William & Mary Review Vol. 59

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The William & Mary Review Vol. 59 / 2021



The William and Mary Review Volume 59 2021

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Staff Editor-in-Chief

Sarah Larimer

Prose Editor

Fall- Alex Johnson Spring- William Brake

Poetry Editor

Alex Yu

Art Editor

Anna Platt

Prose Staff

Taylor Yamaguchi Sandy Kelso Louise Strange Paola Barraza

Poetry Staff

Pelumi Sholagbade Skyler Tolzien

Art Staff

Taylor Moorman Astrid Weisend

The William & Mary Review (ISSN: 0043-5600) is published by The College of William and Mary in Virginia (est. 1693) once each academic year. A single, post-paid issue is $5.50. A surcharge of $1.50 applies for subscriptions mailed outside of the United States of America. The William & Mary Review publishes poetry, prose, and visual art. Please find submission guidelines on our website: www.wmreview.org.

COPYRIGHT 2021

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


Editor’s Note Coming into my role as Editor during our first entirely online school year was a daunting task. Despite a condensed first semester and adding 7 new staff members to our boards, we carried on in our pursuit of finding and publishing high quality poetry, prose, and art. Our selection process this year was the most competitive it has ever been and I want to thank and congratulate all of our amazing contributors for trusting us with their incredible work. The work included in this edition is a product of the crazy world that this year has brought us. It speaks to a variety of themes, represents diverse voices, and strikes deep emotions. I am so excited to share all of these pieces with you and I hope that you enjoy them as much as I have. In addition our normal publication process, this year has also motivated us to be more creative with our online spaces. We completely overhauled our Instagram account (go follow us @wmreview!) to give it a fresh and new design. We also have started the digitizing process of dozens of our past editions that will be up on our website around the start of this summer. I want to thank our amazing staff for all the hard work they put into this publication. They added another Zoom meeting to their schedules and spent countless hours reviewing submissions all for the good of our magazine— I cannot articulate my appreciation for their work enough. I invite you to enjoy Vol. 59 of the William and Mary Review!

Sarah Larimer Editor-in-Chief

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Table of Contents Bubble Wand JIM ROSS

10

poem

Baby Dragon ASI YACOBOVITCH

11

art

Cat's Grave MICHAEL HARDCASTLE

12

prose

Will it Float? JOHN REPP

14

art

Boys BARRETT MOHRMANN

15

poem

Untitled 2 ALUU PROSPER

16

art

Family Matters JON SHORR

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prose

Untitled 1 ALUU PROSPER

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art

[his neck and] CHRISTINE HAMM

28

poem

A Broad Cast ANASTASIA JILL

29

poem

All-Time QB ISAAC RANKIN

30

prose


Bury Me So I Can Dig Myself Out ALEXANDER MOSER

35

prose

Rocker JEROME BERGLUND

49

art

Reaching Out WILLIAM CASS

50

prose

Portrait 1 JESSE SKUPA

60

art

Portrait 12 JESSE SKUPA

61

art

Womanhood ANINDITA SARKAR

62

poem

Garnet MIYA SUKUNE

63

art

The Fitting Room LILLIAN JOHNSON

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prose

Exit Duty ROBERT RUNTE

65

prose

Sylvia KRISTEN SHEA

75

prose

Anger ASI YACOBOVITCH

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art

Deadheading SAMANTHA TKAC

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prose

Butterfly EMILY RANKIN

80

art

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Five Untitled Poems SIMON PERCHIK

81

poem

To The Daytime Radio DJ Who Sighted An Unspecified Statistic Claiming That Millennials Are The Most Narcissistic Generation LEE HODGE

82

poem

Perspectives NINA HUANG

83

art

Ashes DAVE BARRETT

84

prose

An Appreciation of Math MARY CHRISTINE DELEA

103

poem

Kaleidobranscope 1 FABIO SASSI

104

art

Customer Reviews JACOB R. BENNETT

105

prose

Crow GABY BEDETTI

113

art

The Ravens, the Turkey and the Gorilla CAROLYN WATSON

114

prose

In the Desert BEN SLOAN

118

poem

Eighteen JOSE SARINANA

119

art

Dark Side of the Moon JOELLE BYARS

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prose


Crusaders Coming Home CHRISTIAN MCCULLOCH

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art

Night Drawing CHRISTIAN MCCULLOCH

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art

A Wonder DAVID SAPP

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poem

Psychology REBECCA BIHN-WALLACE

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prose

Ten Underground Forests DH DOWLING

145

art

Magician’s Cloth MIYA SUKUNE

146

art

Delivery ANASTASIA JILL

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poem

6767 JOHN CHANG

148

art

6771 JOHN CHANG

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art

Ocean DAVID SAPP

150

poem

Derecho CAL FREEMAN

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poem

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Bubble Wand By Jim Ross “You’re mommy’s dad,” intones Bella, barely three, knowingly, comfy atop the slide, with no thought of budging. “Can you hold my bubble wand?” she asks, freeing herself of the burden of guarding. “I know, everybody dies,” she resumes, “But why? How? ” “I don’t want you to die.” “You can die when you’re very very old.” “And then you’ll go to God.” Heather alights next to Bella atop the slide. Bella asks, “You want to slide down together?” And like tandem skiers gleaming through a glacier Without further ado, they do.


Baby Dragon Asi Yacobovitch

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Cat’s Grave Michael Hardcastle In the afternoon, the clouds returned, heavy and dark. David desired to get out of the house, but the motivation to change his oil was gone. He took his car down off the stands and drove to the big-box store to buy cereal in bulk and a ten-pound bag of frozen chicken. Though the store wasn’t far, he took the interstate to pass quickly over the urban wasteland. There was an hour yet of daylight, but the sky was completely overcast and gray. By the time he reached the store, the rain had started, not a downpour, but a slow and steady patter that could last off and on for hours. When he loaded his groceries into the trunk of his car, it was dark. The water pooled on the interstate, turning the asphalt into a mirror and making the dashed white lines hard to see. There’d been construction on this stretch of the divided highway and the lanes had been shifted to the right. Some trick of the streetlights made the old lines visible, even though they’d been covered over in a thin layer of some sort of black paint. They were no harder to see than the new lines and David had to concentrate to make sure he was following the proper lane. Still, his mind wandered and he drove more by intuition. He was in the right of two southbound lanes and there were cars ahead of him and behind, driving slow because of the rain. He thought about his old neighbor. He didn’t know the man’s name. He hadn’t asked. The old man probably didn’t know David’s name either. What was the cat’s name? David thought. After a minute, David and all the drivers around him seemed to realize at once that they’d drifted to the left, following the old, painted-over lines. David and the cars behind him drove down the center of the two southbound lanes like


madmen and the drivers next to him were way over on the left shoulder. David did not panic, even for a second. He and the other drivers all moved slowly back into the correct lanes, moving as a unit and not even slowing down. David thought about how accustomed they all were to driving, how a car could become an extension of a man. And he thought about how absurd that was, about the tons of metal, plastic, and rubber only inches away in the lane beside him. He thought about how fast they were driving and how close the car behind him was and how it was a wonder they weren’t crashing into each other all the time. And it didn’t bother him; it didn’t make him even a little nervous. As he got closer to home, he thought about all the houses around him, about the hundreds of houses and buildings filling the city and its suburbs. He thought about everything buried underneath—the pipes and septic tanks and cables, and all the bodies, thousands of them. He thought about all the pets and men and horses. He thought about how a burial is the furthest way to remove something from ourselves, to place it within the earth itself and to not even leave a mound. Or if a mound is left, how it won’t last long. While David thought, the cars driving through the steady rain in both southbound lanes of the divided interstate began again to drift.

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Will it Float? John Repp


Boys Barrett Mohrmann Many years have passed, but I feel the weight of the canoes chained together, as though to stop our theft from the boathouse under darkness. I remember the night-chilled metal hull, cool waters lapping over our shoes as we pushed off from shore. The lake reflected the cosmos like a valley of diamonds. The moon floated in the waves like a coin dropped into a deep well. A fluorescent glow hung over fraternity row, with their raucous cheers ground into murmurs beneath the night wind. Far from parents, professors, and fertile futures, we paddled against waves of starlight, constellations dripping silver from our oars, thinking, in our stolen watercraft, as we cut a path through the pristine night, surely, we can call ourselves men.

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Untitled 2 Aluu Prosper


Family Matters Jon Shorr 2020 “Thank you,” he said. “Thank you, thank you so much; that means a lot to me... Yes she was... Thank you... I know; yes; thank you...” The last of the mourners were filing past Noah Brigham; most of them he didn't know or barely remembered. His friends had left immediately after the funeral; it was as close to death as 25-year olds needed to get. It was mainly his mother's coworkers and old friends who had driven to the cemetery. “Dee was a wonderful person,” one of them said. “Yes, she was,” he replied. “This must be so difficult for you,” one of them said. “Yes, it is,” he replied. “I know what you're going through,” one of them confided, “but you will begin to feel better; you will.” “Yes, I'm sure I will,” he replied. “I loved what you said about your mother,” one of them said, “and your grandfather. It was so, so true!” “Did you know Grampa?” Noah asked, perking up briefly. “Oh, no, I never met him, I didn't meet your mother 'til she moved to Baltimore, but I feel like I knew him, she talked about him so much.” An Hour Earlier “My mother, Dee Brigham, was an only child. She was orphaned as a child. She never knew her grandparents and didn’t know if she had aunts, uncles, or close cousins.” Noah Brigham gripped the edges of the wooden podium, wondering if his sweat would eat through the finish, wondering if, when he reached the end of the first page of his notes, he’d remember to let go long enough to turn the page, wondering whether, if he did let go, his hands would shake so much that he'd lose his concentration and start crying. “She was, in the words of her favorite Robert Heinlein novel, a stranger in a strange land. But in the words of that same novel, she grokked the world. She understood it; she embraced it. She made it her own. And it, and you, and I embraced her.”

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He was looking out over the heads of the 40 or so people into the stained glass window at the back of the chapel whose blues and greens reminded him of the stuffed marlin on his mother's living room wall. “I learned a lot of things from my mother. The two most important, perhaps, were idealism and perseverance. I think she learned those things from two sources. One, certainly, was the era in which she grew up. She marched for civil rights and women’s rights and AIDS research; she raised money for starving children around the world. She believed that causes worth winning were worth fighting for. And she got that strength of character, I believe, from her father. “In my earliest memories, I’m sitting on my mom's lap, rocking, looking at the photograph on the mantle of my grandfather in his Air force uniform, as she told me stories about him and about the missions he flew during the Vietnam War, about the time he took her deep-sea fishing. If you've ever been to our house, I know you've seen the marlin—how could you miss it—and I know you've heard the story of how she got it. She told me about the way he used to help her go to sleep by playing his saxophone in the other room. She told me the line from the poem that her father had quoted to her when he told her he was enlisting: 'I could not love thee, dear, so much, loved I not honor more.' And she told me how he died a hero's death when his plane was shot down over Haiphong Harbor on a mission to save an entire platoon of American soldiers. Fighting for what's right, making the necessary sacrifices along the way. That was my mom's inheritance from her father, and that's my inheritance from her.” 2014 “Ohmigod, I can't believe how much you look like him!” Noah and Heather were sitting on the living room floor, leaning against the couch, heads touching, paging through a photo album. “My mom always said I had his chin,” Noah said. “Not just his chin.” Heather pointed at the photo. “Look at the way his forehead's crinkled —just like yours! And look at his cheeks, the way they hang down a little bit, just like yours!” “My cheeks hang down?” “In a subtle, adorable way,” Heather said, reaching over and sliding her hand down his cheek, skin barely touching skin. “Mom always said it was from all those times our neighbor pinched them when I was a baby,” he said. “No-no-no-no-no-no-no I don't think so,” Heather said. “No, I'd say this picture makes the case for nature over nurture.” “He inherited his grandfather's brains, too,” Dee called in from the kitchen.


“I keep them in a mason jar in the basement,” Noah said earnestly, loudly enough for his mother to hear. It was an old joke. He waited: three, two, one. “Noah! That's disgusting!” It was an old—”Not to mention disrespectful!”—response. “Is this Vietnam?” Heather asked. No, Baltimore,” Noah deadpanned. “The picture!” “No. Well, yeah, it’s the Vietnam War, but this picture was taken at the US Air Base in Okinawa. Grampa was a C-54 pilot.” “Oh wow! Did he bomb the North Vietnamese?” “No. C-54s were transport planes, not bombers. He flew supply missions and also flew wounded soldiers to the US military hospitals in Japan.” Honest to god, you are such a history major! Oh, this isn't about history—I mean, it is, of course. But I've always known this stuff, World War II and Korea and Vietnam plane stuff, I mean.” “Why do you know it?” “Grampa.” “Did he used to tell you his Vietnam War stories?” “No, Mom told me some. Grampa died in 1967.” 2012 “Dr. Jacklin?” “Yes?” “You said you wanted to see me?” “Yes, Mr. ...” “Noah. Uh, Brigham “Yes, Mr. Uh Brigham, I wanted to compliment you on your research paper and ask your permission to use it as an example in some of my future classes. “Oh, well, sure, that'd be, I mean thanks, that'd be great!” “How did you happen to choose this topic, Vietnam War planes?” “Oh, um, my grandfather was a pilot, and—” “Fighter or bomber?” “Transport. C-54s, Eighth Air Force.” “Well, Mr. Uh Brigham, your paper demonstrates a real understanding of what it was like to be a military pilot back then. Did you interview him for this?” “No, he was shot down over Haiphong Harbor in 1967, but I've always been interested in military air history, and last summer there was a reunion of a bunch of Eighth Air Force vets in Baltimore—that's where I'm from—, and I went, and when they found out my grandfather had been in the Eighth, they just started

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telling me stories. And, well, I've always wanted to know more about him, and I thought taking this course might be a way to do that.”

2005 “He'd gone out on a charter fishing boat.” “Your Grandpa.” “Yeah. My mom was maybe five at the time, and he thought she'd like seeing the fish, so he took her with him. There were a couple other people on the boat, but he didn't know them. So they're fishing maybe ten miles off the coast of Ocean City, and he gets this strike. At—” “—Strike?” “A bite.” “Bite?” “He caught a fish, Dummy!” “Hey, how am I supposed to know that, I've never been fishing.” “So then what happened?” “At first he doesn't know what it is, he's just holding onto the pole for dear life. Then it finally jumps out of the water, the fish, and it's this gigantic marlin! So, he's beside himself; he was, you know, thinking maybe he'd get some sea bass or maybe a tuna or something, I guess, and then there he is attached by fishing line to this seven-foot-long fish! “Seven feet? No shit?” “You've been in his house! What do you think that is on his wall, a sardine?” “So everybody's telling him what to do. One guy's saying, “reel it in, reel it in!” and another guy's telling him to let out some line, and another guy's telling him to just hold on 'til it gets tired.” “Ohmigod, how old's your Grandpa?” “He's dead.” “Not now, Dummy, then!” “Oh, um, I guess maybe about 25?” “Ok, go on.” “And so he doesn't know what to do, but he plays it, he holds onto it for over an hour, waiting for it to get tired, hoping he has more stamina than it does. So finally, just as the fish is slowing down and he thinks he can reel it in, Mom gets seasick, she starts throwing up all over the place and crying. “No shit! Your mom?” “Yeah, so—


“Is she a grown-up at this point?” “No, she’s not a grown-up! Grampa was like 25 or something, so my mom was probably only four or five.” “Oh yeah.” “So my Grampa looks at her being sick, and then he looks at the fish and back at her and back at the fish. And then he gets up from his fishing chair and picks Mom up and just hugs and rocks her. He was going to just let that marlin get away rather than ignore his daughter. So at this point, the skipper—” “—The skipper? What is this, Gilligan’s Island?” “I don't know if he was the skipper, I don’t know what his title was; he was the guy that was driving the boat; my mom always called him the skipper. Anyway, he cuts the engine, races down the ladder, grabs the pole, and he and two other guys reel it in. “So he didn't actually catch it, your Grandpa?” “He wouldn't take credit for the catch, said it wasn't his fish. But they said anyone who missed catching the fish of a lifetime so he could help his daughter feel better deserved the fish. “So they gave it to him?” “I woulda kept it if I was them!” “He still wouldn't take it. So they had it stuffed and gave it to my mom.” 2003 “...that part in Peter and the Wolf, and my mom said it was a French horn, and I always wanted to play it ever since then.” “That's good, Jen,” Mr. Horner said. “A lot of us are inspired to play music from the music we heard when we were little. Who's next?” “I'll go,” Noah said. “Ok, Noah,” Mr. Horner said. “Why did you choose the saxophone?” “My Grampa played it.” “Very good, Noah. Did he play it for you?” “No, he died in Vietnam.” “Oh, I see.” “But I’ve heard some records that he played on.” “Records?” “Yeah, he was a studio musician, and he played on a lot of records that got made in the 50s and early 60s. Sax used to be a really popular instrument back then.” “That's exactly right, Noah; the saxophone was probably the most popular wind instrument in early rock and roll music. Do you know any specific records he played on?”

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“Yeah, my mom has a bunch: “Tequila,” and “Runaround Sue” and “I Love You Just the Way You Are.” “’Just the Way You Are?’ Billy Joel? Wasn’t that after the Vietnam War ended?” “I don’t know, but Mom said he played on it.” 1997 Dee Brigham was walking along Eastern Ave, ten minutes early for her hair appointment. “Stuffed Animals at Bargain Basement prices!” The hand-written card taped to the generically printed “Going Out of Business” sign pulled her to the window. Maybe she'd buy a little something for Noah, maybe a bunny or a teddy bear, she thought, in the instant before realizing it was a taxidermy shop. She'd never hunted or fished and didn't approve of those who did. A year or two earlier, she’d joined a group that opposed the killing of animals for their furs; she’d marched more than once in front of furriers’ stores, booing and jeering at the men and women who went in and out, people buying or at least considering buying mink stoles or ermine collars or fox coats. At the same time, although she’d never told anyone, she'd always been attracted to stuffed animals. Maybe it was from elementary school trips to the natural history museum; maybe it was about immortality. The raccoon in the corner of the window was cute, climbing up the branch. The deer head was majestic with its 12-point rack. But it was the fish that caught her. A big fish, the kind she'd seen over the fireplace in the lodge where she and Sid went that weekend that Noah was conceived, the kind she'd seen all her life in black and white photos, standing up next to the person that caught it. This one was almost seven feet long, blue and silver with an iridescent green edge on its tail. She glanced around to make sure there was no one around who might recognize her. Then, she went in. “How much is the fish,” she asked the man just inside the door. “Fish like that'd normally go for two hundred,” he sniffed, pointing at it with his cigar. “I've gotten as much as five hundred for a sailfish, fella caught it off Henlopen, '72, I think it was; wife wouldn't let him keep the damn thing. Five hundred dollars then, it'd fetch a lot more'n that now, I can tell you.” “Ok, well, I was just walking past. Thanks.” “I said 'normally'.” “Well, like I said, I was just walking past. Great fish. Wish I could afford it.” “Blue marlin. Fella said he caught it off Ocean City coupla years ago. Never come back for it. Had it hangin' in the window for a while 'til some city guys


started their jackhammers out front one day; vibrations loosened the mount, and it fell. That's how the tail got cracked.” “Oh, I can't even tell from here.” “You couldn't tell if you were six inches away; been at this business 46 years now; learned it from my Uncle Bob. “I can tell how good—” “—But I couldn't sell it for new after that, and it's just been back in the corner gathering dust.” “Well, how much is it?” “I need to clear everything outta here by the beginning of July. That's when my lease ends. Wife's already got the house packed; we're movin' to Bradenton. You really like the fish?” “Yeah. Yes I do.” “Let you have it for thirty-five, it's a steal.” “I don't know if it'll fit in my car,” Dee said. “What kinda car?” “Pacer.” “No kidding. AMC?” “Yes.” “Still runs?” “Some of the time.” “Tell you what: Forty and I'll deliver it.” She'd sworn to herself that she'd never go beyond the Bobbie Brooks box to create her past. As she walked out of the store, she swore to herself that she'd never do it again. 1996 Dee Brigham had bought this house—her first—several months before. It was one of those formstone-covered rowhouses that lined the streets of Baltimore. She'd gotten tired of waiting for Sid or somebody else to marry her, tired of throwing away $135 each month to rent a one-bedroom apartment. She wanted her baby to have his own room, a yard with a swing set. She'd wanted one of those old Hyde Park Victorians that she’d lived in in Cincinnati, but that kind of house in Baltimore was in Roland Park, way out of her price range; the bank said that this was the one she could afford. She'd moved most of her adult life into the house and left the rest of her history packed in Jim Beam and Gallo cartons in the garage and the attic. Delores Brigham—she hadn’t used her full name since elementary school—was an only child. Her father died when she was four; he was supervising

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the second shift at Cincinnati Milling Machine when he had a heart attack. She and her mother had to move out of their Hyde Park house—the house her father had grown up in—and into an apartment across Madison Rd. in Oakley, getting rid of most of their furniture and “the old family junk,” as her mother referred to it, in the process. Periodically, Dee would ask her mother questions about her past—where she went to high school, how she and Dee’s father met, who her friends were. “Why do you want to know that stuff,” her mother would say, “that’s old news; nobody cares about that. Learn to live for today!” When Dee asked where her ancestors came from, her mother would say, “Walnut Hills,” and when Dee said, “No, I mean before they came to Cincinnati, before they came to this country, where were they from?” her mother would say, “It doesn’t matter. The reason they came here was to get away from that awful place. The less we know about it and talk about it, the better.” Dee could never figure out whether her mother refused to give her information or whether she, too, had only gotten the excuses but never the family history. By the time Dee had graduated from Miami, her mother had been moved to The Mt. Lookout Home for Incurables with early onset Alzheimer’s, the youngest resident of the dementia wing, a distinction of which she was probably not aware. Whenever Dee walked into the room, her mother seemed to recognize her as a close relative, but she seemed to recognize everyone as a close relative, including strangers, so it didn’t count for much. As her mother’s memory deteriorated, so did Dee’s hopes of learning about her family’s past. She died a few years later, just after Dee finished her master’s degree in epidemiology at UC, and a year after that, Dee moved to Baltimore to start a new job, running a lab at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and to start a new life. Since she knew virtually nothing of her past, starting anew was easy. She was poking around the attic, shining her flashlight first at one row of boxes, then the next, edging along the joists, trying to push boxes out of the way without losing her balance and falling through the insulation and lath and plaster into whatever room lay below her. She was looking for the box labeled “fabric scraps,” thinking maybe she could make Noah a quilt. She'd never made a quilt before, but yesterday she'd watched “The Sewer” on the educational station and, surprised to find a show about quilts rather than wastewater, decided to try to make one herself. Someday, she thought, when he's covering his own child with it, Noah will say, “this was mine when I was a baby.” She wanted Noah to feel rooted; she wanted him to have concrete reminders of his history. Sometimes, she wondered if maybe she’d named him Noah because she hoped he would be the one to help her escape drowning in the ambivalences and ambiguities of her own life. She was pushing her carton of high school class notes out of the way, across the joist and into the corner, hoping that the fabric scraps box might be behind it, when something stopped it from moving. It was a large box, her flashlight showed,


wedged but sticking up from between two joists and pushed back into the corner. She scooted her carton of high school class notes and two boxes of Christmas ornaments and wrapping paper out of the way and crawled along one of the joists, touching the nail-flecked ceiling occasionally to keep her balance. It was a cardboard box, about two feet wide, five feet long, and six inches high. Imprinted on the box, under a thick layer of dust, was “Bobbie Brooks;” scrawled across the top in black marker was “Save.” She didn't remember the box, she hadn't written “save” on any of her boxes, and it wasn't her handwriting. It was tied up with string. She was pretty sure that it wasn’t some of Maria VonTrapp’s favorite things, but beyond that, she had no idea what it was. She tugged at the box and pulled the end of the sisal twine. As soon as she touched it, she started sneezing and itching. It was too dusty to be one of her boxes. She dropped the string, rubbed her hand on her pants, crawled backwards to the ladder, climbed downstairs, got an old towel out of the linen closet, and returned with it to the attic. She used the towel to push the dust off the box and then climbed down the ladder once again, coughing, eyes watering. A half hour and a Benadryl later, she climbed back up, dragged the carton to the opening, and slid it on her shoulder down the retractable stairs, hoping that neither it nor she would land with a thump loud enough to wake Noah. In fact, it wasn’t the thump but her sneezing that woke him. She hated to hear him crying, but she imagined herself at that moment more like Pigpen from the Peanuts comic strip than Noah Brigham’s mother, and she wasn’t about to carry all that attic dust into his room. By the time she’d gotten a damp washcloth from the bathroom, wiped off the box, taken off her clothes, brushed the dust out of her hair, and washed her face and arms, he’d gone back to sleep. She dressed in fresh clothes, walked back into the hall, closed the attic stairs, sat down on the floor, untied the box, and lifted the lid. “Maybe it’s full of Spanish doubloons,” she pretended to think, although she knew it wasn’t heavy enough. “What if it’s full of Proctor and Gamble stock certificates from 1890 that are now worth 27 million dollars,” she pretended to think, knowing that that probably wasn’t true, either. Nonetheless, she was somewhat disappointed by what she found: two Air Force uniforms, five National Geographics from the mid 1960s, a photo album, and a jar of Calamine lotion, the lotion having long ago evaporated, leaving a bottle half full of pinkish-brown chalk, some of which had left a thin, dusty residue on one of the uniform sleeves. She unfolded the wool uniform jacket and the cotton shirt. On the shoulders were matching captain’s bars, two silver bars an inch or so long. High on the left arm, a sewn-on insignia, wings and a star. On the right arm, a similar insignia with the words “8th Air Force” under it. On the jacket’s lapels, small brass wings with propellers in the center; over the left pocket, a series of battle ribbons and “sharpshooter” medals. She counted 17 moth holes in the wool jacket. Inside, sewn

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to the lining was a one-by-three inch piece of muslin with the hand-printed name “Gershom.” The shirt, lighter weight and green camouflage, had the same 8th Air Force insignia on the sleeve, a plastic “Gershom” nametag fastened over the left pocket. Later that evening, after she’d nursed Noah and put him to bed for the night, she curled up on the couch in front of the radiator with the photo album that she’d found in the box. She recognized no one, of course. There were pages of family groupings—at parties, in front of vacation cabins, on the beach. There were pictures of small children riding tricycles, bundled up in snowsuits, wearing bloomers. There were fading sepia pictures of severe-looking bearded men and stocky women from generations back. There were pictures of teenagers sitting on porch railings, leaning against cars, almost always smoking. There was a picture of a young man in a high school band uniform holding a saxophone. There were pictures of the same young man in his army uniform, sometimes alone, sometimes with other soldiers, one with his hand resting on an airplane’s propeller, several with a young woman. “Gershom,” she thought. A week or so later, as she was sorting through her fabric scraps, looking for some light blues to edge Noah’s quilt, she uncovered a piece of muslin. Before she had even articulated to herself what she was doing, she cut a one-by-three inch piece, printed “Brigham” with her laundry marker, went upstairs, got the uniform jacket out of the Bobbie Brooks box, carefully ripped out the “Gershom” tag and in its place sewed “Brigham.” 2020 At first Noah had been self-conscious about shaking hands with people after he'd picked up the handful of dirt and tossed it onto the casket. He apologized to each person about his dirty hand, but they assured him that it was all right; some even seemed to rub his hand as they shook it, as if to get some of the dirt onto their own hands. By the time the middle of the line came, he resented their stealing from him this last symbol of his bond to his mother. By the end of the line, he felt relieved; his hand was clean; the mourners had literally wiped away the top layer of his grief. It reminded him of a story his mother used to tell him about his grampa. —end—


Untitled 1 Aluu Prosper

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[his neck and] By Christine Hamm I search the poetry foundation website with the keyword “horses” and none of the results bring back the copper-colored one who broke his neck and, while my mother wept instead of me, fell off the edge of this world as I held the parts of him I could. The vet injected the vein near the horse’s jaw with sedative enough to kill four whales. Squatting in that alley behind the stable in the dust, I clung to his head. His eyes did not close on their own, so the vet leaned down and shut them: I held his warm bulk while I still could.


A Broad Cast By Anastasia Jill I have the word of my Father and not much else -his mind, his feet, I guess we’re both spry. He has news anchor eyes; honest, like he cares, and a smile sitting gold like a cross across his face. He literally came from nothing and managed to become less. I got that from him, too. Nothing, I guess, but the news. We both have yellow and foolish red hands. We don’t murder. We poach facts. Who needs respect?

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All-Time QB Isaac Rankin Until Evan Herman’s dad rang the doorbell and told my father that I had body slammed his six-year-old son, I had never been grounded. Dad didn’t buy my argument that it was a clean hit, and he never cared much for football or the finer points of tackling techniques. And to his credit: I was a hefty nine-year-old. Evan ran home crying and limping but somehow he was fine by the next morning when the regular Saturday game started in the cul-de-sac. I cursed him under my breath while watching from the guest room window. Mr. Herman always played all-time QB and, despite his recent testimony, I still liked the man. He was bronzed and much younger than my own parents, cocky and no-nonsense but fun and inclusive. The Dolphins were his team, and he modeled his quarterbacking after the great Dan Marino. I remember the Herman kids as frequently upset, often crying, and Mr. Herman was usually to blame. If he wasn’t, he almost always made things worse. Jack, the eldest, probably grew up to hate all sports— but especially football. When it came to his sons, nothing seemed to be good enough for Mr. Herman. On the other hand, he liked me even after I pummeled Evan, and for one simple reason: I was an excellent route runner. Other kids were faster and more athletic, but I ran routes so well that he would always put the ball where I was going to be. From an early age I had learned that following instructions was the easiest way to please an adult. While Mr. Herman worked to include all the neighborhood kids in our touch football games, there was no doubt I had become his favorite target. My success infuriated the older kids and especially the Herman brothers. Jack shoved me to the pavement on more than one occasion, but eventually they grew tired of losing and decided they would rather resent me as a winning teammate. After a year or so of weekend games, something notable happened one warm Saturday in October. Early in the game, I ran an out route called by Mr. Herman, but the coverage was too tight. Almost in slow motion, Mr. Herman made eye contact with me and lifted his chin. Somehow I knew instantly that he was signaling me to go long, stretching over the top of the defense. Because of slow


feet, I rarely scored long touchdowns in these games— but this one was a bomb. The quarterback clapped and shouted with elation. As the game progressed, he tried a few more motions of the chin, shoulders, and his non-throwing hand on broken plays. I took his cues and found the ball at my fingertips every time, single-handedly scoring more touchdowns than the other team that day. At the end of the game he winked and gave me the game ball. Both his sons sulked on their way inside. It was the proudest sports moment of my life to that point, and I took the ball home and put it on my dresser until the next week’s game. We would play for hours almost every fall weekend, sometimes losing the game to darkness. Our Rice and Montana chemistry only strengthened as the weather turned colder. My dad came and watched one afternoon and later complimented my performance. Sports weren’t a big deal to him, which made his praise even sweeter. One Saturday I dropped a pass that would have won the game, and Mr. Herman was livid. He didn’t directly yell at me, but it was clear that he was upset. I went home and vowed never to drop another ball that ended up remotely near my fingertips. The next morning, my dad reluctantly threw me awkward, short-range passes to help improve my hands. His inaccuracy and unpredictable tosses were perfect for training my grip and reflexes. Looking back, I’m sure my father thought Mr. Herman was a silly man obsessed with a boy’s game. But as with many lessons learned, he almost always let me figure them out for myself. I was now a chunky 10-year-old, and for the first time in my life: I was good at something that seemed to matter to other people. The last cul-de-sac game we ever played with Mr. Herman took place the day after Thanksgiving a couple years after we moved into the neighborhood. Despite what my parents and others said, I know that Mr. Herman never hit his son. It’s been 21 years, but I stand by my recollection. It happened like this: Jack quit the game pretty early, as he sometimes did when frustration mounted or his dad yelled at him, but his dad made him stay and watch. When an incomplete pass bounced Jack’s way and Mr. Herman ran to get it, Jack kicked the ball down the hill into the side yard of their house. His dad was furious. He raised his voice and told his son to get the ball. When Jack declined, Mr. Herman grabbed him by the

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collar and dragged his boy around the side of the house. It was a brutal scene, and he had never done anything like this before— at least not around the neighborhood crew. Jack kicked and screamed in protest, while six adolescent boys stood like statues on the pavement. Because I was positioned at the edge of the yard, I was the only kid who witnessed the loud smack that carried out into the street. By then Mrs. Herman was outside and close to the scene. A few moments later, an epic shouting match ensued between the couple. For months everyone said Mr. Herman hit his son and that was the last straw. He moved out a few weeks later, and for some reason I always remember that Mrs. Herman got a new car the next week: a sky blue 1967 Mustang. It was a beautiful car that made absolutely no sense for a mother of three. After he left, we saw Mr. Herman less and less. Basketball season had started, and we transitioned to playing hoops in my driveway. The Herman kids would visit their dad at his new apartment, but sometimes he would stop by for a few minutes and take the dog for a walk. One of the last times I ever saw Mr. Herman was a few weeks before we also moved out of the neighborhood and halfway across the country. I was alone, punting the football against the wall at my house. He was walking their dog, a mutt named Shula (named for the great Dolphins’ coach), and stopped to say hello. The man appeared to have aged years in just a few months. My father told me a decade later that Mr. Herman was what I could not recognize then: an alcoholic. It also explained the bitter smell when he called out plays. Mr. Herman asked me how my basketball season was going, and we made the kind of small talk adults and kids make about school and sports— the kind that Mr. Herman struggled to make with his own sons. He turned to leave but hesitated and then, almost with embarrassment in his voice, asked if I wanted to run a few routes. His eyes lit up when I said yes. For what felt like hours, I ran route after route in the cul-de-sac on that late-winter evening. Mr. Herman had taught us five routes numbered one through five, and we picked up right where we left off. I have never told this story to anyone, and even now the words I’m writing seem outrageous, but I am absolutely certain that we connected on every throw he made that night. Months of no practice and still he roped pass after pass into my hands. After executing a deep


post route, Mr. Herman told me that he had played at a small college in Florida because “big-time schools” said his arm strength wasn’t good enough for their level. And so that night he was slinging rockets, much harder than the passes he threw in our neighborhood games. My cold hands started to hurt about halfway through, but I wasn’t going to show any weakness. Something had always piqued my curiosity about Mr. Herman, and I decided that night was probably my last chance to ask him. Mr. Herman, why do you always play all-time QB? He laughed and, without pause, said Because you always win. A moment passed, and I looked up at Mr. Herman. But don’t you always lose, too? Again he chuckled, but this time the quarterback didn’t answer. Give me a 2 he said. And so I took off on my slant route. Pretty soon he was changing the routes with head nods and waves, and the ball always landed where I was heading. Completion followed completion. At first he would tell me nice catch or great grab like the old days, but eventually a quiet rhythm fell over the cul-de-sac, and all you could hear were my sneakers clapping the blacktop and the thin whistle of a spiral giving way to the smack of leather. Daylight soon faded, which meant deep routes were the only way to see the ball. Each pass was a little longer, each throw a little harder to make out. I could hear his grunts as his muscles strained to release high-arching bombs. As I jogged back after another catch, the bronzed youthfulness of Mr. Herman looked the same from a distance, but when I returned to the line of scrimmage and our eyes connected: his glistened with moisture. I could see the crying faces of his sons reflected in the quarterback’s own boyish face. Eventually, my dad hollered for me to come inside for dinner. One more, Mr. Herman said. Just one more. I wasn’t supposed to play football with Mr. Herman anymore, and my dad would likely scold me later. But something told me this was the last time I would ever catch a ball thrown by the man who longed to be Dan Marino. So I ran as fast and as deep as I could, as Mr. Herman launched what I remember as a 100-yard pass floating across the darkening sky. I stretched out my arms and looked over my left shoulder, only to see the ball sailing far beyond my reach. It landed with a thud and took several awkward bounces before settling in the neighbor’s yard, not far from where I had body-slammed Evan Herman a couple years earlier.

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I picked up the ball and turned to see Mr. Herman standing in his old driveway. Barely visible, he simply raised his arm and waved before turning to open his car door. I waved back and headed for the garage with the second and last game ball I would ever earn. I’m not sure what made Mr. Herman the man he had become when our lives intersected more than 20 years ago. There are probably a hundred reasons, and some are not his fault. When I lost my temper with my own son this evening, I thought of that day in the cul-de-sac and the chaos I witnessed in the yard at the Herman house. I’m standing at the end of my out route, looking down the hill to see Jack and Mr. Herman in a tussle. Jack is flailing as his dad tries to restrain him. He falls, and Mr. Herman reaches down to pick him up. As Jack stands, the boy swings with all his strength and momentum and connects his palm with his dad’s right cheek. Slap. They stand motionless, staring at one another in silent shock. Then Mr. Herman turns to see what I can only surmise was my own stunned disbelief. Mrs. Herman enters the memory screaming. And the shouting match begins between soon-to-be-divorced spouses. My own parents come out and call my name but I’m not listening. The whole neighborhood heads outside to survey the scene. And then a funny thing happens: Mrs. Herman corrals her sons and goes inside in a huff. Mr. Herman walks calmly across the yard and heads back to the imagined line of scrimmage. Second down, he barks loudly. And without skipping a beat, three elementary-aged boys huddle around the quarterback and listen closely for our assigned routes.


Bury Me So I Can Dig Myself Out Alexander Moser Corrie reached for Scott, but felt the opposite side of the bed cold and vacant. On Sundays, she often woke up smelling fresh-brewed coffee, toasted bread, and sometimes even strawberry jam, filtering through the kitchen and wafting into the bedroom. Scott would have prepared a meal for the two of them, and they would eat and sometimes watch the morning news. But all that lingered in the bedroom that morning was the scent of dust and dirty laundry, smells that overlapped in the cramped garden-level apartment in Park Slope. She got out of bed, and meandered into the living room. The lights were off, the room was pitch black. The only window in their apartment was in the bedroom, which was more like a street-level porthole that looked out on any pedestrian who passed by. Corrie slapped the light switch and the fluorescent bulbs flickered and turned on. No sign of Scott anywhere. No dirty plates, except what had been in the sink from last night. The coffee pot was untouched as well. In the middle of the room, a photograph was face down on the floor. When hanging the photograph the other day, Corrie had a feeling it would fall down. Yet she was the one who opted to use sticky tack, rather than thrusting another nail in the wall. She wanted to keep the apartment kempt and have a good relationship with the landlord, because for once, they were able to live in a nice neighborhood that reminded each other of a possible future. It was Corrie’s dream to live here, take walks into Prospect Park on weekends and shop exclusively at the co-op. Scott sarcastically called it ‘the abyss,’ because he felt it was his predestined future to grow old in a wealthy, residential neighborhood, have two or more kids, and lose all sense of creativity as he settled into his well-paying office job. Corrie hated the joke, but she went along with it. She was confident that he wanted one day to buy property, have kids, retire, despite any inhibitions that he gave off. Corrie lifted the photograph. She and Scott on their wedding day, were smiling and staring into each other’s eyes. A memory in her hands. She recalled their wedding vows, spoken as the image was taken. She pledged to never settle for anything that didn’t make either of them happy. He pledged to never stop trying to chase their dreams.

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A loud scraping sound interrupted her thoughts. At first she thought it sounded like the crunch of a potato chip, mixed with the scratching of steel against a hard surface. The sound resonated through the walls, coming from somewhere outside. It was too close to be from a neighbor’s yard, too soft to be construction along the road. The sound came again, followed by the grunt of a deep voice. Corrie, curious, made her way toward the door to the backyard. At first, she had an idea that it was her upstairs neighbor and landlord, Liz, but the voice that followed the crunch didn’t seem to belong to Liz at all. She placed the wedding photo on the kitchen table, and decided to check out the backyard. The morning breeze nudged Corrie’s skin as she opened the door. She was barefoot, and felt the cool air rush between her toes, brushing past her ankles. Scott stood in the yard, his hands gripping the long, wooden shaft of a shovel. Crumbs and specks of dirt clung to his hands. His face was wide-eyed with beads of sweat trickling down his cheek. “Good morning!” he said, like it was any other morning. “You look nice.” He bent down at an angle, thrust the shovel into the grass. The ground pulled and gave way, revealing a tangle of pale, fleshy worms, writhing in patches of soil. Corrie stared down at the hole. It was six inches deep and looked as if Scott only started moments ago. “Scott, what are you doing?” she asked. Scott gave a goofy, innocent smile, a facial expression that he always made since their first years together. He’d make a joke, and stand there, mouth closed, but lips curved upward, cheeks pressed high. Scott loved to make Corrie laugh. But if the hole was some kind of prank, Corrie didn’t understand. She never understood what went on in his head, what made him tick. “I’m digging a hole,” Scott said. He took another scoop, tossing it aside. Overturned leaves of grass stacked in a dark pile. The worms, fat as fingers, squirmed into the ground. “I can see you’re digging a hole. But why?” Corrie scratched her head. “I need you to bury me in it.” “Excuse me?” Scott shook his head. “Before you say anything, I’m not planning on killing myself. I’m going to dig myself out.” He began to widen the hole, severing greenery from its home as he stabbed downward. Corrie crossed her arms. “I don’t think I understand. Bury you in that hole there?” “It sounds like you know exactly what I’m planning on doing.”


“But why?” Scott kept his hands on the shovel, and stared off into the sky. He thumbed his necklace, a silver chain with Hebrew letters that Corrie couldn’t read. “To be honest, I really don’t know. I woke up and just started to dig.” He returned to his task, gripping both hands on the shovel, pushing the spade into the ground as far as he could. It wasn’t a very large scoop, and some of the dirt spilled over the side of his spade and back into the hole. While digging, Scott began to hum the theme song to Full House. He was off-key, and he only knew the chorus, which he repeated over and over. “My darling,” Corrie said, “Have you been taking your medication?” “Yes,” Scott replied. “Every day. Why?” “Because you’re digging a fucking hole in the ground!” Corrie thrust her hands in front of her, fingers outstretched toward the sky. She recalled Scott’s episodes of depression, bouts of anxiety, like the days between jobs when he shoved his head beneath the blankets, refusing to get out of bed, claiming he wanted to see and feel nothing. She thought that was left behind in the past, covered up, fixed and let alone. Corrie played with the grass with her toes. She pulled at the green strands, but stopped when she felt some of them rip out of the ground. “Does Liz know you’re doing this, Scott?” He looked over at their building, a plain brownstone in a line of identical brownstones. The curtains in their building were drawn, and the lights were off. The sun was still low in the sky, and shadows masked most of the yard. “No, I haven’t spoken to Liz at all.” “I think she’s going to be pretty pissed when she sees you digging up her lawn.” Corrie stepped closer, and peered into the hole. Scott had made considerable progress on it since they had spoken, creating a crater that was about a foot or two in diameter. “You really shouldn’t be doing this.” “It’s fine,” Scott replied. He took another scoop. “It’s going to help me. I feel like this is my purpose, this is what I am supposed to do today.” Corrie retreated toward the door. “Alright. Do you want to come in and have breakfast?” “No, thanks, babe. I’m not hungry. Make enough coffee for yourself—I’m good.”

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As Corrie backed away, the rhythmic sound of the metal shovel clanked, continuing to tear at the hard ground. The wind blew and she felt the breeze clutch and ride up her legs. Inside, she looked at herself in the mirror as she changed into warmer clothes. Her hair, curly and wild, was more of a mess than usual, and she tied it up in a bun to not deal with it. She was surprised Scott said she looked nice, but he was the only person who saw her hair when it was a mass of tangles, or her face with no makeup on. In the bathroom, she skipped her usual routine—applying foundation, concealer, blush—instead, she elected to brush a dash of mascara on her eyelashes and nothing else. Scott’s bottle of Lexapro was right where it always was, on the sink, next to the toothpaste. She opened the bottle, and counted a dozen circular, white-yellow pills. The bottle’s label read that Scott filled his prescription this month. Unless Scott had been throwing pills in the trash, or flushing them down the toilet, he was still on medication. Corrie ran her fingers through her hair, retying her bun, feeling the sharp points of her nails along her scalp. She picked up her cell phone, and called Scott’s best friend, Jason. # After an awful breakup, Jason moved to Flatbush, where he rented a one bedroom, fourth floor walk-up. He and Scott had known each other since elementary school, and despite a few years of not speaking to each other after college, rekindled their friendship. They considered themselves fortunate to maintain a relationship that had lasted most of their lives. His phone rang, the vibrations so strong, it launched the device out of his hands. Corrie’s name appeared at the top of the screen. He answered right away. “Jason, can you come over?” “I don’t remember the last time it was you who called me, rather than Fox, I mean, Scott. What’s up?” “You won’t believe it. Scott’s digging a hole. He’s acting really strange. I think he’s having a breakdown of some sort.” “A breakdown?” “I’ve never seen him like this before.” Her voice was weak and shaky. “You said he’s digging a hole? Like a hole in the ground? You’re sure he’s not gardening?”


Corrie’s voice hardened. “You can ask him yourself when you get here.” Jason groaned. “Yeah, I’ll be there soon. It may take a bit to catch the right train, letting you know.” “Just get here when you can, okay?” Corrie hung up. Jason knew about the feeble nature of Scott’s mental condition, his tendency to fall into depressions, even lash out in anger. But he thought that era of his friend’s life was now behind him. Ever since Scott began dating Corrie, which felt like eons ago, Scott became a perkier person, began to enjoy more things, like Vietnamese food and yoga. Scott seemed to enjoy his life. When they got married, Jason was the best man. There was a picture of the three of them from the wedding day hanging in his room. He counted the things he had to do before going back to work on Monday. He had to buy new pants since he gained some weight. He also wanted to see the new superhero film before it left theatres. But for the time being, he would rather lay in his bed for another hour or so. It was part of his weekend ritual, lazing out, watching animal videos on his phone. But Jason also considered himself a logical person, and seldom trusted the feelings in his gut. Yet, when a friend needed help, he asked no further questions. He patted down his matted, short hair with a splash of water, and left without shutting off the lights as he bounded down the stairs. It took close to an hour, but he arrived at their apartment in Park Slope with a cup of bodega coffee in hand. There wasn’t a doorbell to ring, so he called Corrie’s phone instead. The phone rang three times, and in the middle of the fourth ring, Corrie’s curt voice crackled through the speaker. “You’re here? Give me a minute.” She hung up the phone without giving Jason any time to respond. He picked at his fingernails, a nervous habit that he never gave up. Five minutes passed when Corrie, face cherry red, leapt through the door, and unlocked the gate with a separate key. “Sorry,” she said, and led Jason through the apartment. “What’s going on?” Jason followed her, closing the door she left ajar. The lights were off, but he had visited the apartment enough times that even blindfolded, he knew the way toward the backyard. Outside, Jason could see Scott dig from a distance. The ground had sapped up a week’s worth of rainwater, making it wet, dark, and heavy. When he tossed a

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scoop, specks of dirt flew in the air, plopping onto the ground. “Hey there, Foxy boy,” Jason called. “Hey, Jason,” Scott said. He turned to Corrie. “Did you tell him to come over?” Corrie began to walk up to the edge of the hole, but Jason stopped her. He pointed at the shovel. “I’m here to see the hole you dug. Looks nice.” “Thanks, I guess.” He heaved a tremendous scoop of dirt over his head. Jason continued to pick at his nails. “So, you’ve got this plan to dig and bury yourself, I hear.” “Yup.” “Need any help?” Scott shook his head. “I have to do this myself.” “Why?” He shrugged and gave no answer. “Looks pretty deep down there.” “Gotta go deep to get deep,” Scott replied. “I see.” They were silent for a minute. Birds perched in skinny tree branches. The wind was still. Not a single car could be heard. Jason watched Scott fling the dirt over his shoulder, the clumps breaking apart in midair, leaving a trail that gyrated like a fine mist. Scott kneeled down, and began to dig with his hands, widening the walls so it’d be large enough to sit in. The loose granular soil spilled out, coating his feet. Beetles, no larger than a dime, crawled on his legs. He let them sit there, run up and down. When he moved, they tumbled down and burrowed beneath his feet. Jason turned to Corrie, whispering so Scott couldn’t hear. “Clearly something is up. Anything, uh, happen recently?” “None that I can think of, no. Nothing bad at work, and we haven’t had any kind of fight in months.” “He’s taking his meds?” “I even counted the pills this morning.” “Okay, good. I was worried.” Jason leaned forward, peering toward Scott, who shoveled dirt in quick even scoops. He stopped and picked up a small amount of dirt, grasping it like a treasure. Corrie grimaced. “I wonder if he’s looking for something.”


“You know what this reminds me of?” Jason asked. “The time when Scott and me were in Israel.” “That was before we met, but Scott’s told me stories.” “Yeah. Uh, so, there was this thing, called the mikvah. Do you know it?” “Never heard of it before.” “Well, it’s a pool of rainwater that in Jewish tradition has holy cleansing purposes. Kind of like a baptism, I think. And everyone who goes to Israel for birthright goes in this special mikvah in this cave in the countryside. You’re supposed to go in, one by one, in this little pool, and dunk your head under there for a few seconds, which is what I did. But Scott, he tried as hard as he could to dive down to the bottom of the pool. It was dark in there, the mikvah was deep, and neither of us could see or touch the bottom. It was dark, too dark to see anything, and the water was ice cold. Scott’s head was below the water for about a minute, maybe two. I have no idea if he touched the bottom, but he was down there for a long, long time.” “Didn’t you ask him?” Jason clicked his tongue. “I didn’t think much of it at the time. We were all naked, so it was really awkward standing there.” He chuckled, but Corrie’s face was stoic, and fixated on Scott. Jason sighed. “Gotta go deep to get deep,” he whispered. It wasn’t long after that when Scott put the shovel down and felt the hole with his bare hands. “Okay. This is it,” he said. “Wait, you’re done?” Corrie asked. She got up, dusted off her legs, and approached the hole. “I’m done.” Scott placed the shovel on the edge of the hole as if he had pushed aside a half-eaten plate of food. The hole was long enough to fit his whole body lying flat and was as wide as a bathtub. Yet it was shallow—four feet deep at the most. “I expected it to be as deep as a grave,” Corrie said to Jason. “Same. Six feet under and all,” Jason replied. Scott laid flat in the hole as if he were about to fall asleep. “Let’s do this.” Before Jason could respond, he heard the slam of a door coming from the building. He spun around. A tall, skinny, older woman marched toward them. “Isn’t that your landlord?” “Shit,” Corrie replied. “It’s Liz.”

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# Liz bought the Park Slope brownstone in 1984 for a fraction of what the property would cost today. She converted the basement to a separate apartment to rent out. As far as Liz knew, Scott and Corrie were nice people, who in some ways reminded her of a house full of children, who had since grown up, and her husband, who divorced her in the 90’s. But then she heard strange noises and saw Scott, knee-deep, in a hole, shovel clutched between his dirty fingers. She ran outside. “What the fuck are you doing?” Liz shouted. She hadn’t sworn aloud in years. “Don’t worry,” Scott said. “I’m going to fill it up when I’m done.” He pointed to Corrie and Jason. “They’re burying me.” He got up and pushed the shovel closer to Corrie’s feet. Liz came close to screaming, but held her breath before letting out a long, steady stream of air. “I should call the police,” she said. “Or a mental hospital.” Scott didn’t hear her. Or he pretended not to. He went about his business, sitting in the hole, stretching his legs as if lounging about. That was what bothered Liz the most—that these actions appeared rational in his mind. Liz turned toward Corrie. “You know, I don’t mind having you two around. And it’s not about the money. I like hearing that bit of noise funnel in from downstairs, like the clang of the metal gate, the little dinner parties you have, or the low hum of a television through the floor.” She shook her head and looked at the ground. Liz approached Scott, leaning out over the edge. “Get out of the hole,” she said. Liz’s cheeks puffed up the same way she did when she got mad at her own children back in the day. “I said, get out.” Scott put his hands behind his head and closed his eyes. “You guys going to bury me or not?” Liz looked over at the two others. “Who are you?” she said, pointing at Jason. “Oh, I’m Jason. I’m Fox’s friend.” “Jason’s here to bury me, so I can dig myself out,” Scott called out. Liz bent down and grabbed Scott’s shoulder. “Hey, listen to me!” She pulled, hard, straining what muscles she had, but he was a grown man, and heavy. “Get out. This isn’t your lawn to dig.” Scott dove deeper, slipping beneath her fingers. “You don’t understand what I’m trying to do here.” He took a handful of dirt, and threw it in Liz’s direction.


She wasn’t sure if he aimed for anything specific, but the dirt, which burst into fragments as soon as it left Scott’s fingers, sprayed her from the chest up to her face. She felt the specks coat her eyes and lips. “Fuck!” Liz didn’t even care that she swore again. She took a step back, wiping the mess with the back of her hands. Corrie’s jaw hung wide. “Scott! Why?” But she got no answer from him. Liz spat solid brown particles onto the ground. “Fucking crazy,” she muttered under her breath. “Scott. If you don’t get out now, you and Corrie have to move out, immediately.” “No,” Corrie said. “Scott, you have to get out. I mean it.” “Sorry,” Scott said. “It’s impossible. The only way I’m getting out is having you bury me, so I dig myself out.” Liz touched her thick, curly hair. She felt the dirt crumble from the roots onto her forehead as she rubbed against her skin. “Corrie, Scott, your lease ends in two months. Get your shit out of here. I don’t want you in my house, I don’t.” She paused, holding her tongue in the back of her throat, but lurched forward and forced out the rest of her words. “I don’t need you in my house.” “Scott!” Corrie shouted. “What the hell!” “What?” Scott wiped his face with a filthy hand, dragging brown blotches into a muddled smear. “Oh, man,” Jason said. “I didn’t want to say anything, but, yeah, Fox, you shouldn’t have thrown that at her.” Scott shrugged. “Oh, it’s not so bad.” Corrie placed her hands on her hips. “What are you talking about? It’s very bad.” She groaned. “I cannot deal with moving right now.” “Too bad,” Liz said. “This constitutes as aggressive, intolerable, disparaging behavior, and I have a right to terminate your lease.” She wiped the dirt off of her shirt. She got most of it off, but the remnants would leave behind a stain. “If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go clean up.” She began to walk back inside. “Two more months.” Liz stomped on the grass, her steps echoing through the yard as she moved inside. The last thing she heard was the clatter of the shovel when Corrie kicked it as hard as she could. # The shovel tumbled down the side and into the hole. It wasn’t a fancy shovel, or anything special. It was on sale for $9.99 at the local hardware store. It was one of many shovels, produced in a factory overseas, shipped by the thousand, delivered

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to fulfillment, and then retail stores. It had a pale shaft, a grey, iron spade, and a green handle, so the user could grip it by the end, providing a strong amount of lift. The shovel landed spade-first on Scott’s knee, balanced against an uneven wall that was wider on the top than the bottom. “Can she even kick you out? Didn’t you two have a contract, a lease?” Jason asked. “I don’t know,” Corrie said. “I remember reading something about terminating the lease over ‘disparaging behavior,’ but I thought that meant like, smoking weed inside the house, or something like that.” She kicked the ground, casting a dust cloud over the top of the hole. “Fuck, Scott, why?” He was silent, and didn’t move, no matter what the others said. “It’s going to be fine,” Jason said. “Relax. New apartments pop up online every day. Even things without a broker’s fee. Packing everything in a month or so isn’t so tough either.” Corrie rubbed the edge of her temples with a thumb and forefinger. “That’s not the point, Jason.” She sat down and let out a long, deep moan. Jason squatted down and leaned into the hole. “Fox,” he said, his voice soft. “Come on. You really want to be buried alive?” Scott picked up some dirt with his hands and rubbed it around his stomach. “Yes,” he said. “It’s time. Bury me so I can dig myself out.” “We’re not going to do that,” Corrie replied. She extended a pale hand out to Scott. “Come on, we’re not burying you. You have to come out so we can pack up this apartment.” “I’ll come out after you bury me.” “Corrie, I don’t think he’s going to listen to us. Maybe we should go along with what he wants,” Jason said. Corrie glared at Jason. “You said you’d convince him to get out of there.” “I know, but,” he sighed. “You know, it’s not easy.” Corrie stood up, leaned over the hole, her head reaching down to meet his. “Just tell me!” she shouted. Her eyes were glassy and bright. “Tell me what this is all for!” Something must have welled up inside Scott, and he began to yell as well. “I don’t know what’s going on either! I have to do this! I have to do something!” He paused, snorting through his nose so hard it moved the dirt by his chin. “Let me do this, and I won’t ask for anything else. Then we’ll get out of here.”


Corrie bit her lip. “Fine.” She bent down and grabbed the shovel from the hole. It was heavy, and she didn’t expect the lopsided weight. “You okay?” Jason asked. “Yeah, let’s just do this,” Corrie said, her voice cracking as she took in a large shovelful of the soil. It was pale, warmed by sunlight and crumbled away as she lifted it from the pile. Corrie couldn’t carry a lot of dirt in one scoop. “I can’t believe I’m doing this for you.” “You married me. Isn’t that what love is all about?” Corrie wiped her eyes with her sleeves and emptied her shovel, spilling dirt over Scott’s crotch. “That’s the stuff,” Scott exclaimed. “Hey, let’s make this fun, guys. Anyone want to say something before you do the deed? How about a poem—or maybe a song?” His face was blank and vacant. It seemed he forgot the brief crescendo of his and Corrie’s emotions. “You want me to belt out an ode? Recite a eulogy?” Jason asked. “Dude, as soon as your head is underneath, I’m counting to ten and then we’re digging you out.” “Of course, I’ll dig myself out first,” Scott beamed. Jason balled his hands into fists. “So, how about a song, Jason?” Jason gave in. “A song? What song do you want?” Corrie poured another pile of dirt onto Scott, refusing to be a part of the conversation. Scott smiled. “Do you know all the lyrics to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air?” Jason clenched his jaw. “Like, with Will Smith?” “In West Philadelphia, born and raised,” Scott said, half-singing to the tune of the song. “You’re not singing that song,” Corrie said. She tossed another scoop of dirt, dumping it onto his head. Scott coughed as the dirt rained over his hair, splashed over eyes. “You guys are real buzzkills. Takes the energy out of the place.” He lifted his hands out of the soil and spread the dirt evenly across his body as if it were suntan lotion. Corrie handed the shovel to Jason. “Shut up while we bury you. And Jason’s going to count to ten, and if you don’t get out right away, we’re digging you back up.” “I’ll get out, don’t worry,” Scott said.

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Jason’s hands clamped both ends of the shaft. He was strong, and he heaved enormous quantities over Scott, covering his body. The dirt went over and around his legs, above his knees, and then, atop his head. With the shovel in Jason’s hands, the dirt seemed to fly off the spade and into the hole. Scott’s face was last to be bare to the world. “See you soon,” he said. Jason covered Scott’s face with another shovelful, and Scott disappeared. He continued to fill the hole until the dirt reached the top. Using the back of the shovel, he patted the dirt down onto an even plane. “What are you doing?” Corrie asked. Jason pointed the shovel at the remaining mound. “We have to put more dirt in there. There’s this whole pile left.” “Well, don’t pat it down, and make it harder for him to dig himself out. Fuck, can he breathe? Start counting.” He dropped the shovel to the ground. “I think he can breathe. There’s like, little air pockets for him.” Corrie bit her nails. “Okay,” she said. She began to pace about the yard, back and forth. She counted each second, waiting for any movement from the hole. She snatched up the shovel. “Okay, let’s get him out of there, it’s been too long. You said you’d only do it for ten seconds. It’s been way longer. Time’s up.” He grabbed the handle, trying to pull it away from her. “Let’s wait another minute. Come on, Corrie. I think we need to give him a chance. It’s like four feet deep down there.” Corrie twisted, and Jason let go. “I thought you’d be on my side.” She evened out her grip along the shaft. Although Scott purchased the shovel the other day, it felt a thousand years old in her hands. “I have to dig him out, now!” She aimed the spade at the ground. But before she made contact, the ground quivered, and Scott’s hand popped out, like a bulb, blooming in the spring. Brown and black blotches speckled his fingers as they moved toward the edge of the hole and clutched the grass. In an instant, Scott’s head came up, gasping for air. Black clumps clung to his eyelids and mouth. His body rose further, and his upper torso emerged as well. Heaving deep breaths, he opened his eyes. His pupils were the size of quarters. “Thank god,” Corrie said. “I thought you were dead.” He sat up and looked around, as if he didn’t remember where or who he was.


“Scott?” Corrie waved her hands in front of his face. She touched his shoulder, and pushed him, trying to get his attention. Corrie swayed to the side, and returned to the same position, like a Russian doll. He stared off into the distance, into nowhere. Corrie and Jason looked at each other, nervous, but after a few seconds, Scott stood up. The dirt covered him up to his shins and his feet remained below the surface. He brushed the dirt off of his body, and clouds of grey and brown drifted below his waist. Scott laughed, because it was pointless. The dirt was everywhere. “I’m alive,” Scott said. His first words since rising from the depths. Corrie sighed and Jason laughed. “We almost dug you up,” Jason said. “But you didn’t,” Scott replied. “I’m glad. I feel better now.” “You do?” Corrie asked. Scott nodded his head, dirt flying everywhere with every motion he made. “Ugh. You look so gross.” Corrie wiped the hand that touched him on her jeans. It left a brown smear on her leg. “Oh. Now I have to change, too.” Scott put both hands on the ground, flexing his muscles. “It’s fine. I can get myself out from here.” He grunted and pushed until his feet rose out of the loose-packed pile of dirt, and he stepped out of the hole and onto the grass. He began to walk toward the door, dirt trailing behind him. Corrie and Jason followed, dragging the shovel with them. # Inside, Corrie looked at their wedding photo. It had to be packed eventually, but she wanted to hang it up, just for a little while longer. She used a nail this time. She didn’t care that Liz would find one more hole in the wall. After an hour in the shower, Scott emerged, his skin pale, his hair, shaggy. “You want to start packing?” Corrie asked. Corrie and Scott cleared everything in the bedroom first. Corrie collected the knickknacks and books lying about, while Scott folded clothing from the dresser. The only sound in the room was the click of the radiator, turning on for the first time all year. “So you fulfilled your existential, philosophical quest,” Corrie said, breaking the silence between them. “What did you see down there?”

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Scott folded a pair of underwear and placed it in a pile on the bed. “What did I see? I saw dirt. A lot of dirt.” She picked up a library book that must have been overdue, and put it to the side. “And when you closed your eyes? Did you see the secrets of the cosmos unfold? The galaxies erupting and spiraling in colors of a million variations?” Scott tilted his head up, craned his neck to the side. “No, I didn’t see any of that.” “No revelation? No sort of inner harmony, like a great big piercing light, radiating from within?” Corrie’s mouth was wide open, awaiting an answer. “Nope.” “Did you see God?” Scott looked at the ground. “All I saw was dirt. Dirt on dirt. While my eyes were open down there, I saw darkness. And when I closed my eyes, it was no darker, or brighter.” “So you saw nothing, is what you mean.” “Pretty much.” “Well, you dug yourself out, so I guess you got what you wanted. But how do I know if it did anything?” She leaned over a suitcase, pushing down a stack of t-shirts that Scott stuffed all the way out past the lip of the zipper. Scott smiled. It was the smile he always gave, that goofball, toothless smile when he knew the answers to her questions, but never told a reason why. She closed the suitcase and tucked it in the corner of the room. “Maybe we’ll get an apartment in a big building. A place with an elevator, somewhere with a balcony and a view of the skyline.” “That sounds perfect,” Scott replied. The sun began to set and the sky turned orange with purple on the far side of the horizon. Scott stood up, walked to the window, his shoulders parallel to the bottom of the frame, hands pushing against the glass, reaching that dazzling and beautiful light, ready to break out. Corrie put her hand on Scott, feeling the warmth of his body for the first time that day.


Rocker Jerome Berglund

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Reaching Out William Cass I’d just gotten home after a forgetful day teaching third-graders and felt a little jolt when I saw the light blinking on the answering machine. I stabbed the button to retrieve the message, hoping against hope it was a return one from my wife. She’d left without warning the week before and hadn’t replied to any of my phone messages, texts, or emails. My shoulders slumped when I heard instead an older man’s voice I didn’t recognize. I knew he’d misdialed because he told someone called Sarge to send him the broken watch and he’d see if he could fix it. I glanced at the caller ID, saw that the area code was from another part of the state, and swore knowing that this was a mistake that would go uncorrected unless I did something about it. Reluctantly, I returned the call and left a message of my own letting the man know he’d reached the wrong number. It was early spring and as I put down the receiver, I heard the trill of a bird outside the window. A long silence replaced it that fairly screamed: empty rooms in every direction, all my wife’s things exactly where she’d left them. I lifted a framed photograph that stood next to the answering machine. It was from a dozen years earlier when my wife and I were in college together. In it, we stood holding hands on a bridge leading to the student union, our hair blowing in the breeze. I set it back down with pursed lips. I had no idea where she’d gone; the note she’d left had simply said she didn’t love me anymore and had met someone new. None of her family or friends knew anything about her whereabouts, and she worked remotely, so there was no information to be gleaned from her employer either. I changed into my workout gear, turned the music up loud in my earbuds, and went outside for a run that had grown longer each day since she’d been gone. I didn’t get back until the afternoon had begun its descent towards gloaming. The answering machine light was blinking again and I pushed it eagerly. The same elderly voice said: “So, I just wanted to let you know I appreciate you leaving that message. Sorry about calling your number by mistake.” He chuckled. “Don’t get old, is all I can say about that.” A pause followed. “My name is Hector, by the way.” Another pause. “Well, once again, I’m grateful. You have a good evening.”


I snorted a little laugh before erasing the message, then thought of the long hours ahead before I could try again to make sleep come, if it would come at all. “Yeah,” I told the machine. “Good evening to you, too, Hector.” I heard nothing from or about my wife for the next several days. As time wore on, I felt more and more desperate, like I was falling in a well with no bottom. I could barely function at school and fought back tears often and at odd moments. I had no family left and no close friends to confide in, so was alone in my misery. One of the things that hurt worst was that I’d had no idea she was unhappy. Why hadn’t she told me? We might have been able to do something about it if she had. The irretrievability of it may have been the hardest pill of all to swallow. When I came inside after mowing the lawn on Saturday, there was another mistaken message waiting from Hector. It said: “Hey, Sarge, it’s me. Got your watch fixed and just mailed it back to you. You get that damn thing when we were in Nam? Sure old enough.” The same low chuckle followed, then: “Stay well, big guy. Hope we can get together soon.” I shook my head and returned the call immediately. I was expecting to leave another message, but instead the now familiar voice answered, “Hello?” “Hector, this is Ben Atkins, the wrong number you left the message for last week. I just got another one from you.” “Well, good goddamn, I’m sorry, Ben.” “Wanted to be sure you try the correct number again. What is that, by the way? Maybe we can figure out why you’re dialing wrong.” He gave it to me slowly. “Last digit is off by one, that’s all it is. You’re hitting seven instead of six.” “Go figure. Sounds like me.” He paused. “So, you have the same area code as Sarge. Must live pretty close by.” “That his name…Sarge?” “Nah, just what I always called him. We served in the Marines together.” He gave another chuckle. “Been pals ever since, going on fifty years now. Heck of a guy. Like a brother. You have anyone you’re close to like that, Ben?” “No.” I paused. “Not right now.” There was just the sound of static on the line for a long moment before he spoke next, his voice quiet. “You okay? You don’t sound too good.” “Oh, you know.” I blew out a long breath. “Been better.”

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“Relationship trouble?” “Something like that, yeah.” Another extended silence followed while I squeezed my eyes shut and pinched the bridge of my nose. Finally, he said, “Truth is, I’ve been on my own pretty near all my adult life, so don’t have any special wisdom to share with you there. Hope things work out for you. I bet they will.” Even though I knew he couldn’t see it, I found myself nodding. I blew out another breath and said, “Thanks.” “Yeah, well, you hang in there. I’ll be thinking of you, sending good thoughts your way.” I nodded some more. “Okay, then,” he said. “Guess I’ll make that call to Sarge now. Six instead of seven for that last digit.” “That’s right.” “Okay, Ben. You take care.” I heard a click, and the line went dead. I replaced the receiver slowly in its cradle, took a few steps, and sat down on the couch. I was vaguely aware of a dog barking somewhere nearby. A few minutes later, sprinklers hissed on in a neighbor’s yard. I reached over and touched the spot next to me on the couch because I realized it was the last place my wife had sat with me before she left. We’d watched television together that night just like so many others; I’d found the note from her when I got home from work that next afternoon. Our school district’s Spring Break started a few days later. I couldn’t stand the thought of wandering around the house’s silent rooms during it, so booked a campsite up in the foothills instead and drove there right after student dismissal that last day. It was a pretty spot, wildflowers just beginning to peak out in the meadows, and I went on some nice long hikes. But, try as I might, my wife was never far from my thoughts. I kept worrying that I might have missed a call at home from her, so finally headed back a couple days earlier than I’d planned. There was a message waiting when I arrived late that afternoon, but it wasn’t from her. It said: “Hey, Ben, this is Hector again. You’ve been on my mind, so I just wanted to check in and see how you’re doing. I hope things are okay, or at least better than last time. I’m here if you need to talk.”


The date and time on the message were from earlier that week. I replayed it three times, shaking my head back and forth, then took a long shower and changed clothes. I stored away my camping gear in various closets, passing the answering machine and glancing at it several times as I did. The last piece of gear was my sleeping bag that I tucked in its spot next to my wife’s in a corner of her bedroom closet. She’d left most of her clothes there on hangers and shelves, and they still held her scent. I closed the closet door and buried my face in one of her dresses in the darkness. Afterwards, I took a nearly full bottle of wine out onto the back deck. I didn’t bother with a glass. I sat in my tulip-backed chair there, looked at hers beside it, and drank. Full evening had come on by the time I went back inside, brought the phone over to the couch, and called Hector’s number. He picked up right away. “Hey,” he said, his voice chipper. “Thought I recognized this number. That you, Ben?” “Yep.” “How you doing?” I closed my eyes, rubbed my forehead, and said, “Not so hot.” Static over the line followed until he said, “So, your relationship trouble…this a girlfriend, boyfriend, wife?” “Wife.” I paused. “She moved out a few weeks ago. In love with someone else.” He made a soft whistling sound, then said, “Shucks.” “Yeah.” “And you didn’t see it coming?” “Not a bit.” “Can’t you get ahold of her? Talk things over?” “Nope. No idea where she went and she won’t answer any of my messages.” He made the same whistling sound before he said, “Well, that’s about as shitty as it gets, isn’t it?” In spite of myself, I grinned and said, “Yep.” “Doesn’t sound like there’s much you can do except hope and wait.” I heard his slow breathing over the line. “I’ve been doing that for a long time. You’ll get used to it eventually, if she doesn’t come back.”

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I felt myself nodding again. I shook the wine bottle, found it almost empty, and said, “So, listen, Hector, enough whining about me. Why don’t you tell me a little about yourself?” “What do you want to know?” “Well, to start with, how’d you learn to fix watches?” He told me his grandfather had been a clock builder and watchmaker in Mexico City, and his father had continued in the trade until the company folded and he emigrated with his young family to the United States where he’d eventually transitioned to doing repairs. Hector had helped him in the shop before enlisting after graduating from high school. He’d been a mechanic in the service, but learned to fix almost anything, and opened his own appliance repair business when he got out. He’d run that by himself until his retirement a handful of years earlier. “Now, I mostly piddle around with woodworking projects in my garage. Birdhouses, coat racks, toys, Merganser ducks with spinning wings.” He gave one of his low chuckles. “I’m one of those old farts you see at crafts fairs sitting around in a VFW cap surrounded by all the junk he’s made.” “Sounds pretty good to me.” I was smiling. “I can barely change a light bulb.” “I’ll show you sometime,” he said. “if you’re ever over this way.” A kind of warmth spread up through me, something I hadn’t felt for a while. “Hey, listen,” Hector said. “I got a casserole burning in the oven, so I better go.” “You do that,” I said. “And thanks again for reaching out.” “Reaching out?” I laughed, “That’s what they call it now when someone makes an effort to get in touch with someone else.” “Well, whatever the hell it is, you’re welcome. Talk to you later.” The line went silent. I shook the bottle again, then tilted it back to drink the last little bit it held. At school that next week, we had mandatory state testing with lots of paperwork and accountability procedures, which kept my mind a little more occupied. And the week after that, there were professional development sessions each day after school, so that filled extra time, too. But the other hours were just as endless and hard. Even though I had no idea if my wife was still in the area, I went by a few of the places she used to like going: a café that served her favorite chai tea, her


community choir practice, a walking path through our central park, the library. I didn’t see her at any of them. I still called, texted, or emailed her daily with no communication from her in return. Every few days though, I’d come home to another message from Hector, each saying he was just checking in to see how I was doing, no need to return his call. Sometimes I did and other times I didn’t, but I looked forward to the messages either way; they lifted my spirits, and I felt anticipation for a new one as soon as I came through the door. Although I still harped plenty about my woes when we did talk, I tried to minimize that as much as I could by asking Hector questions about himself. He told me his father had initially come to the United States alone and travelled the farmworker circuit from the lettuce fields in California’s southern Imperial Valley up to the apple orchards in central Washington. After first earning his green card and his own citizenship a couple of years later, his father brought the rest of the family to join him. But he didn’t find work in his old business until they’d all picked crops along the same circuit for three seasons, moving locations frequently. Hector struggled with English, not really becoming fluent until junior high, and school was always a challenge. That’s why he enlisted after graduation, although almost every guy he knew was getting drafted and sent to fight in the war then anyway. He’d met Sarge in boot camp at Paris Island, and they’d shipped off together to Vietnam several months later; they served there in the same platoon for two years. Hector said, “We saw shit in that place you wouldn’t believe.” “I bet,” I replied. I didn’t tell him that neither my father or I had served in the military. I didn’t tell him that my parents had been killed in a car accident when I was eleven or that I’d been raised by my grandmother afterwards who was the only family I had and that she’d been dead, too, for many years. But I did tell him about how my wife and I met, the little things I missed about her: her touch, her smile, her voice when she sang, her gentleness, her tenderness with others, the garden she kept so pristine that was now wilting and fading despite whatever I tried to do to save it.

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“I’ve kept quite a few gardens in my time,” Hector told me. “They’re funny things. Sometimes they thrive when you do almost nothing to care for them, and other times, you tend the hell out of them, and they just don’t make it.” “Yeah,” I said. I was aware that it came out as almost a whisper. “I guess you’re right.” A couple of Saturday mornings later, as I was pushing through the back door with a grocery bag on each hip, I heard Hector’s voice start another message. I dumped the bags and hurried to answer it. “Hey, there,” I said, interrupting him. “Sorry…I just walked in.” “No problem.” He paused. “Listen, Ben, I need to ask you a favor. I haven’t been able to get ahold of Sarge for over a week. Keep getting a message that his line is no longer in service. Isn’t like him not to be in touch, so I’m kind of worried. Wondering if you’d mind going by to check on him. Would do it myself, but I can’t drive anymore since I lost sight in one eye, and the bus would take forever.” “Sure,” I said. “What’s his address?” He gave it to me. I recognized the area; it was only about twenty minutes away. “Okay. I’ll head over now. One of us should be getting back to you soon.” I found Sarge’s house easily. It was a little rundown bungalow perched on a rise a few lots up from a busy street. When I rang the doorbell, a rough voice inside growled, “Coming. Wait a minute.” I heard shuffling and rolling over floorboards, then the front door was pulled ajar, and a huge older man appeared in the opening in a wheelchair. He looked to be in his early seventies with white stubble on his face matching that on his head. Large, black plastic glasses framed keen eyes. I put his weight at somewhere near three hundred pounds, and the bottoms of both legs had been amputated; stubs stuck straight out of gym shorts in my direction. I found myself blinking and said, “You Sarge? The big man gave a grunt and nodded. “I’m Ben, a friend of Hector’s. I live near here. He called and asked me to check on you. Hasn’t been able to reach you recently and was getting worried.” Sarge snorted a laugh. “You the wrong number guy?”


“Yep.” He chuckled some more, his eyes brightening. “Hector’s told me about you. Your wife skipped out.” I felt something like a shadow pass over me, but repeated, “Yep.” “Sorry.” I shrugged, then said, “So, you all right?” He made a gesture with his hand like he was shooing away a fly. “Heck, yeah.” He glanced down at his missing legs, then back at me. “Except for my diabetes, but that’s no worse or better. Thing is my daughter talked me into dropping my landline phone and going on her cell plan. Guess lots of folks have done that, and she wanted me to have a cell phone at all times in case of emergency with me all by my lonesome here. Just got it a few days ago and can hardly work the damn thing. Haven’t gotten around to calling Hector to tell him yet.” I nodded. “But you will…call him, I mean.” “You bet. Soon as you leave.” “Okay.” I looked past him into a living room that was sparse, but neatly kept. “So, you need anything? Something I can help you with before I go.” “Don’t think so.” He shook his head, then his eyes suddenly widened. “Well, there is one thing. You ever head over Hector’s way?” “Not recently.” I felt myself hesitate, then said, “But I could.” “Wait here.” I watched him whirl around and wheel himself over to a dining room table nestled in a little alcove off the living room. The interior was dim, but a gooseneck lamp in the center of the table sent a cone of light over parts of a model ship, an open stamp collection, and a dusty shoebox with its lid off. He sorted through items in the shoebox, took a photograph out of it, and wrote something on its back side. Then he wheeled himself over with it on his lap. When he gazed up at me through those glasses, his eyes had softened. “Here,” he said and handed me the photograph. “Give that to Hector, will you?” It was a black-and-white photo about three-by-four inches with serrated edges creased in places with age. A short, young soldier with dark skin and a darker crew cut stood in it with a Vietnamese woman about the same age. They

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had their arms around each other’s waists and were grinning at the camera, jungle and huts behind them. I looked from the photo to Sarge and asked, “This Hector?” He nodded slowly. “Found it yesterday in some old things I was looking through. Don’t know how I came to have it. I took the shot, but it’s his, from one of the places we were stationed together in Nam.” His brow furrowed as he shook his head. “They were about as in love as you can get. He spent every spare minute he could with her until our unit got sent to the Central Highlands. He took a bunch of shrapnel in his leg there and got shipped back to the states for treatment. The war ended soon after that, and he never saw her again. He tried like crazy to make contact with her, but…no luck.” I watched him shake his head some more and looked down at the picture again. Hector had his chest thrust out with the fingertips of the young woman against it. Their smiles seemed unbridled. I figured neither of them could have been much more than twenty, about the same as my wife and I when we met. Sarge said, “I don’t want to gamble on having it get lost in the mail, and I’m not sure when we’ll see each other again. Afraid we’re both slowing down, tougher to travel very far. Really want him to have it, though. Appreciate you giving it to him when you get the chance.” I nodded. “Sure, no problem. Happy to do it.” “Good. I wrote his address there on the back.” He extended his hand, and I shook it. “All right, then. I’ll give Hector that call right away. Hope things work out with your wife.” I nodded once more and watched him close the door. I waited until I heard the wheelchair roll across the floor, then returned to my car at the curb and set the photograph on the passenger seat. I looked up at the house and watched Sarge settle in his wheelchair at the dining room table. When I saw him lift his cell phone to his ear, I started the engine and drove away. I headed back towards the freeway onramp that led to home and let my thoughts tumble over themselves. I thought about my wife and Hector and the woman in the photo. I thought about the paths of the heart and how little control we had over where they might lead. I thought about how none of us could have any idea how many days we had left; I wasn’t sure about mine, but I was pretty certain that Sarge’s and Hector’s were numbered. And Hector’s eyesight probably even more so.


I considered that last thought for a while longer, then pulled to the side of the road and used my cell phone to Google directions to Hector’s place. The instructions said it would be about a three-hour drive without traffic delays. I glanced at the time on the top of the screen; if I left then and only stopped for a quick lunch and gas, I could be there by the middle of the afternoon. I’d done all my lesson planning for the next week before leaving my classroom the evening before and had no special plans for the weekend; just an empty house, memories and hopes to struggle with, and hours to fill. I checked the directions on my phone again, then started following the first part of them that led me towards a different onramp. When I came to a stop light, I lifted the photo off the passenger seat and studied Hector’s face in it. His eyes were downturned at the outside edges, gentle, kind. I wondered about meeting him in a few hours and what that would be like. After I gave him the photo, I supposed we’d talk for a while. Maybe afterwards, we’d go out to his workshop and build something together, like he’d suggested. Maybe one of those ducks with the spinning wings that I could put in my wife’s garden. I’d seen them in places like that before. When the wings spun forward, they’d always appeared to me to be saying, “Go ahead, be on your way.” And when they spun the other direction, they seemed to say, “Come on back, come on home. It’ll be all right.”

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Portrait 1 Jesse Skupa


Portrait 12 Jesse Skupa

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Womanhood By Anindita Sarkar I never played with boys they break hearts like toy cars I feared they would stain my cotton pink dress laced with frills procured from the stars I studied the mortality of grasses never bothering about my books tousled in a dingy corner of my drawer my table was laureled with makeup kits. Mother asked me to be desirable but dirt slides under my petticoat made of roses tendrils of black threads levitate under my armpits. I deftly ignored the wisps of reality like my mother who never opposed the dreadful fangs of her abusive partner, I bathed for hours inking my skin with blood-red petals I induced fluids into my cells trying to case crystals on my cheeks and to pour light from my pupils, I chanted Jane Eyre’s concluding statement ten times a day ticking off lousy calendars, to sail out on an arduous journey with a complete stranger. But the day we exchanged vows in a bellowing garden I wished to quote from Emily Bronte wanting to be a girl again.


Garnet Miya Sukune

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The Fitting Room Lillian Johnson Me and my mum have been to every shop in this shopping centre that sells women’s business wear and I'm standing in the fitting room of the last one, a Next, with an arm full of suit skirts and jackets. Half of them don’t fit, the rest I show her one by one. Each time I draw the curtain and return to the mirror my skin is a different shade of strained pink, and my breath is more shallow. Nothing looks right, nothing makes me feel like a woman who does business. I feel ridiculous. I count on my fingers the number of months it’s been since I graduated, and think to myself, London will swallow me whole. I don’t have an insane egotistical one liner that I can recite with boundless confidence at the beginning of an episode of the apprentice. I have one pair of trousers and a jumper that has bows on the side that I'm going to cut off with my sewing scissors. I have a CV full of things that I don't believe. And above all, I have a tendency to spiral. I wipe a tear away and breathe deeply for a while on the dusty floor of the fitting room. We leave the shop empty handed. In Costa mum orders us coffee and a muffin to share. I drop a few crumbs into my mouth and taste nothing. There is silence, but it is not the usual comfortable silence. I’d watched a TED talk the night before about how most people don’t have a passion, and people like us should just focus on what’s in front of us. The woman wore an asymmetrical tailored red dress. I wonder if she ever cried in a fitting room. At four in the morning through the glow of blue light she told me that a paycheck is a good enough reason to get out of bed in the morning. After three years of studying romantic poets and mad geniuses, I figure it’s time to consign myself to this prosaic way of living. “Self-motivated”, that’s what my CV says. I’m not sure what it means. Are there people who can just turn their motivation on and off? My mum tries to say something reassuring. Another acidic thought spiral washes up through my oesophagus and sticks in my throat. I’ve been short tempered with her recently, mostly because I can't just say things. They seize up and hang there. The stock photo artwork on the walls of the Costa starts to blur through hot tears. I tell mum I just need to go, and we drive home in silence.


Exit Duty Robert Runté Marion stared at the seven sticky notes lined up on the top of the dryer. She’d been about to wash her cardigan and had found the notes when she’d turned out the pockets: three in one, four in the other. But she had absolutely no memory of placing them there; no memory of what had moved her to leave reminders for herself, now that she had found the notes again. Maybe Olsen was right: maybe she was losing it. Well, he hadn’t actually said she should retire; had asked if she intended to. “Jesus, don’t take it the wrong way, Marion. I was just asking if you’ll be back next year. Because I have to turn in my staffing plan by Thursday. Jesus! You’re so defensive lately. Maybe you should retire. Or, you know—get over yourself. Jesus!” In the old days, principals hadn’t said ‘Jesus!’ quite so freely. They hadn’t been two generations younger than her, either. She picked up the first sticky again. Check on her. ‘Her’ was singularly unhelpful. Marion had six boys and twenty-three girls in her class; she had no idea to which of the twenty-three the note referred. Evidently, when she had written it she’d thought she’d remember, that it should have been obvious, but she had nothing. She must have written the note immediately after exit duty. At the end of every day she positioned herself at the classroom door and said goodbye to each of her students in turn as they lined up to exit. She’d shake hands with—or fist bump or high five, as appropriate to each personality—every student as they waited their turn to shoot past, back out into the real world. Board policy forbade teachers to ever touch a student, but Marion was old-school and wanted her kids to know she was real. She’d even hug a student if she thought they needed it. “Never be the first to end a hug,” she told her student teachers. “You never know how long it’s been, what’s going on in their lives, how badly that child needs a hug.” They mostly quoted the rule against touching back to her. “You can skip the handshake if that makes you uncomfortable,” she told Jasmine, the current one. “Exit duty is about making contact, about letting them know that you see them, that you remember who they are, that you’re interested in how they’re doing.” Marion would ask each child if they had remembered to take their math, if she’d assigned math homework; or how their art project was coming along; or if their

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grandma was out of hospital yet; or if they were looking forward to the fishing trip with their dad that weekend. Whatever they needed to hear that day. It wasn’t lost on her that many of them would ‘forget’ their math homework and have to go back to their desk to get it—even though they’d already heard her ask the twelve kids in front of them about the exact same homework—and get back in line for a second high five. And, as each child came up, Marion would mentally ask herself how each was doing, ask herself what she had observed about that child that day. Because it was too easy for a child to get lost through the cracks if you didn’t hold yourself accountable each and every day. A teacher could get so caught up with the boisterous ones, or the slow learners, or the gifted, or the ones with various special needs, or just teaching to the middle, that you could lose kids. Lose track of where they were and what they needed to get to the next level. Not on Marion’s watch, though. Jasmine had taken exit duty a couple of times now, but it had not come naturally to her. It had been perfunctory when she did it, and the kids had sensed that. They had mumbled their goodbyes, glanced over to Marion seated at her desk, and as often as not, suddenly remembered something they had to ask Marion before they left. Jasmine hadn’t noticed. “We were taught to do an FTBC every three weeks,” Jasmine had said. And then she had spelled out the acronym for Marion, as if Marion might not know what a “Full Test Battery Check” was, might not have kept up with this year’s University jargon. As if FTBC made exit duty redundant. She’d tried to explain to Jasmine that a lot could happen in three weeks. That a child could miss a single concept and suddenly begin falling irretrievably behind. That it might take months for the problem to show up on tests, by which time the student might have struggled so much as to conclude that they hated math or Language Arts or whatever. There was often no coming back once they got the idea firmly planted in their heads that they weren’t good at something. Not that tests meant that much. There was a lot more going on in class than what FTBC tested for. Ought to be more, anyway. Jasmine had just stared at her, obviously biting back her tongue because Marion’s practicum report would constitute part of the practicum grade. But her expression made it clear what she thought of Marion’s old-fashioned approach to teaching. Marion had made her do exit duty anyway. Sometimes, some of them got it after they tried it themselves. Got that teaching was about the kids, not about the


tests or the IPPs or all the other paperwork you had to fill in, but about flesh and blood human beings who needed to be acknowledged as such. And sometimes, as she was doing exit duty, Marion would catch herself and suddenly realize she hadn’t seen Robbie read today, that somehow she had skipped over him when Marshall had thrown his pencil at Leah. Or that this was the third day in a row Brittany had seemed withdrawn. That Marion had better make a point of checking on her next class. And then she’d write herself a sticky, because increasingly she couldn’t rely on her memory. Her attention circled back to the stickies. She seemed to be having trouble keeping focused these days, especially if it wasn’t a topic she wanted to think about. She picked up another, equally uninformative sticky. Haven’t checked on her work for a while. Better spend time tomorrow. Find out how she’s doing. Her and she again. The note was longer than usual, as if she had been trying to nail down her thought completely, but it was still too vague to trigger any memory at all. Of course, the notes could have been there a while. She’d worn that cardigan every day for three weeks, ever since Jasmine had officially started in their class. Marion had felt the need to show solidarity with her students, to give them a little support, after Jasmine’s blunder that first day, so had kept the cardigan going even though it had gotten a little grungy. The point, really. At orientation, Marion had gone over what she’d wanted Jasmine to cover, but Jasmine had insisted that as an art major she wanted to start first thing with art class, so the students could be introduced to her at her best. “We do art on Friday afternoons,” Marion had explained, but that had set Jasmine off on a rant about how vital art was, that it should be considered equally important with the so-called ‘core subjects’, that she hated that art was always relegated to Friday afternoons just because you couldn’t expect any ‘real’ work out of students last class Friday. “That’s not why art’s Friday afternoons,” Marion had told her. But Jasmine had crossed her arms and dug in her heels, her body language making it clear that here was a hill on which she was prepared to die. Gave Marion a little hope, actually. A little passion could go a long way in teaching. If it was actually Jasmine feeling those things, not just her echoing Dr. Rahnowski, the prof in charge of the art majors. Marion had heard Rahnowski going on about it often enough. But could be Jasmine too. Marion should probably have explained how things stood; but Marion had still been annoyed by the FTBC thing earlier in the conversation. Jasmine was

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altogether too sure of herself, her brain already taken up by too many courses in psychometrics and child development and curriculum implementation to be able to learn anything new in practicum. To be able to understand the kids, or where they were coming from. She’d have to take Jasmine down a peg, open up some room in there for new thoughts, if Marion was going to be able to teach her anything. Tough love. “Okay, Monday morning: art it is, then,” she’d told Marion with a shrug. It would be hard on the kids, but they were resilient. That’s when she’d decided to wear the cardigan straight through Jasmine’s practicum. Monday morning Jasmine had been there bright and early—another hopeful sign—and started setting out her art supplies. Marion had almost laughed out loud when she realized Jasmine was going for papier mâché, but had managed to keep a straight face. Though perhaps not entirely an innocuous expression, because Jasmine had asked at the last minute, “The kids like papier mâché, right?” Marion had just said, “Love it,” and turned away before her smile could give her away. It had actually been a great lesson, about African masks not just as art, but as theater and culture and keeping one’s stories alive. Jesuobo had practically levitated out of his seat with pride when Jasmine had called upon him to talk about his Benin traditions. Though Jasmine should have cleared that with Jesuobo before the lesson, because a lot of kids did not appreciate being placed on the spot like that. Or being asked to speak on behalf of an entire culture; especially given that Jesuobo’s family were staunchly Christian and might not have approved of other Benin traditions. But Jesuobo had been ecstatic, so Jasmine had gotten away with it and the class had worked pretty well. Of course, the kids had gotten papier mâché over everything, including themselves, and the lesson had gone forty minutes over just to manage clean up. Jasmine had been a little humbled by that, but she still hadn’t gotten it. She simply assured Marion she’d know to apportion more time for cleanup next lesson. Marion had told her to go ahead and take the first lesson Tuesday to paint the masks, rather than wait another week, so Jasmine had been quite pleased at that. She’d organized the painting into stations, to minimize the collateral damage, and that had almost worked out. Jasmine had made some comment about it being good that the kids had come prepared in their art shirts again, given they got almost as much paint on themselves as on the masks. Clearly, she hadn’t recognized that no one had announced to the kids they were doubling up on art that week. It wasn’t until Wednesday morning that Jasmine started to get a glimmer she might be missing something important. As the first kids had started to file in, she’d


said “Oh, sorry, we’re not doing art again this morning. I started with art class, but I will be teaching you a bunch of different subjects this week.” And they had just looked at her, not understanding why she was telling them that. Finally, Jesuobo volunteered that they had understood that, and it was math next, right? And then Jasmine got it, got it all, and her expression had fallen before she caught herself, before she banished her feelings and dove into the math lesson she’d prepared with all the chipperness teaching elementary demanded. That was the moment Marion decided Jasmine was going to pass practicum. Because being chipper when you felt like crap was maybe the hardest part of the job; and because Jasmine had had the decency to feel like crap, not blame the parents or the kids or blank it out. Took responsibility. Well, not with Marion immediately. Marion had pretended like she hadn’t noticed anything, hadn’t caught that look on Jasmine’s face. And Jasmine had avoided her for the rest of the day, which hadn’t been exactly easy given Jasmine was supposed to debrief each lesson with her supervisor immediately afterward. Jasmine had been quite inventive coming up with things that needed to be done first. So intelligent, somewhere under all that university training. Marion had let her be, gave her time to work it through emotionally. Only one of the seven notes referred to a student by name: Gillie. It was possible that Gillie was the she and her in the other notes too; that on seven different days she had thought to herself she had better spend some time with Gillie. Or it could just be the once, and the other notes had been about other girls. Either way, she could throw out six of the notes because if they were about other girls, then they would have been addressed in the days since, named or not; and if they were about Gillie, well, now she had the note to see about Gillie. Only, she had absolutely no idea who Gillie was. She was drawing a complete blank. Happened sometimes. She’d be in the middle of lesson, get distracted by one of the boys—or maybe Juli-Anne—going off on a classmate, and she’d completely blank about what she had been saying by the time she had regained control of the situation. Would have to ask the class what she had been talking about. Made it out to be a test to see if they had been paying attention, but it wasn’t the class that had lost focus. And there’d be a moment when she’d hear Principal Olsen in her head going on about the good old days of mandatory retirement, when it hadn’t been necessary to document that someone was getting dottie before they’d retire. But she’d never forgotten a student before. Not after the first couple of weeks, at least. Gillie? Did she even have a Gillie in her class? Maybe she’d

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written it down wrong, or was misreading her handwriting now. Billie, maybe? But Billie was in Aaron’s class, not hers, and they hadn’t had any combined lessons for weeks. So that couldn’t be it. She reluctantly went to the computer, called up the seating plan for her class. And there was Gillie’s name, behind Francis and in front of Jesuobo. But damned if she could remember her. Scared her, a little. “Come on brain! This is stupid!” But she had nothing. She tried calling up Gillie’s photo on the computer, but Gillie’d apparently been away for photos. And for the retake day too. And her cumcard records came up as offline. It was frustrating. She tossed the cardigan in with the rest of the wash, set for delicate cycle, pushed start, and went out to the car to drive to the school. There’d be the subject duotangs in Gillie’s desk, her artwork on the walls, something that would trigger Marion’s memory. She’d take one look at the work and say, “Oh Gillie! Of course! The girl with the great handwriting”, or whatever it turned out to be. It would be embarrassing she could blank for so long, but it would be over. She let herself into the school without issue. Olsen kept demanding her keys back, kept saying teachers shouldn’t have keys anymore, that it was against policy now; even threatening to change the alarm code, but he never got around to it. She went to her room, went straight to Gillie’s desk to pull out her work. But the desk was empty. Not even the usual eraser crumbs or peeled crayon covers that littered the inside corners of every child’s desk. Must have taken her work home. Kids did sometimes, to show their parents, or grandparents come to visit. Something like that. Marion cast around for other traces of Gillie’s presence: her writing portfolio, kept with the others in the filing cabinet at the back of the room; the group work projects for social; the plants for science on the window sill. One of the plants had Gillie’s name on it in Jesuobo’s ridiculously tall lettering, obviously writing for everyone in the group, but there was no writing portfolio and no social. Marion wracked her brains trying to picture Gillie’s face, clothes—still nothing. She went out into the hall, locking her room behind her. She always made a point of ensuring everyone got their work up on the art-wall, no exceptions. Jasmine had helped with hanging the current batch, arranging the masks into a pattern as if they were taking part in a Benin festival, so Marion had to go mask to mask looking for Gillie’s. She usually preferred hanging work in alphabetical order, because it made it easier on parents to identify their child’s work; to say,


“Wow, this one is really good” and then be ‘surprised’ to discover it was their child’s. Still worked, even at this grade. But she had let Jasmine be creative, and now that was making it hard to find Gillie’s. She must have passed over it four or five times before she finally identified it. Not that it was signed, but by a process of elimination Marion was eventually able to say, “This must be Gillie’s”. It was hard to look at, to get her brain around. Kids’ art could be like that sometimes, even at this grade. You’d start to say, “really nice train” but before you got it all the way out, they’d say, “how do you like the truck?” pointing to the train. And you’d have to try to adjust what you’d already started to say by changing it to “train—ing. Real artist technique there” or some such, to try to cover. Gillie’s was like that: hard to make out. Marion ran her fingers over the surface of the mask to trace its contours, the way the nose changed from a nose to an ear of another face. It looked like Gillie had been trying to carve multiple faces onto a single mask. Creative, but a bit disconcerting, the way it was one face, but also several others at the same time. Maybe Gillie had been trying for the Hindu effect of a figure taking several poses at one time. Jasmine had mentioned that as a possibility in passing. It had been a good lesson, aside from being on a Monday. Eventually, Jasmine had come to her, embarrassed and contrite but manning up. After everyone else had left, Jasmine had sat down next to Marion in the staff room and said, “I should have asked why.” Marion had been thinking about something else, and it had taken her a second to connect with what Jasmine was saying. “When you said, ‘That’s not why we teach art on Friday afternoons’, I should have asked, ‘why then’?” Marion had nodded and then reached over and given Jasmine a long hug to say it was okay. “Laundry, if it gets done at all here, happens on the weekend. Neighbourhood is mostly poor, mostly immigrant families or single moms. Sometimes both. Kids only have one or two sets of clothes, so what they start with Monday has to last through to Friday, whatever happens to their clothes in the meantime.” Jasmine had hugged herself, shrinking in a bit, but still managed to get out, “And knowing that, you let me do papier mâché on a Monday?” Marion had smiled at that. There had been just the tiniest bit of self-deprecating humor underlying the accusation. You couldn’t be a teacher, at

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least not a good one, without a sense of humor, and Jasmine was turning out to be rather a pleasant surprise. Potential there. “Next time ask instead of arguing,” Marion had replied. “You can’t stop learning just because your courses are over.” “Deserved that, I guess,” Jasmine had said. “Perhaps not,” Marion had conceded, “I admit I was kind of pissed with your attitude. Wrong of me to set you up like that, I suppose, but even teachers get bitchy sometimes.” “Yeah, well, it gave me something real to write about for our stupid journaling assignment, for a change. I never saw the point of the journal before this.” “Isn’t a point for most students, I suspect,” Marion had agreed. “Journals only work for the people they work for. Should never be a compulsory assignment.” One of the many issues she had with the university over practicum. “You should be one of the Master Teachers in the program,” Jasmine had said suddenly. It had sounded sincere and spontaneous, not sucking up. “Nothing we learn on campus prepared me for this class at all!” Undoubtedly an overstatement. But the thought of teaching in the program had appealed to Marion. “Maybe when I retire,” she’d said. But she hadn’t meant that to be anytime soon. Today though, was another matter. Staring at the multi-faced mask, she still had no idea who Gillie was. Unacceptable. No child fell through the cracks—that was fundamental to Marion. If she couldn’t even recall a face, it maybe was time to retire. Or at least move on. Might one be held less responsible if the students were adults? Near adults, anyway, in the case of student teachers. Surely, they had to take some of the initiative, some of the responsibility for not jumping into cracks? She left the school, started for her car when she spotted Jesuobo on the playground with his brothers. On impulse she crossed to them and summoned Jesuobo over to her. “Jesuobo, what can you tell me about Gillie?” He screwed up his face as he always did when he wanted you to know he was really concentrating and said, “Who, Ma’am?” “Gillie. Girl who sits in front of you.” “I sit behind Francis” “No, you don’t,” Marion insisted, “Gillie is between you and Francis”


Jesuobo paused for a long moment thinking, but finally said, “Oh yeah. Gillie. But I mostly just talk to Francis. Or Juli-Anne. You know, behind me.” “But you worked with Gillie on the science project, the plant in the window box. What was working with her like?” “We worked together? Oh yeah, I remember writing her name on the pot. ’Cause she was assigned to our group. Only. . ..” “Only what?” “I can’t remember what she did exactly. You know how it is, Ma’am: you work in a group, and the work gets done okay, but you’re all sort of talking and no one’s really paying attention to who does what, as long as the group kind of gets along.” “Okay, Jesuobo, pretend for a moment I don’t know anything about her. How would you describe Gillie to someone who doesn’t know her?” Jesuobo again screwed up his face in emulation of what he took to be the sign of great concentration and made some vague motions with his hands. “Well, you know. Uh, Gillie’s kind of, well she’s....” He paused a long time, his grimace fading into puzzlement. “Gillie’s a girl, right?” Before Marion could reply, it suddenly occurred to her that she didn’t know that for a fact. Gillie could as easily be a boy’s name, she supposed. She had simply assumed Gillie was the girl (or girls) mentioned on the other stickies. Getting the gender wrong may very well explain why she was having so much trouble calling up ‘her’ face. She tried again, but this time with Gillie classed as a boy. Still drew a blank. She’d have to go back into the classroom and check if there were twenty-two girls or five boys, not counting Gillie. She turned back to Jesuobo who appeared lost in his own train of thought. “She sits in front of me, right?” he asked as Marion focused on him. “Only, how can so many fit in that one seat?” “So many of what?” Marion asked, confused. Jesuobo looked up at Marion, gave his head an almost imperceptible shake, and said, “Nothing. It was stupid. Sorry.” “What was?” Marion pressed, but one of his brothers had called and Jesuobo begged off, ran back to join the others. Marion was left standing on the playground, trying to put it together. She sat down on a bench, donated in memory of a former student, grown with kids and grandkids of his own, whose family chose to memorialize him by

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installing a bench at the school where now their own kids went. She sat there a long time. Maybe it was time for her to move on. To retire from teaching. Maybe do some teaching as a Master Teacher for the university. Deal with adults. Reach kids like Jasmine before they went out for practicum. That wouldn’t be too bad. She pulled out her cell, called Jasmine. When Jasmine answered, Marion told her that she was calling in sick tomorrow, wanted to give Jasmine a heads up so she’d come prepared to work with the supply teacher, maybe teach the full day since she now knew the kids better than the substitute would. Jasmine inquired after Marion’s health, not just being polite but seemingly genuinely concerned. Marion assured her she was well enough, just not coming in for a few days. Reassured on that point, Jasmine seemed both intimidated and a little excited at the prospect of teaching full days, which was exactly how she should have reacted. I wonder if I can bequeath my class to her directly? Well, if not Jasmine, no doubt some other worthy youngster could take it on. But when you could no longer remember who your students were, it was time to hand on the baton. “I’d like you to work with Gillie especially, over the next few days. See how sh—see how Gillie is doing.” “Gillie?” Jasmine asked. “Which one is that again?” Marion could hear the embarrassment in Jasmine’s voice. After two weeks, she should have known the name of every student in the class. Should have known by day two, according to the Practicum Standards Handbook. Marion nodded slowly to herself. Like that then. “Sits behind Francis, in front of Jeusobo.” “Oh,” Jasmine said. “Um, I’m having trouble picturing him. Could you maybe give me a reminder what he, um—a hint?” “Focus on the seating,” Marion replied. “New immigrants. From a long way away, I suspect.” An unimaginable distance. “Not sure why they chose my class, but give whatever help you can. No one should fall between the cracks. No one who is here to learn.” “Of course not,” Jasmine had said. “Exit duty, right?” “Right,” Marion had agreed, and hung up. She dialed Olsen’s home number, which he vehemently resented anyone using, but she thought the current case might count as an exception. If the staffing report had indeed been due this last Thursday, then there was a good chance it was still on Olsen’s desk. Either way, she doubted it was too late for a minor amendment.


Sylvia Kristen Shea My therapist says my homework is to keep a journal and write down my feelings throughout the day. I FEEL like this is stupid. Saw a girl. Is that a feeling? ANGRY. Upset. I texted my mom asking if I could go home because I started crying in class randomly, and she said I needed to stay and figure it out myself. She made me smile. Nights are the worst. Dawn will never come. Her name’s Sylvia. Fuck Brad Turner. Fuck everyone. Why am I even here? I cried again. This isn’t helping. SHE KISSED ME?!?! I can’t stop thinking about her. Sylvia <3 Every time I think about her, something lights up. Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia Sylvia She’s gone. I can’t won’t live without her.

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Anger Asi Yacobovitch


Deadheading Samantha Tkac There are only so many times a woman can be harvested before she becomes a horticulturist. Seeds had been sown by a series of gentle, professional hands over the past five years. She’d peeled her legs apart and blinked up at fluorescent lights. Her body wasn’t having it. “Bad eggs,” as they say. So she went on systematically slashing and burning her backyard and letting it grow back again until it became a monstrous forest, teeming with life. ~ Frank said over breakfast, his mouth full of blueberry scone, that the Rosenblatts were calling their backyard an aberration. Jen said that the jungle was her aberration, if it was an aberration at all, and what was so wrong about letting nature have its way, for once, Frank? He flicked on Jeopardy, meaning he had more to say but didn’t want to get in trouble. “Spit it out,” Jen said. She wanted to slap the scone from his hand. “I’ll be having an associate over for dinner,” he said. Match and point. The underlying threat being remember how I pay for your Goddamn life? ~ Jen wandered down the stone laden path that wound its way through their untamed land. She stopped at the marshy edges of the pond and regarded the hemlocks slyly, the deadly plant erected from the red marsh: a thick stem topped with an umbrella of white flowers. She went upstairs to the nursery. The walls were slathered in canary yellow--she’d painted the mural years ago, an odd flock of parrots and puffins and Parisian air balloons escaping over a mountain the color of the Pacific. She curled into the window bench and called her landscaper. She told him to shave her land first thing in the morning, to hack away at any living thing. ~ Twenty minutes until Frank’s associate arrived. Jen slammed dough against granite, fuming in a cloud of flour. The timer dinged and she slid the beef off the rack, leaned over the funnel of steam until her pores yawned and her eyelashes

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wilted. She poured blood-streaked broth into the stove pot, puckering the dregs of the buttermilk roux. She wore a floral frock with barrel curls big enough to fit a clenched fist. She ground up the white petals and slit the hemlock’s root. Reeking of mouse urine and oozing yellow, she let it leak into the pot. She could have mistaken the hemlock for fennel. For celery. For Queen’s Lace. She was an innocent, barren woman--no agenda, none at all! She wore an apron tied around her waist that read: Kiss the Cook—a gift to Frank on his 35th, back when he used to make sourdough on Sunday afternoons. She thought fondly of that time: apple butter smeared over hot bread, peppermint tea on the back deck. The two of them hidden behind a palisade of pine trees that wafted year-round festive spice. But she did not think of the memory fondly enough. She stirred the pot with one hand and unsheathed a knife with the other. She would scream when Frank’s body started convulsing, she would put on a show. ~ The associate knocked on the kitchen door, her door. It always hurt when they came in through the back and emerged into her private space. Frank ran into the kitchen, breaking Jen’s rhythm with the knife. Her thumb grazed steel. They were not always pretty, but always young. The associate looked plucked from a beach towel: sun-kissed, lithe. She smiled and flashed long, white teeth. And she wasn’t shy, this one. The associate tapped fingerprints into the flour dust on the counter. She straightened the framed photo of Jen and Frank’s Veil trip hanging beside the coat rack: the two of them atop the mountain, poles flailing. The associate slipped off her kitten heels despite Jen’s protesting, her bare feet crowned in turquoise blue. Frank slipped off her jacket, hung it on the hook beside Jen’s pea coat, and led the young woman down the hallway, hand on the lower back, making jokes without punch-lines, the associate knowing when to laugh. ~ Jen heard them in the library. They rushed off the topic of business quickly and steered into provocative, sensitive territories about loss and dreams that Jen only used to hear muffled against linen. Jen sprinkled in the powder. She stirred until her bicep was shot. ~


The house grew quiet. He was making his move. That was how it happened for her, anyway. A stolen kiss in a forbidden space. Then: sex on silk and not cotton, a hasty marriage in a squat Methodist church at the bottom of a ski mountain, and money, so much money. More silence. Sometimes the women left after the library. Most of them stayed through dinner. ~ Jen placed the pie in the middle of the table. Frank pulled a chair for his guest. Frank and the associate exchanged glances while overcompensating with small talk directed at Jen--(Tell her about your garden, honey)--as if loving the beautiful madness that ran rampant and for miles would prove her unwell. Jen spoke softly of what grew there. She spoke of the quiet beauty of getting lost for hours in your own backyard. She said if you listened hard enough to the whispering leaves, the garden would tell you exactly what to do. She spoke while the pair’s restless limbs rocked the tabletop. Legs uncrossing and arms twisting out. Fingers like spiders on kneecaps. A big toe with a glaring blue shell slugging across the hardwood, searching, searching. Frank lifted his fork to his mouth and Jen brought her foot down, hard, on the associate’s toe. It crunched and oozed beneath Jen’s shoe like a garden snail.

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Butterfly Emily Rankin


Five Untitled Poems By Simon Perchik * Just hours old and the Earth already trying to find water ̶ it's how you learn

̶ so much dew still being sifted with what it would be like to grieve.

follow each other though the sun was slower then, not yet damp from funerals one by one

* No more than a clink, impatient would surprise you though this wall is used to stones that gather

and the day to day search the way you dead hear light as shoreline asking for help

where a tower should be ̶ what you dead heard was the cry when another grave is born

from whoever comes by with tears picked clean ̶ you cup your hands

and some three billion year old rock makes a sound, has the faint voice that left you to hollow out the Earth

as if this dirt was once a sea the way all bells are made from what it's like to grieve for so long and in silence.

as if waiting for the zero would finish with the pocket-size wings still pinned warmed by the stuffed leather jacket

* One cup kept empty and side by side as if forgiveness is a service due when you shake the dust off

every drizzle becomes a shroud made tighter by the slow, climbing turn

and the other overflows with coffee heats your mouth with lips that blacken when one hand

into your headstone, wet, wedged as if sirens and smoke already pulled it halfway out, is looking one by one.

is grasped by the other and the spill towed to where the dead overflow as evenings :an entitlement that returns the darkness before the sun comes back brings the light that once was water

* You cup your hands around the rim as if time no longer wants you though the mountain spring that died

fills this small cup with a morning you will clear with a soft rag holding it close to the wooden table. * From behind the bird in the showcase the boy looking out the picture is you still counting each feather backwards

̶ it stopped raining though through glass

couldn't have weighed much more itself still smells from side to side and reaching out as waves ̶ you drink over and over empty the water so wherever it shows up it's cold will hide you now that death is so thirsty, fits into a glass can be seen still gathering has your eyes, owes you nothing

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To The Daytime Radio DJ Who Sighted An Unspecified Statistic Claiming That Millennials Are The Most Narcissistic Generation Lee Hodge An orthodontist once asked me If I was sure I had not At some point Gone through the windshield of a car


Perspectives Nina Huang

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Ashes Dave Barrett Frannie Larkin knew she was a goner the moment she heard Sam Barton was driving around Republic with the ashes of his dead wife and baby girl locked in the trunk of his ’67 Mercury. Sam Barton worked for Inland Grain Growers, Inc., and traveled the Palouse and Inland Empire buying and selling grain, and setting up and maintaining Inland Grower grain elevators. Sam’s wife and one-year old daughter had been struck and killed by an automobile while crossing a downtown street, leaving him with two teenage boys to raise on his own. This had happened eight years ago. Only the most heartless woman—hearing this now— could help but be a sucker for that. And if there was one thing Frannie knew about herself, it was that she’d been a sucker for a whole lot less. Frannie heard the story first from Myra Ailing, owner of the El Sombrero Restaurant and Lounge, where Frannie worked as night bartender. Later, it was confirmed by her friend, Donna Stanton—a diminutive blonde and music and entertainment critic for the Republic Review newspaper. Over a plate of Super Nachos Grande, Donna stated that as a woman and a friend she felt compelled to warn Frannie about Sam. “I’m not usually in the business of popping anyone’s bubbles,” Donna began, motioning Frannie for another shot of Jose Cuervo. “Lord knows in the business I’m in—writing reviews for the clubs that are really more ad copy than anything else— I’m more of a bubble-blower upper! A bubble blower-upper!” she repeated, wincing on a wedge of lime after throwing back her shot. “God that sounds awful! No wonder I work for the Review! Anyway. . .” Leaning forward, she motioned Frannie closer. “I try to keep my butt out of other people’s business. But in this case, Frannie—I must tell you it’s well-known that our Mr. Sam Barton is one of the biggest womanizers this side of the Cascades. A sailor with a girl in every port—from here to Colfax toPendleton, Oregon—if you get my drift, honey.”


Getting Donna another Cuervo, Frannie got her drift all right. But getting it didn’t make things simpler. It only complicated what was bound to be a complicated matter. Sam was twenty years her senior—with two full- grown boys her own age, for Christ’s sake! And what if Sam did have a girl in every port? Was there a law saying a widowed man must be condemned to a life of abstinence? If anything, the fact he had numerous loves only proved he still loved his wife so strongly that he had not found a satisfactory replacement. Besides, if Sam Barton had a woman in every port, didn’t she have a man on every stool? Originally from Trenton, New Jersey, Frannie had dreamt of coming west since she was a kid. The day after her 22nd birthday, when she announced to her parents that she was heading west—maybe as far as Alaska—they were not surprised. The threadbare path Frannie had worn in their carpet running circles around their dining room table had been a reminder their modest two-bedroom inner city flat would never hold her. Frannie had arrived in Republic the spring of 1992, enroute to Anchorage, Alaska when the transmission on her ’72 Ford LTD went out. Postponing her Alaska arrival date, Frannie took a position at the El Sombrero for the express purpose of buying a new set of wheels and beating it up the AL-CAN before the first snowflakes began to fly. That was the plan. But between 5 p.m. and 1 a.m., Tuesday through Saturday nights, a strange thing happened at the El Sombrero. Within days of her hire, word got out of Frannie’s predicament and legions of males stormed the El Sombrero lounge to Frannie’s aid. Within weeks, Frannie’s name became synonymous with “going to Alaska.” Every night became Frannie’s last. Her patrons poured tips into her jar feeling that with these small pecuniary gestures a part of themselves would go with her. The dusty piano that had sat untouched in a dark corner of the lounge was fondled lovingly every night. No one cared that it was out of tune! To everyone’s great relief, the sound of salsa was heard no more. The jukebox was jumping when the music wasn’t live. And in spite of the sombreros and serapes and piñatas, everyone knew, in their heart of hearts, that when Frannie was on, this most unlikely of bars was magically transformed into everyman’s “Malamute Saloon”. . .and Frannie everyman’s “Diamond Lil’.” And the fault was all Frannie’s.

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Frannie milked her role for all it was worth. If “going to Alaska” could be as much a success as actually “arriving there,” then Frannie would be “going to Alaska” as long as they let her. Thanks to her Catholic upbringing, pride had never been a hang-up to Frannie. She used the simple gifts God gave her to her fullest; figuring any less would be a sin. A little rouge here, a touch of lipstick there, maybe a new pair of red pumps, a tight-fitting skirt or jeans studded with rhinestones, and what at first glance was just another pretty redheaded green-eyed girl from Jersey was transformed into the Queen of the Yukon. Frannie couldn’t figure it. Not since 7th grade, when she showed up for Track and Field and was sent home to purchase a bra, had any part of her received such attention. But never with this kind of enthusiasm. To watch the crowd that gathered round her any night of the week she worked was the social equivalent of a gang of drone bees paying sloven homage to their Queen. Grown men— many with families and respectable jobs—literally fought over stools next to the sink behind the Sombrero’s tile counter to watch Frannie wash their schooners and highball glasses. Men were seen or heard biting their hands as Frannie leaned over the wash. Often, when she told them they’d had enough, they left in paroxysms—screaming drunken vulgar epigrams—and had to be taken out by gangs of semi-sober men who, in turn, might well be taken out in the same manner by fresh recruits several beers or margaritas later. Rich older men, retired colonels and college professors, took tables and came with lawyers at hand: promising Frannie contracts whereby if she lunched with them—and nothing more—they would have her drawn into their wills. And into this fray one perfectly ordinary Tuesday night late-March of 1993, with a dozen drones already clustered behind those rooted on stools at the El Sombrero counter, strode Frannie’s brave Sir Galahad. She’d been making cigarette change and hadn’t seen him enter from the rear door. Donna Stanton had been in earlier to warn that Sam might come tom-catting by. From Myra Ailing, her boss, she’d been receiving counsel ever since: “You just treat him like any other customer. Be polite—but to the point. If he gets fresh with you just let him know ‘Thank you, sir. But no thanks anyway!’ Right from the start. If he’s any kind of a gentleman, as I’m sure he is, he’ll catch on to what’s what. Understand?”


Although Myra was a dear, a second “Mom” even, she did have one hell of a knack for making matters worse. “Myra!” Frannie had responded, waving goodbye to two intoxicated young men being removed from the premises. “What’s gotten into everyone? Don’t be ridiculous. If Sam Barton was second cousin to Mel Gibson I wouldn’t give him the time of day! Mel Gibson, maybe. But a second cousin—one twice my age!—not a chance.” But fifteen minutes later, gazing into Sam’s soulful black eyes for the first time, Frannie found herself frantically asking Myra if that was him. “Damn it, Myra! Is that really him?” Sam was not alone. Accompanying him were two forty-something men looking like throwbacks to the 60’s. One was stout as a giant troll, with hair down to his shoulders and a great Fu Manchu. Sam’s second cohort was in a corduroy sport coat and beat-up straw hat. He sat hunched over a guitar, quietly plucking at its strings. And in the middle, Sam, the most ordinary of the trio. He was dressed in Levi’s and a red nylon windbreaker with INLAND GRAIN GROWERS, INC. on the back. He sat upright at the piano, cracking his knuckles, winking the most unconscionable wink straight at her. Blushing, then cursing when she busted a fingernail opening a can of Budweiser, Frannie motioned Myra to her side. “Myra!” Frannie whispered out the side of her mouth, unable to take her eyes off Sam. “He’s wonderful.” Then, blushing again, corrected herself, “I mean they’re wonderful.” Myra rolled her eyes and gave Frannie her patented look of parental chagrin. But not without betraying a little smile as she bustled off to seat customers waiting in the lobby of the restaurant. This was not what Frannie had imagined. After hearing stories from Donna how Sam Barton entertained big-time politicians and grain merchants at his “country mansion” somewhere on the Palouse, Frannie had expected at least some uppityness. But just seeing who he’d come in with, and watching him juke and jive his way through a Fats Domino number made it plain snobbishness was not in his nature. His supple hands and splayed fingers traveled up and down the piano’s long

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spinal column, prodding, kneading and teasing the wooden keys with finesse; making the ancient Wurlitzer—and many of the Sombrero’s musically inclined patrons—groan and whoop with delight. But perhaps most charming—or disarming—of all was Sam Barton’s simple good looks and easy manner. She’d been expecting some Clark Gablie/Tom Sellicky-looking yuppie jerk asshole. But Sam was as far from Hollywood as Republic was. In fact, with his bowl-cut hairline and lively eyebrows, and his two whacky friends, Moe, from the Three Stooges, came to mind. A much handsomer Moe to be sure—with that boyish grin and spry body movement (not to mention that he was wearing Levi 501 jeans—jeans most men grow out of by the time they hit 30)—but a Moe nevertheless. “Sam Barton, I presume,” Frannie began, placing a pitcher of beer and three glasses on a table beside the piano. Sam sidled the piano bench, facing Frannie, wiping perspiration from his face and forehead with a red bandana. Up close, Sam looked both older and younger than he had from afar. He seemed older because of the leatheriness of his red-brown skin. He seemed younger because of the strange lost little boy look in his eye: a kind of hurt animal look that Frannie would always associate with the death of Sam’s wife and baby girl. “I’ve been called other things,” Sam said, pulling up in a chair at the table now, pouring beer into his friend’s glasses. “But Sam’s the name friends call me.” “You got that right, asshole!” interrupted the friend in the Fu Manchu. Grinning, winking at Frannie, Sam quickly introduced his friends as “Asshole One: Boris Shufflemeyer—brewmeister of the Harvest Head Microbrewery” and “Asshole Two: Michael Danforth Savage the Third—part-time Attorney-At-Law and full-time Practicing Bum.” While Mike and Boris conversed with people a few tables away, Sam asked Frannie if she’d care to join them and a few others when she got off. “The Big Dipper’s got a fair-to-middlin’ blues band playing till 2. And Donna said she’ll be swinging by around midnight.” “Don’t know if I should,” said Frannie, wiping off an adjoining table. In her head, she was wondering if Myra would let her off an hour early.


“And why’s that?” said Sam. “Just some stories I’ve heard. . .” said Frannie, waving hello to a gang of college kids entering the bar. “Stories? About who?” “About you!” said Frannie. “What kind of stories?” said Sam, a big fox-that-got-the-hen grin already on his face. “The worst kind,” said Frannie. Then, after a pause—waiting to see if Sam Barton would crack—added: “And the best. . .” An hour later Sam and Frannie were doing the WATUSI at the Dipper, strutting around each other with a pair of leftover Big Dipper Barbecued Chicken bones between their teeth, making strange animal utterances between fits of laughter. Two hours later, they were hugging and saying goodbye to Mike and Boris and Donna. And an hour after that they were parked beneath the stars beside a lone oak tree somewhere off the Palouse Highway: parking there after nearly running Sam’s Mercury into a ditch while going at it in the front seat on the way back to Sam’s place. Of course, Frannie knew it wouldn’t last. It couldn’t. There were just too many things working against them. For starters, her loyal legion at the El Sombrero. A kind of mourning had settled over the crew now that her conjugation with Sam Barton was official. Donna Stanton had referred to her and Sam in her nightlife/society column in the Republic Weekender as “the fieriest blast to rock the Republic club scene since Mt. Saint Helens. No ashes reported yet.” The general chaos and carousing that had reigned at the Sombrero was replaced by a parliamentary milling about: the men speaking in somber tones about taxes and mortgages and inflation—even wives and children. Little pranks like the

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hand-biting that had gone on while Frannie leaned over the sink were considered in bad taste and no longer tolerated. They drank as much as ever—more, in fact—but there was a distinct lack of the former joyousness. If someone ran their fingers over the Wurlitzer now, it was only for a song or two. For the first time, they noticed that not only was the piano out of tune, but some of its keys were actually broken. And, perhaps most telling of all, when Myra Ailing put her foot down during one of her famous “moods” and began playing the dreaded salsa tapes again, no one put up a fuss. Then there was the matter of Alaska. Frannie liked Republic. She would be forever grateful for the refuge it had provided. Yet she couldn’t get past the notion that Republic was anything more than a comforting little eddy in the river of her life and she needed to get back out in the main current, hit those rapids she’d heard so much about downstream. She’d outlasted her stint here as it was: purchasing an ’82 Jeep Cherokee back in December. The longer she waited the harder it would get to pull up stakes. And she wasn’t the only one posing the question. Though none of her loyal legion brought it up to her directly, she read it plain enough in their hangdog faces, sensed it when they averted eye contact with her, heard it in the private little quarrels bubbling up like Yellowstone mud pots around the room. Finally, there was Sam Barton himself. Which is why, when Frannie walked into the Big Dipper on the second-month anniversary of their first date, and saw Sam hugging and kissing a long-legged peroxide blonde, not only was she not surprised, she was prepared. Frannie snatched the nearest pitcher, doused the two of them, then, when it was clear Sam could see who’d done this, marched up and, right in front of his oh-so-hip Republic peers (Donna Stanton taking notes), drove a spiked heel smack into his boot. “Jerk!” She left Sam Barton hopping and writhing about on the saw-dusted dance floor like some crazed Los Hermanos penitent performing an act of self-flagellation. The peroxide blonde was nowhere to be seen. Then, placing the


empty pitcher where she’d found it—along with a $10 bill—Frannie left the Dipper. ALASKA, HERE I COME! Frannie gave Myra her two-week notice the next morning. She blocked all incoming telephone calls, left her answering machine on 24/7, turned down the sound and erased all messages from Sam. Whenever she left her apartment, she had two or three of her huskier legionnaires come over to act as escort. Just an old friend visiting from out-of-town--! This, a blurb she’d accidentally overheard on one of Sam’s two dozen dispatches before locating the erase button on her machine. Bastard! Frannie remembered those first three days shacked-up at Sam’s “country mansion,” calling in sick, and going at it like high school sweethearts at an out-of-town motel. Sam’s “country mansion” was really a renovated Baptist country church—complete with bell-tower and double- door entry and vestibule. Overgrown apple and cherry trees circle the house, and a lilac bush veiled a rusted gas tank. A broken combine was parked in the front yard from a time when Sam Barton had farmed his 180-acres with his then teenaged sons. Sam had done most of the remodeling himself, including the stained-glass windows he’d made and put in at the entry and around the bell-tower. “The stained-glass is to exorcize any tight-assed Baptists that might be lurking about,” Sam had told her. So as not to mislead anyone and have them think he’d “gone Catholic,” he used the Olympian gods as his motif over the traditional Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The interior was as magnificent as the exterior: yellow hardwood floors made of the same oak as Louisville Slugger baseball bats; a pot-bellied stove so ancient its furnace window was covered with mica instead of tempered glass; and upstairs on a loft just below the bell-tower, Sam’s bedroom— with the biggest Bob Dylan “Lay Lady Lay” brass bed Frannie had ever laid eyes on. Years later, Frannie would try to remember what it was that had attracted her to Sam Barton. Was it the motherly feeling his tragic past had aroused in her? Was

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it the childlike comfort she found being with an “older” man? Or was it—as Donna had said—“simple unadulterated animal lust over Sam’s 100-proof Wild Turkey ass?” Sometimes Frannie thought it had been the beauty of his hands: the pleasure it was to watch them work a piano or a plane of wood, the thrill (and comfort) they offered whenever they touched her, the splendor of that day he’d taken her to a Palouse grain elevator and poured handfuls of hard bright red winter wheat grains from his own hands into hers for her to smell and taste and touch. And Frannie would realize it was the sum of all these and more. It was always more with Sam Barton. Some surprising aspect of the man she hadn’t known before. Like early that very first morning. She’d just tiptoed out of Sam’s Tarzan-like love nest, naked except for the red polish on her toenails, and sat on the toilet for a breather and a smoke. While tilting her head back to rest her eyes—wondering just what kind of mess she’d gotten herself into this time—she felt a queer warm breath on the back of her neck. Startled at first, Frannie quickly figured that Sam had snuck around the side of the house to poke his head through this sliding window she’d raised prior to lighting her cigarette. “Ah, ah, ah, ah, ah!” Frannie purred, eyes still closed, blowing smoke out the side of her mouth. She smiled, squirmed, and shivered at the feel of wet tongue on her goose-pimpled flesh. “Oh, Sammy, baby! Stop it! You dirty dog! Mmmm! Ohhhhh! Sneaking up on a defenseless city girl from Jersey—“ Footsteps ringing hollow off the hallway floorboards. “Hmm? Dog? What jersey?” Sam’s voice. But coming from in front of her. Opening her eyes, Frannie saw a sleepy-eyed Sam approach: his crooked dick, which she’d teased him so much about last night, wagging out in front. Feeling the same tongue on her neck and shoulders, and, this time, a beard along with it, Frannie turned full around and stared face-to-face with a gray-haired lecherous-eyed old goat! “Pervert!” Frannie yelled. She screamed so loud and jumped so high that the startled beast jumped too. In such fashion that it brought the heavy sliding window down on its neck, pinning its head. “Goddamn you, Ahab!”


By now, Sam was full awake and had joined in the screaming and bleating himself. He was yelling at “Ahab,” the goat, and at Frannie to come help him with the window. “The hell I am!” said Frannie, covering herself with one of Sam’s bathrobes. “That beast molested me!” “He was just being affectionate!” said Sam. “Help me. Please. He can’t breathe!” Frannie could see this was the case. The manic hoof scraping it had set-up the moment its head got pinned had slowed to a dull scratching and its crazy triangle-pupiled eyes were cocked off in two directions. Hurrying to the sill, Frannie gave Sam the necessary extra “umphh” and the beast fell free. They watched Ahab stagger about in the dew-wet grass back of the house. When it was clear that the goat would be all right, Sam turned to Frannie and, with mock-seriousness, said, “Perverts? What perverts—?” But he never got to finish. Frannie, red-faced with rage, first pounded his chest with her fists, then, laughing, grabbed hold of his handsome head and started up where they’d left off. That was the beautiful side of Sam, the good side, the easy. When it came to having fun, Sam Barton was as wily and ready as his goat, Ahab. Stick Sam in the quietest bar in town, and before you knew it, that party that had started with three, had grown to six; and before much longer had multiplied to twelve. That same sullen-faced young bartender who’d eyed them suspiciously was sending free drinks their way, all sheepish smiles and “Yes, sir, Mr. Barton! Dice? Turn up the jukebox? You got it!” That was the side of Sam Barton most people saw. Then there was his other side. It was difficult to describe, really. All you ever got was a hint of it: Sam suddenly quiet. . .a dark cloud passing over his features. . .then. . like an eclipse passing the sun. . .it was gone. . .vanished. . .the sky dazzling blue. . Sam his cussed cheerful self again. It was uncanny. But once

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you caught a glimpse of this, you couldn’t help but sense that it was there, hiding behind all his natural playfulness and practical joking. And the key to the mystery was, of course, the very thing that had drawn her to Sam from the start: those ashes of his dead wife and baby girl locked in the trunk of his car. This brought Frannie back to square one. It was the one taboo subject with Sam. He’d said so from the beginning. “I’m sorry, Frannie. It’s just something I don’t care to talk about.” Once, and only once, did mention of Sam’s deceased wife slip past his lips: Annie. They were out back, working up a sweat playing dodge with Ahab, when the goat scrambled out of reach, past the line of apple trees, past an old clothesline strung between two poles cemented in pick-up truck tires, to a treeless, overgrown plot of land thirty yards back from the house. Noticing the dark red stalks and broad leaves on a rhubarb plant, and a few yards away, what looked to be a line of raspberry bushes, Frannie asked Sam if this was an old garden. “Yeah,” Sam said, getting hold of Ahab’s horns when the animal tripped over a large rain barrel lying on its side, half-hidden in the tall grass. “Annie’s pride and joy! We had tomatoes the size of small grapefruits. Fresh greens for salads all summer. And sunflowers—“ Sam had caught on to his slip. Letting go of Ahab, he moved away from the garden, slouching back towards the house, his face a darker red than that caused by his play with the goat. “Time to get that stew brewing!” Sam said, his back to Frannie now. “Mike and Boris will be rumbling up the road any minute now.” Michael and Boris, and a couple of lady friends, were coming over for Sunday dinner, Boris bringing a fresh batch of amber ale that Sam had been looking forward to sampling all week. “Sam,” Frannie said, not about to let this opportunity slip. “Sam, please.” He stopped but did not turn to face her.


“I’m sorry,” she said. “I know how much Annie—‘there, she’d spoken the forbidden word’—“meant to you. I was just noticing the garden and I was thinking how nice it would be if we—“ But it was no good. Sam was already up the back porch, the screen door slamming behind him as she called out his name a third and final time. Damn him. Damn his sorry ass little boy sulking around the premises and his stupid taboos and self-indulgent parade of sorrow! Damn all of it! What business of hers was it anyway? Especially now that it was over. Yes, over. Better to nip it in the bud now and save the pain of taking it out by the roots later. And after getting no more messages on her answering machine for three full days. . no more flowers or balloons. . .no more or Sam’s rude personal visits while she was busy at work .Frannie figured that, yes, this was it. They were dead in the water. But on the evening of the fourth day, near closing, Sam appeared at the El Sombrero, and instead of stepping up to the counter as he usually did, stood by himself in the vestibule outside the bar, waiting for her. “Goddamn you, Sam. It’s a Friday night! Not only was it a Friday night, but there was a going-away party going on for Frannie inside the bar. A big sheet of butcher paper was strung above the piano with the words NORTH TO ALASKA, FRANNIE! in big block letters. Donna Stanton was perched at her regular spot on the barstool closest to the piano. The O’Neill brothers—Donald and Patrick and Samuel—were fighting over the stool closest to the sink for old time’s sake. Even Boris Schufflemeyer and Michael Danforth Savage the Third were here: smiling sheepishly at Sam from a table crowded with women across the way. When Sam just stood there, staring past her, Frannie asked if he was all right. “I’m fine,” Sam said. Then, looking at her, his face dead serious, added: “Come with me, Frannie.” Frannie, standing with a loaded down tray in two hands, offered her cheek to four construction workers filing past, giving her crumpled dollar bills and kisses as they left the Sombrero. “Watch out for those Eskimos!”

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“Yeah, right, guys! Thanks!” Frannie drifted closer to Sam as two drunken men she’d never seen before lurched past towards the bar. “Come with you? Now?” Frannie said, stepping back after absentmindedly leaning against Sam. “Yeah. Now,” Sam said, his face still serious. “Right now. Right this second.” “You’ve got to be joking—“ “No. I’m not joking, Frannie.” “I can’t believe you’ve even asked me this,” Frannie said. “I’m not going with you anywhere this second or this century! I told you we are through . . . over . . .done with . . . kaput. Comprende? I’ve told you so a dozen times.” “I know we’re through!” Sam interrupted, glancing away a moment to wave hello to Donna Stanton who was mouthing “Hi, Sam!” from the bar. Turning back to Frannie, be continued, “You’re right. I agree. It’s for the best. But I need to see you once before you go. There’s something I need to explain to you. But I can’t do it here . . . like this.” Frannie couldn’t believe she was still standing here. Of all the lame excuses to get into a girl’s pants one last time! “Frannie,” Sam continued, motioning towards Mike and Boris who were motioning him over to their table. “It’s got to be now. If I go in there . . . it’ll be no good. I won’t be able to follow through on this little something I’d like to show you. Trust me, Frannie. I’m at the end of my rope. This is it. The last time. I’m out of here right now if you say the word.” Sam’s face was flushed a dark red; his stance already set towards the door. Frannie knew if he came crawling back to her tomorrow or the next day—after going out on a limb like he was tonight—he’d lose all face. “Sam Barton,” Frannie began, her own face turning a dark crimson. “You are the most difficult son of a bitch—“


Sam was already heading for the door. “Hold on, damn it!” Frannie said. “Let me get my coat!”

Two hours later, they were 130 miles west of Republic on I-90, approaching the middle reach of the Columbia River where it divides Washington State, east and west. Frannie was pressed up against the passenger door, her head on Sam’s balled-up coat, fighting a terrible urge to simply open the door and have this whole mess over with. Splat. Let the road crew— or maybe a couple of handsome paramedics—pick up the pieces. Now that her infatuation with Sam was, for the most part, over . . . it struck her as perverse that he should still be carrying the cremated remains of his wife and child in the trunk of his car. It made her feel like she was locked inside a hearse. Frannie sat straight as they began the long descent down the basalt and granite cliffs of the Columbia Gorge. She could see the flickering lights of the I-90 bridge where it crossed the river at Vantage miles below. She was awed by the sheer immensity of the Columbia: its big canyon walls moving through the land: its broad prehistoric waters flowing south towards Oregon in the moonlight, then west to the Pacific. When Sam had mentioned they were going to “the river,” she’d assumed he’d meant the Republic River. But gazing upon this spectacle as they sailed down the canyon rim, she could halfway understand why someone might travel across half a state to get here. When they reached the foot of the I-90 bridge, Sam veered left. He drove a quarter mile down an arterial road along the east bank, then turned sharp right down a heavily pot-holed dirt road. Frannie held onto the dashboard with both hands. They came to a skidding stop at a primitive boat launch directly across from the electric-lit public launch a half-mile across the river at the road stop town of Vantage. “Sorry about the ride,” Sam said. “Need new shocks.” Frannie nodded, and stepped out of the car, glad to feel earth beneath her again. They hadn’t spoken more than a dozen words since leaving the El Sombrero, and neither of them seemed in a hurry to break the pattern. Sam mumbled something about a meteor shower in the north sky. Frannie restrained

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herself from mumbling “meteor shower, I bet!” back. She climbed up on the hot hood of the car, warming herself as she leaned back on the front windshield with a quilt wrapped around her legs. Sam busied himself building a fire with pine wood and old newspapers from his trunk. When there were enough coals, he tossed a clump of sagebrush on top, then hopped up on the hood of the Mercury beside her. “Annie and I used to come here a lot. . .” Frannie had been nodding off. The meteors were too few and far between for her to share Sam’s enthusiasm. She’d been so busy these last few days packing, saying her goodbyes, that she’d hardly slept. “Annie and you. . .” Frannie repeated. She accepted one of the canned beers Sam had fished out from the cooler in the trunk. “Yeah. Annie and I. . .” Sam smiled, repeating the words himself. And for the next hour—or was it two?—Frannie sat and watched the river and the stars flow by as Sam told his and Annie’s tale. The words came slow at first, but gathered momentum as each tale was completed. He told her how Annie and he met their junior year at the University of Washington in 1967, during a Vietnam War protest. They did the love-ins and sit-downs. The turn-ons and drop-outs. “In ’68 we drove to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in a roofless marble- blue Riviera I salvaged from a Seattle wrecking yard for 75 bucks! Dickey Reese and Bertha Lessing. Little Joey Corrigan and Malvina Day. A whole carload of us in raingear and ski goggles. A highway patrolman outside of Bismarck, North Dakota called us Cossacks and threatened to lock us up for indecent exposure. Maybe he would have too if Bertha Lessing hadn’t gotten to him with those big false eyelashes she used to wear!” Sam was drunk with the telling of these stories and several times had to stop to wipe tears from his eyes. He told Frannie that when David and Sam, Jr., came along, he brought Annie and kids back with him to the Palouse. They lived the “Jeffersonian Ideal,” farming their 180-acres and, until Annie and their daughter


Mara’s death, home-schooled the boys. Except for a short mention of those heartbroken days following Annie and Mara’s deaths, all Sam’s stories about his life with Annie were happy ones. It was to this happiness his stories kept returning. The stories brought a strange light to his eye. It was spooky. Though Sam Barton was what most people would generally call “happy” 99.9% of the time, Frannie had never seen him as radiant as he was right now. It was as if he’d worked himself into a trance. It was no longer 1993, but 1969 again. Annie was seated right there in his lap—her long black hair sheltering them like a shawl— and they’d made this little stop on way to visiting his folks on the Palouse. And it was then that Frannie realized why Sam had taken her here. It wasn’t a meteor shower he was trying to show her, but his heart. In his own crazy convoluted “MAN” kind of way, Sam was telling her he was still very much in love with his wife. Those fires were burning even now. And he hadn’t given up on her ghost. Shivering, Frannie excused herself to take a pee. It had to be at least three in the morning. If Sam didn’t offer to drive her home soon, she’d have to ask: no disrespect towards the dead intended. While crouched beside a lone willow tree, twenty yards back from the car, Frannie noticed the Mercury’s trunk was still open. She hadn’t noticed before because the trunk light was out. If ever there was a time to peek at the contents therein. . . Frannie didn’t know why her heart pounded like it did, but her steps got slower as she neared the trunk. Call it superstition—or her Catholic upbringing—but Frannie felt she was committing some degree of sin sneaking up on the dead like this. She half-expected Sam’s deceased wife and daughter to spring up from their urn of ashes like some terrible two-headed Phoenix. But when she reached the Mercury’s rear fender, and was able to see fully into the open trunk, nothing happened. Nothing. What’s more, not only did nothing happen, but there was nothing inside the trunk. Just the cooler. Battery cables. A fly-fishing rod. But no urn. No ashes. Nothing. And Frannie’s heart began to race for a new reason. What does this mean? Frannie thought. Does Sam love me after all? Maybe I am his new beloved?

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Maybe I don’t need to go to Alaska! Maybe Sam is my Alaska! Maybe he’s been mine all this time. “Sam Barton!” Frannie yelled so loud Sam slipped off the Mercury’s hood. “What the hell?” Sam said, scurrying to the rear of the Mercury. “You scared the crap out of me!” “Where are they?” said Frannie. “Where are what?” said Sam. “The ashes! The ones that are supposed to be here in the trunk of your car!” “Ashes?” Sam repeated, scratching his head, staring down into that same dark hole of the trunk along with her. “There aren’t no—“ And then Frannie knew she had him. Just like he had that afternoon she’d found out about Annie and the garden while playing with Ahab, Sam was drifting away from her again. He strolled off in mid-sentence to restoke the fire. Un-uh. This time he wasn’t getting off the hook. “Sam. . .” Stumbling, tripping across the uneven ground while sliding back into her high heels, Frannie followed Sam right up to the fire pit. Sam had his back to her. He was shuffling sticks around, cupping his hands around a small teepee just flaming up again. With his back still turned, he answered, “They’re gone, Frannie.” “Gone?” This time Sam just nodded his head. Frannie moved closer to the fire. Over the flames, Sam held a charred piece of wood that wouldn’t light up. Frannie shivered. She buttoned the top button of her coat. She chastised herself for getting her hopes up. Maybe she should just let it go at this. Why torture the man any more than he’d already tortured himself. And why torture herself? But another part of her said keep it coming.


Why give up the ghost now that she was knocking at its door. “Where are they, Sam?” Frannie said. Sam dropped the charred stick. He got up—without a word—and marched off towards the Mercury before Frannie could even apologize. Frannie was furious with herself. Now she was sure she’d lost him. And her fury was metamorphosing into anger when Sam suddenly reappeared, holding a quilt in one hand and a flashlight in the other. “Come on,” he said, wrapping the quilt around Frannie’s shoulders. “I’ll show you, Frannie.” Frannie held Sam’s free arm while he led her towards the river. When they got past the first maze of boulders, Sam switched off the light. The moon, hiding behind a huge boulder at the base of the boat launch, came into full and sudden view. It hovered over the eastern ridge of the gorge, bathing this high desert landscape of sagebrush and volcanic rock in its blue lunar light. The winds coming through the gorge were even stronger here beside the water. The combination of their roar along with the river’s forced Sam and Frannie to speak up to be heard. “Damn you, Sam. Quit trying to scare me. . .” Sam had pointed out a huge wooden scow, caught in the rocks forty feet above them, there like the remnants of a modern day ark. He told her it was an old supply barge used for ferrying people and provisions before the bridge came in. “How did it get up there?” “The dam,” Sam said, pointing in the direction of the Grand Coulee eighty miles upstream. Coming through another maze of boulders, Frannie leaned hard on Sam’s arm because of her heels. Sam pointed to a long basalt bar running parallel to the river like an Army Corp of Engineers dike abandoned in the first stages of construction. “That’s it!” Sam shouted.

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The roar was even louder here because this massive slab of boulder jutted a full seventy feet into the Columbia. “What?” said Frannie. “That’s where I threw Annie and Mara’s ashes from.” Handing Frannie the flashlight, Sam hopped on top of the basalt bar. Sure-footed as an old goat. “Out there!” Sam said, pointing again. “Downriver! To the Pacific! Annie always missed the Westside. When she died, I took her here . . . our halfway grounds . . . set her and Mara out. . .” Frannie could make out only half the words Sam was saying then. But it wouldn’t matter. Five years later, Frannie, married to a young Alaskan environmental lawyer and running her own restaurant out of Eagle River, Alaska, would receive the news of Sam Barton’s death his ’67 Mercury running head-on into a semi while traveling south on the Palouse Highway out of Republic, the Mercury’s rusted driveline snapping and sending Sam spinning into the oncoming lane. She’d hear it first in a letter from Myra Ailing, and have it confirmed later by Donna Stanton. And it wasn’t these words of Sam Barton’s, but this image of Sam—a good man stripped of all he held most dear—smiling, dancing, flailing his arms about, suspended in space ten feet above her, with that great Western river below him and that starry sky above, that Frannie would keep.


An Appreciation of Math By Mary Christine Delea In 1960, I was born under the sign of Elvis Presley, whose “Are You Lonely Tonight?” was Number 1 at the time, and 1 of his 117 Gold Records. Meanwhile, that same year, German mathematician Alexander Grothendieck, father of modern algebraic geometry, took on Galois Theory with an abstract approach to continuous actions and group theory. To be sure, there is structure to groups—just ask Elvis’ TCB Band or look at the cars traveling in the same direction on a highway. When I drive, as I often do, from Oregon to New York, or back the other way, I am SUVATing. I live in both places, like Schrodinger’s cat, the two coasts connected clusters in my heart. Being bicoastal makes me Queen of Binary Independence, also known as the independence of irrelevant alternatives, which fits me fine; it’s not like I am a celebrity, a politician, or a high-powered businessperson. See? I am irrelevant, unlike Elvis’ last Number 1 hit,“Suspicious Minds,” charting when I was 8and already a paradox of radicals. As I drive cross-country, I become almost massless, an arbitrary ping in a field of cars. I may be listening to Elvis, but perhaps not—my humble contribution to Probability Theory—but I will encounter soma cubes and infinity fractals, conversions and calculations. I am no alchemist, but I understand the powers of gold, of travel, of great songs for road trips. Elvis was awarded 101 Gold Records in his lifetime, which is impressive. I, on the other hand, am only a driver hoping for the intelligence of engineers and the diligence of construction workers when I cross a bridge, where I exist, momentarily, as both a plus and a minus, a being both still and in motion, a mathematical beauty singing along with—or not—“I Was the One.”

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Kaleidobranscope 1 Fabio Sassi


Customer Reviews Jacob R. Bennett Jared

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

– Great Buy

The TV arrived within six days in great condition. Easy set-up. No problems so far. Reviewed in the United States on May 19, 2020 37 people found this helpful

◾ Ralph

⭐⭐⭐ ☆☆ – A Bit Dismayed I’ve had the TV for four days. GENERALLY SPEAKING, the tech is up to spec. Today, however, was my first time spending several hours with it and I have noticed a couple of flaws: 1. When exiting out of certain apps, it will take longer to return to the home screen than when exiting out of others. 2. For whatever reason, the default volume level that it opens with is, frankly, a little loud. I’ve tried reducing the volume before turning it off to mitigate this, but to no avail… Reviewed in the United States on September 22, 2019 78 people found this helpful

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Janet

⭐⭐⭐⭐ ☆ – It’s Called the Service Industry Delivery guy was a little curt with me, but it arrived on time. Reviewed in the United States on July 24, 2019 66 people found this helpful

◾ Lisa

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

– Awesome Sauce

Great TV. I set it up in my kids’ playroom and they LOVE watching their SHOWS on it. Reviewed in the United States on March 15, 2019 55 people found this helpful

◾ Alicia

⭐ ☆☆☆☆

– DVDs Won’t Play

I ordered this rubbish and then it turns up and I ordered the DVD player with it cause they told me to put that in the cart too and then this “Smart TV” can’t even play Hancock’s Half Hour and I emailed them but they told me that I have the “wrong DVDs” so I told them that Tony Hancock is an English treasure and that they should clear off so don’t even waste your bloody time with these bloaks cause they’re thick as fuck! Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 2, 2019


42 people found this helpful

◾ Katie

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – Ex-Husband is Supa Jelly Bought this on Cyber Monday and set it up in the front foyer of my house. My ex came over to pick up the boys for his weekend with them and was like “why the fuck did you put a 65-inch tv right by the doorway?” And I was like, “cause I felt like it.” And he was like, “so this is what you’re spending your alimony on?” And I was like, “the boys like it,” and the boys were like, “ya Dad, it’s awesome,” and then they left and I watched House Hunters. Reviewed in the United States on December 7, 2019 57 people found this helpful

◾ Lauren

⭐⭐⭐⭐ ☆

– Pretty Good

The legs on the stand are a little wider than I expected, so it didn’t fit the coffee table I had planned to put it on. Works fine though. Hope this helps. Reviewed in the United States on October 15, 2019 49 people found this helpful

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Terry

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

– Meets Expectations

It gets the job done. Reviewed in the United States on February 20, 2020 62 people found this helpful

◾ Brian

⭐⭐⭐ ☆☆

– Dumb

Wall mounted this bad boy in my den, above the fireplace. Started having some issues with turning it on and my girlfriend was like, “why don’t you just call the company?” and saying other bullshit like, “you’ve only had it for two weeks, so it should still be covered under the 30-day warranty.” Then she had the audacity to call them behind my back and apparently they were like, “well, was the power button on the side melted off when the product first arrived?” And she was like, “obviously not, you fucking bozo.” So here we are with this piece of shit that turns off anytime we start a fire underneath it, which is dumb as FUCK, because the whole reason we bought it was so we could watch Back Door Fire Pokers 2 while following along in real time. Reviewed in the United States on November 12, 2019 40 people found this helpful


Doug

⭐⭐ ☆☆☆

– Big Crack was Pain in My Back

TV arrived with a large crack down the left side of the screen. Company refunded me, but I had to pay for the return shipping myself. Was a bit annoyed at that, so decided to go for another brand rather than having them ship me a new one. Reviewed in the United States on August 2, 2019 82 people found this helpful

◾ Rick

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – Crystal Clear Screen is high quality. Would buy again. Reviewed in the United States on December 2, 2019 34 people found this helpful

◾ Shane

⭐⭐⭐⭐ ☆

– Quid Pro Quo

Tonight I decided to watch The Silence of the Lambs for the first time by myself.

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If you haven’t seen it, the three main characters are Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), Clarice Starling (Jody Foster), and Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine). Starling is an FBI Academy student helping her boss, Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn), catch Buffalo Bill, who’s been killing women across the country and mutilating their corpses. Crawford sends Starling to visit Lecter, who is incarcerated for murder and cannibalism, to see if she can get any leads from him about catching Buffalo Bill. I’ve broken my criticism of the film down into three strands: 1. Buffalo Bill is Hannibal Lecter’s Foil This is exhibited perfectly in the infamous scene where Bill is ordering his hostage, Catherine Martin (Brooke Smith) to apply lotion to her skin and then give the lotion back to him in the basket that he’s jerry-rigged on a pulley system leading down into the empty well where he’s keeping her. She begs him for freedom and he repeatedly demands for the lotion back, eventually swearing at her and becoming visibly angry. This signifies his capacity for empathy and his guilty conscience. He gets angry with her because her pleas force him to confront how immoral it is that he’s deliberately dehumanizing her. Lecter, meanwhile, shows no empathy during his killings or in his descriptions to Starling of his past killings. If anything, Hopkins shows his subtle smile, adding terrifying depth to his character. 2. Where are they Now? Everyone will tell you that the interplay between Hopkins and Foster is magnificent, and it is, but what I haven’t seen anyone bring up in recent criticism is that neither of them has ever really topped themselves since. In Hopkins’s case, you could make the argument that it’s not a huge deal, because he was 53 when the movie premiered and he had worked his way up to this with other roles (namely in “The Elephant Man”). A slow decline for him was perhaps to be expected. But for Foster? She was only 28! She had earned a reputation as a child star in Taxi Driver and kept the ball rolling with The Accused, but name ONE truly great thing you saw her in after Lambs. And if you’re going to make the argument that she was acting less because she started directing her own films in ’91, then I ask you, did any of those movies ever bring her significant critical acclaim? Nell was the only


one that got a couple of awards and nominations after it came out in late ’94, but even then, she produced and starred in that, she didn’t direct it.

3. Buffalo Bill is Highly Problematic to the Trans Community On the one hand, I get it. It was 1991. I can play Aristotle for a minute here and “entertain” the whole idea of cis actors playing trans roles without “accepting” it, because at the time there weren’t a lot of trans actors/actresses getting hired period. But come on. The guy has what people would nowadays label as gender dysphoria (they refer to him with he/him/his pronouns in the movie, so that’s what I’m doing here) and according to Lecter’s story that he told Starling, the only three doctors in the country who even did reassignment surgeries denied Bill treatment. Okay, I get why that would be upsetting and maybe lead to an existential crisis. But then his solution is to abduct, torture, and murder a series of women, and then mutilate their corpses? Whaaaat? That’s the spotlight that the trans community was getting in early-nineties Hollywood? Talk about taking a marginalized group that was already being shamed and stereotyped, and then having a SERIAL KILLER represent that group to an audience who had likely seen very few positive portrayals (by cis actors, mind you) of trans people in any movies, ever. In the scene where he’s experimenting with tucking his penis between his legs to see what he looks like in the mirror, he’s wearing a slab of cut up skin from one of the girls on his forehead. Could you make the argument that this is his attempt to do some sort of DIY facial feminization surgery? Sure. But again, who’s the intended audience? Was it a responsible decision for the filmmaker to assume that the lay-viewer would understand that murdering others for their forehead skin was not typically a part of the FFS process? And what’s with the back skin? In all the scenes where they find the dead girls, they’re missing large flaps of skin on their backs. Sorry, but what’s wrong with his own back skin? What does having new back skin have to do with his gender identity? Is this supposed to be tied in with his butterfly obsession? In that scene with the mirror, he does spread his arms out so that his robe/quilt makes him look like a butterfly. Does this mean he’s planning to give himself wings of flappy flesh? Guess it doesn’t matter to him, so long as they’re all moisturized with that fucking lotion.

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Now, part of me does feel obliged to give some credit to the screenwriter, Ted Tally, who adapted the script from the ’88 eponymous novel. I mean, the story is so entrenched in this transphobic premise that to take that component out would’ve meant completely rewriting one of the two antagonists’ entire plot lines. But then when you point the finger straight at the source, the original novelist, Thomas Harris, you could make the “oh, it was a different time” argument with even more legitimacy, because that was published three years before the movie came out. Speaking of which, can we talk about how this movie came out on fucking VALENTINE’S DAY? Like, what poor, innocent couples unknowingly went out to see this movie for a light-hearted date night in February of ’91 and found out the hard way what they were getting into? Anyway, the TV works fine. I just really needed to get all that off my chest. Reviewed in the United States on June 13, 2020 134 people found this helpful

◾ Chad

⭐⭐ ☆☆☆

– Fades In and Out

It does this thing where, after it’s been on awhile, the screen will just randomly dim to half the brightness it was set at, then get brighter again a few minutes later. Think of it like when I’m fucking your mom and she gets tired after being on top for too long and needs to stop to take a breather. HA! Boom! Gotcha, bitch! Didn’t see that one cumming, did ya? (See what I did there?) Reviewed in the United States on April 1, 2019 11 people found this helpful


Crow Gaby Bedetti

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The Ravens, the Turkey and the Gorilla Carolyn Watson “I can’t believe I’ve been driving by a dead guy’s car for a week and I didn’t even know it.” Ron Canby scratched his chin, both stricken and amused. He gazed at the helicopters zigzagging overhead. Search and Rescue had started a full-scale operation at daybreak. Half an hour later, Chopper 6, carrying fast-talking news anchor Maria Knudsen, appeared on the scene. Other media outlets followed, but with less enthusiasm. Their reporters lacked Maria’s clout. Lindsay Kellerman, who lived across the street from Ron and was the only Exton Road resident to touch the dead man’s car, trained her binoculars on Chopper 6. When it dipped and drew close, she waved. “I walked by that car every day,” she said. “Kiwi, my old girl, sniffed at the wheels. Funny thing about dogs, they sense these things.” Ron laughed. Stuffing his hands in his trouser pockets, he rocked back on his heels. He was the first Exton Road resident to spot Chopper 6 zipping overhead. Maria Knudsen had looked his way. “They say he killed her at the apartment,” said Ron. “Threw her body in the trunk and drove here. But I’m not so sure. She liked punk music. Maybe she killed him.” “Those kids’ bodies were on the cliff,” said Lindsay. “That’s a long way to drag a corpse on Thanksgiving weekend. We’d have noticed them. My kitchen looks out. I was basting.” “Double suicide then?” “Nope. They found blood in the bathroom, the bedroom, the living room… Signs of a struggle. Don’t you read the newspaper? Someone’s guilty.”


Chopper 6 made another pass overhead. The treetops trembled. Ron and Lindsay ducked. “I suspect that’s why the ravens have been so active,” said Ron. “I reckoned eight this morning.” Lindsay whistled under her breath. “Oh sweet Jesus, yes. Imagine the feast! The eyes are the first to go. Easy access to the brain, I suppose.” An unfamiliar car crept down the street. They watched it turn onto the highway. Together, they counted a dozen vehicles belonging to various media outlets. A row of journalists sat on the curb in front of Lindsay’s house. She considered bringing them coffee, then thought better of it. Oprah was always complaining about the press. Why encourage them? “Do you think they’ll want to interview us?” she said. “Local opinion, that sort of thing?” “Possibly,” said Ron. He glanced hopefully at Chopper 6. The only famous person he’d seen in the flesh was Ronald McDonald, though he wasn’t sure it was the guy from the commercials. Children had pointed and retreated, shaking their heads. With this in mind, Ron took a few steps until he stood within camera range of the dead man’s car. Police officers hovered around it, their cruisers parked at odd angles in an empty lot nearby. Someone said they were waiting for a tow truck. Lindsay readjusted her binoculars. Maria Knudsen wore an emerald green suit. Her hair was bigger than the pilot’s helmet. She leaned toward the window and shouted into a hand-held device. Lindsay mouthed the words, “Reporting live from Chopper 6.” She finger-combed her hair, fluffing it at the crown. The new colour, Golden Glow Sunset, suited her well. She wondered if she should copy Maria’s red lipstick too.

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Noting where Ron stood, Lindsay moved closer to the car. “A stuffed gorilla lay on the seat,” she said. “I didn’t see blood.” “They’ll dust for fingerprints,” said Ron, and then, because Lindsay let her dogs poop on his lawn, he added, “They might find yours.” “No!” “You touched the door handle—” “Bumper.” “Still…” On the roof of a press van, a satellite dish spun. A surge of static filled the air as the Search and Rescue helicopter flew overhead. Lindsay pointed her binoculars, trying to see a body in the basket. “The doors were unlocked,” she said. “Anyone could’ve got in.” “But they didn’t,” said Ron. Lindsay shot him an irritated glance. She fingered the faux fur trim on her leopard-print sweater. “Max Grofe heard the description on the five o’clock news. He called 911. Maria will interview him.” Chopper 6 approached. The pilot spotted the cul-de-sac and signalled to the people on the ground. Ron crossed his arms against his chest. “Max is hardly newsworthy. He’s not even a true Exton Road resident. For heaven’s sake, he rents.” Lindsay smirked. “Maria won’t care. She goes directly to the source.” Chopper 6 circled while the pilot verified the landing site. As the helicopter descended, Maria powdered her nose. “Here she comes,” said Ron. He wished he’d worn his suit. The helicopter arrived. Maria exchanged her hand-held device for a microphone. Lindsay and Ron pressed forward, knocking elbows.


“Welcome to Exton Road,” Lindsay shouted, but the camera operator climbed out first. Ron grimaced. “Oh, geez.” When Maria’s foot hit the tarmac, his pulse quickened. She was shorter than he expected. Her limbs were thin, her head huge. He tried to catch her eye. The camera operator hoisted the instrument onto his shoulder. “Ready?” Maria cleared her throat. “We are here on Exton Road, a quiet neighbourhood where locals found Kirby Grint’s car a short time ago. Kirby and Jenna took their final stroll down this street. What was on their minds, we’ll never know.” She gestured to the car, her tone softening. “For the families of the deceased, I hope the police provide answers soon.” “Aaand cut,” said the camera operator. Maria climbed back into the helicopter. A moment later, it circled high above the rooftops. The crowd dispersed. Ron and Lindsay exchanged a glance. “Not what I expected,” he said. Lindsay shrugged. “Max will be upset.” “He wasn’t an actual witness though, was he?” “Nah. Renters—bad for the neighbourhood.” Ron scanned the horizon. Chopper 6 had disappeared. As Lindsay turned to go, she spotted the journalists. “Do you think they’ll want an interview?” There was a pause. “We should wait,” said Ron. Lindsay fluffed her hair. “Just in case.”

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In the Desert By Ben Sloan Today a flower will open its orange crown of flames So excuse us now while we pray In the desert where our brothers and sisters died We have been sent here to teach you So excuse us now while we pray Out of our belief in love, faith, service to god We have been sent here to teach you How to hide a flower underneath your shirt Out of a belief in love, faith, service to god What we cannot say any other way we will say With the flower hidden underneath your shirt Look out at all these people then close your eyes What we cannot say any other way we will say In the desert where our brothers and sisters died Look around at all these people now close your eyes Today a flower opens its orange crown of flames


Eighteen Jose Sariñana

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Dark Side of the Moon Joelle Byars My father hates this story. When I was fifteen we were tripping on acid and neither of us planned ahead enough to get close to the water before we started to overheat. Like most old houses in Hawaii, there wasn’t any air conditioning and we didn’t want to end up just sweating into the couch for a couple hours. When my vision started to warp after the first couple hits, he tapped my arm and pointed out the window. “What?” “Wanna go steal some mangos?” “What?” He laughed at me, “Come on, before we get too high. We’ll put them in the fridge to cool us down later.” “That’s not going to work. Besides, we have beer in the fridge for that.” “Don’t be a pussy.” He grabbed my arm and pulled me to the screen door, letting it slam behind us as we walked through. I jumped at the noise, my world becoming increasingly disorienting. I tried to whisper with no inclination as to whether or not I was successful. Our neighbors had a beautiful mango tree that draped over our fence. It looked like it sat on a planet with twice the gravity, like it was wilting under the weight of its own fruit. The ones that were lower on the tree were just as good as the ones at the top, but my father was never one to hear it. He stored a wooden ladder he found on the side of the road in Waialua at the foot of the fence to lean just so so he could reach just so and get that perfect mango from the upper branches of the tree. He said they were juicier from up there. I said it was bullshit. Despite his current state, he insisted I hold the ladder for him so he could get the perfect mango for the fridge. “You’re gonna kill yourself climbing up there like that.” “Only if you move that fucking ladder.” I didn’t. At least not that I noticed. But, that horrible ladder he insisted on using all the time snapped just as he reached from the third to the top rung to grab his prey. He fell in slow motion, or at least it looked like it, bouncing off the ground with a single wheeze. His hand reached for his bare chest, pulling on the dark hair that sprouted like fungi. Panic didn’t occur to me, so I laughed so hard the sound evaporated before it could even leave my body. “Asshole!” He panted. “Shh, you’re gonna get us caught, you prick.”


He stood up and started picking lower mangos, defeated. “There’s more fruit here than they could ever know what to do with. I’ve seen them passing it out for free at Kaena Point and Waimea.” The branches seemed to bend in unnatural ways. Like as he pulled them he was fighting rubber instead of wood. The green of the leaves vibrated at a different frequency than the yellows and oranges of the fruit he handed me. “Hurry up, I’m gonna start peaking soon and I don’t wanna be out here watching your ass play with a tree.” “Shut up.” With all the fruit we could pick off “our side” of the tree piled in our hands, more than we could possibly eat even when we weren’t high, we walked back to our decaying plantation home. I’m sure in hindsight we looked ridiculous, like when someone tries to tell you to breathe naturally and before you know it you suddenly forget how to exhale all together. We spent the rest of the night reupping our hits, letting mango drip off our chins as we hunched over the kitchen sink, listening to Pink Floyd—my favorite song by far is “Money”—, and drinking all of the forty-eight beers we’d stocked up in the fridge in preparation. The next morning when I went out to the yard I saw mangos strewn lazily about our crime scene, a bright painted arrow pointing exactly to where the thieves retired

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Crusaders Coming Home Christian McCulloch


Night Drawing Chrsitian McCulloch

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A Wonder By David Sapp It is a wonder she survived. When she was four or five, my little sister, Danielle Jane, was left at Big Bear Supermarket by her mother, Linda, somewhere between produce and dairy. She drove off (Linda, not my sister) in her big, blue Lincoln Continental, absorbed by her own thoughts, late for selling off cemetery plots. (What was the hurry? No one was going anywhere anyway anytime soon.) At nearly ten miles before turning, she knew she misplaced something: bread, milk, “My God, my purse!”


Psychology Rebecca Bihn-Wallace Vern Baker was a psychologist, and for a while that was all I knew about him. He was tall and clean-shaven, with a squarish nose and face, and he kept his hair–wispy, fair–brushed away from his forehead. I noticed that he already had liver spots on his hands, and this made me hate him–irrationally and unequivocally, as children will do. I did not really have any reason to, in the beginning. His daughter, Nancy, had been in my mother’s third-grade class, and he waited until the end of the school year, like a gentleman, to ask my mother out. I was seven at the time and Nancy was nine. Nancy’s mother had died of cervical cancer two years before, and since then, my mother told me, Vern just didn’t know what to do with himself. She always liked those kinds of stories. Vern lived in a neighborhood with older houses. At the top of the hill, there were several Victorians, freshly painted yet somehow empty-looking, guarded by long lawns and newly planted pines. At the foot of the hill, where he lived, there were more modest Craftsman homes, which nevertheless had porches and were painted in polite muted shades that I thought went nicely with the old sycamores, whose roots threatened to dislodge the paved sidewalks and crept under the walkways, as I had seen other trees do in the cemetery at the edge of town, pushing the tombstones upward. There were also a lot of law offices and dental practices and insurance agencies, with custom wooden signs swinging out front, some new and some shabby. At first, my mother was worried about rumors circulating; decent women did not visit men so freely, even when accompanied by children. Likewise, Vern rarely came to visit us in our neighborhood, because, she said, our neighbors had no respect for privacy. This was true. They peered through windows and snooped in each other’s yards shamelessly; they stared frankly at us wherever we went. But in a professional neighborhood like Vern’s, my mother told me, people were polite. That was why it was better to visit him there, she said. They had gone on a few dates by then–to the movies a couple of times, and once to hear an outdoor symphony. One of the houses next to Vern’s was abandoned (he mowed the grass himself, to keep the rats away), and his other neighbors were a sleepy retired couple who, he assured my mother, had better things to do all day than to wonder about his visitors. This calmed her down a little, and I could tell she liked his house.

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The living room alone had two southwestern rugs; two large plants on opposite sides of a brown suede sofa that felt almost indecently soft when I sat down on it, bare-legged in my best weekend outfit; a pale cow skull hung up on the wall; a Georgia O’Keefe print which my mother immediately exclaimed over (her enthusiasm always caused her to blush); a walnut bookshelf; and a bust of Freud. Vern made coffee and pretended to offer me some, and then he called Nancy down; I had never met her before. I was apprehensive about this, mostly because I did not trust Vern. My mother was not herself around him–she was lighter, breezier, she lost her sharp tongue. I wondered what it was about him that made her like this. Nancy turned out to be gangly, like me, only she had a long whip of white-blond hair and strong, frank features. She carried herself as though she were much older. My mother found this charming and after that first afternoon at Vern’s house I went into the mirror and looked at myself, hard. I saw myself as I must have appeared to Nancy: brown, ragged, tomboyish. My mother even let me wear shorts on weekends, which most girls I knew were not permitted to do. After that I took more care with my appearance. I brushed my dark hair and kept it tucked behind my ears, and I kept a more studied countenance, ducking my chin while stretching my neck forward, as I saw Nancy do. I could not compete with her measured walk, however, and resolved to keep my gait, which, young as I was, was still a sort of scamper. I was fascinated by the specter of someone who had surrendered herself so completely to womanhood and responsibility, even though she was only nine. Perhaps that was what losing a mother did to you. On our first two visits to Vern’s, Nancy mostly refused to speak to me, although she showed me her room, as instructed. It was rather simple and quiet, a little sad for a girl of her age, I thought, and my pity made me warm to her. On the third visit Vern gave us money and told us to go get ourselves an ice cream. Nancy and I looked at each other, knowing that there was no way out, and acquiesced, careful to thank him. The ice cream parlor was three blocks away, and we were silent on the walk over. I tried to draw her out, asking her what her favorite color was (she didn’t know), what her favorite subject in school was (none), and whether she missed her mother (she didn’t want to talk about it). Of course, I was horribly nosy, and after that I remembered why my mother had always told me not to pry. I ordered a chocolate ice cream cone. Nancy got vanilla. All of the indoor and outdoor seats were taken, so we ended up sitting on the wooden bleachers near the baseball diamond, which was next to the shop. A drip of the chocolate ran down my chin and onto my white shorts. Nancy looked at me closely and drew a handkerchief out of her pocketbook. The pocketbook was too small and plastic-looking and had probably been given to her as a plaything when she was younger. This gave me a brief wave of something like grief, and so I wiped my chin


with the handkerchief, knowing even as I did so that the chocolate would stain it and that I had ruined a belonging of hers, that it would be hard to get the brown spot out of my shorts, too. On the baseball diamond, near home plate, someone had left a bat and a ball. I was surprised when, after we finished our cones, Nancy said we should play. This was not at all something I would have expected of her. Neither of us had brothers; I did not even have male cousins at that point, who might have taught me to play sports. She asked me if I didn’t mind getting a little dirty. Not at all, I said, and so she brought me to the plate and showed me how to swing. “I’ll pitch to you,” she said. “Okay,” I said, placing the bat on my shoulders and squatting a little, as I imagined a male player might do. It was a pity I didn’t have any tobacco, or even bubblegum; I did not want her knowing how unfamiliar I was with the sport. Nancy threw gently, underhand, because she was a girl, but still I kept jumping away when the ball got near me. Then, when I finally gathered the courage to swing properly, I kept striking out. Finally, I got a hit, and ran the bases; lacking a catcher, she dashed forward to tag me with her bare hand. Nevertheless, I slid, right leg first, onto home plate. In that moment I could smell the freshly cut grass, the summer air; a firefly, moist and bright as a drop of oil, hovered in front of me. I couldn’t stop laughing; my white shorts were covered in red dirt, on top of the chocolate stain, and my thighs were slightly skinned. Then the streetlamps flickered on and we remembered we were supposed to go back to the house. We walked leisurely, laughing as we went. I was glad that she did not mind being rough-and-tumble, in spite of her immaculate appearance; it seemed possible that I could like her. As we drew closer to the house she slowed down, as did I; I had begun to copy everything she did. I noticed that she made the porch creak when she walked up the steps, seeming heavy and sturdy, although she was thin, and not much taller than I was. As we walked in I heard our parents murmuring, shifting around, and when we came upon the living room they were sitting rather stiffly across from each other, like teenagers on a chaperoned date. There was a gamey scent in the room, almost bodily, and my mother seemed deflated but jubilant. When she got up to leave I saw that the collar of her white shirt was folded inwards, and I reached up to fix it, but she turned around and beamed at Vern instead. See you next time, she said.

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The back of her shirt was rumpled, too, and partially sticking out of her skirt. Over the course of the next two years I would gather a tremendous amount of information about Vern’s life story. For one thing, I was a terrible eavesdropper–always had been. And for another, having only me, my mother told me many things. It turned out that Vern was actually from New Mexico, hence the southwestern décor in his home. He had gone to some kind of university there and after that he married a Mexican girl and moved east for graduate school, to Princeton. “A Mexican?” I asked. “Yes. He said she came from a landowning family down there, but she was born in the States. And in New Mexico she was nothing, of course.” She paused. “But she went to college.” When Vern married the girl–Anita–his parents disowned him, and so they were all alone when they started out. That was during the Great Depression, and because of this they waited to have children while Vern studied to be a psychologist at Princeton. For three years after he finished his Ph.D. studies he worked at a small practice near the university. He was interested in Freudian analysis and wanted a position at the college, but the other faculty members looked down on him, because of Anita, who worked as a librarian that whole time, in the nastier part of town, where people did not object as much to the darkness of her skin. Nancy was born, and then Pearl Harbor happened, and Vern joined up a few months later because he thought if he didn’t get out he might go mad. His parents were speaking to him again because of Nancy, and they were glad to see how much she looked like him. They even offered to have Anita move in with them in New Mexico, for support while Vern was away, but she said no, remembering–as they apparently did not–the way she was treated when she married their son. She was proud like that, Vern said. When Vern got back from the war, Nancy was a small child and did not remember him. Princeton felt noisy, crowded. He had not expected himself to need so much quiet, but he did. Anita understood this, and that was why, that fall after the war ended, they moved to the town where we lived. Vern took a loan from his father to set up his own doctor’s office and began sessions with the loony housewives of the neighborhood. He got to know Nancy and he and Anita thought about having another child. Instead she got cervical cancer when Nancy was seven and died three months later. She was only thirty-three; she and Vern had been married twelve years. Since then he had been despondent.


“It’s really kind of sweet, if you think about it,” my mother said. “Just a man and his little girl.” I said nothing. “And you like him too, don’t you, Natalia?” “What?” “I said, do you like Vern?” “Yeah.” “Say yes, honey, not yeah.” And so on. I don’t exactly know where my hatred of Vern came from, because I liked Nancy so well. On his porch, on a summer evening, he talked with my mother about many things, and that was not something I would normally have objected to. Art. Nabokov. Freud. But I thought the questions he asked of her about my father weren’t any of his business, and I disliked how freely he talked about it, as though I wasn’t sitting there that particular evening, watching the sunset with them. Nancy was indifferent to that sort of thing. She was in the house, clanging around, pouring lemonade from the pitcher they often kept in their fridge. She was quite clumsy; in spite of her appearance, I always considered myself the delicate one, next to her. “My father died in the war,” I told him, the same thing I said when people in the neighborhood asked me questions about my parentage and Why was my mother still a widow and Did she have her eye on anybody. I was eight years old by then. My mother cleared her throat. “He knows that, Natalia.” Vern stared at me. “He never got to know me,” I added. I was surprised to find a catch in my voice, and I was ashamed that it had nothing to do with my father and everything to do with the way that when Vern spoke to my mother she agreed with everything he said.

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“Well, that’s a shame,” Vern said, leaning back on the white porch swing he was sharing with my mother, “Because you’re a lovely little girl.” “See? Vern knows what’s what,” my mother said. Needless to say, I didn’t believe her. There was a foreignness to Vern, I thought, to his large male body, which I supposed I should have thought of as paternal rather than menacing. Part of me, sitting near him that evening, wanted to punch at his solidness, to ascertain whether he was real. I have seen children do this before, with people much bigger than they are. There’s a defiance to it, a need for recognition. But when he spoke to me he always seemed to look over the top of my head, I noticed. As it was, I traced my finger along the hem of his pants without his knowing and tried to imagine what it would be like to be in possession of such a large form. A few times he came over to our house, and I could tell by the way he set his tan fedora on the hat rack and hitched his shoulders uneasily that he did not approve of it. He towered in the doorways and I noticed that when he sat down at the dinner table he could barely keep his knees under it. When he arrived, parking his car in front of our house even though my mother asked him not to (People will talk, Vern, she said; Well, let them, he said), he would look around anxiously, and once even asked me whether there were usually break-ins in the neighborhood. To frighten him, I said yes. I said there were probably a few gangs, too, but they only came out at night. After this he looked at me with an expression of unadulterated dislike that brought me some satisfaction. This justified my objection to him. Hatred on both sides meant the playing field was leveled. Once I came home from the pool with Nancy and found him going through my mother’s closet. My mother was standing at the foot of the bed, knotting her hands anxiously, saying little phrases that he did not hear because he was systematically taking it apart. “What is this?” he said. “This red thing? Where are you going to wear that in a town like this?” It was a full-skirted dress that she always wore over the Christmas holiday, with her parents, but any mention of them seemed to agitate him; he did not like hearing about her childhood. “Well,” my mother said, choking a little–she could not speak properly when she was upset; I was the same way– “I thought maybe to a cocktail party.”


“You go to a lot of those around here?” “Why, no,” my mother said. “But it’s nice to have something for a special occasion. Oh, don’t do that, Vern, please don’t do that.” He had grabbed a dark blue sundress of hers and tossed it onto the pile with the other dress. “Why shouldn’t I?” he said. “Who says I can’t?” They did not even notice that Nancy and I were standing there. “He does this sometimes with my clothes, too,” Nancy whispered as we sat on the bed in my room, close together. “He says I’ll end up being a slut if I’m not careful.” I stared. At the time I did not know anyone who talked to their children that way. I was quite unfamiliar with fathers, too–I did not understand the sort of influence they exerted over their families, because in our house it was just the two of us, and anyway my mother always ruled supreme. She’d never brooked such nonsense from anyone before, I was sure of it. A few minutes later Vern left in a huff, grabbing his fedora. Nancy followed meagerly after him, and I could tell by the way she bowed her head as she crawled into the back seat that she was next. I wondered whether he hit her. I heard my mother at the top of the stairs, sniffling, and I ran to her. She pressed her cheek against the top of my head, ran her fingers through my hair, stiff and tangled with chlorine. “Are you okay?” I said. “Yes. No. It doesn’t matter.” She wiped at her cheeks with the back of her hand and sniffed again. “Go take your shower, Natalia. Make sure to get that gunk out of your hair.” The following day she received a bouquet of yellow roses, with a little note attached. They were from Vern. He said he was sorry. After that, whenever she saw him, my mother dressed plainly, and with almost no makeup. Once she even wore slacks, which he said were fast, right in front of Nancy and me. I’d known they were a mistake, but I lacked the strength to caution her against them; then I felt ashamed of my cowardice. But how had this become my job? Why was I obligated to point out the obvious to my mother?

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When he did those sorts of things, more and more often, Nancy and I always had an escape route–the ice cream parlor near where she lived, or the baseball diamond, or even just the backyard. Our friendship was largely due to the embarrassing proximity of our parents’ lives, so we didn’t always have much to talk about. I am sure neither of us commented on what was happening, for to say it aloud made it real, made it a problem that we were not likely to solve. Both of us knew that; Nancy wasn’t stupid. I feared, too, that she might take her father’s side, for argument’s sake. I did not want to know what she thought of us or what she thought of me. One evening, around October–I remember, because my mother was sewing my Halloween costume, a witch’s dress, black crushed velvet with a purple tint to it–she told me I was to go straight to Vern’s after school. She had a doctor’s appointment and she would come pick me up there afterward. “Will it be me and Nancy?” I asked. “Nancy and I,” she corrected. “No, just you. Nancy is with a girl from her class.” I was dismayed. Until then I had not thought of Nancy as having any other friends. When I took the bus to Vern’s house, I was surprised to find that there was no key under the mat. It was cold outside; my sweater was too thin. The trees in the neighborhood were bare, and his was the only lawn on the street that hadn’t organized the dead brown leaves falling everywhere into neat piles. I pressed the doorbell tentatively, and when he did not come I beat the door with my fists. When he opened it his face was flushed, the veins in his neck were protruding. “Can you not wait in the goddamn yard for a second?” he said. “I’m in session.” “Sure, Mr. Baker.” I never called him anything but that, although in my head he was always Vern. I wandered out to the backyard, picked at the white paint peeling on the picket fence. I hadn’t noticed until then just how dilapidated the property had grown. My mother mowed our lawn herself, which won her both disgust and admiration from the neighbors, who had a habit of standing around in their front lawns and smoking, just to watch. When I looked over the fence at the adjoining yard I saw an old woman, the retiree, raking leaves. She looked over at me and straightened up, put the back of her hand briefly against her cheek. She had reddish hair threaded with gray and wore


some kind of beige house dress with little red flowers. I noticed, with some satisfaction, that her apron was dirty. “It must be hard for you,” she said. “Your mother carrying on like that.” I said I did not know what she meant. “Well, if you want to be obtuse,” she said, then paused. “It isn’t my place. I’m just saying I’m sorry for you. A fine example she sets.” People had a habit of commenting often on my mother and me, as though it had anything to do with them. Standing very still, I waited for the neighbor to say something more definite–that I was too smart for my own good, or that my mother certainly was an independent lady. But she did not utter those thoughts, perhaps realizing that she’d gone too far, especially considering the fact that she’d never spoken to me before and anyway I wasn’t responsible for my mother’s behavior. I could not have made her obey those invisible rules any more than I could be forced to like Vern. And so I let the neighbor’s words hang in the air, heavy and foreign, acquiring all kinds of meanings that maybe she hadn’t even ascribed to them. Just then I heard Vern banging the screen door open and calling for me from around front. “Coming!” I cried, and went back in. The neighbor went back to raking leaves, her head innocently bowed, as if nothing had passed between us. Her pretense outraged me, but everything did then; I had begun to lose my temper more often. My mother noticed it and was beginning to see that she couldn’t placate me. When I stepped back into Vern’s house, a woman, whom I assumed to be his client, was walking down the stairs from his office. Her dress was thin and blue, the fabric hanging slackly on her and fluttering against her prominent collarbones, and she was buttoning it up as she went. When she saw me, she grimaced and smoothed her dark hair, which hung like a curtain around her face. When she left she took care not to slam the door. “Natalia,” he called again. He was making hot cocoa in the kitchen.

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“You’re not properly dressed,” he said. I thought maybe he was about to go on one of his tirades and didn’t know what to say. “I mean you must be cold,” he added. Ah. We were having a normal conversation. “I’m alright,” I said. “Sit down,” he said, putting the cocoa in front of me. “You want marshmallows?” (Would you like, not do you want). “Yes, please,” I said. I did not know what he meant to do. I placed my cold hands against the enamel mug, almost burning myself. “Nancy isn’t doing well, Natalia,” he said, sitting across from me. There was a smudge of cocoa on his upper lip. I looked away. “Come on, you don’t have to be shy. You’ve probably noticed it too.” I said I hadn’t, which was true. I had begun to accept the strangeness of adults by then, the mysteriousness of their motives. More and more they said things to me I did not understand and saw that I was not meant to comprehend. How much power he exerted, towering over the kitchen table. He made two of my mother put together. There was not even a pretense of equality in those days, between adults and children. “You’re very polite,” he continued. “Your mother raised you right. I can see that. She’s taken great pains with you, you know,” he added. “Thank you.” I was tired of hearing about her virtue. “You should be grateful. Sometimes I think you’re not very nice to her.” I also understood that adults were allowed to make those kinds of observations freely, and that children were not. I bowed my head, trying to appear contrite, trying to think of an instance where I had possibly hurt my mother’s feelings. “I think she might like a weekend away, don’t you?” Vern asked. I shrugged.


“I don’t know, sir,” I replied. “Sir,” he said slowly, rolling his tongue around in his mouth. “I have to say, Natalia, you’re good at dissembling.” He paused. “Do you know what that means, little girl? It means faking it. I think you’re a born liar.” If my mother had not come in just then to pick me up I might have slapped him. A few weeks later my mother told me that he was taking her on vacation. Where to? Cape May. Could I come? No. Was Nancy coming? No. We would both stay with my grandparents in Newark, who had never met Vern before and often asked my mother about him on our monthly visits. They complained to her and to me about not having met him yet. “It’s just a weekend,” she said, folding items and placing the clothes with a soft thump into her suitcase. Her breathing was short and sharp, the way it always was when she was busy. My whole childhood I hated that sound: it meant she was determined, it meant I could not interrupt her, it meant that I was no longer the focus of her world. Later, as an adult, I would find myself doing it while packing my own bags for something or another, and I saw my own daughter, perhaps nine or ten at that point, standing in the doorway, grimacing. I was careful not to be so emphatically focused on our exterior world after that. I wanted her to believe, for as long as she could, that the world revolved around her. “But you’re leaving me alone,” I said. “Not alone, dear. With your grandparents.” “But Nancy hasn’t met them before.” “Nancy is a very nice girl. I’m sure she’ll manage.” “Will you drive us there?” I asked. “Where? To Newark? Of course.” She looked closely at me. “You didn’t used to be like this. You behave as if I’m abandoning you when all I need is one weekend away.” I said nothing.

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“Oh, Natalia, don’t cry. Your grandparents will be glad to have you.” We all piled into the car the next morning, Vern packing our suitcases into the trunk silently. He drove with my mother up front. Nancy and I sat in the back, saying nothing. I felt as if I was going to my own funeral. It occurred to me that I might never see my mother again, after this. If this happened, I knew, I would grieve and embark on a wild and unknown life, a life that did not include her. Suppose I left the car, hitched a ride to somewhere else. I had always been drawn to such an idea. Head out. Nowhere to go and nowhere even to stay for the night. It was impractical; that was the thing about running away. And I had no money. I knew I had to stay in that car if my life depended on it, because once I left nothing, not even my mother’s actions, would be under my control. “Why the long faces, girls?” Vern asked when we stopped at a rest area. Nancy and I looked at each other. He got coffee for my mother and himself, and cigarettes. My stomach rumbled. He lit my mother’s cigarette, again and again. I noticed that she went through an entire pack, which I had never seen her do before. When we got to the apartment in Newark, I felt relieved. I could smell my grandmother’s cooking from down the block, it seemed. I was overcome with a wave of love for her; she was the best person I knew; she marked my return to familiarity. My grandparents shook Vern’s hand and asked him about his job and invited him in for coffee. Vern said–looking around at the parlor with the print of Mary and Jesus on the wall and the cross nailed declaratively in between the windows that overlooked the alleyway, where I often found dead rats–We have to be going. My grandmother looked at him and at my mother and then back again. “But must you really leave so soon?” she asked. “I almost have lunch ready.” “Afraid so,” my mother said. She never acted like his, normally. She never said, Afraid so. When my mother and Vern left Nancy and I started laughing–horribly, uncontrollably, as if we had never done so before. We clambered up the bunk bed that my mother and her sister had shared growing up. It was the room where my mother and I usually slept when we visited.


“I’m so glad to be here,” Nancy said, gasping for air. “Did you know I can’t stand my father?” “I know,” I said, my stomach seizing from the laughter, “I know, I don’t like him either.” We sobered after that; the room grew quiet. Then my grandfather called and said my grandmother had made cookies. Introduce us to your friend Nancy. We’ve been dying to get to know her, he added. That whole weekend, my grandparents kept feeding us. When we watched television they brought out the Afghan–soft and prized; when we visited my mother and I always fought over it–and gathered it around our knees. I could barely move between meals and neither could Nancy, but her eyes grew large whenever my grandmother put a plate in front of her, once even leaning forward to brush a strand of blond hair out of her eyes. “You look like your father,” she said. It was true. She was very pretty. Nancy smiled. “Thank you.” She paused. “My mother was Mexican, and he always said I would have it easier, not looking like her.” My grandmother looked at my grandfather. “Is that right?” he said. “Well, you know, Nancy, we’re from Italy. We moved here many years ago.” “But you’re American now,” I said quickly. That seemed of vital importance, all of the sudden. “Yes, we are,” my grandfather said agreeably. “And where is your father from, Nancy?” my grandmother asked. “New Mexico.” “And have you ever been there?” she asked. “No. My dad says there’s nothing to see.”

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“Now, that can’t be true,” my grandfather said. “I heard they had–what is it–Pueblo Indians down there?” “My dad isn’t an Indian,” Nancy said solidly. “His parents are from Germany.” My grandmother’s face twitched. “Is that right,” she said. “Uh-huh. They like the desert. They live in a trailer, now. I’ve only seen them twice. Once when I was a baby and once after the war.” I wondered how I could get her to stop talking. “Your father was in the service, was he? We had a boy who was,” my grandfather said. “She doesn’t need to know about all that, Matteo,” my grandmother said briskly, clearing our plates away. I rose to help, but she pushed me back down gently. “Yep. The jungle,” Nancy said. I hadn’t known that. “He got sent home, though. Because of the rot.” “The rot?” I said. “Jungle rot,” she said authoritatively. “It makes your toes turn green.” “Goodness,” my grandmother said. “Natalia, will you help me with the dishes, please?” I went into the kitchen dutifully. I could hear my grandfather joking around with Nancy, and I could hear her laughter. I was relieved. He could endear himself to anyone. “Do you like Vern?” my grandmother whispered.


“No,” I said. She squeezed my shoulder. “I wish I could help you, baby.” I shrugged. “I’m glad to be here.” “Your mother sells herself short,” my grandmother said thoughtfully. “She always has. You should have seen the boys she brought home in college.” I did not want to know about that. That night Nancy took the top bunk. I made her promise not to wet the bed, knowing she wouldn’t. We lay still for a while, listening to my grandparents murmur in Italian to each other. It always sounded tragic, pleading, like horses nickering in a field. They would never teach it to me. “Natalia?” she said. “Yes?” “My father is sending me back to New Mexico soon.” I froze. “What for?” “To live with my grandparents.” “Why?” I asked. “Because he doesn’t like me anymore, I don’t think,” she said. In that simple way, as if nothing could have been clearer, or more normal. I always hated such admissions. No one else I knew talked about their parents like that; one thought such things but did not utter them. But where did those ideas of mine come from, where had my aversion to personal declarations emerged? Certainly not

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from my mother, who was disarmingly open about her life. I had a rather prudish sense of decency, for someone so young. But of course I always prized what was orderly, I admired the things other people did: perhaps because my own mother did not really do them, and I thought that by holding myself to a higher (read: more normal) standard than she, I could become like everyone else. I think my mother was fundamentally disappointed by this. I had begun complaining about Vern’s frequent presence in our lives, about how no one else I knew lived with only one parent. Get used to it, she used to say to me, when I had tried her patience. This is how it is, Natalia; I can’t whip up a different life for you. Those were the moments I was most frustrated with her, because I knew there was nothing either of us could do to change our circumstances. Vern was no more viable as a father than my mother was as a wife. What man then would have signed up for a life with a woman who was so resolute in her own opinions, who was so unashamed of her choices? Later on that kind of thing became sexy, but it wasn’t in those days. It just wasn’t. Perhaps that is why I was so insistent upon flattening myself, dulling my edges, because I knew it would serve me better in the long run. Maybe it’s why I thought, deep down, that I really was better than Nancy, because I had acquired the social skills necessary to maintain my own fragile place in the status quo; because I was not publicly vulnerable. It occurred to me, too, that there had never been anything normal about Vern. Or Nancy, for that matter. They really did not behave as normal people did. “Natalia?” Nancy said. “What are you thinking? Have you fallen asleep?” “I’m sorry,” I whispered. “Yes. I’m sorry. Maybe I could go with you.” “You can’t,” she said. “Nobody can. Good night, Natalia.” “Good night, Nancy.” After that weekend, my mother couldn’t stop crying. “What kind of a father sends his little girl so far away?” she said. “Did you know he had the gall to propose to me? And then tell me that? And the worst part is he acted like it was normal. What an idiot. I could never marry somebody who would do such a thing. That poor girl is going to be scarred for life.”


“Does this mean you’re done seeing him?” I asked weakly. “Yes,” she said. “Absolutely.” I thought I had never known such relief. I was nine years old. After that my mother mowed the lawn for the second time that week, and deep cleaned the house. When she handed me a pile of clothes to take to the giveaway bin at the end of the street, I was relieved to see that the offending red Christmas dress wasn’t in it. She stopped wearing slacks around the house; she began wearing lipstick and dresses again. She paid more attention to me, and sometimes at dinner I would catch her looking at me searchingly, as if I could supply her with answers to the questions she surely had: why, for example, she had just wasted two years of her life with a man who could not see his way clear to letting us live the way we wanted to, or why she was still so bothered by the breaking off of her relationship with him. I hardened a little after that. I thought she had made a fool of herself and I did not think I would trust the next man who came into our house. Of course, I ought to have been angry at my mother, too, but I wasn’t, at least not in any sustained way. I tried to hold grudges occasionally but I always capitulated; we were all each other had, and both of us knew it. I wish I could say that I thought of Nancy often after she was sent away, but I didn’t. I had other friends; namely, that summer after my mother broke up with Vern, a girl named Jean Anderson and her family moved into the house that was joined to ours. We played freely in the creek together, not knowing that it, too, would become sinister later on; we liked to wade and catch tadpoles in our fingers, fill glass jars with murky water and watch the tiny natural world–clouded brown, with dark sculptural roots floating around–fluctuate inside. I prided myself on my elasticity, on the way I could put things behind me. Children have a great capacity for that. That must have been why I found it so alarming when, two years later, I saw Nancy again, while playing in the creek on my own. (I was old enough to do so, my mother said). I was eleven years old by then, Nancy was thirteen. I did not recognize her at first, but there was something so familiar about the downward curve of the white-blond head that I swam closer. I dipped underwater and then lifted my chin an inch or two above the surface, staring. It was her. Her body, which had once been so stretched and flexible, had grown into compact curves. There was a tan sturdiness to her, and her hair was longer; it was kept in a wave away from her face, she had not yet gotten it wet. When she caught sight of me I was surprised to find that her eyes had

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grown into lazy slits, like little cuts in her face. My first impulse, nevertheless, was to embrace her, but this was not to be. “I thought you would grow your hair out,” she said. I couldn’t tell whether this was a reproach or not. I fingered the sharp ends of my dark bob, which up until that moment I had loved: the leaping freedom of it, the sleekness. I planned to avoid womanhood for as long as possible, and my mother did not seem to mind this. She liked how practical I was. “It’s easy to take care of like this,” I said. “Huh,” Nancy said. “Interesting choice.” I was not very well versed in sarcasm, but I knew enough to understand that this was not going to be a pleasant conversation; she was not going to recollect the past two years of her life to me–the time spent in New Mexico, nor the reason for her return. “Nancy!” The other girls, grown-up looking like she was, were calling her. “You want to come with us?” Nancy asked. “Sure,” I said, surprised. I had not expected the invite. The girls surveyed me intensely, they commented on how thin I was, pressed their hands–cold, slippery–flat against my stomach. Although my impulse was to flee–I could not keep my rib cage from contracting when they touched me–I did not. Sometimes you are helpless before people such as that, and I certainly was. No one had done such a thing to me before; people didn’t comment on the way I looked, even in the neighborhood. I was not old enough to acquire sexual status, and wouldn’t be for some time yet. Still, I followed them around quietly for the rest of that day, trying to ignore the way they kept ducking their heads, whispering and then glancing back at me. Above my head the tree branches had woven into an unlikely arc, their undersides gleaming silver in the thin light of the late afternoon. Between the tangles I could only see brief strips of the sky, white and hot. When Nancy pulled me aside, I expected comfort, reassurance; some wry observation. Instead she pushed me down into the water abruptly, her hand so firm and rough I could not have said whether she was joking or not. With her other hand she grabbed hold of the skin on my arm and squeezed it, wrenched it. I was fighting for air; the water was filling up my throat and my nose. She pinched me then, all over–on my legs and my shoulders and my neck, and in places where no person, not even my mother,


had touched me before. They were parts of myself I did not have names for, places which everyone else I knew was quietly ashamed of, and for a second I stood stock still, letting her do so; let her pick roughly at the laps of flesh that lay childish and pink and animal underneath my swimsuit. Eventually some instinct got hold of me and I jutted my elbow out, got her in the stomach; she grabbed at me and I swam away as fast as I could, landing ashore with alacrity, gasping for air. I dressed quickly, yanking on my dry yellow shorts and my white blouse, slipping my feet into their sandals and trying not to cringe at the way the fabric, now wet, was clinging to my chest and my buttocks. “Dyke!” she screamed. I understood implicitly the wrongness of the word, and knew that it did not suit me; I knew it had something to do with how I had stood still in the water for a fraction of a second, freezing up as she touched me in the way that she did. I knew that I had not wanted it or her, but it seemed to me then an absolute imperative that I must grow my hair out, because somewhere out there there could be someone like her–calling me that, thinking that that was who I was. I wish I could account for my absolutism at the time, but I can’t. I knew in that moment that I did not see myself as I was known to the rest of the world, that there was a discrepancy between my boyish freedom and the way that other girls had begun to survey me critically, deciding on my wrongness before I could even open my mouth. I understood that people my age were capable of an irrational hatred, a will to torture; I did not like to think that, I too, was capable of these, too, but surely I must have been. Why else would my dreams be dominated by fantasies of hitting Nancy, slamming a door against Vern’s face? Sometimes I struggled for air as I drowned in the brown creek water, but in that strange and liminal world I was always capable of some soaring resolution. Sometimes I drowned her back; sometimes I swam away and disappeared, too fast for her or her friends to catch me, snickering at me as they had done, deciding things about me which I did not understand. I would see Nancy again much later, in a department store in New York City. It was 1969; I was twenty-six. I was shopping for my daughter’s Easter dress. I did not much believe in such things and neither did my mother, but I still felt compelled to do them; I was at a rather guilty stage in my life. As I was standing in the children’s aisle, trying to distinguish between the rows of white satin and crinoline that I was surrounded by, I caught sight of Nancy. She had stretched out again, and wore a green paisley blouse tucked into a daring pair of blue bell bottoms. Her blond hair was tied into a loose ponytail at the nape of her neck, and her features seemed square and tender–uncommonly pretty, which surprised me; I don’t know why. She had lost her

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adolescent roundness, and her arms and legs seemed firm and strong as she unbuckled her son from his stroller and looked up at me. Her beauty had grown more overt; mine had grown more complicated. I wish I could say that we exchanged more than cursory greetings, but we didn’t, although we were both polite to one another. I was itching to ask about Vern, but I kept this to myself, fearing some ghastly answer–that he was dead, or remarried. Nancy looked surprised to see my daughter, two years old by then, her warm little hands around my neck and her body curled into my side. I understood that Nancy had not believed I would have such things. Had she imagined that I would never marry, never have children of my own? I was in the midst of divorcing my husband, but she didn’t know that. Life gives you very few moments like this. My therapist would have talked about closure; my husband would have laughed and said that it was schadenfreude. But in all honesty the look that passed between us was more like a grim acknowledgement, as though we had endured something terrible together. That is what survivors do, I think; it is impossible to be around people who remind you of your former self, your former life. Nevertheless, seeing Nancy made the memory of those years firmer, sharpened the edges of what I had begun to believe I imagined. Like a knife, laid against a whetstone. It took my breath away. Good-bye. Well, nice talking to you. I’ll call you some time. Both of us knowing that we never wanted to see each other again.


Ten Underground Forests DH Dowling

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Magician’s Cloth Miya Sukune


Delivery By Anastasia Jill tastes like: a sweet hymn in the mouth / a slice of communion bread roasted and dipped into the butter of God feels like: loved book covers / wrapped in advent Gold / print spilling clemency like water in your hand / sounds like: the heel of a priest on a carpet carrying generations of prayers on his bending back / looks like: the wing of a girl / who trusts in hands that have given her a second, all-knowing chance.

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6767 John Chang


6771 John Chang

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Ocean By David Sapp Emily at two or three, strapped in her car seat, thoughtfully peers out the window as we roll over Ohio hills, the onset of Appalachia, and exclaims, “The ocean, the ocean!” as if the ocean were the culmination, the expectation, of any long trip. Foolishly, I attempt to explain atmospheric perspective – how the air is exceedingly heavy with dust, heat and moisture, turning the hills a vivid blue. She’s quiet, reflective for a while then deciding, adamant, states, “It is such a pretty ocean!” Though now lashed to the mast, I’ll captain this vessel, turn the tiller round, set sail, plunge headlong into the waves. We’ll discover secret, pristine beaches on distant islands, marvel over exotic fishes, delight in whales and dolphins.


Derecho By Cal Freeman What does it mean that you lived on Shenandoah Street, a name so far removed from its whistling valley? Near the back of the yard was a concrete slab stained tobacco-brown by eastern cottonwood leaves. Those trees grow too quick, top-heavy and weak in sandy loam, routinely toppling in summer storms. Once there was a shed there, but it was blown away by the green storm of 1980. The trace is a great container for the aorist tense. It’s a serrated, toothy leaf. It’s a great leaf shape for tracing and incising what’s befallen me and has befallen you before and thus keeps. Even the tree is gone, I meant to say. The tree is unsurprisingly gone, I meant to say. My father saw a Volkswagon fall from the sky into the parking lot of Amato’s Restaurant on his way home. He and my mother huddled in the stairwell where there were no windows. I love what it means for trees felled by storms before your birth to cradle concrete in their roots. I love the way the bowed fence post can’t go back to how it was but tells us how it was all the same. You can get forty years out of a good fence post. I’ve gotten close to that out of comparable equipment. I meant to say I’m afraid of storms and other things as I stagger into middle age. I meant to find a more precise noun than things, Shenandoah, whistling valley. I meant to say you can’t see the middle from where you’re at, to explain my use of second-person sooner, how its reverse bow echo is meant to foretell a straight line wind. How I meant to say has less to do with botched intentions than the mystery of utterance itself. How I hope we don’t become what we haven’t said.

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Contributors Dave Barrett lives and writes out of Missoula, Montana. His fiction has appeared most recently in Raconteur, New Reader Magazine, The Bark and fresh.ink. His novel--GONE ALASKA-- was recently published by Adelaide Books. He teaches writing at Missoula College and is at work on a new novel. Gaby Bedetti’s photos have appeared in Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel, Front Porch Review, Aji Magazine, Borrowed Solace, Gravel, The Ekphrastic Review, Ground Fresh Thursday, and The Light Ekphrastic. Others are forthcoming in Montana Mouthful and Typehouse. Jacob R. Bennett’s poetry has appeared in Genre: Urban Arts, The Helix, Hobart, The Monarch Review, Oyster River Pages, Panoply, Quail Bell, and Thin Air. He lives near Washington, D.C. Jerome Berglund graduated from the cinema-television production program at the University of Southern California, and has spent much of his career working in television and photography. His work has been featured prominently in many journals, including gracing the cover of the most recent issue of pacificREVIEW. His pictures have further been published and awarded in local papers, and in 2019 he staged an exhibition in the Twin Cities area which included a residency of several months at a local community center. A selection of his black and white fine art photographs was showcased at the Pause Gallery in New York over last Winter’s holiday season, and his fashion photography is currently on display at the BG Gallery in Santa Monica. Rebecca Bihn-Wallace is a fourth-year studio art major and professional writing minor at the University of California, Davis. She has previously been published by Miracle Monocle, The Marathon Literary Review, Underwood Press, Running Waters Press, and Sink Hollow.


Joelle Byars is a Masters student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln pursuing her degree in Creative Writing. After finishing her Bachelors degree in English at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, she began delving deeper into the possibilities of prose fiction. Her work can also be seen in Prometheus Dreaming, and she is currently working on a collection of short stories. William Cass has had over 200 short stories appear in a variety of literary magazines such as december, Briar Cliff Review, and Zone 3. He was a finalist in short fiction and novella competitions at Glimmer Train and Black Hill Press, and won writing contests at Terrain.org and The Examined Life Journal. He has received one Best Small Fictions nomination, three Pushcart nominations, and his short story collection, Something Like Hope & Other Stories, was recently released by Wising Up Press. He lives in San Diego, California. John Chang dreams in many worlds and brings back remnants. Chang's East/West identity enriches his memory and brings flashbacks from lives lived in many places. Born and raised in Shanghai, China. John Chang is an artist based in Southern California. John’s works have been widely exhibited, including, Alexander Brest Museum at Jacksonville University, FL. 621 gallery, Tallahassee, FL. Fresh Paint Art Gallery, Culver City, CA. Palm Springs Art Museum, CA. Massillon Museum, OH. Ormond Art Museum, FL. COOS ART MUSEUM, CA. John Chang has an MFA in Visual Art from College of Art and Design at Lesley University. He also gained a B.A., School of Art and Design, Shanghai Institute of Technology Shanghai, China. He also studied with the well known artists Xu Bing and Judith Barry. Mary Christine Delea is originally from Long Island. She has lived all over the US and now lives in Portland. She has a Ph.D. and is a former English/Creative Writing professor; She also has worked as a social worker, an AmeriCorps VISTA, a retail manager, a substitute teacher, and--right now-- volunteer as a Girl Scout leader. Her full-length poetry collection, The Skeleton Holding Up the Sky, was published by Main street Press. She has also had 3 chapbooks and many individual poems published, most recently in The Remington Review, The Hollins Critic, and Broad River Review.

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DH Dowling is a photographer, writer, director, designer and curator. DH recently designed book covers, and websites for bestselling authors, and co-created the online shop Tuesdayland. DH curated the award-winning group exhibition Destinesia in Brooklyn, NY and was the editor-in-chief of Mental Shoes Magazine. Dowling has directed long-form media and television commercials for New York and Los Angeles production companies including National Video, Richmel Productions and Pacific Ocean Post, and for corporations such as Warner Brothers and Reebok. His work has garnered NY Festival Awards, Monitor Awards, ITVA awards, Society of Technical Communicators Awards of Distinction, a Mobius and Mercury Award.He grew-up in a perilously small house in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. His father was a color blind painter who listened to Bartok and Prokofiev, and won many awards. His mother was a well-known portrait painter. Dowling observes the world around him with a thinking eye, and has a deep and abiding respect for artists. DH most enjoys staring down oblivion through a viewfinder. Cal Freeman is the author of the book Fight Songs. His writing has appeared in many journals including Southword, The Moth, The Poetry Review, Southwest Review, The Journal, and Hippocampus. Christine E. Hamm, English Professor, social worker and student of ecopoetics, has a PhD in English, and lives and teaches in New Jersey. She recently won the Tenth Gate prize from Word Works for her manuscript, Gorilla. She has had work featured in Denver Quarterly, Nat Brut, Painted Bride Quarterly and many others. She has published six chapbooks, and several books -- her fourth, Girl into Fox, came out in 2019. Michael Hardcastle received his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Tampa and currently teaches high school English. His fiction and poetry have appeared in West Trade Review, Torrid Literature Journal, and Common Ground Review.


Lee Kathryn Hodge is an artist and writer. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming in Granta, Thrush, Heavy Feather Review, Euphony, Heartwood, Clinch Mountain, After Hours, Funny Looking Dog Quarterly, Mouth and The Tulane Review where she was the Spring 2020 short fiction contest winner. She is the current Associate Editor of the Cream City Review. Nina Huang is a third-year undergraduate student at the Washington University in St. Louis with a double-major in Studio Art and Art History. She is currently interested in the intersection between literary and visual arts and in creating poems that extract private moments from personal experience to relate to universal themes such as memory and intimacy. Anastasia Jill is a queer writer living in the Southeast United States. She has been nominated for Best of the Net and Best Small Fiction Anthology, as well as several other honors. Her work has been featured with Poets.org, Lunch Ticket, Pithead Chapel, apt, Minola Review, Gertrude, and more. Lillian Johnson is a writer and Literature graduate with a BA from the University of Exeter. She had one short story published as the closing piece in the University’s literary journal, Hiraeth, and another about the recent travel bans in the Baltimore Review. She was born in Sydney and lives and works in London. Christian McCulloch is a prolific British writer with a background in Fine Art. He's been an International teacher in the British West Indies, Singapore (Principal), Japan and Hong Kong, also 10 years in Special Needs in the UK. He now writes full time. He has written 10 novels, 12 novellas and many short stories. Barrett Mohrmann is a Pushcart Prize-nominated poet whose work either has appeared or is forthcoming in Apricity Magazine, Hawaii Pacific Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, and other journals. He studied English at the College of William & Mary where he was a finalist for the Glenwood A. Clark Fiction Prize. Barrett also worked for several years as a reporter with The News & Advance in Lynchburg, Va. He lives in Columbus, OH.

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Alexander Moser is a writer based in Brooklyn. His work deals with the surreal creeping into the mundane, focusing on characters driven by their eccentric habits. Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, Forge, Poetry, Osiris, The New Yorker and elsewhere. His most recent collection is The Reflection in a Glass Eye published by Cholla Needles Arts & Literary Library, 2020. For more information including free e-books and his essay “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website at www.simonperchik.com.

Aluu Prosper is from Afikpo north, in Ebonyi state, Nigeria. He grew up learning how to draw through practice and drawing of diagrams of school assignments. In 2018, he won the Anbukraft Peace poster competition. In 2019, he participated in the "life in my city" art festival, A national art competition involving different artists in the country. And he made it to the top 100 artists who later exhibited at the grand finale at Enugu Nigeria. In 2019, he came 3rd at a talent hunt preceded by a singer and a rapper. In February 2020, he became a campus ambassador for TECNO mobile Nigeria. Emily Rankin was born in Riverside, California and attended university in Abilene, TX where she received a BFA in 2011. Her body of work ranges from Graphic Design and Scenic Painting to collaborative performances with Verstehen, an improvisational and interactive series which incorporates live painting, sound, and electronics. She is currently based in New Mexico. Isaac Rankin lives in Asheville, NC. He works at an all-boys boarding school, Christ School, where he serves as Associate Director of Advancement. Working in schools is Isaac's calling, but he also enjoys traveling near and far, following sports obsessively, and chasing his son in the backyard. His work has appeared or will soon appear in The Chaffin Journal, Lily Poetry Review, Potomac Review, TAB Journal, and other places.


John Repp is a poet, fiction writer, and folk photographer living in Erie, Pennsylvania. Jim Ross jumped into creative pursuits in 2015 after a rewarding career in public health research. With a graduate degree from Howard University, in the past six years he's published nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and photography in over 150 journals and anthologies on four continents. Publications include 580 Split, Bombay Gin, Barren, Columbia Journal, Ilanot Review, Kestrel, Litro, Lunch Ticket, MAKE, New World Writing, The Atlantic, The Manchester Review, and Typehouse. A nonfiction piece led to a role in a documentary limited series to be broadcast internationally. Jim and his wife—parents of two health professionals on the front lines and grandparents of five preschoolers—split their time between city and mountains. Robert Runté is Senior Editor with EssentialEdits.ca and was formerly Senior Editor for Five Rivers Publishing, a small Canadian press, for which he acquired and edited 30 books. A former professor, he has won three Aurora Awards ( for his literary criticism and was shortlisted again for 2020. His own fiction has been published in over thirty venues, three of his short stories have been reprinted in ‘best of' collections, most recently Canadian Shorts II. David Sapp, writer, artist and professor, lives along the southern shore of Lake Erie in North America. A Pushcart nominee, he was awarded an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence grant and an Akron Soul Train fellowship for poetry. His poems appear widely in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. His publications include articles in the Journal of Creative Behavior; chapbooks Close to Home and Two Buddha; and a novel, Flying Over Erie. Jose Sariñana, Los Angeles, CA-based since 1979, is a multidisciplinary artist who takes a provocateur stance to make art that conceptually folds onto itself through the use of humor and an assemblage process in pursuit of a poetic realization. His art explores the poetics/connections/randomness of urban violence, racism, art-history, gang graffiti, personal histories, surreal texts, love relations, kink practice, and political critique. He received his BFA (1999) from the University of Southern

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California, MFA (2004) from the San Francisco Art Institute, and a fellowship to the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2006). Anindita Sarkar is a Research Scholar from Jadavpur University. Her works have appeared in Litbreak, The Bombay Review, Pif Magazine, Rigorous, Poetry Potion Review, Kitaab International among others. Fabio Sassi makes photos and acrylics using what is hidden, discarded or considered to have no worth by the mainstream. Fabio lives in Bologna, Italy. Kristen Shea is a literature student in Mississippi whose poetry has appeared in Asylum Magazine. Despite doing little else than reading and writing in her spare time, people apparently find her interesting. She is a word collector, cat lover, and volcano enthusiast. Jon Shorr’s fiction and essays have been published in The Write Launch, The Inquisitive Eater, Pangyrus, Tricycle, Defenestration, and elsewhere, and has won awards from the Writers Alliance of Gainesville, Stories That Need to be Told, and The Baltimore Sun. He currently produces a weekly podcast for Passager Books. Ben Sloan teaches at Piedmont Virginia Community College, the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, and Buckingham Correctional Center. Work of his has recently appeared in the Chestnut Review, Right Hand Pointing, 2River View, and Third Wednesday Magazine. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. Jesse Skupa (b. 1995) is a New York based photographer and artist that transplanted from the midwest in 2016. Growing up in small, suburban town Kansas, photography was an escape from the masculine stereotypes placed on men and boys. It served as a gateway into the worlds around him that explored fragments of life not always seen in both people and places. Miya Sukune is a visual artist working and residing on Vashon Island in the Puget Sound. She works with paint at her studio easel and designs in metal for her public


art. She has exhibited in group shows at Vashon Heritage Museum, Phinney Center Gallery, and Fountainhead Gallery. Her solo shows include Mt. Hood Community College (OR) and Hastings-Cone Gallery. A Gage Academy of Art graduate, Miya has been an artist-in-residence at Vermont Studio Center, Studio Kura (Japan), Atlantic Center for the Arts, and the Serlachius Residency at the Serlachius Museums (Finland.) Samantha Tkac is a writer who hails from Northern Virginia. You can find her cloaked in a leather duster and muttering to herself while walking the wrong way up your local bike lane. More of her work is linked on her Instagram account @basementheart, where she poses as a vampire and continues to document the slow decline of her mental health. Despite the subject matter of her work, her dad is always her first reader. Samantha's fiction is published or forthcoming in Kelp Books, Writers Resist, Cathexis Northwest Press, Drunk Monkeys, and The Squawk Back. Carolyn Watson’s writing has been nominated for the Canadian National Magazine Award for Fiction and the Journey Prize. Her short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Gargoyle, Slice, Mid-American Review, PRISM international, Indiana Review, Saturday Evening Post, Grain, and elsewhere. Asi Yacobovitch’s art reflects his inner world and describes the interplay between the private self and concepts related to nature, time and space. He creates and reflects his own experience and at the same time respects the autonomy of the viewer, leaving him space and freedom for personal interpretation. In his works, Asi uses several techniques and materials, which he puts into a composition where freezing the moment is the main motif that against fluidity, uncontrollable control and a play between impulse and the conscious. In his recent works, Asi examines the "unknown", fear of the unknown and the tension between the unknown and certainty.

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