Dusty Dog Reviews
The whole project is hip, anti-academic, the poetry of reluctant grown-ups, picking noses in church. An enjoyable romp! Though also serious.

children, churches and daddies logo

Nick DiSpoldo, Small Press Review (on Children, Churches and Daddies, April 1997)
Children, Churches and Daddies is eclectic, alive and is as contemporary as tomorrow’s news.

Volume 217, February 2011

The Unreligious, Non-Family-Oriented Literary and Art Magazine
Internet ISSN 1555-1555, print ISSN 1068-5154

cc&d magazine

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the passionate stuff


John Thompson
author of ‘black petal rose’

make-up like a geisha
or a clown

your beauty masked
by a fake face

your lips

you cry an emerald
     that leaves a caucasian train
you cry a flood
     to swim away

Janet Kuypers reading the John Thompson poem
from the February 2011 issue (v217) of the lit mag
cc&d magazine (which is also available as a
6" x 9" ISBN# book Life... from Nothing
videonot yet rated
Watch this YouTube video
read live 02/08/11, live at the Café in Chicago 02/08/11

Maria, art by Brian Forrest

Maria, art by Brian Forrest

Brian Forrest Bio:

    Born in Canada and bred in the U.S., Brian Forrest works in many mediums: oil painting, computer graphics, theatre, digital music, film, and video. Brian studied acting at Columbia Pictures in Los Angeles, digital media in art and design at Bellevue College (receiving degrees in Web Multimedia Authoring and Digital Video Production.) He works in the Seattle, WA area in design/media/fine art. Influenced by past and current colorist painters, Brian’s raw and expressive works hover between realism and abstraction.


Invisible Fuel


It was not the wind that pushed
Da Vinci’s hands to paint Mona Lisa;
Nor the waves that carried Einstein
To arrive at his Theory of Relativity.
The world is moved by movers
Who are moved by an invisible fuel.
Like spacecrafts, we blast-off to space
To explore a universe of possibilities
Via an inferno of flames.

The corrupt politician confesses his secret -
His prowling eyes obsessed with the next
Lump sum to add to his account, or
On the next investment for security.
The divorcee is back on the hunt
For the next lover who can feed her
Acceptance, a boost of ego, sense of safety.
The bird soars a sky of ambitions.
The fish swims an ocean of dreams.
Everybody constantly craves for certainty.
A country wages war against another.
This slavery must be our own limbo,
Our temporary heaven, our personal hell.

Maybe one day, we will master
The consumption of our fuel
Before it runs out, making us reach
A permanent heaven where desires,
Manageable, are not triggering us
To be out of our very own control.

Like the Jews in Warsaw

Fritz Hamilton

Like the Jews in Warsaw, the
Nazis that run my bldg are soon to
enter my room & destroy it/ to

replace my floor & paint my walls &
throw out my property accumulated for
centuries/ Jesoo has ratted on me to

the Huns/ they’ll take everything, like
all my mss gathered from prelapsarian
times/ they’ll throw them out with all my

pet roaches/ then they’ll stuff me into
a cattle car with all their human cargo &
off to Auschwitz or Belsen we’ll go/

since I’m 74 & bound for the eternal
garbage soon anyway, they probably
won’t allow me to make the trip/ they’ll

shoot me beside the railroad track &
leave my rats & roaches without a dad/ they
won’t allow me to work, starve & freeze

to death for human purity/ instead
the ride for me will be over before I
even make it/ they don’t realize they’re

already dead, & so am I/ that
God is dead & was before we invented
Him & made up that absurd myth of

the virgin birth & all that wise suffering before
the crucifixion & the Easter bunny, &
if I lie dead beside the track, Jesoo lies

dead in his Easter basket, no matter how
many eggs you might find, because
after it’s all over, it never began, &

thank the murdered Lord that
you’re nothing, just like Jesoo &
his Daddy/

nothing, sweet

nothing, just

nothing ...


Jesoo beats the cross until

Fritz Hamilton

Jesoo beats the cross until it
spurts into the sky & falls back into
Magdalene’s eye/ her

eyeball impregnates as
Jesoo masturbates until the
cross falls to perdition &

burns with the rapists & the papists &
sundry child molesters &
pro-life protesters, who

beat down the abortionist’s door to
steal the foetuses & raise them in
love’s squalor & poverty to become

more papist rapists & child molesters to
perpetuate the horror in God they
trust/ spread their legs &

thrust! &

again the cross squirts in
spurt-spurt-spurts/ the
church is the whorehouse, & it



Fair Enough


Mentally ill yoga partner
Responded to correction
Like a human game show sound effect
Honking like Tony Randall at peak exposure
Conniption fit of agreement
No resistance, only
Insane accord
The master said I should be in union
With those who are allowed
To be different
We stand, now, together
Babbling rubbish
Making sad seal sounds
Into the master’s ears each class
As she meditates in perfect balance
And cries

Scatter, art by the HA!man of South Africa

Scatter, art by the HA!man of South Africa

What I woke to write

Rebecca Shepard

my bed

from your

to a different life

one without children
that are ours by blood
one with an
invisible wedding.

connected, however,
more times than we can
count on one hand.

the sheet that will never
back around the bed

after your quivering body
dislodged it.

i slept on my hands
and smelt you


some things do remain.


Jon Mathewson

The parents peeled back the skin and flesh
of their dead child, then tied together
the tiny bones, placed clay masks over
the body and laid the corpse in the
back with generations of cousins
dried under the desert sun like fish
caught in the gorges and out at sea,
a still school needing a larger boat.
They rolled back the flesh from their sorrow
tied it together to save their loss,
creating art, that is how they lived
before they became the new supply.
Sorrow has already filled my dunes,
The ocean beckons, beckons, beckons.

Intertwined, art by Aaron Wilder

Intertwined, art by Aaron Wilder

Reading at a Bookstore’s Open Mic.

Matthew Guzman

I normally hate these things.
Hearing other people
Spout off stale similes regarding
Cats or the “art of creation.”
My stuff isn’t the greatest,
Mostly depressing, and
Sometimes involves disturbing
Sexual imagery.
I’m a poor reader & all the
Journals have been quite efficient
With sending prompt rejection letters.

The host calls my name,
I hold my breath, heart
Beating in my throat –
“The title of my poem is...
The Art of Training Your Bi-Polar
I forget how the rest goes...

Mr. Flip as a Blackbox

Kristine Ong Muslim

    The trick is to stay alive. But most days, there are no choices left.

    Mr. Flip is now the only survivor after the crash. A metal box of recorded frequencies. There is no lid to this box, no flaps that can open upwards. All tongue and no lips makes Mr. Flip a good mimic. If he can only stand up, if he can only shapeshift his way out of his natural boxlike configuration, then he will walk away from this carnage of smoke and twisted metal. He will wander until he will reach a town, perhaps, a roadside where he can hitch a ride home.

    By sundown, Mr. Flip will have learned to ignore the noise. He will have his own feet to tread on the bones of sparrows, of roadkill grit. How they crackle like the broken finger bones of sickly girls, their unrehearsed prayers turning into sighs.


Previously published in The, June 22, 2009


Michael Larrain

for Wilder Kathleen

In late April
the low evening light
strikes your face as softly as a thought
Looking at you
I often feel like the other end of light
when light is touching something
and a thrill is transmitted
back to the sending place
A rush a rose an infinitesimal buzz
and then a renewable forgetfulness
so that when tomorrow sings itself awake
each earthly shape will be a face
waiting to receive its name
every color begin
as the blue of overlapping blessings
before dividing into you
or three or treetops or me
Light was born from the first shock of recognition

Author bio

    Michael Larrain was born in Los Angeles in 1947. He is the author of three collections of poems: The Promises Kept in Sleep, Just One Drink for the Diamond Cutter and For One Moment There Was No Queen. Rainy Day Women Press of Willits, CA, has released a CD of his reading of selected love poems called Lipstick: A Catalogue for Continuous Undressing. His novels are South of The North Star, Movies on the Sails, and As the Case May Be. His children’s storybooks are The Girl With the Loom In Her Room, Heaven & Earth and Homer the Hobo & Ulysses the Goat.
    He lives in Sonoma County (California) with his wife and three year old daughter, Wilder Kathleen the Rage of Paris Larrain, and has long been a senior partner in the Way-Up, Firm And High-Tail It Bright Out of Town Detective Agency, a loosely aligned confederacy of shady characters devoted to the complete discrediting of reality in our time.

The Shining

Copyright R. N. Taber 2010

Boy drops a shiny new coin
into gutter and watches it dive
down a drain;
Boy chases after The Shining,
is soon swimming
for thrills with sewer rats
smelling of roses

Boy reaches an expanse
of sea, a glittering star-like icon
on waves sure to tease,
making sure it always stays
just out of reach
no matter how well he swims
or how far

Boy whose coin it was
dropped down a drain and swam
an odyssey smelling
of roses - grew up and learned
the hard way
how swimming with sewer rats
ain’t no fun

No surprises then
that Boy became a banker, having
already learned
how to swim with sewer rats
after The Shining
and succeed in coming up
smelling of roses

A Mother’s Take on Librarians,
with Reply

Robert Lawrence

A librarian, Roxy?
Is that your dream job?
A librarian is like Flo,
that Progressive Insurance lady
on TV: a tad retro
a touch eccentric
an aura of innocence;
but her hot hot red lips—
what do they represent?
Yes! Duplicitous librarians
live double lives:
they look so prim and proper
behind their spacious desks,
but they drink too much booze
and they read lascivious books
to unsuspecting youth,
exposing the sex-splashed covers
exposing the graphic details
as a prelude
to exposing their corrupt flesh
to convert innocent victims
to the wickedness of their ways.
Yes! That’s how they “educate” us!
And are they ever overpaid!
Who needs their “research assistance”
when you can google anything these days!
Please, Roxy, make your mother proud;
choose an honest, out-front profession
one that uplifts and refreshes.

But Ma, I don’t wanna be a stripper.
I want to be a librarian.

Just Out of Reach
(Edges of their Ocean)

Janet Kuypers

was on some tropical island
where tourists go
and saw an inlet along the beach
where they used net walls
to show their trained dolphins

you asked me if I wanted to see the dolphins

I said no

and it made me wonder,
which is worse:

keeping wild sea animals
in total captivity
all of their lives
with man-made ponds
with man-made walls

or training wild sea animals
in captivity, and then taking them
to the edges of their ocean
putting up man-made walls
right up at the beachfront
giving them their water
so they can look out
at what they’re missing

as we walked away along the beach
I saw a trainer on a platform
guide a dolphin
as it flipped through the air

and I thought

let an infant lick a lollipop
then pull it away

even after they’ve stopped crying
even if they’re used to what they’ve got
all they can do now
is stare at that lollipop
just out of reach

video videonot yet rated
Watch this YouTube video
live 10/08/10 at the Chicago Public Library (Avalon Branch), with cello from the HAman of South Africa

Keeps Pounding Against Walls

Janet Kuypers

I feel this pain in my chest
so I try to rationalize it away:

this isn’t heartburn,
my arm’s not tingling,
it’s not a heart attack

but I think I know
that my heart’s been pounding
because my heart’s been trapped

it’s been trapped
& I don’t know if it’s trapped by my ribcage
I don’t know if it’s trapped by your male oppression
I don’t know if it’s trapped by my cowardice


my fear
or by—

I don’t know what trapped my heart
but it’s been pounding so hard

so hard that it’s slamming on those walls
those god-damned walls that I can’t even see

god, I don’t even know about the walls
but my heart keeps pounding against them

I don’t know about the walls
but my heart’s still pounding

On Ashes

Janet Kuypers
5-5-7 haiku-styled poem, 09/18/10

Dachau’s gas chambers
work every morning
as snow settles on ashes

At the Camp

Janet Kuypers
09/18/10 Haiku

through wind, sleet or rain
they say “work will set you free”:
their chant ‘til you die


Sara Basrai

We’re 18 in 1989
We live in a town
You’re white
I’m brown
They call the baby
Let’s go to London
They’ll give us sugar

Sara Basrai bio     Sara Basrai is a UK citizen who lives in NYC. Before moving to the USA, she worked in schools across London and worked with children from different cultural and social backgrounds. Her writing appears or is forthcoming in 34th Parallel, Outwardlink.net, Battered Suitcase, Cantara Press and in an anthology called The Cloud. Her poetry will be published in Grey Sparrow Press and Nefarious Ballerina. She has also presented work on sites supporting biracial couples. Sara’s desire as a writer is to present stories, which surprise and raise questions.

Summer’s Almost Gone, art by Nick Brazinsky

Summer’s Almost Gone, art by Nick Brazinsky

Arbitrary Thoughts

GPA (The Poetic Unsub)

The education system is failing in the inner city.
Women want independence and respect, but contemplate whether
a larger breast size will make them more pretty. Global warming is
affecting the weather, but only a growing few realize.
In videos, women are so scantily clad, young boys no longer need
to fantasize.
Feels good to know someone may not like me because of skin’s
Funny, hilarious that a man could be married to one woman and
love another.
What a startling turn of events that words like, “bitch” and “shit”
on regular television during prime time is okay.
And computers should be excellent learning aids for our kids, but
instead they are bait to make them predator’s prey!
Isn’t it possible that HIV and crack are diseases the government made?
Why does the CEO of a company steal from his employees, when
he is already the most overpaid?
Perhaps paranoia has gotten the best of me and at anything that
doesn’t make sense, I worry.
If so, then consider everything I said irrelevant, and these be my
thoughts, arbitrary.....

Janet Kuypers reading a poem by
GPA (the Poetic Unsub)
read from cc&d magazine
video Watch the YouTube video not yet rated

12/21/10, live at the Café in Chicago


Judith Ann Levison

My edge has left me
At a party as a friend of a friend
I look for my ex-wife or anyone
That looks like her
In a dark corner I hear a woodpecker
Ferocious and in his element
I call her, she answers hello in a dull drawl
Did the kids get their cards?
Of course she says, mail box works
The silence lasts the decade of our marriage
I want to linger in the abysmal loneliness
But she says she needs cash for more clothes
She cannot just reinstate herself out there in rags
I think of a red string dress I will buy her
And jewelry similar to those in Cleopatra’s museum
An old army man I can bunk anywhere and fill
My boots with cash, she asks suspiciously,
What do I want; the d-i-v-o-r-s-e is over

I can’t say you are the only one to know me
I miss your trashy ways and I don’t know how
To be a father without your help
My dad was a robot with angry voltage
She said I could come over Thanksgiving
Have coffee and pie as long as I don’t have any
Ideas, and bring the stuff she wanted, her foot
Now a size 8 and long boots were in style
My Cleopatra, for the scent of sun in a child’s hair
I would bring anything to be camouflaged of that life

On a Bicentennial Remembrance: February 12, 2009

Michael Ceraolo

I awoke in the late morning after a long night of reading,
the classical music station in town announcing that later
that day they would play Copland’s Lincoln Portrait accompanied
by James Earl Jones read excerpts from several of Lincoln’s speeches
(imagine: a President capable of writing his own speeches)
The public radio station in town had a celebration as well
The daily paper in town had a few days earlier reviewed
several of the never-ending procession of books on Lincoln
(why anyone would spend his or her entire life poring over
another person’s life is a subject for a different poem)
This being America no one mentioned it was also
the bicentennial of the birth of Charles Darwin,
once again missing the opportunity (during Black History Month)
to state the fact that we are all African-Americans


Joy Davis

There’s a dark side
That’s been buried in the ground
But the worms couldn’t eat away at it
Because it’s heart refuses to stop.

Instead it grows in power
Spreading itself around
Clinging itself to whatever idea it can
Then rips those things apart
Until this idea has a manifestation
Possessing the globe.

They kill whatever stands in its way
Insisting upon its own ego
as the only applicable answer.

Every night it sheds its white cloak
Stumbles down the stairs
Waiting for its next victim
which it kills

If People

Maxwell Baumbach

if people
love you
is wonderful


if people
hate you
is even better


if people
nothing you
is when you are without purpose

enjoy video of part one of
the Maxwell Baumbach Feature

which includes this poem
(and also has an intro of Maxwell Baumbach poetry accepted in issues
of cc&d magazine by editor and the Café host Janet Kuypers)

video Watch the YouTube video not yet rated

Maxwell Baumbach Bio

    Maxwell Baumbach is a writer from Elmhurst, Illinois. You can see him at www.youtube.com/MaxwellThePoet. He is also the editor of the new publication Heavy Hands Ink. His work has appeared in Opium Poetry 2.0, The Cynic Online Magazine, Thunderclap!, Record Magazine, Black-Listed Magazine, and Five Fishes Journal. It is upcoming in vox poetica, Yes, Poetry, Clutching at Straws, and The Shine Journal. He enjoys watching pro wrestling, which is totally real, as well as reading obscene amounts of poetry.


Lucy Winrow

I didn’t hear it get quieter
It happened slowly at first
Held down by dusty sweat
In my teenage bed
I noticed the little drapes hanging
In the corner of the room:
Bird skeletons
Ancient lace hankies
Greying the edges
Dulling the sharp corners of plaster.

I’d look then forget
Thinking in another direction
While their confidence grew
Hurling great tightropes from end to end
Powdery grey cables that I’d awake to find
Grazing my skin
Rousing to the brush of silk on my cheek,
A leg leaving.
If I opened my eyes and thought about it
They fell silent.

It soon got hard to breathe
Tried to move but I seemed to stick to things
Limbs didn’t swing so freely
I was becoming bound where I lay
Mummified in dead skin cells
Dust mite dung
So slowly that it quickly became terrifying
And they would watch me
From the corners where it all began
Glittering eyes, pipe cleaner legs.

But when help came with a can
A yellow duster in hand
My own eyes glittered
And I was able to stand
The hairs on my legs bristled.

A Saving Compliment

Dennis Kerr

One fine morning
I was dressed to kill


I was walking
down the street

not thinking of
much but how
today was the day
I finally found the outfit
that I would be able
to do the deed in.

I happened to glance
at a homeless gentleman
who looked at me and said

“how do you feel?”

I replied with an honest answer:
“not too hot...”

His eyes got real big
and he was staring at
me like I was crazy
and he said

“well you look great.”


Dan Fitzgerald

She looks down
at my broken shoelaces,
and begins to cry at
the homelessness of my shoes.
“It is alright”, I say,
pulling the barely clean napkin
from my pocket to dry her tears,
“my other shoes are doing fine,
working quite steadily with
another pair of feet”.
She laughs at seeing the wrinkled smile
in my near-sighted eyes.
Crystalline streams hesitate
at the rims of her eyes as she
scans the worn leather of my face.
Then she laughs again,
handing out a bill, moving past me.
I watch her walk away as I shove
the money into my coat.
“thank you, kindly”, I say,
shuffling down the street on my
broken-backed shoes,
like a shy schoolboy
afraid of tripping over
his own feet.

Don’t Stop Believing (#1)

Kenneth DiMaggio

Loner in the landscape
where every scarred and striped
and bruise-collared male
bonded on ball teams
that played for and drank
at bars with exotic names like Roma
or Vesuvius and where middle-aged
bee-hive haired divorcees
made a trophy of every punk’s
virginity but yours
--oh loner

listening to the music
that would never
get juke-boxed at
the Knights of Columbus
but still you were linked
to that world of red white
& bloodied America
with a grim-reaper hooded
saint laminated in a scapular
around your neck and while
you learned to spit like Sid Vicious
you would also learn
to suffer like a saint
because what were
true punks
but saints
who rebelled
through faith

and what were
true saints
but punks
who finally learned
how to love


Tom Roby

cream floats on coffee
snow over Hiroshima

Tom Roby reading
his Untitled Haiku from memory
(which appeared in the February 2011 issue (v217) of the lit mag cc&d magazine (which is also available as a
6" x 9" ISBN# book Life... from Nothing,
as well as the 2011 Scars Poetry Wall Calendar)
videonot yet rated
Watch this YouTube video
read live 03/08/11, live at the Café in Chicago
videonot yet rated
Watch this YouTube video
read live 03/15/11, live at the Café in Chicago

Janet Kuypers reading a poem by
Tom Roby
read from cc&d magazine
video Watch the YouTube video not yet rated

12/21/10, live at the Café in Chicago

Flight, art by Mark Graham

Flight, art by Mark Graham

Under the Cherry Blossom

Jenna Mary

I like to take walks when I’m drunk
in the shade of a specific cherry blossom
where I’d gotten so high
I fell asleep once
until sunrise.
You never found me,
pushing my name inside your mouth
like broken memories.
I’d met you a thousand times
in parks and sat next to
on carousel rides,
remembering the color
of someone else’s eyes
I loved,
fingering the black and blue
like special freckles
you were oblivious to
and he use to love.

Things, We Carry

AE Baer

“The Daily Ad is Conflagration.”

Like paper Mache dreams
Or dreamers
Do they dream of being human
Like steeples dream of being
Without our human god?

Rats in a granary
Chisel satire in the walls
With meat hooks for claws
“Gluttony feeds-”

Candy with glass skin
Flavored, fields of strawberries
Once ripe, intoxicating
A breathing color, with breathing blood
Like commercials and fads
In tiny metal nurseries
Under tiny human eyes-

A poet’s cliché
When it’s really nothing
But a shell with gears for a tortoise
And typewritten ticks and ticks and ticks
Reminds me of a choir of eunuchs
In sweat bands behind a brothel
Humming with less beauty then a single splintered rain drop
Under another heavy sun.

A chandelier in a whaling ship
Sounds like a body in a dungeon
With obsession
And dyslexia
And magnesium constipation
Blushing because it bends
Like playing cards
Ocher from tobacco hands
The color of a bombed face
In a den of poker players and sexed men
Oh, face the executioner
The one in your mirror
Waving like a stranger from the train you should have caught
And tire yourself out with all these high brow manners
And manners and manners!

But I am only human
And I can’t breathe in this fish bowl.

Hearts hanging in hallways
Like school boys’ minds
Buried under a playground
Beside used dreams.

Voices Within

Linda Webb Aceto

Voices flail the chorus,
mock my soul in quarter time.
Darkened sky lights, sunset blares,
lurid dreams escape.

Ice packed blue surrender
crackles red,
ignites to day.
Embers float, the smoke rains hot.
The chorus melds to gray.

Tone on one, barely there,
silence reigns again.

New Port Beach 1963, painting by Jay Marvin

New Port Beach 1963, painting by Jay Marvin

Comparative Literature

Michael Battram

“So you want to be
just like Bukowski, is that it?”
she asked me once.

“The jobs, the drinking,
up all night with music on and
a notebook in your lap, is that
what you’re trying to do?”

“Of course not, shit,” I snapped
at her. But looking back upon
those stupid years,
all that self-referential
chopped-up prose scrawled
drunken-handed on legal pads,

I think now maybe I wanted
to be someone, anyone,
but who I was; or maybe
I was just trying
to kill myself, just like
——at times, I bet he was——

Michael Battram Bio

    Michael Battram lives in Indiana, works in Kentucky, and writes in his car. His poems have appeared in a wide variety of forms, styles, and publications, from academic to alternative to “ashcan,” and someday he hopes to find out if he’s the only poet to appear in both The Lyric and Wormwood Review.

children, churches and daddies logo


(the actual song lyrics)


Many Americans know the song “Alouette”,
but have no idea what the words really mean. These are
French and English lyrics of “Alouette”,
a Chlildren’s song (not under copyright)
about plucking the feathers off a skylark, a small bird.
It originated with the French Canadian fur trade.

Alouette, gentille Alouette
    Skylark, nice skylark
Alouette, je te plumerai
    Skylark, I shall pluck you
Je te plumerai la tête
    I shall pluck your head
(Je te plumerai la tête)
    (I shall pluck your head)
Et la tête
    And your head
(Et la tête)
    (And your head)

Alouette, gentille Alouette
Alouette, je te plumerai
Je te plumerai le bec
    I shall pluck your beak
(Je te plumerai le bec)
Et le bec
(Et le bec)
Et la tête
(Et la tête)

The song continues for each bird part:

* Et le cou
And your neck
* Et le dos
And your back
* Et les ailes
And your wings
* Et les pattes
And your feet
* Et la queue
And your tail
La Conclusion
The Ending

Alouette, gentille Alouette
    Skylark, nice skylark
Alouette, je te plumerai
    Skylark, I shall pluck you.



the meat and potatoes stuff

a Fractured Fairytale

Barb Chandler

    “When you marry your knight in shining armor you’ll live happily ever after.”
    As a young child, Sarah heard this mantra everywhere she turned. From; parents, aunts, teachers, in songs and magazines. Finding her knight became her only goal. She dreamt of a knight in shining armor who would carry her away to a land filled with happiness and love. She continued to dream the dream throughout her school years into adulthood.
    After many years of searching, she found her knight and was married. However, the land he took her to was not filled with happiness and love. Instead, he took her to a land filled with sadness and violence.
    Now, Sarah in her newly altered state haunts the singles clubs trying to prevent fair maidens from succumbing to the fate she once did.

Cartoon by David Sowards

Cartoon by David Sowards

Stonehenge and the Flu

Anne Turner Taub

    The flu is the kind of illness that you know won’t kill you but you don’t care. You want to die anyway. You’re sick and miserable and it’s never going to end. Just the Machiavellian memory of one more tissue raking viciously through the skin on your raw, red nose—
    Sick with the flu, drugged with whatever new scientific discoveries were being promulgated for sneezes, coughs, and that mysterious thing they called malaise, Marta slept and woke, woke and slept in an antihistamine netherworld, where there was only herself, the television set, and the night table holding little armies of bottles with their torpedoes of darts each laying its claim on a different part of her body. And, in addition to that, her l4-year-old son would be coming home soon to start The Great Civil War—Teenager versus Parent.
    Over-medicated, in a limbo between sleep and waking, the thought of facing another day of adolescent rebellion was too much for her, and she stared back at the television set which was always on. It didn’t matter whether she watched it or not. It just stayed on, had a life of its own. She had developed, or rather it had developed, an anthropomorphic relation with her where it talked to her and said, I have more life than you. I move, I make noise, I sing, dance, have conversations. You’re a zombie, you’re still alive but does it matter?
    Although she had developed an intense paranoiac hatred of that TV set, she now began to watch it anyway. A program on Stonehenge. Stonehenge. If there was one thing in the world that did not interest her, it was a dump called Stonehenge that she had been forced to read about in some long-forgotten art history course. Blocks of ugly stones piled on each other, no graffiti, no advertising posters, no arrows pointing to the outdoor privy, Actually, Stonehenge had bored her to death even in her normal life, if she could still believe she had ever had one, somehow those days had totally disappeared, belonged to someone with her face and figure, but that person had died and been resurrected as a charterhouse for flu bugs.
    She looked at the television set. It looked back at her. I’ll get you, she said, no TV set is going to tell me what to watch. But the remote control had fiendishly disappeared, lost somewhere in the wilds of her white, bedsheet world. In an antihistamine-induced hysteria, she almost cried. Where was that damn thing? The television set grinned back, continuing on its merry way, in complete control now, discoursing learnedly on a pile of rocks. So it was Stonehenge or go fish for that damn remote in a state of total surrender. She did not have the strength to go on the kind of safari that demon of elusiveness would require. Her choice seemed simple; it was Stonehenge or die of total misery. The television set, as usual, won the battle. Just wait, she thought, wait till I am vertical again, just you wait ‘enry ‘iggins, just you wait. I’ll never watch you again; you’ll go to that happy television hunting ground in the sky and never be heard from again. I’ll unplug you like a broken hairdryer, you one-eyed monster.
    Stonehenge was being romanticized by a bright young man with an English accent, an ascot, and bad teeth. Stonehenge, he was explaining, had been built sometime around 2,500 B.C. She’d heard it all before—she knew it was some kind of religious temple erected by Druids. Who cared? Why did she have to go through something she’d already suffered through once before. Obviously this was all punishment for something she had done, what else could it be?
    She looked round to see if the remote had surfaced, hopefully in a non-exertion area. Nowhere. Back to Stonehenge. Oh, look at that. It was not a religious temple. It was there long before the Druids. Now he was describing the blue stones of Stonehenge that were different from any other stones in the area. These stones had come from the mountains in Wales. Nice, blue is a nice color. Christ, wasn’t she even entitled to a commercial? They had carried these huge stones 240 miles to the Salisbury plains in southern England. Why and how they got there, no one knew. Since no one knew, what was the point of the program? She reached for a pill on the nightstand without looking at the bottle. She didn’t know what it was for and didn’t care. She needed some activity that the television set couldn’t dictate. Maybe it was for her head, lungs, throat, stomach, wherever this one wanted to aim its little darts—maybe there was a part of her body called a malaise. Maybe she would start jumping in the air and skipping like the people were doing now on a commercial because they had taken a laxative.
    Back to El Dorado, the land of television heaven for couch and sickbed potatoes. So these idiots had carried these huge stones overland 240 miles—they had only simple tools, no real transportation but rafts. God, they must have had broken legs, aching backs, pulled muscles and no antihistamines.
    She felt a swirl of sympathy rising in her for those poor people of long ago. That was strange. She realized she had just had a real emotion. She hadn’t felt anything but drugged self-pity for days now. But these people did all that backbreaking work—and not for money, not because they were slaves, but, according to the speaker with the highbrow English accent and the lowbrow teeth, because they felt it was something that they wanted to do.
    I don’t believe that, she thought. How could anyone today know what they wanted? If that was why they did it, they were fools. I sound like my son, she thought. I’m regressing back to acne and rebellion.
    Now Mr. England was delightedly glorifying a bunch of English schoolboys who were replicating the journey of those people long ago. The boys had put a huge concrete slab on a raft. It was one-fifth the weight of the original stones and they were shown floating it down a river, then pulling and pushing it on land.
    When she saw the boys, she realized they were the same age as her son. Suddenly she was filled with sadness. Well, at least it wasn’t self-pity. Since her husband had left them two years ago, her son had become a bitter, silent creature. His father had remarried, had not called or visited once. She could not have a conversation with the boy. He either met her questions with silence and a withering look or a contemptuous retort that was worse than the silence. For some reason, he seemed to blame her for the breakup. If she had been a better wife, a better homemaker, a better cook, better looking, anything but what she really was, his father would still be there.
    On the TV, the scholars had decided that Stonehenge was not a religious temple at all, but a system of charting the planets and stars, and as an exercise in astronomy, it was a miracle of achievement. This stuff was getting interesting—a bad sign, she must be getting worse. A commercial advertising the sunny beaches of the Caribbean came on and she fell asleep.
    She was awakened an hour later when the door of her room erupted into a war-dance, and her son burst into the room in a thunderous cloud of activity. Then as if regretting that he had actually been caught in motion, he reluctantly lowered himself inch by inch into a chair and stared at the TV without saying a word. She had long been trained by her son not to ask questions but today, artificially brave on flu medicine, she didn’t care. She asked the question every mother is afraid to ask a teenager. “How was school today?”
    Reckless on drugs, she dared one last question before the sarcastic retort. “Do anything interesting?”
    Without looking at her, his eyes glued to a TV cartoon, he answered, “We watched a program on some rocks.”
    Silence. More silence, then—
    “Yeah, how did you know?”
    “I watched it, too.”
    “You did? I didn’t know you liked that stuff. It was great, wasn’t it? Imagine what those people went through!” All of a sudden the boy became animated. He began to tell her his thoughts on Stonehenge and suddenly she realized that this was the first time since her divorce that they had had a real conversation.
    A flood of love for her son suddenly swept over her. As he talked excitedly about how much he wished he had been with those boys ferrying the stones to Stonehenge, something was happening to her. In her week-long well of self-pity, she had somehow never cried. Now tears came to her eyes in warm, welcome little pools of relief. Unaware of her tears, her son responded warmly to her nods and soft grunts of understanding.
    As he talked, she realized that even her flu symptoms seemed to have gone. Silently she sent a prayer of thanks to those people thousands of years ago who had broken their backs putting together a bunch of rocks, and at the same time starting herself and her son on the road to healing their relationship. At that moment the cartoons ended and a commercial came on.
    “Ma,” said her son, “do you think we could ever go to Stonehenge?” We. We? she nodded slowly as if she were considering carefully an experience that nothing on earth would have kept her from sharing with her child. We. That was the first time in two years, he had used the word We.
    At that moment the remote control fell off the bed. It had been under her pillow where she had put it hours ago so she would have it on hand. As it hit the floor, the television set, in total surrender, shut itself off.

TV Arturos

The Gift

John Duncklee

    Everyone at Housatonic High School took it for granted that Joe and Margie would marry soon after graduation, or at least once they had graduated from college. Joe had some misgivings about college because he was having plenty of trouble getting through high school algebra. After one of their discussions about their future, Joe had expressed his feelings about algebra to Margie. “I am convinced that I am mathematically challenged,” he said.
    The pressure on him from his parents and the teachers at school gave him so much worry that during baseball season his pitching was not as good as the previous year. Toward the end of his senior year he skipped school at times and Margie began to worry about whether or not Joe would graduate with their class. When Joe began forgetting about picking her up for their Saturday dates, she became concerned enough to telephone his mother to see if she might learn what was bothering Joe. Joe’s mother offered little help because she was also perplexed by her son’s behavior.
    It had been their custom, since the summer before their sophomore year when they had fallen in love, to walk to and from school with each other. They had become a common sight walking along, hand in hand every morning and afternoon. During Springtime they would appear later because of Joe’s baseball practice.
    Margie was known as a good student. She didn’t fall into the classification of “brain”, but she made consistently good grades except in history. There was something about history that sent her into confusion every time she tried to understand who was a hero and who was a villain and why. Historic dates went through her mind like water over a dam. She had no memory for any historic dates except for those that were drummed into every person in the country. She would have to think a moment before saying that the War of 1812 was in 1812. However, her memory for mathematical formulae never failed to amaze her teachers. This trait gave her the confidence to offer to tutor Joe in algebra. This generous act was also something that she didn’t realize came between them and would often cause Joe to avoid the tutoring sessions.
    At the beginning of one session that she held in her parents’ living room she noticed that Joe had not brought his algebra text, but instead had a copy of Will James’s book, LONE COWBOY. “How do you expect to learn algebra from that book?” She asked in a tone that made Joe cringe.
    “I am not reading it to learn algebra,” Joe said. “I am learning all I can about being a cowboy. Will James knows all that because he is a cowboy.”
    “Did Will James graduate from high school?” Margie asked.
    “I don’t know,” Joe said. “And, for that matter, I really don’t care. He sure didn’t learn about cows and horses looking at a blackboard full of numbers that didn’t make sense to him.”
    Margie did her best with the session, but she had no doubt that Joe was not listening to what she was saying. Furthermore, she thought, that if he was listening he was not concentrating enough to understand what she was trying to explain. What worried her more than anything was that final examinations were scheduled to begin in two weeks. She couldn’t see how Joe could learn enough to pass algebra in that short a time.
    Two days later, Margie could not understand why Joe avoided her. She had planned some last minute memory clues to remind him how to calculate some basic algebraic problems, but he was nowhere to be found. She had looked everywhere and made several inquiries of his mother as to his whereabouts. Joe had disappeared.
    Joe was too busy to see anyone. He had escaped to the small guesthouse of his cousin Allison, a single woman who worked as a travel agent in a downtown office. Joe knew she would not tell anybody where he was because she and Joe’s mother, Allison’s sister, had never gotten along well. Joe’s mother had once explained the situation as “sibling rivalry”, but Joe had no idea what that meant because he had neither brothers nor sisters.
    Joe was not just in hiding. He was making the best set of algebra crib notes he could. He had thought about his plan all semester because he knew that without these notes, well hidden from the teacher’s eyes, he would never pass algebra. Therefore he would not graduate with his class, a situation that would bring sneers of laughter from his peers. He hated being singled out for any sort of transgression, and failure to graduate on time would have brought on complete disgrace in his young mind.
    Joe finished his project the day before the last game of the season against his high school’s archrival. He was scheduled to be the starting pitcher. He showed up in the locker room in plenty of time to change into his game uniform and sauntered out onto the field to warm up his arm. The coach saw him and yelled for him to come over to the bench.
    “Where have you been all week, Joe?”
    “Sorry about that Coach, but I have been too busy to practice.”
    “I don’t know about you starting today,” the coach said.
    “That’s up to you, Coach, but I can tell you that I know my pitching has been slipping lately, and I know why. I have had a problem to solve and now I have solved it. So I think you can count on me having my best game today if you let me start.”
    “That’s interesting, Joe,” the coach said. “I was wondering what was bothering you. I’m glad you got through whatever it was. You can start today and I hope you strike out every batter that you face.”
    “Thanks, Coach. I will do the best I can. Who knows, I may never be on the mound again.”
    “Why do you say that, Joe?”
    “I have decided to become a cowboy.”
    The coach’s eyes widened in a look of disbelief. He removed his ball cap and scratched the top of his head. Joe went to the mound to wait for his catcher to don his protective equipment. When the catcher took his position behind the plate, Joe began throwing slowly. He felt good in his mind and his arm warmed up easily. In a few minutes he threw several curve balls and then motioned to the catcher that he was ready. They both walked to the bench and sat down to wait for the game to begin. The visiting team would be at bat first. Joe rotated his shoulders a few times as he waited. He watched the umpires take their positions and heard the one behind the plate yell, “Play Ball!”
    Joe’s team trotted out onto the field and took their positions. Joe reached down, grabbed the rosin bag, and fingered it for a moment as he waited for the catcher to squat down behind the skinny looking batter.
    The catcher signed a fastball. Joe wound up and pitched low and inside. The skinny looking batter seemed like he had never seen the ball coming. “Strike one!” the behind-the-plate umpire said.
    Two more pitches and Joe faced the second batter with one out. That first half inning ended with two strikeouts and one popped fly out to the shortstop. The second half saw Joe’s team bat in four runs and the visiting team had committed two errors. Joe’s coach called the team into a huddle before they went out to start the second inning. “All right, I want you to play like we are losing and cannot afford an error. And, Joe, you are throwing your old game. Keep it up and we’ll pocket a win. Go for it, Cowboy!”
    Joe was surprised at the coach’s last statement. As he trotted out to the mound he glanced back and saw Margie in the grandstand next to his parents. He wondered if she was angry with him for not showing up for her tutoring sessions. Upon reaching the mound he said to himself that if she was angry it couldn’t be helped. He had done what he had to do, and he was back in the old groove pitching a good game.
    Joe could feel the exuberance and tension of the crowd as he continued striking out batters and the score remained in the home team’s favor by two runs. At the beginning of the eighth inning the coach called Joe over. “How’s that arm holding up, Cowboy?” he asked.
    “No problem, Coach. I could probably go another nine.”
    “I sure hope that won’t be necessary,” the coach said, and patted him on his back before Joe took over the mound again.
    The game ended with a three run lead for Joe’s team, and Joe had pitched a one hitter, his best game ever. Margie and his parents came swarming onto the field with the rest of the fans to congratulate their team on the victory. Margie hugged Joe. He bent down and kissed her on her forehead. He turned to his father who was beaming at his son’s accomplishment. “Nice game, Son,” his father said. “I knew you could do it.”
    Three days later, proudly wearing his baseball cap, Joe entered the classroom where the algebra final examination was being given. He took a desk next to the wall on the right side of the room. Removing his baseball cap, he carefully placed it upside down on his lap. He kept his left arm over the opening in the cap, but looked down for a moment to see if he could read the notes that he had arranged inside the crown. He breathed a sign of relief that nobody could hear except himself. The teacher walked up and down the aisles handing out the examination and “Blue Books” for the students to use. All knew that the teacher had made sure nothing had been written in the “Blue Books” beforehand.
    When he had finished handing out the examination sheets and “Blue Books”, the teacher stood at the front of the room. “Class, you will have two hours to complete this examination. Should you finish before the time is up I suggest that you go over your answers to make sure you have not left any questions out. Then you may hand in your examinations here on the front desk.” The teacher smiled. “Good luck and I wish you well. Results will be posted on my office door the day after tomorrow. You may start the examination now.”
    The first thing Joe did was read over the questions on the examination sheet. He was surprised to recognize that he could answer a good number without referring to his notes. He contemplated using his notes, but his thoughts jumped back to the one-hitter he had pitched. He had pitched an honest game and won, so he thought that he had a good chance to win the game of algebra by writing an honest examination. He realized that by making such a complete set of crib notes he had learned more algebra than he had all year in class. He took his cap and tucked it away under his right leg. He began to write down numbers. As he worked away he smiled and came close to shivering with the joy he felt knowing that he had learned that horrible subject and could write it down correctly. He knew his answers were correct. When he had finished he looked up and saw that nobody had turned in their examinations, so he continued sitting in his chair making believe that he was still writing down answers to the questions. He remained there until he saw that three students had gone to the front of the room and left their papers on the teacher’s desk.
    When another student started for the front of the room, Joe grabbed and pinched his cap so that the notes would stay in the crown. He took his examination in his other hand and walked behind the other student. He placed his examination with the others and left the classroom. Once outside the school he looked around to see if there was anyone nearby. He took his cap, opened it carefully and put it on his head. He sighed again, thankful that he had not been discovered with his crib notes.
    Two days later Joe went to the algebra teacher’s office door where he saw that he had gotten a “C” in algebra. He didn’t swell with pride, but he breathed a long sigh of relief because he knew that he would graduate in two more days. That evening he interrupted his parents as they listened to their favorite news program on the radio in the living room.
    “I need to talk to you,” Joe said. “Please turn off the radio.”
    His father scowled, reached out and turned the sound volume down. He left the radio on. “What is so important that I cannot listen to my news?” he asked.
    “I want to tell you that after graduation, I am going to the West to become a cowboy,” Joe said.
    His father stood up and looked at Joe directly. “What in the world gave you that ridiculous idea?”
    “It is not a ridiculous idea, Dad. I am finished with school and I want to make my way in the world just like you have been telling me for a long time.”
    “I thought you were going to Dartmouth as we had talked about.”
    “I haven’t applied to Dartmouth, Dad. In fact, I haven’t applied to any college. I just want to be a cowboy. I don’t want to go to school anymore. I am totally tired of school.”
    “How about your pitching?” his father asked.
    “I had a great time pitching, but it is time to do something else. I want to be a cowboy.”
    “Well, all I have to say is I don’t know how you are planning to go West where you can become a cowboy. Do you realize that cowboys don’t make much money?”
    “I know a little about that, Dad. But, a cowboy doesn’t need much money when he is out in the mountains taking care of the cattle.”
    “Then I have one more question before I turn the news back on. How are you planning to get out West?”
    “I’ll figure out a way somehow,” Joe said and left the room as his father turned up the volume on the radio again.
    Joe walked over to his Aunt Allison’s house and found her in the kitchen washing her supper dishes. “Hi, Joe,” she said. “What brings you to see your mother’s villainous sister?” Allison laughed. Joe smiled since he knew all about the two sisters not getting along with each other.
    “I need to ask you to do me a favor,” Joe said.
    “I will do any favor that is within my power, Joe.” She said.
    “You are a travel agent and I need to get to Wyoming to become a cowboy. I need you to tell me how I can get there.”
    “Where do you want to go in Wyoming? It’s a big chunk of country.”
    “Sheridan, I think. I looked on a map and it is near Montana. If I can’t get a cowboy job near Sheridan I can always try Montana.”
    “I really don’t understand your reasoning there, but I will get the information for you in the morning. Can you come by my office before noon?”
    “I’ll be there, Aunt Allison. Thanks.”
    Joe returned home, and, without disturbing his parents with their ears glued to the radio, went up stairs to his room. He picked up the latest book by Will James that he had checked out of the library, and began reading where he had left his bookmark. Within moments the book had absorbed his interest. Joe read until he could barely keep his eyes open. He finished the book the following morning before going to Aunt Allison’s office. After finishing the Will James story, he was more determined than ever to become a cowboy in Wyoming.
    Allison stood up from her desk to welcome her nephew, and then sat back down in her chair. “I have all the information available on your proposed trip to Sheridan. How much money do you have?”
    “I have been saving as much as I can,” Joe said. “I have close to fifty dollars.”
    “That will get you half way by train and a little further if you buy a bus ticket,” Allison said.
    “I guess that means a bus ticket and then I will get out on the highway and hitch-hike.”
    “Have you talked to your parents about this adventure?”
    “I talked to them but they were more interested in listening to the evening news.”
    “What did my idiot sister have to say?”
    “As usual, my father did all the talking,” Joe said, and shrugged.
    “That is certainly nothing new. She has been his silent slave since she married him.”
    “There isn’t much I can do about that,” Joe said.
    “You’re right, but there is something I can do,” Allison said, and smiled a look of conniving. “I will lend you the money for a rail ticket. I get an agency discount.”
    “That is very nice of you, Aunt Allison. I can pay you back once I get a job as a cowboy.”
    “From what I have heard about cowboys, they don’t make much money so it will take you quite a while to repay the loan. But, that is fine with me because I think you are doing the right thing by getting away from those parents of yours.”
    “It isn’t just getting away from my parents, Aunt Allison. I just want to do what I want to do instead of going to Dartmouth and go to work in the city with my father. That is not my idea of living.”
    “I admire you for your courage.”
    “I suppose you might say that I am stubborn.”
    “I think that might be true, but I am stubborn, too. I will have your ticket ready this afternoon. Oh, I forgot one important thing. When are you wanting to leave?”
    “The day after graduation, which will be in three days,” Joe said.
    “Your ticket will be ready for you to pick up this afternoon. I kind of wish I was going with you, Joe. I think this is quite exciting.”
    Joe returned home and started reading another book that he had checked out of the library. It was a novel about life in early day Wyoming.

    Before the graduation ceremony Joe was restless. He wanted more than anything for all of it to end so he could get to New York City and Grand Central Station to leave for Wyoming. He was also apprehensive about seeing Margie. He had not told her about his plans because he didn’t want to listen to her cry and carry on about their future together. He had decided that before he could ever think about a future with anyone he would have to become what he wanted to be, a cowboy.
    He had put on his cap and gown and was in the back of the auditorium with some of the baseball team members as they, too, waited to become graduates of Housatonic High School. As he chatted with his friends he saw his parents arrive and then in came Margie in her cap and gown. She spotted him immediately. Joe wanted to shrink into the hardwood floor, but she came over to where he stood and stopped by his side.
    “Hi, Joe,” she said. “What are you doing here?”
    “Just what you are doing,” he said. “I am waiting to graduate and get this all over with.”
    “I didn’t know you were graduating,” she said. “What about algebra? You ran away from our tutoring sessions.”
    “I got a ‘C’.”
    “That is amazing,” she said. “How did you manage to do that?”
    “You must have taught me more than you thought you did. I got an ‘A’ in English. Mister Donovan told me I should be a writer.”
    “Why don’t you study creative writing in college?”
    “I’m going to be a cowboy, Margie. I’m not going to college.”
    One of the teachers intruded into the group and told them to line up in the hall outside the auditorium in alphabetical order. The student went out as directed and were soon all standing in the proper line. Then the same teacher ordered them to walk into the auditorium and sit in the front rows, staying in alphabetical order.
    The ceremony began with the principal giving a welcoming address to graduates, students, parents and friends. Joe was glad that it was not a long speech, but the succeeding speeches tended to be not only longer, but boring as well. The valedictory speech was short and to the point that we are all going out into the world to make our mark and we shall always be thankful to our faithful teachers at this fine high school. Joe felt relieved when the line of graduating seniors began filing on stage to receive their diplomas. He took his rolled up, ribbon-tied diploma, shook the principal’s hand quickly and went back to his seat. He was happy when the principal finished with the presentation and allowed all the graduates to file out of the auditorium first.
    In spite of his strong desire to flee and go home to get ready for his trip, Joe waited for the congratulations that all the adults seemed to think were necessary. Margie came up and smiled up at him.
    “How does it feel to be a graduate?” she asked.
    “I don’t feel any different than I did before,” Joe said.
    “Shall we go out and celebrate?” she asked.
    “Margie, I have some things to take care of,” he said. “I don’t really feel like there is anything to celebrate.”
    “Good heavens, you just graduated from high school and that doesn’t happen every day.”
    “Thank goodness for that,” Joe said. “I’ll get in touch.”
    “Joe, you are acting very strange. Is everything all right at home?”
    “Everything is the same at home. That will never change. I’ll get in touch, Margie.”
    Joe turned and walked out of the school auditorium, took off the cap and gown and left it with the others on a table in the hall. He went home and up to his room as quickly as he could. He wanted to finish the novel and take it back to the library. He didn’t want to leave any more loose ends than necessary.
    The following morning he slept late, and waited before going downstairs to eat breakfast until he was sure that his father had left for his daily commute to the city. He left his packed suitcase in his room.
    After a breakfast of bacon and what his mother called a “Graduation Omelet”, he asked her to wait for him in the living room. He went to his room, grabbed his suitcase and came downstairs where he sat down in the chair from which his father always listened to the evening news.
    “What are you doing with that suitcase, Joey?”
    He hated hearing his mother call him “Joey”.
    “Mom, I am leaving for Wyoming today to become a cowboy. Haven’t you been listening?”
    “I have heard this talk, but I didn’t think you meant it.”
    “I wonder why you and Dad don’t believe me when I tell you something,” he said.
    “Now, Joey, that’s not it at all,” she said, wrinkling her brow.
    “I guess that doesn’t matter. But, you need to believe me right now. I am leaving for the city and will leave for Sheridan, Wyoming around noon. I will write to you once I get a job as a cowboy.”
    “For heaven’s sake, I believe you mean what you are saying.”
    “Finally,” he said almost under his breath. “Please tell Dad that I am sorry that I am not going to Dartmouth as he wants me to, but that life is not for me. And remember that I love you, Mom.”
    Joe rose from the chair, picked up the suitcase and stood there momentarily, waiting for his mother to get up from her chair so he could give her a good-bye hug.
    “What about Margie?” she asked. “Your father and I thought you two were planning to get married.”
    “Margie will be fine. I have to go now, Mom. Give me a hug.”
    The mother and son embraced as tears began running down his mother’s face. She released him and took her handkerchief from her sleeve and wiped at her eyes. “You take care, Joey, and don’t forget to write. Send us a picture when you become a cowboy.”
    As he walked down the long hill to the railroad station that served the commuter trains into the city he looked around at all the familiar houses. He wondered if he would miss his boyhood hometown. He hoped that Margie would get over his leaving, and he hoped that someday he would see her again. He stopped at the library and returned the novel.
    The train arrived on time, and Joe stepped aboard. He took a seat next to a window because most of the businessmen had already finished their morning commutes and the train was not full of passengers. He was glad that he had waited long enough to eat a good breakfast so that he wouldn’t have to spend any of his meager fifty dollars on a meal before the train heading west left Grand Central Station.
    The train pulled into the lower level of the huge station. Joe got off and walked up to the upper level. He strolled by the long line of entrances reading the names of the trains’ destinations and their scheduled departures. Finding his train’s entrance, he went to a waiting room and sat down. He had a two-hour wait, but he was glad that he had gotten through his good-byes with his mother before she began to cry a lot. He wondered what Margie would do once she knew he really had gone west to be a cowboy as he had said so many times.
    He got up from the bench to go out into the large station room to check on the time. Suddenly, his Aunt Allison walked up to him. “I see you made it on time,” she said.
    “What are you doing here, Aunt Allison?”
    “I had business in the city so I thought I would drop by here to see you off. Besides, I have something for you.”
    “What are you talking about?”
    She reached into her purse, took out an envelope and handed it to him. Joe opened it and looked inside. “Good heavens, Aunt Allison why are you giving me this?”
    “It’s only a hundred dollars, Joe. You are going to need some money to live on until you find a cowboy job.”
    He put the envelope into his pocket and put his arms around her. “Golly, Aunt Allison, you are really something,” he said. “My parents didn’t offer anything but frowns.”
    “That’s the way some parents are. I never married and never had any children, but I have a dear nephew who I think the world of.”
    Joe hugged her tightly, then leaned down to kiss his aunt on her cheek.
    They waited for the departure time when the conductor stood at the entrance checking tickets. Joe kissed his aunt once more and said good-bye. As he walked down the ramp to board his train he had a warm feeling for his Aunt Allison that he had never felt before. He was happy that she had come to see him off and was still surprised at her generosity. He scowled as he sat in his seat, suddenly wondering how two sisters could be so different.


    Joe found his cowboy job within a week after his arrival in Sheridan. He also discovered that besides taking care of the cattle cowboys in that part of the country also helped put up hay in the summer. Joe didn’t mind doing anything as long as he could wear his cowboy hat and Levis. He worked in northern Wyoming for several years until he met a man from Colorado in the Mint Bar on Main Street in downtown Sheridan. The man had a ranch near Greeley, and offered Joe a job he couldn’t turn down. He packed his gear and became the man’s ranch manager with a herd of a thousand cows.
    All the while Joe could not get Margie out of his mind. He had pangs of guilt and sadness that he had left her without so much as a good-bye. He wondered what life had brought to her doorstep.
    Margie had excelled in mathematics in college and became a Certified Public Accountant on graduation. She worked for a newspaper chain and met the man she married while there. He was a reporter. They moved to Denver where her husband had grown up. All seemed to be going well until he came home one day after being diagnosed with cancer of the stomach. He was gone within six months and Margie remained in Denver at her accounting job with the same newspaper chain she had been with back East. All through the years she wondered what had happened to Joe. She still harbored some of the hurt she had felt after he had left for Wyoming to become a cowboy.


    After ten years as a ranch manager, Joe learned that the owner had sold his spread to a land developer. That was the end of that good job for Joe. He didn’t look around for another ranch to manage; his thoughts went back to the time when his high school English teacher had told him that he should be a writer. Joe had always saved most of his paycheck. His financial situation had improved when his parents died and left him a portfolio of sound investments. Joe moved to Denver and found a small house to rent where he could stay and write stories about horses and cattle.
    Every so often his thoughts returned to Margie. One day, after finishing his fourth novel, he let his mind go to the tutoring session with Margie. Then he wondered if Mister Donavan might still be alive. Joe thought it would be nice to send him autographed copies of his novels. He wrote to Aunt Allison to ask her about his former teacher, but she never answered his letter. It finally came back unopened with “Address Unknown” stamped in red ink on the outside of the envelope.
    One evening he went to The Brown Palace Hotel, that everyone for miles round referred to as “The Brown”. He went there on occasion to treat himself to a fancy meal. By this time he had grown a long beard that had turned white and his stomach had expanded as the result of the many hours he spent at his typewriter writing his stories. He liked “The Brown” and had met the manager when he had first moved from Greeley to Denver.
    As usual the manager spotted Joe and came over to his table for a chat. During the conversation the manager proposed to Joe that he become the hotel’s Santa Claus during the pre-Christmas season. “All you have to do is stand at the entrance and say ‘Merry Christmas’ to people entering the hotel.”
    “What about the Santa Claus costume?” Joe asked.
    “We already have one, and I’ll bet it would fit you perfectly,” the manager replied, with a smile
    That is how Joe became the Brown Palace Hotel’s Santa Claus, a job he enjoyed every year at Christmas time. He didn’t mind taking a break from his writing. Every year after Christmas he returned to his typewriter with an entirely new set of characters based on people he had seen as he stood as Santa Claus at “The Brown’s” entrance.
    He had been Santa Claus for eight years when a newspaperman approached him and asked if he would agree to an interview for a human-interest story the man had in mind. Joe agreed and the following morning the newsman arrived at Joe’s house with a tape recorder, accompanied by another man with a camera. For fun, Joe had put on the Santa suit for the occasion. Joe and the newsman sat down for the interview while the cameraman snapped photographs.
    A week later the newspaperman telephoned Joe to tell him about the article being published in the Sunday edition. “Thanks,” Joe said. “I’ll have to make sure I go out and buy one.”
    “You won’t have to do that, Joe,” the man said. “I’ll deliver one to you as soon as the sun rises on Sunday. Will that be convenient?”
    Joe looked forward to seeing the article and wondered what the man had decided to write about him.
    After reading the article, Joe smiled to himself, and put the newspaper on one of his bookshelves. That afternoon he stopped writing on his current novel to get ready for what he called “His Santa Gig”. The weather had turned and a cold snap had arrived. Joe made sure he had his mittens to keep his hands warm while standing outside at the hotel’s entrance. He also slipped on some heavy woolen socks because the Santa Boots had not been made for North Pole temperatures, nor for the feezing cold of Denver either. As with every year on Christmas Eve, Joe looked forward to this last evening as Santa as he stood greeting the people entering the hotel. Very few people stopped to chat with “Santa”, but that didn’t bother Joe because he was generally thinking about some story. The gently falling snow that was accumulating on the sidewalks and street did not distract his thoughts, but he was somewhat surprised when a woman stopped in front of him and said, “Merry Christmas, Joe.”
    Joe looked at her face closely. She seemed familiar. He wrinkled his brow. “I wish I could remember your name,” he said.
    “Maybe you remember when I tried to teach you enough high school algebra to pass your final examination.”
    Joe’s eyes widened as he recognized her. “Margie! For heaven’s sake what are you doing here? How did you find me playing Santa Claus?”
    He reached out and took her into his arms, into which she willingly came, and put her arms around him.
    “This is some kind of miracle,” Joe said.
    “I have read your books, Joe. And, I read the article about you being an award winning writer and being the Brown Palace Santa Claus. I had to come and see you after all the years. I live here in Denver.”
    “Come with me, Margie. Let’s go across the street and have some supper and talk. I’ll tell the manager I have to call it a day.”
    “That sounds perfect to me,” she said.
    Joe went into the hotel, apologized to the manager, changed into his regular clothes and returned to the sidewalk where Margie waited with tears running down her cheeks.
    “Are you all right, Margie?” Joe asked when he saw the tears.
    “Oh yes, Joe. I am just fine. I am just so very happy to see you I cannot hold back the tears.”
    Tears filled Joe’s eyes, too. He put his arms around her. “Margie, I have felt so guilty all these years for not saying good-bye to you. I am truly sorry.”
    “I must admit I felt hurt for a long time, but I forgave you when I realized that you had to do what you had dreamed of doing.”
    “I have always loved you, Margie.”
    “I know. I have always loved you, too, Joe.”
    “What a wonderful Christmas gift you have given me,” Joe said.
    “It is a wonderful Christmas gift we have given one another,” she said. “What was it you said about supper?”

Shadows, art by Cheryl Townsend

Shadows, art by Cheryl Townsend

Jamaica Farewell

Barbara Villemez

    Her long fingers twisted together as they lay entwined in her lap. The paleness of her hands and thin arms contrasted with the dark blue of her wool skirt. She sat still, legs primly crossed at the ankles. A stray lock of stringy blonde hair fell across her forehead and she nervously pushed it behind her ear. Her anxious eyes searched the face of the doctor seated across from her.
    “What I tell you is in strictest confidence isn’t it?”
    He nodded.
    She took a deep breath. “I’ve had this dreadful dream. I’ve had it now every night for months. I don’t know what it means, but I’m feeling so nervous when it’s time for bed, that I can’t sleep.”
    The doctor raised an eyebrow. “You want to tell me about this dream?”
    She looked down at her hands then her large eyes met his. “I kill my husband and bury him in the backyard. Isn’t that awful?”
    The doctor smiled. “Well, not necessarily. Many women feel like killing their husbands at one time or another.” He leaned over to turn on the tape recorder on the small table by his chair. “You don’t mind if I tape this session, do you? It helps me when I write my notes.”
    She shook her head. “No, I guess not”.
    “Good.” He leaned back in his chair and discreetly glanced at his watch. “Tell me a little about your life Mavis. Your husband’s retired isn’t he?”
    “Yes, about two years ago from the steel industry. We sold our house in Pennsylvania and moved here to Las Cruces about six months ago. He has really bad arthritis and the weather there was rough on him. He likes it here. We’re renting a house until we decide if we want to build or buy a condo.”
    The doctor nodded. “It’s is a good place to retire. Have you and your husband, its Harry, isn’t it, had many problems since he retired?”
    She hesitated. “Yesssssssss, ......you could say that we have. He’s so picky now that he’s home all day. He never did anything but work, never had any hobbies or friends, either. We never took a real vacation. Once in all the years we were married, we went up to the mountains for a weekend and he did nothing but complain about how much money it was costing. We never took another one.”
    A tone of resentment crept into her voice. “We didn’t have any children. I would have liked to, but Harry said they cost too much and would be a bother. He said I didn’t need anyone but him.” She shrugged and lifted her shoulders in a helpless gesture.
    “Have you always been a homemaker, Mavis?”
    “No, when we first married I worked as a secretary and made a good salary, but Harry wouldn’t let me keep it. The money had to go into a savings account for retirement. He would give me a small allowance to buy groceries every week and take me to the Mall if I needed something like clothes or shoes.”
    “How did you feel about that?”
    “I didn’t like it at first, but after awhile I accepted it. When we moved I found out the account wasn’t in my name. It is now, I insisted.” Her eyes flashed. “I told Harry what if something happened to him and I couldn’t get any money.” Her hands twisted together in her lap. “He could be in the hospital and needed things and I couldn’t get them for him.”
    “How long have you been married?”
    “Forty-two years next month.”
    “That’s a long time. How do you feel about this man after forty-two years together?”
    “I don’t know.” she hesitated. “Maybe that’s why I’m having the dream. Harry criticizes everything I do. He never shuts up, always yelling at me. Sometimes I want to tell him to shut up and get a life.”
     The doctor notices that her expression doesn’t change, but her eyes darken and widen. “Why don‘t you tell him?”
    She shrugged. “He’ll just get nastier. He can be so mean.”
    “Has he ever abused you in anyway physical?”
    Mavis looked down at her hands. Hesitating she looked up at the doctor, eyes wide. “I... um....... I guess its okay to tell you. Harry used to tie me up and spank me with this old ping pong paddle that he kept in his desk. He’d spank me so hard that I would have bruises and cry. Then he’d say he was sorry and we’d have sex. He hasn’t done that in a long time. He can’t get an erection anymore. And I’m glad.” She said this with a defiant toss of her head and a narrowing of her eyes.
    “I see.” The doctor leaned forward. “What usually led up to this spanking?”
    “It happened whenever I fussed too much about him not letting me do something I wanted to do.”
    “Like what?”
    “Oh, different things, like the time a neighbor across the street invited me over for coffee and Harry said I couldn’t go. He said she was a slut and probably wanted to take advantage of us. He gets so pissed now that he can’t get an erection and he doesn’t have the paddle anymore.” She smirked and her mouth turned up in a simile of a smile, small pointed teeth showing. “I told him it got lost in the move. I threw it in the trash. He never knew.”
    The doctor was silent for a moment. “You say that your husband wouldn’t let you have coffee with the neighbor?”
    Mavis sat back in the armchair and crossed her arms. The doctor watched her carefully. She appeared to hug herself tightly and rocked back and forth so gently that it was hardly noticeable.
    “Harry said he was the only friend that I needed. We never did anything social with anyone else. My parents died young and I’m an only child. Harry had an older brother, but we haven’t seen him in over forty years. He might even be dead for all we know. Harry didn’t like his family”.
    “You must be lonely.”
    She relaxed and put her hands in her lap. “I’ve got my television shows. I sew and garden. We never had a pet for the same reason we never had children, too bothersome. But now that Harry is home all the time he controls the remote and I can’t watch any of my programs. Its sports or game shows all day long and in the evening too.” Her voice took on a tone of self-pity.
    “You sound frustrated and angry, Mavis.”
    “I guess I am that’s probably why I keep having that dream.”
    “Tell me about it.”
    She hesitated and gazed toward the one window in the small office. “Well, I’m in my nightgown and barefoot. I’m in the backyard and its real dark, barely enough light to see. There’s blood on the front of my gown. I’m dragging something in a sheet. It’s very heavy and I’m grunting as I drag it along the ground. I stop and look down and it’s Harry. His head is all bloody and I don‘t think he’s breathing. I drag him through the pecan trees to a small clearing. A shovel is leaning against a tree. I start digging then I wake up.” She looks down at her hands.
    “That’s quite a dream, Mavis. I think you’re expressing the anger and resentment you feel toward Harry with this dream and that’s okay. Your subconscious is working through those feelings. From the history you’ve given me its normal that you would resent your relationship and feel angry. Probably this has been simmering for a long time. That’s why you keep having the dream. Your comfort level has been disrupted. You might think about doing things to get out of the house. The Senior Center has programs that you may find interesting. And I’m going to give you something to help you sleep.”
    He reached for his prescription pad. “I’m going to give you a thirty day supply of Ambien.” He wrote out the script and handed it to her. “Now, only take one before you go to bed; they’ll make you drowsy and you should have a good night’s sleep.” They both rose and he escorted her to the door.
    He held the door open and smiled. “We have to do some work on your self-esteem. We’ll get your husband in here in a few weeks and see if we can resolve some of these issues between you two.”
    “Thank you, doctor.”
    “You’re welcome Mavis. I’ll see you next week, same time. Stop at the front desk, Alice will set up an appointment for you.” He ushered her out and closed the door.
    Mavis paused, glanced at the receptionist, gave a slight shake of her head and walked quickly out of the office. She drove out of the parking lot and a few blocks down the street pulled into Albertson’s market. She sat in the car for ten minutes, her look thoughtful. Her eyes widened then she smiled and whispered. “Why not? What have I got to lose.” Humming an old Harry Belafonte song she got out of the car. Purchasing some bread, milk and cookies she stopped by the pharmacy and had the script filled, then drove home.
    As she put away the groceries she heard the toilet flush in the powder room and in a few minutes Harry entered the kitchen. He yelled; his face flushed with anger. “Where the hell have you been, you stupid bitch? You didn’t tell me you were leaving the house and taking the car.”
    Under her breath she said, “Shut up, Harry.”
    “What did you say?” His eyes narrowed as he approached.
    “I said I bought some groceries we needed. We were out of milk and bread. I also bought some of those cookies you like. You can have some with warm milk before you go to bed. You’ll sleep better.”
    Somewhat mollified Harry retorted, “You were gone over an hour.”
    “I stopped and got gas and washed the car.” She looked at her watch. “Harry, you’re going to miss your game show. Go sit down and I’ll start dinner.”
    Harry left the kitchen and humming Mavis began to prepare the meal.
    A few days later.
    It was a beautiful morning with a slight coolness in the air, mitigated by the warmth of the sun, a perfect day in the high desert of New Mexico.
    As Mavis left the bank she hummed an old song about a lemon tree. “I must see if I can find that CD, maybe at Barnes and Noble.” She skipped a step and continued humming as she walked to her car. She stopped to glance at her reflection in a store window and admired her new haircut and the auburn color.
    The telephone was ringing as she pulled into the garage. She raced into the kitchen and grabbed the phone. Out of breath, she said, “Hello, yes this is Mavis Taylor. Oh good, I was hoping you were on your way. We’re the house at the end of the road and we’re set back in the pecan trees. You have to come up the drive and park on the side, not in front. Okay, I’ll be here.” She hung up and went up the stairs to her bedroom. She picked up the two suitcases that stood inside the door and went back downstairs to the garage, placing the suitcases in the trunk. Humming a nondescript tune she went back into the house and taking a key from her key ring placed it on the kitchen counter. The sound of a truck coming up the drive alerted Mavis and she opened the front door. She watched the truck approach and waved as the men got out.
    “Hi. You understand that everything goes, all the furniture, the stuff in the kitchen and the clothes in the closest?”
    “Yes ma’am. It sure is good of you and your husband to donate all this stuff.”
    The older of the two men handed her a receipt. She gave a wave of dismissal. “Thank you. I don’t need a receipt.”
    She watched as they loaded the contents of the house into the large truck and waved as they left. Back in the house she looked around at the emptiness with a satisfied smile and walked through the house to the back yard. She took a deep breath and looked at the clear blue sky, then at the yellowing leaves of the pecan trees. She whispered, “It is lovely here.” She gave a little salute toward the pecan trees and smiling walked back through the house and into the garage. As she drove out of the driveway and onto the street, she couldn’t contain herself and giggled. “Jamaica will be just marvelous this time of the year.”

art from Calakmul by Brian Hosey and Lauren Braden

art from Calakmul by Brian Hosey and Lauren Braden

A Piece of America

Oz Hardwick

    A bland motel in the Mid-West. Grand Rapids, maybe, though it’s not too grand and nothing’s moving at all. Snowbound. Casual conversations with the few other guests dried up after the first night, with nothing to talk about but the weather, and that’s stayed the same. There are sit-coms on TV, so broken by adverts that by the time the programme comes back he’s lost the thread. The other option is the news, which is all about the weather, and that’s stayed the same. On balance, the ads are the best thing on, full of false hope and cynicism, with slogans almost haiku-like in their sadness:

own a piece of America and see your life change for the better

    The airport is tantalisingly close, but who knows when the next plane will leave? So here he is, drifting between adverts on TV and blank snow through the window, trapped in a small piece of America, where the dream has become recurring and everything stays the same.

    He is running on two timescales, six hours apart, phoning in the gaps between disjointed patterns of work and sleep, making tired conversation with nothing to say. But now, in the early evening, it is her small hours and she will be sleeping. On a whim, with something like recklessness and something like desperation, he picks up the phone, pushes 9 for an outside call, and hits numbers at random. What will the response be? Confusion? Indignity? Fear? It doesn’t matter – he just needs to hear a voice.

    A ringtone, then silence. But not true silence. Instead, it is a silence crackling with distance, the echo of falling snow, and everything staying the same.

Oz Hardwickreading his poem
a Piece of America
in a 2011 issue of cc&d magazine (and also available in the 6" x 9" ISBN# cc&d edition collection book Literary Town Hall
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Watch this YouTube video
read live 04/19/11, live at the Café in Chicago

My Female Intuition

Rufus Ryan

    As I waited for my bus, I smoked cigs while I looked at strangers.
    After I realized that there was a small pile of cig butts near my feet, I became anxious. I asked my shoes, “Where the fuck is my bus?”
    As I looked at my shoes and waited for them to respond, I could feel someone’s presence approaching me. I looked up and made eye contact with the strange man that was coming towards me. At first glance, I thought the guy was unattractive, and as he got closer to me, his looks didn’t improve. He had shoulder-length blonde hair, a shaggy reddish-orange beard, and he looked like he hadn’t taken a shower in awhile.
    When “orange beard” was standing right in front of me, I fired up a “distraction.” And though my mom taught me not to talk to strangers, she also taught me not to be rude to strangers. So I gave the stranger a small smile. The guy smiled back at me, and he asked, “Is your hair naturally dirty-blonde, or do you put dirt in it?”
    I smiled at my shoes. “I put dirt in it.”
    The stranger laughed as he put his hand out towards me. “It calls me, Capleton.”
    I looked into his eyes as I shook his hand. “It?”
    Capleton grinned. “The voice in my head.”
    I giggled. “My friends and family call me, Andriana.”
    Capleton’s sense of humor made me feel comfortable being in his presence. So I decided to keep talking to him. “Where are you from, Capleton?”
    “Cool.” I giggled. “What are you doing in California?”
    “I’m here to see the Pacific Ocean.”
    “Oh...are you leaving after you see it?”
    “No. I’m probably going to stay a couple weeks.”
    My bus arrived at the station. “Nice talking to you, Capleton. My bus is here.”
    Capleton pointed at my bus. “Hey! That’s my bus, too!”
    “You’re going to Santa Cruz?”
    “Yeah! Do you mind if I sit with you on the bus?”
    I smiled. “That’s cool with me.”
    Capleton was able to tell most of his life story on the way to Santa Cruz. He was very easy to talk to and he was charming. And though I wasn’t attracted to his face, I was attracted to his mind. Especially, because of his ambition to become a prosperous writer.
    After we got off the bus at the Santa Cruz bus station, we continued to talk. I asked, “So, where are you staying tonight, Capleton?”
    “Well, I want to experience what it’s like to be homeless. So, I’m going to live on the streets while I’m out here.”
    “Oh...that’s cool. Maybe you’ll get some inspiration for your writing from the homeless experience. Just watch out for people that talk to themselves.”
    I started rolling up a cig. Capleton asked, “Do you think you can roll one up for me?”
    I laughed. “You are becoming a bum, aren’t you?”
    Capleton laughed. I asked, “Do you want to walk me to my apartment?”
    “Yeah, sure.”
    We puffed on our cigs as we walked and talked. And by the time we got to my apartment, the darkness of night had arrived. I said, “Well, it was nice to meet you, Capleton.” I smiled. “I guess I’ll be seeing you on the streets and beaches while you’re here.”
    “Yeah...I’m sure you’ll see me here and there.”
    I giggled. “I just hope you will be able to find a cardboard box to sleep in tonight.”
    As Capleton laughed, I thought about how I wanted to get to know him better.
    When Capleton started walking away, I yelled, “Hey, Capleton!” He turned around. “Come back.”
    He walked back to me. I smiled. “Do you want to come in for a drink before you go?”
    “That’d be cool! Thanks!”
    When we got in my apartment, we both set our backpacks on the floor. I said, “Have a seat on the couch.” I took off my jacket and tossed it on the floor. “Do you like herbal tea, Capleton?”
    “Yeah, that’d be great, thanks.”
    I kicked my sandals off. “I’ll put some music on before I go in the kitchen and get the tea.” I showed him a CD case. “Do you like the Dead Warlocks?”
    “Yeah, I do.”
    After I put on the music, I went in my kitchen to make the tea. As I watched the water boil, I wondered what Capleton was doing and what he was thinking about while he sat alone in my front room.
    Holding two cups of hot tea, I slowly walked backwards into the front room. Capleton laughed as he set down the book that he was reading. He said, “You’re weird.”
    I giggled. “I prefer to be called strange.” I set his cup of tea on the coffee table. “Here you go.”
    “Thanks, Andriana.” He took a sip of the tea. “You’re so fucking cool.”
    “You’re welcome, and thanks.”
    I sat next to Capleton on the couch. “Do you like the tea?”
    As Capleton responded to my question, I noticed some deep scars on his neck; scars that I hadn’t noticed when he was sitting or standing to my left; scars that made me wonder about his past. Capleton said, “Yeah, I like this flavor.” He took a sip. “Do you go to college, Andriana?”
    “Yeah. I go to UCSC.”
    “Is that here in Santa Cruz?”
    “Yeah! And we have an awesome campus. Especially if you like nature. You should check it out.”
    “Yeah, I should.”
    I smiled. “Tomorrow morning I’m going to read that short story that you gave me.”
    “Cool! I hope you like it. It took a couple months to write that story.” He took a sip of his tea. “It was really fucking hard to come up with an ending that was realistic.”
    “Yeah, writing is fucking hard. Even short poems.”
    “Oh, hey! While you were making the tea, I read that poem that you gave me. I loved it! And I think you should try to get your poetry published!”
    I smiled at him as I put my hand on his knee. “You really liked my poem, Capleton?”
    “For sure! I loved it!”
    I took my hand off his knee. “How old are you, Capleton?”
    “I’m twenty-nine.” He grinned. “You?”
    “I’m nineteen.”
    “So that would make you a sophomore.”
    “What’s your major?”
    Capleton’s face lit up. He said, “Cool! I like crime, too.”
    I gave him a strange look. He said, “No, no, I didn’t mean it like that.” He pulled a book from his backpack and he handed it to me. “I like to study crime, too. That book is about an infamous serial killer from Illinois.”
    “Oh...cool.” I took a sip of my tea. “Have you ever committed a crime, Capleton?”
    He laughed. “Yeah...well, if you want to call driving too fast a crime. Then yes, I have committed a crime before.”
    I fired up a cig. “Would you ever commit a serious or violent crime, Capleton?”
    Capleton put a confused look on his face. “I don’t think I would...but...no, I don’t think I would.”
    I laughed as I pulled a joint from my tobacco pouch. “I commit crimes every day.” I giggled. “I want to commit a crime right now. If you want to call smoking a psychoactive substance a crime.”
    Capleton laughed. “No, I wouldn’t call that a crime.”
    “I don’t think it’s a crime, either. I think weed is a wonderful and useful medicine that needs to be fucking legalized!”
    “Fuck yeah!” Capleton looked at the joint. “I have really been fiending for some weed since I smoked my last joint at a train station in San Antonio.”
    I laughed. “Fiending?”
    “Yeah...you know...craving something.”
    I fired up the joint. “Well...” I passed the joint. “This should stop your fiending.”
    After he hit the joint, he started choking out the smoke that he inhaled. He said, “Wow! This stuff is potent!” He passed the joint back to me. “You’re so fucking cool, Andriana.”
    I smiled. “Here.” I handed him a cookie. “Eat this pot cookie, too.”
    Capleton took a bite of the cookie. “Fucking delicious!” He laughed as he shook his head. “Pot cookies...you people out here are way ahead of us.”
    As we passed the joint back and forth to each other, we continued to talk. I asked, “So, what do you think?”
     Capleton laughed. “About what?”
    “About Santa Cruz.”
    “Oh...well, I love what I’ve seen so far. But I get the feeling that some fucked-up shit happens here.”
    “Yeah, but fucked-up shit happens everywhere, right?”
    “Yeah, it does. Especially behind closed doors.”
    I laughed. “I’m just curious. Why did you come here to see the Pacific?”
    “Well, I was going to go to San Francisco. But I thought it would be easier to survive on the streets in a smaller city.” He grinned. “So I chose a smaller city that was near the ocean and San Francisco...Santa Cruz!”
    The weed was starting to alter my mood. I giggled as I looked at the piece of weed that was hanging from Capleton’s beard. I thought, This guy is harmless.
    I passed the joint. “Some fucked-up shit did happen here awhile back.”
    “Really? What happened?”
    “A few serial killers lived here in the seventies. They were practically next-door neighbors, and they all went on a killing spree at the same time.” I pointed at my door. “They all lived right by here. Right near the boardwalk.”
    “Really! That’d be cool to see where they lived.” He passed the joint to me. “How many people did they kill?”
    I took a puff from the joint. “The most notorious killer killed three or four college girls.” I picked up my cat and put him on my lap. “Girls that were hitchhiking near the campus.”
    Capleton put a surprised-look on his face. “Oh, fuck!” He pet my cat. “Are you talking about Pete Pemper?”
    “Yeah...how did you know?”
    “I read about him. Did you know that he also killed his mother?”
    “No, I didn’t know that.”
    “Yeah,” said Capleton. “And what he did to her...well...murder doesn’t get much more gruesome. But I thought he lived in San Francisco.”
    I put my cat in Capleton’s lap. “Nope. He lived right near here. Like I said, right down by the boardwalk. Which is only about two minutes from here.”
    Capleton’s face lit up. “Can you show me where he lived?”
    I sighed as I pet my cat. “I would, Capleton. But I’m really tired from riding on buses all day.”
    “I understand.” He smiled. “You’re really beautiful and kind, Andriana.”
    I blushed. “Thanks, Capleton. You’re sweet.”
    “Thanks...and thanks for the weed and the tea.” He stood up from the couch. “I better get going. I have to find somewhere to sleep tonight. I hope I run into you while I’m in town.”
    I didn’t want him to leave; I wanted him to stay the night with me. I didn’t want to do anything sexual with him, but I just wanted his presence to be in my home. And because my intuition told me that he wouldn’t try to do me any harm, I felt comfortable letting him stay the night with me. I reasoned, If he wanted to rape me, he would have tried by now.
    Capleton grabbed his backpack, and just as he put his hand on the doorknob, I said, “Wait!”
    He turned around and looked at me. I said, “I know you want to experience being homeless, but why don’t you spend the night at my apartment tonight, and then start your homeless adventure tomorrow.”
    He smiled. “You’re very generous...and trusting!” He set his backpack on the floor. “I’d love to stay the night here. Thanks so much, Andriana.”
    I smiled. “You’re quite welcome. You can sleep on the couch.”
    He laughed. “That’s better than a cardboard box.”
    We both laughed. I said, “Well, I’m going to bed.” I got up from the couch. “Knock on my bedroom door if you need anything.”
    “I will, Andriana. Thank you so much!”
    “You’re welcome.” I pet Jerry. “You’ll probably have to share the couch with Jerry.”
    Capleton started petting Jerry. “That’s cool. I love cats.”
    I smiled at Jerry, then at Capleton. “Good night, Capleton.”
    “Sweet dreams, Andriana.”
    I went to my bedroom, and after I got completely naked, I got in my bed. Then I turned off my lamp and I closed my eyes.
    As I prepared to sleep, all I thought about was Capleton. I worried that he might attempt to enter my room without permission. So, I grabbed my knife from my nightstand and I put it under my pillow. I said, “This is fucking crazy...he could be crazy.”
    The fear in my mind was dominating my thoughts, but my thoughts were getting me aroused. So, while I held my knife in one hand, I used my other hand to masturbate as I visualized Capleton forcibly entering “my room.”
    Right before I entered the dream world, I saw an image of Capleton sleeping on my couch.
    Capleton followed me into the dream world, and into the dream world’s herb store. I needed to get several different herbs for a concoction that I wanted to make. I bagged up the herbs, and Capleton put the price tags on the bags. We were in the store for what seemed like hours. And by the time we were paying the clerk, Capleton and I were naked. We laughed hysterically as we walked towards the store’s door, and after we went through the doorway, I woke up.
    After I got out of bed, I got dressed. Then I went to the front room to check on Capleton, but he wasn’t sleeping on the couch. And after I checked every room in my apartment, I concluded that he was gone. I said, “I need some tea.”
    As I watched the water boil, I asked myself, “Where the fuck did he go?”
    After my tea was done, I sat on my couch and smoked a joint as I wondered where Capleton had gone. I asked Jerry, “Where did Capleton go? Huh? You scare him away?”
    As I wondered about Capleton, I started reading the short story that he gave me. I read the first sentence aloud. “I was going to give her a chance; let her show me that she was compassionate. If she showed me any hostility, I was going to—”
    I stopped reading. I asked myself, “What the fuck is this story about?”

Out Of The Shadows

Sonia Segura

    I can remember a time when things that go bump in the night were the stuff of nightmares. I was always scared and ended up sleeping with my Grandma. She lived with my family and I in humid Louisiana.
    My name is Vivienne and that was many years ago. I’m all grown up and hopefully somewhat wiser. At thirty I decided to change careers after having worked in many jobs. Some of them were interesting, like being a wedding planner, and some were dull, like my job as a bank teller, to as crazy as helping to mentally rehabilitate wild animals at a zoo. If you ask me I think the people there needed rehabilitating, but that’s just my opinion. I’ve always felt like there was something missing in my life, maybe it was love, for I had never been in love. I might have believed in the boogie man but never that true love existed. It isn’t real and I truly believe it is a made up word by people who need to get a life. I definitely needed change in my life and I thought that a new job was just what I needed. Little did I know that this new job was going to be an eye opener for me. Everything I thought I believed and didn’t believe was about to change my life. My new job consisted of taking people on tours of antebellum mansions, and believe me Louisiana is loaded with them! It is a small touring company owned by a woman my boss, Janice. She is a very nice person, maybe a little quirky. She is totally into that paranormal stuff. When I met her she stared at me for a moment and hired me on the spot! She told me she had to hire me because it was meant to be this way. I thought it was an odd thing to say. I went home that evening after the interview, excited, but at the same time I had a strange feeling like something was going to change my life. I know I have never felt this way and it was very disconcerting. I decided I would do my job to the best of my ability and drive the tourists around from one mansion to another.
     I sure did love my Louisiana history! Okay maybe not the ghosty part of it! I have to say that so far I have not been bored with my new job. Which in my case was rare. The first week went by smoothly. I had three tours and met very interesting people. I have always been a history buff and this job really tested my knowledge.
    And this is the second week of my job and the beginning of my incredible story. It was a Friday tour which meant I was off for the weekend after the tour ended. I had laundry to do and cleaning to catch up with at my tiny apartment. Hopefully my old air conditioner would not go out on me, while I was doing this. That was only if I was lucky! This was the last tour of the day. I had six people in my group, two couples and two single young women. We all met at the touring company and were heading to to one of the mansions I had not been to. I was a little excited because this is one of the mansions that had all kinds of mystery surrounding it. The two couples were on their honeymoons. They were so into each other that I doubt they were paying too much attention to my relating of the story. The two single young women seemed very interested and were hanging on my every word. I think partly because the owner of the plantation had been said to be very good looking. He had been a very prosperous young and wealthy tobacco grower. On my research of this particular mansion I had found out that he had married very young. He had also lost his wife to an outbreak of measles. I was looking forward to seeing the mansion myself as this would be the first time I would see this famous place. We drove up the driveway, lined with its enormous oak trees covered in Spanish moss. It was beautiful! Even the honeymooners were awestruck! The front doors were big and ornate with beautiful carvings and the initials L. C. for Laurent Carbonierre. I had read in one of the books at the tour guide office that Laurent had built this spectacular mansion for his new bride, but when she died he just seemed to have let it go. There was so much mystery surrounding this place and also talk about people seeing lights in the mansion and catching glimpses of shadows at the windows. I was a such a chicken when it came to ghost stories like this one and the South was full of them! He, Laurent, was a mystery and every thing surrounding him as well. I had tried finding more information about him and how he had died and the date of his death, but I could not find anything. The only thing I had found out was that in the main salon there was a painting of Laurent and his wife, Marie. My group and I entered the mansion and sure enough it was as I had read in the tour book. It was fantastic! The Guilds, whose job is to restore these old relics had done a marvelous job. It looked so regal with the heavy purple velvet drapes with a touch of lavender lace on the edge. The period furnishings were upholstered in purple damask. It was just amazing!
    But, what was more amazing than the mansion itself was in the middle of the room above the fireplace! The famous painting of the couple! My companions and I gasped! Sure, Marie was very pretty. Some would say she was beautiful. But the the women in my group, even the married ones and myself would have had to agree that what had astounded us most was Laurent’s beauty! By far, he had to be the most “handsomest,” “beautifulest” man in the world-at least we thought! He had a sculpted face with a high cheek bones and a strong jaw. His hair was the color of shiny ravens wings. But it was his eyes, the color of the clearest bluest skies. He seemed as if he was staring into your soul! I felt as if he was looking into my soul and my heart as well.
    I know I had said I had never been in love before, but damn! If my heart wasn’t beating a mile a minute. All the women in the tour were making comments as to how they wish they had met him when he was alive and wondered if his voice would have sounded sexy. And they wondered if maybe they would have had a chance to win his attention. All I was doing was looking up at those hypnotic eyes in the painting and feeling as if he could reach deep inside my heart and make me want things I had never realized I wanted. Well that certainly was a first for me. While I don’t consider myself beautiful I also know I am not chopped liver! At 5&039; 8 I am taller then most of the women in my family. My weight hovers between 125 to 130 depending on the time of the month and how much chocolate I had consumed. My brown hair has golden highlights reaching the middle of my back in curly waves. Okay, maybe the highlights were my hair colorist’s doing. I always thought my best feature was my cat eyes, the color of new leaves. I have had my share of handsome men wanting to win my attention, although I had not had a chance to have a relationship. I guess maybe from all the the jobs, and trying to find myself and where I fit in the world, I just never had time!
b&w of pink house in New Orleans     Since usually I’m afraid of anything that mentions any type of ghostly sighting, I had to wonder about myself and why I would even fantasize about a guy that had long been dead? But somehow I did not feel fear, but curiosity.
    After going through the mansion and oohing and aahhing we exited through the rear of the mansion to view the beautiful gardens. We were coming to the end of the tour. I think everyone thoroughly enjoyed the tour and many questions were asked that I didn’t have answers for. When I got back to the office I decided to do some googling on the internet to see if I could find out more on Laurent. But I came up with almost the same information as before, which was zilch. Later on that night after I got home to my apartment I couldn’t stop thinking of Laurent. I could not stop seeing his eyes and remembering how I had felt out of my mind. For some reason I felt compelled to go back to the mansion. I had no idea why. I just needed to. I felt I had to go back. I still had the keys that were supposed to be returned back to the Guild the following day. The mansion was located out in the country, forty- five minutes from town. So I went on a mission that I had no idea where it was going or where it would lead. All I knew was that I had to go and nothing was going to stop me. It seemed like it took no time to drive back to the mansion.
    It was so dark out there all the light I could see were the stars and the moon that illuminated the mansion. I entered the mansion and had the strangest feeling. Like I was being watched! Sure I was feeling scared, but there was also an air of excitement. I felt my life was never going to be the same! I walked into the main salon, where the the painting of Laurent hung. And there by the fireplace looking up at the painting was Laurent himself! He was something to behold! I must have made some sort of sound because he turned around and looked at me straight in the eyes. My curiosity was stronger then me wanting to faint. So the first words that came out of my mouth was, “How is this possible? How can you be standing here? Are you a ghost? Am I the only one that can see you? And hey, why me?”
    He told me, “I am here for you and because of you.” He gave me the most sweetest and sexiest smile and all I could do was melt. Then I had to make myself stop thinking of all that gooey stuff and get back to reality. I told him to please explain what was going on. He started to relate a most unimaginable tale. He was born in France in the year 1277 and had become a Knight Templar later when he was old enough to become a member. They were the most skilled fighting units and were tied closely to the the crusades. When the Holy Land was lost, support for the order faded. There were rumors about the Templars secret blood initiation ceremony and how it created mistrust. In 1307 many of the orders’ members in France were arrested and tortured into giving false confessions and then burned at the stake.
    “Okay. Time out here. How is it that you are here and alive after all these centuries? How can that be?
    Laurent, asked “Can’t you guess? You know how I mentioned the secret blood initiation ceremony? Well, we were ordered to drink from a cup at the time of initiation and were told we would be strong and unstoppable; that we would be immortal. At the time I didn’t think anything about it. I was young. I had no idea that I was committing to something beyond my comprehension. What were my fellow members and myself drinking was the blood of Adam’s first wife Lilith, she was the first vampire.”
    I was speechless! It seemed so incredible! Call me slow but.....“Are you saying you are a vampire?”
    Laurent said “Yes, that is what I am saying. I don’t want you to be scared.” He went on to tell me that all the myths about vampires being evil and wanting to suck everyone’s blood were not true. He said he needed blood but not all the time and when he did, it never harmed anyone. The only person that could break the blood curse and give him back his life was his soul mate. He told me that light burning him was a myth and that only fire could destroy him. That’s how a lot of his companions had died. He also told me how he had escaped from France and had wandered and hidden from his prosecutors until ending up in America. He had thought Marie was his soul mate, but she turned out not be. He had great affection towards her but had not been in love with her. He said he had a very strange feeling like his forever life was coming to an end. He had thought that maybe somehow he was going to die. Well, his other life, the immortal one was coming to an end, but his new life was just beginning. Because guess what? I was his soul mate. The one person who could break the the blood curse. I guess the hows and whys of it didn’t matter. I had finally found what I didn’t know I was looking for. I guess my boss, Janice, was right when she had hired me because it was meant to be.

Spanish Moss 1 scene (part)


Alex Moreaux

    The key was in the spaces. On this intersection the space between the lines of the crosswalk measured two inches narrower than the spaces between the crosswalk lines at the intersection a block away. This minor difference in spaces might not strike the lay person as catastrophic but it did cause there to be one less stripe on the one intersection. That was key! One less stripe!
    It occurred to him as he sat at the coffee shop exactly in between the two intersections, which just goes to show that this coffee shop was a point of communication for them. No doubt this spot was the one where they met at a predetermined time so they could set up locations for their more secretive meetings. The one intersection had eight stripes, the other had seven. That made the meeting time 8:07 every morning.
    He tested his theory everyday for two weeks. He arrived at the coffee shop halfway between the two intersections and made discrete mental notes (written notes would give him away if they ever found him) and drawings of the key symbols along the street. And lo! Everyday (Monday through Friday), two men walked into the coffee shop in the morning between 8:00 and 8:15. Accounting for normal human error screwing up the time, he figured these had to be the messengers for the conspiracy.
    Last Saturday he sat at his normal table on the outside terrace, gazing absently at the stripes painted into the road. The stripes told the time, clearly. But something was missing. Where were these men on Saturday and Sunday? And that (along with the apologetic waiter that cold cocked him in the back of the head with a metal tray) was what made him see it! The spaces told the date of their annual meeting. 9/8: September 8. The two men who checked in every morning were just lowly messengers sharing important information in between that all important annual meeting.


    Alan Giffin’s parents drank a lot. Anything that came out of a bottle was fair game to make into a beverage. If they found any fluid left anywhere, they threw that into the grand mixture in an old alcohol bottle that lost its label such a long time ago that nobody could quite remember how the bottle came into being in the Giffin house. Alan didn’t mind his parents drinking because they became more conversational during those hours. They rejoiced his twenty-first birthday by going to the liquor store themselves instead of sending Alan with a fake ID and extra money in case he needed to give a small bribe to stay out of trouble. This never happened; nobody cared about age in small towns. Everybody knew his age anyway. He kept the extra money.
    By the time they returned from the store, all the liquor was gone. But his parents brought back a story that confirmed their suspicions that a great global government ruled the world and a small collection of elite secretly ran this global empire. They said they saw the lens in the security camera flicker like it took their picture. They also knew that the camera followed them around the store, tracking their movements and what kind of products they bought. That was why, Alan would say later, they bought a different brand and type of liquor each time. Throw them off.
    So, when his parents made a pact to quit drinking altogether, Alan decided it was time to head off to college. By the time he packed his last book (The Codes and Ciphers Never Taught at School) into the last crevice in the rear of his antique station wagon at the age of twenty-five, he had a wad of cash as thick as his ankle. He remembered the conversation vividly when he suggested he put his cash in the bank:
    I think I’ll put it in a checking account, Alan said without realizing the words that dribbled out of his mouth.
    What? His mother shrieked like a howler monkey caught in a trap.
    Don’t you know that the banks just serve the big bank owned by the global empire! This was not a question when his father screamed it.
    Yeah, they are like little ants gathering bits of dirt to make the anthill larger. And do you know what you are? A bit of dirt that’s waiting to be rolled onto the stack. Alan’s mother nodded like nothing more needed to be said to prove her point.
    Oh, Babe, his father choked out with admiring tears in his eyes, Do you want to break your mother’s heart, Son, by putting your money straight into the empire’s wallet?
    Alan just shrugged. He guessed he didn’t want to hurt his mother. So he stuffed the wad of money into his glove box, with an extra push on the door to make sure it was shut tight. Halfway between his home in Judsonia, Arkansas and the University of Virginia he took a few bills out of the glove box, closed it again but failed to secure it with that extra tap, and paid for a hotel room. The next morning, the cash was simply gone. The windows remained intact, the doors still closed; the cash simply gone.
    That was the moment he knew the conspiracy was true. He cheated the global empire out of $1,346 cash taken from his parents, and they took it. They had no need to break his windows or pick the lock, they had a copy of his car key. That was the only explanation because he knew (or at least felt somewhat sure) he had locked his doors.
    That very day Alan abandoned his car and all in it, except his suitcase with his clothes and toothbrush, and walked. Coins, half eaten bags of chips, and an almost full can of flat soda dotted the side of the road like a trail of bread crumbs. Having followed this trail, he looked up in shock to find himself at a bus station and believed himself blessed to be holding enough chips to constitute a lunch, $1.14 in coins, and even a beverage. The very moment he reached out his hand to drop his coins on the counter in front of the ticket guy at the bus station, however, he saw the hour hand on the clock click to 10:00. Like his parents who saw the lens flicker, Alan knew they had his picture. They had led him, tempted him with little treasures, to come to the bus station. They took his money just to draw him here with trinkets.
    He ran away from the station (still clutching his $1.14, two half bags of chips, and partial soda). The blood pumped through his body, preparing him for a fight like a hunted animal realizing the flight could only last so long. Alan’s soft body tired quickly and he rolled down the side of the ditch without considering the large amount of trees between the top and bottom of the small hill. He rolled, cursing each time he hit a tree. All that night Alan walked along the bottom of the ditch with his ears trained on the sounds of the road and his eyes focused on nothing in particular but everything all at once. By the middle of the night he had such a headache he finally laid down and slept.


    Alan ran from them for a solid two weeks. He ate crops from farmers’ fields, tore the mold from old bread he pulled out of trashcans, and found an unopened package of jerky that he abandoned because he was sure they left it out for him. The third week brought unexpected blessings for Alan when he tripped (literally) over a box of used crayons. A sign from the anti-conspiracy!
    Now, up to this point in Alan’s story, we neglected his childhood other than his parents’ habits. Ever since elementary school, Alan was rightfully called a prodigy in the Judsonia art community, which consisted of the elementary/middle school art teacher, high school art teacher, and the big wig artist from New York who moved to Judsonia because no one there knew his name or that he was an artist until he let it slip over a round of beers. He took a break from art just to be thrust into the position of judge of all art competitions filled with less than mediocre school kid drawings. The entire time the New York artist ever commented on a student’s art was when he wrote, This doesn’t suck, on the back of Alan’s sketch of Friendly Acres Park.
    To no one in particular on the day Alan found the crayons he blurted, “Of course!” What he meant, of course, was that the anti-conspiracy would want to use his artistic talents to reveal the truth. Nothing could, of course, reveal the truth quite like a landscape drawing.
    Alan marched into town, reeking badly because of his lack of hygiene facilities, and threw his $5.86 (his $1.14 had grown during his journey) onto the counter of the miniscule art store. The clerk bagged the sketch book and tried to remain congenial while she bid Alan a nice day.
    The global empire renewed its search for Alan during that bold venture into town: a couple walking alongside their child (or newly initiated member, as Alan called her) followed him along the entire length of the sidewalk. They stopped when he stopped at each intersection, turned when he followed the generous sidewalk along Main Street, and stopped to watch him slip into an alleyway that wove between garbage cans. The young girl even waved at him. Poor thing; the conspiracy would discipline her severely for revealing herself like that.
    Finding the alleyway was an unexpected blessing for Alan because that was what led him to the coffee shop halfway between the two intersections. The heat of late August ate at him before he slipped through the doors. He groaned with pleasure at the air conditioned cold that gripped him. A kindly woman dressed like a hippie straight out of the sixties and clearly not part of the global empire handed him a card with an address to a homeless shelter with beds and showers. Alan took advantage of this kindness and opportunity for cleanliness before returning to the coffee shop the next morning.
    Every morning Alan drank the free water and day old muffins the shop owner gave him and drew pictures of the street and people that ran in front of the shop. He shaded the final stripe in his latest picture after he realized the difference in the stripes of the two intersections equal distances away from the coffee shop. So, the anti-conspiracy drew him to this spot after giving him the equipment to survey the area. In its infinite wisdom, the anti-conspiracy understood he would find the messages the global empire left along the street to communicate with its members. And he did it!
    The morning of September 8, Alan rolled out of his cot at the homeless shelter before even the sun rose. He could miss nothing that day; it would be so easy to fail the anti-conspiracy. He straightened his shirt, stuffed the remainder of his crayons in his pockets, clutched his sketch book under his arm, and marched out of the homeless shelter to complete his most important mission. Today, Alan Giffin would break the global empire by attending their meeting.
    They would meet at the coffee shop at 8:07, order simple lattes with extra foam (the favored drink of the two messengers), and leave one at a time for their secret meeting. The coffee shop owner opened the doors early for Alan, greeting him with a smile and a blueberry muffin. Alan took his regular table on the terrace and waited for two hours until the two men met at the door. Every muscle in his body tensed. He returned to a new drawing so the messengers would not realize he was on to them but strained his ears to hear their discussions. They spoke too quietly but he swore he heard them mention the man with the muffin and sketch book sitting on the terrace. He instinctively searched for an escape route: easy, jump the short terrace fence and run.
    The messengers looked at him, looked at his drawing. They approached him. The conspiracy knew about his mission! He puffed up his chest so he would seem threatening to them. Maybe he could get the messengers to leave. They stopped right next to him. He was surrounded!
    “Those are good,” the largest of the messengers said, pointing at his drawings.
    They knew Alan broke their code and wanted to eliminate the evidence he had gathered. How stupid he was for drawing his surveys of the street instead of memorizing them.
    “What is your name?” The second messenger reached into his pocket, searching for something.
    Alan swore he saw the shape of a gun. This was it. Everything was over.
    “I am Louis Elderand and this is my partner Timothy Mellermeyer,” the first messenger said, holding out his hand.
    Maybe if he gave up they would give him an easier sentence?
    “Ah, here we go.” The second messenger thrust something into Alan’s hand.
    Alan dropped his eyes to the card. E&M Galleries, it said.
    “Galleries?” Alan asked, sure the card was meant to say E&M Gallows. Professional hangmen?
    “Yeah, we own the largest art galleries in New York and London. We would like to sell your work, exclusively.” The first messenger, Louis, smiled.
    Alan stared at the card for awhile. This was what the global empire had in mind? To sell his art? He just asked, “What?”
    “Both Louis and I agree that your art could sell huge. Probably $5,000 for an original right now, with the right representation of course. Make that $10,000 and upwards once you’re well known,” the second messenger, Timothy, responded.
    Alan squinted his eyes while he calculated how much money that would bring if he sold each of the drawings in his sketchbook for $5,000. It would be plenty.
    “Could I go to London, too?” Alan asked.
    “Of course, to gallery openings and other gala events. What do you say?” Louis reached out his hand again.
    So the global empire conspiracy, not the anti-conspiracy, had given him the crayons, the extra money to buy the sketch book. They made the couple with the little girl push him down that alleyway so he would find the coffee shop. They wanted him to survey the street, to do the drawings. They put the stripes on the crosswalks to tell him what time and on what day to meet the messengers. The conspiracy recruited him: the conspiracy would, in the end, add him to the anthill.
    Alan shrugged. If the conspiracy would make him rich and pay for a trip to London, he could accept it. Besides, every man had his price. Why else would they have made this a proverb?

Umbrella Logic, art by Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz

Umbrella Logic, art by Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz

Here, Kitty Kitty

Cynthia Black

    Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick.
    They carry around wooden bats with black rings painted on the ends, and one of them is hitting the bricks of the one-story school.
    “Those are the boys that’ll come an get ya.” Heidi nods her head to the group of older boys standing together at the corner of the school.
    They weren’t supposed to be there, but nobody ever did anything about it. It wasn’t the first time I saw them lurking by the elementary school doors.
    “They’ll come an get ya if your parents want them to, and nobody will do nothing to them cause they in-cahoots with the parents.” She spins her blonde curls around her pretty little fingers and snaps her gum. “They do all the watchin for your parents when they ain’t around.”
    They are the boys that’ll come an get me. And Heidi would know because she was popular and everybody told her everything. I even saw her talking to those four boys just yesterday, and she was giggling and they were smiling. She pointed me out to them. She pointed me out to them and one smacked his bat in his hand, and she giggled.
    But those boys don’t smile for nothing, but why do they smile at her? I bet it’s cause she’ll just walk right on up to them and twirl that pretty hair, putting her hand on her hips. Boys like that, and I bet these boys really like that.
    Most of us will just stay way clear of them. We know that they don’t mean to come and learn something. Their parents don’t make them come here. They come for something else. They like to kick and spit, and I even saw them hit a little kindergartener—that one girl that got put in the hospital cause one of them just swung at her with that bat of his, all cause of a ball.
    But I want to know what they’re doing here, now. I heard about how they come and then someone’s gone missing, and then the cops, they come, too. There’s all this hub-bub for awhile then nothing gets done and the kid don’t come back and then nobody sees these guys for a long time again. So, I just stay far enough away to not get nearly close enough, and I watch them, and I see them watching me, today. I just stay close enough to watch, but I can run if I got to.
     Nobody actually knows what those boys do with those bats, but I can tell Heidi’s going to tell me as she digs small water trenches around the flowers in the big planter by the flag pole with me. She’s never dug nothing with me before. I know they’re some grades older than I am, eighth or ninth grade, and I just don’t talk to anybody older than me, or younger, if I don’t have to, and nobody talks to them anyways. Well, nobody but dumb girls like Heidi.
    And, I know they live in the trailer park by the cemetery. I know that two of them are brothers cause they look almost exactly alike except one’s way taller than the other. But I know the other two live there too cause I see them chasing cats or throwing white rocks at the trailer windows when I walk my bike up the hill to go to school. Sometimes, they stop throwing things and stop laughing and yelling long enough to stare at me. Seems like they stare at me a lot.
    They scare me most times. All of them are way bigger than me, and they’re loud. They like to chase down other kids and beat them up, but I don’t know why. Some kids are just mean ones, trying to steal somebody’s money or stuff. I didn’t know they got paid to do it.
    Heidi says, “Oh yeah. Our parents pay them to watch us.” Then she looks around to make sure they don’t know she’s talking to me about them. “Then, they find out what you been hidin and doin and then they take care of it.”
    “Take care of it?” I ask, not knowing what that means.
    “Ya know. Take care of you.” She’s all excited. She digs so hard at the yellow stinky flowers she breaks all the roots. I’m a little mad at her. She don’t have to come over here and do what I do then just ruin everything. She licks her lips and leans in closer to my ear. She whispers, and I can smell those lunch hot dogs. “They beat you up until ya say you’re sorry an you’ll never do it again, and then, if ya do, they’ll come back an finish it.”
    I quickly look over at the boys. “Nuh uh. Can’t be. Nobody’s like that.”
    Heidi grabs my arm and turns me away from them. It hurts a little. “No dummy. Don’t look at them. They’ll know I’m tellin you about them. Then I’ll get it, too.”
    I try to look over my shoulder without her noticing.
    Heidi whispers again, teasing, “Our parents pay them extra for every beating done.”
    I whisper back, “NO!”
    “Oh, yeah. Remember that Amy girl?”
    “Amy Paptke?”
    Yeah, I remember that Amy girl. She was my friend. She used to live in a run-down farmhouse just past the cemetery and rode a miniature horse that belonged to her neighbor. The horse was older than dirt, and I could see it in his eyes he didn’t want some little fat girl bare-backing him in the small pen he had. But, Amy rode him anyways. She rode him and pierced my ears for the second time with a dirty needle and an ice cube.
    Heidi rolls her eyes. Many things I say to her are such a burden. “Yeah, whatever. Amy . . .”
    I have to interrupt. “You don’t remember Amy?”
    “Hell no. Well, a little, maybe.”
    “She was in our class. You live just right behind where she did.”
    “Yes, I know. But, anyways. . .”
    “But anyways, you were her friend. I saw you guys ridin that poor pony all the time.”
    I can tell Heidi isn’t wanting to hear none of this. She’s going to yell at me. “I was not ridin with Amy on that diseased pony! I wouldn’t be seen tem miles close to that girl.”
    “Amy was your friend. I know. She showed me the notes you passed in class. You put ‘BFF’ on the ends of them.” I am not letting her get away with this one.
    “Jesus Christ, Kat, shut up. Amy was NOT my friend. My parents made me be nice to her. She’s gone now anyways, and those boys did it. I’m trying to warn you. They comin after you, Kat.”
    I can’t stop myself from turning around. Heidi stays facing the other direction. She always was a coward. I don’t get it. I got to ask, “Those boys made them move? How? Amy’s dad had a good job at the egg farm.”
    Heidi sniffs, “I don’t know. They just did, but Amy didn’t move. Just the parents did after. . .”
    Tick. Tick. . . Tick. . . Tick. . . .Tick.
    The rest of the boys join in hitting the bricks. They’re staring, all of them now, at Heidi and me. My heart is hurting my chest.
    “You’re a dead girl, Kat.” Heidi walks on by me.
    I should trip her. She belongs to those type of kids. She’s walking up to them, acting like she’s a dumb naughty puppy with her arms folded across her stomach and her head down. I don’t believe her. Nobody’s that mean, and they can’t get away with that. The law would a got them by now. I lift up my hand to try to wave at the boy with a stick. Heidi’s shaking her head at the other three boys surrounding her, talking to her. Two of them stop banging that brick wall. She flings her hair back and nods her head to me. She’s crying now, and I smile cause she needs to feel bad, and I hope she feels bad, forever. I flutter my fingers, I know they’ll wave back nice at me. My stomach is spinning. The tallest one pushes Heidi away from them, never once letting his eyes stray from me. They made her cry real bad.
    I can hear Heidi crying and those stupid bats banging above all the screams of the other kids on the playground. I want to go play now too, but I can’t move. I stop trying to smile and wave after the tallest boy forces his way in between the other three staring me down. He’s in front of them all. At least he stopped banging his bat on the bricks. I can’t help but look at them. The tallest boy smashes his bat, the one with the most black lines on it, on the ground. A little bit of the bat flies off. He’s lifting the bat up above his head and slowly back down. The bat’s pointing at me.
    Nobody else sees this. At least, they act like they don’t.
    Tick, tick, tick . . . tick . . . tick.
    The sound of the bats don’t stop. I can’t hear nothing else no more.
    The bell is ringing, and everybody’s going into the school. All the kids look like sand massing and smashing balls and hats and shoes, tripping each other and teachers yelling at them to be quiet and respect each other. I feel like I have to run as fast as I can and get in the middle of everybody. The boys ain’t moving. They’re waiting for me. A couple of them spit in the hair of the pretty girls, another one sticks his foot out to trip a kid. But, not a one of them never once look away from me. I slowly slid in with the other kids. I got to find Heidi. I know she knows what’s going on.
    I’m passing them. The tallest one yells, “Hey Kat! Your Kitty Kat, right?”
    His brother spit at another kid’s head, “Here kitty kitty. Meow.”
    The third, younger looking one says, “We ain’t gonna hurt ya, Kat. We just want to talk to ya.”
    I keep looking for Heidi, or, a teacher, but all the teachers must already be inside. I am at the back of all this trying to get inside, and I can tell, nobody dares to look or complain about those boys.
    They get in not too far behind me. I keep looking back at them to make sure they stay far enough away. I have to push into the crowd more. I’m trying, but they’re bigger and they get through faster, and now they’re right behind me.
    The last one, the shortest, youngest looking one with dirty blonde hair and freckles speaks real low and just quiet enough for me and his buddies to hear. “Ya know what we do, now, don’t ya, Kitty Kitty Kat?”
    I make a mistake and shake my head, no.
    “Well, guess your gonna find out, then.”
    Another whispers just a little bit louder, “Here kitty kitty kitty kitty.”
    “Here little pussy Kat.”
    “Oh, kitty kitty.”
    “Meow. Hisssssssss.”
    Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick. They tap at the bricks of the hallway as they follow me with their bats. I pick up my pace; the hallway gets longer and longer, I swear it. They pick up the pace of the bats hitting the walls. I see my classroom doorway and beg under my tongue to make it there. God, oh God, I swear I’ll be good now. I swear I’ll be nicer. I swear it, swear it swear it. I look back at them once more, very quickly, their bodies next to each other take up the whole hallway. They bang the bats louder and nobody does nothing but go into their classrooms. Where’s all the teachers? There’s not one teacher. Nobody taller or bigger than them. Their bat noises get louder and louder in my head. Now I hear nothing but the bats. The hallways clear fast cause everybody saw them boys had a target. Doors are slamming left and right, and I see mine start to shut.
    The ticking stops as they come up right behind me near my classroom. I almost have to dive into my room. I shut the door, hard. I can’t breathe. I lean into the door. I can hear them in the hall laughing at me on the other side of the door. I can’t stop shaking like I’m cold, so I go to our sink and turn on the water as hot as I can get it. I put my hands in the sink then my arms. I feel so ice cold. Ice cold and confused and angry. I got to find Heidi. I want answers. Why me? What’d I do? Where’s Amy? What did she do!
    There is no Heidi. The chair on her desk is upside down and the teacher’s gone looking for her is what one of my friends say. Some of the kids told the teacher they saw Heidi running off the playground with her bag. We think we are safe, now. The class stops looking at me like I’m a freak, and some throw paper airplanes and spit balls and jump from one desk to the next. I push the button for the paper towels and spin the handle to get more out. The door clicks, and I don’t think twice about it. I hear the door click over everything else, but I know somebody will say something if they come in here. The door’s locked.
    I feel a huge pain rush through my shoulder then my back. I feel the pressure of somebody on top of me, the coldness of the tile floor pushes through my shirt and I hear desks move and kids rushing quietly into a corner. I can’t see nothing, but I smell ketchup and chewed up hotdogs from a hot breath.
    “You know somethin, don’t ya Kitty Kat?” The blonde one’s on top of me.
    I scream out as both my arms stretch. Two hands on each arm pull against me. I’m trying as hard as I possibly can to pull them back in. I feel bruises sting up on each of my wrists as they slam them on the floor. I try to kick and buck, but another set of hands grab my ankles. I can tell he don’t got a good grip on me, so I kick at him as hard as I can. I feel something soft-like smash into the bottom of my shoe.
    “Little bitch! I’m bleedin!”
    Another responds, “Shut up, pussy. She’s just a little girl.”
    I can hear the class shuffle more into each other. Some, I hear trying to keep quiet and not whimper, others, I hear breathe and sniffle.
    My feet sting through the toes when they’re slammed to the ground. I yell into a dirty palm. My tears gather around another hand pressing hard against my eyes. This is what happened to Amy. This is what happened to that boy in second grade I watched get beat up at the park last summer. This is happening to me.
    “Hurry up. We don’t got much time,” another one of them says.
    I hear tape strip and feel it tighten around my ankles and above my knees. Each of my arms slam one by one against each other above my head. I arch my back and scream into the dirty hand when my shoulders pop out of place and the snake-bite feel of the tape wrapped over and over around my wrists and hands.
    They let me go, but all I can do is open my eyes and see them. I turn my head to the class. Many of the girls’ heads were buried in the boys’ chests. The boys just watch me. They just watch me. I see how scared they are. I see how they can’t do nothing but be scared. I try to scream for help, but just as I breathe in, the tape covers my mouth and half of my cheeks.
    I watch the blonde boy hop up and plop right down into my stomach. I can’t breathe; I taste blood from my tongue; snot blows out from my nose. The blonde don’t like me the most. He forces my head back to my classmates. The other three boys came at them with baseball bats. They want to attack everybody. My class huddles closer and closer together. The blonde gets off me. He feels like a snake. I feel his sweat on my cheek as he puts his face to my ear.
    He shows me his bat, and yells loud enough in my ear it stings so bad, “Now, girls and boys. This is what’s gonna happen. We’re gonna take your little Kitty Kat. You, are gonna shut your stupid little mouths about it. You say anything? Poor little kitty kitty here is gonna be at the bottom of the creek where ya stupid little brats like to go play by the bridge.”
    I scream. I shut my eyes. The blonde pushes my head more and more into the floor. I feel the back of my head split open. I think of the friend we found two years ago, trapped under a cement block, his eyes glossy grey and dead, a spider crawled out of his bloated and cracked lips. His parents said he went off the night before to play by the creek, and we found him late the next day.
    He twisted my head, “Do. You. Understand. ME?” I see two of my friends cover their mouths and shake their heads, yes. Then everyone else.
    The shorter one of the brothers says, “Now. Everybody take their seats.”
    “Steve,” the tallest one panics, “we don’t got no more time. Hurry it up!”
    The class fast finds their seats as the three herd them like cattle into the desks, yelling at them. I try to struggle, my head immovable on the tile floor, but I am tired.
    “There, that’s a good bunch of boys and girls. You’re parents will be relieved to know every last one of you did what you was told.” Steve continues all nice again.
    I try to yell, but the blonde keeps slapping my upturned ear, and it stings and rings harder.
    “Ya all be good little boys and girls, or your parents’ll find out then we come for you like we come for Kitty Kitty.” Steve stuck his finger out at each of the kids in their seats.
    The blonde lets my head go, then stands me up with the help of Steve’s tall brother. The blonde got in real close to me, forcing me back against the cement wall dividing the door from the sink.
    “Kitty Kitty,” he calls to me then slithers his face next to my ear again. “You’ve been a naughty little kitty, haven’t ya?”
    I breathe in as hard as the pain allows me to and shake my head, no.
    A wobbly sting comes up from the back of my head and settles in the front. I felt a warm thick liquid trickles down the back of my neck. The room circles in on itself. My class in their desks, Heidi’s upside down chair, the sink, the boys in black threatening other kids, the ceiling. I want to throw up. The ceiling comes at me, and I can’t really see nothing no more. I hear an echo from the blonde boy. He’s singing to me my new name. Over and over again.
    “Kitty, Kitty.”
    Tick, Tick, Tick, Tick. The sound of a bat hitting the tile floor pounds in my head along with my name until there is nothing.

Summer2007 049, art by David Thompson

Summer2007 049, art by David Thompson

Parking Lot, 9:44 p.m.

Mark Bohm

    The panhandler calls out to us, says his car is at the nearby gas station, in front of pump number one, out of gas. Tells us he needs four gallons to get back home. June rolls her eyes, keeps walking toward the food store. Panhandler keeps talking. From out of town, New Jersey, works construction there. Staying with his grandmother in Palm Beach, on vacation. Drove to Lauderdale to meet friends but he’s been stood up. Obviously bullshit. But the guy is young, just a kid, maybe early-twenties, with a flop of friendly black curls, and eyes with an innocent shine. Says he’s embarrassed to be asking, also bullshit probably, but he sounds distressed. I take a few steps back to the car, dig around for change, feel June’s annoyance pressing without having to look, ask what kind of car he drives, he says it’s a Chevy four wheel drive. Give him a little more than a buck in quarters and dimes, tell him I’m not going to be able to give enough for four gallons, he says didn’t expect that much, and thanks, god bless, all that. I figure grocery parking lot has plenty of cars, steady stream of customers, he’ll gather a few bucks in no time and be off.
    In the store start thinking about the kid, then how absent minded my son can be. Liable to lose anything on any day. Once walked halfway to school before realizing he forgot his shoes. I say to June, could be our son one day who runs out of gas in a strange town without money on him. That bum out there doesn’t need gas, June says. That bum’s gonna collect a few bucks, buy the cheapest forty proof something he can find, and his night’s a success.
    Didn’t look like that kind of experienced street crawler, I say, and June says, that just proves how good he is. And I think, sure hope if my boy needs a few dollars for gas one day, he runs across a guy more generous than me.
    Out of the store, twenty-five minutes later, walking to the car, June pushes the food laden cart, panhandler starts walking behind. Still hasn’t collected enough. Sir, he says. Yah. Oh it’s you, he says, recognizing the face, I already asked you, sorry, thanks again for helping me. Kid retreats to the sidewalk, we stuff bag after bag into the trunk.
    June and I drive off. I look east toward the corner gas station, see a black Chevy four wheel drive pickup parked at pump number one, door shut, no one inside, no one around it.
    Turn back to the store parking lot, find the kid, hold a ten dollar bill out the window. Oh thanks so very much, and god bless, all that.
    June says I’m the king of all suckers, I’ve been scammed. I tell her if it was a scam, it’s a sad world, and if it wasn’t a scam, it’s a sad world.

The Imposter With Dark Glasses

R. M. Kozan

    I admit it started with the lost wallet I found but it wasn’t until almost a year later that the plan formed in my head. The picture in the wallet drew me. The man’s age and details approximated my own. Sure he was several inches taller and tens of pounds heavier. I imagined he was more imposing than my own not-quite-average height and slight frame allowed but there were similarities. The age was bang on, and the hair color was very close. There was something about his face that was familiar to me and it took a while for our close resemblance to register.
    You would think I should empathize with this figure, strive to return his wallet, limit the damages his carelessness will cause him. But no. Even though I did not have the plan fully formed in my head, I am sure it was gestating, in unicellular form, waiting for the exponential growth a little encouragement would bring.
    His name is Simon Laredo. It sounds a bit like a character in a television series or a book but now he plays the part I have given him. His identity is my fallback position. When I decided to jettison this life and start again, I needed a cut-out actor. An identity I could use for various activities leading up to the creation of my new persona, and then discard. If the shell of truthiness around my new life ever cracked, Simon would be the one revealed as pulling the strings behind the curtain of deception, not me, the name I will never again repeat.
    The wallet contained about two hundred dollars but that is not why I kept it. I needed his drivers license number, his social insurance number. With only a few items, one can rapidly build a new identity. It was not my intention to rip off Simon. As I morphed into his name and identity that July morning, I did not visit Futureshop and purchase a lot of electronic equipment. I did not hack his bank accounts. I had no intention of stealing anything from Simon but a security blanket of anonymity.
    It was Simon who rented the post office box, with cash. Simon who paid for hotel rooms, rented cars. Always with cash.
    My previous life did not leave much of a mark on the bureaucracy we call society. I had never been arrested, never been fingerprinted. There exists one photo of me, a driver’s license, but it was taken when I still had the full beard and luxuriant scalp cover of a fecund young man. Since moving to the city, I had let that license expire and never replaced it. Ever since leaving the commune where my parents raised me, I have not had the chance to drive. While I enjoyed frequent forays with various early models from among the fleet of decrepit vehicles held in joint ownership by my extended family, I have avoided the complications of car ownership since then. This was not by design, it was necessitated by poverty, but it worked out for the best. The bus provided my transportation needs.
    When I first arrived in the city, I felt like a blank slate. Everything that had gone before was to be washed away and a new layer of experience would serve to re-invent me. It did not turn out like that. I cannot deny that I knew there were problems back home. I had vivid memories of the abuse of my brothers and sisters, or more realistically, cousins. It was difficult to tell who was a sibling and who was a cousin at home. The word cousin denotes a bloodline but with my family there was no line in the blood. My brothers were half-brothers, or half cousins, or completely unrelated. The Family defined itself by itself, based on its own rules which were never defined until you accidentally defied them. Having invisible rules with unwritten consequences for infractions did not allow one the freedom to act even within constraints. I was simply paralyzed and that is why I left when I was eighteen.
    Ostensibly, there were no rules. The parents smoked a lot of weed, which they grew themselves, perhaps the whole reason for the commune in the first place. The children were allowed to puff on the chaff of the harvest, although I never liked it and avoided those pungent clouds as best I could. As well as drug use, sexual behavior was encouraged. Once a girl hit menses she was encouraged to learn about her body by interacting with older members of the group, sometimes very much older members. For whatever reason, I was pathologically shy, not able to form bonds with the girls my age and shunning the incessant attention and compliments of the older women. Much as they tried to molest me, I remained virgin.
    Whenever I was lectured on the importance of loving everyone, I argued that love should be special, intimate, not ubiquitous. The one thing I sought most was privacy. I found it in books. While the other kids played and smoked and humped, I hid in the woods and read the books that all the parents were so proud of displaying on their shelves but I doubt had ever actually read themselves. They gave lip service to intelligence. They respected certain academics, David Suzuki, Noam Chomsky, but they were content to thinking the same unchanged rut that had brought them together back in the sixties.
    The parents were one amorphous group, swapping partners and shuffling live-in groups every few weeks it seemed. Dad was a position, not a person. The eldest male living in that cabin was Dad. Who my biological father was, I cannot say. My Mother was a woman called Carole, although one night when she was very high on mushrooms she admitted to me that she might have me confused with the other Brian, one year younger than myself.
    When the time came I was finally old enough to leave the commune by myself, I did not return. I was alone and penniless in a giant city, but finally I had gained true privacy.
    I didn’t ask for much, just an opportunity to work and live quietly, without harassment. In the city no one asked me about my background and I kept my head down. I worked hard, mopping floors, washing dishes, working alongside immigrants who spoke only a few words of English. I made progress. Soon I had my own room at a local long term hotel and even a telephone, which turned out to be a mistake.
    All went well for about a year until one of my loosely defined sisters arrived. I had no idea if she was my blood sister of course and neither did she but that did not stop her from coming on to me. An advance I repelled. She had found my name in the phone book and as soon as she arrived, my troubles began.
    Being completely free of sexual mores, she began to work as a prostitute. Very soon the super was angry at me. My building was not a place where this type of business was encouraged. There were places where the sex trade was welcome, but this was not one of them. He demanded that I pay much more for the room or get out. She paid me and I paid him that first week but I was not happy. When another sister showed up and they both obtained cell phones and began to make ‘dates’ at all hours, I knew I had to leave.
    One afternoon, after finding all the laundry in a horrific, stained state, I cancelled my phone and gathered my meager possessions. That night I paid my rent for the rest of the week, gave notice directly to the front desk and, under cover of darkness, fled. If my sisters wanted the room, they would have to deal with the rules makers themselves. All I wanted was a quiet life.
    I took a room in a suburban house and worked in a restaurant. The house was close to a public library and I made good use of that facility, reading what was available and ordering interesting books from other locations. The librarians were generous and open hearted. None of them tried to sleep with me or choke me with intoxicating smoke. In my mind, they became my parental figures.
    I worked doggedly, saved my money, and kept reading. Slowly I learned the art of identity creation. One night I found Simon’s wallet and the plan began to finally form in my head. Simon would be the cutout. I would use his identity as cover for all the activities required to create my new self. If things were ever to go wrong, an investigation would point back to that Simon, not to this Brian.
    I rented a post office box and there received tools and illicit information for mastering identity theft. I purchased a laptop with cash and used Simon’s identity to obtain internet access. My search and my learning accelerated. Within a year I was ready. I had found my target: Brian Wetherall. I shared his first name, but otherwise our stories were divergent. He was apparently from a middle class family and had just graduated with a degree in agriculture. I spent a few weeks watching his house and then when he was out one night I broke in and gathered the final pieces of information I needed, including his University of British Columbia student identification number.
    I had chosen Wetherall because of his physical resemblance to me. Beside the facial familiarity, there was height and weight similitude. The only fly in the identity theft ointment was his eye color. Unlike mine, his eyes are brown.
    Using his student number I was able to send transcripts of his degree to my desired employers. Although he was university educated, I myself had a long education in agriculture, especially hydroponics, and was also well read on recent issues in the field. I went so far as to buy used copies of some of the textbooks I noted on his shelves. A future in agriculture management is within my grasp.
    I enjoy working with plants and I do not require the constant interactions, interruptions and eruptions of a large dysfunctional family or high population workplace. My time in the city is finished. It has served its purpose. I will move back to the country, but this time on my terms. I will make my own rules.
    The only thing I worry about is my eyes. They are not brown.
    These days, with the dwindling ozone and increased UV radiation at ground level, everyone but especially those who work outdoors must wear proper eye protection.
    I favor dark sunglasses for both these reasons. I have become accustomed to wearing them indoors as well, except at home. If people ask, I say they are prescription.
    Most people will never know, but my eyes are a deep, melancholic blue.

#26, art by Eric Bonholtzer

#26, art by Eric Bonholtzer

To Hit a Woman (Lightly)

Andrew Bowen

    The force of my husband’s open hand spun me to the living room floor. Neon sparks flashed around me like my first Fourth of July. The copy of the Qur’an Dr. Bakhtiar gave me at the library tumbled out of my hand and lay open in front of me. I remembered the last line of chapter 4, verse 34. “...as to those (women) on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping places and (daraba) go away from them—”
    Seyyed snatched the book away.
    “This isn’t the Qur’an,” he said in Arabic and shook it at my face. “It’s feminist propaganda.”
    I touched my cheek with trembling fingers. My face throbbed and burned, as if my heart had been ignited and transplanted into my jaw.
    He walked by me and into the kitchen. The hinges on the metal trash can squeaked before the lid shut.
    I pushed myself to my feet and pulled the blue hijab off my head. My hair fell over my shoulders as I walked toward the threshold between the kitchen and the living room. The cool tile floor announced my arrival on the soles of my feet.
    I looked over at the end table by the kitchen entry. The curved dagger of Seyyed’s Bedouin grandfather was displayed on a mount within its metal sheath. My fingers curled into a sadly empty fist.
    Cold air washed over my legs. I shivered and looked back into the kitchen. Seyyed bent forward behind the refrigerator door.
    My voice quivered. “I want a divorce, and I’m taking Ali with me.”
    Seyyed slowly raised his head and glared at me.
    I lifted my chin and crossed my arms.
    He laughed, shook his head and said, “You aren’t taking my son. Besides, where would you go? There’s no one here for you.”
    Dr. Bakhtiar mentioned shelters, intervention organizations, but once the question rolled off my husband’s lips, it became a nauseous reality. I blinked a few times, tried to brush off fear, and tightened my arms’ grip on my ribs.
    “We aren’t in Egypt anymore, Seyyed. American law protects against spousal abuse.”
    He poured a glass of apple juice. “The same law that allows abortion, homosexuality? No, we abide by the Qur’an and Shari’a law in this house.” He took a sip and pointed at the trash can. “That translation is false. God permits a husband to strike his wife should she become disobedient.”
    “Disobedient?” I stepped forward. “Dr. Bakhtiar showed me that the Arabic word daraba means to ‘go away from’ in the context of that verse, not ‘to beat.’”
    “This conversation is over,” he said and took the last gulp of juice.
    I opened the trash can lid, reached down through damp paper towels and vegetable peelings and pulled out the text. I steadied my breath. “Please, I’m not asking you to abandon God, only your belief that it’s permissible to hit me.”
    He began to turn, but stopped short of looking over his shoulder at me and stared out the window over the sink. “If I’m not mistaken, it’s time to pick up Ali from school.”
    I opened my mouth to protest but the pain in my jaw from his blow advised me otherwise. I draped the hijab over my head, took my purse from the counter and left.

    Ali looked up at me from a crowd of friends as I pulled up to the school. I smiled and waved but rolled my lips over my teeth, self-conscious of the chip in my incisor Seyyed had given me during a past argument. He slung his green book bag over his shoulder and waved goodbye to his friends. I glanced in the rearview mirror to ensure the fresh makeup I applied at the stoplight concealed my wound. He opened the back door and hopped into his booster seat.
    “Hey sweetheart. Have a good day?”
    “We learned about amphibians today. Mrs. Reynolds brought in tadpoles from the pond at her house—they were so cool! Can I have some tadpoles? I want bullfrog ones...”
    Ali went on about swamps and frogs in that child-like zeal of discovery. The glint in his eyes, the passion in his voice that rises with everything new he encountered reminded me of Seyyed when we first married.

    He was a medical student in Cairo, an ungainly young man uncomfortable socially and happy only in the company of his studies. Under pressure from his parents, he gave in to taking a wife. The cost of Seyyed’s schooling broke his parents and thus what they could offer for a respectable dowry was pitiful at best.
    “A bargain,” they said of me, a recent widow and thus deflowered. My parents didn’t negotiate long.
    Seyyed’s awkward nature made him vulnerable and endearing. I admired the voracity he displayed in practicing medicine which opened a window into a personality few had seen. Late at night, I listened to his retelling of exciting cases he had at the hospital and, slowly, I began to love him. As his confidence grew, his passion in other areas of our marriage blossomed as well, and it wasn’t long before we were pregnant with Ali.
    He sat at the kitchen table one day after work and fondled his grandfather’s dagger—a nervous habit for when something was on his mind. “Let’s move to America.”
    “America?” I looked up from a sink of dishes and laughed. “Why, of all places?”
    He slipped his arms around my pregnant belly from behind, took a deep breath through his nose and exhaled, “Fresh air.”
    And with that, I knew he’d grown bored with the medical establishment in Egypt. He wanted more: more technology, new developments in medicine and research...freedom.
    So we obtained our visas, said goodbye to our families and made our exodus from a land our forefathers had called home for thousands of years.
    Seyyed’s enthusiasm and knowledge won the admiration of all his new colleagues. We obtained U.S. citizenship a year after Ali’s birth and with Seyyed’s career secured, we had planted roots.
    The U.S. invasion of Iraq changed everything. Seyyed became obsessed with the news, following the events of the insurgency with every free moment. He became more involved with our local mosque and was influenced by the older, more conservative brethren who desired more American Muslims to shun Western values in favor of Sharia Law. Settled in his new paradigm, he handled his grandfathers’ blade less and less. Our nightly chats waned, as did his involvement with Ali and the warmth of his personality as a whole.
    The first time he struck me, dinner was late.
    “I’m sorry. Ali has the flu and—”
    “That’s no excuse!” he said and slapped the table.
    I jerked as Ali, then three, began to cry. I knelt in front of him and brushed his tears away. “It’s okay, papa didn’t mean to scare you.” I stood and glared at Seyyed. “Ever since you started meeting with those men from the mosque you’ve grown harsh and impatient.”
    “What I do and with whom I spend my time is none of your concern.”
    I perched my fists on my hips and lifted my voice. “Beg your pardon but it is my con—”
    The back of his hand struck my jaw and sent me to the kitchen floor. “Don’t ever talk back to me again!”
    The taste of blood swelled in my mouth. I touched the chipped edge of my incisor with the tip of my tongue. Trembling, I looked up at his blood-speckled hand. The gold ring his father had given him before we moved had cracked my tooth. It was then that I realized I had lost my husband and best friend.

    My daydream ended at a red light that led into our subdivision. Ali hummed in the backseat as he turned pages in his science book. I closed my eyes, the pain in my jaw still throbbing in my head. I opened them and looked in the front passenger seat. The Qur’an Dr. Bakhtiar had given me lay closed, seemingly innocuous until opened—like Pandora’s box. I wanted to regret listening to her, but I couldn’t. I wanted to ignore the sweet freedom and reason of her words, but to no avail. Like Adam and Eve in the garden, the price I was paying for knowledge was suffering.
    A horn honked behind us. I looked up at the blinking green arrow as it pointed left into the subdivision. My hands shook. My toes curled inside my shoes. I wanted to fly. I stared at the road ahead as sweat beaded across my forehead.
    I hit the gas, cut off another driver, and continued down the road.
    Ali leaned forward and watched the gilded entry to our subdivision pass behind us. “You missed the turn.”
    “I know honey. We’re uh, I thought we’d take a drive to the country. Won’t that be nice?”
    He looked down, thought for a moment, and tilted his face at the rearview mirror. “Without papa?”
    I looked away from his face in the mirror and tightened my grip on the wheel. “Papa’s busy.”
    Ali leaned back, deflated, and mumbled, “Oh...”

    I lifted my chin and sat up straight and proud as we crossed over the city limits into the countryside. Fields of corn rushed by in a blur of green. A flock of geese spear-headed east toward a pond a few miles up on the right.
    I glanced in the mirror at Ali. “Still want that tadpole?”

    We pulled over on the shoulder of the road where a dirt path spotted with clumps of ankle-high grass winded toward an abandoned mill next to the pond. Sunlight burned my eyes as I stepped out of the car and rounded the front. Ali was already out, a wide grin turning his cheeks red as he looked out on a shaded pool adjacent to the pond.
    “All right,” I said and inhaled air infused with honeysuckle. “Got something to catch them with?”
    The smile fell slack on his face. “No.”
    “Hmm...” I swatted at a mosquito as it buzzed near my ear. “Oh, what about your lunch box? Did you save your sandwich bag?”
    “Yeah!” He opened the car door and rushed inside.
    I folded my arms, leaned against the car, and imagined being a single mother. Boldness swelled in my chest. We could be free.
    A ringtone competed with the birdsong and croaking frogs of the countryside. Ali handed my cell phone to me. “It’s Papa.”
    I looked down at the caller I.D. Cool sweat moistened my skin. I opened the front passenger door and tossed the phone inside. “Ready?”
    “What about Papa?”
    “I’ll call him when we leave. Come on.” And with that, I led my seven-year-old son along the edge of the dirt road toward the pond.
    Ali gasped and looked up as a bullfrog croaked from the pond. He took my hand. “Papa would never take me here.”
    “Well, you know he’s very busy with work.”
    “Yeah, you’re never busy though.”
    I snickered. “Thanks.”
    Ali stopped and pointed. “Snake!”
    “Where?” I squealed and grabbed my chest.
    He stepped forward, still pointing. A black snake lay curled on a log at the water’s edge.
    “No. It might bite.”
    Ali laughed. “It’s just a black snake. He won’t bother us. Come on.”
     He went a few feet ahead of me as I stared at the black coils on the log. Ali looked back at me over his shoulder. “Coming?”
    “Just get your tadpoles,” I said, my eyes still locked on the snake. “But don’t go too far!”
    My fear of snakes locked me in place. I tried to look away but couldn’t peel my eyes from it. I became lightheaded. My hijab whipped against my neck with a sudden burst of air. Sand went into my eyes and blurred my vision. I rubbed them until tears wet my knuckles.
    A splash.
    I looked up. Ali had fallen in waist deep.
    The snake’s presence anchored my heels to the ground. My hands trembled and I grew nauseous. Ali cried out again, stuck in the mud and reaching for shore. I closed my eyes, ripped my feet away from the muck of fear, and wrestled my son out of the pond.

    “Stupid woman!” Seyyed said and slapped my other cheek. I staggered backward and sat on the couch with my hand on my face. “I can’t believe you did that, and ignored my call.”
    My voice cracked. “We were at the pond, I didn’t hear—”
    “Shut up!” he said and paced back and forth in front of me. I could hear the muffled whimpers of Ali coming from his room.
    Seyyed pointed down at me. “If you ever take my son out without my permission or knowledge of your whereabouts...you’ll have your divorce.” He walked by toward our bedroom, said, “And you’ll never see Ali again,” and walked inside.

    I made ablution for evening prayers and washed the makeup and mud off my face in the shower. Tears mixed with the water and burned as they seeped into the cut on my lip from Seyyed’s latest blow. The steam choked me as I wept. I bent over and sat down in the shower, the weight of my reality forcing me to the floor.

    We prostrated facing East, Ali on my right and Seyyed reciting sura on my left. We rose in unison, still on our knees. I glanced right at the dagger on the end table. An emerald on the sheath shimmered, as if an angel had winked in approval.
    The wound tingled. I looked down at Ali as his eyes swept over my face. Seyyed continued, asking for guidance and protection for his family. Ali stared at my cheek and crinkled his brow as if something were out of place. I slipped my hand from my lap, wrapped my fingers around my son’s hand and gently squeezed as I whispered a prayer for bravery.

    Seyyed pulled the chain on his bedside lamp. The thick, silent dark pressed against my body like a wet blanket. I lay on my back as panic shook me. The dagger was missing when I had tried to sneak it away before bed. Had Seyyed overheard my prayers and hid the blade?
    He draped his arm across me and nibbled on my ear. The hairs on my neck sprang up as chills flowed over me.
    “I was thinking, maybe I’ve been too harsh lately. I realize you were only trying to please him by taking him out to the pond, but you should have told me. Do you understand that?”
    I nodded. “Mm hmm.”
     “When you were tucking Ali into bed, I took a look at that verse you mentioned and some hadith. It states that, as a last resort, a husband is only permitted to hit his woman lightly.” His hand tumbled over my breasts on its way to my ribs. I gradually bent my knees to my chest. He continued. “I asked God to forgive me for being...excessive.” He pecked my left cheek with little kisses.
    I winced at the pain of his lip’s contact with my skin. Then, something hard pressed against my head through the pillow. I slid my hand up under the pillow cover and felt the cool metal sheath of Seyyed’s dagger. A gasp seeped through my lips.
    “We’ll start over tomorrow,” he said. “All right?”
    His fingers tip-toed along my oblique and approached my closed legs. I pressed my knees together as he wriggled and pried his fingers between my thighs. I gritted my teeth and struggled with how the dagger got under my pillow.
    “Want to learn more Arabic? Here is your first lesson. The word Islam means submission.”
    I gazed into the void for the face of God and answers.
    When he didn’t show, I turned my face and watched as the shadow of Ali’s feet move outside the bottom of our bedroom door. He was waiting. My eyes widened with the arrival of my answer. I realized then that he was already a braver—nobler man than his father, but if I went to jail for murder or if we lost Seyyed’s support, he would be lost.
    With Ali and Seyyed waiting, I closed my eyes and daydreamed about another man...my grown and honorable son. Tension slipped from my grip on the dagger as my legs and faith fell apart.

Andrew Bowen bio

    Andrew’s fiction and essays cover the often murky waters of theology, and have appeared in over a dozen publications including Metazen, decomP, On the Wing, Nanoism, and more. He is the founder and editor-in-chief of Divine Dirt Quarterly and blogs atThe Dirty Prophet.

8DK-UZEYIR CAYCI 09.05.2010, art by Üzeyir Lokman ÇAYCI

8DK-UZEYIR CAYCI 09.05.2010, art by Üzeyir Lokman ÇAYCI

Nick DiSpoldo, Small Press Review (on “Children, Churches and Daddies,” April 1997)

Kuypers is the widely-published poet of particular perspectives and not a little existential rage, but she does not impose her personal or artistic agenda on her magazine. CC+D is a provocative potpourri of news stories, poetry, humor, art and the “dirty underwear” of politics.
One piece in this issue is “Crazy,” an interview Kuypers conducted with “Madeline,” a murderess who was found insane, and is confined to West Virginia’s Arronsville Correctional Center. Madeline, whose elevator definitely doesn’t go to the top, killed her boyfriend during sex with an ice pick and a chef’s knife, far surpassing the butchery of Elena Bobbitt. Madeline, herself covered with blood, sat beside her lover’s remains for three days, talking to herself, and that is how the police found her. For effect, Kuypers publishes Madeline’s monologue in different-sized type, and the result is something between a sense of Dali’s surrealism and Kafka-like craziness.

Debra Purdy Kong, writer, British Columbia, Canada
I like the magazine a lot. I like the spacious lay-out and the different coloured pages and the variety of writer’s styles. Too many literary magazines read as if everyone graduated from the same course. We need to collect more voices like these and send them everywhere.

Ed Hamilton, writer

#85 (of Children, Churches and Daddies) turned out well. I really enjoyed the humor section, especially the test score answers. And, the cup-holder story is hilarious. I’m not a big fan of poetry - since much of it is so hard to decipher - but I was impressed by the work here, which tends toward the straightforward and unpretentious.
As for the fiction, the piece by Anderson is quite perceptive: I liked the way the self-deluding situation of the character is gradually, subtly revealed. (Kuypers’) story is good too: the way it switches narrative perspective via the letter device is a nice touch.

Children, Churches and Daddies.
It speaks for itself.
Write to Scars Publications to submit poetry, prose and artwork to Children, Churches and Daddies literary magazine, or to inquire about having your own chapbook, and maybe a few reviews like these.

Jim Maddocks, GLASGOW, via the Internet

I’ll be totally honest, of the material in Issue (either 83 or 86 of Children, Churches and Daddies) the only ones I really took to were Kuypers’. TRYING was so simple but most truths are, aren’t they?

what is veganism?

A vegan (VEE-gun) is someone who does not consume any animal products. While vegetarians avoid flesh foods, vegans don’t consume dairy or egg products, as well as animal products in clothing and other sources.

why veganism?

This cruelty-free lifestyle provides many benefits, to animals, the environment and to ourselves. The meat and dairy industry abuses billions of animals. Animal agriculture takes an enormous toll on the land. Consumtion of animal products has been linked to heart disease, colon and breast cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes and a host of other conditions.

so what is vegan action?

We can succeed in shifting agriculture away from factory farming, saving millions, or even billions of chickens, cows, pigs, sheep turkeys and other animals from cruelty.
We can free up land to restore to wilderness, pollute less water and air, reduce topsoil reosion, and prevent desertification.
We can improve the health and happiness of millions by preventing numerous occurrences od breast and prostate cancer, osteoporosis, and heart attacks, among other major health problems.

A vegan, cruelty-free lifestyle may be the most important step a person can take towards creatin a more just and compassionate society. Contact us for membership information, t-shirt sales or donations.

vegan action
po box 4353, berkeley, ca 94707-0353

C Ra McGuirt, Editor, The Penny Dreadful Review (on Children, Churches and Daddies)

cc&d is obviously a labor of love ... I just have to smile when I go through it. (Janet Kuypers) uses her space and her poets to best effect, and the illos attest to her skill as a graphic artist.
I really like (“Writing Your Name”). It’s one of those kind of things where your eye isn’t exactly pulled along, but falls effortlessly down the poem.
I liked “knowledge” for its mix of disgust and acceptance. Janet Kuypers does good little movies, by which I mean her stuff provokes moving imagery for me. Color, no dialogue; the voice of the poem is the narrator over the film.

Children, Churches and Daddies no longer distributes free contributor’s copies of issues. In order to receive issues of Children, Churches and Daddies, contact Janet Kuypers at the cc&d e-mail addres. Free electronic subscriptions are available via email. All you need to do is email ccandd@scars.tv... and ask to be added to the free cc+d electronic subscription mailing list. And you can still see issues every month at the Children, Churches and Daddies website, located at http://scars.tv

Mark Blickley, writer

The precursor to the magazine title (Children, Churches and Daddies) is very moving. “Scars” is also an excellent prose poem. I never really thought about scars as being a form of nostalgia. But in the poem it also represents courage and warmth. I look forward to finishing her book.

MIT Vegetarian Support Group (VSG)

* To show the MIT Food Service that there is a large community of vegetarians at MIT (and other health-conscious people) whom they are alienating with current menus, and to give positive suggestions for change.
* To exchange recipes and names of Boston area veg restaurants
* To provide a resource to people seeking communal vegetarian cooking
* To provide an option for vegetarian freshmen

We also have a discussion group for all issues related to vegetarianism, which currently has about 150 members, many of whom are outside the Boston area. The group is focusing more toward outreach and evolving from what it has been in years past. We welcome new members, as well as the opportunity to inform people about the benefits of vegetarianism, to our health, the environment, animal welfare, and a variety of other issues.

Gary, Editor, The Road Out of Town (on the Children, Churches and Daddies Web Site)

I just checked out the site. It looks great.

Dusty Dog Reviews: These poems document a very complicated internal response to the feminine side of social existence. And as the book proceeds the poems become increasingly psychologically complex and, ultimately, fascinating and genuinely rewarding.

John Sweet, writer (on chapbook designs)

Visuals were awesome. They’ve got a nice enigmatic quality to them. Front cover reminds me of the Roman sculptures of angels from way back when. Loved the staggered tire lettering, too. Way cool.

(on “Hope Chest in the Attic”)
Some excellent writing in “Hope Chest in the Attic.” I thought “Children, Churches and Daddies” and “The Room of the Rape” were particularly powerful pieces.

Dusty Dog Reviews: She opens with a poem of her own devising, which has that wintry atmosphere demonstrated in the movie version of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. The atmosphere of wintry white and cold, gloriously murderous cold, stark raging cold, numbing and brutalizing cold, appears almost as a character who announces to his audience, “Wisdom occurs only after a laboriously magnificent disappointment.” Alas, that our Dusty Dog for mat cannot do justice to Ms. Kuypers’ very personal layering of her poem across the page.

Cheryl Townsend, Editor, Impetus (on Children, Churches and Daddies)

The new cc&d looks absolutely amazing. It’s a wonderful lay-out, looks really professional - all you need is the glossy pages. Truly impressive AND the calendar, too. Can’t wait to actually start reading all the stuff inside.. Wanted to just say, it looks good so far!!!

Fithian Press, Santa Barbara, CA
Indeed, there’s a healthy balance here between wit and dark vision, romance and reality, just as there’s a good balance between words and graphics. The work shows brave self-exploration, and serves as a reminder of mortality and the fragile beauty of friendship.

Mark Blickley, writer
The precursor to the magazine title (Children, Churches and Daddies) is very moving. “Scars” is also an excellent prose poem. I never really thought about scars as being a form of nostalgia. But in the poem it also represents courage and warmth. I look forward to finishing her book.

You Have to be Published to be Appreciated.

Do you want to be heard? Contact Children, Churches and Daddies about book or chapbook publishing. These reviews can be yours. Scars Publications, attention J. Kuypers. We’re only an e-mail away. Write to us.

Brian B. Braddock, Writer (on 1996 Children, Churches and Daddies)

I passed on a copy to my brother who is the director of the St. Camillus AIDS programs. We found (Children, Churches and Daddies’) obvious dedication along this line admirable.

The Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology
The Solar Energy Research & Education Foundation (SEREF), a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., established on Earth Day 1993 the Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology (CREST) as its central project. CREST’s three principal projects are to provide:
* on-site training and education workshops on the sustainable development interconnections of energy, economics and environment;
* on-line distance learning/training resources on CREST’s SOLSTICE computer, available from 144 countries through email and the Internet;
* on-disc training and educational resources through the use of interactive multimedia applications on CD-ROM computer discs - showcasing current achievements and future opportunities in sustainable energy development.
The CREST staff also does “on the road” presentations, demonstrations, and workshops showcasing its activities and available resources.
For More Information Please Contact: Deborah Anderson
dja@crest.org or (202) 289-0061

Brian B. Braddock, WrBrian B. Braddock, Writer (on 1996 Children, Churches and Daddies)

Brian B. Braddock, WrI passed on a copy to my brother who is the director of the St. Camillus AIDS programs. We found (Children, Churches and Daddies’) obvious dedication along this line admirable.

Dorrance Publishing Co., Pittsburgh, PA
“Hope Chest in the Attic” captures the complexity of human nature and reveals startling yet profound discernments about the travesties that surge through the course of life. This collection of poetry, prose and artwork reflects sensitivity toward feminist issues concerning abuse, sexism and equality. It also probes the emotional torrent that people may experience as a reaction to the delicate topics of death, love and family.
“Chain Smoking” depicts the emotional distress that afflicted a friend while he struggled to clarify his sexual ambiguity. Not only does this thought-provoking profile address the plight that homosexuals face in a homophobic society, it also characterizes the essence of friendship. “The room of the rape” is a passionate representation of the suffering rape victims experience. Vivid descriptions, rich symbolism, and candid expressions paint a shocking portrait of victory over the gripping fear that consumes the soul after a painful exploitation.

want a review like this? contact scars about getting your own book published.

Paul Weinman, Writer (on 1996 Children, Churches and Daddies)

Wonderful new direction (Children, Churches and Daddies has) taken - great articles, etc. (especially those on AIDS). Great stories - all sorts of hot info!

the UN-religions, NON-family oriented literary and art magazine

The magazine Children Churches and Daddies is Copyright © 1993 through 2011 Scars Publications and Design. The rights of the individual pieces remain with the authors. No material may be reprinted without express permission from the author.


Okay, nilla wafer. Listen up and listen good. How to save your life. Submit, or I’ll have to kill you.
Okay, it’s this simple: send me published or unpublished poetry, prose or art work (do not send originals), along with a bio, to us - then sit around and wait... Pretty soon you’ll hear from the happy people at cc&d that says (a) Your work sucks, or (b) This is fancy crap, and we’re gonna print it. It’s that simple!

Okay, butt-munch. Tough guy. This is how to win the editors over.
Hope Chest in the Attic is a 200 page, perfect-bound book of 13 years of poetry, prose and art by Janet Kuypers. It’s a really classy thing, if you know what I mean. We also have a few extra sopies of the 1999 book “Rinse and Repeat”, the 2001 book “Survive and Thrive”, the 2001 books “Torture and Triumph” and “(no so) Warm and Fuzzy”,which all have issues of cc&d crammed into one book. And you can have either one of these things at just five bucks a pop if you just contact us and tell us you saw this ad space. It’s an offer you can’t refuse...

Carlton Press, New York, NY: HOPE CHEST IN THE ATTIC is a collection of well-fashioned, often elegant poems and short prose that deals in many instances, with the most mysterious and awesome of human experiences: love... Janet Kuypers draws from a vast range of experiences and transforms thoughts into lyrical and succinct verse... Recommended as poetic fare that will titillate the palate in its imagery and imaginative creations.

Mark Blickley, writer: The precursor to the magazine title (Children, Churches and Daddies) is very moving. “Scars” is also an excellent prose poem. I never really thought about scars as being a form of nostalgia. But in the poem it also represents courage and warmth. I look forward to finishing the book.

You Have to be Published to be Appreciated.
Do you want to be heard? Contact Children, Churches and Daddies about book and chapbook publishing. These reviews can be yours. Scars Publications, attention J. Kuypers - you can write for yourself or you can write for an audience. It’s your call...


Dorrance Publishing Co., Pittsburgh, PA: “Hope Chest in the Attic” captures the complexity of human nature and reveals startling yet profound discernments about the travesties that surge through the course of life. This collection of poetry, prose and artwork reflects sensitivity toward feminist issues concerning abuse, sexism and equality. It also probes the emotional torrent that people may experience as a reaction to the delicate topics of death, love and family. “Chain Smoking” depicts the emotional distress that afflicted a friend while he struggled to clarify his sexual ambiguity. Not only does this thought-provoking profile address the plight that homosexuals face in a homophobic society, it also characterizes the essence of friendship. “The room of the rape” is a passionate representation of the suffering rape victims experience. Vivid descriptions, rich symbolism, and candid expressions paint a shocking portrait of victory over the gripping fear that consumes the soul after a painful exploitation.

Dusty Dog Reviews, CA (on knife): These poems document a very complicated internal response to the feminine side of social existence. And as the book proceeds the poems become increasingly psychologically complex and, ultimately, fascinating and genuinely rewarding.
Children, Churches and Daddies. It speaks for itself.

Dusty Dog Reviews (on Without You): She open with a poem of her own devising, which has that wintry atmosphere demonstrated in the movie version of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. The atmosphere of wintry white and cold, gloriously murderous cold, stark raging cold, numbing and brutalizing cold, appears almost as a character who announces to his audience, “Wisdom occurs only after a laboriously magnificent disappointment.” Alas, that our Dusty Dog for mat cannot do justice to Ms. Kuypers’ very personal layering of her poem across the page.
Children, Churches and Daddies. It speaks for itself.

Debra Purdy Kong, writer, British Columbia, Canada (on Children, Churches and Daddies): I like the magazine a lot. I like the spacious lay-out and the different coloured pages and the variety of writer’s styles. Too many literary magazines read as if everyone graduated from the same course. We need to collect more voices like these and send them everywhere.

Fithian Press, Santa Barbara, CA: Indeed, there’s a healthy balance here between wit and dark vision, romance and reality, just as there’s a good balance between words and graphics. The work shows brave self-exploration, and serves as a reminder of mortality and the fragile beauty of friendship.

Children, Churches and Daddies
the unreligious, non-family oriented literary and art magazine
Scars Publications and Design


Publishers/Designers Of
Children, Churches and Daddies magazine
cc+d Ezines
The Burning mini poem books
God Eyes mini poem books
The Poetry Wall Calendar
The Poetry Box
The Poetry Sampler
Mom’s Favorite Vase Newsletters
Reverberate Music Magazine
Down In The Dirt magazine
Freedom and Strength Press forum
plus assorted chapbooks and books
music, poery compact discs
live performances of songs and readings

Sponsors Of
past editions:
Poetry Chapbook Contest, Poetry Book Contest
Prose Chapbook Contest, Prose Book Contest
Poetry Calendar Contest
current editions:
Editor’s Choice Award (writing and web sites)
Collection Volumes

Children, Churches and Daddies (founded 1993) has been written and researched by political groups and writers from the United States, Canada, England, India, Italy, Malta, Norway and Turkey. Regular features provide coverage of environmental, political and social issues (via news and philosophy) as well as fiction and poetry, and act as an information and education source. Children, Churches and Daddies is the leading magazine for this combination of information, education and entertainment.
Children, Churches and Daddies (ISSN 1068-5154) is published monthly by Scars Publications and Design. Contact Janet Kuypers via e-mail (ccandd96@scars.tv) for snail-mail address or prices for annual collection books.
To contributors: No racist, sexist or blatantly homophobic material. No originals; if mailed, include SASE & bio. Work sent on disks or through e-mail preferred. Previously published work accepted. Authors always retain rights to their own work. All magazine rights reserved. Reproduction of Children, Churches and Daddies without publisher permission is forbidden. Children, Churches and Daddies copyright Copyright © 1993 through 2011 Scars Publications and Design, Children, Churches and Daddies, Janet Kuypers. All rights remain with the authors of the individual pieces. No material may be reprinted without express permission.