purple smoke pouring from its edges, a giant wooden mixing spoon leaning on the wall where Antoinette had left it. Claudine wasn’t sure what to say to her sister, so she watched as Antoinette closed her eyes and breathed in deeply through her nose. The purple smoke curled into her nostrils, causing Claudine to wonder if it was making its way to her brain. As Antoinette exhaled, the smoke poured out her mouth. It danced around her words as she said, “I’m making a very special flavor tonight.” Her eyes opened. She began stepping closer to Claudine. “I’m going to call it Divine.” As Antoinette moved closer, Claudine stepped silently backwards, away from her. “Do you know what it will taste like?” Claudine couldn’t find any words to answer her sister with. She took another step. “They’ll place the taffy on their tongues, and they’ll taste bliss, perfection in confection form. They’ll feel happiness trickling down their throat and they’ll think, ‘This is heaven.’” The smoke tapped hello on Claudine’s cheek. Her eyes
The Taffy Lady
were watering. Was it the smoke or was it from Antoinette’s hollow cheeks clacking and grinning at her? Without breaking her gaze, Antoinette dipped her forefinger into the bubbling Divine, causing a slight amount of steam to rise and fizzle. “Try some.” Moving fluidly like a skating water bug, Antoinette flung toward Claudine with her slimy purple finger outstretched. Frightened and dazed, Claudine jumped back against the closet door behind her, pushing her full weight against it. Thinking it was just the doorknob grinding into her back, she certainly was surprised to feel it wiggle. But it wasn’t a doorknob. It was bony, alive, five-fingered, and making its way around her neck. Antoinette smiled while her eyes filled with tears, “Look who finally found her way here, Mother.” The hand around Claudine’s neck spun her around with great force so that she indeed found herself face to face with the woman from her dream, the mother her father claimed drowned long ago in Daisey Bay. The mother hung in the closet facing out, her whole body roped up with old rope used to tie up a boat, making her look like some nautical caterpillar. Tiny muscles were popping away from her arm bones as she gripped onto Claudine’s neck. The eyes in her head were the exact eyes Claudine remembered from her dream, but other than that her mother was just a strung up pile of bones, tendons, and loose skin. Claudine managed to squeak out to her, “Why?” “Your father’s idea, my dear. He had quite the sweet tooth did he, and I am the best at making a sweet tooth sing. But you see I’m not fond of children, so one day I left.” Antoinette chimed in,
“Father found her though!” “He certainly did, a clever man your father. Ever so dull, but quite clever. Built me this closet, this shop, so I’d never leave again, and now be cooperative my dear because your sister needs to take your heart.” Once more she spun Claudine around, this time to be face to face with her sister, who was laughing, crying, and wielding a fish filet knife. Their mother stroked Claudine’s hair with her free hand while revealing, “You’re the final ingredient, my sweet.”
Flotando, through a doorway and out, una mariposa once asked the bright sun, “What are you doing?” Reluctant and mystified, the bright sun knew there was no avoiding the question. The bright sun responded, “Who is your film for if no other country but the United States of America has a city with more than 100,000 people of Mexican descent?” Also a filmmaker, la mariposa was surprised that the
bright sun knew anything at all about life, saying, “There isn’t an easy way to know which way the bomb will go off in a Hitchcock film, so please my dear sun, bear with me as I tell you a bit about my story...” This is a conversation displaced, missing its objective, asking no one to listen. Talking to the sun has a way of disorienting one’s thoughts if one is the size of a small wallet. The bright sun continued… “At the heart of filmmaking, when there aren’t statistics that are valued by anyone, numbers describing cities must be instrumental for those the numbers speak to…” As the bright sun continued, statistics began dripping down its cheek, like credits scrolling in a movie. “…Greater Mexico City: 20,137,152 (2010 estimate), Greater Guadalajara: 4,434,252 (2010 estimate), Greater Los Angeles Mexican and people of Mexican Descent Population: 4,332,298 (2010 estimate), Greater Monterrey: 4,080,329 (2010 estimate), Greater Puebla: 2,668,347 (2010 estimate), Greater San Diego/Tijuana’ Mexican and people of Mexican Descent Population: 2,386,460 (2010 estimate), Greater Juarez/El Paso’ Mexican and people of Mexican Descent Population: 2,012,949 (2010 estimate), Greater Dallas/Fort Worth’s Mexican and people of Mexican Descent Population: 1,855,891 (2010 estimate), Greater Toluca: 1,846,602 (2010 estimate)…” The bright sun moved into another conversation, somewhere between the seat of an old car and the shadow of its own memory. The car seat broke from its 20-something year trance, and in a frenzy, reflected… “What’s the point of awakening me? Why do you bother me with telling me about why people make films? Will anyone really give a shit about what I know?” A storm of questions were vibrating from the old seat.
Acknowledgements/ Reconocimientos My writing thesis is about various aspects between and within the theory and practice of writing about film, writing about writing, and filmmaking as an alternative form of writing. The text will take a subjective standpoint, yet will constantly be in pursuit of deviation and transference away from this position whilst simultaneously accepting the futile and impossible pursuit of objectivity. In other words, the topic of my thesis isn’t really the issue of ‘filmmaking itself ’ or ‘writing itself ’, but rather, the theory and interpretation behind prolonging the arrival to any destination in my filmmaking and writing practices. [Excerpt 1] —
Nearby, the dark night was waking up in a land that had been sleeping in light. The dark night could hear the car seat still ranting across the way, in a conversation it was really only having with itself. Somehow, for the dark night, it wasn’t relevant. Back over with la mariposa, statistics continued to roll down the bright sun’s face. “…Greater Chicago’s Mexican and people of Mexican Descent Population: 1,738,005 (2010 estimate), Greater Guanajuato: 1,609,717 (2010 estimate), Greater Houston’s Mexican and people of Mexican Descent Population: 1,532,204 (2010 estimate), Greater Riverside’s Mexican and people of Mexican Descent Population: 1,365,472 (2010 estimate), Greater Phoenix’s Mexican and people of Mexican Descent Population: 1,282,604 (2010 estimate), Greater Torreon: 1,275,993 (2010 estimate), Greater Reynosa/ McAllen Mexican and people of Mexican Descent Population: 1,234,119 (2010 estimate), Greater Queretaro: 1,097,028 (2010 estimate), Greater Mexicali/El Centro’s Mexican and people of Mexican Descent Population: 1,048,790 (2010 estimate)…” ‘Questions’, it seemed to the dark night, couldn’t be hidden from the sun by a car seat. ‘Questions’ had to be uncovered in places where mariposas aren’t free to hide from anyone, and where streets drive in car seats, chanting the never-ending drama of knowledge. “The use of statistics could assist in some kind of forming of form”, beckoned the dark night, “for the stick-ing-of-numbers-to-emotions isn’t as important as the numbering of the ground we walk on.” The dark night continued its shine. [Excerpt 2] — 102
Crudo de Nomas (Raw from Just) - Fall 2012 On a couch ----------------------- En el sofa in front of me -------------------- enfrente de mi un hombre joven --------------- a young man escucha música --------------- listens to music. Lurgical limp towels of coin dripping sound waves ------------------ Toallas flojas lurgicas chorreando olas de sonido lo conmueven. --------------------------------------------------------------------- inspire him. Vueltas no? Ventanas si! ----------------------------------------------------- No spinning? Ventanas si! Nomas, detrás de el, y a mi lado, se mueven. ------------------------ Merely, behind him, and at his side, they move. Culture se mueve, arboles detrás mas ---------------------------------- Cultura moves, behind more trees, se mueven. ------------------------------------------------------------------------- they move. ‘Ríete’ he says in his dreams. ------------- ‘Laugh’ se dice en sus suenos. Spasm pits and spot spits, where is his home? ---------------------- Pozos espasmo y puntos de escupetina, adonde esta su casa? Where’s this young man? ------------------------------------------------------ Adonde esta esta hombre joven? Leche pólvora, polvo de - pistol ----------- Feminine gunpowder 103
milk, powder of - pistolas frozen, a still life, a still life ---------------- congelado, parada la vida, parada la vida movesssssssss. --------------------------------- se mueveeeeeeeeeee. Mira me, mira me ya, allá, mas allá --------------------------------------- Look at me, look at me now, over there, over past de tus pistolas --------------------------------------------------------------------- your pistols with hands that’ll have shaked walls -------------------------------------- con manos que ya habian sacudido paredes
--------------------- Trueno metalico, mandame a mi - senales de los nunca acabado. Crees que los balazos de acá se pudieran ver en tu -------------------- Do you think the bullets over here can be seen on your plato de comida? ---------------------------------------------------------------------- plate of food [Excerpt 3]
Metal thunder, mándame una - signal - de el nunca acabar.
“I, Evangelina Garzo – October 13, 2009; When I was 4 years old, my dad bought a store, and I would wait for people to come by so I could tell my parents to start unpacking while I would wait outside so I could see the train pass, because I would like seeing it, and hear that noise of the machines. One day I thought, let’s see when I’ll ride a train, and one day my mom said, “Look kids, we’re going to see your grandma in Guadalajara,” and they saw us go in the train. And I enjoyed it very much. When we got on I felt butterflies in my stomach, and that was marvelous. For me, that noise when arriving at each town, that honking, I liked it so much because my mom would buy us sandwiches or tacos on the trip in each town, until finally we arrived to our grandparents one month, and we returned in train, that’s why when I arrived to this country, I missed many things from my country. But as I tell my story, for me what’s missing is that noise, because I don’t heard anything like that, because here we’re a bunch of machines, but of a clock, or some kind of puppets.” “So, they call me Evangelina Garzo” – continuing…
y ojos que leen, que me leen. ----------------------------------------------- and eyes that read, that read me. Cry. Melt Mars! ---------------------------------- Llora. Ablanda Marte! Calle de gris y jabón, hombre, niño, hijo y mamon! --------------------- Street of gray and soap, man, boy, son and asshole! Drop! Year drops. Yea drop! ---------------- Gota! Gotas de anos. Si gotas! Sonido acero, arriba vuela. ------------------------------------ Metal sound, above it flies. Tell those you love that you love them too. ------------- Dile as ellos que amas que los amas tambien.
I’m going to tell you of another life story of mine. I crossed into this country. I crossed like everyone illegally. I had to cross over a mountain, and afterward they returned me. I stayed in Tijuana for a week until a grown man told us that he would cross us, and he crossed us through the borderline. Everything was fine, but when we finally arrived he brought us to live at a shed, you know a huge room, and there he held us locked up for two months. In Tijuana I would work making monkeys made of clay. I would leave them to dry for three days, and then we would paint them, my husband and I, and we would then take them to sell at the swap meet. Afterward, the grown man would tell us not to go out because the immigration patrol would get us. This man left us here alone for a month without bringing us food. We also didn’t have money. So then this man would go out to get to know the place, and then would come back with a loaf of bread and a little bit of ham. The slice of ham he got from a couple, who gave it to him so he would buy that ham and bread, and so my husband followed by getting out to see if someone would give him a job. One of the times he got out, he ran into a friend, and he told him the situation, and he found him a job in “Bary Chap”. At that time he would earn every week eighty dollars a week. So he saved his money to pay for a small apartment, to live in, with my brother I had here at that time, but he didn’t want to help out at all, so I got very sad about having someone from the family here who doesn’t give you a hand when you need it. He told me to rent my own apartment. I told him “thank you” for your help. I told my husband what he said. We visited his friend and he told us about a small apartment that would charge us one hundred thirty dollars a month,
and we made it happen. Then I started working at a place where I made more money than him. I would make one hundred sixty dollars a month, so I save enough for… – Translated by Diego Robles, Spring 2013 [Excerpt 4]
BAD FIREWORKS Introduction: What begins as a joke turns into an awakening, or the beginning of an awakening. One eye opens, then the other. Serious to the point of being morbid JOHNNY wakes up at a circus, at the top of the bleachers, at the very back of the show, SOFIA and BUFFALO are eating peanuts at his side. Below him, in the center of the stage, JOHNNY observes a column of tires, like a round ladder with chains for arms and tires for rungs, hanging from the center of the circus tent. The name ‘JOHNNY’ is written on the back of JOHNNY’s leather jacket in sea shells. His back sounds like the ocean. Over Johnny’s shoulder, in the main stage of the circus, a FOOL jumps below a staggering column of tires, trying to climb up through the center. A FOOL below jumps with arms up, just within reach of the hanging tires. He catches hold of the bottom tire, pulling himself through the center. To climb to the top so that he might be eye level with JOHNNY whose indifferent gaze has a magnetic pull to it. JOHNNY the narcissist thinks this, but the FOOL’s climb has nothing to do with him, it is inevitable as the rising of the sun. 111
*** After a slow, exaggerated and labored effort, the FOOL has climbed all the way to the top tire. Once at the top, he steadies himself for a moment. He reluctantly releases his grip from the chains, then grabs on again. After another moment he lifts his arms up in victory then falls backwards, headfirst through the center. After the fall, the top of the FOOL’s head appears to open, still sitting he pulls handkerchief after handkerchief (all of them red) from the top of his head, after he runs out of handkerchiefs he gets up again, slightly dazed, staggering. FOOL [to the spectators] And I thought I was seeing stars from the top of this ladder... This has been my story.
hollow tip, the whole bit...] In “A flowering serpent’s heart hid by thy rose face,” he pumps the last of his blood outwards, a true giver. He was a true mess, confused to the point of being profound. After sustaining a concussion, THE FOOL aka BOSS went on to make the short film Red Serpent Rising: (A Tribute to Kenneth Anger). Despite THE FOOL-BOSS’ injury, the film was intelligent and highly critical of the neo-feudalist, corporate empire; It even draws from Russian history and forces the parallel between modern-day corporate America and the events leading up to the emancipation of the serfs in Russia. BOSS chose to make the film a tribute to Anger in order keep both the new age and historical aspects of the subject matter in check.
He lands on his face. Pillowed by a pie in a crinkled tin pan, he lands. He turns around and we see his foil mask, made from the malleable pie tin. LACKEY 1 and LACKEY 2 throw white petals over his body.
In Red Serpent Rising, the growing youth wage war against all corporations once they discover the top corporations are all secretly one, however leaders within the new movement are criticized for being shitty people. (Even the youth in the military rebel against their elder superiors.) The youth wage war in various ways: through bombing unpeopled construction sights, diverting water supplies and disruptive play.
Disruptive play makes me sick.
[Tragically, holding the skull with the snake going through both eyes, the syringe with the miniature skull hidden in the
The youth rebellion takes a marked, peaceful turn once a series closed currencies is established throughout the islands of new non-utopias emerging.These currencies were really more elaborate bartering systems with promissory notes instead of a numbered cash value, although numbers remained important. Although promissory notes ultimately failed; with the newly acknowledged absence of time no one felt obligated to do what they promised. Instead of meeting someone at four p.m. in the Zócalo, people chose to “follow the energy” to the square and if the meeting occurred then great. There were trials for the hated outsiders, as always.
Risk We finally made raw hot sauce: pressed the garlic zested lime rinds chopped the chilies with bare hands. Full frontal capsicum exposure taught the lesson of proper protection so we discussed the merits of sex with shoes, and I felt anxious at the prospect of your bony indentations on my yellow hips.
Her parents loved to play Guess That Direction in the car because of the phenomenal skill discrepancy between her and her brother. Nicky had, she reckoned, the spatial equivalent of perfect pitch. No matter which way they were facing, night or day, he could sense the precise direction. “South,” he would say with confidence. “Slightly southwest, if you want to be more accurate.” On road trips, she piped up with what she thought were gems: “This is the Denny’s we ate at with Nonna last year, so we must be in Bakersfield!” and “This is the school where I had that dance competition!” or “Isn’t this the McDonald’s that had the spooky music playing behind the counter on Valentine’s Day?” Her parents would laugh and shake their heads. “Honey,” her mother said, “please tell us you’re not serious. You’re only two hundred miles off! Nicky, sweetheart, can you tell your big sister where we are?”
We keep a treasure chest beneath the bathroom sink. Items of dubious value acquired by motley means: free face creams, trial sized lotions, sample mouthwashes, disposable razors, miniature shampoos and conditioners from hotels around the world. A bar of lavender soap rests at the bottom of the pile, stinking up the rest of the goods. The stench seeps through the soap’s wrapper, a wrinkly white paper with flower outlines. “I’m throwing this away,” I threaten for the last time. “It’s old. It’s making everything smell.” “You can’t throw it away,” Mom says. “I’m saving it for something special.” I love lavender, but I cannot love that horrid soap. We collected the soap on our trip to Australia three summers ago. My grandmother died from sudden sickness, and we rushed onto a bereavement flight, where my mom began her distressingly public grieving process. The head flight attendant soothed her with Kahlua. We stayed in a crappy Adelaide motel with cowboy decor, greasy food, no internet, and bar upon bar of the paper-wrapped lavender-scented atrocity. I wish I could say that my grandmother smelled like lavender, but in life, Yiayia smelled like breaded jalapeño
sticks. In the funeral parlor, she smelled like perfume, and that is how I knew she was really dead. Her skin shone white, lipstick never so flawless. I was the one to pull her cold, heavy forearms through the sleeves of her burial blouse; my mother dared not touch the inanimate body herself. The priest covered Yiayia in a white shroud from Jerusalem. Her final scent was the kollyva — boiled wheat, cinnamon, and walnuts — that we tossed after her lowering casket. She passed onto my mother two compulsions: cleaning and stashing lavender sachets all over the house. I grew up finding lavender in shoes and on bookshelves, in cupboards and bra cups, wedged between spices, stuffed in my pillows, safety-pinned to the corners of comforters… “To keep the moths away,” Mom would say.
Wallflower, Age 13 I pay attention to the way their lanky arms explode, holy shoulder sockets fully forcing power to all doll-faced mortals no wall law / frame / fame could bottle. Glottal impulse, muted throttle jangle jingle bring arms back, tack funnybones to ribcage / quack / As soon as now they thrust back out, taut then flop then shake, the route devout plays on and on and I don’t get yet why their bodies must reject their faithful arms like that.
Paper Cranes & Airplanes
We are infusing our words with too much symbolism, thus overloading our poems, and by extension, our brains. Matias sets Klaus in the middle of the table, and immediately, hands from all places reach out to touch the Corgi’s blonde fur. Klaus lays on his back. A pleasure twitch. “See? He’s so tangible, here, now, in front of us,” says Matias. “Not everything has to be a symbol.” Clay says Klaus is still a symbol: he is now thinking about the dog’s mix, and then about breeding, and then about sketchy breeding practices. Meanwhile, Joey is contemplating the domesticated dog’s relationship to the dominant human. Matias says, “Try, just try to separate them!” He points at the dog. Says we are impossible. Klaus does nothing for me. I do not pet him. While I do not eat animals, I do not touch them either. Klaus really isn’t tangible. Klaus is a symbol who drives us deeper into our selfabsorption. Then the little doggie sneezes, and we shut up for a second.
The day I told my parents about you was the day we cabbed to Westfield for homecoming dresses & the day you discovered the Japanese stationery shop & the day you started making me paper roses & paper cranes sprouting from paper vases. And even after reading your origami book, the best I could do was fold you paper planes the way my dad taught me when I was little, too little to discern the flagrant lack of aerodynamic.
OFFERING Watch as I crack my blood-word barrier with black leather gloves and a broken bottleneck. Stick a pen in the brainpanâ€“ squish. I offer you sinuous question marks in a dried brainstem bouquet, scented of rosemary and rustling a springtime death rattle.
Guts for Garters
Intestine tendrils caress thighs in an unheimlich maneuver, in bombshell shock, she’ll have her own guts for garters.
Slip past your own eyes into the nightmare cathedral, dark and cloistered as the chambers of a snail’s shell. Cloaked in echoes and robed in mirage, you will follow somnambulatory– shadow chaser, ghost watcher. Mirror faced demon chill.
Blood drips like trains of thought from an infertile Caesarian slice– Dusty white skin like Venetian blinds let the inside out, the outside in.
The boy Eurydice falls into labyrinthine arms.
And when marionette strings are grasped by passion-possessed marionette, she has not lost control– She has seized it from leering puppeteers.
In between twilights the spirit moans unsettled. Transdimensional thorn pillow beckons. Swathed in grayscale the non-woman treads on questions. Mirror faced demon chill, spine haunted from the inside. Lay back to sleep, lost boy, and breathe deep of demon’s breath.
A Plathian pin-up in graffiti fresco slapped onto a concrete canvas; “She liked people looking at her,” critics decide with muddled accuracy. She’ll have her guts for garters to tether synthetic sausage stockings– because a heart on one’s sleeve has been done and redone to death. 128
would have me do. Nor did I meet my demise amongst delusions of reclusive grandeur. No, I have a cat–
Bone Pen There was a time when I had a pen honed from bone–bone of the patron saint of drinking the whole bottle when you said you might just have a glass. I want to say it was given to me by a sea witch, but that’s the wrong story. I’ve known some witches, and a drag queen who called herself a fishy bitch, but never anybody with gills.
A slick black beast with needle teeth and the sweetest demoness eyes. She grasped the bone pen, hollowed like bird bones, but with the satisfying density of human, about which I know she always wondered. I cannot say whether she is now a genius, because I cannot read her ink splatters, though her meows have dwindled. And with that fateful moment of neglect, I am back to eeking barely literate musings out from under festering mortal brain meat.
The pen of bone did not write in blood or wine (though wine helped), but in plain black ink. Black like my hair dye, like squid ejaculate, like all the good stuff, really. And it rounded up all the best words and herded them straight to my fingertips. But while the pen was mine, it sealed up sound in my throat, cauterized my vocal chords. Not that I used those much, anyway. So my lips, always painted red, purple, black– represented only themselves, and I found it charming. Currents of syllables, ballads, treatises, verses, flowed as if my nails were painted in ink, which sometimes they were. No more taunts from blank pages; they now lay prostrate to calligraphy lashes. I didn’t give up the gift because of the curse, like a good myth 130
29 seasons of spring. 29 seasons of summer. 29 seasons of fall. 29 seasons of winter. 5 seasons of The Brady Bunch. 4 seasons of Punky Brewster. 5 seasons of Silver Spoons. 8 seasons of Three’s Company. 8 seasons of Sesame Street. 6 seasons of The Real Ghostbusters. 8 seasons of Full House. 10 seasons of You Can’t Do That on Television. 5 seasons of Hey Dude! 8 seasons of Muppet Babies. 5 seasons of Saved by the Bell. 6 seasons of Captain Planet and the Planeteers. 4 seasons of Life Goes On. 6 seasons of A Different World. 1 season of Little Koala. 4 seasons of Welcome Back Kotter. 5 seasons of Charles in Charge. 7 seasons of Step by Step. 8 seasons of Perfect Strangers. 3 seasons of The Adventures of Pete & Pete. 4 seasons of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. 4 seasons of The Secret World of Alex Mack. 2 seasons of Inspector Gadget. 3 seasons of Just the Ten of Us. 3 seasons of Scooby Doo. 6 seasons of The Wonder Years. 4 seasons of Nickelodeon’s GUTS. 8 seasons of BodyShaping. 6 seasons of Square One TV. 3 seasons of My Two Dads. 5 seasons of Gummi Bears. 7 seasons of Growing Pains. 2 seasons of Wild & Crazy Kids. 5 seasons of Pee-wee’s Playhouse. 1 season of My Brother and Me. 10 seasons of All That. 6 seasons of Fresh Prince. 8 seasons of Alvin & the Chipmunks. 1 season of Drexell’s Class. 5 seasons of Quantum Leap. 6 seasons of The Ren & Stimpy Show. 2 seasons of Nick Arcade. 2 seasons of Dennis the Menace. 7 seasons of Macguyver. 5 seasons of Clarissa Explains it All. 10 seasons of Friends. 2 seasons of Salute Your Shorts. 5 seasons of Martin. 3 seasons of Captain N: The Game
Master. 1 season of Babes. 4 seasons of Out of This World. 5 seasons of City Guys. 9 seasons of The X-Files. 5 seasons of Amen. 4 seasons of Singled Out. 1 season of Super Mario Bros. Super Show! 6 seasons of Mr. Belvedere. 8 seasons of Wings. 4 seasons of Doug. 7 seasons of The Mickey Mouse Club. 9 seasons of Seinfeld. 11 seasons of Cheers. 2 seasons of Bzzz! 9 seasons of Kids Incorporated. 3 seasons of Parker Lewis Can’t Lose. 1 season of Freaks and Geeks. 4 seasons of Fifteen. 6 seasons of Webster. 3 seasons of Tiny Toon Adventures. 5 seasons of Weird Science. 7 seasons of The Golden Girls. 6 seasons of Recess. 6 seasons of Hang Time. 4 seasons of Thundercats. 5 seasons of California Dreams. 10 seasons of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. 1 season of TaleSpin. 9 seasons of Family Matters. 4 seasons of MTV Jams. 1 season of Noozles. 24 seasons of the Price is Right. 3 seasons of Legends of the Hidden Temple. 7 seasons of Just Shoot Me! 2 seasons of USA High. 4 seasons of Roundhouse. 2 seasons of HeMan and the Masters of the Universe. 5 seasons of Living Single. 10 seasons of Jerry Springer. 4 seasons of Small Wonder. 1 season of Mega Man. 5 seasons of The Grind. 2 seasons of Popples. 5 seasons of The Kids in the Hall. 11 seasons of Baywatch. 7 seasons of Malcolm in the Middle. 3 seasons of Win, Lose or Draw. 9 seasons of Smurfs. 9 seasons of Road Rules. 2 seasons of The Munsters. 5 seasons of Get Smart. 1 season of Buzzkill. 4 seasons of Alf. 2 seasons of Boogie’s Diner. 8 seasons of Bobby’s World. 5 seasons of Daria. 1 season of The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin. 3 seasons of Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers. 5 seasons of X-Men. 3 seasons of Liquid Television. 5 seasons of Blossom. 15 seasons of WWF Superstars of Wrestling. 7 seasons of Dragon Ball Z. 4 seasons of Aaahh!!! Real Monsters. 1 season of The Torkelsons. 1 season of Almost Home. 5 seasons of The Twilight Zone. 3 seasons of the Magic School Bus. 11 seasons of Married with Children. 2 seasons of Conan the Adventurer. 3 seasons of What’s Happening!! 8 seasons of The Cosby Show. 3 seasons of Herman’s Head. 3 seasons of Batman. 7 seasons of Are
84 ‘Til Infinity
You Afraid of the Dark? 3 seasons of Ghostwriter. 1 season of My So Called Life. 1 season of Kid’s Court. 4 seasons of New York Undercover. 3 seasons of Wild & Crazy Kids. 3 Seasons of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. 6 seasons of Mr. Wizard’s World. 5 seasons of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? 10 seasons of Beverly Hills 90210. 2 seasons of Welcome Freshman. 7 seasons of Melrose Place. 5 seasons of Head of the Class. 5 seasons of In Living Color. 3 seasons of Jem. 1 season of The Dick Tracy Show. 8 seasons of Diff ’rent Strokes. 4 seasons of Doogie Howser, M.D. 1 season of Mr. Bean. 11 seasons of the Jenny Jones Show. 2 seasons of Denver, the Last Dinosaur. 10 seasons of Red Dwarf. 5 seasons of Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper. 4 seasons of Rocko’s Modern Life. 20 seasons of WWF Monday Night Raw. 3 season of Roc. 2 seasons of Bosom Buddies. 7 seasons of Family Ties. 11 seasons of Happy Days. 1 season of Grimm’s Fairy Tale Classics. 6 seasons of Gimme a Break! 3 seasons of Camp Candy. 1 season of Beverly Hills Teens. 9 seasons of Night Court. 5 seasons of NewsRadio. 3 seasons of Sailor Moon. 2 seasons of The World of David the Gnome. 2 seasons of Heathcliff. 9 seasons of The Facts of Life. 8 seasons of Who’s the Boss. 4 seasons of DuckTales. 5 seasons of 21 Jump Street. 7 seasons of Boy Meets World. 3 seasons of Darkwing Duck. 4 seasons of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo. 5 seasons of Breaking Bad. 29 seasons of spring. 29 seasons of summer. 29 seasons of fall. 29 seasons of winter. ∞
Ghost Box Dear Reader, Inside Los Angeles—loud and gray—is Ghost Box, based on the story of a woman named Emily who was accused of criminal behavior for feeding birds at a vacant big-box store near downtown Los Angeles. This piece is an excerpt of the book-length work. As a visitor to the site, I met “the person with the rake,” who served as a mouthpiece for Home Depot, trying to catch Emily and stop her. I stood with him. I watched him rake. I watched birds shit and shit. I saw families park just beyond no-trespassing signs, feed the birds and hold their children. I walked across the street and bought a sex toy. I saw falcons, hawks, yellow finches, pigeons, gulls, african bees, and a lizard. I stood in stopped traffic swarmed by birds. I was rear-ended. I found fresh paint-trays full of water and colorful dog bowls of cat food. I waited endlessly to see who they belonged to. And I found a trespass, loitering
I am ruminating on emblems and underbellies and I watch a plume of birds lift from the lot. Birds bat my car, the sky. I stop. Hundreds of gulls mix midair with pigeons, eclipsing adjacent neon signs, stoplights, sun. I pull off the road and I look into the city. In response, the city writes a shrub growing against concrete, it writes in blues and deep red. It writes, we want to be beautiful too.
feathers, fronds, used condoms, hand prints, tongue prints, and feet are her backdrop.
EMILY: I am becoming a bird, but nobody knows— sharp, hot, painful. Past diapers strung along a thin strip of protective orange railing, I see a car careen from nowhere. The car parks at the far end. Someone pops the trunk and lifts a rake from inside. The person scrapes at the surface of the concrete. The person looks useless. I decide to wander through the bird shit and approach him. I shake his hand. The person says that they are hoping I am a producer for a reality show. I am not. I am a poet, I say. He says the show should be called “Home Depot, The Real Story,” gesturing the words onto an imaginary, airborne marquee. I interrupt him to ask about the birds. He shields his eyes and leans back onto his car, “I don’t know if you are ready to hear it” he says, smiling.
EMILY: When I am pressed against a table, I catch myself watching the ceiling for signs of you, for seas, your shapes there are none, so I wrestle myself back. “Her doctor told her to do something that makes her happy,” the person with the rake continues, “we’ve been looking for her.” He says his higher-ups are angry. Emily and her mess are his fault somehow. But after weeks of watching, in place of her body, there are only small paint trays full of water and clusters of colorful dog bowls, crumbs. He wants my help looking. I hear myself say yes. And right now, someone else is walking through the lot like it’s theirs and the birds have flown to wires away. EMILY: Once, I gathered at least 1,000 of your feathers and stuffed them in my mouth.
I want to be aloft with you sometime, shitting. “She is supposedly dying or something like that,” the person with the rake explains. “Cancer.” Now, shards of glass, car engines, truck engines, shit, chewed popsicle sticks, a screw,
Today, I am unnerved by a herd of Jehovah’s Witnesses who are milling around three unmarked vans parked near the McDonalds. There are only about twenty birds. I fold up my recording equipment to leave. The Jehovah’s Witnesses approach me. I tell them I am too busy to talk because I am going to buy a sex toy. I motion toward the neon lights of a sex shop across the street.
In evasion I’ve taken to hiding under cars and snaking between piss-shrubs I sleep nowhere— my eyes are glowing, atrophied but I am stronger still swollen regardless, huge even.
There is a snaking of fledglings behind me and I am endless wild, what looks like almost nothing.
EMILY: I got chased down the street I flew. I like it, pressed being a chase still, I am where the sensation escapes, whole alone, retching and I feel aliveness throbbing rich, unseen. The person with the rake explains that he’s only actually seen her twice. The first time, she was red from rolling in bird shit, multicolored from cheap cat food. It was Halloween exactly. She seemed beautifully feral, blonde and braking. So, he shined a flashlight across her shins and shirked back to his car. Returning home, he told his wife the store was haunted. California too, his wife said.
— When I was nine, I learned to ride a white, streamer-less bike along sand dunes in Midland Texas. I remember riding past acres and acres of barbed-wire rimmed fences that closed off naked, unusable land. I was hot and frustrated. I asked my dad if the fences would stop at the horizon. At the time, I had recently harnessed the idea of escape—the idea that it was possible to run off and whittle sticks, sleep outside. “All of the world’s ugly is bought up already too,” he said. And I remember feeling the slipperiness of free. There were other times I felt this way. Like when I would row a dingy out into Long Island Sound for my grandpa so he could spray paint sex-red NO TRESPASSING signs on a small jetty of rocks that seemed so randomly his. Like when I would rollerblade in Dallas behind the water tower until they caged it off. Like eviction notices, like knee-high grass, like walled-off parks, like zoos, like shipwrecks, like me. Recently, I visited the former Kmart site one last time. There was a Port-a-Potty lodged near the center of lot and a dump truck blocking one of the driveways. A story-high wire fence has been erected along the entire periphery. And there’s talk that the lot was bought by Goodwill to be turned into mixeduse space for “a sprawling job training center, thrift store, 141
cafe.” Along the wire fencing, someone has pinned a ripped white poster board scrawled with thin blue sharpie: “there is no there here—where are we?” Thank you for reading,
On Holland Road
Emerson Suppose I started by saying I wanted to tell you about a certain place. This place is not necessarily a physical one, though at times it has manifested itself as such. There was once a gray-white mansion perched perilously atop a wooded Missouri cliffside. The house had stained glass along its stairway—so bewitching from a distance, but when you looked through the glass up close you couldn’t see through to the other side. Or suppose I started instead with a dream. In the dream I am walking up a darkened, musty staircase. On every stair that I climb I encounter the face of a woman I once knew. I gaze into each face, but the eyes staring back at me are black and beady. At the top of the staircase, there is a closed door. Now suppose that this place wasn’t really a place as it is defined by physical space: with definite or indefinite boundaries, but more like a particular moment in time. The time now as I am writing this is 12:52 PM, a Wednesday in the year 2013. When I get to the end of the next sentence, the moment will have already passed. There is no way to retrieve it. I could begin with the facts too. In November of 2011, Lisa Nasseff, age 41, of St. Paul, Minnesota, filed a civil lawsuit in 142
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St. Louis County Circuit Court against Castlewood Treatment Center and its then director, Nasseff ’s former therapist, Mark Schwartz. Among the lawsuit’s many charges were claims that throughout Nasseff ’s lengthy treatment for anorexia nervosa at Castlewood, Schwartz repeatedly subjected Nasseff to hypnosis while she was under the influence of several psychotropic drugs, brainwashing Nasseff into believing she had once been the member of a Satanic cult, had been involved in or the victim of various sexual abuses at the hands of said cult and suffered from multiple personalities, totaling at least twenty.
A few years ago I dreamt of a gray beach littered with hundreds of dead dolphins, their skins smooth and damp like clay. I concluded that the dream had meant nothing then and quickly filed it away.
And in February of 2012, another woman, Leslie Thompson, age 26, also of Minnesota, filed a second malpractice lawsuit against Schwartz and Castlewood with nearly identical allegations. Like Nasseff, Thompson charged that Schwartz’s therapy had caused the creation of false memories in her mind, including the belief that Thompson had once belonged to a cult where she witnessed the ritual sacrificing of a baby. As further revealed in Schwartz’s therapy, Thompson had not only suffered from multiple rapes but had ten different personalities, including one demonic personality named Freddie who personified the devil. Both lawsuits describe Schwartz’s conduct as so outrageous in character, so extreme in degree, as to go “beyond all possible bounds of human decency.”
“Since, therefore, this case history presupposes a knowledge of the interpretation of dreams, it will seem highly unsatisfactory to any reader to whom this presupposition does not apply. Such a reader will find only bewilderment in these pages instead of the enlightenment he is in search of.” 1 Maybe I start with something unrelated: There were no poppies to view at the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve last spring due to lack of rainfall. Instead of hills of rolling orange, visitors (some from as far east as the Caspian Sea) looked onto the expanse of dry brown and shuffled their feet in the dirt, unsure of why they had traveled to Antelope Valley in the first place. My medical records from Castlewood arrived by mail on a Tuesday morning in a brown manila envelope addressed by hand. Inside the envelope a letter read: “Our concern for our clients’ well-being is on-going even after they leave Castlewood. The same is true in your case. This package has been limited to include information most germane to the nature of your request.”
It should be noted as well that contained among the lawsuits’ many pages are complaints that Schwartz regularly warned the plaintiffs they would die were they to leave his care.
The letter was a form one. There was a blank line provided where Danielle, the appointed Medical Records Specialist, could insert my name.
Nasseff later attempted suicide.
To be sure, I looked up the definition of “germane” (derivatives:
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“germaneness”; “germanely”) in my dictionary. “Germane” (adj.) is defined as “relevant to a subject in consideration.” Example: The empty poppy fields in Antelope Valley are not germane to the state of my current and past mental health.
chords, an immaculate voice belonging to one of most recorded singers of all time. I did not hear the fraught history of a former Nazi soldier, nor any other possible imperfections.
In her 1968 essay “The White Album,” Joan Didion wrote: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” I have heard these words recited dully back to me over and over again. The problem with trying to tell a story, however, is that the process assumes there is a beginning, middle and end. I am unsure where I begin and Castlewood ends, though my medical records narrate this story differently. On May 29, 2007, I was admitted to Castlewood Treatment Center for Eating Disorders, approximately two months before Lisa Nasseff entered noiselessly through its same doors. On January 10, 2008, I was discharged. The discharge was a routine one. I had been cured. “I naturally cannot prevent the patient herself from being pained if her own case history should accidentally fall into her hands. But she will learn nothing from it that she does not already know.” 1 May 29, 2007 - January 10, 2008: These are the dates on record, where my story appears to begin and end.
Likewise, this story you are reading only now includes the detail that every time I sit down to write it I slip on a turquoise blue cat eye ring in the hopes of seeing through the fog more clearly. The ring was a gift from an old Castlewood friend and came mailed in a tiny box with a tiny note reading: “Love in Misery.” In my dream of the staircase, I am greeted at the door by a bald, giggling man with liquid eyes. I tell him I am there to interview for the job, and he questions my presence until a man with white hair I recognize as Mark Schwartz instructs the bald man to let me in. Once through the doorway, I enter a dismal school library, where several bodies sit around a conference table laughing and dining on air and SSRIs. I am having a hard time remembering why I wanted this job in the first place and turn around to leave, but stop when on my way out I see a grown man reading a dictionary upside down, his lame wife next to him staring gaping at the wall. What of the story now?
I consider what gets left out of a story, what constitutes the dash between two dates of a life lived. Last week I heard for the first time the voice of German baritone Dietrich FischerDieskau (May 28, 1925 - May 18, 2012), singing Schubert over a pair of cheap computer speakers in my apartment. All I heard then was a set of masterfully manipulated vocal
“They can, indeed, give the physician plenty of coherent information about this or that period of their lives; but it is sure to be followed by another period in which their communications run dry, leaving gaps unfilled, and riddles unanswered; and then again will come yet another period which will remain totally obscure and unilluminated by even a single piece of serviceable information. The connections—even the ostensible ones— are for the most part incoherent, and the sequence of different events is uncertain.” 1
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By the end of 2012, there are four lawsuits filed against Schwartz and Castlewood, four women—Lisa Nasseff, Leslie Thompson, Brooke Taylor and Colette Travers—declaring that while under care at Castlewood Treatment Center they lost all sense of themselves, could no longer discern the difference between fact and fiction or piece through their own pasts to figure what had really occurred versus what was nothing more than a potent dream. I imagine it like the trick of dominoes, each woman waking in sequence to another ’s nightmare, tipping the next of us down.
My favorite stranger to note is a homeless man with buck teeth and a pale red baseball cap who camps out by the train station on Santa Monica Boulevard. Every day he empties out the contents of his large black duffle bag one by one— clippings from yellowed Spanish newspapers and worn gray photographs all meticulously glued onto small squares of cardboard. Once he has all the squares laid out in neat lines in front of him, he kneels over them and prays.
I repeat to myself that I don’t want to write an eating disorder memoir. As a result, I have a hard time explaining to others what it is I am writing when asked. I tend to answer something different every time: “I am writing about a series of lawsuits,” or “I am writing about a rehab clinic,” are both similar answers in their vagueness, but neither of which I think is an entirely true statement. “Her truths were not therapeutically useful ones...Even in Jamesian terms, Dora’s habits of thought had brought her no ‘higher happiness.’ Indeed, she suffered from both higher and lower unhappiness.” 1 (We tell ourselves stories in order to live.) The truth (should we call it that?) is that most of my writing time is spent collecting fragmented notes on strangers I witness on the street: “Three plain Mormon women smiling and saying ‘Hello!’ in unison”; “A Chilean man with a Bluetooth ear piece and an old wife.” 148
These images take hold of me, so much so that I often believe there is some purpose behind the random arrangement of my surroundings, a quiet connection to be made. In my memory, Castlewood exists only in brilliant white flashes, not unlike the experience of taking a photograph. For a moment a still frame is lit before everything again fades to blackness. I remember the first time that I saw Mark Schwartz, but I do not remember where or when it was that I saw him. I have only the image: a white man with white hair wearing white linen. Still, more recently I watched the same homeless man while perched by my second floor window. I heard him coming from a distance: He was drenched in glorious yellow light and bellowing a song in Spanish that I thought sounded familiar. When he got to the end of my block, he stopped singing and looked around himself before unbuckling his pants and defecating, right there in the sun. When recounting “The White Album,” writers habitually forget how Didion’s essay ended. There is no revelation. The 149
events of real life have no narrative. “On that theory a dream is not a resolution represented as having been carried out, but a wish represented as having been fulfilled.” 1 You can see how easily an image gets distorted.
— Freud, Sigmund, and Phillip Rieff. Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria. New York, NY: Collier, 1963. 1
contributors ANI BAKHCHADZYAN is an Armenian-American writer of prose and poetry. Her poems “Calapocalypse” and “Flashback” are featured in the CalArts Eye and she is the author of Fetish, a serial killer novel that serves as a social commentary about the abundance of consumerism and information in the internet age. anibakhchadzyan.blogspot.com firstname.lastname@example.org
KT BROWNE ktbrowne.com email@example.com
JOSEPH CANNIZZARO I do not see the power to shake the feeling OOH electric motor electric He knows that it is an electrical determined by pumpin’ like-o-Matic as an electric boogie Now you cannot be that power is said to be of Boogie Boogie, but you know, there, everywhere, and it is also here. joeycannizzaro.com
JADE HUDSON writes, does web-design and develops board games in Santa Clarita, CA. firstname.lastname@example.org www.honorabledesign.com www.boardorder.com
DJINJI JIMENEZ is a writer who talks about about women and their experiences, while occasionally trying to be funny. email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
EMMA E. KEMP is an artist and writer from London. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her cat. eekemp.com email@example.com
CLAY KERRIGAN is a writer living in Los Angeles. firstname.lastname@example.org
SHISONIA LIVINGSTON is a Los Angeles based comedian, writer and actress. Shishonia@yahoo.com Shishonia1@gmail.com
SHANA MIRAMBEAU is a writer and photographer whose work shifts between the layers of multicultural narrative and spiritual mysticism. She has an MFA in Creative Writing with a concentration in Documentary Strategies from the California Institute of the Arts, a B.A in English and B.A in Women & Gender Studies from California State University of Fullerton. email@example.com
JAMES PIANKA is a multimedia storyteller at work in narrative fiction, game design, and critical theory. He lives in Los Angeles. firstname.lastname@example.org jamespianka.com
RILEY RAUBACHER goes by the name Riles from Rehoboth Beach Delaware. She tells ghost stories by firelight. email@example.com
contributors DIEGO ROBLES is a writer working in poetry, short stories, novels, and essays, and a filmmaker making work between the experimental, documentary, and narrative Cinema genres. He is also continually expanding various forms of pedagogical and research methodologies connected to alternative forms of scholarship.
NICK SALTRESE carries his most important papers about with him in a green Sears, Roebuck toolbox. He did not win the Nobel Prize again this year.
CHRYSANTHE TAN is a writer, composer, and professional violinist who currently lives and stressbakes in Los Angeles, CA. chrysanthetan.com firstname.lastname@example.org
VESTA VAINGLORIA is a Los Angeles dwelling writer of nonfiction and poetry. She is also a full-time dandy, cat lady, and severely amateur whiskey taster. email@example.com
ROBERT VILLALOBOS is a Filipino American writer whose work focuses on the satiric integration and normalization of the minority, absurd, and deviant. A soothsayer told Villalobos in 2007 that he would die at the age of 91.
EMERSON WHITNEY is a poet, journalist, and artist based in LA. Emerson loves extreme weather events and vibrance. www.emersonwhitney.com
ADRIANA WIDDOES is a writer, editor and multimedia producer currently living in Los Angeles. Her writing has appeared on Freerange Nonfiction,Trop and the Black Clock blog. @garyadriana firstname.lastname@example.org
next words Edited by Adriana Widdoes, Emma E. Kemp Designed by Jamie Reid Typeset in Schneidler BT Roman Printed by Ditto Press, London With special thanks to California Institute of the Arts and the MFA Writing Program.