I See Her by Robin Kemp

It’s the middle of August, and it’s hot and rain is falling, so that means it’s humid too.  I just got off work, and I’m heading to the bar.  Driving to the bar has become a habit since I spend most Wednesdays sitting at a table, drinking the same brand of beer and only getting up to dance to every other song.  

I use dancing as justification to drink – for the burning of calories.  He always bitches at me for not being the hundred-pound athlete he met in high school, and maybe that’s why I packed  on the pounds like a wrestler trying to move up a weight class.  I’m not obese, not by a long shot, but if he were to talk about me, one would think I belonged in a dohyō.

I moved to this town to go to school.  Well, that’s what I told my parents.  I came here to be closer to him, but I learned quickly that distance is bliss, and I miss it terribly.  At least with distance I can miss him.  The guy is so irrational and I just want time to do what I want to do, so I go to the bar.  Work friends congregate there every Wednesday because Wednesday nights are “Lady’s Night” and we get in free. More money equals more booze.

I pull into a parking spot too far from the door, and I know my hair is going to look beautiful since the humidity hates me.  I walk fast to the door, avoiding puddles, and go inside.  I call my friend to find out where they are sitting.  The bar scene has become a tranquil place for me.  Its sounds lull me into a rhythm, and my unsteady walking turns into a march with the beat.  I hear the breaking of beer bottles as they are thrown into the trash can and girls screaming with laughter after they take a selfie for Facebook.  The music is blaring so people will get up and dance, and most people are except for the few guys leaned against the wall, looking girls up and down like they are rotisserie chickens.  

I see my table, and I sit down next to Leala.  She had already bought me a beer and has it sitting in front of me.  Leala knows me (and what is going on in my life) very well, and she doesn’t have to ask to know it’s been a terrible day.  The table we are sitting at is sticky from liquor spilled from fruity drinks. Cigarette butts—which reminds me, I forgot to buy cigarettes—float in a half-empty beer bottle that the bar back hasn’t had time to pick up.  A few extra people are at the table, people I don’t know so I assume they were invited by my normal group.  We all introduce ourselves, and the one that sticks out to me is Mara, a brown hair, brown-eyed girl with her hair pulled back in a ponytail.  She is pretty, and I recoil slightly because the thought scares me. I don’t know why I just thought that, so I shake my head a little, as if to make the thought exit through my ears and enter my now empty beer bottle I am holding, and throw it away.  

I walk to the bar and wait for my turn.  From the corner of my eye I see her looking at me.  I turn my head to the side, and I see her get up from her chair and come toward me.  I keep my eyes forward while I can feel her beside me, and she begins to speak.

“Hey there. How was your day?”

“Um, fine. I worked.”    

“I worked today, too. Where do you work?”

“In a law office.” Why is she asking me so many questions, and why is she so peppy?  I just want a beer, and I’m the next in line, so I order my drink, thinking she’ll stop talking, but she keeps the conversation going without pause.

“A law office? That’s cool. You must really know your stuff. Can you get me out of jail someday?”

I look at her, confused and she’s smiling at me because she knows I can’t do that.  My look of confusion turns into a smile, and then a laugh and I finally feel myself relax as I walk next to her back to our table.  She is interested in what I do and it feels good to tell someone about my know-it-all boss. I talk freely about work.  I tell her stories about how I save his rear end on a daily basis just by a click of my computer mouse.  She keeps her eyes on me while I talk, and it makes me feel uncomfortable but important at the same time, like she really is listening to what I’m saying to her.

When I finish my stories and before the awkward silence has time to set in, she takes my hand and asks me to dance.  I stand up and go with her since I love to dance. Because I’ve had a couple, I’m nice and loose.  

A line dance is playing, and I open myself up more because I don’t have to let her hold me for a two-step or country-waltz.  All of my friends are with us on the dance floor, so we goof off.  I look at Mara, and she is smiling, looking at me, too.  I think she is a beautiful girl, and since I don’t have a beer bottle to empty my thoughts into now, I smile back, willing her closer to me.  I see her dancing toward me as if she just read my mind, and we dance side-by-side for the rest of the song.  The next song is hip-hop and I place my hands on her shoulders, moving to the music.  I get closer to her, our bodies barely grazing each other, and I look at her and smile.  She kisses me, and I let her.  

The kiss lasts only a few seconds before she pulls away from me.  I feel embarrassed because the sudden absence of her lips makes my body fall slightly forward.  I have kissed only one person for the past five years, and the new feeling is strange.

“Was that okay?” she asks me.

My eyes dart around looking for something to say, and before I do she says, “I know you have a boyfriend. I don’t want you to be mad at me for doing that.”

I don’t find words, but I catch courage and shake my head, and I give her a grin she can interpret only one way.  

“Do you want to leave?” She holds out her hand to give me the choice, and I take it.  We walk back to our friends to let them know we are leaving.  Leala looks at me sideways, and I lie to her, telling her I’m tired and I want to go home, so she gives me a hug.  While walking through the bar to the door, I argue with myself about the kind of person I am and if I should really go with her or if I need to go home.  

I go with her.

I don’t know what I am expecting to happen when we get to her house, but I continue to load my body into her passenger seat.  I haven’t had too many, but my depression medicines mixed with alcohol always make my mobility a little off.  While we drive to her house, I listen to the music playing on the radio and try to gain some courage.  

“Harley just moved in . . .”

She is talking to me about her roommates and telling me each name, but she sounds a hundred miles away.  My mind wanders to the near future and what is about to happen.  I just want someone to touch me with the same intensity as he used to and I begin to think that I’m going with her for the wrong reasons.

“Ellie is the best friend . . .”

I should tell her to turn around and take me home, but I can’t let the words escape my mouth.  Deep down I know that I want to do this or I wouldn’t be in the car.  

When we get to her place, we walk inside, and her roommates are all awake sitting in the living room passing a blunt around a prayer circle.  They all stare at me: they have never seen me before and are wondering how big of a whore I am, no doubt.  The thought makes me angry because they don’t know who I am or why I came so I just don’t look at them, as if they aren’t there.  I continue walking through the house behind Mara to her bedroom and I put my keys and wallet on her dresser.  She puts in a movie, but I don’t pay attention and I don’t care because I am too worried about what is about to happen.  She sits next to me on the edge of her bed and my stomach churns.

It only takes about ten minutes for me to be completely unfaithful to the guy asleep in my bed across town, and I am thoroughly pleased with what is happening.  I think no more of my cheating until I’m lying next to a sleeping Mara and I feel a huge knot in my chest.  I want to leave, but I have no way home since my car is at the bar.  I could call Leala and ask her to come get me, but she would be upset with me, and I can’t handle that, so I stay and eventually fall asleep.

When I wake up the following morning, I am fully rested.  I have no care in the world until I check my phone for the time and I see five missed calls and eight text messages from him.  


Mara is gone, and my clothes are all lying on the bed, folded.  I dress and make my way through the house to the kitchen, where I see her cooking breakfast.  

“Good morning, beautiful” she says to me.  Beautiful?  No one except my mother calls me beautiful, but the word coming from Mara’s mouth makes me smile.

“Hi. What are you doing?”

“Making breakfast for everyone. Are you hungry?”

“Uh, thanks, but I really should go home. I have to be at work in an hour.  Is there any way someone can take me to get my car?”

“I already went to get it this morning with Ellie.  I didn’t want to wake you up earlier than you needed to.”

Wow, that’s really nice of her.  But instead of thanking her, I stand there, uncomfortable, and tell her I have to go.  She looks upset but hugs me and lets me leave.

On my way home, I think of something to tell him.  I was just staying at a friend’s house, which isn’t entirely false.  I brace myself for the worst when I walk into my house because he must have been up worrying about me all night.

“Where the hell have you been?”

“I stayed at a friend’s house after I left the bar. Sorry I worried you.”

“So, you just left me here to take care of the dogs all morning? I have places I need to be.”

He isn’t even worried about where I was and whom I was with.  If I didn’t already feel insignificant, now I do.  

I make my way to the shower and hear him leave, no bye, no kiss, or anything.  Thanks.  I think about what I have done and decide to not do it again. I don’t feel anything for her and think of her only as someone I slept with once and only once.  

To forget something is easy when the other person doesn’t acknowledge it either, but being forgotten makes me feel used. I have to keep telling myself that I don’t want anything from her, romantically.  But I’m used to feeling forgotten so I continue my life with the guy I’m supposed to marry.  

I maintain my weekly trip to the bar, and I see her all the time because she is now a part of the same group as I am.  We all dance and switch partners every other song, so I dance with Mara close to me most of the time, which doesn’t cause any kind of reaction.  That night was just a moment of weakness for me, and it won’t happen again, so I build a relationship with her as friends.  We see each other only on Wednesdays so there is no conflict of interest.


Yet . . . A few months after that night, I am standing with Leala in the line to get into the bar.  I see Mara walking up to us, and she says, “Hi.”  Something inside of me turns on, like a house abandoned for years.  The hairs on my arms stand up, and my legs start to tingle.  Amazing how a simple, one-syllable word can make me feel.  This isn’t a feeling like before.

She has a new look. That’s it.  She has a new shirt.  No . . . she has worn that shirt before.  I think she got a new haircut, but she always has it pulled back.  There is something about her tonight that I haven’t noticed before.  

We walk in side-by-side, as we do on a normal Wednesday, and she asks me to dance, so I do.  I do every Wednesday.  As we are moving to the music, we talk and laugh as we usually do, but something in her laugh strikes me and I’ve lost all strength in my legs.  She spins me once, then twice, and the only reason my weakened legs don’t give out is that she is holding me up.  She pulls me back in and our eyes lock and I see her.  She has dark eyes, almost black -- so dark that I can’t believe that they are real.  I’ve never seen eyes like hers.

Her hands are soft, as if I’m touching the finest fabric.  We spin again, and she brings me in, closer this time and I catch her scent.  It’s perfect, a smell I want to know always.  I feel hot, embarrassed that she can read my mind and she grins at me as if she can.  She has a crooked grin, and I stare at it.  It’s the best thing I’ve seen – her grin.  I can’t help myself, and I’m smiling now, too.  A big smile makes me think that if she doesn’t know already, she does now.  

Then, she laughs.  She is laughing at me.  I try to seem unfazed, and she says “the song is over,” and I see that we have been standing in the middle of the dance floor while others dance around us.  I walk, a little too fast, away from her and get Leala from the side because she wanted to dance, too.  Leala is a good dancer, but not as good as Mara.  I scan the side of the floor, and I see Mara.  She’s looking at me, showing me her crooked grin.  I feel myself redden, and my friend knows.  She knows me too well.  She asks about my thoughts, but I don’t know what to say, I’ve never felt like this before, so I shrug and glance back at Mara, but she is walking away now.  I see her waiting at the bar, swaying to the music playing around her.  The song ends, and I suddenly feel thirsty so I walk off the dance floor to our table, and waiting there is a drink that she bought for me.  She hands the bottle to me and smiles.  How am I just now seeing her?  We sit together and talk as we normally do on Wednesdays, but I am strangely shy.  I don’t want her to know what I am feeling.

The man at my house doesn’t deserve this, no matter how he treats me.  But why do I not feel guilty?  Some people may call our relationship toxic because he tends to be verbally cruel and seems to find satisfaction in making me feel small and worthless.  Maybe it’s revenge, as was that night I spent with Mara.  Maybe I don’t feel anything new toward her and this is just me getting back at him again.  But then, that wouldn’t be fair to her either; we have been here before.  

“What are you thinking?” Mara asks.  I hadn’t noticed how distracted I had been.

“Nothing, I guess I was just zoning” I lie to her.  I still don’t know her well enough to unload all of my personal problems.

She is looking at me, studying me with a crease of worry across her forehead.  She is beautiful.  I can hardly stand her beauty.  We have been coming here every Wednesday for several months together, but I see her now.  She asks me to dance again, so I follow her, my hand in hers, to the dance floor.  Something about this time is different from the hundreds of times I’ve danced with her before.  She dances with me closer to her this time, my face almost touching hers.  It makes my heart skip.  Does she know, and she’s just messing with me, as I messed with her those several Wednesdays ago?  Or maybe she feels the same as I do and she’s just now seeing me, too.

Before I know what she is doing, she puts her hand on the nape of my neck and pulls me closer.  She kisses me in front of everyone in the middle of the dance floor.  The song isn’t over yet, but we stop dancing, and she is still kissing me.  I want this to last forever.  How can I just now be seeing?  She pulls away from me and takes my hand to lead me off of the dance floor.  We sit at our table, and she strokes the top of my hand.  She asks me if I will see her this week, before Wednesday.  I don’t know what to say. I have someone at home, but I nod and feel no guilt about giving her my phone number.  

Around 2:00 AM, I drive home, and I am giddy.  I have butterflies, and I laugh at myself because I haven’t had butterflies since that night I spent with her.  When I get home, I take a shower and get ready for bed.  As I’m lying down, my phone vibrates once to let me know I have a text message.  My heart skips beats before I can calm myself down enough to look at the message.  

I see her.  Her face pops up on my phone with a little speech balloon attached to it asking if I made it home okay.  It really is odd to have someone care enough to ask if I made my trip home safely, and when I tell her I did, she tells me to have a good night and she calls me beautiful.  I really love that word, coming from her.  I put my phone on my dresser and I lie back, staring at my ceiling fan, smiling a big, goofy smile and I can’t sleep.

The next morning, I see her again, this time with a message saying “good morning.”  We talk, off and on, all day and every day for the next week.  We don’t get to see each other because of schedule conflicts, but on our regular Wednesday night, I get to see her.  

    She stretches her neck above the crowd so she can see me when I come in.  She sees me and smiles, and I remember how much I love her smile.  We dance and talk and have a great time and it becomes clear that each moment I spend with her gets better.

    On my way home I think hard about my next step.  I need to make a decision.  I can’t do this to her for much longer, and I need to choose whom I am going to be with.  Do I choose the man whom I have been with for years? Or do I choose a girl who has changed my world? Do I choose the person who has verbally criticized me since I was eighteen years old, or the person who thinks I am the best person she’s ever met?

The choice would seem easy to an outsider’s eyes.  Why would I be with someone who is so mean and cruel to me?  Why put myself through the depression I already have been suffering, just for stability?  I can’t answer that question, but something is holding me back.  I know he loves me, and I know she is falling for me, too, but how does one love two people at the same time?  Do I really risk everything to be with someone I have met just a few months ago?  And what of the relationship I have with my family?

I realize what I must do and I think it is for the best. I drive to Mara’s house to tell her.  


Robin Kemp is a senior at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. She recently started writing realistic fiction/nonfiction short stories after a professor encouraged me to do so and, as a result, this is the first story I wrote. 

Two Poems by Emily Carney

critical review of nightcrawler starring 75% of jake gyllenhaal

typing ‘jobs.com’ into my browser bar,
a chuck taylor ad appears and reads as comforting 

the ad communicates comfort to me through its anonymity
and so any sort of love for this ad feels anonymous too 

the united states, wearing false eyelashes from mac,
rambles that anonymous love in exchange for money is ‘probably, most likely, sacred’
and that it got that one from barbara kruger and can I mention that here

actions representative of this idea fulfill themselves through you and make you mobile
you send sexts about where you have been and press nylon against found sheets of glass

maybe observe the power of people you cannot control, then immediately sit on a chair
it might make you feel stupid, which seems legitimate and enjoyable

somewhere, donald trump prepares for snl






space between ownership

at the mall, men look at me for a little
and I think, ‘you could fuck me, you just never ask’ 
I want submission to wash over me like a warm tide
foaming at the tips with creme lilies
submerged and rolling right at my belly
~preserve everything with formulaic cruelty~ 
walking around in our clothes through all of the rooms in your mom’s house
before the basics where substance falls close enough
I heard they buried thousands of atari video games deep under the mexican desert
what I want is for you to do that to me






 Emily Carney lives in Connecticut and tweets @emily_carney_. Her debut poetry collection, Old & Young Porn, will be released from Electric Cereal in 2016.

Firefly by Sterling Jacobs

My, how its light dots the eye, bathed in an effervescent glow.  Its aura is incandescent, like a burning sun that sets within one’s soul.  When the spring would come, the summer would join in; their nights were clear enough for those gentle little insects to sparkle in the dark.

It was a marvel really, encased in a child’s memory.  But it was more than that; an experience.  There were multitudes of those little bundles of bulbs pulsating while fluttering about the local lawn.  As a child, I would always look forward to catching them when I could.  

And when I did catch one, I would hold it within the palms of my hands and stare into its innocence. I would want to keep it; but then, its little body would faintly flicker and I realized that sensation: What was it? Ah yes, tenderness.  I knew then it would be best to let it go.  I knew that, just as that firefly had brought a sense of bliss to my somewhat centered self; it should be able to be free to do so for others as well.

We all, like fireflies, have that ability to light up each other’s life.  Being amongst those little insects has taught me that.  It’s not an endeavor that is always easy. And it's getting harder to do.  But it's still worth striving for. When you have someone who is important to you, it’s good to give sustenance to the person’s being. And in the end, you light up each other’s life. There’s enough darkness in the world as it is; we need all the light we can get.


Sterling Jacobs received his Associates degree in art at Murray State College in 1999 then his Bachelors degree at East Central University in 2007. Most of his work centers on painting and ceramics ranging from pottery to ceramic figures to fine art animation mixed with poetry and other forms of writing merged into a graphic novel format. His website is From The Bottlehead Beatnick.



Three Poems by Olivia Thompson

two things, and a question. 

if there is a heaven—


I think that it must be something

like the boardwalk at Coney Island

at four thirty in the afternoon

in February.

very cold

and very light

and very clean

and very empty

and the snow, still white

trampled down by ghosts

or angels

and the sea on one hand

and the Wonder Wheel

on the other.


the first thanksgiving after you were gone

we all pretended you had

never even been here 


when it was time to set 

the table

no one knew what to do with

your empty seat.

awkward and

unplanned; someone switched out

your place card for a different one

still warm.

silently we all

pitied the boy who sat in the lap

of your ghost.

and after all the glasses had been raised

and conversation used up

we listened for you

but in the lingering silence

you were not 









or this morning,

at 4 am on the television there was

a special on 

the spotted hyena

violent and dirty and crude

slouching across the vast dry plains of africa hunched over

and cackling like some 

insane pack of homeless children 

eating and fucking and dying

very  ignorant very loud 

very alive.  then after the hyenas

outer space;

falling asleep to the sound of black holes

and the way light bends around a vacuum when 

it reaches the velocity of escape.







Biology class and you were a week past 

Fifteen sitting there

Before you (you imagined you felt it

Trembling) a heart so much

Smaller?  Smaller than you thought it would be or

So much smaller than a heart should be

Maybe (but not

Yours certainly although what’s the

Difference?  No not right now maybe later) then a

Scalpel in your shaking hands you

Pressed into the flesh thickly you

Carved it open with precise incisions

Ventricle atrium artery vein aorta vena cava

All brown and grey latex fingers peeling apart layers like you had

Any right to be there where is no room for you

Beneath your hand just muscles all bleached and dry and

Palely knotted scrubs of tissue clinging to the walls and

The blue blue sky arcing up above.





Olivia Thompson is an undeclared student, and will probably remain that way for the rest of her life.  She is from New Jersey.

El by Bo Fisher

Standing rather than sitting, and allowing the train to rock her from side to side, Joselyn focused on the window to her right.  Held up above the city, she regarded what the El carried her by with a sort of tired trepidation: the pawn shops and Dollar Trees lining Kensington Avenue; the Chinese restaurants that sold Newports and the corner stores haunted by hookers and slingers.    

Joselyn acknowledged them all in pairs.  They too seemed to acknowledge her right back.  They turned and stared.  They watched her pass by and move farther and farther away, both parties knowing she would be back not much later.  And as she left them, as the scenery began to change, her focus shifted down to a book she’d been holding.  She fanned its pages: Stephen Crane’s “The Blue Hotel.”  His sharp Nebraska landscape clawed its way down her pupils, and she wondered, what stood against this grey swampish hush?  How did she fit in to all of this?  What character would she have been, had Crane met her?  

She didn’t know.  

What she did know, though, was that she would soon hide her book away in her backpack and pull out a knife instead.  She knew that she was leaving Kensington and going downtown to find a certain solace in the pockets and purses of strangers. She knew about the pistol in Kenny’s waste-band, but not if he’d listened to her when she told him he didn’t need to load it.  She knew that some people found ways to leave and not come back.  As to whether or not she was one of them, she couldn’t say.

Kenny had been squinting at the book, so quickly, she turned its cover away from him.  She didn’t feel like explaining why she was reading it; he wouldn’t understand. Even less would he get why she’d snatched Jackie Curtis’ college English syllabus. She had tried to get Kenny to read certain books.  His reactions had always been brief and staunch, though: Holden Caulfield was a spoiled little white boy; the invisible man was a bitch and a poser; and Scout Finch was really just a punk.  So, she figured, she would keep Crane from Kenny.

    “Yo,” she said to him, trying to distract his attention from the book.  The El was pulling away from the York-Dauphin station.  “You think Nebraska’s a fucked up place.”

    “It’s hella sus,” he offered, taking his backpack off and setting it on the floor between his legs.  “Little niggas be gettin’ lost in the mountains and shit.”

    “Dumbass, ain’t no mountains.  It’s plains, motherfucker.”

    “And you know this cuz you been there and shit.”

    “Don’t need to.  Read a book, son.  Real talk, though, I ain’t never been outta Philly.”


    “Shit,” she scoffed, “you say that like you have.  My nigga, you never even left Kensington.”

    “We leavin’ Kensington right now, my nigga.”

    “Yeah, well business is business and pleasure is pleasure.  Tell me when you leave for the latter, son.”

    “The what?”

    “Nevermind.”  She looked back outside, embarrassed and feeling Kenny’s confusion spread between them.

    “Man,” he said, breaking the silence, “speak for yourself.  It ain’t impossible to mix business and pleasure.  This shit can be fun, yo.  Maybe just loosen up.  Put the book away for once, you dead look dumb tight lately.”

The doors opened onto Spring Garden Avenue.  Joselyn wasn’t tight, she told herself.  But if she had been, Kenny would’ve known shit about it.  She hadn’t told anyone that her pops had been arrested the previous night for breaking into the church on Girard.  He’d been caught at it once before.  Supposedly there was a kid who used to be an altar boy there, and for a pack of blunt wraps and a pint of gin, he would tell her pops where the priest stashed the donations.  He never reached the cash, though. They always caught him in the walk-in cooler, a bottle of communion wine turned upside down and pouring all over his mouth.

It was only a matter of hours until Joselyn’s aunt would find out, and then subsequently the rest of the neighborhood.  Until then, though, Joselyn didn’t want people, least of all Kenny, knowing when she was tight.  That’s why she didn’t tell him about her pops.  That’s the same reason she held Andrea Beck up against the fence on Hagert Street with Kenny’s knife at her throat.  She made white girl promise she wouldn’t tell anyone at school that she served Joselyn’s mom at St. Francis Inn.

For a moment, she looked at Kenny and wished that he were Stephen Crane.  Then maybe she’d have a chance to ask someone a real question.  She loved Kenny more than she would ever admit, but real talk with him would never answer the questions that kept her up at night.  

Like, Am I the Swede?, buying into a generalized idea of a society?  How many times had Kenny told her these people wouldn’t miss a few bucks?  Or, Am I Johnny? – The cowboy? – The gambler?  Had she given in and accepted these stereotypes that she had for so long denounced as racist and untrue?  Was she simply preparing to thread herself into the fraying fabric of human history?

Either way, Joselyn realized as the El barreled from 13th to 15th in a mad panic of overdue epiphany, she was fucked.  If she had to choose, it’d be the latter considering they were on their way downtown where they would hold up as many drunk hipsters as possible.

Joselyn had been staring at Kenny since 8th, and he finally noticed just as the El was slowing.  He laughed and asked her what she was bugging for.  How many times did they have to do this before she got used to it? She wouldn’t have had an answer.  But she almost asked him whether or not he was okay with becoming his pops.  She almost asked him if he even figured that he had a choice.  She almost asked him if he figured it made a difference whether or not they went through with the run or gave it up and went back to Kensington.  Were they not becoming their parents either way?

Instead the doors opened onto 15th and Kenny smiled, patted her leg, and told her that they’d be good – that he wasn’t going anywhere.  


Kenny was scanning a two-story bar and grill on 15th, his fingers running over the new fade Joselyn had pretended not to notice earlier.  “Yo, real talk, though,” he started, “this part of town is wavy.  We should deadass come back here and turnup tonight after we done.”

    “You mean after we clip enough money.”  Kenny turned away from the bar and looked down at Joselyn.  She knew they’d had this conversation before, and each time, even she grew tired of bothering him with it.

    “You tight,” he smiled.

    “Who’s tight?”

    “You, nigga!”


    “OD tight.”

    “Not even.”

    “Okay, so you not tight.”  He’d taken off his backpack and pulled an L from behind his ear to light.  “But straight up we go back and forth like this…shit, it seems every time we make a run now.  So what’s good?  You not tryin’ to fuck with me no more or some shit?”

Joselyn dropped her backpack as well and began tying her hair into a ponytail.  It was the same one Kenny used to tug on as he chased her around the playground when they were in kindergarten.  

    “Shit, son,” she began, puffing twice on the L she’d taken from him, “you a lowkey cry baby you know that.”

    “Who a cry baby?”

    She smiled, dropped her head onto his shoulder.

    “Nah, son,” she went on.  “It’s not like that at all.”  As she pulled on the blunt again, those same questions seemed to unfold before her in curls of dirty yellow smoke. “Fuck, I don’t know, son.  You never liked any of the books I gave you.”

    “Wait, what we talkin’ about here?  You tight with me cuz of some whack books?”

    “Nahh, son.  I don’t know.  I guess, like, do you ever feel trapped or some shit?  Like no matter what you do, you’re gonna run back into a cycle of things you don’t want to be a part of?  Like you’re just a clone of your parents or some shit and Kensington is just one big hamster wheel that you’re going to run up your whole life until you’re shot or busted or some other bullshit?  It’s like this Crane dude.  Do you ever feel like Johnny?  Or the gambler at the end?  I mean fuck, son, this dude wanted out.  Wanted no part.  Do you ever just say you want no part and then you just get shoved in anyway?  And then you’re the one who’s left fucked up even though you knew it wasn’t the right thing to do.  Come on, Kenny, you have to feel like the gambler, please tell me you feel like the gambler.”

Kenny took the blunt from her and pulled nice and long on it before responding.  

    “Nah, nigga, I feel like Kenny most days.”  He tried to laugh her off, but she could tell she’d gotten to him.  Even if he didn’t know what the hell she was talking about.  “Shit, B, what do you want me to say?  What are we supposed to do?”

He gave a soft tug on her ponytail and planted a kiss on her left cheek.  

    “We don’t need to go on a run today,” he offered.  “Deadass we don’t need to go no more if that’s how you want it.  You just gotta speak English, B.  I don’t know who this Crane bum is but he be speaking some Russian or some shit.”

    She laughed, sat upright.  He dropped the L on the ground and put it out under his boot.  

    “So is that how you want it?” he asked.  “We out?”

Joselyn looked from Kenny and then back onto 15th street.  The sun had began to set onto an assembly line of teetering twenty-somethings.  Out of one bar they came, and then down the block and into another they went.  They shoved one another up and down the sidewalk, laughing hysterically into the drunkenly warm night.  

And then there was Joselyn’s mom, somewhere back in Kensington, maybe waiting on Hagert for a ticket to tomorrow’s lunch.

    “Jos.”  She looked up at Kenny who’d already stood, his backpack on and smiling down at her.  “We out?  Back to Kensington?”

In turn, she looked up at the bar they had been sitting under and, again, couldn’t help but wish that Kenny had been Stephen Crane, even just for a moment.  She would’ve asked him what difference it would’ve made.  

    “Nah, son,” she said.  “We can stay.  I’m straight.”




Bo Fisher lives in the Belmont section of the Bronx, NY and is originally from Columbus, OH. His fiction and poetry have most recently appeared in Monkeybicycle, Contraposition, The Underground, and 826NYC's SuperSaver. 


Mixed Breed by Phillip Temples


Vern and Fran sat under a shady tree next to their rig in the Yogi Bear RV Camp & Resort in the New Hampshire White Mountains & Lakes Region. It was a busy fall weekend; there were few vacancies to be had. That day, the couple had perused all the other rigs with license plates spanning nearly twenty states. The most prominent state was their newly adopted “home” of South Dakota. Vern and Fran, who were life-long Illinois residents, had switched just last year.  South Dakota was known for its lack of state tax and easy mail forwarding, along with a host of other pluses that lured retirees to switch their residency.


Recently retired, the couple had sold their ranch home and bought a 42-foot Newman Mountain Aire diesel pusher. It sported a Jeep tow vehicle, four slides, and a motorcycle lift. It even had a stacked washer-dryer so they wouldn’t be at the mercy of the expensive camp Laundromats. Their rig was the envy of many at the RV campgrounds where they stayed.


“Yep Fran, I’d say we take the prize this weekend. Haven’t seen anything bigger ‘n us so far,” commented Vern. The two had just returned from walking their two small dogs, a young Chihuahua named Elizabeth, and an aging Pug named Livingston-Maxwell.   


“C’mon, Max, up you go!” urged Vern. The pug snorted intensely, then it sneezed. After Vernon encouraged him a few more times, Maxwell leapt with all his might, and almost succeeded in making it up one of Vernon’s legs and onto his lap. Vernon grabbed onto the aging mutt and hauled him up the rest of the way.


“Good boy, good boy!” Vern exclaimed. Maxwell reached up and licked Vern’s face in a show of adoration.


Fran brought out a pitcher of tea and set it down on a foldout table.  They didn’t even have time for a sip before a glint of light caught their attention.  A new rig was pulling into the camp.  They stared at it in disbelief!


It was an odd-looking affair; long, silver in color, sporting aerodynamic features. Vern reckoned it to be least a 50-footer, and then some. It was eerily silent. There were strange do-hickeys spaced at regular intervals along its base; he had no idea as to their purpose. The windows looked more like portals, and the front windshield resembled that of an airplane’s. There were no visible manufacturer’s markings to be seen. The rig’s wheel wells were completely covered, giving it the appearance of floating along the road. It proceeded slowly for another hundred feet and pulled effortlessly into one of the park’s remaining, empty spaces.


The couple continued to stare.  “Would you look at that, Vernon”?  




Eventually, curiosity got the better of the two, so after supper Vern and Fran decided to take a walk down the road to see the strange rig up close.  They brought Livingston-Maxwell and Elizabeth with them.


As they approached the silver monstrosity, Vern and Fran could see its two occupants enjoying a meal outside. The man and woman appeared to be in their early twenties. Both wore short-cropped, blonde hair. They had a small animal at their side; at first, Vern mistook it for a hairless cat but upon closer examination, it appeared to be some sort of Chihuahua-mixed breed. It was acting excited; upon seeing Vern and Fran’s canines, the critter emitted a high-pitched yelp and proceeded to jump several feet into the air. In response, Elizabeth also pranced around excitedly.  The woman shot her animal a stern stare; it immediately sat on the ground and looked at her obediently. The old dog, Maxwell, simply stood there and drooled.


“Hello!” the man called to Vern and Fran. “Would you like to sit and talk?”


“Thanks. Don’t mind if we do. I’m Vernon Stockwell. This is my wife, Fran.”


The two newcomers introduced themselves as John and Jane Doe. They were from Las Vegas and had recently taken up the RV lifestyle. The Does offered Vern and Fran some lemonade.


“I hope you don’t mind me sayin’ this, John, but you two look awfully young to be retired,” chuckled Fran.


John smiled.


“No, we’re still . . . working. We’re just taking a break from things for a while. You see, Jane and I work for the government at a . . . an engineering facility. Occasionally they let us out for good behavior.” Jane laughed at his joke.


“I see. They must treat you pretty well out there.”


Vern looked again at the silver bullet.


“This is quite a rig you got here, John. I was tellin’ Fran, I ain’t never seen one quite like it. Who makes it, anyways?”


John paused to take a sip of lemonade.


“It’s a custom job, Vern. You see I, ah . . . I like to design things in my spare time. Jane and I had this vacation planned for some time, so I had the folks in the machine shop at work construct this recreational vehicle to my specifications. I guarantee you, you won’t find another one like it anywhere in the . . . on the planet.”


“Can I take a look at the controls?”


Susan shot John a peculiar look. Fran thought that she could detect a look of embarrassment on his face.


“Ah, perhaps tomorrow?” Susan asked. “It’s been a long . . . drive and things are pretty messy right now.”


“Oh sure, no problem, folks,” Vern replied.  “We understand. Livin’ on the road things can get pretty disorganized. Especially when your pets are running all over and . . . “


Just then, the couples heard a howl coming from behind the Doe’s rig. It sounded like something between fear and ecstasy. The Chihuahua, Elizabeth, came running from around the corner, followed in hot pursuit by John and Jane’s dog. The animal caught up with Elizabeth; he mounted the small dog and proceeded to hump it frantically. Elizabeth howled some more.


“Zyforg!” shouted Jane. She pointed at the ground next to his chair.


The dog immediately stopped its mating, and trotted over and sat under the chair.  Vern couldn’t help but notice the dog’s enormous, erect penis.


“I’m so sorry!” said Jane. “When our animal gets ‘excited’ it can sometimes misbehave around other animals. I hope your dog wasn’t traumatized.”


Vern and Fran exchanged glances. Fran said, meekly, “No harm done. She’s been spayed.” Vern added, “It’s a doggie’s nature, I suppose.”


The two chatted about their respective pets. Vern and Fran told them that their Pug, Livingston-Maxwell, had been in the family for almost ten years. They had picked up Elizabeth at a pound in Santa Fe last year to keep Maxwell company. Max didn’t cotton to the younger pup at first, but the two were now best of friends.


“What did you call your dog? Ziferg?”


“Zyforg,” said Jane. “It’s a rather unusual name. You see, John is an amateur astronomer. He named the animal after a distant planet that orbits Sirius.”


Huh, that’s odd, Vern thought. Didn’t they give all those exoplanets names like Keplar 69-c and such?


“I see. And what kind of breed is your Zyforg? Looks like he’s got a little bit of Chihuahua in ‘em. And, no offense--he looks like he’s got more ‘cat’ in ‘em than dog.”


“Well, he’s a special breed, very unique. It’s called . . . “


“Jane interrupted. “ . . . It’s called ‘Azawskrozi.’”


“Yes,” replied John. “Azawskrozi. You see, we picked him up on a trip to . . . the Galápagos Islands several few years ago. There are all sorts of animal breeds living on the island that can be found nowhere else.  Are you familiar with Darwin’s theory of evolution?”


John and Jane proceeded to lecture to them about Darwin’s early work on the island and all of the mysterious creatures he had encountered. Vern and Fran were quite impressed by the lesson but also, a bit overwhelmed. It seemed that the young couple possessed considerable knowledgeable about a great many things. But there was one thing that Vern and Fran knew a lot about, too—dogs, and dog breeding.


“Now, this critter of yours,” began Vern, “‘Zyforg’--you say he’s a pure breed ‘Azawskrozi’? Have you ever thought about entering him in competition?”


John and Jane exchanged surprised looks.


“No. Please tell us more!”


For the next fifteen minutes, Fran and Vern discussed their favorite pastime: being on the dog show circuit. They had been quite active until just a few years ago, up until they sold their home and hit the road. The couple had placed in numerous small breed competitions throughout the south and the east coast. They described to John and Jane how thrilling it was to watch a judge come up and handle their animal, observe its good grooming, and how obedient and conforming it was when put to the test.


“And, you say these contests are held all over the United States?” asked Jane.


“Oh sure,” replied Fran. We used to load up our dogs in the van and travel to a show nearly every weekend. Why, this weekend you’ll probably find . . . well, let’s see . . . “


Fran pulled out her smartphone and Googled a schedule of upcoming shows.


“See, here,” she said. “Tomorrow morning, there’s a big one sponsored by the American Kennel Club in Richmond, Virginia.”


Jane looked at the phone and then she glanced anxiously at John.  “We have to do this, John. This is exciting!”


“Whoa, folks! There’s a lot of training and preparation involved,” said Vern. “You have to start with the basics. Now, this here show in Richmond--it’s pretty advanced. And besides, Richmond is a far piece from New Hampshire. Even driving nonstop, it would take you the better part of thirteen to fourteen hours to get there--unless, of course, that rig of yours can sprout wings.”


Vern laughed at his own joke. At first, John and Jane looked blankly at one another. A second later, they, too, laughed.


“Of course, you’re absolutely right, Vern,” replied Jane. “I guess I let myself get carried away there for a moment. Virginia is awfully far away and besides, we’d need to ‘train’ our animal to be more obedient, wouldn’t we?” She winked at John.


“Yes, that’s a lot of driving,” replied John. “I don’t think we’re up for that challenge.  I am actually feeling a bit tired.  So if you folks will excuse us, I think we will tidy up a bit, and turn in early. But thanks so much for telling us about the dog shows.”


*    *    *


Vern awoke with a start. At first, he was confused. Their bedroom was bathed in an intense light coming from outside the rig. It penetrated their custom, room-darkening blinds.


What the--!


He looked over at the clock on the dresser; it displayed 2:27 AM.


“Wake up, dear! Something’s going on.”


“Fran rolled over and opened her eyes; she, too, was instantly awake. They both rushed out of bed and nearly tripped over one another as they made their way to the outer door.


“Would you look at that?!”


Fran, Vern, and dozens of other residents of the Yogi Bear RV Camp stood outside and shielded their eyes, as they looked skyward at the brilliant flying object hovering almost directly above them. The thing hung in mid-air for another twenty seconds, then it blasted off in a southerly direction at an incredible speed. The entire time, it was completely silent. After only a few seconds had elapsed, it had shrunk to a small pinpoint of light.


Moments later, after his vision had returned to normal, Vern started a conversation with their neighbors in the RV next door. The husband and wife, who were from Oregon, were also baffled by the unidentified flying object. Johnny, a retired Marine “Gunny”, boasted that it was one of those Army stealth helicopters “like the one that took out Osama bin Laden.”


“Well,” Johnny’s wife remarked, “It sure did take off like a ‘bat out of hell.’”


It was then that Vern happened to look down the road and realized the Doe’s rig was missing!  


*    *    *


The following morning, Fran and Vern rose from their slumber. Fran was still rubbing the sleep from her eyes and wondering if they had imagined the whole episode with the UFO, when she heard peeping sounds coming from the living room. Fran put on her slippers and walked the short distance from the bedroom to the couch. There she saw another incredible sight.


“Vernon . . . you better come in here. You’re never going to believe this!”


Vern joined Fran.  Both peered behind the couch at the source of the sound.  Their two-year-old Chihuahua, Elizabeth, was nursing a litter of six newborn Azawskrozi-Chihuahua puppies.



Phil Temples lives in Watertown, Massachusetts, and works as a
computer systems administrator at a university. He has published over
eighty works of short fiction in print and online journals. Blue Mustang Press recently published Phil's murder-mystery novel, “The Winship Affair." And his new paranormal-horror novel, "Helltown Chronicles," has just been accepted by Eternal Press.


FIVE: I Get Randy Over Process (And Tools) by Nick Wicks Moreau


I love tinkering. I loved my garage. I love the fact that having tools and a space to use them opens up a world of exploration and creation. I am an old man at heart. I’m just waiting for the years to catch up to me to a point where it is appropriate to mutter to yourself all day while shuffling around in your workshop with a partially deaf dog napping in the corner and talk radio blaring in the background. I can’t wait to start needing medication so I can collect pill bottles and put things in them. 

Of all the questions, I’m most interested in how. A normal person sees a table and says, hmm that’s a table. I see a table and I immediately wonder how the legs are attached. Will that be a sturdy fitting over time? I go to a barn wedding and I’m checking out the barn. Give me a cocktail or two and I’ll climb up to the loft to inspect the joinery. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again. You can’t stop me.

I spent the last six months searching the Internet multiple times a day for an antique tool you’ve never heard of called a power hammer. A power hammer is a machine that lets you work bigger material faster than you could ever work by hand. Its like having a whole bunch of friends that are also blacksmiths helping you hammer hot metal together. Look them up on the YouTube, they’re sick. They were made 100 years ago and only about 5,000 of the particular style I was looking for still exist. When they pop up, they usually sell within a day. Faster sometimes.  

The perfect one came up on Craigslist one morning, and I didn’t find it until 11 p.m. the day it was posted. I had broken my routine of searching every morning because it was a weekend, and I cursed myself for it. I had anxiety stomach all night and couldn’t sleep. I was like this kid I saw on the Internet one time when his family deleted his World of Warcraft account. I was making jerking motions and speaking in half sentences and making popping noises. I got up a 4 a.m. and began researching the best way to transport this 1,000-pound machine from Delaware, in case it hadn’t sold yet. 

I got the guy on the phone around 9:30 a.m. and literally (and I’m using literally to mean literally here) begged this total stranger to hold onto the machine until that evening when I could get there with a trailer. It was pathetic but it worked. And I’m not even telling you the whole story. I hope one day I will know the joy that comes with being a father, but until then, the memory of taking possession of this little fellah will do. I show pictures of my power hammer to total strangers. They don’t care at all but I keep showing them. I can’t help it. I’m so proud of the little guy. 

It’s okay, I get it. I know I have a problem. But try to understand it from my perspective. I make shit. I see a tool and I see its history and its story and it potential and I start to drool. I think about what I could make with it and how many things it has been used to make already and how well it was made and on and on. I see beauty in process, art in the act of creation and not just the creation itself. We talk about fine art. I want garage art. 

Nick Moreau is an artist blacksmith and big fan of hand-pulled noodles. For recreation, he enjoys putzing around and watching 'Star Trek.' His business is Wicks Forge.

FOUR: How I Became An Artist At Harmony's Gate by Nick Wicks Moreau

It took about three years of being an artist blacksmith before I realized I was an artist. It happened with a piece called Harmony's Gate.

Until that time, I would make stuff that looked cool, that people liked, but I did not really feel like I was saying anything with my work, or that my work meant anything beyond being sweet. I make functional pieces primarily so it was easy to hide behind that. Artists just draw silly pictures and smoke pot and act depressed and talk down to others who haven’t read the same Murakami books as them. I was solving problems for people, gosh darn it! My clients needed something to rest their TV on and I was their guy to make the table. I sort of felt like a tradesman. Like it was a short jump from roofing a house to making metalwork. Is a roofer an artist? An electrician? Are you an artist? Now I think so, at the time I didn’t. But I’ll get to that later. 

I had been doing a lot of small orders - fire pokers, jewelry displays, fucking bottle openers - and I wanted to work on a gallery piece (that’s what artists do right? I dunno). So I started designing a music stand. They’ve been something I've loved making since I began as a blacksmith. They are functional and use a similar design to gates— the bread and butter of real blacksmiths — while being a fraction of the size and cost to make. You can essentially make a "gate" and show off your skills but not have to spend a thousand dollars on materials to do it — a good thing when your supply of thousand-dollar bills is limited. 

I made about three music stands before this one and had the mechanics down. It was just the design that needed doing. So I started looking at traditional metal gates to get inspired. Traditional metalwork is usually a combination of strait lines and these things called curlicues (I apologize to all of the real blacksmiths out there reading this for grossly over simplifying our very complex and beautiful field). I was on the Google that day looking at all these missionary-style gates (don't get me wrong they were symmetrical and beautiful, but they didn't do it for me, and they weren't the gates ol’ Nicky boy wanted to make). I looked at this symmetry and in my head I saw ivy and vines and I wanted to make something alive. I just wanted to make something cool.

This music stand popped out almost immediately. Usually I suck at designing. It can take me weeks to come up with a stick figure drawing for a client. It’s definitely the weakest part of my otherwise-immaculate game. But this fellah came out almost exactly as it ended up being realized. I spent the 60 hours fabricating it (pounding hot metal, oh yeah!), and then that was that. To me, it looked cool. I applied to put it an art show and then went back to making bottle openers every day.

A little bit later my brother was helping me market myself better and wanted me to start naming my pieces things other than: Rose Music Stand, Ivy Music Stand, Sailboat Music Stand, etc. (sounds pretty descriptive if you ask me). Well, its hard to argue your business strategy when you are broke, so I went along with it. I started thinking about this piece. What did it mean to me? What was I trying to communicate? I dunno, it just fucking looks cool, all right. Leave me alone. Well, okay, it’s kind of this mix of traditional and organic. It’s paying homage to these classic designs, but incorporating natural forms. Its like man and nature but mixed together rather than separate but equal. You see, there’s this scroll but then it turns into a leaf… and then something happened, like the years of Cheez-it preservative residue in my brain finally unclogged, and I had an epiphany.

Metal is a manmade material, and until the Computer Age or whatever we are in now, we were literally in the steel age. Steel defined human society. We built our buildings, our machines, our guns, our railroads and all that shit out of metal. We dominated the natural world with this material and it represented that domination. You can see this contrast by looking at a manmade gate with is symmetry and it's rigidity and supposed perfection then look at a wall of ivy or a tree and see the opposite. It's all curves and dissymmetry and irregular shapes and chaos. Ew, vomit. 

This contrast of man and nature has played out throughout history. As man's technology has grown, so has his relationship to nature. Back in the day, nature was something to be feared. Don't go into the woods because there's wolves and robbers and shit. As our technology grew and trade expanded, nature was something to fear but also to battle. Think Moby Dick — I'm gonna get you, you fucking whale, but you might get me too, oh no! With industrialization and all that stuff, we finally beat nature into submission. With megafarms and genetic engineering and Kool-Aid we put nature in it's place.

And then all of a sudden we realized that we need to save nature. We may be able to manipulate the Earth, but the things we've done to control this bitch have had unintended consequences. So now, nature is not a beast, it’s not the enemy, it’s this delicate little baby that we need to save from ourselves. We need preserves and ‘wild places’ and all that stuff because Man is destructive. The problem with all of these viewpoints is they’re actually all fundamentally the same. They are based primarily on a western conception of man as separate — and apart from — nature.

There's a dude we had to read in school named Lynn White Jr. His schpiel was basically that throughout history, advances in technology have led to advances in our destruction of nature. Think, more efficient farming means more crops per acre instead of less stress per acre. As such, more technology was not going save us. What we needed was a shift in our relationship to this conception of nature. Looking at nature as something all around us — your backyard, your city, your home — something you were actively a part of, rather than a zoo or a national park or something "out there" that needs your protection — this all represented a shift in ideology that he believed was a step towards sustainability.

So what does all this have to do with a music stand? I didn’t look at the music stand that day and all of a sudden realize that man is fucking over the natural world. I went to college twice to learn that one. What I realized was that my viewpoint and my beliefs were represented in that piece without me having to, I dunno, flick some magical switch to be artist. Even using my crude decision-making process of "looks cool" or "looks shitty," I was representing myself and my beliefs in my work whether I wanted to or not. Every decision I made, from what styles I gravitated to, what I drew, how I built, everything, was a representation of who I was and what I believed. I’m not saying you should look at this piece and think anything other than "looks cool" or "looks shitty." All I am saying is that I realized that there was a piece of myself in this stand, and actually in all of my work, and that was pretty cool.

There is a great Tom Waits quote where he says how you do anything is how you do everything. Fuck, I love that quote. The world is your canvas and every day, you make decisions that no one else would make. And if you are a follower and take the missionary approach to life, even that is a decision. The way you dress, the way you talk, what you create, what you decide not to create, if you are a nice person or a weenie — these are all decisions that define who you are and how you communicate with those around you. I think being an artist is about being able to communicate ideas and emotions to others. It requires nothing else other than not being currently dead. But when we do art, we are deliberately trying to communicate; we are trying to have an effect on those around us (which is funny because a lot of artists are really weird and awkward). So the next time someone tells you your work is no good or you shouldn’t be playing with crayons and should go get a real job. Tell them to go fuck themselves; you are an artist (they’ll just chalk that outburst up to you being weird and awkward anyway).


Nick Moreau is an artist blacksmith and big fan of hand-pulled noodles. For recreation, he enjoys putzing around and watching 'Star Trek.' His business is Wicks Forge.

Three Poems by Alison Thumel

Pooled in Places

I used to be a simmer—slow heat stretching
red up the arms, a low flame, risen
up or snuffed out with a cough. Meaty,

ready to be plucked up bit by bit
in a spoon, blew and cooled and consumed,
knocked back like an oyster. Knocked

back and away from the water’s
edge. Do you know the difference
between when the sea is looking

glass and when it’s glass-looking?
Tell me when you dip into the bits
of me  that are pooled in places, 

as they come to be, are they hot
like sea glass in the August sun
or cool as when you shove your hands

into the sand underneath?  
At times I think at the center
of you are fraying bits of red twine

curled so tight, with no softness
in between, like when the cat knotted
up his insides with curling ribbon

and lived three long days before puking
up the whole damn mess. To inhale I suck
my tongue against the hard palate, coolly 

pulling new air across my gums. Listen,
what I’m really trying to tell you is this: 
a body cools from the outside

in; the heart may still be warm. 
Damp wood can still draw smoke.






Other Forms of Baptism

This evening I am dark
and I am sure

there are stars. Old stars, pushing
old light past here.

This is not about rebirth,
about finding the way

to heaven. This is
about changing my state

of matter. I want to be plasma.
(This is not about heaven.)

This is a calculation
of the formula for sky.

or my distance from it. 
It seems the only way 

to get to heaven
is to evaporate






Easy Now

Settle down, 
you tumbleweed.
You Canadian goose.
You plastic bag
in the parking lot.
There’s nothing
to rush about.
There’s nothing
like this moment
again. You still
wonder. Yesterday
you developed
a knack for climbing
trees, today the urge
to take flight. I watched
through a window.
I gave you a sign
or two. The long light
shone red along
your arms. You ran
up the street, bright
hands outstretched—wait,
wait—then pavement. 
I didn’t know
if you could hear me
through the pane,
didn’t rush out
but waited, watched: 
your body no longer
yours, not heavy
with every rhyme
you ever learned.
When will you enter
the house looking
for me? When will you
blow back out? When
will, at last, I? 
There you go. 
There, you go.





Alison Thumel is a Chicago-based writer. Her work has recently appeared in Fruita Pulp and Lockjaw Magazine. You can occasionally find her on Twitter at @alisynthetic.

THREE: The $50 Baby's Momma Tattoo by Nick Wicks Moreau

The dude from This American Life says creative people start out with taste but not skills. You have the taste to recognize beauty but not yet the skills to realize it. So you start out making shit that your know sucks but you don't have the skills to do anything about it. And It takes either discipline or ignorance to get over the hump.

In addition to blacksmithing, I'm also a coach. I see a similar process with kids. They pick up a new sport and of course they suck. But they didn't know it yet and they somehow enjoy sucking. After a while — enjoying it the whole time — they don't suck anymore. They get over the hump. I call this blessed ignorance.

The problem with taking up a trade as an adult is you don't have that. You suck and you know you suck. That's all there is to it.

With a background in carpentry, I thought I knew my way around a hammer. But hammer work with metal is a unique skill. There is a dance that goes on between your left hand holding the metal and your right hand working the hammer. You work metal four faces at a time. Ding, ding, ding, then turn it 90 degrees. You do a light tap against the anvil with your hammer in between to keep momentum - a slightly different sounding ding, call it ping — then ding, ding, ding again, and another turn. The slightest mishit (which sort of looks like mis-shit - with similar outcomes), the wrong angle of the blow, the wrong slant of the metal, and you've fucked up the piece you've been working for the last half hour.

And there's just no way to get around the time needed to develop this aspect the trade.

And so you learn to suck. I would have to mentally psych myself up for the upcoming debauchery that would be my work at the shop every day. I once spend a whole week making 12 shutter latches that my boss told me should take 4 hours. To get those 12 fucking latches I had a waste pile of over 40. There's obviously a humbleness that comes from working hours on something and then being able to throw it away. But there is also a confidence that develops - to believe in yourself enough to let something go. To know you can do it again, or do it better, that it wasn't a fluke. 

But let's get back to taste. I think it's rare for an artist to not dream of doing awesome work that inspires and awes the world. Put another way, no one moves to Hollywood looking to be an awesome waiter and doing commercial bits on the side.

But when you start out, A) you suck (as we've already covered), And B) no one knows who you are (and if they do they probably think you suck — see, A).

So where do you go? You start. Wherever you can because your love of making shit overcomes your sadness at being shitty at it. Use what you have available to you right now and do it cheaply with no excuses. Kevin Smith made the movie Clerks. I made bottle openers.

I started my business in my grandparents' garage while living at home with my parents. Besides not having much of a social life, I didn't have people knocking down my doors begging to pay me tons of money for commissioned work (I know, I was surprised too).

So I started small. Bottle openers are relatively easy to make. The metal you use is the same as on larger pieces but thinner so it's easier to work and shape. The variations are endless and any shape you can make on a million dollar piece you can replicate on a bottle opener. Scrolls and pig tails and leaves, and twists and points and anything else.

And so I made — and continue to make — A LOT of bottle openers. I've easily make several thousand of these fuckers. I was the karate kid of fucking bottle openers. Wax on, wax off. Bottle cap on, bottle cap off. Big ones, small ones, fancy ones, ugly ones, REALLY ugly ones. The whole gamut. You name it, I've turned it into a bottle opener.

And you know what. As I made these fucking things over and over and over, I started to not suck so badly. I was the guy from Karate Kid who was also in My Cousin Vinny but with a mustache (two yoots...), and these god forsaken bottle openers were my Mr. Miyagi. I got a feel for the hammer, a feel for how the metal wants to move, and how to move it ways it doesn't want to. I stopped sucking. These god forsaken bottle openers showed me how to be a blacksmith. 

Okay, so problem A) not sucking so badly. Check that baby off the list. Problem two — people aren't throwing wads of cash at you to do your art and express yourself. 

But you know what - that's something that might never go away. I had a conversation with a tattoo artist once and he called this the "$50 baby's momma tattoo dilemma." You got the skills, you open your shop, and instead of doing custom full back canvases for thousands of dollars, someone walks in and wants a "Dave Mathews Dancer" tramp stamp. Maybe you want to tell them that is a terrible idea, that some things shouldn't be immortalized above your ass. But you don't.  You nut up and give this person what they want because they're the ones who pay your bills and let you work on the projects you really want to work on. And it makes them happy. And doing a million tramp stamps gives the you the skills to do the full body canvas.

What I've been talking about is my version of artistic integrity. I don't even drink that much. But here I am working for breweries and celebrating cool craft drinking accessories.

So when your starting out, for me anyways, they're had to be some compromise. I didn't have the skills and I didn't have the clients. So I learned to love my version of the "$50 baby's momma tat." And you know what — my first art commission came from a woman who found me because of my stupid bottle openers. So put that in your pipe and smoke it, you purist.

It's rare for an artist not to struggle with these ideas. Why are you making things and who are you sharing them with? How will you get paid? What if someone loves your work but doesn't have the right budget? Are you only a jester for the super rich? Do you pour your soul into grant proposal after grant proposal in order to be granted artistic freedom? Do you do your art in your basement on the weekends and keep it to yourself? Do you do it part time? Full time? How to you translate your passions into a career? What does it mean to be a professional? 

All I know is that I love making things because of the effect it can have when shared with others. And so I've focused on that, regardless of the job and regardless of the price. If you buy a $7 opener from me, you get the same gratitude, the same hand-written note, as when you buy a custom piece of one of a kind artwork. 

That interaction is my chance to change the world by changing that person. By giving them something made with love and shared with love, I get to make them happy, to make them feel loved. I hope they get how much I care, and I hope that every time they crack a beer with the boys, they take a second and think about beauty and change and other sparkly ideas. A lot of times people don't get it. But when they do, it's pretty legit.

So I'll keep making these fucking bottle openers as long as you keep buying them.



Nick Moreau is an artist blacksmith and big fan of hand-pulled noodles. For recreation, he enjoys putzing around and watching 'Star Trek.' His business is Wicks Forge.


The Virgin Mary by Norman Belanger


“I’m not taking those fucking pills!” She screams.

“Mary, please.”

“Let me go!” she yells. Two security guards hold her arms. Another waits, just behind her.

“Mary, take the medication,” I say. I hold out the plastic cup.

“It’s poison! It’s going to kill me. That’s what they want!”

“Mary, I’m not here to hurt you. I’m a nurse. I want to help you.”

“You are a liar,” she says. “Leave me alone! What kind of a nurse bothers poor old ladies?!”


Mary has been court-ordered, she is to be hospitalized for up to ten days, she is to be “compliant with treatment.” Her behaviors have been deemed harmful to herself.


According to her chart, she stopped eating two weeks ago, fearful she was being poisoned. She lived on sips of water and packaged saltine crackers, never leaving her one room in a boarding house, not opening her door, not even when the police came to check on her during a four-day-long heat wave. They found her, disheveled, dehydrated, delusional, afraid, in a dirty robe, in a stifling room, windows locked shut, flies everywhere, food left in the sink. They noted the stink of garbage and unwashed flesh and rotting meat and urine and feces and something like animal terror.


In the emergency room she was combative, she spit at the EMT. She was restrained to a gurney and given 5 milligrams of Haldol, 2 milligrams of Ativan, and ½ cc Cogentin by injection. She was hydrated with an IV of normal saline. Once she was calm and medically cleared, her vital signs within normal range, her behavior subdued, she was brought, still restrained, to the Psychiatric Emergency Department for observation, where they checked her respirations and pulse every 15 minutes. She was offered food and drink, which she refused. She did not speak. She did not answer their questions.


She arrived on our inpatient psych unit some 15 hours later.



In the day room, her first morning, she did not eat her breakfast.  During community meeting, when the smiling occupational therapist asked her how she was, she would not respond, a fact that was documented in her daily progress notes. She did tell the psychiatry resident to “Fuck the fuck off, fucking fucker,” which was quoted and discussed at length during change of shift among the nurses and mental health workers.



She submitted to being bathed the next morning, but only because the counselor promised to use special shampoo. She let them comb her long white hair. She ate lime jello, and drank a half pint of skim milk for breakfast. She wore a clean Johnny that hung slack off her bony shoulder blades. She wore the green stryofoam slippers that did not fit her feet. She wore the bracelet that had her name and unit number on it. She let us take her blood pressure. In some ways, she became a patient, but not in all ways. She did not go to any of the groups; therapeutic communication, morning stretch, occupational crafts, cookie time, art, afternoon check-in, current events. She made no phone calls, had no visitors, spoke to none of the other patients, or to any of the staff.



On the third day she did not get out of bed. She refused to meet with the hospital attorney who would be presenting her case before the judge later in the day. She turned to face the wall when the director of the unit and the nurse manager came to explain to her that she was about to be committed for an extended hospitalization, that she would be forced to accept treatment. Her breakfast tray went untouched. Her lunch was taken away uneaten as well. By evening, her case was heard, and her commitment paper was signed.



From now on, she did not have the right to refuse meals, she would have to take medications, she would be mandated to attend groups.



“Fuck you,” she says when I tell her this.


I hold out the medications the doctor ordered.

“NO!” she says. Her eyes are sharp and blue, unflinching. “I was named for the Virgin Mary,” she says. “You cannot touch me.”


Someone calls Security. Uniformed guys escort her to the quiet room, where she will be restrained to a bed frame and injected again with the cocktail of antipsychotic meds, if she continues to refuse or threaten. They hold her though she does not resist. She walks without struggle, the green slippers slapping behind her along the shiny linoleum floor. Other patients watch as we pass the day room. The TV is blaring People’s Court. She gives them the finger. One guy winks at her, and goes back to eating his dinner.


“I’m not taking those fucking pills!”

“Mary, take the medicine.”

“Why do you care if I do?”

“It’s my job.”

“Get another fucking job!” she screams. “Leave us old ladies alone!”

“Take the medication from the nurse,” says one of the guards.

“Fuck you too, Barney Fife!”

“The court ordered you to take the medicine.” I hold out the cup.

“I was named for the Blessed Virgin!”


She struggles. The guards have her down in seconds. She is small, but they hold her. “Fuck you!” she yells. Counselors wrap leather straps around her wrists and ankles. Another nurse rushes in with the psychiatrist. “She is refusing treatment,” the doctor says. He orders medications to be administered by chemical restraint. Her Johnny is pulled up, her buttocks exposed. My hands do not shake as I swab her pale skin and feel for the gluteus muscle. She is thin, I feel her papery softness through my latex glove. I have done this hundreds of times. It’s my job. She writhes. She is held more forcibly, to keep her still. I inject her with two needles.



It’s over in a moment.



“You fucking rapist!” she cries. I back out of the quiet room, her words follow me down the hall. “You fucking fucker! How could you do this to the Virgin Mary?!”



When I pull off the gloves, my hands still tingle from the touch of her skin, and the warmth of her fear.



Norman Belanger is a nurse by profession, and a writer by some character flaw to be worked out in therapy. He's had a few pieces recently accepted, in the July issue of Aids & Understanding magazine, and Blunderbuss online publication, and in an upcoming number of Jonathan, a gay men's lit mag. While a lot of his writing does relate to his experiences in the LGBT community, he is hoping it will also appeal to a wider audience.

TWO: Lighting Yourself On Fire by Nick Wicks Moreau

Blacksmiths today mostly work a material called mild steel. The 'mild' stands for mild carbon, the relative amount of carbon added to molten iron at the foundry, which defines the characteristics of the steel. Just like that stupid statistic about most life forms sharing like 97 percent of the same DNA, most steels are something like 99 percent iron, and it is the composition of that remaining 1 percent that defines the personality of the steel. A dash of zinc and chrome and you get stainless steel. Up the carbon to about 4 percent and throw in some impurities and you get tasty, hip cast iron pans. Mild carbon steel has a nice balance of strength and workability and that’s why we use it. Think of it like Goldilocks' porridge.

Unlike people, when metal gets hot, it begins to glow. First a dull, then brilliant red. Then an orange and yellow, and as it begins to burn (yes, metal can burn) a blinding white. When I first began in blacksmithery, I struggled to see what I was doing when working the metal because of the glow given off by the metal. You learn to interpret shadows and variations within the glow.

This beautiful spectrum is best observed in lower lighting - direct sunlight could make even white hot metal loose its glow. Because of this, blacksmith shops usually have minimal overhead lights. It's important to have proper ventilation however — ideally, a cross breeze set up by two open doors or a roofed structure with no walls, as the gases from the forge, from welding, and from grinding are all poisonous.

If you are going to burn yourself, it's actually best to do so when the metal is on the top end of the spectrum. White hot metal glows like a light saber, and also like a light saber, disintegrates skin. It's so hot you don't even feel it. At first.

Red hot metal will instantly cauterize your skin. This, again, is not so bad. Heck, back in the olden times before Neosporin, if you had a bad cut or got shot, they'd have to do that for you anyways to clean the wound.

The real bitch is when the metal looses its color. Metal without a glow can still be hundreds of degrees. But this steel won't cauterize your skin. Instead, it sticks to it. That's when you really get into trouble.

The left hand holds the end of the hot metal if it's more than a foot long, or it holds tongs which grab the metal if it is a smaller length. The right hand works the hammer. As such, you usually wear a glove on your left hand. And the left hand usually gets burned the most. Leather is a sink for heat. It will protect you from an instant burn, but once it takes on too much heat, it will toast you through the glove. Over time, the heat shrinks the leather and your left glove becomes smaller and smaller until it becomes like an OJ glove and you need to retire it. The pointer finger takes the most heat, being closest to the flame, and is the first point to blow out. Unfortunately, you can't just buy left-handed gloves, so you end up with a lot of extra righty gloves.

The color of the metal is what tells you when and how to work the material. Each time you take the metal out of the forge, you have anywhere from 10 seconds to a few minutes to work the material before it looses its heat, depending on the thickness and, therefore, the heat mass of the piece. Each cycle of taking the metal out of the forge is called a heat. A piece might take anywhere from one to dozens of heats to work and shape.

A common question for a blacksmith is 'how hot does the forge get.' I usually lie and say somewhere around 1500 degrees. I've looked it up before but I can't remember. The truth is I don't know and it doesn't matter. You don't work the metal based on temperature, but based on color. And even then it doesn't really matter except for that a very scientific scale exists of easier to work when hotter, harder to work when not hot. You could make the same piece working metal at room temperature for the most part, you'd just have to be a lot stronger than me to do it.


Speaking of scale: when the metal is put in the forge, the surface reacts with the flame and oxidizes. A thin bluish black 'scale' will form on the outside of the piece. As you begin to hammer, pieces of this scale will flake off and begin to litter the floor like snow, except hundreds of degrees hotter. This blackish scale is how blacksmiths got their name.

To cut and grind the steel, you use an angle grinder. A fiberglass disk is used to cut the metal and flap disks are used to smooth it. As you cut the metal, the disks break down, releasing fiberglass into the air. Fiberglass particles are wicked small and will pass right through a normal dust mask, entering your lungs where they do lord knows what. It tastes kind of alkaline.

When you cut the metal, you have to get a good line of sight so you can cut it straight. This usually means holding the grinder slightly off-center and to the right of your body. The trade-off is that your lower right half is in the path of the shower of sparks. One spark won't light you on fire, but over time, millions of them will wear out a few "hot spots" on your pants until the threads turn into tinder. The first place to go is the lower right groin region. Don't worry, unless your hung like a moose, the boys are safe.

That's not to say that the sparks won't light you on fire if you get a particularly heavy dose during a long cut. When I was apprenticing, I had never used an angle grinder before. Wanting to look cool — a theme of my life — I told my boss I knew what I was doing. I began the cut and sparks were nailing my leg something fierce. Fear of humiliation kept my eyes on the prize. I was cutting the shit out of that metal! About halfway through my boss said something but I couldn't hear him because of the noise of the grinder. It was probably something like "nice cutting Nicky boy!" Among the smells of Fiberglass and metal, a new aroma caught my nose. It smelt like burning plastic. It was the polyester in my pants. My boss was telling me my pants were on fire. That's what you get for lying about your skills.




Nick Moreau is an artist blacksmith and big fan of hand-pulled noodles. For recreation, he enjoys putzing around and watching 'Star Trek.' His business is Wicks Forge.


Three Poems by Sarah Vandervennet

Rain City

I prefer Clinton Street when it is gray
when the air is flushed from foreplay
before the release of rain
when I can love everyone a little bit
and you less.

I think today I will go buy some purple lipstick
maybe in Soho, but probably at Duane Reade

I am the only one holding me back.

a woman walks by with strong arms
she wears a long dress and her head is 

                                                          the sun.

I will walk with her through the rain.
I will start fires with her in the rain.

there are no worms on the sidewalk in Manhattan,
only umbrella carcasses.






What Is Life Without Taking Naps/Last Night I Was Thin I Woke Up Fat

I want to hold in my hands the movements of a bird’s head
the movements that are like clapping in a strobe light
except without the sound to clarify 

a painted hand sweeps its ghost ink through my head
this same painted hand is a fist that is a net
that catches bees and freezes them for later 

upon their reawakening they forget all about honey
and dedicate their tempo to investigation

similarly do mirrors wish they could practice selective reflection? 

I’m wearing the perfect sweater
it’s the perfect amount of scratchy to remind me
I’m no darling. 

if I had wings I’d wrap them around me
and become sharp shoulder blades
no one will know how to address me
my back side will seem more approachable

I haven’t decided yet if they’re bat wings or bird wings
one seems more sound, the other






Cleopatra's Box of Bees

there were these
two bees
I mistook for one
huge bee 

even queens
need some
alone time
I wonder

if my fingers
will ever
surprise me again
I press them 

into the v-
shaped blade
willing the wood 

to give in
to my
but no

I need
to learn
the tactility
of restraint

to leave
the asps
to the garden
and play 

with the bees
if spring lasts
any longer

I just might 

if spring
lasts any longer
I might lose
my manners






Sarah Vandervennet recently received her MFA in Poetry at The New School and currently writes and bartends in Brooklyn. Her work has been featured in Phantom Books, Stoneboat JournalUndertow Magazine, and Electric Cereal.


ONE: Back In The Day, I’d Still Be A Little Bellows Boy by Nick Wicks Moreau

My name is Nick Moreau, I am a human and a blacksmith and some other stuff. Here's proof:

I grew up idolizing my dad who is a framer - that is - one who frames houses. Here’s me and my butt crack one summer in the act of framing.

I used to dream of having a sweet set up of tools and knowledge of building. I’d see tradesmen in their beat-up trucks, weathered skin and Marlboro red 100’s (that’s extra long cowboy-killers) and I’d think of my pops and how he was cool enough to grunt and scratch his balls in the right synchronization to communicate with those dudes. Maybe my balls don’t scratch the same way, but I was never able to master the language. Whenever I was “hanging with the dudes” on the jobsite I usually felt like a pretender, like I was this keen Bob the Builder caricature. “We need another box of two- and-a-half T25 deck screws, can you grab them from the trailer?” What the fuck are you talking about?

The summer after my first year of college I flew down to Florida to stay with my Dad for the first time. I was excited to finally work with the old man and learn to be a real carpenter. I packed my Tim’s, because that’s what real men wear on the jobsite, just like in the slow motion ads where ripped guys in hard hats are using chains to lift and drag large ambiguous machinery. Boots are legit for looking cool and thug, but rough for climbing on roofs, or on top of walls. Or ladders. Or most things. My coworkers - consisting of my dad who was the boss, and another father-son duo who called themselves the ‘A-Team’ – wore a pair of $8 WalMart Velcro sneakers (my dad is also frugal) and matching VANS skate shoes (the A-team liked to match).

My dad and the A-team also had tans. The younger A-team member had a six-pack and would frame with no shirt on. I thought I would increase my cool factor by catching up on the tan, wearing cool lax pinnies (I should probably mention this now, I am a straight white male from New England who played lacrosse) and rocking the guns sans suntan lotion while I got my frame on. In addition to getting my frame on, I also got sun poisoning that first week and spent the rest of my time that summer ‘framing with the guys’ carrying around a giant jug of scented Aloe vera gel that my stepmom gave me. I had to take a timeout from getting my frame on every 20 minutes to apply this gel to the area of my shoulder where my skin used to be.

When I started metalworking full-time, it took me a while to say I was a blacksmith when someone asked me what I did. For one, when I say blacksmith, people usually ask if I make one of two things: horseshoes or swords. If you learn one thing today, you asshole, someone who shoes horses is called a ferrier, and someone who makes swords is called a bladesmith.

Another reason is I do not see myself as a professional: I didn’t go to art school or trade school or blacksmith school (yes, those exist). I can’t even draw (it’s pathetic, the sketches I have to show to clients sometimes).

My workshop started in my grandparents' garage. I couldn’t hammer on Sundays because the neighbors would walk through their backyard to complain about the noise. I only apprenticed for one year before I began my own shop. I know my work is good, but I know in a lot of ways I am still pretending to be a professional. As my commissions have gotten bigger and my business has grown, so has my confidence. But I'm still waiting for that feeling to go away, and I wonder if it ever will.

I think about if this were back in the day, I wouldn’t even be allowed to be the guy hammering yet. I’d be the kid with the sooty face in the back working the fan to keep the coals hot. The real blacksmiths would probably call me Skippy and tell me to fetch things for them.

Sometimes I get embarrassed by my silly set-up and my lack of experience. I think I’m just playing blacksmith, like a little kid sliding on the roof in his Tim’s, trying to be just like his Dad.

Sometimes when someone compliments my work, I think they are stupid for complimenting an apprentice in training named Skippy whose only skill is making a mean cup of tea for the real blacksmiths. But compliments feel nice.




Nick Moreau is an artist blacksmith and big fan of hand-pulled noodles. For recreation, he enjoys putzing around and watching 'Star Trek.' His business is Wicks Forge.

Unlicensed by Michel Ge

First time I cheated on an essay? Teacher didn’t notice. I didn’t even bother paraphrasing, just straight-up Sparknotes and highlight and control v that shit.

See, I had this girlfriend, Lucille. We were on a date and she had her coffee straw in her teeth and she just sighed and was like, “Georgie, you’re so innocent.” Because I was that kind of guy. So I told her I was sorry and that’s when she like lost interest, like though it took her two more weeks to dump me, that was the moment—girl has become Bored, guy is Unimpressive, commence breakup.

Afterwards we were waiting in this parking lot, me shivering from the caffeine, Lucille thumbing her phone. Problem was, I didn’t have my license, so transportation was my mom (I know), who wasn’t always the timeliest, which led to a lot of waiting and standing awkwardly.

Finally Lucille just left, strolling off to wherever it is girls go after mangling a boy’s dreams, which meant I was standing there until the van rolled sheepishly into the drive.

“Hey dude, where’s the girl?” mom asked.

“Shut up,” I said.



Plan B: Obtain a driver’s license.

Which was harder said than done, because obtaining a driver’s license, as I would later learn, required a) obtaining a permit, and b) waiting like six months to take the driver’s test, and c) actually knowing how to drive so that I could pass it.

I was like, “Really?”
“Yeah,” Dylan said. “It takes longer than you think.”

What we were really talking about wasn’t Lucille but Dylan’s pool party, which Lucille, being Lucille, was probably going to be at, unlike me, due to a, b, and c. It wasn’t really my fault but I told Dylan sorry anyways for not being able to go.

“Sorry? Jesus Christ,” he said. “Whatever.”

But Dylan’s Dylan and he was more interested in this thing he wanted to show me, which was why we were in the theatre, during an assembly, when we were supposed to be at the assembly. He rooted around for a bit and came up with a flyer, a dodgeball, a pair of prop glasses previously ogling the wall.

“Are you sure about this?” I said.

“Sure,” he said. “Come on. We’ve got like fifteen minutes.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I just don’t think we should be screwing around like this.”

“Just chill, okay? It’s really cool.” Like defensive. “I promise.” He held the flyer over this floodlight that was beaming the ceiling and glaring on his face like he was some weird fiend thing. Soon enough it was smoking. He pulled it away, guffawing into his arm. “Did you see that?” he said. “Did you see it?”


“Oh! Oh! Check this out—” He held the dodgeball over it, casting a monster shadow on the ceiling. Then he just pressed it against the lens and stuffed the light. “Holy—Jesus,” he said. “I can feel it through the plastic.”

“This is what you do in acting class?”

“Oh my God,” he said. “I think it’s melting.” He pulled it back and a glob of plastic dodgeball drooped like snot.

I don’t know how to explain it, but right then is the happiest I ever remember feeling. Like there was this image in my head, this image I can’t really describe but there were street lights, and girls, and music, and Lucille and me, and Dylan melting dodgeballs, and I was like holy crap, I can do this, and this feeling, I was like shivering from it, like this must be how it feels to be high, this is how it might have felt that time when some tramp offered me and Lucille crack at the diner and Lucille looked at me like hopeful, but when I didn’t say anything she sighed and said no—like what if I had said yes, like what if that happened again and I said yes.

“Oh my God,” Dylan kept saying, over and over, “Jesus Christ, are you seeing this?”


A bunch of nights later I was writing the aforementioned essay, worth like the entire trimester and due tomorrow, but the thing is, I couldn’t focus. So I took my orange juice and stepped outside for a bit, hoping the cold would clear my head. It was one of those almost-winter nights—cars rushing on the highway far away like a permanent wind, my toes bare and bitten (I was wearing sandals), these faint trails of clouds in the sky, like those times when you lay on your back in the drive and imagine you’re skydiving into some huge misty ocean.

Mom was asleep, so I felt like a criminal for being outside, but what the hell. Soon enough I was at the pool (not Dylan’s pool, but the crappy local one with like mold or something drooling down the sides) and there were people in the clubhouse watching some baseball game. The door was open. I passed by once and paced around and passed by again. The second time this woman saw me, and made this like “Heh?” noise, standing on the porch watching me. When I looked back there was another guy with her, muttering something about having had a big breakfast, and suddenly I realized how I must’ve looked, wobbling down the sidewalk (wobbling because I didn’t know anything about where I was going, only that I was taking my time getting there), with this mug in my hand, filled with orange juice, but they didn’t know that. And so I kept going because they could think what they wanted to. But when I got back home I was still thinking about that guy, and that woman, both of them like thinking I was some alcoholic, and Lucille thinking I was innocent, and nobody thinking what they were supposed to think. So I got really pissed and went back to the clubhouse.

When I walked in nobody noticed me. “Excuse me,” I said, like civilized. “May I please use the restroom?”

There was this old guy in the corner stool leaning against the wall. “Yeh.”

So I set my cup pointedly down on the counter and went into the bathroom and stood there long enough for them to look at what was inside and confirm that it was in fact not alcohol at all, but orange juice, then I went out and took my cup. “Thank you,” I said.

“Sure.” He sounded angry.

I left and went back home but still it didn’t feel right. Like once Dylan told me about these worms that go into your veins and swim around if you drink the wrong water, and it felt like that right now, like I had these things wriggling around inside me, like I could feel them moving. So I went on Sparknotes etc. etc. which took some pressure off, but I still wasn’t comfortable, like it took me an hour to sleep.

Here’s the thing:

When Dylan was done melting the dodgeball that day, I snuck back out and caught the last few moments of the assembly. Lucille, who was on the Honor Committee or whatever, she was up there saying something about the SDCIM community, and when I came in she saw me—I swear she saw me, our eyes met and this like wire stretched between them—but she looked away and didn’t look back again. Not for the rest of her speech. Like there I was, her boyfriend she hadn’t dumped yet, and she wouldn’t look me in the damn eyes. Then she stopped talking to the assembly and to me in general.


By the time I got to the licensing office it was too late to save anything. Two weeks, three, had passed. We walked into the door and the first thing I saw was this poster of some kid beaming for no reason, all, You Can Save a Life, Donate Today, Be a Hero. “Come on Georgie,” my mom said, like she was super busy and I was wasting her time. We went to the counter and while the lady asked me questions I kept staring at the poster. The kid was just glowing, like I’m So Happy, like They Are Paying Me So Much To Do This.

Then suddenly the lady was like “Do you want to be an organ donor” and I blinked and stared for a while, and because there were a whole bunch of people in line listening to me, and this lady waiting for me, and mom right there, I was like, “sure.”

But mom started freaking, going all, “Sorry ma’am but this is a mistake,” “Georgie what the hell are you doing,” (because apparently doctors were now going to murder me in my sleep for my organs), like when your dog starts spazzing out in public and you don’t know how to calm it down. “Mom,” I was like, “holy crap, chill out, there’s a line.” Because she was just standing there freaking and not letting anyone else come up.

What a pushover I was, back then! Of course, my mom made me cancel the whole thing the next day. But in the car, when she was still screaming, all “Why, why did you have to be a donor,” I said, “Because it was the right thing to do.”


 Michel Ge is a student living in Missouri. His work has appeared in Tincture Journal.

FIVE: Woodwork by BROOKE WADE by Brooke Wade Murphy

Visit  BROOKE WADE's gorgeous site  to browse collections, learn about her process, and to snag the last few lovely things that aren't already sold out!

Visit BROOKE WADE's gorgeous site to browse collections, learn about her process, and to snag the last few lovely things that aren't already sold out!

Are there any specific philosophies that are important to you or your work?

Yes. I believe that sustainability is a primary concern for our immediate future. In creating any business, I knew that promoting recycling, little-to-zero waste, and conscious consumption needed to be a foundational part. BROOKE WADE is a realization of that, a line of handmade wooden homewares crafted only from found, foraged, and reclaimed wood.
From a product standpoint, BROOKE WADE embodies investment in organic, waste-free materials, and the conscious choice to purchase one beautiful, expertly made thing and keep it for a lifetime of use. From a brand standpoint, I really want to celebrate authenticity, boldness, and urban life. Rather than promoting a false, escapist world of "simple" living in rustic, woodsy locales, the brand embraces the built-in sustainability of urban living—walking, cycling, riding the train, living in small spaces close to other people, choosing to have less.

FOUR: Woodwork by BROOKE WADE by Brooke Wade Murphy

   Extra Large Twig Spoon  This walnut mixing spoon has an extra long handle and a faceted bowl. The end of the handle resembles a twig from the forest floor. Two in stock.*


Extra Large Twig Spoon

This walnut mixing spoon has an extra long handle and a faceted bowl. The end of the handle resembles a twig from the forest floor. Two in stock.*

Walnut Raindrop Spoon

This mixing spoon has a strong, straight grain and a delicate raindrop detail at the end of the handle. Made from fragment walnut gathered in Brooklyn*


 Where do you get the materials you use (if relevant).

From all across the country! Reclaimed materials with history are super important to me, and so I make a point to travel to interesting places and meet people who have a special connection to some wood. My most recent excursion was to Down East Maine, where I stayed in a house built by a local family. The wife/mother is a professor in environmental studies, and the husband/father builds boats and timber-frame homes when he’s not fishing salmon in Alaska from June-August. After my visit, they sent me home with some wonderful pieces like sustainably harvested boat-building silverballi, and ribs of teak from the hull of Betsy, the WWII era boat that they lived on for six years.


What is something interesting special no one would know about your goods just by looking at them?

The origin stories that are inherent in every piece! If anyone is curious about the wood that became their serving board or spoon, they should check out the “Collections” page on my website or my blog. I try to tell many the stories there.

Three Poems by Violet Ryder



It’s quite painful to admit
That I get a momentary thrill
When you like a photo on my Instagram feed

I control your gaze for a brief moment --
How long do people statistically look at art?

Halve that number and
It’s an approximate
Of how long I have you








Wasting time popping zits
In the bathroom mirror
Little sebaceous cumshots
That land on the glass
Leaving my mark
For no one in particular








I dreamed that I owned a small bird
That was occasionally a tiny monkey
And this animal would sink its claws
Deeply into the flesh of my right arm







Violet Ryder is an artist and writer living in Los Angeles. She is currently an MFA candidate in photography and media at California Institute of the Arts.

THREE: Woodwork by BROOKE WADE by Brooke Wade Murphy

   Mahogany Board with Handle  The grain on this mahogany board actually sparkles. With a 11 3/4 inch diameter it's big enough to serve a birthday cake. Made from reclaimed mahogany gathered in Brooklyn.*


Mahogany Board with Handle

The grain on this mahogany board actually sparkles. With a 11 3/4 inch diameter it's big enough to serve a birthday cake. Made from reclaimed mahogany gathered in Brooklyn.*

Oak Brie Boards and Knives

Up your brie game with a brie board and knife. One set has a butcher-style knife blade and and crazy-colorful grain on the board. The other set has a brie-style blade with three holes for easy slicing, and a clean, straight grain pattern on the board.*

Follow BROOKE WADE on  Instagram

Follow BROOKE WADE on Instagram

Briefly describe your process. How do you do what you do?

I know that woodworking is great work for me because I frequently find myself in a state of flow. When I’m working on a familiar design, I can lose myself in my work and go through a project step by step without looking up. My family and friends freak out because I can forget that I even have a phone! If I set up a perfect workstation for maximum efficiency, and put on silky music like HOMESHAKE and Camera Obscura, I’m able to get there usually.


What makes your process unique?

Wood can be a variable material, and on top of that, I only use found, fragment or reclaimed wood. So frequently when I’m in the shop, I’m either riffing on a basic design, or designing as I go to specifically suit that piece of wood. So sometimes it feels like each time I create is unique. Copious amounts of delicious, french pressed coffee are also integral to my process.

Consider the Keyboard by Edward Yoho


At the ripe old age of nine, in July of 1980, I received my very first personal computer. Kind parents, a wealthy and eccentric relative, and sheer persistence on my part all focused on one, specific point in the universe. I hit the nerd jackpot. My very own Atari 800. I still have it to this day, and would be very hard pressed to part with it. It’s a dinosaur with one-hundredth of the computing power of my iPhone, but I still fire it up on occasion. Were it not for the wretched keyboard, it would be my primary writing tool. Really. Two 5 & ¼ inch floppies will hold an entire novel.

For those of you who may not have been around in the 1970’s, here’s a bit of background: despite this being the era of platform shoes, disco, and flammable polyester suits, many people miraculously avoided permanent neurologic damage and focused on technological innovation. As the microprocessor came into its own in 1975, personal computers became affordable enough for serious hobbyists to purchase. Computers such as the Altair 8800 and the Apple I were marketed directly to the hobby market. They also came with no display or keyboard, and each buyer needed to purchase, fabricate, or modify other components to fulfill those roles.

By 1980, there were more than fifty different companies producing computers for the exponentially growing home and business markets. Many of these systems contained both proprietary software and hardware, which caused a clear distinction in the computers available in each market. When the first IBM PC was introduced on August 12, 1981, their credibility with the business community combined with industrial strength hardware brought about the inevitable. They began to dominate the market business computing market. The original IBM PC’s were built like tanks, and initially priced to match. Just as significant, but arguably unappreciated, IBM also included what many touch typists consider the finest keyboard ever made, the Model M. More on that in a bit.  

On the other end of the computing continuum revolution was Commodore. They rolled out the Commodore 64 almost a year to the day after IBM’s PC in August 1982. To label it a merely successful product launch would be a gross understatement. The response to the C64 was nothing short of astonishing. Cheap, easy to use, reliable as an anvil, tons of software, a small form factor, and the fact that you could buy one at K-Mart, all contributed to its unrivaled success. The Guinness Book of World Records lists it as the single biggest selling computer of all time. Exact figures are unavailable, but the range is from 12.3 million to just under 25 million when production mercifully ended in April 1994.

Other than a very small but enthusiastic group of people who are trying mightily to relive their childhoods by painstakingly maintaining their aging C64’s, no one else shed any tears when Commodore declared bankruptcy in 1995. On the plus side, the C64 introduced a lot of people to a computer of any kind for the first time, the concept of programming, word processing, spreadsheets, and videogames. As such, its impact on the world cannot be understated.

Accolades aside, there was a dark side to the C64’s success. It was partially responsible for the video game crash of 1983 due to their hyper-aggressive pricing strategy. The hardware from a technological standpoint was mediocre at best. The peripherals were expensive and buggy. Moreover, it was also not upgraded to keep pace with advancements in technology. A C64 purchased in August of 1982 was functionally identical to one built in 1994. In addition, I’ve only encountered a handful of people that actually liked the spongy feel of the keyboard that Commodore used on the C64. It feels like typing with oven mitts.

Long after all but the most hardcore of computing history nerds have relegated their C64’s to their rightful place in a landfill, and the majority of original IBM PC components have been recycled, one item from that period has endured. The IBM Model M keyboard with the legendary buckling spring mechanism is, for most, still the undisputed gold standard for typing bliss.

The first buckling spring keyboard was shipped with the original IBM PCs. Loud, heavy, and progressive resistance to keystrokes was designed to emulate the tactile and auditory feedback for people used to hammering away on an IBM Selectric. The Model F replaced the original PC/XT version shortly thereafter, and little was changed except for the addition of a single key. In 1985, the Model M began production…and you can still buy one today. Over the years, as IBM adapted with the times, they’ve sold off the vast majority of their manufacturing capabilities. Today, the tiny Unicomp company in Lexington, KY continues the tradition and manufactures the Model M for keyboard aficionados.

My beloved IBM Model M, manufactured in September 1987, finally typed its last character in the beginning of 2013. It wasn’t because of age, mechanical fatigue, alien invasion, or a spilled drink. As it turns out, a drop of sixteen feet onto a ceramic tile floor, where the precise point of impact was the lower left corner in a nearly vertical orientation, wasn’t something that the engineers at IBM had in mind with their durability testing. Happily, my bout of grief was short lived when the nice folks in a brown truck delivered two packages. A Unicomp Spacesaver M buckling spring keyboard in one box, and a Razer Blackwidow Ultimate Mac Blue LED with Cherry MX Blue switches in the other. Yay!

Remember the brief trip down computer nerd memory lane? Great! Here’s the tie-in: no matter how much hardware we have for our computational needs, for the vast majority of the time, we only physically interact with our GODs (Graphic Omnipotent Devices) through the mouse and keyboard. We look at the monitor, we listen to the speakers, but we touch the mouse and keyboard. That level of interaction is personal and as such, it’s well worth the extra synaptic activity required to make an informed decision.

Despite Commodore’s unceremonious implosion during the first years of the Clinton administration, some of the ideals they pioneered for the computing industry are in full effect today. Make it cheap. Make it inexpensive. Technological advances typically offer more computational power per monetary unit, and this benefits all of us as consumers. However, there are areas where corners have been cut a few too many times and we’re left with inferior products. Nowhere in the personal computer industrial complex is that more evident than it is with keyboards.

More than likely, the keyboard that shipped with whatever computer you happened to purchase in the last ten years is using “membrane” technology. A single, flexible conductive membrane is located under all of the keys. When a key is pressed, a metal or rubber (even less expensive) dome squishes the membrane until a circuit is closed, which registers the input. Insanely cheap to manufacture, the longevity of most units can be measured in months rather than decades. A slightly improved version of a membrane keyboard are those with a scissor switch, which provide slightly better feedback and are commonly used on laptops due to their low profile.

Neither is a good choice for the long haul or above average typing speed since most of the parts are plastic. Better quality keyboards will use more metal parts and will be more durable over time (such as keyboards present in the MacBook Pro), but the super short keystroke distance still negates tactile feedback. Lastly, any membrane keyboard needs to be pressed to the end of its travel to register. Without progressive resistance, it’s difficult for new typists to know how hard to press the keys. The benefit to the manufacturers is obvious… less cost per unit. With the exception of the scissor switch to make the keyboard fit into a small package (like a laptop), there are no benefits for the consumer other than price.

With the junk out of the way, let’s discuss mechanical keyboards. Due to the fact that they have a vastly higher number moving parts and heavier frames, they’re more expensive. While there are many types of mechanical switches that have been created over the years, in today’s market there are two that are fairly common. Beyond the gold standard buckling spring keyboard, the other commonly used mechanical switch is the MX line by Cherry.

For those of us that grew up learning to type on an IBM Selectric and want a keyboard that will survive the zombie apocalypse, the clear winner is the buckling spring. There’s simply nothing else like it. Progressive resistance, tactile click when the keystroke registers before the button bottoms out, and refurbished original Model M’s or new units from Unicomp will last a lifetime. Downside? They’re industrial strength and have the looks to match. They’re fugly, and there are almost no customization options such as LED backlighting.

If you want that smooth, progressive feel, need customization options, and are willing to sacrifice a marginal amount of longevity (ten years rather than twenty), there are dozens of companies that build keyboards using Cherry MX switches. Backlighting? No problem. Multi-colored backlighting? Can do. Macintosh specific keys? Done. Also, the Cherry switches are available in a wide range of options. Light keystroke, heavy keystroke, auditory click, dead silent, progressive resistance, linear resistance, etc., are yours for the asking. Open your imagination and your wallet, and your dreams of typing nirvana are literally at your fingertips.

Yes, you’ll need to open your wallet. A basic, no-frills, membrane keyboard can be purchased for less than $10 on Amazon. Slightly better membrane models will run $20 to $30. A new buckling spring keyboard from Unicomp will run about $80. A refurbished original IBM Model M will run about $150. Keyboards with Cherry MX switches generally start at $80 and rise rapidly depending on options. $69 was the least expensive I could locate. The Deck Hassium Pro Mechanical Keyboard is $190.

To paraphrase The Most Interesting Man in the World, I’ll leave you with this: I don’t always type since writing in longhand on occasion helps the creative process. However, when I do, I prefer a mechanical keyboard. Type well, my friends.


Edward Yoho still considers himself a New Jersey resident despite thirty-five years of exile in the cultural wasteland of Florida. When not otherwise occupied with tasks relating to employment at a university, family obligations, or classwork for his MFA program, he can often be found writing new science fiction.