welcome to volume 139 (the September/October 2016 issue)
of Down in the Dirt magazine

the Relic, the Effort, the Yell


Down in the Dirt





Down in the Dirt

internet issn 1554-9666 (for the print issn 1554-9623)
http://scars.tv/dirt, or http://scars.tv & click Down in the Dirt
Janet K., Editor



Table of Contents

AUTHOR TITLE
Allan Onik Out To Eat
Kyle Hemmings Lips 2 art
Allan Onik Orb
Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz Uncertain Orbit art
Allan Onik The Coin and the Pendulum
Katie Moore An Aged Affair
Separated
Andy Tu She Will
David Russell Man on top New Beach Embrace art
Ava Collopy Retail
Kimba Rose Williams Where There’s a Will...
Wes Heine 11947841 art
Andria Weekes A lost brother
Janet Kuypers mirror
Kimba Rose Williams Skritch Skritch
Kazel Wood Cold Wind
Janet Kuypers end
Gabriel Valdez Needles of the Heart
Maximilian Weihe Island of the Misfit Boys
Janet Kuypers labor
Emily Manno The Boiler Room
Janet Kuypers escape
Scott Mahoney Just Another Day At The Sandy Dunes Beach View Hotel
Janet Kuypers free
Jo Thomoson Casual Tuesday
Jaron Camp The Phone was Ringing
Nathan Driscoll When God Comes to Brannon, Ohio
Richard Schnap Artifacts
Lost Purse
Mid Life Crisis
Blake Corrao Angry Letter From A Dead Son To A Remarried Mother
Beach House
Kendra Burns Crash Landing
David Michael Jackson Country Club 3 art
Mario “Maxx” Hassell Relic
Rishi Ravichandran How I Lived To Tell the Tale
Janet Kuypers greatest
Moshe Prigan The Yell
Janet Kuypers found haiku
Denny E. Marshall haiku (kills)
haiku (blood)
haiku (dark)
Janet Kuypers elusive
Denny E. Marshall haiku (revenge)
haiku (steals)
haiku (expands)
Janet Kuypers Ever Expanding Spaces
Denny E. Marshall haiku (secret)
haiku (wait)
Victor Pearn In 1959
Strawberry Point
Liam C. Calhoun It’ll be crimson tonight
Ed Nichols The Picture
David Russell Diving Girl 0070 art
Bob Strother Community Service
Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz Another Underwater Adventure art
C. D. Wight A Place in Life
Brian Looney Triple Prong art
Mark Plummer Goulash
John Grey A Get-Together Ten Years Down the Road
Marlon Jackson Representing
Mark J. Mitchell a Gospel of San Francisco
Ken Allan Dronsfield Brambles and Wine
Kayla Cordone The Effort
Manuel Moya The Certificate
Fabrice Poussin The Smokies art
Tracy Blake Four Glances
Eleanor Leonne Bennett Image Edit 6 4274691868 art

 
Note that any artwork that may appear on a Down in the Dirt issue web page
will appear in black and white in the print edition of Down in the Dirt magazine.





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Out To Eat

Allan Onik

    Everyone in the diner was wearing their Halloween costumes. Tab was dressed as a zombie and sipped a large chocolate shake. Ada was dressed as a witch and ate a piece of lemon meringue pie. The makeup on her face was green and she wore a particularly large wart on her nose.
    “You know,” Tab said in between slurps, “I hear in the Russian outskirts there are some that claim to be real witches. You should go meet your peers. Learn a few spells or something.”
    Ada put down her fork. “You don’t actually believe in this crap, do you? Halloween is just for fun! Fairytales and no more. There’s no such thing as witches. Or psychics, demons, and spirits! Enjoy the holiday while it lasts and then come back to earth.”
    “Why don’t you keep an open mind?” Tab asked, “Perhaps there are secrets that even the darkest hearts can’t keep.”

    In the alley Victor dashed after the rat. He found it shaking behind a dumpster next to a large puddle. Slowly he crawled up behind it and snatched it. He broke its neck and brought the pulsing rodent to his fangs. When the blood was drained he dropped the carcass and entered the back door of the club.

    The club was dark with a soft, red light. Trance music played amidst the costumed dancers. A girl dressed as a white rabbit walked up to Victor on the side of the dance floor. “You’re supposed to be wearing a costume,” She cried, “its Halloween!”
    “I’m a vampire,” Victor said.
    “You don’t look like a vampire,” she said, “where’s your cape? And I don’t see any fake blood dripping down your chin.”
    “Modern vampires don’t dress like that. Do you think this is still the Victorian era?”
    “Very funny,” she said, “follow me,” she dragged him by the hand to a small room with stronger red light and red cushy couches. They both sat down and a waitress with an axe stuck in her head came for the order.
    “Two Bloody Marys,” the white rabbit said. The waitress wrote the order and left.
    “I got to thinking,” Victor said, “How funny it is you came up to me this Halloween. I go out every night, and usually no one says hello.”
    “What more could you expect from a bunny hungry for candy in a nightclub?”
    “Let me ask you something, and I want you be completely honest with me. Do you think there’s any chance that vampires could exist for real? Not like in the movies, but walking the streets?”
    “Like Dracula?” The bunny asked, “I’m not so sure. Tomorrow there’s gonna be a lot of people that feel fat, but no one missing unexpected blood.”
    “That’s what most think. But sometimes our minds can trick us a bit. Try to trap an electron for instance, and with the right instrument it’s measurable. But once you aren’t looking at it anymore, it taps right back into a field of almost limitless cosmic potentiality, in a random generation of locality. So much so that it would baffle even Einstein! It’s as if unless we are perceiving something, it doesn’t exist.”
    “Like God?” she asked.
    “Or how about daemons?” Victor parried.
    The bunny shifted in her seat a little bit. “I suppose this is when the meal gets taken? Am I supposed to scream like a whelp?”
    “No one will hear you over the music.” He bared his fangs.












Lips 2, art by Kyle Hemmings

Lips 2, art by Kyle Hemmings
















Orb

Allan Onik

    Boris stood beneath the abandoned railroad tracks and watched as a stretch limo pulled ten yards in front of him. The tracks were supported by graffiti strewn cement walls and dripped from a recent rain. He gripped a grey suitcase and wiped some sweat from his brow.
    “Dr. Robinsky, glad you showed,” said the man who emerged from the limo. He wore a black suit and bronze, gold, and silver rings. The rings contained etched symbols, though Boris could not make them out.
    “Zek, I have your weapons.” Boris put the suitcase on the ground and opened it. Inside were six grey pistols with cylindrical barrels. “They’re all here.”
    Zek made a motion with his right hand. One of two large men standing behind him moved forward with a briefcase. The case was opened in front of Boris to show its contents of stacked 100 dollar bills and one square, black container. A woman also emerged from the limo. She wore a yellow, red, and blue dress and carried an onyx cane.
    “All forty thousand plus the chip,” Zek said, “and I appreciate your business.”
    The woman whispered in Zek’s ear.
    “Kiala says your aura is faint. She says you are hiding something. You aren’t planning on breaking our deal? You know I’d find you.”
    “Of course not,” Boris said, “we’re in this together.” He walked away.

    Summers threw the file down on the desk. Doran eyed it. The name on the file read “Boris Robinsky.” Paper-clipped to it was a picture of a man wearing glasses and a tweed suit. “Is he a suspect in some sort of case you’ve opened?” Doran asked.
    “He’s an Israeli-American scientist,” Summers said, “graduated in three years from MIT with a doctorate in molecular physics and biomechanical engineering. IQ 243. No kids, no wife. Age 57, parents deceased. Currently he’s a consultant for a weaponry enhancement division in the pentagon, servicing mainly black and covert ops. He resides in New York with occasional visits to Arlington.”
    “And? Last I heard being a genius wasn’t illegal.”
    Summers threw a second file on the desk. The name on the file read Zek Rallos. The picture clipped to it was a mug shot taken in a New York State penitentiary. “His name is Zek Rallos. He’s a Russian kingpin with ties to the Gambino family. Spent seven years in the pen for organizing the hits of three Bandito biker outlaws on competing drug turf. He travels with the aid of a clairvoyant he found in a Texas carnival.”
    “I’d like to get my palm read,” Doran chided.
    “A week ago last Sunday an intercept was found in the Pentagon databases. Some pistols were missing that were in reserve for an outing in Afghanistan by a company of Delta Force.”
    “What kind of weapons are we talking about?” Doran asked.
    “Classified laser pistols. X-29 model. And you can guess who designed them.”
    “Robinsky? So why not arrest him now? Got anything on him?”
    “Nothing substantial. And the longer we wait the greater chance we have of taking down Zek. These are serious weapons, not for use by civilians. Could blow the head off an elephant, or derail a subway car. And a man this smart has to have an eye kept on him. He’s one of the brightest in the country.”
    “He’s gotten himself into trouble?”
    “Men like him are often like children. Easily toyed with despite their capacities. He’s a manic-depressive that often stops taking his happy pills. Zek is taking advantage of him. He’s neck deep in a pool of shit. Go to the Big Apple and collect evidence—the Bureau demands it.”

    Boris opened the mirror cabinet in his bathroom. He picked up a prescription bottle reading “Risperdal” and popped a tablet into his mouth, crunching it and swallowing it. He walked into his main living space. It was a small room with scattered wires, computers, and mechanical devices. He walked to a safe in its corner and imputed a code. Inside were stacks of 100-dollar bills and a black box. He took out the box and closed the safe. He walked to his desk with the box and cleared off a few empty and dented Pepsi cans and fast food wrappers. He placed the box amid some jumbled wires on the desk and opened it. Inside was a square, black chip roughly the size of a golf ball. He put on some white gloves and opened a drawer containing small, metal hand tools. He set to work.

    The Old Man wore custom leather biker’s gear and silver hair in a ponytail. He carried a QSZ-92 pistol behind his Colors and was followed by two large bikers, each wearing spiked brass knuckles. Zek greeted them in his office.
    “I appreciate you’re situation,” Zek said immediately, “but even if the Banditos send their Breed counterparts to me, it won’t change my stance. I control the Meth in this city. Why not go back to Detroit? New York is saturated as it is.”
    The leader of the Breed motorcycle gang gritted his teeth. “We’ve been working without boundaries long before you settled here. You don’t have the men or the resources. I’ve got 50 men on Harleys surrounding this building. They act at the snap of my fingers.”
    Zek’s office was located in an abandoned building in midtown. The only finished room was located in the facility’s basement, its entrance hidden under plywood. It contained an imported Persian rug, Italian leather chairs, and high priced paintings picked from art galleries across the city. Kiala wore a purple dress and sat in the room’s corner, playing with a stack of tarot cards. Two of Zek’s men stood behind him wearing Italian suits. “I knew you were coming today,” Zek said, “I also knew you would try to kill me.”
    “Let’s be frank,” The Old Man said, “you, that bitch, and your hired meat are as good as toast. Throw your weapons on the desk. No negotiations.”
    Zek pulled a Browning Baby pistol out of his jacket pocket and slowly placed it on the desk. The Old Man nodded to Zek’s men. “And them?”
    The two men pulled X-29s out of the front of their belts and quickly unloaded beams. The beams were green and lasted only an instant. The bikers were reduced to ash. “Finish up the ones outside,” Zek said casually. The two hired guns walked their lineman-sized frames up the stairs that led to the outside of the abandoned skyscraper. Zek took a bottle of Hennessy cognac out of the top drawer of his desk and poured himself a glass. Kiala dropped a tarot card on the floor. It read “Death.”

    When Boris turned the top half of the orb it clicked and glowed purple. “Finito,” he mumbled under his breath. He depressed the circle on its top and his apartment swirled, blurred, and burst with a lateral wave. He opened up his window and walked on air to the top of the next skyscraper. The sky was purple and swirling with bats. A bartender wearing a tuxedo puffed up from the graveled ground and handed Boris a Bud Light. “I’ve never seen you here, mister,” the bartender said. When he opened his mouth a purple light spewed out.
    “Call it a hike,” Boris said, “temporary.” He chugged his beer and took in the 11th Dimension.

    “How many fucking abandoned Harleys is it now? 50? 70?” The CSI investigator took some prints off the black bike.
    “And always surrounded by this powder? Is it some type of drug?” A female investigator rubbed the powder between her fingers. It was black. Doran walked onto the scene from behind a shaded corner. The Harley was lying in between two restaurants in China Town.
    “Its ultra cremated body matter,” Doran said. “Lovely huh?” Doran wore a black trench coat.
    “Who the fuck are you?” a male investigator asked. He was wearing thick glasses.
    “FBI.” Doran flashed his badge. “I’m taking this case. All the Harleys are mine for a week. Tell all your buddies to scram.”

    Miami was empty except for flickering streetlights and beaches. It was night and Boris sat on South Beach drinking a pina colada. Jaunting from San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Paris had yielded similar results. The orb floated next to him in the air and he watched a hurricane spin in the atmosphere. The waves of the beach were hypnotic. “I should write a book,” Boris thought, “Pluses of the Sixth Dimension—no more assholes in Miami.”

    When Kiala revealed “The Chariot” in her tarot card deck she winced and immediately ran out of her bedroom. In her kitchen her bodyguard was tied and gagged with a black eye. Blood dribbled from his mouth. Doran got off her family room couch and threw a bloodied baseball bat to the floor. He took a Heckler and Koch P7 pistol from an inside pocket of his trench coat and pointed it at her. “Little to late with the card?” Doran said. “Well too bad. Your cash cow is about to become a porterhouse steak, eaten by gangs of New York State’s finest penitentiaries.”
    Kiala froze. Her red dress seemed to glow in the light.
    “Put on these zip ties, and lay on your couch. I can’t have you interfering,” Doran said.
    A large mirror behind Doran became a door, turned out, and two suited thugs with X-29s flanked Zek as he emerged. “Let her go, she’s a specimen—and it doesn’t take a psychic to know when the Bureau is breathing down your neck.”

    Boris finished his last Hawaiian drink. The bar was empty, and the O’ahu waves crashed black. He looked at them; they seemed to move in slow motion. He sighed.
    “Enough play,” he said. He reached out and touched the floating orb.

    The light was bright in all directions, and the scientist felt an overwhelming sense of warmth and Love. A voice spoke to him. “Welcome, I’ve been waiting. You know, many in my circles consider you as good as Einstein, or Hawking. Just as I planned for you, you’ve done well. But now your playing is over. Come back to me and rest, but first finished what you started.” Boris braced.

    The lunks pointed the X-29s. “Everyone has their time,” Zek said behind the two goons, “with the Feds in this business it’s like a ticking clock. But I’m going out with a bang. You’re coming with me.”
    Kiala cringed. “Wait...” The laser pistols burst, leaving ash. Doran removed a gold plated PP7 pistol from the inside pocket of his suit coat and shot Zek in both knees. He fell to the ground whimpering, and the mystic began to cry.
    “You’d think that bitch saw a ghost...” Doran muttered to himself. He walked outside and headed for his Lincoln Town Car. The night was just beginning.












Uncertain Orbit, art by Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz

Uncertain Orbit, art by Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz
















The Coin and the Pendulum

Allan Onik

    The room was dark and Tab sat on the moldy mattress. He looked at the tendrils of light that flowed through a window above him, and rolled the coin between his fingers. “Just one shot...” he whispered in the darkness. He squeezed the bridge of his nose and sighed.

    The man held out the coin to the boy. “You see this?” He said, “This is a 50 Reichspfennig. The Furur issued it to his soldiers during The War. Before the Allies released me from Auschwitz I looted it from a Nazi I strangled with my shoestring outside the Jewish barracks. The pillows in the barracks were stuffed with the hair from those who had already seen the gas chambers, and then their bodies to the ovens. I slept with nausea and hid the coin in my shoe.
    One day I found myself in a strange chamber, tied to the floor. A clock with a scimitar pendulum was above me in the dark. I had no food or water, and had decided that this was some sort of deranged torture room. Every twelve hours the clock would chime and the blade would sweep. The device would lower at this point and I knew it was only a matter of time. Just a matter of time my dear boy...
    I could feel the coin still stuck to my foot. It gave me hope in the darkest of hours, when I thought I might be lost to madness! And that’s when the vermin came. Rats the size of small cats that rubbed their mouths against my lips and sniffed and bit at my body. But alas! Over a course of days my strength had faded, but the reproachful creatures had eaten away at my tethers. I stood up from my bondage, only to notice a smiling, red, glowing demon in the corner of the pit. The vile beast spoke to me: “Run from your fears, and be consumed...” Its voice was deep and rich. I took the coin out of my shoe and thought of your aunt.
    When the allies found me in the Nazi torture chamber for the killing of the officer they said the pain of the needles and fire had made me hallucinate beyond any normal human capacity. I haven’t told anyone until now. And I wanted to give the coin to you, so you could keep it safe—even when I’m gone.”

    Tab kissed the coin and slipped it into his breast pocket. He picked up the .300 M91A2 rifle and walked to the window. The Mosul crowd was bustling, and he scanned. “Subject One spotted,” he whispered into the microphone. He squeezed the trigger. A shot rang out in the courtyard, followed by panic and hysteria. “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been eliminated, initiating extraction phase...”
    A voice spoke to him in his earpiece. “Affirmative. Eagle Delta is on its way.”












An Aged Affair

Katie Moore

Thick in the cold, our
breath, smoke from stung lungs.
The air between our bodies,
humid soup, and the language
of our fingertips fleeting touching
would be spilling secrets, if
we weren’t such masters
practiced at keeping them.

I don’t need words out loud,
just the shape of my mouth
making phrases you lip read,
shapes that turn you on with only
suggestions,

Come to me tonight
when she falls asleep.

It can’t be helped. Our hands
are tied to each other.





About Katie Moore

    Katie Moore is the founder of a little literary magazine called The Legendary, a coffee shop manager, an improv actor, and a proud mother. She writes because her life depends on it. Katie comes from the untouched wilderness of Southern Maryland, makes her home in the concrete jungle of Memphis, Tennessee, and plans to someday retire to a certain mountain peak in Appalachia to raise goats and rescue pitbulls. Her hair is curly, her wit is sharp, and if you need to know more check out http://www.thegirlcircus.com..







Separated

Katie Moore

My mask is cracked, gaps inching wider.
I am exposed, tense teeth and jaw.
These fault lines are lies told. No porcelain
cherub cheeks, no red bow lips and dimples
to find cover under.

It’s worse than naked.

I’ve donned the palest imitation
of a smile, can’t meet myself
in a mirror. My eyes swim in green guilt,
my eyes are dead swamps.
They keep their water.

There’s a game of pretending. We think
we must always be strong.

Nobody knows what that means.

Maybe, don’t cry in front of the children
or, try to keep common friends, don’t
play dirty, don’t fight, be friends.
Never let anyone know
how broke you are, never stop
whistling.

Just don’t expect anything.





About Katie Moore

    Katie Moore is the founder of a little literary magazine called The Legendary, a coffee shop manager, an improv actor, and a proud mother. She writes because her life depends on it. Katie comes from the untouched wilderness of Southern Maryland, makes her home in the concrete jungle of Memphis, Tennessee, and plans to someday retire to a certain mountain peak in Appalachia to raise goats and rescue pitbulls. Her hair is curly, her wit is sharp, and if you need to know more check out http://www.thegirlcircus.com..












She Will

Andy Tu

    This feeling, calling her from inside her ears—where did it come from? Run away, it told her. And never come back. Krystal tried to block it out as she drove her daughter, Lily, to school, where she was an English teacher. Or more accurately, where she babysat rich high schoolers.
    She and John, the history teacher, had had sex the night before. He’d slept over in her apartment, as he often did, but had left before she’d even woken up. Lily was nine, but understood that he might become her new daddy someday, the same way their apartment had become their new home after Krystal and Rick got sick of each other. Maybe that’s what the problem was, getting sick of things. People, places. Before Rick, she’d studied abroad, traveled for a year with nothing but a backpack, taught in different states. Then she got knocked up and they tried the marriage thing. And now she was driving to this joke of a school every morning before the sun poked above the horizon and grocery shopping on Thursday afternoons because that was when the sales were; how her face singed with embarrassment when she’d bumped into a student in a checkout aisle with clipped coupons in her hands. The more she thought about the remaining days, and weeks, and months of her future, the more she wanted to cry as she walked into the front office and signed in with a smile drawn across her lips like those stick figures that Lily drew in Mrs. Rodriguez’s class. Sweet innocence, how Krystal missed it.
    During third period that day, Krystal was texting a friend from high school when the door swung in.  She straightened up in her chair and shot a look of urgency to her students, who were supposedly working on their group presentations— swiping their phones, chatting in groups, and taking selfies together. Luckily, it was only John, who asked to speak with her in the hallway in a voice that reminded her of Rick after he found out she was pregnant. As she followed John out in front of the 8th graders, she thought about how, when you grew up, you had to censor your feelings and actions, like the sex they’d had on the floor the night before next to her perfectly capable bed, the grunting, the way he kept pausing to last longer; the way he announced: that was excellent—emphasizing the “ex”—as he rolled off her. This was adulthood: feeling the stickiness of your shame rub against your skin in front of those too innocent to notice.
    “I got it,” he said, referring to the promotion to principal. In a month the old woman at the top would finally, despite having developed the onset of Alzheimer’s years ago, relinquish her power after she’d recently been found asleep on a desk in an unused classroom, the door somehow locked from outside. John was not the most qualified, but he was the biggest, his voice the loudest, carrying itself across the staff meeting room and hallways. Krystal wondered what this would do to his ego. Would it make him think his penis was slightly larger? He did seem to overcompensate at meetings, where he’d stiffen his hands with authority when he spoke and repeat certain words for pronounced effect. That was the thing with large men, she supposed. Their penises looked so much smaller relative to their protruding guts and thighs, maybe it gave them a complex.
    As Krystal smiled and put her hand on John’s shoulder, she felt something in her stomach unsettle. It was either that she hadn’t cooked the eggs through that morning (never enough time), or that her subconscious disgust for John and every masculine, egotistical part of him was finally sprouting from the roots of her mind.
    Later that afternoon, Lily got into trouble for not letting another girl join in on a conversation during recess. When she saw the text from Mrs. Rodriguez, asking Krystal to speak to her daughter directly about this during lunchtime, Krystal rolled her eyes, cursing in whispers about the institution of the school and why the hell do they have to share everyone’s phone numbers?
    “Why didn’t you just let Mia talk with you girls?” Krystal asked with as much feigned disapproval as she could.
    Lily hid a slight smile, like she hadn’t done anything wrong. Krystal could not agree more, and considered taking her out to ice cream later when the bell released them from the barred, locked gates of their beloved school.
    Lily explained: “Me and Jocelyn were talking about the sleepover on Saturday, and Mia’s not invited, so I don’t know why she wanted to listen to us talk, because it’s private.”
    “Well,” said Krystal, feeling Mrs. Rodriquez’ nappy breath poke against the back of her throat like it was a red security laser, ready to set the alarm if triggered, “just because she’s not invited doesn’t mean she can’t hang out with you during recess.” How much longer would Krystal do what others expected? It was such a tiny thing, yet it felt like everything. Especially because her daughter was involved. What was she teaching her? How to follow rules and live fake?
    “But,” Lily pleaded. “We were making plans on what to do. And it doesn’t make sense for Mia to listen if she’s not going to be a part of it!”
    Mrs. Rodriquez and her rule that “everyone has to be included in the conversation”. It was so, so stupid. As stupid as Krystal felt telling Lily that she should have to let someone listen in on private plans. Was she required to report to the old lady that she and her protégé were staying up late on school nights mating with no desire for a child together? She turned around to Mrs. Rodriquez.
    “I’ll talk to her about this at home.”
    No. No. She wouldn’t. Disney cartoons would be the lesson for the afternoon. There was always a good message in those.
    In the evening, after she’d just put Lily to bed, John showed up at her door without calling. He just expected it now, her apartment. Her body. It was her fault for not having said anything the first time he did this.
    “You know I could have been out or something,” she said, confused as to why her arms were pulling the door open to let him in. “I’m not always home after school.”
    “I’d wait,” He said. There was condensation in his voice. The promotion was getting to his head already. He proceeded to her bedroom with his hands in his pocket, and she followed him.
    In her bed, she insisted she wanted to read her book. But he kept pushing his body closer to her side, staring into her avoiding eyes hungrily.
    “I’m really tired,” she said.
    “So tired you’re reading?” He said it accusingly, like a principal at a student who’d been sent to the office.
    “Physically tired.”
    He crawled on top of her. She had never said no before. She had never said anything. An assumed yes. And once again she found her throat unwilling to utter those words. Stop. No. Not today. Get off.
    “You can just relax,” he said.
    She lay under his weight as he bobbed up and down. A vessel that followed expectations. At school, following an outdated curriculum. Following misbehavioral procedures she didn’t believe in. She scrunched her face at the thought that this would be the rest of her life. John took it for pleasure.
    A week later, John became the new principal. Despite everything, Krystal knew this had benefits: she no longer had to fear random observations or getting into trouble for letting her students screw around. She was now sleeping with the boss, and he seemed to see it like that too. Gradually, he stopped staying the nights; he’d still show up at the door for sex, like she was a prostitute, but now wanted space for his growing authority and ego.
    This time, she came to his door, unexpected.
    “It’s not working out.”
    “Explain,” he said. Authoritatively, like he’d caught her cheating on a test.
    “This whole thing. I’m leaving the school. We’re moving.”
    He shook his head, then stiffened when he saw the grip of determination in her eyes.
    “I don’t understand. This is so sudden.” His tone changed. He was an adult again, talking to another adult.
    She wanted to tell him that teaching at that school was making her a lousy role model, that settling in this cycle and putting on that collared, ironed button-down every morning was suffocating her. She wanted to tell him that he was stuck in that big chair of his, that he’d never leave. That she wanted to travel the world and teach her daughter to live naked, freely, to say what she wanted and do what she believed in. She wanted to tell him that he could never understand because all he cared about was what people thought of him. Instead, she said nothing, and left.












Man on top New Beach Embrace, art by David Russell

Man on top New Beach Embrace, art by David Russell
















Retail

Ava Collopy

    Ah retail... in the charity shop today helping out and wound up at the counter dealing with an annoying customer returning a jacket for store credit. She said it was $8-10, she couldn’t recall, and had no receipt. She tried jackets on at the counter instead of the fitting room, asked me sizes when she couldn’t find them as if I have special clothing size powers. Kept changing her mind and putting them in different piles, confusing me as to what she was and wasn’t getting. Pointed out minor wear on a few things (it’s a secondhand shop! And the prices are really low already!) Finally, got things totaled up, took $10 off to give her the benefit of the doubt, and reduced it slightly just because I was tired, sick, and wanted rid of her. Naturally she stood there and argued with me about $13 for 3-4 things.
    She gave me $12 in change then kept saying she had no more, made a show of checking all her pockets, counting out her dimes and nickels, etc. Then said, would you give me this for $10? I said no, it’s $13. Then gave me $12. I said it’s $13. She argued, argued, then said ‘well take something back then’. So I did. I removed the cheapest item, the pants for $3. She said ‘really? You’re going to argue with me over $1?!’ etc. etc. Went on for several minutes, acted like I needed to be told how to do my job, acted like I was being rude. I suggested she was kind of harassing me and that I was tired and sick... she interrupted and said maybe I was having a bad day and if I was sick I shouldn’t come in, and ‘it’s a charity shop!’ she said. I said ‘yeah—it’s all for charity. We need the money as it’s for charity, and I’m a volunteer’.
    Many people HAVE TO work when they’re sick besides.
    She said ‘you’d do that after I asked about volunteering and I’m going to bring stuff down and I have no more change’... I don’t know if she has more change, what paper money she has, if she’ll come back to donate, and what she’d donate—over 50% of what I’ve gotten in donations in the shop in the past 6 mos. has been rubbish that had to be binned immediately. People literally bring us their garbage that they don’t seem to know how to get rid of. We have a regular bin—no skip/ dumpster—emptied every other week. We aren’t a garbage site. People are supposed to wait for employee approval but many rush to leave us their rubbish (or sneak it onto our bin when we’re not looking). Besides, she’d been completely irritating up until that point and none of us recognized her—she wasn’t a regular customer and had no receipt so we were doing a favor by letting her return an admittedly nice-looking jacket.
    She argued and talked about all the things she bought on Monday, if we’d just check our records... so we did. No such sales on Monday. She said it must have been Tuesday... checked the book, no such sales Tuesday.
    ...She continued but I said no. I put the pants under the counter and said we could hold them for her—I’d put a note on them. Took the $10 in change and gave her back the other $2. I kept saying, I gave you the benefit of the doubt on $10 for the jacket, was nice on the price of the rest since you’re buying a few things on one go (and didn’t say all the pieces have been changed and upped since I was last in so it caught me off guard), this is charity. It’s $13. She kept saying I must be having a bad day. My day was fine actually. I told her I’m just fed up with customers asking for lower prices on already good prices. I’m just simply fed up with it and you’re already getting a great deal. She complained that we gave no receipts—I said we do, just ask for one. One of the other girls in the shop backed me up on it. The customer was still mad but took the items I’d bagged for her and left.
    The two other women customers in the shop at the time all shared looks with us and chatted a bit that that woman was a real problem—not us. Jaysus! That is probably the worst customer I personally have had so far. Oh well, experience makes us stronger. She was plainly full of shit, and on top of that rude. We still don’t know if the jacket she brought in was bought at our store or not. Now we’re wondering if we should keep the return for exchange within 7 days policy or have to say all sales final.
    So, for anyone who was wondering, THAT is the other 5-10% of customers that ruin things and make stricter policies for everyone else.
    On a different day I went to volunteer and the front door of the shop was locked but besides that it looked open. There was a customer waiting outside. She followed me to my bicycle, asking what I was going to do, and if the shop was going to be opened. I told her I had no key and didn’t have the new manager’s number so there was nothing I could do. I left and came back and the shop was still closed. I called the shop number and couldn’t get through. The customer stayed right near, talking about how she needed to get ready for some party... I wasn’t listening. I didn’t have a key so I decided to just go home. She pointed out a dress to me through the window and insisted I hold it for her as soon as I got in. I said okay and was polite then left. I couldn’t believe she actually thought I cared. Of course I don’t care.
    One customer got my phone number and rang me on a Sunday afternoon. The shop is always closed on Sundays. I told her it was my personal number but she insisted on talking to me anyway. I cut her off saying, you can’t call me on this number, and hung up.
    ... #assholecustomers





About Ava Collopy

    Ava Collopy is from Oregon and lives in Dublin, Ireland.
    She’ls published in Sunlight in the Sanctuary, Re/ Verse, and others. Her website is: dreamscaperealities.weebly.com












Where There’s a Will...

Kimba Rose Williams

    “I’m sorry, but it’s been driving me bloody crazy. Have I met you somewhere before?”
    It takes Weston a moment before he realizes that the woman is talking to him. Not recognizing her voice, he turns towards her to tell her that, no, she hasn’t, only to stop short. Slowly, he says, “I... don’t know. You look awfully familiar. What’s your name?”
    “I’m Nancy. Nancy Yates? And yours? I’m sure it’ll help me remember,” the woman – Nancy – replies, holding out her hand.
    Weston shakes it whilst answering, “Weston Moss. And Nancy...? Sorry, not ringing any bells.”
    “Same here. But I’m sure that I’ve seen you before. Where did you go to secondary school?”
    “Cardiff. You?”
    “Westchester. Bollocks. I take it you grew up there? Or did you perhaps move?” Nancy hopped from foot to foot, shivering and blowing on her ungloved hands to keep them warm.
    “Born and raised, until I went to uni. Here, take these.” Weston pulls out a feminine pair of gloves and hands them to Nancy.
    “Oh no, I couldn’t!” She says, even as she tentatively accepts them.
    “Oh, don’t worry about it. My wife always forgets her gloves, so I’ve taken to carrying around an extra pair in each of my coats. It’s no bother, really.”
    “I’m the same way,” Nancy replies with a laugh as she pulls the gloves on. “How long have you two been married?”
    “Six years. Had our little Lucy right after.” Weston motions towards the front of the building where they’re standing, milling with other parents. “Seriously, what’s taking them so long? Class was supposed to be out twenty minutes ago, and it’s bloody freezing out here.”
    “I think they were having some sort of arts and crafts, show and tell sort of thing today. It’s probably running late.” Nancy shrugs and shoves her now-gloved hands into her coat pockets.
    Weston phone beeps, and he pulls it out to look at the screen. “Oh, good, my wife’s almost here. We’re going out for fish and chips after Lucy gets out.”
    “Sounds fun. Y’know, fun little fact, my little boy doesn’t like chips.”
    Weston grins. “Me neither! I always give mine to my wife or Lucy. Too oily.”
    “Get out!” Nancy laughs. “He says the same thing!”
    They laugh together companionable, before Weston has a thought. “You know, going back to my wife and our wedding... any chance you were there? God knows that my wife’s side of the family brought way too many plus-ones. Maybe you’re a friend of a friend... of a cousin’s cousin twice-removed’s roommate,” – Nancy laughs. Winking jokingly, he continues – “and we bumped into one another.”
    Still snickering, Nancy shakes her head. “No, the only wedding I’ve been to in the last six years was my sister Margaret’s; which was a disaster. If you were there, you’d remember me – I was the one who fell into the punch bowl.”
    Weston laughs while he shakes his head. “No, I definitely wasn’t there, although I wish that I was. Maybe it was at your wedding?”
    Nancy’s lips twist in a sardonic smile. “That’s not possible, because I’m not married.”
    Weston’s smile fades. “I’m sorry, I guess I...”
    “Assumed? Because I’m standing outside of a primary school, waiting to pick up my son?”
    “... Yes. I apologize.”
    The fight abruptly leaves Nancy, and she smiles sheepishly. “No, I apologize. Sorry, I guess I might have a bit of a chip on my shoulder. I don’t get the best of reactions when people find out I’m a single mum.”
    Weston shrugs. “My mum was single. She worked three jobs to provide for my two older sisters and me. I have nothing but respect for single mothers. If I’m not being too bold, what happened with the father?”
    A strange look came over Nancy’s face. Before she could say anything, though, a voice called out, “Weston? There you are. Has the class still not let out?”
    Weston turns and meets his wife with a kiss. He shakes his head and answers, “Not yet. Too much longer and I’m going in there to have some words with the teacher.” He turns towards Nancy. “Nancy, this is my wife, Laura. Laura, this is Nancy. We both recognize one another, but have no clue where from.”
    “It’s great to meet you,” Laura says as she shakes Nancy’s hand. And was it just Weston’s imagination, or did Nancy look a bit pale? “But I don’t think I’ll be of any help. I’m sure that I’ve never seen you before in my life, sorry.”
    “No problem,” Nancy whispers, voice choked, and now Weston is sure that something is off. But before he can enquire as to what is wrong, the doors open and the waiting parents are mobbed by their children.
    “Mummy! Daddy!” Weston laughs as he scoops up his excited, chattering daughter, Lucy. “Guess what? I made a new friend today!”
    “Really? And what’s her name?”
    “Daddy! My friend’s a boy! His name’s Will. Hi, Will!”
    “Hi, Lucy!” a child’s voice replies.
    Weston turns to where his daughter is waving, and sees Nancy zipping up a young boy’s coat and straightening his scarf.
    “Hello, Lucy’s daddy! I’m Will!” The little boy smiles a gap-toothed grin and waves his little mittened hand.
    Weston freezes. Those eyes... they are the exact color of his mother’s. And Will’s hair... it has the same widow’s peak as Weston’s, even though it is the color of his sister’s. And those dimples... they’re the same ones that he’d passed on to Lucy.
    Weston’s eyes shoot to Nancy’s, and he sees understanding, recognition, and fear in them. And Weston remembers.
    He remembers meeting his future wife at Imperial College.
    He remembers wanting to marry her as soon as he could, so he combined his graduation and bachelor’s party, so he could wed her the day after.
    He remembers going to the Golden Lion’s pub, and drinking far, far too much.
    He remembers meeting a freshman from King’s College London.
    He remembers giving her a false name.
    He remembers a drunken tryst in the back alley.
    He remembers running back into the pub to worship the porcelain god, where his mates found him.
    He remembers everything that he had allowed himself to forget.
    He remembers <>Iher.
    And from the shame and defiance on Nancy’s face, Weston can see that she remembers him, too.
    Nancy stands up with her hand on Will’s shoulder. “Goodbye, Charles. Fancy meeting you again.” And with that, she turns and walks away, taking her son – their son – with her.
    “Weston?” He barely hears his wife’s voice through the roaring in his ears. “Why did she call you by your middle name?”
    “Because...” it’s the name I gave her, he doesn’t say. As he watches Nancy walk away, his wife’s glove on the hand that she has resting in his son’s hair, he thinks of his own mother.
    He thinks of the countless hours that his mom worked, day in and day out. He thinks of the dream to create art she’d given up. Had Nancy, a pregnant college freshman, had to drop out? Had he cost her her dreams, as well? Should he go after her, apologize, try to make things right? Try to ease the burden he’d put on her shoulders?
    But then Weston looks down at his oblivious, smiling daughter. He looks at the confused, beautiful face of his wife. He looks at the life he’s built, the life they’ve built together. He thinks of their family, and of the extra bedroom in their house they hoped to fill soon.
    And Weston takes Laura’s hand, kisses Lucy’s chubby cheek, and smiles. “Let’s go out for some fish and chips.”
    And he walks away.
    The next day, Will isn’t in class. Nancy transferred him to another school. And even while his daughter mourns, all Weston can bring himself to feel... is relief.





Kimba Rose Williams bio (2016)

    Kimba Rose Williams currently studies Creative Writing in Orlando, Florida. She has dreamed of being an author since Kindergarten, and has aspirations of being a screenwriter and filmmaker. She adores all things Sherlock, has explored Middle Earth, and has a frankly ridiculous collection of quills and bottles of ink.












11947841, art by Wes Heine

11947841, art by Wes Heine
















A lost brother

Andria Weekes

    I was stuck in my car for 2 days straight. Ben, my partner, and I were staking out a guy who’d been robbing convenience stores. According to outside information, this store was apparently the next one on his list. Ben was sick of waiting, I was sick of waiting, but what could we do? It was our jobs as detectives. 9 am rolled around and that’s when I received a call. Ben sighs, “Just take the call here.” I nodded my head, and looked at my phone, unknown number. I picked up anyway.
    “I know what you did” the caller said, then immediately hung up the phone. What exactly did I do? I place my phone back in my pocket.
    “So who was it?” Ben asked.
    “No one.”
    For the next couple of weeks nothing particularly major happened. I carried on with my days like I usually would have. Was the call just a prank? Did they possibly have the wrong number? Either way I had to get the thought of it out of my mind, it didn’t seem as though they would be calling again. How wrong was I.
    The following month came around, and so did the caller. I’d remembered specifically when he called, it was the day I was promoted, September 9th. I was in the middle of having fun at my promotion party when my phone had vibrated in my pocket. Unknown number, just the same as the last time. I rushed to find a secluded place to answer the call.
    “I know what you did,” He’d said.
    “Who are you?”
    The caller hung up. So it was me he was after, but why? I hadn’t done anything wrong.
    I began taking note of when ever the caller called. Every month on the 9th, at 9 am he’d always call, saying the same thing every single time, then hanging up. I tried asking what he wanted, who he was, what was the thing that I did, but there was never an answer. This continued until April. The calls had suddenly stopped then, and I grew warry of what the caller was planning. Why did he suddenly stop? I’d only realized a little late. He was sending me a message. 9 was the key. He stopped at the 9th month he’d been calling. But what could 9 possible mean to me?
    It wasn’t until my 29th birthday that I had finally understood. My birthday was September 18th, but I never celebrated it. There was an event that happened back when I was 9 years old. On my birthday back then I remembered a fire breaking loose in the orphanage I stayed in. It was my fault, I was messing around with one of my birthday candles and a fire started. Everyone had made it out, or at least that was what I thought. Growing up I guess I’d blocked the truth about that day, about what had really happened.
    My phone rang, and I knew it was him. My hands shook as I saw the call was unknown, but I answered anyway. “I know what you –“
    “Derek I’m so sorry,” I said, my eyes filled with tears. There was silence. “My baby brother, I’m so sorr-,”
    “Shut it!” Derek said, but I pushed his anger aside.
    “Derek please listen to me, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to forget you. I didn’t mean to leave you.”
    “Stop it! That’s enough,” Derek said, “Who the hell do you think you are? You don’t get to cry, and you don’t get to say you’re sorry!”
    “Derek, just listen to me okay? Please, I’m your brother.”
    “You’re not my brother.” His shouting stopped, and Derek’s voice seemed more serious than angry. “The day you left me to die was the day you lost a brother, the day I lost a brother. You forgot me, erased me from your memories. How dare you call yourself my brother.”
    “Derek I didn’t mean to.” The call disconnected, and I was left sobbing on the floor.
    “Derek, my baby brother, I am so sorry,” I said, somehow hoping he would hear me. Hoping he would understand that I didn’t mean to. Hoping he would hear my cry, but why should he? I wasn’t there to hear his.












mirror

Janet Kuypers
haiku 2/17/14
video

I look and see all
that you’ve affected. The world,
this house. The mirror.



twitter 4 jk twitter 4 jk Visit the Kuypers Twitter page for short poems— join http://twitter.com/janetkuypers.
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the 9/27/12 6 Second Poems chapbook
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“6 Second Poems”,
w/ poems read on 9/27/14 WZRD 88.3 FM radio
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of Janet Kuypers reading her twitter-length haiku mirror as a looping JKPoetryVine video live live on WZRD Chicago radio 9/27/14 (Canon fs200)
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of Janet Kuypers reading her twitter-length haiku mirror as a looping JKPoetryVine video live live on WZRD Chicago radio 9/27/14 (Sony)
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of Janet Kuypers reading her twitter-length haiku mirror from ScarsDown in the Dirt ISBN Book the Relic, the Effort, the Yell as a looping JKPoetryVine video 10/15/16 (from a Samsung at B.B. Rover’s in Austin TX)


Read the Bio of Janet Kuypers.










Skritch Skritch

Kimba Rose Williams

    Theo held out his thumb as he heard another cruiser coming up behind him. It was really more habit at this point, as no one had stopped for him before. He didn’t blame them. After all, who trusts hitchhikers nowadays?
    But to his surprise, the cruiser slowed down as it passed him and then stopped. Theo quickly ran to catch up, and leaned in the passenger window. Theo had to work to hide his initial reaction – seriously, someone needed to tell this prospector that the beard trend had died in the 27th century.
    “Where ya headed, son?” the old man asked.
    “Cardiscotia, it’s a suburb inside of New Singjing,” Theo answered.
    The old man whistled. “Wow, that’s quite a distance to be walking. Thankfully, I’m headed that way for supplies. My outlet is right within the gates; you reckon you could make the rest of the way on your own?”
    “Definitely, thanks so much!” Theo hopped into the cruiser, and they were off. “So, I’m Theo.”
    “And you can call me Joey. So, what’s your story?”
    “Well... you want the long or the short of it?”
    “Oh, give me the long version. We’ve got quite a while to go yet; I doubt we’ll make it before they close the gates. We’ll probably have to camp outside of the city tonight.”
    “Alright then. Well... I guess you could say that this journey is my last chance.”
    Joey cocked his head. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
    Theo ran his fingers through his hair self-consciously. “I’d always been a ‘problem child’, y’know? I never got along well with my parents, and when I was seventeen I hacked my dad’s cruiser, a vintage Tesla GT9000,” – Joey whistled, impressed – “I know, right? Anyway, I ran away and lived a nice life off the money I made selling that cruiser. But ever since then my family hasn’t spoken a word to me. And that wouldn’t’ve been a big deal, except... well, my Uncle Quincy.”
    “Now what about him?”
    “He’s the only one who ever believed in me, see? Growing up, my sister was so perfect, and I was just a surprise that no one wanted. But my uncle, he was the only one who would remember my birthday, and who always told me that I was ‘destined for great things’. Y’know, all that crap that parents are supposed to tell you? He did. And somehow, it actually meant something. Anyway, he was really disappointed when he heard what I had done. And I was so... I dunno, ashamed? Scared of his reaction? I dunno, but I haven’t talked to him in years.”
    Joey looked confused. “So what does he have to do with you going to New Singjing? He ain’t dying, is he?”
    “Oh, no!” Theo laughed. “No, Uncle Quincy’s too spry to be dying any time soon. No, he called me up out of the blue the other day. I have no clue how he got my number. Anyway, he has this business where he sends explorers – he calls them his ‘Coterie’ – into other countries to collect and acquire rare artifacts for him. He normally has a Courier that brings them to his ‘Museum of Curiosities’, where he Curates them.”
    Joey nods like he understands, before pausing and shaking his head. “Sorry, kid, but you’ve lost me. What on earth does this have to do with you?”
    Theo laughs. “Well, my Uncle’s Courier recently, well... I dunno what happened. He probably just quit or something. Anyway, my Uncle said that this was my chance to do something with myself. He said that if I could transport this package” – here, he pats the backpack in his lap. It makes a dull metal sound – “safely to his Museum, then he would give me a job as his permanent Courier. I’m sure it’ll be rather dull, but I’ll get to travel and see Uncle, so I agreed right away.”
    “Huh. Well that’s a nice little set up that you got there. But that didn’t sound like no package that I’ve ever heard.” Joey nodded towards the backpack, making sure to keep an eye firmly on the road, even though there was no one for miles.
    “Ha, that’s because it isn’t,” Joey said as he unzipped his backpack and pulled it out. It truly was a thing of beauty. Shiny and silver, with glowing blue lines that crossed and bisected in beautiful, complex designs. There was no hinges or latches that Theo could see, so he assumed that it was some sort of fancy, oblong decoration or something.
    Theo looked over to see Joey’s reaction, and didn’t like the look in Joey’s eye. Theo quickly put the package back into his backpack.
    “Do you know what that is?! Your Uncle’s swindling you, boy! I know my metals, and that’s solid ohmium, I bet my beard on that. And I ain’t never seen markings like that before; that thing’s gotta be worth a fortune! Shoot, at least triple – no, quadruple – what you sold your father’s cruiser for! You could sell that thing and never have to work another day in your life!”
    Theo laughed nervously. “Well, I’m sure that’s why it belongs in the Museum. It’s probably a rare cultural piece from Atlantis or something; I dunno.”
    “Are ya daft, boy?! Are you really going to just hand that priceless treasure over to a barmy old coot who told you to hitchhike with it?!”
    “Yes.” Theo was surprised by how sure, how firm his own voice sounded. “I am. I made a promise, and I’m going to keep it.”
    Joey scoffed. “Whatever kid. Luck’s wasted on the young and stupid.”
    The rest of the trip was spent in uncomfortable silence. They arrived outside of the locked walls of the city, set up camp, and went to bed, all without saying a word.
    While Theo slept, he thought he heard a shuffling sound, then a hiss of released air, and finally a shout followed by a skritch skritch. Theo wondered what it was, but the unconscious mind is often more aware and wiser than the conscious one, and it told Theo to go back to sleep, which he did.
    The next morning Theo awoke to find the campsite vacant but for himself. Joey’s sleeping bag was empty, and the cruiser was still parked, without its keys. And, oddly, there was a knife on the ground next to... the package? When had he taken that out? After shoving it back into his backpack, he called around for Joey; but received no answer.
    Long after the gates had opened Theo looked, until finally he decided to check in the city. He stopped by the outlet store on his way in, but none of the employees had seen Joey. When he passed the police station Theo filled out a report, and decided to leave it at that. Joey was a stranger, after all; and there was only so much Theo could do.
    He finally made it to the Museum of Curiosities, and handed his Uncle the package. His Uncle beamed, and stroked the ohmium. Was Theo imagining it, or did the blue lines pulse back?
    “Do you know what this is, m’boy?” Uncle Quincy asked Theo.
    “No, Uncle,” he answered.
    “There’s an old legend, that says that the rightful owners of these Obelisks shall be blessed with protection and good fortune. But, to ensure that no one would try to steal them, within them sleeps a creature that will, shall we say... take care of all those with ill will or dishonest intentions. Ah well, it’s probably just an urban myth. Nevertheless, I’m proud of you, Theopolis.”
    “Oh, c’mon Uncle! No one calls me that!”
    But as Theo laughed and joked with his Uncle, he couldn’t help the cold shiver that tingled down his spine, as a half-remembered sound tickled the back of his mind:
    Skritch skritch.





Kimba Rose Williams bio (2016)

    Kimba Rose Williams currently studies Creative Writing in Orlando, Florida. She has dreamed of being an author since Kindergarten, and has aspirations of being a screenwriter and filmmaker. She adores all things Sherlock, has explored Middle Earth, and has a frankly ridiculous collection of quills and bottles of ink.












Cold Wind

Kazel Wood

    When the cold wind blows on by and sends shivers down your spine stand strong and have faith in yourself.
    “Caesar, we love you why can’t you be comfortable,” my mother says.
    “Mother it’s not that I doubt your love,” I say, “it’s that I doubt myself.”
    The cold wind blows into our house and makes me tremble. No matter how many coats I wear it still makes my hair stand on end. The cold wind can’t be stopped.
    “Caesar, please just go to school,” my father says.
    “I can’t I don’t feel well, I’m worried I’ll make everyone else sick,” I say.
    The cold wind makes my stomach grumble and churn. It makes my head weigh a ton and my thoughts turn against me.
    “Caesar, have confidence in yourself,” my brother says.
    “Why?” I say.
    “So that you can enjoy life more, don’t let everyone else control you.”
    The cold breeze makes me have so little power. It grinds my will to dust. It shatters my self-esteem.
    “Caesar, you are a smart lad, please just have faith in yourself,” my grandfather says.
    “Grandfather, my grades disagree with that,” I say.
    “Grades are a stupid way of showing intelligence.”
    “But grandfather the school says you aren’t smart if you have bad grades.”
    “Child when you have faith in your abilities and put work into your school your grades will rise. Remember child you are always smart in one way or another.”
    The cold wind makes me shake and shiver. It causes me to cower and seek shelter. Would a wall keep it out?
    “Derek, I’m worried about Caesar,” my mother says.
    “He’ll be fine just give him time,” my father says.
    “But he doesn’t have any close friends.”
    “Honey, he will be alright.”
    “If you say so.”
    The cold wind whittles me down to my bare essence. The wall I built doesn’t stop the wind, it just stops people from getting in.
    “Honey we should take him to a therapist,” my mother says.
    “I agree,” my father says.
    The cold wind is getting stronger every day. It might carry me away one day. It can sense my weakness. It howls and screams, almost sounding like its own form of laughter.
    “Hello, Caesar, my name is Marcus,” the therapist says.
    “Hello, Marcus,” I say, forcing a smile.
    “Now, I hear you’ve been having some issues.”
    “Well, I have some problems but none that I can’t handle.”
    The cold wind pushes me closer and closer to the abyss below. It churns and growls. It knows it’s winning. I cannot stand strong. The wind is too powerful.
    “Why haven’t you entered the abyss?” Marcus asks.
    “I love my family too much,” I say.
    “That’s good, now then why do you feel close to this abyss?”
    “I feel close do to the wall I built.”
    “Can you break the wall?”
    The cold wind is scared, I can hear its moans and cries. It pushes me harder than ever. Trying to push me into the abyss.
    I am so tempted to let it.
    “Caesar, I am here for you, just tell me what is wrong,” Marcus says.
    “I don’t know what’s wrong, I just can’t tell anymore,” I say.
    “Well, then I can’t help you as much as I would want to.”
    “Well, then I apologize for the inconvenience I have caused.”
    “Caesar, you aren’t an inconvenience to me, you are a mystery to me.”
    “A mystery?”
    “You clearly love everyone you meet but are incapable of loving yourself. Why?”
    “I don’t see what there is for me to love anymore.”
    The cold wind has taken me and forced me into the abyss. I caught the edge. If I let go, the cold wind can’t reach me. I can feel the abyss and how it greets me with open arms, but if I let go I lose my family.
    “Don’t do it, Caesar, please,” my mother says.
    I can see her tears run down her face as she stares at me about to fall into the abyss.
    “Caesar, I love you now please don’t do it,” my father says.
    He holds my mother and brother. His warm hugs always protected me from the cold wind, but they were fleeting and temporary protection.
    The cold wind pushes at my hands try to make me let go. Maybe I should just let go and get it over with.
    “Caesar, please just come back to us we can help you get through this,” my brother says.
    We used to have so much fun playing games and chasing each other. That was before the cold wind found me.
    The cold wind is egging me on. It howls with laughter, seeing it is about to triumph. I see all these warm hands trying to pull me from the abyss. I see how they are all immune to the cold wind. How can they not feel the harshness of the wind?
    “Caesar, I need you to help me solve the mystery,” Marcus says.
    “What mystery?” I say, looking down from the building I’m on.
    “The mystery of you.”
    I see Marcus by my side in the abyss. He is holding onto me protecting me from the cold wind. The cold wind howls in anger.
    “Okay, but what about everyone else,” I say
    “Ignore them, they don’t choose how you live,” Marcus says.
    With that, the cold wind dwindles into a light breeze. I rise from the abyss and meet my loved ones. I feel the warmth flow through me and I rejuvenate back to myself before the cold wind found me. I stand strong and begin to have faith in myself. As the cold wind leaves me seeking new prey. To them, I say when the cold wind blows on by and sends shivers down your spine stand strong and have faith in yourself.












end

Janet Kuypers
haiku 2/15/14
video

a small child fears death —
they hide science books on sun
and earth’s future end



twitter 4 jk twitter 4 jk Visit the Kuypers Twitter page for short poems— join http://twitter.com/janetkuypers.
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her twitter-length haiku end live 2/26/14 at the open mic the Café Gallery in Chicago (C)
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See Vine video of Janet Kuypers performing her poem end (originally in her books Partial Nudity and 100 Haikus) live 12/17/14 at Chicago’s open mic the Café Gallery (Canon)
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See Vine video of Janet Kuypers performing her poem end (originally in her books 100 Haikus and Partial Nudity) live 12/17/14 at Chicago’s open mic the Café Gallery (Sony, posterize)
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See Vine-styled video through facebook of Janet Kuypers reading her haiku “end” in Scars PublicationsDown in the Dirt v139 Book “the Relic, the Effort, the Yell” at Angeli’s in NOLA 10/29/16.


Read the Bio of Janet Kuypers.










Needles of the Heart

Gabriel Valdez

    The kettle’s whistle blared through Charles’ apartment like a train horn. His old, beaten chair made a sad creak as he got up and walked no more than four steps to turn off the stove. He opened a cupboard door to grab a tea bag, only to have it come off on him.
    Great, another thing I have to fix, he thought.
    He set the rusted door on the counter, and poured the steaming water into his already placed cup. After putting the tea bag into the brew, Charles’ phone rang.
    “Hello?” said Charles with fatigue in his voice.
    “Hello, may I speak to Charles?” asked a soft voice on the other end.
    “Speaking.”
    “Hi, I’m a nurse here at Redmoore Hospital and I’m calling to update you on Margaret. Your wife’s con-”
    “She’s not my wife,”
    “Sorry sir...your ex-wife. Her condition is only getting worse, and the hepatitis C isn’t something the doctors think she will survive. ”
    “How long does she have?”
    “They say she only has a couple weeks at best.”
    “Will that be all, Miss?” Charles said in a hurried tone.
    “Margaret keeps asking to see you. We implore you to consider visiting her sometime soon, while she can still speak.”
    “I’ll think about it,” he said. “Thank you for calling.”
    “Alright sir. Have a good night.”
    “You too.”
    Click
    Charles went back to sitting in his old chair, but it wasn’t the same comfort he felt before the call. He closed his eyes and envisioned his ex-wife, and all the memorable times they had together. He remembered when they met and how shy they were at first. He smiled thinking about their first date, and how it evolved into a marriage. The rest of his visions recalled fights over her old habits returning, and time they never spent together. Her livid, slurred voice was still clear as day in his head, but her face was but a blur.
    He got up once more, and swiped off a paper plate, stained napkins, and an empty, cheap whiskey bottle off of a nearby box. As he removed the lid, a light dust attacked his face, and he made a few, pathetic coughs as it found its way into his lungs. He rummaged through to find a ring box.
    “Still empty,” he thought to himself as he opened the box. He hoped by some miracle that his dead mother’s ring would still be in there.
    He set the box aside and picked up a broken photo frame, and her face was now clear in his head. He had forgotten the way she smiled, the way her eyes seemed to glow that only he seemed to notice. The small instant of nostalgia that filled his heart was soon overwritten with why he was here in the first place.
    Charles had worked grueling hours each week with little time to devote to his wife. Margaret always said she supported him and his dream, and he tried to show his affection when he could. He remembered how happy she was to see him after long hours, and how that soon turned into arguments. Charles worked all his life to one day provide for someone he loved, and would be crushed when Margaret would say, “You love work more than your own wife!”
    Charles still loved her despite this. She was the first person to show genuine interest in him, and not in his studies or potential wealth. Margaret, however, began to slip into her old routine, and started shooting up to enjoy herself again. When Charles found out, the bills for rehab started piling up, but all the money in the world would not help her if Charles wasn’t there for her most of the time.
    Throughout the last months of their marriage, Charles froze his wife’s bank account to stop her from continuous drug purchases. This backfired when Margaret sold his mother’s ring to a dealer so she could satisfy her insatiable craving for the sweet release of dopamine. When Charles found out, his rage was indescribable. Margaret pleaded with him for forgiveness, but he never forgave her for betraying his trust so greatly.
    The end of his marriage left his life in shambles and with little money for himself. Charles vowed to never speak to Margaret again, but she would still call sometimes during her trips to apologize. She still wished to speak to him even when the calls started coming from the hospital.
    Charles snapped back to reality. He emerged from his crouch, foot still asleep, and limped to his car. As he got in, the words, I don’t know if I’m ready yet, echoed as a few tears that weighed more than the world cascaded down his face.
    He staggered back inside, and looked over at his tea cup which contained a dark, slightly opaque liquid in it. He removed the soggy bag from the mixture and watched his reflection drop tears into his cup. When he could no longer make out his own face, he took a drink. The tea had gotten cold.





Gabriel Valdez Bio (Spring 2016)

    Gabriel Valdez is currently enrolled at Full Sail University for Creative Writing, and hopes to one day touch millions of hearts and minds around the world with his work. He has been published before in Down in the Dirt Magazine, and often times finds himself daydreaming, or forgetting his train of thought in favor of another.












Island of the Misfit Boys

Maximilian Weihe

    “Hey, new kid. What’s your name again?”
    “Jamie. You?”
    “Colton, but you can call me Colt. Say, why are you sitting in the sandbox alone?”
    I tighten my grip around the wooden walls that keeps me safe. “Felt like it,” I murmur.
    “That’s cool, I guess. Mind if I join you?”
    I was never given a chance to answer. Colt plops down across from me, causing sand particles to thicken the air and grizzle against my skin.
    “What’s it like?” Asks Colt.
    “What’s what like?” I reply.
    “What’s it like being blind?”
    “I dunno. What’s it like being whatever is wrong with you?” I ask.
    “How do know something is wrong with me? Can you see me?” replies Colt.
    “No, I still can’t see.”
    “Then how do you know something is wrong with me?”
    “We’re in the same class aren’t we?”
    “Oh, yeah. And for the record there is nothing wrong with me. My doctor says I’m special.”
    Even though I can’t see, I can hear the grin in his statement.
    “So what makes you so special?” I ask.
    “Can you...” Colt’s voice lowers to a whisper. “Keep a secret?”
    “Sure.”
    “I’m part robot. I’m a cyborg.”
    “Prove it,” I say.
    “Okay. Hold out your hand and prepare to be amazed.”
    Cold, hard fingers greet my hand and dance in my palm. I run my hand up his arm, examining the odd smoothness of his prosthetic. I continue to move up his arm until the terrain changes to his shoulder, wrinkled but filled with warmth. The scars almost burn my fingertips. Chills run throughout my arm and I pull back.
    “Keep going. There’s more.”
    Colt grabs my hand and places it on his face. At first his face seems normal: a mouth, a nose, eyes, the usual stuff. Above his right eyebrow I find the beginning of a trail. My finger tips sway in and out of the crevice as the cracks on the side of his head splinter and I’m greeted by a metal plate where the back of his skull should be. Colt laughs at the shocked look on my face.
    “Told you I was a cyborg,” he says.
    “What’s a cyborg doing in Elementary School?” I ask.
    “I’m only part robot. Hey, do you want to play a game?”
    “As long as it’s not catch,” I say.
    “I have an idea, be right back.”
    Colt prances out of the sandbox splashing sand into the air once again as his foot steps trail off into the distance. Within moments I hear his steps getting louder as he makes his return to the sandbox.
    “Smile for me, will ya?”
    “Why?”
    “You’ll find out soon enough,” says Colt.
    I do what was asked of me and smile. I feel a quick flash of warmth touch my face and a series of clicks and hums coming from where Colt is.
    “Jamie, hold out your hand?”
    “Again?” I ask.
    “Come on, hold out your hand.”
    Colt places what feels like a rectangular piece of paper in my palm. I run my fingers across the top side feeling a slick gloss and on the back I feel just paper.
    “What is it?” I ask.
    “It’s a picture of you, Jamie.”
    “Um, thanks? I can’t see it though.”
    “I know. I’m going to be your eyes. It’s part of the game,” says Colt.
    “What’s the name of this game?” I ask.
    “Sight.”





Maximilian Weihe bio (2016)

    Maximilian Weihe is a college student majoring in creative writing at Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida. Max hopes to one day write for video games, film and all things entertainment. During his free time, Max enjoys fighting crime, being really awesome, and lying to boost his self-esteem.












labor

Janet Kuypers
haiku 2/15/14
video

with child labor, does
that mean someone has to die
for my own comfort?



twitter 4 jk twitter 4 jk Visit the Kuypers Twitter page for short poems— join http://twitter.com/janetkuypers.
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her twitter-length haiku labor live 2/26/14 at the open mic the Café Gallery in Chicago (C)
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See a Vine video of Janet Kuypers reading her twitter-length haiku labor as a looping JKPoetryVine video live 2/26/14 at the open mic the Café Gallery in Chicago (C)
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See a Vine video of Janet Kuypers reading her twitter-length haiku labor 12/1/16 as a looping JKPoetryVine video in Scars PublicationsDown in the Dirt v139 9/10 2016 issue/book “the Relic, the Effort, the Yell”.


Read the Bio of Janet Kuypers.










The Boiler Room

Emily Manno

    Rick’s mind was abuzz with emotions. Fear, anger, alarm and dread seemed to be at the top, feeding away at his mind with what ifs and possible outcomes of the dilemma he was in. He was surrounded by complete and total darkness, slowly suffocating him. His own ragged breathing and the heavy, hurried footsteps from above were the only things he could hear.
    Thump, thump, thump, thump...
    He was on his knees and sweating profusely with his hands before him cuffed to an electrical box. From a different angle it might have looked like he was praying. His wrists were blistered and raw from the tightness of the cuffs and duct tape was wrapped clumsily around his head like tinsel on a Christmas tree, zigzagging over his eyes and mouth.
    Sweat leaked out of every pore in his body. His sense of timing was off. It could have been minutes or hours or days since he had been thrust into the humid room.
    He had trained himself to stop attempting to open his eyes. What little he had for eye lashes would stick to the tape, making his eyes stay wide open and water at the very close sight of silver. They would stay like this for several minutes until he could successfully blink again and keep himself in darkness. He was sure he would stay like this forever. No one ever came down to the boiler room in an art museum.
    The tape pulled the whiskers on his face painfully with any movement he made. Drool poured out of his mouth in an attempt to soothe his chapped lips that were stuck in a kiss to the tape. The tape around his tired mouth began to loosen from the wet stickiness.
     Hope jumped from his stomach to his throat. If he could get his mouth out from under the tape he could call for help! He stretched his jaw as far as it would go, trying to get his mouth open. The tape stretched slightly but was too thick and clung onto the little hairs on the corner of his mouth and the sensitive bit of skin between his nose and upper lip. From under the blindfold of glue, his eyes watered and a groan tore throughout his body, muffled by the inability to let it out through his mouth.
    A warm wetness spread down his leg like a long lasting lick from a large dog. He could smell the unmistakable stench of ammonia as it crept further and further. The stink resonated in his nose and slowly slid to the back of his throat. His blinded eyes squeezed shut as it unsettled something within him, and his earlier dinner of tuna casserole rocketed from his stomach in an acidy form to his mouth. He jerked his head violently despite the protest of every stinging pore on his face as the vomit flew forcibly through his nose and recoiled back down to his stomach.
    Small particles of vomit dangled from Rick’s nose. He blew through his nose desperately trying to get it off, not wanting to stand another smell upsetting him. He could still taste it.
    A whimper trembled throughout his body.
    Tears sprouted from the corners of his eyes when the heavy footsteps he had grown accustomed to had faded, and slowly stopped altogether. Had they left? Was he being rescued? Had anyone heard him?
    His breath caught in his throat, his ears strained to hear the thud thud thud thud of someone walking above him...
    Nothing.
    Dying in the boiler room sounded like a better fate than dealing with the consequences of his foolish actions. He would have to live with this forever. He certainly would never get hired anywhere ever again.
    He remained completely still. And waited...
    And waited...
    And waited...












escape

Janet Kuypers
haiku 2/15/14
video

you can feel my rush
chilling your teeth. Lick your lips.
You can’t escape me.



twitter 4 jk twitter 4 jk Visit the Kuypers Twitter page for short poems— join http://twitter.com/janetkuypers.
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading (C) her poem escape from her “Partial Nudity” book release feature live 6/18/14 at Chicago’s open mic the Café Gallery
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading (S) her poem escape from her “Partial Nudity” book release feature live 6/18/14 at Chicago’s open mic the Café Gallery
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See YouTube video
of the Janet Kuypers book release feature “Partial Nudity” (S, CONTAINING THIS HAIKU) live 6/18/14 at Chicago’s open mic the Café Gallery
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See a Vine video
of Janet Kuypersescape haiku 6/4/15 (derived from her poem the muse, the messiah) @ the gazebo (Motorola)
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of Janet Kuypers reading her poem Escape live 7/22/15 at the open mic the Café Gallery in Chicago, from the October 2009 v201 issue of cc&d (filmed with a Canon fs200)
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See YouTube video
of Janet Kuypers reading her poem Escape live 7/22/15 at the open mic the Café Gallery in Chicago, from the October 2009 v201 issue of cc&d (filmed with a Canon Power Shot)
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See YouTube video of Joffre Stewart reading Janet Kuypers’ poem Escape from the October 2009 v201 issue of cc&d magazine live 9/14/15 at the open mic Weeds in Chicago (filmed w/ a Canon fs200 video camera).


Read the Bio of Janet Kuypers.










Just Another Day At The Sandy Dunes Beach View Hotel

Scott Mahoney

    “You look like hell,” she said.
    “Thank you,” he said.
    “For what?” She asked.
    “I didn’t think you’d come... I mean after everything I put you through.”
    “How could I not? Don’t get me wrong, I still hate you.”
    “But, you’re here....”
    “You said on the phone you needed to see me. Why? And why here of all places?”
    “Here because this is where it began, you and I, that is. Here is where we met on the beach, you were lying on a blue and white beach towel tanning and my beach ball hit you in the face and I ran over and told you to pay better attention. Here is where you launched a handful of sand at my face and chased me down the board walk. Where we had our first drinks together, I did shots and you sipped Amaretto Sours all night. Where you laid in my arms and kissed me on the mouth for the first time. This very room is where we came to celebrate our wedding and made our first little girl.”
    “I remember all that. If you brought me here to reminisce I think I’ll pass. I’ll be going now.”
    She grabbed her knock off coach and began to stand up from the weave patio chair. He reached for her arm.
    “You can’t leave. That’s not why we’re here.”
    “So what is it then?”
    “I asked you to meet me here because I wanted to say goodbye... on my terms. And, this place - where it all started - there is no better place for it to end.”
    “I haven’t seen or heard from you in 2 months and this is how you want to say goodbye? Now? What a joke.”
    She started toward the balcony door, it was already cracked open. Her hand on the handle.
    “I’m dying.” he said.
    She stood still hand on the door handle. She stood and stood. The waves of the ocean crashed onto the beach, dark clouds shifted in front of the high noon sun, a far off whistle blew and drifted through the wind.
    “What?” she said turning around.
    “I found out when I left. I didn’t want to put you and the girls through that.”
    “What?”
    “I have cancer. Brain cancer. Inoperable. They said I had no more than 6 months left. There was a new experimental treatment that the doctors said I could try that would make it maybe a year, year and a half at the most.”
    “So you’re in treatment?” she asked retaking her seat.
    “No. It’s too expensive. I couldn’t put that kind of burden on the family.”
    “But you could leave without saying a word to anyone? I didn’t even know what to tell your daughters. They think this was their fault.”
    “I left them a note, its in the top drawer of my desk. It explains everything, I didn’t want them to read it until after I was gone.”
    “You are so selfish. I cannot believe you.”
    “I did this for us. All of us. No treatment, no suffering in front of my family, no financial burden you can’t escape from.”
    “You did this for you. Did you ever take in to consideration what I would want? What the girls would want?”
    “I want them to remember me as the father that took them to the zoo and let them feed the ducks in the park. Not the father that lost his hair from Chemo and lays in bed all day and smokes weed. They’re my daughters too. And this is my life. Don’t you understand? I have the say in how it ends. How I am remembered.”
    “I’m not sure I see it that way. I don’t think the girls will either.”
    “I’m sorry. I wrote you a letter too. I couldn’t bring myself to send it, so I brought it here for you.”
    He placed a vanilla envelope on the table and slid it to her. The man stood up and walked through the balcony door and to the bed. He stood there and stared at it as the clock ticked. He continued to the room door and on his way out he looked back and his eyes met hers - dilated. He mouthed the words “I love you,” and waved, letting the door shut behind him.
    She opened the envelop and several bands of hundreds fell poured out with a long letter. The last line read “Thank you for such a wonderful life my love.” Her face collapsed into her hands.












free

Janet Kuypers
haiku 2/28/14
video

I ain’t got money
and what do you mean to me
when nothing’s for free



twitter 4 jk twitter 4 jk Visit the Kuypers Twitter page for short poems— join http://twitter.com/janetkuypers.
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See YouTube video (C) of Jerry Pendergast reading the Janet Kuypers haiku free in the “Partial Nudity” book release show 6/18/14 at Chicago’s the Café Gallery
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See YouTube video (S) of Jerry Pendergast reading the Janet Kuypers haiku free in the “Partial Nudity” book release show 6/18/14 at Chicago’s the Café Gallery
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See Vine video of Janet Kuypers performing her poem free (originally in her books Partial Nudity and 100 Haikus) live 12/17/14 at Chicago’s open mic the Café Gallery (Canon)
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See Vine video of Janet Kuypers performing her poem free (originally in her books 100 Haikus and Partial Nudity) live 12/17/14 at Chicago’s open mic the Café Gallery (Sony, posterize)
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See a Vine video of Janet Kuypers reading her twitter-length haiku free 12/2/16 as a looping JKPoetryVine video in Scars PublicationsDown in the Dirt v139 9/10 2016 issue/book “the Relic, the Effort, the Yell”.


Read the Bio of Janet Kuypers.










Casual Tuesday

Jo Thomoson

    I have a strong, passionate love for peanut M&M’s. They’re like little pieces of heaven in a plastic wrapping. It was a casual Tuesday night and I had decided to spend it at the movies with my beloved peanut M&M’s. My buns were sat comfortably on my seat. A man dressed in muted colors sat next to me. Everything about this man screamed ordinary, except for the extreme amount of uncomfortable vibes I was receiving from him. The lights began to dim and the movie was about to start. The man began to feel underneath the armrest of his seat. Anyone with common sense knows that underneath an armrest of a chair at the movies exists an underworld of boogers and chewed gum. I don’t know what this man was looking for, but he found something very realistic. He found a piece of chewed gum delicately coated in dried saliva. Once the piece of gum was upon this man’s hand he began to scream violently. He flailed his arms as if he was on a rollercoaster at a theme park. The gum eventually left his hand and fell in the most holy place possible. This man flung a wad of someone’s sugar-free dirty little secret directly into my bag of wonderful chocolate covered orbs.
    This man turned to me and with a slight snort and a little giggle, he said, “I’m sorry.”
    The nonchalant attitude of the man caused my innards to feel like they were on fire. A series of questions ran through my head. How should I respond? What is my comeback? Do I seek revenge on this individual? Or do I simply brush off this chip on my shoulder?  “No,” I whispered. I stood up and poured my foiled snack on this pathetic excuse for a human being, and with a large amount of sarcasm I said, “I’m sorry.”





Jo Thomoson bio (2016)

    Jo Thomoson is currently enrolled in the Creative Writing for Entertainment program at Full Sail University in Orlando, Florida. She has aspirations of being a lead game writer within a team of game developers. She has an unhealthy obsession with scented candles, is deathly afraid of cockroaches, and enjoys drinking hot coffee during cold mornings.












The Phone was Ringing

Jaron Camp

    The phone rang at 9:00 AM just as it had done every day for the past two weeks. Jax sat at his kitchen table with a cup of coffee anticipating this new morning routine. He remembered how shaken he was the first time he had answered the phone, not knowing what to think.
    “I know what you did,” said the caller that first morning before hanging up.
    Was this a prank call, or was this someone who knew? About a month before the calls started Jax hacked into someone’s offshore account, and had stolen a large sum of money. Had I made a mistake? Did I finally cross the wrong person? By the third morning, Jax was certain it wasn’t a prankster. Someone had found out, and now they were waiting for him to slip up. From then on he tried to keep them on the phone.
    “I know what you did,” said the caller. However, they would wait a few more seconds each time before hanging up.
    “Who are you, and what do you know?” “What do you want?” asked Jax.
    No answer, the caller hung up every time. Jax prided himself on being smarter than most, always staying a few steps ahead of everyone. Day after day the calls came at the same time, and this morning was no different.
    Jax put down his coffee as he answered the phone, “Hello.”
    “I know what you did.”
    “Stop hiding behind a phone, and tell me who the Hell you are!”
    Once again the only response was a click on the other end. Jax smiled as he sipped his coffee. The day before he purchased a new app that tracks the location of blocked or private numbers. The caller only needed to stay on the phone for a few seconds for the trace to work.
    “He may know what I did...but he has no idea what I’m about to do.” He tucked a gun in his pants, put on his jacket, and walked out the door. Jax prided himself on being smarter than most, always staying a few steps ahead of everyone.












When God Comes to Brannon, Ohio

Nathan Driscoll

    The descent of the orange and black streamers painted the stage until not a speck of brown wood was visible. The stage resembled a large striped beacon in front of a backdrop of partly cloudy sky and timbered hills. The logging trucks hadn’t yet reached the few knolls around town, keeping their laser straight trees available for viewing pleasure until the hills would inevitably decline into barrenness. And then there were the lingering cardboard floats that had been parked up the street after the parade’s conclusion. A herd of giant buffalo, just the pageant for that neck of the woods. Overkill perhaps, but Gladys Reen and her band of party planners were never the modest type. Especially not on the day where gravity in Brannon, Ohio quintupled and sucked most occupants of the town and surrounding area to the same square.
    People kept pouring down Main Street into the square, those who had to miss the parade due to a necessary half-day of work. A whiff of fresh sawdust from the men who’d been busy downing trees mixed with the smell of hamburger grease on the catering crew from Shelley’s Diner. They could shower later, for they wouldn’t dare miss the year’s main event. Each breath in the crowd of fifteen hundred was stunted with anticipation for the coming finale.
    “So here we are,” Mayor Wacom said into the microphone. He was a man of little height to begin with, yet he looked like a dwarf on the massive, now-colorful stage. “The moment you have been waiting for.”
    The fidgets intensified while Mr. Mayor paused to revel in the squirming. He took another breath, enjoying the sight of the white geometric buildings around the square. He loved his time in the sun each year, as no date rivaled August 23rd in number of ears tuning into his raspy voice. Not a surprise for a mayor whose campaign consisted of walking into town hall, jotting down his name, and returning three hours later to accept the position.
    “It’s time,” he finally continued. “For you to see once again my friend...your Super Bowl winning quarterback...our pride and joy, Rye Brannon!”
    Jesus Himself could’ve walked from behind the curtain onto that stage and not have sparked a more boisterous reaction. Every step those thick long legs took toward Mayor Wacom pushed the crowd’s volume to a new level. Those blue eyes, that smile, that flowing blonde hair crawling down to a pair of shoulders that were well acquainted with the weight room. And he even wore his game jersey to boot, orange and black matching the streamers. Brannonians jumped for it, clambered over each other for it. By the time he reached the microphone, the span of the crowd had shrunk three-fold.
    “Thank you Mr. Mayor,” he said in his silky smooth baritone voice. He shook Wacom’s hand so hard that the toupee covering his scalp rattled, nearly flying off into the first row. Mr. Mayor then walked off the stage to readjust his doo and leave the spotlight for Brannon’s true leader, its namesake. “And thank y’all!” he shouted to his congregation with a fist in the air. “This is louder than any Bruisers game I’ve ever heard!”
    The roars heightened further. The most permanent and gentle smile to ever grace the state of Ohio kept adding fuel to the frenzy. Most hands were elevated, reaching, trying to get their fingers as close to him as possible. Most hands, not all. There was a set of dark brown hands near the mob’s center, very large for their age, that were instead holding a simple flimsy photograph. Those hands and that photo belonged to Spondike DePriest. He was wearing an identical jersey to Rye Brannon’s, with the black stripes accenting well the similarly colored hair curling up from his scalp. The only difference was that his jersey was purchased online instead of plucked out of Rye’s locker in Cincinnati.
    Though he didn’t have pure authentic gear draping him or an army of fans, Spondike DePriest was certainly a sensation in his own right. He had the freshest legs and the strongest arm in Brannon since the set surrounding the microphone. A five foot ten dump truck capable of running over any thirteen year old who stepped onto the field with him. Not as lauded as Rye was at that age, but equally as lethal.
    “Spondike move over!” his friend and classmate Jason Mills shouted. “I can’t see.” Jason was the slightest of stature at Brannon Middle School, the David to Spondike’s Goliath. Every boy in the class huddled in their section, and somehow tiny Jason found himself in the back.
    “Take a good look,” Spondike said, letting his buddy nudge by. “Ten years that’ll be me. Me and Rye up there on that stage together.” He gripped the photo in his hand even tighter while Rye inched one of his massive arms toward the microphone. The crowd quieted. Nobody wanted to miss a word.
    “You know,” Rye began. “I still remember when my father called me and told me that they were going to make this glorious August day Rye Brannon Day. Now on our fifth one, and it still don’t feel real. I didn’t do anything to deserve this, and I definitely couldn’t have done it without y’all.”
    “We love you Ryland!” The anonymous female voice lit another flame under the spectators, Spondike and his friends included.
    “I love you too,” Rye said after a chuckle. He ran a few bashful fingers through his blonde hair. “Wow. Not even my mom calls me Ryland anymore.”
    “Did you know his real name was Ryland?” Timmy Butler, another student, asked Spondike down in the pit. “You know everything about him. Did you know?”
    “Shut up, Timmy,” Spondike said. The order wasn’t out of disgust but out of his fixation on the stage. Even phenoms had idols, and who better to pick than the man he hoped to one-day join.
    “This town,” Rye said from his platform. He glanced at the surrounding buildings, most of which weren’t any larger than the stage. They were the same structures that had always loomed over Brannon’s people, and they were beginning to show their age. The twelfth coat of white paint was chipping off of many of them. “This town is my heart. You guys taught me, cheered for me, laughed with me, cried with me...I still remember Mrs. Reen’s Sunday school class when I was little. Great work by the way on the parade.” He paused and blew a kiss to the elderly Mrs. Reen on the bottom right of the stage. Those old elated eyes closed and two hands fell over her heart after the affection from her favorite student. “Each lesson sure made me think. Especially the one she taught us about how God labored for six days to create universe and rested on the seventh. I never really understood why God had to rest on the seventh day. He’s God for goodness sakes! He doesn’t need rest, does He?”
    A chorus of laughs rang from below before resettling.
    “Now I know why,” he continued. “Lookin’ out at y’all. God had to rest on that seventh day to save His energy. He needed to save it so He could convince my great, great granddaddy Tom Brannon to move up from Mississippi and help him build this place. To bless Brannon with His almighty hand. I see God in y’all, each and every one of you.”
    Spondike lowered his eyes while the crowd’s volume elevated once again. He looked down at his dark brown skin. It was a vibrant darkness God had specially given to him, and he knew it. He then scanned the surrounding people, taking in the yellow logger’s gloves, aprons, dirty jeans, and modest homely tops of those who hadn’t bothered to change. They didn’t share his brown skin, his special darkness, and they didn’t sparkle like the occupants of his television set. But there were good honest faces around, soft and inviting. They too had God in them, and they had Rye Brannon.
    “Hey y’all,” Rye then announced. “With all the help y’all have given me, it doesn’t feel quite right for me to stand up here all alone. So I’m going to bring someone up very special to me. This man. This man taught me more about football than anyone. He taught me to play the game, and cared about me before I could even grip the ole pigskin. Y’all know who I’m talkin’ bout. C’mon up Coach McPhee!”
    “Hey, he’s talking about coach!” Young Paul Nathan grew excited at the name’s mention. “Look! Look, Spondike, there he is!” He tugged at the loose shoulders of Spondike’s jersey.
    Coach Bill McPhee shuffled from behind a curtain onto the stage, long socks, short shorts and all. He also donned a visor, shades, and a tightly fitting polo?–classic decor for an old school football coach.
    “Coach!” Rye exclaimed before hugging the man who barely reached his shoulders.
    “Yat, hey there Rye.” Typical Coach McPhee talk, as he was never one to get too ecstatic, even when next to one of the greatest players on Earth in the sport he loved.
    “I can’t believe Coach is pals with Rye damn Brannon,” Spondike said to his friends. “We need to grill him on it next practice.”
    “Sure do.”
    “No doubt.”
    There wasn’t much argument from the awe-stricken eighth graders.
    “This guy’s a miracle worker,” Rye said to the crowd, holding his arm around Coach and slapping the bill on Coach’s visor. “Found me as a lanky, uncoordinated ten year old and had me throwing perfect spirals into the end zone by freshman year at Brannon High. Y’all remember those four great years for the Brannon Buffaloes, don’t you?”
    Another cheer erupted. The memory of three consecutive state championships can have that effect on people. Spondike wasn’t old enough to see those days, but he’d have plenty touchdowns of his own to score in the Ohio high school football ranks. Freshman year couldn’t reach him fast enough.
    “I remember the Levinson Valley game,” Rye said with a playful sigh. “Right there on that field fifty yards from us. I just didn’t have my stuff that night. But I still heard the cheers through the good and the bad plays. God flowed through you guys in the stands, out onto the field, and straight into my soul. We wouldn’t have won that night without you. Remember that coach?”
    “Course,” Coach said into the microphone. “You couldn’t hit shit that day.”
    Coach and Rye laughed at the joke in front of a mumbling, dull audience. Insulting Rye Brannon, even in a joking capacity, was blasphemous.
    “What about y’all!?” Rye then yelled. “Y’all remember that win over Levinson!” That elicited a far more positive reaction. “So Coach. Now that I have you up here on the hot seat, how are your Peewee’s looking this year. You know I hate us losing to Levinson, even if it’s just the youngin’s.”
    Coach reached down and pulled up his calf-huggers a bit further. “Won’t have to worry bout losing to Levinson this year. Not as long as Spondike DePriest steps onto that field on game day. Spondike, where ya at son? I know you’re here.”
    Spondike froze, statuesque after processing his name over the loud speakers.
    “Here Coach!” Timmy Butler shouted. “Here!”
    “Wow,” Coach said after locating the yells. “Most the team came out.”
    Coach wasn’t the only one busting with curiosity, as Spondike stood helpless while some eyes in the crowd collapsed in on him. Some of the spectators he recognized, some he didn’t. The moment he’d imagined and prepared for was on him faster than expected. There was even a very special set peering down at him from the stage. Rye Brannon, too, was attentive. Spondike squeezed the photo so tightly it was ready to tear at a moment’s notice.
    “Most of you already heard the name,” Coach said, pointing at his new star quarterback. “But there he is. One of the best ballplayers in the entire nation for his age.”
    It began with a few claps from his classmates then built and built. The hands of Brannon were colliding again along with hoots and hollers not for the MVP of last February’s Super Bowl, but for an eighth grader. A stunning feat no matter the thickness of the eighth grader’s legs.
    Rye smiled. “Good luck on your journey, Spondike. Let’s keep doing this town proud.”
    Spondike, inflating by the second, stared at the stage at the enormous man who’d just addressed him personally. “I will if you will!” A few random heads chuckled over the challenge.
    “You’ve got a deal, buddy,” Rye answered. “Coach McPhee and Spondike DePriest everybody!”
    Another applause followed, one that Spondike enjoyed much more vigorously. He took a hand off of the photo and offered a wave to those smiling around him. They’d be the voices willing him to the end zone for the next five years, after all. His true nature of a showman was poking through.
    “Dude!” Jason shouted to Spondike over the ovation. “You need to go meet Rye after he’s done!
    “Yeah!” Paul Nathan exclaimed. “You basically know him now! That’d be so cool!”
    “You guys think?” Spondike asked. He twisted a curl of his black hair.
    The applause was beginning to die down.
    “I say do it,” Timmy said, patting him on the back. “You’re Spondike DePriest for crying out loud.”
    “You guys are right,” Spondike said. “A few tips from him could help for when I get my turn in the league.” There was no scent of bashfulness left on him. “Plus, I could get him to sign this.” He gave the photo in his left hand a quick flick with his right.
    “That’s the spirit,” Timmy said.
    Rye stepped back to the microphone while Coach Bill McPhee moseyed off of the stage. “God I wish my wife was here to see this. So beautiful and graceful that woman is, and I’m so lucky to have her.” A few luscious gasps from female members of the gathering flew by. “Only a three hour drive from Cincy, I know. But, when you’re eight months in and about to pop, sometimes long car rides don’t sound real great. Anyway, I bring her up because she gave me this next idea, and I loved it. Can I share it with y’all?”
    A flood of the word yes bolted into the atmosphere of course followed by the customary shrieks received by most rock stars.
    “Good,” he said, widening his grin. “As I’m sure you know, they hand out our Super Bowl rings first game of the season in a couple weeks. And I was going to put it on this chain.” He looped a thumb through the gold links around his neck and held it up for the crowd to see. “But...those rings are so damn heavy. Don’t want it hurting my neck.” The sly smirk of sarcasm was as clear as the roasting sun above. “How bout I get that sucker encased in glass and keep it here in the Brannon High trophy case? What do y’all think? Would y’all give it a good home?”
    A Super Bowl ring, the rarest of rare sporting artifacts, resting comfortably in the town of Brannon. The pinnacle of athletic achievement within their city limits. The mention of the idea nearly burst Spondike’s eardrums, though he was shouting right along with everyone else.
    “Thought y’all might like that,” he said. “It’ll be here within a month.” He waved to one fan, smiled at countless others, and silently soaked in the embrace from his town. Nostalgia ran heavy on that stage and in his great, great granddaddy’s erected home.
    “Okay everybody quiet down,” Rye said with a sweet laugh. “One more thing I want to do before I get off this stage. I’d like to say a prayer with y’all for our home.” There were no objections, only more animated encouragements. “Please bow your heads y’all.”
    “Hey, Spondike.” Timmy Butler nudged him as all the other heads in Brannon went southward toward the pavement. “Now’s your chance. Go try to get backstage.”
    “Shit, yeah,” Spondike said, almost as if he’d forgotten about that plan. “I’ll be back.”
    “Dear Lord...”
    Rye’s prayer began right as Spondike dodged his first wave of motionless bodies on his way to the front. Both hands were on the photo, and he maneuvered them together as to not risk harming the precious item.
    “We’re not deserving of these amazing lives you’ve given us,” Rye continued.
    Spondike slid past a woman.
    “Bless every person listening to my voice with Your eternal grace.”
    Spondike ducked under a man’s outstretched arms.
    “Keep us happy, healthy, and safe while we try to spread your word and make this planet you’ve provided for us a better place.”
    Spondike was close.
    “And most of all Lord...watch after Brannon. Keep her lively and always full of great citizens like the ones in her now. This is our home, and it always will be until we meet You in Your everlasting house. Keep a spot warm for us. Amen.”
    The heads near the railing on the left side of the stage elevated to see Spondike standing in front of them. Spondike had completed the first part of the mission, but the locked gate prevented the access he desired. Up next was getting the attention of Mr. Mike Clarizio, vice principal at Brannon High and makeshift security guard for town events. He was standing arms folded by the edge of a large curtain.
    “Mr. Clarizio,” Spondike said.
    “Well y’all. I guess this is it.”
    Rye’s ill-timed words drew Mr. Clarizio’s head toward the platform above.
    “Mr. Clarizio!” Spondike said with much more force. Robbing an ear from Rye Brannon was a tough chore, but he succeeded in snatching it away.
    Mr. Clarizio lumbered over. He was a robust man, bearded and all, a lineman in his Brannon High glory days. “Hey Spondike. What’d ya need?”
    Rye’s voice still dominated the background.
    “You think I could get backstage?” Spondike asked. “I’d really like to see if Mr. Brannon could sign this for me.”
    “I don’t know Spondike...”
    “C’mon Mr. Clarizio. He knows who I am. You heard it.”
    “But sometimes Mr. Brannon gets a little worn out after public appearances.”
    Spondike held up the photo next to a smile for his gatekeeper to see. “Please.”
    “Okay fine, you twisted my arm,” Mr. Clarizio said. “Come on back.”
    The nearby spectators were too busy drooling over the stage to notice that somebody had been let through the gate behind it. Mr. Clarizio walked Spondike to the other side of a massive black curtain, leaving the crowd no longer visible. They came to a stop next a set of stairs leading upward toward the stage. It may as well have been the stairway to heaven.
    “Wait here for him,” Mr. Clarizio said. “I’ll be right on the other side.”
    The event’s security marched back around the curtain while Spondike prepared. He grabbed the pen out of his pocket that he’d brought in case by some miracle this scenario came to fruition. If he hadn’t been holding that and the photo, he may have given himself a slap or two. Young Spondike DePriest had dreamed of being at the bottom of that staircase most of his life.
    “I love each and every one of y’all! See y’all soon!”
    Another explosion of sound rushed in from the other side of the curtain, arguably the loudest ovation yet. The noise didn’t waver Spondike’s focus, as he was fixed on the crest of that staircase until he saw the flowing, blonde locks peek over the top. Then came the face carrying a smile that could melt a block of ice. Then the orange and black jersey followed by the bulging arms, one of which won the Cincinnati Bruisers football’s ultimate prize. Then the legs that never ran too far from home. Rye Brannon was fully in Spondike’s view. He turned and gave the people a final wave goodbye before taking that first step downward out of their sight.
    Thump, thump, thump down the stairs. He moved with haste just like any seasoned athlete would, though fresh nerves prevented Spondike from taking him in. His eyes fell. Not until Rye was close to the bottom did his young fan finally muster the courage to look up. Had a rotten smell floated down the stairs as well? Spondike sniffed the air, wondering if he’d adopt the same sudden scowl. No such luck, but Spondike wouldn’t let a change in expression ruin the greatest moment of his life.
    “Mr. Brannon,” Spondike said, taking a step forward, lifting the photo and pen. “It’s me, Spondike. Do you think you could...”
    “Out of my way nigger.”
    An aggressive nudge caused the photo to slip through Spondike’s dark fingers. Those huge feet kept moving past him, and before Spondike could try to get his bearings, Rye Brannon was already gone.
    No parting words of prayer this time.
    Spondike didn’t scream, cry, or take off after him. He was frozen, standing in place behind the curtain, listening to the fading cheers from the crowd and looking down at the scuffed, torn photo. The young boy in the picture was holding onto his toy football for dear life. Spondike would always focus on the smile he had while posing next to the poster of his hero Rye Brannon. Now all he could see was a stark difference in complexion.
    “That’s a great shot.” Mr. Clarizio had wandered back into the makeshift room and hovered alongside. He had good hearing, well good enough to hear words behind a curtain. “The two best athletes in the history of this town in the same frame. Let me pay you for it.”
    “But Mr. Clarizio,” Spondike said. “The picture’s ruined.”
    “No it’s not,” he replied. “You can still see the both of you. This isn’t a favor, son. This thing’s going to be worth a lot of money when you’re in the NFL. Sign it for me.”
    “But...”
    Mr. Clarizio handed Spondike the photo after yanking it off of the ground. “Please sign it for me.”
    “Okay,” Spondike said. “If you say so.” He put the pen to the photo while making sure not to write over the face of the man who was supposed to be signing it.
    “That’s the stuff right there,” Mr. Clarizio said, taking the photo. “Here ya go.” There was a one hundred dollar bill in his outstretched hand.
    “Sir, that’s too much,” Spondike protested.
    “It’s a steal,” Mr. Clarizio said. “I’ll sell it for a thousand in ten years. Take it.”
    Spondike had a keen eye for determination, and he saw that no wouldn’t be taken for an answer. “Thank you so much,” he said after plucking the bill from his elder’s hand. “See you later.” He turned and took a sluggish stride around the corner.
    “Hey Spondike.”
    “Yeah,” he answered, giving another look to Mr. Clarizio.
    “Use it,” Mr. Clarizio said. “Use this. And be better when your time comes.”
    Spondike gave a nod before heading back into the dense crowd. Most lingered, chatting about the excellent show they’d been given. He’d left the premises, but Rye’s name flew around like he remained on the stage. The eager strides that had v-lined for the gate five minutes prior meandered on the way back. Spondike swerved without much intention to greet his friends, but he could hide in that mass about as easily as a plum in a bowl of white rice.
    “There you are!” Little Jason Mills led the boys’ charge to their own star quarterback.
    “How great was he!?”
    “Did he sign it!?”
    “Is he going to help coach you!?”
    The questions were flying in from the boys faster and faster.
    Spondike forged a grin. “You’ll never guess what happened, guys. He paid me for it.” He emptied his pocket to the amazement of the team. The crisp one hundred dollar bill wasn’t a sight often witnessed within the group.
    “Whoa!” Timmy Butler shrieked.
    “Amazing!” Paul Nathan yelled. “A hundred dollars from Rye Brannon! He really thinks you’re going to make it big, doesn’t he?”
    “He does,” Spondike said. “Like I told you, me and him up there on that stage one day. Just the way I want it.”
    Spondike DePriest soon left the crowd of Brannonians without so much as a word to anyone. He couldn’t escape the party, however, as the noise from the square covered the town well into the night. The herd of bulls was removed immediately following the end of the festivities, but the giant wooden stage wasn’t put into storage for another week. It was as if the people knew that when the stage was gone they lived in any other small, middle-of-nowhere town. The stage, stowed with reluctance, became a mere dormant shrine collecting dust, preparing for the tumbling leaves of fall. But it would live to see another day, next August 23rd, the day the great Rye Brannon was set to grace his beloved town once again.












Artifacts

Richard Schnap

The basement of my apartment building
Holds things that old tenants left behind

The diary of a deceased spinster
That spent her prom night in a church

Recordings of famous dance songs
Owned by a paraplegic man

A scrapbook of newspaper clippings
A barren woman made of new births

And the sketches of a boy whose parents
Would fight almost every night

Of the landscape of a distant planet
Under new constellations of stars












Lost Purse

Richard Schnap

She could have left it
On a bus to work
Or the corner booth
Of a neighborhood bar
Or the dressing room
Of a department store
Or the floor of a theater
Whose film made her weep

And with it was gone
Her rose red lipstick
And the small black book
With its numbers of friends
And the lottery ticket
She bought on a whim
And the key she still kept
To her ex-husband’s house












Mid Life Crisis

Richard Schnap

It sometimes strikes me
From checkout line tabloids
Placed among gift cards
For cheap restaurants

Or when I am watching
TV commercials
Stuck between programs
On UFOs and ghosts

Or passing beside me
On a dust covered billboard
Attached to a bus
Where each face seems asleep

A feeling of longing
For a world I once loved
Becoming more and more
Like a stranger I don##8217;t know












Angry Letter From A Dead Son
    To A Remarried Mother

Blake Corrao

What did you think
when you met him and he said
that his son too
was a ghost?
Did you think that we
would have...what?
Dead kid play dates?
That he’d protect me in hell
because he was 27 when he
blew his brains against the wall
and I was only 16?
Get real, seriously
I couldn’t find that jerk if I tried
Not with all the people down here
Yesterday I rubbed shoulders with Gandhi
and he told me
that his appeal had been filed
but he’d lost the number for the appeals desk
and disappeared back into the crowd
Because that’s all hell is
a dark crowded place
where smoke fills the sky
and the air has that heavy feeling
of human body heat
think the subway during rush hour
not Dante’s fantasy land
of burning lakes and Catholic demons
and replace retribution with
the confused face of every dead person in history
Positive that you belong in this place
but they surely do not












Beach House

Blake Corrao

sitting on a seaside porch
you hope for the gentle crash of waves
the braying and laughing
of gulls and terns
the soft hum
of bicycle tires on the boardwalk
what you don’t wish for
the droning scream
of lawn care machinery
feeding off gasoline 
the wailing smacking
of a coast guard helicopter
every ten minutes overhead
the horrible yap-yap-yap
of a small dog
red goo around his eyes
but this
is what you will get












Crash Landing

Kendra Burns

    The ship shook violently as the second engine erupted into flames, sending Ean to his knees with a hard thud. Around him, flashing red lights and the high-pitched warning sirens dampened the sounds of flames trying to breach the hull. Ean grabbed hold of the captain’s chair as another violent shock wave ripped through the room, allowing him to pull himself up on unsteady legs. With a sigh, he threw himself into the chair. His dark eyes looked out of the thin heat-resistant window at the blaze surrounding his ship. Yellows mixed with reds with the faint sight of greens and blues.
    “Seshat, what’s the damage calculations?” Ean said, resting his head in the palm of his hands.
    Seshat’s holographic orb form materialized before Ean. “Engines two and four are offline. Engines one and three are forty percent functional. Interior mainframe breached at level three.”
    The ship gave another violent shake causing ripples to form in Seshat. Heat rolled out of the ventilation in a misty wave. Small beads of sweat formed upon Ean’s brow.
    “Correction, mainframe interior breach has reached level two. Entering Earth’s atmosphere now.”
    “Seshat, do we have enough power to launch a pod ship?” Ean asked as he stood up. His knuckles turning white as yet another shock wave ripped through the ship.
    “Affirmative. I will redirect power to the pods. Crash landing calculations show the ships will end up in the Baltic Sea.”
    Ean pushed through the shock waves, barely making it to the steel sliding doors of the pod ship before a wave of fire shot past him. Safely secure in the pod ship, Ean rested his head against the white walls of the pod.
    “Pod launch in T minus five, four, three, two, one.” Seshat’s voice filtered through walls. One last shock wave ripped through Ean before the calmness of the fall through Earth’s atmosphere lulled him into a light dreamless sleep.
    The landing jerked Ean awake, his head slamming against the wall. Lights flickered and Seshat’s small holographic orb form projected mere inches in front of his face.
    “We have arrived on Earth. Flotation devices have been activated and Mothership has been notified of our circumstances.”
    “Thank you, Seshat. Have they sent any word back?”
    Ean stretched out the kinks in his spine, small popping sounds echoing in the cramped space of the pod.
    “Affirmative. Mothership says to hang on. they will be here shortly. Code name Flame-caster specifically says that the damage to the scouting ship was caused by a malfunction in Engineering. The ship wasn’t supposed to have launched.”
    “Seshat, reply to Flame-caster: Little late for that now isn’t it.” Ean said. He adjusted himself so he was laying down, eyes looking up at the clear blue sky. Grey clouds hung over the edge of his view promising rain.
    “We may be here a while, Seshat. Might as well turn power output to the bare minimum.”

    Birds flew past, one leaving its droppings in the middle of the domed window. Ean closed his eyes listening to the faint whistling of the wind and allowed the waves to rock him back into a dreamless sleep.












Country Club 3, art by David Michael Jackson

Country Club 3, art by David Michael Jackson
















Relic

Mario “Maxx” Hassell

    “I guess some treasure loses its value.”
    The words had left Sheila’s mouth and though she was unsure by his blank stare at the screen of his Macbook if they’d land at her intended destination, Kevin’s heart, she was sure they’d flown either straight through his ears or over his head altogether.
    “This is our biggest acquisition to date.”
    “You act like you’re incapable of reading a report. What in the hell is the point of a multi-million dollar payroll if they can’t just fill you in sometimes?” The door to their bedroom’s adjoining office served as the line she was drawing in the sand. She presently had no intention of occupying the same room as her husband.
    “I’m the expert!” His proclamation about himself was enough to finally pivot his head away from the laptop on his desk. As supportive as Sheila had been over the course of the last fourteen years, Kevin never had a problem being his own theme band.
    “And they’ve all been trained! Phoebe is only doing this exhibition once! She’s been training with Buttercup all summer!” The truth was that they had trained with the beautiful Arabian steed all summer. Phoebe didn’t have a practice that her doting mother didn’t accompany her to. Their hours at the stables had become the two gingers’ favorite parts of the week.
    “Someone’s gotta pay for Buttercup.”
    “I think Buttercup is fine. Do you really want Phoebe to remember you not being there for her first exhibition?”
    “I asked her. She’s not mad.”
    “Really? Like she’s gonna say ‘Yeah, Dad. Fuck you.’”
    “She would tell me.”
    “I swear, Kevin. You spend so much time under water you can’t tell when someone is over it.” And like the drastic changes in pressure when one navigates the various ocean depths, she felt the burden on her shoulder shift. It was time to leave.
    He remained in his chair, eyes still on the computer screen in front of him moving between two images that one of his assistants had just sent him from the exploration vessel. He gave no dismissal, but he built no bridge. And in this moment he could see clearly a once magnificent ship submerged in the Baltic Sea, he was oblivious to the single drop of water that traversed Sheila’s freckled cheek. So excited by this new beginning on the floor of the sea, he missed the end. And Sheila, staring at the back of the head of the bearded man in front of her, had already built a wall between her and the man he once was.
    They used to have a once upon a time. Now, the union that started on Cloud 9 was a relic. One that had not been preserved. And as much as she was used to her husband passing over her interest as carelessly as waves, Sheila wouldn’t impose this reality on Phoebe. Not even a sigh escaped as she made her way from the office door across their expansive bedroom into her walk in closet. The three packed bags had been there in plain view for weeks. She just needed enough to start. They sold clothes everywhere. And there were few things on the planet retailing that she could not buy.
    Within minutes, she and Phoebe were making their way out of the front door. Kevin caught a glimpse of them and stood up to wave to Phoebe. He’d find a way to make it up to her when they got back. They’d go to the exhibition and be back in a day or two.
    “I love you, Dad!”
    Kevin smiled but was disturbed by the tear he saw her wipe away. He had no idea that the two were tired of being worthless relics to him. He didn’t know it yet, but he had missed the end.












How I Lived To Tell the Tale

Rishi Ravichandran

    Everybody thinks that they know the story of the young queen and me, Rumpelstiltskin. They think that I wanted that young queen’s child, but I didn’t. She just told everybody in her kingdom that I wanted her child so that they would come after me, an innocent bystander! What cruel, menace harms the very person who is helping them? Anyway, here’s what really happened.
    My wife asked me to go town to pick up some groceries from the kingdom’s market. As if the ones coming from our castle’s backyard isn’t up to her goddess-like standards. Anyways, I was walking through the market picking up the finest of meats, vegetables, and fruits as I came upon a very interesting detail. One of the knights was conversing and was speaking of a young maiden that was able to spin straw into gold. Now this was very interesting to hear since my fairest mistress and I are the only people that I’ve known who could spin straw into gold. Per this information, I had to insure my wife’s safety so I decided to investigate.
    I approached the knights and said, “Excuse me now sir, what is this about young lass who can spin straw into gold?”
    The knight responded while unsheathing a part of his sword, “Avast fair dweller. It is nothing of your concern. I suggest that you take your colorful groceries and walk on your merry way. We wouldn’t want any trouble now would we?”
    “Hehehe, no we wouldn’t. Say my friend, could you help me carry these bags towards me home. My old hands haven’t been able to sustain this heavy weight upon me shoulders.” I replied.
    The knight cackled, “Ha. What a pathetic loser! Can’t even carry his own groceries to his lonely home. Probably lives alone. Or worse. Lives with his mother. Let’s help this low life out. It’ll give us the chance to mock his presence even more.”
    The noble knights took hold produce as I led them towards my house. Or so they thought. I led them directly into a dark alley without them knowing I assumed from the shocked looks of their faces.
    “Hey, what’s happening? Where is your accursed house you filthy peasant?” exclaimed one of the knights.
    “Oh, did I forget to mention? I’ve led you to your miserable deaths. But first, tell me about the girl who can spin straw into gold! I may make you deaths shorter and less painful.”
    “We aren’t afraid of you!” one of the knights bravely responded.
    “You should, my friend!” After uttering those words, I grabbed the arm of one of the knights, twisted it so far back that I tore the rotator cuff and dislocated the shoulder. “I only need one of you alive to give me the information I need. So I suggest one of you do it soon.”
    The knight shrieked in pain, “An old miller told the king that his daughter can spin straw into gold. She’s locked into the king’s dungeon and will die if all the straw isn’t spun into gold by morning.”
    “Now that’s a good knight. Now say night night!” I took the necks of both knights in each arm, grabbed their faces and snapped their heads of their bodies. “That’ll teach you disrespect me again.” I said as I proceeded towards the king’s dungeon.
    When I reached the dungeon, all I heard were the weeping cries of a young lady. As I opened the dungeon doors, a sigh of relief was ushered knowing that young lass wasn’t my wife. “Why are you crying, young lassie? What must you have done to end up in the king’s ol’ dungeon?”
    Sobbing like a toddler, the lass responded, “I -I need to sp-spin this straw into g-gold by tomorrow morning oth-otherwise the king w-will cut my h-head off.”
    “I’ll tell you what dearie, I feel giving and generous today. I know and will spin all that straw into gold for you. No price at all.”
    “Really?” the young maiden sniffled.
    “Yes, child. Really.” It only took half of me day, but I spun all the straw into gold. “Well me work here is done dearie. I’ll be heading off now.”
    “Wait! Here please take this necklace with you as a token of my appreciation.”
    “Why, thank you lassie!” As I left the dungeon, I did so in sweet joy to know that my mistress hadn’t been abducted by the king. I went back to market, bought another set of produce, and departed on my merry way home. All was well in the world I thought.
    I thought wrong however. As I went to the market for the second day for another set of groceries, the locals had found the dead bodies of the knights. There I saw the king, the young girl, and perhaps the girl’s father. The girl stepped into the king’s carriage and rode away. I thought nothing of it until her father approached me.
    “You are the one who can spin the straw into gold?” he asked. I nodded with acceptance. “Please, the king has taken my daughter away again. You wouldn’t want anyone knowing who killed those knights would you? Especially the king, right?” the father blackmailed.
    “How did you know about that?” I wavered.
    “You just told me now, my friend.”
    “How will you tell anyone if you’re dead?”
    “I’ve told my daughter that if I am found missing, you would have killed me. Please, I black mail you not for your gold, but for the king. He has taken my daughter once again.” cried the father.
    “I will help your daughter, but threaten me again and you won’t be the only dead body the locals will find.” After my threat, I went back to the dungeon in order to do the task. I flung open the doors and found more straw than before. “My, my, is the king greedy.”
    “He said if I get this done, then I will be crowned his new wife and queen.” exclaimed the young girl.
    “Ah, now this becomes interesting. I will help you, but when you become queen I will want something from you in the future. Let us call this a so called favor for the future. I also would like to possess the wonderful ring on your finger. Do we have a deal?”
    “Yes! I’ll do anything.”
    “Very well then, I shall begin my work.” In a matter of hours, I spun all of the straw into gold. “Here you go dearie. All done. Watch out for I’d be coming for that favor any day now.” After spinning the gold, I left until my return two years later as the girl was crowned as the new queen.
    “Hello dearie, or should I say queenie. Remember me?”
    “Yes, you’re the one who could spin the straw into gold.”
    “Yes. Well it’s time for that favor you owe me. I want you to kill the king and write in his will that he will give his kingdom to me.”
    “What?! No, I can’t do that. I’d betray all the people of the kingdom. Why do you even need the kingdom? You can spin straw into gold. You can be the richest man in the world!”
    “It was never about the gold. It was always about hurting you the worst way possible. Remember how your foolish father blackmailed me! Afterwards, I came here to kill you, but decided plot my revenge and to make you pay!”
    “I’m with child now. I’ll give you my first born in exchange for your favor!” exclaimed the queen.
    “Tsk, tsk, tsk. Tough luck dearie. Don’t want the baby of yours. But, I feel generous today. Figure out me name and I’ll let you off the hook. You have three days’ time.” After changing our deal, I went of skipping back to my estate. I came back to the first day and the queen couldn’t guess my name. I came the second day and she couldn’t figure out. Then came the third.
    The queen asked, “Is your name Percival, Arthur, Lancelot?”
    “No, no, and no dearie!” I responded.
    “Is it Rumpelstiltskin?”
    “No! Impossible. You heard that from the devil!” I bellowed and with all my frustration and anger, I drove my foot so far into the ground that when I tried escaping from the Earth’s clutches, I broke my leg. Limping away as the guards chased me.
    So there you have it. I asked for the king’s kingdom, not the queen’s child. The queen offered her child and people think I asked for it like some pedophilic psychopath. And the queen lives on merrily while telling lies, while I get all the crap for it. How ironic is our world?








Rome building copyright 2003-2016 Janet Kuypers





greatest

Janet Kuypers
haiku 2/17/14
video

see her do a flip,
walk the tight rope. This is the
greatest show on earth.



twitter 4 jk twitter 4 jk Visit the Kuypers Twitter page for short poems— join http://twitter.com/janetkuypers.
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her twitter-length haiku greatest live 4/23/14 at the open mic the Café Gallery in Chicago (C)
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her twitter-length haiku greatest live 4/23/14 at the open mic the Café Gallery in Chicago (S)
video See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers in her 6/4/16 show “Obey” at Expressions 2016: June is a Woman! in Austin (Sony), first reading her haiku poems progress, extend, falling, civil, and greatest, then reading her poems Earth is a Topiary (her 1st of 2 poems where she used a voice modulator to reads parts of her poem in a male voice), On Becoming a Woman (an editing and expansion of her 1999 poem Becoming a Woman), Viewing the Woman in a 19th Century Photograph (an editing of her 1991 poem Photograph, Nineteenth Century and her 2nd of 2 poems where she used a voice modulator to reads parts of her poem in a male voice), Content With Inferior Men, portions of her poem In The Air with slightly altered wording, and Oh, She Was a Woman (an editing of her 1997 poem She Was a Woman).
video See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers in her 6/4/16 show “Obey” at Expressions 2016: June is a Woman! in Austin (Cps), first reading her haiku poems progress, extend, falling, civil, and greatest, then reading her poems Earth is a Topiary (her 1st of 2 poems where she used a voice modulator to reads parts of her poem in a male voice), On Becoming a Woman (an editing and expansion of her 1999 poem Becoming a Woman), Viewing the Woman in a 19th Century Photograph (an editing of her 1991 poem Photograph, Nineteenth Century and her 2nd of 2 poems where she used a voice modulator to reads parts of her poem in a male voice), Content With Inferior Men, portions of her poem In The Air with slightly altered wording, and Oh, She Was a Woman (an editing of her 1997 poem She Was a Woman).
the “Obey” 6/4/16 chapbook
Download all of the show poems (including this haiku) in the free downloadable PDF file chapbook
Obey
from her 6/4/16 show at Expressions 2016: June is a Woman! show in Austin.
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See Vine video of Janet Kuypers performing her poem greatest from the cc&d magazine v265 book the Blind Eye 10/8/16 (filmed from a Samsung S7).
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See YouTube video from 10/23/16 of Janet Kuypers reading her haiku poem “greatest” from the cc&d book “the Blind Eye” live at Austin’s open mic Kick Butt Poetry (this video filmed from a Canon Power Shot camera).
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See YouTube video of Thom’s intro to Austin’s open mic Kick Butt Poetry, with Janet Kuypers reading her poems “greatest” and “opening” from the cc&d book “the Blind Eye” live 10/23/16 (w/ a Canon Power Shot camera).
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See a Vine video of Janet Kuypers reading her twitter-length haiku greatest 12/3/16 as a JKPoetryVine video in Scars PublicationsDown in the Dirt v139 9/10 2016 book “the Relic, the Effort, the Yell”.


Read the Bio of Janet Kuypers.










The Yell

Moshe Prigan

    I found a book that stunned me. I dug my fingernails into its pages, scanned every word, photo and map. I could smell the horses; hear the barks of the soldiers of the S.S. Cavalry Brigade, in doeskin breeches and hobnailed jackboots, roaming the scattered villages like a flock of hyenas. I found the name of my mother’s village. I fondled the word with the tip of my finger as if I was trying to give it life. They’ve all been shot by six troopers. Hermann, Gunther, Horst, Kurt, Otto and Fritz. In the photo they’re in loose and relaxed sitting positions on their horses, smiling. Gunther and Otto were killed later in Smolensk. Then the commander’s name popped up. I cut his picture out of the book. It took me several months to find out his address. I decided to go to Germany and kill him.
    Two days before the flight I met Mrs. Rosenfeld, the cook in our community center for the poor. A number was tattooed on her arm. She was seventeen when she tossed, every couple of days, a bag of fresh meat over the kennel fence. The babies’ screams excited the S.S. dogs.
    “I’m going to Germany,” I said.
    “Business or pleasure?”
    I looked at her arm while she was pouring me a glass of steaming tea from the off-white samovar.
    “I’ve found the man who murdered the family of my mother.”
    She sat down at the table across from me and looked motionless at the glass of tea. Then she raised her eyes, leaned forward and gave me a long look that had me pinned in place.
    “Stop it. Leave it behind,” she yelled. “Live.”












found haiku

Janet Kuypers
haiku 2/6/14 (on the Military channel show “Myth Busters”;
episode “Himmler and the Holy Grail”, 2013)

video

Himmler wanted the
Ahnenerbe to prove Je-
sus wasn’t a Jew.



twitter 4 jk twitter 4 jk Visit the Kuypers Twitter page for short poems— join http://twitter.com/janetkuypers.
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See YouTube video (C) of Joffre Stewart reading the Janet Kuypers’l found haiku in the “Partial Nudity” book release show 6/18/14 at Chicago’s the Café Gallery
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See YouTube video (S) of Joffre Stewart reading the Janet Kuypers’l found haiku in the “Partial Nudity” book release show 6/18/14 at Chicago’s the Café Gallery
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See YouTube video
of Janet Kuypers reading (C) her poem Found Haiku from memory in conversation live 8/27/14 at Chicago’s open mic the Café Gallery
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See YouTube video
of Janet Kuypers hosting the open mic 8/27/14 (w/ 2 features!) at Gallery Cabaret’s the Café Gallery in Chicago - where this poem was read
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See a Vine video
of Janet Kuypers reading her twitter-length found haiku from the Café Gallery book the Chosen Few 1/22/16 as a looping JKPoetryVine video in Austin, TX (Samsung)
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See a Vine video from 2/1/16 of
Janet Kuypers reading her twitter-length found haiku from Scars Publicationsthe Café Gallery book the Chosen Few as a looping JKPoetryVine video in Austin, TX (Samsung)
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See a Vine video of Janet Kuypers reading her twitter-length haiku “found haiku” 12/5/16 as a JKPoetryVine video in Scars PublicationsDown in the Dirt v139 9/10 2016 book “the Relic, the Effort, the Yell”.


Read the Bio of Janet Kuypers.










Haiku (kills)

Denny E. Marshall

alien attack
kills less of population
than we do ourselves

1st Published In Planet Magazine August 2013












Haiku (blood)

Denny E. Marshall

guest at the front door
wearing Halloween costume
no clue blood is real

1st Published In Stinkwaves Fall 2014












Haiku (dark)

Denny E. Marshall

galactic guitar
strums unknown notes
of dark gravity

1st Published In Nth Degree March/April 2014












elusive

Janet Kuypers
haiku 2/17/14
video

ninety four percent
of the universe is dark,
elusive to me



twitter 4 jk twitter 4 jk Visit the Kuypers Twitter page for short poems— join http://twitter.com/janetkuypers.
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading (C) her poem elusive from her “Partial Nudity” book release feature live 6/18/14 at Chicago’s open mic the Café Gallery
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading (S) her poem elusive from her “Partial Nudity” book release feature live 6/18/14 at Chicago’s open mic the Café Gallery
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See a Vine video
of Janet Kuypers reading hr dark matter haiku elusive 6/5/15 @ palm fronds @ the end of Jan drive. (Motorola)
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See a Vine video of Janet Kuypers reading her twitter-length haiku “elusive” 12/3/16 as a JKPoetryVine video in Scars PublicationsDown in the Dirt v139 9/10 2016 book “the Relic, the Effort, the Yell”.


Read the Bio of Janet Kuypers.










Haiku (revenge)

Denny E. Marshall

the Jack O lantern
comes to life seeking revenge
looks for knife owner

1st Published In Kalkion Sept. 2013












Haiku (steals)

Denny E. Marshall

the Jack-O-lanterns
on the front porch spring to life
steals the candy back

1st Published In Decades Review Oct. 2014












Haiku (expands)

Denny E. Marshall

universe expands
even faster than before
humans more lonely

1st Published In Aphelion Sept 2014












Ever Expanding Spaces

Janet Kuypers
6/4/12

I can’t sleep.
The Universe is always expanding
so I have to keep working
to fill in the ever expanding spaces.



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See YouTube video
of Janet Kuypers reading her poem Ever Expanding Spaces at the open mic 7/4/12 at the Café Gallery in Chicago (video filmed from the Canon camera).
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See YouTube video
of Janet Kuypers reading her poem Ever Expanding Spaces at the open mic 7/4/12 at Gallery Cabaret’s the Café Gallery in Chicago (this video was filmed from the Sony camera).
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See YouTube video
of Kuypers’ open mic 7/4/12 at Gallery Cabaret’s the Café Gallery in Chicago, plus her reading poems, including this one (w/ live piano from Gary).
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her twitter-length poem Ever Expanding Spaces live 1/29/14 at the open mic the Café Gallery in Chicago (C)
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her twitter-length poem Ever Expanding Spaceslive 1/29/14 at the open mic the Café Gallery in Chicago (S)
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See Vine-styled video through facebook of Janet Kuypers reading her haiku like twitter-length poem “Ever Expanding Spaces” in Scars PublicationsDown in the Dirt v139 Book “the Relic, the Effort, the Yell” in New Orleans 10/30/16.
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See a Vine video of Janet Kuypers reading her twitter-length haiku Ever Expanding Spaces 12/3/16 as a JKPoetryVine video in Scars PublicationsDown in the Dirt v139 9/10 2016 book “the Relic, the Effort, the Yell”.


Read the Bio of Janet Kuypers.










Haiku (secret)

Denny E. Marshall

buried under Mars
for millions of secret years
lays Earths history

1st Published In Planet Magazine August 2013












Haiku (wait)

Denny E. Marshall

do not want to see
the end of the world began
will wait for movie

1st Published In High Coupe Jan. 2013












In 1959

Victor Pearn

We spent sultry Illinois summer afternoons
on the hot front-porch swing, creating a play
to perform for our sixth grade teacher
that lived a few houses south in the neighborhood.
There were three actors Carol, Judy,
and me acting, directing and making up the plot.
And as we decided we had the right wardrobe,
after enough rehearsals, we took our play
over to Mr. Murphy’s front porch where we
delivered a magnificent performance.
I went back to baseball with boys,
later Judy and me held hands,
kissed, stayed friends. Carol disappeared.
Our favorite teacher still lives in Jacksonville.





Victor Pearn bio

    Victor Pearn Grew up in the rich black dirt of central Illinois. Loved playing baseball, swimming and ice-skating. Raised two daughters as a single parent. Currently live in the Colorado Rockies, and love hiking and running. Ran a 5K on December 6th 2015 in Boulder in 32:37 and qualified to race in the Bolder Boulder 10K on Memorial Day 2016.












Strawberry Point

Victor Pearn

forever I wanted to be married just once
my life didn’t turn out that way
brilliant morning light spread out
across the blue sky like a new tune
guitar strings being plucked softly
one at a time
one at a time

when I was eleven my scout troop
hiked 25 miles
across a level field
prairie flowers
on the canal bank
on our way to cahokia mounds
water reflected fiery sunshine
like antelope leaping





Victor Pearn bio

    Victor Pearn Grew up in the rich black dirt of central Illinois. Loved playing baseball, swimming and ice-skating. Raised two daughters as a single parent. Currently live in the Colorado Rockies, and love hiking and running. Ran a 5K on December 6th 2015 in Boulder in 32:37 and qualified to race in the Bolder Boulder 10K on Memorial Day 2016.












It’ll be crimson tonight

Liam C. Calhoun

Tonight,
The mahjiang tables went silent.

Tonight,
The barbeque didn’t taste as swell.

Tonight,
Old mothers huddled and hugged their children.

And tonight,
Not a firework’d be heard.

Tonight,
He’d betrayed her.

Tonight,
She’d never let go.

Tonight,
Crimson could only answer.

Tonight,
She’d live.

And tonight,
He wouldn’t.












The Picture

Ed Nichols

    I sat in my rocker on our back porch with a drink and watched birds flapping their wings in the water in Beth’s concrete bird bath sitting in the middle of her red and white azaleas. It was hot for April. Everything seemed to be blooming early. Someone at the office said it seemed like we were going straight from winter to summer. Sounded right to me; the ice in my drink was melting too fast. I figure Beth will have a good explanation as to what’s going on with the weather. She truly believes Florida, and New Orleans, will be completely covered in water in a few years. I told her it doesn’t matter to us—we probably won’t live to see it.
    Beth arrived home a little after seven o’clock and joined me on the back porch. She poured a glass of chilled Zinfandel. She looked really tired.
    “Hard day? And you had to work late again,” I said, as she sat in her chair and propped her feet on the stool.
    “Oh, yea. FDIC is back for a couple of days,” she said.
    I chuckled. “Is the bank going under?”
    “Charlie, you know that’s not going to happen. The bank is as strong as it has ever been.”
    “Yea, but this economy is not too strong.”
    “That’s true, but we’ll get through it,” she said, and turned away to watch the birds playing in the bird bath. I looked at her, and felt something different. Maybe she was thinking of another new landscaping project for the back yard, or is worried about her job.
    “What’s up?” I asked. “Got something...on your mind?”
    She turned to me and stared for a long minute. She shook her head. Then we both looked up as a jet moved across our backyard sky leaving a long contrail. She didn’t answer—I figured she was letting the tension from the bank fade from her mind. We sipped our drinks in silence. She finally got up and said, “I’m going inside, if you don’t mind. I want to relax in a tub of hot water, and then go to bed early.”
    “Fine by me. I’ll fix a ham and cheese sandwich and watch a little TV. Sure you don’t want something?”
    “Not really. We had a bunch of snacks and goodies at the bank. I nibbled all day.”
    “Keeping the FDIC boys happy, huh?”
    “Yes, of course,” she answered.

———

    Strangely, and out of the ordinary, Beth left early the next morning. She had gotten up quietly and dressed and left without waking me. There was a hushed silence throughout the house. I had a bowl of cereal and dressed for work. When you have lived with someone for twenty-five years, and unexpectedly that person is doing things out of the ordinary, you become somewhat perplexed. I did try to call her, several times during the day. The answer from the bank was always, “She’s meeting with the FDIC representative, and can not come to the phone.” Understandable, I thought.
    Since it was Friday, I left my office early and went home. I hung my suit up and put on a pair of shorts and a tee shirt and went to the back porch with a glass of iced tea. The birds were having a ball with the new bird bath. A flock of geese flew over, headed for the pond on the edge of our subdivision. They’ll hang around a day or two, I thought, and then head out, migrating back up north for the summer. Probably to Michigan, or Ohio, or another of those terribly cold-winter states. Places that Beth and I have no intention of ever visiting. We’d always loved, and sometimes even craved, warm weather. When we were dating at the university, we’d leave Athens on a Thursday afternoon and drive all night to a beach in Florida, and return Monday morning just in time for classes.
    Funny how some things never change, and some things do. Very recently—just over the past few weeks—I began to detect a subtle change in our marriage, in our routines. A breaking down of walls, no, more like building up of a new barrier. Something impenetrable. Not understandable. The conversations were different, not strained exactly, but different. Almost like we were speaking to each other as if we were complete strangers. The weird thing was, why? What was happening? Was this what other married couples go through after twenty-five years? I had no answers. I went in the kitchen and refilled my glass and returned to my rocker on the back porch. I wondered if we actually loved each other anymore, or were we just comfortable, and so set in our lives that love was not that important. Was love secondary to living our lives fully involved with our careers; looking after our property, keeping our vehicles running, staying close to our long-time friends, and so on and so on? What was important, really, at our age? Maybe it’s not companionship. I thought it was, but it was also nice this morning when Beth had slipped out quietly and I had silence surrounding me throughout the house. Is there a primeval impulse stashed in our DNA that pushes us apart after so long? I didn’t know, and I really didn’t care. I closed my eyes and dozed for a while.
    Beth arrived at six-thirty and woke me. I looked up at her standing beside me and said, “Another long day, huh?”
    “Yes, my goodness,” she said with a tired voice. “Reports. Reports. And more reports.”
    “FDIC, right?”
    “Yea,” she said. “I bought some chicken fingers, slaw and fries, if you want to eat something.”
    “Good idea. I could use something,” I told her.
    We ate at the breakfast table in the kitchen. I was really hungry, and the chicken and slaw and fries were good. We ate mostly in silence. I did ask her at one point why she’d left this morning without waking me. She said, “I didn’t want to wake you because you were sleeping so soundly.”
    Like the previous night, she got her hot bath and went to bed early. She said that she had to work Saturday until noon. I stayed up late and watched a rerun of the Masters Golf Tournament. I asked Beth to be sure and wake me before she left for the bank because I wanted to mow the grass before it got too hot. She did, just as she was leaving at eight-thirty. I got in my work shorts and a tee shirt, filled up my mower with gas and started cutting. It takes nearly two hours to cut our lawn and blow the clippings off the front sidewalk and steps and off of the driveway. After that, I went around the edges of the azalea beds and the roses and sprayed weed killer. I came inside and took a shower, dressed in shorts, a polo shirt and sandals and went uptown to Mid-Town Grill for a sandwich.
    Beth came home around one o’clock. I was in my lounge chair in the den watching the golf tournament and sipping a beer when she sat down on the sofa. She said, straight out, nervously, “We need to talk, and...I need to tell you something.”
    Whoa! She had a certain tone in her voice. A tone almost like the one that I hadn’t heard since her mother was dying last year in the nursing home. “What?” I asked, sitting up in my lounge chair.
    “Okay, here goes. First, I want you to know that I have loved you since I was nineteen years old. But, I don’t think I love you anymore—and, I’m in love with someone else—and I want a divorce.”
    I leaned up in my chair and almost dropped my beer. “A divorce!” I said, the word leaping out of my mouth.
    “Yes. And I know we can do it peacefully. And I know that you are probably as ready to split up as I am.” She sat up on the edge of the sofa and clasped her knees with her hands.
    “I don’t know...I haven’t,” I stammered. “Damn! You’re in love with someone else?” I looked at her lips, tried to determine if she was smiling or sneering. I felt nauseous. This was what had been going on—the thing that had created the barrier between us.
    “Yes, very much. You don’t know him,” she said, pulling her bottom lip in.
    I drank the last of my beer in one swallow and held the bottle by the neck, very tight in my fist. I asked, “Does he live...here?”
    “No,” she said shaking her head. “He lives in Washington.”
    “Washington? DC?”
    “Yes. He is divorced and lives in a condo in Washington,” she continued, “and I hope, Charlie that you’ll try to understand. I still care—“
    “How in the heck did you—uh, okay, it’s a FDIC rep, right?” I knew it. I knew it.
    “Yes. His name is Phil Harrison,” she said.
    “So, you’re in love with him?” I said again. “Damn! Damn!” I closed my eyes—and suddenly saw her standing on sugar-white sand in a two-piece bathing suit. Without knowing what I was going to do, I rose and walked quickly to the kitchen, with other scenes of her flashing across my mind, as if they were flickering on a screen from an old 35mm projector.
    “Charlie! Charlie, don’t leave!” she said loudly. “We have to talk!”
    I didn’t answer. “Damn! Damn!” was all I could say as I went from the kitchen to the garage to my car and drove away, looking in the rear view mirror and seeing her standing in the driveway. I drove north out of town, into the foothills. I drove for an hour before stopping at the top of Low Gap Mountain. I parked on the side of the road at an overlook, got out and leaned against the front fender. It was a little cooler, and I could smell honeysuckle. Looking south, I could visualize Atlanta, sitting beyond the horizon, a hundred miles or so away. Millions of people: married folks, divorced folks, congested interstates, crime, high taxes, and on and on. What was I going to do? Was the twenty-five years all for nothing? To her? To me? Or was this day predestined from the day we first met at the university?
    I stood for a long time, staring toward Atlanta, and running all the scenes from twenty-five years through my mind. I thought, I guess she’ll move to Washington. If so, I’ll sell the house and everything she doesn’t want to keep, and I’ll move my business to Florida. That’s my first idea. But I may have other ideas in the days to come—I just don’t know, today—at this moment. But it will come to me, I’m sure. I drove slowly back to town, and went around the back street and came up near the bank and saw her car and another one in the parking lot near the rear door. I drove home and went straight to the living room and pulled all of our picture albums out of the cabinet under our dining room hutch. I sat on the floor and started looking. Beth had once been almost obsessive taking pictures—we had hundreds of them in several thick albums. I wanted to find the picture before she came back home, and we started up again. I found it in the second oldest album. I gently lifted the plastic covering, removed the picture and put the albums back in the hutch and went to the back porch.
    Sitting in my rocker, I stared at the picture. She was standing on sugar-white sand in a two-piece bathing suit, staring out to the Gulf, and her skin was smooth and tanned, and her hair was loose in the wind.





Ed Nichols bio

    Ed Nichols lives outside Clarkesville, Georgia.  He is a journalism graduate from the University of Georgia.  He is a short story award winner from Southeastern Writer’s Association.  Ed’s work has appeared in: Every Writer’s Resource, Fiction On The Web, Short-Stories.me, Vending Machine Press, Floyd County Moonshine Magazine, Beorh Quarterly, Belle Reve Literary Journal, Work Literary Magazine, Drunk Monkeys, Crack the Spine Literary Magazine, The Literary Yard, Decades Review, Swamp Lily Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, Literary Orphans Journal, Front Porch Review, Chiron Review, Snapping Twig, Deep South Magazine, Legends, and The Literary Hatchet.












Diving Girl 0070, art by David Russell

Diving Girl 0070, art by David Russell
















Community Service

Bob Strother

    P. J. Holland sat across from the bank president. Over his shoulder, she had a decent view of the modest downtown. A few unassuming high-rises—if you call fifteen stories high— stood silhouetted against a lowering gray sky. The bank president was himself gray: neatly trimmed gray hair and moustache, gray pin-striped suit, his tie a darker shade of charcoal, knotted snugly under a spread collar.
     “You’re not exactly what I expected,” the man said.
    P. J. smiled sweetly. “Yeah, I get that a lot.”
    The man was quiet for a moment, reaching across the broad expanse of his desk and making a minute adjustment to his mahogany-mounted name plate: Lionel J. Bowman, III, etched in gold, san-serif letters.
    “I had you thoroughly checked out,” he said. “You come very highly recommended.”
    She nodded, said nothing.
    “You understand the nature of the job.” It was a statement, not a question. Here was a man used to power, confident in his place within the community, sure of himself.
    “In essence,” P. J. replied.
    Bowman leaned back in his chair and tented his fingers beneath his chin. “This is a decent town, Ms. Holland, or at least it used to be. Economically thriving, it’s the kind of place you’d want to raise kids, build a business, and establish deep roots in the community. All that changed, however, over the past few years because of three men—men whose greed and despicable morals have thoroughly corrupted this town, including, unfortunately, the local police.”
    He paused for a moment.
    For effect, P. J. thought. Probably did it during board and shareholder meetings, too.
    Bowman continued. “Drugs, prostitution, gambling, who knows what else. It has to be stopped, and stopped cold. If I were a younger man, I’d be tempted to take things into my own hands. But age and success also corrupt. You get comfortable, secure in your future, hesitant to risk it all on rash impulses.”
    P. J. nodded again. “And that’s where I come in.”
    “Exactly,” Bowman said. “According to my sources, you have the reputation of being able to ... shall we say ... clean up a town.” He gave her a quick salesman’s grin. “I’m prepared to pay you ten thousand dollars per man, half now, half after you finish the job. Is that acceptable?”
    She nodded.
    “Then it’s settled?”
    “It’s settled.”
    Bowman slid a banded stack of hundreds and a file folder across the desk. “Carlucci, Conner, and Romanoff—everything you’ll need is in here.”
    P. J. picked up the file and stood. “You want them to appear accidental?”
    “Absolutely not,” Bowman said. “I want to send a clear message. We will not stand for organized crime in this town.”

.....

     P. J. drove her rental car back to the Holiday Inn—an environment she was comfortable and familiar with: attractive without being flamboyant, reasonable and efficient, the way she might describe herself, if anyone asked.
    A quick read through the files confirmed what she’d expected.. These guys were hardly organized crime. They were small-time criminal practitioners who’d never make it in a big city. But they had chosen their location well—the town’s population hovering somewhere around 50,000. The three men knew their limitations, operated within them, and turned a considerable profit. The action was divided up amicably and efficiently—Carlucci had the prostitutes, Conner the gambling, and Romanoff the drugs. Each man apparently felt confident, safe, and secure in his position.
    Carlucci was easy. He kept a mistress on the other side of town and saw her regularly every Tuesday night. P. J. waited in the shadows until he came out, walked up behind him, and popped a silenced 9 mm round through the back of his skull.
    One down, two to go.
    Conner took a little longer. He was a foreign film buff, and she had to stake him out for a couple of days before he decided to indulge his passion. She waited a few minutes before following him into the theater lobby, an old art deco place with arched doorways and lots of smoky, gilt-edged mirrors. Inside the theater, red velvet gold-fringed curtains framed the screen where some obscure, subtitled drama was in progress. The seats were sparsely populated. Conner sat by himself near the back, absorbed in the movie and munching from a bag of popcorn. P. J. moved quietly down the row and took a seat behind him. A few minutes later, she exited the building, leaving her second victim bleeding into his popcorn, a wooden-handled ice pick protruding from his right ear.
    Romanoff was trickier, but only slightly more so. In P. J.’s experience, Russians were inherently paranoid, and the third man was no different. He had a driver who was most likely also a bodyguard, but since hearing the news of Carlucci and Conner’s slayings, he’d added another man to his entourage. Romanoff’s office was on the second floor of an older, three-story complex near the commercial district.
    Over the period of a few days, P. J. determined Romanoff’s evening routine. He tended to stay late, almost always the last person leaving the building, between seven and seven-thirty. His driver left first, walked to a parking garage in the middle of the block, then drove back and picked his boss and the second man up at the front door. Romanoff waited in the foyer area until the car—a boxy, older-model Mercedes—pulled to the curb outside, and then he and the second bodyguard made their exit.

    P. J. entered the building shortly before six o’clock. The foyer was small, unattended, with a directory on one wall listing the tenants. There was no elevator, just two opposing rows of stairs leading to the upper floors. Between the stairwells, a carpeted hallway led to a rear door exiting onto an alley, and another marked Furnace/HVAC. Both were accessible.
    After leaving the building, P. J. ordered coffee at a diner across the street and waited. At six forty-five, she reentered the foyer and took her position in the utilities room. At seven-ten, she observed the driver’s exit. Less than a minute later, he was followed by the Russian—stocky and wearing an expensive camel-colored topcoat, bald pate gleaming in the scant light of the overhead fixture. He and the second man stood with their backs to her, framed in the doorway.
    The carpeting easily masked her footsteps. She stopped eight feet away and said, “Mr. Romanoff?”
    He turned, surprised, and almost smiled until he saw the silenced semiautomatic. She took out the bodyguard first who was reaching inside his jacket for a weapon then pumped three rounds through Romanoff’s camel hair coat, paused long enough to check for a pulse, and left by the rear door.

.....

     Lionel J. Bowman, III was all smiles.
    The scene outside his window hadn’t changed, but the town had, P. J. guessed, and the banker seemed almost giddy with relief. She slipped the remaining half of her payment into her shoulder bag
    He was looking at her like a proud father. “Ms. Holland, you’re simply amazing.”
    “Not really,” she said, “just thorough.”
    “The media coverage was certainly gruesome, but excellent for our purposes. Our message was sent and, I feel sure, received. There’s no place for the criminal element here in our town.”
    He stood, came around the desk, and took both her hands in his. “I imagine this isn’t something you hear very often in your line of work, but you have performed a valuable service for our community. I can’t thank you enough.”
    P. J. extracted her hands, returned his smile, and said, “No thanks necessary, Mr. Bowman. I’m paid very well for my services.”

    Later that same evening a telephone rang in a large northern city. “Hello.”
    “It’s me,” P.J. said. “I’m finished here. Three up, three down, the machinery’s in place—even the cops. All it needs is someone to run it.”
    “That’s excellent,” the man said. “We’ll be down in a day or two.”
    P. J. chuckled. “C’mon in, the water’s fine.”












Another Underwater Adventure, art by Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz

Another Underwater Adventure, art by Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz
















A Place in Life

C. D. Wight

    Ichirō Nakamura continued calling on clients and stopping by the office unannounced, even after his retirement party. Even after management’s informal pleas. As his successor I was tasked with persuading him to sever ties with the company he had helped build. It wouldn’t be easy. To him retirement meant death.
    We met at a trendy café near Iidabashi station. Neutral ground.
    Ichirō wore a business suit despite the scorching summer heat and his official state of retirement. My golf clothing must have seemed disrespectful. He sat across the small table from me, dabbing the sweat from his face with a folded napkin, his white hair parted with precision, white carnation pinned to his lapel. I finished pouring tea and forced myself to meet the determined stare of my former superior. “The company is grateful for your years of service.”
    “Thirty-one years.”
    “Everyone retires at sixty,” I reassured him. “Spend time with family, play some golf. You’re vested...”
    Ichirō turned away, a pained expression on his face.
    I knew his family had been alienated by decades of his total devotion to work, that he shunned leisure. “Why not take a post-retirement job, something to keep you busy?” I offered.
    “What would I do, park bicycles at the station? Three months ago I had your job,” he said bitterly. “You found your place in life, ne?”
    “Nakamura-san ... respectfully, we must ask you to stop working,” I stated in a formal tone, barely audible above the quiet din of the café. “Any further indiscretion will result in legal action.” With that I put management’s letter on the table and pushed it his direction, the final death blow.
    Ichirō suffered my crushing directness with a stoic stare that faded into darkness as if the ground beneath him had crumbled away, leaving only a precipice over which he was doomed to fall.
    After some time I stood and left him, a terrible weight pulling at my heart.
    Months went by and I was at a Tokyo golf club with colleagues.
    There, by a sand trap stood Ichir Nakamura - lean and tan, in a grounds-keeper uniform, with a rake in his hand.
    My first reaction was avoid being seen. I wanted to save my former boss the mortification for having so compromised his pride, and to save myself the embarrassment for having condemned him to such a fate.
    But Ichirō recognized me and approached. “They let me play for free,” he said with soft eyes and a Buddha smile.
    I was relieved and envious to see him so alive, and was sure his family relations had improved. “You found your place in life, ne?”





C. D. Wight bio

    C. D. Wight lives with his wife and two sons in the historic beach community of Kamakura, Japan. He likes to surf, even in the winter.












Triple Prong, art by Brian Looney

Triple Prong, art by Brian Looney

also find his work at etsy


















Goulash

Mark Plummer

    Roman is already awake when the boy begins to cry. It starts as an unconscious gurgle and grows persistently into a scream. Roman hears the hiss of Caroline’s mother ironing on the landing between their room and the baby’s. He stares at the ceiling and wills the boy to fall back asleep. The patterns in the aertex start becoming clearer in the blue dark. Caroline is a vague, warm lump in the duvet next to him. The baby keeps crying. Caroline doesn’t move. He pushes the duvet back and walks to the door.
    Tracey is peering around the boy’s door, a half ironed shirt hanging over her forearm.
    ‘I was about to go in. I didn’t think you’d heard him.’
    ‘I hear it,’ Roman says and steps into the boy’s room. Blue stars from the nightlight spot his face and chest.
    ‘To be honest, I think it’s too cold in there for him. He’s half frozen.’
    ‘It’s not cold.’
    ‘You’re probably used to it in your country but he’s not, dear of him.’
    ‘It’s not cold. The book says it should be eighteen degrees. It’s eighteen point four.’
    ‘It feels colder than that.’
    ‘The thermometer says eighteen point four.’
    ‘Well, it feels colder.’
    Roman picks the boy up and pushes the door shut with his foot. ‘Shush, Petr. Jedna dv?, prase jde, Nese pytel mouky. Máma se raduje, že bude péct vdolky.’
    Petr stops crying as Roman sings and rubs his cheek against his father’s chest. Roman goes through as many of the rhymes his mother used to sing for him as he can remember. Most of the tunes aren’t right and he has to improvise some of the words.
    He looks down at Petr who looks back at him with the same bemused frown he always pulls when Roman tries to speak to him in Czech. The boy giggles. ‘Da-dy.’
    ‘Táta.’
    ‘Da-dy,’ the boy corrects him with a laughs.
    Roman carries Petr back out onto the landing and towards the bedroom. Tracey turns away from the ironing board and leans her face towards the boy.
    ‘Good morning, sweetheart. You’re up early. Where are you going? You shouldn’t be sleeping in mummy and daddy’s bed, should you? It’s dangerous.’
    ‘You’re not asleep, are you? You’re awake,’ Roman says and quickly shuts the door behind him.
    He goes into the staleness of the bedroom and puts on the light.
    ‘Caroline, get up. Petr’s awake. I need to go to work.’
    ‘I’ve been up all night with him.’
    ‘If I’m late they’ll take an hour out of my pay.’
    ‘Alright,’ she says and sits up against the headboard. She pushes a pillow behind her back. ‘Come to mummy, Peter. Daddy’s grumpy.’
    ‘Grumpy? Fucking hell.’
    ‘Don’t swear in front of him.’
    Roman puts on a jumper and jeans. The boy starts to fuss and Caroline immediately presses him to her breast. The greedy suckling fills the room.
    ‘He’s too old for that shit. He needs proper food or he’ll be too weak. All he eats is that and chocolate.’
    ‘Breast milk is good for him. The health visitor said so.’
    ‘You said the health visitor was a useless bitch.’
    ‘Don’t speak like that in front of him. He’ll take it all in.’
    Roman watches Caroline’s breast clamped in Petr’s mouth. The other one is exposed with her t-shirt pulled up. It’s swollen with milk and blue veins stitch it to her chest. Her dark hair fans out over the white pillow and her sharp cheek bones are highlighted in the dawn. Caroline, a Czech name: Carolina, he’d thought when he first met her. But it turned out to just be a skinny English girl with a bottle of black dye and parents who were Neil Diamond fans. Jim and Tracey Trevorrow are not Czech names.
    ‘When I was his age I was eating goulash, schnitzel, dumplings, everything normal. My brothers had the same, and look how big we are. He’s going to be small and weak.’
    ‘People just don’t give that stuff to babies. It’s not normal here. You’ve got to remember that you’re not in Prague now. You’ve got to do it the way we do it.’

    He has to sign in on a sheet of paper at the reception desk. The night porter is lounging back in a chair and ignores him. The manager is in the backroom hiding from the guests. He looks up as Roman comes in then checks his watch.
    ‘You work in the kitchen, don’t you?’ He steps out into the foyer.
    ‘Yes.’
    ‘Cutting it a bit fine, aren’t you?’
    ‘I think I am on time.’
    ‘Only just. I used to be a KP me. Worked my way all the way up to be the manager. I always used to get in early so I could start my work at eight, not just roll in through the door at eight. What’s your name again?’
    ‘Roman.’
    ‘Italian?’
    ‘Czech.’
    ‘Should be Italian with a name like Roman.’ The manager looks to the night porter for a reaction but doesn’t get one. ‘Romans. Get it? They were from Italy. I love history me.’ He peers down at the signing in sheet as Roman fills in the time and he checks his watch. ‘What’s that surname?’
    ‘Dygryn.’
    ‘Bloody hell. It’s like double-Dutch, isn’t it?’ he says to the night porter who smiles with a closed mouth and nods. ‘Dy-gryn? But you don’t grin a lot. Ha ha. Do you, Mr Do-ya-gryn?’
    ‘Doctor Dygryn.’
    ‘You what?’
    ‘Doctor Dygryn. I have doctorate.’
    The manager sniffs and shrugs. ‘Czechoslovakia, eh?’
    ‘Czech Republic.’
    ‘Prague. Lot of criminals.’
    ‘I never found many.’
    ‘Yeah, loads of them. I know me; I went there for my brother’s stag do. Cheap beer. Puppets. Beautiful architecture. Prostitutes.’ He drinks the beer, manipulates the puppets, outlines the architecture and fondles the prostitutes as he lists them. ‘Lots of crime though. You’ve got to be careful going down the streets.’
    ‘Yeah, sure, I’ll try to be. Thanks.’

*

    He changes into his blue overalls and goes into the kitchen. It’s already a blur of movement and noise. Waiters fight over space at the coffee machine. Pans are needlessly slammed into hobs. A radio hopelessly battles the extractor fans. Lazlo, the other KP, runs about delivering plates to the warming cupboards and spatulas to the chef. His clogged feet slide over the floor that’s wet from leaking teapots. Half-cooked sausages huddle in ban maries to keep themselves warm. Piles of toast wait to be reheated and taken out. The breakfast chef sighs and sweats as he opens a bag of hash browns then waddles to the fryer and empties them into the oil.
    Roman weaves his way to the back of the kitchen and switches on the dishwasher. The water jets kick in and the chef looks over.
    ‘Oh, good afternoon, Professor. Nice of you to join us. Busy night at the hospital was it, Doc?’
    ‘I was talking with the manager.’
    ‘Oh, la-di-dah. Very nice. We’ve been down here running our arses off while you’re chatting.’
    Roman makes a point of looking at the chef’s hips touching both sides of the walkway.
    ‘Sorry. I was on time but he started talking to me. What could I do?’
    ‘Giving the manager therapy now are you, Doc?’
    ‘My PhD was in history.’
    ‘You’ll be bloody history if you don’t get them pans washed.’
    Lazlo giggles maniacally and steps back reverently to let the chef through.
    Roman hoses down the pans then starts to scrub at them with a ball of wire wool. He can feel the skin around his nails coming away. The grease and gunge from the brown water seeps into the cuts in his hands. ‘You have beautiful hands, Roman,’ his mother would tell him when he was young. ‘Don’t ruin them. Find a job where you can use your brain. Don’t work hard, work smart.’
    Lazlo comes across and tosses some trays into the sink. ‘Do these first. We need to put more bacon. They must to be clean.’
    ‘Not in this water, they won’t,’ Roman says.
    ‘Just do it. You need to work more hard. You not the same attitude as me. In Lithuania we are proud if we tired when we finish work.’
    ‘You’re an idiot.’
    ‘You just do what I tell you. I am boss for you.’
    ‘No, you are not,’ Roman says and drains the water from the sink.
    ‘I am. I am higher than you. I help to prepare food, not just scrub the pot like you.’
    ‘We are both KPs. We both get minimum wage.’
    ‘But I have more prestige.’
    ‘You’re a fucking idiot.’
    Roman refills the sink and scrubs down the trays. He takes them over to the chef who is talking to a new waitress.
    ‘Don’t you worry, my darling. I’ll see you alright. If you need anything, just give me a shout.’
    Roman images the chef’s naked rolls of fat spreading over the poor girl and suffocating her.
    ‘I have trays for you.’
    ‘I haven’t got bloody time to do that. Put some bacon on them and shove them in the grill.’
    Roman puts the trays down on the bench next to Lazlo and takes the bacon from the fridge.
    ‘Hey, Lazlo,’ the chef shouts. ‘Get me the ladle for the beans.’
    ‘The professor hasn’t washed it yet.’
    ‘You bloody do it then,’ the chef shouts and Lazlo’s giggle ceases immediately.
    He goes to the sink and sulks. Roman smiles and lays the rashers out in lines then puts the trays under the grill. The fat crackles and he thinks of the pork his mother used to cook for him after school.
    Waitresses start to bring in the dishes from the first round of breakfast. Roman pours the muesli mush and the grapefruit rinds with the pulp sucked from them into the food bins. Opened but unused marmalade packets are tossed into black bags. He wipes lipstick from juice glasses and piles them into the glass washer. He hoses jam from side plates and racks them in trays then lifts them into the dish washer. Steam billows up around him. The plates start to have heavier stains on them. Beans have welded themselves onto plates that were warmed too much. He scrapes away the remains of anemic sausages and half-eaten toast with clots of butter. He removes screwed up napkins from half-full coffee cups. Empty medication packets float in pools of egg yolk. His fingers cramp from pulling the stiff trigger on the hose.
    ‘We need more saucers,’ one of the waiters shouts.
    Roman picks up a crate of them from the dishwasher and takes them down to the coffee machine. The base of his back aches and he has to arch backwards to bear the weight. Waitresses push in front of him to get at the coffee machine.
    ‘There aren’t any saucers.’
    ‘I know. I have them here,’ he says.
    They start to take them before he can even put them down.
    ‘What the fuck is that burning?’ shouts the chef and pulls the tray of bacon out from under the grill. ‘You useless twat. Fucking degree but can’t cook bacon. It’s ruined.’
    ‘You just said to put it in the grill. You didn’t say I had to do everything.’
    ‘I didn’t tell you to breathe but you managed that. That’s wasted. Throw it away. Lazlo, you put some more on. Don’t let that twat anywhere near it.’
    Roman throws the bacon into the food bin.
    ‘And empty that out while you’re at it.’
    ‘It needs two people.’
    ‘Tough luck. Figure it out.’
    ‘Yes.’
    ‘Yes, what?’
    Roman stares at him blankly.
    ‘Chef. You should be calling me chef. Yes, chef.’
    ‘But you are not chef. You are just cook.’
    ‘What did you say?’
    ‘Nothing.’
    The chef folds his arms over his chest and raises his eyebrows. ‘Nothing, what?’
    ‘Nothing, chef.’
    Roman wheels the bin out into the alley. Dregs of tea and coffee slap at the sides. The disposal unit is mounted to the outside wall. Moldy teabags and soggy sugar packets are stuck to the sides of it. He hooks the lip of the bin over the edge of the unit and slowly manages to tip the bin. The liquid goes out first in little waves. Then the lumps of food start to drop in. The machine begins to whir and grind down the waste. He hears the clunk of a forgotten teaspoon. It becomes too heavy on his shoulder and he has to lower it back to the floor. Only half of it has gone. He tries to lift it up again but his feet slip and the bin comes away from the machine. A tide of milk, orange juice, cereal and tomato floods him. It soaks through to his jeans. Half-chewed pieces of bacon hang from his overalls. He gags and leans his head against the wall for a moment, then rights the bin and starts to sweep up the mess.

*

    The baby is crying when he goes in through the front door. Roman goes into the kitchen. Petr is strapped into his highchair fighting off the bottle that Tracey is trying to give him.
    ‘What’s wrong?’
    ‘He’s hungry, dear of him. I’m trying to give him a bottle but he won’t take it. You should have started weaning him onto the bottle before now.’
    ‘I said this. Caroline wants to keep feeding him though.’
    ‘It’s important that she does.’
    ‘You said he should stop before now.’
    ‘No. I didn’t. You probably misunderstood.’
    ‘Yeah, probably. Where is Caroline?’
    ‘She’s upstairs having a nap.’
    ‘Bloody hell.’ He undoes the straps and lifts Petr up.
    ‘Leave him with me. He’s okay. Let Caroline sleep. She’s exhausted, poor thing.’
    Roman carries the boy up the stairs. ‘Caroline. Caroline. Get up.’ He throws open the curtains in the bedroom.
    ‘Jesus. What the hell are you doing?’
    ‘What is the matter with you? He’s downstairs screaming for you.’
    ‘He’s fine. He was with mum.’
    ‘He was crying. He wants you. If you refuse to give him good food then you need to make sure you do it.’
    The baby soothes as it nears its mother’s breast. Roman takes off his jeans and finds another pair.
    ‘What’s that smell?’
    ‘I spill something at work.’ He throws the dirty jeans into the corner. ‘I need to leave this job.’
    ‘We need the money.’
    ‘Do you know how embarrassing it is when people ask me what I do for a job and I have to say I am a dishwasher? The people there are idiots. Even the manager. Especially the manager. You know, people I went to school with are teachers now or they’re out doing research and writing books. I’m scrubbing pans.’
    ‘But you’re probably earning more than they are in Czech.’
    ‘Of course I’m not. Don’t be stupid.’ He pulls on the new jeans and sits on the bed. ‘I was thinking, maybe we could go home. Stay with my parents.’
    ‘Peter’s too young to go on holiday.’
    ‘I don’t mean a holiday. I mean go to live there for a while. I have a friend, he could get me a job in the university. Maybe just a researcher but I can be junior lecturer within a year.’
    ‘We don’t have enough money.’
    ‘I’d be earning more and everything there is cheaper.’
    ‘What about mum and dad?’
    ‘We can come back for holidays. And they can visit us out there. We can show them Prague and my village. They’ll love it.’
    ‘I don’t think they would. They’d be devastated if we left and they couldn’t see Peter every day.’
    ‘What about my mother? Don’t you think she’d like to meet him? At least see him once.’
    ‘She sees him on Skype every week.’
    ‘It’s not the same. She’s never even kissed her first grandchild.’
    ‘But what would I do?’
    ‘Fucking hell. They have nothing back at home too.’
    ‘What’s that supposed to mean?’
    The boy falls away from Caroline’s tit. She tries to push it back in but it falls out again and Petr cries.
    ‘I can’t even feed him now because you’ve got me so stressed.’
    Roman picks the boy up.
    ‘What are you doing?’
    ‘I’ll take him for a walk. You have a rest. You’ve had a hard morning.’
    Petr calms in his arms as he walks down the stairs. By the time they reach the bottom he’s giggling as Roman exaggerates each bump in the stairs. Through the window in the hall, Roman sees Tracey getting into the car and reversing out of the drive. He goes into the kitchen and opens the fridge. Bacon, a bowl of beans, cheese, slices of brown banana: the same shit he’s been scrapping into bins all morning. He pushes the shriveled end of cucumber to one side. A microwave burger in a plastic packet is the best he can find. He takes it out and reads the instructions then throws it back into the fridge. The boy laughs.

    The nearest shop is a half-mile walk from the house. Roman’s arms ache by the time he reaches it and has to drop Petr to the floor as they step into the shop. The boy waddles straight to the chocolate shelves.
    ‘Choc-lit, da-dy.’
    ‘Petr, leave that shit.’
    As Roman passes the counter a buzzer sounds. A woman darts round from the back of the shop. Roman sees the back of a sofa and hears the gossip of a television through a beaded doorway.
    ‘Good morning,’ the woman says.
    ‘Morning,’ Roman says and feels his accent balloon into the air like a bubble they’re all waiting to hear pop.
    The old woman swallows then nods, her smile curdling. She goes to stand behind the counter and watches them as Roman leads Petr past the hot cabinet full of sausage rolls and the racks of crisps to the far aisle where baskets are laid out on the floor with vegetables in them. He sifts through decaying skins and manages to find two onions.
    He looks up and the woman is at the end of the aisle pretending to organize a shelf.
    ‘Do you have some garlic?’
    ‘No. No call for it. We don’t really use it here. Awful smelly stuff.’
    He goes to where the woman is shuffling tubs of salt and gravy granules and takes a bottle of olive oil and a tube of tomato puree.
    ‘Do you have paprika?’
    ‘Here,’ the woman says and hands him a jar of red powder.
    ‘Do you have any fresh?’
    ‘This is fresh; it only came in last week.’
    ‘Thank you,’ he says and takes it from her.
    There’s no stewing steak or pork in the chiller at the back of the shop so he makes do with a pack of mince. He drops all of the shopping on the counter then goes back for eggs and baking powder.
    The buzzer on the door goes and an old man comes in. He goes up to the counter.
    ‘Free CD with the paper today, Gerald,’ the woman says as she takes a copy of the Express from the shelf.
    ‘I don’t bloody want it,’ he says. ‘Load of rubbish. And take all that other tat out too.’
    The woman takes the leaflets from the centerfold of the paper.
    ‘Not the TV book, I need that.’
    Roman puts the eggs and pot of baking powder on the counter as the old man counts out silver coins.
    ‘Do you have some Wondra flour?’
    ‘Wonder flour? No, never heard of it.’
    ‘What is it?’ the old man says. ‘Foreign muck? What’s wrong with normal flour?’
    ‘Wondra flour. It’s normal, I think. American or something.’
    ‘They’ve got a Polish shop in Camborne,’ the woman says.
    ‘Bloody disgusting,’ the old man says with a spit. ‘What’s wrong with British shops? Not good enough for you Poles?’
    ‘I’m not Polish. And if you notice, I’m shopping here.’
    ‘And what about you?’ he says, leaning his tobacco stained lips towards Petr. ‘I suppose you don’t speak a word of English.’
    ‘He’s just eighteen months. And his mother, my girlfriend, is English.’
    ‘I suppose you’re going to try and marry her to get a VISA.’
    ‘I don’t need to marry her. I’m European citizen.’
    The old man slaps his newspaper against his palm and Petr flinches. ‘It’s bloody wrong, isn’t it? Bloody wrong. And how can you afford all this? I suppose I’m paying for it.’
    ‘No. I have a job. I’ve been at work all morning. Then I will go to work again tonight.’
    ‘Taking jobs off hardworking English youngsters, eh?’
    Roman pushes all his items into a pile. ‘How much is this, please?’

    Roman sits the boy in his highchair and searches the cupboards for a saucepan. Tracey’s car is still out and there’s no sign of movement from Caroline. He heats some oil in the pan and chops the onions. Petr giggles as the onion hits the oil and spits.
    ‘Da-dy,’ he says and kicks the underside of his tray. ‘Choc-lit.’
    ‘Táta. And no chocolate.’
    When the onion has started to brown, Roman adds the beef mince and stirs in the paprika, some flour and the tomato paste, then he tops it up with water. He smiles at the flourish with which he adds a pinch of salt and pepper. His mother would let it cook for hours but Tracey will be home by then and he can’t face the comments about the smells and the amount of gas he’s wasted.
    He takes a mixing bowl from the cupboard and mixes together eggs, milk, flour, the baking powder and some salt. The boy starts to fuss. Roman gives him a plastic jug and a spatula and gets him to copy his mixing. The boy laughs and beats the jug violently. Roman puts his finger to his lips then gestures at the bedroom above them.
    ‘Ssh. Nebud maminka.’
    The boy giggles conspiratorially and stirs more gently.
    Roman cuts some slices of bread into cubes and mixes them into the dough. There’s enough mixture for two small loaves which he puts into boiling water. He puts some of the goulash into a bowl to cool for Petr then scrubs down the pan and the mixing bowl. He dries them and puts them away. He won’t leave anything for Tracey to criticize. When the dumplings are cooked, he slices them then puts them into the goulash.
    ‘Goulash, Petr.’
    Roman offers the boy a spoonful of it. Petr clamps his lips around the spoon.
    ‘Fucking hell,’ Roman says and laughs. ‘Is it good?’
    The boy nods. Roman laughs uncontrollably and gives Petr another spoon. The boy again swallows it all. Petr starts to laugh as well.
    The front door opens and Tracey comes through into the kitchen.
    ‘Look at this. I made a goulash and he’s eating it. He loves it.’
    Roman gives him another spoonful. The boy swallows it and looks to his grandmother for congratulations.
    ‘He shouldn’t eat with a metal spoon, it’ll buckle his teeth.’
    ‘Who cares? It’s brilliant. He’s eating real food. He’s eating goulash. Is traditional dish from my country.’
    Tracey looks down at the dish with the rest of the goulash in it.
    ‘Oh yeah. Just a stew really.’
    She takes a cloth and wipes away some gravy that’s dripped onto the worktop. ‘I’ll have to give that a good wipe down later.’ She opens a window. ‘It stinks of onions as soon as you walk in through the door. It’ll probably affect his poor little stomach. Won’t it, darling?’
    She kisses Petr’s forehead and goes upstairs into their bedroom. He hears his name, poor darling, upset stomach, not used to that kind of thing, proper English food. Catherine sighs and he hears her clumsy footsteps coming towards the stairs.
    Roman loads up another spoonful and Petr smiles at him.
    ‘Goo-sh,’ the boy says. ‘Goo-sh, táta.’












A GET-TOGETHER TEN YEARS DOWN THE ROAD

John Grey

I fold up on the couch,
halfway between fever and languor,
speak in soft sentences
about us
as if that means something
other than you and I.

My knuckles press against my chin
like Rodin’s thinker.
I’m trying to direct you to my head
so my heart can get a word in.

You’re not indifferent.
But nor are you in contention.
This is just a meeting of two monologues.
Only the coffee is truly shared.

I can still recollect
without catcalls from the audience.
More tender moments
light their lamps,
roll out their carpet down my tongue.
Tropical beaches, cruise ships,
even a walk through the woods -
they keep their vigil
if not their intensity.

At least, I can pull you into nostalgia.
It invokes a careless laugh,
skewers an embarrassment
involving the word “flesh.”

It’s how it is when old lovers get together.
They’re not in love now
so old incidents struggle
to explain themselves.
Sometimes, they can’t.
I suppose that’s the beauty of them,
why they’ve sworn to silence until now.





John Grey bio (20160219)

    John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in New Plains Review, South Carolina Review, Gargoyle and the anthology, No Achilles with work upcoming in Big Muddy Review, Main Street Rag and Spoon River Poetry Review.  












Representing

Marlon Jackson

His name meant more to him than ever,
what matters most is the representation.
How much his name matters reliving back to ancestry.
His next of kin is so proud of his pure thought of it...the way he exhales the way of beautification and he says to himself.
Staring at the mirror is a tingling sensation of pride.
Spontaneous positivity filled in his eyes expressed outwardly, after experiencing such past worst ordeals.
Continuing to be strong and relaxing and thinking forward...a great asset in consistently letting it all go on and prolong.












a Gospel of San Francisco

Mark J. Mitchell

So now the tourists
have been put to bed
hiding from incoming fog.

The city whispers to those
who welcome the gray blanket
into her nesting hills:

You are all holy flotsam
washed here onto your
last shore, your only home.

You will always carry me
like a ship bottled
in your fragile heart.

Now let my foghorns
sing you sweet to sleep.












Brambles and Wine

Ken Allan Dronsfield

Rambling through
the brambles while
scrub and briers
grasp upon me.
Blackberry wine
dreams, while an
intoxicated mind
forever foggy.
Another splash
from the flask
in a life so stale.
Filling the pail
full of sweet ripe
blackberries.





Ken Allan Dronsfield Bio

    Ken Allan Dronsfield is a Published Poet and Author originally from New Hampshire, now residing in Oklahoma. He enjoys hiking, playing guitar and spending time with his cats Merlin and Willa. His published work can be found in Journals, Magazines and Blogs throughout the Web.












The Effort

Kayla Cordone

Her youth was not ideal
Mom and Dad split early on
School was her day time prison
Yet she told herself it would be alright

Years later she was a rebellious teen
Smoking and drinking her problems away
Friends loved her clever disguise
Nobody knew what she really needed

Longing for someone to finally see
She wanted her family to be fixed
To not numb the pain with substance
She struggled to see the damage it caused 

Attention was a craving not met
The less she got, the number she felt
Nothing mattered to her anymore 
The drugs and booze filled her heart

Loneliness, meaningless sex, and money blown
She led a life that most did not dare
She could not stop even if she wanted to
It was the only thing keeping her alive 












The Certificate

Manuel Moya

    “Sir, do you know why I pulled you over?”
    “Was I going over the speed limit?”
    “No.”
    “Uh... is something wrong with my car?”
    “No.”
    “Well I don’t know. What’s the matter?”
    “Calm down sir. You did nothing wrong. We’re just patrolling the highway to see if people have their certificates today.” A silence ensued and then he let out the question...“You do have your certificate, don’t you?”
    “Certificate?”
    The officer instantly unbuckled his leather gun holster. “Can I please see it?”
    “Oh! Ohh! My certificate.” Stanley’s face flushed with sweat while his hands frantically felt around the car dashboard. He reached for the glove compartment but it wouldn’t give. “God dammit!” Yanked harder and the contents spilled out of the jaw and all over the floor and passenger seat. “Uh... oh god, oh god where is it?” He couldn’t spot it in the mess. And on the periphery he could see the cop positioning his hand on the pistol grip.
    “Ohh shit! How could I have forgotten!” He reached for the back of his pants and took out his wallet stuffed with a thick tuft of receipts and business cards. Tossing them out like nothing he eventually found a wrinkly strip of paper with some simplistic design bordering around a message. “Yup! Here. Here it is! This is it!” he presented the paper to the cop with a shaky hand. The officer took it with his left hand and gave it a hard stare. After some wordless, motionless minutes, the cop slowly returned the gun in its holster. He pulled out a pad of paper and began writing something on the roof of the car.
    “Is something the matter Officer?”
    “Not to worry sir. I’m just scheduling you for a renewal appointment.”
    “Renewal? I’m sorry, did you say renewal? I just got it a little while ago.”
    “Yeah. It says here you got it in May.”
    “Has it been three months already?”
    “August is right around the corner. Don’t you worry. I got you down for an appointment this week so you can get it over with and move on with your life.”
    “This week!”
    “You have a problem with that?” Stan bit his tongue. “Just show this appointment ticket to your nearest DOV and they’ll set you up.”

    On the day of, before the sun had fully awoken, Stan had pulled into a massive parking lot where he found a long line of people already snaked around a windowless, warehouse-like building with the letters D-O-V plainly posted atop the corner of a wall.
    “I’m here for a renewal,” he showed his appointment ticket at the information desk.
    “35E.”
    As he searched for the booth, he saw mothers trying to calm their wailing babies, and restless children running around the endless aisles filled with people stewing in boredom. A man was yelling furiously at a bureaucrat in one station. There was an ethnic looking couple wildly arguing and gesticulating with each other over some documentation at hand. A homeless woman lay her head on a giant bag of clothing or possibly recyclables she had propped on the seat next to her, showing off her severely calloused feet. A rat scurried away into a crack in a wall. Stan passed a woman crying on her husband’s shoulder and finally encountered a door labeled 35E.
    Behind the door were hundreds of people in small cubicles staring at computer screens. After identifying himself, he was assigned to one such station. The screen presented the first question: “Who ran in the election of 1832?” and after he answered, the next: “What were the causes of the War of 1812?” and the next, “List each President in chronological order and name at least three accomplishments during their Administrations.” “How many died in the Civil War?” “Briefly explain the essence of the Monroe Doctrine.” “What was the XYZ Affair?” “Which of the following authors were not American?” “What year was Thomas Jefferson born?” “Who was George C. Marshall?” The questions went on and on for a few hours until the computer requested he enter a time and date for his oral examination.
    At the next appointment, after another long wait, he opened a new door and inside found a large room with a polygraph on a desk and chair facing a committee of thirteen suits. “Take a seat Mr. Pilgrim.”
    As he sat, a man in a lab coat strapped him to the machine with all the necessary electrodes and bands wrapped around his head, arm and fingers. Once hooked up, a nod was given to the committee.
    “Mr. Pilgrim, how do you feel about the American Revolution?”
    “Uh... It was a good thing. It greatly benefitted mankind. It brought about liberty and justice for many.
    “Many you say, but not all?”
    “No, all. For all.”
    “And the Civil War? What do you think?”
    “The right side won.”
    The committee members, it seemed, asked the most random questions without any particular order or reasoning, “Will you vote in the next election?” Another asked, “Do you look at pornography?” “Do you prefer cereal or eggs for breakfast?” “Uh, please tell the committee why you chose to wear that outfit today?” “How many partners have you slept with in the past week? Month? Year? Five years? Ten years? Your entire life?” “Do you prefer chocolate or vanilla ice cream?” “Mr. Pilgrim, are you in favor of free-markets or socialism?” “Does God play a role in your life?” “When are you going to get married?” “Do you hate your father?” “Which is better, Alaska or Wyoming?” “Do you drink alcohol? How much?” “Why so little?” “No, no,” asked another, “Why so much?” After a few hours of this, a commissioner cut Stan off as he was giving an answer, “Thank you Mister Pilgrim. That will be all.”

    He was let out of the room, but through a different door from which he came in. Upon going through this door, Stan was told to go down a white hall where he was shown a security guard up ahead standing at another door. “Wait in here,” he was instructed as he entered this new room where he saw men and women sitting around waiting. The room reeked of boredom and impatience. Some were laying their heads on the shoulders next to them. Others had their iPods and phones out. Then the same official walked in and announced to everyone, “Please undress and we will be with you shortly.” There was some commotion over this, but most of them seemed to know the drill. As the guard left, “Wha?” asked one woman dumbfounded, “What did he say? Are we to...?” “Come on dear,” said an elderly lady next to her, “Let’s just get this over with.”
    It was a thoroughly unerotic and unpleasant experience to see everyone expose and be exposed. A grandfather who came in wearing a respectable looking vintage suit and hat, dressed like they did in the fifties, was forced to bare his leathery flesh amidst the jungle of eyes. Women, young and old, huddled amongst each other, as if they were engaged in some form of primal protection against the unknown. A robust black man stood up from his seat naked, proudly showing off his length, “Come here baby,” he said to an unassuming girl, “you know you wanna look.” The guard came in just then, “Alright, I want all of you to line up on the yellow line. You will walk down the line until you are directed to a particular room.”
    They all walked barefoot, holding their clothes over their genitals. The women crossed their chests. “Where are we going?” one of them asked, but there was no response. “Uh excuse me,” an extremely well fed man tried to get the guard’s attention, “Uh...Excuse me, I’m diabetic. My sugar is low.”
    “Keep it moving.”
    “But my sugar is low, and...” The guard sternly looked at him. “Please, I... I have to eat something or else I can faint.”
    “Sir, I’m not going to ask you again.”
    As the hall divided into three, the guard started pointing people down different paths. He looked at Stan and quickly pointed to a left lane. Stan looked behind at the others, wondering what decision-making process was behind this, if any at all, and how it could be done so quickly.
    “Keep going,” the guard waved at him. Stan continued down the yellow line and it led him to another room where a man in a white lab coat and bifocals waited with a toothy grin. “Hello, I am Doctor Stanley.”
    “Oh? My name is Stan too.”
    “Yes, I know.”
    “You do?”
    “It really is a small world,” he smiled. “And you know what that means”
    “What?”
    “That makes us brothers.”
    “Brothers?”
    “Now I’m just going to examine you a bit okay?
    “Uh...okay,” Stan shrugged.
    “Okay, now open your left eye widely,” he asked while shining a light into it, “Now your right one.”
    He did the same with the mouth and ears.
    “Mmmhmm...good...good. Now let’s put you on a scale.”
    The doc walked Stan over to a scale, “Hmmm...looks like you’ve gained a little since we last saw you Mr. Pilgrim.”
    Stan paled upon hearing this, “Uh...I...I have?”
    “Don’t worry Stan. Only a few pounds.”
    “A few?”
    “Yes, yes. Of course, I’ll have to make a note of this in my report, but it isn’t that bad. Really. Calm down,” he smiled reassuringly. “Don’t worry.” The doc continued the rest of his physical, scribbling notes on his clipboard. “Okay Mr. Pilgrim,” he smiled showing his teeth. “If you go through that door,” he pointed to another door in the room, “You will see the yellow line. Just continue following it.”
    “Uh.... But where does it go?”
    “Uh huh. Yes. Just follow the line.”
    “But where does it lead?” Another patient had stepped into the office and the doctor began tending to him.
    Stan followed the line and was led to a door without any number or lettering. He paused for a moment and took a deep breath. And then he took another before opening. He was back at the main waiting hall. “Wait here, until your name is called,” instructed another security guard. And so he waited. Slouched over in his chair, hungry, exhausted, he nodded off amidst the sound of the crying babies and the stink of the unbathed. A few more hours and then, “Stanley Pilgrim,” announced a loudspeaker. “Stanley Pilgrim to desk 113A!”
    “Please sign here Mr. Pilgrim.” He was handed a new certificate. It showed a picture of him with the following message:
    “To whom it may concern:
    Hereby we certify that our American citizen, Stanley Pilgrim, has taken special tests on patriotism and heritage and he finished them with success.
    And according to this certificate which we granted him he is not to be considered an enemy and it is not allowed to lash, crucify or even rape him unless there is a legal reason that would necessitate him to get punished by the soldiers of the State.
    This certificate is valid for three months only.
    Signed by the Secretary of the Department of Virtue.”
    Stan signed the damn thing and folded it into his wallet.












The Smokies, art by Fabrice Poussin

The Smokies, art by Fabrice Poussin
















Four Glances

Tracy Blake

    I glanced into the mirror. My blue eyes flashed as I saw the demons I knew were there, but never really looked at before. I glanced into the mirror the first time. My name Angel, didn’t seem to fit with the horns I saw sticking out of my head. Is this how others saw me? If so why had no one told me? I reached up slowly to feel for the horns. But only the mirror saw them, they weren’t real. I glanced a second time into the mirror. This time I saw scars. Thousands of them covering every inch of my skin. Why hadn’t anyone told me how ugly I was? I pull my arms in front of my face. There was nothing, only smooth skin. It seemed only the mirror saw these too. A third time I glanced into the mirror. This time seeing more than one thing; the look of hate on my face, mixed with regret, sadness, and longing... could others see this? Was it apparent... the weight I carried with me everyday? My fourth and final glance only reflected back myself. As others saw me, with no flaws. Only the perfection in which I wanted them to see. Only myself, and the mirror, looked back at me with distain, and hatred.












Image Edit 6 4274691868, art by Eleanor Leonne Bennett

Image Edit 6 4274691868, art by Eleanor Leonne Bennett

Eleanor Leonne Bennett Bio (20150720)

    Eleanor Leonne Bennett is an internationally award winning artist of almost fifty awards. She was the CIWEM Young Environmental Photographer of the Year in 2013. Eleanor’s photography has been published in British Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. Her work has been displayed around the world consistently for six years since the age of thirteen. This year (2015) she has done the anthology cover for the incredibly popular Austin International Poetry Festival. She is also featured in Schiffer’s “Contemporary Wildlife Art” published this Spring. She is an art editor for multiple international publications.

www.eleanorleonnebennett.zenfolio.com














Down inthe Dirt magazine, Janet Kuypers, editor





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 three collection books from 2004: Oeuvre (poetry), Exaro Versus (prose) and L’arte (art), 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 shutterfly ISSN# cc& hardcover art book life, in color, Post-Apocalyptic, Burn Through Me, Under the Sea (photo book), the Periodic Table of Poetry, a year long Journey, Bon Voyage!, and the mini books Part of my Pain, Let me See you Stripped, Say Nothing, Give me the News, when you Dream tonight, Rape, Sexism, Life & Death (with some Slovak poetry translations), Twitterati, and 100 Haikus, that coincided with the June 2014 release of the two poetry collection books Partial Nudity and Revealed.








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