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.

cc&d                   cc&d

Kenneth DiMaggio (on cc&d, April 2011)
CC&D continues to have an edge with intelligence. It seems like a lot of poetry and small press publications are getting more conservative or just playing it too academically safe. Once in awhile I come across a self-advertized journal on the edge, but the problem is that some of the work just tries to shock you for the hell of it, and only ends up embarrassing you the reader. CC&D has a nice balance; [the] publication takes risks, but can thankfully take them without the juvenile attempt to shock.

from Mike Brennan 12/07/11
I think you are one of the leaders in the indie presses right now and congrats on your dark greatness.

Volume 228, January 2012

cc&d magazine

Internet ISSN 1555-1555, print ISSN 1068-5154

see what’s in this issue...

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

Order this issue from our printer
as a a $7.67 paperback book
(5.5" x 8.5") perfect-bound w/ b&w pages

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but we read this first...

from “Watching the World” in April 2011 Awake! magazine

Water on the Moon

    Scientists who crashed a two-stage rocket into the moon’s surface say that they detected water on the plume of dust created. The cloud was examined by spectrometers—instruments that analyze the composition of materials by isolating the wavelengths of light that they absorb or emit. “We’re unlocking the mysteries of our nearest neighbor and by extension the solar system,” stated Michael Wargo, chief lunar scientist at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. More recently, a moon probe revealed that there are millions of tons of water at the moon’s north pole.



the passionate stuff

One Last Mexican Moment

William Doreski

The hot glare stifles conversation.
A tortilla droops from a plate.
As we nod over margaritas
traffic sizzles a few yards away,
coughing up gusts of monoxide.

You look flowery in that dress,
a rhetorical violet print,
but you’re in your objective mood.
Obsessed with your newest infant,
the first baby in history
who doesn’t resemble Churchill,
you’re giddy with the hangover
of creation, which mothers suffer
as gladly as famous war wounds.

The child looks too solemn to share
your elation, but a book of cats
with fluff-trimmed cardboard cover
distracts by encouraging a chew.
We’ve never met in the presence
of such a determined witness,
summer heat bleeding through us
in a dozen shades of beige.

Usually we feint like kittens
for a while, then chastely embrace
so Main Street can see how distant
we remain in public. But the glare
discourage those flirty glances
we like to indulge when tired
of pondering oil spills, recessions,
and ecological disasters
brimming in the Arctic tundra.

Your child looks bored. Time to return
to our lives, so we down
the dregs and place a napkin
on that last tortilla, shrouding it
from the buzzing of wasps and flies.

Religion and Government

Eric Shelman

    You are always talking the talk.
    However your actions prove to me that you are never walking the walk.
    Many people did you confront and convert with force.
    Who are you to force your beliefs onto others that don’t believe as you do?
    You are but mere mortals not gods playing with their creations.
    You think that you are this and that but in all reality you are nothing but a power-hungry men wanting to control everyone with this or that belief in doing so brainwashing humanity to believe a certain way so that you can overpower them.


Mel Waldman

A healer, he listens to their dark stories that
penetrate his brain.

The darkness is contagious, an emotional
virus that contaminates his spirit.

After his last patient leaves, his battered
brain overflows with poison.

He must exhale the toxins or die.
But how?

Janet Kuypers reads the Mel Waldman 1/12 cc&d poem
from the 1/12 issue of cc&d magazine
video videonot yet rated
Watch the YouTube video
of Kuypers reading this poem at the open mike 01/18/12 at Gallery Cabaret’s the Café Gallery in Chicago


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.

Garden Relax, art by the HA!man of South Africa

Garden Relax, art by the HA!man of South Africa

quality time

Sarah Lucille Marchant

a couple (of strangers)
sit together,
watching television

he leans closer to her,
nuzzling her cheek with his nose
in an effort to remind her
that he’s near

and she stares at the screen
with a blank expression,

mercilessly surfing
through the channels

Portrait of the Artist’s Spirituality, art by Aaron Wilder

Portrait of the Artist’s Spirituality, art by Aaron Wilder

A Small Waterfall

Dan Fitzgerald

Soft water whispers
to gentle rocks,
asking for a cushion to its fall.
Tempered sunlight catches
in the breath of the splash.

Janet Kuypers reads the Dan Fitzgerald 1/12 cc&d poem
A Small Waterfall
from the 1/12 issue of cc&d magazine
video videonot yet rated
Watch the YouTube video
of Kuypers reading this poem at the open mike 01/18/12 at Gallery Cabaret’s the Café Gallery in Chicago

Cold Water Moving, photography by Brian Hosey

Cold Water Moving, photography by Brian Hosey

Oaks in a wheat field

Michael Aspros

Who hears your limbs creak,
and remembers what “tree” meant
before wooden floors?

Waterfalls excite the senses,
but your shaking limbs remain unloved.

A howling coyote
shares your solitude.

Janet Kuypers reads the Michael Aspros 1/12 cc&d poem
Oaks in a wheat field
from the 1/12 issue of cc&d magazine
video videonot yet rated
Watch the YouTube video
of Kuypers reading this poem at the open mike 01/18/12 at Gallery Cabaret’s the Café Gallery in Chicago

Hellen still rides the horse

Fritz Hamilton

Hellen still
rides the horse/
Iraq, Afghanistan &

now Libya/ the
soldiers now have
new soil on which

to die, &
the wooden horse is
the cross from which

they spill their
bodies & their blood, &
the Styx is red as the

bodies flow down it from
Baghdad to New York &
Kandahar to Chicago &

Tripoli to L.A. as
the Asian carp feed upon
their rotting flesh &

chew their bone/ the
world turns to
clay covered

with statues as
our headstones as
the grass turns black &

is sucked back
into the
murdered earth ...


Walking the city street/ the

Fritz Hamilton

Walking the city street/ the
City of God with
St Augustine selling

horse & meth in
the schoolyard/ murdering
the teacher who intervenes &

eating his flesh for
lunch with
their Big Macs & twinkies &

washing it down with
coke & hemlock as
the pretty 3rd grade

teacher is raped in
a chain in the gym by
the staff & the

older boys tired of
molesting their peers
partake in the fun bringing

the staff & children
together/ the
students graduating into

the prisons & the
armed services where
they learn to kill &

die before
returning to their
incarcerations to

learn how to be
good, murderous
citizens to be

forced back into the
communities by
prison overcrowding to

use their new skills &
teach the younger children
to follow them to

be equally successful ...

helping us become a
3rd World country driven by

greed & selfishness &
bless the pope as he
pulls up his pants &

fly ...


The Seven Deadly Colors: Black
from the series “The Seven Deadly Colors”;
a series of seven poems originally published in The Lamp-Post

Bob Johnston

I am the leading authority on fossils of the Upper Jurassic,
author of twelve books and two hundred ten scientific papers.

As the invited lecturer at the annual meeting
of the American Geological Society, I was reporting
on my discovery of a previously unknown fossil, a new species
of trilobite that I have named, appropriately, after myself.

In the question period after the lecture, I modestly received
the kudos so generously bestowed by my peers.
But then that pipsqueak Manning, a johnny-come-lately
without tenure or reputation, had the audacity
to question my finding, to suggest that my fossil
came from deposits a mere million years old.

The blackness descended.

I endured his blithering sarcasm
and the questioning looks of my peers.
I defended my position with all the skill
and authority of my forty years in the profession,
and judging by the applause, I think I had convinced
everyone who was worth convincing.

Finally the session was over.
To show there were no hard feelings
I invited Manning to my room
for a drink and some friendly discussion.

I ended the discussion
with a knife between his ribs.

And it was good.

Bob Johnston Bio

    Bob Johnston is a retired petroleum engineer and translator of Russian scientific literature. He waited until his sixtieth year to start writing fiction and poetry, and over the next thirty years he has been trying to catch up. He lives in the original Las Vegas, New Mexico with his wife, three cats, and some hope of completing his memoirs and the Great American Novel.

Poem from
The Hartford Epic

Kenneth DiMaggio

The stars are like
the orange & pink
pornographic light
bulbs around the concrete
sign-less doorway of
Hartford’s only
lap-dancing club
otherwise known as
The Bunker which
tomorrow will probably be
a Pentecostal assembly
hall whose neon jaundice
crucifix illuminates
what was yesterday
a pole dancing ba

And if Heaven
sometimes glitters
like Hell (while
you easily mistake
Hell for the incandescence
of Heaven)

it’s still the same
bunker whether you pray
or jerk off or find
another way to seek
temporary refuge
from a city that
each night sinks
into an abyss

What Jordan Said

Joseph Hart

Yesterday he read my song
Of death without redemption -
And said (he wore a crucifix)
He must believe in something -
And people were a washout
So he believed in god -
Little Jordan – 22 -
Italian and a Catholic -
Cynical, mature and young -
To whom I gave the vacuous
Remnant of my heart -
He doesn’t know it -
We just visit
When by chance we meet -


Joseph Hart

Poetry and music are defunct.
Someday art may have a Second Coming.
God is God. And everyone’s immortal.
Naming Keats does not improve your verse
If it is a mass of deviations
Whose total lack of meaning rivals Joyce.
Poets use cliches like drinking water
And think because they’re published they are good.
Universities are willingly
Printing obfuscating poetasters
Because it makes them look intelligent.
Universities have lots of money

The State of Humanity

Jacob Kreutzer

I once saw goodness
in a man’s heart,
but in the heart
of the majority
I’ve observed only
iniquity and
Perhaps I’m a pessimist
but the truth is,
I would never wish
upon anyone.

Janet Kuypers reads the Jacob Kreutzer 1/12 cc&d poem
the State of Humanity
from the 1/12 issue of cc&d magazine
video videonot yet rated
Watch the YouTube video
of Kuypers reading this poem at the open mike 01/18/12 at Gallery Cabaret’s the Café Gallery in Chicago

Jacob Kreutzer Bio

    Jacob Kreutzer is a young poet from Grand Island, NE. He is currently a student at Concordia University Chicago where he is majoring in Secondary Education. His work has previously appeared in Heavy Hands Ink, The Cynic, Daily Love, and numerous other publications.

image 4 by George Coston

image 4 by George Coston

Holy Bullshit!

Betti Bernardi

Baptist Conventions
and Arrogance proclaim
Damn those who kill the Jews–
(Needs them live for conversion?)

And, women, too
You’ll know your place
Hearth, home and husband
(Return to the Status Quo)

Conversion, sure, among
Gay folks–Repent! Relent!
Heterosexuality’s the aim
(And, more Baptists, sure.)

Muslims, Buddhists, Shaman beware,
Christianity defined by Baptists
Is the only way to salvation
(and pure Baptist truth.)

Tell me how to live
Ye men of the Convention
What to do, to say, to pray
(So you maintain the perks of subversion?)

Why not Catholic, Unitarian or Bahai
Faithful, here, too, abide
Why would a man of thought
(Exclude any of conscience?)

Perhaps because the man of thought
is as depleted as they,
the men of the Baptist Convention
(Who would tell you how to think.)

Oh, ‘tis angry I am,
Far past incredulity
To think these bastards have the stage
(And strut, bolder, by the day.)

I am, genuinely, happy for you
that you have found your way
Now, grant me same, the freedom you tout
(for others to do the same.)

Betti Bernardi Bio (2010)

    Betti Bernardi is a freelance writer with a background in Behavioral Science, with articles that have appeared in Collector’s News, Writer’s Guidelines Magazine, Fathers, Brothers, Sons magazine, Mothering Magazine, Bitch Magazine, Indy’s Child Magazine, Moondance and Antiques and Collecting Magazine, and Antique Weekly. She has additionally had an article published in an anthology, and a short story published in Moondance. Her poems have been published in Country Kids News, Writer’s Journal, Once Upon a Time, Our Journey , Beyond Katrina, Shemom, Long Story Short, Nomad’s Choir (soon to be published), on the World Peace Australia website, in our local newspaper, as well as eight published in collections and anthologies. Also, she has a poem in Family Celebrations. In addition, one of her poems placed in the Southwest Colorado Women’s Poetry contest, and was published in an anthology this Spring.


Riley Kean

You say I am your dark, stormy night,
That creeps up behind you when you fall asleep.
But, you wake and I’m the first thing you see,
the big, shiny sun.
You don’t understand how I can
Change the way you look at me.
But you don’t care because
I am the only one you will ever look at like this.

a cloudy day with the moon in the sky

An Argument against an Afterlife

Virginia Fultz

You’re just getting out of the shower—
your father, grandfather, brother, uncles,
ex-boyfriend—class of ’61—to list a few
who have passed before you
(you know where this is going, right?)
could be having the time of their afterlives
watching you in your soppy nudity.

They see those added post-holiday pounds.
They know you lied about your weight
to the Mother Vehicle Department
when you renewed your license.
You can’t see them,
but they can see you.
I mean, they have to do something
to keep their spirits up.

Janet Kuypers reads the Virginia Fultz poem
An Argument against an Afterlife
live @ the Waiting4the Bus Chicago poetry open mike
at Cafe Ballou 1/16/12
video videonot yet rated

Watch this YouTube video
read live 1/16/12 at Waiting4the Bus’ Café Ballou open mike in Chicago
(from the Samsung)

About Virginia Fultz

    A Merit Award in 2011 Atlanta Review International Poetry Competition

    Virginia was born in Shattuck, Oklahoma, grew up in Laurel, Mississippi, lived and taught English in El Paso, Texas, and California, where she earned two M.A.s in English literature, finally moving “home” to New Mexico. When not traveling, she and her husband Ed who have been together a wonderful long time, thrive on the clear air and stunning vistas from their home in the Sandia Mountains foothills in Albuquerque, NM. Virginia knows it’s true that happiness grows beautiful flowers, one pound tomatoes, and good friends.

When things happen twice

Michael Hoag

When things happen twice
When doors open together
And ears touch ears
And eyes touch eyes
When each other’s hands fit
With fingers extended
And fingers curled
When strangers ask for directions to my sick friend
And selling a house follows changing a lock
And praising batting cages precedes seeing batting cages
And weather here and the same weather far away
When those things happen twice
When floors match ceilings
And nails clip nails
And hands lay on hands
When I buy spinach and you buy spinach
And I suffer one surgery and you suffer three
And readings inside mention yellow birds outside
When all these things happen twice
Seeing a friend and seeing a counterpart
Being adopted and being legitimate
And forgetting to watch stares
And never smelling thoughts
Like crater pairs on the moon
Heating and reheating
Rushing away and rushing toward
And all those times I lose my hands and feet
And you recover
And all those times I mistake pants for a shirt
And you correct
And all those times I feel twice and see twice and hear twice
And you are twice too
All those twice times

Drawing by Michael Hoag

Drawing by Michael Hoag

Wild Places

Eileen Troemel

Whacked back to nearly nothing
By polite society,
Cultivated and sculpted lawns
No room for any unruliness
No tendrils escaping their confinement
Yet deep within the secret places
Exists a hidden haven
Where nature rules
Society’s rules have failed to invade
This place of freedom
To be wild and boundless
Where drums beat in time to the spirit
Inhibitions lay scattered
Among the fallen leaves
As the dance takes hold of the soul
Order is conquered by chaos
The heart is open to all possibilities
In these secret raucous untamed places.

a Bench in the Mall

Marcin Majkowski

I’m a guy
sitting on a bench
in a mall
female shapes
with my sight
If they knew
what I’m doing with them?
Would they let me
or just the opposite
they’d call me
a pervert, right?

I’d surely
find those
like it
a lot
They also
look at me
cause of them
the WC’ll later
become hot

I’m staring
at those
sexual creatures
bags for sperm
I can’t see
any smiles
on their faces
sperm cell farm

I’ve got nothing to say
in my defense
I don’t want to
defend myself
a typical man
a dish
with sexual desires
nymphomaniac emigrant
on the life shelf


Escape My Brain Somehow

Janet Kuypers

thinking is my demon
sleeplessness surrounds me

some meditate, rise above it all
live in a higher plane of existence

i wish i knew how to escape my brain
maybe then i could get a night’s rest

then at times i hear the delusions
of the mentally insane

hear their existential rambling
hear their nonsensical blather

some meditate to a higher plane
some psychotically imagine it

so when i’m stuck in a corner like this
and my brain is still reeling

i wish i could just be crazy sometimes

let me talk to imaginary people
let me think i see more than everyone else

even if i imagined
that the world was out to get me

at least then i could justify
believing that i was important

but if insanity gave me demons
i still wouldn’t be able to sleep

Janet Kuypers reads her poem
Escape My Brain Somehow
live @ the Waiting4the Bus Chicago poetry open mike
at Cafe Ballou 1/16/12
video videonot yet rated

Watch this YouTube video
read live 1/16/12 at Waiting4the Bus’ Café Ballou open mike in Chicago
(from the Samsung)
video videonot yet rated

Watch this YouTube video
read live 1/16/12 at Waiting4the Bus’ Café Ballou open mike in Chicago
(from the Sony)

Broke the Reflection

Janet Kuypers

I dropped my mother’s ashes
down into the water

I wanted them to sink down
but they just floated there

as they broke the reflection
of the sun

it reminded me
of Oahu in two thousand one

it was the sixtieth anniversary
of the day that lived in infamy

when over the U.S.S. Arizona
I would only photograph with my mind

the flowers I saw
dropped from another survivor

that floated along the water,
breaking the tension

of the oil still rising
from that sunken battleship

my face was ashen
as everything, too, still

broke the reflection
of the sun

Janet Kuypers reads the Virginia Fultz poem
Broke the Reflection
live @ the Waiting4the Bus Chicago poetry open mike
at Cafe Ballou 1/16/12
video videonot yet rated

Watch this YouTube video
read live 1/16/12 at Waiting4the Bus’ Café Ballou open mike in Chicago
(from the Samsung)
video videonot yet rated

Watch this YouTube video
read live 1/16/12 at Waiting4the Bus’ Café Ballou open mike in Chicago
(from the Sony)

My First Time

Janet Kuypers

there are some towns known for their food...

New Orleans has it’s Po-Boy
Philadelphia has it’s Philly Cheese Steak

and if you’re in New York
and want to carry food out on a street
you better get a pizza slice
fold it in half
and eat it with one hand

And if you’re in Chicago
(and you can’t eat a deep-dish pizza
with one hand in the street)
you better get a Chicago-style Hot Dog
with yellow mustard, relish (the bright green kind),
hot peppers, tomatoes, onions, celery salt
and a pickle on top

I lived in Chicago all my life
frequented the tops of sky scrapers
visited legendary blues bars

but even when I was a meat eater
I never had a Chicago Hot Dog

just ketchup, please
I’ll take the pickle on the side
and I don’t even like hot peppers

but as we left the Planetarium today
I passed a Chicago-style hot dog vendor cart
and they listed Vegetarian Hot Dogs
as a choice for the Chicago Hot Dog

I passed it,
then I stopped.

walked back
and asked for a Vegetarian Hot Dog
with everything except the hot peppers

(and no,
ketchup is not included
when you say “everything”)

and when I got my paper-wrapped
Vegetarian Chicago Hot Dog
I was tempted to pull the pickle away
and they had to remind me
that’s a part of the Chicago Hot Dog

so I put it all together
took a bite
then I took another
and another

and I thought,
I’ve been missing out
on this fantastic Chicago tradition
all my life

I heard the Chicago Hot Dogs
started during the Depression
because it was something cheap
you could sell it on the streets
and it was a full meal:
meat, bread, vegetables
all at a reasonable price

and I thought,
we Chicagoans had it all figured out
with a gooey, deep dish pizza
when you had the time to sit down
as well as a way
to make any hot dog taste awesome
when you wanted a treat on the street

film the cheerleaders

Janet Kuypers

I don’t know if I can
wrap my brain around this.
The guy next to me at the bar
used his camera phone
to film the cheerleaders
on the 36" bar TV
dancing at the basketball game.

I’m looking at this guy
if you can buy a camera phone
you can probably buy Internet porn.
I mean, what exactly
is this guy doing?

As I said, I can’t seem to
wrap my brain around this.

Then he put on his leather jacket
and left alone

I’m still a this bar.
And as I said, I still can’t seem to
wrap my brain around this.

After trying to understand that,
Maybe I need to start doing shots.

My New Grocery List

Janet Kuypers
twitter-length poem 05/31/11

Preparation H,
Depends Undergarments,
a bottle of Whiskey.


Janet Kuypers
twitter-length poem 06/07/11

the violet flowers
over my ash
I felt the purple rain
as I left the academy

but I couldn’t take it...

enchanted... what
was enchanted?

as evening came
I felt the fading sunset

because my soul
over my ash

skittered away



the meat and potatoes stuff


Richard E Marion

    Footsteps. High arches gliding across gleaming hardwood floors, redefining physics and momentum.
    Patricia returned from the balcony. She seated, turned and rolled back into her spot in the Tempur-Pedic Mattress. Double-E, who existed entirely in dreams and wakefulness seamlessly intertwined, shifted his attention.
    Rub my arm... she didn’t have to say it, Double-E knew the polite imperative. It was standard operating procedure. The arm-rub restored circulation and warmth to her fragile yet enduring structure.
    Double-E obliged gratefully, it eased him into daytime awareness. There was work, meaningful work, to be accomplished that day.
    He rose and went into the galley. First things first. Breakfast for the two was whole wheat and peanut butter. Patricia was always awarded the finest sandwich as determined by artistry and build quality. The metrics were uniformity and packaging: which meant no peanut butter oozing out... anywhere.
    Then he laid out vitamins, fish oil, a banana, and a nutrition bar for his partner. Double drank a tall glass of filtered water, and entered the office.
    The office was ten stories overlooking the Atlantic. Beneath steel piers below rested a pair of Maybach 57’s, Performance Tuned, hers Candy Red, his Pale Earl Gray.
    The penthouse window was cracked open just enough to hear the ocean, which was 500 feet down. There would be time later that day to pay more attention to the sky and cloud effects.
    Double-E could smell “frye dough” as the local vendor called it, mingling with the scents of Atlantic plant and animal life. Patricia enjoyed “frye dough,” but eating it every day would kill her, so she didn’t.
    Double-E performed the daily maintenance on one of their computers, defending against hackers, phishers, and Microsoft. It resembled a sleek laptop. Actually, it was a high-end ultra-custom industrial machine.
    Those PC’s were literally bullet-proof... well, bullet-resistant. Double once had a copy of that exact machine take a 357 SIG handgun round on his behalf.
    Today’s enigma was what Double called the ET Phone. It had to be one. The origin was unknown. When it’s a mystery, it’s Double’s. That item had arrived FedEx, from a fictitious address.
    It resembled his own Cell, except not entirely beat to hell. The thing was slightly larger, but still small in his hand - which was plenty large, less than flesh, more like iron sculpture.


    Double-E, whose legal name was Edward George Evans, hadn’t asked for the job. Mark Sterling gave it to him.
    Not too long ago Edward was sitting, studying, surfing at his PC, wearing down a circle in the hardwood flooring. Business in the New Century had mutated into red ink for corporations, gray areas for workers, and black holes for resumes.
    If you didn’t work for the government or government motors, you were in trouble now. It would be trouble for them later... they were just too dumb to know.
    Edward sensed a change in the air, swiveled in his chair, and seated there at the blue settee to his left was Mark Sterling.
    Mark had been a Test Engineer when Edward had temp’d at one of the world’s major semiconductor manufacturers. A year ago, this mysterious visit would have disturbed Edward, but not anymore.
    “Remember the Die and Wafer demo for the Teradyne MicroFlex Tester, Double-E?”
    “I told you don’t call me Double-E you A-Hole...” Edward was always calm, including during spirit visitations.
    “I was hung over... drinking back then... clean-room gown, booties, and that mask was freaking me out,” Edward stated simply.
    “The latex gloves?” asked Mark.
    “Is that what it was? Those gloves were two sizes too small.”
    “A month later, you were changing. A lot. Silicon-Silk Electronics, Bioresorbable, Implantable. They were in the gloves. Now they are in you.”
    Edward thought. “Oh. So?”
    “You’re getting really strong, really smart. You are turning into something different. Unique.”
    “No shit, Jack.”
    “It’s Mark, moron.”


    Now, back in his room, Double studied the ET Phone. Mark Sterling had sent it for sure. Double-E considered himself a Designer, an Artist, rather than an Engineer - but Sterling was a Real Engineer. From another solar system.
    “Mission: Impossible” was a TV show from the late 60’s. The main character, Jim Phelps, always got his “assignments” from a tape-player (no iPhones then) which self-destructed right after it finished talking.
    “Double was hoping the ET Phone wouldn’t speak, then burn him and his home down.
    It was very perfect, not a commercial product. A display about one and a half inches square with 20 keys on its face, apparently machined from actual metal. The keys didn’t move when touched.
    No ports for accessories or even for charging. Nuclear powered, perhaps? Double didn’t know what to with it. But it looked very nice, stylish.
    It beeped once.
    “Edward here,” said Double-E, using his official identity.
    “Look at the PC,” said Mark Sterling.
    The Drudge Report was refreshing its main page.
     Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Plant had now scored a perfect 7, right up there with Chernobyl on the disaster scale. Despite the mixed messages and weaseling - the air, soil, plants, seawater and tapwater were poisoned.
    Mark went on, “The name of the Nuclear Plant, the first four letters are f-u-k-u...
    “Check the next headline.” Drudge flashed red on white for a tenth of a second.
    Double speculated. Was this an oxymoron, or irony?
    “Time to go play Super Hero, Double-E,” said Mark.
    “Do I get to kill an Evil-Doer?” asked Double.
    “Your call... a question,” Mark soothed.
    “IAEA-TECDOC-1383, what is it?”
    “A document on Nuclear Safety?” Double knew context.
    “Correct. How many times is ‘earth’ or ‘quake’ or ‘natural’ mentioned?”
    “Double-Zero,” replied Double-E.
    “One more thing, Double.” “What?”
    “Pick up that damn ET Phone, moron! Now go!”
    Double-E realized he had never touched the phone at all. Mark had finished.


    Did Mark Sterling even exist? Why was Edward spacing out? What was the assignment? Where was the cash?
    Patricia came in the office. “There’s new money in the account. Lots.”


    Double, who had always been a quick thinker, researched. The core of the Nuclear Problem wasn’t technology, or lack of it. It was anticipation, preparation, and quality control. Was there any hope? Any fix?
    Not yet, but Double was an optimist. And... Double was a Post Human, Hybrid Super Hero, freshly coined.
    Ordinary folks were so politically correct, so green, they would hesitate to eliminate a bug, or assassinate a mote of dust. Double was less politics, more pragmatism. The past is the past, but the future was negotiable.


     Ernest P. Rense was a Nuclear Engineer who had owned a significant part of the image-processing start-up business that Edward worked at in the late 80’s. Back then Ernie was shy, studious, yet polite in a detached way.
    Now, Mister Rense was a high-profile advisor for a Billion-Dollar Project, the Boilen Nuclear Facility on the Northern Maine Coastline.
    Double called. “Ernie, Edward Evans... PCB transmission lines in Peabody... Well, thank you... PCB, not lately... Security, Executive Protection... It’s local. Just promoted to Super Hero.”
    Ernie laughed. He sounded tired. Edward Evans kept it up.
    “Up your way on Thursday. Kona Coffee... 15:00 OK... Thanks!”


    Security at Boilen Nuclear Facility made the TSA look like Sesame Street. These people were smart, methodical, and in shape, not to mention well armed. Double figured a Billion Dollars went a long way towards buying staff superior to common rent-a-cops. Then, he was in.
    Ernie looked older. Double had some connections who knew about that DWI last August and the recent Ex-Wife, expensive. Also Double had kept a few secrets for Ernie back in Massachusetts.
    Certainly that’s why Ernie allowed Edward Evans in at all that day.
    Ernie gave Edward the Nickel Tour of the Billion Dollar Project. It was 15:30 and twenty five minutes of that consisted of getting through Security. Double knew leaving would be quicker and easier.
    Said Ernie, “Containment is everything. The Japs are freaking out; earthquakes weren’t accounted for in their Spec. Real-time processing and redundancy were grossly underestimated.”
    Double knew that the guy, once started, would talk forever if he let him. He gave Ernie a little more rope. This was a different Ernie. Not the guileless geek Ernie, but a polished political pundit.
     They were at the Reactor Containment Area, still being completed. It was shaped like a giant concrete can with a hemispherical lid, and resembled the same structure in Seabrook, New Hampshire, which had held so far.
    Ernie continued, “At night the concrete pouring surrounds the rebar framework. I designed the Software. The pouring is automated, and stops at 06:00 the next morning. Then Quality Assurance checks the progress. The procedure is fast, cost-effective, and safe.
    “Next we will be installing the Adaptive Data Acquisition and Control Hardware, to keep the kettle from boiling over at Boilen.”
    Ernie seemed proud of his pun. “I’m working on that Software today, after the Kona Coffee.”
    Double asked, “The Containment Software isn’t finished?”
    “I got behind on the Pouring Software, but I’m catching up. There’s a deadline prior to the 2012 Election.”
    “Oh,” said Double, and thought: catching up... deadline... election?


    “Ernie, this guy Mark, we worked at NWODI, he wanted to show you this.” Double handed him one of the two flash drives that had passed security.
    While Ernie inserted it, Double-E removed the tiny Ceramic knife blade from the second USB Drive and nicked Ernie on the cheek with it.
    “I’m bleeding, you cut me! I’m dying!” Ernie wailed. What a chickenshit.
    “You cut yourself shaving, it’s a facial wound, not an artery, retard,” Double-E, Super Hero, clarified as he attached strong titanium cable to the handcuffs and emptied Ernie’s pockets.
    “The first flash drive has a video feed for Security so you won’t be disturbed while studying politics. This is enough cable, don’t hurt yourself trying to break it, to reach to the top of the rebar, more or less.
    “I’ll be back on Saturday, I’ve already authorized myself. That same flash drive will keep the concrete going another day continuously.
    “The Quality Assurance folks have been granted Friday, tomorrow, off to enjoy the weather. I’ll be back Saturday...
    “Unless I forget, unless the cable’s too short. Be careful, Bye.”


Aria Clark

    She didn’t want to go inside, but she had to. She got out of her car and walked up the driveway to the front door of her boyfriend’s house. Derek met her at the door, pulling on Honey’s choke collar.
    “It’s only Jo, you idiot dog!” he said, trying to stop the dog from barking.
    Josephine walked in and greeted the dog with kindness, petting and rubbing behind her ears. “Hey, Honey. It’s just me. You good girl, keeping the house safe from bad guys. It’s a good thing I’m not a bad guy, huh? Yeah, you just melt right into my hands, puppy.” She stood up and tried, unsuccessfully, to wipe the white dog hair off of her black sweatshirt.
    “What are you doing here? Was I supposed to get you or something? Did we have plans?”
    “No, not really. Just wanted to stop by, I guess. This weather’s got me kind of down.” She didn’t want to tell him the truth just yet, the timing wasn’t right.
    “Oh?” he questioned, wiggling his eyebrows, playfully suggesting some sort of innuendo.
    “No, you tool. I’ve just got some stuff on my mind, that’s all. You want a smoke?” She asked him, already on her way to the back porch. The sky was starting to get a little cloudy, but the weather was just as muggy as any other Florida summer day.
    They shared a lounge chair by the pool, looking up at the sky. “It’s gonna storm tonight,” she told him, for no reason other than to fill the silence between them.
    “You ok, Jo? You seem a little... Different.”
    “I think I’m pregnant,” she said as she got up and walked toward the screen door.
    “What?” His reaction was a mix of disbelief, surprise, and panic.
    “What do you mean ‘what?’ It’s simple. I think I’m pregnant. Preggers. Bun in the oven. But you don’t have to worry.”
    He was too stunned to comprehend what she was telling him.
    With the perfect timing to end a desperate silence, they heard Honey barking and Derek’s mother shouting for her son to ‘feed the damn dog already.’ Josephine never really liked her boyfriend’s mom, and the feeling was pretty mutual. Even though the words had never actually been verbalized, at least not to Josephine’s face, she was pretty sure Derek’s mom had a list of judgments about her.
    They lived in a small neighborhood in a small town, the kind that seems almost stereotypical in movies, where everyone knows everyone and one person’s business is the town’s business. The whole neighborhood knew about Josephine’s family, at least they liked to think they did. Josephine was the daughter of a young unwed mother, who was the daughter of a young unwed mother, who was the daughter of...
    Derek’s mom had known Josephine’s mom in high school, she knew of her reputation, and why she dropped out. There was no doubt in Josephine’s mind that this woman would be thrilled at the news of her being pregnant, though the fact that her son was the culprit would make the moment bittersweet.
    Josephine knew people thought of her as white trash, she knew of the rumored reputation she supposedly had, she knew all sorts of statistics were against her. She didn’t really care, though. No one else knew of her suspected situation, and as far as she was concerned, no one else would know. Josephine was not going to keep the baby.
    Before Derek’s mother could even make up a story about something he had to do immediately, and without Josephine, they were already walking out the door.
    “Mom, we’re gonna go for a walk. I’ll be home before dark. Can you feed Honey? Bye!”
    They walked down to the end of his street, taking their time. They had nowhere to go, nothing to do. They had just graduated high school a few months earlier; they had no classes to go to, no tests to study for, no job to be late to. They were just kids. So they walked.
    They got to an empty lot at the end of the street and sat down in the pressed-down grass. The two of them had frequented the spot almost every weekend they’d been dating. The upcoming October would be their third year together, and their first being apart. Derek was planning on going to the local community college that just recently became a state school, not sure of what he actually wanted to do with his life. Josephine was accepted to a state school 4 hours away.
    “Remember when we first came down here to have a picnic?” she put the cigarette out on a rock as she sat down in the dewy grass.
    “How could I forget? That isn’t exactly something that can be easily forgotten, especially when someone keeps bringing it up,” he said, pulling her into his arms. “Hey, quit laughing! It wasn’t funny!”
    “Oh, yes it is! You should have seen your face when you saw that dead snake next to your blanket! And if it’s not funny, why are you laughing, too?”
    They lied down in the grass and looked at the sky. Josephine had never looked for shapes in the clouds until she started coming to the lot with Derek when they were in middle school. She had flown her first kite at the beach when they were kids, she broke her first bone on his pogo stick when they were 10, he made her try a s’more for the first time at his family reunion... They were best friends, and had been since kindergarten. She rolled over and looked at Derek, his eyelashes were long and dark, as if he was wearing mascara. The effect was only enhanced by his soft blue eyes. She loved the way she melted whenever he looked at her with those eyes. The eyes someone young and hopeful would read as romantic and honest, the eyes that would disprove even the smallest doubt of love, the eyes that adolescents learn and fake so easily and so readily. He kissed her softly and stroked her back.
    Josephine had never been kissed so kindly by anyone other than Derek. The longer they kissed, the harder it was for her to let go.
    “So what are you going to do?” he asked, ready to make promises too hard to keep if he needed to.
    “I’m not keeping the baby.”
    He looked at her with eyes of loss. Now his eyes were sincere, because even adolescents can feel that pinch in their heart when someone hurts them. The darkening sky made his blue eyes deeper, sapphire instead of aquamarine.
    “I’m sorry, Derek. But this really isn’t something we can do.” She couldn’t even look into his eyes and say it, she knew the decision broke his heart.
    She sighed and got up, her jeans almost too tight from the new bloat. Derek got up and walked her to her car down the street, his arm around her protectively.
    When they reached her car, she gave him a tight hug, inhaling the scent of his cologne mixed with smoke and the coming storm. The smell of cigarettes always made her queasy, but it seemed intensified now. She hated it, but she loved it.
    “I love you,” she told him as she got into her car, waiting a few moments before she left so that she could stare into his eyes. She didn’t know why the men in her family’s life never stayed, or where they went. But she hoped Derek would stay with her, with or without baby.
    “Take care,” he whispered as she rolled the window up and drove away. “I love you, too, Josephine.” She was already down the road.

    She rested her hand on her belly as she drove to the drugstore on her way home. Her period had been irregular her whole life, but never a full month late. She was sure a pregnancy test would confirm her suspicion, giving her a better idea of what to do next.
    When she got to Walgreens she made sure that none of her former classmates were working, that would not be a very nice experience. Josephine wasn’t the type of person to be paranoid, but with her supposed reputation, and Derek’s mom having friends (who Josephine referred to as ‘spies’) everywhere, she could never be too sure.
    She was relieved to see that the only people even in the store were employees who all looked old enough to be collecting social security. She walked around casually, grabbing a coffee and a Snickers on her way to the aisle she needed. Josephine had never been pregnant before, and definitely did not ever have that talk with her mother, so she just picked the first one she saw and went to the cash register.
    “Anything else?” the woman behind the machine asked, giving her a look. Josephine decided she’d rather not have Old Lady Morals giving her dirty looks for being a whore, but since she’s doing it anyway she might as well buy a pack of cigarettes.
    It took all the motivation Josephine could manage not to smirk as the items were being rung up. Caffeine and nicotine work fine alone, but adding a pregnancy test to the mix, that was just sick humor she could not resist. After she paid she headed for the store’s restroom.

    When she was done, she waited in the locked stall for the time to be up. Approximately the same amount of time it takes to drink a coffee and crave a cigarette. She could hear the rain start coming down as she looked out the window at the top of the wall. She shivered as the air kicked on. It felt nice.
    Her phone alarm went off at 5:22 and she had her answer.
    Satisfied, she threw the empty coffee jar and used test in the trash, packed up her candy, cigarettes, and the other test, and left.

    When she got in her car to head home, the sky was almost black and the flashes of lightning followed by the crashes of thunder were rapidly occurring. “Good ol’ Sunshine State,” she said as she turned the wipers on high and messed with the defroster. After passing some jerk going ten under the speed limit and demonstrating her knowledge of sign language, she proceeded to go ten over the speed limit, splashing through puddles and standing water.
    At least now she knew she was pregnant. But how far along was she? Her period was a month late, but from what she’d heard that wasn’t very reliable. She couldn’t remember the exact last time she and Derek had had sex, but she figured it was probably the weekend after graduation. Her thoughts were bouncing around in her head. She couldn’t decide if she wanted to tell her mom, or how she would tell her mom she wasn’t going to keep the baby. She didn’t know if Derek would tell his mom, but she really hoped he wouldn’t do something as stupid as that.

    When Josephine got home, she found her mom on the couch, watching some judge tell the plaintiff that she can’t sue her ex-boyfriend for child support if he isn’t the father and the courts have already told her he doesn’t owe her any money. “Mom, why do you even watch this crap?” she asked, dropping her keys on the kitchen counter, taking an espresso drink out of the fridge.
    “I love this show! Where’ve you been all day?”
    “I was with Derek, mostly just hiding from his mom. What day is it?” Josephine had been a little confused about the days since she graduated, lack of responsibilities can do that to a person.
    “Tuesday. Hey! You can’t drink that in your room, finish it in the kitchen. And feed the cat?” The commercial break was over and her mom’s attention was back to the courtroom.

    Josephine finished her iced espresso and went to the garage for the cat’s food. Before she could even fill the bowl up, he was already eating. “Dang, Maple. You musta been lonely today.” She smoked a quick cigarette in the garage while she watched her cat eat. When he was done she picked him up and went to her room, passing her mom and laughing to herself at how funny her mom was sometimes.
    When she got to her room, she dropped her bag on the floor and her cat on the bed and turned on her computer. She flopped on her bed and rolled over to look at Maple, who was staring very intently at the pull-string on the ceiling fan flying in circles. Josephine laughed picking up the kitten and rubbing his belly as she went online. She needed a natural way to do this. No sense in creating even more talk among the neighbors. Yet somehow she went from websites about pregnancy risks to looking up baby names.
    Josephine was in a near trance-like state, she was so fascinated by the names and processes and stages of babies. She quickly snapped out of it when her feisty kitty nipped her arm for more petting.

    She got up and went into her bathroom. She looked at her kitty’s gray face and sighed. “Maybe this test will show up different.” He meowed and jumped up on her bed to curl up on her pillow.
    Ten minutes later she found herself on the back porch with her mom, she lit up again. She knew she shouldn’t, but she just couldn’t help it.
    “Jo, why are you still up?” her mom had asked as she joined her daughter for a smoke.
    “Mama, it’s only 7.” She blew the smoke into the air and stifled a cough. “It’s just dark and nasty out.”
    “It’s only 7? Jeez. Did you see all the yard work I did today when you got home?”
    “No, what’d you do?”
    “I pulled weeds in the garden and planted some irises and daisies.”
    “What color?”
    “That’s my favorite.”
    “I know.”
    A few seconds passed— a silent bonding between mom and daughter. Josephine would be leaving for college in a few months, living farther away from her mom than she’d ever been before.
    “I’m going to go watch some TV in my room. There’s leftover meatloaf in the fridge if you’re hungry. Love you, Jo.”
    “Love you, too, Mama.”

    Josephine had no reason to tell her mom she was pregnant, she would never know about the baby her daughter didn’t keep.
    Josephine looked down at her belly. “Dammit, Jo.” She gained a bit of self-control— putting out the last of the cigarette and leaving the rest of the pack on the table as the rain started in. “I really need to quit.”

    Cigarette addiction wasn’t the worst addiction in her family, but it was the worst she’d ever done.
    She remembered looking (snooping) through her mom’s file cabinet when she was a kid, she saw letters between her mother and a man she later found out was her father. Josephine had written down the words she hadn’t recognized and went to the dictionary. ‘Abuse,’ ‘marijuana,’ ‘alcoholic,’ those were the first three. She was too scared to look up the last words at only ten.

    Maple clawed at the door, breaking Josephine’s thoughts. She opened the door, but her cat didn’t want out. He wanted Josephine to come back inside and spend more time petting him. She picked up her cat and walked to her room.
    When she relaxed on her bed with her laptop on and her cat next to her, she stated assuredly, to herself as well as to her curious cat, “No way will I bring a child into this world with those kinds of genes.”

    She spent hours on Google until Derek called at nine wondering if she was doing okay.
    “I’m okay, yeah...”
    “Jo, you’re lying. What are you doing? What’s wrong?”
    “You’re so cute when you’re concerned,” she told him lovingly, a small shadow of a smile on her lips.
    “That doesn’t answer my question.” He was stern and meaningful, he was used to her changing the subject to avoid confrontation with herself and anyone else, but wanted an immediate answer.
    “I’m just online.”
    “Go on and I’ll send you the link, okay?” she said, unsure of how to tell him otherwise.
    “Okay. Fine.” Defeated, Derek hung up the phone and logged online.
    Josephine sent him the websites she was on. He requested a video chat, which she gladly accepted. When the video opened, Josephine smiled at what she saw. Derek was wrapped up in a blanket at the desk in the corner of his room, with Honey sleeping on his bed behind him, twitching mid-dream every time the thunder boomed.
    She looked at the corner of the video screen and saw her own video— her wrapped in a blanket on her bed, propped up with a bunch of pillows. Her own kitty was curled up by her side, sound asleep. He wasn’t afraid of storms, but he was afraid of being alone when it was storming outside. He cuddled against her for safety.

    “Josephine, why are you looking at this?!” His emotions were all over the place, which Josephine figured was understandable. She interpreted anger, confusion, fear, disbelief, and who knows what else. She had sent him links to various websites about miscarriages. Websites about “why did I?” and “how can I prevent?” The one she was pretty sure caused his intense reaction was one in particular about “how to.”

    “Derek, we’re kids. We can’t have a baby. We can’t support a child at all. It’s completely illogical to even pretend we could.”
    “But, Jo, what... why... Jo...”
    Tears were in her eyes; they were already falling down Derek’s face.
    “Jo, I swear we could. I could get a job where my mom works. I could be the errand boy and her work. I could work at McDonald’s. And you can go to school and—”
    “Jo, why? We could try. Jo, I love you. And I’ll love you and our baby. And I’ll take care of you.”
    “Derek, I’m leaving for UCF in a few months. You’re going to Daytona State. Neither of us has enough money for a baby, or enough time.”
    She felt tears slide down her cheeks.
    “I love you, Derek.”
    “I love you, too, Jo.”

    She looked away, at a picture on her wall. It was a collage of her and her mom throughout her life. From the hospital— Josephine was crying and her mother looked desperate to help her new baby. Her grandmother was looking over her mother’s shoulder; someone had been cut out of the picture. Josephine always assumed it was her biological father.
    There was a picture of her and her mom at her preschool graduation. Josephine remembered that dress, she saw it at Walmart and threw a fit to get it. She had no concept of money or poor then, but she remembered wearing that dress for years. It was the dress for school picture day until she was in third grade, when she finally out grew it.
    There were pictures from school field trips, from Girl Scout meetings, graduations, birthdays...
    Josephine was crying now. She loved her mama, just like her mama loved her. Her mama often told her how lucky she was to have a daughter like Josephine, and how blessed she was.
    Her kitty was awake now, softly pawing her belly. Josephine could swear Maple was telepathic— always acting when she needed a call back to reality, when she needed a hug or a good cry. She petted the kitty, who snuggled against her belly for a nap.
    Josephine looked at Derek, who she’d almost forgotten about. He was reading something online, a look of determination on his face. She assumed he was searching for a job of some sort.

    “Derek?” her voice squeaked.
    “Jo?” he looked at her strangely, lovingly, hopefully.
    “I want to keep the baby.” New tears cascaded from her now puffy red-lined eyes.
    “Josephine Deserae Jones, I love you. And I plan on taking care of you for the rest of our lives. You, me, and our baby. I love you, Josephine. I love you.”
    “I love you, too, Derek.”
    “Tomorrow’s Monday, so I’m going to go first thing in the morning to look for a job somewhere, anywhere. You do what you need to do. Those sites all say smoking and caffeine all increase chances of miscarrying. You know you’re a smoking coffeeholic, Jo.” He looked and sounded so grown up, but he still had his soft, loving face. It reassured Josephine about the hopeful outcome of their situation.
    “I love you, Derek.” She was tired— exhausted— but would never be able to sleep through the night. She’d had sleep problems since her junior year, and was given some medication by her doctor. “Babe, I’m gonna go take some Tylenol and a sleeping pill. My back really hurts for some reason and I’m gonna go to bed because I’m planning on running some errands tomorrow.”
    “I love you, Jo.”
    She closed the video chat, shut her computer off, and took her meds.

    “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. Shall I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.
    Lord, please help me. I have doubts and I don’t know what to do. Lord, I am scared, be my courage and light. Lord, I am weak, be my strength and my support. Lord, I am confused, be my knowledge and my guide. Lord please protect me and show me the way.

    By one Josephine was asleep.
    By twelve Josephine was awake.


    New-found, impossible-to-reason giddiness brought Josephine to the bookstore that afternoon. She needed a cigarette, but wanted to quit. She found herself compromising— allowing half a cigarette, just to break the habit. She had taken a pair of scissors and cut each cigarette in half.
    Accomplished, Josephine ordered a coffee at the Starbucks at Barnes & Noble and began her quest. On a budget of just $30 graduation money (after a month of spending, and before the expenses of a baby) she searched for just the right tools. How to quit smoking, how to prepare for baby, how to care for baby.
    Josephine heard a child throwing a fit somewhere in the children’s area— conveniently located right next to the pregnancy and health section were Josephine was. She was feeling nauseous, regretting her nicotine and caffeine consumption on an otherwise empty stomach. She dropped the books on a chair and went straight for the restrooms. Even in the stall she could hear the toddler screaming.
    Josephine sat by the toilet, still feeling sick, but not physically reacting. “False alarm, I guess...”
    Until a mother and a baby came in, Josephine was feeling better. Walking out of the stall to wash her hands, Josephine was introduced to the smell of baby waste— then to the toilet.
    “Oh, you made a messy mess, didn’t you Miss Molly?” said the overly cheerful mother to her cooing baby girl.
    Josephine waited for the two to leave before she came out. “I hate kids,” she said to herself as she walked out of the restroom and saw two children throwing books off the shelves and running away.
    “I concur,” said the employee next to her. “They’ve been here for an hour and their father won’t control them. He thinks it’s our job to keep them in check.”
    Josephine helped him put the books where they belonged and left, she forgot about her own books, still sitting where she left them unless tossed around by unruly children.

    Josephine went to McDonald’s craving a Big Mac and Coke more than a heroin addict craves the needle. Upon walking into the grease-filled restaurant she almost gagged. Then she almost laughed. Not only had some kid thrown up in the indoor play area, but that was her boyfriend mopping it up.
    “I sure hope you’re getting paid for that,” she said as she walked closer, but not too close. She felt herself getting sick again.
    “Hahaha, Josephine.” Derek’s mocked sarcasm was one of those traits that many people found aggravating, but Josephine countered with her own charm.
    “Well I’ll take that to mean you’ll gladly change diapers and clean up messes.” She smiled an over-exaggerated grin when he playfully stuck his tongue out at her. “I’ll let you get back to work, don’t want you getting fired for flirting on the job,” she said with a wink.
    “I’ll see you later, Jo.”

    Josephine ordered what she came there for, then went to the restroom again when her vegetarian body rejected the beef patties.
    “This is going to be a long 9 months,” she said to herself, waiting for the frozen coffee she ordered to replace the Coke she forgot she hated.
    Josephine spent the rest of her day running errands. She justified that she needed something to do— not like she could sit on her ass all day on the computer.
    Really she just wanted to be where she knew babies and infants and mothers would be. She hoped to find a young mother, or at least a mom with no ring. She wanted to feel less alone in her situation. She wanted reassurance that she was doing the right thing, that she had a maternal instinct rather than instincts of animals that eat their young.

    Everywhere she went, the mind was constantly back and forth between thoughts like ‘someone shut that kid up!’ and ‘if I have a boy, he’d wear that adorable onesie!’ She listened to names and made mental lists, remembering one beautiful name in particular she’d have to look up later that night.
    She spent a while in the baby section of Target, looking at cribs and bedding, diapers and clothes, toys, car seats, strollers... She began to worry, everything was so expensive. What if they couldn’t afford a baby? Her mom couldn’t afford to help them on a substitute teacher’s pay, and there was no way Derek’s mother would help Josephine, even if she was pregnant with her grandchild.
    She bought a stuffed ‘for baby’ Winnie-the-Pooh so that the companion would smell like her when the baby was born, so that the crib wouldn’t be so scary.

    By 8:00 Josephine was home again. She walked in and saw her mom was watching TV, some doctor’s show. The patient this week was pregnant, but having complications. Josephine did not watch. She fed her cat and went out back for a smoke. She had forgotten she cut all of her cigarettes in half. She knew better, but she smoked 4. She had tears in her eyes with each light, tears falling with each puff. “I’m sorry, baby,” she whispered, rubbing her belly.
    It was dark outside, and she heard the thunder rolling in. Josephine wiped her face and went inside.
    “You okay, Jo? You don’t look so good. Are you crying?” Motherly concern.
    “Yeah, I’m okay. I just have a headache.” She took some Tylenol and ate a granola bar. It wasn’t very good, but she hadn’t eaten anything but french-fries hours ago.

    “I work tomorrow. Kindergarten at Okes Elementary. So I won’t be home when you get up.”
    “Okay Mom. Good luck. Kindergarten? I hope no one puts their boogers on you,” she said with a laugh. She was referring to a boy in her kindergarten class who was put in time out and wasn’t allowed to play at recess or at centers because Josephine had dared him to put a booger in the substitute teacher, and the dummy did it!
    Josephine smiled to herself and wondered if she hadn’t dared that boy, or if he hadn’t done it, if she’d still be pregnant with his baby right now.
    “As long as I don’t have a skutch like you I think I’ll be safe and booger-free,” her mom laughed.
    “I think my innocent brown eyes and Shirley Temple ringlets got me out of it, but that’s just my 18 year-old interpretation of a 5 year-old’s memory. No one can punish someone who looks like Shirley Temple.”
    “Or Bo-Beep!”
    Josephine laughed and stuck her tongue out at her mom.

    The National Weather Service interrupted the TV show to issue a severe storm warning for a few surrounding counties, and a tornado watch for a few others.
    “Good thing we live in the Sunshine State!” her mom said sarcastically.
    “You’re missing your show, Mom.” Josephine said after the announcement had finished and the show returned with a birth scene.
    “It’s okay, I’ve seen this one before. I’m going to bed. I heard you feed the cat, should have told you I already did. Sorry.”
    “Oh, well. He’ll just be half as hungry tomorrow.”
    “Night, Jo. Love you.”
    “Love you, too, Mama.” She hugged her mom and went to her room, Maple following closely behind.

    Josephine called Derek when she got to her room, and texted him when he didn’t answer. He was still at McDonald’s and would be until he got off work at 9. Josephine decided she really wanted some french-fries and a milkshake, so within ten minutes she was back at the fast food chain waiting for Derek to get off work and downing a large fry and the milkshake she planned on having, which turned into an iced coffee as she ordered.

    When Derek got off work they went to sit in his car.
    “So you got a job the same day you applied?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
    “The hiring manager kinda owed me a favor.”
    “What kind of... favor?”
    “Well, let’s just say I’ve got some dirt on him that would look really bad at corporate.”
     Josephine didn’t really care about what it was, who it was, or why it mattered. Derek had a job. Part-time and unstable, yes. But a job was a job. And once Josephine started school in a tourist town she was almost positive she’d find something.
    She told him about the Pooh Bear she bought for the baby, and told him she felt silly for doing it.
    “I love you,” he told her reassuringly.
    “You too, Derek. Did you tell your mom about...?” She was really praying he hadn’t.
    “No, did you?”
    “No, not yet.”
    Derek yawned, which caused Josephine to yawn.
    “Hey, Jo, I’m gonna go. I’ll see you tomorrow. They had me doing grunt work for 8 hours, and I work the 7-3 shift tomorrow doing the same shit.”
    “Alright, be careful on your drive home. The roads are full of water.”

    When Josephine got home she went back to her computer. Her lower back had been killing her all day, and now her stomach was beginning to really hurt. She figured it was just normal pregnancy stuff and took some Tylenol.
    After browsing baby-related websites for a few hours, she decided she really needed some sort of rest and took some Tylenol PM and a sleeping pill and got ready for bed.

    “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. Shall I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.
    Lord protect my baby. Keep your child safe. Lord, I am worried, be my assurance. Lord I am unsure, be my certainty. Lord, I need help, be my assistance. Please show me the way, help me know what to do. I don’t know if Derek and I can do this.
    She cradled the Pooh Bear in her arms and went to sleep.


    Josephine slept terribly. She had nightmares all night, she kept half-waking in tears and falling asleep again.

    She dreamt that Maple got jealous of her baby belly and pounced on her, but her little kitten was a full-grown tiger, clawing at her abdomen, telling her (in the voice of Derek’s mother) she will go to hell.
    She dreamt she was in the car and witnessed an accident and the injuries the victim had affected her: bashed open skull, burning flesh, cuts and bruises all over her body, and finally death.
    She dreamt she was nursing her baby girl, for the very first time. But when she looked down to see her angel, she saw a ghost in her arms.

    Josephine woke up for the final time crying. Her body felt different, she didn’t know how, though. In her fog of just waking up she felt lighter, like a feather.
    She grabbed her phone from her nightstand without rolling over to see it was just after 2. She missed a text from Derek saying he loved her and to text him when she got up. She missed a text from her mom saying pretty much the same thing.
    She texted her mom and asked how kindergarten was going, who replied simply ‘thank God for naptime!’
    She texted Derek asking him when he got off work and decided to get up and get dressed when he told her he’d be done in an hour.

    Josephine could barely move, she hurt so terribly. Then the pain hit her— and the shock. She rolled out of bed slowly and carefully and saw blood, a lot of blood.
    Josephine dropped to her knees and began to cry.
    She made herself stop crying after almost 15 minutes, just long enough for her to strip her bed and take a hot shower.
    There was no way she’d be able to clean those sheets and she knew it.
    She threw the messy sheets into a black garbage bag and threw them in the trash. She drove to see Derek.
    She didn’t get down the street before turning around and grabbing Baby’s first Winnie-the-Pooh.

    “Maybe I’m just over-reacting... Right? I mean, lots of women bleed when they’re pregnant... Right? That doesn’t necessarily mean I...” she tried to reason with, but just couldn’t deceive, herself.

    She drove to Walgreens to get another test. Old Lady Morals was at the register again. (Was it really only two days ago that this all happened?)
    Josephine had no desire to show sarcasm or apathy to the old woman, and the woman looked at her with what Josephine interpreted to be sympathy or compassion. She looked in the mirrored cover of a security camera behind the counter and saw how pitiful she looked. Her light brown curls were all over the place, her eyes were puffy, and her nose had a slight shade of red. She was a mess.
    When the customer in front of her left, the woman rang up the pregnancy test, pressed a few buttons, and gave Josephine the receipt. Josephine looked at her questioningly.
    “God bless you, dear,” Old Lady Morals told her with the kind face of a grandmother or an angel.
    Josephine nodded and said thank you. She left to find the restroom once more. This time she was hoping for the result she didn’t want only two days ago.
    She left 5 minutes later, tears falling silently and steadily from her deep brown eyes.

    Josephine drove to the empty lot down the street from where Derek lived, the one where they’d had picnics in, the one they’d played tag in as kids.
    The sky was a light gray, with the smell of a storm fading away. She parked her car and texted Derek to come meet her in the lot.
    She sat alone for ten or fifteen minutes, tears slowly gliding down her face, as she sat in the wet grass and waited for Derek.

    “Jo, what’s wrong? Why are you here?” Derek asked, when he finally got to the empty lot as he grabbed her into his arms. He could see how upset she was, he could see that she had been crying lightly, and she started crying much harder as he took hold of her. She wrapped her arms around him and cried.
    “Jo, you’re scaring me. What’s wrong? Look at me Josephine!” His
    sapphire eyes were burning questions and fear and concern into Josephine’s. When she looked him in the eye, he knew.
    “Jo... No... Josephine... Did... The baby...”
    She shook her head and sobbed.
    “Josephine...” He held her close, she let him hold her.
    He didn’t care that she was getting tears and snot all over his shoulder, and she didn’t care that he smelled like grease and coffee.

    After a few minutes she was exhausted from crying. Her whole body ached, her heart ached. She had been cradling the Pooh Bear the whole time.
    She was sitting in Derek’s lap, resting her head on his shoulder, sniffling softly.
    He was gently rubbing her back, holding her closely.
    “I love you, Josephine.”
    “Love you, too, Derek,” she whispered.

    A few moments passed, leaves rustled, a bird chirped softly.
    Josephine closed her eyes against the sun, just beginning to show through, and took a deep breath of the wet grass and trees.
    “Angelea,” she said decisively.
    She surprised Derek, and she surprised herself. He’d thought she was sleeping, she thought she was, too.
    “It means ‘weary angel.’”
    “Angelea,” he repeated softly, kissing her shoulder.
    “Angelea,” she said again, quieter. Just loud enough for Winnie-the-Pooh to hear.


David S. Atkinson

    “She just dropped her robe and stood there,” I said, shifting a little on Steven’s bed. “You could see her back. She looked nude.”
    “Yeah,” Steven agreed. “You could tell she was really naked. Not just pretending.”
    “Then she just grabbed him.”
    “I wish they’d showed her from the front when she did that,” Freddy chimed in. He was sitting on Steven’s floor.
    “I wish a girl would do that to me,” I replied.
    Steven got up off his bed and lay down on the floor. He held his head in his hands and propped it up by resting his elbows on the floor. I laid out on the bed, kind of in the same way.
    Steven didn’t have a whole lot in his room. There was the bed. That was against one of the blue walls under the one little window. He always kept the shade down. The window looked out on the space between Steven’s house and the next one, so I guess he just didn’t see any reason to keep it open.
    Other than the bed, there was just the desk where Steven was supposed to do homework and a bookcase. Steven didn’t really have any books, just a couple of his dad’s old marine manuals. Mostly he kept plastic model planes and pinewood derby cars on the shelves. That and all his stupid baseball trophies.
    “Maybe she would’ve been facing us if we’d seen Teen Wolf at the movies,” Freddy suggested. “Maybe they edited that for TV.”
    “I bet she was,” Steven said. He rubbed himself on the brown carpet. “I bet you could see everything.”
    Freddy leaned back a little away from Steven. “What’re you doing?”
    “It feels good.” Steven laughed. His eyes were closed a little.
    I started rubbing, too, on Steven’s bed. I thought about the girl from the movie. She grabbed me.
    Freddy looked at us. Then even he stretched out on the floor and started doing it. “Hey. It does feel good.” He said it like he hadn’t believed us.
    Steven had his eyes all the way closed, grinning. “You’d see her boobs. You’d see it all.”
    “Yeah,” I said quick to Freddy, pushing up a little off the bed, “and if you do it long enough something happens.”
    I’d done that. On the carpet in my room. There’d been this old movie on where this little guy hid some paper in his shirt. Some real sneaky pretty girl snuck her hand inside his shirt and was reaching all over inside there trying to get it. She tickled him, inside his clothes, grabbing for the paper. When I was lying on the floor in my underwear I thought about her doing that and rubbed.
    “What happens?” Freddy asked.
    “You finish,” I guess. I started rubbing again.
    “Finish?” Steven opened his eyes.
    “Yeah.” They didn’t look like they got it. I thought about it. That’s what it was, finishing.
    “Just do it long enough until something happens,” I finally said. “You’ll see.”
    “We should practice,” Steven said, getting up. “We need to be ready.” He looked around at Freddy and me.
    “Huh?” Freddy asked and sat up. I sat up too.
    “For a girl, stupid.” Steven rolled his eyes. “You got to practice for when it happens. I bet you don’t even know how to kiss a girl.”
    Freddy crossed his arms. “I do, too. I know better than you.”
    “Show me then. Show me how you’d kiss a girl,” he challenged.
    “With you? That’s gross!”
    “It’s just training! Just do it or admit you don’t know how.”
    “Fine,” Freddy snapped. He scooted over to Steven on the floor. He put his arms on Steven’s shoulders, kind of like he was hugging him but didn’t want to get too close. Then he closed his eyes and gave him a quick peck on the mouth.
    “There. See?”
    “That’s not how you kiss a girl!” Steven got up on his knees. “That’s how you kiss your mom. This is how you’re supposed to kiss a girl.”
    Steven wrapped his arms around Freddy’s neck and pulled him over so their chests were touching. Then he closed his eyes and kissed Freddy, opening his mouth. It looked funny. They were both boys. Then Steven let go and pushed him away.
    “See? That’s how you’re supposed to do it. With tongues and stuff.”
    “I know,” Freddy said. “If you were a girl I would’ve.”
    “Doesn’t matter,” Steven said, standing up. “You got to train and be ready so you do it right. Otherwise you’ll never get to make out with girls.”
    Then Steven came over and sat on the bed. I guess it was my turn. I made sure to do it like he said.
    At first it was weird when I had my eyes open. He was right in my face and I smelled deodorant. I closed my eyes, though, and then it was okay. It was supposed to be practice for kissing a girl so I didn’t think about kissing Steven. I thought about kissing the girl from the movie. That was all right.
    We stopped and Steven stood up. “He knows how to do it,” he told Freddy.
    “Like you know,” Freddy argued. “You push your tongue too hard. They don’t do that in the movies.”
    Steven shook his head. “That’s the movies. Movies are just pretend and they make it look like it’s real.”
    Freddy didn’t say anything to that. He couldn’t. Everybody knew movie kissing wasn’t real. Nobody would make movies if they had to kiss somebody just because it was a movie.
    “We should practice being naked, too,” Steven said.
    “Anybody can be naked,” Freddy sneered. “I’m naked all the time when I take baths.”
    “Not naked like that,” Steven insisted. “Naked with somebody. It’s not the same.”
    So we took our clothes off. Steven locked the door to his room first. It locked by pushing in the knob and turning till it clicked. There was a little hole on the other side of the door and the knob unlocked if a nail or something got stuck in it.
    Freddy had on tighty-whities. All of us had them, but Freddy still had his on.
    “Come on,” Steven told Freddy.
    “Don’t watch.”
    “We’ll see in a second anyway. Who cares?”
    Freddy shrugged. “Just don’t watch.”
    We turned around. It was kind of different, while people were looking. Even if nobody wanted to see. Kind of exciting. That was weird, though, so I didn’t think about it.
    We turned back around. He’d taken them off. Our clothes were all in a pile on the floor and he was standing like me, kind of covering himself up. Freddy and me looked over at Steven. At his face.
    “Now lay down,” he told Freddy as he got on the bed. He stretched out, waiting.
    Freddy stopped a minute, but then he walked over and lay down next to Steven. Steven rolled over so that they were touching. I just stood there.
    Suddenly, Freddy jumped up off of the bed. “Eee ee eeh heeh,” he squealed. He jumped back and forth and shook. “Our wieners touched!”
    “See?” Steven sat up. “That’s why you got to train. It’d be over if you were in bed with a girl and did that.”
    I started walking over to the bed. It was my turn and I wasn’t going to act all freaky like Freddy.
    We all looked up. It was Steven’s dad. He called up from downstairs.
    “Just a minute!” Steven yelled back.
    We all ran over and started grabbing clothes and trying to throw them on. Steven and Freddy both grabbed the same pair of pants.
    “Those are mine,” Steven tried to yell at him quietly. “Yours are over there.”
    “Who cares? Just get dressed!”
    “He’ll know if we aren’t wearing our own clothes,” Steven snapped. “He saw what I wore this morning.”
    Freddy let go of the pants and grabbed for his own. I tried to hop into mine in one jump, but my leg got caught. I tripped and had to jump around so I didn’t fall.
    “Steven!” His dad shouted again. “You coming?”
    “Yeah,” Steven yelled back again.
    We finally got our clothes on and ran out Steven’s room and down the stairs. We stopped before we got to the bottom, out of breath. Steven’s dad was waiting.
    “Yeah, dad?” Steven was in front. Me and Freddy were behind him on the stairs.
    Steven’s dad looked at us. He was a quiet guy. Always real calm. He was a cable man.
    “Your mother called,” he told Steven. “She said she was going to stop by home on her way to Target. If you want to go with she said to be ready in about twenty minutes.”
    “That’s okay, dad.” He put his hand on the banister. “I’ll just stay here.”
    “All right, then.” Steven’s dad hooked his thumbs in the front pockets of his pants. “So...what’re you boys doing up there?”
    Steven shrugged. “Just playing.”
    Steven’s dad nodded. “All right, then. Go on and get back to it.” He turned and walked off into the kitchen.


    Steven stopped kissing. “You’re much better at training than Freddy is,” he said.
    “Yeah?” I opened my eyes.
    Steven smoothed his hair down where it was messed up from rolling around. “Yeah. You don’t act all dorky and spaz out. It makes it funny when he does that.”
    I didn’t think Steven trained with Freddy again after that one time. The only training we did was when only me and Steven were around.
    “We’re getting pretty good at that,” he said. “We need to move on to something else.”
    “Like what?” There were only so many things we could do. Neither of us were girls.
    He scooted up the bed and sat up a little. “Rub it. With your hand.”
    “What?” I sat up a little, too. “Girls don’t have one of those. I don’t need to practice that.”
    He put his hands on his knees. “It’s practice for me.”
    I sat up all the way and scooted to the other end of the bed. That wasn’t something Steven needed to practice. It didn’t sound like training at all.
    “I don’t know,” I said finally.
    He threw up his hands like he was mad. “Fine, then. Don’t. I thought you were getting really good at the simple stuff and you were ready for harder training. I guess you’re not. I guess you can only handle the baby stuff.”
    “It’s not that,” I said quick. “It’s just, well...I don’t know.”
    He shook his head. “And here I was going to share my leftover Halloween candy with you because you were helping me. I was even going to help you practice, too. But, you don’t want to. Some friend you are. I bet Freddy would.”
    “Wait,” I said and scooted back over on the bed. “I’ll do it. I just had to think about it a minute.”
    Steven had a bunch of butterscotches in his candy. The orange ones that come wrapped in the yellow plastic wrappers. I’d seen them. His parents didn’t hide his candy either, they just let him have it. Mine only let me have a couple of pieces a day except after trick or treating. They said I was allergic.
    “Okay,” Steven said. “Do it.”
    He spread out and leaned back. I looked at it for a while, but I grabbed it when he started looking mad again.
    His was different than mine. It was shorter, but fatter. The end was bigger and darker, almost more brown than purplish like mine.
    “Do it or don’t,” he said and I did it.
    It was squishy but not. Closing my eyes didn’t help at all. I couldn’t pretend it was anything else.
    I didn’t know how long I was supposed to do it. I hoped only for a little bit. Suddenly, I felt it move and my hand was wet. I jumped up and Steven laughed.
    “Ha! Me play joke. Me go pee-pee in your Coke.”
    I shook my hand.
    “Hey! Don’t get pee on my floor. That’s gross.” He whacked me one on the arm.
    “You peed! Why’d you do that?”
    He laughed again. “It was funny.”
    I got off the bed and started grabbing my clothes. It was bad enough already. I couldn’t believe he did that. Steven was a dick.
    “Hey, stop. Don’t get pissy,” he laughed again.
    I kept grabbing my clothes. I found my underwear and put them on.
    “Come on,” he said. “I won’t do it again.” He grabbed a piece of candy off the desk next to the bed and tossed it to me. I had to drop my clothes to be able to catch it. It was a butterscotch.


    “This’ll be perfect,” I told Nicky.
    He came walking up into the lookout fort behind me. It was on a high part of the hill to the graveyard. There was a big flat area so there was plenty of room to sit and there were a bunch of trees so people down on the street couldn’t see in. No one’d see us kissing anybody.
    “Yeah,” Nicky agreed. He held up a couple pillows he’d dragged along. They were big and overstuffed. Dark brownish-green with designs all over them. “My mom said we could have these for it.”
    “You told your mom we were going to have a kissing booth?”
    “Sure.” He tossed the pillows down on the ground. There were two of them. We each sat on one.
    “Do you think a lot of girls will come?”
    “I bet they will,” I told him. “Kissing booths always get lots of people.”
    We’d made a sign with magic marker that had an arrow up to us and taped it to a tree at the bottom of the hill. All we had to do was wait for the girls.
    It was a great idea. We didn’t know why everybody else didn’t open kissing booths. Girls just came to kiss. No having to try to talk them into it. Maybe other people would do it, too, once they saw how well it worked for us.
    “How much should we charge?” Nicky asked after a while.
    “Yeah, don’t people have to pay? Like a dollar a kiss or something?”
    I threw a stick at him. “Dummy! You’re not going to kiss a girl because she doesn’t want to pay a dollar? If we charge we might not get as many.”
    “Oh,” Nicky chewed on his lip. “Maybe we should charge the ugly ones, though.”
    “Good idea. Kisses are free but if the girl’s gross she has to pay a dollar.”
    Nicky looked down at the alley. There was nobody down there. There was nobody down our block either. It was Sunday and it was pretty quiet.
    “Do you think it’ll just be kissing? Maybe they’ll let us do other stuff. Like see their boobs.”
    “Sure,” I shrugged. “If they come to kiss somebody they’ll probably neck or stuff like that.”
    That made me think about Heather. I was always staring at her during class. She never talked to me, though, so I didn’t think she’d let me kiss her or anything. Thinking about necking made me think about necking with Heather. I got really wound up thinking about that.
    No girls were coming, though. We had a sign up, but nobody. There wasn’t even anybody walking by. We’d waited for a while, too. Maybe even an hour.
    “Maybe we should practice until we get some girls,” I suggested. I’d still been thinking about Heather. “Like training.”
    “Naw,” Nicky replied.
    “I want to kiss girls. Not you.”
    I grabbed another stick and threw it at him. “Stupid! This is just while there aren’t any girls. If there were girls we wouldn’t kiss each other.”
    He threw the stick back, but not hard. It didn’t even come close to me.
    “But I don’t want to,” he replied.
    “Tell you what,” I bargained. “If you let me practice necking then you get first pick of any girl that comes to the booth. I’ll even kiss the ugly ones myself if I have to.”
    His eyes opened wide. Then they narrowed a little. “Just today, or all the time?”
    “All the time.”
    “What if they want to kiss you and not me?”
    “Then they have to kiss you first or I won’t do it,” I promised. “It isn’t a big deal. Steven does it.”
    “All right,” he sighed and tilted his head to one side. “But just until girls show up.”
    “Right,” I agreed, pulling my pillow next to his.
    “You don’t get to keep all the money we make,” he said, “even if you do kiss all the ugly girls.”
    “I don’t care,” I said. Then I closed my eyes. I was going to neck with Heather.


    “See? It’s like a girl,” Nicky told me.
    I tried it like Nicky said. He’d wanted to do that so he had me try it. He was going to do it next.
    “It is, kind of,” I said, even though Nicky didn’t have boobs. None of the girls in my class really had boobs yet either, though.
    “Told you.”
    We were in Nicky’s bed, but we were only kind of naked. If Nicky’s parents called we had to be able to get dressed fast. They’d get suspicious if we didn’t come right away. All the way naked took too long. We took our shirts off but kept them close by. We didn’t take our pants all the way off either. We just pulled them down so they’d be easy to pull up again. The blankets were over us. Nobody could see that we were doing anything, but it’d look weird if they saw us in the bed.
    “Maybe for the sleepover I can get one of my mom’s bras,” he suggested. “That’d be even better.”
    “We’d have to put something in it,” I replied, “or it wouldn’t stay on.”
    He shrugged.
    The sleepover wasn’t for another week. Nicky’d begged his parents for forever before they let him have one. Probably because his little brother always got in the way when Nicky had friends over. They finally said yes.
    We’d been planning the sleepover for a month. Nicky talked about it all the time. At the sleepover we wouldn’t have to be so careful. His parents wouldn’t check on us so much. We’d even be full-naked in the bed and not have to worry about them.
    “My turn,” Nicky said.
    I rolled over on my back. I didn’t think he was doing it right. I didn’t say anything, though. I didn’t have to teach him anything. As long as I got to practice the right way he could do it wrong all he wanted.
    “I saw Mrs. Bateman’s boobs,” he said. “That’s what these are.”
    “No you didn’t, Nicky,” I snapped. “You’re lying.”
    Mrs. Bateman was his next-door neighbor. She moved in with her husband a couple of months before. They had a hound dog they kept in the backyard. She was fat and had red hair, but she did have big boobs.
    “She did so. She was getting undressed and I saw her through the window. She saw me looking.”
    “Stop lying, Nicky. She wouldn’t do that.”
    It was dumb that Nicky lied. I didn’t even want to see Mrs. Bateman’s boobs. They’d be gross. If he was going to lie he could at least lie and say he saw Steven’s sister’s boobs. That’d be worth lying about.
    “Nicky?” His mom knocked on the door. “It’s time for dinner. Peter needs to go home.”
    I jumped out of the bed and pulled my pants up. Nicky tried to do the same, but he got caught in the blanket. I pulled on my shirt. I took care of myself first before worrying about Nicky.
    “Coming, mom,” he tried to say while wrestling with the blankets. “We’re coming.”
    He needed to hurry. She wasn’t calling from downstairs. She was right outside the door. I bet she could hear us.
    “Nicky, I-” She stopped, standing in the open doorway.
    Nicky was stupid! He hadn’t latched the door. She wouldn’t have even asked why it was latched. He always latched it so his little brother couldn’t get in. He hadn’t this time, though, and she’d just walked right on in.
    His mom stared. I looked down at myself. I didn’t look like anything. My clothes were all on and I was just standing next to the bed. She was looking at Nicky, though. He’d gotten loose of the blanket, but he was still in the bed. His shirt was off and his pants were around his ankles. Me looking okay didn’t help if he looked like that.
    She just stood there for a couple minutes. Her face looked like it was frozen. Nicky and I didn’t move either. Then, her face started twisting all up. Her mouth clamped shut.
    “Peter,” she finally said with her teeth gritted. “Go downstairs. Now.”
    I tried to go, but she was still in the door. She almost seemed frustrated when I went to get around her. It was like she didn’t think I had to go through the door to go downstairs. Finally, she moved enough to get by. She shuddered. Nicky was still lying on the bed.
    I ran downstairs as soon as I got around her. I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could. Let Nicky get the worst of whatever she was going to do. I almost ran right out the door. I thought she’d probably call my parents, though, before I got home if I didn’t do what she said. I sat down on the couch and waited.
    Still, I thought she would’ve yelled or smacked us or something. I couldn’t hear them, but it didn’t seem like she was doing anything like that. Maybe we weren’t in that bad of trouble. Maybe she’d just tell us not to do it anymore.
    Nicky’s cabbage patch kid was sitting on the couch next to me and I picked it up. It was mostly bald with just a little bit of black hair in the middle of its head. Nicky named it Guido even though cabbage patch kids came already named.
    I had nothing to do, waiting there. The cabbage patch kid had lips so I practiced kissing those. It didn’t work good. The lips were hard plastic and I couldn’t really kiss them.
    “Peter,” Nicky’s mom snapped, walking down the steps. I tossed the doll away. Nicky wasn’t with her.
    “Yes?” I tried to slouch so it looked like I felt really sorry. Maybe she wouldn’t punish me if I looked like I already felt bad enough.
    She stopped in front of the couch. Her face was still all twisted. It kept twitching. She didn’t look like I was in trouble, but almost like I was covered in dog doo. She kept almost saying something, but then stopping herself again before she actually talked.
    “Peter,” she finally stammered. “We don’t do that in this house.” She said ‘that’ real loud.
    She stopped. I didn’t say anything.
    “It’s wrong. The bible says that it is.”
    I knew that stuff from Sunday school. God didn’t want people making out with anybody if they weren’t married. It wasn’t doing it, though, so it wasn’t as bad. I didn’t tell her I knew it was bad. Maybe I wasn’t in as much trouble because she thought I didn’t know any better.
    “I want you to leave,” she said, her face still twitching. “There will be no sleepover. I don’t think Nicky should play with you so much for a while either.”
    I didn’t get it. She didn’t yell or call my parents. She just kept looking at me like I had puke all over me. Then I got it. She wasn’t talking about people making out. But we weren’t doing that. Steven wasn’t like that. That was gross. This was just training. That’s all. I wasn’t like that.
    “I want you to leave right now,” she said and pointed at the door.
    I got up quick. She opened the door and I ran out. After I went through, she slammed it.

David S. Atkinson Bio

    David S. Atkinson received his MFA in writing from the program at the University of Nebraska. His stories stories, book reviews, and articles have appeared in “Gray Sparrow Press,” “Fine Lines,” “Gently Read Literature,” “The Rumpus,” “The Nebraska Lawyer,” and “2600: The Hacker Quarterly.” The web site dedicated to his writing can be found at http://davidsatkinsonwriting.com/. He currently serves as a reader for “Gray Sparrow Press” and in his non-literary time he works as a patent attorney in Denver.

I Told You Ten Times, art by Peter LaBerge

I Told You Ten Times, art by Peter LaBerge
(who also has artwork at flickr)

Regarding Your Upcoming Suicide

DM Morales

    On the day you finally decide to end your life, you must make absolute certain that you treat the day just the same as you would any other. Naturally, in the largest scheme of things in the history of the world, it is just another day. It is preferable that you never decide in advance when the day is going to be, but rather you wake up, brush your teeth and then about mid morning say, ‘this is the day.’ Please don’t choose anniversaries of any specific events as this is entirely too sentimental and really – isn’t it just overshadowing the very event that you wish to honor? Furthermore, it should never be a day that you’re depressed or listless. Why people choose to end their lives on their bad days forever baffles me – it’s your last day on Earth – if it can’t be the best, why not at least a good one? Let me tell you what the best day for it is. It’s the day that you wake up and feel calm, complete and utterly done.
    When that moment comes you will smile to yourself with a sense of patient urgency, much like a pregnant woman whose water just broke. There can be no antics and there can be no scenes, but I can understand if you’d like to use the opportunity to avoid doing annoying little things like scooping the cat box or washing the dishes.
    Next is how you should handle daily communication. You will feel as though you have very exciting news and you will want very badly to share it with everyone. The problem is that you cannot because socially, and I’m sorry if I’m taking this opportunity to climb onto my soapbox, but socially, suicide is viewed as a very dark and disturbing thing. It’s viewed as a solution that someone comes upon when they most desperately need help and guidance. It is viewed as a situation where we must run to their aid and force them to change their mind. You know this isn’t so. You know that you’re pretty and brunette or smallish and blonde or maybe you know that you’re smart as a whip and that as the years go on, you’ll forget more than you can ever hope to remember. You understand that life is fleeting and that sometimes it gets better and sometimes it gets much worse, but at some point you must look at your unique situation and acknowledge that you aren’t sad that your best years are behind you; you’re happy you got to see them. You understand that once those good years are gone that you’re just sitting around playing a terrible waiting game and this game is a far darker venture than taking your own life. You know this and I most of all know this, but your sister and your neighbor and that coworker you don’t even care about likely don’t know this, and so it’s best to keep it all a nice little secret. Just for you. And of course for me, but only because I’m helping.
    You must be very careful of how you speak to people on your big day. If you’re embracing the mailman and thanking him for years of wonderful service, then you are just about begging for someone to come along and rip the gun out of your hand that very evening. But perhaps that is what you’re after? A scene. Let me tell you, if you are, I have no advice for you. I don’t like dramatics and I refuse to take any part in them, so just go jump in front of a moving train in a prom dress with kittens in each hand and some political slogan drawn on your face if that’s the kind of nonsense that you’re after. If you’re one for flamboyant suicide, I don’t like you and I don’t want to help you and in fact I can’t help you because people who are after these types of suicides are not calm and done. They want their lives to change, and I am clearly not in the business of life.
    Ah, once again, I digress. I’m sorry for all these tangents I seem to be going on today. I just sometimes feel like I have to argue to get my point across. But let’s proceed on to the issue of wills and possessions. Here, I don’t have much to say, and it always perplexes me why someone in your condition would care. After all – you’ll be dead. However if there’s something special that you wouldn’t want just handed off, or maybe something that a poor child in the community could use – by all means and at all times - be kind.
    Next we must decide on your choice of weapon. I know, the use of the word ‘weapon’ might be harsh, but really, if the definition of a weapon is that it is something used to harm the body, then it is the very best term. This is your big moment – what will you choose? Pills are the perfect resource for one who enjoys drugs recreationally. This way, you can assure that the last moments of your life are in a wonderful drug induced haze. The problem with pills is that your body knows what you’re up to and it isn’t likely to consent. For this reason it remains a possibility that you’ll wake up in a pile of your own sick with a thoroughly destroyed liver and a callow appearance or worse, a weeping matriarch at the foot of your hospital bed. I don’t recommend pills.
    What of a gun then? It’s short, sweet and really shows the world on your way out that you meant business, you weren’t playing around or hoping you’d recover, you knew what you wanted and you went for it and this must be respected. But you must consider that a gun is an intensely violent end and understand the implications of that. It makes others think of self loathing and anger. It will make your friends wonder if you were mad at them. It will make your cocky ex lover come floating out of the woodwork and tell everyone that you were just so destroyed by the way that you wrecked the relationship. As if! If you must use a gun, you must be careful that you don’t seem to be of this self hating variety. So you say, ‘well everyone knows that I was a happy person!’ well then you also don’t want others to think that you had some accident because you’re too much of an imbecile to work a gun. Lastly – do you know how to work a gun? If you don’t, you are likely to wake up with half a brain, just enough to guarantee that your life will go on, but in the most miserable fashion possible. I only recommend a gun if you happen to know quite a bit about human anatomy or if you have a kind and compassionate member of the healthcare community willing to tell you precisely how to destroy that gorgeous brain of yours in a way that makes sure the rest of the package comes with it.

ART 390 GM KUC, art by Üzeyir Lokman ÇAYCI

ART 390 GM KUC, art by Üzeyir Lokman ÇAYCI

    Slitting your wrist is really only for the masochistic poet types and even so, this is a long, painful death and it is very likely that someone will stumble in upon you and for this one, you will wake up in an insane asylum. It’s only slightly less aggressive than the gun but somehow, just a bit sadder.
    Another option is hanging yourself, and indeed before the fancy contraptions of the modern world, this was pretty much the only way to go. For a retro feel you might want to consider it, but also consider that this isn’t the movies, kid – you will hang for twenty minutes clawing at your own throat and begging for a quick death. Unless you’re terribly into autoerotic asphyxiation and are at least trying to give yourself a pleasant ride out, hanging isn’t the best option. In the days where people were publicly put to death this way, they didn’t really struggle for a time, but rather were dropped with enough force that their fragile necks broke. Unless you’re certain you’ve got enough of a drop, I wouldn’t bother. Besides, and I know this is something that only troubles me – but consider that in the final report they’ll write ‘she was found hanged’ and those who aren’t old timely literary buffs will think that it is a typo and you just don’t want people grimacing at the last thing that’ll ever be written about you.
    Drowning has its problems. In all my years that I’ve seen it, I can say for certain that as ready as a person is to die, they can’t help but fight against that rush of water piling on their heads. You and your wonderful mass of gray matter may be entirely excited about the decision you’ve made, but your body is not and it will do everything in its power to fight you on it. So I do say that drowning is only a good option when you understand how hard you’ll fight and you’re certain that the body of water that you’ve chosen will in fact win. I recommend swimming out to the ocean in high tide, but do keep in mind, salt water is brutal on the eyes, nose and throat and some of you might not like the fact that there is a very good chance that no one will ever discover your body and therefore that your death will forever be unconfirmed.
    I’ve never seen anyone generate enough power to fatally stab themselves so it’s hardly worth discussing.

Whitby Cross, art by Oz Hardwick

Whitby Cross, art by Oz Hardwick

    A very popular but newfangled option I’ve seen lately is the indirect suicide. With this, you join the service or you join the peace corps and the more scientifically minded among you become doctors just to go abroad to a war torn county. You work very hard to put yourself in a situation where your suicide can be waiting for you at any time. On the day, in the hour or even in the minute that you decide this to be the case, you can easily make the stupid, careless or even heroic decision to do something in the interest of ending yourself. This action of indirect suicide is not saying that you want a long, happy life or that you want your life to change or even that you want very much to die. It’s sort of saying that you might not want to die at the moment but that you’re always somewhat ready for it. It’s saying that your perfect moment could come in between one where you’re miserable and another where all you can think about is a craving for a can of soda. It says that you like the idea of looking down the barrel of life’s gun and not flinching. Maybe I’d even go so far as to say that I respect this. I respect the choice you must make to say that you will live in this light colored gray area that could tip dramatically at any moment. If this is your choice, you white knight with a death wish, then you can’t really use very much of my advice because your suicide is planned years in advance, worked towards in a diligent manner and when it finally does come, it might take even you by surprise. It is such a secret surprise that no one who knew you will ever even suspect that this is what you had in mind the entire time. I recommend this for those who are quite ready for death, but are just fine with waiting years for it. Let me clarify that I don’t believe all of you enlisted and shipped overseas types are this way (I hardly want a backlash of angry letters), just that a fair amount of you seem to smile right before making a seemingly careless mistake.
    Let us now flash forward to the big event. Today is the day you had your epiphany and you spent all morning and evening in a soft warm glow of acceptance and calm. Your last letter is written, or intentionally unwritten or absentmindedly forgotten about. Your weapon is chosen and checked twice or in your haste you’ve neglected to bother. You’re smart enough to know not to wear your best clothes because they will get ruined (I won’t go into details but let’s just say that death is neither pretty nor romantic) and so you sit there having noted, but not cried about the fact that you have seen your last sunset and talked to your dad or wife or dog for the very last time. You don’t think about the things you didn’t get to see and do because life is just such a long time away from wherever it is you’re embarking on now.
    Depending on your method, popular choices for your second to last location are either your own bedroom for those deaths that’ll take some time or your bathroom for those deaths that’ll be especially messy. Perhaps you’re the embodiment of an 1850’s English gentleman and you’re so courteous that you’ve even managed to leave a nice little note on the door to indicate to whoever is headed your way that they will not find you exactly, but rather something especially gritty and disgusting. This isn’t an insult to you, my dear, it isn’t you personally that’s so unappealing, it’s what you’re leaving behind. Isn’t that funny? ‘Leaving behind’? As though your body were a cheap but prized piece of jewelry left in a hotel room while on vacation.
    When the moment comes where you don’t hesitate or think twice, this is the one to go for. You’re calm, elegant, your eyes are gleaming and then by whatever means you’ve chosen, you end it. A bang, more often than not, a spasm and then that’s it, that’s you, so utterly tranquil, so perfectly done.

    Your Friend,
    The One Nobody Likes to Talk About, but Who’s Always There

art by Cheryl Townsend

art by Cheryl Townsend

The Fantastic Story of the Mushroom Demons

T.W. Rock

    Sometimes in rare instances the marching feet of modernization misses certain towns, certain peoples. This is the story of just such an occurrence. Gabon was like any other peaceful village cut off from civilization and thus dependant on the land for nourishment. Despite limited resources, the village had grown and grown in population till the townspeople had eaten all the plants and animals in the surrounding lands. They had eaten the rabbits, the deer, and the fish of the brook. They had eaten the fruits, the berries, the mushroom and the nuts.
    One day of no particular importance Günter, (one of the local villagers), hungry and tired was out scavenging for food and stumbled on a dark purple bulbous plant protruding from the ground. It was squishy like a mushroom yet unlike a mushroom did not sprout above ground. The plant instead grew just below the surface with only a small portion visible. With anxious curiosity he began to more closely examine this strange plant and as hunger will do to you sometimes, he decided to taste a small portion of the plant finding it to be tasty indeed. He dug feverously around the plant with the skill of a seasoned excavator.
    The plant was quite large, measuring about a foot long, and was not only purple in color but also orange, rust, red, blue and brown, each color interwoven with the others like knotted bread. He tasted the blue, and it was delicious, the red scrumptious, the orange succulent. It seemed the further down he dug the more delicious the plant became. Soon he had eaten his fill of the strange new plant and sat trying to figure what to do next. Should he dig it up and share with the villagers, or should he cover what is left back up and mark the spot to come back later for more? Greed overtook him and he hid his new treasure marking his small hunting map so as to find it again when hunger, like an angry dog gnawing at his insides would come again.
    He walked back to the village and put his hunting bow along the wall, took off his dirty worn leather shoes, and enjoyed the feeling of being full. It was not a feeling often experienced by any of the villagers living here. Outside the other hunters were slowly returning. Their feet scuffing the ground caused small clouds of dust and made it quite obvious they were unfruitful from their hunting expeditions. The daily ritual started as each hunter stood in line to register with the head of the village any food they had been able to find. One villager had found some wild vegetables but only three and not very large in size. Another found a small handful of nuts yet they were green and still not ripe. Günter quickly put back on his shoes to go out and get a closer look, curious if anyone else had stumbled upon the mushroom which he had. Unfortunately for the villagers but fortunately for Günter no one had.
    The many villagers looked up with sadness in their eyes, at the great and wise leader as he read the list of all that was found and one by one placed the items into a pot which was then carried away and a joint meal was prepared. Groans and sighs came from the villagers as they all seemed to realize that the amount of food found would again, as it had many times in the past, not be enough for everyone. Traditionally when this would happen a lottery was used to determine who would not be eating. Children and nursing mothers as well as the elderly or sick were excluded from this lottery. Günter had himself lost this lottery many times and sat sadly watching as others held their bowls of the warm soup, his stomach growling noisily.
    This time he thought to himself, this time it would not matter as he was already full and content. This thought made a smile creep across his face. He decided to go back to his hut and sleep while the others had their lottery. He would check the board later and as he predicted he was among those which would not eat this day.
    When the lottery had started it was only three or five that would not eat that day but as the village got larger so did the amount of losers and now the average number of non-eaters had doubled.
    In the next weeks Günter would return to his spot and to his surprise and amazement what he had eaten in the previously had somehow grown back. The more he would eat the more would be there days later. Günter then decided to test how much would actually grow. He cut a large portion of the plant off of the rest with his pocket knife and placed it in his satchel. He made sure nobody followed him and that he was not seen when returning to the village mushroom in tow. After he returned home he hid the satchel in one of his crude cabinets so that nobody could fine it.
    Dust and dirt spewed forth from the cupboard from years of neglect as the doors slowly creaked open. Days later he returned to the spot to check if the plant had grown and to his surprise it had not instead it had begun to rot where the knife had sliced. Disappointed he cut the rot off, returned home and stingily ate the amount in his satchel hiding in the cabinet. It seemed this was the key to making the plant grow. Somehow the plant knew whether he had eaten or not, and it would only grow if he had indeed eaten of it. Günter returned to the plant and noticed that the ground around where it grew had become soft and almost hollow like. He dug up a small bit of earth and to his amazement realized that the plant had grown in size to cover almost the whole clearing where he stood. The plant had grown from a small almost foot sized circle, to at least ten times that size. This easily could fill the villagers he thought, but unfortunately greed had again stepped in, why should he share it was his he had found it.
    Time trudged on and then one day, uncommon by no degree from the months previous, two female travelers came to this town. Both were hooded in black and wore strange chrome masks upon their faces. They were thin and compared to the ladies of the village quite tall, almost elfish in appearance. It was rumored they came to the village for sanctuary from hideous beasts which had burned their village and their faces explaining the masks they now wore. The story could never be substantiated however, as the girls never spoke.
    The two girls were welcomed and afforded a meager hut to stay in. Efforts were doubled in the salvaging for food for the two girls. Günter however kept his hoard to himself as had become common practice for him. He would leave early in the morning before the first hunting party had left and return through the back gate he had started unlocking the night before. His plan was working flawlessly. While the villagers would busy themselves finding food and turning whatever they found into an edible grey mush, Günter would quietly sit in his locked up hut gorging himself on the mushroom, savoring the juicy texture and bright, vibrant colors. Günter did participate in the hunting parties and tried to keep up the appearance of normality. He rarely put forth much effort when hunting, but because of the lack of food this was never taken notice of.
    The girls would work in the village but would not leave for fear that “those of strange colors” would capture them, so in the tradition of everyone earning their keep they would work in the safety of the village mending , sewing , tanning or just about any trade that someone would be willing to teach them. The two girls were always together, never leaving each other’s side. They were always together, be it working or sleeping one would not be seen without the other. This was thought to be curious, but was quickly dismissed.
    Günter slowly became more and more secluded as time went on, barely seen even for the lotteries. People began to notice that even when he did not lose the lottery, he barley came for his dinner. He became snappy with the rest of the villagers, beginning to suspect they were onto his scheme. He always looked over his shoulder and was ever vigilant that nobody was able to catch him in the immoral and illegal act of hording food. The village had always been a sharing atmosphere and here was Günter not only not sharing his treasure but not even acknowledging the fact that while others were going without when he had more than plenty.
    He had stumbled upon a renewable source of nourishment, and it was his and his alone to do with what he wished. Of all the eyes Günter felt upon him; he noticed that the two girls would watch him the most. They could be in the middle of any task and as soon as one masked face would catch sight of Günter the other almost instinctively would raise her head to watch till he was out of sight before returning to whatever task they had been doing. It was as if they saw something the other villagers could not.
    No matter how much of the strange mushroom Günter ate he never seemed to gain weight. This was a good thing as it kept suspicion off of him. He had become very moody and even his friend Davey had stopped calling on him for social events. The town elders had decided at one of the town meetings (of which Günter did not attend) that he was taken with some strange virus and thus explained the lack of appetite and strange behavior and the matter were closed. Many villagers in later days of starvation had showed similar symptoms and it was just something they had become accustomed to. Günter’s skin had started to have a greenish blue tinge to it, the green and blue portions of the mushroom being his favorite. It was not dark but noticeable in certain sunlight.
    One night while Günter was sneakily heading to the back gate to unlock it he noticed, standing at the gate, the two girls. This was very peculiar to Günter as he had never seen them there before. They were statues and made no motion to move or to allow Günter access to the locking mechanism. They just stood silent and stared straight ahead. Günter decided not to risk it and grumbling returned to his hut and chewed on what was left of the mushroom. The next night and for every night afterward they were there standing guard over the doors, which infuriated Günter. His stash was all but gone and he needed to replenish.
    The next day Günter decided to join the hunting party to their amazement. When they were deep in the forest he took leave of them silently and backtracked to the mushroom. He was just about to clear the thicket, his mouth watering with the thought of fresh mushroom when standing several feet ahead of him he not noticed the two girls. He was shocked. Could they know? He decided to act as if he had not seen them and continued down the path. He knew however, that they had seen him as they began to stare silently at him.
    He raised his bow acting as if he spotted a rabbit or squirrel and then made chase after the imaginary animal hoping to mislead the girls, circle around and make it to his mushroom without them watching. He hurried through the underbrush and around through the thick foliage. Twigs snapped underfoot and small branches slapped at his face. It was as if even the forest wanted to keep him away from the mushroom.
    After many minutes of traveling and becoming more and more agitated with thoughts of everyone being against him he came to the edge of the clearing. Peering around, he saw no sign of the girls. Quickly he jumped from the bush and hurried to the spot. He was just about to kneel down and begin digging when he heard a noise from behind him. He turned and standing, where that beloved mushroom was once, now stood the twin girls their chrome masks reflecting the ominous, expressionless faces.
    They were dressed in the same garments in which they arrived at the village so long ago, although they appeared to have never been worn at all. The girls stood hands at their sides like limp marionettes awaiting a string to be pulled animating their lifeless bodies. Only their heads seemed to be held up as they stare directly at Günter. He stood transfixed; his heart, like the sounds of the wooded area around the three, seemed to stop. A cold chill ran over his body like he had just fallen into the icy Pawnee River. Icy stabs ran from behind his hairy calves up the quill like hairs along his spine and radiated around to his fingertips and toes. The tan color left his body as if froze out and he became very pale.
    He knew the girls knew he was there and knew why he was there. They knew from the months of staying in his village how the village had suffered from starvation, knew how children had died, mal-nourished and underfed. Mothers had squandered and gone without to make sure little ones did not. They had seen the overwhelming joy when just a small potato patch had yielded enough for everyone, no matter how scarce an occurrence that was. Here was Günter eating all that he could gorge into himself, hiding and hording so that he may have more than everyone else, even more then he needed.
    Like someone had draped a sheet over him, sickness engulfed his entire body. He suddenly became ill. An overwhelming weakening of the knees was quickly followed by shortness of breath and nausea. Within seconds the nausea was too overpowering and in a violent expulsion, multicolored half digested vomit spewed from Günter’s mouth and nose. Streams of warm putrid bile strung from his lips slowly slipping from his now covered beard and falling with a small splash to the pond below. His eyes filled with tears as his stomach over and over eliminated everything onto the ground tightening and pushing as he wretched forward in pain.
    Wiping away the tears he looked down at the swirling slime filled pool to notice ...movement, tiny movements in the liquid like something was beneath it. As the liquid slowly sank into the ground he realized what it was. Small maggots, spread throughout the puke, were squirming feverously as they devoured the regurgitated mushroom and stomach acid. Half in horror and half in wonder he stared at the mounding mass at his feet till one small thought slowly slipped into his mind like smoke through the crack of a wall. Where did they come from? Were they inside his stomach this whole time? They must have been as he would have seen them when he was standing here moments before he puked... but didn’t.
    The twin girls still stood, arms limp at their side and faces turned blankly towards Günter, eyes fixed upon him. Even though they wore the masks he could tell they were not bothered by what they had witnessed. They stood as if they had seen such acts one hundred thousand times before and had grown immune, if not bored with seeing it again. Günter backed away from the squirming maggot pool, as he did a large branch snapped under his heavy foot. The sound echoed through the forest as if lightning from the sky above had struck a nearby tree, splitting it to the core. Günter’s heart skipped a beat and he began to sweat, he knew something was about to happen. His flight or fight responses kicked into high gear and a “tug-of –war” began in his mind. Should he run or stay and see what may happen? The answer came not as he had expected it to but with thunderous clarity. “Günter.” It was as if one voice had spoken with two sets of vocal cords, two octaves, and two distinct sounds within each other, intermingled. He looked frantically to see where the sound had come from. “Günter... we are here to claim what belongs to we.” “We are here to take back that which you have taken.” The voice continued “We see you, we see through you as you have seen we.” Günter slowly realized that although the voice seemed to resonate from within his head the direction from which it came was the very spot where the two girls stood. The sky which was only moments ago a bright blue had turned grayish black, pregnant and angry with storm. Each cloud seemed crowded by its neighbor angrily elbowing for more room. The girls still stood. Their faded white gowns flowing over their bodies, sleeves much too large for their hands showed only the tips of their three longest fingers. Günter moved slowly towards the girls like a cautious cat ready to pounce from harms claw at a moment’s notice.
    “Come forward Günter. Come to we as we have come to you.” The voice was eerie, echoing yet alluring and despite every fiber of Günter’s mind screaming to turn, to run, his legs refused to obey his will and marched Günter ever forward. Closer and closer he moved towards the two standing girls.
    “Yes, come closer Günter; come as you have to we many times before.” As Günter moved closer the girls seemed to come to life. They moved their heads in unison to his movements, their bodies no longer seemed limp but erect. Günter was only a few feet from them now and could feel cold sweat pouring down his back. His neck and chest seemed to be on fire. With each breath he inhaled the air tasted like poison: dark and malicious, like he was breathing ash. He could almost taste burnt wood in his mouth and nostrils. Overhead the clouds moved, violently pushing and shoving as they collided with each other hoping for a better view of the events unfolding below them.
    Günter had never been so close to the girls since he had first seen them in the village. He was an arm’s length away and beneath the masks he could see their eyes. They were blue like the ocean, peaceful and full of wonder. They dwarfed him substantially now and he, for a moment, could not understand how this was so. Looking down to their feet he saw the answer to that puzzle immediately.
    They were standing upon a large section of the mushroom that had apparently grown out of its underground prison and breached the earth, the beautiful colors of red, blue and orange. With sight of the mushroom, an all consuming hunger filled him again. He began to drool and wanted only to push the two girls violently to the ground and eat more of the wondrous mushroom. “Do you hunger Günter?” “Do you hunger for we?”
    He could barely hear what was being said to him as he stood staring at the mushroom, thoughts of which consumed him more and more. Never once had Günter questioned anything about this wonderful food source he had discovered. Never once had he wondered why it grew here and no other place within the forest. Never once wondered why no other person had found or reported the mushroom.
    “Go ahead Günter, take some, take of we.” Günter was unable to stop himself; he reached down and pulled at the mushroom. The smell which he had never noticed before now came in unwavering blasts to his nose. It was sweet, like that of a ripe raspberry, juicy and tender like freshly cooked roast and fragrant spices like sage and rosemary. He watched unable to stop himself. For the first time he saw juice spurt from the mushroom. He noticed a steamy fluid flow the consistency of warm jelly. It oozed filling in the crevice created from the missing portion now in his hand.
    “Yes Günter, taste, it is all yours.” The voices egged him on. His mind was on fire screaming for him to drop it and run, but Günter found himself powerless to control his own body. The mushroom came closer to his lips till he could feel that all too familiar taste. He slowly opened his mouth and the bit down on a portion of the mushroom, the jellylike substance dripping from his bearded chin and falling to the ground. His teeth sunk deep into the fleshy fungus.
    “Have some more Günter nobody can see you now. You can eat guilt free. We is all yours, we are all yours.” No sooner did Günter finish the small portion then he was at the girls feet again pulling free another piece and frantically eating it, licking his lips after smearing the juice from the plant across his face without noticing he did so. With each piece he finished he frantically grabbed the next never seeming to fill. Again he reached down for another and pulling it free, he glanced at one of the girls now exposed ankles.
    It was a gaping wound with blood and pus oozing forth onto her small sandal like shoe and dripping onto the mushroom. He watched for a moment then dropped the mushroom to the ground, fell backward and crawled back a few feet. His mouth agape, chunks still lodged between his teeth and juice staining his lips. “What is wrong Günter, are you full?”
    The voice now seemed mocking and evil. He spit a mouthful of the mushroom down to the ground and he saw that it was not a mushroom at all, but flesh, raw and covered with bugs. He quickly looked down to the mushroom he had been tearing at and enjoying in rapture only moments ago. It was not the mushroom at all, but the rotting carcass of a long dead animal. It had rotten to the point that Günter could not even distinguish what animal it may have, at one time been. Portions of mangled fur intertwined with sun dried muscle. The stomach was bloated to the point where the hind legs were spread unable to close. Günter could see where the bones were still actively being cleaned by a flurry of giant flies. Another portion contained millions of fly eggs some already hatched, and freshly born maggots squirming towards the nearest mass of flesh to devour. The face, or what was left of it, had been picked almost completely clean by birds, portions of the lips had been torn from the face and one eye lay in a half melted pool of its own fluids a few feet from the socket.
    Günter looked over at the chunk of “mushroom” he spit out that now was flesh and realized it did not, from what he could see, belong to the rest of this beast. It was fresher, and although now covered with hungry ants and other bugs, was not rotten like the other. Again Günter felt the unwelcome twisting in his belly and out poured a foul smelling multicolored mixture of half eaten chunks of maggot infested mushroom, stomach acid and bile. This, though it horrified Günter, solved the mystery of if the bugs were on the ground before he puked or not. They were not, which meant they were coming from inside him. That thought triggered another coughing spasm and clasping of his gut as more of the fluid poured from his mouth and nose.
    He jumped to his feet trying to get further from the new squirming pile and as he did maggots fell from his thick beard and out of his nose. Günter turned, his body finally listening to his brain, and began to run from this nightmare. He could not escape, however, because now he had a new enemy within himself, his stomach. He suddenly became very weak and felt as if he had not eaten in months.
    “Hungry Günter?” “Eat friend eat all that your body can hold, till you’re so stuffed you wish to DIE.” The voice beckoned in an evil angry tone. It was as if the voice which he had now determined was coming from the two girls, not one in particular but a harmonic melody of the two voices speaking in unison as one. With that realization the girls again in perfect chorography reached up and began to untie the ties about their waist holding the robes tight to their bodies.
    “Come Günter feast your eyes upon what your greed and selfishness has done.” The robes flew open and the girls shrugged them from their thin shoulders. The two girls stood naked before Günter. Their bodies were covered with bite marks. Some deep, flesh removed and gashes remained. The one girl’s left breast hung inside out like someone had slit it off her chest and left it to hang from the muscles still left intact. All was exposed but the faces, which were still hidden behind their masks. From the inside of another girl’s leg only bone remained. The meat had been stripped from her calf all the way around. The bone gleamed shinny and white despite the lack of sunlight. Her hand was also missing all the meat and the joints rubbed bone against bone as she raised her hand and pointed her blood covered index finger at Günter drops of congealed blood falling as she moved.
    “In your greed you have all but devoured we and yet we allowed you to continue eating. Praying you would change your ways.” “You have disappointed we.” “As you have hungered for we, Günter, we now hunger for you.” With the end of that sentence, the two girls stepped backwards small chunks of flesh and skin hanging wet in the breeze. Where they stood, the carcass began to shake, slowly at first and then with increased fervor. Günter scared stiff had no option but to sit and watch as it rose. Its flesh once dry and tanned with the time regained its muscular texture, blood began to flow and it rose higher and higher till fully upright on all fours like a large wolf awakening from slumber.
    Günter then realized why he had not recognized the beast even in its decayed form. The beast was not of this world. It stood like an oversize wolf, the elongated jaws snapping and snarling. The jaw stretched to accommodate an excessive amount of gnashing teeth. The hind legs quivered as the blood started pumping through half eaten veins some squirting to the ground, some continuing through the intended vein. Günter tried to scream but nothing came from his throat. The beast continued to howl and growl as bones once weak with decay were rejuvenated. The two girls stood just watching, their half eaten naked bodies splattered with blood from the transforming beast. The beast then turned to Günter its jaws still only half covered with flesh, jagged teeth gnashed together. “You have eaten of we out of greed and now so shall you share our fate.”
    With that the beast lunged at Günter. Its fangs dug deep into the pudgy, overindulged muscle ripping them from their tendons. Blood gurgled out Günter’s mouth and nose in violent spurts. Then it was over. Günter left dying in his own blood. The two girls climbed upon the beast’s back and with a last glorifying snarl it raced off into the thick shadows of the woods. Günter laid for what seemed like an eternity in excruciating pain as the life-force gushed from his body. He felt himself getting weaker and weaker as his eyes slowly closed and then there was darkness.

    Günter could not move. He could not feel anything and was surrounded by only darkness. He was not in pain but felt no pleasure either only the cool embrace of darkness and remorse for the events which had put him in this situation. For what seemed like months he lay till one particular day of no real importance a small beam of light broke into his blackened tomb. It was small but unmistakably bright. He moved towards it feeling in the darkness for anything he may crawl upon to get closer to the light, hoping, praying for an escape from this limbo of solidarity.
    He moved closer to the light squinting, it suddenly became larger. The intensity of the light making him lose his balance as he fell back to the ground. He noticed the ground was squishy and soft. This thought only held his attention for a moment as he again made his way back to the beam now illuminating portions of the small enclosure he was in. He climbed and peered out the small hole where the light was coming from. He was in the ground and looking out. He saw a large dirt covered shoe, much larger than any he had ever seen, almost standing on his head. He could now hear someone talking. It was vague and muffled but he could defiantly distinguish a voice.
    “Oh my, what is this?” It said as he saw a very large hand reach down to pick Günter up by his head. He dove out of the way and down to the far corner of his prison away from the light and back into the darkness. The light got wider and he scrambled away, scared. Then calmness swept over him as he recognized the voice. It was his friend Davy, with whom he had hunted the forest many times. Upon that realization he ran across the room to the light and climbed back up the wall to see the giant.
    “Hmmm it smells good.” Günter peered out just in time to see Davy put the multi-colored bread like mushroom into his mouth. Günter then felt a painful ripping sensation, as if he was just bitten, run up his leg. Felt the flesh torn from his body, seen it pull from the bone and away into oblivion.
    Günter then remembered the last words he heard before the beast tore into his body and he “Died”. “You have eaten of we out of greed and now so shall you share our fate.”
    He understood now what she meant. It was not that the beast was going to eat him. He was to be trapped inside a mushroom and slowly devoured. His fate made worse by the fact that it was his friend Davey that was devouring him. Günter looked with sorrow down at his now gashed leg and saw what he was wearing. The same robes which the twin girls were before they showed him their mangled and eaten bodies. Their last words were not a statement of revenge but instead a curse deeming his fate.

Green Timbers Urban Forest, art by Brian Forrest

Green Timbers Urban Forest, art by Brian Forrest


Kimberly Bingheim

    The moment the door shut it seemed like the world was moving at a different speed. Time started to lag and his heart began to beat quickly. He looked at the light pouring out from under the door and wondered to himself when the question would finally be answered. Maybe he wasn’t even ready to hear the answer.
    He started to think of the different ways this situation could play out. He paced the hallway outside the door, slow at first and then faster. With the back of his hand he wiped away the beads of sweat that slowly rolled down his forehead. His breathing became rapid and he felt like he may hyperventilate. Deep breath in, deep breath out, he had to tell himself.
    He peered over at the light under the door. He stopped for a moment and just stared at it. The fear of the situation was coursing through his whole body. He tried to control the overwhelming fear but it was irrepressible.
    He suddenly noticed her shadow moving in the light. The handle of the door began to jiggle and then it slowly started to turn. This is it, he thought to himself and his hands began to shake.
    When the door opened her eyes looked red and glassy. A single tear fell down her cheek, which she slowly wiped away with the sleeve of her black cardigan.
    “Well,” he quivered.
    She started to speak but the words were hard to form.
    He moved towards her wrapped his arms around her slender body. He then began slowly stroking herlong blonde hair. At this moment she buried her face deep in his shoulder and began to sob. He noticed it lying on the counter next to the sink. He knew from her reaction exactly what the double blue lines meant.
    “It’ll be alright,” he whispered in her ear.
    He took her cheeks in his hands and stared deep into her hazel eyes. They were red and flooded with tears. Her nose was as red as her eyes and continuously running. She sniffled repeatedly, desperate for it to stop. Despite all of this she was the most beautiful girl he had ever known. He tried to wipe her tears away, but new ones formed just as quickly as the others left.
    It was hard for him to see her like this and he felt it was his fault. Her fear and anxiety became so over powering it felt like the room would be engulfed in it. It took every ounce of his being to be strong for her. He had to be her rock.
    A lock of blonde hair fell over her eye. Immediately he brushed her hair back behind her ear. Her eyes were fixated on his strong hands as he moved it away from her face.
    “I love you,” he told her and in that moment he began to cry.

The Deal

Anne Turner Taub

    The teacher Ms. Elizabeth Bardis, was elderly—well over 70—and the students were very young. She taught junior high school students—l3, l4, l5—still young enough to be called pupils. Alvin Long and Gail Harte were two young lovers whose attraction for each other the teacher had watched from its very beginning. At first there were the sidelong glances, the looking away when caught by the other, the meetings that were, as the song goes, “not really by chance.” She could see in the girl’s eyes the fantasies that she herself had had long, long ago. The dreaminess, the longings for she-knew-not-what, the adoration—feelings the girl would never have the same way again. Oh, she would have fantasies about boys, and later about men, but the boundless purity, the insane exaggeration of a first romance would be gone forever when this one ended—however it ended.
     Ms. Bardis experienced again her old yearnings, the feelings that she imagined the girl was going through. Even as she felt the long-dormant sexual twinges ripple through her, against the shadow of envy that followed, she knew it was too late for romance ever to happen to her again. But she enjoyed the girl’s experience as if it were her own.
    In about two weeks, the boy and girl were walking into class with their arms tightly wound around each other. At lunchtime they ate together and after school they waited for each other. She watched as they constantly slipped notes to each other, which she never seemed to see. The girl came into class with a new charm bracelet, the boy with a new sweater. They wore them to school every day.
    In Spring, the midwinter break came. The teacher was eager to see her little lovebirds again. But on this first day, Alvin walked into class with a new girl, his arm around her waist, their heads close to each other in animated conversation. Gail, who came in late the first day, looked haggard and thin. The charm bracelet was no longer in evidence. As the term went on, the girl grew thinner and thinner.
    The teacher became concerned—the girl should be getting over it by now. Months had gone by. Gail had been an excellent student but now her work had become erratic and substandard. Several times the teacher noticed tears rolling down the girl’s face. Ms. Bardis wanted badly to reach out and comfort her, but in her position she felt there was nothing she could say. She was “the adult” and in situations like these, she could easily be seen as the enemy.
    One day the girl dropped her purse—a tiny little leather thing with a drawstring. As she stooped to pick it up, the teacher noticed something fall out. She was a little taken aback. It was very shiny—a long metal object and it looked like suspiciously like a knife. Weapons, of course, were forbidden in the school but the teacher felt that the last thing in the world she wanted to do to this child was to embarrass her in front of the class. Since the period had just begun, she decided she would wait till the class was over.
    Suddenly, the girl got up and ran out of the room. The other students were startled, there was a moment of silence, and then they began talking to each other excitedly. The teacher immediately gave them a writing assignment and slowly walked out of the room. Hopefully, the girl would be in the lavatory. As she opened the door, she saw the girl standing by the window, the knife held at a perpendicular angle to her wrist. The teacher gently walked over to her and said, “Please give me the knife, Gail. Believe me, dear, nothing is worth it. “The girl looked at her. Instead of the anger the teacher expected, there was only anguish and pleading in the girl’s eyes. The girl shook her head, tears still falling from her eyes. “I want to die,” she said, “just let me die.”
    “Please give me the knife,” the teacher repeated. You are too young to die.” The girl shook her head again. “He doesn’t want me any more. I don’t know what I did wrong.” Her hands rose to cover her crying eyes, the knife held precariously straight up in the air.
    “How did it happen?” Mrs. Bardis asked.
    “I don’t know. Spring vacation came. He stopped calling me and wouldn’t answer my calls. He never said anything to me, never told me what I did wrong. Then one day I saw him walking with Jeannie, and he didn’t even say hello. Like he didn’t know me.
    Mrs. Bardis’ heart ached with pity for the girl. “You didn’t do anything wrong,” she said. “That’s the kind of person he is. The kind of person he will always be. One day he will do the same thing to Jeannie, and maybe even one day to his own wife.”
    Gail looked up at her, rubbing her eyes. “How do you know all this. You’re so, so—-“
    Gail, embarrassed, began apologizing.
    “Yes, I am old. But believe me, Gail, I have been there. That’s why I say it’s not worth it.”
    “I just want to end it all, Mrs. Bardis, please.”
    “You asked how I know all this?”
    “There was a time when I was very much in love, just like you. I was until I learned from a friend that he was married. I was devastated and broke it off, but I couldn’t forget him. Then I heard that his wife was divorcing him, and I thought great, now we can be together.”
    “Well, what happened?”
    Then I found out why she was divorcing him. He was seeing another woman, and not only that.” Mrs. Bardis’ mouth tightened up and her eyes closed, but she continued. “Not only was he going with another woman when he was married and seeing me.”
    Mrs. Bardis looked at Gail who had stopped crying and was staring at her, stunned.
    “Gail, you have asked how I know all this. Have you ever noticed, I am sure you have, that I wear long sleeves no matter what the season or the weather.”
    “Yes, Mrs. Bardis.”
    “What did you think of it? Thought it looked dowdy?”
    Gail was embarrassed, but couldn’t bring herself to deny it. Then she looked up at Mrs. Bardis, “You don’t mean...?”
    “Yes.” The teacher rolled up her sleeves and on each wrist was a small horizontal scar.
    “Luckly, I didn’t know how to do it right and was stopped in time.”
    She took the knife out of Gail’s hand, and Gail released it easily. “Let’s go back to class, dear,” Mrs. Bardis said. “I think you have learned today’s lesson.”
    To Mrs. Bardis’ surprise, Gail reached over and kissed her on the cheek. Together they went back to class.

Seems Like Fiction, art by Rose E. Grier

Seems Like Fiction, art by Rose E. Grier

Heaven, Dogs, Gorillas and Aliens

R. W. Lowrie

BILL. Hi. How’s it going?
AMY. (Speaking a little slowly) I’m feeling pretty low right now. (sniff)
BILL. Why? What’s the matter?
AMY. My wonderful poodle Rascal died yesterday. I miss him. He was like one of the family. (Sniff. Wipes a tear.) He was such a good dog!
BILL. I know, you can get pretty attached to a dog. Or a cat, even.
AMY. (pause) I wish there was a dog heaven so I could someday see him again.
BILL. Maybe there is, who knows?
AMY. I’d like that. (pause) Maybe there’s a cat heaven, too?
BILL. Sure, why not?
AMY. I don’t want a snake heaven, though. I...don’t... like... SNAKES!
BILL. OK! OK! No snakes. Dogs and cats, but no snakes. That’s OK by me.
AMY. But where do you draw the line? At snakes or at something else? For example, I don’t care for skunks. No skunks in heaven either, far as I’m concerned.
BILL. I’d draw the line at dogs and cats. That’s enough for me.
AMY. But that’s being cruel to some animals like cows that never hurt anybody. (pause) I’d let cows in too.
BILL. OK, if you want cows you can have cows. But no mosquitoes. I vote against mosquitoes.
AMY. All right, mosquitoes are out. Except maybe for hell. Maybe they are plentiful in hell and pester the people there. That would be fair enough, I think.
BILL. How about the cave men who lived a million years ago. Didn’t they go to heaven, too?
AMY. I don’t know or care. Who cares?
BILL. I think they care. Just because they are cave men doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t get a ticket to heaven just like anybody else.
AMY. Well, then how about chimps and gorillas and turtles and ants and like that? Are you going to allow them in too?
BILL. If you have dogs and cats then why not gorillas too?
AMY. I suppose you’d allow dinosaurs in too, then!
BILL. I think they should have their own heaven, but far away from ours. They wouldn’t mix well with humans.
AMY. How do you know? They might be really nice and gentle and friendly like a dog.
BILL. Don’t count on it.
AMY. Now I’m confused. (pause) If we have a heaven for humans and other animals, there is no end to it. All animals deserve their own heaven but that’s a stretch. Even allowing cave men types in, would be pretty strange. (pause) I say just limit it to us and kick all the rest out.
BILL. Maybe we could limit it to those who pass a test of some kind, such as intelligence or reasoning.
AMY. I know that dogs reason; therefore we can’t keep them out. I want my dog in, anyway. You’d have to test for something else.
BILL. Then we’d test for sentience. That would be the test.
AMY. All right. But what is sentience? Somebody who can write a sentence?
BILL. I think it means somebody who can think complicated things. Like math.
AMY. I doubt the cave men did much math. That would leave them out, which doesn’t sound right.
BILL. All right, then. Sentience means people things, not animal things.
AMY. OK. We allow in only people. But what about my poodle? I miss him! (pause) I miss my good old Rascal. (sniff)
BILL. We’ll let him in for a while if you want. But no gorillas.
AMY. I just had a thought about the cave man. At some point they were probably allowed in as humans.
BILL. Sure.
AMY. Then when did that first happen? Who was the first cave man to get in? Adam?
BILL. I think it was before that, Adam was pretty well developed, not a cave man type.
AMY. There must have been a first, a first one to qualify and get in there.
BILL. Probably so. Somebody had to be first.
AMY. But when he got there, being first, he would have been alone, and heaven would have been empty! Alone!
BILL. Never thought of that. Empty! Well, what’s wrong with that? For a while he had the run of the place and wasn’t bugged by relatives or people he owed money to. That would be heaven all right!
AMY. But so lonely! Wait, I know! The cave man had a dog and the dog was there, too. So all’s well. He wouldn’t have been lonely. But I miss my poodle (sniff). Good old Rascal!
BILL. If you’re going to think about the first person in heaven, how about the aliens that live on other planets and maybe they look like spiders or giant ANTS. And if they’re as smart as humans then they would go to heaven too. How about that?
AMY. I say they have no place in our heaven. (pause) They’ve got to have their own place, their own heaven, which needs to be separate. And far away, I hope.
BILL. Then there needs to be many heavens. One for us, one for aliens, and maybe one for each species of animals. Good Heavens!! That’s a lot of heavens!
AMY. I’m sure there’s enough room for them all. But I miss my poodle! (Pause 2 seconds) (sniff, wipes a tear.) (Pause 4 seconds).

All right. Let’s go get something to eat.

BILL. Good idea. Let’s go, and forget all this ridiculous talk about gorillas and aliens in heaven.

Tell Me The Truth, art by Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz

Tell Me The Truth, art by Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz

    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 2012 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 2012 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.