Potluck

 

T H I S    W E E K

Poems by Taneum Mariah Bambrick

 

At the Bottom of the Bowl, There is More Bowl — So, Burrow

The same dust that blew young Ida McCarren into town gutted her father’s 1942 Ford truck overnight. When the storm rose up, tall as the hand of God on the horizon, Mr. McCarren held on longer than you might expect. He made it another mile through the dark wind before he drove the truck, and the family in it, into a deep ditch. When the storm ended, some hours later, men driving past on the way to fill their tanks spotted the Ford, and then they came to pull it out.  

It was stripped all over to the rust. In some spots the doors were filed straight through. The crew said they could see the bodies before they walked down the bank. Ida McCarren herself was barely in rags when Bea Garvey swept her out from under the porch, after the storm broke. Naked, but not a scratch on her. No one could explain it, so they called her a miracle because they needed one.  

She was real quiet. And they liked her that way. No, they loved her that way. The town was in love with the violence of her quiet. They flocked to it, the way crowds throng around a crash. But ever since Boots McCoy had come last year and killed Old Paul and left again faster than he came, Ida’d been less of a fender bender and more of a three-car pile up with the baby screaming and the mother gone. It’s painful to watch, wrecks like these, but that doesn’t stop anyone. So a deep uneasy had settled into to town to take Boots’ place.

“They told me you were bad news like I didn’t already know,” young Ida whispered to the wanted sign at the post office. Her neck was craned back so far to look at it that the bottom of her chin rested on the wall, just below his mouth, which the sketch artist had got tragically wrong. Mr. Witacher, the postal clerk, was not sure young Ida should be looking at pictures of Boots McCoy like that. He was most definitely sure she shouldn’t go around talking to pieces of paper, so when he went to pick up licorice on his way home he told Bea Garvey to keep a better eye on her girl. 

Bea Garvey had taken the girl in after she swept her out from under her porch – she took her in quick - almost before she’d washed the dust off Ida enough to tell what she was. Bea loved distant catastrophes. Bea loved the idea of the storms. Ida is all of these things. She has storm all curled into her young body like an extra intestine. All Bea has to do is look at her and the hairs rise on the back of her neck the way they do when the dust is coming and she hurries to line the windows with rags.

To Bea the dust was a righteous coming, like the flood. She daydreamed sometimes, that she was wife to a new Noah. She dreamt she and him built an underground arc with the hull facing the sky and let the wind bring the dirt and cover them safe. To the Lord looking down on them it would be like peering up through water at the bottom of a boat, And wouldn’t that be a gift to the Lord? to experience looking up at something, for surely that is the only thing the Almighty cannot do.  

She said nothing of this to anyone, but sometimes she dreamt it in her sleep too, and sometimes she muttered and young Ida heard.  

“One time the storm was coming in and I didn’t get into the house quick enough to miss it. My poor eyes,” Bea likes to tell anyone who will listen, and most who won’t. “They saw the storm set the whole horizon growling. It looked like the hand of God come to scrape the evil from the earth.” And then she shivers, in delight or terror no one knows. Except Ida. And God.

When Boots McCoy had come back to town last year every house locked its doors and put their daughters in the corner. Everyone who had ears had heard about Peter McCoy’s lowdown, no good, nephew, with the face that could make an angel swoon.

Ida, being nobody’s daughter, was right there on the store steps when he walked up. Anyone will tell you how the air itself crackled. They shook their heads and clucked their tongues, how could she have known? Poor little disaster. 

“They think I didn’t know what you were,” Ida whispered to the wanted sign. “I knew, I knew, I knew exactly.” She smiled with wide proud teeth. “I have good eyes. It’s just that you kick the dust clean when you walk, and those cheekbone – ooh, they're sharp enough to build a house out on. So I did. And then I stayed a while.”

Boots had told her she wasn’t the kind of miracle they thought she was. That she wasn’t just everybody’s good luck charm – a public thing so worn with wishes the bronze wears green. No, she was a personal miracle - just his - which was good timing because he had some plans to make it big – (or in truth to dig himself out of debt before the sharks dug him six square feet of soil, but that - to him - was not the point).

Old Paul’s garage was at the edge of town. Ida did not go there. She had no reason to. Most every one who had a truck went there but Ida didn’t ride in trucks, at least not any more. Old Paul was a gray green man. Gray for the dust and the age. Green for the money. He sat on the last thing people needed. Aside from food, I suppose. But then some of the farmers would go hungry on the bad weeks in order to buy fuel for the tractors, so you tell me.

Either way you answer, Old Paul had a weakness for peppermint sticks and came to Bea Garvey’s every four days for a new packet. This is the only place Ida would see the gray green man and as she packaged the bright red sticks she used to wonder if, in large part, his taste for the sweets had to do with color. The vibrancy he had lost somewhere in the age and the dust and the money. She wondered if he rubbed the sticks on his skin if there was a chance he might turn brown again.

Times of catastrophe are heaven on earth for the entrepreneur, Boots McCoy told her. Especially one outside the law. And had she been to see those cowboy movies? He wanted to know. And how did she feel about masks and the color black? He had told her the dust bowl was ending and with it, their window of opportunity – the chance to do something big – real big. That’s what he said.

After he left she started walking late at night sometimes. Once she was walking past the wanted sign on the fence post by church. “You can stop looking me like that,” she muttered, glaring at it. She walked five steps past it and then doubled back. “You told me I could have everything and everything was all that I took.” And then she stared at it, waiting for an answer.  

When they next storm came puttering up the horizon they went to Old Paul’s because they figured he would be in his cellar, waiting out the dust. They also figured that his garage would have the most money in the town. They figured incorrectly on many things. That isn’t the point. Ida hadn’t been this far out of town since she blew in. When they reached the turn in the road just before Old Paul’s came into view, she saw the ditch.

They just turned the turn, as Boots had said they would and she had expected and then quite unexpectedly there she was, traveled back into the mouth of the mystery. The tragedy that had loosed her. There was the crash, and the dust, and the limbs and the dust, and the teeth and noise and dust and there was her gone, and the family gone, but her gone first.

Then they were inside the garage and Boots and Old Paul were yelling and it didn’t matter and through the window, and across the street from Old Paul’s the ditch yawned open across the road, where they found the truck, and her family in it and she hadn’t been there.

She watched it like a sleeping beast. All that was left alive of it was knocking around in her skull. All that was knocking was that dark miles high hand.  A night come too soon and all on fire. The hand of God, Bea said, come to scrape the evil from the earth. She wanted to be that hand. Or at least a digit. She wanted something to scrape. 

“I wanted to pull the trigger, you know, just to feel the recoil,” she whispered to Boots’ face. She pressed a guilty forefinger against the rusted nail head until it bled. “So, I did, you know.

“And you were so concerned. It was sweet really. How you fluttered around the body, and breathed too quick for your lungs and warned me I was going jail and then to hell. But I couldn’t go to prison, I had only just begun. I ran my eyes all up and down your face, every plane of it, every room of the home I had built up there, and figured I had a way to keep that house locked up safe now. I turned the gun to my shoulder, pulled that trigger again, and slipped it into your limp hand quick before I fell. I did it. I did it. I know.” She pushed her forehead up against the post and moaned.

“It’s just I knew there was all this gray in his head – Old Paul’s head. There was gray all up in Old Gray Paul’s old gray head. All this dust caught spinning in his skull. I could see it. I had to let it out. Turns out it was a red dust. But that’s not the point.

"The weather’s gotta be left be. The weather’s got to go where it will. That’s the only thing we got left to worship, you know. The only thing. I’m sorry, baby, the only - I’m real sorry. I am. It’s just I have a job to do. I have a storm to keep brewed, without it, where would we be? What new balance would we scramble for? What new power would we bow to? It’s unthinkable.”

Her neck drew back briefly to give her room to giggle. Then she pressed her cheek sharp against his and sighed. “Unthinkable. But the good news is, with your face on every wall, this whole country is my front door.” 

 

 

Kate Guenther is a millennial living in Brooklyn. She reads a lot and is the reigning foosball champion at that bar around the corner. Ask anyone.

away in the face of


a man once whispered, to me 
in a dream i did not understand, because 
i am not a dream, nor am i 
a whisper, frightened me 
in the same, life sees the man 
down the road, to die 
to go away from our lives, to die 
in between the streets, amongst 
the world we catch our voids, and play 
ball with the depths of a shout.

 

 

 

Jonathan Dick is a 21-year-old human being from Toronto, Canada. He is graduating this year from Huron University College with a major in English Language and Literature.  

Toasted English Mate

  I saw it walking down the causeway to the beach at around three am.  I was inflicted with insomnia and taking late night strolls had become my addictive routine. It was in front of me with a hunched backed, long crooked nose and long, skinny, legs and arms. I don’t know what it was, but it terrified me. The thing disappeared into the brush at the entrance of the long silent road leading to Cabrillo Beach. Goose bumps did a marathon up and down my body. I prayed whatever I saw didn’t have any designs on changing my future.

      That was when he came from the other direction: a slender, small fellow the color of caramel dressed in several layers of clothes. He had on a tight hat and a large backpack that rested on his back like a camel’s hump. I’d seen him many times before on other late night treks. He always went one way, while I went another. The fear of the late hour kept our mouths glued and eyes straight, but the fear from whatever monster I witnessed earlier made me sociable. I saw him stumbling a bit, as it seemed like the middle shelf spirits had him leaning from one side to the other.

“Hey man. What’s going on? I see you all the time.” I said.

“Ello mate. How are you this evening?”  He had a British accent.

      My fellow midnight stroller was an Englishman. I was captivated by curiosity and had to explore deeper. He struggled to keep his balance as though he had sea legs from a long journey on the Atlantic.

“I see you all the time but didn’t want to freak you out.”

“It’s okay.”

“I’m Dave.”

“Daniel.”

     We walked on with nothing but the cool late night air to escort us. He was mellow and made one feel comfortable automatically.

“Where do you go late at night?”

“I go to my friends on the other side of town to drink. I got a DUI one time and now I decide it’s safer to walk the beach route to the other side.”

      He was half right, but you were still at the whim of three different police departments that patrolled the beach area. The Port Police were bastards and would stop you in a second, shining a black flashlight in your face, while asking you where you are going and why you are out so late. The base police were friendly, approaching one with pleasantry instead of hostility.  However, the LAPD was a roll of the dice on how they treated you. 

     Yet it was safer than the streets, when hitting the bottle hard. I myself had a DUI strung around my neck a year before and it was no joy ride, rather a rollercoaster to poverty and pain. 

We walked side by side

     He told me he was from some country part of England, with rolling green hills and sturdy wooden barns. I pictured everything green and cloudy with nothing but hay, horses, and pureness. He said him and his mates frequented the pubs and drank pints of beer until up was down. He said his father was a vicious man who took great pleasure in beating him. They were one generation from one of the islands in the Caribbean Sea with blue water and no opportunity.  I watched him travel mentally as the visions of strapped filled evenings returned. Later he moved to the US, joined the Armed forces, and was stationed in South Carolina where he met his wife, a blonde “southern belle”.

“Her family hated me; especially her Dad. South Carolina was racist as hell!” He spouted in a crackling cockney tone.

     I nodded agreeing, lost in his story.

“Later we divorced and I moved out here. I rented a room from a family in Harbor City.”

     He spoke of being included in family dinners and holidays. I pictured him at the table with a turkey leg after a quick session of Grace. He too moved to Pedro and now was trapped like myself, drunk and stumbling the beach on mindless, midnight jaunts. He had just rented out his bedroom to a drug addict, who couldn’t pay the rent and never returned.

        I heard the water (the pacific was calling). We walked a little more and he was done.

“I’m tired mate. It was nice meeting you.”

     His breath smelled like the bar of a nightclub at closing. The fumes from the powerful drink almost burnt my nose hairs. He stumbled down the road toward the hill on 22nd street. I was still wide awake and decided to complete my journey to the end. I suddenly remembered I forgot to ask him about the hunchback thing. The demon that ran into the grass.

 

David Michael Joseph is a writer from the great state of New Jersey, now living in Los Angeles, hoping to breathe a breath of fresh air into the literary world. He has a passion for story telling and poetry. He has been published in numerous publications. 

Letters to the NSA and Those Above and Beyond (If You're Watching You Should Know)


1.
 

I wanna fly. I wanna be a lollypop
on the dragon tongue and goddamnit
I wanna fly. I wanna kiss wing and wing to kiss me. I want my cheek
pulled back into parachute. I wanna smile down on cloud and goddamnit
god fucking damnit I wanna fly. I wanna spoon that sky and bend it. I wanna tap dance 
where the black and blue mingle. I wanna caw
cawcaw scree tweet
twoot twoot twoooeeeet
. I wanna build my nest hovering. I wanna fly.
I wanna wrangle that sun. I wanna bathe in that blackness.
I wanna swallow the earth and shit it. I wanna watch that shit crumble.
I want air body. Aether body. No body and goddamnit I want that no body to fly. 
I want that no body to sing wind. I want that no body to be all body and I want that all body to
fly.
I want that all body to dance empty. I want that all body to sweat
sweet 
starry sweat and I want that sweat to fly. I want to stain your
lash and blur your eye. I want you to blink
and in that blink I'm flying and when you open again I'm right there
but goddamnit I was flying. Let me fly. Let me fucking fly. I wanna fly. 
I wanna lay egg in nova and watch it burn. I wanna fly.
I wanna fucking fly. Stop watching goddamnit.
I wanna fly.

 

 

 

2.
 

You should know that I know that you know that I think there's no such thing 
as selflessness in action. I sneak feathers from the pillows too.
And this is not only me although I remember times
I've wished it was. I remember times
so calm and so bright and I remember times on fire and sometimes I remember no time. 
I remember no time and it's a marble
hanging still in/as space. 

I wish I could unpack that for you. I wish each of my words 
were a thousand a balloons. I want you to see me
right now and later I won't. 

That's the thing you seem to forget.

 

 

 

3.
 

Hello darling. Are you watching me
dangle the yarn?
I'm eating sausage. Does that interest you? I know
it should and I know other things should too.

In this poem it's always February but you already
figured that out. 

I want to surprise you 

but I want you to surprise me too.

 

 

 

4.
 

I know about JSOC. Did you know
I ate rice and  beans today. I bet you 
didn't  until I told you. You see? I can relinquish 
control when I want to. 

I am willing to let you in.

 

 

 

5.
 

Is your boss there? Is your boss's boss there? 
Are you the Main Boss? Ultraboss? Alpha and Omega boss? The hidden
crystal mimic? I want you to know that I could be you. Nationalism
is another name for sucking the teat: I love my country
for what it gives! No other
give me so much!

 

 

 

 

Joe Nicholas is an experimenter, experiencer, and editor of The Screaming Sheep. His work can be found or is forthcoming in BOAAT, Chiron Review, Found Poetry Review, Fruita Pulp, Weave, and other wonderful magazines. He received his degree in Applied Psychology from Champlain College. He can be found at 8rainCh1ld.tk and on Facebook. These pieces are part of a larger manuscript entitled Letters to the NSA and Those Above and Beyond (If You're Watching You Should Know).

Hamlin In His Younger Years, Hamlin In His Older Years

What is Rotterdam like in the winter period? Do you think about the geometry of dogs? Do you prefer Hamlin in his younger years or Hamlin in his older years? 

Who are the questions for? He didn’t know. All he knew was the backs of cars. He’d already thumbed his way from one end of the country to the other. He’d sleep in the back seat and watch the world upside down. 

On his back was a backpack with extra clothes, a wash bag, scissors, a towel and in the front pocket, a notebook. It was thick - at least 400 pages - and inside it he’d written questions on every single line. 

It was a cold day because his face felt thin. He put a thumb out and a car eventually stopped. He got to talking with the driver, a fat man in a plaid shirt.

What’s that you’re writing, said the fat man. 

Questions. 

What’s the use of that? Why’d you write questions? 

The man wrote down the questions that the fat man had asked him. The fat man didn’t bother asking any more questions. They drove in silence.

He was dropped off in a car park late at night. Thank you, he said but the fat man had already started to drive off. 

The car park lights cast an orange light on him. He stood there and thought about his next move. 

The next morning, he wrote more questions over breakfast. The diner had plain tables and booths where the upholstery was wild flowers. 

How long is now? Why is the rain smaller than a storm? 

These are things he heard that day in the diner. He went to a toilet and washed his face in a basin and used the scissors in his bag to cut his hair and beard. He nicked his chin and when he saw his reflection he thought of another question: will I be considered a burn victim?

When will all the blacks in here shut up? This was a question he’d heard behind his booth at breakfast. He wrote it down.

He hadn’t eaten in a long time. He was drinking a black coffee and he drank it fast, until the silt and grit slid down his throat. 

He was hungry, so he pressed his finger into his stomach like somebody poking a stick at an animal to check if it was alive. His stomach made a noise.

He cuts his hair and beard. He keeps the hair in his pockets. Why am I doing this? He writes this down, later. Some questions are only there to make him feel warm inside. Some questions are useless, answerless, but there to serve a purpose much deeper than truth. 

Her name was Patricia. It said so on her badge. It wasn’t clear what the badge was for. Had she been speed dating? Or had she just finished work? Questions, he thought, so important that they deserved being written down. But not yet.

 She picked him up outside a Polka club called The King of Polka. The lights were blue and red and a neon man called Big Jimmy buzzed in the dark. She slowed her car down. What you doing out in weather like this? He said nothing; he stood there hugging his body as hard as somebody hugging somebody they were never going to see again. He came forward, his bag on his back. I’m just out trying to figure out the questions, he said. She laughed and said hop in. 

The car was messy. He thought perhaps she lived out of this car. He tried to smell her and he thought he was correct in his assumption. She smelled. There was a slight crab smell about her. They were divided by a CD compartment, opened, and full of tissues and chip packets. 

What’s your name? She asked it with her eyes on the road. Her fingers were fat and hairy and he thought about sex with her and then he thought about sex without her. My name doesn’t matter, he said. She laughed. She always seemed to be laughing. 

He looked at her jaw when it laughed. Her chin wobbled, too. He felt a sickness in the pit of his stomach. He didn’t feel like he was in the car. The wind ran straight through him, as if he was made from netting. 

Years passed and he was living out in the back of a trailer. He made money in ways people wouldn’t care to make money. He spent the days with a woman who he didn’t care about. He appreciated her for the fact she was a presence and not an absence. He liked warmth, not cold.    

Once, he was compared to a dolphin. You know dolphins don’t really care about humans, an old timer told him. No I didn’t, he said. It’s true. People think dolphins have these great big hearts. When you’re stranded out at sea, everybody thinks dolphins come over and help you. Push you to safety. But it’s not true. Wouldn’t matter if you were a human being or a piece of driftwood. Dolphin sees you the same way. And that’s the way I see it with you and that woman of yours. She’s not your woman. She’s just driftwood. 

Later that night he went back to his home and lay next to his woman. He took out his notebook and started writing questions. Who were the questions for? Again, he wasn’t sure. He used his woman as a table and wrote on her fat back until morning. 

 

Oliver Zarandi’s latest stories have appeared in The Quietus, HTMLGIANT, Hobart, Squawk Back, The Bohemyth and theNewerYork. He's on Twitter, too. 

Two Poems


About a Year
 

the leaves all drop
at once 
with the rain
last evening 
the transit to work 
looked like 
I shaved the hair 
from my arms 
the hair from 
outside my limbs
all my hair 
for the weather’s sake.

He would like that
He would like to play the janitor 
keep all my body hair 
sealed in a side closet.

He would like to run his mop
over my wet legs.
He would like to take all my pubic hair
and dump it down the drain. 

I can regret the shedding
but trees change all the same

I have thoughts with roses on them 
my walls have posters too.
and in the corner of my room
there are succulents
freezing on a window sill 
somehow still alive
and I do not radiate 
for the cacti’s sake

 

 

 

 

 

Mango Fibers
 

In the shower
I cover my eyes
with my hands
picture whatever
it is from
the outside.

I cover my eyes
with my hands
let the steam
cover my else,
I picture something
of a less-dense
volume rising
then expanding 
behind me
overwhelming
like what
I think
you can do

I still say 
thank you
with your hand
up my ass
and aren’t you glad
I took a shower
today, putting
soap on my tits
putting soap
between my thighs 

I floss and
forget about
the mango fibers 
stuck between
my teeth

 

 

 

 

Melissa Jones studies words in the Twin Cities. She works in a museum and reads for Gigantic Sequins Literary Journal. You can find her bad twitter here

Prose Poetry by Jessica Widner

An Untrue Account of the Last Meeting of Percy Shelley and John Keats

What was it, beer or claret over some folded papers, paper adorned with a splash of red, oh a “particularly fine Montepulciano so-and-so” because you’d rather die than pretend that those papers are worth anything, even though deep down you know what they’re worth, they’re more than spilled flowers on paper or more than flowers pressed between pages, or butterfly wings, or those other dainty things that breathe God, more than the heavens which you believe manifest in the face of a woman, they’re something that can (I think, and take that for what you will or what its worth), I think they can stand up against time itself, charging as it is, relentless in its conquest of erasure, I think a few simple words can run it down like a herd of horses, and I think those pages that you’ve been careless with, may contain them. Forgive me if I’m fawning, forgive me, but we’re young and I know that you’re ill, with the shadows in your cheekbones and the little wheeze in your chest, a whisper of weakness, the sense of paper being folded, or crumpled, if I am to be dramatic about it, or, less dramatic, just dust in the lungs. When I look at you I feel like I am looking at the white of your bones. Aren’t bones a terrible thing to imagine, that under all the splendor of our flesh we are just a pile of…what, of what, there is nothing like bone. I’d rather think of your star-shaped flowers. 

I can make you all the excuses I need about not going with you. I won’t say it out loud, not now, but I don’t think I will be able to watch you die. Out loud let me say that you will be fine, the doctor’s prescribed it, a season in Rome, how beautiful, how luxurious. I can hear your breath. I can’t watch someone like you fall so, I can’t see that death, I’d rather hear about it, already mythologized, you already canonized, so the little sleepy angels of poetry will hold you in their arms, will shut your eyes with their soft-tipped fingers. If confronted with that sight, the vision of your bodily death, anything that has a scent, any decay, I know I would fall to my knees and feel a phantom rope around my neck. I know that I would not be able to forget your face, your face and the word “anguish” pressed on the back of my eyelids, my heart empty, my throat empty, my eyes spent, yes, I would feel terribly old, I would look at the moon and think of my heart ripped out and Mary, and Mary.

The world doesn’t tell us what is bad for us, and what is bad for one person isn’t always bad for another. For you it was just genius, it was the light, the goddamn light, I mean that too, the light of the damned, death like a star over you, like an aureole, death crowned you it’s own, and gave you its power. I will memorialize you—I will, I will I am not now the same man who stood in the Chamonix Valley, not the man at the Villa Diodati, where all I remember of one night was Polidori dark as the night that surrounded him, and his teeth a flash of white before I lit the candle, I am not that man and one day I will no longer be the man who sat here with you.

Dear friend. Oh dear friend. It comes for us all in the end. 

 

Sciamachy

Interior. Spare, high contrast between the lacquered black desk and white wooden chair, a smudge of ink along the top rail.  White walls against which the sun’s last rays wander, evocative of Vilhelm Hammershøi’s “Interior with Young Man Reading”. The curtains, however, are violet instead of yellow, but the effect is the same-bright to the point of hysteria, both cruel colours. The promise of betrayal on a late-summer evening. 

You can walk over to the desk and look. The floors are well worn; they creak underfoot. All you know right now is this room, but you imagine a house old and dusty, and a lawn overgrown with silverweed. Stop wandering. There is nothing on the desk. There are no drawers. Run your thumb across the ink stain. It smudges. Still wet. You’re not actually here in this room. The room is empty. Is a room with nobody in it even a room? 

Think of that young man reading, tall, straight, and sallow. He’s leaning against the wall, despite the chair and desk. Picture the colour of his skin the same as the walls themselves. Watch him drift into the walls. The room is empty once more. 

An urge to follow him occurs, a restlessness starting around your kneecaps. The air is dry. Your mouth and eyes are dry. There’s a sort of dusty shimmer in the air. You’re not alone anymore. The story is gathering some sort of impetus, albeit a ghostly one. The dry air coils around you and the young man is back, except without his book. He’s right in front of you, he takes your arm and you are warm, moving flesh and blood. You are both in the room, and the desk is no longer empty but overflowing with typed scrolls, annotated in dark red ink. They spill onto the floor. Above the desk is a framed drawing, grey and white at first until colour begins to saturate it, spreading slowly like blood in sheets. On the paper, a young woman, dark haired, light eyed, parts her knees, and opens her legs like a book. The young man pulls you close. His collar has come undone and his hands are rough around you. The skin appears to shrink around his face (sure, an illusion, a trick of the light, we are beyond disbelief) until his eyes look huge, his skin white as bone. 

You recoil. Of course you recoil, but he pulls you close and shows you his long white teeth. You can feel his breath just above your lips. He has no scent. 

You don’t have to stay here. Nothing’s keeping you here. But no, now you’re forehead to forehead with him and he wants you to go with him. His skin is hot and dry, so hot you feel bound to him by flame.

Stop. Picture a Vuillard interior. The wallpaper doesn’t match the tablecloth. The trees outside scratch the window they are so close. You swallow your claustrophobia. He’s close behind you, his eyes glowing in the way you imagine the devil’s might. His breath hot in your ear: Fuck Vuillard.      

 

Jessie Widner is a writer and editor living in Toronto. Her work has appeared in Smashed Cat, Lantern Magazine, and Shorthand. She is the Director and Fiction Editor of Klipspringer Magazine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charlie’s Candles

“What goes on four feet in the morning, two feet at noon, and three feet in the evening?”
~ The Riddle of the Sphinx ~

June 11th, 2010 at 7:00 PM
The sun didn’t wait for an old man like me, y’know. The closer I got to the sun, the farther away it seemed. My position at the top of the hill of Moon Lake Park and the sun’s setting into the skyline invited this uncomfortable dissonance to the scene. I wanted nothing more than a view of the sun, shining bright, as my birthday gift. This uphill battle, however, with my cane in hand, proved to be fruitless in its aim. The sun had begun to set and the sky had begun to darken.
The sun shed light on this complicated world, its population, these people at Moon Lake Park. It granted these pale inhabitants their doses of Vitamin D to carry on with their daily activities. They drove their machines, they took their calls, they ate their food, they washed their bodies, they tied their shoes, and so on. They continued to be followed by this light throughout their pursuits, whatever and wherever they were. 
This illumination is not permanent, just as life remains a temporary experience. Their machines only ran for so long. Their calls ended with goodbyes. Their food became consumed. Their bodies became dirty. Their shoelaces became untied. And so on. 
Time. Time went on forever, but life did not. My birthday, an additional year to add to my name, was yet another reminder of this fact. Time was believed to continue even when humans could no longer do so. It was funny how that worked. 
As I got closer to the sun from my hilltop view, the light became dimmer and dimmer, a candle just waiting to be blown out. I feared for the day that I would finally become encompassed in a complete darkness. I would never again observe my surroundings through the lenses of my black-rimmed spectacles. I would never again feel this warmth, this simplicity. 
I’ve spent my whole adult life studying the stars. They too burn out and invite the shadows to conceal any visibility. A simpler time was what I longed for. The past is what I sought.
    “Grandpa Chuck!” Mark Jr. exclaimed as he sprinted to the top of the hill, his enthusiasm as his source of fuel. He reached my white, exposed arms, raw from age, in seconds flat. 
“Grandpa, what are you doing up here?” little Mark Jr. asked with those bright circles of innocence. He had these golden-brown eyes that were so grounded in simplistic thought and acceptance. These are the brown pools that I wished I could immerse myself into once again. This is the appreciation for brevity and innocence that I missed more than anything. 
    “I’ve just been watching the sunset from the top of the hill. Grandpa loves to look into the sun and feel the warmth,” I said with a proceeding sigh. “Grandpa needs his sun.” 
    “Grandpa, you’re silly,” this wide-eyed child said as he plopped down on the lifeless, crunchy grass. “You can see the sun just fine from the bottom of the hill,” he said. He then paused to brush his sweat-matted hair from his eyes. “It’s still warm down there. You have to hurry though! The sun’s going down soon. Don’t you know that, Grandpa?”
I chuckled at the ignorance of the young boy. Or was it ignorance? Youth embraced the observation that men outgrew as they sought out their loves, their careers, and their families. Perhaps the bottom of the hill had the perfect amount of sunlight. Perhaps the further I moved from the sun the closer the sun would feel. It was a perspective that I was no longer familiar with. Unfortunately, it was too late now to investigate any validity in the boy’s talk. The sun was almost gone.
My heartbeat was in sync with the rhythmic ticking of my pocket watch and picked up its pace as I pondered the rapidity of time. Oh, how it was always taken for granted!
I let go of my walking stick and instead grabbed onto the faded, crunchy blades of grass for stability. I sat down next to this child, this embodiment of youth, and awaited the sun’s departure as it set due west in the slightly darkened evening sky.
“In the absence of light, only darkness remained.”
 

June 11th, 1970 at 12:00 PM
    I trekked halfway up the hill at Moon Lake Park for my traditional birthday extravaganza. I took a moment to catch the sun’s rays on my leathery-textured cheek. Arm in arm with my sweetheart, I learned to appreciate the sun’s warmth from a comfortable and reasonable distance.
    “Dad, go long!” my son shouted, interrupting my thoughts, as he soared the Frisbee up the hill to be received by my calloused hands.
“Mark, my legs need to be rested. I’m taking a break,” I said with a moan as I longed for the energy I once had, the energy that my son now possessed. I toppled down, next to my wife, to lay my two legs on the cooling surface of the grass. “We’re taking a break, son!”
    “Charles, go play another game with your son,” my wife encouraged. “Come on, you old geezer! Pretty soon you won’t be able to play Frisbee with your son anymore. Don’t let thirty-six be that year. Once you’re fifty and middle-aged, your complaints will be justified. Until then, go play Frisbee with Mark,” my wife said as she gave me a reassuring shove down the hill. Down the hill she pushed me, where the noon sun conveniently beat strongest.
    “Dad! Come on! Just one more game,” Mark pleaded as he started to journey up the hill. As he noticed my immobility as a denial of his request, Charles gave up and turned around to revisit the bottom of the hill. He then hurled the Frisbee across the green, sun-soaked plain where it was to be received by no one in particular.
    She didn’t understand. My son didn’t understand. I needed a break. I found my love, right beside me. I started the family. I supported my family through a steady income. I studied the stars. I received my degree as validation. I have accomplished it all, but I was so stupefied with exhaustion that my triumphs now seemed vague and distant. 
I needed to pause and enjoy the sun without any more interruptions. I wanted to observe the sun from the top of the hill and not have this constant push towards the bottom. Until I would climb to the hill’s peak, I would remain in the middle, an embarrassing half-measure. Someday I would hopefully graduate to the coveted full-measure and happily rest my legs at the hilltop. Then I would absorb the benefits of a hard day’s work. My hair grew thinner with anticipation. The future is what I sought.
    The sun, now blindingly intense, reflected off the glare of my black horn-rimmed glasses. I was forced to shut my eyes in defeat. My eyes, tainted by those days of staring into the sun until the unbearable burn, are now blurred around the edges. There was this constant tilt-shift, an ambiguity that just barely prevented me from recognizing my surroundings. 
My tiny pools of insight, wrought with age, were now emptied and dried out. Their contents were evaporated. The distance became less and less apparent. The sun, placed in the sky as a lighted guide, instead provided cloudy perceptions and age. It gave and took. 
I needed to take a second to recover from the burn. I needed a brief moment to shield my eyes from everything that occurred all at once. There was this frenzy that was as chaotic and disorienting as the sun’s gaseous state.
    I wanted to experience peace, candles lit all around me.

June 11th, 1940 at 9:00 AM
    I ran and ran and ran around the sun-drenched field of Moon Lake Park, right below the hill. The pale skin of my cheeks freckled in response to the sunshine. My ankles were little white stubs that were completely hidden by the itchy blades of grass. The grass was so tall that it reached up to my protruding kneecaps, which were partially concealed by my khaki shorts. I giggled at the tickles as the green, green grass brushed my smooth and unblemished skin. I liked the feel of it. 
I laid my body down and looked up at the morning sun, this star of the morning. It’s this funny, big ball of yellowy-orange that only shined in the daytime. It burned hot and scorched my skin even from its unreachable distance.
    “Daddy, I learned about the sun at school. It’s a funny star. Did you know that you could fit one zillion Earths in the sun even though it looks so small in the sky? Isn’t that cool, Daddy?” I asked my Dad as he sat on the nearby picnic bench. “I also learned that in a jillion years the sun will no die and the world will go black. Isn’t that weird? Huh, Daddy?”
    “You’re right, son.” my Dad said. “The sun is a huge star that luckily will still be burning bright when you’re my age.”
    “Ha ha ha. Sure, Daddy. I just turned six years old today,” I said. I contemplated ever resembling my Dad. I didn’t want my skin to get wrinkly, dark, and have to wear funny glasses. I wanted to run around in the field and not get tired. I wanted to be in the field, not sitting on the picnic bench like Daddy. “I’m going to be a trillion years old when I’m a Daddy!” I shouted with a following fit of giggles. 
    My laughter started to fade away when I thought about the sun and why I didn’t want it to burn out. I liked the feeling of it as much as I liked the feeling of the grass on my skin. The sun was bright and was there because, if it weren’t, everything would be dark. Then I’d need glasses and I definitely did not want to wear glasses. I wanted to still see the sun when I lied down in the grass. I wanted to continue to see the grass’s bright green color and feel it against my skin. I wanted to laugh at the tickle. 
My Dad liked to go on the hill and watch the sun as it was about to go down and the moon started to poke out. I didn’t know why. My Dad looked at the sun, but I didn’t think he liked the feel of it like I did. The sun made me happy. It’s what made me not scared of the dark. I wanted to hold onto the day so that the sun still shined in the morning. If there were no sun in the daytime, I’d have to light a bunch of candles and bring them with me wherever I went. I liked to see everything with clarity, just like I do now. The promise in today is what I sought.
    My Dad started to call me to the picnic table as he shouted, “Charlie boy! I have a surprise for you. Get over here!”
    I got on my knees and started to haul myself up to an upright position. I noticed the grass stains that formed on my new khaki shorts as well as the bottoms of my bulging kneecaps. It was the result of crawling around in the grass for so long. Shrugging it off, I pumped my little legs through the tall grass and felt the tickles again. I reached the fire-engine red picnic table in six seconds. 
One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, I counted in my head as my Dad’s face became clearer and clearer. “Four Mississippi, five Mississippi, six Mississippi!” I screamed as I finally reached my Dad. His body covered my sight of the surprise he had for me on the picnic table. As Dad stepped away from the red table, I started to catch sight of these little lights, these tiny glowing suns.
    “Happy Birthday to you!” Dad sang. “Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday, dear Charlie! Happy Birthday to you!”
    There was a birthday cake smeared with a dark brown icing, the message “Happy Birthday Charlie!” scrawled across in blue lettering, and six candles illuminating the cake’s surface. Each little light represented a year, a source of light that was representative of an increase in time. 
Each tiny sun waited, longed to be extinguished.
I placed my grass-stained knees on the picnic bench, settled my hands on the picnic table, and bowed my head over the luminous chocolate-frosted cake. I puffed my cheeks with air as I inhaled the cotton breezes, blue skies, green, green grass, and brilliant sun. As I exhaled…

June 12th, 2010 at 12:00 AM
    I laid my body down in the grass of Moon Lake Park for the last time and closed my eyes. Clock kept on ticking. Heart stopped beating. Darkness.

 

 

    

    
    

Three Poems


The Champagne of Teas
 

I steep myself in myself like darjeeling.
This is how I blush, 
I am so myself. 

This is how I move. 
A ghost becomes a girl 
becomes a stranger 

becomes someone 
at the party 
in the other room. 

I feel like maybe 
I can belong here 
in my hair’s daydreams

and the smell of whiskey
and my newly forming bruise.
I take a break so

the mirror can 
give me back my face. 
My face says

remember what we talked about
simple wishes
saying hi how are you

and later 
tea that tastes like dew
and mountain air.

 

 

 

 

Still Life
 

Have you ever been
A lost and found box

With irregular and 
Porous borders?

I saw Cezanne’s
Still Life With Apples

And a Pot of Primroses
And now I am a different shape

Entirely. Talking about 
A painting 

In a poem 
Is like being born

In the nineties
And then 

Going to Montreal
And calling someone 

From a phone booth.
I look different 

In this picture
I tell them. 

The world 
Looks different. 

I am looking 
At apples and primroses

And I have never been 
So ecstatic.

 

 

 

 

Unraveling
 

Monday wakes up and pushes me 
out of bed and down the stairs and
out the door on a ticking bike to last year
that makes my soul motion sick to think of,
of the golden crunch steps on leaves and
the smoke rising and disappearing like the 
thoughts behind your eyes as they blink
a million snapshots of me,
and I blink a million of you,
before it all unravels like a scarf
and leaves September like a beauty mark
on the face of last year.

 

 

 

 

Kelly Corinda lives in New York and writes poetry. Recent work can be found in The Sugar House Review, Dum Dum Magazine, and smoking glue gun.

The Twins

Through the crowd and zones of light they had a scanning kind of way, as if they exchanged with the outer world only light reflexes of tinge and tone. If you caught them watching you across an aisle or from a table in a crowd, they would not look away at once, but would hold their sleepy watch on you, exchanging words between their gazes as if you were on a screen or a stage. So that first night, when they came and sat across from me as strangers and we talked awhile together, I did not know what they liked about me, what had brought them there, and I found myself becoming more and more myself under their expressions, more and more the one I am in my head alone, yet somehow also stranger. They never responded immediately to anything I said, but always kept the phrase suspended between their faces for a while with oblique private references, spiraling gradually in toward the subject as you or I would test and adjust the temperature of a bath. I talked as though talking to myself or thinking out loud, and they spoke as if they heard my thoughts and thought their own out loud to one another. So when they asked me home with them, it did not feel like it had actually happened, as I rose and walked behind or alongside those two identical figures, out into the night and the city streets, where they always felt to me like tourists in among the local routes. And the entire time, even as we crossed the threshold of their home, it all felt like no more than a greeting that had been prolonged and then prolonged.

Rooms have always suggested a sense of personality to my mind, but the rooms in that place of theirs evoked identities so vivid and distinct that after awhile it was almost as if they had faces I could reconstruct as clearly as I could my mother’s, complete with voices and idiosyncrasies I could recall as if they were real people I had known once and forgotten. My dreams always took place in those same rooms, always carrying on the activity we had put off to sleep as if we had not gone to sleep at all, just as we resumed in the morning as if we had not awoken. The conversation was that of two people who know each other well enough to feel no obligation to be interesting or to avoid silences, just the kind of practical observations that fill the gaps between a meal and cleaning up. Yet they had a way of offering what I might want only when I could not want it, of asking me a question and turning away as I answered, as if their sense of propriety was a clock out of time that they depended on only to know the world was still turning. I remember, one late afternoon or early evening—I had just had a shower, and as I passed from the closeted damp to a cool space among tall white walls and stood upon the tiles in the air, I saw one of them approaching from a distant entrance, white and level in the stagger of transition, smiling somewhere beyond my head. He came and passed and asked, in passing, “how do you do, how do you do,” in a loose and tired, old-fashioned kind of way, smiling past my face as though to someone else, all subtly wrong but not out of place, strangely perfect for the juncture, but I can’t say why. It was as if he greeted the moment instead of me. And the longer I stayed with them, the more some vague rhythm of our talk predominated over meaning, and the less the meaning seemed to matter.

So by the deep end of my visit, our observations, requests, acknowledgements took on this numb momentum I remember from the psalms of Christian churches: I will extol thee, my God, O king; and I will bless thy name for ever and ever. Every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name for ever and ever...— the same excess of sense hanging from the soft and heavy beat of mantra: how are you, how do you do, what are you going to do... filling the air and softening the spaces between things as with a dense warm dampness, giving everything a floating abstract quality, like an aquarium. It was all like that—all haphazard, slightly off. And there was an odor everywhere—not only in the air, but permeated throughout it all, so that if you bit into an orange it coupled with the taste, though it was strongest in the corners, a smell like all the smells of a dry and crowded summer afternoon stalled and puckered into sweet and musty purple tones. You could barely detect it in the light, but at night, when I would leave, let’s say, the warm lit space we talked in for a dark corridor between rooms, it smelled so strong I sometimes lost my way, and I imagined that if ever I found myself in total darkness, the force of it would render me unconscious of anything but smell. They had a vague schedule of things that slipped further down the day with every day I spent there, so that by some sunsets we would rise for breakfast, and some late mornings go to sleep. And as we slipped more loosely from the general time out outside, deeper into time indoors, all the more did events resound a sense of deja-vu so that, in the ripeness of my stay, everything we said and did sounded as though it had been said and done before, in that same place, with that same such-and-such a way of saying things.

And I remember entering a room once and finding them each sitting on a separate windowsill in the after-calm of conversation lapsed. They took up talking for a while with me. But as I spoke this time, as I played about in their dim and slanted interest, they narrated me to one another: “he didn’t look at us when he said that” and, “the smile made it wrong,” and “so he is being funny now,” so that I felt abstract, divided from myself; and when I spoke out loud and heard my voice, it sounded strange to me. From then on, I would always have their voices at my back, describing my attitudes and behaviours to one another. And then one day as I was sitting in a room where I had gone to be alone, I heard my thoughts themselves uttered by those two identical voices, spoken through the door as they occurred to me. They spoke my thoughts better than I could myself. I was offended, but I did not know why. I thought I should probably be angry, so I turned and pronounced myself quite fiercely across the walls and them. But my anger faltered and broke up in echoes as it left me, diffusing all about their four distracted eyes, while they contributed their two “oh no”’s. But I did not feel embarrassed, as one turned to the other and asked a question only the other could understand, but only the sense that I should feel embarrassed. So they went on uttering my thoughts as I thought them through the day, and I felt no resentment, but only the sense that I should feel resentment. And in the same way I no longer felt joy or sadness, anger or ease, but only the sense that I should feel such-and-such a thing. And the more they spoke my thoughts, the less I thought and the more I heard, so that I came to think no longer, but only heard the thoughts of some separate me they cast between them. And from then on, I felt myself a stranger to my thoughts. I could no longer be alone, for when alone I felt and thought nothing but uneasiness, and I made a sound like crying though I did not cry. And if I found myself in a certain room, arranged according to a particular sense of things, that sense of things would speak through me in a series of sounds and gestures. I would lean out of windows and watch walkers in the street, and I would speak their thoughts, what their thoughts must be, softly to myself as I watched. And if I heard crickets chirping in the grass, then I would chirp along, on my back upon a sofa or along a carpet on the floor. And then I truly did lose track of time. Today, the circumstances of that period recur to me only in dreams, as a parade of distorted images, of overwhelming corners and stupefying windows. I do not know how I escaped that place and state of mind. I just recovered my old, familiar consciousness on the street one day. I remember the two of them walking ahead of me. They did not look back, but continued on into the crowd beyond while I stood watching, overwhelmed and undecided as to whether I should follow them or turn off to the side and make my own way home.

 

Originally from a small town in Northwestern Ontario, Thomas Sorensen is currently at large in California. His fiction has previously appeared in the Danforth Review.

Going Bananas

One of many problems Marjorie has had in life ipoor banana management. She has always purchased too many bananas and half of them would rot on her kitchen table before she could eat themOnly fruit flies in summer prompt her to throw the rotten ones out. But since she hates to throw anything away, there are bananas, in different places, all over the house. 

This is not the kind of problem a renowned artist like Marjorie should have. Not only are her paintings on display at major modern art museums, but she also holds a doctorate with high honors in philosophy from Yale. She is an accomplished woman, still attractive despite the passing years; the kind of woman a distinguished widower might turn to for companionship after a graceful mourning period had been observed. 

Banana management, however, is not Marjorie's only problem in the real world, as she calls life outside her studio and classroom. Marjorie also has a problem putting gas in her car. Putting the hose in the tank evokes thoughts of rape, even though she herself has never come close to being raped.

After many years Marjorie knows certain things are too much for her. Banana management and filling gas tanks are but a few of the many things she fears. These things, however, continue to grow in number and threaten her mental and emotional balance in a serious way. 

She knows she needs professional help but has yet to pick a therapist to consult. In a small university town, everyone knows everyone. Marjorie is a respected woman as indeed she deserves to be. No one, except for me, has any notion of her problem.

I know about the problem because she explained it to me at great length one day in the break room. We have been teaching at the same small but prestigious university for many years. Although in different disciplines, we know something about each other's work and often talk about our experiences, both good and bad. 

As a zoologist, I work with hamsters, and for the last decade that work has been rewarding but at the same time very frustrating and I have shared my frustrations with Marjorie many times. She is a good listener.

She knows that hamsters do well on a treadmill but otherwise there's no predicting what they may do. And there's no shortage of them, either, in my laboratory. I have cages and cages of them. They reproduce almost as fast as the rabbits I worked with in preparing my dissertation. 

I am no longer involved with rabbits, however, since losing my position at another university when an animal shelter came to my laboratory and took my rabbits away. Hamsters have been the focus of my research since finishing my doctorate. So far no one has called an animal shelter to check on my hamsters but the cost of food alone is killing me. 

With regard to Marjorie, however, I suppose one reason she took me into her confidence is that decades ago we had courted and even talked of marriage. No wedding came to pass, however. Marjorie never married and I married someone else a few years later. Marjorie didn't seem to mind.

I listened carefully to everything Marjorie had to say that day in the break room. I knew about her banana management problem but her gas tank situation was new to me. After bringing her up to date on my hamster research, I thought it might help if I told Marjorie that Pablo Picasso once said, "There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality."

I suggested to Marjorie that Picasso's idea, properly applied, might help her adjust to things in the real world. I suggested that she reverse his approach and deal with things first in the abstract--as a philosopher to get to the essence of things that bother her. And then as an artist she might commit those same things to canvas in a way she would not find intimidating. The process might help her, I said, come to grips with things as they are and not as she now found them to be. Perhaps she could remove the terror involved in throwing out rotten bananas. 

For example, she might start with green bananas, first in the abstract and then on canvas, and then graduate to bananas rotting on her kitchen table. I did not tell her, however, that decades ago when we were talking about marriage the reason I backed out was her ineptitude in banana management. Dinner at her house was intolerable immersed as I found myself in the stench of bananas in various stages of decay. 

I did not tell her either that the woman I married has never once, in 40 years, let a banana rot in our home. I had told my wife-to-be before we got married that if she wanted to buy bananas, good for her, but not to expect me to provide any help in eating them. I also told her that if I ever saw a banana rotting anywhere in our house I would leave her for another woman, one with no history of eating bananas.

I have had a wonderful marriage. This underscores for me the importance of good banana management in any marriage. Of course, from my point of view, the best banana management is no bananas.

After our talk in the break room, I told Marjorie that if I could be of any help in the future in resolving her difficulties not to hesitate to call on me. After all, she once adopted several of my older hamsters and gave them a home even though I told her they had no history of eating bananas. 

I simply wanted to return the favor and listen to whatever else Marjorie might want to say. After all we have been through together, I might have some insight, however serendipitous, into the problems she is living with on a daily basis. I was there at the start, I reminded her, when the bananas first became a problem.

Marjorie thanked me for my kindness in listening and then asked if I could give her a lift home. She had run out of gas. Her car would be fine in the faculty parking lot, she said, and she would call the auto club tomorrow to bring another can of gas. 

In the meantime, she said it might be nice to make a big bowl of banana pudding. She admitted she always has a taste for banana pudding but usually forgets to make it in time. I said that might be a good idea but politely declined her kind offer to make an extra bowl for me.

 

* * *

Nominated for Best of the Net and Pushcart prizes, Donal Mahoney has had poetry and fiction published in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Some of his earliest work can be found at http://booksonblog12.blogspot.com/ and on Potluck.

An Accident of Geography

 

Converging our gapped worlds was the Triangular Trade. Distant ideals became proximal, and continents interplayed in self-interest. Incentives met contest while ships met sea. Yet, there was little wonder about the underpinning; the Atlantic route circumvented was as much a commerce epicenter as spiritual awakening. While we were taught to believe history doesn’t repeat, it certainly reprises itself as motifs. Ones clear as mud before we belatedly regret living…

History aged, as did its taste for human genius. The triangle has become anachronism in modern day. However, the epicenter now always emerges, so recognizing contexts are the key to all corners. Once found, confining borders become easy to recognize. 

And there was the metropolis. An ever-apparent one, yet nobody paid a second view to see it as such. To the south a commercial, and to the north a shipyard, the latter having exported some of the finest spirits, both alcoholic and non-tangible. From the bird’s eye was a bare island not many locals ventured. Seemingly, there was plenty of plenty, and yet no boundaries. 

He then appeared. From around the old triangle of the world. To him it was no longer that shape, but rather three parallels at constant, running across the metropolis grounds he step foot once upon when. But at question wasn’t discovery nor foresight. It was the race against time before another lesson passed and remorse took place. 

 

William W. Huang is an analyst on Wall Street. He enjoys world travel and cuisine as much as a good glass of whiskey at home. Less tangibly, he believes in putting his affairs in order before they become overdue. 

HRC.GOV

DATE: January 8th, 2011

SUBJECT: It's Bill!

 

Hey Hil,

 

Just popping my head in! I know you’ve been so busy lately with the new job—I can imagine the world needs my wife. It was really nice of BO to give that to you. He owes you one, anyway. Not that you don’t deserve it or anything. That’s not what I meant at all. Seriously.

 

But how’s the White House been? I miss it. Those long, majestic hallways. The sweet smell of mahogany. Our separate but equal bedrooms. If you see Joe, tell him I said, “Woogie woogie woogie.” He’ll get it.

 

Since I’m here, might as well update you on a few things. You know, same old, same old down here in Arkansas. Been playing a lot of sax. And golf, even though I know you said how white it makes us look. I’ve been keeping myself busy. I also started eating Chobani, like you said. You know, It’s not half bad!

 

Also, save you talked to Chelsea? Is she up in Chappaqua, or in Washington with you? You guys are always all over the place. It’s so hard to keep track of my girls.

 

I forgot to ask: now that you’re SoS, does that mean you don’t use this email anymore?

 

Let me know, Hil! Hope to hear from you soon!

 

Love,

B


 

DATE: February 15th, 2011

SUBJECT: RE: It's Bill!

 

Hey Hil,

 

Heard the news, and figured I’d follow up with my last email. How’s everything going with Egypt? Think these protests are really something? I know you and BO are probably in the Situation Room, but if you guys need me, just let me know. I am available. All of this week, and all of next week. I think this Thursday I’m playing golf, but I can re-arrange accordingly. Dubya won’t mind. If and when you need me. Just let me know!

 

And in case you lost it, here’s my cell: 761-569-9018. Email is the same, too.

 

Love,

B

 

P.S. Can I get your Netflix password?


 

DATE: March 20th, 2011

SUBJECT: Hey Hil!

 

Hey Hil,

 

Just checking in with this. I saw that picture of you in shades, checking your BlackBerry, so I thought, “Maybe this is my time to email her!” Good photo of you, Hun.

 

Reading more and more about what’s going on in the Middle East. You sure you don’t need my help? I’ve got a rolodex of leaders over there. I have Qaddafi’s cell, Hun. Eh, you probably have it already.

 

By the way, we’re still getting billed for Martha Stewart Living. Should I change the mailing address to D.C.? And I cancelled our yoga classes on Thursdays. For some reason, it just wasn’t the same without you.

 

Give me a call soon! Would love to hear your voice, Hil.

 

Love,

B

 

P.S. I tried ‘Hill4Prez’ but that didn’t work. Did you change your Netflix password? Let me know.


 

DATE: May 2nd, 2011

SUBJECT: RE: Hey Hil!

 

Hey Hil,

 

Holy. Shit. Bin Laden? No fucking way. Great job, Hun! The photo of you guys in the Situation Room… So crazy. Ah, I wish I was there. I used to love being in that room. The excitement, the suspense, the hoagies. Man, the Nineties were great. Right, Hil?

 

Anyway, still haven’t heard from you. So I think it’s because you’re using a government email now. Didn’t you mention that was the case? Call me when you get your chance, so I can get your new one. I heard nobody uses Hotmail anymore, so we’re both fossils.

 

Love,

B


 

DATE: June 3rd, 2013

SUBJECT: Prez

 

Hey Hil,

 

Are you running for President? The guys were asking.

 

Love,

B


 

DATE: May 6th, 2014

SUBJECT: I Can Explain

 

Hey Hil,

 

Not sure if you read the Vanity Fair piece by Monica, but I can explain.

 

Again, cell is: 761-569-9018. Maybe add 1 before the area code.

 

Love,

B

 

DATE: March 16th, 2015

SUBJECT: Hello?

 

Hey Hil,

 

Is this thing on?

 

Love,

B

 

***

John Surico usually plays the 'Newt Gingrich jumping up and down in a monkey suit' card in Cards of Humanity.

Fear the Zombie

    I was devastated when he died.
    Not so much after the fifth or sixth time, but only because it was beginning to lose its novelty.
    “You realize that I’m also a Hero, right?” I reminded him once his corpse finally reanimated. He had laid there, bullet holes sprinkled through his chest, as I had corralled the arms dealers into a corner, dodging their bullets by blinking in and out of the air, before giving them a good dusting. They dropped into sleep as soon as the golden powder hit, and then all I had to do was teleport them to the police station. Once back to the alley, I glared at my partner in justice, just barely awake and black eyes blinking open.
    “Seriously,” I scowled, “your inhuman strength is a lot more helpful when you’re actually alive to use it.”
    Elliott lifted his head from the blood spatter on the ground, groaning dramatically (everything he did was dramatic). “A thank you would suffice, you know.”
    “I’m not going to thank you for being a dingus.”
    He stood, brushing off alley way dirt from his dark jeans and now bloody t-shirt. At least he had the common sense to stick with breathable fabrics rather than some of our other Hero counterparts, who thought leather pants and spandex were reasonable choices. I couldn’t even imagine the chafing that would occur; being a Hero was a sweaty business.
    “Come on, don’t get your pixie panties in a twist, Sam.”
    “I’m not a freaking pixie; the name is Fae for a reason. And, you’re the one who digs lacy underoos anyway.”
    He grinned at me, the latex mask stretched across sharp cheekbones. “Guilty as charged. Can’t save a city without having a secret.”
    “I don’t think they mean Victoria’s Secret, El.”
    “Close enough.”
    Sighing, I slipped my arm in his. “Come on, Zombie. I think we’ve fought enough crime tonight.”
    The City was still in the grips of sleep; night wouldn’t be sloughed off in favor of the dawn for several more hours. However, we could always find a Denny’s open after a hard night of heroics, and Elliot could pack away quite a few pancakes for someone who technically didn’t need to eat. I was happy enough with a veggie omelet and coffee with cream. Mostly cream. Almost entirely cream.
    “Still not a pixie,” I grumbled.
    He smiled at me with a mouth full of pancakes, which was both disgusting and endearing.
    We got back to our apartment just as the sky was melting into midnight blue. Luckily, as Heroes, we were employed by the City and didn’t need to finance our crime-fighting escapades with jobs as reporters or baristas or something equally ridiculous. Instead, we could use our abilities for the good of the people and get paid to do so. Plus, it came with amazing health benefits.
    When I woke up, El was tucked against my shoulder, breathing gently across my collarbone, his chest silent against my own. (I was asked him about that after a particularly vigorous sex session, when he was collapsed next to me panting. He had given me a look as fond as it was mocking just before kissing me silent, and I decided that it was a silly question in the first place).
    “It’s too early to be thinking,” he groaned, burrowing further against me.
    “I’m not thinking.”
    “You’re always thinking.”
    “You should try it some time.”
    Snorting, he pressed a kiss against my throat. “Nah, you got that covered.”
    The City was fully awake, the sounds of its citizens muted outside the apartment window. Sun was streaming through the windows, and maybe El was right.
    “Maybe you’re right,” I murmured.
    “I’m always right, Sam.”
    Smiling, I snuggled closer, giving my partner (in all things) the last word.
    Outside, the City was safe and its Heroes slept on.

 

Ren Martinez is an author, actor, superhero, and future companion to the Doctor. She is a regular contributor for Quail Bell Magazine and presently lives in Denver with a cat who thinks she's a princess. You can follow her on Twitter, see lots of cat pictures on her Instagram, or read her terrible poetry on Tumblr