Down in the Dirt

welcome to volume 120 (the Novelber/December 2013 issue) of

Down in the Dirt


down in the dirt
internet issn 1554-9666
(for the print issn 1554-9623)

Janet K., Editor
http://scars.tv/dirt
or http://scars.tv - click on down in the dirt

In This Issue...

MCD
Marlon Jackson
Kerry Lown Whalen
Liam Spencer
Jason D. Cooper
Steven Wineman
Roland Stoecker
Hannah Thurman
S. R. Mearns
Peter McMillan
Carol Smallwood
Kelly Haas Shackeford
Ryan Priest
Graeme Scallion
Eric Prochaska
John Ladd Zorn, Jr.
Eleanor Leonne Bennett art
Mike Cluff
Darcy Wilmoth
Janet Kuypers

ISSN Down in the Dirt Internet

Note that any artwork that appears in Down in the Dirt will appear in black and white in the print edition of Down in the Dirt magazine.


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Christmas Cliff

MCD
12/24/2012

I got the greasy pizza blues
and Santa isn’t coming down
my chimney tonight, so put
your quarter into the red salvation
can, maybe me and my friends can eat
at the Hari Krishna temple down
on Clancy street

I swore off the booze long ago
but this Richie Rich hangover
is just about killing me,
got nothing to give
the kids but love, though
they want a trike or doll
maybe even something sweet
to fill their bellies with

so when you see me with my
hand out wishing you and yours
it’s not my nature to beg
but think of that party you
had with the swells and the
bells in champagne gowns
tippy toeing in silver slippers
and plenty of hooch to boot

maybe a buck eighty
is just a tad to steep, drop
a copper in the kettle then
like Dickens once said, it
will feed me and my ilk
porridge with milk,
and maybe my girls will
smile again an not hooker
the streets getting what ever
they can for tossing it
around like spoiled meat

so ho ho ho, I wish you
a merry merry and something
to eat, and if you see that hat,
on the curb belonging to me,
drop a nickel in and I’ll sing
a song of woe, just for you,
and all of the lords
living on Liberty boulevard
a million miles away from
broke ass flats








Down in the Dirt

Marlon Jackson

So cool it is to read all types of different things
afloat i seem to be sailing above the air
and winding across as if i have wings
But on earth the ground shakes and down
in the dirt unexpectedly are earthquakes
But in my spirit amongst a wad of opportunities
but i’m blind to bigotry and i see so much scenery
down in the dirt where the pressure crushes
desperate measures drops deep and i do my best
to clutch a seat.
And I hold on to dear life stamping hard on the ground with my feet.





Janet Kuypers reads poetry from
Down in the Dirt, v. 120, the November / December 2013 issue
Seeing a Psychiatrist: Hopelessness and Futility” by Janet Kuypers, “Daddy’s Lil’ Toy” by Kelly Haas Shackeford, “Drunk Father” by Roland Stoecker, “Poppy” by S. R. Mearns, “Down in the Dirt” by Marlon Jackson, and “Mentor” by Jason D. Cooper
video videonot yet rated
See YouTube video
of Janet Kuypers reading poetry Volume 246, the November / December 2013 issue of cc&d magazine (including the poems “Seeing a Psychiatrist: Hopelessness and Futility” by Janet Kuypers, “Daddy’s Lil’ Toy” by Kelly Haas Shackeford, “Drunk Father” by Roland Stoecker, “Poppy” by S. R. Mearns, “Down in the Dirt” by Marlon Jackson, and “Mentor” by Jason D. Cooper), live 12/4/13 at the open mic the Café Gallery at the Gallery Cabaret in Chicago (C)




Goodness Gracious

Marlon Jackson

So soothing a touch can be...
comfortable and calm like a tranquil
blue color like the beautiful sky
intertwined with life...beautiful...
how I just wish the soothing touch would last...








Another Generation

Kerry Lown Whalen

    Tension sat in Fran’s gut. She had to phone her uncle and invite him to dinner on Saturday night. From her standpoint, the news she’d be forced to reveal wasn’t a cause for celebration. Her uncle picked up the phone after the third ring.
    “Uncle Bill. Hello. It’s Fran.”
    “Fran! It must be that time of year again.” He barked his familiar laugh. “I can always rely on you to remind me of my age. Just imagine – I’ll be seventy on Saturday.”
    “Yes. That’s why I’m ringing.”
    After he’d agreed to come at seven o’clock, she hung up the phone and sank into her recliner. Although she didn’t mind having to cook a special meal, she’d been fatigued lately and would rather sleep than sit around chatting at night. But now she’d committed herself and would have to rise to the occasion.
    While cooking dinner on Saturday night, Fran hummed along with her favourite Beethoven sonata. She lifted the baking dish from the oven and rested the loin of pork on a rack. She’d leave the potatoes and pumpkin to crisp in the oven while she made the gravy. Her mouth watered as the aroma of roast pork filled the kitchen.
    Thoughts about the past drifted around her head. Since her mother’s death nine years earlier, she’d prepared dinner every year for Uncle Bill’s birthday. Fran’s teenage sons had complained lately that their uncle belonged to another generation. He bored them. She knew what they meant.
    Her uncle’s usual three taps and a ring of the bell interrupted her reverie and summoned her to door.
    “Uncle Bill.” She looked him up and down. “You’re looking smart.” Leaning in to kiss him, she inhaled a whiff of aftershave. She couldn’t recall him wearing it before. Perhaps it was a birthday present.
    He held her at arm’s length. “You’re looking younger every year.”
    She stifled a groan. He was so predictable. So dull. The boys were right – he was a boring old codger.
    “For you.” He handed her the usual envelope of money for her to buy presents for the family throughout the year.
    “Thanks. It’s very generous.”
    “You’re welcome. You know I don’t remember birthdays anymore.” He grinned. “Not even my own.” She turned away from him, rolling her eyes. He said the same thing every year.
    “Derek and the boys aren’t here tonight. They’re at the Rugby game.”
    “Lucky them.” He followed her to the kitchen and watched as she lifted the vegetables from the oven.
    “Anything I can do to help?”
    “No thanks, Uncle. I just have to plate the food.”
    He perched on a high stool at the kitchen bench. “Mind if I open this bottle of red?”
    “Go ahead. There’s a glass on the table.”
    “Only one glass?”
    “Yes.”
    Without questioning why he was drinking alone, he poured the wine and raised his glass to her.
    
    While sitting with her uncle at the table, Fran felt pressure to entertain him. She wanted him to enjoy the evening, for the atmosphere to be festive before revealing her news.
    “What’ve you been up to?” She cut up a potato and forked it into her mouth.
    “Chasing up family history when I get a chance. And I play bridge every Wednesday.”
    “Ever catch up with your mates?”
    “Yep. We get together from time to time and talk about the old days.” He rested his cutlery and emptied his glass. “Mind if I have another?”
    “Feel free.”
    It was unusual for him to drink more than a glass or two. Perhaps he missed the company of Derek and the boys, and felt awkward sitting alone with her at the table.
    Although eager to make her disclosure, it would be better to do it later in the evening when her uncle was feeling mellow. She pushed back her chair and cleared away the plates.
    “I didn’t make apple pie tonight. I thought we’d have cheese and biscuits for a change.”
    “That’d be lovely.”
    “Coffee?”
    “I’ll just have wine, thanks. Can I get you anything?”
    “No. I’m off both wine and coffee.” Now was the opportunity to tell him. Her hands moved clumsily as she arranged three cheeses on a board and spread water-crackers alongside.
    “Help yourself.”
    He cut a generous slab of blue cheese. “I’m glad I’ve got you to myself tonight.” He poured another glass of wine and leaned back in his seat. “I sometimes feel uncomfortable talking about personal matters when the family is around. After all, they belong to another generation.” He swirled his wine. “There’s no easy way to tell you except to say that I lead an adventurous life.”
    What on earth could he mean? Fran leaned forward, eager to hear. “I’m intrigued. You can tell me. I can keep secrets.”
    He smiled. “I know. You’re the soul of discretion but I’d like you to tell the others.” He sucked in a deep breath. “Remember my neighbour, Teresita?”
    Fran nodded. “You introduced us. Over your side fence. She’s from the Philippines.”
    “Yes. When her husband left, I mowed her lawn and did odd jobs for her.”
    Where was this leading? Fran cut off a sliver of Brie and popped it into her mouth.
    “I did more than odd jobs though.” His eyes twinkled and a blush reddened his cheeks.
    Her eyes widened. “Such as?”
    “Teresita gave birth to my daughter in January. Her name is Lily.”
    Fran gasped. She’d never dreamt her aged uncle would ever be a father. What on earth was she supposed to say?
    “And where is Teresita now?”
    “In the Philippines. Lily is meeting her grandparents.” He sliced off a wedge of Cheddar. “I expect them back in a fortnight.”
    “Will they move in with you?”
    “Yes. I’d like you to meet Teresita. And tell me what you think.” His face lit up. “Perhaps I’m a silly old man, but I want to marry her.”
    Fran nodded. “It’s exciting news. Congratulations.” Somehow her uncle’s changed circumstances made him more interesting. “I’ll enjoying getting to know Teresita. And Lily.”
    “I haven’t told anyone.” He shrugged. “What are my mates going to say?”
    Fran chuckled. While she’d felt shock at her bachelor uncle’s news, she had no idea how his mates would react. Perhaps they’d be jealous. In comparison to his revelation, Fran’s news seemed insignificant. But it was the right time to reveal it.
    “It’s obvious we come from fertile stock, Uncle.” She took a deep breath. “I’m pregnant. At age 46.”
    Her uncle beamed and lurched from his seat to hug her. “That’s lovely, Fran. Marvellous.” He stood gazing at her. “Pregnancy is a wonderful thing.” He poured more wine. “Here’s to you and the baby.” He raised his glass. “I hope it’s a girl.”
    “Thanks.” While her uncle was delighted, she and Derek weren’t. “We don’t know how we’re going to make ends meet.” She sighed. “After taking maternity leave, we won’t be able to afford childcare.” She shook her head. “Another child wasn’t in our plans.”
    “I hadn’t planned to have a child either.” He grinned, pleasure creasing his face. “Don’t worry about childcare. I’m a dab hand with babies.” He looked around him. “I can mind the baby here or at my place with Teresita and Lily.”
    Fran gazed at her uncle, marvelling at the course of events. In an instant her uncle had changed from an irritant to her saviour.
    She considered his offer. “You’ll need to check if it’s okay with Teresita.”
    He patted her hand. “She’ll be glad to help. And at my age I’m a born father. Who would have guessed?”








Maybe

Liam Spencer

It’s all disposition, they’ve never done better
Their investments soar. They sit pretty.
They’re smart, worked smarter than the rest
Who labor away, getting no where
Their money mates and makes more
Works for them, being fruitfull and multiplying
The blessed, rewarded, smiled upon
Never mind that their investments are increasing
Because of lowered wages and joblessness
The suffering of millions
Never mind the unfair advantages of mommy and daddy’s checks
Never mind the debts and deaths
Cream rises to the top
The rest of us are just stupid and lazy
The blessed, who God loves more
Get their profits easy and say they deserve it
Hard work is worthless
Never mind that it’s hard work that creates wealth
Never mind it is paychecks that drive the economy
Never mind the long illegal days
The blessed reign supreme
Tax breaks, subsidies, priviledge
The easy life of perk and spoil
From parents checks and head starts
They are superior. They’ll tell you how great they are
How God loves them better
Their sins don’t count
They’re smart and deserve it all
Including your respect
Their investments say so
Even with high unemployment, it’s about disposition
Not fact, not joblessness, not poverty
It’s all in our heads and facts mean nothing
Facts are lies after all
Only they know the truth
No one ever suffers
It’s just disposition and attitude
Just pretend it’s ok and it is.

I don’t argue. There is no chance.
No way to break through the delusions
That candy their brains
Maybe democracy is a bad idea after all.





Two Letters

Liam Spencer

the cell phone
no one could figure out
dusty, finger smudges
used much
“pick up bread, milk”
“remember to take out the trash”
“we visit your mom Sunday”
“is the registration expired”
mundane, life draining
is it even communication?
now it sits stubborn
displays just two letters
FU
they scramble to figure out why
programming?
programming indeed
it is what should be
rebelling from
the deadly mundane
had enough
FU
says it so well








Mentor

Jason D. Cooper

From hidden cocoon
to lapis butterfly wing
I transform
in your eyes.

As storm cloud skies
clear to azure horizons,
I come to shine
in your eyes.

Just to immerse
in sun-dappled waters,
I would drown
in your eyes.





Janet Kuypers reads poetry from
Down in the Dirt, v. 120, the November / December 2013 issue
Seeing a Psychiatrist: Hopelessness and Futility” by Janet Kuypers, “Daddy’s Lil’ Toy” by Kelly Haas Shackeford, “Drunk Father” by Roland Stoecker, “Poppy” by S. R. Mearns, “Down in the Dirt” by Marlon Jackson, and “Mentor” by Jason D. Cooper
video videonot yet rated
See YouTube video
of Janet Kuypers reading poetry Volume 246, the November / December 2013 issue of cc&d magazine (including the poems “Seeing a Psychiatrist: Hopelessness and Futility” by Janet Kuypers, “Daddy’s Lil’ Toy” by Kelly Haas Shackeford, “Drunk Father” by Roland Stoecker, “Poppy” by S. R. Mearns, “Down in the Dirt” by Marlon Jackson, and “Mentor” by Jason D. Cooper), live 12/4/13 at the open mic the Café Gallery at the Gallery Cabaret in Chicago (C)




Safe Word

Jason D. Cooper

Bound and fettered
by gossamer and paper
our love and our work
intertwined exquisitely.

Your bejewled mind
my moon-lit wonderment
your azure eyes
my forested depths.

By shouted whisperes
and cool touches of fire
are you made my master
and I your servant.








My Secret Brother

Steven Wineman

Are birds free from the chains of the highway?
-Bob Dylan, “Ballad in Plain D”

    My brother Jimmy is in prison in Michigan for molesting boys. Those are words I very rarely speak out loud.
    Not talking about Jimmy goes back long before his arrest in 2000.
    In the summer of 1962, when he was seventeen, Jimmy had a breakdown and was put in a mental hospital, where he stayed for four months. It turned out he was in love with a boy, one of his classmates. We were at a summer camp for disturbed boys where my father was clinical director. Jimmy’s friend came out to visit, and then the two of them went back to Detroit, sixty miles away. A day or two later, Jimmy called and told my father that he was going to kill himself.
    He showed up back at camp a few hours after the call. I remember seeing him pull up in his car, a pale blue Buick. I was aware of the entire drama, and I was watching it unfold without letting myself feel much. Jimmy and my father went into our cabin and talked for a long time. Eventually my father came out and told my mother that he was going to take Jimmy to the hospital.
    My mother was hysterical, sobbing but muted because our cabin was in earshot of a staff dorm up the hill. The only thing I remember her saying, as she was putting my brother’s name on his clothes with permanent marker, was that she was ruining his shirts.
    Once Jimmy was locked up, we – my parents and I – needed to decide what to tell people. At thirteen I was included in this discussion, and I suppose, from one point of view, that made sense: the story was only going to work if we all said the same thing. We agreed to tell people at camp that Jimmy was spending the summer in Detroit, and tell people in Detroit that he was at camp. It was neat and convenient. There was no serious consideration given to telling the truth, except for one friend of the family, and my mother’s mother. We did not tell my father’s parents, which I understood had to do with my mother not being on great terms with my father’s mother.
    All the lying we were doing didn’t seem the least bit weird to me at the time. Nor did I feel strange about sitting with my parents and helping to plan the lies. It made me feel included and adult, the latter being a status I coveted.
    Three years later, when Jimmy ran away to Florida after being questioned by the police because he’d been looking into someone’s house with a telescope, we told people he was in California and staying with his uncle. My mother actually did have an estranged brother who lived in California, which was as close as this came to the truth. I can’t reconstruct any kind of rational basis for lying about where he really was. He was twenty by then, and heading out on his own is something people do at that age. If we were ashamed of the reason he took off (which my parents were), or if there was some misguided belief that we were protecting him, we could just have left out the parts about the telescope and the police. But lying about my brother was habitual and carried its own distorted logic.
    After Jimmy came back home from that episode, my friend Eddie asked him what he’d been up to in California. Jimmy looked at him like he’d just said something ridiculous (which he had) and asked Eddie where in the world he’d gotten the idea he’d been in California. Eddie turned to me and basically said the same thing. I told him to ask my mother.

    Jimmy was arrested in the February 2000 after two teenage boys reported that he’d invited them for a ride in his car and then fondled them. My brother was driving an expensive sports car, a Dodge Viper. A little while after the actual incident, the boys were in their school bus and noticed his car. They started talking about him, something along the lines of “there’s that creep in the Viper.” An attentive bus driver heard this, asked the boys questions, and then called the police.
    It made the Detroit media and became a notorious sex abuse case. The sensational part was what the police found in his apartment: bags of boys’ underwear; 1,200 audio recordings, videos, and photos of his sexual encounters with boys; pictures on his walls of adolescent and adult males whipping him, which he acknowledged to the police he had paid them to do.
    The only charges were to do with the single incident with the boys in the Viper. Jimmy pleaded no contest. For all the notoriety of the case, he got eighteen months followed by probation. After his release, he skipped the state within a week, violating his probation. In 2002 he was arrested in Seattle, extradited to Michigan, and sentenced to 10-15 years.

*    *    *

    One of my earliest memories is of Jimmy chasing me around our apartment when I was four and he was eight. We had recently moved from Detroit to New York. It is the first time I can remember him doing something that scared me, though I can’t really place memories of him before this event, positive or negative. I also don’t remember specifically what he did that day that scared me so much – chase games aren’t necessarily frightening – but I know I was terrified. Nor do I remember where our mother was. It was not a big apartment and she was a stay-at-home mom at the time, but she was nowhere in sight. To get away from Jimmy, I ran into the bathroom, pushed the door closed with all my might, and turned the bolt to lock it.
    At some point I calmed down enough that I wanted to come back out of the bathroom. At some point my mother called to me and found out I had locked myself in the bathroom. That was probably when I first tried to unlock the door. I couldn’t. I tried with every bit of strength I had, and I could not make the thing budge. It made no sense to me that I had been able to lock it but now couldn’t unlock it. I was crying really hard and kept trying to turn the bolt without any hint of progress. I was four years old and I believed that I would be locked in the bathroom for the rest of the day, the night, as far into the future as I could imagine. My mother was screaming. I have no idea where Jimmy was by then or what he had told her.
    Eventually a maintenance guy used a ladder, climbed in through the bathroom window, and turned the lock with an ease that seemed superhuman.

    My mother’s account of my brother’s childhood, which I heard many times, was that he was a perfect baby and a really good boy until he was eight, when he abruptly turned bad. I don’t know if the Steven-getting-locked-in-the-bathroom incident was the turning point in my mother’s eyes, but it was in mine. After that, Jimmy tortured me for six years.
    His MO was to get me to wrestle with him when my parents weren’t around. We would play act professional wrestlers. He would promise that he would let me win. I would always believe him. For a while he would let me get the better of him, and I would get excited, and it would feel great to put holds on him and get his big body on the floor and start to pin him. At the count to two he would push me off him, but up to a certain point he would let me keep the advantage. Then, abruptly, he would start winning. He would pin me on the floor and apply the “claw hold,” the specialty of one Killer Kowalski. Jimmy would be on top of me and would claw at my stomach until I was frantic with pain and terror. Eventually he would pin me for a count of three, laughing, announcing the match outcome like a guy on TV. Then he’d get up and leave me there on the floor. I have no idea why he would stop when he did. I have no idea – given later events in his life – why he never touched my genitals; but he didn’t.
    I believe that Jimmy abused me hundreds of times, more or less in the same way, from when I was four to ten. For most of that time we were back in Detroit, and after I started Kindergarten my mother was working three days a week. She came home maybe an hour after we got back from school. That hour was prime time. It didn’t happen every day my mother worked, but I think it happened pretty much every week.
    There were three basic things that, as far as I can tell, I never did. I don’t remember ever saying no to Jimmy when he was getting me to wrestle; and maybe more to the point, since I’m not sure what he would have done if I had tried to say no, I don’t remember ever thinking to myself that this was a bad idea because he would end up hurting me. I believed him every time. So that counts as one. The second thing I didn’t do was to just stay away from home for that hour until my mother would arrive. And the third thing was that I never talked to my parents about what Jimmy did to me.
    That had to wait until I was forty-five. This was in 1994, the year before both my parents died. I had become a dad a few years before that, and a lot of stuff was coming up for me, to put it mildly. One of the things way at the front of the list was that my parents had not protected me from Jimmy. When I described to them how Jimmy had abused me, my mother denied ever knowing. But my father reminded her that there were times after dinner when I would call out from the living room and he would have to pull Jimmy off me. I in turn didn’t remember my father intervening; my only memories were (and are) of the times when my parents weren’t around.
    I asked my father what he would do after he got Jimmy off me. He said he took him to his room. And then? My father wasn’t sure what I was asking. Did you ever come back and talk to me about it? I asked. No, he said, he didn’t. Why not? My father said he thought he had done what I was asking him to do.

    Jimmy liked me. I understood this as a child, in some deep, almost nonverbal way. When I was four he taught me to play chess, and he crowed to our mother about how smart I was. I don’t remember pondering the weirdness that he could both like me and abuse me. Jimmy was just plain weird, and was also very explicitly defined as the bad kid in the family. That was plenty to ponder, and it simply led me to do everything possible to not be like him.
    When he was hospitalized in 1962, he wrote me letters.
    I was really happy he was in the hospital. He was finally away from me. Jimmy had stopped physically abusing me three years earlier, when I was ten. We moved to a new house in a new neighborhood that year; I had more friends and I was out of the house a lot more after school. I’m not sure why else it stopped after we moved, but it did.
    But there were many other things that didn’t stop. He would grab the sports section of the newspaper away from me. He would control the TV if neither of our parents was in the room. He could say something bizarre pretty much any time, and he specialized in weirding out waitresses in restaurants. I was embarrassed to bring friends to my house. When Jimmy was in twelfth grade my mother was called to school because he had written the lyrics of a rock song, “The Mashed Potatoes,” on a math exam. After the conference, and countless other times, Mom screamed at him. My father also yelled at him, less often than my mother, but he was home a lot less than my mother. Once I saw my father slap Jimmy on the face, something that absolutely did not happen in our house, but that day it did. There was all kinds of chaos at home, and a good portion of it had to do with my parents’ relationship, but a lot of it swirled around Jimmy, and he had been swirling around me one way or another for as long as I could remember. It was an inexpressible relief to have him gone.
    So there I was getting letters from him in the hospital. They were superficial, and they were friendly. But the underlying, unspoken message was clear to me at the time: Steven, you are a safe person in my life. Steven, you are my link to the outside world, to my family. You are my meaningful connection. At thirteen, how do you respond to these letters from someone who had tortured you for most of your life? I answered them. It was a pretty matter of fact thing. Whatever the content was – how are things at camp? how are the Tigers doing? - I replied in kind. I didn’t think about it that much.
    A little while after my brother was hospitalized, my father asked me if I wanted to see a therapist. I told him no, I was fine. I had no idea how not-fine I was.
    The theme of me being Jimmy’s point of connection would recur. When he ran away after the telescope incident (I was sixteen then), he placed a collect call to me from somewhere in Ohio to say he had left Detroit and would not be coming back. And forty years later, we would correspond during his prison term.

    My mother told chilling stories about what a “good” baby my brother was. One of them was about taking Jimmy on the train from Detroit to Seattle when he was still an infant. My mother would recount how for three days on the train, Jimmy never cried. It defies belief, that it could happen at all and what mayhem must have been going on inside a six month old to clamp down on every natural, healthy urge and need of his own in order to stay quiet and satisfy his mother. When Mom told the story, there was never any hint that this might have been even slightly messed up. For her it was a golden memory.
    The roots of who Jimmy became could not possibly reduce to just one thing, but what happened on that train to Seattle must have been repeated in many different forms throughout his early childhood. Once he “turned bad” and was labeled as such in our family, things cascaded out of control from many directions. And of course he was growing up gay at a time when homosexuality was considered a disease. But I do believe that something in the core of his being got crushed when he was very little.
    My own infancy story, as later told by my mother, was that I cried at night for the first fourteen months of my life. Nothing she tried could stop me. Later, when I went to the orthodontist for braces, an x-ray showed that I had unusually narrow nasal passages. Mom theorized, plausibly, that my narrow nasal passages made it hard for me to breathe at night as a baby; hence the crying. So, strangely enough, my nasal anatomy may have saved me from being crushed like Jimmy at the beginning of my life.

    The counterpoint to all the secrecy about my brother has been my urge to tell. Interspersed with many years of silence, I have gone through various phases of telling.
    During my early adolescence I had fantasies of getting a girlfriend and telling her all about Jimmy. When I was sixteen I actually did tell my first girlfriend, Janet, about my brother. We’d been going out for a few weeks, we’d had our first fight, and then we went to a restaurant to talk and make up. I spent about an hour telling her the story. I started out by saying something like, “In order to really know who I am, you need to know about my brother.” Layered onto the yearning to have someone to tell this story to, I also wanted her to feel sorry for me, to recognize that I came from a seriously screwed up family and should be cut a little slack. It more or less worked, at least in the short run, and it set a tone for a number of relationships which followed: telling about Jimmy became an expression of intimacy and victimhood.
    At the same time, during that period of late adolescence and early adulthood, I was actively reworking my own understanding of the story, reconstructing Jimmy as a victim. I left home for college at seventeen, started getting some distance from my family and the events of my childhood, and had many of my own struggles which pushed me in the direction of critically reexamining my past. Plus it was the last half of the 1960s, a richly turbulent time that was conducive to critically reexamining all kinds of things.
    My second year in college, I wrote a play about my family in which I consciously tried to look at events from Jimmy’s point of view. I called his character Jay and made his “symptom” (the term my parents had used for his homosexuality) that he spoke in poetry and riddles. He was eighteen and coming home from the hospital. Within a couple of pages it was clear that he wasn’t “better” - still talking the same way, still making up bizarre stories about fantasy characters. “Mom” was frantic, “Dad” was ineffectually trying to convince him to change his tune so he wouldn’t be thrown in jail (!), and both were being complete jerks. I was the dead younger brother. Eventually Mom takes off all her clothes and tries to seduce Jay, terrifying him into a murderous rage.
    The play was actually produced at Columbia; my parents knew and were mortified. So there I was at nineteen, going about as public as you could imagine with this transfigured story of my mother as the perpetrator, my father as the hapless bystander, my brother as the victim whose aggression was a byproduct of Mom’s sexual abuse – and me out of the picture.
    More than a decade later, I would write an unfinished novel in which I turned Jimmy into Randolph, a reindeer who is misperceived by everyone to be a human being. Randolph can be nasty and has one episode of violence when he is involuntarily hospitalized. But, like Jay, I mainly portray him as a victim – unseen for who he really is, completely out of place, and living in a state of the most intense isolation and alienation. Randolph is a more complex and textured character than Jay, but in both cases I was aiming for a metaphor that allowed me to try to see the world through Jimmy’s eyes.
    Part of how I did this was to consciously give some of my own attributes to these Jimmyesque figures. I had Jay speaking in poetry at a time when I was making some serious efforts to write poems. (My brother was a math genius, not a poet). I had Randolph form a primal bond with Lake Superior, a place I love and that as far as I know Jimmy never laid eyes on. I was trying to humanize my brother by making him a little more like me, or by integrating some of me into him.
    During that era of my life, I made an admirable effort at trying to understand what it was like to be Jimmy growing up. I didn’t do as well at understanding what it had been like for me growing up as his brother.

    The body, however, does not forget. I have had stomach aches since childhood. They come at unpredictable intervals, but when they hit they can be excruciating, to the point that all I can do is lie down. At a more tolerable level, I have gastric distress every day without exception and have had for many years, so much part of my life that I would not recognize myself without it. Intertwined with the gastric junk, my stomach and intestines are where I carry my anxiety, also with the volume notching higher and lower but always present to some degree. I can’t tolerate being tickled, or being touched on my stomach unexpectedly.
    I recently started meditating, and part of the practice is to do a “body scan” in which you go methodically through each section of your body, feel the sensations, and breathe. When I got to my belly, without warning, without any particular triggering thought, I felt all that accumulated stress and I started to cry, and then to sob. This more than fifty years after Jimmy last abused me.

    In late 2002, I slogged through my ambivalence and started writing to Jimmy in prison.
    I struggled with my decision to write the first letter, and every time I got a letter back I struggled again about whether or when to reply. At the time I had a Post Office box and I gave him that address because I didn’t want him to know where I live. I was scared of him for myself and more so for my son Eric, who was then eleven. I held this fear even though Jimmy was at the beginning of a 10-15 year sentence. I accepted that my feelings didn’t have to be rational, meaning based on realities like how long he was going to be in prison, and that my history was part of my interior reality. If I was going to be in contact with Jimmy, I needed to feel that I was taking some kind of active step to keep it safe.
    Seven years earlier, in April 1995, Eric was three and a half when we went to Michigan to visit my parents. My mother would die the next month. She was very ill and way beyond being able to travel to Boston to see us, which she had been doing about once a year. Jimmy was still living with my parents. The visit was short, we were staying at a motel, and most of the time we spent at my parents’ house he wasn’t home. But there was one afternoon when he was.
    He’s a big guy, taller than me and probably fifty pounds heavier. For about about half an hour we jammed into a very small kitchenette – Jimmy, my mother, Eric, my partner, and me. (No idea where my father was.) Jimmy hovered, talking the whole time, exuding about how adorable my son was and how much he looked like me when I was little, asking Mom to agree with him about everything, saying things to Eric or asking him questions and being completely undaunted when he wouldn’t respond, just surging on with his charged monologue. Jimmy was standing right next to me, in that small jammed space, with his presence completely filling the room. I was carrying my own childhood experience of his abuse in my entire nervous system, and I was acutely aware of how excited he was to be meeting my little boy, and my body was shaking with terror and rage.
    When I decided to write to Jimmy, I needed to strike some kind of balance between a lot of things, and one clearly was fear because Jimmy is a dangerous man. Another was concern for Jimmy as a person whose life was a nightmare. Another was what kind of person I wanted to be – whether I wanted to be someone who could have compassion for my abuser, who could view Jimmy as a damaged human being and a significant person in my life. And yet another was my compassion for myself, for the vulnerable and wounded parts of me that neither I nor my parents had been able to protect. This was not just about attending to safety in the present, but about maintaining an allegiance to my own damaged parts at a very deep level, about holding in full view that what Jimmy did to me is fundamentally not forgivable. How do you possibly balance all that?
    The simple answer is that you do your best, and where you land at one point in time is not necessarily where you land at another. In 2002, I decided to try to hold compassion for Jimmy and compassion for myself on the same page. And so I wrote to him.

    Jimmy’s first letter back to me was dated December 5, 2002.
    Thank you very much for writing to me – you are the only person I knew previous to the year 2000 who has written to me since I have been in jail and/or prison!...
    All is well with me here – amazingly enough. There is plenty to do, the food and housing are good, and prison is a far cry from the way it is portrayed on TV / movies!
    I must have answered him quickly, because his next letter was written January 13. It’s a cheerful account, with no hint of irony, of how there’s plenty to do in jail. He describes the regimentation of a typical day in numbered items from 1 to 14. “(1) I go to bed at 9 p.m. and wake up at 5 a.m. (2) Breakfast – cereal, toast, biscuits, eggs, & sometimes french toast or pancakes – is 6:10 a.m. - 6:30 a.m.” Then TV, yard, TV, lunch, TV, yard, TV, dinner, gym, yard, TV. Each item includes details: gym has ping pong and pool; yard includes an option to stay in and play chess or cards; at 7:30 he watches Star Trek The Next Generation. He ends by saying, “Here I have plenty of time to watch the football games. When I worked at the Detroit News Sports Dept, I never had time!!”
    In a letter dated May 17, 2002, Jimmy responds to questions I had finally raised about his offenses.
    What do I think about the things that I did that led to my arrest & conviction?
    Well, I never thought any of the things I did would lead to prison!
    Just about everyone here obviously made a serious mistake or mistakes, else we wouldn’t be here!
    As for prison time being an opportunity to reflect on life and gain new understanding of what I’ve done, by the time a person gains such insight, it’s usually too late, sort of like locking the barn door after the horse gets out!
    He signs – as he signed all of his letters – “Love, Jimmy.”
    I wasn’t surprised by what Jimmy wrote; but I wasn’t really prepared for it either. I was trying to navigate in a narrow emotional space between the depth of my abuse and the challenge, in some ways the yearning to hold out for the possibility of human connection with someone who has abused you, and the possibility that Jimmy could connect with his own buried capacities for decency – to hold out for these things without being quixotic or just plain stupid. Inside me there was (and is) a little boy who had believed Jimmy every time he promised he’d let me win when we wrestled. Inside me were terror and rage that I do not expect will ever entirely go away, which is another way of saying wounds I don’t expect to ever entirely heal. I needed to muster as much clarity as I could bring to this effort to communicate honestly with Jimmy about what he had done. Not only to the other boys, but to me. I had reached the point where if I was going to correspond with Jimmy, I needed to say these things.
    I sat with this for two, two and a half months. Somewhere around the end of July I wrote back. I kept a draft of this letter, one of only two of my own letters I saved. I wrote it during a vacation in the White Mountains, sitting on the lawn outside a bed and breakfast on a warm summer day.
    Since we have grown up, we have never talked about what happened between us when we were kids....
    When we were kids, you hurt me very badly. You hurt me physically and, even more than that, you hurt me emotionally....I have come to understand that what you did was physical and emotional abuse. When we were alone you would get me to wrestle with you and you would pin me on the floor and claw at my stomach until I was sobbing uncontrollably. You did this many, many times. Those events have left deep emotional wounds that still affect me. I believe that it also wounded you, even more deeply than me, to treat me so badly.
    ...I am telling you now, not out of anger, but out of concern and respect for both of us. I do believe that you, like everyone, have the ability to learn from mistakes and to use that learning to heal old wounds. Healing is what I hope for – for you and between you and me.
    And so, as I see it, there are horses still left in the barn, because your understanding of how you hurt me in the past affects how we can relate to each other now.
    ...I can imagine that this is a very hard letter for you to read. I hope that you will be open to considering what I have said. My main hope is that you will be willing to look at how you treated me when you were little, think about how it affected both of us, and be willing to communicate about it.
    Jimmy’s reply was dated Sept 15, 2003. After a half page about other things, he wrote:
    I don’t remember our relationship as kids as well as you do. I do remember telling Mom, ‘Steven is very smart!!’ When you were just 4 years old!!
    I also remember reflecting the light from the sun onto the ceiling and convincing you that the reflection was a U.F.O.!! Dad was not happy over that blatant deception!
    As for our wrestling matches, from what I’ve read, a lot of kids copy the wrestling they see on TV, and if I used the claw hold that was Killer Kowalski’s favorite hold! Sorry if I over did it.

    How do you hold the terrible reality that someone can be a victim and a perpetrator at the same time?
    This fundamental question keeps coming back, not only to my own efforts to make sense of my relationship with my brother, but to so many intractable problems in the world, small scale and large. At the heart of cycles of violence, there are people on all sides who have been abused, disregarded, dehumanized, whose victimization distorts their capacities for compassion and connection and feeds into their own destructive behavior.
    So: that’s a way I know to analyze it. I think the analysis is a huge step beyond the common tendency to split the world into good and bad – to categorize people like Jimmy as either victim or perpetrator, but not both. I honestly think it’s a triumph of intellect to recognize that this is not an either/or proposition; to insist that victimization and abuse are intertwined.
    But what about emotionally? Where is the triumph of feelings here? How do you actually relate to someone who has the emotional capacity of a stone wall? Who has been so damaged that he has no ability to acknowledge, to consider, to feel the enormity of what he has done to you?

    After my efforts to have a real conversation with Jimmy about our childhood, the correspondence subsided into what for me was mostly chatter – who would win the Super Bowl? who would win the presidential race? It also slowed way down, as there were longer intervals in my replies to his letters. The only point for me was to maintain some minimal contact – for the sake of what? I think I was trying to strike that precarious balance between compassion and self-protection; between loyalty to my child self and this ongoing effort to be an adult; between the undeniable reality that Jimmy is a critical part of my history and shaped way too much of who I am, and the undeniable reality that there was no meaningful dialogue happening between us.
    Then came a letter dated 6/7/06, which started, “Can you believe the last letter I got from you was 8/3/05 from Ogunquit, Maine?” Then, after a page of chatter, the letter ended, “Write soon, Love, Jimmy.”
    Reading this now, it strikes me mostly as pathetic: Jimmy almost pleading with me to stay in touch. But at the time I was furious. Ten months since my last letter; “write soon” – here was my abuser wanting me to take care of him. I felt like telling him, Jimmy you should be fucking grateful I write at all. But I took a while to gather myself. Then I sent a letter in which I told him, honestly, that it was not easy for me to write to him. “It’s hard to figure out,” I wrote, “how to relate to you when you have hurt me so badly. I know that I’m the only family you’ve got, and that it means a lot to you for me to be in touch. In a way it’s important to me too, because you’ve been an important person in my life. It just works better for me to have the letters be not too frequent. Once or twice a year is what feels right at this point.”
    I have only one more letter from Jimmy, dated 2/8/09. I think I must have misplaced one in between, because the gap is too long to make sense. He starts by saying, “It has been nearly 9 months since your last letter, which falls within our guidelines of once or twice a year.” I remember having a reaction to “our guidelines,” as if this was something we had mutually decided; but I also got that he was acknowledging and respecting my wishes. The rest of the letter was the usual fluff about politics and sports.
    I wrote back some time in that next year. I have not heard from Jimmy since then – by now for almost three years. I’ve thought about writing him again, but I haven’t.
    Why did Jimmy stop writing? Was my last letter not delivered? Or has a letter of his not gotten to me? (Neither of these seems likely.) Or did the intensity of my hurt, the disparity between his eagerness for contact and my reluctance, finally touch him in some way he couldn’t tolerate? That actually is my guess, but I don’t put a lot of energy into the speculation. It did occur to me recently to wonder if he had died (though you’d think I would be notified.) So I looked him up on the Michigan registry of sex offenders. There he was, still alive, still in prison.

    The sexual abuse of children is a problem of epidemic proportions. As many as 40% of all girls and 20% of all boys are sexually abused at some time in their childhood. According to the National Center for PTSD, strangers account for 10% of incidents of sexual abuse of children; 30% of perpetrators are family members; and 60% are otherwise known to the victims and their families. In their extensive review of the child sexual abuse literature, Karen Terry and Jennifer Tallon note, “All researchers acknowledge that those who are arrested represent only a fraction of all sexual offenders. Sexual crimes have the lowest rates of reporting for all crimes.” (“Child Sexual Abuse: A Review of the Literature,” p. 3.)
    Jimmy was a stranger to 1,200 boys; but when he abused me (grossly, though not sexually) he was my brother. Out of probably thousands of sexual offenses, he was arrested and convicted for two.

    My brother is sixty-eight and has now served about ten years of his 10-15 year sentence. In all likelihood Jimmy will get out of prison some time in the next five years.
    Then what? What will his life possibly be like once he is released?
    It’s hard to imagine anyone will hire him – an older man with a serious criminal record who’s a registered (and notorious) sex offender. So presumably he’ll live on Social Security. In public housing? Or in a rooming house? Will the Michigan criminal justice system help him with housing or other transitional services? It seems unlikely. And what will he do? Sit around? Watch sports on TV? What will his adjustment look like, back to “freedom” in the community? Probably not very pretty.
    Then there’s the question of whether he will come out of prison in any sense rehabilitated. Also hard to believe. I have no idea whether treatment has been part of his incarceration for the last ten years; he never mentioned it in his letters, and I never asked. He did portray himself as a good prisoner, steadily advancing to lower security levels, a helpful tutor in the prison’s school; and I have no reason to doubt that. But adjusting well to an institution is hardly the same as rehabilitation. And I can barely imagine Jimmy’s sexual activity in prison, which also of course was never mentioned in our correspondence. But we know that before prison he practiced both sadism and masochism for many years, and we know that child molesters are sexually targeted in prisons. Hardly the stuff of rehabilitation.
    So maybe, when he gets out, he won’t just sit around in a room watching sports on TV. Maybe, at 70 or 72, he’ll go back on the prowl.
    Underneath all these particulars is the sheer raw pathos of Jimmy’s life. Prison and its eventual aftermath are, of course, only installments in a lifelong unfolding of this unbearable reality, which has caused so much damage to so many people. Thich Nhat Hanh has written that when you do violence to others, you do violence to yourself; and Jimmy has embodied that truth about as graphically as I can imagine.
    When I was little, after he would abuse me and leave me sobbing on the floor, I would roll over onto my belly, face down on the fuzzy wool fibers of the rug, and I would fantasize about growing to be bigger than Jimmy and beating the shit out of him. I couldn’t yet come close to understanding that he had already hurt himself so much more than he had hurt me. I never did grow to be bigger than him; and by the time I was as big as I was going to get, I believed in nonviolence, and all I wanted to was to get away from Jimmy. Meanwhile he would become an adult who would pay others to tie him to trees and beat him. After his arrest, the press reported that a 26 year old man came forward and told the police that over a period of 11 years, Jimmy paid the man thousands of dollars to torture him.

    A story changes in the retelling. Even when the events themselves have not changed, the narrator inevitably has, producing subtle or larger changes in the point of view from which the narrative is retold. In this case, Jimmy’s story (which is also my story) continues to unfold. So not only am I a different story teller now than other times I chose to reveal my secret brother, but I’m also telling a larger and even more textured story. And of course this effort to re-break a silence is also a retelling of the story to myself.
    This has become, for me, a sad story. Which feels new. Not that sadness hasn’t been there all along; but I don’t remember it being prominent. After the well meaning efforts to see Jimmy as a victim; after being overwhelmed so many times in my life with intolerable feelings; after the struggles of the last decade to find some meaningful way to communicate with my brother; now what’s left – as we are both in our sixties and approaching the final stages of life, and the letters have played themselves out, and Jimmy bears the weight of all that violence, and I live with wounds that were inflicted more than half a century ago – what stands out now is a need to grieve.








Drunk Father

Roland Stoecker

my sister and I
would huddle in silence
as the storm raged
inside our house





Janet Kuypers reads poetry from
Down in the Dirt, v. 120, the November / December 2013 issue
Seeing a Psychiatrist: Hopelessness and Futility” by Janet Kuypers, “Daddy’s Lil’ Toy” by Kelly Haas Shackeford, “Drunk Father” by Roland Stoecker, “Poppy” by S. R. Mearns, “Down in the Dirt” by Marlon Jackson, and “Mentor” by Jason D. Cooper
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of Janet Kuypers reading poetry Volume 246, the November / December 2013 issue of cc&d magazine (including the poems “Seeing a Psychiatrist: Hopelessness and Futility” by Janet Kuypers, “Daddy’s Lil’ Toy” by Kelly Haas Shackeford, “Drunk Father” by Roland Stoecker, “Poppy” by S. R. Mearns, “Down in the Dirt” by Marlon Jackson, and “Mentor” by Jason D. Cooper), live 12/4/13 at the open mic the Café Gallery at the Gallery Cabaret in Chicago (C)







Rushing the Scout

Hannah Thurman

    The day before his sister’s wedding, Lee leaned against the refrigerator, watching his father argue with the groom-to-be and hoping this would be the fight that would wreck whole thing.
    Townsend Beacom, his sister’s fiancé, sat at their kitchen table with his arms crossed. Townsend, Meredith had told him once, was the largest guy in his fraternity. Lee had only visited Vanderbilt once, on a college tour set up by his father earlier that year, but he believed her: Townsend was as tall as he was, but two times as wide and carried himself like a linebacker in khakis. Lee hated him. Townsend was bossy and pompous but charming enough in front of his father and Meredith to make Lee look bad in comparison.
    But this time, it seemed, Townsend had gone too far.
    “I can take back the order, sir,” Townsend drawled. “But I thought everyone would enjoy some lil’ hand-held fans.”
    Lee’s father smacked the countertop. He was tall and lean with a thick mustache but no beard. “The problem isn’t the fans,” he said, “It’s that you didn’t ask me before you went ahead and ordered them.”
    “I know, sir, I know. I was wrong to do that. But when I looked at the weather report, I knew it was going to be a scorcher. I’ve been to events at the club before, and they can get pret-ty hot.”
    “Nine hundred dollars’ worth of hot?”
    Townsend hung his head, but fortunately Lee’s father did not relent.
    “If you want fans,” he said, “You can fold them yourself.”
    “Daddy,” Meredith said, putting her hands on Townsend’s shoulders. She had long red hair that she’d once taught Lee how to braid. And then slapped Henry Walters when he teased Lee on the playground for knowing how to braid hair. “Daddy, this isn’t Townsend’s fault. I was the one who said we should get fans. Don’t you want the wedding to be a success?”
    “I’m paying for it, aren’t I?”
    “Barely.”
    Lee’s father fumed.
    “Daddy,” Meredith said, “I know we have the money. Lee’s practically getting paid to go to college.”
    “And when you go back to school, I will write you a check.”
    Meredith crossed her arms. “This is about med school, isn’t it?”
    Lee’s father made a face. “This is about a thousand bucks’ worth of shitty paper fans.”
    “Yeah, right,” Meredith said.
    Lee walked out of the kitchen, disappointed. The show was over. Townsend had once again slipped away from Lee’s father’s wrath.

    Lee shut his door and looked at the time. It was a quarter until two, which was when the rehearsal was supposed to start, but he’d seen enough of Meredith and his father’s fights to know that he had a while. The two were both hot-tempered and could argue for a long time. Lee, on the other hand, did not like confrontation; in that way, his father said he took after his mother. Besides a proclivity to argue, memories of her were another thing Meredith and his father shared that he did not: Meredith had been six when she died, Lee only two. It was hard to miss someone you didn’t remember.
    He figured he had at least another half hour before they left for the rehearsal, so he sat down and logged back into the game of StarCraft he’d been playing with his friends. He’d surrendered all his armies when he’d heard the fighting and gone downstairs, so now he could only watch. The game had gone to shit: enemy forces were storming their barracks and their medivacs kept getting shot down in little orange bursts of light. When he put on his headset, he heard Brendan, Aaron, and Max all talking about a graduation party they’d gone to the weekend before.
    “I heard the keg got broken after we left,” Max said. Max had been his best friend since seventh grade; the other two guys had started hanging out with them junior year. Most nights, they played StarCraft until midnight, when Lee had to go; he was the only one who still had a bedtime. Lee thought the rule was stupid but he’d never challenged it. Arguing with his father about something like bedtime would have invited a lecture on responsibility, time management, and the type of jobs available to high-school dropouts.
    “At Becca’s place?” Lee asked. He had been stuck at a dinner with Townsend’s parents that night. He tried to act like it wasn’t a big deal but he was actually pretty pissed: he hadn’t been to a lot of parties in high school because of his curfew, and this might have been his last chance.
    “Nice of you to join us, traitor,” Max said, “We’re getting stomped.”
    “These guys are owning us,” Brendan said. He paused a second as his last barracks exploded. “But yeah, it was at Becca’s place. Now she owes her sister like $70 ‘cause Harris Teeter won’t take the keg back.”
    “Oh,” Lee said. “You have to pay a deposit?”
    “Yeah, seventy bucks,” Aaron said. “Doesn’t that suck?”
    “Uh-huh,” Lee said, watching armored aliens shoot machine guns at their airbase. It erupted with a tiny pop. “Did you guys have a good time?”
    “Max missed you,” Brendan said. “It was really sweet, actually. He cried and cried...”
    “I did not, you faggot.”
    “Actually,” Brendan said. “He cried because Amitra turned him down.”
    “I did not cry.”
    “What happened?” Lee asked.
    “Oh, it was epic,” Aaron said. “She totally shut him down.”
    “Why is this ‘pick on Max’ day?” Max whined.
    “We love you, Max,” Lee said. “Even if Amitra doesn’t.”
    “Fuck you,” Max said.
    “No, thanks,” Brendan said like he always did. Aaron laughed. The three of them—Aaron, Max, and Brendan—were going to live in a triple together next year at UGA. They had already dubbed it “The Mancave.” Lee, who was going to Emory, called it, “The Place Sex Goes to Die.” But he was secretly jealous. He didn’t know anyone going to Emory but his father would have flipped a shit if he’d followed his friends to UGA after Meredith deferred admission to medical school. It seemed unfair that his father’s expectations for his education were tied up with what Meredith did, but Lee would rather argue about his bedtime than bring that up.
    “Okay, let’s rush these guys together,” Max said. “Maybe they’ll hold off for a minute.”
    “Maybe Amrita will change her mind.”
    “Fuck you.”
    “No, thanks.”
    “C’mon,” Max said, “Let’s go!”
    Lee leaned back and watched as the map lit up. The steady sound of gunfire pounded through his speakers. For one crazy second, it looked like Max’s idea was working.
    “What now!” Brendan yelled. “What now, bitch-esss!”
    “Lee, tell me what’s going on in the airfield,” Max said. “If we lose that, we’re done.”
    Lee leaned in. “They’re holding out,” Lee said.
    “Stay on it,” Max said. “Let me know when it needs help.”
    Lee watched the airfield, happy to be asked to put his skills to use. Thirty commandos were left, but aliens were pouring in over the walls.
    “You’ve got maybe two minutes,” Lee said.
    “Okay,” Max said. “Okay, cool. Keep watching.”
    Lee’s heart sped up. Twenty-eight commandos. Twenty-four. As the gunfire got louder and louder, Lee’s door flung open.
    “Hey man,” Townsend said. “What are you doing here? Why aren’t you ready to go?”
    Lee put down his headset. “Sorry,” he said, “Sorry, I thought you guys were still fighting.”
    Townsend frowned at him. “No one is fighting, bro. Turn off Star Wars and come downstairs.” He shut the door again.
    Lee looked back at the screen just in time to see the airfield go up in flames. A lone ship spiraled down out of the sky and crashed into the black ground. “Gotta go,” he said, holding the headset to his mouth.
    Max groaned. “Why didn’t you tell me the airfield was about to blow?”
    “Sorry, sorry,” Lee said. “I have to go to the rehearsal now.”
    “Sucks,” Aaron said. Lee looked at the screen one more time. Aliens swarmed over their smoking barracks.
    “Are you guys playing tonight?” Lee asked. “I’m free then.”
    “Uh, maybe,” Max said. “I have to see.”
    “Well, let me know.”
    “Okay, we will,” Max said.
    After he took off his headset, Lee could hear Aaron begin teasing Max about Amrita again. Lee wished he could join in. He was going to say something funny about Max not getting laid until aliens actually invaded and he knew everyone would laugh. But instead he turned off his computer and put on the suit jacket hanging over the back of his chair, which immediately made him start sweating.

    The tent on the lawn of Townsend’s parents’ country club was already hot. By the time he had finished his part of the rehearsal, he wanted to jump into the golf course water trap. He lay down on some folding chairs in the back, listening to Meredith’s sorority sister/bridesmaids practice their readings. There were eight of them, all with straight brown hair and tank tops in varying pastel shades. They were the types of girls Meredith had hated in high school; he had never expected her to join a sorority, but then again, he had never expected her to get married at twenty-two, either. If the wedding hadn’t been in the works for six and a half months, he’d have thought she was knocked up. . . . That was the only way he would ever justify her marrying Townsend.
    Meredith appeared over him. Her long face was flushed.
    “This is crazy,” she said. “I hope it cools down by tomorrow.” She fanned herself with a program.
    “Fat chance,” Lee said. His head hurt. “Maybe you should have planned the wedding inside.”
    “Chill out,” she said. “It’s going to be fine.”
    “Better keep an ambulance around in case someone passes out.”
    Meredith scowled. “C’mon, Lee,” she said. “Don’t be a dick.”
     “Yes Mom,” Lee said, which he knew would piss her off. It wasn’t her fault it was so hot but what did she expect, planning an outdoor wedding in Atlanta in June? He wished he were back in his air-conditioned room, talking with his friends.
    Meredith scowled at him and turned on her heel. Lee watched her walk up to Townsend and stop. He couldn’t hear what they were saying but after a few minutes, Townsend approached him. He sat up.
    “Why did you have to go and make her upset?” Townsend asked.
    Lee shrugged.
    “That’s not very considerate, you know.”
    “Yeah, okay.”
    Townsend leaned in. He smelled like sweat and cologne. “I don’t know if you get this or not, but this wedding’s a big deal for your sister. She doesn’t need more people stressing her out.”
    “I’m not retarded,” Lee said.
    “Good,” Townsend said, clapping Lee on the shoulder. “Then don’t act like it.” Lee’s stomach burned with rage. After Townsend walked away, Lee slouched down and leaned his head on the back of the chair. He stared up at the sloping ceiling of the tent until the image of the pointed roof reversed itself and seemed to pop out in his face. He refocused his eyes but the roof still seemed lower somehow, and stifling.

    After the rehearsal, Lee and his father walked across the hot parking lot, fanning themselves with programs. Lee wondered if today’s heat would help Meredith’s fan cause. Lee wished she were riding with them, even though he was mad at her. He never knew what to say to his father when it was just the two of them.
    Lee got in the passenger side and rolled down the window, waiting for the A/C to kick in.
    “This wedding’s going to be really long,” Lee finally said.
    His father nodded.
    “If I get married, I think I’ll get one of those drive-thru ones in Vegas,” Lee said, trying to make his father laugh.
    “If you get married,” his father said, “I hope you’ll have the sense to do it after graduate school.”
    “What if I don’t want to go to graduate school?”
     “You’ll want to,” his father said. “Any job that’s worth having is worth working for... which is something Meredith doesn’t seem to understand.”
    That was the other reason he wished Meredith were driving with them: all conversations came back to her, anyway. Last time the three of them were alone together, Lee’s father had stopped pestering Lee about not having a summer job to spit out statistics of how many people who took a break from college never went back. This had royally pissed off Meredith, and by the time the fight devolved into Mom would have wanted me to marry Townsend (the trump card), Lee had slipped away, unnoticed.
    “Well, she’ll probably go back next year, right?”
    “Right,” Lee’s father said in the voice that he used when he wasn’t listening. “Right.”
    Lee leaned forward and rested his hand on the A/C vent in front of him.
    “Sucks that Townsend bought all those fans,” he said.
    Lee’s father shrugged. “He apologized,” he said. “He’s not a bad guy.”
    Lee looked out the window, disappointed. He felt like he’d lost an ally.

    Meredith came into his room late that night as he was trying to convince Max to start another game. When he’d gotten back from the rehearsal, the three guys had been away, driving Aaron’s brother’s car to pick up a futon they’d bought on Craigslist. Now that they were back, Max said he was tired and Aaron and Brendan followed suit.
    “We already played like four games today,” Max said.
    “Yeah, but I only got to play one,” Lee said. “Half of one, really.”
    “That’s not our fault,” Brendan said.
    “Come on,” Lee was saying. He didn’t want to beg. “Come on, just one more.”
    Meredith came in without knocking.
    “Hey,” Lee said, taking off his headset. “I could have been doing something important.” He was sick of people barging in. It made him feel like a little kid. Meredith usually treated him like he was an adult, but when she was caught up in wedding stuff, she tended to talk down to him just like everyone else did.
    “Sorry, sorry,” she whispered. She was dressed up but barefoot, carrying a pair of tall black heels.
    “Where are you going?” He looked up at his computer. Max had sent him a message saying Hey did you leave?
    “Out, if I can use your ladder.” She was already walking towards the box under the window.
    “No, wait. Why?”
    She opened the box and began unrolling the fire escape ladder their father had bought after their mother died. She’d died in a car accident, not a fire, but Lee’s father didn’t like to take chances. He still kept all medicines, even Advil, locked in a cupboard with a padlock and resisted letting either of his children get a Facebook account until Meredith convinced him that she was much more likely to kill herself over not having one than being cyberbullied.
    Meredith said their father had been a lot different before the accident, but Lee only remembered him this way. He sometimes felt jealous that Meredith had seen that side of him.
    “Where are you going?” Lee asked again.
    “Just out with the girls.”
    “I thought Townsend hated bachelorette parties.” Townsend had brought that up at the excruciatingly long rehearsal dinner, adding that he eschewed both bachelor and bachelorette parties for their misogynistic roots. Lee had watched with disappointment when his father nodded in approval.
    Meredith grinned. “Well, I don’t,” she said. “Please don’t tell? It’s not going to be a big deal, I promise.”
    Lee shrugged. “Like this wedding isn’t a big deal.” He looked back at his screen. I think I’m going to head to bed, Max was saying. Maybe we can hang out sometime later. We’re going to the pool tomorrow but I guess you’ve got the wedding... ttyl.
    Meredith dropped the ladder out the window, but then turned around. “Wait, what’s going on?” she said. She sounded more like the Meredith he remembered from his childhood—bossy, but loyal.
    “Um.” Now that she was listening to him, it was hard to say what he felt. That he hated Townsend. And the wedding. And his father. And sometimes her. But it seemed childish to say that. He wanted her to treat him like an adult, so he didn’t say anything.
    “Is Dad giving you a hard time?” she asked.
    “A little,” he said. “Now that you’re not going to med school, I have to be the one who, you know, does stuff.”
    “Like what?”
    “Like, becomes president of IBM or something.”
    Meredith laughed. “It’s not your fault I’m quitting school. You should tell him that.”
    He shrugged. “He doesn’t listen to me like he listens to you.”
    Meredith bit her lip. “That’s true,” she said.
    Lee looked down at his hands. He hadn’t expected her to admit that. He felt close to Meredith, close enough to ask her, “Are you sure you want to get married? Like, to Townsend, right now?”
    Meredith nodded. “I’ve never been more sure about anything in my entire life.”
    “Oh,” Lee said. She seemed so eager, but it was so hard to believe anyone would like Townsend that much.
    “We really love each other, you know? It’s just one of those things where if I let him go now and moved away to Baylor, I’d regret it forever. Do you know what I’m talking about?”
    “I guess so,” Lee said, although he’d never felt so sure about anything before. “And I guess it’s good you’re getting together, then.”
    Meredith beamed. “He likes you,” she said. “He feels bad for snapping at you today. He says you remind him of himself, when he was younger.”
    But Lee did not want to be some echo of Townsend’s immature self. He said, “Okay.”
    “Look,” Meredith said. “We can talk when I get back. But I’ve got to go.”
    “Okay,” Lee said again. He held the top as she climbed down the swaying ladder and tossed down her shoes when she reached the lawn. She gave him a thumbs up before running off, barefoot.
    Lee put his headset back on. “Did Max leave?” he asked.
    “Yeah,” Brendan said.
    “Lame,” Lee said, but neither Brendan nor Aaron agreed. “Well, are we going to play or what?”
    “Sure,” Aaron said, but Lee could hear typing in the background and wondered if Aaron was paying attention. Or was he chatting privately with Brendan? It seemed like his friends were slipping away from him, but he didn’t want to say anything for fear of sounding paranoid.
    “Let’s split this one,” Brendan said. “Aaron and I will rush the scout. Lee, you stay back and tech.”
    “Why do I have to tech?” Lee asked. Fortifying the base and building armies was boring and removed him from the action of the game.
    “Brendan teched last time, and I did it the time before,” Aaron said.
    “I wasn’t there. I want to rush the scout.”
    “Look,” Brendan said, “Do you want us to play with you or not?”
    Lee didn’t say anything.
    “Lee, you’re in charge of tech,” Brendan said again, so Lee obeyed, listening to the others talk as they pushed their armies along the map. Bored, he tried to build an airstrip in the shape of a penis until Aaron ran into a pocket of Zerg enemies and needed medivacs.
    “You’re lucky I’m here to bail you out,” Lee said, sending ships to Aaron’s aid. “Have you ever rushed the scout before?”
    Brendan laughed but Aaron didn’t.
    “Maybe there’s some kind of remedial scout rushing class you can take next year,” Lee went on. “StarCraft 101.”
    “Fuck you, Lee,” Aaron said. (“No, thanks,” Brendan said) “Next year I’m going to be too busy to play games.”
    “Yeah, right,” Lee said. “Doing what?”
    Silence on Aaron’s end. “I dunno,” he said. “It seems like there will be a lot of stuff I’ll want to do.”
    Lee made a noncommittal grunt.
    “You should come visit us, though,” Brendan said.
    Aaron agreed. “That’d be great.”
    Lee hoped they were wrong. He hoped they would still play. He didn’t know what he’d do if they didn’t. He worried he wouldn’t make a lot of friends at Emory; he wasn’t like Meredith. He worried that next year he’d be surrounded by seven thousand Townsend Beacoms.
    “Yeah,” he said finally. “Okay. I’ll come visit.”
    Meredith called him at 1:45 a.m. and climbed slowly up the ladder he let down in the dark. She stumbled past him, saying thank you thank you, but she didn’t want to talk any more. That was okay, Lee thought, because if he’d talked any more, he probably would have told her about his dislike of Townsend and frustrations with the wedding in general. Meredith annoyed him sometimes, but he didn’t want to make her angry.

    The wedding was held under a bright white tent and even the last-minute addition of four hundred handheld fans didn’t make it any cooler. Lee stood behind Townsend, sweating, as Meredith said her vows. Townsend was wearing a linen jacket and didn’t seem too uncomfortable but Lee’s tux was heavy and tight. He’d bought it for band concerts before he got into college and quit trombone, and the cummerbund felt like a heating pad cinched around his waist. He wished he were at the pool with Max and the other guys. At least he hadn’t had to talk to Townsend yet.
    After he walked Meredith down the aisle, Lee’s father seemed to be in a good mood, grinning and clapping people on the back. Lee followed behind him as they walked into the reception room. The room was large, with dark paneling and a big window that looked out over the golf course. Plain, expensive-looking tablecloths fluttered under the white ceiling fans and magnolia blossoms floated in thick cut-glass bowls in the center of each table.
    Wow, his father said, putting his hands in his pockets.
    Lee thought it looked all right; the decorations were the sorts of things Meredith used to doodle on the legal pad by their telephone.
    “This really came together,” his father said, smiling a little. Lee sometimes got the feeling that his father only talked to him because there was no one else around.
    “I’m thirsty,” he said, and headed off to the table of drinks. He was about to pick up a flute of champagne when he heard someone say, hey!
    He turned around. Townsend, face red but dry, was grinning.
    “How are you doing, man?” He shook Lee’s hand hard.
    Lee shrugged. “Congratulations.”
    “Thanks. You looked hot out there. I was worried you’d melt.” He laughed.
    “I’m fine,” Lee said, annoyed. He reached for a flute of champagne.
    “Hey,” Townsend said. “Hold off on those. We’re saving them for the toasts.”
    “Can’t I have one?”
    “When we toast, yeah.”
    That seemed like a stupid rule, so Lee grabbed one of the flutes and tipped the contents of the glass into his mouth. He’d never had champagne before. It burned his nose and throat when he swallowed.
    “What’s your problem?” Townsend asked. “I told you not to drink that.”
    Lee looked around. The room was filling with people, but most were gathered around Meredith, who was bent down by one of the tables, talking to the flower girl. Lee’s father was ladling punch into a plastic cup a few yards away. Lee picked up another glass.
    “Don’t drink that,” Townsend said, smile disappearing. “I said, don’t drink it.” Lee took a step back and brought the glass up to his lips.
    “Sorry,” Lee said. “I didn’t hear you.”
    Townsend lunged for the glass, but Lee saw him coming and stepped away. Attacking from too far out was something that always tripped Max up in games. As Townsend’s fingers reached in to grab the glass, Lee smashed it into the side of Townsend’s face.
    He looked down at his hand. He was still holding the broken stem of the flute. A dribble of blood ran down Townsend’s cheek. Townsend scowled.
    “Fuck you,” he said quietly. “Fuck you.”
    “No thanks,” Lee said. He looked up. His father was headed towards him, scowling. Lee didn’t meet his eyes. He turned around and ran out of the room as fast as he could.

    The halls of the country club were gray; it was beginning to get dark outside. He paced back and forth for a minute, dress shoes clicking on the shiny tile. Then his father burst through the door.
    “What the hell was that all about?” he asked. He looked like a caricature, face red, mustache ruffled. He tried to grab Lee’s arm but Lee shrugged him off. “Why did you do that?” he asked.
    “I don’t know,” Lee said. His heart was pounding. He put his hands in his pockets. “Sorry.”
    “Sorry! Sorry? Jesus Christ, Lee...” He paced back and forth. “You hit Townsend with a champagne flute.”
    Waves of embarrassment washed over Lee. “Is he okay?” he asked.
    Lee’s father shrugged. “I don’t know. Meredith just ran to get the first-aid kit.”
    Lee swallowed. “He wouldn’t leave me alone.”
    “So you tried to fight him?”
    Lee shrugged.
    “You caused quite the scene.”
    “Is that all you care about?”
    “Of course not,” his father said. “I care that you acted like a goddamn idiot. If Townsend’s injured, you’ve ruined the whole wedding, did you think about that?”
    Lee didn’t say anything.
    “Next time, think about it.” He smoothed his mustache with a sweaty finger. “This isn’t something that happens on your computer,” he said. “This is real life, and actions have consequences.”
    “I know that.”
    His father raised an eyebrow. “Could’ve fooled me.”
    “Look,” Lee said. “Stop talking down to me. You treat me like a kid. And I’m not, not really.”
    Lee’s father paused. Lee was really worried he would say, then stop acting like one but he didn’t. Instead, he put his arms by his sides.
    “Okay,” he said. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know that’s how you felt.”
    Lee didn’t know what to say to that. He looked down at the floor.
    “You should probably stay out here for a while,” his father said. “So there aren’t any more disruptions.”
    Lee nodded, feeling deflated. He had thought that standing up to his father would bring on a long argument. He felt stupid for not saying before how he felt. He sat down on the floor and leaned his head against the paneled wall.
    After checking his phone for half an hour, Lee went to the bathroom to wipe the sweat off his face. He stood in front of the mirror for a while, wrinkling his nose and trying to stay angry. But his grimace just looked stupid. He felt small. When one of Meredith’s bridesmaid’s dates opened the door, he left quickly without looking up.
     When he came back into the reception hall the room was dark and everyone was dancing to the Goo Goo Dolls. Meredith’s white dress glowed in the center of the dim room. Her head rested on Townsend’s shoulder; he had a Band-Aid on his cheek. She was smiling. Lee looked around for his father, but he was off by the cake, shaking the hand of someone Lee didn’t recognize.
    As the champagne wore off, his head began to throb a little more, out of sync with the music. Lee wanted to go home. He sat down at the end of a long table and stuck his fingers in the dish of water the magnolias floated in. It didn’t help his head any but after a few minutes he began to feel cool for the first time that day.








Poppy

S. R. Mearns

Why is my poppy plastic
with papery petals, so small
against the vastness of history?
Its redness dulled, not by
blood of forgotten armies,
only the marching of time.

Like memories of those
Flanders fields, where
lives fertilise the ground.
To Fallowfield and Urmston,
And neat rows of poppies
silent in their November boxes





Janet Kuypers reads poetry from
Down in the Dirt, v. 120, the November / December 2013 issue
Seeing a Psychiatrist: Hopelessness and Futility” by Janet Kuypers, “Daddy’s Lil’ Toy” by Kelly Haas Shackeford, “Drunk Father” by Roland Stoecker, “Poppy” by S. R. Mearns, “Down in the Dirt” by Marlon Jackson, and “Mentor” by Jason D. Cooper
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of Janet Kuypers reading poetry Volume 246, the November / December 2013 issue of cc&d magazine (including the poems “Seeing a Psychiatrist: Hopelessness and Futility” by Janet Kuypers, “Daddy’s Lil’ Toy” by Kelly Haas Shackeford, “Drunk Father” by Roland Stoecker, “Poppy” by S. R. Mearns, “Down in the Dirt” by Marlon Jackson, and “Mentor” by Jason D. Cooper), live 12/4/13 at the open mic the Café Gallery at the Gallery Cabaret in Chicago (C)







Supply and Demand

Peter McMillan

    “On the savanna, the lion outruns and slaughters—”
    “That’s it!” declared the exasperated teacher pushing the eject button. “I’m sorry class, but I just can’t get past this point. I don’t see it, but there must be a scratch,” she explained, adjusting her thick bifocals.
    “We’ll finish a few minutes early today,” she announced setting off a great clatter of chairs and desks.
    “Don’t forget your homework,” she added, speaking to the back of the crush squeezing its way out the door.

*            *            *

    Martin was an ordinary eight-year-old kid. He didn’t wear glasses and he dressed normal—nothing from the thrift store and none of that faux-hood clothing—but he was the new kid. His family had just moved to Toronto, and he hadn’t made any friends.
    Walking home from school after the early dismissal, he took a short cut through the market district and ran into a gang of toughs who beat him long enough to get themselves warm and then dumped him in a snow bank behind a dumpster.

*            *            *

    The next day six black leather jackets cornered him in an alley, but Martin was ready.
    “Pretty tough kid, eh?” challenged the tallest and the apparent leader.
    This kid looked like one of the neighbourhood gangsters back in Chicago—even spoke the same way. But this punk—maybe 12 or 13—had a single black eyebrow that separated his forehead from the rest of his face. The others wore the same eyebrow.
    “Not really,” responded Martin without any hesitation. “I know you can beat me to a pulp, but I’ve got something better to offer. Money!”
    “C’mon, let’s beat him to a pulp” said the eyebrow that must have been second in command.
    “Shuddup, I’m thinkin” shouted primo eyebrow. “OK kid, you got 30 seconds. Talk.”
    “Well, if we’re gonna have a fight, we gotta have an audience to make money,” said Martin.
    “Whoa! What? Whadya mean an audience? The cops’ll be—“
    “No, not just any audience,” said Martin. “We gotta have marks who won’t come after us. Like those flabby old grandpas who are sick of playing cards and board games down at the centre. Voyeurs—er, people who like to watch—and have some pension money to lose.”
    “Awright,” said primo. “Say we hook a few of these old geesers. Tell ‘em there’s a street fight. Whadda we charge ‘em?”
    “A Benjamin—er, C-note,” answered Martin as he moved his lower jaw to the left and to the right. “Can’t do this forever, you know.”
    “How we gonna split the money?”
    “50-50?”
    “Whadya mean? There are six of us. Besides we can beat you to a pulp any day.”
    “Yeah, but you can’t always make money doing it. What if I took a different way home or turned you in?”
    “OK then. We take two-thirds, you get a third.”
    “How about 60-40? You get 60 and I get 40. That’s ten bucks apiece for every old fart in the crowd.”
    “Don’t play me for a fool! I get forty. They can split the rest. You and me—we go 40-40.”
    “You’re a natural. The old man, he must be proud. How ‘bout we do it this Friday, 3:30? You be ready?”
    “Yeah, sure.”
    “Make sure they don’t talk, alright? I ain’t going to the cops and I don’t want your boys getting stupid and talking, OK? And, uh, and hold onto my money until after. Can’t have it looking like a fix.”
    “You don’t gotta worry about me. Just be here when you said. And don’t f___ with us. You don’t wanna do that.”
    “No, I don’t wanna do that.”





Peter McMillan Bio

    The author is a freelance writer and ESL instructor who lives on the northwest shore of Lake Ontario with his wife and two flat-coated retrievers. In 2012, he published his first book, Flash! Fiction.








A Norman Rockwell Life

Carol Smallwood

    Excerpt from Lily’s Odyssey (print novel 2010) published with permission by All Things That Matter Press. Its first chapter was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award in Best New Writing.

    When I saw Dr. Bradford next, I said, “I keep running but I know I must face what happened.”
    “Obsessive drives are to get a sense of safety.”
    Yes, I’d read that too—you’re trying to relieve what you fear—if I rescued a cat or plant, I felt rescued.
    “Your uncle was a sick, distorted man and his problems were put on you. He was insecure and defensive so he controlled people.”
    Yes, Dirk, the psychologist had called him grotesque—I’d had to keep reading the word in the dictionary because I hadn’t been able to see how it applied to him.
    I smiled and said, “I know how the sailors sailing with Christopher Columbus felt about falling off the edge of the earth.”
    He grinned and said, “You can keep sailing. They’re always options in every situation. You were a victim as a child and didn’t have a choice but now things are different.”
    “I often have a dream of seeing someone in the doorway of my bedroom and not being sure if it’s Cal or Uncle Walt.” I felt something warm descending my nose, grabbed a tissue from my purse, and lifted my head. It was a nosebleed.
    He paused under I lowered my head, removed the tissue from my nose, hoping I didn’t have any blood on my face. “Do you remember what happened with your uncle?” For the first time I saw something in his eyes I didn’t like.
    “Whatever it was probably happened when I was very young. My pictures when I was about four look haunted. My first memory was wanting to walk to my grandfather’s and my uncle’s hunting dog standing in my way.”
    I was grateful the look in Dr. Bradford’s eyes left because they reminded me of Uncle Walt’s. And didn’t know if I was grateful or not for being too old to have him look at me like the Doctor or Dirk had. He probably sensed I wasn’t comfortable because he quickly asked, “Did you find the Phoenix Meeting Room?
    “Yes, but the people there were in their forties returning to become technicians.” I laughed and added: “At least I probably made them feel younger. I called the psychologist you mentioned and went to a play.”
    “I’m pleased you acted on things so quickly.”
    “It’s still hard for me to think anything’s wrong because I’ve been told I had a perfect life,” resting my eyes on the books lining his shelf because they looked so solid and reliable.
    “The All-American Norman Rockwell life, when in reality it was out of Stephen King.”
    I thought it was clever of him to bring up comparisons like that with someone taking an English class. And it made me remember the last Christmas present Uncle Walt and Aunt Hester had given Cal and I was Norman Rockwell’s Marriage License—the one with the woman standing tiptoe in heels signing with the man’s arm around her. As things worsened, seeing myself reflected in it became more and more ironic.
    “I haven’t read Stephen King.” I thought those who did were just looking for sensationalism but perhaps I was too afraid, feeling the old fear grow of being at the edge of a cliff. “How do I accept what’s happened? I know it’s what I have to do but I don’t like the cognitive way of the psychology professor advocates because it seems like brain washing.” I frowned and sighed. The psychology professor had said causes were unknown so you had to practice behavior modification. “I want to know the cause, but I can see how symptoms can just become habits.”
    “Why not write letters to your uncle and husband and say what you feel. Keep writing them and you’ll soon see the anger in the letters lessen.”
    “I often have dreams of being stuck to Uncle Walt with stringy mucus that won’t let go, or his hair falling over his face leaning over me in bed. Of being in a boat and seeing it split apart near my feet.” When I clenched my hands, I’d forgot the bruise on my thumbnail. My fingernails started splitting down the middle vertically about the time obsessions started—I don’t know if it was from biting them or what, but they now looked like illustrations of those bumpy shifting plates under the earth in National Geographic. A thread-like piece of nail rose in the middle of my thumbnail like smoke from a volcano. I’d tried cutting it but it was too short and filing it made it bleed.
    When I went to the Phoenix Meeting Room no one was around but a plant was. I went and got potato chips even though I knew such action meant “they” (whoever they were) still had me; another part of me felt it didn’t matter what I did. That I had no business moving and I’d never belong. That I should go back to Nicolet City and preserve the Norman Rockwell facade as the adopted daughter of a respected uncle and first wife of a respected husband. I’d still have position, be accepted, and never have to show ID.
    I had more freedom than I ever had: I no longer had a job I didn’t like, had enough money to live on, and didn’t have to worry about supporting Mark and Jenny. But I wasn’t getting much sleep because I kept hearing my writing professor discuss Oedipus blinding himself when he’d realized he’d slept with his mother. Freud wrote of totems being erected by primitive clans—you had to mate with outside your totem clan: if you belonged to a bear clan you got someone in an eagle or turtle clan.
    When Cal and I returned to Nicolet City, he must’ve realized my past with Uncle Walt. He must’ve seen Aunt Hester’s jealousy and resentment of me glaring through her one good eye—she’d lost the other driving to Mass on a weekday when a White’s Dairy truck hit her. Jenny was born after we’d returned to Nicolet City—that’s when my symptoms started after Cal began distancing himself. And having a girl brought back my own childhood.
    Sequencing things together like that reminded me of the inevitability in Greek tragedy my professor outlined on the blackboard. But that brought up something equally unthinkable—Cal’s actions. When Cal saw me drinking and taking sleeping pills he must’ve known the danger of the combination. He refused to move later when I told him what I was finding out in therapy; had he decided I was damaged goods? Doctor had said, “Cal had the right to chose whether to help you or not.” I was granted split custody as long as I stayed in Nicolet County—surely he’d known what that’d do? Why had he vowed, “I’ll get your ass in a sling so low you’ll never get up?”
    I asked Dr. Bradford, “What other awful things do I have to discover? I can’t relax much because I keep steeling myself against something too awful to take, but how can I find out what’s wrong when part of me fights finding out?”
    Didn’t he know, or didn’t he want to say, what else was in store for me? I’d never lost the old fear of falling into a black hole. Doctor had said reality wasn’t too far from how I saw things and what people feared was often worse than the truth—so why couldn’t I, as my brother said “just get on with things.”
    “Your uncle and husband were Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde characters. They were sadistic and manipulative but presented a respectable front.”
    I shook my head. “How do you accept something like that? I remember my friend, Caroline, telling me ‘they’re out to crack you’ but I didn’t believe her. How do you accept that about those closest to you?” Something warm descended my nose—another embarrassing nosebleed.
    “Do you get nosebleeds often?”
    “No.”
    After it’d stopped, Dr. Bradford continued. “You can’t do everything at once. Just take it step by step.”
    “I don’t know if I can accept what they were because it leaves me with nothing. With no floor, no ground to walk on.”
    “Write out your feelings. Take all the time you need. The more you do the more you’ll find that you’ll lose your need to rescue things.”
    I nodded while I jotted down on paper I always kept out for notes: “Write what you feel:” students were limited to thirty sessions and I couldn’t afford to miss anything.
    “Do you have any brothers or sisters?”
    “Just a brother. He’s a bishop in Milwaukee.”
    “He must be capable to have become a bishop.”
    “Yes.” But I saw Vincent’s hair that had pathways like long grass someone had walked through; how lint collected on his black clothes. I hadn’t seen him since he’d become a bishop after Uncle Walt’s death, and wondered again how much Uncle Walt’s contributions to his parish had to do with him becoming a bishop.
    It wasn’t until a few more sessions that I told Dr. Bradford about Doctor and Dirk. Doctor was a psychiatrist I’d seen after Jenny was born; Dirk was a psychologist I’d seen when Mark and Jenny about to graduate from high school. They’d made advances.
    When Dr. Bradford asked if there’d been something in Uncle Walt’s past I said, “I never knew his mother and father but heard his mother was called ‘the ice queen.’ Uncle Walt adopted my brother and I after my mother died trying to save a strain of lilies when their nursery burned after my father was killed in 1942.”
    “In the war?”
    “The Battle of Midway.”
    When I finally got the courage to write the letters to Uncle Walt and Cal, I filled them with Uncle Walt’s worst swear words. I didn’t write legibly because it’d been too awful to have anyone read. I wrote quickly for fear of being struck dead for going against: “Honor Your Father and your Mother,” and “Love, Honor, and Obey.” I was almost overwhelmed by the blinding anger, so deep I didn’t think I’d ever reach the bottom. Yet even when I wrote the worst words, I was conscious of a holding back, of wanting to keep some of the most appealing illusions, a holding out for the Norman Rockwell life.





About Carol Smallwood

    Carol Smallwood co-edited Women on Poetry: Writing, Revising, Publishing and Teaching (McFarland, 2012) on the list of “Best Books for Writers” by Poets & Writers Magazine; Women Writing on Family: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing (Key Publishing House, 2012); Compartments: Poems on Nature, Femininity, and Other Realms (Anaphora Literary Press, 2011) received a Pushcart nomination. Carol has founded, supports humane societies.








Daddy’s Lil’ Toy

Kelly Haas Shackeford

Small eyes look up questioning why she
must endure the pain of being
his amusement ride to beat
and bang at his pleasure.
Her daddy’s little
worn ragged,
broken
toy.





Janet Kuypers reads poetry from
Down in the Dirt, v. 120, the November / December 2013 issue
Seeing a Psychiatrist: Hopelessness and Futility” by Janet Kuypers, “Daddy’s Lil’ Toy” by Kelly Haas Shackeford, “Drunk Father” by Roland Stoecker, “Poppy” by S. R. Mearns, “Down in the Dirt” by Marlon Jackson, and “Mentor” by Jason D. Cooper
video videonot yet rated
See YouTube video
of Janet Kuypers reading poetry Volume 246, the November / December 2013 issue of cc&d magazine (including the poems “Seeing a Psychiatrist: Hopelessness and Futility” by Janet Kuypers, “Daddy’s Lil’ Toy” by Kelly Haas Shackeford, “Drunk Father” by Roland Stoecker, “Poppy” by S. R. Mearns, “Down in the Dirt” by Marlon Jackson, and “Mentor” by Jason D. Cooper), live 12/4/13 at the open mic the Café Gallery at the Gallery Cabaret in Chicago (C)







Snakeskin

Ryan Priest

    Robert woke up at twelve-thirty in the afternoon and made an a-line directly through his small studio apartment and into the four foot by five bathroom, carefully dodging old beer bottles and plates. He yawned, smacking his lips and casually relieved himself. More bottles, cans, wadded up pieces of paper and stiff dirty clothing littered the floor so badly that it was impossible for one to stand completely level while inside. Tammy, his girlfriend, had been on him for weeks to clean.
    He was about to finish his morning drain. His eyes still heavy with sleep scanned along the piles of trash looking for nothing in particular, only passing the time. Starbucks’ cup, chicken bone, a dirty ladle, snakeskin, balled tissue paper stained with makeup. Like a cartoon character Robert’s head jerked back. His feet and eyes froze in place as he absently missed the toilet bowl, covering the wall and floor. His heart began beating fiercely in his chest while the little voice inside his mind desperately fumbled for instructions.
    Was that really a...with an uneasy, trembling toe he shyly pressed against the top of the small, thin translucent pile lying amidst the assorted trash. The clear pile made a crunching sound like a dried leaf.
    Robert was halfway out the door, barefoot with shoes in hand before he could even process what was happening. Something inside was controlling his movements, some form of primitive instinct. Yep, it was a snakeskin.
    Some people are afraid of rats. Others are afraid of spiders and if they see one, even if they are normally a calm and reserved person, will begin screaming and do whatever it takes to put as much distance between themselves and said spider as possible. That’s how Robert felt about snakes.
    He frantically shook his black work boots upside down while hopping from foot to foot on the cold concrete outside. Satisfied that no snakes were lying inside the boots he slipped them on and took a deep breath. He was so far handling this quite well considering his biggest fear had just come true.
    Here are the facts. He told himself. There’s a snakeskin inside, that means that there’s a snake somewhere inside. The idea made his skin crawl, that some no eared, no limbed, cold blooded creature was crawling around in his apartment.
    The way he saw it there was only one immediate option. Heaving a big sigh, Robert threw open the apartment door and ran into the middle of the room while grabbing a broom. Without missing a step he began to fling the assorted clothes and trash at his feet to the sides creating a four foot circular perimeter around himself. His eyes wide with frenzy began scanning the entire room for the snake.
    He then took three big leaps making it into the ten foot hallway separating his efficiency living room/bedroom and the bathroom. Once clearly inside the bathroom Robert jumped on top of the toilet and slammed the door behind him. Like a dog chasing its own tail he began spinning circles atop the toilet, broom in hand, ready to smash at the first sign of movement.
    Nothing so far. Robert grabbed some of Tammy’s many pairs of tweezers from the medicine cabinet and slowly reached down for the snakeskin. He snatched the skin in the tweezers and immediately stood back up for another quick perimeter check, in case the snake had slithered out while he was busy with the tweezers.
    His right leg began twitching uncontrollably and his breathing began to speed up. A lump rising in his throat told him that if he didn’t calm down he might start crying. But how could he help it? With the skin in hand it was undeniable. A snake had penetrated his domain. Nothing else could have created such a replica of once living tissue. The individual scales were even discernable in the shreds of tough paper thin skin.
    Okay Robert, this is it, it’s really happening. He told himself while forcing his breath to slow down and his nerves to calm. He looked at the skin and around the floor of the bathroom. Now, what can we figure out from the evidence at hand, think.
    The snakeskin wasn’t tubular, so that meant it’d either been there a while, drying out, getting shredded by the hustle and bustle of a shared bathroom or that the snake was shedding now and the skin was just coming off in pieces.
    Robert had despised snakes all of his life but he wasn’t ignorant about them. He could spot the difference between a viper and a python, between venomous and none venomous merely by the shape of the head. He knew roughly what snakes to expect where, always know your enemy. The problem was that in Los Angeles it could be any type of snake. So many people loved buying exotic creatures and then they lose track of them letting the beasts out to terrorize the rest of the city.
    Judging by the pieces of skin he did have the snake was small, no greater than two feet and thin. For most people this would be a relief but Robert would have preferred a twenty foot anaconda. At least a big snake you can see, you can see it and fight it. His fear dramatically increased the smaller the snake got. A little snake can hide in your clothes or under your covers, it can slither unnoticed through your house and crawl up your nose in your sleep. Robert shuddered as he considered all the things the horrible little snake might do...or worse, already have done to him in his sleep.
    Making matters worse was the limited size of the efficiency apartment, a fact not helped by Tammy’s moving in a few months before. Not only that but they had absolutely no furniture, not even a bed. The two watched TV, ate and slept on a two inch thick futon mattress lying directly on the floor. No effort whatsoever for a snake.
    “Hello is this animal control?” Robert asked twenty minutes later into his phone. He was still on top of the toilet with his broom in hand. He’d batted it around the floor, overturned some clothes and shaken around the overflowing trash can, so far no snake.
    “Yes, how may I help you?”
    “Uh, I think there’s a snake in my house. I found a snakeskin.” Robert said. He figured he’d bite the bullet. He hated anyone seeing his messy house, he was lazy but not without his pride. However if the choice was between someone seeing his house and a snake as a roommate he didn’t have to think twice.
    “Sir can you see the snake?” The woman asked casually, completely unconcerned that as they spoke some cold blooded, vile snake was somewhere in his house.
    “No. In fact I haven’t seen it per se. I only found its skin.”
    “Well sir, animal control can’t come out unless you have the snake in your sight.”
    “That makes sense...well...what can you do?” Robert asked feeling his heart sink. The long and short of her answer was that they couldn’t do much of anything. He was on his own with the snake.
    Tammy got home from work around five. He tried to think of what he could do until five. He could go to the movie theater and hang out there. Then, come five o’clock Tammy could look for the snake...he’d kill it if she could find it. He just didn’t want to be in the house until there were eyes on the snake. That plan wouldn’t work though. Tammy, the woman who screams over ladybugs would never be able to handle going through the house on a snake hunt by herself.
    Look, you can either be a prisoner in your own house or you can find the little bastard. You find it and you kill it. He told himself pursing his lips together and puffing out his chest as he hopped down from the toilet seat and began smashing his broom handle against anything that looked like it could possible have a snake underneath.
    “Ahhhhhhhhhhh!” Robert screamed like a crazed animal realizing that there were too many places for the snake to hide, he needed to clean.
    Moving quickly as if his life depended on it Robert grabbed a garbage bag and began throwing away trash piece by piece. He didn’t want to run the risk of grabbing a pile only to have a snake waiting for him.
    “Honey?” He heard Tammy coming in from work.
    “In here, watch your step.”
    “Oh...my...god.” Tammy said drawing out each word in disbelief. “You cleaned the bathroom.”
    Not a speck of trash was on the floor of the bathroom. The cabinets had been completely emptied, cleaned and reorganized. The clothes from the floor were now all folded neatly in a laundry basket and the floor had been swept and mopped.
    “Babe, we have a problem.” Robert said. He was shirtless but wearing his jeans tucked all the way into his boots and his brow clung with sweat.
    Tammy took the news much better than he had but that was no big surprise. She was scared of everything, he was only scared of one thing. That made it worse, having only one earthly fear all of his anxiety fixated on a single animal.
    “Wait here and watch my back.” Robert said sitting Tammy down in the middle of the mattress so she could watch TV, he wasn’t about to stop.
    “Honey...maybe the skin is old and the snake left.”
    “Do you want to take that risk?” Robert said popping his head into the living room. At this point he’d cleaned the entire bathroom, hallway and the two small closets in between.
    “How does mopping help you catch a snake?”
    “You’ll see.” Robert said sloshing a mop across the linoleum. “Take my flashlight and shine it under the fridge.”
    By the time Tammy was ready to go to sleep Robert still hadn’t stopped. He was on fire. When she woke up in the morning he was still at it. He had to find the snake before he slept.
    “Awww honey.” Tammy said giggling at his quest.
    “It’s not funny.” Robert said as he staggered around the room. He’d now even cleaned up some of the living room but he wasn’t even half done yet. “And another thing, don’t ever let the house get this messy again.”
    When Tammy came home from work she found him lying, fully clothed with his shoes on in the bed. His head spun and his eyes opened as the door opened.
    “Find him?” Tammy asked throwing her stuff in her usual corner only this time she noticed that the corner had been completely cleaned. All of her things hand been neatly stacked and piled in order.
    “Not yet.”
    “Why is there flour all over the hallway and bathroom floor?”
    “Don’t touch it.” Robert jumped out of bed and ran to the hallway where a thin layer of white flour covered the floor. He knelt down and examined the flour. “He hasn’t slithered across. There’s no tracks.”
    No one had ever been able to explain his fear and he certainly had nothing to offer other than snakes seemed to him to be the very essence of evil. He did know that he’d had the fear his entire life. A story that his parents loved to tell whenever they had the chance, as parents do, concerned his first encounter with the scaly reptile. Apparently at the age of two his parents had thought it’d be fun to buy him a fake rubber snake. They brought it home and young Robert is said to have immediately hissed like a cat upon seeing the thing. As the story goes he ran off crying and wouldn’t come out until the rubber snake had been removed from the house. The fear only got worse from there.
    For the next few days Robert remained consumed. He slept sitting upright, next to Tammy and every creak, every breeze, every little sound woke him and in the same motion he’d lunge for the light. It was the same every time, flip on the light and search the floor, starting close and moving outward. When you let down your guard. That’s when he’ll come.
    Even leaving the house was no respite from the terror of the hitherto unseen snake. Tammy had taken him to the movies to give him a rest but midway through the movie when she tried to take his hand he jumped up in his seat screaming.
    “Damnit Robert.”
    “Sorry, I thought the snake had somehow managed to get in my pocket and was now trying to get me.”
    “You’re getting ridiculous. I thought you said it was a small snake anyway.”
    But there was no way to explain to her the hell that that little snake was putting him through. His eyes both looked bruised from lack of sleep and his stomach burned with every breath, a sensation he recognized at the onset of an ulcer.
    He had to remain in a state of complete readiness. If the snake surprised him he’d be done, his nerves would flip out and the snake would have him. He knew he couldn’t be trusted so he had to find the snake first. He’d find it and go at it with everything he had. He knew that if he stopped he’d lose his nerve and run and then the snake would go back into hiding again. No, when he found the snake he’d have to kill it.
    “Don’t leave that there, the snake!” Robert would say running after Tammy to pick up a dropped shirt or piece of trash. The tiny apartment had gone from pigsty to surgically clean but still there was no sign of the snake. There were also no new signs of him, no more pieces of skin or other evidence that he still lived and breathed.
    “He probably left a long time ago honey.” Tammy said one night after coming home from work and finding her boyfriend going through the box of Christmas decorations with a flashlight in one hand and a small pocketknife in the other.
    “He wants me to get sloppy.” Robert said in the tired drawl that had replaced his everyday speech.
    “Awww honey.” Tammy said walking up to him and stroking his head. “At least the house is always clean now.”
    “I’m never going to let it get messy again.” Robert said putting the Christmas box up and grabbing a box of old clothes.
    “No, go take a nap. I’m making chicken tonight. You’ve taken this thing way too far.”
    “You won’t say that when you wake up with the snake burrowing into your eye socket.”
    “Do you think that’s really rational?”
    “Rationale’s got nothing to do with it. This isn’t a snake, he’s the devil and he’s come to drive me insane...but I’ll find him. I’ll find him and I’ll take his snake head off.”
    Robert put the boxes up and went and lied down on the bed. He was only getting a few minutes of sleep here and there anyway.
    “Honey!”
    “What? Is he here?!” Robert said jumping up from his bed and running into the hallway with his now ever-present broom handle.
    “There’s something I want to show you but you have to promise not to get mad.” Tammy said hunched over a small hotplate frying a pan of drumsticks.
    “What?” Robert said taking his cursory scans of the floor in all directions.
    “Well, first off I want to say thank you for keeping the house so clean, I know you’ve been working really hard.”
    “Yeah, well thank him.” Robert said with a sneer.
    “That’s what I wanted to tell you...” Tammy said handing Robert the Styrofoam platter the raw chicken had arrived in. “You see...?”
    His eyes took a few seconds to focus before he dropped the tray with a small shriek; the tray was full of snakeskin.
    “When you take the skin off of raw chicken it looks just like snakeskin when it dries.” Tammy said cringing behind an apologetic smile.
    “You mean to tell me that...”
    “Sorry...I didn’t think you’d take it so far but at least you finally cleaned the house.” Tammy said with a sheepish grin. “You mad?”
    Robert merely turned around without another word or even an expression and walked to the bed allowing himself to fall face down. He’d pay Tammy back later, he’d have to make it good too, maybe he’d put a mouse in her purse. That was all for later though, for now he just wanted to sleep. The nightmare was over and it was kind of nice to have a clean house for once.








Randall

Graeme Scallion

    I trade my math textbook for my lunchbox and slam my locker shut. As I seal the lock, Randall materializes in the reflection of the neighbouring locker. I turn and smile. A seventh grade girl rarely strays into the ninth grade hallway, but Randall ignores the glares and catcalls. Her blonde bob and square-framed glasses emphasize nervous blue eyes. She looks in every direction but mine.
    “Hi Graeme.” Her voice shakes, and she clutches a Tupperware container against her white tank top. Randall seldom roams the halls alone. She usually exists as a three-headed being with Selena and Brea Lynn, two eight-graders with a penchant for anime. Without them, Randall looks unnatural.
    “Hey Randall, what’s up?” I watch Randall’s teeth dig into her lower lip. The upper half of her body twitches intermittently as if prompting her legs to run, but her feet root her to the linoleum. Finally, Randall thrusts the container forward and looks away, her eyes glued to some distant scene.
    “Here.” The word catapults from her mouth. I hesitate before I accept the offering.
    “For me? What is it?”
    “It’s – open it.” I slide my books onto the floor and pry the red plastic lid from its station. The aroma of cinnamon immediately overtakes my palate. A cinnamon roll glistens beneath robes of gooey cream-cheese icing.
    I raise my head to thank Randall, but she has vanished. I shove my head around the corner in time to see the back of her head dwindle from view until, finally, the crowd engulfs her.
    “Weird chick.”
    A note clings to the inside of the lid. I peel the note off and study it.
    Graeme,
    I think you’re a really nice boy and I might have some feelings for you and I don’t know if you feel the same way but if you do that would be great.
    Love, Randall.
    Jessie Shackleton and the other intramural enthusiasts bump me as they pass. I calcify, reading the note again and again. I like Randall a lot, but not in ‘that way’ – I can’t like her in ‘that way’. I hide the cinnamon bun behind my back as my math teacher, Mr. Belyk, strolls past on his way to the staff room. The provocative scent of his aftershave tickles my nose and I clutch my stomach between my knees. My eyes follow him down the hall.
    The next morning I pilot my green, rubber-soled sneakers through an ocean of greying snow. After two months of Albertan winter mornings, I’ve carved a shallow groove across the field between the bus loop and the front doors of the junior high school. Randall’s empty container, washed and stowed in my backpack, rattles against my notebooks with every step. The sound strengthens my resolve to confess to Randall, or at least to return her Tupperware. I owe her an explanation after scarfing down every bite of the cinnamon bun.
    I see Randall dismount a bus on the other side of the loop. A candy-striped scarf masks most of her face, but I recognize the way her arms cleave to her sides as she shuffles down the sidewalk. I swallow and push myself through the virgin snow.
    “Randall!” Only her eyes are visible, but when she turns they widen until she looks like an anime character. Her pace quickens. Before I can trudge another step, Randall is halfway down the main path. A cloud of snow topples from the front door’s overhang as she disappears into the school.
    A week passes without another encounter. At the end of Social Studies class, the lunch bell rings. As I jam my textbooks into my backpack, Coral Routledge thunders in. I know Coral from drama club; she’s in the seventh grade, one of Randall’s classmates. Her face wears a sinister grin as she grabs my arm with Olympian strength and tows me into the hallway.
    “Come on! It’s time to finish this!” Coral’s long dark hair gags and blindfolds me. When we stop and I can see again, Randall stands in front of me. Her face mirrors my surprise. As I arrive, Selena and Brea Lynn break from Randall’s side and step back. Coral grins as she takes her place in the audience.
    “Go on,” she hisses. Randall chains her fingers through her belt loops and bites her lip. The hallway swells with eighth-graders fresh from gym class. They stampede around us, shoving and mooing and preventing either of us from running. Randall glares at Coral, takes a deep breath and pushes her glasses up.
    “Yes, I like you! Is that okay?”
    Coral settles into her imaginary chair and eats imaginary popcorn. I need to tell Randall how much I like her but I can’t articulate why I can’t go out with her. Everybody watches us. The scent of drama attracts mutual friends and casual onlookers, and the audience swells by the second. The noise overwhelms me. I know that only Randall would understand what I can’t say.
    I turn and force my way through the crowd. I don’t stop until the bathroom door locks behind me. I breathe in silence.








Abscond

Eric Prochaska

    To the dismay of early April commuters wearing either light jackets or blouses alone, the afternoon buses ran the air and the evening subways worked their heaters.
    We conspired with a pair of folding camp chairs and a cooler bag only large enough for four beers and two compressed sandwiches and absconded to a place where every four seconds your skin fidgeted as if a bug had landed on you. Under the not-swaying strands of the weeping willow, whose virgin green buds trickled down like suspended droplets waiting in line for spring’s full dawn, we watched our bobbers barely wobble atop the not-warm-enough lake. We had suffered three subway lines and two buses with all that gear, and the city skyline was still so close you could imagine its shadow engulfing you before sunset.
    “I don’t think we’re going to catch anything,” I said again.
    “So? We’re out of the city.”
    “Still, I don’t want your first time fishing to be a bust.”
    She was in no hurry to respond.
    “Was your hometown like this?” she asked with the enthusiasm of possibly animating snapshots I had described over the past few years.
    I scanned the shore, rough with tawny grass struggling to hold on just another week for warmth and maybe rain.
    “We’re all alone.” The father and son on the path across the lake may as well have been in Paraguay.
    “I can’t even see anything,” she said, getting up. The chair tottered on the uneven ground. Again she approached the edge, scoured the surface with squinted eyes, childishly cuter than she could attempt to dissemble. “Wait! There’s some fish in here! Look!”
    Indeed, there was a swarm of bait-sized pan fish. They shot across areas the length of my forearm, hoping for one of the insects which must have hatched early, during that warm spell in mid-March.
    “Hang on,” I said, going to the cooler. I tore a corner of bread off a sandwich. “Here. Feed them this.”
    They hit at the bread, which deteriorated as it sank. Tickled by their follies, she giggled each time she dropped a morsel among the anxious centrifuge of fish.

*            *            *

    “If I had known we wouldn’t even get a nibble, I probably wouldn’t have bothered,” I said, looking out the window at the vaguely blue dark. The rhythm of the train rolling over the joints in the tracks was a comforting soundtrack.
    Turning to investigate her silence, I discovered her sleeping in the cradled repose I imagine too uncomfortable to fall asleep in, though she repeatedly proved me wrong. I need to just buy the ring. I need to have it with me on a perfect day like this. I couldn’t possibly plan a better moment to propose.

*            *            *

    That was soon after the abortion, when we were still sure we were going to make it after all.





Eric Prochaska Bio

    Eric Prochaska has published short stories in some of the finest places, including riverbabble, Digital Americana, Eclectica, The Morpo Review, Doorknobs and BodyPaint, Whistling Shade, Amarillo Bay, and others. He lives and teaches Illinois. His first collection of short stories, This Great Divide, was published by Halo Forge Press in 2006.








Devil’s Postpile

John Ladd Zorn, Jr.

    “I’m sorry the wedding is on the same weekend, but the trip is set, and I’m not going to miss it for someone’s lame little prom,” Jay said.
    “They’re going to have caviar. We’ve never had caviar. How can a person prefer to play with worms than eat caviar? Besides,” Elizabeth said, “I don’t get why Hemingway’s considered such a great writer. It’s just a lot of macho nonsense.”
    He’d read Big Two-Hearted River in bed to her the night before in a last-ditch effort to gain her approval, but she’d begun snoring gently before Nick had baited his first hook. He kept reading, not trusting the depth of her breath at first, but he, too, was soon bored with the old Nobel winner, and this was a night after showing her A River Runs Through It; and if Brad Pitt could not win her over, what chance had Hem?
    “It’s man testing his mettle against the antagonistic forces in the world, and a man’s not a man if he doesn’t,” said Jay.
    “Are you hearing yourself?” She rubbed the back of her wrist into her eye as if this might dislodge the irritation he posed. “You read all your stupid books,” she pressed her lips together, “but you don’t have a clue about real life.”
    “Weddings aren’t real life.”
    She threw the carrot peeler into the sink and pushed past him and out of the kitchen.

*

    The glass lid over the salad clanked gently against the serving dish an hour later each time Jay braked in the stop-and-go traffic. Elizabeth had insisted he drive a hundred miles round-trip to go swimming in the bride-to-be’s pool before he left.
    After they’d arrived, Andy, the groom, had fixed him a couple of good muddy blarys, he called them.
    “People should be able to do what they want, as long as they’re not screwing anybody else over,” Andy proclaimed at one point. All morning Jay had wanted to leave, and then Andy made the muddy blarys and they agreed on philosophy and politics, and except that he was meeting the guys to go fishing, Jay didn’t even want to leave. He even thought he might have enjoyed the wedding. He took his muddy blary into the pool and floated with his little daughter, and they crossed Shark Cove and went to the octopus cave, and visited Fairy Island, and asked a mermaid for directions. Then, up on the pool deck, the alarm on his phone started chirping.
    Elizabeth began throwing wet towels and suits into the beach bag with angry little snaps of her wrist. When they reached the car, she said good-bye brightly to Dorothy and Andy, but once the door was shut, her silence conditioned the air.
    “Daddy,” Jay’s younger daughter whined, “why did we have to leave? I was having fun with the mermaids.”
    “Yeah, Dad—Get your wet hair off me, Annie!—That sucks,” said the older daughter.
    Annie giggled.
    “Stop it!”
    “Girls, settle down.” Jay looked to Elizabeth to back him up, but she said nothing.
    “Let’s play the guessing game. C,” he said.
    “Cinderella,” Annie screamed.
    “I’m going to marry Prince Charming,” Sammi yelled.
    “No, you’re not. I am,” said Annie.
    “See?” said Jay, looking at Elizabeth.
    “See what?”
    “See the expectations we’re giving girls, that Prince Charming is out there waiting to sweep them off their feet and take care of everything, and their only worries should be what to wear to all the balls?”
    “Yeah, that’s all I worry about,” she said.

*

    “You prefer the company of your boyfriends to me,” Elizabeth said as he bent to kiss her good-bye.
    A bolt of anger straightened his spine, and he shot a glance at Sota. Sota hadn’t seemed to have heard over the idling of his Jeep.
    “You never let up, do you?” he said. “You’re right. None of them are bitches.” He got into the car.

*

    Throughout the six hour drive, he and Sota said next to nothing. Jay’s book of Hemingway’s letters sat unopened on his lap while he tried to justify fishing. His mind was, as Hemingway used to say, bitched.
    He held out until dark before cracking a beer. He said to Sota, “In the woods, a man becomes purer, good or bad.”
    Sota pushed out his lips and nodded.
    Jay undid his seatbelt and climbed halfway over the seat to rummage around in the ice chest again. “You need one of these,” he said cracking open another can of beer. He held it up out to Sota, who took it and sipped it and put it between his legs.
    “The Sierra is a way to step outside of economics and inhabit oneself in a natural state,” Jay proclaimed. “Elizabeth is comfortable in the economic world. She defines herself according to the size of her SUV and the diamonds in her ring compared to those bought for her friends by their husbands. She measures her happiness in price tags.” He took a swig. “Fishing’s my way to take a break from that, but even at that, it’s less about taking a break, and more about my right to go. I don’t love fishing more than her, but I won’t be held hostage.”
    “Yup,” said Sota.
     Hot and cold battled in the air coming through the window as they rose out of the Mojave and into the mountains. It was two in the morning when they arrived at their campsite. Jay’s brothers, Mac and Marty, pulled up behind Jay and Sota five minutes later. They put up the tents and started a fire. Everything became sophomoric as they drank beer and cooked weenies over the fire.
    “It was unbelievable.” Mac was getting into character. “Marty went to dinner with some gramma and her daughter. The daughter was hot, but Marty’s with the gramma. Jerry goes ‘Where’s Marty?’ and I said, ‘I don’t know. He’s with gramma.’ She was right there, and she started crying! The next morning Marty was doing her on the toilet, and Jerry said, ‘Marty, I don’t care what you do, walk her out, throw her out, kill her for all I care, but get that slut out of here.’ So Marty told her he was gay to try to get rid of her. Told her he’d gotten all excited and had sucked dick three times.” Mac paused for effect. “She told him that turned her on.” Mac roared laughter before he finished the last sentence. “After we go in that tent tonight, Marty, you’re going to be up to four.”

*

    Jay slept well. It was not so cold. The ground was not too hard. He awoke after sun up. He poured whiskey into the coffee in his thermos and sipped it while he read Hemingway’s letters. Elizabeth has a point, he thought, really he’s just a crazy egomaniac. Maybe reading this is what has my soul and body all out of alignment. He closed the book and checked over his rods and tackle. His gear was an embarrassment. Two of the rods were broken and held together with electrical tape. He hadn’t had the time or money to get new equipment.
    Sota and Mac came out of the tents, then Marty.
    “Let’s get us some trout,” said Mac.
    They picked their way over the granite banks of the San Joaquin, flecks of quartz twinkling in the morning sun, until they came to a meadow of high grass where they stopped and spread out along the bend casting their lines. Jay’s salmon eggs were dried out and hard as gravel. He got one to stay on the hook and ran it downstream through the riffles and under the overhangs several times, but got no action. He wondered if salmon eggs tasted anything like caviar. NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION it said on the jar. He put one on his tongue and crushed it between his teeth and then spent the next hour trying to spit the taste from his mouth.
    Sota walked up while he was spitting.
    “Any luck?” Jay asked.
    Sota shook his head.
    “Come check out the Devil’s Postpile,” said Jay. He led Sota up the trail through tall rough trunks of ponderosa and lodge pole. A few hikers came down the trail the other way, but Jay and Sota were alone when the trees parted to reveal a wall of smooth black monolithic columns of polished basalt towering several stories up the face of a cliff. Many of the columns had broken and fallen into a pile forty feet high at the cliff’s base.
    Obliquely, Jay watched Sota’s eyes dance and sharpen.
    “They say this was formed by lava oozing up and filling a bowl of granite and then cooling and cracking. Then glaciers came along and polished the top, and the earth around it eroded away, and this is what’s left,” said Jay.
    Sota shook his head as if in disbelief.
    “Looks like the ruins of some ancient temple down at the bottom where all the pillars have fallen,” Jay said, and Sota went from shaking his head to nodding. “I can’t decide if it’s eerily symmetrical or eerily unsymmetrical,” Jay continued. “It’s like parts of it were made with precision machinery, but when you think about it, everything in nature is like that. But then there’s that wavy part there where it’s all chaotic, and that’s true of nature, too.”
    Sota kept nodding.
    They hiked up and around the formation to the top where the black columns fit together like the hexagons on a turtle’s shell. “The Miwok people that lived here believed that the world was created when a great turtle puked it up. I always wondered if they got that story from this place.”
    Jay moved away from Sota to the cliff’s edge. From up there, where the hexagons fit together perfectly and the top was smooth, he looked out over the river and the meadow before it hit the gorge, and he missed her. Happiness depends on women, he thought.

*

    Mac had gone to town and come back with beer, bacon and eggs. Jay got the fire started and tended to the bacon and eggs. “I had a cel signal in town and Mom called,” Mac said to Jay. “She said Annie was crying and saying she was afraid something bad would happen to daddy.”
    Jay frowned. He already wished he had not come.

*

    After they had eaten, they hiked through the woods to Starkweather Lake. Jay waded in up to his belly and tried casting and reeling various lures, spinners and spoons, but got no action. The trout were striking at insects on the surface. Fly fisherman floating in tubes were catching a few, but Jay didn’t have the right gear for that. He stayed in the water three hours, the sun cooking his face and shoulders, the water freezing his testes. When he got out, the air temperature was in the seventies, but Jay shivered for an hour. Long after he had dried off and changed into dry clothes, his body was quaking, his fingers, calves, and toes were numb. When sensation came, it was in painful pricks.
    To try to get his blood circulating again, he hiked around to the far side of the lake. Partially on shore and partially floating, a quartet of fallen trees extended several yards out over the surface of the lake. Jay stepped onto one and wobbled out, the logs bobbing slightly beneath him. He found a spot where a thick branch overlapped the trunk of another tree, and he was able to stand with his feet far enough apart that balance was not a problem. He threw out a line of salmon eggs while the fish splashed the surface feeding on mosquitoes, and the mosquitoes fed on him. It seemed hopeless. The fish were not interested in his old salmon eggs and metallic lures.
    He reeled in and took a can of beer from his creel. He popped it open and before he could take a sip, a damselfly landed on the can. He pinched it by the wings and set the beer down. With his other hand he drew a small hook from his breast pocket and threaded it through the thorax of the damselfly. He couldn’t figure out how to cast it out far enough without lead split-shot weighting his line, but that would sink it, and he wanted it to float.
    The sun was nearly down. He walked back around to the main beach where he found Sota, Marty, and Mac with their lines in. A man with a flattop haircut was babbling at them. Mac said to the man, “I bet my brother’d be glad for soma that smoke.”
    “Yeah.” The man took a roach from his tackle box, lit it, and handed it toward Jay.
    Elizabeth would find out. She would ask questions probing for answers that she could use against him, and he would not lie. Here they were, though, up in the Sierra Nevada. Devil’s Postpile. Outside the law. Outside society. Free.
    He took it and hit it.
    The man talked about having been a colonel in the Marine Corp, and the six-time winner of the Channel Islands Bill Fishing Tournament. “I’ll show you pictures of my trophies,” he said. He claimed to be a martial arts expert, and a two-time Purple Heart winner. “I got ‘em in my glove box.”
    Then the Colonel started talking about his divorce, and the construction company in Dana Point he had owned, and how, “I decided to just give the cunt everything and come up into the mountains to live like a man.”
    Jay looked him in the eye for the first time.
     “I’m writing stories about fishing, and I’m going to sell them to magazines,” he said to Jay, meeting his stare.
    Jay nodded.
    “Everything is so beautiful,” said Marty.
    “He’s taken about nine Vicodin today,” Mac said. Marty reeled in a little rainbow and cradled it and marveled aloud in a whispering, awed voice, “It’s so beautiful.”
    “I told you you’d catch one if you listened to me,” said the colonel. “You boys listen to me and you’ll catch fish.”
    “How can I cast this fly out there without split-shot?” Jay asked.
    “You need to use a floater.”
    Duh. Of course. Using a bobber was the way Jay had learned to fish as a kid. He had one in his creel. How had he not thought of that? He tried to concentrate on rigging his bobber. His fingers felt like big clumsy sausages as he fed the line through the bobber and re-tied the hook, having to slap at mosquitoes every few seconds. By the time it was set, it was too dark to fish. Marty was right, though. It was beautiful.
    The colonel invited himself to their camp. Jay got the fire going, and they sat around it, drinking. Marty stumbled about, slurring, and cursing things no one else understood, when a nearby campsite attracted his attention. A few men and women were speaking to about twenty boys seated in neat rows of folding chairs, and Marty shuffled over and sat in an unoccupied chair.
    Jay looked at Mac. “I ain’t getting’ him,” said Mac.
    The colonel said, “I’ll go see,” and he walked over and stood by.
    Mac took a beer from the ice chest. “We’re almost out,” he said.
    Soon, the colonel returned. “It’s a Cub Scout meeting. They’re organized through their church. They’re Mormon,” he said. “They’re having a talk about being good Americans, and staying away from drugs and alcohol.”
    Mac laughed. “Smarty’s a pharmaceutical rep back in LA, hooked on painkillers and the biggest alkie in a family of alkies, so he’s in the right place.”
    Jay looked over at Marty’s dark form standing unsteadily with the fire burning on the other side of him. “He’s been a wreck ever since Milly left him.”
    “Never shoulda got married,” said Mac.
    “Humph,” said the colonel. “It’s a losing bet if a man’s honest and works hard. Love should be choice, not obligation. Commitment’s a word women have hijacked. Women who want a free ride for the rest of their lives use the word ‘commitment.’ I want a guarantee, say these women, that when we don’t love each other any more, you still have to attend to my financial needs. I want you to guarantee me, think these women, that if I am ever unhappy with you, I have the option of ruining your life. You need to make a commitment, because if you don’t, I need to spend my time and pussy finding some other fool who will agree to this deal—”
    A woman approached the campfire. “Can you come get your friend?” she asked.
    Jay, Mac, Sota, and the Colonel followed the woman to her campfire. Marty was standing in front of the boys. “You gotta love your moms and dads,” Marty said and gave himself a big hug. “Ya should hug ‘em and tell ‘em you love ‘em ever day. And especial they gotta forgive each other.” He held up his finger on the word forgive. The boys stared at him and whispered to each other, and the troop leader was edging closer to him.
    Jay went up and whispered in Marty’s ear. “Dude, let’s go back to camp.”
    “I’m tellin’ the boys sump nimportant here.”
    Jay put his hand around Marty’s arm. “They want you to go.”
    Marty pulled his arm away and almost fell. “Simpor tant.”
    Then big Mac, who had been an all-conference lineman in college, squared up on Marty and pushed him back to their own fire as easily as if Marty were a mannequin.
    “Whaddaya doin? I’s about to tell those boys sumtin at would change their lives.”
    “No, you weren’t, you dumb drunk. You were making a mockery of their whole show,” Mac told him. “They wanted you out of there.”
    “No, they didn’t. They wanted to know about how to be a good American.”
    “You’re not a good American. You’re a god damn drunk. We all are.” Mac’s volume had gone up with Marty’s.
    “I am a good American! I sup port the President, and I s’port the Rack war.”
    “Your being fooled, Marty,” said the colonel.
    “What kind of a ex-marine are you?”
    “The kind that knows what’s going on.”
    “Damn it all!” Marty yelled.
    The den mother reappeared. Apparently over-hearing Marty’s distress and wanting to do the good Christian thing, she thanked Marty. “We appreciate your good intentions,” she said.
    “Oh, Jesus,” said Mac, lighting a cigarette. “You want a smoke?” he said to her and coughed up a mouthful of mucous and spat.
    “No, thank you,” she said.
    Mac excused himself and stepped four feet away and audibly, splashingly, urinated on the ground while the woman became trapped in a conversation with the colonel in which he told of single-handedly saving a group of burka-less Afghan women from a murderous horde of Taliban during a Special Ops mission.
    “The fucking beer’s all gone,” said Mac.
    “I have to go now,” said the woman, and she hurried away.
    “I’m gonna kill myself,” Mac said. “Let’s go into town.”
    “That’s crazy, boys. Don’t go into town. I’ve got a box of wine.” “Wine,” Mac said. “I’m gonna kill myself.”
    Marty staggered into the light of the fire, grotesque shadows on his face. “Smarty, gimme yer keys,” Mac said.
    “Whyfor?”
    “To get beer.”
    Marty said, “You can’t drive my car. ‘sillegal. I’ll drive us.”
    “You’re too drunk to walk, let alone drive.”
    “You’re not in sured to drive it.”
    “So you’ll drive it wasted, but you’re worried about someone uninsured driving it? Move it out of the way then, and we’ll take Sota’s.” Mac took a step and tripped over a rock in the dark.
    “See? Who’s wasted?” Marty said. He got in his car and moved it. Jay thought he was just going around the loop of the campground and would come right back. Sota and Mike got into the other car and started it up.
    “You boys are foolish. That’s a dangerous one-lane mountain road in the day when you’re sober. It’s thirty miles one-way...” The stereo went up, drowning the Colonel’s words.
    Jay filled his cup from the box of wine. He and the colonel sat a long time in silence. Marty still had not come back.
    “I’m about ready to go to sleep,” said Jay.
    “You boys better clean this campsite and put those pans in your trunk before you turn in tonight, or you’ll have bears,” said the colonel.
    Jay nodded in the dark. “The first time I ever saw a bear was up here. We were fishing Soda Springs and Mac caught a pretty good trout, and he said, ‘Come on, I’ll show you where I caught it.’ So we’re hiking along the river bank when this guy on the other side calls across to us in this loud whisper, ‘Hey! There’s a bear in the bushes right there!’ Mac and I stopped and sure enough, the bushes were moving back and forth like King Kong was coming through the trees, but the bear that stepped out wasn’t very big. I’m guessing he was two or three years old, and he looked at us and lifted his snout like, ‘What’s up?’ and then walked into the river and plopped his nuts down and let his tongue come hanging out and just sat there with this big old grin on his face.
    “I turn to Mac, but he’s gone, and there’s his trout lying on the ground, and I see he’s already about a hundred feet away and still running. I pick up the trout and look at this bear with his big smile, and I’m thinking ‘that bear couldn’t hurt anybody. He’s not even full grown. Why, if he came over here, I’d just kick him in the head.’
    The colonel said, “You know—”
    “I know. Let me finish,” said Jay. “Anyway, I decided to hike back to the road to get my camera out of my car, but when I got back the bear was gone.
    “But another time I came up here, and I just wanted to come by myself, but my wife insisted on coming with me. This is a woman who gets manicures and buys apple-scented toilet paper. Somewhere around Big Pine, she says, ‘I want something to drink,’ and I say, ‘Grab a water out of the back seat.’ She says, ‘I want something sweet.’ So I say, ‘I’ll stop at the next place,’ and she says, ‘We just passed a little store,’ and I go, ‘There’ll be another one coming up,’ and she says, ‘Just turn around, it’s right there,’ and I’m like, ‘What do we want to turn around for? It’s bad luck. We’ll be breaking the stream.’
    “‘Breaking the stream?!’ she screeches. ‘That doesn’t mean anything! Just turn around and let me get a drink.’
    “So I turn around and drive back to the store, and she goes in and comes back with a bottle of water. Now I don’t say anything about that, and we keep driving, and I’m looking at her, and we’re driving, and I’m wondering when is she going to drink her water that we had to stop and go back for, and I’m looking and watching, and ten miles later I go, ‘I thought you were thirsty.’ ‘I am,’ she says. ‘Why don’t you have a drink?’ I ask her and she says, ‘I’m saving it for later.’ Hoo boy.
    “I let it go, and we get up to Bishop, and we’re passing the K-mart there when she says ‘We haven’t packed any towels; we need stop at K-mart and buy towels.’ So we buy towels, and when we come back out to her Mustang, it won’t start. I can hear the solenoid clicking. There’s an auto parts store, so I go over there and buy a solenoid and an adjustable wrench and a screwdriver and start taking off the old solenoid, and of course, the wrench is too fat, so I gotta go back and buy a bunch of individual sizes and, of course, the nuts are all different, and for one of them I don’t have the right size wrench, so I go back and get it, and on and on like that before I finally get this solenoid changed, but the car still won’t start.
    “So I called a tow truck, and a guy came out and we jumped it, and the car started right up. So I paid him, and off we went on our merry way. We got about fifteen miles up out of Bishop, before the car goes dead out there. I get under the hood and tinker around, but nothing doing. She’s got a cel phone, but we can’t get any service out there. So we stand on the side of the road with our thumbs out.
    “Wasn’t too long before a guy in an old pick-up pulled over and took us into Bishop again, where we got another tow truck and rode all the way back to the Mustang and towed it all the way back to Bishop where they determined that the alternator is the problem, and it’ll be a hundred and fifty bucks, or so it was at the time, and about five or six hours to fix it. So we twiddle our thumbs and walk around Bishop. She wants to go to a restaurant; I’m thinking about a hundred and fifty dollars. Then it starts raining, so the restaurant wins. Eventually, the car’s fixed and we’re pulling into Mammoth now after midnight. I stopped at a gas station and bought some firewood, and then we took the long, winding road down into the canyon. We got that spot right over there. I was dog tired. I put up the tent, and all I wanted to do was go to sleep, but after the tent is up, she says, ‘What about this other tent?’
    ‘Wha’d you bring another tent for?’
    ‘It’s the clothes tent. So we have a place for our clothes.’
    ‘Whuh?’
    ‘It’s the clothes tent,’ she says. ‘So we don’t have to sleep with our clothes.’
    “I could have said, ‘What if we put them in the trunk?’ or ‘What’s wrong with sleeping with our clothes?’ but I went around hammering in the stakes, and threading the poles through the canvas and put up the clothes tent. When it was done, all I wanted to do was sleep. I went into the non-clothes tent, and while I was taking off my pants, I discover my wallet’s not in the pocket. I check my shirt pocket, search the car, look all around the campsite in the dark—can’t find it anywhere. So I trudge up to the ranger station where there’s a payphone and even a phone book, and I call the Shell station in Mammoth asking about a lost wallet. No dice. Go to sleep.
    “Next day I call my dad and ask him to wire to Mammoth a couple of hundred bucks so that we’ll have enough money to get home. So he says he’ll do that, and my wife and I go over to Sotcher and I catch a nice little one pounder. I fillet it and toss the guts back in the lake and wipe my hands on my shirt, and go back to camp and cook it for breakfast. When we’re done eating, she says, ‘I’m bored.’ So I take her over to see the Postpile, but first I change my shirt and throw it into the clothes tent, and put on a clean one, and we hike over there.
    ‘Is that it?’ she says, totally unimpressed.
    ‘Well, yeah. You don’t think it’s remarkable?’
    She frowns. ‘Why do they call it Devil’s Postpile?’
    ‘I don’t know. I guess because the goldpanners that first came through here a hundred and fifty years ago couldn’t explain it. It seemed so unnatural, it was unholy, you know, evidence of His Satanic Majesty or something.’
    ‘Oh.’
    ‘Come on up to the top,’ I said. ‘It’s this smooth black dome. After that we can hike to this big waterfall called Rainbow Falls.’
    About halfway up or less, she says, ‘Is it gonna be uphill the whole way?’ and I go, ‘Yeah, both ways. Coming back, too.’
    ‘You don’t have to be a jerk about it.’
    ‘Well, whadid ya wanna come up here for? You could be home at brunch sipping mimosas.’
    ‘How far is the waterfall?’ she asks.
    ‘It’s like six miles.’
    ‘Which way?’
    ‘Up that trail.’ I point.
    She takes off. She just starts marching away all determined. Screw it, I think to myself, and I go back to the camp and have a beer and read awhile, and start wondering if she’s gonna get lost and all that, and decide I better go after her. About halfway to the falls, here she is coming back the other way, and we walk right past each other without saying a word. I hung out at the falls a while and read and wrote in my journal and all, and then it started raining. So I hiked back to camp in the rain and when I got there, as I’m walking up, I see one of the tents, the clothes tent, is thrashed, just demolished, one wall standing and the rest of it tore up and flattened.
    ‘I’m thinking, she couldn’t be that pissed.
    ‘Elizabeth?’
    ‘Jay?’ She came out of the non-clothes tent. ‘I was so scared! A bear came.’
    You could see his paw prints all around, and on the one wall of the tent that was still standing were these four straight rips running down the side of it like Freddy Kruger had slashed it, and that was when I realized that if you tried to kick a bear in the head, even a juvenile could rip open your guts with one swipe.” Jay chuckled. “I figure the bear had gone after the shirt that I had wiped my hands on after cleaning the fish. You could see bear snot on the other tent where he’d sniffed and didn’t smell anything he wanted. Good thing we had the clothes tent or we’d have had no tent to sleep in.” Jay took a drink of his wine. “The reason I tell you every little thing, though is because I’ve always wondered if none of that would have happened if we hadn’t a gone back for that bottle of water.”
    Two pairs of headlights came crunching down the gravelly, dirt road. Mac got out of Marty’s car, and Sota got out of his.
    “Where’s Marty?”
    “Sota and me were about halfway up the mountain when we notice this car swerving around the road and nearly go off the cliff, and we finally figure out it’s Marty. For about ten miles we’re honking the horn and flashing the brights before we got dumb-ass to pull over. He’s asleep in the back now,” Mac said dumping beer in the ice chest. “I’m going to sleep.”
    “What about your beer?
    “Fuck it. I’m going to sleep.”
    The next morning, Jay rose before the others. It was cold and he got a fire going and sat next to it, staring. Blue jays chased each other around the trees, males pursuing females, undoubtedly. Jay finished the book of Hemingway’s letters, reading into the time of his mental illness and his final letter before the Sunday morning in Ketchum when, a note in the book said, “Hemingway rose before seven, unlocked the basement storeroom, chose a double-barreled Boss shotgun from the rack, carried it upstairs to the front foyer, slipped in two cartridges, lowered the butt to the floor, pressed his forehead against the barrels, and blew away the entire cranial vault.” Just like his father had done. Hemingway had said in his letters that his mother drove his father to kill himself. Women will do that to you, thought Jay.
    After Sota and his brothers woke up, they spent the rest of the morning aimlessly trying to find consensus, and ended up going into town. All the way out of the deep valley, Jay had looked down the cliffs aware that his daughter had been afraid something bad was going to happen to him, and he had wondered if it was some premonition as they drove past the deep fissure and the sign that says “Earthquake Fault”. Once they had gotten to town, he was able to call her and say hello and tell her he loved her and was thinking of her and was fine and would see her Monday morning. “Will you put Mommy on now, please, Sweetie.”
    “Everything’s fine,” Elizabeth said without saying hello.
    He could tell she still didn’t want to talk to him. “Okay. I love you,” he said.
    “Okay. Good-bye.”
     It was early afternoon when they got back to camp. Jay located his floater and drove up to Sotcher Lake. He went clear around the other side of the lake and waded through the muck up to his waist. The damselfly was dead and ineffective, and Jay spent an hour and half trying everything he could think of to catch a fish, switching from Powerbait to plastic worms to lures, trying different-sized hooks, using various lead weights, adjusting the length of his leader.
    When his beers were gone, he hiked back through the tall grass and dead wood and muck to the trail to the main beach where he found Mac and the guys fishing, and suddenly seeming sober. Jay spotted a dying midge making tiny ripples on the water’s edge and scooped it up. He hooked it down through the top of its thorax and tossed it out with the floater. Beads of water, gleaming like crystal, suddenly shot off his line as it tautened under the brilliant sun. He flicked his wrist back to set the hook and began reeling in smooth, steady circles, droplets from the line splashing his cheeks and lips. The line zigged back and forth, and he allowed the fish some slack for a few seconds, afraid it might break the line, before he began reeling again. A rainbow, glistening with color, danced along the surface trying to shake the hook from its jaw before plunging below again. “Bring that net over here,” he said.
    Everyone agreed the fish weighed at least five pounds. “She’s a six-pounder for sure,” said the colonel, who suddenly seemed to have materialized from out of the trees.
    The mosquito storm hit then, and they fled back to camp.
    Jay got the fire going. He slit the trout’s belly and scooped out the entrails before tossing them into the fire. He wrapped the rest in foil with some onion, butter, and garlic powder, and put it on the edge of the coals. After a while he warmed some tortillas. When the trout was ready, they passed it around, tearing pieces of tortilla to pinch off the trout meat. It was delicious. The men grunted ancient sounds of satisfaction.
    The stars dimmed as the moon rose. Jay went to bed early. Lying there, he thought maybe it was worth it.

*

    When he awoke, his entire being was mosquito-bite itch like it was some circle of hell. They drove up to Red’s Meadow and bathed at the hot springs, where the little waterfall rushes down the hill with the wildflowers all around it. They struck camp and loaded up before noon. All the way home through the barren desert mining country, Jay’s excitement to see his wife and daughters grew. He wished he could snap his fingers and be with them instantly.
    Five hours later, Sota dropped Jay off. Elizabeth’s car wasn’t in the driveway. Jay unloaded his gear and Sota drove away. Jay went up the walk up and put the key in the door. A small pile of mail had accumulated under the slot in the door and he squatted to collect it. The absence dawned first on his peripheral vision. The house was empty. The couch was gone, the table, the chairs, the television, the hutch. No sign of the girls. His books were piled on the floor, but the bookshelves were gone. Annie and Sammi were gone.
    Everything but the books.
    There was no note on the counter. The phone was gone. No sign of Annie or Sammi. No nothing. He went into the bedroom. The bed was gone, along with everything else. In the closet, piles of his clothes lay on the floor. He sat on them, and then lay down, and curled up. Looking out the door, he noticed one picture still on the wall of him and his brothers on a fishing trip in their early twenties, smiling with their arms over each other’s shoulders, beers in their hands.





About John Ladd Zorn, Jr.

    John Ladd Zorn, Jr., B. A., U. C. Irvine, Certificate of Fiction Writing, U.C. Riverside, lives on the edge of the Mojave Desert and the Southern California megalopolis, and is the author of several short stories including “Booze, Voodoo and Ex-Lovers,” Phantom Seeds #3 (Heyday Books), “Whale Song,” Inlandia. He is working on his second book, Maineiac, drawn from his experience working on a lobster boat in Maine, where he’d driven from California to tell a girl he loved her and is completing a Master’s Degree in Higher Education. He is a former Jeopardy! Champion.








diogen 111, art by Eleanor Leonne Bennett

diogen 111, art by Eleanor Leonne Bennett

Eleanor Leonne Bennett Bio (20120229)

    Eleanor Leonne Bennett is a 16 year old iinternationally award winning photographer and artist who has won first places with National Geographic,The World Photography Organisation, Nature’s Best Photography, Papworth Trust, Mencap, The Woodland trust and Postal Heritage. Her photography has been published in the Telegraph, The Guardian, BBC News Website and on the cover of books and magazines in the United states and Canada. Her art is globally exhibited, having shown work in London, Paris, Indonesia, Los Angeles, Florida, Washington, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Canada, Spain, Germany, Japan, Australia and The Environmental Photographer of the year Exhibition (2011) amongst many other locations. She was also the only person from the UK to have her work displayed in the National Geographic and Airbus run See The Bigger Picture global exhibition tour with the United Nations International Year Of Biodiversity 2010.

www.eleanorleonnebennett.zenfolio.com








Marsha Richardson

Mike Cluff

Bigotry can be polite, but still destructive

and despicable no matter its degree

“I do not like this new
proposed rule, law
in my hometown
of not hiring illegals
in any shape
or form

it will complicate
my life unduly

who will prune my fuschias
tend to my orchids,
under my supervision
of course
since you can not really trust them
when you are out of the room
not to even mention the house

Rosita proved that well to me,

water my dicondra lawn
or sweep the pool, the library floor

wipe the bowl
clean.

I will force Frederick
to move from San Bernardino
to tony Redlands

there I can
do what I want
without government interference

we would all be
so much happier
without it around.”








A Beautiful Night

Darcy Wilmoth

    I’ll never forget the day I met my conscience.
    Of course, how do you forget a thing like that?

    I had had a nagging feeling for most of the week. Something, I felt just wasn’t right.
    While I had never been prone to depression, I suddenly felt like there was a dark cloud hanging over me for no particular reason at all, like I was doing something I shouldn’t be, even though I had lived my life in pretty much the same routine for the last few years.
    Most people meet their conscience in their early to mid-twenties. There are always exceptions, such as people who do not meet them until they are on their last leg in life. These people are as close to saints as there ever will be in this world.
    On the other hand, there were always the few that met them much earlier, like my friend Danny who was fifteen years old when he met his conscience.
    Danny had always had trouble following the rules. The rules were pretty simple really, just a few put in place to govern the society until the day your conscience shows up. Most were common sense. Don’t kill anyone, don’t steal others’ possessions, don’t lie.
    However, Danny had always had a problem with the last two. He was a liar and a thief. Now, you may ask why I would be friends with a liar and a thief in the first place, and to begin with I wasn’t. But I had come to befriend Danny after I caught him trying to steal money from my backpack in 4th grade. I guess you could say it was because I felt sorry for him. Even though he would lie through his teeth on a daily basis, and constantly had an eye out for things he admired that he could swipe from other people when they weren’t looking, he couldn’t seem to help himself, and I knew when his conscience did show up, he would be in for a rude awakening.
    Now as you can imagine, being a liar and a thief and all, Danny didn’t have any other friends besides me. So when his conscience did show up at the practically infantile age of fifteen, no one else noticed the life slowly being sucked out of Danny. You could see it in his eyes, where once there was a flash of fire and mischief, was now nothing more than a dark sea of brown staring back at you. Soon, he was nothing more than a shell of a person. Someone who had finally learned to abide by the rules, at the expense of their soul.
    Unlike Danny, I was on the side of the rule more than the exception, although I admit I was starting to feel pretty damn good about myself as I was at the ripe old age of twenty-nine and had yet to meet my conscience.
    It had been raining for three days straight with no sign of sunshine anytime soon. They say this is when it usually happens; they seem to appear after a long rain in which the mind starts to feel restless and somewhat depressed. I had always imagined my conscience to be tall and strict with a power-trip attitude, the kind that would make you feel about two feet tall for swatting a mosquito from your arm. I had never been much of a risk-taker so my assumption was that my conscience was an uptight disciplinarian who would enjoy nothing more than to shower you with guilt for even the smallest of indiscretions.
    Perhaps this is why I was so taken off guard on this dreary day when this sad and equally dreary stranger stumbled onto my path.

    As I was hurrying down the sidewalk, heading toward the coffee shop to get my usual Wednesday morning vanilla latte, I noticed a man standing in the middle of the sidewalk, letting the rain soak him as if he didn’t even notice. He watched me running towards him, hiding behind my umbrella, trying to avoid getting wet. He was a man of average height and build, with thin-rimmed glasses and dark hair that was nicely groomed and brushed to the side. He had one of those faces that people are drawn to, not necessarily handsome but one that was easy to look at.
    As I got closer, he began to speak.
    “Hello John, my name is Albert.”
    As soon as he said my name I knew.
    Like the feeling you get when you say your own name out loud. It sounds somewhat strange, yet should be the most natural thing in the world.
    A chill went down my spine.
    “Well I was beginning to think you were never going to show up.” I said.
    “Don’t flatter yourself” he chuckled.
    “You’re no saint.”
    “It would appear not.” I said. “So how does this work exactly?”
    “Well, basically, I’ll be beside you every step of the way from here on out. I’ll guide your decisions and when you do something I don’t approve of, I’ll let you know.”
    “And how exactly will you let me know?” I asked.
    “Slap on the wrist?”
    “Shock to the neck?”
    “Ha!” He laughed as he pictured me wearing a shock collar and giving a desperate yelp whenever he saw fit to push the button.
    “Nope, doesn’t really work like that. Basically you’ll know because you’ll feel guilt like you’ve never felt before in your life. Eventually, things that are inappropriate or just plain wrong will be out of the question because, trust me, you won’t want to feel that guilt again after you experience it a few times.”
    I discovered over the next few weeks just how right he was.
    One night after dinner, out of habit I stepped outside to light a cigarette. I had no sooner lit the match when I felt as though I had been punched in the stomach. Albert slowly raised his eyebrows while looking at the cigarette. I extinguished it immediately, ran the butt under cold water, and placed it in the trash can.
    The next day, I stubbed my toe on the coffee table and instinctively yelled “SHIT!”
    Just as the word left my mouth the pain hit again in my stomach, making me forget all about the pain in my toe.
    Although this pattern was becoming annoying, I got enjoyment out of having a companion. We would take long walks in the evenings and talk about things I could never talk about with other people. I had never really fit in anywhere. Sure, I had what most would call friends, but no one truly understood me. He did.
    Soon, to my surprise, I began to love Albert.
    It was a smooth, comfortable sort of love, like loving a part of myself I never knew existed.
    And then one day I began to notice a difference.
    In the beginning he offered me comfort and a sense of connection. Gradually though, I could sense he was becoming more and more judgmental. I would not tell him certain things to avoid the looks of pity mixed with disgust.
    Although the pain in my stomach would never be the kind of pain you become accustomed to after dealing with it for so long, it was that look that was always worse. It was like he was looking into my soul, and what he saw he despised. He was unimpressed by my human plight, repulsed by my instinctual needs and wants. He could never understand what it was like to be human. And I would never escape the shadow of guilt that he covered me in.
    It began to be harder and harder to connect with him. The more I thought about the life I could never have, the more resentful I would become.
    I started to become a prisoner in my own life. I would daydream constantly, about things I would never actually be able to do. He was an anchor tied to my feet slowly dragging me down to the dark depths of a boring life.
    Never would I be able to have a wild night filled with mind-altering substances or get a lap dance from one of the girls at The Great American Bush Company, or even give a seductive wink and smile at the girl in 4C when passing in the hall. Not that the first two were things I would normally partake in, but not having the option was unbearable.
    I began to feel depressed. The world became a dull hazy place with no thrilling promises of the future. I didn’t want to end up like Danny.
    Some days I would dream about discovering I had a brain tumor the way normal people dreamt about becoming a rock star.
    In this dream, I would soon be liberated from the constraints of guilt by my newfound condition. With the knowledge of an inescapable death in my near future, I would be able to live my life as I wanted, all the while being well aware that my actions didn’t have any long-term consequences (at least for me). I would find a huge comfort in being able to conquer my fears knowing that if I failed, it wouldn’t matter because soon enough I would only be a memory in this world.

    Then it hit me.
    Suddenly I knew there was only one way out.
    I couldn’t live any longer in this life.
    I thought of many different ways I could do it. There were too many hoops to jump through to get my hands on a gun, so that was out. I thought of a few other ways but ultimately decided on one that would be quick with little to no mess to clean up.

    On the day I decided to do it, I wanted to take one last walk with Albert. It was evening, and just starting to cool off. There was a smell in the air that signaled the changing of seasons. This had always made me feel alive, especially at the beginning of fall.
    I had kept myself distracted for most of the day, not wanting to give anything away. It was so hard to keep my thoughts and feelings from Albert. He seemed to be able to climb inside my head and figure me out in no time. Today, however, I was apparently successful at keeping him out. He didn’t question if anything was wrong with me or give me that ‘I know you’re not telling me something’ look and things went along as usual.
    As we walked along the deserted gravel road, we talked about the trees that were beginning to take on their fall hues. We discussed the weather and made predictions about how bad the winter would be this year. We kept walking until the dusk turned into night.
    Suddenly an image of my impending plan popped into my head. I tried to think of something else, anything else, but it was too late.
    Albert stopped dead in his tracks and slowly turned to look at me.
    He knew.
    I noticed in his eyes the split second he realized what was happening.
    “John?”
    I had to do it now.
    As my hands flung quickly around his neck, I started to question my decision.
    What was I doing?
    How could I end the life of someone I loved for my own selfishness?
    I wasn’t a person, I was a monster.
    Guilt was a huge hole inside of me, growing with each second, with each pleading look in his eyes.
    I had told myself it would be near impossible to do. The guilt would surely overcome me before I could make it far enough. Rational thought was all but erased as the sorrow overwhelmed me. Yet I still kept squeezing.
    My fingernails dug into his skin.
    His pulse was becoming fainter.
    I felt one last effort of struggle and then...

    Suddenly I looked up and noticed how many stars were in the sky on this particular night.
    In fact, I don’t believe I had ever seen a more beautiful night.
    I felt alive.
    Like I could do anything.








Seeing a Psychiatrist:
Fear of Authority, and Freud

Janet Kuypers
2008

    Went to another psychiatrist to try to get my problems out in the open.

    “I get these images in my head now, since the accident, that I’m suddenly in a situation where someone is putting a gun to the side of my head. I don’t know why, and I don’t know how to get out of it.”

    A gun.

    Yes.

    What kind of gun?

    Pardon me?

    What type of gun do you see? a rifle? a shot gun? If it’s a hand-gun, is it magazine-loaded or is it a revolver? Or is it small, like a .38 special, or is it bigger, like a .44 magnum, like Dirty Harry used?

    And I thought, this man knows a lot about guns.

    “Well, I don’t see much of the gun, but I guess it’s some sort of hand-gun. Why?”

    Well, this represents your fear of authority after the accident, because the gun in your visions symbolizes a penis.

    Hmmm.

    I saw the Freud books on the back book shelf, and at the end of the session I said thank you, this has been very helpful, and I never went back again. If I have enough problems with relationships between the sexes, I don’t need some guy telling me that everything I think of relates to men’s genitals.



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Seeing a Psychiatrist:
Hopelessness and Futility

Janet Kuypers
2008

    I talked to a licensed psychiatrist recently about the problems I’ve been having lately. She looked through my medical records as I explained the living on varying medication that didn’t help with the swelling in my joints, making it hard for me to even effectively do the non-profit work I do, since I haven’t been able to hold a job in my profession since the near fatal car accident a decade ago.

    And how does this make you feel? she would ask.

    Well, it has emotionally been very difficult, I’d say.

    After looking at my records, she said, It says here the doctors informed your sister that you would be more emotional after the brain injury you suffered in the car crash.

    Yes, that’s what they said.

    But before the accident, I felt like I was invincible, succeeding in my profession in my 20s, having control in my life. But only after the accident have I ever even considered the idea of suicide, or of genuinely wishing I was dead.

    Continuing to look over my medical records, she said, It seems that you have survived so much already, and what you’re going through is entirely normal. The accident was severe, but you made a miraculous recovery. The worst part is over, and things will get better.

    That’s how she finished our session. But she never explained how to cope with all of the feelings of hopelessness and futility.



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of Janet Kuypers reading poetry Volume 246, the November / December 2013 issue of cc&d magazine (including the poems “Seeing a Psychiatrist: Hopelessness and Futility” by Janet Kuypers, “Daddy’s Lil’ Toy” by Kelly Haas Shackeford, “Drunk Father” by Roland Stoecker, “Poppy” by S. R. Mearns, “Down in the Dirt” by Marlon Jackson, and “Mentor” by Jason D. Cooper), live 12/4/13 at the open mic the Café Gallery at the Gallery Cabaret in Chicago (C)


Janet Kuypers Bio

    Janet Kuypers has a Communications degree in News/Editorial Journalism (starting in computer science engineering studies) from the UIUC. She had the equivalent of a minor in photography and specialized in creative writing. A portrait photographer for years in the early 1990s, she was also an acquaintance rape workshop facilitator, and she started her publishing career as an editor of two literary magazines. Later she was an art director, webmaster and photographer for a few magazines for a publishing company in Chicago, and this Journalism major was even the final featured poetry performer of 15 poets with a 10 minute feature at the 2006 Society of Professional Journalism Expo’s Chicago Poetry Showcase. This certified minister was even the officiant of a wedding in 2006.
    She sang with acoustic bands “Mom’s Favorite Vase”, “Weeds and Flowers” and “the Second Axing”, and does music sampling. Kuypers is published in books, magazines and on the internet around 9,300 times for writing, and over 17,800 times for art work in her professional career, and has been profiled in such magazines as Nation and Discover U, won the award for a Poetry Ambassador and was nominated as Poet of the Year for 2006 by the International Society of Poets. She has also been highlighted on radio stations, including WEFT (90.1FM), WLUW (88.7FM), WSUM (91.7FM), WZRD (88.3FM), WLS (8900AM), the internet radio stations ArtistFirst dot com, chicagopoetry.com’s Poetry World Radio and Scars Internet Radio (SIR), and was even shortly on Q101 FM radio. She has also appeared on television for poetry in Nashville (in 1997), Chicago (in 1997), and northern Illinois (in a few appearances on the show for the Lake County Poets Society in 2006). Kuypers was also interviewed on her art work on Urbana’s WCIA channel 3 10 o’clock news.
    She turned her writing into performance art on her own and with musical groups like Pointless Orchestra, 5D/5D, The DMJ Art Connection, Order From Chaos, Peter Bartels, Jake and Haystack, the Bastard Trio, and the JoAnne Pow!ers Trio, and starting in 2005 Kuypers ran a monthly iPodCast of her work, as well mixed JK Radio — an Internet radio station — into Scars Internet Radio (both radio stations on the Internet air 2005-2009). She even managed the Chaotic Radio show (an hour long Internet radio show 1.5 years, 2006-2007) through BZoO.org and chaoticarts.org. She has performed spoken word and music across the country - in the spring of 1998 she embarked on her first national poetry tour, with featured performances, among other venues, at the Albuquerque Spoken Word Festival during the National Poetry Slam; her bands have had concerts in Chicago and in Alaska; in 2003 she hosted and performed at a weekly poetry and music open mike (called Sing Your Life), and from 2002 through 2005 was a featured performance artist, doing quarterly performance art shows with readings, music and images.
    Since 2010 Kuypers also hosts the Chicago poetry open mic at the Café Gallery, while also broadcasting the Cafés weekly feature podcasts (and where she sometimes also performs impromptu mini-features of poetry or short stories or songs, in addition to other shows she performs live in the Chicago area).
    In addition to being published with Bernadette Miller in the short story collection book Domestic Blisters, as well as in a book of poetry turned to prose with Eric Bonholtzer in the book Duality, Kuypers has had many books of her own published: Hope Chest in the Attic, The Window, Close Cover Before Striking, (woman.) (spiral bound), Autumn Reason (novel in letter form), the Average Guy’s Guide (to Feminism), Contents Under Pressure, etc., and eventually The Key To Believing (2002 650 page novel), Changing Gears (travel journals around the United States), The Other Side (European travel book), The Boss Lady’s Editorials, The Boss Lady’s Editorials (2005 Expanded Edition), Seeing Things Differently, Change/Rearrange, Death Comes in Threes, Moving Performances, Six Eleven, Live at Cafe Aloha, Dreams, Rough Mixes, The Entropy Project, The Other Side (2006 edition), Stop., Sing Your Life, the hardcover art book (with an editorial) in cc&d v165.25, the Kuypers edition of Writings to Honour & Cherish, The Kuypers Edition: Blister and Burn, S&M, cc&d v170.5, cc&d v171.5: Living in Chaos, Tick Tock, cc&d v1273.22: Silent Screams, Taking It All In, It All Comes Down, Rising to the Surface, Galapagos, Chapter 38 (v1 and volume 1), Chapter 38 (v2 and Volume 2), Chapter 38 v3, Finally: Literature for the Snotty and Elite (Volume 1, Volume 2 and part 1 of a 3 part set), A Wake-Up Call From Tradition (part 2 of a 3 part set), (recovery), Dark Matter: the mind of Janet Kuypers , Evolution, Adolph Hitler, O .J. Simpson and U.S. Politics, the one thing the government still has no control over, (tweet), Get Your Buzz On, Janet & Jean Together, po•em, Taking Poetry to the Streets, the Cana-Dixie Chi-town Union, the Written Word, Dual, Prepare Her for This, uncorrect, Living in a Big World (color interior book with art and with “Seeing a Psychiatrist”), Pulled the Trigger (part 3 of a 3 part set), Venture to the Unknown (select writings with extensive color NASA/Huubble Space Telescope images), Janet Kuypers: Enriched, She’s an Open Book, “40”, Sexism and Other Stories, the Stories of Women, Prominent Pen (Kuypers edition), Elemental, the paperback book of the 2012 Datebook (which was also released as a spiral-bound cc&d ISSN# 2012 little spiral datebook, , Chaotic Elements, and Fusion, the (select) death poetry book Stabity Stabity Stab Stab Stab, the 2012 art book a Picture’s Worth 1,000 words (available with both b&w interior pages and full color interior pages, the 2013 ISSN# color art book Life, in Color, and Post Apocalyptic. Three collection books were also published of her work in 2004, Oeuvre (poetry), Exaro Versus (prose) and L’arte (art).





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

510/704-4444


MIT Vegetarian Support Group (VSG)

functions:

* 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.


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

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