welcome to volume 153 (the January 2018 issue)
of Down in the Dirt magazine

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

W.E. Brower Jr. Love’s Endurance
Dominic Lim Birdcage Man
Kyle J Cisco The Bar
Rene Diedrich Image 9 art
Don Ray Crawford Bobby’s Battle
Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz Another War Copy art
Megan Mealor Farewell to Seafaring
Bob Strother Deep in the Pool
Fabrice Poussin Out Playing photography
Allan Onik Switchblade
Pam Munter Beverly Park
J L Higgs 6½ Weeks
Clay Carpenter Spray
Mows the grass at 83
Andrew Rivera Divorce
Eleanor Leonne Bennett Steam 087 photography
Barry Hill Infinity
Janet Kuypers rush
A.J. Huffman My Brother, David, was Supposed to Be a Girl
I Am Hanging
Robert C. Weissenberg My Melancholy Moonboy
Michael Perez The Unexpected Ride
Olivier Schopfer Life in Mono photography
Lawrence Basher The Hitchhiker
J. Ray Paradiso Snow art
Kyle Heger Half-Masters
Make Mine Camo
Of Course They’re Heroes
Kyle Donahoe Last Stop
Janet Kuypers you were meant
Bruce McRae By The Light of The Silvery Moon
James Wylder last reverie for half dead wilderness
Marc McMahon It’s Not Your Fault
Denny E. Marshall Dancing with Words art
Sharon Hajj Rumblings of Dissent
Leonard Henry Scott Gas Attack
Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz You Cannot Please Everybody art
Gregg Dotoli Haiku (dove)
Rajah-Nee Reynold Lost
Janet Kuypers lost
DC Diamondopolous 1968
Kyle Hemmings City Traffic photography
Roger G. Singer Mending Thread
Richard Bullard II Bad Romance
Isaiah Granado Finley Broker
Andrew J. Hogan The Towel
Wes Heine Me Me Me drawing
Adel Aaron Night at the Hyatt
Liam Spencer Michelle Obama’s Pelvis, Fake News,
and Swirling Madnesses
Eli Jacqueline From Father to Son
David Michael Jackson Folk Man Oil Painting
Allan Onik 72 Raisins
Kristyl Gravina Fool’s Paradise
Gaby Bedetti In the Whole Foods Parking Lot
Liar Catchers, Private Investigation
Postmodern Post Office Etiquette
Janet Kuypers Only Half the Story

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will appear in black and white in the print edition of Down in the Dirt magazine.

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Farewell to Seafaring
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Janet, Half Price Books Thanks to Thom Woodruff for photographing Janet Kuypers reading from the proof copy of the recently released Down in the Dirt 1/18 perfect-bound paperback book “Farewell to Seafaring” 1/3/18 during the “Community Poetry @ Half Price Books” Austin feature reading.

ISSN Down in the Dirt Internet

Love’s Endurance

W.E. Brower Jr.

    I’m a writer who is accustomed to the late hours passing in solitude while my mind traverses the fields of my imagination until the at last sleep beckons me to my bed. The morning arrives and I visit Mr. Coffee whom I’ve had a long standing affair with since long before I could count on my hands. A man devoted to his craft lives a dual life with a foot planted in reality while the other is locked in fantasy, my wit as I’ve been told by friends is both cynical and sarcastic but in these modern times what does one expect?
    The blending of fiction and life has been a constant routine for over 20 years with me and yes within that time I’ve faced triumph and tragedies but managed to lick my wounds before pushing ahead, that’s why what occurred was not only an awakening but also a rebirth on a multitude of levels which rocked my very core. It was on a weekday (which I hardly pay notice of as they all remain the same in my eyes) when I heard of the passing of a friend from school. The news forced me to reflect upon my own life for a few moments at opportunities lost and goals yet accomplished, I sent the proverbial sympathy message and signed a card not thinking much otherwise.
    I wanted to post a cynical comment online during a writing break but upon realizing that in the loss of my classmate his widow was now in my network I felt it the proper thing to contact her and state my intentions of the posting so that the words wouldn’t add more salt to a fresh wound. She not only acknowledged my request but immediately saw the reasons behind my concern which she quickly reassured me would be fine, that was my first direct conversation with Nicoletta.
    I utilized my craft posting a sardonic remark before sending her a message of thanks for understanding. As often the habit I found myself staring into the keyboard taking a mental vacation in the world of my writings before shutting everything down for the night.
    A full day passed with me buried in words when a ping from the internet halted my train of thought as a message came in, Nicoletta wished to speak and was concerned over silly quizzes taken online as all the answers circled around me, I answered and quelled her concerns before she asked if we could continue our talk the following day, I marked it in my appointment book thinking nothing of it and resumed writing.
    Our appointed time arrived and I took a deep breath nervous over the first introduction, Am I going to fall on my words?” I found myself asking aloud as I heard the ringer from the other end. My initial fears abated within the first spoken lines and although our topic of discussion was her late husband, something in how Nicoletta held herself composed that made me admire the woman for having such strength in a dark time that I quickly jumped the gun asking if we could speak once more the following night.
    Again my beloved mistress called my attention to the computer for a majority of the day as I intentionally allowed the hours to fly past me until once again my thoughts were shifted by the ringing of the phone.
    Nicoletta resumed her chat from the previous night and in between the tears we shared a few laughs breaking the ice even further until she spoke of moving back to her hometown which was only a few hours away from me. I suddenly asked her to call me once she was settled while I secretly kicked myself fearing that would appear to be pressuring her more than she was already facing, luckily she agreed and ended our talk on that note.
    Again being a creature of habit I found myself locked in the daily routine and rituals knowing that there wouldn’t be a phone call coming in, I blankly read a book barely heading the words before going to bed.
    Like clockwork the following night my phone rang as Nicoletta informed me she was settled back in her childhood home, her voice was barely whisper showing her full exhaustion even though the hour was still early but her attitude shifted with a single spoken request.
    “What do you think of doing video chat? I’d like to see you with my own eyes.” She said.
    My impulsive nature took over and before I could back away from the notion, we were soon looking at one another on the computer screen in real time. I saw a woman broken by the burdens of life and forcing herself to regain composure but even beyond that there was a spark of resistance burning in the sapphire blue eyes which currently were bloodshot from the cross state drive. We spoke only briefly because I didn’t dare want to compromise her well being by forcing her awake for much longer but agreed we’d speak once again in a new budding routine the following night.
    It was a few weeks into our nightly talks that the dynamic changed, we were joking about random topics and to help her through the grieving spent additional time sharing tales of her late husband from during the days of teen angst and the innocence of youth. Nicoletta shed a few tears as my heart went out to her in that moment of complete vulnerability.
    She suddenly stopped and stared directly into the screen at me for a few fleeting seconds, I first thought that the computer had froze until she took a deep breath obviously nervous.
    “Would you be offended if I were to tell you that you’re quite a handsome man and I find myself physically attracted to you?” she asked.
    My face burned as I felt myself flushing with flattered embarrassment as I never see myself as an Adonis or even a Tatum. Before my brain could scream for me to wait I heard my voice share the same sentiment towards her. Logic soon won the battle as I spewed out reasons why it’s best to wait and how the timing to take action wasn’t at this exact moment.
    I woke the next morning a changed man. I went about my routine but a phrase was embedded into my mind and was replaying while I nursed my coffee and as the phone rang surprising me with a morning message... for the first time in years I smiled as a smiling face appeared on the screen.
    I went about my daily errands only this time with Nicoletta on the video keeping me company and unknown to her compelling me to strive harder with renewed determination simply by watching quietly as I went about my business.
    Time shot by fast and before I knew it we had been spending over a month online and within each other’s lives, tears fell at emotional moments, frustrations flared as the obstacles of life halted opportunities but in the end they only strengthened the bond rather than severing it. I was on video with her once again. It was a Saturday night and we were talking about how another man was pressuring her to speak with him when again my mouth came to life and before I could refrain from it three words which change the dynamic of every relationship came pouring out! I made an excuse to drive off for coffee and jumped in the car fearing that I too had just pressured her into a situation too fragile to begin with.
    “I’m sorry for jumping the gun.” I said as we resumed speaking half an hour later.
    “It’s okay. How do you feel now that you’ve said it?” She asked.
    “I feel good, but I normally don’t spew that to everyone let alone...never mind.” I answered blankly.
    We finished early and I soon drifted to sleep surprised at how easy my feelings flowed out whenever I saw Nicoletta but my emotions were pinged with concern given the circumstances of our bond. Sleep was a fitful goal that night as doubt clouded my mind forcing me awake.
    It was a two pot of coffee morning as I faced the job ahead. I heard the phone go off and smiled as Nicoletta’s message appeared on the screen, I answered her feeling the adrenaline shoot through me.
    “I’m in love with someone. He’s a writer who is sweet, compassionate and patiently understanding of my outbursts.”
    I danced around the kitchen in my underwear without a care in the world after reading that line for the hundredth time. Our sentiments towards each other were the same and had raised the ante in our relationship, that night for the first time in my life we shared virtual sex. Seeing her body on screen only forced me to long for my fingers to run through her dark hair as I held her close.
    “We should finally try to see each other in person.” I said after we finished.
    “I’d like that, but I’m nervous as well. I’m a short and fat woman who lost almost all motivation, you like what you see on the screen but reality can be a dream breaker.” She said holding tears.
    “I love you as a whole. Not just for your body or other tidbits but every aspect of you.” I answered honestly.
    “Okay, I’ll make arrangements to drive south. We’ll meet but can you do me a favor?” She asked.
    “Say the word and consider it done!” I said eagerly.
    “When we meet, if you like what you see will you kiss me on the lips? If I’ve disappointed you by not being the woman you think I am just give me a friendly hug. Does that sound fair?” She asked.
    I agreed even with confusion about the request initially and disregarded the favor as a date was finally set.
    All the chats and conversations both good and bad built up the momentum leading to this exact day as I’m sitting at a coffee house watching the traffic idly passing one another on the road. The shop doors opened and after these months of sending virtual kisses, Nicoletta stepped inside tiny and petite as she warned yes but, it was that same radiant glowing smile and deep longing gaze which has held my dreams sweetly all this time now before me.
    I bent down wrapping my arms around her feeling her heart beating in rapid excitement as my lips found hers where I tasted the ambrosia of this goddess as time stood still all around us. Now as I write this profession a writer has found his muse and in the process of doing so has made his life complete.

Birdcage Man

Dominic Lim

    My father was going on and on about some birdcage. His fingers waved about wildly like errant swallows. His face was unshaven, his pajamas were rumpled, and his oversized bowler hat was tilted at an inappropriate angle. He spoke so fast that the tiny gulps of breaths he took in-between sentences turned into hiccups. He stopped only when he happened to look down and notice the boots I was wearing. He fixated on the deep cracks etched into the worn, brown leather.
    “Those belong to my son,” my father said.
    I nodded. “Dad, what is this birdcage you keep talking about?”
    “Will you help him?”
    I straightened his hat, which had threatened to fall off when he jolted his head back up to look at me. “Help whom?”
    “The man. The man in the birdcage.”
    I struggled to stay patient, to breathe calmly and focus on my father. “Alright, but this birdcage...where is it? What does it look like?” I held his hand. “I’m sorry, I just need you to help me. Give me a little more information.”
    “Please, you have to let the man in the birdcage out.”
    I surveyed the room and found no hint of anything remotely cage-like. His unmade bed hid against a cold concrete wall; an overhead fluorescent panel illuminated stacks of old magazines, newspapers, and books strewn across the foot of it. The philodendron I had given him for his birthday sat beside his window, nearly dead. Natural light was peeking through the crooked slats of the nursing home’s blinds. The late afternoon sun filtered in as streams of violet and red-orange, suffusing a small corner of the otherwise stale space with a nostalgic glow.
    Perhaps my father was speaking about something from long ago. He often found it hard to distinguish between past and present. I tried to decipher my father’s words. As far as I knew, he had never owned a bird or birdcage. I felt his frail hand tremble.
    “Could you describe this...birdcage man to me?” I spoke in a soothing tone, as much for my benefit as his. I gently stroked the back of his hand.
    “The birdcage man!” My father laughed. His eyes looked past my face at some scene imperceptible to me.
    “Yes, the birdcage man,” I said, my smile straining. “Can you tell me anything about him?”
    “He says: ‘I am what I am, I make no excuses.’”
    It sounded familiar to me. “That’s a song, isn’t it?”
    My father stared. The hat tipped forward on his head, shadowing his eyes.
    I searched my memories of where I might have heard that song before. My father was an avid fan of Broadway musicals. Perhaps this song about a man in a birdcage was among one of the many he would listen to over and over again alone in the den when I was growing up. On weekend evenings I would put my ear to the crack underneath the door. It was always locked, meant to be a space for my father only. When he was there he would play his records for hours. I heard tinny orchestras, stilted dialogue, sultry jazz, and plenty of singing. My father always sang along to the music. His voice wasn’t pretty; it was always slightly off-pitch. It never sounded like him. Or rather, it never sounded like the man I knew to be my father. Fascinated, I’d lie on the floor staring at the ceiling and listen to his reedy, cracked voice singing about chorus lines and musical hills and librarians in love.
    I looked at my father now sitting hunched over on his chair. He traced the rim of his bowler hat with his tiny hands. It was made of grey wool felt, accented with a band of black ribbon and a faded peacock feather. He once told me it reminded him of Liza Minelli, Bob Fosse, and all the dancers and singers and actors who lived their lives on the stage. He wore it because it was his own little way of living life grandly, without apologies, the way he never could when he was younger.
    “Dad, could you put your hat down for a second and try to focus?”
    He clenched it in his fist and rubbed one side over and over like a genie lamp. “So what if I love each feather and each bangle?” he said. “Why not try to see things from a different angle?” He looked at me unblinking and afraid. I remembered seeing him this way once before, the first time I saw that damn hat. After a late football practice one evening I had returned home to see my mother crying in the kitchen. Meatloaf sat cold on the table.
    “Sorry, Mom. I forgot to let you know I’d be late tonight,” I said.
    She pulled her head up. “It’s alright.”
    “What’s wrong?”
    She looked away, towards the direction of the door to the den. Her eyes narrowed. Pinkness sharpened to lines of red. “He’s down there again,” she said, spitting out the word, “there” like a curse.
    I went to the den door and knocked. “Dad. Come on. Mom’s waiting to have dinner with you.”
    A record scratched and the music stopped. My father’s light footsteps sounded up the stairwell. When he opened the door, he stared at me like a captured animal. Faint smudges of black eyeliner marred the bottom edges of his eyes. I glanced downstairs and saw a bowler hat on a laminated table next to a record player and a pink feather boa draped over a full-length mirror.
    He looked over his shoulder and shuddered. “I’ll be right there. Tell your mother...I’ll be right there. When I’m done,” he said, then closed the door on me. I heard the clunk of the deadbolt as it slid back into place. I grimaced. I had seen my father, who he truly was, for the first time.
    Then the song came to me.
    “I Am What I Am,” I said now to him. He had put his hat back on and was rocking back on forth on the bed. “From La Cage Aux Folles.” Or, The Birdcage. The story of two gay men who own a drag nightclub together, who are disappointed in their son’s decision to marry a woman from a conservative family. My father had adored the show.
    “Bravo!” he said. He stood up and bowed slowly at the waist, almost tipping over. His bony frame balanced precariously over the tips of his pigeon-toed feet.
    “Dad,” I said, pulling his face up to mine. “You asked me to help a man. Is it you? Are you trying to tell me you’re not happy here, that you want to be let out of the nursing home?”
    I saw a flutter of recognition in his eyes. “Don’t make the same mistakes I made,” he said to me.
    I inhaled sharply. “Please don’t tell me the birdcage man is–”
    “You’ve known her a long time. I know. High school sweethearts. So fitting. Such a pretty girl. Smart and kind. Face like a dream. Like your mother’s. Don’t you see? This is not a dream. You love her, like I loved her. You love her. But not like you should.”
    “Are you talking about Lucy?” My fiancée. She’d stuck by me through my parents’ divorce, my mother’s death, my father’s illness. “Of course I love her. She’s my best friend.”
    “Friends, yes! But not lovers!”
    “What?” I shook my head. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
    “You were never interested in any other girls.”
    “I’ve never needed anyone else!”
    “I see that look in your eyes when men walk by. I know that sorrow, that regret. I know.”
    My face went hot. “No. You’re wrong.”
    “There’s one life, and there’s no return and no deposit. One life, so it’s time to open up your closet.”
    “You’re crazy.”
    My father flailed his arms. “She’ll keep the cage closed tight, boy. One day you’ll grow tired of flapping your wings, straining for the light and the air outside. One day you’ll suffocate in the space she’s made for you.”
     “Your life is a sham!”
    “Stop it.”
    “Life’s not worth a damn until you can say ‘I am what I am!’” He grabbed my shoulders and shook me.
    “Jesus,” I said and ripped myself free. His hat fell to the floor and I stepped on it as I pulled away from him. “My relationship with Lucy is none of your business. So what if we don’t... it’s not...we’ve been together a long time. At least Lucy’s always been there for me. But you.” I pointed a finger at him. “All those years you hid away from us. Mom needed you, but you only cared about yourself. I had to take care of her. Just like I’m having to take care of you now.”
    “I’m sorry.”
    “You were selfish. I told myself a long time ago I’d never do what you did.”
    “I’m only trying to help you.”
    “I don’t need your help. I don’t live in a birdcage. I’m not like you. I don’t need to be freed from anything.”
    He stood still, sputtering for a few seconds. Then he disappeared. His eyes lost focus and he became quiet. I picked up his hat and went to put it on his head, but he pushed my hand away. “Don’t want it,” he said. He trudged back to the bed and lay down. He pulled his tattered sheet over himself, knocking loose a few books to the floor. “Give it to the birdcage man. He needs it more than I do.”
    He closed his eyes tight. I watched the sharp edges of his face recede. After a while he began to snore. I took that as my cue to leave.
    My father’s hat dangled from my fingers as I walked out of the nursing home. An early evening shower was lightly sprinkling. I held the hat up to shield my head from the rain and noticed a dirty imprint of the bottom of my boot on the top of it. I wiped it off with the back of my sleeve and held the inside of the hat up to my face. The inner liner was warm and smelled of hair tonic – musty pine and spice, sweaty, slightly antiseptic, yet familiar, as if I’d always known its scent. My boots squeaked as I walked in puddles of rain and my socks quickly became damp. The cracks in the leather had torn open somehow, perhaps when I had stepped on the hat. I sighed and put it on. It nestled onto my head. A perfect fit.
    I walked out to my car humming to myself and put any thoughts of the birdcage man far, far away.

The Bar

Kyle J Cisco

    The roar of motorcycles thundered through the center of town like clockwork, like an afternoon storm. Shop doors closed with a chorus of audible thuds. The thundering continued as the volume of the cacophony grew.
    Riley O’Brien stood at the bar as the town grew silent. Sweat built on his palms as he fingered the handle of the sawed-off shotgun under the bar. The door burst open, smashing the window that sat in the middle of its thick wooden frame. Three large figures stepped into the bar with the sun beaming in behind them. Frozen in fear, Riley ducked behind the bar. He reached out and grasped for the sawed-off shotgun. Two large hands pulled him up and over the bar, and hurled him into a wooden table. It cracked under Riley as if it were made of paper.
    “So, first you don’t pay me? Now you were goin to try and kill me?” said the larger of the three men. “Ya know who I am don’t ya? Well, in case you don’t know I’m the guy who runs this fucking town.”
    “Yea, no one disrespects, Bud, and lives,” said the smaller of the other two.
    As the door swung closed, he noticed the red and black of the Murder of Crows M.C on their biker jackets. The two men moved to either side of Riley, leaving their boss to face him down from the front.
    “It’s like I told you the last time. I don’t pay protection money to no one. Not you goons or anyone else around ’ere,” Riley said as he stood his ground preparing for what he figured would come next. “Now get out of here before you, and your boys’ get themselves hurt.”
    “Ya got balls, kid,” Bud said
    Riley gave no response at first, just continued to back up. He stopped abruptly as he bumped into the pool table in the back of the bar. Riley put his hands on it leaning against it for support. They began to shake with the buildup of adrenaline.
    “Nowhere to run, kid, either pay up, or we can show you how dangerous this town can be.” Bud held a hand in the air, and the two other men began to close in on Riley.
    Riley removed his hat and placed it on the pool table. He always thought not to disrespect the uniform by wearing the hat in a fight. There on the front the Afghanistan campaign medal spread across the hat. “If we have to.” Riley turned to face the man to his left, and the pool stick he pulled from the table flew into the side of the man’s head. Caught by the utter surprise the man writhed in pain on the ground. Riley spun on his heels connecting the stick with the other man’s skull. The second man hit the ground in a shower of splinters from the shattered pool cue.
    Bud in turn grabbed a bottle from a nearby table smashed it, leaving the edges jagged. Then jumped into combat with the younger man. Unaware of just how much danger he was now in.
    Riley dodged the biker’s lazy thrust, caught Bud’s wrist, stepped in across Bud’s leg, and tossed him over his shoulder into a different table. The thud was loud as other glasses were sent crashing into the floor. Riley placed his boot at the fallen man’s neck. He began to apply pressure to the man’s windpipe.
    “As you said, ya better watch out this place could be dangerous for those who don’t know what they are getting into.” Riley turned to the other two men. “Get the hell out of here! And take your boss with ya. Next time y’all come around ’ere I’ll kill him.”
    Scrambling to reclaim their fallen boss, the two men moved with purpose to the door and exited. Riley made his way back to the shotgun, shucked a round into the chamber, ducked, and took position till the roar of engines started once more, peeling out from the front of the bar.

Kyle J Cisco bio

    Kyle J Cisco moved from New Jersey to Orlando, Florida and is currently studying Creative Writing. Along with being a USAF Veteran. He can be reached at https:..twitter.com.CiscoWrites .

Image 9, art by Rene Diedrich

Image 9, art by Rene Diedrich

Bobby’s Battle
(A Flash Fiction Story)

Don Ray Crawford

    Bobby Santos was heading for trouble and he knew it. Yet, he felt he had no choice. He had to get even and that was all he could think about right now.
    Two days before, his seventeen year old sister, Lisa, had been raped. And Bobby had been looking for Billy Mallick ever since. She had been dating Billy for the past couple of weeks and they had gone to the movies and were sitting in his car when he had forced her sexually. She never agreed to have sex and told him so. He had forced himself on her, ignoring her words.
    Lisa was far from being a virgin, she felt overwhelmed and ashamed afterwards. She asked her brother not to get involved, but Bobby was not the kind of guy to just stand and allow Billy to get away with such crap, especially not with his only sister. He had been watching out for her all through her teen years, and wasn’t about to sit back now. He only hoped he wouldn’t kill him, or wind up in jail over all of it, but he had to do something nonetheless.
    Bobby had served four years in the Marines, and had been in Vietnam twice. He knew how to kill a person dozens of different ways, and quickly. Once he got onto someone it was very hard for him to control himself. Even knowing all of this, Bobby’s mind was made up. He would find Billy Mallick and have it out with him.
    Billy had been a high school football hero and all of that, but Bobby didn’t give a rat’s ass about that. He would pay for violating Lisa. But, where the hell Billy disappeared to? Bobby had look high and low for him all over Hayward for the last two days now. He just seemed to have vanished, and Bobby was growing more and more impatient and frustrated, which only added to his anger over the rape. He had to find Billy pretty quick or he was going to explode inside himself.
    Bobby began cruising up and down Mission Blvd. and the bars scattered along 98th Avenue, the usual places he knew Billy frequented. A few days later, Bobby spotted Billy with a couple of other guys and some chicks whooping it up. Bobby’s blood boiled over. He figured Billy had totally forgotten all about that night with Lisa and what he had done to her. He probably didn’t even give a damn anyway. Bobby fumed. Now he would show that hero want’s what.
    Bobby followed the group who had piled into a dark Malibu and headed south for downtown Hayward. He figured they were going to the Red Dog, a popular hot spot in town.
    Sure enough, that was where they turned into the parking lot and started getting out of the car. Bobby was out of his Mustang and almost on them before they were out of the car.
    Without a word, Bobby hit Billy Mallick in the throat and Billy stumbled back gasping for breath. He was all bent over and Bobby kneed him the face and he reled back andf stumbled over a rock and fell hard on the dirty pavement. About that time, one of the other guys took a swing at Bobby. Bobby caught his arm in midair and twisted it around until the bone snapped with a loud crack and the guy screamed in anguish. Then, Bobby karate chopped his neck and he fell hard to the dirty ground. Bobby then whirled around toward the other guy, who stared wide-eyed for a second and then took off, galloping wildly across the street and then down an alley.
    That dude is long gone, mused Bobby, who then for the first time glanced at the chicks, huddled in a group, open-mouthed, leaning against the Malibu and staring wildly at Bobby.
    Bobby motioned for them to leave and screamed, “Get lost bitches!” And they scatter like a flocked of wild geese.
    Bobby stood over the groggy Billy Mallick, who was groaning on the ground and had his arms covering his face. “Please, Bobby, don’t hit be anymore, man. I’m sorry for everything.”
    Bobby turned beet red on hearing these words and began kicking Billy in the ribs and the side of his face. His jawbone cracked and he began spitting blood, which drooled down his mouth and on to his chin. Billy’s eyes were swollen closed and he cried like a baby.
    Bobby finally gained control of himself and stood over Billy just staring at his downed enemy. “You bastard! If I ever see you any where even near to my sister, you’re dead, you hear?” He then whirled around and headed for his Mustang across the street. Glancing back, he saw Billy who was all crunched up in a fetus position. It was then Bobby noticed the absence of the other guy whose arm he had broken. Bobby figured he had, like the runner, taken off as well.
    As he sat in his car, he felt better now that it was all over. He was still shaking a little and grabbed the wheel to steady his hands. Then, he started up the engine and rolled down the window. In some ways, he thought, going to Nam was not too bad a thing after all. He had learned some things that now had served him well. If only he could gain more control over his anger.
    It was only a quick shadow move Bobby noticed out of the corner of his eye, and he never felt the bullet as it penetrated his left temple. He merely slumped over the wheel and his head had hit the horn, which gave off a terrible blast of noise which Bobby never heard.

Another War Copy, art by Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz

Another War Copy, art by Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz

Farewell to Seafaring

Megan Mealor

And then no more wagers
lost to shimmering foreign waters,
no more golden doll-faced doxies
clad in spicy salsa dresses
stalking the salty, stale sailors
straggling in from every one
of the seven surly seas.

We survived the cannons
raging just beyond the coral,
the vast plush of violet sky
beating with fresh-born stars.

We were dazzled by the
smoking aurulent sunsets
and spectral black whales
thunderous in their massive grace,
exonerated by the quarter-moon,
enraptured by the soul of Belisama,
goddess of fire and crashing lights.

Carpeted in sonnet-sewn mist
and twilight-netted awnings
we watched the ruthless sunrise
execute preemptive constellations
memorized every transient tomorrow.

Deep in the Pool

Bob Strother

    Lucia is the first to come work for us—tall, raven-haired and single, and as lovely as her given name is, it’s easy to see why her friends call her Legs. Her former co-worker buddies Lila and Gwen follow within three weeks’ time—Lila petite, sexy-eyed and flirtatious, Gwen, more ripe than plump with a knowing smile that all but asks can you handle this. George, the boss, is a sanctimonious control freak but has great taste when it comes to hiring secretaries. He has pirated some poor asshole’s whole pool. A hat trick, these three—the kind of girls who make our wives feel nervous, have them applying cosmetics before cooking breakfasts, and offering accommodating smiles at bedtime.
    He takes a special interest in Gwen—who wears short skirts and fuck-me heels and her blond hair feathered to frame her face—which makes her the de facto head secretary, a responsibility she takes seriously as evidenced by her spending a lot of time in George’s office and, as needed, working late hours along with the boss.
    We are okay with this arrangement as George is less sanctimonious and smiles more, so we’re grieved when George’s wife arrives unexpectedly one afternoon to find Gwen sitting on her husband’s desk, skirt bunched high around her generous thighs, and one too many buttons open on her blouse. There’s nothing going on he assures her on her way out the door, but she’s more proactive than persuaded, and Gwen is history by the end of the week. Lucia replaces Gwen and relocates from the reception desk I can see so readily from my office, and into the far-removed alcove by George’s.
    My disappointment at losing Legs is forgotten when, two weeks later, a red-haired angel takes her place outside my office. Mona is a single mom in her twenties with bottomless, brown doe-eyes, her hair a shimmering torrent of late afternoon sunlight cascading down to her shoulders. She smiles and says hello and stares at me like I’m a book she’s eager to read.
    Married ten years, I am smitten.
    So much so that when my wife takes an out of town trip two weeks later, I invite Mona to come by my house after work, and she says okay that sounds like fun, and we end up in bed for the first time, and later, at work, she gives me this note saying she wants to play with me forever.
    No matter she has a ten-year-old daughter and a long-time boyfriend who owns his own business, no matter I will ultimately lose a wife, a house, and a new ’74 Olds Cutlass; all that matters is she wants to play with me forever.


    Forever is what it feels like when I’m waiting in my third-floor-walkup, poorly-furnished, just-separated-from-my-wife apartment, for Mona to show up. She’ll try she says, but she’s living with her parents, and she does have a child, and sometimes she just has to do something with Terry, the boyfriend of longstanding whom her mom and dad and daughter seem to really like but whom Mona tells me she’s not really that much into. Then I spy her Monte Carlo turn into the drive and meet her at my door and we race for the bedroom and everything’s all right again until the next time.
    Except it’s not, really.
    Every night I spend alone, submerged in a watery blackness of longing and fear, floating in limbo between despair and hope, looking up toward a dim and distant light where Mona is my surface, my salvation, my ability to breathe and always just a little bit out of reach.
    My divorce becomes final, and I ask Mona to go with me to pick out an engagement ring, and she agrees but then thinks I should meet her daughter first and maybe her parents, except now is not a real good time to spring our relationship on them, so instead she invites me to go with her to visit her sisters in Charlotte.
    Her sisters, and her sisters’ husbands are fun and gracious and charming, and I am charmed because this is what I dream of—to be accepted as part of Mona’s family, and that night when we are alone in the guest bedroom, her head on my chest, one leg thrown casually over mine, it seems almost attainable.
    So when I ask again about the ring, she explains how we really can’t get married right now because she has to marry Terry first. Everyone expects it, she says, since he has his own business, an auto parts store, and will be such a good provider for her and her daughter and besides, he’s building a race car in his garage and won’t really be spending that much time with her.
    I’m sinking to the bottom again, darkness swallowing me, air bubbles floating up toward the surface, now so far, far away, all the while thinking I’m her lover but not her love.
    The Monte Carlo is back in my parking lot and Mona and I are back in my bed two days after she returns from her honeymoon in New Orleans, where she says she cried a lot and that having sex with Terry is nothing like making love with me. And by the way, Lucia’s getting married, too, and leaving, and George has offered her the head secretary’s position. Isn’t that just exciting?
    I’m not sure what’s worse, me staring at the empty reception desk, or having a married and less accessible Mona sitting there as a constant reminder of my misery. My quandary is soon solved when Susie shows up, hangs her shoulder bag on the reception area coat rack, and places her new nameplate on the desk. Dark-eyed, dark-haired and tan, she followed her now-long-gone boyfriend up from Daytona, and drives a lemon-yellow MGB convertible. Give George another check mark in the secretary-hiring column.
    I’m waiting for Mona again, a cheap cabernet open on the nightstand beside two grocery store wine glasses, and trying not to stare out the window so often when I hear the knock on my door. It’s Susie, looking all slinky and feline in a sundress that matches the MGB and she’s telling me Mona can’t make it after all and asked if she’d come by to let me know, and is it okay if she comes in for a while. And of course, it is okay.
    She plops down on my ratty imitation-leather sofa, pulls a nicely rolled joint from her purse, and asks Do me? I light it wondering about her terminology and we share a few hits, a couple glasses of cabernet, and then we’re naked and in bed and I cease to wonder about much of anything except for how deep in the pool I am. Could be Mona really does love me, sending Susie by this way, or maybe it’s just one of the many ways to leave your lover. Either way, it’s beginning to feel like home.

Out Playing, photography by Fabrice Poussin

Out Playing, photography by Fabrice Poussin


Allan Onik

    In the Grand Kremlin Palace, Putin sat on his golden throne. The throne was inlaid with multicolored diamond, and a lion paced the room. 30 Spetsnaz roamed the room, monitoring. The officer ran his thumb against his Kizlyar Voron-3 blade, crouching next to the dictator.
    “I suppose that bitch Hillary never saw it coming, 40 billion in malware and the Presidential ticket was basically punched.”
    “But of course, the Americans were too thick to see it coming.” The officer smirked.
    “When I met Trump in this very room, he sipped my Courvoisier jovially. We talked about which room I could sleep in at The White House when I visited The States.”
    “He’s as dumb as Orwell’s Boxer.”
    “But that’s smart for an American,” the dictator mused, “Perhaps me, Un, and Assad can win him over. Turn the dollar olive.”
    The officer stood in front of Putin. The ceiling chandeliers sent shadows across his face. “There’s just one thing you forgot about the Americans,” The officer looked the dictator in the eye.
    “And that is?”
    “Ever since Watergate, they’ve spent a fortune covering their tracks.” With the Kizlyar, the officer cut the tyrant’s throat ear to ear. “Lewinsky anyone?”

Beverly Park

Pam Munter

    Beverly Park isn’t there any more, like so many of my childhood haunts – torn down in the name of progress or capitalism, which is one and the same to so many. In the late 1940s and 1950s, it was an amusement park, modest compared to anything that came later. Some have said it inspired Walt Disney to create his Disneyland. It was only about an acre, on the outskirts of Beverly Hills at the busy intersection of Beverly Boulevard and La Cienega. The park consisted of about a dozen rides scaled down for young children. It featured a train with cars a kid could sit astride while circling the park perimeter, a carousel and a ferris wheel. There was a roller coaster, too, the tamest one a kid could imagine. At the edge of the park, there were pony rides, but they didn’t interest me. If you look at my family’s ubiquitous home movies, you would have thought I lived there.
    When I was a kid, those 8mm home movies were trotted out at every opportunity. We’d all make the same comments, the same jokes, sharing a family lore. I always sat in the front of the room, watching myself on the rickety portable screen, perhaps trying to figure out who that person is up there. My younger brother, who took custody of all those reels when my parents died, converted them to video when that technology was new so the renditions aren’t very focused. But that’s not the reason I haven’t looked at any of them in probably forty years. It was another time, another person.
    I don’t know how many birthday parties I had there but in many of these films I am dressed to the nines in a frilly dress and Mary Janes, hair curled and topped with a ribbon or two. The earliest three-minute reel might have been taken when I was three or four years old. My father used up most of it following me as I went around and around on a ride where I sat inside a little boat with a steering wheel. Maybe I felt a responsibility for actually navigating that little craft through the waters around the circle. As I watch it now, I see an intent little girl leaning to the side of the boat to make sure it stays on its circular track. In the background, my mother is smiling broadly and waving, inured to the heavy sense of duty demonstrated before her. She mugs for the camera.
    As I watch the grainy film, I can almost smell the popcorn and the mustard on the hot dogs I must have consumed between rides. My parents and whatever other adults who came along kept close watch over me there, making me feel both safe and constrained. There was one of me, often four or more of them. Everything I did there – and elsewhere – was closely monitored.
    Looking back on it now, I had little sense of control or leverage anywhere in my life. My parents had rules about most everything – how to dress, how to comport oneself, what could be discussed, what emotions were appropriate to express. Maybe that’s why I loved Beverly Park. Whenever I’d get on a ride by myself, I felt momentarily independent and free from scrutiny. It was especially true on the little train ride. There are lots of shots of me riding on one of the cars, a preferred sanctuary for me. The path of the train took me out of my parents’ purview. I was on my own, my head filled with fantasies of adventure, risk and travel. But I secretly wanted to drive that train, not merely ride on it. Once, out of range of my parents, I asked the 𔃈engineer𔃉 if I could drive the train. He told me, 𔃈Sorry, honey. Girls don’t get to do things like that.𔃉 It wasn’t the first time I’d gotten that message but hearing it in that safe, fun setting was startling.
    My father, the one with the 8mm wind-up camera, would command me to stand still for a close-up and it’s there I can see my childhood self. Though all the films are without sound, I can almost hear my parents commanding me to 𔃈Smile!𔃉 My face quickly morphs from earnestness to an expression I know will please them. Sometimes, though, before the film runs out, the face returns to its natural, more serious expression.
    Sitting here, watching those movies almost seventy years later, my empathy spills over for that little self. Clearly, there was some counterpoint at work in that life that served as a deterrent to a feeling of childhood abandon. The girl in the movies is cautious, careful, one step removed from the proceedings. It would seem that, even before kindergarten, I was developing the skill of self-containment. At Beverly Park, I could venture into a world of my own making without having to interact much with powerful adults. Perhaps I could envision a time when I would be my own locomotive, that the ride would be one I would create and engineer, without outside proscriptions.
    When he was in high school, my brother worked there for a summer or two, just a few years before it was torn down and turned into a multistory megamall. I wondered why he chose to apply for a job at Beverly Park when there were many other possibilities open to him. The childhood magic there had been mine, not his. In fact, when we’d watch the home movies, he ritualistically complained that most of them were about me, going around in endless circles on rides at Beverly Park. I think he envied my childhood, just six years ahead of his. But his childhood was an easier one because he was a more compliant kid to raise – more cheerful, less rebellious. He grew up to become an engineer, like my father. I ended up opting for paths not taken by any in my family. I’d like to think the dreams and fantasies cultivated at Beverly Park might have had something to do with that.

Pam Munter Bio

    Pam Munter has authored several books including When Teens Were Keen: Freddie Stewart and The Teen Agers of Monogram. She’s a retired clinical psychologist and former performer and film historian. Her essays and short stories have appeared in The Rumpus, Manifest-Station, The Coachella Review, Lady Literary Review, NoiseMedium, The Creative Truth, Adelaide, Litro, Angels Flight—.Literary West, TreeHouse Arts, Persephone’s Daughters, Fourth and Sycamore, Nixes Mate, Scarlet Leaf Review, Cold Creek Review, and others. Her play Life Without was a semi-finalist in the Ebell of Los Angeles Playwriting Competition.

6½ Weeks
(To The Fall From Eden)

J L Higgs

If I be left behind... the rites for why I love him are bereft me

    Only six and a half weeks thought Kati as she looked at her face in the mirror. Such a short time. Seated before the mirror in her bra and panties, she rubbed her hands together and applied her makeup, covering her freckles. Was she making the biggest mistake of her young life? She shook her head and tried to push the thought away.

But that our loves and comforts should increase even as our days do grow

     Reflected in the mirror, she could see the other girls. Like Kati, each of them was in various stages of undress, but none seemed to be as nervous as Kati. Shannon was chewing her fingernails and stealing furtive glances at Kati. Mary, who had complained non-stop about her dress, had tossed it over a chair where it lay limp and wrinkling.
    With the point of no return approaching, Kati recalled the telephone conversation she’d had with her mother announcing her good fortune.
    “6½ weeks? I don’t know, Katarina,” said her mother. “That seems like a very short amount of time to me. 8 weeks, I can see. Or 10 weeks.”
    “I know. But...”
    “And this Dennis. Who is he?”
    “Well, he....”
    “I don’t know Katarina. It still seems short to me. But, if you’re sure?”
    “Yes. I’m sure,” she replied. “I said yes.”
    “Fine. Then you should do it. It’s your life.”
    At that point, Kati asked to speak with her father. After a moment, during which she could hear murmuring in the background, he came on the phone.
    “So,” she said. “Mom told you?”
    “She doesn’t think I should do it. She thinks 6½ weeks is too short a time.”
    “Kiddo, your mother’s a worrier. If she had nothing to worry about, then she’d worry there was nothing for her to worry about.”
    “What do you think?”
    “I think you should do what you think is right for you. You’ve made your decision. I’m sure everything will work out.”
    “Thanks, Dad.”
    “No worries. My bill is in the mail.”
    That’s what he’d said, “no worries.” If only that were how she was feeling. Instead, Kati’s mind was racing. What if she tripped? Forgot what to say? What if... No, she thought, you can do this.

Your wife, my lord, your true and loyal wife

    Just then, she felt someone’s hands on her shoulders. A second later, Freddy’s face, curly hair, and horn-rimmed glasses appeared alongside hers in the mirror.
    “You look wonderful,” he said.
    “Thanks,” she replied.
    While being partially dressed in the presence of the opposite sex could be an uncomfortable situation, none of the girls worried about Freddy. They knew he wasn’t interested in them.
    “Well,” he began, “I came back here to tell you that everyone’s here. I took care of your mother and father myself. They’re seated in front of your Aunt and Uncle. And your sister, Gretchen... she’s here with some guy named Rory. Personally, I think he looks a bit young for her, but that’s none of my business.”
    Kati smiled at Freddy. She laid a hand on his and gave it a squeeze.
    “Have you seen Dennis?”
    “I certainly have,” said Freddy, “and I can tell you he looks absolutely wonderful as do all the guys. Everything is ready and tonight’s going to go perfectly.”
    “I better let you finish up. Best I go. Things to do,” said Freddy, giving her shoulder a pat. “See you later, girls. Break a leg,” he called out, waving goodbye as he shut the door behind him.

They are loves I bear to you

    As she finished dressing, Kati’s mind wandered to Dennis. When she first laid eyes on him, she’d felt an instant dislike. He was tall and handsome, with dark brown skin, but he looked smug. She’d always detested smug people. But now, she knew it wasn’t smugness, just self-confidence. Unlike many people, Dennis was comfortable in his own skin.

Death’s unnatural that kills for loving

    “Do you want me to do your hair now?” asked the dressing room stylist.
    Her thoughts interrupted, Kati refocused on the present.
    “Sure, go ahead,” she responded, closing her eyes.
    As she sat there, her hair her long wavy blond hair being brushed and pulled, she tried to halt her runaway thoughts and keep her mind blank. Finally dressed and with her hair done, she got up, walked over to the door, opened it, and stepped out into the hallway. There, a short distance away stood Dennis. She looked at him and smiled to herself. Freddy was right. He looked wonderful.

If e’er my will did trespass against his love either in discourse of thought or actual deed or that mine eyes, mine ears, or any sense delighted them in any form, or that I do not yet, and ever did, and ever will love him dearly

    Sensing eyes upon him, Dennis raised his head. Seeing Kati, he smiled and walked over to her.

My love doth so approve him, that even in his stubbornness, his cheeks, his frowns have grace and favor in them

    “Shall we?” he asked, extending his arm toward her. She nodded and took his arm. “Don’t worry. You’ll do great. It’ll be fine.”
    “I know,” she replied.
    As the house lights dimmed, Desdemona and Othello took their places to await their opening cues.

About J L Higgs

    J L Higgs’ short stories typically focus on life from the perspective of a black American, the primary goal of his writings is to create a greater understanding between racial, ethnic, and religious groups in America.

    He has been published in various magazines such as Indiana Voice Journal, Black Elephant, The Writing Disorder, Contrary Magazine, Literally Stories, and The Remembered Arts Journal.

    He and his wife currently reside outside of Boston as do their son and daughter.


Clay Carpenter

When she turns the hose in your direction
you hold your tongue cold water skipping off
the dog and onto your face, 8-year-old’s laughter
mingling with it. you know you could do

the job in half the time twice as well and
stay dry but you know one day too soon you’ll
bathe the dog alone and wish she was there
to soak you and take altogether too long

originally published in Concise Delight

Mows the grass at 83

Clay Carpenter

Mows the grass at 83, he’s
out smoothing new cement on the walk,
just bought himself a new car
and ladders and roofs
don’t scare him

smokes half a pack a day,
down from a pack before the
first granddaughter was born,
and a pack and a half
in the infantry in 1943

lunches on convenience store burritos
eats fried chicken for dinner
and there are always pan dulce
in the glass cake dish on the table

leaves the pills to his wife,
who had a triple bypass five years ago
and leaves the doctors to his wife too,
because he doesn’t trust them
or need them

It’s as if the old man
expects to live to be 100,
as if people did it all the time

as if expectation
were medicine
and steps were currency,
each one he takes buying two more

and then comes the heart attack
they describe as massive,
he is surprised he had it
and the doctors are surprised he survived it
although the family isn’t

docs tell him he’ll need a quadruple bypass,
especially risky at his age,
and he survives it, too,
and no one’s very surprised

and they’ll put him on a regimen
of diet and pills
and they’ll forbid
strenuous activity

but no one will be surprised
if he leaves the diet and pills to his wife
and mows the grass.

originally published in Falling Star Magazine


Andrew Rivera

    A warm stream of light beamed through the white blinds, illuminating the small, cluttered room. As it slowly filtered across my eyelids, I woke to the stench of half drank beer bottles lingering throughout the room. I leaned forward, pressing my feet against the cool wooden floor. As I took a glance outside the window, my phone began vibrating on the coffee table beside me. “I’m twenty minutes away,” Lucy said quickly hanging up the phone.
    “Great,” I said tossing the phone onto the bed. I quickly made myself somewhat presentable. I tried my best to do the same for the room but knowing her, she wouldn’t care. As long as this process is over and done with as quickly as possible, That’s all that matters. I waited patiently. Taking the opportunity to get a quick smoke in. I slid a chair over to the nearest window. I glanced over to the small local park across the street. A young girl was swinging on the swing set with her father right behind her. I sat there almost transfixed by the pure joy radiating between the both of them.
    The sound of a few stern knocks on the door brought me to. I flicked my cigarette out the window and answered the door. “Here,” she said as she walks right in and sets the small stack of portfolios on the coffee table. “All you have to do is sign your name where it’s highlighted and that’s it.” I could tell she had been crying because of how puffy her face was and her eyes were slightly red.
    “Um, would you like something to drink? Water or coffee?”
    “Water,” she replied as she sat down on the small couch. “I could see you’re still drinking.”
    “Yeah...” I said handing her a bottle of water. “How’s the boy’s?” I asked.
    “They’re fine. They’ve been dying to play any sports. So, I just signed the both of them up for the city basketball league,” she said handing me a picture of the both of them in their separate uniforms.
    I cleared my throat. “I need to see them, Lucy. I think it’s been long enough already,” I said placing the pictures on the coffee table alongside the court documents.
    “Didn’t you think of that before? Could you? You made your choice and now all of a sudden you want a family?” she asked.
    “It wasn’t like that...” I said.
    “Then why?” she quickly interjected.
    “Why what?” I asked
    “Why did you have that affair?” she asked.
    I didn’t know what to say at that moment. Nothing could justify what I did. In every which way, she was right. I married a great woman. We had beautiful twins, a beautiful house, and cause of the selfish decision I made, she was forced to move to a shitty two-bedroom apartment and has to play two parental roles.
    “I don’t know” I replied.
    “Of course, you don’t. Now it’s going to be on you to tell them everything. I will not be the one to break their heart, Elias. I can’t,” she said.
    “When they’re old enough and ready, I’ll tell them,” I said.
    I began to sign those documents, I realized how different everything would be for them. As I handed her the last of the documents, I was overwhelmed with emotions because I knew that was it. “Here,” I said sliding the remaining court documents to her. Taking a deep breath, she collected her the remaining papers, putting them in her bag and left the two photos still on the table. As I walked her out the door, she stopped abruptly.
    “Here,” she said reaching into her bag. She pulls out a small black box and places it in my hand.
    I only just nodded my head and closed the door.

Andrew Rivera Bio (2017)

    Andrew Rivera is a Creative Writing student in Orlando, Fl. In his spare time, he plays video games and goofs off with his family. Other publications include Scarlet Leaf Review.

Steam 087, photography by Eleanor Leonne Bennett

Steam 087, photography 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.



Barry Hill

    I first saw the image in the doctor’s office, just a few weeks before. I had been there with my mother, not long after my 1212 birthday. She was a nurse and believed in regular medical care, which she called a “minor expense” compared to the cost of poor health. This was not a routine visit or checkup. My mother told me that there was a new doctor that she wanted me to see. The receptionist had already put me in the office, but I could hear my mother talking to the doctor just outside the door. She reminded him of their phone conversation and told him that I was very active and seemed to have more energy than other kids my age or her other children. I was sometimes inattentive and it worried her. She also said that it has become more obvious lately. It didn’t seem like any reason to see a doctor to me.

    They both returned to the office. There was no table with paper to sit on, like my regular doctor’s office. No medicines, jars with cotton, alcohol smells, or those wooden sticks for your tongue. Just couches and tables with lamps with ugly shades. The doctor wasn’t wearing a white coat; instead he was wearing a suit and a tie.

    He asked me how I felt. I said that I felt good. Then he asked me a lot of questions, but in a friendly way. He asked how I did in school, what I liked to eat. He asked about my friends and if I liked sports. I got good grades when I felt like trying. I like fried chicken and baseball. I always did my homework, I told him. I play outside with my friends all the time. What else was there to do?

    Then he took out a book for me to look at. My mother was always trying to get me to read books. I did have a book about World War II, and I was starting to like this new author, Beverly Cleary. She wrote about a character named Henry Huggins who liked pet fish like I did. The book the doctor showed me had pictures in it that looked like something you would do in art class, like throwing ink in the middle of a page and then pressing it together to see what you made. That was the kind of art I liked. Plus I liked when we built pottery with clay.

    The first one looked like a fish. A really ugly fish, but still like a fish. Henry Huggins would have liked it. He would have said the same thing.
    The next one looked like a bird. Maybe a bird that might not fly or lay eggs, but still a bird. Maybe a dinosaur bird.
    Another one looked like butterflies. It was a butterfly and not a moth because the wings were wide and tall and looked like sails on ships. I almost said sails but instead I said butterflies.
    Then there was something that looked like a sideways figure eight, but the edges were not very smooth. It was also a little twisted. The doctor had told me at the beginning when he took out the book to show me that I should say the first thing that came to my mind. I said, “Death.”

    My mother, who sat in the corner of the room, drew a fast breath. The doctor slowed down now, and turned the picture towards himself to look at it.

    Immediately after I said it I realized I should have said something else. I should have been reminded of the way that I tie a rope to a cleat on the dock. I should have just said that it looked like a sideways eight. Sometimes I say or do things before I have had enough time to think about them.

    “That’s interesting,” he said. “Why would you say something like that?”
    The words flew out of my mouth like someone else was saying them. “Well, Dr. King was shot last week. And since then I’ve wondered what it must have been like. Did he know he was shot before he died? It must be awful to have a bullet in your head. And I picture what his eyes must have looked like when he realized someone killed him. If he had time to realize it or he just went straight to heaven. That picture. It made me think of Dr. King and the bullet in his head. I don’t want to be shot in the head. I don’t understand why he was killed. Why would someone kill a man who is trying to help people?”

    The doctor closed the book.
    “I don’t know,” he said.

    He got up and left the office with my mother. They left me alone and I didn’t know what to think about while I sat in the chair. I looked at the pictures on the wall, pictures of his family. He had a girl who was older, maybe my sister’s age, and a boy about my age wearing a Yankee’s cap. I didn’t like the Yankees, but who knows maybe his kid was an OK kid even though he liked the Yankees. I felt like the room was moving higher. Not that it was moving but I felt like the room was not on the ground. I wasn’t thinking about breathing but I felt like I could not get enough air. I just held still and tried to breathe as deep as I could. My father had some tickets to a baseball game for next week. I wanted to be happy about going to the game. Maybe I would catch a foul ball. Plus my dad would buy me a hot dog.

    I tried to hear my mother and the doctor talking outside the door again, but I couldn’t hear anything. I didn’t know if they weren’t talking or if they went someplace where I couldn’t hear. What was there to say? I thought I did pretty good in figuring out the pictures. There’s nothing more important than getting the answers right and I think I was able to do that. I think the doctor was telling my mother how smart I was because I got all the answers right. My mother was always proud of me and put all my perfect spelling grades on the refrigerator. Every time she looked at my report card she would tell me how smart I was.

    When I went home, I rode my bike in the street. Usually I would just ride in a circle, or a rectangular pattern, being careful of cars, staying in front of the house. I followed the tar that filled the cracks in the road. But I found myself riding in a figure eight now. I thought of the picture in the doctor’s office. I rode my bike faster. I imagined the figure eight and felt the wind in my face. My heart was pumping against my ribs and I was beginning to enjoy it. I wasn’t on my bike, I was on a motorcycle in a race on television, and I was famous. The figure eight was a more interesting ride. More turns. I felt myself getting better at riding my bike. I also found that I wanted to aim for the same spot in the middle, where the lines intersected. It was no longer fun to ride in a circle or a rectangle. There was no challenge in it.

*    *    *    *

    There is a particular delight in feeling the school year wind down and the freedom of the summer arriving.

    The calendar said it should be warm but it wasn’t, the sun higher, the winter air a stubborn enemy, breezing under sweatshirts, heavy coats lingering on hooks in the hallways, while a small fleet of boats had replaced the ice, the descending tide soon to be eight feet lower, the Creek draining of its sea, the open waters left as mud flats with decades of sunken boat skeletons and sex-starved clams, the air filling our bodies with a salty breath, creating a burn to the deepest tissues, the tall grasses shrinking the swimming area, too early for the lifeguard chairs to be lifted from their winter slumber, the soothing hum of low-horsepower outboard motors, electric power tools, chainsaws, and callings of sad scavenger seagulls, the smell of deck paint mixed with the gasoline and oil vapors that created a dance of blue magical illusion when spilled into the water.

    My best friend Phil and I pushed our dinghy across the sand, one that had washed up on shore after a storm and we claimed it as our own. The first voyage of the season, through the cold wet sand, wet sneakers, long pants clinging tightly to our legs, the man on the shore shaking his head at us while his dog puts a steamy turd on the beach between puffs on his Marlboro, his face buried in a hooded sweatshirt. The morning sun of early May burned our faces like it was August, a small price to pay, not a reason to stop pushing the boat, taking the middle seat with Phil in the back, the oars in my hands, now floating freely, nothing beneath us but murky sea water and 10,000 years of glacial erosion. I rowed with Phil sitting in the back seat, our knees nearly touching, first one oar, then the other, then both together, creating a rhythm like a Rolling Stones song. We headed towards Mill Neck and the waterfall of Beaver Dam.

    The sound of a siren interrupted our reverie, and the lights of a speeding ambulance flashed into view on Creek Road. We turned the boat around and headed towards shore, reversing the process by pulling the boat out of the water and dragging it above the high tide line, flipping it over on the sand. Phil jumped on his stingray, a high-handlebar bike with a banana seat, my wheels a hand-me-down from my older sister. The sirens continued to be in range, and our ears followed them much like a stray dog on the scent of a raccoon. We were following some kind of childhood script, yet felt free to improvise if something else entered the picture.

    A car passes us going very fast and barely misses me. I turn my head sideways so Phil could hear me.
    “Did you see that? The guy almost ran me over. I was almost killed.”
    Phil doesn’t say anything but I could sense that he was nodding his head. We pass Meadow Lane, then Oak Street. When we get to Bay Street, we see a collection of vehicles with flashing lights down at the end. It looks like an ambulance and a police car, maybe two police cars. We turn our bikes and ride dangerously fast down the hill, not wanting to miss a second of the action.

    When we arrive, a crowd had gathered outside the home of the Smyth’s. Both Annette and Robbie Smyth lived there. I first thought that maybe his father had a heart attack or maybe it was the grandmother who stayed with them. A lot of people seemed to have heart attacks. I thought she was pretty old, maybe 60. I wait with my bicycle between my legs, next to Phil. Suzie Pratt was waiting, a piece of the crowd puzzle. Susie had an older brother who married and lived in Alaska. She lived alone with her mother but was kind of a brat. Phil and I usually just ignored her.
    “Hey Suzie,” I said, “what’s going on?”
    “How should I know?” she says. “I thought I heard something like a firecracker. Then I heard a scream and then sirens and then the police and then an ambulance.”
    There’s maybe twenty people outside the Smyth house, waiting.
    We see a policeman exit the house. “Move out of the way,” he says. “There’s a stretcher coming through.” He starts to push people who aren’t moving.

    Phil and I look at each other. “Old lady Smyth,” Phil says. “Musta had a heart attack. The firecracker probably scared her and she dropped to the floor.” The door of the house flung open, and I’m expecting the grandmother to be rushed out with an oxygen mask strapped to her face. I see instead a pair of boy’s sneakers first coming out of the house, the body flat on the stretcher. They are twisted and crossed over each other. Black high-top Keds, very worn. I see the body is covered in a sheet. The place where the head would be is covered up. Right around where the eyes would be is red with blood in the shape of a figure eight. My heart stops and I’m probably dead for a second, but then return to life, managing to stand the whole time. Phil and I were right near the ambulance as the body is loaded in, like a box into a truck.
    “Is he breathing?” I ask Phil.
    “I don’t think so,” he says.

    Suzie, who had disappeared, now returns. “Tommy Sterns says Robbie shot himself,” she announces, proud to be one of the first to spread the news of the event, whether it was true or not. “And he’s dead,” she added.

*    *    *    *

    The next day, I was walking down the hall towards my classroom, having locked my bike in the rack outside. When I walk through the door of the room , there were two students in the front of the class next to the teacher. One was Suzie Pratt. “Number 17,” she smirked .
    “Why am I number 17?” I ask.
    “We’ll tell you later,” Suzie says. “Ha.”
    It turns out that I was the 1712 person who did not say good morning to Miss Timson, our substitute teacher. The best teacher I ever had, Mrs. Goal, had broken her hip and would miss 3 months of school.
    When told of the news, Phil calls out, “What are you talking about? I was counted halfway down the hall.”
    “You still didn’t say good morning,” says Suzie.
    Phil looks at me with fire in his eyes. I shrugged. Phil was one of the most polite guys I knew. Last year, we had a teacher named Miss Craig and she would stand at the door and greet us. She said good morning to each as we came in. It was a great way to start the day. She was young and pretty and new and Miss Timson was old and grumpy. I will say good morning to her every day now whether I learn anything in her class or not. Sometimes school was a place where everyone was looking for what defects you had or what you did wrong. I guess they figured that you would become a good person by fixing the mistakes that everyone felt free to point out.

    As I asked around, some students knew about Robbie Smyth, but others didn’t. When I told Ronald Stilwall, he didn’t believe me. I guess because he was always making up stories and lies himself that he figured I did, too. Everyone replied to me, but no one said anything more than yes I heard or no I didn’t know about it. No one asked if I saw the dead body. No one asked if I saw the blood around his eyes that looked like a figure eight. No one said that too many people are dying or that he was too young to die. No one even asked if I was there, or said, yes it’s horrible.

    Once the spring coats were in the closet, and the books in the desk, it was time for the pledge. Every morning I said it with everyone else. I was proud of my country and was glad. Though I had heard that there were some people who didn’t want to say the pledge anymore. Love it or leave it I heard my neighbor say one time, about the country. Some college students were not saying the pledge and they were burning the flag because of a war in Vietnam. I didn’t know where Vietnam was but my parents told me war meant everyone stuck together to win. They were talking about a war called World War II. They got married right after the war because they had lived through what they said was a depression and then a war. They told me that 20 years old was a good time to get married. Vietnam did not feel like a war to me. I hardly ever heard about it except on the news. They would post casualties. 351 Vietcong dead. 4 Americans dead. I thought we must be winning because we were killing a lot more of them then they were killing us. I was used to looking at scores like football and baseball. I knew what scores meant and by the killing score we were winning.

    After the pledge we prayed. They called it a moment of silence, but almost everyone went to church so most of us were praying. I prayed that my family would be safe and love me. I prayed that no one I knew would die. I prayed that I wouldn’t get shot or ever have to feel what a bullet is like. I prayed that the people I saw burning stores on the news would stop, but also that no one would die in a burning store or a burning car. I had a large peace sign in my room at home. I prayed that God would not hate me for having that instead of a cross. I opened my eyes a little and wondered what other kids prayed for. I wondered what Suzie Pratt wanted in her prayers, and if she was thinking that if you talked to God everything would be OK. I wondered if she prayed for her father, wherever he was.

    Miss Timson said, “Get out your math books.” As we all groaned and dug deep into our desks, there was an announcement over the speaker. It is time to start the emergency drill. There will be no talking. Everyone is to proceed out into the hallway. This was done once before. It wasn’t a fire drill where we would go outside and pretend the building was burning and that we wouldn’t have to go to school for awhile. This was in case of an attack. I wasn’t sure who would attack us, but apparently our country had enemies that were bad people and hated us and might bomb us or start a war. I had seen pictures in my grandfather’s book that were taken after the atom bomb was dropped and most everything had been wiped out. I hoped it was not an atom bomb that might be dropped on us. We all listened to the instructions and lined up to go into the hallway. We wanted to be orderly in case there was a real attack, just like one day there might be a real fire. Every student was made to sit with legs crossed that in Kindergarten they called “Indian style.” It was very quiet. Somehow, I ended up with Suzie Pratt next to me, and it felt really nice for some reason. I wondered why such a pretty girl like her hardly had any friends. I wondered where her father was because she never talked about it and thought for a second what it would be like if I lived with only my mother and never talked about my father.

    It was so quiet then and I imagined the sound of bombs hitting the building, and planes roaring through the sky just like in the movies about war where America always won and saved the world from evil like Nazis.

    During the quiet, with our faces to the concrete wall, Suzie pulled out a marker. It was a purple one with a thick felt tip. She showed it to me in clear violation of whatever rules we were supposed to be following. You obviously would not need a marker during an attack. I put my hand out and Suzie put the marker in it. I took the top off and noticed that Miss Timson was well down the hallway. I took a big sniff of it. The smell made me feel funny, but good, even though it was a strong smell like ammonia and burned a little. I may have put a dot of purple under my nose because Suzie stifled a giggle. As I held the marker, I got a very strong urge to do something, an urge that I was not able to resist even though I was thinking it was wrong. I held the marker in my hand and pointed it straight out. I slowly began to draw on the wall in front of me as Suzie watched. I drew the sideways figure eight. I made it about the size of my hand. The purple ink on the light green wall made it look black. I turned to Suzie and was not sure what to expect. But she was smiling in a way that I had never seen before. She had bright white teeth and her blonde hair fell over her face and some strands fell in her mouth when she tilted her head. Her skin looked light and soft, and when I looked down, I noticed that she had begun to grow breasts, small pointy bumps on her chest that I could almost see the details of down her white blouse. Things started to stir inside me like something I had never felt before. The new sensations excited and scared me.

    What I did not see was Mr. Heffler over my left shoulder. From a few feet away, he must have seen what I was doing. They say in sports always know where the referee is. He grips my right shoulder tightly, then breaks the fearful silence.
    “Get up,” he says. “What do you think you are doing? Drawing on the walls during a drill? What is wrong with you? Come with me, young man.”

    I don’t think that there was a person in the school who did not hear his loud, booming voice. As I get up, he maintains his grip, then marches me like a prisoner on the way to a firing squad down to the principal’s office. On the way, I must have passed every kid and teacher in the school. Right then I was wishing that a big bomb would drop. Maybe even an atom bomb. It was the only way to end the humiliation. If I died just then, I wouldn’t have cared. I was beginning to admire Robbie. I was thinking that he knew more about life than I did. When would this humiliation end? When would I forget about it? I knew even then that the answer was never.

    I was still sitting in a chair in the principal’s office when the drill ended. There was a window to the office so that every kid and teacher could see me sitting there as they walked back to their classrooms. When Suzie went by, she was smiling. I wasn’t sure if she thought I was a loser or a hero. I was hoping that she thought I was a hero because maybe I really was one even though I was feeling like a loser sitting in the chair. Finally, Principal Trotta returned from supervising the drill. He passed me frowning, the kind of frown my mother had when I said I hated watching my younger sister. He went into his office and made me wait.

    He calls me in.
    “Sit down,” he says. I sit in front of him. My heart beats fast in my chest again. It is happening so often now that I stop trying to figure out why, though I think this time I’m really scared. He leaned forward with his elbows on the desk.
    “Why are you here?” he asks.
    What was this? He didn’t know. Oh. He wanted me to confess.
    I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know,” I say.
    He leaned back in the chair now, and pushed it away from the desk.
    “Oh, I think you know why you’re here, you little criminal,” he says. “You drew on the wall. You turned our school into your own personal artist’s canvas. Didn’t you?”
    I guess there was no way out of it. There were witnesses. I was guilty.
    “Yes, sir,” I said.
    His face turned red and I could see the veins in his neck like when someone is yelling.
    He raised his voice. “You know that what you did is illegal? Defacing public property. You’ll probably go to a Juvenile Home for a few years. That would be right where you belong with the rest of the criminals, wouldn’t it. Maybe I’ll call the police now so they can arrest you and take you out in cuffs.”

    He watched me, waiting for a reaction. I was not capable of reacting. I just thought of myself in jail, or with a bunch of other guys like me who can’t follow the rules. Actually it would be better than this. I didn’t care, really. I didn’t care about anything at that moment.
    There is a long period of silence. I really needed to use the bathroom. “You know what? Since this is the first time you’ve been in my office, maybe I’ll just call your mother. Let her deal with a criminal like you. You can get your sorry self up and go and wait outside.”

*    *    *    *

    I waited a long time for my mother to come and pick me up. She didn’t seem too happy about it. She talked to Mr. Trotta for a few minutes in his office. I couldn’t hear what they were saying. When she came out she looked at me in that way she does when she calls me by my full name, middle name included. It looked like she was holding back tears. When we got to the car, she was still sniffling.
    “Brian, why would you do something like that,” she asked. She was trying hard to hide the fact that she was crying.
    “I don’t know,” I said.
    “What is it with you and this sideways eight? Can’t you just forget about it?”
    “I don’t know,” I said.

*    *    *    *

    When I got home, my mother told me that we were going to have to talk about it with my father. I don’t know if she was feeling sorry for me or not, but she let me go outside. I got on my old bike and started to ride. I tried to ride in a circle. I tried to ride in rectangle. I couldn’t. I rode in a figure eight. First a small one, then a large one, but I kept the crossing in the same place. I could see the figure in my mind no matter how big or small I made it.

    I was surprised to see Suzie Pratt coming up the street on her bike. I just kept riding in my figure eight, thinking that she was going to the beach. I was pretty surprised when she stopped to watch me ride. I kept riding awhile while she watched.
    “Hey,” she says. “What are you doing?”
    “Just riding,” I say.
    “You wanna talk?” she says. She gets off her bike and sits on the curb.
    “Sure,” I say, and I put the rusty kickstand down and my bike stands on the sidewalk near hers. I sit next to her on the curb, our sneakers in the street.
    “You know you shouldn’t draw on the walls,” she says, looking at me sternly. I don’t always know when someone is kidding or serious.
    “I know,” I say.
    “Did you get in trouble?”
    “Well, you could say that.”
    I think that she’s going to ask about Mr. Trotta and the office and going to jail.
    “Thanks,” she says.
    ‘“For what?”
    “Thanks for not telling anyone it was my marker.”
    I hadn’t ever thought of telling anyone that I got the marker from her.
    “Oh sure, you’re welcome,” I say.
    “Still. It was pretty cool what you drew. And you weren’t afraid of getting caught. I’m always afraid of getting caught doing something I shouldn’t be doing.”
    “Yeah. I know what you mean.”
    “Why do you like infinity so much?” she asks.
    “What do you mean, infinity> Like forever and ever?”
    “Yes. That symbol. The sideways eight. It means infinity.”
    “Really?” I say. “I didn’t know that. I thought it was just a sideways eight.”
    She laughs. “No, it means infinity. So you like something but you don’t know what it means?” she says.
    “I guess not. I just liked the shape of it.”
    I start to think of a million things when she asks the question. All the things that have happened. The doctor’s book. Martin Luther King. Vietnam. Robbie Smyth’s eyes and now getting in trouble. I don’t know what to say to her. I don’t know how to put it into words. I lean back with my hands at my sides on the curb, and look at her. The lowering sun is in her eyes, and they sparkle blue, and I’m having trouble getting a full breath again. I look at her and say, “I don’t know.”

    She places her hand on top of mine. I ‘m not sure if she meant to, or if it was an accident. If a girl touches a boy, it’s usually a mistake. But she leaves it there, and at first I want to pull away, but instead I leave it there and try to keep still, but it is very difficult. I look at her and smile. She smiles back. I like what is happening. I like it a lot.

hig photo, copyright 2001-2017 Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers

I long to be near
you      so I can feel the rush
from your mere presence

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 5/28/17 of Janet Kuypers reading her haiku poem “rush” in the intro performance to “Kick Butt Poetry” in Austin (this video was filmed from a Sony camera).
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See YouTube video 5/28/17 of Janet Kuypers reading her haiku poem “rush” in the intro performance to “Kick Butt Poetry” in Austin (from a Sony camera & given an Edge Detection filter).
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers at her 1/3/18 “Community Poetry @ Half Price Books” Austin feature, where her read “Only Half the Story”, “lost”, “rush”, & “you were meant” from the Down in the Dirt 1/18 book “Farewell to Seafaring”, then her poem “My Brain Was (2017 Streamline)” from the cc&d 1/18 book “the End of the World” (L T56).
video video
See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers at her 1/3/18 “Community Poetry @ Half Price Books” Austin feature, where her read “Only Half the Story”, “lost”, “rush”, & “you were meant” from the Down in the Dirt 1/18 book “Farewell to Seafaring”, then her poem “My Brain Was (2017 Streamline)” from the cc&d 1/18 book “the End of the World” (L2500).

Click here for the Janet Kuypers bio.

My Brother, David, was Supposed to Be a Girl

A.J. Huffman

That’s how my mother tells it. Regaling
friends and family with one of her favorite stories. Her due
date was Valentine’s Day. She had decided
his name would be Candy, but
he arrived two days late, and with the wrong
genitalia. She explains this
was before modern technology took all the science
out of the process. She was carrying high,
it should have been a girl. Every time
I hear her tell it, I cannot help but wonder
if this was the reason my brother refused
to cut his hair. He wore it below his shoulders,
shook his head whenever my mother told him he needed
a haircut.

I Am Hanging

A.J. Huffman

from my own mind, like a bat.
Upside down and blind
seems to be the only angle that makes sense
in this maze of miasmic fog I think in.
I flap my wings, forgetting they have claws.
I scar logic as it develops, leave gaping scabs
that barely hold it in
one piece. I can hear it bleeding, dripping
down my insides. Searching for a moon
to howl at, I let it fly, free from my mouth.
I follow it out into the sun, enjoying the motion
until both of us smoke, flame, disintegrate
into ash, get re-swallowed by our communal
cave, cling as breathless as ash
to the cobwebs of a self-contained night.


A.J. Huffman

is my sanity, my salvation,
a ghostly lifeline I grip with both
hands. It is a whisper of wind in total
stagnancy, an unseen promise, ringing clarity
above crying, weeping, lamenting. It is lone
moment of rational thought among rubble
of arguments fought, won, lost, impassed.
It is stoic, heroic, infallible in its unwavering
virtue. It is a pair of starlit eyes guiding
my way through midnight’s sky. It is a constant,
a resident of somewhere, a belief
I strive to reach. It is ephemeral, a flickering
hope, an oasis of respite in my desert
of despair. It is unknowingly
unkind. Intangible, unattainability
personified, it cannot be
reached. It is always lingering
24 hours beyond actualization.

My Melancholy Moonboy

Robert C. Weissenberg

    She stood waist-deep in the lunar lake, luminous water streaming down her star-bright strands of hair.
    The prince watched her from the white sand shore. He had the dreary chore of cataloguing every item, creature, and person in the kingdom, and though he had made some progress, the work remained as infinite as it would a century hence, a youngest child’s busywork. Even if he could record everything, wasn’t it just an unnecessary duplication? For the database comprising everything in the entire universe already existed – the universe itself. He was writing her entry, and having a hell of a time of it. Though looking at her brightened his mood.
    “I know what you’re thinking,” she said.
    “No, you don’t,” he said, but he knew she did.
    “To speak it would be needless repetition. The thought already exists in you. Am I correct in guessing your weariness?” she said.
    “Your discernment is ever on target,” he said.
    “That’s what I was made for,” she replied, flicking her hair back.
    The prince of the moon stared at this astonishing girl. She walked out of the water and onto the shore, her white hair and pink gown miraculously dry. Behind her, children splashed in the lake and built miniature moon-castles in the sand. She stared at them and then at the prince.
    “Say something,” she said.
    “I fear I would bore you,” he said, “I mean that quite literally. Talking to you terrifies me. Whatever light I shine on you is divided through you like a prism, to radiate in a veritable rainbow of responses. You’re more than I can bear.”
    She stifled a laugh.
    “Now you have me afraid to speak,” she said, “I don’t want to fill you with any more fear.”
    She looked up at the star-filled sky. That’s what you’ll become, the prince thought, that infinite darkness, infinite light. She was a budding cosmos, and would soon vanish from this world to become a world of her own.
    “Let’s go to the palace,” she said, “I’m sleepy.”
    “As you wish,” he replied, and stood up with some effort, picking up his scattered books.
    Together they plodded up the pallid dunes. Ahead loomed the lunar palace, its pale towers twined above the white walls like clustered coral, submerged in the sea of night.
    “When you...,” the prince said.
    She looked at him.
    “When you become what you will,” he continued, “what will happen to you? Will you fade...”
    She smiled.
    “Is this for my entry?” she asked.
    “No,” he replied, “I just want to know.”
    “Everything in this world was once united in a single entity,” she said. “But then that being dispersed, in the act of creation, into these myriad separate parts. They are still one thing, what you call a universe, but with space between them. I am everything that will emerge in that world, and they are all within me now. I will still exist, but not in the same way.”
    She stared at the prince, and that burden of books he carried.
    “You know all this. You’ve surely read...,” she said.
    “I’ve read some things,” the prince replied, “but I wondered if you knew – know – what’s coming?”
    “Of course I know,” she said, with a coy smile, “but how I can I possibly tell you, in this universe, what the next one – what I – will become? That world will be nothing like this one in the least, otherwise, it would be here, among us, now. Stars, planets, moons, and moonboys like you – these are all aspects of this world, none of which will exist there. I can speak no further. There are no words for a world in which no words will even exist.”
    They had both come to a stop.
    “And yet,” she continued, “I am the link. What does not exist here has chosen me to be its vessel, and I can feel it in me, reaching out...”
    The prince felt something at these words, but could not name it. Suddenly this kingdom, this moon, and all its minor satellites seemed diminished, as insignificant as himself. He stared at her and felt the warmth of her presence, in defiance of these distant thoughts, a presence that was slipping away.
    “Leave my entry blank,” she said.
    “That seems about all I can do,” he said, a little sadly.
    “Write something about me,” she said, resuming her walk, “a poem or a song, and forget that stupid catalogue. No one will read it, and your father won’t know the difference if the pages are blank or stained with your lousy handwriting.”
    The prince smirked and followed her up the hill, walking in her shadow.

The Unexpected Ride

Michael Perez

    To think in this day and age, someone would have to stick their damn thumb up trying to get home. Florida can be so backwards sometimes, turn one wrong turn and I’m out of the city right into the countryside. The smell from gas to farm animal can be a big indication that I screwed up and went the wrong way. I instantly regret deciding to take the walk especially since I am new to this area. It’s past 9 at night, it’s muggy, humid and I forgot to charge my phone last night, man do I feel like an idiot, I can’t even call an Uber. I forgot which way I came from because I decided to take a shortcut that I cannot return through, so with that I’m forced to trust in a stranger and hope it doesn’t turn into a situation from a crappy horror flick.
    I sucked it up and kept waving my hands and putting my thumb out to anyone that drove by, and mind you it was very many people that did. After what felt like an hour that passed, a silver pickup truck slowed down near me. The man inside slowly lowered his window and with a laugh asked, “Are you lost buddy?” Annoyed I answered yes and ask him if he would please help me get home. Almost instantly he says sure and opens the passenger door. I was pretty freaked out with how eager he was so I told him I would just jump in the back. His appearance was a bit intimidating, rugged beard and probably in his late 40’s. I glanced at his rear window freshener and saw a confederate flag. Again, he laughed and told me, “Relax buddy, you’re too pretty to hurt and I can’t hear you from back there.” How odd that statement is what relaxed me, so I said the hell with it and go in.
    After I told the man what my address was he told me it would take a good 45 minutes to get there. He had asked me what I was doing so far aware from my house with a dead phone and no car. Embarrassed I told him I got lost in my music, which killed my battery, and wanted to get a feel of the new area. He laughed and told me, “Boy, you millennials get so lost in your technology huh?” I really didn’t want to be rude with the “fuck off” response I had in my head so I told him, “Honestly, I really wasn’t paying attention and I feel pretty stupid that I got myself lost. He just smiled and nodded, not showing much interest. Soon after he asked me if I like music, I said yes and I was caught by surprise, Ru Paul blasted on the radio and with that I let out a loud laugh. He asked me why I laughed and I told him, “My wife loves Ru Paul’s Drag Race! I know this song.” He turned smile and said, “Rare to find someone who doesn’t instant judge me for listening to this music.” That made me sad and I started to explain how I had recently come out as bisexual and that my wife helped me come to terms with my gender and sexuality. That spark a very enlightening conversation between the two of us that made the drive go quicker.
    Once we finally reached my place I gave the man my number and told him, “If you ever need someone to help you through your thoughts, I’m willing to listen.” He thanked me and told me “I’ll take you up on that.” I got out, waved and left happy that I could find someone who I can help in return for helping me.

Life in Mono, photography by Olivier Schopfer

Life in Mono, photography by Olivier Schopfer

Olivier Schopfer bio

    Olivier Schopfer lives in Geneva, Switzerland. He likes to capture the moment in haiku and photography. His poetry has appeared in numerous online and print journals and anthologies, and his artwork is featured in After the Pause, Die Angst Magazine, Anti-Heroin Chic, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Former People: A Journal of Bangs and Whimpers, Gnarled Oak, Otoliths, Peacock Journal, Sonic Boom, Streetcake Magazine, Up the Staircase Quarterly and Window Cat Press. He also writes articles in French about etymology and everyday expressions at: olivierschopferracontelesmots.blog.24heures.ch/.

The Hitchhiker

Lawrence Basher

    Walking down the dark desert highway, the cool wind rustles my hair and the lights of the Vegas strip shine miles behind me. My backpack weighs heavy on my shoulders and a shiver runs up my spine. Light illuminates my path and I stick out my thumb to hail a ride. A white Chevy truck pulls over.
    “Where ya headed, kid?” the man asks in a thick country accent.
    “Anywhere but here.”
    “Well then, hop in,” the man says reaching over and swinging the passenger side door open.
    I climb into the truck and close the door behind me. The cabin of the truck smells like stale beer and cool ranch Doritos. Not a good combination.
    “So, what’s your name, kid?” he asks.
    I stay silent.
    “No names then, got it.”
    As I sit here, I carefully study the man. He looks young. Mid to late twenties with a pale white completion, his hair is covered up by a Houston Texans hat. His chest isn’t expanding or contracting. If he was breathing I couldn’t tell.
    We ride in silence for a few miles until the man starts asking questions again.
    “So, what are you running away from kid?” the man asks.
    “What makes you think I’m running from something?” I say.
    “I’ve seen your sort before,” the man says, his tone shifts from questioning to sincere. “We’re all running away from something or other,” he flashes a weak smile.
    “What are you running away from,” I ask.
    “I asked you first, kid,” his tone changing from sincere to stern.
    “My mom passed a few days ago. She was the only family I had left.”
    “That’s rough, kid,” the man says, the expression on his face goes blank like he’s remembering something.
    “What happened to your pa?”
    “You said your Ma was the only family you had left. So, what happened to you Pa?”
    “He was murdered on his way home from work one night. They found him dead in an ally. He had been dragged from his car and his throat was slit open. By the time they got there, he didn’t have a single drop of blood left in his body. The strange thing was that he bled out in seconds and it usually takes about three to five minutes to bleed out from a wound like that.”
    “Wow, kid. That’s a crazy story you got there,” he says as sweat runs down his face.
    “I just want to know one thing. Did you know that he had a five-year-old son at home when you drank him dry?” I say reaching behind me and grabbing the flask of holy water from my back pocket.
    “Kid, that was a long time ago. I had just been turned, I wasn’t in control. I’m sorry.”
    “Apologies won’t bring my father back,” I say as I splash the holy water on his face.
    He screams as he holds his face in his hands.
    He slams on the brakes and my head smashes off the dashboard. He lunges at me and disoriented, I throw my arms up to protect myself. The man bites down on my arm, his teeth cut deep into my flesh.
    I scream.
    Punching the man in the face I feel his nose breaking with the force of my punch and he lets go of my arm. I grab the handhold on the ceiling of the truck and with both feet kick the man sending him out the driver’s side door and onto the pavement. I pull the handle on the door and fall out of the truck onto my back. Pain shoots through my spine as I hit the ground.
    Something grabs my ankle and I’m pulled to the other side of the truck. The man kneels over me, his hand strikes down like a spear aimed for my head. Rolling to my side I get up and run. His hand hits the pavement, the ground crumbles with his hand. He lets out a loud scream and I turn to face him.
    He leaps at me pining me to the ground. I kick him in the chest and he falls to his back. Just as he hits the ground an eighteen-wheeler Mac truck careens by running him over. Blood covers the ground where he now lays.
    I stand up and I walk over to his mangled body.
    “Fifteen years I’ve looked for you, fifteen years I’ve trained to kill you. “
    “Kid, please. Wait.”
    I pull a wooden stake from a holster located on the small of my back and grab the man by the shirt.
    “Beg all you want, but you’re just a monster and I kill monsters.”
    “You think I deserve this,” the man asks.
    “Yes, you do.”
    “I’m a victim here too. I had my whole life stolen from me.”
    “I don’t care.”
    I stake him in the heart and with one last scream he erupts into flames and dissolves into a pile of ash on the ground.
    Blood flows red from the wound on my arm. I sit on the ground and pull gauze out of my backpack. I wrap it around my forearm and get into the truck. I feel a headache coming on as I turn the key and shift the truck into drive. I pull away as the sun rises before me. I feel a sense of pride wash over me. I know it will soon turn into regret. It always does, but for now I feel pride and that is good enough.

Snow, art by J. Ray Paradiso

Snow, art by J. Ray Paradiso


Kyle Heger

Be careful. You could
get carpal-tunnel syndrome
from the repetitive stress
of raising and lowering
the flag so often, keeping
up-to-date with whose lives
are worth honoring, whose
deaths worth mourning,
who are the victims, the
martyrs, the heroes. You’d
better take it easy. That
head of yours might just
crack open like a raw egg
if you are faced with the
full implications of flying
the flag at half-mast
for Nancy Reagan,
whose most famous
public service was
to promote the disastrous
“Just Say No” campaign,
while letting the stars and
stripes flutter high in the
breeze after the police
shoot to death a 13-year
old for holding a water
pistol. Why not just give
us all a break and fly the
damned thing at half-mast
permanently instead of
jerking it up and down
like a yo-yo?

About Kyle Heger

    Kyle Heger, former managing editor of Communication World magazine, lives in Albany, CA, with his wife and three sons. His writing has won a number of awards and been accepted by 46 publications, including London Journal of Fiction, Nerve Cowboy and U.S. 1 Worksheets.

Make Mine Camo

Kyle Heger

I just can’t enough camo.
Slap it on my baseball cap,
necktie, jacket, underwear,
shirt, belt, pants, socks, shoes,
swim suit, wallet, sunglasses,
backpack. Wrap me up in it.
It’s more than just a fashion
statement. I must be ready
at an instant’s notice to dive
into the undergrowth and do
a little big-game hunting. Give
me camo bed sheets, toilet seats,
bath towels, throw rugs, cell-
phone cases, lawn ornaments,
surfboards, jet skis, motorcycles,
SUVs. A fellow never knows
when he’s going to need to do
a little sniping or take on some
other combat role. I demand
camo bandages, slings, casts,
canes, walkers, wheelchairs
and prostheses. I’ve got to show
everybody that I’m a dangerous
guy. While you’re at it, camo
my skin, my house and my coffin.
When the drones come, it’s mighty
handy to be able to keep a low
profile. And don’t forget to cover
my dog, my wife and my kids with
camo too. After all, I might want
a few fellow survivalists to keep
me company come the apocalypse.

About Kyle Heger

    Kyle Heger, former managing editor of Communication World magazine, lives in Albany, CA, with his wife and three sons. His writing has won a number of awards and been accepted by 46 publications, including London Journal of Fiction, Nerve Cowboy and U.S. 1 Worksheets.

Of Course They’re Heroes

Kyle Heger

It goes without saying that they’re
heroes. Brawny Paper Towels says
they are. So do the good folks
at Band-Aid Brand Adhesive
Bandages, Hooters and Hallmark
Cards. Corporate America can’t
be that far wrong. The Wounded
Warrior Project, Homes for Heroes
and Carry the Load don’t ask what
makes them heroes, so what gives
you the right to ask? It’s not for
you to question their ends or means,
to ask if they’ve killed or tortured
or raped, invaded countries, propped
up dictators, committed war crimes.
All you need to know is that while
serving in our country’s military,
they have suffered and risked, and
that some have even died. Yes,
since you are impolite enough
to ask, the same thing can be said
of combatants against whom our
warriors have so bravely fought
(Nazi’s, the Viet Kong, The Taliban),
but they are clearly not heroes
because they were our opponents.
And don’t even think about trying
to get by with pitying our military
heroes as victims of brain washing
and exploitation instead of telling
them how proud they should be
of serving our nation with honor.
Otherwise, they might just go all
Abu Ghrab or Mai-Lai or Hiroshima
on your ass.

About Kyle Heger

    Kyle Heger, former managing editor of Communication World magazine, lives in Albany, CA, with his wife and three sons. His writing has won a number of awards and been accepted by 46 publications, including London Journal of Fiction, Nerve Cowboy and U.S. 1 Worksheets.

Last Stop

Kyle Donahoe

    The wind blew across the hot desert road as I sat on a bench near the seemingly empty gas station. Seemingly, that is, given that aside from me outside, and two employees in the building, it looked abandoned and empty, like whoever was here eventually packed up and left. So basically... a crap hole. Kind of like my life, really.
    I sighed as I adjusted in my seat on the bench, a dark roof above my seat being the only thing keeping me in the shade. A backpack full of various things laid beside me – it contained things like extra snacks, water, my phone, a charger for the phone, a book or two, and a change of clothes. Oh, and my wallet, containing my ID, credit cards, and... a photo of my husband. I shut my eyes, trying not to think about him. After all that’s happened...
    “Sir?” I heard someone say, causing me to snap out of my train of thought and look to see who was calling me. It turned out to be one of the gas station employees, a pretty young woman who seemed out of place in this boring place. “Are you alright?” she asked me, frowning. “You’ve been here for quite a long time, and-”
    I just smiled and nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine,” I said. A blatant lie that only I knew the truth about. Yet, she didn’t know better, and just smiled back, nodding at me before heading back into the station.
    Many minutes passed by, and at that point, I think I fell asleep. Then, I found myself being woken up by the sound of tires squealing coming from a truck. Jumping nearly fifty feet in the air, I looked up to see a large delivery semi-truck parked on the road before me. And, hopping out from it, was a beautiful woman in “trucker attire” – visored cap, t-shirt with some company’s logo on it, jeans, and boots. A cigarette was visible in her mouth as well. As she came out, she didn’t seem to notice me, as she went straight for the store at the gas station.
    Fast forward a few minutes later, where she came back, still not noticing me. I had been looking at her truck the whole time, and during that, I realized that I could change my current predicament. When she went to get back into her vehicle, I took that moment to call out, “Hey.”
    The lady stopped, turning her head to look at me. “Howdy,” she said, in a noticeably Southern drawl – probably Texan, I figured. “Need somethin’, honey?”
    “Uh... well, I need to get somewhere, and I don’t really have much in the way of transport,” I answered. She took the cigarette out of her mouth and blew smoke to the side, while remaining silent. That prompted me to add, “I’m not gonna be a nuisance, I promise. I just have the clothes on my back, and the stuff in my pack over there.” I pointed at the backpack on the bench.
    She took a drag from her cigarette, and puffed again, before looking at me and speaking, “What’s your destination? I’m headin’ to the city to deliver all this gear and crap.” She made a gesture at the cargo within the truck’s trailer.
    “...that’d be where I’m going too.” I felt myself smiling just a little bit. I saw her put a hand to her chin, thinking apparently.
    “Eh, I got space. Hop in, honey,” she said suddenly, climbing in. Not one to dawdle, I quickly followed suit, getting in the passenger seat and putting my backpack in the legroom that was available. As the door was closed, the truck roared to life, and soon, we were off.
    “Name’s Clementine, honey,” the driver said as we went, extending a hand to me. “Yours?”
    “...Lee,” I said softly, accepting the handshake with a smile. She seemed to return it, before focusing on the road. The window on her side was open so her cigarette smoke wasn’t contained in the cabin.
    “Alright, Lee. Tell me somethin’. There a reason you’re going this way too?”
    I paused, before deciding to answer, thinking of the photo in my bag. “...I got someone to make amends to. Someone I could really like in my life again.”
    Clementine just smiled at me. “You sound alright to me, then. Got a few hours to go before we get there, by the way.”
    I just relaxed and nodded.

image copyright 1998-2017 Janet Kuypers

you were meant

Janet Kuypers
twitter-length poem, 5/18/17

as a woman
you were meant
to do big things

which you are

video not yet rated
See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers in her 6/3/17 poetry show “Meant to do Big Things” at June is a Woman! in Austin’s the Bahá’í Faith Center (Lumix), with her poems “you were meant”, “Athena”, “a man calls a woman”, “cover”, “Diane Talking About her Trip to Mexico City”, and “Echo in my Mind” (while playing an acoustic guitar with with a bow).
video video
See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers in her 6/3/17 poetry show “Meant to do Big Things” at June is a Woman! in Austin’s the Bahá’í Faith Center (Sony), with her poems “you were meant”, “Athena”, “a man calls a woman”, “cover”, “Diane Talking About her Trip to Mexico City”, and “Echo in my Mind” (while playing an acoustic guitar with a bow).
Download all of the poems from the free chapbook
Meant to do Big Things
the “Meant to do Big Things” 6/3/17 chapbook the “Meant to do Big Things” 6/3/17 chapbook of the poems she performed in her 6/3/17 “Meant to do Big Things” poetry feature/show, including “you were meant”, “Athena”, “a man calls a woman”, “cover”, “Diane Talking About her Trip to Mexico City, “Echo in my Mind”, and the bonus poem “My brain was (2017 Streamline)”.
video not yet rated
See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers at her 1/3/18 “Community Poetry @ Half Price Books” Austin feature, where her read “Only Half the Story”, “lost”, “rush”, & “you were meant” from the Down in the Dirt 1/18 book “Farewell to Seafaring”, then her poem “My Brain Was (2017 Streamline)” from the cc&d 1/18 book “the End of the World” (L T56).
video video
See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers at her 1/3/18 “Community Poetry @ Half Price Books” Austin feature, where her read “Only Half the Story”, “lost”, “rush”, & “you were meant” from the Down in the Dirt 1/18 book “Farewell to Seafaring”, then her poem “My Brain Was (2017 Streamline)” from the cc&d 1/18 book “the End of the World” (L2500).

Click here for the Janet Kuypers bio.

By The Light of The Silvery Moon

Bruce McRae

Another full moon
skulking round the yards
and gardens of our sad little town,
shining its grey lamp
over human ignominy
and human invention,
picking the lock
of our church’s back door,
highlighting the cures
displayed in the pharmacy’s window,
scarcely enough illumination
to read the poster there
announcing last summer’s circus.

Come on, come all,
it excitedly insists.
See the friendly giant juggling
kittens and midgets.
Stand and marvel
before the world’s unhappiest clown.
Ogle our beautiful sword-swallower.
Witness the disparity
between animal and man.

Bruce McRae Bio

    Bruce McRae, a Canadian musician currently residing on Salt Spring Island BC, is a Pushcart nominee with over a thousand poems published internationally in magazines such as Poetry, Rattle and the North American Review. His books are ‘The So-Called Sonnets (Silenced Press), ‘An Unbecoming Fit Of Frenzy’ (Cawing Crow Press) and ‘Like As If’ (Pskis Porch), all available via Amazon.

last reverie for half dead wilderness

James Wylder

we color the light poles green and
cannot see the sun, but that
wasn’t important
I’m sure they still have the sun in Canada

It’s Not Your Fault

Marc McMahon

    A letter to the one I love the most, where do I even begin. To you my love:
    I am writing you this to try and help you to understand why I have done many of the things you now seem to unforgivingly hold me in constant contempt for. To see if I cannot help to shed a little light into what drives the addict to do the things we do. In hopes that you will come to the realization that none of it was intentional.
    First, none of this was your fault! The things I have done I take full responsibility for- you must realize this. Why do you think I am trying so damn hard to get help and learn how to change? I am doing this for two reasons. First and foremost, because I deserve better than what I have been allowing myself to be. And secondly, because I love you beyond what words can express. I feel so terribly isolated, lost, and completely forgotten without your love. My soul longs for you to finally realize this, where we will go back to being care-free and completely silly in love again.
    I would give anything right now to have that. To be able to fill this huge, empty crater inside of me, with nothing but your love. I pray to the universe to give me another chance to feel my heart with yours again. I long for your acceptance, understanding, and compassion. I need you more than the sun needs the moon. Please, for us, try and see that; for you, for me, and for any of the little you-and-ME’s we may create, please try and see this! I never intentionally set out to hurt you. That is not who I am, that’s not the person you fell in love with. Although through the years of my addiction I have caused you much pain and unfathomable amounts of heartache, that is not who I am!
    I do not expect you to fully understand what I am about to try and explain, because I have been battling with this for most of my waking life and can’t even understand it myself.
    I have something inside of me that does not want me to succeed, to be loved, or to be happy. I am still, and will always, be the person you fell in love with. But there is a monster that dwells deep within my soul called addiction. That without anyone ever being able to see, I must battle to subdue on a daily basis. If I do not, it will rear its ugly head, and its desire to drink or to use its drug of choice, will be far more than I can contend with. At that time, full of complete guilt, shame and oh, so much remorse, I succumb to its desires and use, even though I don’t really want to.
    No, that was not a typo, it reads: I use even though I do not want to! It defies logic, understanding, and sometimes even the power of God, it seems. This is my reality. It’s something you are going to need to accept about me for us to be healthy again. I never meant to hurt you. I realize I need help, and that’s what I’m doing. I want this to stop just as badly as you do, and quite possibly, even more so than anybody does! I am hurt, scared, confused, and feeling very unwanted right now. Much like you are feeling hurt, scared and very unappreciated right now, I realize this. It kills me.
    I need your help. I cannot do it alone. I have done things that hurt your heart, stole your trust, and made you question whether I truly ever loved you at all. I realize this now. I see it. I own it. I am beyond words to tell you how sorry I am for it! I cannot change any of that.
    I wish I could, but no amount of prayer or heavenly intervention will ever erase the mistakes I have made. We must move forward now though, we cannot afford to dwell on the things of the past, because they will be a cancer to our future. I need your support now more than I ever have. It is the only way this is going to work. Even with it, this still may end up not working, but my love and desire to be with you, and my drive to keep you in my future, compels me to try. I need you to be willing to fight too, for us!
    I need your support, there are moments it seems after we have an occasional heart to heart talk that I get a sense of finally maybe you understand now. Maybe, you see that I never ever wanted you to have to go through this at all. We get along great for a day or two and I begin to feel the warmth of your sunshine healing my heart again. My self-esteem is immediately bolstered, and my sense of identity as a human being begins to return. Then for some reason, it all stops, just as fast as it started. You begin to berate me, constantly reminding me of all the pain I have caused during my recent relapse. Leaving me feeling the guilt, shame, and broken. These things to me have become normal. My every day.
    I never meant to hurt you, I need your support! I realize that you need time to heal, just as I am taking the time to heal and help myself, and I am trying to give you that time- that space and understanding that you need. But sweetheart, when you constantly- and I know it is probably out of pure frustration- ridicule me for all the mistakes we both know I have already made, you quite unknowingly (maybe), take away not only the little self-esteem I may have regained, but all the progress I have made regarding us. Us. Because you and me- we- that’s what I want again. Hurting you hurt me- and I know you don’t see that, but it eats away at me. Every drink. Every hit. There was always two. One for addiction, and the other for you. Because I couldn’t bear to know- because I couldn’t stop- what I was doing to you.
    I am so sorry.
    I love you sweetheart, and I need you to help me fix this. Even though you had no part in creating it. You are going to have to be a part of us fixing it. The love I have for us is not enough to fix this on its own, I wish it was. I am tired. And I am weak, and I cannot handle ripping raw wounds we’ve decided to lay to rest. Of how all of this is my fault and how hurt you are by all of it, I know this. I’ll always know.
    It is not healthy for us to continue to live like that. That way is not our solution and only will drive us further apart, and create more conflict between and in us in the future. To be honest with you, I find it no longer acceptable to me, I deserve better than that. I have owned up to my part in this. If you fail to realize that, please go back and reread this, please! Help me fix this, please. Together we have a fighting chance.
    A chance to hold hands walking through the park again. A chance for you to open the car door for me as I get in, making me feel infectiously silly with my love for you. A chance to lay on a blanket underneath the stars together, silent, with both our minds daydreaming about the beautiful possibilities a future together holds! A chance to be intoxicated with love for one another, to the point you can’t wait to get home from work just to hear my voice. I am prepared to do whatever I must do to beat this thing and make my paper-made fantasies and reality.
    Are you?

Marc McMahon bio

    Marc is a 48-year-old Author, Speaker, and Soldier in a war to loosen the grasp that Substance Abuse has on our society. He is a Father, Son, and friend to all those seeking refuge from this incorrigible disease. Marc resides in the beautiful Pacific Northwest where he enjoys, writing, hiking, and kicking the disease of addiction in the teeth, every chance he gets. As Marc always likes to say, “be blessed, my friends!”

Dancing With Words, art by Denny E. Marshall, first published in Eratica, Winter 1999

Dancing With Words, art by Denny E. Marshall,
first published in Eratica, Winter 1999

Rumblings of Dissent

Sharon Hajj

    Her dream finally came true. When Harper Boyd walked into the press room, she brought her years of preparation, anticipation, and excitement. Following in her grandfather’s footsteps, she knew journalism to be a noble profession. Surprised at the first thing she noticed, she fought off a nagging feeling nipping at her skin. A sign hanging on the wall said, ‘No Talking - Remain in the Building at All Times.’
    Harper looked around the room at the other journalists hunched over their desks. Close to twenty workers filled the rows, all faced away from the window. They went back and forth between clicking the typewriter in front of them and scribbling in a notebook, not looking up to see who entered the room. The sharp scent of bleach and castor oil seeping in from the adjacent room with the printing press, reminded her of her mother disinfecting the house when someone in the family was sick.
    Her new boss motioned to the lone empty chair, which happened to be closest to the window. Faced with the stark desk, Harper draped her smooth purple scarf over a hook to brighten the space. She swept her black curls behind her ears and took a deep breath. When she pulled out the chair and scraped the floor, she thought she heard a sigh from across the room but she couldn’t be sure. She continued to listen and only heard the tapping of keys or the turning of a page. The clock ticked, lulling the group into their monotonous work.
    When she imagined being a journalist, this wasn’t what she pictured. She thought she’d be running through the streets, hiding in alleys to find out the true story from someone at the scene of the crime, or sneaking into a home to write up a story from an anonymous source.
    Not wanting to disturb anyone, Harper pulled out her notebook from her bag, careful not to let the clasp jingle. She used slow, precise movements. Her pen with the red cap and lettering on the side, which said, Be Bold, had been a gift from her grandfather.
    Harper remembered when he gave it to her on her ninth birthday. Her friends had all gone home, leaving behind the vanilla cake with only the letters H A left on it. It was as if the cake laughed at what it had seen. Perhaps her friends didn’t want to escape the reality of the world around them, but their parents sure did.
    Her grandfather had pulled her aside and handed her a sleek red box, with a black ribbon tied around it. He didn’t say a word. When she opened it and saw the pen, she felt the raised script of the words, Be Bold.
    “Grandpa Oscar, will you tell me again about when you worked for the newspaper?” Harper asked. She led him to a couch and sat down close to him. They had the same rosy cheeks and large ears for listening. Harper thought she looked like a younger version of him when he still had his curly hair.
    “Harper, do you really want me to repeat it? You’ve probably heard it a hundred times.”
    “Yes, Grandpa, please.”
    “You’ve read about the collapse of the prison where they chained the inmates, right?” He leaned closer to Harper, speaking in a whisper.
    “Yes, and the protestors destroyed it.” Harper’s eyes lit up. The idea empowered her.
    “Ahh, yes, but at first, the governor tried to change the story because he was embarrassed. That’s when I was still young and I believed him. I delivered the newspapers at the time.” Oscar rubbed his head, bringing the memories to the surface.
    “Is that when you decided to be a journalist?” Harper tilted her head, waiting for the next part.
    “Not at first. I didn’t know he wasn’t telling the truth. Luckily, I met some wonderful friends who I learned from and they helped me to understand. They told me they all came together to destroy the prison because of the horror stories coming out of the place.”
    Harper’s eyes opened wide. She grabbed onto her grandfather’s arm urging him to continue.
    “It had been the governor’s thirst for power which eventually brought him down. When I learned the truth, that’s when I decided I would do everything in my power to become an honest journalist.”
    “You were the best, Grandpa,” Harper said.
    “And you, Harper, will be the best in your time. Remember, the truth will always come out. Search for that truth and don’t let anyone stop you.”
    The pen slipped from her fingers onto the desk, breaking Harper out of her memory. She gripped the pen and although the script on its side had worn down, she still felt the power it held, the power to tell the truth, and the power to change the world.
    Her boss handed her a paper for her first assignment announcing a new children’s museum. It was a reminder to be practical and realistic. She’d have to put her dreams of changing the world on hold.
    Hours, days, and weeks passed leaving Harper settled in a routine. The typical stories of community picnics, cat rescues, and retirement parties kept Harper and others in the newsroom from noticing their restrictions, until one day, a colleague mentioned the mayor might get kicked out of office but nobody was allowed to go investigate. A few sharp words passed around the room before being quickly packed away. Once rumblings of dissent threatened to pop to the surface, Harper felt a new uneasiness. Rather than focusing on her keyboard, she often turned to catch a glimpse of a sparrow resting on the window ledge, or strained to hear murmurs coming from the street.
    One day when her restlessness reached a crescendo, a chant down on the street caught her attention. The window, being on the second level, kept her from seeing the whole group, but she could see the tops of a few heads and arms reaching up holding signs. The sound of the ticking clock faded. Other chairs in the room scraped against the floor. The chants, louder and louder with each phrase, pulled Harper up out of her seat. She leaned on the windowsill leaving streaks of dust on her plaid dress. The puddles scattered over the road and cold air didn’t stop the protesters. They were uninhibited, free to fight for what was right.
    Harper looked back at the sign, ‘No Talking - Remain in the Building at All Times’ with a new disgust. She grabbed her things, threw her bag over her shoulder, and bolted out the newsroom door to where she was needed most, where she would greet the truth.

 Take Back the Night 1992 rappy image copyright © 1992-2016 Janet Kuypers

About Sharon Hajj

    Sharon Hajj is the author of a middle-grade fantasy, The Clock Tower, originally published through a small press. She is a member of Just Write writing group and the Women’s National Book Association - Greater Philly Chapter.

Gas Attack

Leonard Henry Scott

    It was a particular morning long, long ago, a Tuesday I think. The sky was gun metal gray with splotches and streaks of washed out blue, and lazy indifferent clouds; just an ordinary day. But those are the kind that can sometimes bite you in the butt.
    When I entered the building where I worked (as a newly minted adult on my first real job), an empty elevator was there waiting in the lobby. I got on and pushed 22. The doors closed and the elevator started up. But then it stopped almost immediately at the second floor.
    A man entered the car. He was an ordinary, everyday man nothing special. He was wearing a crisp light blue dress shirt and a pair of tan khaki pants. He nodded cordially and turned to face the front of the car. Then, just as the doors closed, he promptly cut a loud fart which seemed possess considerable aromatic promise. It bubbled and popped with a certain anxious immediacy and appeared to offer the possibility of becoming more than just gas. The emission could have resulted from the angry death throes of a still percolating Mexican dinner, or perhaps something else more exotic, overfilled and seething with unfriendly spices. While he farted, the man’s stomach growled and whined audibly like a tortured cat. And his symphony of flatulence slowly grew in aromatic intensity. The man continued to stand impassively on the other side of the car. He stared at the closed elevator door. Now, all at once the rumbling and grumbling stopped. And just beyond that brief swell of silence a long unbroken hiss began to filter through the back of his khaki pants. I suppose objectively it wasn’t a loud noise, but in the sudden, uncomfortable silence it seemed to pierce the air like the powerful emptying of a great circus balloon.
    The elevator stopped on the fifth floor. The doors opened and the man departed without the slightest acknowledgement, glance or change of expression. Perhaps he was embarrassed or maybe he was just anxious to find a restroom to check the condition of his underpants. The doors closed, and there I was alone on the elevator; engulfed and surrounded in and by a stifling invisible cloud of unpleasantness. I was, trapped.
    I was just a hapless victim. Yet, I recognized the situation for what it was and the great immense entirety of what it had the potential to become. I only hoped as the elevator slowly ascended, that the unthinkable would not happen. Then, just like that, the unthinkable happened when the elevator stopped at seven. The doors opened and two nicely dressed young women got on.
    “Oooh.” One said immediately, placing a protective hand of her mouth and nose. The other woman smiled that painful, grimaced smile of a difficult bowel movement as she hastily attempted to fan away the smell (as if that ever works).
    I stood momentarily at ground zero trying to mentally formulate some notion of an explanation that would make sense them. Finally, I just retracted my head into my shoulder blades and slunk to the back of the car. I tried to shrug it all off inwardly and blasé it out. By now it seemed that the fart had reached its maximum level of odoriferous intensity. And it was not just a memorable smelliness. It was making me dizzy.
    One woman nudged the other, who nudged her back. They leaned against the side railings and stared at me with unremitting disgust as if I was a statute of Hitler realistically fashioned out of dried dog vomit. Oh how I wanted to explain and vent my (no our shared) indignation! But instead, I quietly examined my shoe tops as the hairs on my skin burned from the hot rivets of their stare. I understood completely. All they knew was that when they got on the elevator, there was one person and one fart already there. End of story.
    We stood in silence marinating together in a foul soupy odor of such near palpable intensity that it seemed almost thick enough to touch. The elevator rose at glacial speed. The women were bound for 16. I was headed for 22. But when the car stopped at 14, I immediately fled through the open door. I was fast, yet not fast enough to outrun the disapproval of the newest passenger, a white-haired gentleman with a briefcase, who glanced at me quickly as he entered the elevator, then loudly exclaimed, “Oh My God!”
     I walked up the next eight floors. By the time I got to 22, my heaving chest was ready to implode and my calves felt like they had swollen to the size of grapefruits.
    Out of necessity I did timidly return to the elevator for subsequent trips. However, for the next several days, I furtively scrutinized every sudden face fearing that I might run into one of those three people. But I never saw any of them again, not the three indignant elevator passengers or the man in the khaki pants. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I was fired from that job at the end of the week for forgetting to pick up photo paper for our Apeco Uni-Matic Photocopy Machine. When I told my dad, he laughed and said, “When I was your age, I was fired from more jobs than I could ever possibly count.” I thought, “Wow, what an inspiring story.” I still do think that because those words helped me to keep things in perspective over the years.
    That long ago gas attack confirmed for me something that I, as a newly certified wet eared adult had suspected but did not want to believe; namely that life in fact is not fair. At this very moment (probably) across some foreign sea, an unrepentant evil dictator is dying peacefully in bed after many years of unpunished criminal self-indulgence. Yet other good people throughout the world are unmercifully whipped black and blue by the vagaries of chance for miss-attributed foibles and farts not of their making.
    At some point on the sometimes colorful, but mostly bland-painted unrolling carpet of my life, I could have become almost anything (with the possible exception of jockey or underwear model). But no matter how great or soaring my achievements in life might have been, to a circle of three certain people, I suspect that until the end of time, I would only be recognized as, “That asshole who farted on the elevator.” Although we often have no clue how we are being perceived in life, sometimes (deservedly or not) we can make a pretty good guess.

You Cannot Please Everybody, art by Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz

You Cannot Please Everybody, art by Edward Michael O’Durr Supranowicz

Haiku (dove)

Gregg Dotoli

Black squirrel listens
lone spotted dove coo
echos peace message


Rajah-Nee Reynold

    Alan patted the trousers of his security uniform as the click-clack of his soles meeting tile resonated in the otherwise silent chamber of Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. He dropped the roll of duct tape on the green-clothed table as his partner piled several paintings on the floor. Alan strolled closer to the paintings. The pale mug of a man fashioned in a black cloak and matching hat stared back at him while his lady friend appeared to avoid eye-contact. Alan tapped the frame with his foot until one side slid and propped itself up on the tile, only to uncover Rembrandt’s mildly disapproving self-portrait.
    “Finished tying the bitch up?” Jerry asked. He placed a small statue of a bird in flight on top of the stacked paintings.
    “It’s a dude, man.”
    “So?” Jerry fought a yawn as he stretched both arms over his head. “Call ‘em like I see ‘em.” He swung his arms back and forth as he crept over a thin rope. He fell into the cushioned armchair and kicked his feet up on top of the glass enclosure housing notebooks and other trinkets.
    “Hey,” Alan said. “What are you doing?”
    “What does it look like I’m doing?”
    “Sitting on your ass when you should be doing your job.”
    Jerry snuggled into the chair. “Before you start scolding me about ‘doing my job’, snatch as many goods as I did––then we’ll talk.” He flicked his wrist at a random wall. “Go on.”
    Alan rolled his eyes, but removed Landscape with an Obelisk from its perch as he moved toward the indicated wall.
    “That’s not Rembrandt’s. It’s his student’s.”
    Alan stopped and raised an eyebrow at the man. “How do you know?”
    “You don’t do your homework before an exam?”
    Alan’s hand grazed over the frame as a scuff mark was left on the brown tile by the heel of his right shoe. “Whatever’s related to Rembrandt is sure to get us something.” He placed the painting next to Jerry’s stack. “Not to mention that it’s in a museum.” Alan continued his work as his partner settled back into the cushioned chair. He grabbed Degas’s Program for an Artistic Soiree and Three Mounted Jockeys, walked back to set them on his pile, and glided back to confiscate the Chinese beaker from its podium.
    Alan reached for Chez Tortoni, but paused as his hand brushed against Cortege aux Environs de Florence. He took the Degas frame in both hands and balanced it in one as the other graced the glass from top to bottom. His hand closed in a pencil position and stroked the bridge forward and back. He scratched at the darks and brushed over the lights, trailed the wistful figures with the tips of his index and thumb, and pressed against the ‘smudges’ with all fingers.
    “Hey, Al!” Jerry said, his breath against Alan’s ear as he peeked over the taller man’s shoulder. “Wha’cha doing?”
    Alan shrugged. “Nothing. Let’s finish this.” He handed the painting to Jerry and proceeded to take Chez Tortoni. He passed the frame and beaker to Jerry and walked away.
    “I ain’t your freaking mail boy!” Jerry rolled his eyes as he turned to the stacked paintings. “You could have at least gotten some nice shit,” Jerry said as he took a box cutter from his pocket. He stabbed at the corner of Vermeer’s The Concert. “These are ugly!”
    “Like yours are any better,” Alan said as he adjusted his hold on The Storm on the Sea of Galilee. “But yeah. People think the ugliest stuff is the greatest, so the uglier, the better.”
    “Yep.” Alan chuckled, reaching for Degas’ La Sortie de Pesage. He ran his index finger down the glass, traced the lines of a transparent figure on the right end of the painting, and brushed over the blue filler that stood out amongst the browns and tans. His finger hovered over the glass and made its way down to the blank coat of the transparent figure. Just as his finger crept closer to the glass, a sneeze shot through the quiet of the night, and Alan’s heart skipped several beats.
    “Hey!” Jerry said, looking over his shoulder. “What’s taking so long?”
    “Yeah, yeah. I’m coming.” Alan removed the painting from its display, and placed a hand on the glass. “I guess...it really wasn’t meant to be, was it?”

image copyright 2003-2017 Janet Kuypers


Janet Kuypers
haiku 3/1/14

now I’ve lost my way
I took a wrong turn in life
how do I save 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 Vine video of Janet Kuypers performing her poem lost (in her books Partial Nudity and 100 Haikus) live 12/3/14 at Chicago’s open mic the Café Gallery (Canon)
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers performing her series of her haiku poems INCLUDING THIS ONE live 12/3/14 at Chicago’s open mic the Café Gallery (Canon camera)
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers performing her series of her haiku poems INCLUDING THIS ONE live 12/3/14 at Chicago’s open mic the Café Gallery (on a Sony camera, negative filter)
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers performing her series of her haiku poems INCLUDING THIS ONE live 12/3/14 at Chicago’s open mic the Café Gallery (on a Sony camera, cropped and color balanced)
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See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers at her 1/3/18 “Community Poetry @ Half Price Books” Austin feature, where her read “Only Half the Story”, “lost”, “rush”, & “you were meant” from the Down in the Dirt 1/18 book “Farewell to Seafaring”, then her poem “My Brain Was (2017 Streamline)” from the cc&d 1/18 book “the End of the World” (L T56).
video video
See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers at her 1/3/18 “Community Poetry @ Half Price Books” Austin feature, where her read “Only Half the Story”, “lost”, “rush”, & “you were meant” from the Down in the Dirt 1/18 book “Farewell to Seafaring”, then her poem “My Brain Was (2017 Streamline)” from the cc&d 1/18 book “the End of the World” (L2500).

Click here for the Janet Kuypers bio.


DC Diamondopolous

    Johnny kneeled on top of his bookcase as he wiggled the screen out of its frame and let it slide onto the bush outside his bedroom window. Just as he raised his leg over the ledge, he remembered his retainer and yanked it out of his mouth, tossed it onto the dresser and climbed out.
    Sneaking around the side of the house, he unlatched the gate, inched through, then locked it. He glanced west toward the Brewers’ house and east to the Fillmores’. At ten thirty at night, the neighborhood had tucked itself into bed. His old man’s station wagon parked in the driveway was a real daddy’s car, but it had wheels, and that’s what Johnny needed to take him to his first gay bar.
    Johnny pulled his dad’s key from his crushed velvet pant pocket, unlocked the car, and slipped behind the wheel leaving the door ajar. He put the gear in neutral and let the Buick roll back into the street and then pushed the car past the Wilsons’ house, shut the door, started the engine and took off for the Harbor Freeway and Santa Monica Boulevard.
    When he had read in the local paper that his science teacher was arrested in a raid at The Rusty Nail and lost his job because he was a homosexual, Johnny felt bad for Mr. Gilroy, but excited to know he wasn’t the only queer in the universe. The Rusty Nail reopened as a bar for men and women, gay men and women, Johnny learned through the back pages of the underground press.
    Johnny pounded his fist against the wheel, feeling the victory of freedom. He had the fake ID his sister’s boyfriend made for him, thinking Johnny wanted to meet some fox at the Blue Turtle, but with a constellation of zits on his chin, his voice still swinging between the Little and Big Dipper, Johnny’s chances of making it through the doors of The Rusty Nail were still slim.
    Three days before he got his driver’s license, Johnny rehearsed punching and fluffing his pillows like he’d seen prison escapees do in the movies, then he pulled the cover over them to make it look like a body underneath. He practiced climbing out the window so he wouldn’t mess his clothes by falling into the bush that grew outside his bedroom. He committed the perfect getaway until he realized he’d left the Free Press with the big red circle around The Rusty Nail lying on his desk. No sweat. He’d be back before his parents woke-up.
    Johnny rolled down the window just enough so that it didn’t disturb his long hair that he brushed and groomed until his arm felt tired. When he had missed several hair cuts, his father told him he didn’t want his son looking like a queer. Johnny told his dad not to worry, he hated fags, but long hair was in.
    His dark mop covered his ears, and he grew really cool sideburns.
    If his old man saw him now in his bitchin’ yellow stripes and red polka-dot shirt and Nehru jacket, driving his car, he would flip.
    Johnny drove up the onramp. Too bad he wasn’t in a boss looking Mustang instead of an old fogey’s car. He’d park a block away from the bar so no one would see it, but what if he met someone? It was his uncle’s car, he’d tell them, because his Mustang was in the shop. Lies. That’s what his life was about, dating girls, football, acting tough, all to please his dad and everyone else. He even put up a poster of Raquel Welch when he wanted to tack up Steve McQueen.
    Johnny’s secret gave him headaches. It was a monster that gobbled him up until he felt like he’d become the thing that consumed him. Something dirty. Something that made guys pick fights with him. He hoped to replace loneliness with friendships and meet a cute guy at the bar.
    He relaxed into the flow of the cars, turned on the radio and switched the dial to KRLA and Dave Hull, the Hullabalooer.
    “Mony Mony” blasted through the speakers. Johnny thought he would explode with pleasure. The sexy beat sparked his fantasies into a rocket fueled ascension where dancing led to kissing and kissing led to hot sex and hot sex never ended.
    His loud singing drowned out Tommy James. He took his hands off the steering wheel and clapped along with the Shondells laughing and hollering, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!”
    Johnny zoomed past downtown and veered into the lane for the Hollywood Freeway. He slouched down in the seat, his left hand hanging over the wheel, real cool, like he’d done it millions of times. He glanced left, then right, just to see if anyone was lucky enough to see how groovy he looked.
    He reached in the glove compartment and took out his dad’s cigarettes. Shaking one free, he stuck it between his lips then punched in the lighter. It popped out, and he lit the cigarette. He took a drag and coughed. His eyes watered. He puffed without inhaling.
    Someone pulled in front of him.
    Johnny stepped on the gas and swerved into the fast lane.
    “Wanna drag? I can make this mother move.”
    He stubbed out the cigarette and caught up with the guy who almost creamed him. The jerk wasn’t even paying attention to him, probably didn’t even know he almost caused an accident. Johnny blared the horn. The guy gave him the finger. Johnny laughed. He had to be at least eighty, older than his grandparents.
    He passed the Melrose exit. The Western offramp would be next, and he’d take it to Santa Monica Boulevard.
    He flattened the gas pedal all the way to the floor. Street lamps flickered by, he felt the air lift his hair, smelled the damp night and asphalt. Johnny glanced in the rearview mirror. Red lights flashed. A siren screamed.

City Traffic, photography by Kyle Hemmings

City Traffic, photography by Kyle Hemmings

Mending Thread

Roger G. Singer

Broken letters.
The unfashioning of words
scattered on the floor;
thoughts rejected, names

Jumbled letters; a game
without love. Static angles
breaking out of paragraphs,
swept into piles,
filling buckets, thrown to
the wind where letters from
lost words find new air,
breathing life from the

Bad Romance

Richard Bullard II

    “Why would you do this to me?” Carol said as her makeup failed her; black lines of cheap mascara slowly flowed down her cheeks. Crossing her arms, she disregarded her morning coffee, its black contents chilled.
    William sat across from her with his legs crossed and a cigarette smoke lingered throughout the veranda. He puffed on that cancer stick just long enough to let a drag out and allowed the cloud to cover himself.
    “You know this could never happen?” William said.
    “Happen...what did happen?” Carol said with tears cascading from her hazel eyes, “You’re an idiot, you realize that?”
    He laughed a deep bellow that started at the bottom of his belly and rolled up his throat. It caused Carol to shrink back, her coffee cascading to the ground.
    “You promised me...marriage.” Carol said.
    “That was not what I said.” William said.
    “Then what was this?” Carol said.
    “I was in a need and you fulfilled that,” William said his tone growing louder.
    “So...the hunt and the kill?” Carol said her sadness damping her frown even more, “This was just a fling?”
    “You must be serious with me,” William said taking another long drag from his cancer, his white suit clashing with the bright sunlight. Clouds were gathering in the distance to the west and a slight breeze gave the telling a of a storm coming.
    “I was.” Carol said.
    “This isn’t some sappy romance novels,” William said spitting on the ground, the humidity outside of the Laquinta Dominaro Hotel causing small beads of sweat to appear upon his forehead, “That shit you keep writing and thinking it’s going to get you somewhere in life...that’s a the real tragedy here.”
    She stood up and stormed through a sliding-glass door; her movements echoed the thunder that was heard in the distance. During the month of May, Craven Texas’s weather could be a bit unpredictable at times; a storm began to roll in from the southwest. Carol began wind-milling herself around the well-furnished room. The two beds sat like coffins dressed in a stripped green comforter. Only one was disheveled and its pale white mattress called to her, she stared at it briefly and continued her tirade through the hotel room. As she entered the bathroom a slight sour smell addressed her nostrils and she wrinkled her nose. She faced the mirror, she saw her reflection a bleary-eyed woman just past her twenty mark; her blonde hair was a mess, she hadn’t wanted to do anything with it. Suddenly she noticed William was behind her in the mirror his arms attempting to encase her.
    “Listen here babe,” William said as one of his strong arms was around her waist and the other lingered over her chest, “I liked you but you could never believe that we were in love?”
    She looked down one of her hands grasping his, her sadness had changed to a hunger as the lines of her face turned narrower; her grimace was gone and a slight sly smile she wore upon her visage. Her right hand, which wished desperately for a ring that had never come, grabbed a pair of scissors. Sharp and metallic, they glistened in that pale-yellow light of the hotel bathroom.
    “Do me a favor,” She said pressing herself against him, her summer dress wrinkling under the sexual tension, “Die quietly.”
    With quick succession, she stabbed William across the throat, the metallic instrument was gruesome now. Blood, a deep red began to flow from his jugular as he fell to the cold white and black tiled floor. He gasped and sputtered as she stepped back to admire her work, Carol was happy.
    She waited until the man died, she watched every bit of his life fall from his eyes. That was when she finally left and walked back over to her bedside table and jotted down an idea for a new romance story. Her lacy hand writing skittering across the page, while William’s blood stained the white page.
    The hotel phone made her jump, it’s shrill ring came loud and sudden like the thunder now crashing overhead.
    “Hello?” Carol said.
    “Yes is this Ms. Carol Wallace?” A man’s voice said on the other end.
    “Yes it is,” Carol said looking down at her manuscript that she had been working on since last night: Bad Romance: a murder of love and passion. She had forgotten to eat or even meet with her best friend at the café to discuss the actual work.
    “Just letting you know that the down stairs laundry services are working now,” the man’s voice said.
    “Thank you, I will be down shortly.” Carol said hanging up the receiver.
    She sighed and walked into the bathroom, in the darkness she saw the scene again; her character attacking a beloved lover...his blood pooling on the floor; her imagination sometimes getting the best of her. She slid those same scissors down her own wrist just to see what that would look like.


Isaiah Granado Finley

    A small wind ruffles the bedsheets of both beds, flipping the corners about. One of the bedsheets looks more vibrant than the other, but it’s hard to tell because one bed is lit solely by a lamp in the corner of the room. The other is exposed to direct sunlight from the open patio door, through which two men can be seen talking animatedly. The wind blows again, carrying their voices inside the room...
    “- and I believe that seals the deal on our contract. Congratulations Mr. Burnnok, on making what Armstice CO. insists is a valuable investment.”
    A man wearing a stiff burgundy sweater and sandy brown pants sets down a pen and leans back in his seat. As he starts to talk, his hand sweeps through a sweaty mess of graying hair. “More than happy to oblige, Mr. Jethroes. More than happy...”
    The man he addresses across from him, stops putting documents in a manila folder to look up at his companion. This one is wearing a plain white business shirt with a fascinating tie, standard dark grey slacks shifting as he fidgets uncomfortably at the statement. A drop of sweat drips from his slick black hair and lands directly in Jethroes’ left eye, causing him to squint slightly at his company’s new business partner.
    As he’s rubbing the afflicted eye, Jethroes chuckles nervously. “Is that so? You seemed... stiff at the start of the proposal.”
    Burnnok tugs at the sleeves of his sweater, looking in the other man’s direction with unfocused eyes, a small smile beginning to grace his weathered features.
    “If I had seemed more lenient, you would have tried to swindle me for all I’m worth, no?” Burnnok laughs dryly. “At least, that’s what all the others have done.”
    Fresh beads of sweat begin to form on Jethroes’ brow, but his expression and posture indicate the intense mid-summer heat has nothing to do with them.
    “All the... others, sir?”
    Burnnok focuses in on the man in front of him and hoots, slapping his knee once or twice in the process, his rickety wooden mount squeaking in protest to the sudden movement. Jethroes also starts at the sudden noise, shocked by the amount of mirth coming from the older gentleman. Burnnok settles down after a few moments, wiping a tear from his right eye.
    “Ah, yes. The press wouldn’t have heard about those... negotiations, would they?”
    He chuckles a slightly deeper this time. “The companies involved were too embarrassed after I turned them down to say a wink of what happened...”
    Jethroes nervously looks around him. The patio is confined enough, what with the palm fronds hanging about and the waves of heat pounding the earth to discourage any would-be onlookers or eavesdroppers. But as the camera follows Jethroes line of sight back into the room, slight shadows can be seen coming from the door. And they weren’t leaving...
    The camera pans back to Jethroes and Burnnok abruptly.
    “Did you know that four other companies offered me twice to three times as much as Armstice CO. did?” Burnnok’s voice still has hints of mirth in it as he goes to light a cigar.
    Jethroes looks back at the man, a bemused expression twisting his young features.
    “Then why did you...”
    “Every other company was full of corruption and greed, son.” Burnnok reaches for a glass on the small table between them, realizes it’s empty and sets it back down. “At my age, I feel no reason to be interested by how much I gain from a deal. It’s about helping people live easier lives than I did now...”
    Jethroes leans back in his chair, the bemused expression replaced by one of shock. That shock is also quickly replaced by a look of fierce determination as he leans an arm, hand open across the table.
    “On behalf of Armstice CO., I promise not to let you down, sir.”
    Burnnok’s face lights up with a grand smile as he shakes the young lad’s hand. No other words are spoken but the camera can see the eyes of both men, the lack of animosity clear in them. The camera starts receding from the scene, focusing back onto the room. As it does, the small shadows from the doorway disappear.

The Towel

Andrew J. Hogan

    The gate swung open, and the visitors entered the old cattle sorting yard, behind which hovered the old slaughter house where Lenny was being held. It had been five years since Aunt Flo’s last visit; Uncle Mike had come with her that last time.
    The prisoners lined up on one side of the cattle chutes, the visitors on the other. Barbed wired had been added between the side planks to prevent the visitors from touching the prisoners. All exchanges took place through the guards, for a price.
    “Aunt Flo,” Lenny called. They moved to opposite sides of the chute. “You’re looking well.” Lenny smiled, but not so much that Aunt Flo could tell most of his teeth were missing. “Sorry to hear about Uncle Mike. I hope he went fast.”
    “He didn’t,” Aunt Flo said. “You look like shit. Are you every getting out of here?”
    “Not so soon,” Lenny said. “Had a little problem with one of the guards. That’s actually kind of what I wanted to talk to you about.” Aunt Flo stared, silent. “I was wondering, now with Uncle Mike gone, if you might be willing to pass on to me something I could remember him by, his towel?” Aunt Flo continued staring, remaining silent. “You see, there’s twenty guys in my stalag, and we have to use the same towel after we shower. We ain’t had a new towel in a year or so, and my being sent here, unjustly, for diddling that little girl, well, I get to use the towel last.” Aunt Flo still silent. “Well, it’s not so bad in the summer when it’s warm, but in the winter I’d sure help to have a nice towel like the one Uncle Mike used.”
    “Well now, Lenny, that towel was one of Mike’s favorite things,” Aunt Flo said. “I already gave away his other favorite thing, the rawhide belt, to your cousin Pete.”
    “Uncle Mike told me the ‘M’ was his initial,” Lenny said. “I’d be something for me to remember him by.”
    “The ‘M’ stood for the Monarch Motel. That’s where Mike and me spent our honeymoon. Uncle Mike stole that towel from the Monarch just for that reason. It’s a keepsake.”
    “Oh,” Lenny said. “Don’t suppose you’ve got any other...?”
    “Nope. All the other towels are spoken for.”
    “Okay, I, ah...”
    “Well, it’s been nice seeing you again, Lenny. Seems like you’re making the best of this bad situation.”
    “Thanks for coming, Aunt Flo. Hope you’ll come to visit a little sooner next time.”
    “With Mike gone, I’m all alone with all the grandkids during the work week, even your little Phyllis. She’s growing up real fast, in case you’re interested.”
    “Sure. Thanks for taking care of her. Tell her her Daddy says hi.”


Originally published in Summer 2015 issue of the BEECHWOOD REVIEW

Me Me Me, drawing by Wes Heine

Me Me Me, drawing by Wes Heine

Night at the Hyatt

Adel Aaron

    “You were different.” Sheila said it with sensuous pleasure.
    Andy thought for a moment. “Did you like it?”
    “Yes.” She smiled, remembering the way she’d felt just a few minutes ago.
    “Good. I liked it too.” He closed his eyes.
    “But why?”
    He didn’t answer right away. “It’s Valentine’s.”
    “Oh?” She leaned on one hand and began playing with his hair. Soon she turned around. Their naked thighs touched. She liked the feeling. She lay on her back, satisfied, looking up at the ceiling, feeling warm and cozy.
    “You want to take a shower? We’re cutting things very close.” Short brown hair growing high onto his clean forehead, the well-proportioned, muscular lines of his cheeks and nose gave his face an open and attractive look. Presently, however, it was clouded by the anxiety he’d experienced over the last few days.
    “It’s still early.” She stretched her long, lean body, like a Siamese cat. He watched her quietly.
    “What?” She raised herself on an elbow to better see the green digits on the clock. “Four thirty!” Sheila quickly got up. Before disappearing behind the closed bathroom door, she gave another quick, happy look at her Valentine’s presents peeking through the torn gold wrapping paper on the bureau: lacy lingerie and a big oval bottle of Obsession. In her early forties, she still looked very attractive and was in excellent physical shape. When her thick, fair hair was drawn back in a tight bun, the gray eyes under her high brow looked big; their gaze was pointed, penetrating, seductive. He called her a mermaid enigma: her perfectly shaped legs made her look even slimmer and taller.
    Andy wanted a cigarette. Three sharp, vertical furrows cut deeply into the skin between his eyebrows. This was the first serious urge he’d had in the six months since he quit smoking. He was thinking about last Friday. He allowed his thoughts to stray to the Hyatt’s lobby, the restaurant. He remembered every minute detail: flowers in the corner, simple dinner, the elevator’s flight.
    “I’ll be ready soon. Are you going to take a shower?” Sheila was drying her hair in front of the mirror.
    He took a shower, shaved, and got dressed. He was thinking about his trip to Washington. He didn’t think about the conference; in his head, he was going over and over the night at the Hyatt, before he flew home.
    “Ready?” He looked at Sheila’s high heels and thought of the restaurant’s busy parking lot. It would be difficult for her to walk in the snow. “I’ll drop you off first and then park.”
    “Sure.” The set of wall-to-wall mirrors reflected her eye-catching image in prospective, from large to small, like a Russian nesting doll. She observed herself one last time and, satisfied, went downstairs, stepping soundlessly on the high, soft carpet. Andy turned off the light; the mirror gave a momentary spark before it went dark.
    Back in December, Andy had reserved their favorite booth at the Pomegranate. It was always crowded there on Valentine’s Day. This time, too, they waited for menus for a long time. Elegant in her deep red velvet dress, Sheila sat straight, yet her body was relaxed. A keen, confident smile played on her beautiful face.
    “Where are you?”
    He felt a pang in his heart, as if he suddenly feared she’d read his mind. His well-controlled facial expression didn’t change, though, when he asked, “What do you mean?”
    She was cool, her gaze inviting. “You’re a bit quiet, my darling.”
    His thoughts were vague and obscure. What was the matter with him? He was forty-four years old and happily married. He was always happy with Sheila. They were served 1928 Krug.
    “Am I?” He found her hand and kissed it. He noticed her freshly done nails and the ring with a carat blue sapphire: her birthday present from him. “I want to drink to my beautiful wife.” He raised his glass.
    “I still remember your new, aggressive approach.” Whatever liner she’d used today made her almond eyes look even bigger.
    For no apparent reason, he, from whose lips words always flowed so easily, became tongue-tied. What? Again, he thought of the Hyatt. What a cozy little place it was, with the French restaurant in the lobby, across from the escalator. With her back to the exit, Candy sank deeply into the soft leather cushions. Andy remembered how all at once a strange feeling had come over him. He must’ve been curious, he concluded.
    Candy and Andy had been colleagues for a few years now. She was from DC. Every now and then they would meet at company events. Andy couldn’t say why he was so self-conscious of how much their names rhymed. When people chuckled and pointed out the obvious, they found no appreciation for their professed, as they thought, discovery. Before long, Candy began introducing herself by her middle name; it didn’t go unnoticed by him. Lately, they’d been working on the same project and met via teleconference almost every week. He saw her image on a seventy-five-inch screen and so did she. In the beginning it was a slog, a royal waste of time he could never recover during his busy day.
    Soon, however, things had changed; he began looking forward to these meetings. They worked off each other’s humor and business ideas. Candy was the first to join the conference and the last to log off. She always seemed small in her chair, a tad too conservatively dressed. He liked her work ethic, could always rely on her being ready for the meeting. Never too harsh, she tactfully delivered her points. He appreciated her thinking process, though he couldn’t agree with most of her proposals; couldn’t afford them, rather. They were clever, unique, but required long-term strategies he wasn’t prepared even to consider. She chose the proactive approach, leaving him to deal with putting out the daily fires and, therefore, siding with the pragmatic flank far more often than he preferred.
    Since last summer he’d contemplated attending the international trade show, a prestigious annual event in DC. However, he didn’t want to miss four days in the office; after all, February was the shortest month of the year. But when he found out Candy would be going, he made up his mind to go too. If he’d been asked whether he ever thought of her outside the work environment, he could deny it with a clear conscience. And yet it would have been a lie. Maybe I’m simply curious about her, he suggested to himself over and over again. But deep down, he knew he couldn’t free himself from thinking of her so easily. As a matter of fact, he was thinking of her all the time.
    “I want to try it again tonight. You think you could duplicate your...” Sheila moistened her glossy, well-drawn lips, “aggressiveness?” She picked up her thin, half-filled flute; he saw the bubbles trying to escape from the glass, rushing up to the surface.
    “Of course.” He felt her long, sexy leg pressing his under the tablecloth.
    “Madam.” A young waiter brought the appetizers. Andy looked at his big, well-decorated plate with a small crab cake placed in the middle of it. “Bon appétit.”
    When the waiter left, Sheila looked around the room, cramped with a loud, well-to-do crowd. “I’m happy you were able to get a booth. I love this place.”
    “I love this place.” Candy pointed at a small candle on the table.
    “I don’t mean to rush you, but I drafted a response to your proposal. I have it up in my room. I thought we could look at it tonight.”
    She didn’t answer.
    “What do you think? Are you done with your salad?”
    Still she didn’t answer but moved her plate away, indicating that dinner was over. She reached for her purse. “May I...”
    “You may not. You had a salad and a glass of water. I believe I can afford to cover both.”
    “Thank you, Andy.” Suddenly, she’d become demure.
    “My pleasure. Shall we?”
    It was still early and they had plenty of time to get prepared for tomorrow. She followed his lead. In the hallway, they didn’t meet anyone they knew. The elevator stopped, its ring tone a musical note fa—fifteenth floor. His room, relatively spacious and pedantically clean, had a small corner balcony. He turned on the desk lamp, plugged in his computer. She stood in the middle of the room. Neither one had said a word since they’d walked in.
    “Would you like to pull up a chair? We can look at the slides together.” He wanted to help her and accidentally touched her hand. She didn’t retreat. His fingers touched her shoulder. He felt how she trembled. He could have sworn she didn’t breathe. He knelt and kissed her on the lips. She responded tenderly, unpretentiously. Was he still only curious? Yes! He was on an exploration expedition. He submerged his hand in her red hair; it was short and nothing like Sheila’s: luscious, long, full, silky. He thought he should’ve been disappointed, but he found this boyishness surprisingly endearing. He was so much stronger; an urgent desire to protect this delightful creature shook him to his core.
    He put her on his bed. She was still fully dressed. And so was he. She covered her face with her hands. Unlike Sheila’s, her nails hadn’t been done professionally; she probably did them herself. Her hands were small and soft. She wouldn’t be able to lift more than ten pounds, he thought to himself. She would break her fingers. He took her cold hands in his. He wanted to warm them up. He lightly touched her stomach. The quiet sound she uttered made the blood rush to his head. She was on the bed, in front of him, so ready, waiting for him with a childlike expression. Like a box of chocolates—he was free to choose any with fillings to his liking.
    “Andy, please,” she begged.
    “Andy, please pass the salt.” Sheila stretched out her hand.
    With immense strength, he pulled himself out of the Hyatt room.
    “Your cheeks are red. Is it from the champagne or are you excited?” Sheila was in a playful mood.
    “Candy, are you asking me to go on or to stop?”
    “Please!” Candy carefully pushed her hand through the opening in his sleeve. He felt her fingers, how they caressed his arm, moved in sync with his muscles. He wanted to embrace her tightly, make her feel safe. She closed her eyes and bit her lip. He pulled down her leggings. Her silky skin was naturally tanned, so smooth, like cream. Suddenly, he wasn’t ready for this adventure; for one, he had no protection on him, and he was sure she didn’t either. It would be ridiculous to leave her here and run downstairs to a hotel shop. Idiot! He should’ve thought about that earlier. But he hadn’t. It all had happened so suddenly. He would have to improvise as they moved along. Maybe they wouldn’t move along. What was he doing standing here? How had he gotten himself in this situation with a woman he knew nothing about? What did he want of her? Was he in his right mind to be comparing this plain girl to his cosmopolitan, refined Sheila?
    Unable to find the answers and amazed by his growing thirst, he, half-mechanically and half-curiously, unbuttoned her green shirt. Easy, no need to rush now. In awestruck surprise, he met with her lovely curves, her satiny skin, her youth; she was magnetic, sweet, so inviting. And yet he was constantly comparing. Sheila was so far superior to her. No doubt! Yet the smell of fresh soap mixed with the airy floral perfume Candy wore was intoxicating. Andy wanted to have her. Now! His fingers hurt her. She shrank and looked at him with surprise. He saw a few small wrinkles deepen her forehead.
    “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
    “You didn’t,” she lied. She was gracious, somehow dependable.
    She became even more flexible, trustworthy; she seemed to indulge in following every movement of his, holding nothing back. She was unbelievably honest and responded sincerely, gratefully, without hiding her feelings. He was surprised. He was going strong and she silently asked for more. She allowed. As if she had been waiting for this moment forever. She was grateful for everything he was willing to share with her. She was giving him more than she received. More than he’d hoped for.
     Andy glanced at Sheila’s steak and then stared at the mussels in front of him. They were hot, steaming. Some of them were wide open, showing their internal nacreous colors. Their delicious, delicate tongue-shaped organs were pink from the light tomato sauce. Andy loved the taste of this fleshy anchor; he would catch the juicy meat with his lips, pull it from the shell, savor it inside his mouth and, after satisfying his sophisticated taste buds, slowly swallow, together with a mouthful of exquisite wine.
    “You’re salivating, honey. Start your dish; I’m almost done with mine.” Sheila openly stared at him, her elbow leaning on the table, her arm nicely curved in support of her chin. He saw how much she enjoyed watching him being unusually mellow, less controlling, almost absentminded, something he was rarely guilty of.
    Andy took a spoon and pulled a few shells apart. Soaked in thick sauce, like half-opened lips, the mussels were waiting patiently for him to taste them. The pearly hinged halves had a thin, aromatic red film over them; the best way to have this dish was to start by carefully dabbing the valves with soft, warm dough. He found a pit on the ventral surface; this was where a viscous secretion exuded to form elastic threads.
    Sheila saw something new in his face. This entire evening she was guessing without much success. But she didn’t mind. “I love you.” She smiled and lowered her gaze intimately.
    “I love you,” Candy said earnestly.
    “What did you say?”
    “I love you.” Her eyes were closed.
    Slowly, he was coming out of a trance. “Don’t say those words ever again. I have a beautiful wife I love.”
    “I’m sorry. It was totally inappropriate.” She raised herself from the pillow and sat straight up in bed, as if he’d splashed ice water over her face. She took a deep breath. “It’s pretty late. Let me go so both of us can get some rest before tomorrow.”
    “Good idea.”
    She went to the bathroom. She was trying to be quiet, but he could hear she was in a hurry. In a few minutes she was completely ready.
    “OK, then. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
    She was about to leave when he said, “Candy. I want to have a word with you. Just for a minute.”
    She didn’t answer but stood by the door in her light black coat, the hood down, her gloves on. She was wearing high heels and he thought it would be difficult walking like that in the snow.
    “How far are you going? Would you like me to call a taxi?”
    “Very kind of you, thank you. I’ll call for Uber. It’ll be faster.”
    “Look, I didn’t mean to be so harsh. I can’t get into a relationship, especially not with someone from work. It was a mistake on my part.”
    “It was my mistake. I’m sorry.”
    “I love my wife; I’m a very happy man. I couldn’t ask for more. God spoiled me.”
    “That’s a very sincere confession.” She smiled. “Believe me, I understand! I’m sorry. It will never happen again, I promise.”
    It was dark in the room. Light was coming from the hallway where she stood. She wouldn’t be able to see him with his back to the balcony, but he saw the lit hallway and the woman standing by the door. Her cheerful voice filled him with pain. She was smiling, but he suspected she wanted to cry. He couldn’t read her well; oddly, she looked apologetic.
    “OK, then. I’ll see you tomorrow at the conference.”
    “Yes. Good night.” She froze for a brief moment, as if she wanted to say something else. But she didn’t.
    He had a sleepless night. He wanted to take a Tylenol for his intolerable headache, but the hotel shop was closed. In the morning, he was afraid of seeing her. She was late for the first session and then he was told she was ill and wouldn’t be coming in at all. He felt relieved. It would be awkward seeing her now. He couldn’t concentrate the entire day. He messed up his presentation and was happy to skip the last part of the conference to leave for the airport. There, he changed his flight and went home earlier than planned. The next day was Valentine’s.
    He saw Candy’s image on the way home from the restaurant. His palms were sweaty, acutely aware of the rapid, tremor-like sensation coming in waves when he thought of Candy; he hadn’t been prepared for it. But he would be; he wouldn’t allow it in the future. But how much he wanted her now! Oh, how much!
    “I’ll change into my new lingerie and be back in a moment. Don’t fall asleep.”
    He took off his tie, his cuff links. Suddenly, he was angry at Candy for messing up his Valentine’s Day. He loved this holiday; he’d been looking forward to spending it with Sheila. And now he hadn’t enjoyed it at all.
    His wife came out of the bathroom in the new set he’d given her that morning. She wore Obsession. She had a stunning figure. She was sure of herself. He put her on their bed. She looked at him and then touched his legs and he closed his eyes. He’d never done it in the past. Now he did because he was afraid of himself. He imagined different hands touching him, ever so delicately, so lovingly. He wanted to hear her voice. He wanted to hop on a plane and go to Washington. Gosh! Why was it so painful? Sheila accepted his advances with pleasure. He was aggressive again, but with another woman. He touched Sheila but saw Candy’s big brown eyes. At the very end, he vaguely remembered how the waiter at the table behind Candy had opened a thick-walled bottle of champagne. Andy had watched him holding the neck and carefully removing the wire protector. She was startled when the pressure, built inside the bottle with punt, made the cork pop. A strong stream of semisweet, foamy liquid filled two thin, tall glasses. He was done.
    Sheila was long asleep, but not Andy. He was lying in bed next to her with his eyes wide open. On Monday, he thought, he would call Candy. He’d been rude. He must apologize. He would fix everything. Now he felt better. He was thinking about her and smiling. He closed his eyes. Yes, he would call her on Monday. He heard her voice, so pleasant, sexy. When he scolded her, her eyes went dark with utter embarrassment and disappointment. He’d hurt her twice in the same night. She hadn’t blamed him, hadn’t said a word but simply walked away, disappeared. If only she was next to him now, he would... He fell asleep thinking of what he would do with her if she were lying in bed next to him.

Michelle Obama’s Pelvis, Fake News, and Swirling Madnesses

Liam Spencer

    The news coming from the radio wasn’t good. The far right was energized by Trump’s “victory” a month prior, and hatred was showing up everywhere. It clearly was going to be a long four years or longer. Maybe forever.
    I reflected back to my beloved neighborhood from just a month ago. People of all mixes cheerfully walked the streets at all hours. We all greeted each other, whether a quick “hello” or a simple nod. There was no danger to be found anywhere. It was a great place to live.
    The only problem then was rising rents. It seemed everyone had found out how nice it was to live there, and thus wanted to join the community.
    Now, a month after the shock of Trump cheating his way into office, things were different. Fears and hates rocked people to their core. It was really happening. Neighbors eyed each other now, wondering who were the fascists. Pleasantries disappeared. Racists, racism, and hatred had quickly subdued the friendly, wonderful community.
    In sum, there were four groups in the newly transformed America. There were those most immediately impacted by hatred, and thus fear. Their fears were well founded, whether it was the government coming for them or it would be hate groups or individual nut jobs that would do them in.
    Then there were the hate filled nut jobs themselves. They had been waiting for this their whole lives. They were the true believers of Trump. The fascists. Destroy Constitutional Democracy forever, and replace it with a white nationalist, fascists state.
    The third group in the country were the doubters. Yes, Trump is an asshole, and might be a fascist, but he will not be able to destroy Constitutional Democracy and replace it with fascism. There just were too many democratic institutions to allow for such shit. Even many who voted for Trump did so out of economic desperation, and would not allow for fascism. The doubters were, by far, the largest group.
    The final group remaining were the alarmists. They knew the possibilities of a fascist takeover. They saw methods to the madnesses, and didn’t dismiss Trump’s “stupidity” or ignorance. They saw it like one would see a hurricane from outer space.     I was heading for yet another doctor appointment for back issues that had sidelined me severely. Pain was an understatement. My left leg would give out. Great. It made for long days, being stuck at home. Most of my time was spent on the couch, ice pack and all. I couldn’t even write, as I couldn’t stand or sit long enough for more than a few sentences.
    Parking was easy, for once, but still pricy. $9 for an hour. To see the doctor. Still better than buses, as per my back issue. Plus, it was a parking garage, and thus away from the sideways Seattle rain.
    Doctor Francis was an older doctor, a grey hair, who had some back and leg issues as well. He could be somewhat sharp or short, according to his mood, but usually was a nice and thoughtful doctor. Often, however, he’d “get away with one,” lower his volume, and say things some might consider out of line. Each time he did this, he’d glow like he’d taken thirty years off his age. Such smart asses are to be appreciated.
    My mind began wondering as I sat there waiting for him. I was hoping he would not send me back to work yet. I knew management. Oh, did I know management. Ugh. The thought of my trying to carry eighty pounds of mail up giant mountains of steps with a very bad back and a left leg that gives out...only to get screamed at by management... Where did I go wrong in my life?     The doctor came strolling in with MRI results. He looked to be in a good mood. I was a little relieved.
    “I have your MRI results here, and we’ll go over them in a minute... but first, how are you? Has there been any improvement?”
    “I’m hanging in there, I guess. There’s been some improvement, but not much. Left leg still goes out, and so on.”
    “Yeah, I kind of thought that’d be the case.”
    “and listening to the news doesn’t help. And then there’s all the fake news. I mean...”
    He leaned back in his chair with a broad, kid-like smile before letting a little laughter burst through. Then he seemed to spring forward, keeping his grin.
    “you know...oh, you’ll like this...”
    There was a long pause as he gathered himself. The whole thing made me smile. It felt good to smile.
    “So...this other patient of mine...he brings in this picture, obvious photoshopped, of Michelle Obama with what looks like an Adam’s Apple....”
    Laughter ensued.... “Oh jeez.”
    “Now, my being of the left...at first, I was like, who cares? But obviously, people like him care, so I felt I had to...you know...set him straight.”
    “Of course, of course.”
    “Do you know how to tell whether someone is really a woman? Their pelvis. Women have much different pelvis’ than men.”
    “Oh, ok. I wasn’t aware....”
    “...and from how Michelle Obama’s pelvis is.... Let’s just say Barack is a very lucky man to be sleeping beside her every night!”     Nothing like a little TMI, right?     Gears were switched immediately following that interesting discussion.
    “Now, for your MRI results.”
    He brought them up on the screen, then stopped. He turned to face my direction. His face showed more compassion than I had ever seen.
    “I wish I had better news for you.”
    My heart dropped.     We went over the MRI results in detail. I had three decent discs left. The rest were on varying scales of uglinesses. It was not good news, but not the worst news either.
    When it came time to fill out the infamous work restriction form, called a CA-17. The doctor looked at me.
    “I don’t want you working any time soon, ok?”
    “Ok. I was thinking the same thing.”
    “See me in a month.”     The appointment was made. I left eagerly. Beers waited for me at home, as did the ice packs. A place away from all things Trumpanzee.
    Except for the fake news from energized Trump worshipers on Facebook. Most of them on my feed were from my rural hometown. I sat there looking for a while before my eyes glazed over. My mouth hung wide open. Disbelief set in. It simply couldn’t be. No. No. No one could... How could any human being be that fucking stupid? How is this possible?
    I decided to take a walk and get out of the apartment for a while. Just for a while. It seemed like a prison cell by then.
    There was the old watering hole. The SL. They knew my usual. MGD bottle. $3. Not much was going on. It was a dull night. Not a shock. After a few more than I had intended, I decided to splurge for a late night breakfast at a bar/restaurant called the Mecca. Cheap, giant amounts of food were coming my way.
    The place was not busy, but sounded like it was, as per a couple of loud, annoying tables. My coffee came quick. The beertender was eager for me to order food. This was a very rare treat for me, so I was not in a hurry.
    Before long, a couple of women sat down at the bar roughly ten feet away. One sounded pretty drunk. I continued reading the menu, debating on three or four options.
    “Hey...hey you. Hey dude...”
    I looked over. “Me?”
    “Yeah you. Ever have chicken fried steak?”
    “Yeah. It’s been a while, but yeah. It’s good. Although I never had it here before.”
    “Ok. Thank you sir.”
    “No problem.”
    The beertender came over to take their order.
    “No. No. We’ll wait our turn. He was here first.”
    “That’s ok. Go ahead and order. I still haven’t made up my mind.”
    “Ah, such a gentleman. Always ladies first. No. We insist. You first.”
    The heavy woman beside the drunk one was nearly busting. A heavy balance hung over the air. All over food ordering. I asked for more coffee, then ordered eggs benedict.
    Soon the drunk woman was beside me with the coffee thermos that the beertender had eagerly given her. She filled my cup repeatedly, then refilled her own.
    “I remember you, you know, you fearless fuck. You just had to run...I don’t blame you.”
    “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
    “Come on. You know. Back there.”
    “Back where?”
    “Back east. Pittsburgh. They said you came out here.”
    “Who said that?”
    “Dude. You really don’t remember me?”
    “No, I’m afraid I don’t.”
    “Come on. You know. You remember.”
    “No, I really don’t. Sorry.”
    She leaned in and whispered her last name; “Sutton.”     Fuck. Just fuck. How is this possible? I grew uneasy, and looked around. There was nothing out of the ordinary. At least not seemingly.     “Oh. Hmm. The name does sound familiar.”     She leaned forward, pulled my chin toward her, looked into my eyes, and whispered;
    “It’s ok. You’re not in trouble. We’re just letting you know we’ve found you. You might be called upon again now.”     It was then that I began to realize what was going on. She was swirling madness of the alcoholic variety. She simply landed in Seattle, or was sent to Seattle. Either way, there was nothing much to it. Still, I wondered, how did she find or even recognize me?     Their food arrived first. The giant woman began scarfing. The drunk one kept talking to me, pouring coffee for both of us, as I ate my food....or most of it, at least.
    On and on she went. Never stopping except to sip coffee. On and on I ate, only pausing to sip coffee.
    The place was closing. Doggie bags were ordered. The heavy woman poured fake honey on her hand and licked it off. The drunk one made us each a tall cup of bad coffee to go.
    Realizing how drunk she was, and who she was, I offered to walk them home. They each had only a housing voucher for 30 days. People eyed her along the way. Something was going on. Still I was a sizable guy, known to the neighborhood. They’d be safe.
    Along the way, I wondered how she landed in Seattle, and how she recognized me. I hadn’t heard the names she had mentioned in well over a decade.
    At the door to their secured building, I wished them well, and insisted they take my doggie bag and coffee. They needed it more than I.
    After seeing them go inside, I turned and looked around. Everywhere was pretty dead. Perfect. I took a long deep breath. No more swirling madnesses. No more fake news (for the moment). There was no debate about Michelle Obama’s pelvis. It was semi fresh air and calmness.
    I hobbled along happily. It was as if I were both outside my apartment and inside my own world, and thus free.     A block later I saw a big man standing there with his arms folded. He looked vaguely familiar. He was the first to nod. I was the first to shiver.
    Under a block later was another. A third wasn’t too far away.
    I hustled faster. I thought of hobbling another few blocks as a decoy, but realized there would be no use.
    There would be no escaping the swirling madnesses.

From Father to Son

Eli Jacqueline

    Joe unlocked the remote, wooden employee-entrance door to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and motioned for Gio to go inside. He followed him in and locked the door behind him. “I don’t wanna go back to the Boston PD to bail you out ever again, you got that?”
    “Go ahead, yell at me, ground me, hit me, do whatever. But don’t act like you’re better than me. Your criminal past ain’t no fuckin’ secret,” Gio said.
    Joe slapped Gio across his face and caused his head to turn sharply. There was a loud, echoing crack that sounded like the bones in Gio’s neck had snapped. Gio’s eyes watered. He clenched his jaw.
    “That was a long time ago and I’ve changed. You should do the same. Because no one is gonna be around forever to put up with your shit.”
    “Not this stupid speech again.” Gio rolled his eyes.
     “I am better than you. I did jobs you wouldn’t dare. I can’t believe you were dumb enough to rob a pharmacy with a cop in the customer line,” Joe said. He laughed to himself.
    “I didn’t know he was a cop! It’s not like you weren’t pulling the same jobs when you were this age,” Gio said.
    Joe crossed his arms over his broad chest. He looked around the museum. He sighed. “Come and take a walk with me.”
     Joe motioned for Gio to follow him around the museum. Gio dragged his feet along as Joe enthusiastically explained to him the story behind the several blank frames on the walls throughout the museum. “I should have told you this story when I started working here, but you were too little to understand.”
    “What story?” Gio asked.
    “One night in the nineties, two men pulled off the biggest art heist in history. You think you’re a badass for your little pharmacy job, but you ain’t got nothing on these guys. Over half a billion dollars’ worth of art was stolen and it still hasn’t been found,” Joe said. He told the story with a sort of pride, like he admired the thieves.
    “What about the guys?” Gio asked.
    Joe smiled. “Never been caught.”
    The father-son duo continued their unofficial tour of famous stolen artwork until they reached a room known as The Blue Room. That was where the infamous Chez Tortoni by Manet had hung until that fateful night. Gio remembered studying this painting in his advanced art class back in high school, before he stopped going.
    “Dad?” Gio asked. He spoke quietly, as if the paintings were asleep and he didn’t want to disturb them.
    “Yeah?” Joe answered, momentarily distracted. Neither of them took their eyes off the empty frame while they spoke.
    “Do you think. . .could you maybe get me a job here?”
    “Are you serious?”
    Gio smiled sheepishly and looked at his untied shoe strings. “I’m thinkin’ maybe if I’m around great art, it will inspire me to get up off my ass and make some.”
    “I’ll talk to the boss first thing in the morning.” Joe smiled and winked at Gio, who left to go admire the paintings he could see. Before he moved, however, he said one more thing to Joe.
    “The guys who pulled off that heist. . . I wonder what they are doing now?” Gio left before Joe could answer him.
    Joe stared at the empty frame where Chez Tortoni had once resided. His eyes glossed over as if he were going to a faraway place in his mind.
    “I know at least one of them is doing just fine.”

Folk Man Oil Painting by David Michael Jackson

Folk Man Oil Painting by David Michael Jackson

72 Raisins

Allan Onik

    Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi squirmed in his Mosul palace chair. Surrounding him was Seal Team Six, outfitted in cybernetic gear with vision enhancements and armed with Hk Mk 23 SOCOM .45 handguns, Colt M4A1 5.56 assault rifles, and Hk MP5N 9mm submachine guns. Surrounding the team was a barrage of dead and mangled ISIS fighters. The officer held the SOCOM to the last ISIS fighter’s head while he stood in front of Al-Baghdadi.
     “Does he want to go to America for trial?” The SEAL asked.
    “Yes,” Abu said.
    The SEAL pulled the trigger. Blood splattered on Al-Baghdadi’s face, and the SEAL licked the blood from his own lips and smirked. “Too bad. Only I get to decide who gets a trial. You see, we aren’t in American territory. And this mission is X-Top Secret, so only us and The President know we are here. The Marines, Rangers, Delta Ops, and Army ground forces have stomped out the last of the cockroaches from the city. And when we learned there was a palace underneath the shrine you destroyed, Team Six knew where to find you. You’re fucked big boy.”
    “At least I will get to meet Allah now. You American infidels can taunt all you want. But we will never forgive you for your engorgement. We will never stop trying to kill you, and stomp out your so called precious freedom. I will happily leave my body, and allow my essence to disrupt the American pigs from my utopia.”
    “Oh yeah, you mean the 72 virgins, right? Well, careful analysis of your text has revealed that what you really get is 72 raisins. I always hated the things. Gimme a cheeseburger, hot dog, and a beer.” The SEALs all unloaded their clips.


Allan Onik

    Hwan and Chun sat under the Evodia playing Matgo. The tree’s leaves were just beginning to sprout a lambent white, and many of it’s red and black berries had fallen from it’s buds. Two dead soldiers lay nearby—one American and one South Korean. Both were nearly cut in half by shrapnel. The explosions and gunshots rang out in the smoky twilight.
    “I heard The Big Man has fallen. I heard it is safe to go south,” Hwan said.
    “Un is in a bunker somewhere north of Ryongsong. He has 1,000 guards with him. He will fight till the end. It is time to wait. The DMZ is too dangerous.”
    “But what if we die here!” Hwan cried.
    “It is still safer here. It is a lovely bloom, don’t you think?”
    In the distance, a man cried out in terror. Multiple shots echoed throughout the city.
    “I want to go south. I don’t care about The Big Man.”
    “Tokyo is leveled. Seattle is a crater. And Seoul is Swiss Cheese. Wouldn’t you rather stay here in paradise?”
    “That’s not funny,” Hwan said.
    A Golden eagle landed in front of them and turned it’s head. Three North Korean units swarmed toward Kim Il Sung Stadium, running hastily on the road nearby.
    “Paradise,” Chun said, “soon we will escape from paradise.”

Fool’s Paradise

Kristyl Gravina

Shadows dancing
in flickering candlelight
my heart beats a tattoo
in anticipation
at your approach;
as I listen
to the sound of your voice
the words distorted
forming a meaning
I wanted to hear

In the Whole Foods Parking Lot

Gaby Bedetti

We remember our reusable bags. Next to us parks a Hummer.


previously published on http://lexpomo.com/, a month-long poetry blog endorsed by the mayor of Lexington, Kentucky.

Gaby Bedetti bio (2017)

    Gaby Bedetti hikes, takes photos, plants trees, and sings in several choirs. After grad school, where she co-founded the University of Iowa Museum of Art Bulletin, she started teaching at Eastern Kentucky University. She co-teaches Page-to-Stage: Imagining the Military Experience in Iraq, advises students on their literary and arts journal, and promotes their theatrical productions. She married a guy she met at a literature conference in Louisville, and together they raised a couple of kids. Henri Meschonnic’s American translator, she has published in such journals as Off the Coast, Italian Americana, Poet Lore, and New Literary History. In June for the past four years she wrote a poem every day for her town’s poetry blog http://lexpomo.com/.

Liar Catchers, Private Investigation

Gaby Bedetti

Keats wrote, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

When you need truth today, you need our expertise.
The smallest oversight is sometimes the biggest clue.

An asset review can reveal whether a person is being honest.
A 15-minute background check special costs $99.

Do you suspect your spouse may be cheating on you?
Then there are steps we can take. Look for the signs of lying:

nervousness, not wishing to talk, not making eye contact.
Credit card and phone statements are a great start.

If there are suspicious charges, ask what they are.
Study reactions and you may discover your answers.

Check emails on a public computer or an internet shop.
Remember to mark the unread status

to avoid revealing your investigation.
If you need more substantial evidence,

a sniffer dog can do a sweep of office or home.
If you suspect drugs, this is the best way to tell.

We can perform tasks through the Internet, including
Location of Alter Egos and True Identity Discovery.

Your use of the site and our services is at your own risk.

So, you see, poets are not the only seekers of the truth
Nor is truth always beauty, though it can be a Cold Pastoral,

as Keats wrote generations ago.
Moreover, as the writer of Psalms also knew,

Time, like an ever-rolling stream, soon bears us all away;
we fly forgotten, as a dream dies at the break of day.


previously published on http://lexpomo.com/, a month-long poetry blog endorsed by the mayor of Lexington, Kentucky.

Gaby Bedetti bio (2017)

    Gaby Bedetti hikes, takes photos, plants trees, and sings in several choirs. After grad school, where she co-founded the University of Iowa Museum of Art Bulletin, she started teaching at Eastern Kentucky University. She co-teaches Page-to-Stage: Imagining the Military Experience in Iraq, advises students on their literary and arts journal, and promotes their theatrical productions. She married a guy she met at a literature conference in Louisville, and together they raised a couple of kids. Henri Meschonnic’s American translator, she has published in such journals as Off the Coast, Italian Americana, Poet Lore, and New Literary History. In June for the past four years she wrote a poem every day for her town’s poetry blog http://lexpomo.com/.

Postmodern Post Office Etiquette

Gaby Bedetti

“Is there anything inside the package
that is liquid, fragile, perishable, and potentially hazardous,
such as a lithium battery or perfume?” asked the postal clerk.

“A letter for ISIS,” joked the elderly customer.

“Do you know there’s a camera recording you?
Police could be waiting for you outside,” said the clerk.


previously published on http://lexpomo.com/, a month-long poetry blog endorsed by the mayor of Lexington, Kentucky.

Gaby Bedetti bio (2017)

    Gaby Bedetti hikes, takes photos, plants trees, and sings in several choirs. After grad school, where she co-founded the University of Iowa Museum of Art Bulletin, she started teaching at Eastern Kentucky University. She co-teaches Page-to-Stage: Imagining the Military Experience in Iraq, advises students on their literary and arts journal, and promotes their theatrical productions. She married a guy she met at a literature conference in Louisville, and together they raised a couple of kids. Henri Meschonnic’s American translator, she has published in such journals as Off the Coast, Italian Americana, Poet Lore, and New Literary History. In June for the past four years she wrote a poem every day for her town’s poetry blog http://lexpomo.com/.

Only Half the Story

Janet Kuypers

He was a troubled man.
He had a good life but let
demons in, to do him in.

In his struggles
he almost died
a number of times,

and even his family
pushed him away –
and only heard news

of his death
after he was
already cremated.

And it makes me wonder
if our love for him
ever completely went away –

because after all
the mistakes were made,
I want to believe

that he’s worth more
than what his demons
reduced him to.

I want to remember
that when I worked retail
he bought the biggest

teddy bear through me
when he just found out
that his wife was pregnant

with their first child...
and I suppose it was a fun way
for me to get the news too.

I want to remember
how he’d come inside
after plowing too many

streets to count that
were filled with feet
after feet of snow,

that little icicles would
be hanging off his
mustache from his breath.

I want to remember
that he once built
an airplane from scratch,

so he could sit in his
own cockpit, and fly
himself into the sky.

I want to remember
him picking me up
from the airport,

where we decided to pay
the airport parking
machine with pennies,

dropping pointless pennies,
then laughing at
repurposing pennies

that once only
wasted space
in his truck’s ash try...

I want to remember
that a friend from his youth
(who was shorter than me

by the time I was twelve),
that his friend decided that
my nickname would be “shorty”...

I want to remember
how when I’d see him swim
he’d wear tiny speedos

(and that might seem
strange, but he got
a college scholarship for this –

he was a near-Olympic diver,
once in competition
with medal-winners

like Greg Louganis)...
and he’d go to the
diving board, and suddenly

this concrete construction
company owner
sprung with such skill

as he flipped through the air,
before making
the tiniest tear

and splash next to nothing
through that sheet of water,
that could shatter

like glass through the sky
if anyone tried the same
dive other than him.

You see, I want to remember
these little slices of his life,
these windows into

his acts of kindness,
how he was the kind of guy
who’d want to give

the shirt off his back
to a man in need.
I want to remember this.

Because I want to believe
that he wasn’t always lost.
I want to believe

that even though he erred
we should no longer
condemn him, but condemn

the thing that did this to him.
So I try to not
remember the demons,

but remember the man
inside. I want to believe,
and this is why I must remember.

video videonot yet rated

See YouTube video 7/1/17 (L) of Janet Kuypers reading her poem “Only Half the Story” after her poetry show “Our Cultural Independence and Achieving Global Freedom” in Austin.
video videonot yet rated

See YouTube video 7/1/17 (S) of Janet Kuypers reading her poem “Only Half the Story” after her poetry show “Our Cultural Independence and Achieving Global Freedom” in Austin.
video not yet rated See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her poems “Too Much Light” (for the audio CD release of her book “Contents Under Pressure”), “This is What it Means”, (for the audio CD release of her book “Close Cover Before Striking”), and “Only Half the Story” 7/2/17 @ “Kick Butt Poetry” in Austin (this video was filmed from a Lumix camera).
video video See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her poems “Too Much Light” (for the audio CD release of her book “Contents Under Pressure”), “This is What it Means”, (for the audio CD release of her book “Close Cover Before Striking”), and “Only Half the Story” 7/2/17 @ “Kick Butt Poetry” in Austin (this video was filmed from a Sony camera).
video videonot yet rated

See YouTube video from 7/8/17 of Janet Kuypers reading her poems “the Kuipers Name”, “Not Getting Better” and “Only Half the Story” in the “Poetry Aloud” open mic at the Georgetown Public Library (from a Lumix camera).
video videonot yet rated

See YouTube video from 7/8/17 of Janet Kuypers reading her poems “the Kuipers Name”, “Not Getting Better” and “Only Half the Story” in the “Poetry Aloud” open mic at the Georgetown Public Library (from a Sony camera).
video videonot yet rated

See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her poems “An Innocent Glance” and “When I Am Weak” (2 poems read for the future Oeuvre audio CD release) and “Only Half the Story” at Austin’s Recycled Reads 7/15/17 (this video was filmed from a Panasonic Lumix camera).
video videonot yet rated

See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers reading her poems “An Innocent Glance” and “When I Am Weak” (2 poems read for the future Oeuvre audio CD release) and “Only Half the Story” at Austin’s Recycled Reads 7/15/17 (this video was filmed from a Sony camera).
Hear SoundCloud audio of Janet Kuypers sharing her poetry from her two JanetJanet books, “(pheromemes) 2015-2017 poems” and “(pheromemes) 2015-2017 show poems” (w/ her poems “Only Half the Story”, “Quieted Soul”, “Exempt from the Draft”, “Optimizing your Odds”, “Years, Centuries, Eons”, “Only an Observer”, and “Queen ISIS”) in her Chicago 88.3 FM WZRD Radio interview 8/26/17, Part 2.
See YouTube video of part 2 of the Janet Kuypers interview live on video WZRD 88.3 FM Chicago Radio 8/24/17, with her reading poetry from her two books “(pheromemes) 2015-2017 poems” and “(pheromemes) 2015-2017 show poems”, including “Only Half the Story”, “Quieted Soul”, “Exempt from the Draft”, “Optimizing your Odds”, “Years, Centuries, Eons”, “Only an Observer”, and “Queen ISIS(this video was filmed in studio from a Sony camera).
See YouTube video of part 2 of the Janet Kuypers interview live on video WZRD 88.3 FM Chicago Radio 8/24/17, with her reading poetry from her two books “(pheromemes) 2015-2017 poems” and “(pheromemes) 2015-2017 show poems”, including “Only Half the Story”, “Quieted Soul”, “Exempt from the Draft”, “Optimizing your Odds”, “Years, Centuries, Eons”, “Only an Observer”, and “Queen ISIS(this video was filmed from a Panasonic Lumix camera).
video not yet rated
See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers at her 1/3/18 “Community Poetry @ Half Price Books” Austin feature, where her read “Only Half the Story”, “lost”, “rush”, & “you were meant” from the Down in the Dirt 1/18 book “Farewell to Seafaring”, then her poem “My Brain Was (2017 Streamline)” from the cc&d 1/18 book “the End of the World” (L T56).
video video
See YouTube video of Janet Kuypers at her 1/3/18 “Community Poetry @ Half Price Books” Austin feature, where her read “Only Half the Story”, “lost”, “rush”, & “you were meant” from the Down in the Dirt 1/18 book “Farewell to Seafaring”, then her poem “My Brain Was (2017 Streamline)” from the cc&d 1/18 book “the End of the World” (L2500).

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. 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. Starting at this time Kuypers released a large number of CD releases currently available for sale at iTunes or amazon, including “Across the Pond”(a 3 CD set of poems by Oz Hardwick and Janet Kuypers with assorted vocals read to acoustic guitar of both Blues music and stylized Contemporary English Folk music), “Made Any Difference” (CD single of poem reading with multiple musicians), “Letting It All Out”, “What we Need in Life” (CD single by Janet Kuypers in Mom’s Favorite Vase of “What we Need in Life”, plus in guitarist Warren Peterson’s honor live recordings literally around the globe with guitarist John Yotko), “hmmm” (4 CD set), “Dobro Veče” (4 CD set), “the Stories of Women”, “Sexism and Other Stories”, “40”, “Live” (14 CD set), “an American Portrait” (Janet Kuypers/Kiki poetry to music from Jake & Haystack in Nashville), “Screeching to a Halt” (2008 CD EP of music from 5D/5D with Janet Kuypers poetry), “2 for the Price of 1” (Janet Kuypers poetry to music from Peter Bartels), “the Evolution of Performance Art” (13 CD set), “Burn Through Me” (Janet Kuypers poetry to music from The HA!Man of South Africa), “Seeing a Psychiatrist” (3 CD set), “The Things They Did To You” (Janet Kuypers poetry to music from the DMJ Art Connection), “Hope Chest in the Attic” (audio CD set), “St. Paul’s” (3 CD set), “the 2009 Poetry Game Show” (3 CD set), “Fusion” (Janet Kuypers poetry in multi CD set with Madison, WI jazz music from the Bastard Trio, the JoAnne Pow!ers Trio, and Paul Baker), “Chaos In Motion” (tracks from Internet radio shows on Chaotic Radio), “Chaotic Elements” (audio CD set for the poetry collection book and supplemental chapbooks for The Elements), “etc.” audio CD set, “Manic Depressive or Something” (Janet Kuypers poetry to music from the DMJ Art Connection), “Singular”, “Indian Flux” (Janet Kuypers poetry to music from the DMJ Art Connection), “The Chaotic Collection #01-05”, “The DMJ Art Connection Disc 1” (Janet Kuypers poetry to music from the DMJ Art Connection), “Oh.” audio CD, “Live At the Café” (3 CD set), “String Theory” (Janet Kuypers reading other people's poetry, with music from “the DMJ Art Connection), “Scars Presents WZRD radio” (2 CD set), “SIN - Scars Internet News”, “Questions in a World Without Answers”, “Conflict • Contact • Control”, “How Do I Get There?”, “Sing Your Life”, “Dreams”, “Changing Gears”, “The Other Side”, “Death Comes in Threes”, “the final”, “Moving Performances”, “Seeing Things Differently”, “Live At Cafe Aloha”, “the Demo Tapes” (Mom’s Favorite Vase), “Something Is Sweating” (the Second Axing), “Live In Alaska” EP (the Second Axing), “the Entropy Project”, “Tick Tock” (with 5D/5D), “Six Eleven” “Stop. Look. Listen.”, “Stop. Look. Listen to the Music” (a compilation CD from the three bands “Mom’s Favorite Vase”, “Weeds & Flowers” and “The Second Axing”), and “Change Rearrange” (the performance art poetry CD with sampled music).
    From 2010 through 2015 Kuypers also hosted the Chicago poetry open mic the Café Gallery, while also broadcasting weekly feature and open mic podcasts that were also released as YouTube videos.
    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&d 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. 2017, after hr October 2015 move to Austin Texas, also witnessed the release of 2 Janet Kuypers book of poetry written in Austin, “(pheromemes) 2015-2017 poems” and a book of poetry written for her poetry features and show, “(pheromemes) 2015-2017 show poems” (and both pheromemes books are available from two printers).

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