Fighting Over Depeche Mode by Stephanie Valente

Fighting Over Depeche Mode

My sister and I are in a battle: we know we'd be so good – married to Depeche Mode. The romance, the lust, the hunger. When I play, I play to win. Who gets to marry Martin? Who gets to have Dave? Is one better than the other? I tell my sister that as the oldest, I get first choice. It's only fair. I'm protecting her from a mistake and midnight-blue heartache. After all, it's an older sibling duty.

My sister says that we should think about this carefully. We already died a few times – first by the music, the second after dancing, and the third by the ocean. It’s the British accents, I say. They’re poison. It’s always sweet and always delicious. Who could say no to that? Who could say no to death when it’s so much fun?

My sister says that we should wait and see. We should propose. We should choose the right man. Which musician will make breakfast in the morning? Or will both of the men sulk away and write sad, sad songs with big wet eyes? We hope so. We told them we’d make good wives and wear branch crowns and wait by the window with poetry and berry lips. We think they’d like it. We think they’d like to watch us dance. We think they’d like to touch our wrists and tell us about all of the tiny traumas that live in their hair, the faded ink receipts in their pockets, what it’s like to feel lonely when you are not alone.

For this, my sister and I think they would be interesting husbands. But, we don’t know who to choose. They both sing. They’d both give us ghost children, but only if we wanted them. As for me, I think of the blonde one late at night. In my morning dreams, he lays behind me, a face in my shoulder, my neck. We are always naked and never cold. I think about how his voice would curl behind my ear. I think about us smiling with all of our teeth. I told my sister I would like that.

Good, my sister says, I liked the other one better.

Good, I say. And I think this life would be full of machine music and the man with the sad blue eyes would be mine. Finally, finally. I would always hold his hand. And maybe, steal his leather jacket. I tell my sister he would roll his eyes, but truthfully he’d love it.

My sister would love the other man with dark eyes. They like to dance and contort their bodies. He has the best record collection for dancing. But, I have the better kisser. Though, in some ways, it makes me jealous. With our husbands, we’d be good at sending each other our thoughts. If you’re going to marry a band, you’d have to have superpowers, no? Being a vampire is overrated. But telepathy, my sister and I decide, is where it’s at.

But then, I think of the dark eyed one and the full lips and perhaps, one day, we would be happy too. Dancing in the weird moon. Laughing and not being so serious. I told my sister this could work, too. If she’d only let me try. It’s only fair.

Stephanie Valente lives in Brooklyn, NY. She has published Hotel Ghost (Bottlecap Press, 2015) and waiting for the end of the world (Bottlecap Press, 2017) and has work included in Susan, TL;DR, and Cosmonauts Avenue. Sometimes, she feels human. http://stephanievalente.com

A Jovial Hullabaloo Among the Spheres by Gary M. Almeter

A Jovial Hullabaloo Among the Spheres

What I found most astonishing when I first set foot in the convent wasn’t necessarily the quantity of the Jesuses therein; it was more the scope of incarnations of those Jesuses.  I entered the convent through the kitchen, per Sister Domnina’s instructions, so as not to sully the light blue deep pile carpets in the aptly named front room.  There were Jesus pot holders hanging above the stove and a set of Jesus trivets hanging on the wall and Jesus salt and pepper shakers atop a Jesus table cloth.  There was a trio of Jesuses on the plastic covers covering a trio of counter-top appliances - a resplendent baby Jesus covering the blender; a Jesus hanging off the cross with blood spurting out of his many wounds on an electric can opener cover; and a newly resurrected Jesus levitating above the clouds on the toaster cover.  As Sister Domnina and I wended our way through the house, I saw Jesus in many various states of repose and torture bestrewn throughout the nuns’ house. There were statues of all sizes: a large pre-adolescent Jesus in a satin robe; an adult Jesus walking on water and between the rabbit ear antennae on the console television; a Jesus stepping on a red-horned Satan; and a Jesus standing on top of planet earth. There were pictures of Jesus enduring every sort of indignity and enjoying every sort of exaltation.  There was a paint-by-number painting of Jesus talking to the children.  There were hand-drawn pictures of Jesus talking to animals, addressing his twelve apostles, listening to his mother and making a table with his father taped to the front door.  There were plastic Jesuses that glowed in the dark, ceramic Jesuses, crocheted Jesuses, wooden Jesuses, table-lamp Jesuses, light-switch plate Jesuses, and moisturizing soap Jesuses. There were Jesuses covering Kleenex boxes and candle Jesuses emitting aromatic scents. 

My presence there was the result of that rare double defect of being too earnest and contemplative to be expelled but too fiendish and heretical to not be punished.  Those on the disciplinary board who wanted me expelled for stealing months’ worth of communion wine from the school chapel capitulated when Sister Domnina beseeched them to let me stay. She said I was a nice boy. There were six days before graduation and she said she had exactly 72 hours of work for me to do at the convent – the house where the three Franciscan sisters who worked at Sacred Heart High School lived. 

If the Jesuses were meant to foster an environment of serenity or piety, they had the opposite effect for me.  I found them intimidating and a little grotesque and the idolatry a wee bit misguided.  Had graduation and escape not been on the line, I would have walked out.  I would have. 

Sister Domnina had been my 2nd grade teacher and I thought she was at least 100 years old then. But if living in small town dependent on a dying air conditioner plant and a large state prison for its livelihood had taught me that time eats away and corrodes things – faces, walls, plants, hopes, machinery, paychecks, the size of the crowd at the rodeo – Sister Domnina taught me that there were clear exceptions to such corrosion.  She still looked to be at least 100 years old with her little raisin eyes stuck in shriveled face surrounded rumors of gray wiry hair peeking out of her habit, all moved precariously along by slow tiny block-like feet.  But she still maintained a spritely and effervescent demeanor. 

She greeted me with warmth and kindness that evinced no indication she resented me for hijacking the first week of her summer vacation or for stealing the blood of Jesus. I got to the convent at 7 a.m. on Monday morning.  I was tasked with cleaning the basement which meant carrying about 200 boxes of nun stuff upstairs – boxes of old school books, old clothes, old everything upstairs for Sister Domnina to assess. Around lunch time Sister Domnina called me for lunch.  She made bologna sandwiches. I could see glops of technicolor mustard oozing out of the Wonder bread and informed Sister Domnina that I did not like mustard.  She said that I could eat or not.  I declined and went back to the basement where I worked until 7 p.m. on the nose.

On Tuesday, I had to rent a steam cleaner and was tasked with steam cleaning the carpets.  I cursed when some of the fringe in the living room rug got caught in the machine.  Sister Domnina – sitting in a room she called the sun porch needlepointing a wine bottle holder with a picture of Jesus turning water into wine – heard the curse and smiled.  She said it was time for a break so we watched Let’s Make a Deal and The Price is Right after Sister Domnina expertly adjusted the rabbit ears to get the CBS station.  We ate non-pre-mustarded bologna sandwiches for lunch. 

On Wednesday, I scrubbed and re-caulked the bath tub.  It was odd knowing that nuns took baths in the very tub I was scrubbing, that the mildew in the tile grout was mildew from nun water.  The entire panoply of hygiene products were all as chaste and plain as could be – Ivory soap, Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, a keg of Rite-Aid store brand talcum powder, Ultrabrite toothpaste etc.  I put new contact paper on all the bathroom shelves and scrubbed the toilet.   On Thursday I mowed the lawn, trim shrubs, weeded their garden, and painted the inside of the bath tub housing the Virgin Mary statue that oversaw the flower bed a new shade of powder blue.

On Friday, I was to paint the upstairs hallway.  When I was about half way done, Sister Domnina asked me if I had lunch plans.  I said no and she said that was good as she would make me lunch.  I told her no mustard in a way that came out snippier than I intended.  Around noon I went downstairs to discover that she had made a full Syrian meal - lamb and eggplant and something called tabbouleh; something called hummus; and a pistachio dish that might have been one of the best things I have ever had. During the meal, Sister Domnina told me she was from Syria and had moved to the United States when she was four and had grown up with this food.  I told her somewhat contritely that never knew she was from Syria.  She had lived a whole life – it took her months to get from Syria to Ellis Island; serendipity and a flourishing steel industry brought her parents upstate; she was almost a butcher’s wife and then joined the order which brought her to our shitty town decades ago.  I was not so adept at being interested in others back then.  I did ask her if living amongst the Jesuses ever got oppressive; she laughed and said that was how people thanked nuns, bought and made them Jesus things because, the thinking goes, what else do nuns like?  I hadn’t even thought about thanking her prior to that – I was the one scrubbing the nun bathtub - but I did so, albeit with a mouthful of that pistachio stuff, as even then I knew she had in a way rescued me. 

On Saturday, I started to finish painting the hallway but stopped and told Sister Domnina that we were going to the mall. I wanted to buy her something. But my intentions were not altogether altruistic as I could not spend one more day in the convent. Working.  I drove her to the mall in my truck – about an hour away - and invited her to pick out any Swatch she wanted. She could not believe the array of plastic timepieces beneath the glass. She wanted the see-through one. The watch, pulled as small as one could make it, fit neatly on her tiny little wrist.  I paid in cash with early graduation money.  We ate at the food court.  I was delighted to buy her inaugural Oran Julius for her.   

My convent work passed inspection even though the upper half of the convent hallway was a different color than the half I could reach easily.  I graduated from Sacred Heart the next day, worked a summer job at an amusement park, eschewed the few graduation parties to which I was invited and went to college in August.  I never saw Sister Domnina again. I never even really thought of her at all until that day we all saw the picture of Alan Kurdi lying dead on that beach. I had never even wondered about Syria; had no idea what was happening there.  I spent a while googling Sister Domnina and Franciscan and the diocese in which we lived and learned she had died that year too. 

I wish I would have asked her more questions.  How do you even get from Syria to America in the early 20th century?  How long does it take to assimilate from hummus and tabbouleh to corn and chicken wings?  I am not even certain that the pistachio-muffled thank you I offered at the table rose to the level of sufficient.  I think it likely she never wore that Swatch; that she gave it to a niece or nephew or wayward soul or perpetually tardy 2nd grader.  I hope she knew the plastic Swatch was where I was then, at 17.  That it came from the heart; a heart that could neither crochet nor whittle nor sculpt a Jesus. 

Gary M. Almeter is a trusts and estates attorney who lives with his wife, three children and beagle in Baltimore, Maryland.  His humor, essays and short stories have appeared in McSweeney's, Higgs Weldon, SplitSider, 1966, and Writer's Bone.  He has just finished a book of essays about ice cream; which is also sort of about Niagara Falls and bandanas and the New York City subway and maple syrup and alfalfa and the Boston marathon.

Treasure Hunt by C.D. Hermelin

Treasure Hunt

Anyone who’s ever denuded a Christmas tree of its cheer and ribbon knows it takes at least a duo to truly get every ornament.  It’s a particular blindness that only manifests once a year, brought on by an eggnog/potato gratin hangover. I’m the type who thinks it’s the will of the objects -- mischievous elves, Hallmark Snoopys, woodland critters, tarnished baubles, all begging to stay displayed. They’d all rather nestle amongst the branches than be relegated to cardboard boxes and upcycled egg cartons.

This year, I didn’t get enough Christmas at Christmas, so I’m trying to find magic where I can get it. That’s how I started finding ornaments. The discarded Christmas trees are clogging the gutters of Park Slope, more every grey January morning, filling the wrought iron planters, stacked like firewood. I wend my way through the blocks, dial my eyes into deliberate hopefulness, and see if Christmas Ornament Blindness afflicted any of these brownstone dwellers. It happened on accident. Walking to work, I found a pull-string nutcracker that clicked its heels. And like most happy accidents, I wanted to see if I could make it happen again. And I could. I carry gloves to put on and dig. I sift through rotting trees for shiny tin Frosties, wooden surfing Santas, popsicle stick Jewish stars covered in blue glitter sprinkles.

I have a system. I try to give the families time. I see the abandoned ornament, and leave it. Sometimes I move it, make it more visible. It’s better if they find it because they were looking for it than me hand them a piece of holiday garbage they meant to throw away. After an un-conceal, I walk by that tree a few more times, to see if they found it. I try to keep up with garbage schedules. Usually it’s still there, and my own tree gets a new decoration. I keep it up into February.

Today, it’s a plasticine skier on 2nd and Carroll I saw last Friday. He’s still there. 6 inches, skis and poles missing. This is not a recent acquisition. The plastic looks battered. Maybe the glamour of tradition had worn away and he was so broken that he was deliberately left behind. I like the expression of grim determination on his face. It matches my own. He’s tired of the slopes, of climbing the heights of mountains only to reach the bottom again. Or maybe not. In my post Christmas malaise, he looks like he’s stuck. On the ski lift, left to freeze.

“What the hell are you doing?” a woman’s voice asks, cutting the cold January morning like a foxhunting horn through a still forest. A baby’s coo follows, like a softer pastel echo of her reproach. My hand is deep inside what is most likely their tossed away tree. I feel like a kid caught cheating in class.

I wrestle my arm from the tree and still don’t turn around. “I have a system,” I start. She grabs me by the shoulder and turns me around. We look into each other’s eyes, and I see she’s bewildered, not angry. She’s not much older than me, brown hair pulled back into a ponytail, but she’s bouncing a swaddled pink-faced baby on one hip, she lives in this brownstone, and she’s wearing pearls. She might as well be a different species.

“Why are you digging through my tree?”

Instead of saying anything, I just burst into tears, a hot wet rush, and I let out one gasped sob. That sudden sound surprises the baby, which makes it cry, and those sobs actually sound like a beagle’s bark. The huge sound is so incongruous to its tiny red faced self that I laugh, and the baby’s cry turns to a laugh too, and then we’re both laughing, and then all three of us are laughing. The whole process takes about half a minute.

“I’m sorry. I just find ornaments,” I say, the baby still cooing, our adult laughter dying out. The twin shocks of tears and laughter still reverberate in my teeth. I hold out the skier. “And I salvage them.”

“Oh that thing? My aunt gave me that. After what she pulled this year, I decided I didn’t want to put it up anymore.”

I don’t respond, still trying to regain my composure.

“You had a rough one this year too, huh?”

I want to say, “It’s just - time at Christmas is compounded. So far, every Christmas is the same traditional scenes, only changed by degrees every year, like cells in a film strip. But this year, I looked in the past, and saw those cells, those hearths - they look brighter than the ones I have to look forward to. The film is degrading. So I had to make a new tradition. A new thing, that wasn’t decaying.”

I don’t. Instead I say: “Yeah. But, you know, Merry Christmas anyway. And happy new year.”

“Yeah, Happy New Year.”

*

That night, I'm trying to invite someone over to tell the story of the decorations, of the mom, of the baby. I want them to come over and drink a cocktail with me, and then we’ll come up with fanciful histories for the ornaments. I start texting friends, then girls from Tinder.  It’d be nice to kiss in the perfect glow of Christmas tree light.

It’s all in vain. Surprisingly, a curling, dead, 3-foot Christmas tree that’s covered in garbage isn't much of a draw to my friends, or a stranger from the internet.

I think better of putting on Christmas music, and instead put my phone on do not disturb. I lay back down on the couch with the tree at my feet, take my glasses off, and let my eyes go unfocused. The lights blur, grow brighter. The skier stands front and center. He’s not on the slopes at all. He’s in Iceland. He’s gone to see the Northern Lights. They fill him up completely, so there isn’t room for anything else.

treasurehunt.jpg

C.D. Hermelin is a writer and literary agent based in Brooklyn. He writes flash fiction inspired by Max Elman's photography over at astoryandapicture.com. As the Roving Typist, he has typewritten custom stories, poems, and horoscopes for thousands of people all around the world.

#1 Crush of a Lovefool by Jenny Seay

#1 Crush of a Lovefool

I was seventeen years old when William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, the Baz Luhrmann film adaptation starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, was released in the theaters. Away at college in downtown Milwaukee, just weeks from my eighteenth birthday, I recruited two girlfriends to see it the weekend it opened. It didn’t matter that we had to shiver our way through a city bus ride on a wintry night to reach the theater, or that while on said bus, we were seated next to a drooling homeless man who almost fell on us on more than one occasion.

What mattered was the opportunity to see Leo, whom I had already fallen madly in love with after discovering him through The Basketball Diaries, make himself even more swoon-worthy in my eyes, through a performance that embodied the zeitgeist of my mid-90’s adolescence. His brooding, impulsive Romeo, amplified by frenetic camerawork, bright, flashy visuals, and a grunge-heavy soundtrack was EVERYTHING I imagined an ideal partner to be. Passionate, devoted, romantic – you have to understand that I’d gone through high school having had only one semi-serious, very short-lived boyfriend, and felt positively starved for emotional and physical intimacy. Watching Leo on the big screen allowed me to temporarily feed my hunger, giving me a fantasy object upon which to project all my unfulfilled desires.

It also fostered an obsession that led me to revisit the film with another group of friends when I returned home to Chicago for Christmas break. And convince myself that this was the BEST. MOVIE. EVER!!!

It was a belief that lingered in the months that followed, a tumultuous period where an unexpected turn of events led me to bail on my second semester in Milwaukee. I found myself back in Chicago, exhausted and completely uncertain about the direction of my life. With things feeling so up in the air, it was only natural that I’d gravitate toward the places and things that provided comfort and familiarity. One of those was the small video store where I’d worked as a clerk immediately following my high school graduation.

My old boss welcomed me back with open arms, and began training me to take on tasks that were a bit above my retail associate pay grade, such as ordering product from our distributor. In doing so, she educated me on the source of recorded videos at a time when they weren’t widely available for mass market purchase. Back then, rental retailers paid top dollar for the right to obtain a limited number of copies of popular new releases, which they would then turn around and rent for a few dollars a night. By controlling the supply, store owners could quickly make back the cost of their investment and then some – taking advantage of a film’s demand until the buzz died down. Even then, it would still generate steady rental income until our corporate overlords changed its status from “New Release” to general rental. At which point it would either be moved to its appropriate genre shelf or converted into a previously viewed tape available for re-sale.

With all of this in mind, you can imagine how eager I was to review our invoices that spring, when my beloved Leo masterpiece was finally released for home viewing. My plan was to increase the size of our order by one, and simply pay out of pocket for that extra tape, so I could take it home and feel privileged to have my own personal copy.

You can also imagine my colossal disappointment after learning that it retailed for $80.

I tried being sensible – telling myself to wait until the price dropped. I’d even entered into my first real relationship by then, so there was less urgency around having 24/7 access to my fantasy boyfriend.

At yet ... the BEST. MOVIE. EVER. obsession remained. And one of my greater faults is that I get super impatient when it comes to my obsessions. The thought of knowing this brilliant piece of cinema was in reach, that I was only a very expensive purchase away from being able to hold it close to my chest and watch breathlessly on an endless loop from the comfort of my bedroom ... it was simply too much to bear.

So it went that I found myself at the front counter of Zap Video, a large distributor warehouse that also allowed visits from the public. And despite merciless teasing from my new boyfriend, I said fuck it, and plunked down the full retail cost for that goddamn tape. I could justify it – most of my income at that time was disposable. And it seemed like a well-earned reward to make up for the turmoil of the previous few months.

I can’t tell you how many times I watched my new prize before a new edition, this one priced to appeal to Best Buy and Target customers, hit the shelves. But I feel like it was only a few months. I felt a little sheepish, knowing how much I could have saved if only I’d cooled my heels. But still, I felt satisfied knowing that I’d taken control, and used my own resources to get exactly what I wanted, when I wanted, despite feeling utterly lost within my world at large. To commemorate this, I bought the cheaper version as my viewing copy, and preserved the original with the help of my video store employer’s shrink wrap gun.

Twenty years have gone by and I still have that tape in my possession. It has traveled with me through three moves, and sits prominently displayed atop of one of the cube storage bookcases that flank my bed. Because life and its various troubling circumstances are temporary. But the poetry of Shakespeare uttered by Leonardo DiCaprio? Man, that’s forever.

Jenny Seay was a life-long Chicagoan until the siren song of the Bay Area stole her away in 2015. She has her MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago, and has published stories, reviews, and feature articles in publications such as Punk Planet, TimeOut Chicago, Swink, and Gimmick Press's own Working Stiff: The Anthology of Professional Wresting Literature and Art.  She doesn't write as often as she should, but she's been working on a young adult novel about independent pro wrestling that she's ready to approach with more focus and discipline.

Discarded Buttons by Rona Fitzgerald

Discarded Buttons

In a small translucent box they wait

colour coded          full of memories.

 

My Mam sewed all our clothes.

Gathering buttons like sweet treats

to make blouses and dresses our own.

 

I see her bent over vogue patterns still.

 

Let’s make the sleeves silk                           

cover the buttons with the same shade.

 

When chucking out or recycling

I cut off buttons, add them to the box.

          

Smile.

 

Me who was thrown out of sewing

blotches on my run and fell seam.

 

Greens and blues remind me of Dollymount beach

sea stretching to infinity.

 

Yellow and orange shimmer

sunshine on a Glasgow day.

 

My favourite      a heart shaped button

in bruised purple.

Rona Fitzgerald was born in Dublin and now lives in Glasgow. Her most recent publications are Aiblins: New Scottish Political Poetry, Three Drops from a Cauldron Midwinter Special, Obsessed with Pipework No. 78, Oxford Poetry XVI.iii Winter 2016-17, and ten poems in Resurrection of a Sunflower: Pski’s Porch, 2017.

Alphabet Ashes by Catfish McDaris

Alphabet Ashes

Nappy’s dad John was a bricklayer. His mother Winnie was a mobile librarian. She drove all over New Mexico, lending books to the Apache, Navajo, and Pueblo Reservations. At first, Nappy collected feathers, rattlesnake tail buttons, and Pecos diamonds, they were quartz healing crystals. As he grew older, he learned to identify buffalo wallows, where arrow heads or bullets could be found. He collected small clippings of cacti for his grandmother’s garden from his desert adventures. Nappy collected wheat pennies and his grandmother had two duplexes, she rented mostly to Air Force flyboys. She started collecting stamps from all over the world from their letters. Nappy was soon learning geography from stamps, he knew Magyar meant Hungary. Nappy became a bricklayer, he had many side jobs. He went to Montgomery Ward’s and bought five electric lawn mowers with long extension cords. He hired his friends for a lawn service business and his sister Cindy to be the boss. Then he bought a pinball machine and set it up in his garage to earn a nickel a game. Nappy went through a motorcycle phase, buy low, sell high. Then it was marijuana into matchboxes and lids. Before you knew it, he had collected plenty of green paper with dead presidents on it. The law finally got him and he paid to get in the army. While playing G.I. Joe for three years, he sent his grandmother stamps from all over Europe. When he got out he traveled Mexico and finally ended up near Lake Michigan. He collected a few autographs, Elizabeth Taylor, Aretha Franklin, Red Skelton, Robert Duvall, Alan Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs. Over thirty years working at the Main Post Office in Milwaukee and he read and wrote poetry to try to keep his sanity. He was collected by a Mexican wife of thirty-three years and they had a twenty-nine-year-old daughter. Published here, rejected there, chapbooks, fat books, anthologies, broadsides, archives at a college: it’s all become alphabet soup. He remained his biggest fan. In the end he thought all you collect are memories and what are they worth?

Catfish McDaris won the Thelonius Monk Award in 2015. His work is at the Special Archives Collection at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is listed in Wikipedia. His ancestors were related to Wilma Mankiller from the Cherokee Nation. Currently he’s selling wigs in Milwaukee.

The Golden Ticket by Michael Frissore

The Golden Ticket

It’s funny what you’ll find while rummaging through your deceased parent’s things. When my dad died I found he’d kept articles I wrote for my college newspaper, years of school report cards and Father’s Day cards, and the program for the play I was in in third grade.

I brought these treasures home and stashed them all away. I couldn’t tell you where the program or report cards are now, but the one thing that’s sat in my bedside table since then is a single, torn ticket stub.

It was August 1992. Tom Seaver and Rollie Fingers were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Hurricane Andrew killed 35 people in South Florida, and Clint Eastwood’s film Unforgiven premiered in Los Angeles.

And, perhaps most importantly, my band, The Poor Boys of Rock, played our very first show at the Escape Club in beautiful Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts.

If I recall correctly, we were the only band that night because the other band that was supposed to play cancelled. So we had all the time we wanted. And we actually killed. Our second show there turned out to be a dud, but the first was pure magic. We dazzled ‘em with Eagles covers, wowed ‘em with our takes on Guns n’ Roses songs, and bowled ‘em over with original songs.

The ticket is general admission, seat number 1569, even though there were no seats to speak of in the club. Then it says, “Escape Club Presents…” and there’s a big blank space (where our band name might have been if the other group had cancelled a couple weeks earlier) until you read down to “Salisbury Beach, Doors Open 4:00 PM.”

There isn’t even a date on it. It’s the most lackluster ticket to anything I’ve ever seen. It’s basically a template of a ticket and could have been to any show at the Escape Club. It could have been to a GWAR or Accept show, two bands that played there within a year from when we did. Yet, my dad held onto it because he loved me.

Of course, this ticket is also a reminder of my failed musicianship. About a month after this show I went to college and wouldn’t play with the Poor Boys again for three years. It’s a souvenir of the stifling of my ideas, as every song I tried to introduce to the band, the lead singer and guitarist would either brush it off completely or relegate it to the portion of our show in which he played drums and I was the sole guitarist. It’s a memento of when I got to play one of the simplest guitar solos in the world, that of the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter,” and chickened out because I was afraid I’d mess even that up.

Yeah, on second thought, I don’t want this ticket stub. I mean, the Escape Club ended up being shut down for drug trafficking and our singer would later go to prison for statutory rape. This ticket might have been printed by Satan himself.

I do have some old Red Sox and Patriots tickets my dad kept that I can show you instead.

Michael Frissore is currently writing a series of novels about professional wrestling, tentatively titled Dead Wrestlers. He lives in Oro Valley, Arizona with his wife, two children, and a little cartoon alien only he can see.

Be Dialing! by Josh Olsen

Be Dialing!

Don West, poet laureate of home shopping networks, bullhorn voiced, mustachioed pitchman supreme, is selling a Michael Jordan card, and not just any Michael Jordan card, but a refractor, an oversized, limited edition, serialized, Upper Deck authenticated, Command Performer refractor, the most resplendent of all Michael Jordan refractors, and when you order this Michael Jordan refractor, you also get a Shawn Kemp refractor, and a Penny Hardaway refractor, as well as a selection of not one, not two, not three, but four, count ‘em four, National Hero commemorative die-cuts, but only while supplies last, so “Be dialing, folks!” because there’s only 31 sets remaining.

Don West insists that the Michael Jordan refractor, alone, is trading for up to $200, “If you’re lucky enough to find him!” but despite this, he’s selling the Michael Jordan refractor, along with the Kemp and Hardaway refractors, as well as the Gretzky, Ripken, Griffey, and Marino National Hero die-cuts, for $149.95 total. “That’s $21 and some change, per card!” Don West’s similarly-coiffed lackey interjects, solar calculator in hand. “HOW can they do that?”

I know the scam. I’m familiar with Don West’s home shopping sideshow circus, but I don’t care, I’m all in. I pick up my phone and proceed to dial, just like Don West tells me to do. The Michael Jordan refractor is from 1996, so this Shop At Home segment originally aired over 20 years ago, and still, I dial the number on the screen, aware that the “National Hero Commemorative Refractor Blowout” is sold out, and the phone number is long since out of service, and the refractors are barely worth the paper they're printed on. “Be dialing!” Don West implores, and I dutifully comply.

Josh Olsen has written two collections of prose poetry/flash fiction/micro essays, Six Months (2011) and Such a Good Boy (2014). He's the co-founder of Gimmick Press and the editor of Working Stiff: The Anthology of Professional Wrestling Literature & Art (2015) and Three-Way Dance (2017).