Revisiting Dr. Drexler's by Nicholas Santalucia

Agnew needs to pay rent. Unfortunately, he's a radio journalist. Unemployed and almost entirely inexperienced, Agnew tries to make up for his shortcomings by being as unprincipled and shamelessly click-baiting as possible. Over 8 “radio bulletins” Agnew reports the most off-beat stories he can find and offers misguided self-help to other aspiring journalists.



I’m standing once again on the steps of Dr. Drexler’s School of Surgery and Dissection. You listeners may remember my last report from this hall of anatomical study, or at least the great controversy that it caused. It seems the world was not ready for such an honest look at how those who save our lives learn their craft.

Critics decried the scenes I described here as distasteful, gruesome, and journalistically unethical. The manner in which students fetched their cadavers from oversized refrigerators, one listener thought “glib.” That they elbowed for room around the bodies whose lifetimes of hardships were evident in mangled joints and ruined organs, some found to be “too much.” And that I reported young women putting make up on the specimen that used to be Bob Young of N Street and 23rd (who shot himself in the head last year and was only donated to science because his church refused to bury him) may legally constitute “defamation” and “libel.” There was some debate regarding trigger warnings, too.

In any case, several professional associations of broadcasters and radio journalists, to which I formerly belonged, found it to be grounds for “expulsion.”

The impact of my raw reporting on the realities of medical pedagogy was severely negative for everyone involved. (The sole exception being, touchingly, the wife and children of Mr. Young, whose church relented, collected his body, cleaned it up, pieced it together again, and it gave it proper rites in a private ceremony. Private insofar as they threatened to call the police when I showed up.) But unquestionably the worst burnt, and least intended victims of the media firestorm fanned by my fervor for story telling were — no, not the gaggle of corpses from the meth lab explosion — but the very students of Dr. Drexler’s School of Surgery and Dissection.

I have learned that as a result of my story donations of new cadavers have stopped completely. Whereas upon my last visit they were coming in thick and fast, arranged by pigmentation and stacked five by five, cremated en masse at the end of every semester so the school wouldn’t have to run the freezers over break, they now have none.

It is a sad reflection on the state of education today. How will this development affect our nation’s future medical practitioners? Have they begun to rely solely on owl pellets? Will one day, when your heart stops and you’re brought to the emergency room, the surgeon open you up and, out of habit, look for rodent bones? And would he find them? Keep listening.

The corridors are quiet. The operation theaters: empty, but from deep in this old stone building, the familiar voice of the old stony doctor leads me to the storage freezer in the basement. At first glance through the little window in the door, it seems my research may have mislead me. A peculiar room choice, no question, but there the doctor is at the front of it, lecturing on a platform beneath a large angled mirror, one hand in the pocket of his bloodied white coat and the other inside a young man’s head.

He’s naming nerves and digging around the gray matter to find synapses. His students are nodding and taking notes. It doesn’t look so different from my last visit. The smell has even improved; last time I was here, the stench of formaldehyde and carcass reminded me too much of the whiskey I’d been drinking for the last several days and I vomited. Now, there’s no smell at all.

Dr. Drexler spots me in the little window and puts everything back in the young man’s head just as he found it. He reattaches the bit of skull he’d removed with tiny metal plates. One of the students even sews up the scalp and when she’s finished, you wouldn’t know someone had just been poking around beneath it. If nothing else, perhaps their sense of economy has improved.

Dr. Drexler opens the freezer room door. He tells the students to keep working on their labs and shakes my hand. His is gooey.

“Agnew,” he says.

“Dr. Drexler. I hope you don’t mind if I visit?”

“Why would I mind?” He brings me in the freezer and closes the big metal door behind us.

“I heard you’ve fallen on some hard times,” I say and he nods his head.

“It’s true that since your last visit, we’ve had to tighten our belts a bit.” We’re walking through groups of students around operating tables, standing close to each other to keep warm. They’re wearing thermals under their scrubs and I don’t want to get brain goo on my madras blazer. “But we’re making do,” the doctor says.

There are no cadavers, but all of the groups are tearing apart some organ or limb. A grave looking student across the room sees me and uses a detached arm to point me out to her friend. “Yes,” I say, “looks like it.”

“Well thankfully the worst of it is over now,” he says. “The bombs.”


“Or little grenades. I don’t know. Didn’t get a chance to see them. Blake tried to look at one though.”


“And it killed him.”

“Oh my God.”

“Yes,” Dr. Drexler says. “It was the Papists, so there was nothing we could do.” The doctor stops walking and shrugs.

“I don’t understand.”

“But, Agnew,” now he turns to me and takes my shoulders. “Those attacks were the best thing to happen to us.”

“Not for Blake.”

“Yes, Blake, exactly. You see Agnew, we were in quite a position when the bodies stopped coming in. But all of a sudden, we had Blake.”

“You used — ?”

“Of course.”

“And you’re still using Blake? This is all Blake?” I look around at all the students cutting up bits of their former classmate.

“No. Please. That would have never worked. There was hardly anything left. Those bombs were small, but they were powerful,” he says. “Here, I’ll show you.”

Dr. Drexler brings me to an operating table. “Meet Rosie.” It’s the grave looking girl from across the room.

I introduce myself and go to shake her hand but she’s only got one. Her entire right arm is missing. Actually, it's on the operating table in front of us. She had pointed to me with her arm and now calipers are pulling back its skin and fat to expose the bone. Dr. Drexler asks how she is. “I’m good, doctor. I found where I fractured my radius in high school.”

“And it looks like you had some trauma to the elbow too, dear.”

She smiles. “That’s growing up with brothers for you.” Dr. Drexler chuckles sensibly and pats her on the nub.

“Yes, well, be sure your classmates have a look.” She nods. “And any phantom pain?”

“Not yet, but I’m still in shock.”

“Very good, girl. Keep at it.” Dr. Drexler pulls me away from the table and I realize that I’m leaning on the old man.

The students dissecting legs are wearing prosthetics: eyes, eye patches. A pale looking Indian is cutting open what looks to be a kidney and the young man whose head Dr. Drexler was just poking around inside drops some calipers and says “I can’t bend down.” I run to a garbage bin and throw up. It’s full of innards up to my nose. I throw up again. Dr. Drexler pats my back.

“Don’t worry, Agnew,” he says, “we mainly use pig testicles.”

The students are packing their organs and limbs into coolers with ice packs and Dr. Drexler tells me that he’ll be just a minute. He goes back to the platform at the front of the class and says “Excuse me, everyone,” and all the students turn to watch him. “As you know, there’s just one month left in the semester. Hooray.” He waves his finger around and the students laugh. “But, that means you are responsible for your final assignment. In order to demonstrate all you’ve learned this course, I’ll require from each of you a complete dissection and analysis of a human body. You will use your own. It is to be submitted by the end of the term.”

One student starts shouting. “This is too much,” he says. “You’ve gone mad,” and runs out of the freezer without his books. The rest of them accept the assignment like any students would a paper a few pages too long. Some write it down in their notebooks, then climb onto the tables and cut themselves open. Rosie helps the young man whose head was cut open lift his legs onto the table and then climbs onto the one next to him. He holds her incision open for her as she pulls out her liver, lungs, and heart with her only arm.

Some of the students realize that they smoke too much or drink too much, but for the most part they all maintain a medical distance from their subjects as they bleed out and their bodies shut down. A few scream out in pain or cry for the world they’re leaving — the rest roll their eyes at them as they roll to the backs of their heads. Dr. Drexler takes me into the corridor.

“Do you think you have enough for a story, or would you like to come back Agnew?” He helps me up the stairs.

“I’ve seen everything,” I say.

“And do you have any questions for me?” We’re outside his office.

“I mean,” I say, “are you worried about what you’re doing?”

“I am not.”

“The students cutting themselves apart? Killing themselves?”

Dr. Drexler sighs. “Agnew,” he says, “I could have easily starting robbing graves or paying prison wardens or going to the slums or what have you. My profession is no stranger to that. But consider the students.”

“The killed-themselves ones?”

“Yes, exactly. They had a month to complete the assignment, Agnew, but they all arrived at the same conclusion.” He looks at me. “Hm?” he asks and I shake my head. “Why put it off?”

It was a strange visit, but I still make my way down the steps of Dr. Drexler’s with a bit of a hop. I am back on the horse ,  in some regards. All I need to do now is unload this piece on some chump for two hundred bucks and I’ll be able to mostly pay rent. To get the inside scoop on how to sell a radio spot in The Delph, tune in next week.


Nicholas Santalucia is at

TRAPDOOR by David Fishkind



       ―It was weird. It was at track practice I guess. In high school. This girl I thought I was in love with had had me over to her house, like, the day before, and I spent the night, but she slept with this other guy. Anyway, I was running, listening to a CD she’d burned me, and I realized I was suffering too. Like the singer, I realized I’d been depressed for many, many years. Probably since I was a small child. I’d never felt comfortable, or like, safe in the world? I wanted to make it so I was like the singer, or something. That’s what got me into art. But I was afraid there was nothing I could do that would bring me joy. I could feel the endlessness of it even then. No past, no future. And it was always going to be that way. It had always been that way. We did hook up eventually, me and that girl. But that was forever ago, and it was too late to change anything… What about you?

       Esther’s legs were kind of leaning in the direction of the Tyler’s. She readjusted them. ―It was never depression so much as I felt like I would start to hallucinate and I’d, like, ground myself in drawing or something. Like I’d draw until reality started to set back in. I didn’t tell anyone about this for a really long time. This sounds stupid. I guess I still haven’t described it very well.

       ―In a book I was reading for, like, English class, like at the same time, there was a scene where the characters peed in a rice paddy in Vietnam and they said there were bacterias that could swim up the pee stream and give you a disease in your dick. That had a profound effect on me.


       ―I still can’t pee in rice paddies.

       Esther understood that this required, bare minimum, a smile. She paused. ―So how exactly do you know Matt?

       ―Wait, how do you know I know Matt?

       ―He showed up as one of our mutual friends. I never meet up with someone from, like, a dating app without some mutual friend. It’s too unnerving. It’s unnerving enough.

       ―That seems the opposite of most people.

       ―Is it? I mean, I don’t know. I’m just trying to not get raped and murdered at the prospect of, like… meeting someone.

       ―It might be worth it, though… Like if the person is really cool… Tyler grinned.

       ―Did you go to college with him or something?

       ―Sure I did. We met living in the same apartment building though. We never had class together or anything. We both studied abroad in Berlin.

       ―That must have been fun.

       ―It was. I mean, I loved it. We lived in this weird ass Eastern Bloc style complex. It was cool. I think we both preferred New York, though. Matt kept thinking everyone was anti-Semitic and, like, too homogenous or something. He made it difficult to do stuff. I mean I have love for him. I’m sorry I’ve immediately started shittalking my friend.

       ―Seems like the only real way to talk about friends…

       ―How do you know him?

       ―Oh, well, I don’t really. It’s a long story. We met, like, in high school and have some mutual friends and stuff. But we’re not really, like, she made quotes with her fingers, ―friends per se.

       ―Oh. Word.

       ―Do you want another drink?

       ―Okay, sure, Tyler said. Neither of them got up. ―So how long are you going to be in the city?

       ―I guess I don’t know. Classes started last week, but I haven’t felt any pressure to go back. To be honest, I’m not sure I even paid the bursar… I haven’t checked my email or anything.

       ―Damn… So you’re not going back?

       ―I probably got bumped from, like, my studio and critiques and stuff. I’m probably in trouble, I guess.

       ―What about… What are you majoring in again?

       ―I’m getting my MFA. In sculpture… And I had all this driftwood in the studio. I had, like, amassed all this driftwood. I’d gone down to the beaches for weeks looking for the perfect pieces and stuff. And, like, I have this big installation thing I’m supposed to have completed by the spring, but I don’t know what happened to it. I went just to check in like a month ago, and it was all gone, and everyone was on vacation and stuff. Nobody could track it down. Like hundreds of pounds, dozens of pieces of driftwood, and I had a bit of a breakdown and came here, and I’ve been here.


       ―It’s okay. I’m not sure I really wanted to do that whole thing anyway. It might be easier to just become a dog walker or something.

       ―I have a cat.

       ―What’s he like?

       ―She’s… just a cat… He looked at the table, then up, and directly at Esther, ―Where are you staying?

       ―My friend was out of town for Christmas, and I’ve got a key to her place so that’s where I went after that whole RISD thing. She came back and hasn’t told me to leave. We’re sharing her bed.

       ―Oh where’s she live at?

       ―Not far from here.

       ―Can you tell me more about the thing where you have a break from reality and you’d draw?

       ―I don’t think so…

       ―Do you want another drink? They remained seated, grinning.





       ―It’s not going to work I guess, Tyler said, sitting up, then lying back down, looking at the wall. Then sitting back up and looking at Esther. The whole gesture taking about a thirty seconds.

       ―It’s okay.

       ―It’s because I like you too much, I think. I’m nervous. Sometimes it happens that my hands, like, get numb. And then I can’t focus because I want to be happy or something, but I know that’s not actually it. I’m just nervous.

       ―What are you…

       ―You should see me with women I don’t care about. I’m very good with them. Like a real performer.

       ―I said it’s okay.

       ―It’s just that I think you’re cool. We have a lot in common. Maybe I’m afraid of what you’ll say to Matt.

       ―I don’t really foresee myself saying anything to Matt. I don’t really, like. We don’t talk. He doesn’t even know I’m in the city.

       ―I recently got out of a relationship and I’m very, like, chopped and screwed from it, you know?

       ―I did too.

       ―She told me she thought that I was crazy and that she didn’t want to get involved with me because she thought I was mentally ill or something.

       ―If she didn’t want to get involved with you then how was it a relationship?

       ―Never mind. I shouldn’t have brought it up. You wouldn’t get it. I feel so horrible. I feel like I shouldn’t say anything right now.

       ―It’s okay. It really is, I’m not kidding. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t feel like I liked you too.

       ―I’m in a real place, you know?

       ―I know. Esther made a movement toward a glass of water, and Tyler got up, drank from it, went to the bathroom and came back with the glass, which he handed to her.

       ―What happened with your boyfriend?

       ―He didn’t really make an effort. It’s like he was just there, but he wasn’t really present.

       ―I looked up your art and stuff online. I saw your website. I really liked everything. It was exciting. Like, really raw and physical and stuff, not like how a lot of things are just, like, photo printed things onto panels and stuff right now.

       ―How’d you know my last name?

       ―I just figured it out… I… The way things are and stuff now… Nothing is that hard to figure out.


       ―Did your boyfriend ever, like, was he ever like this? I feel like I can’t see anything right now. My hands are like tingling.

       ―I really don’t want to talk about that, if that’s okay… They sat in silence. ―Are you okay?


       ―You seem like you’re thinking you want me to leave.

       ―You should probably leave.

       ―Are you serious?

       ―I’m not going to be able to sleep or talk or anything. I have problems, mental illness or whatever, I feel like. I’m, like, bipolar. I’m shutting down right now and will not be able to communicate.

       ―I can’t believe this.

       ―You can spend the night if you want… She looked at him. ―You should probably leave though.

       ―This is ridiculous, you know, because I really liked hanging out with you. Esther stood up and put on her underwear. She put on her shirt. ―You’re very candid and opened up a lot and I’m sorry if we got too drunk or whatever, but it really doesn’t bother me, like. I knew we shouldn’t have had sex.

       ―Well. Oh well.

       ―Are you always like this?

       ―Yes… I really like you. Maybe you shouldn’t go.

       ―Well which is it?

       ―Well I just… I did this exact same thing once but it was with a girl I didn’t like so it was very natural for me to just do it again, since I’d already successfully had someone leave this way. And when I told her I was fucked up or whatever, that seemed to make her like me more, but I really do like you, so I don’t know if I make you leave, like if we won’t talk anymore.

       ―So you want me to stay?

       ―I think you should do whatever you want to do in this situation. I’m sorry.

       ―Are you going to really be mad at me no matter what I do? Because I kind of want to leave now… I’m sorry.

       ―So you’re never going to talk to me again.

       ―But I do like you. And I do want to talk to you again, and hang out with you again.


       ―But maybe I should go. I mean, this is really weird. I don’t know you.

       ―Fine. Tyler looked at the wall. ―I feel like I know you.

       ―No you don’t. Don’t just say stuff to manipulate me.

       ―Esther, no. Listen… Listen, Esther. I feel like even just your name. It’s so easy just to even say your name. I feel like my whole life has been leading up to just saying Esther.

       ―You’re being dramatic.

       ―Please just stay.

       ―I’m not going to stay over. We can sit, though, if you put your clothes on. We can talk or watch TV or something.

       ―I feel like I can, like. I feel okay now though.

       ―I don’t want that anymore.


       ―Right now.


       She sat down while he looked for a t-shirt. ―What TV do you like to watch?

       ―You know what, you’re really nice.


< Chapters 1 & 2

Chapters 5 & 6 >

BK Black Whopper: I Eat It So YOU Don’t Have To by Conor Burnett

Stunt Foods™. That’s what I’ve taken to calling these. Every few weeks you’ll see the newest crazy thing that a fast food place has pulled out of their big butt as a trending topic on Twitter.

The flavor of the week (and not for the WEAK) is Burger King’s Black Halloween Whopper. It’s a Burger King Whopper with a BLACK BUN, not because it got burnt in the toaster, but because EVIL HALLOWEEN SPIRITS and A1 Steak Sauce are possessing them until Halloween. Though the DAREDEVIL in me wishes I had made it to Japan to try the slightly more sinister original incarnation, my stomach and my wallet both thank me for not making the pilgrimage. With the Stunt Foods™ trend obviously growing out of control in America, I knew it would only be a matter of time before it washed up on our shores, and wash up it did, just in time for Spooky Halloween. And what is more spooky than a fast food Burger pumped with even more chemicals than it normally is?

I trek into the Jersey City “Newport” Mall. Top 3 most sad places in New Jersey, AND THAT’S SAYING SOMETHING. It has two GameStops and a food kiosk that sells Pizza in a Cone. That sums up this mall to a T.

The line for the Burger King is staggeringly long, and staggeringly WIDE. My fear when I find my place at the end of it, that I’ll be associated with the sweaty behemoths in line with me. The food court is three floors up. I know that cows can’t climb down stairs, but I wonder if you can get them down escalators.

By the time my 15 minute wait is over, I no longer fear what the burger has in store for me. I’ve spent a quarter hour breathing in the noxious spores of the denizens of Newport Foodcourt (say that 5 times fast), so I know that whatever the burger has in store for me can’t do any more damage than that.

I bite into the burger. And then I bite again. And again, and again. Diet Coke isn’t a beverage, it’s to lube up the tracks so the black meat goop goes down quicker. I look at my empty hands. They’re so empty.

I was going to go back and get my MFA. I had plans to go to school to be a pro wrestler. I had dieted for a few days and lost some weight so I could be in excellent ring shape like Goldberg. I used this “stunt” as an excuse to eat garbage food. And I know when Pizza Hut puts out a crust stuffed with pepperoni or when Wendy’s adds another stack to the Baconator I’ll be right in the same spot.

Two weeks ago I was sitting in the exact same seat in the Pizza in a Cone. That same day my dog had a seizure and died™. He had a little doggy brain tumor in his little doggy liver that metastasized and entered his little doggy brain. The last time I had scratched his head, there was a tumor centimeters below my fingers. While this little thing that I love was writhing on the floor, raging against the dying of the light, I had in my hands and in my stomach and in my mouth Pizza stuffed into an ice cream cone. If it wasn’t the Pizza Cone, it would’ve been the Black Burger, or the breakfast sandwich from the Pizza Hut inside of the Jersey City Target. 

These Stunt Foods™ don’t make me feel better. I have things to text my friends and things to tweet and then it’s over.The meta-rush you get from the knowledge you’re eating an insane thing is as useless and shitty as the food is itself.

It’s all garbage.  I just ate 1009 calories, 200 of them from fat. I’m no closer to being a pro wrestler, or the President, or a father, than I was when I was 4.

My grandma had a stroke. I visited her in the hospital once three weeks ago and haven’t seen her since. I’m going to be driving her to physical therapy in a few days and I won’t be able to look her in the eyes. She loves me so much. The feet that she can’t feel in the shoes my Aunt has to tie for her will be rubbing against the Burger King bag that I threw on the floor of my passenger seat.

The limited edition Halloween Burger King Whopper isn’t to blame. If it turns into ash in your mouth, it’s your fault. 6/10.

TRAPDOOR by David Fishkind




       ―As a teenager I would often have these grand thoughts, like, that people would discover my notebooks and pull me out of the obscurity I’d left in death. Suicide seemed like a very normal thing to think about. Like for the better part of a year I assumed I’d just get up one day and do it. But I didn’t have any notebooks. I had a lot of unfinished little ideas for things typed up in Word documents. But they didn’t amount to anything. Not even, like, a clear direction of thought. Nobody would know any substantial thing about the person who’d written that stuff. Other than that he was very scared. Very scared and emotional about every aspect of living and increasingly obsessed with women.

       ―And where exactly do I fit into that? Katie was sitting on the edge of the bed. She’d stopped looking at Tyler through his speech, as he was making himself more comfortable, propped up on her pillows, taking them out from under the duvet and repositioning them around his back. For a moment they sat in silence. The sounds of her apartment, the people outside the closed door. The music. Because there was a party going on, Tyler remembered.


Katie stood up. ―Why are you telling me this?

       ―Because, listen Katie, I am probably becoming obsessed with you. To be honest, I am, like, almost definitely not crazy. I really don’t even want to die anymore. If I can avoid it, I don’t ever want to die, but I’ve fashioned myself to act in a way that will make it seem like I am crazy. You know, in hopes that you’re the type of woman who responds to that stuff.

       ―But see, like, you have to understand that impulse is extremely unsound. Like that makes you seem to me that you are crazy. I feel on edge around you.

       ―Yeah I mean, I get it. But it’s not like that. I’m so normal that all I want to do is watch TV and be normal. Love a woman. Take a walk. Everything else is, like, an act.

       ―I don’t really care what it is. She wasn’t looking at him. ―It’s… It’s a distressing attitude to have to engage with.

       ―Like I said. It’s an image thing. When I was a kid and people would say I acted weird or something, I would just act weirder. Or dress weird. I would try to make myself look ugly to see if a girl could still be interested in me, and if they were, it’s a small personal victory. Like as a way to feel more in control. It’s both a sabotage and, like, the ultimate exercise in actualization.

       ―I feel really uncomfortable you’re telling me this shit right now. My friends are out there. Like, they came over to my house. I’m supposed to be being a host.


       ―You think I don’t have stuff going on? I don’t have my own people in my life who act this way and stuff?

       ―I guess… I really didn’t think about it. It takes so much for a day to be even coherent right now that I really almost never get a chance to think about how other people must be feeling. Is everyone fucked like me?

       ―I thought you said you were normal.

       ―That’s very good. He was laughing.  ―See, we have great banter. I’m more attracted to you than ever.

       ―Tyler! He stopped trying to kiss her. ―Okay well. No. Just, you can stay over if you really need to, but I don’t think maybe you should in the future… If you agree…

       ―How could I not agree? I just want us to communicate about everything. This might be the healthiest relationship I’ve ever had!

       ―What we… You… Stop it. Two nights of doing blow and hooking up in a bathroom is not a relationship.

       ―I will remember you fondly, I can’t even imagine life without these memories. We’re, like… it’s a word… Kismet. He opened her bedroom door but continued to look at her, walking backward, through people. Walking backward and saying, ―My new haircut makes me look like a girl on purpose, by the way. That was the point, it’s like what I was describing earlier. Like, I mean… Never mind. But if you ever want to get a drink sometime…




       On the subway, Matt watched Tyler sit down, get up and move to another seat. Matt leaned against the doors watching his friend fidget with a tote bag, then sat down next to him. Matt said, ―Do you ever feel like everywhere you go you run into the same people?

       ―There is an increasing feeling like that isn’t there. It wasn’t always this way.

       The subway stopped. It started. ―Maybe we’ve lived here too long.

       ―We’ve definitely lived here too long. We should leave. Go on a trip. Lately I can’t stop thinking about the Myrtle Social Club. How they opened it again after all these years, what are they trying to prove? What could it possibly be like in there?

       ―From what I’ve heard, it’s all cleaned up. Like, has a real bar or something. They’ve probably got those, like, light bulbs that look pre-industrial or whatever. With all the filaments showing.

       ―Is filaments the right word?

       ―Almost definitely.

       Tyler looked at his phone. He thought for a second maybe there would be reception, but there was no reception. ―It was like, riding the bus into the city. Like I had a girlfriend here in high school and anytime you wanted to go out there was always some show or something. Someone always had drugs, you could buy tall boys from Warner’s for like a dollar twenty-five and go and do whatever. It felt endless.

       ―You can’t get shit at Warner’s anymore. There’s no reason to even be in the neighborhood. Everyone moved. Everything moved around. Have you been in there? A six pack’s like nine bucks, and I’ll bet you anything you can’t bring your own into Myrtle anymore. Who do you think even plays there now?

       Tyler was turning his phone on and off. The screen of it. He dropped it in the tote bag. ―They said they can’t have live music there anymore. It’s probably like a person with a laptop. Or an online jukebox. Or metal. Why do all the bars play metal?

       ―I just want my son to grow up in a world where there’s a city where he can go to cut his teeth on some gritty scene and run into some cool girl and end up like Lee Ranaldo or something.

       ―And one time. I saw two rats fight outside there once. They were giant, like the size of small dogs. They had big furry tails and whiskers and were howling. You couldn’t really see them.

       ―Are you sure they weren’t cats?

       ―No… And they sat in silence. Stops went by the window. A man sang Michael Jackson and walked away. A person wearing a robe sat down. ―It feels like wherever you go, it’s always the same people.

       ―All the parties, the openings. Anything you have to RSVP to. And everyone, everyone, it’s them! That guy with the long hair and the tattoo on the steps of that building nobody used to know what it was called. Like on Bowery, but now they’re selling it or whatever.

       ―I think his name’s Tommy Suicide. 

Matt tried to laugh. ―Every time I go out I think I’m going to see my best friend from middle school’s little sister who I made out with after running into her at a bar three months ago.


       —And I do! I see her all the time, it's inescapable! The train made a stop. A woman of indeterminate age got on and sat next to them. Matt saw her smile, then roll her eyes before the train started to move again. ―And whenever I’m at this station I think about the first time I came out here. To see… You know, like, Esther?

       ―I don’t think so.

       ―Her name was Esther. No, I mean, I’m sure it still is. Maybe if it was a different name it wouldn’t have, like, fucked me up so much, but it just. There’s the story of Purim and whatever. She’s Jewish and nobody knows. It’s a secret, and she becomes the queen of Persia and stops, like, a Holocaust-type thing. Like this guy wants to kill all the Jews and Esther, this character in the bible, stops that from happening.

       ―Okay. Tyler was looking at his phone.

       ―Anyway, so I met this girl named Esther. We were like sixteen on a trip for Jewish youth to, like, lobby for environmental issues in Washington or something like that. She’d gone to camp with a friend of mine and was, like, really hip before anyone I knew was. We held hands in the Holocaust Museum and it seemed like we were going to meet up in the hotel everyone was staying at, like to hook up later that night. But then she said she couldn’t risk it with the chance that she’d get caught or whatever. She said maybe the next night, but then the next night came and she was giving me the same shit, so I was like, Jesus I can’t hold out, and so I made out with her best friend. So I screwed myself. She was pissed at me, and we didn’t stay in touch even though I thought she was really cool and more attractive and intelligent, you know, than the other girl. But then I’m on the subway two years later, my freshman year of college, and she just comes out of nowhere and touches my arm. She says she’s staying in Brooklyn for a while. So she invites me over on a Tuesday night, right around the corner from here. Like, right off that last stop, and we get all drunk and she’s really flirty, but I’m with this girl at the time and it just feels like such a lost cause, and on the train home, just like this… I just know I blew it years ago because of her stupid friend, and now she’s got a boyfriend she loves and is getting her MFA at RISD.

       ―What’s her MFA in?

       ―Man, I don’t know… Like, she does, like, multimedia stuff? Who cares, she has a pretty cool website. You should check it out. God… We could’ve been together. Esther… The woman laughed. She was wearing a yellow blazer and yellow jeans. Tyler looked up and laughed. ―I’m sorry?

       ―No, no. It’s true. It’s all so true. You really did fuck it up. She probably doesn’t even think about you.

       ―Really, though? At all? Sometimes she likes my stuff on Facebook.

       ―To her, you’re just another guy who didn’t think she mattered much. Who couldn’t have the time to prioritize what made her seem special to you. You didn’t want to understand her. Your biggest concern was just to be with someone. Anyone. You didn’t care who, it’s not like you tried any harder for what you saw in her. To try and see things like she did.

       ―But I’m not just another guy. Shit. I love the same things she does. I like art. I’ve kept up with her life. She affected me. Like ever since we were kids. And what if I hadn’t been with that girl? When we were at her place, she did this thing where you sit in a chair and tilt your head back and you, like, pour vodka and orange juice into the mouth. She called it a haircut.

        ―I wasn’t there. I can’t say.

       ―And we played this game called Roxane. To the Police song. We…

       ―I know the game.

       ―But this was in the days of Four Loko. Remember Four Loko?

       ―I still have some in my parents’ garage fridge that I salvaged when they announced it was illegal or whatever, Tyler said.

       ―Every time I’m at that stop, walking around, I hope I’ll see her. Like fifty times I think I see the back of her head. I think maybe she’s come back.

       ―She’s in Rhode Island. She’s not thinking about you.

       ―Ten years…

       ―You’re acting like an idiot. I mean, if you want a woman’s perspective…

       ―I have something I want to say. Tyler interrupted. He looked at the floor, at the woman. This didn’t concern her. He looked at Matt.

       ―Well what is it?

       ―Never mind… Something about my cat… I’ll say it later.


Chapters 3 & 4 >

Healing Hands by Jim Keane



             Luke realized with horror that he had a few fleeting seconds to correct his mistake in going the wrong way on the freeway as he was heading toward a speeding tractor-trailer.  Maybe if he hadn’t been so tired after a long night working as a computer programmer on a rush job he may have remembered to put his seat belt on, but it was too late.  His head went through the windshield with glass cutting deeply into his face.  A shard of glass hit his eye and the pain felt like someone had poured gasoline into his eye and lit a match.  He felt his crushed and bloody body slam into the front of the tractor trailer.

            All he could remember afterward were the ambulance sirens.


            At the hospital, Luke thought he was surely close to death. And then, alone in the room, he felt more and saw a hand above him in his bed. Was it a summons to the afterlife, he wondered? He was resigned. He was ready.

            "God, if this is you, I’m ready. I’ve accumulated money and traveled the world, but I have no family. I’ve led a selfish life. I’ve always looked out for myself because no else would."

            You are not ready yet.

            The hand had a voice, a strong and yet oddly gentle one.

            "What do you mean I’m not ready?" Luke asked, puzzled as he strained with his broken body to touch the mysterious hand. “You mean, not ready to die?”

            There is more work for you to do. You have greater things to do.

            “What work? I don’t understand.”

            But the hand and voice were both gone.


            "Mr. Samuels, I wasn't sure if you were going to make it," the nurse said as she secured his cast and then checked his vital signs. "You’ve been in a coma for three days. Do you have any relatives, wife or children? We couldn't find any."

            "I have no family. Where am I?"

            "You’re in Our Lady of Forgiveness Hospital in the Bronx."

            I’m alive, Luke thought with relief. Now he recalled the cryptic voice. Had he been dreaming? What did it mean that I have great things to do? Was I imagining all that?


            Several weeks passed and after finishing physical therapy, Luke felt encouraged by the progress of his recovery, but he was still limited to a wheelchair. The hospital staff, though, recommended that he move around to help get his strength back. He was only forty-five. Now at the age of forty-five he had years more to live.

            On one of his strolls on his floor, he spotted an elderly woman in bed when the door to her room was open. A glow or an aura surrounded the woman with all sorts of medical equipment by her bed. He wasn't sure if it was the medicine that he was taking that was making him see this strange phenomenon, but with no one in the room with her he wheeled himself for a closer look.

            Now he heard a faint beep that came from the woman’s heart monitor attached to her frail-looking body. A tube was in her throat and her chest sagged up and down. Her eyes were closed. Luke wheeled right up to her bed. She will be dead soon, he thought. Suddenly, the blips on her heart monitor went flat into a straight line. A doctor or nurse wasn’t there.  He should shout for help, but he felt strangely compelled to put his hands on her chest, which felt cold even through the blanket.

            Inexplicably, he began to see things in the woman’s past that she surely kept secret. He learned that she had worked in a bank for thirty years, and had stolen small amounts from the bank over her career. She had never told anyone but now he knew her guarded secret.

            To his surprise, the woman’s chest pushed upward and she gasped for air as if she were drowning. He feels a torrent of electricity shoot through his body, and when he tried to remove his hand from the woman he couldn’t. It was as if both bodies had become conjoined.  The heart monitor accelerated with activity.

            The woman’s eyes opened. She gazed with surprise at Luke and then smiled. Tears poured down her face. Now he was able to withdraw his hand.

            "Thank you,” the woman said in a slightly stronger voice. “It felt good to get that horrible mistake off my chest."

            Luke was deeply perplexed. What had just happened?  I felt good knowing this woman’s secret.  She seems better. Was I really responsible?

            "What are you doing in here?” the nurse demanded to know as she rushed in. You shouldn’t be in the room.”

            Luke felt both confused and oddly confident. "I was just trying to give her comfort."


            Later, to his surprise, Luke learned that the woman had made a complete recovery from her heart attack and had been released from the hospital. But she didn’t come to see him, which was disappointing. The hospital staff was perplexed how this woman recovered, and so quickly. Everyone called it an act of God.

            But Luke suspected otherwise. Healing this woman and saving her life made him think about his life before the accident. I lived my life as a shallow and selfish person. He had been through a couple of relationships, but when the commitment became too much he bailed out like a man parachuting out of a plane. His career as a computer programmer had allowed him to make enough money to travel and live comfortably – but alone.  Always alone.

            Now, after the accident, he felt he had, for some reason, been given a second chance.  Did God talk to me? He couldn't be positive, but something remarkable had happened. Never particularly religious before, he now felt a surge of faith.


            After release from the hospital, Luke returned to work. But completing his assignments gave him less satisfaction now. He had a longing to see if he could help other people, or to finally learn if the incident with the woman in the hospital was just a one thing event..

            I want that feeling again, he realized. The pleasure of healing someone was like a drug. He drove around in search of someone injured, feeling like an ambulance chasing lawyer looking for trouble.

            One night, while driving home after finishing another night tour and while wearing his seat belt, he heard a gunshot. Just ahead of him a man was staggering on the sidewalk. He parked and approached the man holding his stomach where blood was staining his shirt. A glow was coming from the man similar to the elderly woman in the hospital.

            Is it another opportunity? Luke wondered, strangely expectant.

            Luke knelt by the moaning man and felt warm blood seeping through his fingers. The man's unkempt black hair curled up like snakes.

            "I'll get those bastards!” the man muttered, his face pale as if life was draining from him.

            "I can help you," Luke said as he placed his hand on the man’s chest..

            "You're not the cops?” the man murmured. “Are you a doctor?"

            "No, I’m neither."

            Suddenly, Luke became aware of hideous things that this man, slowly bleeding to death, had done. He had murdered several men. He had enjoyed torturing people and seeing them beg for mercy. He had a monster dying before him on the cold concrete of the street..

            In reaction to the grotesque images, Luke strained to remove his hands from the man's chest but was unable to. It was just like the time in the hospital.

            I’m not sure I want to help this man after what I’ve seen, he thought.

            "Get help!” the stricken man cried.

            Everyone is deserving of healing. Luke heard a familiar voice in his head, but there was no hand hovering over his head.

            Luke's hand, which he still can’t withdraw, was drenched with blood. The man's eyes seem distant. He’s dying, Luke thought. Was it too late? Should he try to get help? Then he felt that same electric surge pulsating through his body similar to when he helped the elderly woman. In an instant, the bleeding ceased and the man stopped groaning.

            Luke heard sirens and rushed back to his car and swiftly drove away..

At his apartment, he tried to analyze the surreal event in his head that he just encountered. Had I just helped a murderer? But no answer came and he soon fell asleep..

            In his dream, there were hundreds of people outside his building waiting for him to heal them. He could tell they were a motley crew of murderers, thieves and rapists. They waved bats, knives and guns in their hands, screaming his name in unison. Luke! Luke! Luke!

            He awoke screaming. What was going on, he wondered? Was being able to heal people a burden or a blessing?

            In confusion, he got up and went to church, something he hadn’t done in a long time. I should have gone to church regularly, he chastised himself..

            Inside, and alone, he stared at the stations of the cross.

            Was he being called upon to make sacrifices? Was this now his burden?

            Luke remembered his teaching from Catholic School. Jesus had made many sacrifices. Only one seemed ordained for him, a mere sinner, but still he wanted to be released from his strange bondage.

            "God, was that you who saved me when I was in the car accident? He whispered as he knelt at the altar. Was it your hand that reached out to me?"

            There was no answer.

            "I enjoyed saving the woman", he said, looking up at Jesus on the cross. "It feels good to help someone, even if she was a thief. But trying to save the man, a murderer, was terrible. If there are others like him I want no part of this. I don't want to do this again. Please take this burden away from me."

            Then he heard a voice in his head.

            You don't get to choose who to save. Everyone deserves a second chance. There is a great opportunity ahead of you.


            Hundreds of people were assembled in front of a public school on Corona Avenue. The streets were cordoned off from the Woodlawn cemetery to Yonkers. Patrons were spilling out of the bars that lined the avenue to take a look. Senator Carl King, seeking reelection, was looking to garner some last minute votes. But many voters feared his controversial views on abortion, socialism and immigration. He started speaking atop the stairs of the school.

            Luke pushed through the thick crowd and tried to use his 6"3" height to his advantage as he looked for an opening. God told me to heal and I will, he told himself. He hoped to spot a telltale aura among the onlookers that he had experienced before. But he didn’t see any..

            "We don't want any communists," jeered a man in the crowd wearing a BETTER DEAD THAN RED shirt. Senator King's eyelids rose high when he saw the man's shirt. The mob of people in the front became more forceful and surged forward. The police did their best to hold them back until a gunshot went off.

            Luke was initially unclear where the shot originated. But when the crowd dispersed in sheer chaos, he saw a glow that emanated over the fallen cop next to the Senator.

            "Stop, who are you?" another cop asked, his gun drawn as Luke rushed toward the downed officer lying on the steps to the school.

            "I’m a doctor,” Luke said, sure that he had heavenly permission to lie. “Let me help him."

            Buttons popped into Luke’s face as he ripped open the police officer’s shirt. He saw the bullet wedged deep into the protective vest. Still, he now knew this policeman was corrupt and had been taking bribes from drug dealers.

            "I had been doing this so long," the bleeding cop whispered to Luke with a contrite expression on his pale face. "My family is in so much debt. I didn't know what else to do."

            "It's okay now," Luke said in a low voice as he put his finger over the bullet hole.

            "You're forgiven."

            Suddenly, Luke turned to see a man wearing a hood running towards him. The cop by his side fired, but it was too late. The hooded man in the gray shirt reached into his jacket and detonated the bomb he was carrying by his waist..

            Luke's long legs wobbled as the ground shook from the explosion. Body parts flew in the air, with blood coloring the steps and sidewalk with splotches of blood. Screams of agony resounded as survivors cried out for help amid the black smoke lifting up from the blast.

            Luke felt several stabbing pains in his back and his fingers were bloody. But now, through the acrid smoke, he could see many glows.

            God, there’s so many people I can heal, he thought. In return, he heard the voice again: This is what you are here for.

            Luke ran down the stairs, stepping over dead bodies looking for survivors. He went from one body to another, conscious that his back was hurting him.

            I must keep going. Is that blood running down my legs?

            He laid his hand on several people, ignoring the often sad information he learned, and was gratified to see that the bleeding stopped for many and that there was less shock on their ashen faces. But there were so many more to get to as he heard sirens blaring in the background and a police helicopter hovering above. He searched for the next survivor. Sheer adrenaline kept him going. His trousers were red now, but his back pain seemed gone. His euphoric feeling kept growing with each person he helped.

            This is my role. This is my duty. This is my second chance. .

            "I’m okay," Luke said as an emergency medical technician tried to assist him. He staggered on weak legs to a group of bodies just ahead that he could help. Tears slid down his face, glowing itself as if from an interior fire.

            The glow that his cloudy tired eyes could see was now reduced to a couple of victims. I must keep healing. His knees buckled as he looked up at the dark sky and the clouds floating lazily by. I’m tired and must rest. His knees buckled and he stumbled like a drunk onto the street. Blackness wrapped around him.

            "God, thanks for a second chance," Luke said as he reached up to the hand above him. He was conscious of pushing his body as if nearing the top of a mountain. Just a little more. He kept moving, and this time he grasped the hand.

            You are ready now, he heard, and then he smiled for the last time.

Jim Keane is a fiction writer with a BA in English from Mount Saint Mary College.  He's attended several fiction/creative classes. He lives with his family in Westchester, New York.

FIVE: 2D Works by Molly Allis by Molly Allis

Molly Allis is a multi-media artist and musician based in Los Angeles. She designs and constructs interactive environments with sculpture, illustration, and sound design, encouraging audience participation and improvisation. She leads the female indie-folk duo Bear Club, which released a self-titled album in April, 2015. Molly received her BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in Theater Directing/Design, and her MFA from California Institute of the Arts in Integrated Media and Experimental Sound Practices.

FOUR: Lullabies by Molly Allis by Molly Allis

I’ll Love You Since the Beginning of Time is a collection of lullabies that Molly wrote for her 2013 installation by the same name. They were played on a loop inside of a cozy blanket fort for upwards of 15 people. Be lulled here:


THREE: Animation by Molly Allis by Molly Allis

Pilgrim, Your Heart is a Ball of Light

Awards and Screenings
BABELGUM Animacam Festival (short-listed for Jury Award)
The Pictures—Top 10 of 2010, London, U.K.
Grossman Gallery, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA

ONE: 2D Works by Molly Allis by Molly Allis


Molly Allis is a multi-media artist and musician based in Los Angeles. She designs and constructs interactive environments with sculpture, illustration, and sound design, encouraging audience participation and improvisation. She leads the female indie-folk duo Bear Club, which released a self-titled album in April, 2015. Molly received her BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in Theater Directing/Design, and her MFA from California Institute of the Arts in Integrated Media and Experimental Sound Practices.