My Father's Soup by Ana Vidosavljevic

My Father's Soup

My father was not the best cook ever. He could fry eggs, fish, sausages, make barbecue and warm up yesterday's dinner. Somehow, he always managed to over-fry everything but we, his family, didn't mind. However, making a soup was his supreme skill, and he was unbeatable in this particular task. The art of making soup was his own invention, no one had taught him and even though my grandma Lena, his mother, claimed that she had showed him how to make a good soup when he had been a child, he didn't want to admit this was true, but he also never said it was not. Anyway, I have never tasted better soups than the ones he made.

My father's soups, tasty and warm, nourished our souls in cold winter evenings. They often were the medicine for our cold and fever, when we were not able to eat anything else, and these delicious soups were something that comforted us when we were not in our best moods. There was nothing a warm bowl of my father's soup couldn't fix. It was our comfort food. Prepared with love.

My father made a soup almost every day. He had his favorite soup pot that he claimed was magic. He would fill this pot with cold water and put it on the stove over medium heat. Then, he added two or three spoons of vegetable oil and let the liquid get warm while he was cutting a few carrots, parsley, five garlic cloves and one small onion. As soon as he cut the vegetables, he put them in the oily water. Then, he added a couple of chicken wings and thighs. He added also a bit of salt and pepper and brought it to boil over high heat. After half an hour, he reduced the heat to low, covered the pot and let the soup simmer until the chicken parts were cooked through. Even though the soup was still not ready, the heavenly smell of it provoked me to stay close to the stove and breathe in deeply. It was not only my palate that was enriched when I removed the lid and smelled the soup, but also my mood.

I often checked the soup while it was simmering and wanted to see if the chicken parts were cooked. I removed the pot lid and stabbed the meat with a fork over and over again to make sure it was soft. My father let me be his little helper, his sous chef.

Once I decided that the meat was soft and cooked through, and my father double-checked it, he would remove it from the pot, shred the thighs and wings with two forks and chop the meat into bite-size pieces. Then, he would return them to the pot. I usually gave the bones to our dog Maza, who loved chewing them. Maza kept them as her treasure and to make sure no one took them from her, she often buried them in the ground and dug them up again after a few days.

After my father returned the meat into the pot, he added the noodles to the soup and stirred the mixture another ten minutes. He removed the pot from the heat, took a spoon and tried it even though it was hot and gave off steam. If he found out it was not salty enough, he added more salt, but often it was perfect as it was and ready to be eaten.

The soup, simple and delicious, usually lasted until the next day. And the next day, before making another soup, my father would warm it up and finish it. Simplicity of its preparing and the care of its maker was what made it special. It added an extra flavor that we all remembered many years later when my dad passed away. It is amazing how the most simple things are the most evocative.

In his honor, I've tried making his soup. And even though sometimes it tastes pretty good, it is never as good as his soup. But it is always eaten with dear people and that fact gives my soup the taste that resembles the one my dad used to make.

Ana Vidosavljevic from Serbia currently lives in Indonesia. She has her work published or forthcoming in Down in the Dirt (Scar Publications), Literary Yard, RYL (Refresh Your Life), The Caterpillar, The Curlew, Eskimo Pie, Coldnoon, Perspectives, Indiana Voice Journal, The Raven Chronicles, Setu Bilingual Journal, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Quail Bell Magazine, Madcap Review. She worked on a GIEE 2011 project: Gender and Interdisciplinary Education for Engineers 2011 as a member of the Institute Mihailo Pupin team. She also attended the International Conference “Bullying and Abuse of Power” in November 2010, in Prague, Czech Republic, where she presented her paper: “Cultural intolerance.”

Daisy Duke Thrown From A Car by Dr. Benjamin D. Anthony

Daisy Duke Thrown From A Car

In the years before I started school, I’m talking kindergarten here, I was a big fan of The Dukes of Hazzard. I especially loved my toy action figures of Bo & Luke Duke as well as a General Lee that both of them fit inside of. Although I loved the toys, my adventures with them were limited to just the brothers and the car, no Big Boss, no Roscoe P. Coltrane, no Cooter, no Uncle Jesse and most obviously in my mind, no Daisy Duke. Every day I begged my parents and grandparents to please find me the three and three quarters inch action figure of Daisy Duke. And every day, they failed.

The large front yard of my house was surrounded by tall grass and there was only one other house in sight, out across the road, which was an old dirt road with deep ditches on either side, filled with cattails and minnows. One day when I was out playing in the yard, wandering dangerously close to the ditch, I saw something sparkle on the other side, the side that was the edge of the road. It was an old Hot Wheels car that was all smashed and covered in dirt. My imagination was pretty vivid and I was absolutely sure that someone must have thrown it from their car as they drove by my house.

An idea hatched in my brain.

The Duke brothers would have plenty of adventures, driving around, jumping over things in the car and driving all the way to the top of the back of the couch. There they would put it in park to wait and watch. On the back of the couch I would sit and look out the big window with Bo & Luke, each of us waiting for a car to pass by, slow down, and out of the car window would be thrown a little three and three quarters inch tall Daisy Duke toy, maybe still in the package, and it would land by the side of the road.

Of course, I had to be there, ready to run outside and retrieve her, so that the next car would not run her over. Or if they had thrown it too hard and it actually went into the water in the ditch, if I was not watching it could just float away down to wherever all that water went.

Moving into town, I felt the fear, I felt it as we packed everything up and moved away from the country. No one in the town would be driving past our house because we lived on a dead-end street. Also no one would be throwing any Daisy Duke toys in my general direction as that kind of thing only happens out in the country. Riding in a little truck with all my stuff. I had to hold my Sea Monkey habitat in my lap to prevent it from tipping and it was splashing all over my side of the front seat. I looked in the rearview mirror and did not see a Daisy Duke action figure on the ground. The car had never driven past, never tossed that longed-for action figure from the window. Bo and Luke would be forever sister-less in my collection of toys.

Dr. Benjamin D. Anthony is a bizarro horror writer and recovering chef. He appears on twitter as @myfakehead where he posts pictures of his pug, jokes and assorted horrors. He has a YouTube channel, Dr. Benjamin Anthony, where he posts unwrapping videos, readings and reviews of weird books, his "Ask the Doctor" column for YesClash just started and you can also stalk him on Amazon, where he is a narrator and an author, currently writing his first book, about a satanic murder. He lives in Ohio, by the lake.

time_stamped by Sarah Cavar

time_stamped

The stamp shop next door functions as a liminal space. 

Here’s the scene: you’re standing in a stamp shop, where the shelves are a solid 6’ and you’re a tentative 4’6”. You’ve just tasted your very first bagel sandwich (as opposed to eating two discretely cream cheese’d bagel halves, with which you still feel significantly more comfortable) with curly fries on the side. They were a welcome break from the damp and yellowed monotony of the fries from the freezer. You’re all done eating and full of grease and dread but it’s not time to —––––. You need to be held, contained like a belly, 'till your next appointment. The stamp store is a gas station and convenience store and Dunkin’ Donuts, except with higher standards of restroom maintenance.

You’ve never seen an actual piece of cash money before, other than perhaps that dollar bill your dad showed you and muttered in your ear “money is dirty,” which you’ll later learn to be true in several different ways. All the stamps form walls around you as a consequence of their six foot shelving situation; you’re absolutely dwarfed by the things. A lot of them are facing backward, that is, their respective backings of reddened clay are exposed, toothsome to the finger. 

Your mother seems to ache for craftiness, not in the sly sense but in the P.T.A. sense, and you implore her to pick up some stamps and ink. You suspect she seeks the fruits of some socialite mom’s private creative labors –– which, before the age of Pinterest, remain so very mysterious –– without the imperative to lug ripped-and-spit-spattered orange and watermelon rinds from the youth soccer field to the garbage bin. 

It seems likely she will buy you at least one stamp. She hasn’t bought herself a new pair of shoes since before you were born, which, as you don’t yet know, was not a particularly long time ago in the life of a human but was quite a long time ago in the life of a shoe. She lets you pick one stamp and one ink pad despite the questionable state of her old shoes. The ink is redder than the clay back of the glossy, wooden stamp you get, which you don’t pay for but cradle in your hands anyway. It’s time to go to —––––. You: digested. You are skilled enough with your hands to stick a stamp into some ink and mess it up a bit and then stick it even harder on some piece of paper and the thing that will emerge from the stamp’s surface as it kisses the paper’s face will be perfect. 

You experience grave disappointment upon noting that a stamp might leave a thin outline of ink, sometimes at a ninety-degree angle, just beyond the design that was to be imprinted. Later you seek this for the kitsch. You realize that kitsch only happens once you’ve been around a little longer than a mother’s pair of shoes, or after at least your third or fourth go-round with the bagel and fries combo, after you’ve at least once left that damn container of ink open too long to recover. Until one of your gay aunts purchases you a self-inking stamp that you can’t help but call nifty, as she perhaps would have in the 80s, and although the defining feature of this self-inking stamp is its maroon plastic top, in the center of which is written your home address in black. This is the content of your stamp. The ink attached is violet, which is not yet your favorite color.

Back at the stamp shop you did not think about the way stamps were made; you knew not of their customizability. You were flabbergasted, yes, absolutely shocked when you saw that some people ate bagels as sandwiches. You grew out of many of your intolerances but still stand as an inferior being in the shadow of a six-foot stamp shelf, all red, towering above like a grizzly old giant that comes before you sleep. You still trace the outline of some secret-garden printed behind the raw red track of an old stamp when it appears behind your eyes. The –––- chews and spits you unlike your fatty lunch of choice, which holds your sluggish body long enough to mark.

Sarah Cavar is a full-time student of ambiguous gender. Their work can be found or is forthcoming in Mad Scientist Journal, Breath & Shadow, Polyester Zine, and Sinister Wisdom. They have guest-posted on blogs such as Epicure & Culture and Genderqueer.Me, and can themself be found at sarahcavar.wordpress.com

Library Installation & In 2006 Burning CDs Was All the Rage by Justin Holliday

Library Installation

He destroys books. It’s a ritual: each Thursday he goes to the local used bookstore with $20 in his wallet and winds his way through sci-fi, romance, classics, photography, and ends with philosophy. With these bundles, he races home, pulling his finds out of the paper bag and spreads them in a semicircle. Out come other materials he keeps in the studio: glue, cosmetics, beads, feathers, zippers, scissors. It looks like a child’s craft area minus construction paper and googley eyes. He picks up a romance, finds an amorous passage, and draws a red-lipstick heart upside down on the page. When aliens begin taking over the human race in a ratty paperback copy of an X-Files novelization, he draws a skull with a purple Sharpie and places a two-fingered peace sign to the right, estimating the phantom space where the arm of the death’s head should be. He rips out pages of Anaïs Nin’s erotic diaries and pastes them before the most discomfiting scenes of Lolita. When he finds the perfect antichristian aphorisms from Nietzsche, he cuts them in perfect rectangles and pastes them below photos of starving children, whom he has doused with glitter. Next week will be his exhibition of yellowed pages and illustrations at the art museum, complete with dusty shelves and chairs that scrape too loudly across the floor. People will read these destructions, believing this is reality, not knowing collapse is creation, not knowing who William Burroughs is.

In 2006 Burning CDs Was All the Rage

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Justin Holliday is an English lecturer and poet. His work has appeared in Rogue Agent, Impossible Archetype, Occulum, b(OINK), Queen Mob's Teahouse, and elsewhere. 

Cosmogram & Stump by Will Cordeiro

Cosmogram

A smooth stone tablet—slightly larger than a paperback, but smaller than a laptop—etched with a few odd divots, scratches, marks. A very modest piece in the museum’s display case. Neither the famed calendric disc of the Aztecs, heavy with the rites of sacrificial violence, nor the intricate mandalas of Tibet composed of colored sand which are brushed away upon completion. The placard simply states “cosmograma (?)” with no other attribution. The few lines and points scored upon it could be a record of the stars, of comets, of the cycles of the moon and sea, of the seasons—equinox and solstice, the earth’s daily rotation: a systematic ordering of the universe demonstrating how its far-flung mechanisms implicate our earthbound routines. Morning, noon, and night; play and work; worship and mourning; sowing and harvest; death and fertility. Coordinates, trajectories, fulcrums where the sun and its many relatives, billionized across the dark beyond, operate their spooky action-at-a-distance deep inside our every cell. Or maybe it means none of this. Maybe the lines were only childish doodles, the divots little spots for counters in a gameboard. 

Stump

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Will Cordeiro has recent work appearing or forthcoming in Best New Poets, Blue Earth Review, DIAGRAM, Fifth Wednesday Journal, Nashville Review, Poetry Northwest, Zone 3, and elsewhere. He teaches in the Honors College at Northern Arizona University.

The Rarest Piece of Nothing by Lanny Durbin

The Rarest Piece of Nothing

I scrolled through the toy collector’s trading site I scrolled through every night. The tiny cranking gear of my mouse never stopping. A guy here in Chicago was selling a Purple Skirt Miss Elizabeth figure by LJN. I sent him a message, I wanted it.

You see, the Purple Skirt Miss Elizabeth figure was one of the most sought-after figures. Created by the LJN toy company, the purple skirt variant was a limited version, possibly a mistake. I already had the gold skirt variation. The purple skirt one, if mint, was valued at upwards of a couple grand. In the height of the 80's wrestling boom, everyone knew who Miss Elizabeth was. She wasn't the most valuable wrestling figure out there but it wasn't about the money to me.  

There was always something missing in my collection. Once a thing was found, another black void appeared. A puzzle completed but one piece was kicked under the couch, eaten by the dog, plucked out in a fit of lunacy by the guy working at the puzzle factory and never added to the box in the first place. I decided that Miss Elizabeth was the woman to fill out the blurry chasm in my heart. My collection, rather. 

Sometimes it felt like that sliding coin game at arcades and carnivals. I kept sliding coins down, hoping to create that windfall. They stand at the precipice and I know that this next coin will start a landslide. But it never does. Do they ever fall? Are they supposed to fall? 

I rode the brown line north to the address this Rick gave me. I thought about Miss Elizabeth and the wrestler she managed, her real-life husband, "Macho Man" Randy Savage. His figures netted a hefty sum themselves. I thought about those glasses, that voice. His charisma, the otherworldly id—all mania and neon tassels. I thought about my lack of those things, squished into a train seat, breathing into my jacket's sleeve to avoid the sickness in the air.  

I climbed down frozen steps to the door of Rick's basement apartment. Orange glow from the little window at my knees. I heard locks being slammed open when I rapped the special knock he told me about in his email. Rick pulled me into the apartment and down the steps like a KGB officer. He was middle-aged, stumpy but expanding sideways. He led me through a hallway lined with shelves of toys and collectibles that looked the same as my shelves of toys and collectibles. I smelled the clean air from the humidifiers that were necessary to keep things pristine. A row of Skeletors cackled at me. I was used to their piercing taunts—some of their number populated a shelf in my kitchen.  

Rick smiled the awkward smile people like us can only manage and slid one of his glass cases open. Within the glass case, within her own cardboard and plastic case, LJN Purple Skirt Miss Elizabeth beamed. I knew already that she was the one. 

I slapped an envelope full of twenties into his puffy hand. He counted and looked me over. Miss Elizabeth was held out in front of me, lightly balanced by Rick's index fingers at two corners. I received her likewise, held in between my fingers like a precious artifact. Not like one, she was one. More precious even. Rick began to speak but I was anxious to get her home and into my collection. I nodded at Rick as I backed towards his front door. Yeah? Oh, nice, thank you, I need to get going. 

The most nervous train ride of my existence followed. Everyone's eyes were on her, I could tell. I knew what the "Macho Man" felt now.  

The moving lights I could see up in my second floor apartment from the street below made my stomach curl up. I'd come to find thieves in mid-ransack once before, when I was 21 and new to the city. I stayed down in the street and hid behind cars until they'd pilfered my useless belongings to their satisfaction. Things were different now—nothing in that apartment was useless. I ran up the stairs and shouted like a stray cat had wandered in an open window. "Out of here now!" 

The two men in black hoodies did not leave. They exchanged a look and the nearest man to me dropped a Spider-Man and punched me right in the face. I crumpled. I think I cried a bit while they stuffed pristine mint items into trash bags like goddamn lunatics. They weren't even handling them properly. I stared at Miss Elizabeth with my cheek against the hardwood, blood trickling. I told her I was sorry that I was so weak. One of them picked her up and stepped over me. They'd defeated me with ease. 

But I thought about Miss Elizabeth. She'd be pawned, she'd be bought later by a child probably, touched carelessly. I was raised from the floor by the steam my anger created. There was no blood hotter anywhere in the world. I stepped out onto my balcony, the men tossing bags of my life into a van just below. I became him, I became "Macho Man" Randy Savage, if only for that moment. Balanced on the black wrought iron balcony, fingers pointed to the heavens. I floated down, a flying elbow drop of which even the man himself would approve. 

I landed right on one of them. He and I mangled into one, the sound of air leaving us filled the dark street. I clawed at his bag, found her and pulled her out. The other guy put two hard kicks into my already busted ribs and yanked his cohort away.  

I stared up at the stars as the van pulled away, Miss Elizabeth on my crushed chest. I said aloud, there's always something missing from my collection. 

Lanny Durbin lives in Springfield, IL, plays in a few bands and drives a Buick. His work has appeared in Hobart Pulp, *82 Review and The Fiction Pool. He can be found on Twitter @LannyDurbin.

Two Stories by Lorraine Wilson

Lakshmi

She is a trinket, really. Probably haggled for obligatorily at some morning market, flies in the air and the scent of spices, uncooked meat, languages weaving into one another and my grandad’s pale skin always noticed, always odd.

I don’t even remember seeing it in his house, I imagine it boxed away amongst dust-gathered mementos of a life reluctantly left behind. But to see her, brass-cast goddess, hands raised and foot shining from the supplication of my fingers, to see her is to remember. My childhood was filled with stories, you see. Stories scattered with Hindi and Urdu and the crumbs of cake slices scattered around my knees. They were chital deer and tiger prints in monsoon mud, they were dirt roads and they were the smell of flowers beneath a midday sun.

She is the goddess of things that I do not really value but she is more than that, she is memory too, sublimated from my cells into her and given weight, given form, and it is this that she holds delicate-winged in her tarnished hands. A lost father refound, old abandonments forgiven, the tracery of genetics and distant homes that surfaces on my skin; moments. Moments with him and then the moments without. She has heard me weeping and seen me love, and she smiles for me now, above a fire that lends her limbs some tiny remnant of her native heat, and even when all our pasts are parceled away I will want her with me to tell me this: The world is vast and it is small; full of loss and wonder and stories you have not yet heard, and you belong to all of it.

This Dead Sheep

A half-old dead sheep in the hollow of a burn. She did not startle when we appeared, which was perhaps not surprising, but we were never quite sure about these things. We had come to the soft black edge of a bank to stare down into the burn, mountain stream whispering and racing its way down between rocks and peat and heather. We did not startle either, my sister and me, but there was a whisper-frisson of recognition between the sheep who was dead and us, who were not.

She had died in the water, soft ochre hill-water that had tugged her wool away from ribs exposed by ravens and the winter and stained a yellow that could have been hellish but was almost spring-like. It ran between her bones, the water, and must have been cold when she lay dying, must have made her leaden and gravitous but now it stroked her smooth, tickling at the curves and edges of her fondly, remnants of wool water-dancing.

Scrambling down through heather and black peat, water cut, the wind kept moving but we were beneath it there, stroking horns and bared bones with our fingers, with crystals blinking beneath the tannin water and above us, the sky in amongst the mountains was a gift we could have cupped in our hands. The burn cackled and spoke memories of death borne down the hill and we’d been drinking her, we realized. We laughed and the water laughed, at all the slow decay of her that had passed into the pipes and then to us.

Above the peat but beneath the sky, heather flowers shone constellations, a faerie mist slid windward hiding secrets and we felt we knew the sheep’s secrets too. Somewhere other sheep were calling but they were not here, where we were, kneeling in the stone-spangled earth and whispering to her who was surely a part of us now, drunk in and absorbed into the cells of our limbs. We had her death in our bones, cradled there so that even though she died alone and cold, she was neither, any more.

We wanted to carry her skull with us, wanted to bear her down to our parents like a queen, like proof, like a greeting. But she did not wish to come. Her empty sockets, ghosts of eyes, watched us reproachfully, black-edged teeth moving in silent speech and her horns were the perfect curve for the shape of my palm but she did not wish to come. We had already drunk her memories and her death, and so I supposed that she was content then, to let us carry those away with us while her gone eyes watched the mountain-tops and filled up with heather.

Perhaps she is still watching up there where she fell. She is still in my bones.

 

Having spent many years working in remote corners of the world, Lorraine Wilson now lives by the sea in Scotland and writes stories that are touched by folklore and the wilderness. She has had short stories published in several magazines and anthologies and tweets @raine_clouds about science, writing, cats and weirdnesses.

Two Poems by Joseph Quiroz

Sad Burger King

The Burger King

eating at Pizza Hut

means the king

has no power

 

When you're the DAMN

BURGER KING, wouldn't

you be happy knowing

you control a kingdom of

burgers?

 

So why eat at Pizza Hut

unless you have absolutely

nothing and crappy food?

 

Pizza Hut isn't even

the king of pizza but at

Pizza Hut, the Burger King

will stand out as Pizza Hut

has no real mascot anymore

as the Pizza Head that ruled

was eaten years ago

KFC has Colonel Sanders

McDonald's has Ronald McDonald

The Burger King can't go

to those two places

if he goes AWOL

 

He needs to be as free

as a bird hence that

is why he goes to Pizza

Hut ... He has no Colonel

Sanders to push him

around

 

The Burger King has to

always be king

 

long live the new king

of Pizza Hut

may he bring many

pizza burgers

as he finally gets the

home he deserves I think

as his creepy face

will finally stand out

in the land of pizza

 

An Ode to Freedom Fries

Remember freedom fries?

 

Those fries never felt free

in my stomach but they never

felt French either.

 

Someone probably complained

about them on MySpace

in a black glitter box of doom.

 

Did George W. Bush have a MySpace?

 

I was supposed to go back to

MySpace after college but Facebook

took over and killed all those black

glitter boxes of doom.

 

Even all the ones that belonged

to George W. Bush and all his

lesser clones but still those

fries never felt free as I never

got a miniature American flag

with them

 

A little old glory at noon is

what I needed after long days and

long nights wasting away in AOL

chat rooms gazing over the

AOL 700-hour free discs

wondering how to destroy them next

but I always loved fries

even when they weren't free

costing only a dollar for what could

compel one to hate fries

 

It's love on a tray

 

Joseph Quiroz is a 29-year-old male from North Arlington, NJ who has been performing at poetry slams and open mics all throughout the New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania areas since Dec of 2013. He represented Rock Slam out of Nyack, NY at the National Poetry Slam in 2016. His work has been published in Degenerate Literature, TL;DR Magazine, Horror, Sleaze and Trash, Philosophical Idiot, Blue Mountain Review and The Platform Review: Arts By The People. He can be found on Instagram at JosephAndrew27 and on Twitter at JoeWritesPoetry.

Your Phone by Michael T. Fournier

Your Phone

You don’t mean to, is the thing. An ex likes a friend’s post and you think huh, haven’t seen that name in a while and you start clicking and one thing leads to another and you discover your ex is going out with someone new.

And your phone freezes. 

You’re like that’s weird, my phone can’t possibly know what I’m looking at but it does, and it’s trying to help. It’s trying to keep you from getting sucked in, keep you from going well, that person I’ve never met likes some okay bands and has pictures of some good books and cool records in their feed, they’re probably all right because you don’t need to do that. You don’t need to compare yourself to anyone. You don’t need to dredge up the past.

Your phone knows this and is trying to protect you because your phone loves you and your phone wants what is best for you and your phone wants to keep you out of trouble and keep you present and in the moment, and your phone’s decision to do this hopefully has nothing to do with you using your phone to look at new phones because your phone is a little slow and occasionally freezes and chews through batteries unless you put it on airplane mode which defeats the purpose of having a phone, but it has been more than two years, which in phone years is geriatric, which is funny because you have shoes that are older, you have punk shirts that are older and is at the same time not funny because that idea, the idea of your phone being able to understand its looming obsolescence and symbiotically shielding you in an attempt to prove its worth and keep you loving it and using it makes you think of the desk drawer where you stash your phone alongside all your old phones, the flip phones you don’t have the heart to throw away or recycle or give to Flip Phones For The Blind, all with just enough battery to look at old pictures taken with now-obsolete two megapixel cameras, the kind of photos which seemed vital and urgent at the time but now register as nothing but blobs and smudges.

So maybe you’re the reason your phone is so neurotic.

Or maybe your phone just thinks I am here and I am useful just like you and you shouldn’t dwell on the past because it’s over and we’re here now together and dealing with the alternative, an eternity spent someplace cold and dark, whether that place is real or metaphorical, is too much to bear so the intertwined thought of utility and joy and being in the moment is a lot less weight to carry around than either your ex’s new romantic interest’s record collection -- and, by extension, taste -- being better than yours or unthinkingly stashing your phone every night in a phone mausoleum after using your phone to spend an hour browsing new phones on your carrier’s website. At any rate, maybe ease up on the phone.

Michael T. Fournier is the author of two novels (Swing State and Hidden Wheel, both on Three Rooms Press) and a book-length discussion of the Minutemen's Double Nickels On The Dime album for the 33 1/3 series. He's a regular contributor to Razorcake, and his work has appeared in the Oxford American, Barrelhouse, Entropy, McSweeney's Internet Tendency. Fournier co-edits Cabildo Quarterly with poet Lisa Panepinto. He lives on Cape Cod with his wife Rebecca and their cat.

Two Poems by Andrea Rogers

THE MUSEUM OF BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS*

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*The Museum of Broken Relationships is an actual museum which showcases stories of heartbreak from around the world and their accompanying mementos. The organization behind the project describes it as “a museum about you, about us, about the ways we love and lose.” It boasts both a virtual presence and physical locations in Zagreb and L.A.

 

THE LONG WEEKEND

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Andrea Rogers is a poet, musician, and postdoctoral fellow at Georgia Tech, where she teaches writing. She is the recipient of the 2015 Agnes Scott Writers’ Festival Poetry Prize, judged by Tracy K. Smith, and two Academy of American Poets awards. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Hunger Mountain, The Adirondack Review, District Lit, and anthologies by Black Lawrence Press, Negative Capability, and Red Paint Hill. She and her band, Night Driving in Small Towns, have been featured by Rolling Stone and NPR.

Storm Warnings by John Carr Walker

Storm Warnings

Weather abroad/And weather of the heart alike come on/Regardless of prediction. — Adrienne Rich

The weather machine plugged in behind the sleeper sofa in the office of our new house, set back from the country road and surrounded by vineyards, an intensely quiet place. I liked to visit the office while my father was out just to look at the weather machine, my knees sunk in the couch cushion, arms crossed over the upholstered back, chin resting on the bend of my elbow. It shared the windowsill with a snakeskin and mound of sculpturesque welding slag—this gray box, with a speaker grate, volume knob, and on-off switch, shouldn’t have been what fascinated me. But push the switch and a voice from the Bear Mountain weather station read the most recent report, and in the event of a storm warning, the weather machine’s siren blared like the house had caught fire.

Now, when information appears instantly on our personal screens, my memory of the weather machine's on-demand technology seems sentimental. In 1981, however, the year my sister was born and we moved into our new house, the Internet was still a military secret. Our phones were a mess of wires. We didn’t yet own an answering machine—few families did. Getting a television signal depended on adjusting a pair of antennae, rabbit ear and telescoping, as if the coarse and fine knobs of a radio. Folded issues of The Fresno Bee, dropped once a day at the end of our long driveway, determined the scope of the news. The weather machine asserted itself in a way most devices would not for several more decades. It only talked about the weather, but my father grew raisins. His livelihood—our lives—depended on the weather.  

*

In school, my sister read Night of the Twisters, about tornadoes that devastated a Nebraska town, and her imagination wired the disasters of that novel into her nervous system. Though we lived in California, in earthquake country, what might fall from the sky terrified her. When the weather machine's siren went off, she hid in her closet, in the box with her stuffed animals, and prayed the roof wouldn’t blow off the house. 

*

Our weatherman was called Angelo. We followed him with the kind of loyalty usually reserved for a favorite sports team. In one promotional spot, I remember, he appeared on the television screen wearing an overcoat and galoshes, kicking puddles, while "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" played in the background. Then, with an omnipotent twirl of his umbrella, Angelo stopped the rain. Surely, I’m not the only raisin grower’s son who can still see Angelo turning his palm toward the changed sky. It was a brilliant piece of advertising. Weathermen in the San Joaquin Valley were supposed to be able to do the impossible.

*

In preparation for the evening weather forecast my mother set the television trays. She closed the living room mini-blinds to keep the glare of the winter sun off the screen, while outside, the weather did its thing unobserved. My father needed to know if he should expect a freeze overnight, if he needed to run the irrigation pumps to protect the crop, and he only trusted Angelo to tell his fortune.  

From the moment Angelo appeared on screen my father demanded silence. My mother flapped her hands to hush my sister and me. For the weather forecast, everything must stop—talking, eating, breathing. I used to hold bites of half-chewed food in my mouth so not to obscure a word Angelo said. But we always made too much noise, somehow. My father hiked the volume until Angelo’s voice rattled the speaker. The rest of the forecast hollered through its parts: today’s temperatures, tomorrow’s highs and lows, Angelo’s narrative of historical patterns, all delivered at the decibels of a scream. My father kept his jaw set while he listened, baring teeth ground small from being constantly on edge. Only he could comment on the forecast. Perfect, he’d say, or Jeez, in resignation. 

After the five-day outlook, when Angelo returned to the news desk to banter with the anchors, my father turned the volume back down. My mother stormed into the kitchen. I swallowed the bite gone mushy in my mouth. My sister must have been longing for the shelter of her stuffed animal box. 

*

If the skies were gray when our mother picked her up from school my sister begged to go anywhere but home—let’s runaway, she'd plead.

*

In 2006 I moved eight-hundred miles away from our family vineyards. It must be distance that allows me to remember the weather machine as a piece of archaic, amusing technology rather than an instrument of terror.

Angelo retired from Channel 30 in May 2013. Honored as “The Dean of Central California Weathercasters,” by his colleagues, Angelo’s farewell segment lasted for more than six of a twenty-two minute broadcast. He said goodbye to his public with a tremor in his trained voice.

My father leased his hundred acres to an almond grower and in the fall of 2014 the vineyards were bulldozed to make way for orchards. 

*

My sister still lives down the country road from my parents and still gets nervous during storms. Even though Angelo is retired and the vineyards are gone the squalls of our childhood remain. Somehow, a change in the weather still feels like losing everything. 

John Carr Walker’s writing has been appearing in literary journals since 2007. His critically acclaimed first book, Repairable Men (Sunnyoutside), was featured on Late Night Library. A native of the San Joaquin Valley and former high school English teacher, he now lives and writes full-time in Saint Helens, Oregon.

Rookie Card by Michael Chin

Rookie Card

I showed my college girlfriend Dana my 1986-1987 Fleer Patrick Ewing rookie card. The lone card I kept in a screw-down case rather than a bendable plastic top-loader or a nine-pocket binder sheet, and the lone card I brought to college rather than leaving it to collect dust back home. I began to mansplain Ewing’s significance as the Knicks' all-time leading scorer. The legend of him goal-tending five shots in the first five minutes of an NCAA Championship game. She rolled her eyes, seeing trading cards for what they were—two-and-a-half by three-and-a-half pieces of cardboard with action photographs. Toys for boys to look at after they’d outgrown the kind of toys we’d actually play with.

But trading cards—especially rookie cards—are not without value. In 2015, CNBC reported a mint condition, 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle rookie card sold at auction for $525,800. On a less exorbitant scale, imperfect condition Michael Jordan and Joe Namath rookie cards still fetch over $1,000. Compare these sums to mid-career, standard-issue Jordan cards, which price guides assess at five- to ten-dollar valuations.

What makes rookie cards so valuable? For older cards, scarcity matters. Collectors didn’t always hold these cards sacred and no kid would save cards of anyone but his favorite players. A rookie would have had less time to establish himself with young fans, and so be all the more likely to get discarded. Also, favorite cards would more likely get fed through the spokes of a kid’s bicycle than kept in pristine condition.

So, for a player’s rookie card to have survived the mid-1980s and earlier is a minor miracle. Add onto that legendary blunders. Topps got into the mass production of baseball cards in 1952 and their first set sold so well that they doubled down on their second print run. As Rich Mueller from The Bleacher Report postulates, Topps failed to account for fickle boys losing interest in baseball by fall. In an era when trading cards were marketed to kids, the value of inventory dwindled as months and years went by, so Topps loaded several hundred cases of unopened cards—surely, hundreds of Mickey Mantle rookie cards still embedded in wax wrappers—onto a barge to be disposed of at sea.

Collecting has changed. Even for my generation, a kid of the 1990s, Dad warned me about keeping cards orderly so the corners didn’t bend. The trading card market was oversaturated, though, with more cards produced than ever, and more conscientious collectors preserving them.

The value of rookie cards has grown increasingly arbitrary. They’re worth more simply because collectors still feel they ought to be.

Still, flipping through top-loaders—preparing to sell most of my collection—I remembered Dana. One memory gave way to an earlier one. We’d slept together for the first time on my squeaky, extra-long dorm bed, over a fitted sheet that always curled up off of the mattress. Her hands reeked of bleach after wiping down tables for minimum wage at a café off campus.

We called our virginities our V cards. Dana teased that she’d taken mine. I reminded her of the awkward high school boyfriend who’d taken hers. She wrinkled her nose and claimed, After he fell asleep, I stole it back.

It was quite the thought—stealing back that piece of oneself. To reassert that innocence, like the joy of opening foil wrappers to get at the cards inside. Fumbling fingers and the temptation to open the edges with scissors, tempered by a memory, early in my collecting days, when I did so and clipped the top of card before I could even get it out of the pack. That feeling, like slicing into an orange, rather than peeling and pulling it apart. Juice wasted with each incision, dripping from fingers, a sticky mess.

She said, I wish we could stay here forever, neck propped over my upper arm, her head on the pillow, my arm bent at the elbow so I could cup her breast in my hand. I understood here was not a place—beneath the gaze of my roommate’s poster of two models in their underwear, adjacent to my desk cluttered with Chinese takeout containers, textbooks, and computer printouts of essays from my Western Humanities class, and a seminar on Willa Cather, not to mention a Patrick Ewing rookie card perched on my clock radio. Here was a moment in time and space we couldn’t steal back or screw down.

Works Cited

Mueller, Rich. “Thousands of Mickey Mantle's First Topps Cards Were Dumped into Ocean.” Bleacher Report, bleacherreport.com/articles/1674457-thousands-of-mickey-mantles-first-topps-cards-were-dumped-into-ocean

“Rare Mickey Mantle rookie card sells for $525k.” CNBC, http://www.cnbc.com/2015/12/11/rare-mickey-mantle-rookie-card-sells-for-525k.html

Michael Chin was born and raised in Utica, New York and his hybrid chapbook, "The Leo Burke Finish," is available now from Gimmick Press in Three-Way Dance. He won Bayou Magazine's Jim Knudsen Editor’s Prize for fiction and has work published or forthcoming in journals including The Normal School, Passages North, and Hobart.  He works as a contributing editor for Moss. Find him online at miketchin.com or follow him on Twitter @miketchin

Two Poems by Jill Talbot

When Hatchimals Came To Town

The ugliest toy of the season

emerges from its egg—causes

riots in the street. If Furbies had

half-night stands with Tamagotchies—

meet Hatchimals.

 

Which witch is which?

 

Nevermind Aleppo, nevermind Trump,

somebody just paid $500 for a Hatchimal.

You evil little elves—it’s Christmas.

Somebody had a three-night stand

with a Neanderthal. Hatchimal, Hatchimal,

wherefore art thou Hatchimal?

 

Is it made of Gold or silver? Does it speak

fluent Latin? It has marbles, they are eyes.

It has an egg, it has a due date.

It’ll be in a landfill by next

season. Will you buy it?

 

The Real Velveteen Rabbit

The Velveteen Rabbit lies on the bed,

his fortune awaits—will he become Real

some day? Will he lick salt and frolic

with the other rabbits? For now

 

all they want is for him to lick salt

from the boy’s tears. In the Real version

the rabbit ought to be angry with those

who bought him to begin with.

 

A furuncle develops deep in his skin,

a tiny bit of Real is trying to break free—

until it erupts. He is becoming Real slowly

 

then quickly. At first he is hinky—

unsure of himself. Then he becomes

 

animate and fervent—he shakes and moves

and dances! His fur grows shabby and starts

to grow longer, he becomes bearded

like a goat and becomes older and wiser.

 

He jumps on the boy’s emerald green dresser

to eat a prune, why shouldn’t it be his?

The boy wouldn’t eat it.

 

Some might say that he is not as cute

as he used to be but he knows

this doesn’t matter any more

 

for he is Real and all the other toys

are jealous, as they should be.

 

This is the Real version of the story.

Who would want to be bought then thrown

into a pile, waiting to be set on fire—

 

to an oven—I can think of where

that has happened before. To be Real

 

is not always easy, of course. It hurts

sometimes, they got that part right.

 

But it hurts especially to know

one was Unreal before.

 

This is the story they do not teach

so when I became Real I set down

to teach it.

Jill Talbot's writing has appeared in Geist, Rattle, Poetry Is Dead, The Puritan, Matrix, subTerrain, The Tishman Review, The Cardiff Review, PRISM and others. Jill won the PRISM Grouse Grind Lit Prize. She was shortlisted for the Matrix Lit POP Award for fiction and the Malahat Far Horizons Award for poetry. Jill lives on Gabriola Island, BC.

It’s Only Seasonal, I Promise by C.C. Hannett

It’s Only Seasonal, I Promise

Goofy shit: ornamental pickles
a tradition without rhyme or rhizome
blends in the dew drop fascicle
At first I thought you meant an actual pickle
slick with vinegar brine, yodeling from branch
to branch all slippery and slap-happy—
not painted, inorganic glass.

Then there's Dill Pickle Soup
Your pet name for me
I'm told it's polish like Gombrowicz,
Witkiewicz, and Schulz
There is a clumsy sophistication to it
akin to kilts & Jester's caps
I don't recall exactly when it happened.

You always bring me cold,
half-eaten food--
and I hate it!

But what about when I leave you
my pickle spear &&
split shots of pickle vodka
I don't mean for my expression of love
to have a very specific
pickle theme,
It's only seasonal, I promise.

C. C. Hannett is the byname of Kris Hall; a poet who writes and lives with his wife and their animals in the PNW. He is the author of I Gave This Dream To A Color (Spuyten Duyvil, 2018) and the chapbooks, Notes for Xenos Vesparum (Shotgun Wedding, an imprint of Alice Blue Books), and Dillinger on the Beach (Horse Less Press). He is the former curator of the reading series Da'daedal and Ogopogo. Both series took place in Seattle, WA and focused on showcasing interdisciplinary work. His next book, Triune (Spuyten Duyvil), will be released in the Summer of 2018.

Beedancing and Stupidhead by Carolyn Eichhorn

Beedancing

When I was four or five years old, I stepped on a bee. I had been running around the pool at my grandparents’ house in Arizona, exactly as all kids are told not to do, and I crushed a dead bee with my chubby little bare foot. The little bastard stung me from beyond the grave, rearing up to inflict pain and psychological damage long after its last gasps of ridiculously hot desert air. It was probably bitter about the heat. Arizona is a special kind of hot.

Anyway, as my mother tried to calm my gulping sobs, treating my swelling sting with baking soda, cooing, and promises of ice cream, I remember thinking that this was profoundly unfair.  What kind of creature can hurt you after they die? Thus began my bee phobia, my apiphobia, according to Google.

Fast forward to Florida where the air teems with insects and one’s twitchiness caused by buzzing, flying things can really blossom. All those orange groves have beehives set up to pollinate the sunshine fruit, so when riding horses or minibikes, one needs to take care not to end up in a cloud of angry, armed, flying fuzzballs. Combine that with a movie about killer bees, a proliferation of wasps and “mud daubers” with their dangly legs and rampant house building skills, and my nerves were always on edge while out-of-doors.

Aside from one incident with a hornet that stung me through my leather gardening gloves (I sobbed in the fetal position on my living room floor for fifteen minutes), I had few direct interactions with the flying pests. But the buzzing, the threat, always triggered a physical response.

During a volunteering day at Give Kids the World, I was painting the side of one of the administration buildings alongside friends and colleagues, hip deep in hedges when I heard that familiar, horrifying sound. In seconds, I had leapt from the bushes, arms flailing, face contorted in terror, screaming like a sorority girl in a slasher movie. Once out of the danger zone, I looked up to see my team, my friends, doubled over in laughter.

“Did you see that dance?”

“That was a bee dance!”

“Buzz, buzz! What’s that by your shoulder?”

Unfortunately, that bee dance has been repeated many, many times while mowing the yard, hiking local trails, chilling at the pool, even walking across the parking lot to Publix. There was a particularly horrifying incident outside a Sam’s Club once when I discovered a wasp nest up in the handle of the tailgate of my Mom’s pickup truck where my fingers had been. But patio furniture, pool chairs, long wooden docks, and all those places you would expect to relax are like Disneyland for flying, stinging things. Wasps love water parks, by the way. Seriously, just look up while you wait in line for that flume ride. Wasp nest city.

When I get caught in full freakout mode, the question is always the same. Are you allergic? 

Um, no, I’m just fucking terrified. Does it diminish my panic that only pain, not anaphylactic shock, is coming at my face via airmail? Nope. Avoidance of pain seems like a completely legitimate and logical effort to me.

And, by the way, bear maulings can’t be fixed with an Epi-Pen, which is just as well since no one can afford those anymore.  Nor can they soothe the anxiety that descends like that paper dentist bib at the sight of the silvery metal torture tools next to the spit bowl. At that critical moment, when it’s just you and a flying thing that could be a brain eating wasp or merely a ladybug, we have only our own defense mechanisms, no matter how ridiculous they look to others.

It turns out that bee dances are really a thing. Bees communicate with each other, so beekeepers would have us believe, by using a series of “dances,” the most famous being the “waggle dance” which seems to be a butt-shaking figure-eight, not unlike what one might see at the club. Presumably, these bees can share details about the location of food, taking into consideration the distance, angle of the sun, and line of flight.  Seriously. Buzzaboutbees.net even has a video of this spectacle, though I could not bring myself to watch it, as I had no Xanax on hand. And, honestly, I’m not sure that I’m comfortable with the idea that my lifelong foe is capable of GPS targeting. Are they just messing with me? Throwing in a little fly-by on the way back to the hive for kicks? Gathering with each other for a little pollen and some bee-sized guffaws at my distress?

I’m no longer that child in bare feet, but I find that as a grown-up, I’m still watching where I step, lest something seemingly harmless might come at me with poisoned barbs. I’m listening carefully when I enter a room of chatting humans for any warning buzzes that I should avoid, especially around politics. You might not see the sting coming, but you will often hear the thrumming warning hum. I cannot seem to control my facial contortions in response to bullshit, though arm flailing is infrequent at professional events. My bee dancing is happening all the time in degrees, though not usually in a figure eight. The waggling, I’m afraid, is merely a result of a slower metabolism. I wish that I was just sharing the location of leftover meeting brownies down the hall, but it’s more likely a manifestation of other fleeting things that might hurt us, though they appear harmless.

Stupidhead

“So, we’re all good then?” Beezer asked, like he always did.

Lisa got to her feet and brushed red dust from her clothes and hair. Her limbs all appeared to work normally, but she knew she would bruise where her hip had struck the ground after her Huffy spilled her into the rutted clay road.

“You are a stupidhead,” she said back to him, her standard reply. She gulped the last part, still fighting to catch her breath and not willing to drop the attitude that clung to her thirteen–year-old self like the rust colored earth staining her Keds.

Beezer smiled his gap-toothed grin and Lisa smiled back. After all, it had been as much her fault as his. She’d agreed to sit upon the handlebars as he steered her pink beach cruiser down the steep switchbacks. Turns out, this made maneuvering difficult and the incline did the rest. Beezer had dumped them both over to prevent the bike from careening completely off the road. He’d gotten the worst of it, not from the wreck, but from the removal of the bike from the thorny blackberry bushes growing wild in the ditch. Beezer’s close-cropped blond hair and Ron Jon t-shirt were wet from the Georgia summer heat and his efforts to tug the bicycle back to the road. Lisa took a moment to straighten the barrettes that struggled to contain her insubordinate wavy brown hair. Neither of them wanted questions from the parentals.  For insurance, they picked enough blackberries for a cobbler, wrapping them carefully in Beezer’s shirt, before returning to the cabin. The diversion worked long enough to get them inside and upstairs, but five minutes later they heard Beezer’s mom call from the kitchen.

“Benjamin Zachariah Ross! Did you intentionally ruin this shirt?”

Lisa snorted with laughter.

“Goofball,” Beezer said.

“Stupidhead,” Lisa replied.

At least there wouldn’t be stitches this time. The waterbed adventure at the lake three weeks earlier had earned Lisa nine. Filling the patched-up mattress with air and jumping on it from the pier had seemed like an awesome way to pass a hot afternoon. However, seven minutes in, Lisa had been catapulted with impressive height into the closest splintery piling. When she had sputtered back to the surface, blood coursed down her face from a cut at her hairline. Beezer had fished her out of the water and pressed a wet beach towel to her face. Soon, both the towel and Lisa’s freckled face were streaked with watery red. Lisa had joked, “Good thing there are no sharks in the lake or we’d really be in trouble.” This had gotten a laugh from Beezer. He’d looked a little worried.

The parentals had gone berserk. Well, the ones who were still around had. Beezer’s mom and Lisa’s dad were sister and brother. Every summer the families gathered at Pop-Pop’s cabin. While sister and brother complained about their lives over beers and barbecue, Lisa and Beezer played in the woods around the lake, not wanting to hear anymore about illness or affairs or heartbreak or divorce. They already knew the ways parents could leave.

Each summer meant elaborate adventures, mostly of Beezer’s invention. As the older cousin by a full year, he became the coordinator for their summer shenanigans. They improvised parachutes of bed sheets and leapt off the roof. Luckily, there were no broken bones, but both agreed it would be best not to tell the parentals. When Beezer wanted to catch a Sasquatch, they dug a hole so big it took them a week before they covered the opening with tree limbs and set up surveillance. They checked it every morning for six days. No Sasquatch. They searched for treasure and buried some of their own – just stones, an arrowhead, a metal Corvette toy, and other stuff in a cardboard shoebox, the location carefully marked with an X on a bona fide map. They built a make-shift tree house with some old two-by-fours and plywood scraps once Beezer was old enough to use Pop Pop’s drill. They played Hunger Games. Although Lisa had agreed that real bows and arrows were probably not safe, she fell while fleeing Katniss-style into the old Sasquatch trap. In the darkness of the pit, the wind knocked from her lungs, she managed to gasp, “Beezer, you stupidhead.”

Their last summer together at the cabin had been before Beezer went away to college. He played football, channeling his toughness into the game. After graduation, he became a coach at a high school in Florida. Last Christmas, Lisa had teased him in front of his boys about the trouble he’d gotten them in as kids. He’d laughed in a way that made Lisa suspect that he had pulled off a few adventures with his little guys. Lisa had punched his arm and complained that he always seemed to get away with everything.

“Not true!” He’d laughed, showing that same gapped grin.

And he was right. In the end, it was cancer that caught up with him, not his reckless spirit. Lisa ran her thumb over the raised lettering on the funeral program, while the pastor lead the congregation in prayer, blinking back hot tears before whispering, “Stupidhead.”

Carolyn Eichhorn completed her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Tampa where she won the Plant Hall Spooky Story contest in 2015. She's had stories published by Oscillate Wildly Press, ScrawlBrawl, and the Baltimore County Library Foundation and is currently shopping her mystery novel, Murder in the Mix. Carolyn teaches writing and writes twisty fiction in Baltimore, Maryland. You can check out her blog at: https://groundsforsuspicion.blogspot.com/.