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.

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 219, April 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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Note that in the print edition of cc&d magazine, all artwork within the pages of the book appear in black and white.

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the passionate stuff

As I sit above the grave & look down, I

Fritz Hamilton

As I sit above the grave & look down, I
see the casket still open, & in it lies Fred Hammy/
since I am Hammy, the corpse interests me/ I

jump into the hole & pull poor Hammy out/ he
smells of death, but I’ve always stunk that way/ I
touch him, & he’s cold, unlike me who’s a

hothead clean down to my toes, with a firy
penis as many a skank knows/ “Hammy,” I
say, as I stand him up before me, “you look like

me & you seem to be dead!” He explodes with a terrible
stench from his asshole & replies with breath as foul, “If
you’re me, Fred Hammy, what makes you think

you live?” An excellent observaton as the
spectre fades away/ I lie down in the casket &
stare up at the sky. A storm cloud laughs down at

me, but I feel I’m gonna cry/ then a clod of dirt covers
my face, followed by another/ I try to call out for Mother, but
the dirt clogs up my mouth/ why don’t they shut the

casket before I blow a gasket, making
the earth collapse on me, burying me
forever? but why should I care if I’m

infinitely dead?/ for me there’s nothing
ahead/ I feel the bones of Jesoo marching
through my head/ “I am the alpha & omega,” he

grumbles, & we both laugh like Hell/ I throw up all
over myself, because from Jesoo gushes a
disgusting & horrible smell/ the

divine dope must use my soap, which
is no soap when crossing over the bar of lysol, last
used by Saul/ it dissolved his skin &

he came out as Paul who sayeth:
“We are born as the filth of the world!”/ all
are called but few are washed, &

the lysol runneth out, &
Jesoo wraps himself back into the
afterbirth of Mother Mary, who

gives the Christchild to
Magdalene who feeds him from
her tainted teat, &

Jesoo wants
more ...


Andy - rising grave

Andy - sitting by tombstone

Andy - crouch at set plot

Flowerless Gravesites


I have seen them in father’s cemetery
Right behind the mausoleums,
Forgotten names covered with dried up mud,

Probably friends, grandmothers or infants
Who year after year are buried deeper into oblivion,
Only visited by segmented troops of ants marching.

Death is lonely. Mere crumbs of leaves are lonelier.
Maybe these fragments were once vibrant roses
From a guest who took the time to visit ages ago.

Sometimes, there are two or more crows
Lingering on and around the tombstones,
Still without a trace or scent of fresh plants.

I came to a point of thinking about
Cleaning their spots, bringing in flowers;
But maybe I am too much of a stranger to them.

There will be footsteps heading there.
There will be prayers spoken before them.
I imagine, one day. the heaven of a reunion -

Reunion of the present and the absent.
Lilies, tulips, jasmines - finally light up their space.
It does not matter who brought them there,
But they are there.

Stop Bitching, and Get to Know Me


But, pointedly intelligent as IBM
On a cruise ship called
The Carter Years
She pointed out to Me
That our conversations were all about
Which, mystified Me
Me having no idea what was wrong with that
I know, now
Only since the Internet, though
Only the last couple years, really
And I find it as sad as a dead baby bird
That it’s not supposed to be all about
Because, I’m so nice

Prince From Africa, art from the HA!man of South Africa

Prince From Africa, art from the HA!man of South Africa

Mr. Flip as a Sarcophagus

Kristine Ong Muslim

He is measured, carved with
patterns of chariots and the beasts
that drive them. There is no vessel
more beautiful than the one which
bears the dead. He is slammed in place
only once. Dust settles down on top
of him; waiting for the dust particles
to touch down keeps him entertained.
The bones inside him remain safe.
He smiles, and the lid cracks an inch, a gap.


Previously published in New Madrid Vol. III, No. 2, Summer 2008

Janet Kuypers reading the Kristine Ong Muslim poem
Mr. Flip as a Sarcophagus
from the April 2011 issue (v219) of cc&d magazine (which is also available as a 6" x 9" ISBN# book Falling Into Place
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read live 04/05/11, live at the Café in Chicago

art by Brian Hosey and Lauren Braden (From Uxmal to Isla Mujeres)

art by Brian Hosey and Lauren Braden (From Uxmal to Isla Mujeres)


Judith Ann Levison

They set their white plastic chairs
In a circle, all eyes on the night sky
Between whispers of wind
Glistening pine cones drop on their laps
At night they try to find their faces in
Constellations or an angel looking down
But the enshrouded foggy sky will not lift
One night the fog peels back and
A constellation is found
Ecstasy fades the family’s demise
Mosquitoes whine and it is chill
But, they will not go in
They talk of its glory and future guardianship
For days despite little food
They are sure the viewing will bring good luck
For they are connected to the earth
Just by looking up

Hubble Observes Infant Stars in Nearby Galaxy (2007), image from NASA and the Hubble Telescope

Hubble Observes Infant Stars in Nearby Galaxy (2007), image from NASA and the Hubble Telescope with more information at HubbleSite

The Helicopter

GPA (The Poetic Unsub)

Over our neighborhood, once again bullets soar, and the helicopter flies.
The noise brings concern all over our collective faces.
As the police, paramedics. reporters, and onlookers gather, somewhere a mother cries.

Chalk lines drawn as the once flowing blood dries.
Nowhere else does this scene occur, only in the darkest of places.
Over our neighborhood, once again bullets soar, and the helicopter flies.

Confused and dumbfounded with the lack of solutions to the violence, so exasperated, a city sighs.
But no one is saying anything, there are no evidence traces.
As the police, paramedics, reporters, and onlookers gather, somewhere a mother cries.

Persistent police pressure burst silent pipes providing only productive lies.
Blood on the ground, on his torso, and even discolored his brand new gym shoes and laces.
Over our neighborhood, once again bullets soar, and the helicopter flies.

Black on black crime brings the same result; another one of us dies!
The pain persists perpetually; not even the progression of time erases.
As the police, paramedics, reporters, and onlookers gather, somewhere a mother cries.

In a part of the city where there lack of affluence, the violence escalates because of crack buys.
The police and government care whimsically and that only pertains to the closing of open court cases.
Over our neighborhood, once again bullets soar, and the helicopter flies.
As the police, paramedics, reporters, and onlookers gather, somewhere a mother cries.

Antennae Galaxies, image from NASA and the Hubble Telescope Star Cluster Bursts, image from NASA and the Hubble Telescope

Antennae Galaxies amd Star Cluster Bursts,... images from NASA and the Hubble Telescope with more information at HubbleSite

The Big Bang

Joy Davis

History says
Renovation is quick and careful
the matter still too early to speculate

I didn’t expect to wonder
How the world generates a thousand days
an accident,
a wreck
Yet, that’s the case.

The door slams
And I can hear
the accident
Filled with information.

a small Magellan Cloud, image from NASA and the Hubble Telescope a a Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes image, image from NASA and the Hubble Telescope

a small Magellan Cloud, and a Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes image... images from NASA and the Hubble Telescope with more information at HubbleSite

Janet Kuypers reading the Joy Davis poem
Big Bang Theory
from the April 2011 issue (v219) of cc&d magazine (which is also available as a 6" x 9" ISBN# book Falling Into Place
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read live 04/12/11, live at the Café in Chicago

What’s Easier

Maxwell Baumbach

if it takes less muscles to smile
than it does to frown
does that mean
it is easier to put on a front?

time for work
so grin big

family function
sweep those follies
off a cliff

after that
take a deep breath
or maybe
a shallow one
its less work

happy homemakers at 2008 Thanksgiving 2001 Thanksgiving table

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 poet from Elmhurst, IL. He edits the Heavy Hands Ink publication, has a youtube channel (Youtube.com/MaxwellThePoet), and likes sports. His first chapbook, “Suburban Rhythm,” was recently published by cc&d through Scars Publications. It is available both as a free read and as an ISBN # book.

The Pigeon

Lucy Winrow

The bare trees clawed
The empty space above us
I held your hand tight
We were close but distant.

Brown leaves crunched
And fell apart softly underfoot
On the startling green cushions of grass
The smell of childhood sprang up
Earthy, clean and pure
With death not far behind
The smell of an unlit bonfire.

The leaves blew and I was reminded
Of autumn days kicking small boots
Sensing a collective nostalgia
Without understanding it
Now I felt their cool breath
And was suddenly surrounded
By wisps of ghost children
All remembering the same.

At that moment a pigeon flew
Cutting through the air
Right in front of our eyes
Its soft feathers stiffened together
Thumping the sky
As it disappeared into the distance
I imagined holding it in my hand
Cupping its chest and feeling
Its heart pump in its downy body
As I imagined your flat palm
Pressed between my legs
I followed it out of sight
But you were looking straight ahead.
I don’t think you saw it.

Santa Missed Our Chimney

Dan Fitzgerald

Your letter came today.
You were hoping to be
here for Christmas

The plane
landed outside
the main terminal,
away from tourists,
allowing us
a moment of privacy.

A flag snapped in the cold air
as sharp dressed soldiers
stood solid eyed
against the blowing snow.

                     A slow coffin descended.

We took you home
for the holidays.

Santa, cover stock image from cc&d v086, December 1996

Poem from The Hartford Epic (#1)

Kenneth DiMaggio

3:30 a.m.
but a millennium
ago when the 12-or-13 year old
kid named Ezekiel
riding a Stingray
bicycle said he’d
be back with your
drugs but what’s
another century
or two in a car
on a street where every
other telephone pole
hangs a pair
of dirty sneakers
letting you know
this is the place
to score and every
other tenement front
porch is lined with tinsel
“Welcome Home” letters
for their Carlos or Tyrone
or Salvatore just back
from the war

And if the cop keeps
driving slowly be
only to eye-fuck
you but never stop
--the three-legged
pit bull half hobbling
pauses long enough
to snarl your way as if
to note his superiority
in still having three legs
compared to your two

Never cry in the shower

Michael Hoag

Never cry in the shower
Scented soap will crawl up your tears and into your eyes
And hurt
Never itch the top of your feet
You will only untie your shoelaces
And trip
Never wake someone by squeezing their hand
They will only open their eyes
And smile
Never borrow a jacket
You’ll only get a Le Moda leopard print wrap with a full length black zipper and pink collar
Never keep presents
Your rooms will turn into a conglomerate of other people’s things
A pool
A collection
An anthology
You will never buy
Pets will always be the wrong color
Plants will never be the right size
Candles will always smell like cinnamon
And you will have nothing but deserts
And garden vegetables
And plates will never match
And you’ll have nothing but pink shirts
And never enough toothpaste
Because no one gives toothpaste
And you will have nothing of yourself
And everything of others
And only presents
Other people’s presents
I have other people’s presents
I buy nothing
My clothes are pink
My books are all popular
My technology is old
My hair is cut wrong
And my lamps
And my spices
And my luggage
I have useless things I hang on my walls as decoration
These presents
These damaged presents
Filled with things and people and feelings and hilarity
All these things from these others
And these borrowed words
And these green signs and white signs
And painting trim and painting walls
And sometimes wet and sometimes dry
And sleeping in trees and sleeping in beds
And not knowing when to sleep
And everything is something else to me
And nothing to everyone else
Tying all these things and people together
I mull
I cherish
I memory
Because of these presents I keep

drawing by Michael Hoag

drawing by Michael Hoag

Michael Hoag reading his poem
Never Cry in the Shower
from the April 2011 issue (v219) of cc&d magazine (which is also available as a 6" x 9" ISBN# book Falling Into Place
videonot yet rated
Watch this YouTube video
read live 04/12/11, live at the Café in Chicago


Marcin J. Kuhn

this cubicle
this job
a reflection of my life
trapped in a small

rejected by the people
I speak to
going nowhere

existence is a labor
of love
of hate
of insanity
and death

her tears turn to daggers
her words are bullets
that tear through

I bleed the blood
of the destroyed and damned
what happened
to those golden days
of wine and roses?

hope is a trickster
keep your eye on his hands
or you just might
fall for the illusion

Marcin J. Kuhn Biography

    Marcin was born in Krakow, Poland and came here with his family when he was four years old. He first started writing poetry when he was in high school, poetry actually preventing him from failing ninth grade English. He has written poetry on and off since, concentrating mostly on lyrics for the various musical projects he engages in. Recently, Marcin has made a return to poetry. He still retains the intensity and range of his earlier work, but writes with a more experienced eye. It is a sweeping vision of the times we live in, both brutal and beautiful. Marcin’s adventures through it all are reflected and interpreted in his body of work. He currently resides in New York.

The Poet

Sid Yiddish

I detest the poet
The sing-songee
Breathing too much in time
Over and over again

The young poet pretends
He is Allen Ginsberg, writing cock and balls and fuck
In every other line

The slamming poet
The sodomy of Carl Sandburg
21st Century style
He’s a poet; he knows it, he’s already blown it up into a frenzied performance version of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, times three

The academic, all hail the academic
In A-B-A metered time
Crisp white shirt, wrinkle-free pants
Reciting on cue, timed response, politely clapping in rhyme

Oh the poet!
That holy sacred cow!
Plunders in his wonders, American dream tastes like fat-free cream floating atop his latte’

The holy poet, that beatnik scruff
Dressing in dead man’s clothes
Thinking June-Moon-Spoon is clearly outta tune
Wants to end his world with a vicious plot

The poet.
The holy-subsidaired, conglomerated, merging poet
Exploited and avoided, cringing and fringing
For once, could change his world
If only, he would think things through.

Cycles of The Sun

Kevin Heaton

As the sun shares her light
a young girl is raped
and roadside bombs explode
while songbirds serenade suicide
bombers entering sidewalk
cafes with lambs bedding down
at peace as human beings
are tortured and beheaded
at the same time a mare delivers
her foal:

Nuclear warheads wait.
A gentle dove weeps.

Kevin Heaton bio

    Kevin Heaton lives and writes in South Carolina. His chapbook, “Postcards of Faith,” is at Victorian Violet Press. His work has appeared in: Foliate Oak, Elimae, The Recusant, Heavy Hands Ink, Carcinogenic Poetry, Pirene’s Fountain, Counterexample Poetics, and many others.

Janet Kuypers reading the Kevin Heaton poem
Cycles of the Sun
from the April 2011 issue (v219) of cc&d magazine (which is also available as a 6" x 9" ISBN# book Falling Into Place
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Watch this YouTube video
read live 04/05/11, live at the Café in Chicago

Fly By Night, art by Mark Graham

Fly By Night, art by Mark Graham

On Several Adventures in Municipal Government

Michael Ceraolo


It was the traditional tripe
in favor of changing the form of the local government,
the stated aim to bring about more ‘professionalism’;
translated, that meant he favored the change
because he held out some hope of being appointed to the new position,
having no hope at all of being elected to the existing one

Janet Kuypers reading the Michael Ceraolo poem
On Several Adventures
in Minicipal Government (I)

from the April 2011 issue (v219) of cc&d magazine (which is also available as a 6" x 9" ISBN# book Falling Into Place videonot yet rated
Watch this YouTube video
read live 04/05/11, live at the Café in Chicago

summer2007 #288, art by David Thompson

summer2007 #288, art by David Thompson

At Twenty-Four

Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal

At twenty-four
I went to school.
I had it easy.

The sadness inside
my heart and mind
was from a love lost.
I had no friend.
I lived in darkness.

I had no beasts after me.
It wasn’t so dire.
I felt fucked-up,
but I could still be saved.

There are words
and there is truth
and lies. I never
faced the ugliness
of war and battle.

I escaped the crime
of war and what it
did to man. I stayed
home and went to school.

I did not seek a gun
and uniform. To each
their own and I don’t
judge. From where

I stand, I remain alive.
I went to school.
I had it easy.

Brooklyn Dreams

Mel Waldman

Brooklyn Dreams,
as a peacock’s feathers,
color of rainbows
dying again
when the darkness and dust and human debris
fell to earth
in a shroud of toxic air;
we inhaled trauma and fear and eternal death;
and terror stretched
across the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridge,
as we watched
the incomprehensible;
and we died; yes, we died;
we exhaled our innocence;
and we died

New York City, a 1990s skyline photo with the Twin Towers


Mel Waldman, Ph. D.

Dr. Mel Waldman is a licensed New York State psychologist and a candidate in Psychoanalysis at the Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies (CMPS). He is also a poet, writer, artist, and singer/songwriter. After 9/11, he wrote 4 songs, including “Our Song,” which addresses the tragedy. His stories have appeared in numerous literary reviews and commercial magazines including HAPPY, SWEET ANNIE PRESS, CHILDREN, CHURCHES AND DADDIES and DOWN IN THE DIRT (SCARS PUBLICATIONS), NEW THOUGHT JOURNAL, THE BROOKLYN LITERARY REVIEW, HARDBOILED, HARDBOILED DETECTIVE, DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE, ESPIONAGE, and THE SAINT. He is a past winner of the literary GRADIVA AWARD in Psychoanalysis and was nominated for a PUSHCART PRIZE in literature. Periodically, he has given poetry and prose readings and has appeared on national T.V. and cable T.V. He is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Private Eye Writers of America, American Mensa, Ltd., and the American Psychological Association. He is currently working on a mystery novel inspired by Freud’s case studies. Who Killed the Heartbreak Kid?, a mystery novel, was published by iUniverse in February 2006. It can be purchased at www.iuniverse.com/bookstore/, www.bn.com, at /www.amazon.com, and other online bookstores or through local bookstores. Recently, some of his poems have appeared online in THE JERUSALEM POST. Dark Soul of the Millennium, a collection of plays and poetry, was published by World Audience, Inc. in January 2007. It can be purchased at www.worldaudience.org, www.bn.com, at /www.amazon.com, and other online bookstores or through local bookstores. A 7-volume short story collection was published by World Audience, Inc. in June 2007 and can also be purchased online at the above-mentioned sites.



the meat and potatoes stuff

The Rooftop

Anne Turner Taub

    It was an old building in the heart of New York, and like many old buildings, had become more and more expensive as it became older and more dilapidated. Now that it was in the last stages of graceful urban decay, rents had become higher than the cost of a car. Rosamund Wills had decided to end it all and jump to the street from its ripped-up tarry roof. She was sick of New York, sick of the fast-forward motion of life and especially sick of her apartment which, despite being so expensive, was so small that every time she moved she hit a door knob. This was it. Today was the day. She went to the edge of the roof and looked down. Good, there were no awnings to make her think twice, and, besides, this was the only side of the building that had a direct fall to the ground. She put one foot on the red and orange ceramic tiles colorfully edging the roof.
    At that moment a voice said, “Pardon me, are you going to be here long?” Annoyed, she turned around. There are times in life when interruptions are not called for, and the act of being about to commit suicide is one of them. The voice belonged to a young man about her age whom she had never spoken to but whom she had seen going in and out of the building many times.
    “I don’t know,” she said coldly, “why do you ask?” After all, it was a large, though unsightly roof, and the view was just as unpleasant no matter where you stood. This was her spot and she intended to keep it.

    “May I introduce myself,” he said, “I am Edward Hale, 4B. And I’d rather not go into it, if you don’t mind—it’s personal... I just would like to stand here alone, if possible.”
    Rosamund became more annoyed. Who did he think he was? This roof belonged to everyone in the building, and she would stay here as long as she pleased. Besides, how can anyone jump off a roof with someone standing there watching to see if you do it right?
    “It’s not possible,” she said, “I have something I want to do here, and I want to do it alone. Come back in a half hour and you can stand here as long as you want.”
    “Look,” he said pleading, “I am very unhappy, just leave for a few minutes and you can have it all to yourself.” She looked at him, he looked at her, they both looked down at the street below, and at that moment, the same thought occurred to both of them.“
    “You, too,” he asked, “you are going too?”
    “Yes,” she said, “I can’t take this rat race anymore”
    “I understand,” he said, “I won’t try to stop you. You can go right after me.”
    “What? What did you say?”
    He said, “I said I understand. You can go right after me.”
    “I beg your pardon,” she said indignantly, “I was here first and I will go first. I am not going to follow you so that people will think—-who knows what people will think. They will think we are together. No, sorry, that just won’t do.”
    “Well, I am sorry but I feel the same way and I insist that I should go first.”
    An argument ensued in which neither side would give in. Rosamund was annoyed. No matter what you did in this city. You had to stand in line.
    Suddenly they were interrupted. The door to the roof was opening. A man about forty years of age was pulling a very recalcitrant dog that was long and thin with huge hanging jowls and a big feathery tail that lay limply on the ground.
    “Hi,” the man said, acknowledging their presence. “You two like it up here, too, eh?” Then he paused looking lovingly down at the dog. “Matilda does too, but she is being very naughty.”
    Rosamund and Edward stared down at the dog who was banging her head fiercely against the side of the building. “I’m sorry, the man said apologetically, “but Matilda gets very depressed, even suicidal, and she bangs her head when she gets that way.”
    The man looked up at them. “Say, would you guys please do me a favor. Once she gets her Tastee-Bone, she is okay. The trouble is we must have left it in the park this morning, and she won’t be herself till I get it back.”
    “What do you want?” asked Rosamund suspiciously.
    “Could you and your husband just watch her while I run across to the park and get it for her? It’s only a block away and I know just where I left it.” Husband! Rosamund started sputtering in disgust, when Edward smiled politely and said, “Certainly, we will. You go ahead and we will wait till you get back.”
    “Thank you so much,” said the man, “I am George Wimple, 3C. I’ll come back as soon as I can.”
    “Husband,” Rosamund expostulated in horror, “that’s such a weird idea when I am trying so hard to compose myself calmly for what I want to do.”
    “Well, I don’t know” said Edward, “It didn’t sound so strange to me. I guess we’ll just have to wait till he comes back, and...” he paused magnanimously, “I tell you what. You can go first.”
    “Oh no,” she said, “that is so kind of you, but really, I couldn’t.”
    An hour and a half passed by in which they sparred with each other about the order in which each was to perform, and, tiring of that topic, they began to discuss the impossibility of living a normal life in New York, “All you do in New York is wait for the end. You might just as well end it now. If you do it ten years later, life won’t be any different—or fifty or a hundred.” Both agreed on this gospel. It amazed them both at how much they had in common.
    Suddenly after two hours had passed, Edward looked around. “You know, it’s been a long time. Do you think maybe he is not coming back?”
    “That’s horrible. If he doesn’t come back, one of us will be stuck with Matilda...”
    They both turned and looked at Matilda who was continuing to bang her head on the wall. “Well, I can’t take her,” said Rosamund, “precisely because I will not be around. You’ll have to take her.”
    “No way,” said Edward, “I am no good with animals—even goldfish. They take one look at me and next thing you know they are belly-up on top of the water.” Suddenly all the good bonhomie they had recently established seemed to have disappeared.
    “Well, we will have to do something with her.” Rosamund stared pityingly at Matilda. “ How could that man just leave her like that? He seemed so fond of her.”
    Edward went over and picked up the dog, whose head was now showing signs of bleeding. “Poor thing,” he said, “she is so unhappy.”
    Rosamund was touched by his kindness to the animal. “I thought you said animals don’t like you. She certainly seems to have quieted down.” Edward smiled happily. “You know, you’re right. I have never had an animal snuggle so quietly in my arms. It feels good.”
    “I tell you what,” Rosamund said, “if you are willing, we can take turns keeping her. At home we always had a dog.”
    “All right, but just till we find out what happened to her owner.”
    At that moment the door opened, and George Wimple walked in, out of breath.
    “Gee, I’m sorry, folks. Did you have any trouble with her??”
    “She’s fine,” said Edward. “She has really calmed down.”
    George stared at Matilda nestled happily in Edward’s arms. “You must have a touch with her,” said George, “I’ve never seen her that peaceful without her Tastee-Bone. She won’t even go to sleep at night without it.” He looked at the two of them admiringly. “I am sorry I took so long. I had to go all the way downtown to get her a Tastee-Bone; the one in the park was nowhere in sight.”
    “Well, I guess you want her back now,” said Edward a little reluctantly.
    “Oh yes,” said George. He saw Edward’s hesitation as he took Matilda back.
    “I say,” he said, “you know, Matilda is having a birthday party Saturday. Why don’t you and your wife come? Apartment 3C, two o’clock. There’ll be a lot of dog lovers there and Edward can get a chance to cuddle Matilda again.”
    Rosamund did not remark on the “wife” reference, and Edward smiled, as he said, “Nothing will keep us away.” Us, thought Rosamund. Oh well, I have been called worse things, and the three of them, with Matilda, left the roof.

Liberty or Death, art by Aaron Wilder

Liberty or Death, art by Aaron Wilder

Mama’s Things

Barbara Villemez

    “Damn y’all! I don’t like doing this. I feel like a vulture picking over dead meat. I need a drink and a cigarette.” Martha stood, reached for her purse and searched through it for her cigarettes. She pulled one from the pack, lit it from a lighter she picked up from the coffee table and inhaled deeply.
    “Sit down, Martha. Mama said this was the way she wanted it and this is the way we’ll do it. Besides, it’s too early to be drinking.” June rattled the papers in her hand and looked at Martha in disgust.
    Martha paced the floor of the small living room glancing now and then at the other women. “I think Mama should have written down what she wanted each of us to have; not waited until she died.” she said in a petulant tone.
    Gayle spoke up, “For God’s sake Martha, it’s not like Mama knew she and Dad would die in that accident! Gimme a break!”
    “Well, I don’t know why not? Mama always said she was psychic.” Martha’s tone was sarcastic. Babs caught her breath. “Oh Martha, don’t be so mean. We’re all feeling bad enough.”
    Babs sat quietly on the edge of the pink flowered sofa. “You know y’all, Mama and Daddy are probably watching us right now, thinking what a bunch of silly shits. They’re probably laughing and saying, “That’s our girls, fighting as usual.”
    June rolled her eyes. “Honey, I’m sure they’ll know we’re trying to do the right thing. Now let’s get back to this list.”
    The sisters sat in the small living room each one dealing with the death of their parents in their own unique way. Martha, 48 years old, divorced, and childless, used alcohol to deaden the ache in her heart. June, all business, buried her feelings in the paperwork. A forty-five year old accountant, she had been designated the executor. At forty-two Gayle, sophisticated and worldly, just wanted out of the ordeal. What would she do with Mama’s things anyway? None of it would fit in her post modern home. Babs, the youngest at forty, dreaming and mystical, had set up a special altar to commemorate her parents and talked to them every night. She was the most serene, missing them, but knowing in her heart they were in a good place.
    Bobbie Jo and Dan Godfrey were traveling west on highway 61 outside of Charleston, South Carolina, when broadsided by a drunk teenager roaring out of a side road. As happens in so many cases, they were killed instantly and the kid walked away with only a few bruises. It seems that God protects the fools and the drunks. A simple fishing trip became a family tragedy.
    The day after the funeral the girls were gathered in the small modest house to settle the business of dividing their parent’s personal effects. Grief was palpable in the warm summer air and the faces were quiet and set, unlike other times, when they were together laughing, joking and teasing one another. The focal point of the family was gone. Where would they go now for family gatherings? Who would cook Thanksgiving dinner? Who would loan them money when they needed it? Who would listen when they complained of their husbands and their lives? Who would hug them and tell them everything will work out? It’s sad to lose one parent no matter how old one is, but to lose both at the same time was doubly difficult.
    Martha stopped pacing. “June, where’s Carl?”
    “He had to fly to Hartford this morning. He’s so worried about business he’s not much comfort.”
    Martha turned to Babs. “Is Jerry gonna be at the supper tonight?”
    “Yeah, but he has to get back to Atlanta. We thought we’d leave tomorrow afternoon, if we can get this stuff straightened out.” Her large brown eyes brimmed with unshed tears.
    Gayle stood. “I have to pee, don’t decide anything until I get back.” She headed down the narrow hallway, spiked heels clicking on the worn oak floor.
    Martha said, “Y’all know she’s not gonna want any of Mama’s things. They wouldn’t fit in her big, fancy house.”
    “Oh, don’t be so spiteful, Martha. I’m sure there’ll be something she’ll want,” June retorted.
    Gayle came back into the room, sat down and looked at her sisters. “Y’all talking about me behind my back?”
    “Now why would we do that, sweet thing?” Martha arched her brows.
    “Y’all stop it.” Babs stood and shook her finger at Martha. “We’re supposed to love one another. How can you be so mean?”
    Gayle pulled a pack of cigarettes from her pants pocket and put one in her mouth unlighted. “Oh, let her have her fucking drink. Maybe it’ll improve her disposition.”
    Martha raised her voice, “I don’t have to stay here and listen to you insult me.”
    June stood and put her hands on her hips, “All right everybody, enough of this shit. Mom and Dad are gone, we’re all stressed, let’s try to have a little civility here and get this over with.”
    Gayle shrugged. “Well, I don’t want Mama’s silver. It’s too ornate for my taste and I don’t wanna polish it.”
    Babs raised her hand. “If no one wants it, then I’d like to have it for my little Crissy.”
    June said, “How about the silver tea service?” No one spoke. June looked at her sisters, “Okay, I’ll take it.” She looked at Gayle. “Is there anything of Mama’s you want?”
    “I wouldn’t mind having Mama’s sapphire ring, the one Daddy brought her from the Philippines. I could have it made into a pendant for Julie. She doesn’t have anything old for the wedding. I think she’d like Mama’s ring and I think Mama would want her to have it.”
    “Is that all you want, Gayle?” June said.
    “Yeah, that’s all I want. Maybe a few family pictures. We’ve still got to go through those. Mama has at least two large boxes and several albums.”
    “I think Mama and Daddy would want their clothes donated, maybe to the Methodist Church or the Salvation Army. Don’t you think?” Babs hesitated and looked around the room.
    The sisters looked at one another.
    “Yeah.” June said, “Let’s give them to the church.”
    She got up and went into the neat, compact kitchen. She opened a cabinet, took out a glass and filled it from a container in the fridge. “Anyone want anything while I’m up?” she called out.
    Gayle called from the living room. “Please, I’ll have a glass of water and if you don’t mind, put a slice of lemon in it.”
    Martha stopped pacing, looked sharply at Gayle and shook her head.
    Gayle said, “What?”
    Martha said, “Gayle, you’re such a fucking yuppie.”
    Gayle started to get up from her chair, when Babs said, “Y’all stop it! Can’t y’all ever get together without fighting? Our Mama and Daddy are dead and we’re never gonna see them again.” The last few words came out as a wail. She put her head in her hands and sobbed.
    June came out of the kitchen with the glasses of water. “Now look what y’all have done.” She put the glasses down on the coffee table, sat next to Babs and put her arms around her. “It’s okay, honey. You cry; it’ll make you feel better.” She held her tightly and began to rock gently.
    The other two watched silently with stricken faces. Tears began to slide down Martha’s cheeks. She moved quickly and sat on the other side of her sister and put her arms around both of them.
    Gayle sat for a moment silently watching her three sisters. She caught her breath, her face crumpled and she said, “Oh, God.” She stood, pushed the coffee table aside and knelt on the floor holding onto them.
    Martha pulled Gayle close. The four sisters held on to each other and cried aloud their grief. The keening sounds came from deep inside. They wrapped around the gut and squeezed the heart. The sisters held on to one another and wailed; a wrenching, primitive sound of grief and loss. They grieved for their parents, but they also grieved for their lost youth, for the parts of their lives that hadn’t worked, for dreams unrealized.
    The sobs slowly subsided until the room was still.
    Gayle moved first, catching her breath. “Damn, my knees are stiff. I don’t know if I can stand.”
    June got up and helped Gayle to her feet, hugging her as she did.
    Martha looked up at Gayle. “I really do love you, you know, even though you’re such a prissy shit.” They all laughed.
    Babs said, “I do feel better.” They laughed again a little self-consciously.
    June said, “Well y’all, I guess we could use a drink right now.”
    They moved as one to the kitchen. June took four glasses from a cabinet and filled them with ice. She reached in another cabinet and brought out a bottle of bourbon and set it on the counter. She opened the fridge and took out a large bottle of Coke. She filled each glass about one third with bourbon and the rest with Coke. She stirred the glasses with a spoon she took from the sink and handed one to each woman. She raised her glass and said, “To Mama and Daddy, may they rest in peace.” She glanced at Babs, “Wherever they are.”
    The girls solemnly clinked glasses and took a drink looking to June for direction.
    “Okay. Let’s take our drinks back to the living room and finish this there’s still a lot of Mama’s things left.”

Santa Anna 61, painting by Jay Marvin

Santa Anna 61, painting by Jay Marvin

Dream World

Ronald Brunsky

    “Governor’s mansion...... this is the late night answering service. May I help you?
    “I’m Joseph Peters, the State Prison’s psychologist. You’ve got to put me through to the Governor; Edmund Sloan’s midnight execution must be stopped.”
    “I can’t do that; Mr. Broadhurst has retired for the night.
    “There isn’t much time, it is nearly eleven PM.”
    “I’m sorry Mr. Peters, but he was very specific about any last second attempts to postpone the execution. He said he would talk to no one. Mr. Sloan has exhausted all of his appeals – the sentence will be carried out.”
    “You don’t understand the significance of what I have to say......”
    “I’m sorry......”
    “Please, for the love of God, wake the Governor.”
    “Alright, Mr. Peters, I’ll try, but I can’t promise you.”
    A precious fifteen minutes went by, before the Governor’s voice came over the phone.
    “This had better be good, Peters. Edmund Sloan’s case has been reviewed several times. No new evidence has come forward. What could you possibly, at this late date, introduce that would make me consider a stay of execution?”
    “Governor, please you must hear me out.”
    “You have my ear, but I warn you this had better be good.”
    “It all started about two months ago, when I first started seeing Mr. Sloan and at first everything seemed quite normal. He had accepted his fate, and showed no remorse for the crime he had committed. He kept saying: I had to do it – he just didn’t belong.”
    Then one day we were having our usual session, when my wife and kids blurted into my office. Seeing them made Edmund instantly very uncomfortable, and after they had left, I asked him about it. This is when the unbelievable story that I’m about to tell you began.”
    “Go ahead Peters; I’m interested in hearing where this is going.”
    “I asked him why he was so obviously upset when he saw my family? He hemmed and hawed about telling me more, but ultimately he broke down.
    He said, when I saw your family, and the innocent looks on your children’s faces, I realized that my execution must be stopped.
    He said he would tell me the truth, but knew I wouldn’t believe him. I pleaded with him, that it might have some bearing on his case.
    Eventually, he gained my confidence and proceeded to tell me a story – a story that was so utterly fantastic that at first I just laughed and sent him back to his cell.”
    “Peters, are you going to get to the gist of this story or not?”
    “Well, Edmund continued to tell the same story, every time we met.”
    “And exactly what is this story? You are definitely beginning to try my patience, Peters.”
    “Governor, without slowly bringing you along on the details of how I was convinced, you would surely hang up.”
    “Go on.”
    “I gave him every test possible, to see if he was telling the truth: lie detector, truth serum, hypnosis, he passed everyone with flying colors, but Governor, even after all of that, I still couldn’t believe him.”
    “Ok, ok. Now are you ready to tell me?”
    “I am”
    “I’m listening.”
    “Richard Canning was assumed to have been killed by Edmund Sloan. They had been seen the night before in a violent argument by several witnesses. Am I correct on the facts, Governor?”
    “Yes, as I recall, that is basically what happened, and twelve men and women found him guilty.”
    “But Governor, Edmund doesn’t want to be saved from execution because he is innocent of the crime. He wants the execution to be stopped for our sakes.”
    “What do you mean, for our sakes? You’re starting to make me angry, Peters, will you please get to the point.”
    “Governor, Mr. Canning wasn’t murdered; he was just removed. He didn’t fit, so Edmund Sloan made him disappear. He got rid of Richard Canning just like an author would delete a character from a novel. That’s why there was no murder weapon found or blood stains or even a body, because Mr. Canning just vanished, as if he never existed.
    Richard Canning was a part of Mr. Sloan’s dream. We all are. Our whole world is just that fragile. We begin and end in one night’s sleep.”
    “Peters, I think you’re the one who needs psychiatric help!”
    “Please sir, for God’s sake don’t hang up! You must hear me out.”
    “You mean to tell me that we exist only because Mr. Sloan is dreaming? Do you think I’m crazy or something? Do you know how idiotic that sounds? In other words, our entire history will fit into the space of eight hours, is that right?
    “Well, sort of, you see a dream may take up only a few minutes of your night’s sleep. A few minutes in Edmund Sloan’s world, that is. You see time is relative. The split second it takes to snap your fingers or blink an eye in his world could take eons in ours.
    Governor, the point is you and I and everything we know only exist because of Edmund Sloan. We’re a world that he is currently dreaming about, a place that he has envisioned. All the characters, events and places that make up our world, are mere facets of his sleeping imagination.”
    “Alright Peters, I’ve listened, long enough, to your ridiculous fairy tale, and still you haven’t denied Edmund Sloan’s responsibility for Richard Canning’s demise. Why should I postpone the execution?”
    “You must understand Governor, if we execute Mr. Sloan, we will be merely waking him up, but we will forever end our world.
    I told you earlier that even after the battery of tests I gave him, that I still wasn’t convinced. So, I asked him how he could prove his story.”
    “And......” said the Governor.
    “He told me there was a way. He asked me to take a good look at him, and then venture a guess at his age. So I did. After a lengthy scrutiny, I said...... hmmm, about fifty, I would imagine. Then he said, now look at the newspaper description. The headlines on the front page of the Dailey Voice read: thirty-five year old Edmund Sloan to be executed at midnight.”
    “This is your proof?” said the Governor.
    “You see Governor. We’re all but mere characters in his dream. We have been modeled on the real people, of his own world, that he has interacted with over his lifetime. Although he is really sixty-five years old, individually we all see him differently. We see him as he looked at some point during that period of interaction.
    I know this sounds ridiculous, but I believe him. Governor you must stop the execution.”
    “Peters, I am not only going to NOT stop the execution, but I am also going to ask that you be relieved of your position.”
    With that said, the Governor hung up and immediately called the State Prison to make sure the execution was going ahead on schedule. He then sat down and had a good laugh to himself about the preposterous story Joseph Peters had told him. Returning to his bedroom, he found his wife sitting up in bed.
    “Is everything alright dear?” said Mrs. Broadhurst.
    “Yes, just fine dear, I’ll tell you all about it in the morning,” he said with a chuckle.
    He headed for the bed, and then stopped and started scratching his head, as some disturbing thoughts ran through his mind.
    “Now I remember,” he thought, “I saw Edmund Sloan several years ago when I visited death row. My God, he wasn’t fifty or even thirty-five; he was a young man, couldn’t have been more than twenty-one at the time.”
    Just then the huge grandfather clock in the hallway began to chime.
    “Bong, bong......”

Religion or Politics

James R. Silvestri

    “Well, grow wings and fly here,” Norah replied into the cell phone through chattering teeth. It had sounded a bit surlier than she intended.
    “I would if I could,” Cody’s voice crackled back. He may well have been calling from the Ozarks, for what the phone reception was worth. “It’s a white wash out here, and it’s bumper to bumper. This really came outta nowhere, baby. Mona’s not liking it. One bit.”
    Wrapped in a scratchy wool blanket, Norah beheld what could be seen of the landscape from the covered patio she stood shivering in. The snow fell so hard and heavy, it resembled thick white streamers whipping down, like the whole world was being T.P.’ed by some drunken celestial prankster.
    She felt selfish. “Please be careful,” she said, picturing Cody hunched low in Mona, swerving around crashed cars and icy snow banks just to save his fiancé from an awkward social situation. She had yet to see Mona, but understood her to be a twelve-year old station wagon, rented in New York, which Cody had quickly named after a slutty ex-girlfriend of his whom Norah loathed. Cody was a real card that way.
    “You too,” he answered, and Norah just knew he was flashing that sarcastic little smile of his which she loved and hated. “How’s she treating you?”
    “Fine, I guess. She’s been keeping to herself for the last few hours.”
    “Really? What’s she doing?”
    “Right now, your mother is going over passages in her Holy Bible with a pink highlighter, Cody.”
    “You’re shitting me.”
    Norah glanced through the sliver of picture window unconcealed by the ugly drapes, just to make sure she hadn’t been hallucinating this whole time. All remained as she left it.
    “I shit you not.”
    She could hear Cody sigh. “Well, that’s new, I guess.”
    “How did you turn out so normal?” she asked. It was a legitimate question.
    “I left there young. Remember, be nice, and don’t talk about religion or politics.”
    “Give me something, Cody. Give me a topic. I’ve got nothing, here.”
    “Fuck!” Cody shouted suddenly, followed by a loud horn honk.
    Norah’s heart leapt. “Cody?”
    “I’m fine, I’m fine. This motherfucker in this motherfucking, gas-guzzling... forget it, I’m fine. Look, I gotta watch the road, Norah. Just be cool for me, okay?”
    “I’ll be fine. Be careful. I love you.”
    “You too, babe. Hang tough.”
    Norah waited for his disconnection, and then buried the phone beneath the layers of blanket, which whipped about her with abandon in the vortex wind. She pondered the lesser of two evils before finally reentering her future mother-in-law’s big, dumb house.
    The intense gas heat of the living room was a jarring juxtaposition from the blizzard, and it nearly caused Norah to faint dead on the spot. But she’d be having none of that today, not here of all places. She plopped down on the itchy sofa, and recovered her tea mug from the wicker coffee table to sip from it. The tea taste was still drowned beneath a clod of sickly-sweet honey. Norah never understood why people did these things to tea.
    Were she five years-old, Norah might have found comfort living in a house like this. Obviously no expense was spared to heat the home, and all the cushions were oversized and plushy. There was enough space in the big rooms to run and play in, although the hallways were dark and narrow, and the willowy carpets crackled with static electricity. Everything smelled of earth and hazelnut, and the walls settled with quaint creaks in the wind.
    But as a twenty-nine year old who has lived in the outer world, Norah couldn’t help but flinch at some of the more garish aspects at this place. Faces of evil stared down at her from all directions. Here was a framed sheet of stamps, little patchwork Ronald Reagan heads grinning snidely. There was Christ with his haughty martyr frown, screwed into his cross above the mantle, man and symbol both carved lazily from some third-rate wood substitute. Here was an autographed Rush Limbaugh, his bulbous face a giant blubbery wink, looming from a gilded frame above a row of simpering Hummel figurines. There was a deer head glued to a plaque, a simple doe whose eyes were replaced with black glass balls, removing the evidence of pain and fear that accompanied her last moments.
    And here, there, everywhere, that woman. Those jerky glasses and that fucking stupid flip of hair that Norah wanted rip out by the roots every time she saw her stupid face. That shit-eating grin, and those sing-songy ditherings of rambling idiocy she vomited all over the airwaves—
    Don’t look at her. Look at Christ. Look at Rush. Anyone but her.
    Norah knew she had to calm herself. This wasn’t helping. Maybe she should move to a different room. But were any of the other rooms here so different? She didn’t think so.
    From the kitchen, unseen from her current vantage, a microwave chimed. After a few minutes of fuss, Kay entered the room holding a tray before her. The teeth of her wide smile were whiter than the blizzard.
    “I thought you might be hungry, dear,” she said. Kay’s voice was a sugary squeak.
    The woman lowered the two small bowls and their tray onto the wicker table and sat cubby-cornered from Norah on a perpendicular loveseat. Norah politely leaned in to investigate. Mashed potatoes? Really?
    Kay took a spoon from the tray and went to work on her own bowl. “They’re instant,” she said, as if this meant anything.
    Norah mustered a smile. “Oh, thank you so much, but I’m really not up for eating right now.”
    “Ooh, hot,” Kay muttered as lowered her spoon to dabble her still-smiling mouth with a paper napkin. Her gray-green Frisbee eyes honed vapidly onto Norah.
    Everything about Kay screamed false: her perfect bleached bob, her pearly rows of ivory teeth frozen in permanent state of delight, her “natural” makeup, her clunky beaded necklace hanging over a violet sweater that swooped out on the shoulders and tapered into the waist, her oddly-proportioned Mom jeans and her sporty pink sneakers. This was a mother from a world that Norah only heard about in cautionary tales from her own family.

    Kay had always been unflinchingly nice to Norah, and refrained from asking few questions of sustenance. Had she pressed, she would’ve learned just what sort of world Cody was marrying into, the sort of territory he dared to tread when he agreed to attend college in New York City.
    Norah was the daughter of socialist Swiss Jews turned radical college professors, who converted to Wicca in the early ‘90’s. Norah herself settled for atheism. Aside from this, she was a also a practicing vegetarian, a lefty-blog journalist, a poet and performance artist, a bisexual and an egg donor with no intention of having children. Any attempt on Norah’s behalf to clarify these characteristics (which she tried to do on occasion prior to her compliance with her fiancé’s insistence that it wasn’t worth it) resulted in a bemused grin from the woman, and a change of subject.
    So there was really no need to take anything this woman said seriously. Just eat her damn potatoes and then shut your mouth, she told herself. But something about this house... those pictures... she truly had no appetite. Norah needed all her mental efforts to keep herself from alienating this woman just months before the wedding. She had to hold on just a little bit longer, until Cody came. Then he could do all the talking.
    “Was that Cody on the phone, dear?” Kay asked after putting aside her half-eaten meal.
    “Yes, he’s running late, I’m afraid. I told him to be careful driving.”
    “Oh, it’s a miserable day, just miserable. I’m glad you had the good sense to fly in the day before.”
    “Yeah. He would’ve joined me, but, you know... work.”
    “Yes, I know. Work is always a priority with that one, just like his father, God rest his soul.”
    Kay shook her head solemnly as she said this. Kay reported the death of Cody’s father four years ago, claiming that sudden pneumonia-like symptoms had done him in. A key set of dissenters, including Cody himself, suspected a suicidal overdose of pain medication as the real culprit. This was never discussed openly among the surviving family members, one of many such topics that never saw the light of day.
    “You must of caught your death, standing out there on the porch,” Kay cooed sympathetically.
    “I’m okay. I’m afraid your blanket got a little wet here, though. Sorry about that.”
    “Oh, haven’t you heard?” Kay responded with a twittering laugh. “Water dries, dear.”
    With this, Kay carried her potato bowl back into the kitchen, still laughing. Norah felt her face heat up. She spent a lifetime dealing with adversity, but everything this woman said or did boiled her over with contempt.
    After a surprisingly long bout of washing, during which time Norah sat quite still behind her untouched potatoes, Kay returned to her living room chair. The woman smiled dully, and seemed to be scanning the room in search of a conversation piece. Norah knew she had to intervene before the next topic revealed itself to be one of those shit-eating grinners pictured throughout the house. She felt all of those pig-eyed stares burrowing into her, taunting her with their evil self-confidence.
    “So... what have you been doing lately?” Norah mouthed clumsily. It was as bland and general a question as she could think of on the fly, but she knew it could go horribly wrong.
    “Well,” Kay thought aloud, “I’ve been busy with my TV shows. Did you catch Dancing with the Stars last night?
    Ugh. Well, could be worse. Norah thinned her lips into an odd grin and shook her head.
    “Suzanne Somers won. And Cedric. What do you think of Cedric?”
    “Um, Cedric?”
    “Her partner. He’s a very handsome guy, but...”
    Kay stood up again and began to rummage through items beneath the table, stooping low.
    “My girlfriend Piper is in love with him, but I tell her all the time that he’s not available, if you get where I’m coming from.”
    Somehow, Norah had a feeling. She never saw the show, but she could only figure why someone named Cedric might not be available. Change the subject.
    “What do you got there?” she chimed, forcing her sweetest facsimile of a smile. She was starting to itch all over.
    “Some old photos,” Kay replied as she sat down right next to Norah on the couch. She spread open the aging binder with it’s peeled plastic page cases and began to prattle on about each picture. This pleased Norah. She wasn’t particularly interested in the pictures, but the activity passed the time, and Kay’s narration was pleasant white noise.
    One photo sent a nauseous tic shivering through her. Cody had a framed copy of it at their apartment, and they both enjoyed mocking it. It featured Cody, aged sixteen, along with his three younger sisters and one older brother, lying side-by-side on the grass in matching khakis and white t-shirts, barefoot. It was at once saccharine and creepy simultaneously. But Cody observed that these matchy kid photos were popular in the community he grew up in.
    Normally it turned Norah’s stomach, but listening to Kay cheerfully list the behind-the-scenes antics regarding the photo set her mind adrift. She was an only child, and had often felt very lonely growing up. It would’ve been nice to have a few brothers and sisters growing up. But then, she knew the truth about Cody’s siblings. This one was a closet case, that one an alcoholic, those two locked in abusive marriages. How did Cody do so well? Or better question, what did this say about Norah? And here was Kay, all gloss and charm. Was she truly oblivious to the horror of her children’s lives, eyes permanently shielded beneath rose-colored lenses? Was she putting up a bold bourgeois front? Or was she one of these magical thinkers, who threaded together the truths she needed to hear like a fine quilt?
    This metaphor had crossed her mind because Kay had now changed the subject to knitting. Kay had finished a scarf that morning; it was blood red and bulbous and hanging on the front door hook. Was Norah a knitter, she asked. No, but she could sew a button here or a patch there. How lovely, how lovely. Then, another lull.
    “Listen to it out there,” Kay uttered. The two women were still as the winter wind violently battered the house. Norah pictured Cody in Mona and heard the beating of her own heart.
    “Perhaps I should get dinner ready now,” Kay said, rising once more. “I don’t want it to be cold by the time Cody gets here.”
    “Wait, I’ll help you.” Norah followed her future mother-in-law into the small kitchen. Her own feet felt lead-weighted as she plodded.
    Kay was battering chicken breasts in egg, then breading them in a large bowl of crumbs, then dropping them onto a sizzling pan. Norah absently began to copy these motions before realizing that she was touching animal flesh and yolk. This bothered her a lot less then she thought it might. Perhaps the rhythm of repetition soothed her.
    The pan hissed loudly, and the kitchen was rank with the smell of burning fat. Kay was wringing her hands and wiping sweat from her brow between movements. Finally she turned to face Norah, her wide smile now frozen on her as if she were a petrified clown.
    “Maybe you should call him again,” she announced, her voice cracking. Kay’s eyes were wild in her skull. It was very off-putting, and the fear Norah tried to bury was now shivering through her whole body.
    “I don’t want to disturb him,” she replied. “He needs to focus on the road.”
    Kay pondered this, then nodded and returned to the breading. Nearly all breasts were sizzling in the pan, but the last one out of the crumb bowl slid right out of Norah’s hands and plopped onto the floor.
    Norah covered her mouth immediately. Kay beheld her with a toothy expression that aligned somewhere between a grin and a grimace. Norah stooped to pick it up, but Kay’s pink sneaker suddenly clamped down on the squishy thing, blocking her access.
    “Leave it,” she intoned. Norah looked up at her and saw a death mask aflame in a halo of kitchen light. She slowly rose, and Kay removed her foot. The splattered raw chicken breast looked like an abortion prop, and terribly out of sorts on the spotless tile floor. The pan chicken continued to sizzle.
    Kay crossed to a small closed window and raised the blinds. Drifts of snow could be seen at level with the pain, and still it continued to call. The stillness was maddening.
    The ironic hip hop of Norah’s ring tone broke the silence as awkwardly as possible. This musical selection indicated an unlisted number. Unknown callers made Norah nervous under the best of situations.
    “Hello?” she piped, as she fumbled to bring the device to her ear. The static on the other end roared like an electrical inferno. “Hello?”
    She disconnected after several seconds of this. Kay was staring at her, no longer smiling. The mother’s eyes were agape with panic.
    “It was probably a wrong number,” Norah assured her. She had never seen this woman like this.
    Kay slowly retired to the kitchen table, plopping to her chair like a corpse, and began to page through the Bible. Her lips moved silently as she skimmed passages with her fingers.
    Norah blinked, unsure of how to behave. She turned to face the chicken in the pan. The tanning patties steamed with deathly smoke.
    “Kay, I can’t do this,” she heard herself saying. “Should I be doing something here?”
    The single word spoke volumes, as did Kay’s knowing glare.
    “Well, I won’t be doing that,” she said as she gestured to Kay’s Bible. Here was the point where Real Norah would bitchslap Polite Norah and take over, consequences be damned. There was no stopping it. She had to roll with it to be sane.
    “I wouldn’t dream of it,” Kay hissed back. “I wouldn’t really ask you to do anything. You’re the last person anyone should ask to do anything.”
    Norah swallowed. The blood in her body sizzled like the meat.
    “The nicest thing I could do right now is ignore you,” she stated. “So I’ll give that one more shot. Why don’t you just sit there and read your little prayers.”
    The Bible swung shut. Norah felt Kay studying her as if Norah were a curious fungus under a microscope. Finally, she spoke.
    “You don’t know anything about me. You thought you knew all there was to know from the minute you met me. I bet you think you know a great deal of things. You haven’t been married, you haven’t raised a family. You haven’t lived through anything of value. You surround yourself with... pastimes. Culture, causes, all that... crap. You distract yourself from life. That’s... cute. And that’s young. But it’s also useless.”
    Norah turned off the stove burner. It had felt good to do that, for some reason.
    “Cody told me never to discuss religion or politics with you. But that’s really the least of it. I’d probably enjoy arguing that stuff with you, because you’d have your little talking points, and I guess I’d have mine, and we’d throw them at each other and no one would ever convince the other one of anything, and we could do it all again the next time.
    “But the truth is, I can’t really talk to you at all, about anything. Especially important things. Because you pray, and you wish, and you reminisce. That’s all you do. And if those aren’t useless pastimes to me, then I don’t know what is.”

    The outside winds continued to howl, and the snowdrifts continued to rise. Norah and Kay now sat on the couch, completely silent since Norah’s last speech. They continued to thumb through photo albums, but there was no narration. Cody was very, very late. There had been no more calls.
    Norah studied the other woman peripherally. She no longer seemed angry, just lost in thought. Norah wasn’t angry anymore either. The gazes from the conservative boogiemen in their frames no longer had any power over her. All she felt was sadness. Kay clearly felt the same way. Everything around them and between them felt like an open wound.
    Norah imagined floating up out of her body, through the roof, way up high into the snowy night clouds, and looking down at the house below her. It would seem small, and safe, and warm and cozy from her frigid vantage. It would seem like a nice place to live, after all. A nice little home, anchored onto a merciless tundra.

James R. Silvestri Bio

    James. R. Silvestri is the author of several short stories and three screenplays, one of which, “Bag Man Ray,” is currently in production. His short story “The Amazing Carlos” appears in November 2010’s debut issue of “Sci-Fi Short Story Magazine.” He is a native and current resident of Queens, New York, and currently teaches at the TCI School of Technology in Manhattan.

Shaded Peony - Palete Knife, art by Cheryl Townsend

Shaded Peony - Palete Knife, art by Cheryl Townsend

The Secrets We Keep

Erica McBeth

    It was 12:30 am when the car pulled up to the front of the San Francisco Municipal Building. The streets were wet, still soaking up the effects of an earlier rain and a light fog had begun to sweep into the city making everything feel as if it were an illusion. It was my kind of night.
    I opened the back door to the spacious sedan and slid inside. “Where to Mr. Mayor?” the driver asked. I gave him the address for the New Haven Hotel and settled in for the ride.
    When Joe, my chief of staff, had forced this whole car service idea on me, I had been less than receptive but I had to admit, I was beginning to enjoy it. I have always been rather fond of my freedom and the idea of having to tell someone where I was going just seemed...smothering. But I have warmed to those catering to my every whim. They are one-dimensional beings who make no conversation or judgments. If only everyone in the world could be so malleable! Of course if everyone was so flexible, I wouldn’t have ended up having to be driven around in the first place.
    It had all begun a few months back on a night very much like this one. I had been on my way home after a night of dinner and drinks with friends when a young police officer pulled me over. He apparently hadn’t been on the job long because when I rolled down my window, his face showed no emotion, no signs of recognition. He raised his flashlight high and the light flooded my face, blinded me.
    “Is there a problem, officer?” I asked in my sweetest voice.
    “License and registration,” he said.
    I turned towards the interior of my car to comply but as I was shuffling through my paperwork, I could feel the heavy glow of his flashlight bearing down on me. As I turned back to hand him my information, the light was still there. “Do you mind not shining that thing directly in my face,” I asked, irritated.
    But the officer only looked over my information. “Have you had anything to drink tonight, Mr. Barryman?”
    I looked him straight in the face. I knew what he was getting at. “Do you know who I am?” I said because if there was one thing my prick of a father taught me, it was that if you are ever in trouble, it’s best to give off the appearance you are bigger than the other guy. It just so happened that in this situation, I was.
    “Please step out of the vehicle,” the officer said.
    I pursed my lips. “I will do no such thing. Let me ask you, son. Who is your superior?”
    “Mr. Barryman, please step out of the vehicle,” he said more forcefully.
    I glanced at his badge. It said “Justice”. “Oh never mind,” I said. I picked up my cell phone, hit a button to dial Joe’s number and rolled up the window. I saw the officer radio for backup out of the corner of my eye as he headed back to his patrol car parked directly behind me. As he walked away, I grinned slyly. There would be no backup.
    Less than fifteen minutes later, my chief of staff, Joe Arvizu pulled up behind the officer in his white Cadillac Escalade. Joe is a rock of a man. He’s bald but his hard, ripped body is still reminiscent of his time in the Marines. As he got out of his vehicle and slammed the door, I remembered just how intimidating Joe can be. He walked right up to the officer sitting in his car and leaned into the window to talk. While they were discussing God knows what, I saw a second vehicle pull in behind Joe’s Cadillac. Another man got out and walked up to the patrol car. When he was appropriately situated in the light, I recognized him as Sheriff Yost, no doubt pulled out of bed to deal with this unfortunate spectacle his young patrolman had caused.
    After a few moments, Joe walked over to my car. I rolled down the window.
    “What kind of trouble are we in?” I asked.
    Joe shook his head. “No one wants it to go down like this. So for tonight, I’m taking you home.”
    “And my car?”
    “Will be impounded,” Joe said decisively. I scowled. “It’s the best I could do under the circumstances,” he said. “You’re lucky you aren’t going to jail.”
    I opened the car door and staggered out. Joe was so good at negotiation he should have been in politics. If only he didn’t have the charisma of a toad.
    Sheriff Yost was already heading back to his vehicle as we walked back to Joe’s Cadillac. Officer Justice was sitting in his car. He glowered at me as I walked past so I vigorously waved back at him. Joe grabbed my hand from behind. “Don’t antagonize him,” he said.
    “What? I’ve always been a man of the people.”
    “Well tonight the people aren’t so enamored with you.”
    “Oh, he’s just young. He doesn’t know how things work.”
    Joe shook his head and he took me home.
    He sprung the whole car service idea on me the next day. We had a nice spat about it. Part of the deal Joe had cut the night before included permanently taking away my car keys. The car was registered to the city so no one would know I had been the one driving unless, of course, I went to spring it out of impound. I could have the city commission me another vehicle. I could also privately purchase one, but Joe informed me if Sheriff Yost caught me behind the wheel again he wouldn’t intervene.
    “I don’t know what you’re so worried about,” I said. “I’m an excellent driver.”
    But in the end, it was better to keep Sheriff Yost as an ally so I relented and begrudgingly accepted the car service. I just don’t like people trying to keep tabs on me. As a public official, so little of my time belongs to me that privacy has sort of become my religion. Not even Joe, as my closest confidant, is privy to all my secrets.
    And I have lots of secrets.
    For example, I don’t think Joe would be too happy to know I’d fucked our intern on my desk before leaving the office tonight. Vincent likes the importance of being asked to stay late and I like penetrating his supple, white ass. My groin stiffens every time I think about him sashaying through the office in his tight khaki pants.
    I also don’t think Joe would approve of the special relationship I have with the little Asian delivery girl from Hung Choy’s. I think she believes she’s converting San Francisco’s openly gay mayor but really I just like the way her mouth feels around my cock. And if she told anyone about it who would believe her? She’s flat-chested with the body of a boy and her hair is always changing like a mood ring. Today it was streaked with an urgent red that pounded my dick which, as it turned out, was a good thing because my little Asian girl had barely gotten up off of her knees when Joe burst into my office. He does that sometimes.
    “You can’t knock?” I said angrily as Joe’s eyes moved suspiciously over to the startled girl. I looked at her in a fatherly way. “I think Princeton would be an excellent choice for you, my dear. Thank you for being so kind as to bring me my lunch.”
    She nodded and edged her way around Joe who seemed to be a boulder in the door.
    “We have to talk,” he said closing the door behind her. “I’ve just got word that Mike Spiro from The Times is snooping around.”
    “So let him snoop,” I said with a wave of my hand.
    Joe shook his head. “He’s poking around places like he knows something.”
    That got my attention. “What do you mean?”
    “Like dispatch and impound records.”
    I leaned back in my chair and absently ran a finger over my chin. “Who do you think is behind it?”
    “Could be Ryker. We are up for re-election next year.”
    I shook my head. “He doesn’t have enough on me to tell Mike Spiro where to look.”
    “What about that cop?”
     “Rookie cops don’t usually have reporter friends, but check him out, anyway. Maybe we’ll find something we can use later.” I shook my head. “Damn it. I knew we should have paid him off.”
     “Wouldn’t have done any good. Not with that guy.” Joe said as he headed back out the door. “Just be careful, okay? Mike Spiro is young and hungry. He wants to make a name for himself.”
    I shrugged. “There have been a hundred Mike Spiro’s in my career. What makes you think this one is any different?”
    Joe didn’t answer. He just lightly shut the door behind him.
    And those were just the secrets from today.
    From the back seat of the car, I noticed it had begun to drizzle again. The driver turned on the intermittent windshield wipers. It was becoming very difficult to see even with the illumination of streetlights all around us. Yet I could still pinpoint our location. I could see that we were passing the St. Bethlehem Baptist Church on the right. The building was dark now. There were only two cars left shivering out in the parking lot but the sign out front was bright. It read: “Tonight Special Guest Speaker John Roy Decker, 7 – 10 pm.” I imagined John Roy had packed them out tonight with his Southern charm and his sensationalized conservative values. St. Bethlehem was probably a good choice for old Roy. He imagined himself to be the second coming of the Messiah, anyway.
    I had met John Roy Decker three years ago down in his home state of Texas. It had been to our mutual benefit to keep the circumstances of our meeting private but over the years, we’d developed a friendship of sorts. Our stance politically could not have been any more different. Not that John Roy was a politician but his thousands of evangelical followers gave him enough clout to rival even my own political prowess. He was loud and obnoxious but he had created an empire out of his own hot air. I had to respect the man for that.
    So when he called last week I leapt at the opportunity even if it was almost 1 a.m. when the car pulled under the overhang in front of the New Haven Hotel.
    “Would you like me to wait, sir?” the driver asked by way of the rear view mirror.
    “No, I’ll call the service when I’m ready,” I said smiling back as I opened the door to face the night and its heavy vapor. I sauntered into the lobby of the hotel, took the elevators to the top floor and followed the twisted jungle-designed carpeting to John Roy’s room. The metal shoehorn bolted to the door left it cracked to provide entry to even the most ominous visitor. I pushed the door open and walked inside.
    The hotel suite was luxurious and broken into two distinct sections. The kitchen and sitting area were on my left. A conference room table was on my right. The bedroom and bathroom were behind closed doors. John Roy sat at the head of the polished table with three men and one woman flanking him. No doubt they were Roy’s entourage. I instantly realized by the shock on their faces that they weren’t prepared for me to stumble in. So I smiled.
    “Is this an invitation-only party or can anyone join in?” I said jovially. I could feel the hatred roll off of them.
    Roy cleared his throat. “Ya’ll know, Todd Barryman, San Francisco’s illustrious mayor,” he said in his deeply masculine Southern drawl. He’d taken off his trademark cowboy hat. His sparse gray hair lay in a flat comb-over. His meaty jowls reverberated to the sound of his own voice. Still, no one at the table moved. “Mr. Barryman has been kind enough to drop by at this late hour to discuss a possible alliance on the ‘Tough on Crime’ bill that has been introduced here in the city. So why don’t we reconvene tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. before our flight?”
    The men muttered to one another and stiffly gathered up their belongings. I parked my behind on the back of the sofa facing the sitting area. Two of the suited men walked out together. “Goodnight gentlemen,” I said in my most sociable tone. One of them scowled at me but said nothing. I didn’t mind. I always enjoy playing with Roy’s puppets.
    The woman, however, was more adamant in her dislike. “I just don’t see why we need him,” she said to John Roy in confidence. She was standing with her back to me dressed in a conservative navy suit but even from across the room, I could tell she was as stunning as a beauty queen.
    John Roy sighed, tilted his head to one side and shoved his hands into his wrinkled pockets. “There often comes a time when we must align ourselves with the enemy in order to do the greater good. Remember, Jesus himself consorted with prostitutes and tax collectors.”
    She shook her blond curls. “It just doesn’t seem right.”
    John Roy reached out and reassuringly touched her upper arm. “It’s alright, Sarah. The Lord watches over the way of the righteous.”
    She bowed her head as if she were under his spell, looked up demurely and nodded before gathering her things and leaving the room.
    I waited until I was sure she was out of earshot before asking, “Have you had her yet?”
    Roy burst open with a robust laugh. “Religious girls are a tough nut to crack,” he said. “But well worth the wait.”
    “It won’t be long. She worships you.”
    “I hope not. That little minx makes my dick crazy. Come on over,” he said indicating that I take a seat in the sitting area facing the kitchen. Roy went into the kitchen and stood behind the counter. “Wine?”
    I held up my hand. “No.”
    “Then don’t mind if I do,” he said uncorking the bottle. Roy always seemed to need alcohol when I was around. I suspected I made him nervous. That delighted me.
    “How was your speaking engagement?” I said to make small talk.
    “Good. We packed the house,” he said pouring his wine into a glass. He sipped it behind the counter. “We don’t draw the crowds we do in Texas but it’s worth it.”
    I didn’t know whether Roy meant personally or monetarily. I suspected it was a little bit of both. I’d seen his wife. I think Jesus sewed up her asshole a long time ago. It was no wonder Roy wanted to get away.
    He came from around the counter and stood in front of me, glass of red wine in hand. I smirked devilishly, leaned forward and slowly unzipped his wrinkled pants unleashing his beast. Skillfully, I took the nub of him in my mouth. I could hear him catch his breath and I paused before moving my lips down his ever-hardening shaft. He moaned and I began to rhythmically rock back and forth in front of him. He looked up at the ceiling and sipped his wine.
    In fact, we were so involved in our own transgressions that it was a marvel we even heard the succession of three rapid clicks. Simultaneously both Roy and I jerked to look towards the area around the door where the sound had originated.
    “What the hell was that?” Roy asked as I rose from the couch to investigate. We could not see the door from that angle but I was only a few strides away. I saw the door close as soon as I was in eyeshot and my heart began to beat wildly. The door. It had been held open by the metal shoehorn when I’d arrived and no one had bothered to pull it closed. I raced over and threw it open just in time to see the red-headed kid running down the hallway towards the stairwell with a camera in tow. He turned his freckled face to look over his shoulder and I could see my career crumble within the reflection of his eyes.
    Mike Spiro. The Times.
    John Roy was at my elbow in an instant. He’d discarded the wine glass and was all zipped up. “Who the hell was that?” he asked.
    I turned back towards the room. “This is bad,” I muttered heading directly to the telephone to call Joe. There are lots of things you can recover from politically but consorting with the enemy? Well...that is the unforgivable sin.

eleven thirty peee mm, art by Nick Brazinsky

eleven thirty peee mm, art by Nick Brazinsky

Good News

Thomas Horan

    It was Morning in America. A Pharisee would argue that, strictly speaking, it was Sunday afternoon—July 13th—in Bethlehem, Illinois. Tent revival season. Demolition derbies and greased pigs. But in the bigger scheme of things, it was Morning in America. The sun was resurrecting Old Glory over sprinkled lawns and misty fields of corn. A rosy-fingered dawn.
    Americans were being reborn. We were shaking off the old rust of recession and retreat and putting on a shiny new plastic coat of success. We were better off. We were handing out five-pound blocks of cheese to anyone who needed them. We were spreading the gospel of democracy and 2-for-1 Big Macs. We were launching astronauts into outer space and returning them safely to earth. There was no stopping us, no limit to the things we could do. This was our Second Coming.
    Here was the place. Bethlehem was a manger town, three silos and a slaughterhouse, on the banks of the Wabash. A bible Acropolis smack in the middle of the fabled land of Corn and Beans. The people there were born Christians, but the sultry heat of July got under their skins. Folks began to chafe, to boil up, to stew in their juices. They took to spitting the bit and balking at the straight and narrow. They cast a covetous eye down the crooked, weedy path that leads to the fires of Hell. “At least that’d be a dry heat,” they’d say.
    Now was the time. The shepherds called their chickens home, to flock around the tent poles of Judah and Benjamin. Salvation here tonight. Baptism in the spirit. Babies and bath water. The crop was in the field. The tree was bearing its fruit. The harvest was nigh. Were you the wheat? Or the chaff?
    I was the prodigy, coming of age. This was the morning of my manhood. I was shaking off the rusty training wheels of childhood and climbing onto the shiny banana seat of maturity. I was extending myself, thrusting ahead into hairy mysteries and great expectations. I was coming into a heritage, stepping into a pair of shoes. Taking my place. Taking my time.
    Time, the pondering Jew once said, is relative. Greenwich Mean Time. Daylight Savings Time. Miller Time. The Old Man declared it was high time for me to get a job. My buddy Lazarre’s virgin sister Madeleine claimed every day was her time of the month. The best of times. The worst of times. Time for drinking beer, laying rubber, and kicking against the pricks.
    The Old Man was number one. He was older than dirt, knew it all, and laid down the law. In his house, it was, “My way, or the highway.” Everything was like that for him. Day or Night. Hot or Cold. Right or Wrong. He’d won the war, the Big One, Good versus Evil. That was his America, the First Coming. God, guns, and guts. The power and Old Glory forever and ever. Amen.
    Madeleine was number zero. She was seventeen, knew nothing, and laid nobody. In her pants, it was, “Abandon hope. Ye will never enter here.” Nothing worked on her. Hard nor easy. Slow nor fast. Beg nor barter. She was a war. I never won. Me versus Her. Hot versus Cold. That was our America, the never coming. Blood, sweat, and tears. The purity and Old Maidenhead forever and ever. Fuck me.
    At home, it was just me and the Old Man. The sainted mother was long dead. A broken heart. My older half-brother, Chris, took it on the heel and toe soon after. Chris was the Good Son, anointed from baptism. Chris got all A’s. Chris taught Sunday school. Chris obeyed the law, turned the other cheek, and walked on water. Whereas, I was basically the anti-Chris.
    Chris never laid eyes on his own father. When our mother kicked, she took her secrets with her, and orphan Chris joined the Service. He drew the short stick, Nam, and went MIA for almost six weeks. After he stumbled out of the jungle, against all odds and half-starved, dragging a high-rank Gook devil behind him, Chris was awarded his nation’s second-highest honor. By General Bradley himself, the shiniest brass in the bucket. Omar in the flesh. He stuck Chris in the ribs trying to pin It on him. Then he saluted. The Good Soldier, stoic, obedient, flanked by a Medal of Honor spinal on one hand and a Silver Star sniper on the other, quietly shed a little more blood, nourishing the tree of liberty.
    After his discharge, Chris got baptized a second time and starting going from arena to arena, throwing away people’s crutches and warning them against Jimmy Carter. Salvation here tonight. Bless you, Brother, for you have sinned. Hallelujah! Word got out. Crowds grew bigger. People started coming from miles away. Some were chosen. A movement was afoot.
    Religion inserted itself into politics, and Chris shot straight to the top of the Moral Majority ticket. Polls rose. Ranks swelled. Chris for all, and all for Chris. There was no stopping him. Straight as an arrow, heading for the big one, the immaculate nomination.
    Climax imminent, he was ass-ended by a Judas, an unpaid staffer who staged a man-to-man kiss at a prearranged place Thursday night. The back stabber got his thirty pieces and Chris got thirty-nine lashes in the press. Public opinion. At the convention, Chris was passed over for a Hollywood has-been, the Icon, Jelly Bellys and Grecian Formula 3:16.
    The Gypper extended his right wing and swept unto himself all those who had lately put their faith in Chris. Redbaiters. Whites First. Bluebloods for Tax Cuts. He looked straight through the teleprompter and announced the Good News. The People could enter into a new covenant, their debt to be paid later. By someone else. Hallelujah! His time had come. The land slid. The sea burned. Blood on the moon.
    The crowd rolled up Chris in a carpet and dumped him in a hole. Afterwards, Chris just drifted, ghostlike, dragging his Distinguished Service Cross around with him, a prophet without honor in his own country. Then, shaking the dust off his feet, he went under for the third time, got baptized for real, and went back out on the road, preaching wherever they set out a plate, two or three gathered together at the recollection of his name. He told them this dominion of vipers would pass away. He told them to turn away from Here and Now, to set their sights on There and Then, an alternative to this reality. The Kingdom to Come. I hadn’t seen him for four years.
    In Chris’s absence, I became the only child. I got all the chores. I got all the blame. I got all the questions. “Why can’t you be more like Chris?” I graduated from Bethlehem High—it was either pass me, or get me back, like a kidney stone—and went to work painting storage tanks and laying pipe for Imperial Oil. Ditch Witch. Tap and die. Thread lube and joint compound. I spent every paycheck on the Roadrunner.
    It was a hand-me-down from Chris, the Good Brother. In the Service, he’d built up a lot of back combat pay, and when he came home from the Shit, he blew his entire wad on a 1971 Plymouth two-door muscle job named after a solitary desert bird that lives on locusts and wild honey. Mopar 383 under the hood. Slicks on the mags. Four on the floor and Naugahyde on the buckets.
    Then he got baptized. Water on the brain, Chris went through the Phase, gave it all away, including the Roadrunner. He wrote my name on the pink slip with a gold Cross pen and mailed it to me inside a graduation card. “I didn’t think you could do it.” Then he gave the pen away, too.
    Chris’s legacy to me—rusty, impotent, in need of resurrection. A miracle waiting to happen. And it just so happened that my best friend Jobie was a certified automotive genius.
    He was also a worry wart and a world-champion complainer. To hear him tell it, all the shit in the world happened to Jobie. What did I care? He was the first and last mechanic, Saint Goodwrench of the grease gun, the return of Henry Ford. Jobie was as close as a brother. Like me, he yearned for a piece of ass he did not possess. Like me, he injected his frustrated passion into drag car makeovers. Juicing iron. Plugs and wires. Cranks and pistons. Manifolds and headers. Unlike me, Jobie could actually put a car back together.
    Jobie’s old man stood him to a speed shop of his own, a foreclosed Imperial Oil service station, complete with a hydraulic lift in the first bay and a rubber vendor in the mens room. He kept bottles of Stroh’s and Chocola in the old yank-type pop machine. Jobie wrenched his own rod, a Fucked Over Rebuilt Dodge pickemup with 460 cubic inches of pink slip menace throbbing under the hood. Chopped, dropped, and blowed, Jobie’s lowrider cruised every strip in the valley, owning every dragster’s ass from Terre Haute to Kingdom Come. When I asked him to help me cherry the Roadrunner, Jobie creamed in his jeans.
    In Jobie’s hands, the 383 was stripped, stroked, and bored over. Paycheck by paycheck, Jobie remade it in his own image, a fat-lobe cammed, intake-inducted, ethyl-sucking tranny trasher, Too Much Motor. Jobie crammed it in anyway, tearing a new hole in the firewall to make room for the headers. Paycheck. Holly double pumper 4-barrel. Paycheck. Hearst speed shifter. Paycheck. 4:10s in the ass end. Paycheck. The first time I torqued the tweaked-out Mopar and dumped the clutch, the drive shaft twisted off. Jobie shrugged his patient shrug and had a new one welded up. Paycheck.
    Finally, we sanded down the body, 600 grit, patched the holes with Bondo, and slapped on three coats of Magna Luxe Hi-Gloss, Sunrise Orange. Jobie christened the restored Plymouth America II, after a pony of his that had died. He painted the name across the hood by hand, the most beautiful scripture work you ever laid eyes on. Lazarre was impressed, although he’d never admit that to Jobie.
    Virgin Madeleine had the honor of being the first person to ride in the passenger seat. On the way to her house, she pretended not be scared when we topped 140 on Calvary Road. She even faked a yawn. Three times I offered to let her try the back seat, and three times she refused. I dropped her in the driveway of her house, out of sight of her father, who never cared for me in the slightest. Not even so much as a kiss. Fuck me.
    In December, I got fired from Imperial Oil for supposedly drinking on the job. Merry Christmas. In May, unemployment ran out. In June, the Old Man’s patience ran out. Happy Father’s Day. What could I do? This was his house, his kingdom on earth, and so long as I lived in his house, I’d live by his rules. So help me. He wrote the rules himself, in his own hand, on a tablet of yellow paper, then posted them on the door of the Harvest Gold Frigidaire:

    Rule number 1: I make the rules.
    Rule number 2: If you get any big ideas, refer to rule number 1.
    Rule number 3: You will not sign my name to checks.
    Rule number 4: You will remember trash day.
    Rule number 5: You will do your own laundry.
    Rule number 6: You will keep your grubby paws off my tools.
    Rule number 7: You will not steal gas from my truck.
    Rule number 8: You will have no parties in my house.
    Rule number 9: You will not commit adultery in my house.
    Rule number 10: You will not make up lies, excuses, or ridiculous stories.

    July came on worse than ever. The TV weatherman out of Terre Haute, the young one with the pouty lips and the freakish white hair—a meteorological Truman Capote—was blaming it on the advent of what he called El Niño. This El Niño was supposed to rupture weather patterns all over the world. There was talk of droughts, of floods, of tempests—even a new Ice Age.
    This El Niño mumbo jumbo got the impressionable souls of Bethlehem all worked up about Apocalypse. End Times. Judgment Day. They got real excited about it, even started looking forward to it. Some actually prayed for it. They’d get right down on the rug and flop and jerk, foaming at the mouth, babbling in strange tongues. Maranatha! People would tumble out of church and into the street, with eyes glazed over and pits pouring sweat, shouting, “He’s coming! He’s coming!”
    Saturday night, I crept into the house like a thief, carefully lugging a red Igloo flip-top cooler. Half a twelve pack of Stroh’s bottles sloshed and clunked around in the melting ice as I tiptoed down the hall and into the bathroom. The other bathroom door led into the Old Man’s bedroom, and I had to piss sitting down so as not to make enough noise to wake him.
    He worked at a candy factory over in Jerusalem, the county seat. I’d been inside that factory, seen its polished brass and its stained glass windows, the whole place so clean and neat you could literally eat off the floors. I’d seen the Old Man in his white paper hat, laboring over a big copper kettle, making toffee and nougat bars that people bought and ate all over the world. Think of the cavities! He was putting in six-day weeks, laying up inventory for the holidays. Halloween. Thanksgiving. Christmas. VD. If I woke him up now, I’d catch seven kinds of salty hell.
    I eased myself into my bedroom, closed the door, and slipped between the sheets, head spinning in the tomblike darkness. The last thing I heard was the Old Man’s snoring. The sleep of the just.
    I woke up Sunday afternoon with the sun coming through a slit in the window blind, pounding a headache into my hung over eyeballs. Afternoon. The Old Man would be getting off soon, punching the clock, cranking up his old Chevy truck and coming down the road toward home. I promised him three weeks ago, two weeks ago, one week ago that I’d paint the eaves and soffits of the house. Since I had nothing better to do. Best not to be here when he got home.
    I lay in bed sweating, feeling the onrush of my coming manhood, toying with the idea of popping a stitch in Madeleine’s pants under a persimmon tree. Then it hit me—she’d be at church today, needing a ride. I yanked myself out from between the sheets and shot through the door and down the hall to the kitchen, dissipating in the oily heat. The Old Man didn’t believe in air conditioning. “Suffering is good for the soul.”
    I stopped dead in my tracks, staring at the Harvest Gold Frigidaire in slack-jawed disbelief. The Old Man had wrapped a chain around the door and padlocked it. Taped to the chain was a piece of yellow note paper. The Old Man’s handwriting. The eleventh commandment. “You will not park your feet under my table for the rest of your life.” Fuck me.
    The freezer door was unlocked. Nothing in there but trays of ice cubes. I fetched the cooler from my bedroom and went back to the kitchen. I dumped the water—along with six detached, soggy labels—into the sink. I repacked the naked brown bottles in ice and dumped the empty trays into the sink along with the labels.
    The Old Man would be darkening the doorway any minute. Time to get out. Go Somewhere. Do Something. Lock the front door behind me. Put the key under the mat. Put the Igloo in the trunk of the Roadrunner. Put my ass in the driver’s seat. Hit the switch. Relish the fruits of my labor and Jobie’s genius. Jobie put no faith in the HEI distributor, called it a tow job waiting to happen. But that was Jobie. Worry, worry, worry.
    I felt a hot wind on my shoulder, blowing through the driver’s side window. Cruising east, through Bethlehem, toward the river. Just me and the Bird. Clutch. First. Clutch. Second. Clutch. Red light. The corner of Jerusalem Avenue and Main street. The only stoplight in town. Two blocks yonder, the town dipped, as from the top of a hill, sloping down toward the river bottoms and Gethsemane Park.
    Idle, one ear cocked to the sweet bloop-blop, bloop-blop of the 383 humping the motor mounts, rattling the stained glass windows of the Jerusalem Avenue Church of the Risen Christ. Molecules and octanes, squeezed together, tighter and tighter, hotter and hotter, set off by a spark, igniting the guts of the Mopar. 400 shaft horses detonating at 13 degrees before top dead center. Going nowhere.
    On the front lawn of the church, a skinny girl with straight blond hair bending over, picking up the trash after a Save Our Schools! bake sale, all legs and no ass. Cupcakes with pink frosting, jelly rolls, cream horns, lemon chiffons. Cutoff jeans and no panties. Hope and Faith, but no Charity. Madeleine.
    The stoplight turned green. I goosed the Mopar. Once. Twice. Three times. Finally, Madeleine stood up, looking in my direction, one hand full of butter cream frosted paper, the other pulling the yellow hair away from her face. No wave, no “hi,” just a pink bubblegum pout and cold blue eyes.
    “Hey, Honey!” I hollered. “Wanna candy my apple? Chiffon my lemon? Jelly my roll?”
    Madeleine turned and walked in through the door of the church, thoughtlessly pulling her shorts out of her ass crack.
    “Slut!” The light turned red. I mashed the accelerator and dumped the clutch, Dana Supertraking two side-by-side strips of smoking rubber and road oil. Burnt offerings to Charles Goodyear, Saint Vulcan of the Bias Ply. No one was watching. I did it just for the hell of it, the sheer joy of riding 400 unbridled horses. One solitary, red-hot Rod torquing its own lugnuts all the way across Main street and halfway down the next block. Paradise for one. Funsville, USA.
    Point made. I eased off the Go pedal and the thunder died away, leaving a cloud of blue tire smoke fleeing the scene ahead of a feverish summer wind. Under control now, the Roadrunner glided down the hill, a bird of prey soaring lazily toward Gethsemane Park and the river. I turned onto a gravel service road that led around the village water tower to the Viaduct, a railroad bridge, that stretched east over the river to Indiana. I pulled onto a sandy patch of ground on top of a little bluff overlooking the river, then parked in the shade of a tall persimmon tree. I killed the engine and silence descended like a dove. Peace, quiet, and a breeze. Time passing like a river. Beer:30.
    Out of the car and into the trunk. I grabbed a bottle from the cooler. Even the ice felt warm. Someone had driven 20-penny nails into the trunk of the persimmon tree, to give it more iron, in hopes that it would bear more fruit. Superstitious. I knocked three times, to summon the Devil, in hopes of making a deal. No answer.
    I jammed the cap of the beer bottle under the head of a nail and popped it off. I walked a ways out onto the Viaduct, drinking thoughtfully, sweating like a whore in church. There was enough shade coming off the trees along the bank that I could stand over the water without being in the sun. The bridge was an all-iron affair, painted silver, with streaks of rust beginning to show. A monument to the faded glories of the Industrial Revolution.
    Over my shoulder, I caught sight of a sandhill crane that came swooping downstream, against the wind, dropping toward the water. Heathen Indians believed that cranes carried messages from Heaven. This one was probably after a carp. It disappeared around a bend in the river.
    I took a leak over the side, watching a reflection of myself pouring water into water. The river took whatever I and I and the cornfields and little towns had to offer it and just kept right on going, in the same old direction and at the same old rate, past the same old places. World without end. Hallelujah! I smelled hot grease and cornbread. I heard a voice.
    “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”
    I knew that voice. It came from downstream, around the bend. I doubled back along the Viaduct and made my way down the bank, toward the voice. I stumbled once, when the clump of pig weed I was holding onto broke loose, but I made it down to a sand bar without spilling my beer. The voice cried out again.
    “He who would be reborn, must first die the Death!”
    I rounded the bend, and there was Brother Chris, preaching an old-fashioned baptism revival. The shine of superstardom had tarnished and flaked off like dandruff. A bald spot had eroded into the center of the missionary mullet, leaving a ring of sun-bleached, spiky locks circling the pate like a crown. Tied in the back, a Nazareth Hair-of-the-Dog ponytail dangled down to the crack of his ass. The Prodigal Son of a Bitch Returned. The very picture.
    I saw a picnic table all laid out for the traditional post-dunk fish fry. The Feast of Covered Dishes. I peeked under some of the lids. Homemade noodles and oyster dressings. String bean casseroles. Cucumber-onion salads and cheesy potatoes. Pork roasts and persimmon puddings. An iron kettle over a wood fire, frying up catfish fillets as big as my fist. Pitchers of sweet tea and sassafras tea and cherry Kool-Aid.
    A line of sweaty, penitent rednecks, male and female, snaked down the beach and into the water, waiting in the shallows for their turn. Some in cutoff jeans and T-shirts. Some in bathing suits, wrapped in old bed sheets. A few with their heads shaved. At the end of the line—Chris, preaching and baptizing to beat the band.
    I opened my arms in salutation. “Behold the Homo!” I said.
    Chris had his hands full with Big Martha. Little Martha died when we were in high school, a do-it-yourself 12-gauge abortion. Afterward, Big Martha became a regular fixture at these revival rinse-and-repent sheep dips. The ghost of a mother, doomed to wander from one salvation to the next, a prisoner of conscience. Bless her, Brother, for she has sinned. A truly compassionate savior might simply hold her under and put her out of her misery, but that kind of mercy doesn’t sit well with the front pew.
    Big Martha came up blissfully and Chris wiped away the last of her transgressions with a dirty towel. Then he gave her a gentle shove down the Straight and Narrow, back to the land of promises and cucumber salad. Hallelujah! She waddled past me, a wet throbbing sound, a slow, metrical swish-swash, her face contorted into a cruel mask of hope. Poor Martha.
    Chris took one glance in my direction and said nothing. Another soul went under.
    “What’s the matter?” I said. “Don’t you know me?”
    “I know thee to be a sinner.”
    “Me? Me?”
    “Come and receive the gift of Life.”
    “I can’t swim.”
    “It’s only waist deep.”
    “You can drown in three feet of water.”
    “Or in a bottle.”
    “Lot you know!”
    I turned to address the crowd. “Hear me, you generation of nose wipers! When yonder river has dried up and blowed away, on that day shall ye see me give up the Stroh’s!” I turned back and winged the bottle over Chris’s head. It hit the water with an empty slap, then drifted downstream along with everything else.
    Nobody laughed. They just stood there, three dozen or so sticks in the mud, chafing impatiently, glaring at me like the world was going to end in five minutes and they were missing the Pony Express to Heaven on account of me.
    To hell with them. If they wanted to waste a perfectly good Sunday afternoon slogging around the bottoms in 98-degree heat, getting river rash and listening to a had-been visionary blather on about the wages of sin, it was no skin off my ass. I snitched a waxed-paper brick of Rice Krispies squares from the picnic table and trudged back up the bank.
    The baking disk of the sun began to dip itself into a wine-dark sea of clouds. I saw the village water tower, a monument to the Golden Age of Eisenhower, ablaze in the glory of the twilight’s last gleaming. Let the churchies inherit the beach. I would climb above them, through the purple haze, and kiss the sky.
    The congregation started singing behind my back, “The Wheat and the Chaff,” and some rectified prick flung a wad of fertile grey river mud past my left ear. It hit the trunk of a sycamore tree with a wet slap. I ignored it. I had bigger fish to fry.
    Back to the Roadrunner. I hauled the Igloo out of the trunk and set off down a shortcut through the woods to the water tower. The heat of the day had driven the mosquitoes into their hiding places, so that was a mercy, anyhow. The cicadas started up their infernal buzz-saw racket, drowning out the caterwauling of the Baptists in my rear.
    The water tower stood on four skinny iron legs, with one thick vertical column extending from the underbelly of the main tank downward until it sank into the ground. A spiral staircase wound around the center column, up to an iron catwalk that encircled the whole tank. I screwed up my courage and mounted the stairs.
    One step at a time. Don’t look up. Don’t look down. Left. Right. Onward and upward, Christian Soldier. I reached the iron catwalk, nosebleed high and out of breath. I thumped the cooler against the side of the huge water tank, and I heard a nice ringing sound, answered by a deep, hollow tone from below.
    From up here, looking east over the Wabash, I could see the towering spire of the Damascus Baptist Seminary school shining blood-red in the light of the early sunset. I grabbed a beer from the cooler and walked around the other side. I watched the sun going down behind Jerusalem, seven miles to the west.
    Outside Jerusalem, the gas tower of the Imperial Oil company refinery jetted more heat and haze into the summer sky, immune to the protests and pickets of Greenpeace. Imperial employed half the county. Unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.
    South of Jerusalem, the hamlet of Cana, birthplace of the sainted mother. All the towns around here had biblical names. Hebron. Cana. Galilee. Jericho. The French adventurer and real estate speculator Jean LaMotte named this valley “Palestine,” because, he said, it was a land of milk and honey. He lied, but the biblical theme stuck.
    I peeked over the railing looking for milk and honey, but my head started spinning so badly I had to turn, fast, and look at something else. A stack of metal cans, green and black paint. Brushes, rollers, scrapers, sanders, wire brushes. A bottle of whiskey. A maintenance crew had been up here, scraping away the rust and painting the water tower. They had got as far as the “BE” in “BETHLEHEM” before they knocked off for the weekend.
    I finished my beer and found a screwdriver. I popped the lid off a bucket of black paint and went to work. This was the good paint, oil-based enamel, the kind of paint that lasts a lifetime. The oil penetrates the surface of the metal, like a root system, binding the pigment to the steel. The enamel hardens into a shiny, durable, plastic coating, shielding the metal from time and the elements. The quality was in. The name was going on.
    It took another bucket of paint and four more beers to turn “BE” into “BEER HEAVEN.” By the time I finished, the sun was long down, and I was painting by the glow of the Bethlehem city street lamps beneath me. Hungry, I unwrapped the wax-paper brick and found cornbread instead. I stepped back to admire my handiwork, and toppled over the railing.
    For a split second, I felt myself falling, the world spinning away into an inky black hole. Then, a miracle. I was lifted up by a band of angels and dumped back onto the steel mesh of the catwalk. Saved. Hallelujah! The spinning continued, so I closed my eyes, waiting for it to stop.
    When I opened my eyes, it seemed much later. I felt damp with morning dew. I rose to my feet, hungry, thirsty, alive. To the west, the gas tower of the refinery blazed fierce and orange. I looked out over the wider world, over the farmhouses and utility buildings and little hamlets. I saw pole light after pole light, stretching away for miles in every direction, some alone and some in clusters and some in galaxies, until they reached the horizon and kept on going, on up into the sky, one continuous and unending universe of lights.
    A silvery twilight glimmered over the eastern horizon. I wanted to live. I wanted to set off monster explosions. I wanted to rule empires. I wanted teenaged atomic cheerleader sluts to rub persimmon pudding all over my body. I wanted another beer.
    Down below, a cock crowed. Once. Twice. Three times. It was morning in America.

About Thomas Horan

    Thomas Horan is a writer and photographer living in Saint Louis, Missouri. He has earned degrees in both English Literature and Creative Writing from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and is currently pursuing his MFA in Creative Writing at Lindenwood University in Saint Charles, Missouri. His work has received several awards, including the 2005 James Jones Award for Short Fiction for his story, “Ivy.”

Bellevue Meydenbauer Bridge Park, oil on canvas by Brian Forrest

Bellevue Meydenbauer Bridge Park, oil on canvas by Brian Forrest


Melissa Kosciuszko

first published with Foliate Oak Literary Magazine

    They say signs are everywhere. They are. And I’m not talking about signs from God, or psychic intuition, or even your wife’s mixed signals. Some of the best signs are real—clearly readable. They are made of paper and cardboard and plastic, neatly printed in marker, typed in word, or printed on a press.
    There is a cigar store not far from my house from which my husband occasionally buys a Fuente. I cannot stand the smell of smoke, so I always wait in the car. Usually, I read or write or fiddle with my phone for a few minutes, but one time I glanced, bored, out the windshield to the front door of the cigar store. The obligatory “No shirt, No shoes, No service” was, apparently, not good enough for this particular business owner.

    Proper Dress Required:
    No backwards or sideways caps
    No low riding pants
    No wife beater shirts

    Now, I don’t personally mind a backwards cap or one of those cheap tank tops, if the man be worth looking at. I suppose I like it so much because it is not politically correct—and the business owner doesn’t care. Freedom of speech, freedom to have your own opinion, is still alive and well in America.
    My favorite sign, though, was not made by a professional or even printed on a computer. The medium was a torn-off cardboard box flap and Sharpie, and it was probably as high class as this guy could hope.
    To get home from work, we take 295 to the Highway 17 exit, which is on the border of Jacksonville and Orange Park. This particular corner is a favorite spot for down and out people to stand with their “Will work for food” signs. This one guy, though, was honest.

    Y lie
    I need a beer

    It was printed in neat, clear letters. He was an accomplished drunk—he could still write straight even while inebriated, and he was definitely toasted. We had to give the guy a buck simply for the honesty.
    Yeah, I know, maybe this essay of mine is not politically correct. Maybe it’s not sensitive. Maybe I’m a bitch for writing my views. But as the bumper sticker said, “Well-behaved women rarely make history.”

The Little Green Pail

Bob Rashkow

    He entered the park at Greenview and Lill. It was a beautiful Indian Summer evening in Chicago, hardly a cloud visible, and he had time he needed to kill. As he walked around the sandbox, a vicious-looking dog yelped at him and he was momentarily distracted, but he continued to an empty bench, feeling already suspect. This bench was a good spot to sit and nurse his large Diet Coke from Mr. Sub. It faced part of the playground, and he could easily view the “action”—pretty much whatever came his way or presented itself. He sat down and gently placed the paper cup next to him. “Well, here it is: the Real America,” he thought, amused, to himself. “America in action. The true movers and shakers; the people you won’t see on Inside Edition or any of those shows......” It was a fairly upscale neighborhood, of this he was all too aware, and he was also quite aware of the potential danger his very existence caused: a 55-year-old man, bald, overweight, somewhat effeminate and cautious in his movements, all alone just sitting there. Just sitting there, observing the everyday antics of the stay-at-home dads and moms, their little charges skedaddling around the playground. There was even a Latino “nanny” squiring 2 white children around while she spoke, in Spanish, on a cell phone. It would have been difficult for him to believe that the silent, seemingly well-behaved little kids in the stroller were actually her own. Privilege has its privileges, he thought.
    But he had done enough walking for the day; he needed a rest, at least until he would get up again and walk two blocks over to the independent theatre he volunteered for. At 7 PM, they were screening “Five Easy Pieces,” an old but critically acclaimed thinking person’s film with Jack Nicholson as the freeloading, despairing protagonist. He’d seen it plenty of times before, but it was free for him as a volunteer and it was hard for him to resist Nicholson’s bravura performance, let alone the brilliant and intense workings of the script, the way it reflected so boldly the stark divisions in the country then, as opposed to the vague, blurry ones in the country now.
    In a way, he felt like Nicholson’s “Bobby Dupea” character. During the latter part of the film, Nicholson as Bobby travels to his boyhood home, his sister having informed him that their father is possibly dying. His reputation precedes him, though, and he is completely out of his element there, having long ago rejected the values and extremely high expectations of his upbringing. Now, here too, sitting alone in this quiet park with only the sounds of barking dogs or yelling children (or, every once in a while, a cell phone’s ringtone), he imagined that somehow he too was out of place—no dog, no kid or kids, just a huge cup of carbonated beverage for company. Totally suspicious, especially in the current atmosphere of fear and hostility.
    He didn’t care—not really; he was determined to stick it out. Time would cooperate, time would flow on; at 6, he could start making his way back. He had a movie he wanted to borrow, too.
    One after another, small children came and went. Usually, they were presently joined by an alert parent. A few of the men were wearing business outfits, but most just wore play clothes; the women wore basically designer slacks and blouses and kept their purses right where they could see them. Oh, this was a no-nonsense part of Chicago, all right: these people had been warned about the lower, dangerous elements; they’d been warned about the hungry, needful poor, about homosexual men lurking around looking for little boys whose lives they might ruin, about all kinds of terrorists, both international—and local.
    His imagination began to carry him away. Even on a few of the men’s and women’s faces, he could just begin to read a sort of pre-flight anxiety. Oh, yes, we’re going to go on the swings for awhile, we’re going to slide down the slide and climb up into the castle, but soon we’ll be going home. Home, safe, lock the door behind us where no one can come in and destroy our tranquil, upper-class, privileged life. It didn’t surprise him anymore, although it still startled him a little. He had witnessed this kind of thing going on throughout Chicago, throughout its vast array of suburbs, for some years now. It was the “kind of thing” most didn’t pay much attention to, because “most” were too busy living out their everyday lives and dealing with ordinary problems as they approached.
    He was approached by a little boy—at least he thought it was a boy—of about two or so, holding up a green sandbox pail with a little curlicue design around the rim. “Eee?” asked the tiny stranger. “Hi,” he replied to the child. The child came a couple of steps closer, clutching the green pail as if it were a trophy, and uttered another sound trying to communicate. He smiled at the boy, said, “Got your pail, huh?” The kid seemed completely enraptured and continued to look wonderingly at him. Then he randomly pointed—it was an honest guess—at a shapely woman of maybe 30 or so sitting on the bench closest to the sandbox. “Is that Mommy?”
    The child suddenly broke away and ran in the opposite direction, toward the north end of the park where there was more playground equipment, crying and yelling for his mother.
    Oh, good job, he told himself bitterly. You really scared that one off. He sighed, looked around; the whole little encounter had, indeed, gone completely unnoticed by any of the other kids. None of the parents, either, seemed to be aware of what had just transpired between the strange old bird and this poor, innocent, little guy of two or three. He noticed, though, that the child had dropped his little green pail in his haste to relocate his parent or parents, had left it lying upside down right in the middle of the little walkway. Wasn’t one of the parents going to notice this? He froze for a few seconds, anticipating an angry father or mother returning to confront him and direct him to leave the premises. This didn’t happen; the activity in the park continued, just as it was before.
    But what about the pail? Now an older boy, of about 5 or 6, grabbed it up from its place in the walkway and proceeded to carry it back to the sandbox, where for as long as his attention span would allow, he dug up treasures. It occurred to him that maybe it wasn’t that little boy’s pail to begin with. Maybe it was a pail that the Park District provides for the sandbox—there were, after all, several large and smaller containers inside the sandbox at any given time. So: maybe he shouldn’t be so concerned about the little boy losing the little green pail. Still, his concern continued. If the kid comes back looking for that pail—he decided he’d just have to monitor the pail’s progress, it was the least he could do to make up for scaring the poor little boy off like that. He watched as the older boy in the sandbox continued to use the pail a few minutes longer—he watched as a happy little girl wearing a party dress became the pail’s next “owner” and merrily brought it, skipping, over to the slide and monkey bars, where she promptly forgot it was there and left it sitting right side up, directly in front of his vision. Ahh! Now he could see it plainly and would be ready, willing, and able to report to that poor little guy, that his pail was not lost—that all was not yet lost.
    By now, though, he couldn’t help thinking that it probably didn’t belong to the child; and by now, he was reasonably certain that the child and his guardian had left the park.
    It didn’t matter; he continued to keep a close watch on the little pail.
    He was absolutely set on watching the pail until he got up from the bench at six, and in any case, it gave him something to focus his attention on, just as the impending film with Nicholson would give him something to escape into.
    A conversation taking place between two adult men—something vaguely political or vaguely business-related or vaguely media-related or vaguely relationship-related, or vaguely related to The Things Upper-Class Adult Men Tend To Prefer To Talk About, distracted him for a few seconds, and he turned around.
    When he turned back, the little green pail was gone.
    Holy smokes, he thought. Just like that! Another kid must have grabbed it while I wasn’t looking.
    For a moment, he felt like he was back in kindergarten, trying desperately to reclaim his little block of wood, when one of the other children had innocently yanked it away from him because he wouldn’t share it.
    Then, he was back to his version of reality; it was just about six and time to vacate the park. He walked out in the same direction he’d come in, glancing around as if to spot the little pail—as if to reclaim it for himself, if not for that precious little child. As he passed around the sandbox again, he was pretty sure he saw it—at least a replica of it; a green pail of more or less the same size and dimension lay on its side in the sand, a pail with curlicues along the rim. Yes—that must be the same one, he reassured himself. But there just wasn’t enough evidence to be absolutely, undoubtedly sure.

Bob Rashkow reading his short story
the Little Green Pail
from the April 2011 issue (v219) of cc&d magazine (which is also available as a 6" x 9" ISBN# book Falling Into Place
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read live 04/05/11, live at the Café in Chicago

Lonely Street, art by Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz

Lonely Street, art by Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz

Gateway Drug

Kyle Garret

    I am a guided missile without the guidance.
    I’ve never been to this doctor before. The only thing I know about him is that he accepts my insurance and that his office is less than ten miles from my apartment. Unfortunately, each of those miles is shadier than the next. By the time I get there, I’m beginning to question the validity of my new doctor’s qualifications, not to mention the quality of my insurance company.
    His office is in an old brown building. There’s no sign on it anywhere that would indicate a doctor resides there, at least none that I can see from my car. Mathematical deduction is the only reason I even find the place; this has to be his office because the building after his has an address that is two numbers higher.
    I park and get out of my car, making sure to hit the “lock” button on my car keys. I hear the car honk and I’m suddenly very thankful for technology. Then again, I’ll draw little comfort that my car is safe if I’m beaten to death inside this building.
    And then I see the sign.
    The sign is a piece of notebook paper with “Dr. Daley” written on it in blue pen. It is taped to the front door of what I’m assuming is his office. If my wrists weren’t actually throbbing as I stood there, I would have turned around. But beggars can’t be choosers and apparently I’ve turned into a beggar. I suppose every girl I’ve ever slept with would attest to that.
    When I enter I immediately notice two things: two attractive young women who appear to be medical assistants and a framed picture of who I am assuming is Dr. Daley. The assistants are nice to see; the picture is less so. The photo is a pastel looking shot of a middle aged man in a shirt, tie, and cardigan sweater. He’s wearing those black, horn rimmed glasses – the kind they used to wear in the 50’s and 60’s. And in the picture he appears to be about fifty years old. Those pesky math skills quickly alert me to the fact that this man could be over a hundred.
    “Are you here to see Dr. Daley?” says one of the assistants, no doubt picking up on my look of complete bewilderment.
    “Uh, yeah, I have an appointment,” I say.
    “Okay, just sign in for us here,” she says as she points to the sign-in sheet with one hand and grabs a clipboard with the other, “and fill this out for us. You can sit over there.” She points towards the opposite side of the room.
    Suddenly I notice that there are, in fact, chairs in this room. I hadn’t noticed them before because there’s no one sitting in them. I’m the only patient.
    I put my name on the sign-in sheet and sit down, wondering how long I could possibly have to wait since I’m apparently the only one here. In fact, the medical staff outnumbers the patients in this scenario, something that really can’t be good for business. Then again, maybe Dr. Daley gets a lot of wealthy divorcees who have been coming to him for decades. Judging by the neighborhood, I tend to doubt it.
    I fill out all the paperwork that’s required of me and hand it back to the assistant. She smiles and thanks me and goes back to talking to the other assistant. I’m beginning to wonder how many assistants this guy could possibly need considering his average number of patients.
    The door to what I assume is the examination room opens and all of my questions are answered.
    Slowly – oh, so slowly – walks out Dr. Daley. If he’s a day under one-hundred and fifty I’d be surprised and it dawns on me that perhaps he’s some kind of medical miracle in his own right, and that’s why he’s still practicing: healing magic through osmosis.
    He doesn’t see me as he heads towards the main desk. One assistant scurries up to him with a folder containing all of my information as the other one heads back into the exam room. Maybe the assistants will actually examine me. Maybe Dr. Daley is just here to put his stamp of approval on the HMO forms.
    The assistant with Dr. Daley points in my direction and he turns to face me. He smiles and begins to lumber in my general direction, much like a mummy or a zombie who’s just noticed how so very tasty my brains are. I have to resist the urge to scan the room for something to decapitate him with.
    “I’m Dr. Daley,” he says in that old man voice, and you know exactly what I’m talking about. He holds out a quivering hand to me, undead body language for wanting to shake. I grab his hand as weakly as possible and we do a quick up/down motion before I let go. Depending upon which movie this is and whether or not he’s a mummy or a zombie, he could suck my life force away with just a touch, so it’s best not to take any chances.
    He sticks his hand out as if to indicate that he’d like me to head in the direction of the exam room, as if he wants me to go in ahead of him. My ADD and entire lack of manners would have made this happen, anyway, as there’s no way in hell I could have handled walking behind him at half an inch per minute. So I eagerly walk past, fully aware that this could be the part where I fall into the secret undead death trap.
    Everything happens in slow motion. Dr. Daley asks me my symptoms, I tell him. He gives me what most folks would call “practical advice,” in this case holding my arms under cold water for forty-five minutes every night. This is all well and good and within the bounds of what I was expecting. I wait for him to prescribe me some industrial strength painkillers.
    And then it happens.
    “Jarred,” says Dr. Daley as his assistant suddenly appears standing beside me, “with your permission we’d like to include you in our prayers.”
    Okay, so that’s a little unorthodox (or very, depending upon your definition of the word), but I figure that’s fine. If this elderly man wants to say a little something to god for me tonight before he goes to bed, then so be it. I imagine I could use all the help I can get.
    But no.
    “Sure,” I say.
    And no sooner is the word out of my mouth than do he and his assistant each grab one of my hands while simultaneously grabbing each other’s hand – in essence forming a circle of three. They then proceed to put their heads down and close their eyes.
    There is no praying for Jarred tonight. There will be praying for Jarred right the hell now.
    “Our Lord Jesus, through whom all things are possible,” he says and my head is almost as not down as my eyes are not closed. It’s like I’m in another world, a crazy world where insurance companies direct you to faith healers.
    “Please help our brother Jarred, who in these trying times needs your guidance.”
    There’s an implication in there somewhere. I know there is.
    “If you could ease his pain, Lord, make his wrists feel better.”
    I once saw a stripper put her legs behind her head while felating a cucumber. I’m more stunned now than I was then.
    “We are your humble servants, Lord. In Jesus’ name we pray.”
    I’m trying not to laugh. I’m trying with every ounce of strength that I have and I am not a strong man, physically or mentally. And I feel like a total shit for finding any of this funny at all.
    There’s thirty second of silence and they both open their eyes and look up at me. “Amen,” he says.
    “Amen,” I say. I’m going to hell now.
    I give Dr. Daley and his assistants the most sincere sounding “thank you’s” I can muster and make my way for the door. I try not to look like I’m fleeing, although I do look back to make sure they’re not following me.
    When I get outside my car is still there. I pull my pack of Camel Wide Lights out of my pocket. I light up. I had assumed I’d be going to the pharmacy after this, that I would then go home and vegetate on federally regulated opiates. Instead I’m left with Jesus.
    I’m a little worried; I’ve heard he’s a gateway drug.

La Troff: The Famous Revolving Restaurant

Wes Heine

    The La Troff is always open. All well-established species are feasting there on the windy tower of night. Anything that is anything, makes an appearance before it becomes something else. Friends may come and go, but the party never ends. It is a never-ending parade of consumption streaming out of UN-blinking faces eating each other as they wait in line. Swallowing tails and birthing mouths, vast beings too large to see excrete new variations of mutated children who are eaten by lower life forms lurking under the silk tablecloths.
    The fountain in the center of this famous bistro spurts branches of frozen ectoplasm, jets of veins and nerves, which bloom ever so slowly. Here family trees are food chains that sway in slow motion like florescent seaweed against the galaxies.
    Golden pools of greasy birth-broth shimmer under dripping wax chandeliers, as hyper-shifting amphibians mutate before your eyes in bisques of cess. Tables are flat petrified mushrooms covered by the silk spun from the webs of sea spiders. Drinks are dispensed from specially bred mollusk/cows called Semelians with long wrinkled nipples streaming across tables like hoses of a hookah.
    The La Troff goes round and round as the florescent lights fade in and out: Patrons shifting through shadows, their eyes growing cold, blue, and blind as lampreys sucking on a host as they sleep. This lazy motionless circle of species eat each other’s excrement from the dilating shoots of fleshy wormholes and birth canals. Every lunar month the same piece of fecal fiber passes through this perfect ring of sustenance, which is nourished primarily on what little meat is rubbed off the intestines by the hard recycled fecal fibers passing through like strands of steel-wool processed into a fine golden gristle... always cutting, scrapping, feeding their insides to themselves, turning inside out and back again... This perpetual cannibalistic, described by a restaurant critic as, “One organism in an act of suicidal masturbation.”
    The Wurm is the proprietor of The La Troff, and many rumors about his background silently ricochet back and forth in the telepathic haze of the restaurant. Many believe that the Wurm was spawned by a space serpent, one of the Andromeda Galaxy’s blue spiral arms, who smoked anti-matter and exhaled neon nebula gasses where he and the rest of the Wurm’s larval brethren congealed in the distillery of their plasma-star mother.
    His mother was that hole in space, a burnt-out white draft, a ghost gasping out her last wisp of light with the gift of life. The Wurm was part of her final batch of children to be coughed out into the corners of all eternity like baby spiders riding the galactic tides... soaring on kite-string made from the web of their dried larval birth tissue.
    Though the origin of the Wurm himself was left to speculation, how the Wurm came to be the owner and Patron Saint of the La Troff was well known. The story is from the bygone days when information was still processed in linear time: Before the restaurant sat with its eyes in the back of its head, consuming endlessly in the dark pit of never. Here is the story distilled down into the dimension occupied by humanity:

    The Maitre’ De at the La Troff nervously twisted his handlebar mustache between his thumb and index finger as if to sharpen the ends for battle.
    The Wurm was back... He was supposed to be barred from the five-star restaurant for life. The La Troff sat on the top floor of the Mucron Building where it elegantly rotated in the sky above Liberty City... But now the Wurm was waddling in... He thought, “That two-bit doorman must have been bribed.”
    “Just how am I going to get the Wurm to leave without making a scene?” the Maitre’ De mumbled. He let go of his mustache, which by now was crooked and sizzled giving off the smell of burnt shoe-polish. “This will be a most delicate situation.”
    The Wurm could well afford the cuisine, but he always cost the restaurant triple when they lost customers. The appearance of the Wurm was incredibly foil. His rolls of fat hung from his chin and disappeared into his suit like a segmented worm, hence the name, which he proudly bore.
    The Wurm had very pale skin and pig freckles. His pasty complexion was contrasted sharply by his thick, greasy, jet-black hair, which was slicked back by his own gummy sweat. But by the time he was halfway across the dinning room the central-air of the La Troff was drying the Wurm’s hair creating cowlicks that popped up like raven feathers.
    The grease from his scalp had dripped down his brow and created purple acne and a custom made skin-disease that looked like sprinkled powered cheese. And this was just in the places that the Wurm was actually able to reach and wash.
    The Wurm jostled his massive frame between patrons and sat himself at the center table overlooking the fountain.
    Ms. Triver, a regular patron, was visibly upset. The Wurm had accidentally tipped her chair as he passed and her face was pushed into her oily plate of Goat Cheese Salad. Ms. Triver had what was jokingly referred to as Success Tremors, a condition common among work-aholics.
    She didn’t need the additional stress. Ms. Triver desperately averted her eyes from the Wurm as she buried her nose in her purse looking for a handkerchief and talking into her cell-phone with no one on the other end.
    The Wurm spotted a basket of bread rolls in the center of the table and instantly began to salivate, the drool dripping down his suit. His solid black cartoon eyes spun in wild anticipation. Then he reached out a chubby hand, which the rolls stuck to like flies to wax-paper.
    He flicked the rolls into his mouth one by one like popping so many tic-tacs. He loved such fine cuisine, even though he was known to place a Big Mac into a blender and chug it down for breakfast. He rarely slowed to actually taste the fine La Troff portions, but merely enjoyed how well they digested in his overworked gut and sifted into his bloodstream like fine gold dust.
    The Wurm always sweated when he ate. This created a web-like-shell around his body that protected him as he ingested. Watching the Wurm eat was like watching a giant larva spin a great greasy cocoon.
    The Wurm carried a cloud of many undifferentiated odors with him. This is due to the fact he was too large to wash most areas of his body. He could not reach his anus with any of the specially designed back-brushes that he had ordered. Thus, his entire backside had become an intricate crevasse of flaps and curves made of dirty, raw, and rotten flesh where stalagmites of petrified dung hung speckled with ripening zits on infected sores. All this hardened compost clung to him like cement between his thighs weathering down his genitals leaving them to bleed as he walked.
    The Wurm labored and moaned over his consumption of the rolls. His innards churned with the wharfing chemistry of turning what he had in-hailed into feces.
    The Wurm, just like his namesake, had to constantly eat to move. He would sift through the world harvesting nutrients with a constant flow of dirt running through his intestines, which he shot out his anus like jet propulsion into adult diapers that hung and swayed like a sail pushing him forward. When full the Wurm would randomly empty his vast excretion-canopy as if he were a drifting hot-air-balloon dropping off ballast from his basket to float onto further taste-bud stimuli.
    What appeared to be a dab of mayonnaise was caught in the corner of The Wurm’s mouth. A gray tongue crawled out and scooped up the gelatinous white morsel. The Wurm smacked his gums as he chewed, and then began to blow a large bubble out between his lips with blue veins expanding across the it’s white surface.
    Everyone in The La Troff was transfixed with horror, but couldn’t look away. They were mortified as the bubble suddenly popped and imploded back into the Wurm’s mouth where he gnawed it like cud.
    The loud pop had seemed to free most of the La Troff’s patrons from their hypnotized gaze. They scurried to the door tipping over tables and throwing cash in the air like confetti.
    The Maitre’ De tried to block them, flaying his arms about pleading, “Do not leave! I will deal with this matter!” But he was overrun by the crowd, and fell into Ms. Triver’s Goat Cheese Salad.
    After being overrun by the rush of disgust, the Maitre’ De picked himself up, snapped his fingers sassily, and began to march his way toward the Wurm swishing and swaying his hips with attitude.
    “Monsieur! You have been barred from this res-tau-rant! I must ask you to leave at once before you cost us anymore bus-i-ness!”
    The Wurm didn’t look up from his meticulous consumption of the condiments on the table, and merely reached into his jacket pocket pulling out a long piece of paper. “As of this morning,” began the Wurm still chewing on peppercorns and ketch-sup, “I own the La Troff.”
    The Matrdee’s limp hand spun circles back to his brow from the shock of realizing that the deed was authentic.
    “And if we run out of business,” the Wurm said grinning, “the entire staff will become part of my personal kitchen at my estate. The cooks at the La Troff make the finest cuisine!”
    The Maitre’ De snapped his fingers. All the waiters assembled at his side, their arms folded behind their backs and their eyes pointing to their shoes.
    “What is your wish monsieur?” The Maitre’ De smartly added.
    The Wurm’s chubby face segmented with pleasure. “I’ll have the number four special... and multiply it with the number ten to create some a kind of seafood casserole... Then deep-fry the whole damn thing into a giant lollipop!”
    “Very good sir.”
    The Maitre’ De gracefully skipped off into the kitchen just as Jack Yellow stepped out of the walk-in cooler. Jack was the assistant cook. He had been the dishwasher at the La Troff since he was sixteen, and now after four years he had received a change in position and a slight increase in pay.
    Jack had just finished a large joint during his break back in the freezer. As he extinguished the roach in a tray of shrimp he decided to quit his job. It wasn’t going anywhere.
    “Jack!” yelled the Maitre’ De, “We need a number four and a number ten to be turned into a number forty! And don’t mess up the math this time!”
    Jack fantasized about which bodily fluids he could fill the order with, but he couldn’t stand it a minute longer. He had enough. So he threw down his apron and began making his way out.
    “What are you doing! Come back! The owner is out there!” The Maitre’ De called after him.
    “Go eat-out your grandma!” grunted Jack over his shoulder.
    Before he left the building Jack slipped into the utility room. He smirked and turned the hydraulic controls that ran the rotation of the restaurant up to full blast.
    Jack was already through the lobby and out the door before the top floor of the Mucron Building started to increase in speed. Glasses began to slide off the tables, the chandelier began to shake, and then the entire La Troff began to spin like a mad carousel.
    The Wurm and what was left of the patrons began heaving their exotic meals onto the antique carpet. Some of what was purged-up was still alive but quickly killed as the spinning restaurant splattered everything loose against the outer windows.
    Finally the velocity of the hydraulics made the La Troff restaurant completely dislodge from the Mucron Building, and the entire top floor spun away across the city.
    Dozens of UFO reports were made that day. The restaurant spiraled off until it blinked out of sight, left linear time, and into a realm of regressing limbo. Today, if you use a Geiger-counter, you can still detect the La Troff’s invisible presence hanging somewhere high above the city like a hole in the air. Sometimes when it rains you can almost taste the bile and rust in the back of your throat.


Barbara D’Souza

    Madeleine’s best friend Sam is getting married tomorrow, and she is the maid of honor. They are both 28, and she is still single. She would be depressed about this, except that she is so happy. They are at the rehearsal dinner now, and she is sitting next to the best-looking man she has ever seen (other than Sam himself, of course). She wants to ask him The Question, but she hasn’t yet. She doesn’t have the nerve; she doesn’t want to seem interested.
    “So how do you know Sam?” the man asks. “I’m Marshall, by the way.”
    “Oh, hi, Marshall. I’m Maddy. I knew him from college. We met at a circus.” Why did she add that? Her face gets red.
    “I knew him from high school, so I guess I win,” Marshall says.
    “I didn’t know there was a contest.” She smiles and plays with her straw. Then she stops herself, remembering her mother’s exasperation at such antics when she was a child.
     “There’s always a contest,” Marshall says. “The only people who don’t know about it are the losers.”
    “That’s an interesting theory,” Madeleine says. She looks at Marshall carefully, admiring his blonde hair, and reminds herself that she has just lost 60 pounds. She is eligible now – not fat, just chubby. He actually could like her. He really could!
    Sam comes to their table and talks to them for a little while. He looks at Marshall, then winks at Madeleine. Finally, she knows the answer to her unasked question. Marshall is definitely not gay; he is the present that Sam has alluded to for weeks.


    She did meet Sam at the circus – she wasn’t making that up. It was her 20th birthday, and she had just finished setting a Low Fat Cookbook – her mother’s gift – on fire. She even bought marshmallows and toasted them in the flame while she enjoyed the irony.
    The ethics class had been sent to this event to write a paper that was to be entitled, “The Circus – Cruel or Kind?” The answer, of course, was obvious – the animal rights activists just wanted to ruin everyone’s good time. The circus was kind to animals. All you had to do was watch them in action to know they were enjoying themselves.
    She looked around at all the people buying various paraphernalia and wondered where the circus made its money. Were their profits from ticket sales alone or did they have to sell a certain amount of stuff just to break even? She was betting on the latter, just like movie theaters.
    Just as the proceedings were about to begin, Sam walked up to her. She had seen him in class but had never spoken to him. “Is anyone sitting next to you?” he asked.
     She shook her head, and he sat down. She became conscious of her heart beating faster and wondered if she were imagining him. Most good-looking guys tended to stay away from her as the Fat Girl. What was he doing here, sitting beside her? He even looked at her, smiled, and spoke.
    “So, what’s your position?” he asked.
    “No way! They’re definitely cruel. Horribly cruel. Once you read my paper, you’ll agree.”
    “But aren’t we supposed to keep an open mind?”
    “You didn’t. You made up your mind before we’ve even seen it. Why shouldn’t I?”
    “Good point,” she said, looking around for Sam’s girlfriend to arrive. No one did.
    They settled back and she watched the circus. She admired the trapeze artists and closed her eyes for a moment, wondering what it would be like to be thin enough to be flung through the air, then miraculously, easily, caught.
    She thought she would enjoy the animals, but she didn’t. Instead, she felt sorry for the lions as the tamer cracked his whip. The big cats did what they were told to do, but she knew they didn’t really want to. And a lion should never be made to do something it really didn’t like.
    Sam seemed pretty grim, and she thought that he was probably thinking similar things. When the lions’ portion concluded, however, she started questioning her assumptions. Maybe the animals weren’t actually that unhappy. What was the alternative to the circus, after all? Getting eaten in the jungle or dying in a wild fight? These things had to be considered, too.
    After the circus was over, they went to a coffee bar and debated. “You know, elephants mate for life,” Sam said. She noticed that his hair was blonder than blonde, a white straw color. She imagined him as a three-year-old towhead, cute enough for a television commercial. Had he ever been on TV?
    “I didn’t know that,” she said. Actually, she did know this at some point, but she wanted him to feel useful.
    “Yeah. And when one of them dies, the other mourns.”
    “That sounds heartbreaking,” she said.
    “Yeah. I think so.”
    “People who say that animals don’t have emotions are crazy. Or are just deluding themselves,” he said.
    “Do you want to work with animals?”
    “No,” he said, but didn’t elaborate. “Did you take ethics because you wanted to or because you had to fill an elective?”
     “I figured. You’re a business major, aren’t you?”
    “Accounting. How’d you guess?”
    “I can spot one a mile off.”
    “So I guess you’re in LS&Play,” she said, referring to the derogatory nickname for the University of Michigan’s liberal arts college.
    “Guilty as charged.”
    “But don’t you get bored with all the theories and fluff? Don’t you want to learn how the world really works?”
    “Don’t you want to learn how to think? That’s what I’m learning.”
    “I guess that’s important,” she said. “I do like to think.”
    “Yeah.” He paused for a moment. “So have you changed your mind about the paper?”
    “I have. Cruel. Definitely cruel.”
    “Perhaps we have more to talk about than I thought,” Sam said.
    “Maybe so,” she said. She wanted to ask him if he had a girlfriend but was too embarrassed. She had weighed herself that morning, and the results weren’t good.
     She is standing in front of the church on Sam’s wedding day and feels awkward, wondering if anyone is thinking about her fat form. She looks at Marshall, who is looking at her, and blushes. Is he a chubby chaser? Or did Sam somehow make her sound so wonderful that he is willing to overlook her fatal flaw?
    She admires Marshall’s good looks again and hopes that they will at least go out on one date. Then she chases the thought away. She watches the ceremony intently, surveying the bride and groom – or were they simply two grooms? Another conundrum was this – if they were bride and groom, which one was which? She was pretty sure that Sam, the soft-hearted liberal, would be the bride and his business-oriented mate would be the groom, but she couldn’t be sure. Then she supposes that it’s vaguely homophobic to think about this too much.
    The pastor speaks. “Do you, Sam, take this man, Roger, to be your husband for richer or for poorer...”
    “Do you, Roger, take this man Sam to be your husband...”
    “I do.”
    ”Then I now pronounce you husband and husband.”
    Her question is answered, and she is happy with this conclusion – it seems like two grooms is the more realistic way of looking at it. She is overwhelmed with happiness for a moment but then feels hot. She takes a step back to keep from fainting and then becomes conscious of Marshall behind her. His arms are outstretched, ready to catch her. She is so grateful that she feels faint again. Roger and Sam kiss, which makes her cry. These are happy tears, and she hopes Sam understands this. She notices that no one else is shedding a tear.


    She was having a bad day when Sam invited her to his apartment to study. At first she thought nothing of this, until he asked her to bring some alcohol (if she could get her hands on any). She thought this request had to have romantic implications, so she spent most of the day deciding on what outfit to wear. Finally she decided on her favorite black blouse – slimming – and her new black pants.
    She arrived a little early and knocked on the door. When he opened the door, he was wearing jeans. With a hole in them. She was suddenly embarrassed about the too-romantic rose wine she had bought (with a fake license) and her too-formal attire. Had she misunderstood? Her mind flashed back to the moment that had set this horrible day in motion in the first place. For some strange reason, she decided to weigh herself that morning, and the results were not good.
    “You look upset,” said Sam. He opened the door and let her inside. “Did something happen?”
    “No. Nothing.”
    “There must be something wrong. You seem really upset.”
    “It’s just...”
    “It’s just what?”
    “It’s just that I gained 10 pounds!” Tears poured down her face and she wiped them away, embarrassed.
    Sam smiled. “You gained 10 pounds? That’s nothing. I gained 15!”
    “No. Well, I don’t know. I didn’t weigh myself.”
    “That’s your luxury as a thin person.”
    “It’s your luxury, too. You don’t have to weigh yourself. Weight is just a measure of the earth’s gravitational pull on your body. You should remember that.”
    “Easy for you to say,” she sniffed.
    Sam was silent for a moment. “You know what we should do?”
    He went away for a moment and came back with a shovel and hammer. “I say we take it all out on a scale.”
    “Are you kidding?”
    “Not at all. Come.” He motioned to her and she followed him to the bathroom.
    They found the scale. “Scales are horribly judgmental creatures. I think we should cut it down to size.” He started hammering.
    She had to laugh. “I don’t think that will work.”
    “No? Well, why don’t I try this?” He grabbed the shovel and bashed the scale with it. Still, it wouldn’t give way.
    “That’s not going to work, either.”
    “No? Well, why not this?” He grabbed a screwdriver and took the scale apart, piece by piece. “You know what I think we need to do with this?”
    “Put it back together? You really shouldn’t ruin your scale for my sake.”
    “I think that these pieces are quite aerodynamic.”
    She followed him to his window. “There’s no one out there. Watch this!” He dropped each part out the window. “Bombs away!”
    She had to laugh again. “Okay, okay, I think I get the point.”
    They went back to the kitchen and she was again embarrassed by her wine. He didn’t seem to notice its inappropriate nature, though, and instead simply opened it. Together, they drank. She noticed how cluttered his apartment was – an old pizza box on the floor, pop cans scattered around – and had an urge to clean everything. “I see you’re looking at my bad housekeeping,” Sam said.
    “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to stare.”
    “It’s okay. It’s worth being stared at. It’s pretty bad.”
    “Not really.”
    “You don’t need to be polite. I guess I should have cleaned before you came over. I just hate cleaning. It’s a rather atavistic attitude, I guess. I see it as women’s work, so I hate it. But I should get past that.”
    “I don’t see it either way. I just like the immediate gratification.”
    “Maybe I could hire you?”
    “I’d do it for free,” she said. “I love to clean.” Why did she say this? Now she sounded subservient.
    “No, that’s okay. It’s really nice of you to offer, though.”
    “I try.” She leaned back, amazed that she was on an actual date. Her accounting class had examined contra-accounts earlier that day, and she thought this was very appropriate. Contra-accounts acted in exactly the opposite way they were expected to, just like this moment. She was a contra-account right now, both nervous and excited. The only question was whether her weight was an asset or a liability.
    She wanted to change the topic, so she shifted to something familiar. “What did you get on your paper?”
    “I didn’t look yet. I don’t believe in grades. They’re such a reprehensible idea. It’s all very English, really. Colonial.”
    “Yeah,” she said. She had looked at her grade right away and was happy with her B. She got A’s in most things, but she wasn’t much of a writer.
    “I can see you don’t agree.”
    “No, not really, I guess. You need grades to see how you’re doing, how you stack up.”
    “And you’re really worried about how you stack up.”
    “I guess.” She blushed, thinking of all the permutations of “stacked.”
    “We probably don’t agree on most things. I’m a Democrat. How ‘bout you?’
    “Republican.” She became very conscious of the fact that she was sitting next to someone who voted for Gore. “Idealism is a sickness.”
    “So is irrational realism.”
    “Isn’t that an oxymoron?” She twisted in her seat.
    “Sometimes oxymorons are true.” He paused. “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
    “I thought I already was grown up.”
     “You’re not grown up until you’re 30. What do you want to be?”
    “A CPA. I want to make companies honest.”
    “That’s noble.”
    “What do you want to be?”
    “A teacher. I want to work in inner-city school districts.”
    “That’s nobler.”
    She got out her homework, and then fought another urge to clean and move the furniture. Everything was so illogically ordered in this place, she thought. They studied for a little while, but it all seemed silly. Did ethics really need to be taught? And if you had to learn about them that way – if you had to learn ethics at all – didn’t that suggest you were not moral to begin with?
    She wondered if he would kiss her, but she didn’t ask. Finally they stood up and he saw her to the door. Then he leaned closer and she could almost feel the stubble of his uncleanly shaven face. “One more question,” he said. “Do you think the whole class can tell I’m gay?”
    She felt as if she had stepped on a fast-moving elevator. Suddenly, it all made sense. “No, I’m sure they can’t tell at all.”
    “Good. I try not to flame.”
    “Are you hot a lot of the time?” She asked before she realized what he meant.
    “Do you think I’m hot?”
    She blushed. “I can’t answer that question.”
    He looked away. “You didn’t think this was a date, did you? I tried to be clear.”
     “You were clear.”
    He sighed. “No, I wasn’t. Not really. This always happens. You’re not in love with me, are you?”
    “Promise you won’t fall in love with me, because if you do, we can’t be friends. And I’d really like to be friends. You make me honest.”
    “I’d like to be friends, too.”
    He kissed her on the cheek and she went home, taking great care not to wash the place his lips had touched.
    They are at the reception, and she decides to talk to Sam’s husband Roger for a moment. He looks like a football player and is a foot taller than Sam. His face reddens easily (like hers), so she can always tell what he is thinking.
    “How are you?” she asks him.
    “Good. How are you finding the stock market?”
    “I’m trying not to think about it,” she said. “It’s a jobless recovery, after all.” Roger is a financial advisor and easily speaks her language.
    “I had a couple clients jump off the roof last week.”
    Roger smiled. “No, not really. But figuratively, they did. Figuratively can be almost as bad.”
     “You have a point.”
    She hugs Roger and sits down with Marshall, who stands up, lifting his champagne glass. “Here’s to the best friend anyone could ever have,” he says. She feels momentarily jealous, wondering if Sam prefers Marshall to her. But then she realizes how juvenile her thoughts are and suffocates them like a stubborn fire.
    She stands up. “Let’s hear it again for the best friend anyone could ever have!” Then she drinks, hoping her profession will excuse her lack of originality.
    The toasts are over soon, and Marshall turns to her. “Do you have the feeling we’ve been set up?”
    “Yeah,” she says. “Do you mind?”
    “Mind? No, I’m glad. You’re even more beautiful than Sam mentioned. Roger spoke highly of you, too.” He pauses. “You know, those models, that look. It’s not for me. I like a woman with meat on her bones!”
    “Thanks,” she says, wondering whether to be glad for his honesty. Instead, she feels flattered and insulted at the same time.
    It is time for the first dance, so they join Sam and Roger on the dance floor. Sam’s parents are there, too, which fills her with joy. “I guess miracles do happen,” she says as she tries to avoid stepping on Marshall’s toes.
    “Of course they do.”
    Could she be with someone who regards miracles as prosaic occurrences? Then she brushes this thought away. “I hadn’t realized I said that out loud.” It was scary, really, when you were thinking something private that marched unobtrusively through the door of one’s mouth.
    “Well, I know what you mean. The whole day is a miracle. You smell wonderful, by the way. Are you wearing perfume?”
     “No, just soap.”
    “It must be special soap.”
    “It is.”
    “No, not really. I use Dial.”
    “I see. I, myself, raise my hand if I’m sure.”
    She’s confused. “What do you mean?”
    “Oh, never mind. Old commercial.”
    She enjoys watching Sam and Roger together and is glad for Marshall. He wards off jealousy. He makes the future seem like a possibility.
    By the week before Halloween, Madeleine and Sam were inseparable, platonic friends. At first they avoided politics to protect their relationship, but after awhile, they didn’t even worry about this last propriety. Instead, Madeleine began to enjoy all of their discussions, even though he was so wrong about everything.
    One day she arrived unannounced at Sam’s apartment and saw that he was upset about something. She asked several times what was wrong, but he refused to say. Finally, however, he turned to her. “My parents don’t know I’m gay. Do you think I should tell them?”
    “They say honesty is the best policy. Even Gore believes that, I think. When he’s not saying he invented the internet.”
    He gave her a reluctant smile. “They do say that about honesty, but is it really the case? If you know someone’s going to die tomorrow, should you tell them for the sake of truth?”
    “Wouldn’t the only way you would know that be if you were going to kill the person?”
    “Good point.”
    “Anyway, I don’t know. It sounds like an ethics paper.”
    “True. I think my whole parental situation is meat for a paper, too.”
    “Yeah. Well, how does your mother feel about gay people?”
    “I don’t know.”
    “How can you not know? She must have said something at some point.”
    “Yeah.” He sighed and they stopped talking about it.
    On Halloween, they dressed up like circus freaks – he was a sword swallower and she was a bearded lady – for one of his other friends, who was dressed up like a ringleader. Sam seemed upset, but he wouldn’t say why. Suddenly, however, she knew.
     “You talked to your parents, didn’t you?” she asked. He looked away.
    It was oddly freeing to be a circus freak. She was actually supposed to seem unusual, which made her feel more ordinary than she usually did. People complimented their costumes and said they had never seen such a well-coordinated costume. She wished she had thought of it herself.
    The party was thrown by a gay friend of Sam’s, so she naturally wondered if each person she met was gay, too. She knew this was homophobic, but she was only moderately successful when she tried to stop herself. Then she wondered if people assumed she, too, were gay. This particularly worried her, because, truly, what proof did she have that she was straight? She was a virgin, after all. She was pure as the driven snow.
    “Do you believe in gay marriage?” a giant lobster asked her.
    “Ummmm....” She said, stalling. Until very recently, her answer would have been no. But now she couldn’t convince herself to say this.
    “Close-minded capitalist!” the lobster said and stalked away.
    She went to a corner and sat by herself for a while, waiting for Sam to be ready to leave. She didn’t want to ruin his costume by deleting half of it. Finally, he was ready to go and walked her back to her apartment.
    “Can I come up?” he asked.
    “I have to work in the morning. I don’t know.”
    “I have an experiment that I want to try,” he said.
    “An experiment?” she asked and followed him upstairs.
    As soon as they were in the apartment, he kissed her, replete with tongue. Their clothes were off shortly and her deflowerment didn’t hurt as much as it was supposed to. He turned off the lights, and in the dark, she couldn’t tell that he was gay.
    A huge crowd carrying anti-gay signs has gathered outside the church. At first she can’t hear what they are saying, but she would have to be an idiot not to guess correctly. She steps towards the door, and when the crowd sees her, they judge her, tell her she’ll burn in hell. She flips them the bird.
    She hopes that Sam isn’t too upset and that he was expecting something like this. He should have been, after all. They’re not in a truly progressive place – it’s not like gay marriage is even legal in Pennsylvania. So what’s the point of this marriage, she briefly wonders, if there’s no health insurance involved? Isn’t that sort of thing what marriage is really about? Then she reminds herself that Sam is a romantic.
    Sam comes up behind her and looks at the protestors. Then he, too, flips them the bird. “Go pick on someone your own size!” he says.
    Sam’s family calls the police and they come, but they can’t do much. After all, there is the First Amendment to consider, they say. It is easy to read
    their attitude from their lackadaisical postures. So finally the wedding party decides to ignore the protests and continue the reception anyway. Sam just makes the band play louder.
    The morning after they slept together, Sam turned to her. They were both still naked, on her pristine floor. “I’m sorry,” he said, “but I’m still gay.”
    “I’m not sorry,” she said. “I’m not a virgin anymore. That’s all that matters.”
    “This was your first time? I’m sorry. You should have made your first time special.”
    “Was your first time special?”
    He looked away. “This was my first time, too.”
    “You’re kidding.”
    “No, I’m not.”
    “With a woman? Or with anyone?”
    “Anyone,” he said. “But don’t tell anybody.”
    “I’ve got no one to tell.”
    “I feel like I used you.”
    “Who’s to say I didn’t use you?” Madeleine asked.
    “Just promise you won’t fall in love with me.”
    “Don’t worry, I won’t.
     “Do you promise?”
    “I promise.”
    Sam put on a tee-shirt that said “Don’t Assume I’m Straight” and they went outside, Sam carrying the remnants of his costume. His shirt made her tremble with fear, and she wished he would don his Halloween attire instead. She felt like people were staring at them, and they were. They were in Ann Arbor, but even the liberal city had its elements.
    A huge truck pulled over to them and a pony-tailed man with a jean jacket and lots of tattoos stuck his head out. “Freak!” he yelled.
    She seeks out Sam’s mother at the reception. The diminutive woman with long, unclasped gray hair is sitting off to the side, watching everyone with an apprehensive glance. They can still hear the protests outside.
    “Hi,” Madeleine says, propping a smile on her face. “You must be so excited. This is some wedding.”
    “I can truly say I never thought it would be like this.”
    Madeleine can’t tell if the woman is happy or not, so she plows ahead. “I’m just glad he’s found someone.”
    “Yes. Everyone deserves a one and only.” The woman smiles and looks her up and down. “By the way, I see you’re expecting. When are you due?”
     “Six months,” Madeleine says, too embarrassed to tell her she isn’t with child. Tears come to her eyes and she leaves Sam’s mother, blindly trying to find the bathroom. When she finds it, she stares into the bathroom mirror and ponders her appearance. What does she look like, exactly, to the outside world? She’s not THAT fat, not really, not like she was. But maybe that’s part of the problem. Now that she’s thinner, she looks more like a pregnant thin person than a clearly fat person.
    It is hard to return to her table, but she finally manages. Marshall turns to her. “We both live in Philadelphia, you know.”
    “No, I didn’t know that,” Madeleine says. She feels excited in spite of herself.
    “We do. That makes it possible to see you again. Which I would like to do.”
    She smiles and feels thin again. “I’d like that, too.”
    It is time to throw the bouquet, so she takes her place behind Sam, who has the bouquet in his hand. He throws and the bouquet seems on a trajectory for her. She catches it without wrestling anyone for it and then hopes it’s a sign. This is before she reminds herself of the utilitarian nature of marriage.
    Sam hugs her, clearly excited. “See! It’ll happen for you, too!” he says. He bends down and kisses her on the cheek. “Thank you for coming. I’m glad you like Roger. You know, he’s just like you.”

ART398AK, art by Üzeyir Lokman ÇAYCI

ART398AK, 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.