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Ri c k E r f m a n n

Gas Station. Friesland, May 2014 (cover)

Maga zine of New Writing

I ss u e O n e S p r i n g 2 0 1 5

A m e r i c a n C h o r data i s p u b l i s h e d t w i c e
a y e a r , i n S p r i n g a n d Au t u m n .

ED I TO R
Ben Yarling

ISSN 2378-2560 (print)

F I CT I O N ED I T O R

ISSN 2378-2579 (online)

Hannah Thurman

Co n tac t

N O NF I CT I O N ED I T O R

American Chordata

Justin Cahill

c/o Ben Yarling


P.O. Box 797

P O ETRY ED I T O R

New York, NY 10163

Zach Fruit

contact@americanchordata.org
americanchordata.org

ART D I RECTO R
Bobby Doherty

American Chordata seeks to publish and promote


short works of exceptional fiction, nonfiction, and

C O NTR I BUT I NG

poetry, as well as art and photography. We have no

ED I TO RS

formal word limits or stylistic constraints, but

Emma Berry

look for work that is brave, illuminating, and

Quynh Do

emotionally detailed. For information about how

Matthew Hitchman

to submit, please visit americanchordata.org.

Matthew Price
Alice Rha

For inquiries and additional information,

Rebecca Shaughnessy

please write to contact@americanchordata.org.


PUBL I C I TY
Logo design by Mike Thompson

Alice Rha

Print manufacture by Strategic Content Imaging


Printed in the United States of America

DES I GNER

Copyright 2015

Adly Elewa

American Chordata, New York, and


the individual contributors.
All rights reserved.
Please respect the rights of our contributors.
No part of this publication may be
reproduced without permission.

C O NTENTS

Contributors

vii

Note

xii

Fi c t io n
Diana Xin, We Lived Like Astronauts1
Colby Halloran, Field and Stream 4 5
Carianne King, Essential Oils 9 3
Po e t ry
D. Eric Parkison, Three Poems19
Kayla Krut, Extremely Pleasant with Doors Open 2 8
Cal Graves, living Forever 3 2
Emma Furman, Saccades 6 3
Soren Bliefnick, Two Poems67
Andrew Cedermark, Tritina Against Cho 8 5
Sarah V. Schweig, STORIES (II) 8 6
Kathryn Donohue, When we tell the story of us right now118
A rt a n d P h oto g r a p h y
Tammy Mercure, selections from Immortals 3 5
Talena Sanders, Body Memory 7 1

iv FICTION

v FICTION

justin guthrie

"It started raining," 2014

C O NTR I BUTO RS

T h o m a s A l b d o r f, born in Austria 1982. Exhibited in

galleries throughout Europe and USA. Featured in magazines like


British Journal ofPhotography, Its Nice That, Phaidon UK, Computer
Arts Magazine.
B e t o Ru i z A l o n s o is a portrait and fine art photographer

living in Berlin, Germany.


Sergiy Barchuk is a Ukrainian-born artist who enjoys surreal

moments and quiet life in his Bed-Stuy apartment.


So r e n B l i e f n i c k lives in Boston, Massachusetts.
Ro b b i e B r a n n i g a n was born in 1992 and lives in upstate

New York.

vii

A N D R E W C E D E R M A R K is a guitar player from New Jersey.


A N T H O N Y C U DA H Y (b. 1989) is an artist living and working

in Brooklyn, NY. He received his BFA in 2011 from Pratt


Institute.

L I N D S AY D A D DAT O is a photographer, rock climber, and an

explorer. She highly values good jokes, bad puns, tall tales, fresh
mountain air, and time well spent in the company of great friends.
She gladly welcomes all adventures.
K AT H RY N D O N O H U E s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Hunger Mountain, Typo, MiPoesias, Octopus, and The
Gettysburg Review.
viii CONTRIBUTORS

Little scenes of value, born out of misery and neglect, are what
R I C K E R F M A N N photographs. Things that are hanging on in
the face of the carelessness with which people treat an industrial
environment.Lately focusing more on portraiture, Erfmann shoots
people expressing the same kind of latent melancholy as his
surroundings growing up.
A L B E RT O F E I J O O was born in Alicante (1985). He studied

photography in Madrid, where he lives and works.His work has


been selected in PhotoIreland, Descubrimientos PHotoEspaa,
and Fotomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland.
L O U I S F R AT I N O was born in Annapolis, Maryland. After
completing his bachelors degree in painting this Spring at the
Maryland Institute College of Art he is moving to Berlin on a
Fulbright grant.
E M M A F U R M A N is a person who recently graduated with an

MFA from the University of Alabama. Her work can be seen in


the documents folder on her laptop.

C a l G r av e s is a US writer who currently lives in Texas, attempt-

ing at a degree in English. He writes poetry and assorted prose.


Currently he is working on a collection of short stories, poetry, and
a possible novel. He posts poetry here: http://ignisorso.tumblr.com/.
And other things here: http://theuvulartrill.blogspot.com/.Cals
favorite part of the zoo is the reptile house. He owns no pets, but
hopes to one day.
J u st i n G u t h r i e , born in 93, child of the desert, growing man

of the self.
S a m H a b e r m a n is an artist and engineering student born and
living in Adelaide, South Australia.

Southern Review and the Emrys Journal. Field and Stream is


excerpted from the novel Pascals Vases. Her play, Bird of Passage,
premieres at the Carriage House Theater in Ann Arbor in July
2015.
C a r i a n n e Ki n g received an MFA in fiction from Columbia

University. She is completing a collection of short stories.


H e l e n Ko r pa k is a photographer from Helsinki, Finland. She
currently works on a project about globalization and will soon
publish a book of smartphone photos.
K ay l a K ru t is an MFA candidate in poetry at the University
of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Mo n L e vc h e n kova is a photographer based in London who

is currently studying photojournalism and documentar y


photography at UAL.
Dav i d Lu r a s c h i is a French-American based in Paris, France.

He is mostly interested in people and do it yourself mythology.

ix CONTRIBUTORS

Co l by H a l lo r a n s short stories have been published in The

T a m m y M e r c u r e is a photographer living in New

Orleans, LA.
Rya n O s k i n is an artist living and working in Brooklyn, NY.

He is the co-founder of TGIF Gallery, an artist-run group showcasing emerging artists.


D. E r i c Pa r k i s o n was raised near Rochester, New York, in

x CONTRIBUTORS

a small town on Lake Ontario. He received his MA in English at


the University of Rochester, where he studied literature and poetry.
His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Squaw Valley
Poetr y Review, the Midwest Q uarterly, The Low Valley
Review, and ZYZZYVA. He lives in Oakland, California, with his
wife and their dog.
T h o m a s P r io r is a Brooklyn-based photographer. He

was born in Los Angeles and raised in London and New Jersey.
Ta l e n a S a n d e r s is an interdisciplinary artist and filmmaker
documenting how people develop individual and collective senses
of identity. Currently based in Montana, always a proud Kentuckian.
Ki e r Coo k e S a n dv i k is a Norwegian artist with a passion

for horror, Twin Peaks, and haute couture fashion.


Ni c o l e S c h i l d e r is a photographer interested in creating
slightly unbalanced, anachronistic images with the use of old-school
developing processes. A graduate of Hamilton Colleges art program, she lives in New York.
S a r a h V. S c h w e i g is the author of the chapbookS(Danc-

ing Girl Press). Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming inThe


Atlas Review,Black Warrior Review,BOMB Magazine, Boston
Review, Everyday Genius, Gulf Coast, HTML Giant, Maggy, Painted

Bride Quarterly, The Philadelphia Review of Books, Slice, Verse Daily,


The Volta, West Branch,andWestern Humanities Review,among
others. A graduate of the University of Virginia and Columbia
University,she works as a Senior Writer at a criminal justice thinktank in Manhattan, studies philosophy at The New School for
Social Research, and lives in Brooklyn.
J a k e S ta n g e l mostly rides bikes and shoots photos on the
side occasionally. He lives in San Francisco. Favorite fruit is bosc
pear.
H ay l e y St e p h o n is a photographer living in New York City.
She is currently studying at the School of Visual Arts.

based in Brooklyn, NY. She received her BS in Cinema and


Photography from Ithaca College. Her work often considers the
intricacies of location, fear, and storytelling. She recently spent time
at artist residencies throughout Iceland before moving to New York,
where she works at the publishing company W. W. Norton
& Company.
A l ly W h i t e is a painter from Atlanta, GA, who has exhibited

locally and nationally. She has been featured on the cover of


New American Paintings #106 and selected as a Jury Pick for 100
Painters of Tomor row, a publication produced by Beers
Contemporary in London.
Di a n a X i n holds an MFA in fiction from the University of

Montana. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Alaska


Quarterly Review, The Masters Review, and Gulf Coast. She lives in
Seattle, Washington.

xi CONTRIBUTORS

A n i k a S t e p p e was born in Ann Arbor, MI, and is currently

N OTE

Joseph Brodsky uses the word chordate a few times in his curmudgeonly-but-worth-it 1992 book Watermark. Thats more-or-less
how we found the name of this magazine, though we approach the
idea a little differently. When Brodsky refers to the atavistic chordate hes referring to more than just the category of animal with
some type of spinal or pre-spinal column. Hes speaking, I think,
to the evolution of agency, attention, and experience, and the chordate core of the human brain; organisms emerging in water (he
calls water the image of time) into awareness, metacognition, and
the recognition or formation of beauty and meaning. Pretty cool.
AC is also interested in the phylum chordatas categorical inclusivity, and its ties to the ideas of structure and developed intelligence.
Deliberate respect for the plurality of human experience. Chordata,
a phylum that includes intelligent life in all its individual difference.
Minus, sadly, some notables like the octopus. But still.

xiii

Id say that good writing has its own inflection, creates its own
contexts and raises its own questions. Questions about money,
maybe, or rules, or play; about youth, or the passage of time, and
the long-term effects of small choices. The poems and stories in
the pages that follow are good. So I wont add new inflections by
saying too much about them. Beyond asking, at risk of sounding
saccharine, that you take a few minutes to look, to listen, to read.
Three short stories, eleven poems. Art and photography galore.
The editors of this magazine value earnest voices, bravery, and
clarity of expression. If you value that stuff, too, youll probably find
a lot to like in here.

xiv NOTE

Nobody got paid in the making of this magazine. Not the staff,
not the contributors. So I want to take a moment to thank those
contributors for their trust in choosing to publish with us. Im
deeply grateful and honored to be able to share their work with
you here.
Theres a long list of people whose generosity and talent helped
make this first issue possible. Adly Elewa, who spent many hours
designing it, gets a big, boldface, glittering entry on that list. So do
the friends, family members, and big-hearted strangers who helped
us spread the word and find the many stunning and often surprising submissions we received back in the autumn of 2014 when this
whole thing got started. Our sincere thanks go out to the following
people and organizations:
Abby Ronner, Alicia Wingard, Anna Ross, Artist Trust, Ashley
McHose, Banjo McLachlan, Beth Steidle, Bob Yarling, Brooklyn
Arts Council, Brooklyn Community Chorus, Bruce Smith,
Caroline Badseed, Chris Critelli, Chris Wait, Christina Thompson,
Claudia Gerbracht, Connie Brothers, David Jacobsen, Dennis
Cooper, Elena Passarello, Ellen Richmond, Ellen Shell, Erica
Osvath, Erica Wnek, Frank Driscoll, George Saunders, Joe Lops,
John Plough, Kaitlin Bible, Katherine Mavridis, Kevin Olsen,
Kimberly Todd, Kurt Wildermuth, Lambda Literary, Larry
Longhanger, Leanne Bowes, Leeann Graham, Margot Livesey,
Mark Spurlock, McNally Jackson Books, Mike Thompson, Mindy

Yarling, Molasses Books, Nancy Green, Nicholas DeBoer, Queer


Exchange, Rachel Freedman, Ryan Harrington, Sara Fiore, Sara
Thompson, Sara Yarling, Sarah Schaffer, Scott Sugarman, Sean
Mintus, Sophie Hagen, Sybilla Kenny, The Center for Fiction,
Tom McKee, Trinh Nguyen, Vani Kannan, and Vinny Senguttuvan.
One last thing:
Submissions guidelines are available on our website. If you have
work that you think we might like to publish in a future issue, wed
love to see it.
With warm regards,
B e n Ya r l i n g

xv NOTE

xvi FICTION

m o n l e vc h e n kova

Diana Xin

Mirrored Hand, 2014

We Lived Like Astronauts


We lived like astronauts! Caitlin Stainken

m o n l e vc h e n kova

Gletscherparks Gepatsch-Stausee lake, 2014

Carson has
searched the
Internet and
ordered six
air plants.
They sit with roots exposed inside clear glass eggshellscrinkled
green ferns that look like a bad perm job and succulents shaped
like roses. We hang two of them from the curtain rods and the rest
from hooks on the ceiling.
There is a crack in the corner of the ceiling and sometimes
bits of plaster rain down on our bedroom-living-room-diningroom. This studio is all of those things. A three-for-one, we call
it. Plenty of room for two.
The trick to living in a small square footage is to utilize your
vertical space. What you dont have in length and width, you make
up for in height. Multiply it together and thats how you get volume.
In addition to the air plants, we buy hanging shelves and nail
them to the walls. We line up our knives on a magnetic strip and
glue more magnets to the back of our spice tins so they can sit
3

4 FICTION

attached to the fridge. This is utility. If we had a ladder, we would


build bookshelves along the upper edge of our walls. It would feel
like we lived at the bottom of a very tall library, and we were very
small.
I lost three boxes of books to the US Postal Service. Somewhere
in Iowa or Montana or Idaho are my copies of Jane Eyre, MobyDick, and the complete Austen. I like to think that they arrived on
the doorstep of an unsuspecting elderly woman who just recently
lost her husband and is in need of comfort. Or else to a teenage
girl growing up in a communist christian household who has read
only the words of Mao Tse-Tung and Jesus Christ. I picture my
books emanating the warm glow of untapped dreams. In reality,
they are probably still taped down in their boxes, buried underneath
other boxes in a dank and unlit storage unit. I imagine them cold
and water damaged, shriveled pages starving for the touch of fingertips.
Carson tells me to look on the bright side. He is a firm believer
in the bright side, which is one of the reasons why I love him and
why I am willing to move across the country to be with him. He
says that now we have fewer things to get rid of.
The other trick to living in a small space is to get rid of your
things. Kick your habit of mindless consumerism! Dont let your
possessions possess you!
Back in Iowa City, I lived with my aunt in her duplex three
blocks from campus.
Move west with me, Carson had said, while we sat around her
cherry wood drop-leaf dining table eating spaghetti and meatballs
from vintage mango-wood Pottery Barn plates. Ill teach you how
to slide down mountains on your ass. Ill teach you how to glissade.
I dont know. I poured myself sangria from a Crate and Barrel
pitcher. Im not very good with change.
But life is all about change. Evolution. You evolved when you
finished grad school. Thats a change. This is just another change.
What would I do out there?
You could do anything. What would you do here?
I didnt answer.

He took my hand. In Seattle, theres no winter. And no cornfields, either. There are mountains and ocean and fields of raspberries. Come on. Take a bet on me.
I looked up and saw that he was serious. We celebrated by
rolling across the sheepskin rug, until we almost knocked over an
antique standing birdcage. My aunt has no birds, only birdcages.
She is an example of someone who is possessed by her possessions.
She owns three sets of china, two leather couches, and six birdcages.
We have none of those things, but we have each other, and we
have our air plants.
Carson says that this is plenty.
We dont need to be loaded down with books, Carson says.
We can get library cards.
It can also be said that I love Carson in spite of his bright side.
This would not be untrue either.
5 FICTION

Carson and I met at a benefit concert for children with cystic


fibrosis. One of the opening bands was called Fill Your Lungs, and
I was sleeping with their drummer. Carson was selling poems for
donation, seated at a long table with other poetry students and their
personal typewriters. He didnt have a typewriter so he was painting his poems onto squares of stock paper with black india ink.
Mine had two words: beauty and fear.
What does it mean? I asked.
What every poem means, he said.
Your calligraphys nice.
Thanks. Remember to live without fear.
At some point during the night I lost the poem on its square
paper. After the event we ended up beneath the same awning as
the rain tapped its rhythm above us. The drummer had left with a
girl he said was his sister. She didnt touch him like a sister. Underneath the awning, Carson offered me gum and a shared cab ride,
but I said I was fine walking. He lent me his jacket instead. I returned it to him later that week at the place with the sweet potato
pancakes.

That was almost two years ago. When I ask him about the
pancakes now, he says he prefers savory breakfast over sweet. Living with another person, you learn that so much of what you thought
you knew about him is actually untrue. This is one of the risks of
living together that I had not considered.
Carson says that either way, we need to give living together a
chance. That is part of evolution. Without evolution, there is only
extinction.
Sometimes I look at him and wonder what I would do if he
died. If I died, I know what he would do. He would spend a few
weeks or months climbing mountains, and on top of the mountains,
he would write poems for me. Eventually, he would become a celebrated poet with a heartbreaking history. This would be its own
happy ending. But if Carson died, I would be stranded.
This is unfair, and I am entirely to blame.
6 FICTION

One of the things you have to prepare for when you move into a
small space with someone you love is the possibilityor rather,
certaintythat you will fight. Here are some of the things you
might fight about: closet space, washing dishes, things you think
you saw that resembled mice but you cant be sure if you really saw
them, fruit flies, milk expiration dates, curtains versus blinds, headache remedies, and the point at which a healthy interest in neighbors becomes nosiness or paranoia.
Carson and I could have fought about any one of those things,
but we have worked through this by using I statements, compromise,
and negative feedback loops that de-escalate emotional tension in
a positive way.
What we fight about is more difficult to define. It springs up
from somewhere unknown and discolors everything that has come
before.
Are we only pretending to be nice? I ask.
I dont know what youre talking about, he says. We dont
have time for this. Were supposed to be there at seven.
I put on one shoe but pause in front of the other. If you dont
want me to go, you shouldnt feel the need to invite me.

7 FICTION

Do you not want to go? he asks, and then continues, Why


wouldnt you want to go? The partys on a boat.
Carson is thinking about balloons and beers and a boatful of
friends, but I am thinking about seasickness and silent looks and
the lack of walls and exits.
Why dont you want to go? he asks.
We are entering a positive feedback loop, which aggravates emotional distress in a negative way so that emotions grow further
distressed.
I kick the shoe off my foot. I just want to be with people who
love me before they love you.
My friends do love you.
But they love you more.
So what? Theyve known me longer.
I just want someone whos on my side, I say.
He crosses his arms. Since when are we picking sides?
I dont know, I say, confused because suddenly we are standing
on opposite sides.
Why would we need to pick sides?
I think of an earthquake, a plague, a kickball game. At that
point, everyone would need to pick sides. Who would pick me to
be on their side, if the earth cracked open beneath my feet?
Now I dont want to go anymore, either. Carson sits down on
the old wooden chest we use as a chair. It wont be any fun.
Out of contrition, I say, No, you should go. Ill be fine here. I
dont really like boats. Its nothing personal. I just didnt grow up
near a body of water.
But it is getting late, and the boat is leaving the dock at seven.
Carson does not go to his boat party. He goes for a walk instead,
and he does not invite me to come along.
I resolve not to dwell on this and, instead, move the wooden
chest around the room so that I can stand on it as I spray the air
plants with water. The correct term for this is misting. The air plants
do not need soil or water to survive, only a delicate misting, every
once in a while. It seems cruel to deny them their natural thirst,
but they are not like other plants. They have learned another way
to subsist.

8 FICTION

We have sex until we


are weightless, two
small bodies locked
together inside a
vast galaxy.

m o n l e vc h e n kova

Mirrored Hand, 2014

9 FICTION

When Carson comes back, he brings a ladder.


Someone was just going to throw this away, he says.
We move the ladder to the middle of the room and stand it up
like an inverted V. There are five metal rungs, and after I climb
them I sit at the top and reach up my hands to touch the rough
swatches of white paint on our ceiling. From here, I can spray the
air plants without craning my neck and see each crinkly leaf on the
ferns. Carson has a turn as well. He is taller and the fit is tighter,
but he sits with his back straight and examines the walls.
The next day, he brings home long planks of wood, which he
paints dark brown. He nails metal supports high up on the walls
as he waits for the paint to dry. Then he lays the wood over the
supports and secures them into place.
Now we need some books, he says when he is done.
It is almost midnight, so we wait to get the books. We admire
our bookshelves from our mattress, which sits on the ground, maximizing our distance from the shelves.
I feel like were ants, I whisper into his neck.
Are ants super quiet? he whispers back to me.
Theyre the quietest.
He rolls up over me and shouts in my face, Maybe were astronauts. Who have to yell across space.
In outer space, astronauts are as small as ants. Perhaps even
smaller. I swing him back down so that I am on top. Houston, do
you copy?
Roger that. He slides two fingers into my boxer shorts. Have

10 FICTION

you ever wondered how astronauts have sex?


Thats what I would do if I were in outer space. I would have
sex with you.
He turns serious. Are you sad about your books? You should
have books, if you want books. You shouldnt change for me.
I answer with a kiss. Are you sad you missed the boat on your
boat party?
No, because I found a ladder.
I kiss his neck next. Do you want to know how astronauts have
sex?
I pull the blanket tightly over us, to keep us strapped together.
I press myself as closely to him as possible. Dont let go or Ill float
away.
We have sex until we are weightless, two small bodies locked
together inside a vast galaxy. We flail against gravity, but we hang
on to each other. Above us, six green planets sway in their glass
orbs. A gentle susurration rises from the corner, and a shower of
plaster falls onto the ground like bits of star and moon dust.

It turns out a ladder is exactly what our home needs. Although


standing the ladder up can take quite a bit of space, this is well
worth having another level. I sew a small red cushion and strap it
to the top step. Now we have a single-occupancy loft. This is perfect for getting away from each other. It is a simple way of telling
the other person you need to be alone without having to verbalize
it. The high altitude also offers a peaceful location for clearing your
head and seeing things from a different perspective.
Plus, when we are done with it, we can easily fold the ladder
up and tuck it away. In its sedentary state, the ladder makes a convenient place for laying wet clothes out to dry.
I am slowly filling up the bookshelves with books. At the library,
they sell old books from fifty cents to two dollars. Some people also
bring in books to donate, and those books are free. I go to the library
to work on job applications, and each time I submit an application,
I select one book to purchase or take. My favorite picks so far have
been Recipes to Feed Your Growing Family, Washington Trees and

11 FICTION

Shrubs, and The Collectors Gallery of NASA Photographs. All three


of these feature faded, full-page photographs, and the last one shows
early astronauts suited up for travel, as well as red planets lost in
swirling constellations.
Sometimes I like to sit on the ladder-loft next to one of the
ferns and flip through the books. I think spending more time with
them will help them lose their musty library smell so that they can
adopt a new smell that is more similar to the smell of my books. If
I see a nice photograph I shout to Carson, and he jumps up onto
the second rung to take a good look. Then he leaves me alone again.
Carson already has two jobs but he is looking for another, because
neither of the jobs is as fulfilling as a job could be.
I just want us to be as happy as we possibly can, he says.
But happiness means different things to different people.
We just have to try to find our own happiness.
Carson works very hard to be happy. He wont stop looking for
jobs until he finds something that will teach him about people and
inspire him to write poetry. Back in Iowa, I tutored at the universitys writing center and assisted a professor with his Romantic
literature class. I would like to find another tutoring job, but I
wouldnt mind a different job, either. I wouldnt mind waitressing
or answering phones or selling shoes. Possibly, I could do better
than that, but there arent many jobs for masters of English literature.
At the library, Ellen is looking for work in marketing and
Maurice wants a job where he can lift boxes and not talk to people.
Maurice is not good with computers so Ellen and I help him check
his email and update his rsum. Later, Ellen asks me to update
her rsum as well. She says I am good at verbs.
At home, Carson asks if I am happy, and what would make me
happier. I try to think of the verbs, but they skip away from me. I
am left only with want. But want is a verb that demands a direct
object and I dont know what my direct object is.
I am happy, I say. I have everything I want.
But you can have more, he says.
Sometimes what I want is less. I want nothing but this bed,
and a few books, so we can lie down together and look at photo-

12 FICTION

m o n l e vc h e n kova

Austrian Alps, 2014

13 FICTION

graphs.
Look, I say, pointing. Heres a recipe for of bananas baked
with ham. This is what people were eating in the seventies.
I just want you to be happy, he says.
I do all the things that will show him I am happy. I make
recipes for a growing family in the 1970s, as well as recipes from
other cookbooks I have brought home. I have collections of meals
from a Spanish castle, a Vietnamese village, and a Japanese TV
chef. Cilantro on my fingers becomes my new favorite scent. I keep
the house clean and the bed made and the bright side on my face.
When plaster falls from the ceiling, I sweep the floor and throw
out the debris.
At the library, Ellen asks me what my five-year plan is.
I ask her how one goes about making a five-year plan.
You have to start with a vision, she says, of where you want
to be in five years. Thats your objective. Then, you decide what
you will do during each year to help you meet your objective. Those
are your goals. They should be small, measurable, and achievable.
And you should put them on a spreadsheet.
If you know a goal is achievable, does that still count as a goal?
Knowing that something is achievable is very different from
achieving it.
This is true, and we think about this quietly.
Maurice throws a pencil at us from the other side of the table.
It clatters against the fake wood laminate. Hey, dimwits. How
about a little focus?
Although Ellen and Maurice started out strangers, they are
becoming more and more beautiful. Ellen has a frail face and gray
hair, but her curls are tight and vibrant. She has dyed a lock of it
bright blue and the neon streak hangs over her right ear. Maurice
is bulky with a large head that sinks down into his chest. He looks
like he has no neck. At first he is intimidating, but now I am
charmed by his smile, which brings out two deep dimples in the
middle of his cheeks. His size has made him shy and embarrassed
but, since we are his friends, he is not afraid to throw pencils at us
to keep us focused.

14 FICTION

I invite Carson to come to the library and work with us, on one
of the afternoons he is not at a job. I immediately regret doing so,
but it is too late to take it back.
When he sits with us, the whole dynamic changes. Ellen keeps
her lips pursed and her face stern. Maurice is silent and avoids eye
contact. I wish that he had not chosen today to wear a dirty T-shirt.
He smells like yesterdays sweat.
Carson makes small talk and asks about our interests and daily
schedules, but we all know that he is not like the rest of us.
Ellen has added feathers to her hair. Three brown, spotted
feathers dangle from the lock of blue hair along with several earthen
beads. I wonder if Carson thinks this is tacky. I wonder if I would
appreciate the feathers more if he were not sitting next to me.
Sometimes you see your friends as beautiful because you love
them, but no one is really beautiful. It is only loving them that
makes them so. Other times you look again and see what the rest
of the world must see. And then you are forced to make excuses
for them.
I wonder what excuses Carson has made for me. When he tells
me I am beautiful, I want to ask for the specifics and the comparison over time. Have my freckles aged? Has my cellulite spread?
Have I said anything to expose a lack of knowledge or a simple
mind? No one is beautiful always. Sitting next to his friends at pub
trivia, at dinner parties, at taprooms, I feel as big and embarrassed
as Maurice. I forget that Maurice has a lovely and affecting smile.
When Carson suggests we have a housewarming party, with a
guessing game as to how many people will fit inside our home, all
I can imagine is a crowd of strangers breathing our air, until there
is no more left for the two of us. I feel sick in my stomach.
Why cant we invite Ellen and Maurice? I say, after he lists
some of the people who will come.
Of course we can invite them, he says. I just didnt think this
was the kind of thing theyd enjoy.
Everyone enjoys a party, I say, even though I know that Ellen
and Maurice would not enjoy such a thing and I dont actually want
them to come.

15 FICTION

Okay, then. Lets invite them, he says, and so we do.


For the special occasion of our first party, we string Christmas
lights up along our ladder and stand it up in the back of the room
near the oven and the fridge, not far from the crack where the
plaster falls. Carson cleans and folds up our bed, leaning the mattress against the wall. I make several recipes from the 1970s, including a Watergate salad, which is a mixture of crushed pineapple,
pistachio Jell-O, marshmallows and whipped cream. There are also
pecans sprinkled on top.
Ellen is the first to arrive. For the party, she has added more
feathers to her hair. On the right side, they are small and brown
and neat, much like the original three. On the left are two big black
feathers that look like they have seen rough winds. The white
rachises are bare at some points. I hope that no one else will see
that she picked the feathers off the street.
I brought you an evil eye, she says, holding up her token, to
ward off bad spirits.
The evil eye is a disc of transparent blue plastic, on top of which
is a watery white circle with another oval of black felt inside.
I made it myself, Ellen says.
Its beautiful, Carson says. Welcome.
As the party picks up, I stick close to Ellen and Maurice like
we are on our own planet, with a magnetic force that repels intruders. The rest of the party orbits around us. Someone laughs at the
case of beer that Maurice has brought, because it is of low quality
or because it has been linked to an unfavorable subculture through
corporate marketing strategy. I try to make him feel better but I
dont know how. I dont think people like my salad, either, I say,
but neither of them responds.
Carson steps in instead, picking up the case of beer. This is just
what we need, he says. He places two cups of beer on the wooden
chest and drags it out so it is across from the ladder. Then he places
two more cups on the second step of the ladder, and pulls out three
Ping-Pong balls from a drawer.
Ellen sets down her drink and ruffles the feathers inside her
hair. This is my favorite game.

16 FICTION

It is so crowded that while four people are playing, the rest of


us have to stand packed against the walls. Everyone takes turns
playing but Ellen is the only one who is undefeatable, so she stays
in the game all night. Carsons friends tell her that she is incredible,
that they have never met anyone like her, that they adore her unique
hairstyle. When it is Maurices turn, they cheer for him, too. They
call him Big Mo and he smiles his lovely smile.
Carson hugs me from behind. We did a good party, didnt we?
Want to count how many people we fit?
But I slide away because I dont want him to touch me.
Arent you having fun? he asks.
Yeah, I say, and I try to smile.
Are you okay?
Uh huh.
I feel like he has betrayed me and stolen from me, even though
I know that nothing had been mine to steal. I move away from him
and congratulate Maurice on his good game.
Later, there is talk of going to a bar. Ellen says she knows a place
with shuffleboard, and everyone is enamored with the idea of shuffleboard.
Do you think youll go out, too? I ask Maurice.
He shuffles from foot to foot. I dont know. Maybe.
I dont know if Ill go out, I say to Carson. I might just stay
here.
Whats wrong? he asks. His eyes are pleading.
I shrug. I would rather be by myself.
Did I do something?
I am quiet a moment too long.
Tell me whats wrong.
Its nothing. I just like being alone sometimes.
What I have said is too much. As a poet, Carson can be very
sensitive. But I am tired of caring about this.
Why do you always choose to be sad, he asks, when you
could choose to be happy?
Im not choosing anything.
He turns away from me and I can see him giving up. Im going
to go out, he says.

17 FICTION

Thats fine.
Ellen walks by surrounded by new friends and she does not look
in my direction. Maurice tries to tag after her, but he slows down
as the rest of the group speeds up.
I think about asking Carson to stay, but I dont. I dont even say
good night.
Maurice sticks close to the wall and hugs his elbows over his
chest, as if to make himself smaller. Maybe I could help you clean
up?
Thats okay, I say. Im pretty tired, actually.
His back looks lonely when he lumbers off, but I am not sorry
to see him go.
After the noise of the party, the room is quieter than ever before.
The floor and windowsills are littered with empty cups and bottles,
and the space echoes like an abandoned wreck. I feel polluted. I
dump the trash into a large plastic bag, but the atmosphere is stained
by new smells and events. I mop the floor and try to wipe everything
away. Mopping makes me tired, but nothing more.
I lie in bed with the lights on, not sure if I will sleep. Our little
room seems larger than ever before, a vast and cold galaxy, and I
shrink smaller than an ant. The air plants glow inside their crystal
balls and I count them over and over.

Anik a Steppe

D. Eric Parkison

2014

Three Poems

19

The Boy
Youve seen the boy on the bus
Whose brothers beat him?
Seen him rock forward and back,
Eyes tracing the roadmap of cracks
In the backs of the stiff leather seats?
Where he wasnt joined,
His hands rubbed his skinny thighs,
Chin to chest, he whispered into his lap?

20 POETRY

Where he is today: listen to wind


Roll over the bus, catch in windows.
I was young when I burned a bees nest,
Shot a BB through the wall,
Part flesh, part ashy paper.
I was young when I looked away from the boy,
Rested my head against the window on the bus, and felt
The rattling diesel babble through it all.
Think, though, of a bee-less world:
Somber faces among blossomless stalks,
Limbs ascending, unburdened,
In breathtaking, useless rows.

21 FICTION

Ro b b i e B r a n n i g a n

2014

Family Dinner

22 POETRY

The wife could not let the painting hang


On the living room wall. Flat, acidy river poorly
Rendered, poorly imagined, framed
Before theyd left their trailer at the airfield, ugly
And ugly, and bad. Behind the creamy
Vinyl siding in the new place, a nest
Of wasps seized and buzzed like an idling engine all day,
All night. Two birds in the black tin chimney
Needed letting out. Im not tilling the rocky clay
For a few yellowed beans scrunched up, scattering
In the garden like snubbed-out
Cigarette butts, he thought, If even the pumpkins
Wont take, what can I do? Last to arrive,
His father twanged a splinter on the dried-out railing
Like the tongue of a mouth harp, readjusting
The mesh-back hat over his thin hair. Not
Today, he thought. His fathers wife offered
The drooping aluminum pan of frank and
Beans up asking it be
Taken off her hands. Ill
Take a little time, he thought, and eat.
The out-building shined its palish light,
So he remembered being a boy, the way
The basketball might pull off to one side,
Roll into the cold, dew-moistened grass
When it caught a big stone in the dirt driveway just right.
Plinking bugs were performing their loopy orbits,
Around the porch bulb in their dust-colored bodies.
Thats the biggest moth, he thought,
That Ive ever seen.

Anthony Cudahy

T, oil on canvas, 26 x 18 inches, 2014

Noise and Scent


Surrounded
By the monied people, thanksgiving song
Of circular saws biting steps from planks,
Heavy scent-flushed blossoms plunking wetly
Against the sidewalk, young lovers,
And not of it.
The air is a river without banks, the world is always flooded,
The heavy coin clanks and covers the sewer, the cars
Roll over it.
And what of it?
23 POETRY

Subtract I am from later drafts, absence


Is all. Of the
Eight dreams of hell only two reveal the face
Of the inverted snake, hanging
Like a microphone cable: you
Speak into him and he regurgitates
An answer. Interior. Bloodsong.

24 POETRY

25 POETRY

26 POETRY

27 POETRY

Kayla Krut
Extremely Pleasant with Doors Open

From two backyards off, running water.


Here, rose on a breeze and nasturtium
splinters orange sparks in sunlight
Inside cornbread stiffens in its glass box
and sugar stirs dim coffee
and gladiolas hug the red pressure of air around their vase.
I note after the fact how even the gentle
because dull are influenced by the popular ambiguous
propositional style, and so a genius template breeds
bad reverbout back, air still enough
for flies to drag their own willed paths
Cats negotiate under the stairwell
with wet pelts on cool fern-colored pavement

29

Thomas Albdorf

Untitled (from Studies forA Song of Nature), 2013


Thomas Albdorf

Untitled (from Studies forA Song of Nature), 2013 (right)

31

Cal Graves
living Forever

i want to live forever


not because i fear death;
i want to live forever
so i can hear all the music
if i could live forever
and manage to hear all the music
i would gladly die
happy.

32

33 FICTION

Ki e r Coo k e S a n d v i k

Tammy Mercure
Selections from Immortals
Time in New Orleans flows differently. It is closer to the
end of the world as we know it. People are compelled to
be the biggest version of themselves while it lasts. The
Immortals are present. The city is known for Dionysus, with
the revelry of Mardi Gras and the drunkenness of Bourbon
Street, and Poseidon is known to wreak havoc. But Artemis,
too, makes her presence known, the 504 boys riding
their steeds on the city streets, and Hera whispers in our
ears, keeping empires alive despite interstates fracturing
the city. The past, present, and future shake hands and it is
beautiful to see.
Tammy Mercure

35

36 FICTION

ta m m y m e rc u r e

Slidell, LA, 2014

38 FICTION

ta m m y m e rc u r e

New Orleans, LA, 2014

40 FICTION

ta m m y m e rc u r e

Angola, LA, 2014

42 FICTION

a rt c r e d i t

art name

ta m m y m e rc u r e

Baton Rouge, LA, 2014

Ja k e Sta n g e l

Field and Stream


U2 spy plane pilot, 2012

Colby Halloran

45

Ki e r Coo k e S a n d v i k

2014

Governments
have rules.
Schools have
rules. Families
have rules.
The rules in my
family are:
If the pocket doors to the living room are closed, it means the
grown-ups are not to be disturbed. If you have an emergency, knock
before you pull apart the pocket doors. An emergency is not baked
potatoes exploding in the oven. An emergency is Marky getting
hit by a car, or the pressure cooker lid flying off.
Two bites are required of every item on your plate. A bite is not
one pea or one carrot. A bite is a forkful or a spoonful.
Never take the food on your plate for granted. Somebody worked
hard to grow the food and somebody worked hard to pay for the
food and somebody worked hard to prepare the food. There is not
an endless supply of food all over this world.
Your napkin ring is not a toy.
If you must go to the lavatory during dinner, quietly excuse
47

48 FICTION

Lo u i s F r a t i n o

Fall Party, 2014

yourself. Nobody needs to know where youre going.


Just let the candles drip.
Sit up straight. At Mothers boarding school
there were nails in the back of her dining room chair.
Be grateful your chair does not have nails.
The hand not holding the fork stays in your lap.
When youve finished eating, put your knife and
fork in the four oclock position.
Dont push your plate forward like a convict.
Dont interrupt.
Dont talk with your mouth full.
If you have a story to tell, tell it briefly.
When old people enter the room, stand up and
wait to be introduced.
When you shake someones hand, shake firmly.
If their hand is already shaking, do not giggle. They
could have Parkinsons.
Writing your thank-you note is not enough. You
have to address the envelope, put a stamp on it, and
take it to the mailbox on the corner.
Do not read letters on someone elses desk.
Do not eavesdrop.
Respect absolutely every person on this earth.
If you pick up the telephone and someone is
talking on the extension, interrupt immediately and
say excuse me for interrupting. Then hang up.
Which is what I have every intention of doing, but
in the second it takes to get used to the idea that
interrupting is allowed, I hear my father say honey
and a woman with a deep voice say love. Then a
cupboard door shuts. I dont hear what they say next
because I have just broken the rule about eavesdropping and am burning with shame and hang up without saying excuse me. I thought my father was in
the basement but theres no phone in the basement
so he must be in the kitchen.

49 FICTION

He calls Mother Your Mother. He calls my sister Toots and


he calls me Sweetheart or, sometimes, Tough Cookie. He calls
Marky Pooch. So who is Honey?
When Mother asked me to go with her to the farmers market,
I said I wanted to help my father in the basement, but when I went
down to his workroom he was just puttering, not building anything,
so I came upstairs to do my homework. Then I realized I didnt
have this weeks math assignment, so I went to the phone in the
upstairs hall to call Molly because she wrote it in her notebook.
Our phone doesnt have that little button that lights up when the
phone is in use, although maybe we should get one of those phones
so this doesnt happen again, because there is no way I could have
known my father was about to say honey and some deep-voiced
woman was about to say love. Then a closet door shut. No, it was
not a closet door; it was a cupboard door. Was the cupboard that

50 FICTION

closed in the womans house? What house would


that be? What woman?
He seemed fine last weekend. It was a nice fall
day. A perfect day, he said, for putting up the storm
windows. I stay indoors and shout out the numbers
on each window while he finds the matching storm
window on the grass. Last year I yelled a 6 when
I should have yelled a 9 so he had to carry the
6 window all the way back down the ladder, but
this year I didnt make any mistakes. Mothers job
is to wash the storm windows with the hose and
dry them with a clean rag. We all did our jobs.
I have to see my father. I have to look at him
straight. We are straight lookers in this family. He
says that all the time: in this family we look
straight. I never knew what he meant by that, but
now I think it means you look at the person right
away. You dont wait.
There he is, standing at the sink, sawdust in
his hair, a cigarette on the windowsill, the long
ash about to fall into the sink. You would think it
was a normal Saturday and he had just come up
from the basement. You would think all he had
on his mind was the fireplace in the living room.
He told us at breakfast all about the fireplace
project. We can still have fires, he said, but the old
German tiles around the firebox will be covered
up. Hes building a paneled box around the fireplace from floor-to-ceiling. The firebox will not
be in the center, but to the left and the Renoir will
hang on the paneling to the right. This is the modern lookoff-center. I cant picture it. Where will
Mother put her flowers and candles without a
mantel?
The folding ruler in his back pocket means he
is on his way to the living room to take more
measurements, which means he will have to pass

51 FICTION

Lo u i s F r a t i n o

Disaster After Jesse Wongs Kitchen, 2014

52 FICTION

me standing here in the doorway. I can either go back upstairs or


I can stand here wondering is that long ash ever going to fall off
his cigarette?
Sweetheart?
He turns the faucet off hard because it still drips.
What do you need? He smiles his normal Saturday smile, a
little more relaxed than a weekday smile.
Need? He never asked me that before, but hes right; sometimes
I need help with my science report or I need him to sharpen my
ice skates.
What? No questions?
Hes right about questions, too. I ask a lot of questions in school
and at home. Well, my home question now is: did he hear the click
when I put down the receiver and who is Honey?
He looks at me straight, like every day we ever lived. He has
always looked at me straight. And he has always talked straight.
Now he looks straight, but he isnt straight. He has crossed the line.
It might be a figure of speech, but I know what Mother means now.
You step over and you cant step back.
Okay, he says, picking up his cigarette, the ash still not falling,
not falling, amazinguntil he flicks it in the sink. Then he walks
towards me. I cant move. Then he turns around and walks towards
the back hall just as Mother drives up the driveway. By the time
she comes through the back door, he is halfway down the basement
stairs and I am turned around because she will take one look at my
face and start asking questions.
Marky is dozing in the living room in front of the window seat.
I half expect his nose will be dry and we will have to take him to
Dr. Hanawalt, so many things are wrong in our family now. Im
not going out to the kitchen. I am going to stay right here with
Marky and look at this straight.
When my father isnt home, I imagine him driving on highways
with the sun in his eyes, having lunch at lunch counters in Toledo
and Detroit, talking to waitresses, taking mints from the bowl by
the cashier, meeting customers in offices in tall buildings. When
he goes to the lumberyard I go with him, and he takes me to the

53 FICTION

camera store and the gas station. When hes not working hes home,
doing his projects, fixing things, going up and down the basement
stairs, out to the garage, sitting on the porch with Mother, reading
the Ann Arbor News, tying his bow tie in the bathroom mirror,
stirring sugar in his coffee. He is not one of those out-of-town
fathers. But now he has a secret life. Say it straight: my father has
a girlfriend.
Grilled cheese?
She always finds me.
Dear?
Mother is tall. She has wavy gray hair, dark circles under her
eyes, a pointy nose, and shes wearing the same brown sweater.
Maybe he is sick of that sweater.
Tomato soup?
Mothers voice is high, not low.
Dear?
I always thought they slept in different bedrooms because he
snored, or she snored, but I was wrong about that, too. Nobody
snores. Marky thumps his tail.
Shall we take Marky for a ride?
Is she crazy? Marky hates to go in the car.
Youre absolutely right, she laughs. Im losing my mind!
So am I. So is my father. We are all losing our minds.
Help Marky up.
We have to hug his belly then lift gently.
Has he been out since I left?
No.
Then let him out, please. I dont want any more tinkles in the
house.
Marky doesnt run to the fence anymore and he doesnt lift his
leg. He just stands on the grass, spreads his legs, and pees like a
girl.
Mother is standing in front of the sink, letting water run over
her hands when I come inside. She doesnt show me her vegetables
or mention the pie she got at the market. She turns off the faucet,
doesnt notice it dripping, and doesnt dry her hands on the

54 FICTION

dishtowel. She pushes her hair behind her ear and turns around,
water running down her arm. I think she is going to call for Marky
to come back inside, but she keeps right on going down the basement stairs. We dont call him for lunch until its ready. Lunch is
not ready.
I dont know whats gotten into everybody, says Mother coming back up the basement stairs. Your father is not hungry and
youve got your lost-on-stage look. Give Marky two Milk Bones
when he comes in. Hes the only creature in this family I recognize
today.
I dont know why she forgot Marky hates going for a ride, but
she looks normal, cranking the can opener around the soup can,
smiling her smile for babies and small animals.
Tornado dreams last night, my darling daughter? Did you eat
that Hershey bar?
Not tornados. This, right now, us. Mother making lunch in the
kitchen and my father, who now has a girlfriend, hiding in the
basement.

Tonight I dont have a brownie for dessert, but the tornado dream
comes anyway. I am too old to wake up my father and Mothers
right; there is no reason I cannot warm my own milk. The tornado
could be in the front yard, so I cover my eyes when I get to the
landing. Then I trip over Marky. He yelps. Marky never sleeps on
the landing. Why isnt he in my fathers room, in the green chair?
Maybe I dont need warm milk. Maybe I should go back to bed. I
am about to turn around, but Marky heads down the stairs. I run
after him, and turn him at the bottom so he doesnt bang into the
wall.
Walking through the dining room I feel better. Its quiet, no
sound of a train, no trees bent over outside. The kitchen isnt even
dark because somebody left the stove light on.
I get the milk from the icebox and the glass from the cupboard.
I turn on the stove and take the milk pan with the red rim off the

Walking through the dining


room I feel better. Its quiet,
no sound of a train, no trees
bent over outside.
When I come down to the kitchen in the morning there is my
father in a clean white shirt and blue-and-gray striped bow tie,
standing by the stove stirring sugar in his coffee. He cut his chin
shaving. Markys water bowl is full. Mother is standing at the sink
where Tizzys pan is soaking, no questions asked about the mess I
made on the stove.

55 FICTION

hook. Mother calls this pan Tizzys pan because my grandmothers


cook, Tizbelle, used to warm milk for Mother in this pan when
Mother was a little girl. Mother is right about rituals. Using the
same pan Tizzy used is comforting.
Staring at the bank calendar I realize this is October, not June,
July, or August, not tornado season. Why didnt I think of that?
Then Marky barks and there is a loud crash. Before I can scream
Marky stops barking because leaning against the wall in the breakfast room, in his white shirt, bow tie undone, the window open,
cold air coming in, is my rumpled father. He kicks Markys water
bowl, doesnt see the puddle, doesnt close the window, doesnt even
see me or Marky, just turns towards the back hall, says a few swear
words, unhooks the chain on the back door, says a few more swear
words, and goes up the back stairs.
Did my father just climb through the window in the breakfast
room? The clock on the stove says 3:25. Why was the chain on the
back door? Marky looks at me with his cataract eyes. The milk boils
over.

56 FICTION

I fed Marky, she says, and I let him out.


My father takes his coffee to the breakfast room. When I sit
down beside him he nods as if I just said something we agreed on.
Mother sets a plate of cinnamon toast in front of me and sets another plate of plain buttered toast on the table. Who is having all
this toast? My father, who never has toast, eats two pieces. Then
he gulps down his coffee, makes a face because he burned his tongue,
gets up. Mother gives the last piece of toast to Marky. She never
did that before. Then my father goes to the lavatory. When he
comes back, the speck of toilet paper on his chin is gone, a tiny red
dot where the blood dried. I look at Mother. She is not looking at
him, she is not asking him anything.
He puts on his jacket, picks up his briefcase, says something I
dont hear, and goes out the back door, no towns mentioned, no
have a nice day. He doesnt even turn off the light in the back hall,
which must have been on all night. He walks to his car, puts his
briefcase in the back seat and tosses in his hat, closes the door, and
gets in the front seat. Then he backs out the driveway.
Mother scrubs out Tizzys milk pan with the pink SOS pad.
She forgets to turn off the faucet. All these things he is so strict
aboutnot leaving lights on, not letting the water run, not giving
Marky scrapstotally ignored.

We are in a new phase. I dont do my homework at the kitchen


table anymore; I go upstairs to my room. Mother writes letters at
her desk, but there are a few nights every week when my father
goes out and she listens to trumpet music on the record player and
plays solitaire. She pulls the coffee table up to the horsehair sofa.
There is not enough room on that table to play solitaire and drink
and smoke, but somehow her martini glass and ashtray never fall
off.
Tonight, when I stand in the doorway, not asking questions, she
snaps down a card and says, Your father has gone out for a spin in
this dreadful weather. When I boldly ask where to, she doesnt
even lift an eyebrow, but snaps down another card and says, as if

57 FICTION

we are friends, How should I know? Im the last to know. That I


just turn the record over and go upstairs is what its like nowanything to do with my father going out, keep your mouth shut.
A little bit later I hear cupboards slamming in the kitchen. Its
still raining and hes still not home. Then I hear a loud thud and
Marky yelping. When I get to the landing, Marky is under the front
hall. A saucepan lands in front of the sideboard. How could she do
that? Thats Markys favorite spot! A frying pan comes next. Then
Tizzys pan. Roasting pan. Meatloaf pan. Coffee pot. Last time she
picked the pots up. Not tonight. She leaves them on the carpet.
Hes home. They start yelling in the kitchen.
One of these days, Id like to meet your girlfriend. Why dont
you invite her for a drink?
Dont be ridiculous. Youre welcome to come. Sidney asked why
you never come.
I dont recall receiving an invitation. I wonder why that is?
And I wonder why all our friends have to be members of the
goddamned faculty. What do you want? A card in the mail? Engraved?
Does Dr. Hildebrandt teach at the medical school?
He does research and sees patients.
Research on what?
Blood pressure.
I wonder how his blood pressure is these days.
A few days later another fight, this time in the living room.
Ive been invited to go up north to their fishing camp.
When might that be?
Whenever they go up north. I dont know, June? Its on the
Au Sable River.
And who will be going to the fishing camp on the Au Sable
River in June?
Sidneys fishing buddies. Christ Almighty! Cant a man have
a hobby? Youre the one who gave me a tackle box for my birthday.
And I have a client who makes fishing tackle!
Hes right about that. She goes quiet. Finally, she says, And
what about Gwen?

58 FICTION

Shes going, too.


I see.
Its her fathers fishing camp for Christs sake and somebodys
got to cook!
So thats who Honey is: the wife of my fathers cardiologist.
How exactly Gwen Hildebrandt made her entrancewith a blouse,
a remark, a gutted fishI will never know.
My father still goes to work and he hasnt moved into an apartment, but hes forgotten all about the cartoon he drew on the Christmas box we mailed to his brother. Mother was the tall lady in the
skirt and high heels with wavy gray hair; he was the bald man in
trousers in the top hat and bow tie; Kate was the girl in the

59 FICTION

triangular skirt, her head turned to the side to show her red ponytail; I was the shorter girl with curly brown hair holding the leash
pulled out to the side; and Marky looked as if hed been, for once
in his life, to the dog grooming parlor. We are not that family
anymore.
Molly says we are, too, that family. She says the night my father
climbed through the window he was trying to get back to us and
he hasnt moved into an apartment like Carolyn Cranmores father.
I like Molly, but her father hasnt changed and hes on the faculty
and he stays home every night. Besides, I told her, when my father
climbed through the window he was not glad to see Marky or me.
He was not even ashamed. I remember it perfectly. He said a few
Lo u i s F r a t i n o

Mom and Dad in Herring Bay, 2014

60 FICTION

swear words and turned towards the back hall, took the chain off
the back door and climbed the back stairs. He used to say houses
dont need two sets of stairs, and Mother would say you do if you
have servants, to which he said he had no intention of hiring servants who needed back stairs. Well, hes been making good use of
those back stairs lately.
We have two kinds of days in our family now: a normal day
when he goes to work and stays home at night and hes all ours, or
a day with the Hildebrandts at the end of it and no telling at
breakfast or at dinner which day its going to turn out to be and no
rules for what to do about it. The old fireplace is covered up now,
and the Renoir is off-center. His favorite magazine used to be LIFE.
Now its Field and Stream.
When he goes for a spin Mother plays solitaire and listens to
trumpet music, but she doesnt throw pots and pans or yell. She has
gone quiet. Even when I knocked her best sherry glass off the shelf
in the pantry, she only let out a little gasp. Some special person had
given it to her so I said I was very sorry, but all she said was, Youve
forgotten the rule.
What rule?
Cherish people, not things.
Im quite sure we never had that rule, but it doesnt matter. I
never cherished things and I cant cherish people in the way she
means. Animals are all thats left. Besides, Im making my own rules
now.

Dav i d Lu r a s c h i

Seven Cans Of Goya On Petes Foot, 2012

Emma Furman
Saccades
There is no happy childhood. You just grow
away. Stars surface on still water. All the
I love yous. Theres a parking lot at
the bottom of this canyon. Someone saying
I could have talked to a wall that night.
Someone saying Youre an ass. A total
ass. At the same time every night,
the street lights turn on. I know
I am approaching the end of my depth,
when a horse, a literal horse, trots out
from the dark in photographic reality.

63

Li n d s a y d A d d a t o
Li n d s a y d A d d a t o

Lone Marshmallow, 2015


Hot Dogs in the Dark, 2015

Rya n O s k i n

Two Poems
Cezannes Landscape, 2013

Soren Bliefnick

67

Curio Storage

68 POETRY

The same way that when we form a thought we pull the


indiscriminate red-knobbed levers of the thousands of slot
machines in the casino, were immobilized as we scan
without conscious effort the millions of possible symbols
we know and their combinations, reeling to the clamor of
their own ill-tended and faux-gilded machine parts like
Fortunes Wheel, they click click clack to a lackluster stop
and reveal our thoughts, whose expression is only as rich as
the winning or clunky combination weve earned, as we
have nothing to show for our games of chance but the
minted tokens which compose our speech, far removed
from the context of their sweeping or rather unimpressive
victory (meriting only a shrug of indifferent resignation). In
the nanoseconds for which endures this fateful spin that I
have never known in speaking, never having spoken, but
observed with envy and rancor in others, I entered a space
of gray matter very different from the casino. The event
horizon I broached revealed the clinically lit, expansive
reaches of a curio storage, whose limits I failed to define by
the eye unaided. Circular, cherry wood curios, shoulderhigh, on three legs, with a light built in at the top. Curios to the
n t h p o w e r. Cu r io s a r r a n g e d i n a g r id , id e nt ic a l ,
ceaseless. I began a curious tourage among them, peering
into each, shadowed by my breathing and their creak under
the weight of their own emptiness. Every shelf of every
curio, irreproachably clean, no layer of dust in this chamber
of the incumulable. Only many numberless spotlights
shining down on their exhibitions of tiered blank glass. I gleaned
t herein, in t he in f in itesima l ly sma l l elapsement of
time thus far, that yester remained beyond my grasp
eternally. I, who have never known a yesterthing, was not
made to remember, to plumb the falsehood called my self. I
was a rag, made not to retain the puke and tears and dust,
only to clean them away, make them as if they and nothing ugly
or c h a r m i n g or p oi g n a nt a nd ov e r w he l m i n g e v e r
happened. I am the absolver of goosef lesh, I knew. And
time resumed its indelible course.

Haus: Fort-Da

69 POETRY

But halfway down a hill resides one house


All modular, a keep for hearts, and gin,
Arising like the crenellations of
Some sidestreet fortress. Shored against the bands
Marauding in the street, we watch their cries
For sex and validation, hop-soaked brains
Sad ululations. From the terrace fear
We spook with clinks of cheers and cigarettes
In exhalation: spirit drums and fireWorks shrouding us in prelude, surety, pluck.
Inside, among absinthe parisienne
Posters, books overflow their case, in soft
And hazy light: we incandesce, our lot
Abrim with courage they call Dutch. No short
Supply, we refestoon with juniper
And ginger, blossoms on our cheeks, the mirth
Of weekends, weekends, weeknights too; concised,
Each night a palimpsest of precedents
In this, the durance of our memory.

In the room, the revelers come and go,
Again, forgetting Michelangelo.

Talena Sanders
Body Memory

71

Ta l e n a S a n d e r s

2AM in Raleigh, 2011

Ta l e n a S a n d e r s

Buxton, NC, 2011

Ta l e n a S a n d e r s

After William Eggleston, Greensboro, NC,

78 POETRY

79 POETRY

Ta l e n a S a n d e r s

Drive-Thru Nails, Greensboro, NC, 2010

80 POETRY

81 POETRY

Ta l e n a S a n d e r s

Owen, Kentucky, 2010

82 POETRY

83 POETRY

Ta l e n a S a n d e r s

North Carolina State Fair, Raleigh, NC, 2010

Sam Haberman

Steve, Angeles National Forest, 2014

Andrew Cedermark
Tritina Against Cho
On his bad days God screams into a jar,
seals it and sends it hurtling down to earth.
Those that dont shatter are propped on bodies
and called heads. Maybe you wondered if bodies
were dead how many would fit into jars,
or how many bodies would fill the earth
with bodies. In dreams now you hunt the earth
with twin pistols and fire on sand filled jars
when you cant find any heads or bodies
to fill the earth

85

Sarah V. Schweig
STORIES (II)
for Mark

It is your last night on Earth.


I am listening to an opera singer from Berlin talk in broken English.
It is a party. From a glass tumbler, I am drinking bourbon,
and she is asking about my poetry.
It is your last night on Earth. I am unaware.
The party is sitting down to dinner. We have switched to wine,
red and white. The opera singer is a friend of a friend of my lover.
He rests his palm on my knee, and I rest my hand on his shoulder.
About my poems, they are less and less about emotion, I tell
the opera singer. A kind of demonstration of how one idea or image
can always follow from the last. Once there was a man, and then there wasnt,
I wrote once, remember? You wrote: I am what is missing.
Now the party is full and seated on couches.
I drink spirits poured over a single cube of melting ice.
Now, about moving, the opera singer is asking advice.
It is your last night, I am unaware, and have nothing to tell her.
87

Once there was a man, and then there wasnt, STORIES went, remember?
You advised me to cut the moons from an image of airplanes, taking off,
and I took it. I was learning. About moving to New York, the opera singer
is asking advice. This morning, it is easier to write of her.
Clarity over emotion, remember. Story over sentiment, you taught me.
I was learning. It was your last night on Earth, and I am sitting there,
drinking spirits poured over a single cube of melting ice. My lover says
Tell me when he thinks theres something wrong, I am learning.
On the last night of your life, of which I was unaware, he said nothing,
and I was off, living mine, with him, my lover, cupping delicate tumblers of ice,
and you were off somewhere between everywhere and nowhereice,
ice, ice everywhereTomorrow, I would learn it.
88 STORIES

During dinner, and after, all the papers were poised to break,
with the dawn, the facts: last night was the last night of his life, the great poet,
etcetera. The party is talking visas and sponsors with the opera singer,
who speaks in broken English, wanting, wanting, wanting . . .
Why do I speak of this? Because its easier than saying
this morning I woke and hid from the light in the shelter
of the broad, living back of my lover, who was sleeping,
asking nothing, commanding nothing, loving, loving, loving . . .
Clarity over sentiment, remember. I am trying. Last night,
the opera singer broke into an aria to demonstrate something.
I dont know what. When she stopped talking, when she stopped wanting,
when she stopped moving, her voice was beautiful and clear.
Once there was a man, and then there wasnt, I wrote once, wanting, wanting.
This is STORIES (II). It is for you, who are missing. Ive kept it poised,
clear, a promise to you, a tribute. Its what you taught me. Tell me,
my lover says now, and it is simple, old friend. I cover my face with my hands.

A l b e r t o F e i j oo

Untitled 1, from the series


Life is for everyone, 2009

91 FICTION

A l b e r t o F e i j oo

Untitled 2, from the series


Life is for everyone, 2009

Haley Stephon

Essential Oils
Dahlia Bloom, 2014

Carianne King

93

A L LY W H I T E

THE PORTRAIT OF

Pricked No. 2, acrylic and collage on paper, 12.75 x 9 inches

BRIGITTE BARDOT AT
THE DOCTORS OFFICE
REMINDED ME OF
THERESE, JACKS
EX-GIRLFRIEND.
In the picture, Brigitte sat in a dancers pose on a spotlit stage, her
toes pointed forward, her back arched. Her long, blonde hair hung
over her face like a sexy curtain. Dr. Fuller had gone off to look at
my X-rays, and I waited for him in the sandy, scuffed room that
had seen all sorts of bad news. I wagged my jaw back and forth and
it was loose, a stretched piece of gum that rang with red pain.
It was the end of junior year, and I was looking forward to
spending the summer in Jacks bedroom, getting some. In pamphlets
at the career center I had learned about artsy colleges on farms
places where I could go and be myself. All I had to do was get
through another year of high school, another year in these suburbs,
a mall-studded belt that squeezed the nations capital. I was planning
95

96 FICTION

on floating through my classes, and then spending all of my extracurricular hours at Jacks house, which was on a farm, a place where
I liked being more than home. There I was treated to home-cooked
meals prepared with vegetables fresh from the plots down the hill.
The Larkins lived far enough from the highway that when I looked
at the sky from their porch at night, I could actually see stars.
When I called my mother to tell her about my jaw, she went on
for a while about her boss Lonnies difficult travel arrangements
three hotels, three nights!and how she couldnt get the people at
the Sunset Express to call her back. When I told her what happened,
she said, Ill be there as soon as I can. As soon as I finish this
payroll. Her voice caught as if she might cry, and I hung up. My
mother wanted life to be more than it was, as if we were characters
in a sad story that could move others to tears. She used to channel
her passion into the ballads she sang at Shenanigans, a sports bar
off Route 50, but since the shopping center was razed in favor of
deluxe condominiums, she no longer had an outlet.
Dr. Fuller came in smiling, and for a moment I thought he
might have good news. Well! he said. Ive got bad news. He
clipped an X-ray to the light box and pointed at the little sparks
shooting into black around my jaw hinge, my ruined cartilage. Youll
need surgery immediately, he said. And six weeks of mandatory
sealed rehabilitation. I asked him what that was, and he said my
jaw would be wired shut, that he would wind little metal fibers
around my braces.
Its okay, he said. You will still be a beautiful young woman.
I didnt believe him. Would my jaw be centered, as it was? Or
would it hang low and loose? Would I talk funny? I saw myself:
slack-jawed and unlovable. Kissing me would be like kissing a dog.
When my mother arrived, her face was pink and salt-streaked.
The traffic was god-awful, she said. It was backed up for miles
and miles. It moved an inch at a time. Literally an inch. I thought
I was going to die. She sat down beside me and looked out the
window at the glaring sun. To her, it was raining. I dont know how
were going to get through this, she continued. I barely have any
vacation days left. There goes Ocean City. There goes summer.

I can take care of myself, I said, slurring. Dont worry.


She reached for my hand. Sweet girl, she said. Then she asked
Dr. Fuller to repeat everything he had just told me.

97 FICTION

In a dim, greenish pre-op room, I considered whether this, my


accident, had happened to me for a reason. At school, I was a cocky,
prideful pseudo-intellectual who harbored disdain for my classmates. Freshman year I had found a ripped copy of The Stranger
by Albert Camus in a pile of books the school library put out next
to the trash. I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world, I
read. Exactly, I thought. The kids at my school were sheeple, to
borrow my mothers word, with their straightened smiles, their
grade-grubbing, their high-fives. Our teachers were just proxies for
the far-away government executives who wrote our curriculum.
They were all just pretending not to know the truth: that all of life
leads to death, and there is no real point to anything.
From the back of the medi-van, I had looked upon my teammates
jogging half-heartedly after the Oakvale Falcons, who were up nine
to zero. The Falcons were the best in the league, equipped as they
were with tinted sunglasses, cleats with extra grippers on the toe,
and a sleek, black touring van. While they munched quinoa bars
and veggie platters during halftime, we ate corn products a
grade above chicken feed. Our team had won only two games,
both against Freelawn, whose numbers were down due to an
outbreak of mononucleosis, and, rumor now had it, an outbreak of
lesbianism. I didnt care about our dismal record, though. I joined
the team only to get the physical activity certificate that would
qualify me for a silver-level diploma, which would look better
on my college applications.
I had been standing in the backfield zoning out when Coach
Hamlin screamed my name and pointed toward a girl with pigtails
running in my direction. From the gawky way she handled the ball,
I could tell she was a player the Falcons let on the field only when
they were far ahead. Sensing a steal, I jogged over to her. She reared
up for a long shot and before I could duck, her elbow slammed into

98 FICTION

my jaw. I fell onto the turf, and she ran off without apology. As pain
exploded from my cheek I saw her shoot and miss. She ran back
upfield with her head hanging low, and her coach yelled, Thats
alright, Hadley. Good spirit, good spirit. As Coach Hamlin helped
me off the field, I could feel the eyes of my teammates on me, their
unsmiling compatriot, and instead of applause for my courage there
was dreadful silence. Youre so brave, said a nurse. She squeezed
my arm and I felt myself start to float away on a powerful tide of
anesthesia. Then came the blank time. When I awoke, I saw myself
in the mirror, the horror of my new metal mouth, and though it
hurt, I smiled.

A L LY W H I T E

99 FICTION

As per my recovery regimen, I was only allowed to eat liquids:


milkshakes that I sucked through the gaps in my teeth, and tomato
soup strained to remove chunks. The codeine I took for pain gave
me mild psychotropic visions wherein it seemed like the television,
my only companion, stretched to fill the room. In the morning,
there were the loud, hectic variety shows that cut from interviews
with celebrities to news, to demos of easy pasta meals, to a zookeeper bringing out an alligator on a leash. Then came hours of
delicious dramapaternity tests, sexy teens, and moms who wouldnt
stop partying. Their wrecked lives were a comfort, a ratty shawl I
wrapped around my shoulders.
My mother convinced Lonnie to let her tap into her future sick
and personal days and stay home with me. There wasnt much I
needed, just a smoothie every once in a while, but she tried to help
nonetheless, once sitting at the edge of my bed and giving me a
pinchy foot massage, and once offering me a grape popsicle she
said I could let melt against my mouth. The rest of the time she sat
in the living room with the TV on, emailing her friends. A bouquet
of carnations arrived and I looked at the card and saw it was addressed to her.
Jack texted me. I miss u sexie, he wrote. When can I see u????
I wouldnt let him come over. My cheeks were swollen up to my
eyes. I was thin and pale from my liquid diet, and my hair was slick
with grease. I blamed my mother.

Cat Yearning, acrylic and collage on paper, 6 x 7.75 inches

100 FICTION

My mom says no visitors. What a b.


Ur moms crazy. Companionship is vital to healing!
Before Jack and I got together, he had been seeing Therese, the
reigning babe of all babes at our high school. She was the star
forward on the soccer team. Her flawless smile hadnt required
braces, and her hair was so thick she could tie a bun around a pencil and it would stay. She exerted a mysterious power over the rest
of us. She was known to hawk petty gossip, for example, and had
famously stuck a quarter in Neil Klingers butt crack, which was
always showing because there were no pants that suited his physique.
She hurled traffic cones on the lawns of our teachers. The boys
adored her. She and Jack dated all through the fall. She, the terror,
and he, the sweet soccer goalie who smelled a little like earth, who
loved programming games on his graphing calculator. Id tried to
flirt with him in geometry, leaning in close so he could smell the
strawberry body splash Id applied that morning, but for the months
he was with Therese I was invisible. It was only after she expended
him, as she eventually did all of her boyfriends, that Jack invited
me to see Xtreme Speed 2, held my sweaty hand, and told me I was
the apple of his eyeball.
From my spot in bed, I watched through the window as summer
bloomed. As the heat intensified, so did the sunlight, which seemed
to thicken into the color of pollen. Then there were the long evenings, dusky pink that lasted for hours, until dark blue became
total shadow. Before a thunderstorm, the light was always sickly
green. Over the days, I felt myself grow weaker, deprived as I was
of solid food. Under the fluorescent bathroom light, my skin was
the color of old newspaper. I dreamed of eatingpizza, spaghetti,
potato chipsand filling out again. One afternoon, my mother
brought me a hot dog smoothie. I thought it was some kind of
chocolate-strawberry creation, but then I saw the curdled bits floating around.
From scratch, she said, setting it on my nightstand.
I looked at her.
What? she said. You need protein.
Nothing, I said. Thanks.

I went to the bathroom and poured it down the drain, but it


wouldnt go. I ran some water until it went away.

101 FICTION

Jack asked multiple times if he could come over, and each time I
declined. His efforts at showing care dashed, he texted less, only
Gnight! or just a winky face with its tongue sticking out. I knew
he was busy with soccer training camp every day. I knew that his
practices were at the same time as the womens team, that Therese
was there. One day he wrote, My mom wants to know if you want
to come over for dinner. Shell make soup.
I loved to sit at the edge of Mrs. Larkins cutting board while
she made dinner, to watch her slice farm tomatoes that were plumper
and redder than any Id ever seen. She ran a health and wellness
center, and shed tell me about her clients, who were all crazy and
repressed because their lives had too many rules. She had taught
me, as I was just then beginning to see, that there was a way of
living that was smart and healthy. At the thought of the thick,
herbed soup she would make, my stomach growled.
I wandered down to the living room, where I found my mother
tapping on her laptop. She had on a faded leopard-print nightgown
and flip-flops she wore around the house like slippers. The television
was on, but she wasnt watching. It was America, You Got This. My
mother had said that everyone who tried out on the show was
talentless and sad. On screen, a trombonist was playing Over the
Rainbow while a parakeet danced on his head.
My mother looked up from her laptop. I hate this show, she
said.
Dont watch it, then, I said.
Im not! Its just on.
The judge on screen gave the trombonist an 8.2.
Can I go to Jacks for dinner?
Cant you tell him to come here? she said.
I shrugged. Whenever Jack came over, my mother barged into
my bedroom for reasons that seemed improvised, like did we get
any mail today, how about some ice cream, Aretha Franklin is

102 FICTION

doing an interview on TV, dont you want to see, shes a legend. I


knew she just wanted to make sure we werent doing anything.
Could you be any more selfish? she said. I took off work to
spend every single day with you. What if something happened? Do
those hippies even believe in hospitals? Or are all of their problems
solved with yoga and good vibes?
Fine, I said. Never mind.
The air in my bedroom smelled like my own bad breath. I turned
on the television and watched Island Infidelity, a show where they
send three couples to a tropical resort and tempt them with sexy
singles.
U coming or not? Jack messaged.
My mom wont let me, I wrote.
Ur mom is emotional and selfish. She believes everything u
want is a threat to her, which is not fair for u. Sneak out. Ill come
get u.
On television, one of the couples was making out in a hot tub,
and I felt a spike of lust shoot through me. OK, I said. Come
get me.
When Jacks white station wagon appeared across the street, it was
so expected and so familiar I felt I had planted it with my mind.
Under the soft streetlight, Jack was as handsome as ever. He wore
his hair combed behind his ears, a t-shirt that clung to his abs, and
some baggy shorts. As I crept down the hall, I could hear my mother
snoring. Outside, the air was warm and wet, and my refrigerated
skin felt cool against it. I ran up to Jack and threw my arms around
his neck. With my swollen cheeks, I couldnt kiss him. I pressed my
lips against his face and made a smacking sound with my tongue.
Youre just as beautiful as ever, he said.
My lips curled painfullyI couldnt help itand revealed my
metal smile.
As we drove up Route 50, we fell into pace with the night drivers, people who liked to speed once they were out of the main
streets. Jack floored it and I felt my neck tighten. Shopping centers

103 FICTION

with empty lots blurred by, car dealerships with their lights blistering bright, the condos that had replaced Shenanigans. They faded
into black woods, out where Jack lived, where there were only large
homes tucked into the hills, only the occasional church or gas station attending the roadside.
So, what have you been up to? I said.
Thinking about you mostly, he said.
He put his hand on my thigh.
Really? I said.
Why? What else would I be thinking about?
I dont know, I said. Hows soccer camp?
Its been so hot, you wouldnt believe. Rick Devins fainted. But
then he went to the nurse, and he was fine.
Wow, I said. That sucks.
At the entrance to the community where Jack lived was the
vegetable stand that sold produce grown on the property. A wooden
sign posted at the edge of the driveway read, Gone Sleepin. We
drove uphill, where a planned community looked out over the land.
At the pinnacle was Jacks house, a three-story building with a wide
porch and lush surrounding trees. Light shined from the kitchen
window and, as we pulled in, I could see Mrs. Larkin leaning over
the sink, the long braid she always wore dangling in front of her
like soft rope.
My mom stayed up to say hi, Jack said.
The kitchen smelled like sweetness and spice. Whos this skinny
lady? Mrs. Larkin said, and hugged me tight. Are you hungry? I
made soup because I thought you were coming for dinner.
Sorry, I said. I got held up.
No sorry, she said.
She went to the stove and ladled some soup into a mug and
handed it to me with a straw. Still hot, she said. The broth was
golden in color, and creamy. I sucked the straw and felt warmth
spread from my belly to my limbs.
I cant imagine what it must be like, Mrs. Larkin said, not
being able to eat real food. If it were me, Id go crazy. How are you
doing with everything? Weve missed you.

104 FICTION

Okay, I said. Ive just been watching a lot of TV.


TV, she said. The living room was framed by bookshelves full
of well-worn paperbacks. She went over and browsed, pulled out
two books. Here, she said. This ones about a couple who falls in
love in India. Very spiritual. And this onethis is essays about
families. This writer, he has a lot of pain, but hes very funny.
Lately, I hadnt felt like reading. I had picked up Camus and the
words just slid off the page. Thanks, I said. Ill definitely read
them.
Alright, kids, Mrs. Larkin said, ruffling Jacks hair. Im going
to bed.
Goodnight, Mom, Jack said.
As Mrs. Larkins steps disappeared upstairs, Jack put his arms
around me. His hand scraped my stomach under my shirt, and I
shivered.
Want to go downstairs? he said.
Okay, I said.
He leaned down and scooped me into his arms. As we went
down the steps, I felt the crown of my head scrape a picture frame
hanging on the wall. Careful, I said. Jack brought me to his bedroom and laid me down on the bed. I had missed it, the scent of
his laundry in piles around the room, his messy desk covered in
floppy disks that contained vintage computer games. Jack lay down
next to me. He was tan from playing soccer all summer. I touched
his hair, and he kissed me, little pecks against my wired mouth. He
slipped his hand beneath the waistband of my underwear.
I dont know, I whispered.
I watched him make a decision to be good. We dont have to
do anything you dont want to do, he said. Want to watch a movie?
Ive got Xtreme Speed 3.
I looked at myself in the mirror over his desk. My face was
swollen. My hair looked colorless and flat. My jaw was off-center,
gritted slightly to the right, as if tearing off a piece of jerky.
If youre worried about your looks, dont be, he said. Ill love
you no matter what.
No matter what-what? I said.

105 FICTION

No matter what, youll always be the most beautiful girl Ive


ever seen.
He told me to lie down. He removed my pants, then my underwear. He kissed my hipbones, then he kissed me between my legs.
I thought of Therese. Therese, with a horde of boys following her
through the halls. Therese in a bikini in a picture on HotRank with
a thousand votes. Therese giving Jack and me the mean side-eye
when we walked through the halls holding hands. Jacks flushed
look of embarrassment. I sat up, drew my legs together. Its okay,
I said.
I wanted to make you feel good, Jack said.
Dont worry, I said. You did.
Jack came and lay beside me and rested his head on my shoulder. He fell asleep within minutes, tired from playing soccer all day.
As I stared up at the ceiling, I thought about college, about how,
when I left this place, I could shop at whatever hip boutiques I
wanted, not just at the mall. How someday I would get the most
amazing haircut. My braces would come off, my skin would clear.
Id meet a guy, and hed tell me I was really hot. But now that my
jaw was weird I didnt know if it would be possible.
I lifted myself from Jacks arms and went into the family room.
On the bookshelf was a stack of board gamesWhoops! and Peril
games I always lost to the Larkins, who were good at math and
logic. I walked upstairs. In the kitchen, Mrs. Larkin was standing
by the window with a cup of tea, looking out on the yard.
Cant sleep? she said. Me neither.
I sat at the kitchen island in the center of the room. There was
a dirty cutting board left out from dinnersome onion skins, and
the lid of a red pepper. A venus flytrap sat in a small pot in the
middle of the counter, its mouth oozing white goo over whatever
it had caught.
I should go home, I said. My mother doesnt know Im here.
Mrs. Larkin looked at me, and I saw her understand.
Ill drive you, she said. I dont mind.
We walked onto the porch. Above us, friendly stars twinkled.
Theyre putting in more over there, Mrs. Larkin said, pointing to

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a dense section of trees. Ive complained to the county, but of course


they wont do anything. To the west of the farm, bright light from
a construction site punctured the darkness. I could see the skeletal
shells of the new buildings, a strip mall that promised a grocery
store and a movie theater. Mrs. Larkin had grown up on this land.
It was her family that owned the farm before a chunk of it had been
redeveloped in the name of community.
I followed her down to her car, a pert blue sedan. The interior
smelled like flowers, and a little like sweat. In the back was a yoga
mat, and a crate full of essential oils. My mothers car was full of
coffee cups and catalogs with curling pages. I remembered how
Mrs. Larkin had told me she started a business because she couldnt
imagine working for anyone but herself.
Are you alright? she said. You seem quiet.
Sorry, I said, through my teeth. My mouth hurts.
Thats okay, she said. You dont have to talk to please me.
Out on the empty highway, Mrs. Larkin knew how to catch the
green lights. All she had to do was slow down a little before the

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A L LY W H I T E
A L LY W H I T E

Horse Head, acrylic and collage on panel, 8 x 10 inches


Alligator Whisper, acrylic and collage on panel, 40 x 48 inches

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reds and they would change to let her through. Jack knew how to
do it, too. So many nights when he had driven me home, he had
made a game of it.
I deal with unhappiness all day long, Mrs. Larkin said, cutting
through the silence. Sometimes I can fix the problem using surface-level suggestions. Where we live is really terrible for health,
and people dont see it. I say, Perhaps you would feel better if you
didnt sit at a desk for eight hours a day, and two hours in traffic.
Perhaps you would feel better if you stopped eating meals on-the-go:
too many carbs and trans fats. But sometimes that doesnt work,
and I realize that maybe the client doesnt feel well due to depression. Problems at home, lack of self-confidencethe disparaging
things that people tell themselvesa barrage of daily insults that
work horrors on the immune system. What you went through was
really hard. You must have so many questions. Why did this happen
to me? Will I still look like me? You might even feel depressed
because of poor nutritionnothing but milkshakes. Whats even
in industrial milkshakes? And your mother is no help. Shes not a
bad person, but from what Jacks told me, she seems difficult. Do
you think shes ever considered therapy? It could give her some
helpful strategies for coping rather than what she does now: put it
all on you.
I pictured my mother at a therapist, who would look like Mrs.
Larkin, but a little dressier, in a pale pink cardigan. She would say
to my mother, Can you phrase that as an I statement? Like, I
feel? and my mother would say, I feel like my boss is a twerp.
I feel like my daughter is selfish. I feel like the traffic was insane
today.
If you ever wanted me to talk to her, Mrs. Larkin said. I could
try.
Shes been taking good care of me, I lied. But thanks.
I just want you to be happy, she said. I know my son has a
habit of chasing every impulse. I dont know if you know her, but
Jacks last girlfriend was a lot to handle. Very pretty, and very sharp,
but just not someone who makes good decisions. I have tried to
encourage Jack to like strong womenfor their minds, not their
bodies. I know he really cares for you. He said he loves how

A L L Y W H I T E Tongue Thruster,
acrylic and collage on panel, 10 x 10 inches

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reasonable you are, and how smart. I cant think of better compliments.
We had reached the last traffic light before my house, the one
with the dysfunctional sensor. So many nights, Jack and I had
watched cars passing infinitely from the other direction, the light
never changing to let us through. I didnt mind the wait because it
meant a few extra moments with Jack, a few extra moments before
going home and finding my mother snoring on the couch, where
she often fell asleep, quite early, exhausted from long days doing
customer service for Telecorp, and waking her, trying to convince
her to go to her bed, where shed sleep better.
Whats the matter here? Mrs. Larkin said, drumming the
steering wheel anxiously. What the heck?
She flashed her headlights, and the light blinked to green. She
drove up across from my house, put the car in idle.
Get some rest, she whispered, patting my knee. Well see you
soon.

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art name

At my last visit, Dr. Fuller said I hadhealed beautifully. When he


snipped the wires that held my teeth shut, I gulped air so fresh it
seemed to burn. I went to the bathroom, where I drank water from
the faucet and brushed my teeth three times until the rotten smell
went away. In the mirror, I stared at myself. My teeth sat unevenly
on top of one another, the top slanting over the bottom. My chin
hung low, and to the right.
Dr. Fuller said he wanted to take my photo for the Wall of Fame.
He posed me against a white wall, just beneath the portrait of
Brigitte, counted to three, and snapped. He shook the Polaroid dry
A L L Y W H I T E Horse Girl ( Jenny),
acrylic and collage on panel,24 x 24 inches

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A L LY W H I T E

I stood in the street as she pulled around. She waved at me as


she went by, a tickly little wave, and I felt it work on someone who
was not me, as if someone beside me was falling in love. Her headlights faded as she turned the corner, and I was left in a soft, orange
dark. Gnats swarmed beneath the streetlight, strobing flecks that
might as well have been dust. I looked at my house from the road
and saw the overgrown yard, the siding stained with rust from the
saggy, weighted gutters. Once inside, I heard a strange sound, a
metallic whir coming from somewhere. I followed the noise to the
living room, where my mother lay on the sofa. She wore headphones,
and I could hear that she was listening to a recording of one of her
nights at Shenanigans, a tape she brought out sometimes. Her eyes
were shut tight. Her flip-flopped feet tapped to the beat. On the
coffee table was a drained bottle of wine.
I went back to my bedroom. On the door was a note:
You sneak. Your lies have broke my heart. I know you (and
those people) think Im an asshole, but Im not. I love you to death.
From the first moment I saw you I never wanted you to feel any
pain, and I hope you know I live to make you smile. LOVE, Mom.
The air in my bedroom was sour. I opened the window. I climbed
into bed but couldnt sleep. I retrieved one of the books Mrs. Larkin had given me, the one about the love affair in India. I read from
a random page. The next morning, she awoke tangled in silk sheets. I
never want to go back to Connecticut, she said. I put the book aside.

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and tacked it to a corkboard next to a man named Walt, who also


had a crooked jaw.
Youre famous, my mother said. On the way home my mother
and I stopped at the grocery store. She handed me twenty dollars
and said I could get anything I wanted. While she went around the
store doing our regular shopping, I went in search of all the foods
I longed for: macaroni and cheese, pizza, hot dogs. I met my mother
in line with a full basket under my arm. As we waited, I looked to
my left and there she was, Therese, waiting in the express line holding a bottle of Flavo-water and a bag of corn chips. She was tan
from the summer, her hair big, bleachy and indomitable. She saw
me and squinted. I turned around, but I could still feel her staring,
staring at my new jaw, and my stomach turned as I thought of what
shed say about me when school started in a month. Id already
broken up with Jack Larkin, golden boy of our high school, who
cried after I said I would never join the Peace Corps. Whats her
problem? my mother said. God, this place is full of creeps.
Behind us, Therese moved through the express lane. I helped
my mother with our purchases, sliding bag after bag of junk food
up the conveyer belt.

Sister Wants to be Pink, acrylic and collage


on panel, 40 x 48 inches
A L LY W H I T E

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115 FICTION

Be to Ruiz Alons o
Sergiy Barchuk

First snow at Weinberg Park, Berlin

Big Sur, 2014 (right)

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T h o m a s P r io r

Untitled, 2014
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Kathryn Donohue
When we tell the story of us right now

well use the words weve been given


to describe time. Like were supposed to,
well say years ago, and not acknowledge
how units flicker, elide, swell
a decade into seconds and then its not a
matter of how long, days into a barbed
valley, so before and after are terrains
that dont touch. Well use a month
with its attendant numbers, naming a
moment remembered for how a tea kettle
can sound so abrupt, how even stocking
feet on old carpet make some soft noise.

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Ni c o l e S c h i l d e r

Sink, 2014

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Minat Terkait