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.

#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.

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).