Issue 8 Author Bios

 

 

Fiction

 

Paul Handley’s fiction has appeared in Monkeybicycle, The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, Treehouse, Gone Lawn, Gravel, Ostrich Review, and Gargoyle Magazine. Cartoons are in Hobart.

Michael Jeffrey studied literature and economics at Boston University. He currently resides in New York City.

Martijn Peutor lives in Amsterdam. He studied English and philosophy but quit both. He has published in the Dutch edition of Elle (he won their writing competition; he feels the need to mention he didn’t have a subscription—a colleague on the job he held at the time left it lying around), and in the online literary magazine Remarkable Doorways. He currently does very little.

 

Non-fiction

 

Kyle R M is a born-and-raised Austin, Texas native. His short fiction is featured in Foxing Quarterly (Issue 2) and Fields Magazine (Issue 1). His story “Galveston, Texas” is forthcoming in Ambit Magazine (UK). About four years back, he won third prize in the Austin Chronicle’s 19th Annual Short Story Competition. He is twenty-six years old and can regularly be found running the hike and bike trail at Town Lake.

André-Naquian Wheeler is a 19-year-old Texas native currently studying Journalism at New York University. His work has been featured on Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood.

 

Poetry

 

Cathleen Cohen, Ph.D., is Education Director of ArtWell, (www.theartwell.org), which brings poetry and arts workshops to thousands of children of diverse cultures and faiths in the Philadelphia area and abroad. Cathy’s poems have appeared in such publications as Apiary, Baltimore Review, East Coast Ink, The Four Quarters Magazine, Ishaan Literary Review, Moment, Layers of Possibility, Philadelphia Stories, 6ix, The Breath of Parted Lips, and Bridges: A Jewish Feminist Journal..

Katy-Whitten Davidson is an English major at the University of Alabama with plans to graduate in May. Her poems have recently appeared in the Red Booth Review, and she is currently in the process of applying to MFA programs for poetry. She spends her time between the Twin States with her one-and-a-half-year-old son, Zooey.

Christopher Mulrooney is the author of symphony (The Moon Publishing & Printing), flotilla (Ood Press), and viceroy (Kind of a Hurricane Press).

Dustin D. Pickering has been published at Dead Snakes, Blind Vigil Revue, Writers on the Rio Grande, and The Beatest State in the Union, a Beatnik anthology. He was a featured poet for Public Poetry in 2013. Public Poetry was voted as Houston’s Best Poetry Reading by The Houston Press. He was also included in the 2013 Austin International Poetry Festival’s annual anthology, Di-Verse-City. He is Editor-in-Chief of Harbinger Asylum and owner of Transcendent Zero Press, www.transcendentzeropress.org.

Sandra Rokoff-Lizut, retired educator, is currently a printmaker and poet, and studies poetry at Oregon State University. She is the author of children’s books published by Macmillan, Holt Reinhart & Winston, and Hallmark, Inc. She is a member of the Oregon Poetry Association, Mary’s Peak Poets, Poetic License, Gertrude’s, and a weekly writing salon. Previous publications include Illya’s Honey, The Bicycle Review, Wilderness House Review, The Tower Journal, The Penwood Review, and Wild Goose Poetry Review.

Benjamin Schmitt’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Grist Journal, Solo Novo, The Monarch Review, Blue Lyra Review, and Forth. His first book was published in 2013 by Kelsay Books. It is entitled The Global Conspiracy to Get You in Bed. He currently lives in Seattle with his wife. He teaches workshops to both children and adults.

Kaleigh Spollen is a recent graduate from Middlebury College in Vermont, where she studied neuroscience and sociology. She has spent time living on European farms, by the Virginian coast, and in Brooklyn, but for now calls Baltimore her home.

In 1997 Dvorah Telushkin published her memoir, Master of Dreams, telling the story of her twelve-year apprenticeship with Isaac Bashevis Singer. Her translations of his work appeared in The New Yorker, and in collections of Mr. Singer’s stories published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. She has recently completed a one-woman show, In Search of the Perfect Pocketbook, which is currently being launched. Her poetry has appeared in The Light Ekphrastic, Literary Juice, and Orion Headless.

Tony Walton is a Caribbean writer living in the Cayman Islands. His work has appeared in Storyteller Magazine, Moonkind Press, Whisperings Magazine, Mountain Tales Press, Out of Our Magazine, Poetry Bay Magazine, Burningword Magazine, Wilde Magazine, Nite Writers Literary International Literary Journal, Avalon Literary Review, Iceland Daily, East Lit Literary Magazine, Boston Poetry Magazine, Eunoia Magazine, Olentangy Review, Carnival Literary Magazine, and Verity LA.

 

Gallery

 

Kelvin Morris often does his work on the streets of Baltimore, inspired by our city’s landscapes. Kelvin aspires to be in a gallery, and shares his art freely, hoping to inspire others.

V.E. White has found refuge and inspiration in creating art. He has taken an intense interest in painting and has been practicing with different approaches, and mediums.

Angela Purnell has been attending the art group for many years and enjoys drawing, collages, and coloring. Angie especially enjoys making cards for her family and friends for special occasions.

Roy Mack is meticulous with his sketches. Mack has grown as an artist by consistently attending art group for the past year.

Henry Bell has been creating art for many years. His work has been displayed at the Walters and he has worked with community artists on collaborative projects. Henry uses art to express himself and find relief and inspiration in everyday life.

Christopher Thompson has a unique style that makes his art exciting and distinct. He is a long time art group attendee and his presence is always inspirational and positive.

Justillian Marshall works with collages.

Cathleen Cohen

Lines

 

If, on waking, you tape to your feet

sticks of roasted willow,

they will draw the day’s boundaries,

 

soft glide on floorboards

as you check at the window

for rain or dove flight,

 

zigzag slither down steps

as you race to the bus,

barely pausing for shadows.

 

And the day will be so marked,

charcoal smudges under tables,

loop-de-loops across walls,

 

thick lines where you stand,

and where you fly,

filaments of grey light.

Michael Jeffrey

The Abora of the Coast

 

The War was over, Lee had surrendered, and in the North people were happy and people were celebrating and so it was time to build hotels on the beach, and three years later the Ocean House opened in Watch Hill and everyone said it had the best views of the Atlantic in all of Rhode Island, Newport be damned, and in August there were two hundred people on the terrace and in the lobby and in the rooms and on the beach, and fountains of champagne fell into overflowing glasses and John Alexander Cody was pouring in the ballroom.
           The summer finale. In the morning edition, The Newport Daily Sun had listed notable society figures who would appear that evening at The Ocean House. The round, jutting portico with revivalist Greek columns, the bay windows in moonlit shadows on the second-floor terrace, the small, white framed dormer windows of the third and fourth floors, and the high, black hipped roof above with two chimneys poking from each side, the northern chimney leading down to a massive stone fireplace in the marble lobby, and all vibrated with the thunder of feet and laughter.
           In the ballroom, a six-piece band and dancing. The dresses were mostly white and blue with low necklines and lace on the sleeves, and the skirts were long and fell over themselves in waterfalls of fabric and tailed behind the ladies as they spun and touched short white gloves to their chests. The suits had three pieces, and some had patterns, one even had stripes, and a pile of stovepipe hats sat in the corner and none of the men worried that theirs might get lost. A single chandelier was burning and the flames danced, too, as the gold fixture swayed. Windows fogged from the heat.
           John Cody finished pouring and wiped his forehead. He picked up and carried his bucket, his ice, and his champagne onto the slate stone patio and set them on the table. Then he turned and looked east down the coast, feeling the breeze sneak down his back where his shirt stuck to his skin. A chill, the most pleasant chill. He thought about heading west, like his father had eighteen years ago, but not to die, as he did two years later.
A thin, waning moon hung over the ocean. A woman’s distant laugh came from down below the sloped lawn peppered with gray boulders, past the little path where the boulders devolved to pebbles and the briars poked out in front of your face and there were blackberries in the bushes, too, from the sand, which was still warm from the heat of the long, cloudless afternoon, and her laughter carried above the crashing waves.
           Cigar smoke soon danced in curlicues from so many little red dots on the patio, followed by the deep exhales of the tired men, pulling watches from their breast pockets in unison, and sighing, because it was close to midnight and the summer was about to end and it would still be hot in Boston and New York and Chicago. The ladies fanned themselves and begged for one last dance. A woman with ashen hair under a blue bonnet leaned against the stone wall at the edge of the patio, looking back into the ballroom, shaking her head.
           “The War is over,” she was saying. “It is about time we become a civilized people. Enough with the wine, enough with these drunken sprees.”
           A hard hand came down on his shoulder and turned John Cody away from his view of the moon.
           “Frankly, young Mr. Cody, I’m graveled,” he said with a raised finger. “I do believe that three hours ago I told you that you were not to move from the spot, except to retrieve another bottle from the cellar.” Crandall, the maître d’hôtel, stood up straight in his black vest, tilting his chin upward, the little hairs, before putting a handkerchief to his bald head. “So why then, if you’ll humor me, are you standing on the patio stargazing?” His eyes narrowed.
           “Well, I was just—”
           ‘“Well, sir,’ you mean.” Crandall affected a French accent seemingly at random, but deep down he was just another Swamp Yankee like John Cody; a sad and angry man from Warwick. Somewhere in the fields of Virginia a dead wife and son. Those dead were the only reason John Cody didn’t throw a sockdologer into Crandall’s thin, tilted nose.
           “Yes, well, sir, I was just checking to see if any of the guests out here needed refreshments. As lots of them was heading outside. The band’s breaking for a rest.”
           “Mr. Cody, you should be more shy in trusting yourself. Your…instincts.” He pocketed the square of cotton. “Now if you wouldn’t mind bringing an end to your cavorting, Mr. Russell has requested a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon in his room. Would you…?”
           He held his arm out into the ballroom and waved his hand. John Cody started toward the stair that led to the caverns in the cellar, musk smells and echoed drips and deep darkness, where the wine lined the shelves in one room and another room filled with ice. “Fix your hair and run right back down,” said Crandall, swatting him on the head as he passed.
           On the stairs to Mr. Russell’s room, John Cody paused and leaned against the wall. It would be hot out west, he thought. Hotter than this, even.
           Quiet on the top floor. The bright blue carpet shined down the long hall even in the thin light of John Cody’s lamp. His footsteps made no noise. He came to the room at the end of the hall and knocked and listened, but there were no sounds, except for the ocean, whose waves were the metronome of Watch Hill, the crash and the return, the crash and the return. In the absence he noted the clock needed to be wound.
           Then the door in front of him flew open and a man with a high forehead, dusty brown hair, a Greek nose, and sleepy eyes grabbed the bottle and examined its label. His face was unshaved. He hadn’t attended the ball. His silk dressing gown reached the floor, and the burgundy red fabric seemed to hold all of the candlelight in the room.
           “How rude of me,” Mr. Russell said, looking up from the bottle. “Come in, please, please, please.”
           His room was a mess. Teapots lined the armoire and rumpled clothes were tossed all over the divan. A pile of books had avalanched off the chest at the foot of the unmade bed and spilled onto the floor. A silk tapestry hung over the room’s picture window. Swinging with the breeze from the open window, the fabric showed some oriental arcadia with cranes on lime green grass in the foreground and twisted, melting willows falling backward into a river, and in the distance there was a gray fortress on a hill. Another tapestry, flung over the standing mirror next to the bed, showed orange and pink flowers bleeding into one another on the surface of light blue water, soft white lines showing waves. The wallpaper—innumerable roses, pink like lips, with ocean-blue leaves and vines all interconnected—peeled at the edge of the plaster molding near the top of all four walls. Tiny candles burned on the each nightstand and the desk, and their light played on the walls and set everything pulsing.
           Mr. Russell sat in a chair at the desk next to the breathing bottle. He lit a long black pipe and let smoke whisper from his mouth, and the breeze carried it to John Cody. It was an unfamiliar sort of tobacco. Mr. Russell stared at the tapestry dancing in the window for a few long seconds.
           “Sir?” John Cody ventured.
           “Yes. I am here.” Mr. Russell spoke facing the window.
           “Is there anything else I may do for you, sir?”
           “What is your name, young man?”
           “John Cody, sir.”
           “How old?”
           “Eighteen, sir.”
           “You have a strong chin. And cannonball eyes.” He paused and then poured the wine into a dirty coupe glass.
           “Sir?”
           “What do you dream of, John?” He sighed. “Call me Samuel.”
           “Pardon?”
           He laughed. “Are you familiar with Coleridge?”
           “No, sir.”
           “Are you a reader, Mr. John?”
           “I read some.”
           “Whom do you read?”
           “I like Thoreau best. And Homer.”
           Mr. Russell waved a hand in front of him, still facing the tapestry. “‘The shadow of the dome of pleasure floated midway on the waves; where was heard the mingled measure from the fountain and the caves. It was a miracle of rare device, a sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice! A damsel with a dulcimer in a vision once I saw; it was an Abyssinian maid, and on her dulcimer she played, singing of Mount Abora.’ Do I hear a guitar down there? A harp?”
           They listened.
           “I am not so sure. But I know, I am sure, that she is dead.”
           “Beg, beg your pardon, sir?”
           “Four years ago, I collapsed at my mother’s funeral. But, there I was, hovering in the church looking down at myself. And a woman, she whispered into my ears, through a kiss, that she missed me. But that also, I was too late, she was already gone, and my mother spoke well of me, she said. I have never seen her in all my waking life, this woman.”
           “I’m terribly sorry to hear that, Mr. Russell. May I bring you anything else?”
           “Did you know the foundation here,” he waved his wand, “is all ash?”
           He turned and looked at John Cody in the doorway for a moment. “That’s the truth. Twenty some years ago the village burned down. All these mansions and houses are a vision from Chief Ninigret’s apocalypse.” He finished the glass and poured another. “I dream of harsh winds and fire. The wind comes up from the ground like a reckoning. And the fire falls like rain, but it doesn’t burn. And colors. All the colors bleed. I spend years in that landscape and sometimes I wonder if I haven’t woken up. It’s wide and flat there. These hills outside my window set me to worrying. What do you dream of, John?”
           “Going west, mostly.”
           Mr. Russell perked up. “You’re going west?”
           “Next spring. Hopefully. Been planning for a long time. I’ve been in the same place for so long.”
           “The gold’s all gone, you know.”
           “I know. But I imagine all the living’s better out there. I gotta get some distance on me.”
           He stood and faced John Cody. There was a long pause and the ocean filled the room. His mouth twisted as if to speak, but then it got caught on something and the words didn’t come for a long second. “That’s your dream, Mr. Cody. And a noble one. And when the railroad is finished you’ll ride out there easy, right on the back of the chinaman. But that is not what I am interested in. Tell me, what are your dreams? As when you wake up clutching your throat or where you wish you’d never wake up at all.”
           John Cody switched the lamp from his right hand to his left hand. “Sometimes, I dream of the War. I’ve always been good with a rifle. Hunting and the like. I wanted to fight but it was finished before I got a chance. I tried telling the officer I was eighteen but he didn’t believe me. Anyway, he knew my mother. I dream of being in the battles sometimes.”
           “Who taught you how to shoot?”
           “Taught myself. My father was gone before I was walking. My mother said he was a good shot.”
           “Would you like a glass of wine?” He went back to the desk and then seemed to forget what he was doing there and spun around. “Where is your father now?”
           “He died out West.”
           “I’m sorry to hear that, John. Do you think of him often?”
           “I suppose I do. I think he intended that I join him out there when I was old enough. He never made it himself. He died in the desert. I dream of the desert sometimes, too. The sand is hard in my dreams, not like the beach at all.”
           Mr. Russell was staring at the tapestry in the window. “My father, I didn’t know him well, either. He managed trade in China and in Bombay. He tried to explain the Canton system to me but he became frustrated when I couldn’t follow the logic of finances. He could speak their language. He adapted to their religious sensibilities.” He waved his hands like an actor as he spoke, his audience behind him. “They don’t like American goods, the chinamen. They think that our goods are poisoned with a weakness that is contagious. A weakness of the soul. My father came back home to Connecticut and found he didn’t like it much. But he wasn’t well enough to return to China and so he died. But he brought China back with him. My inheritance. We should all be thankful to have China in our country now. Every time you sip tea. Or take silk between your fingers.” He pulled the edge of the floating arcadia. “When you ride west you should be especially thankful.”
           “I will be, sir.”
           One of the candles on the nightstand had burned to completion and the wax sat in a semi-liquid pool as it cooled. The band was rousing the crowd for one last song. Clapping rose the four floors to the window.
           Mr. Russell sat down in the chair. His head slumped back, and then snapped up and he drank. “This place isn’t Eden. Did you know that? I read in a paper that someone called the Ocean House a paradise.”
           His voice weakened and came slowly like raindrops falling from heavy leaves after the shower passes. “It is close.” Smoke drifted up from his head as he relit the pipe. “I think up here, in the North I mean, they have a better sense. With the gold, and the ports, and all this land, why should we need slaves? It’s been taking care of. We’re taken care of. Sweet Providence. The capital of your state.” He laughed to himself. “The fires always return, but by then, you’ll be an old man remembering the battles you never fought.”
           “Yes, Mr. Russell, I think I need to be getting on now.”
           Mr. Russell took no notice of John Cody. “When the rail is finished we will all be connected. But everyone cannot be happy at once. Balances in the world. Like scales. Clocks. Suns and moons. I dream of the moon some nights. Or maybe I see it truly then, finally, perfectly, as nothing quite is when I am awake.” He ripped the tapestry from the window. There it hung; a disappearing crescent of so many craters up over the ocean, higher than before, drifting away from the wine-black water.
           “I don’t think I was born in the right place. This could never be my Eden. Mine is in the East. The moon beckons me that way at the beginning of every night. As does the sun every morning. But what can I do? I become deathly ill if I take a rowboat in a pond. I can’t even stomach the riverboats. God tells me where I must go but won’t allow me to. What do I trust, my flesh or heaven? I feel heaven calling me in my head, but is my head not part of my flesh? The flesh that binds me to the ground and forbids me from the seas.”
           “Should I go, Mr. Russell?” John Cody hadn’t entered the room. There was a faint cry down below. He heard his name in the breeze.
           “To me, and please don’t be insulted, John. To me it seems like you were born at the wrong time. Born too late. You were not meant for any sort of paradise. Or this thing so close to it. Look at those rocks over there, by the lighthouse.” He leaned far out of the window and pointed to the right, where the lighthouse appeared at the crest of a rocky peninsula. “Like Abora.”
           “Sir.” John Cody was certain Mr. Russell would fall from the window but then he fell back into the chair at the desk.
           “You were a warrior, Cody. Are a warrior. I can tell from your face. But God placed you on the earth too late, if that is possible. Maybe your parents are to blame. But there’s no doubt that you were meant for times of turmoil.” His head slumped and John Cody took one step backward. “Some men were meant to run head first into walls. They can never rest. I have no trouble resting, but my curse is that the rest never feels quite complete. Something about the water here, maybe.” He finished a glass and poured the wine again. He turned to John Cody and smiled purple. “What do you think about when you fall asleep at night?”
           “Nothing much. I look at the wall.” John Cody scratched the back of his neck with his free hand.
           “I think about fields of poppies swaying in the glow of dusk, warm burgundy dusk, and I crawl into night, and the stars are early up above, blue stars pushing through purple twilight into my eyes. A different set of stars in that sky, my father told me, the eastern sky. Those are my stars. But I think your stars have burned out altogether. Only recently. They’ve been replaced by these bright houses. We don’t need war with such lovely houses.”
           But John Cody couldn’t hear him; he was down the hall then taking the stairs fast.
            
           It was in the fall, three years later, that John Cody climbed aboard a westbound train with a black band around his arm and a duffel that had been his father’s over his shoulder. He had grown a beard over his square chin. He had tired of the coast and found no joy in swimming in the Atlantic waves any longer, and his anchor had been lifted, though he felt guilty to think of her as such, but he moved now—the whistle blew loud like a scream escaping from the earth. John Cody found he couldn’t sleep as he watched rows of pines poke into the premature dark of autumn.
           Days passed. At each station he wondered if his money would hold out and he would count it again and then lift his wide brimmed hat and scratch his head. Worrying about money freed him from worrying about other, more troubling things, because after a while on the rails great spaces and forest unrolled like they were nothing. Faces in the window lasted for only a moment, a hand held to the steaming monstrosity crashing through horizons, and he always lifted his hand back, all those little girls, all those rock-throwing boys, and the scale of it all became a faint pressure in the lungs of the lonely Rhode Islander, a suffocating feeling.
           He never made it West. When he got to the halfway point the train was greeted by hellfire and the city night glowed deep orange like the devil’s eyes. At the station they were asking for able young men to save Chicago and so John Cody offered his hand.

Sandra Rokoff-Lizut

Seven Recycled Scarves
for Abigail

 

Seven recycled scarves

wrapped light

in white tissue

for my seventieth birthday

 

Some warm and wooly

some made of silk

one woven

by women in Peru

 

My old friend’s

faint musky aura

wafts up

spreads capricious memories

like confetti

 

Twin sweaters   folk concerts

Hillside hikes   faded green Volvo

our beautiful babies

a final cigarette

 

Scarves to warm and enhance

some to dance

soft-stepped molinetes

round my neck

 

Some warm and wooly

some made of silk

one woven

by women in Peru

 

Seven recycled scarves

wrapped light

in white tissue

for my seventieth birthday

 

Tony Walton

Visitors

 

They come for you-

in old fashioned hats,

from where you don’t know,

to fuck you hard against every wall

you’ve built up.

 

They know how to pick all your locks,

break through your firewall,

blocking all exits.

 

Out of mirrors in small rooms with

flickering televisions they stare into your

flatness outlined in twisted sheets.

 

You give them food and wine,

trying to appease them.

You smoke with them, but they never mellow.

They’re like gods of a certain kind and

know all your devices.

 

Imagine what they’ve cost you in

Priests, lovers, advisers?

 

They’ll come for you and

they never stop coming

until you die, or

they die in you.

But, maybe there’s

something else wrong,

besides

them.

Benjamin Schmitt

Two Poems

 

Absent Parent

On these summer days of bikinis and traffic jams,

when the bloodied youth climb out of the asphalt

to take their revenge

upon the humidity (a tourist with heavy suitcases

dragging the rest of us down)

I only want you, a bratwurst,

and the shade of a tree

on the mayor’s estate

after we have trespassed on his lawn.

The sun has been a wild, absent parent,

a deadbeat dad who just showed up out of nowhere

trying to make up for his carousing abroad.

Does he want to make us into Mercury,

burned out and not allowed to grow on our own?

The moons of Uranus are waiting out there

cold and abandoned

while Jupiter beats his wife. In his eye a storm of anxiety rages

as he watches us from behind the curtain of distance

in his trailer adjoining the asteroid field.

But the sun is here and maybe he loves us

as I love you

and your legs that curve like solar flares

evaporating into breaths.

There is no literary merit in suicide

but that does not stop them on these eviscerating days.

 

Trans

I’ve seen pieces of a stranger

as they’ve floated away

some shouted that they belonged to me

as I picked up objects that looked familiar,

now I am a woman. I want God

and I want a pink dress. How much more

must I give to you?

A terrible hand stretches

beyond this embarrassment

it wears a silver ring

and has blue fingernails

clutching the book we have all been afraid to open.

Maybe I’ve lost my mind

telling jokes to Chihuahuas. These days I get all my news

from turkey sandwiches. Father, the governor

is hiding her stash of drugs in your garden

and the restaurant you’ve chosen to meet me at

funds a network of drag queen assassins

whom I have joined. We have killed used car salesmen

all over the world.

Please don’t leave me

for the boy I’ve left behind.

It’s not that I’m confused,

the rain just hasn’t found me.

Christopher Mulrooney

vagrancies

 

of respect or ardor or behavior

you know the ropes

and have pulled them all through thick and thin

like the village sexton’s boy

André-Naquian Wheeler

The Bald Spot

 * Some names have been changed.

At eleven years old I told my mom and stepdad that I wanted to kill myself.

I had been standing in the living room hallway because it gave me a good view of Shawn and Mom arguing. Shawn was sitting at the dining room table with a beer in his right hand. He had been blasting blues music and Mom had asked him to turn it down because she had to go to work the next morning. Then she started bothering Shawn some more about getting drunk all the time.

These were the usual opening statements. Sometimes it felt like they were arguing for my personal entertainment. The furthest they would ever go in trying to hide them from me was closing their bathroom door when they shouted at each other. When they did that I would go to my bathroom, which was adjacent to theirs, and stand in my bathtub and place my ear against the cold bathroom tiles. I had discovered it was the perfect spot to hear what they were saying to each other. Also, I always wanted to be ready in case Mom started hitting Shawn again and Shawn finally started hitting Mom back. I imagined myself swooping in brave and strong with a baseball bat in my hand. Finally being allowed to unleash the same fury on Shawn as my mom got to.

See, Mom always liked to act like she had it the hardest but really it was me. I was being bullied at school. One day I was grabbing books out of my locker when two boys, Sam and Tanner, came and kicked my binder down the hall and stepped on my papers. It was normal behavior towards me from the two. The only embarrassing part had been the fact that I had made eye contact with Ms. Ratcliff, who was on hallway duty, as it happened. I ran to the bathroom and cried.

So my self-confidence was a bit low. I would lie in bed and imagine Mom finding my lifeless body in the bathtub. I wondered if Mom would feel guilty for whooping me or if Sam and Tanner would feel bad for saying I was a queer.

Those kind of thoughts had begun to wear on me.

Mom braided my afro into cornrows every Sunday night. One week Mom noticed a bald spot the size of a quarter on the back of my head. It was as smooth as a baby’s bottom. Mom took me to see the doctor. He had no explanation for it, only suggestions. He said the bald spot could have been either an allergic reaction or from stress. I knew which one it was.

“What does he have to be stressed about? He’s eleven. It’s his shampoo,” my mom explained to the doctor, as if she had gone to medical school herself. “He’s been using Garnier shampoo even though I told him not to. I’ve been washing his hair with V-05 ever since he was a baby.” So I went back to washing my hair with V-05 and started rubbing the bald spot with Rogaine. It took two years for the bald spot to disappear.

I had been bottling a lot in and that night I let it all out in the hopes it would make a difference.

“Stop it!” I yelled as I ran out and collapsed on the living room floor. I cried into my knees. Mom and Shawn went silent.

Mom asked me if I was okay.

“Why do you guys have to argue all the time?” I used my t-shirt to blow my nose. “I think you two should just give up and go your separate ways. Some people just aren’t meant to be with each other.”

Shawn leaned against the wall and watched. “See what you did?” There was a smirk on his face.

“Me?” Mom yelled back. “This is you. He’s tired of seeing his mother treated badly.”

“Stop fighting!” I screamed out. “Sometimes I think the world would be better off without me. If I was dead then maybe you could leave Shawn.” I inhaled my snot back into my nose and swallowed it.

They were finally quiet.

“Don’t say that André,” my mom said, suddenly tender. “You know people who kill themselves go to Hell right? And you don’t want to go there do you?”

I shook my head.

“Now get up.” I got up, expecting everything to be changed now. Now they would stop arguing all the time since they knew what it did to me. “Go to the bathroom and wipe your face.”

While I was in the bathroom I heard Mom sigh. “I can’t go through this tonight. I have work in the morning.”

All Shawn said was “Hmph.”

Mom and I went to her friend Eddie’s house. I sat in his living room and pretended to watch TV as I listened to Mom tell him about what had just happened. When she came out of Eddie’s bedroom she said we were going to move in with Eddie. I nodded my head. Moving in with another man meant potential new arguments but I figured it was a step towards Mom and I living on our own.

In the car Mom told me she was sorry I had to go through this. That this is why she wanted me to get a good education and be something. So that I wouldn’t have to depend on anyone.

She asked me if I meant what I said earlier.

I knew what I was supposed to say.

“I was just trying to make you and Shawn stop arguing,” I lied.

“I thought that. Well, I don’t ever wanna hear you talk like that again, you hear me?”

I nodded.

“You’re too young to be thinking like that, and besides, if I lost you I would kill myself and you don’t wanna make your mother go through that do you?”

I shook my head.

“What me and Shawn go through is between us. It has nothing to do with you. Shawn is just an alcoholic. Plain and simple. I just don’t want you to think I’m okay with that. That’s why I argue with him about drinking in the house.”

I nodded again.

When Mom came home from work the next day, I asked her when we were going to start moving into Eddie’s house.

“I thought about it,” she said as she collapsed on the living room couch. “I don’t want to move in with Eddie. I’d rather live comfortable in my own home with drunk Shawn than have to depend on another man. You know Eddie might get mad at me and say ‘you and your son need to move out’ and then we’d be up shits creek. No, I’ll just let Shawn think everything is alright and stash my money to the side. Then one day he’ll come home and this whole house will be empty.”

I nodded my head, not knowing it would take six years for my mother to live up to her promise.

Kyle R M

The Horse

 

There’s this horse that’s corralled somewhere inside my head and, lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of him. I have these drifting moments where I slowly tune out into a blank stare, become the embodiment of a dial tone, and then I see this horse. I walk towards him, not slowed by caution, but not in any rush either. He’s a white horse, mostly—grey flecks here and there by his feet and his face, but maybe that’s where he’s been marked with water or mud, tickled by the dew glazed over the top of lush grass.
          It’s early in the morning and the sun has barely drained the sky of its darkness. Steam rises out of the ground as though the earth were just plucked from a pot of boiling water, which makes it feel small, like I could blow on it and cool it enough to taste. The horse laps the ring of the small paddock in a stifled trot, shaking his mane and his tail, bumping his ribs and hips against the rails with the hope of spilling out and becoming lost, like a flood or something. The horse does not belong to me, as much as I do not own the verdant hills that surround us.
          It takes three or four vaqueros to bring him down. I’m not sure why they are doing it, if there’s a veterinarian coming or a farrier planning to shoe him or just an attempt at getting that first saddle on his back. They pin him with a blanket, squat and lay their bodies over his, and tie rope to make their hold secure. As I get closer, I look into the horse’s eye, a big black bulb ringed in deep brown, a color organic and rich to the point that no one could ever put a price on it or claim it as their own—one of those things that’s beautiful because it just happens that way. His eye scurries side to side, up and down, darting for an escape or a glimpse at what he believes is death approaching. Lunar slivers of whiteness peak out at the corner of his eyelid. The eye is the only thing he can move, that and his nostrils, which huff at the morning air, big robust snorts, as though he once could blow fire but the flame’s gone out. Maybe that’s how magic works—you reach a point where you desperately need it to exist but you don’t have any faith in it happening.
          What I find, out there in the paddock, is familiarity. The horse and I, staring at each other, feel this recognition between us. We take communion in the pausing gaze. How do we know each other? Have we crossed paths somewhere before? I stoop over his head and stroke his neck in long, slow breaths, whispering easy, easy, easy, easy, easy, easy, as though I already know that, with time, he will adjust. His breathing will slow and his body will still and normalcy will recalibrate. I can’t tell you if I’m the horse or if the horse is me or if either of us is anything at all. I can’t even tell you if I know the first thing about what it feels like to be a horse, wild or broken. But what I’m absolutely certain about is that when we sit there, looking at each other, we’re saying the same thing, we’re talking about destiny, we’re talking about bodies as steam engines and the pressure that builds behind being impatient and stationary, and the miracle of how so much nothing can be so fucking exhausting. The horse is asking me something, and it ain’t for help. He is asking, Weren’t you supposed to be something great? Weren’t you supposed to do something important?

Martijn Peutor

Jimmy / Sarah

 

Once upon a time there was a velociraptor named Jimmy who fell in love. Recent advances in paleontological methods show that velociraptors were very romantic, and this specimen (who was named after the boyfriend of the paleontologist who discovered the fossil) was in love with a girl-raptor named Sarah (also the name of the paleontologist, who millions of years later discovered her own fossil and agreed to name it after herself).

Complex chemical analyses have shown that circa 85,000,000 BC, on a spring morning, Jimmy saw Sarah for the first time on a glade in the woods. It was not unlike the March evening in 2010, Sarah’s colleagues’ often thought, when Sarah first met her boyfriend in a bar where she went after work for drinks. As Professor Rogers (PhD Specialized Fossil Dating) thought, Jimmy most likely noticed Sarah before she noticed him. He was immediately struck by Sarah’s cold glare. (As was Sarah by Jimmy’s that evening, Professor Rogers remembers.)

The velociraptor Jimmy then quickly turned his head to the side, probably because in the jungle one cannot afford to stand and stare too long. Same goes for the bar scene, so Sarah did the same. Professor Rogers also turned his head at this point, so over what happened next, we can only speculate. But according to Professor Eaton (PhD Zoology), it’s very likely that Jimmy proceeded to approach Sarah in a cautious manner. Sarah (the velociraptor) at this point slowly moved forward, whilst following Jimmy’s steps.

Sarah and Jimmy were now circling each other. By focusing on each other, they eventually had to increase trust, theorized Dr. Eaton.

In the bar, Jimmy had slightly tilted his head when Sarah approached, which indicated he was aware of her presence. Sarah took her place next to him. From a distance, it looked to Sarah’s friend Farah (PhD English Literature) that Sarah just claimed her place at the bar.

Jimmy was a young manager at a bank. He could smell Sarah. She smelled like a Japanese house with nothing in it (an open window, through which sunlight entered; incense burning in a corner —Ozaku, the fragrance was called.)

The velociraptor Jimmy, who had a highly developed sense of smell like most dinosaurs are suspected to have had (Sarah and all her colleagues would have agreed), thought Sarah (raptor) smelled like fresh prey, torn open on a hill, under a tree with sun-yellow flowers.

In the bar Jimmy ordered a coke. Sarah glanced to one side. Dr. Eaton stared back; Jimmy turned around. Sarah looked down. He took a sip of his drink.

“One Lemon Lahore, please,” Sarah said.

A stegosaurus cried in the distance.

“1999,” by Prince, started playing.

Jimmy turned his head in the direction of Sarah; Sarah turned her back to Jimmy. The ground shook and a tyrannosaurus appeared out of the trees, causing Jimmy and Sarah to split.

Dr. Eaton stared vacantly (at Sarah?). Jimmy and Sarah had disappeared in the jungle. This is to be expected when a larger carnivore can be heard approaching, Dr. Eaton would say.

Sarah looked around in the bar. She thought about Jimmy, the fossil (which now still was named no. 4215). In two weeks it would be fully prepared. It would be exhibited with her name on it.

Jimmy glanced up and said: “You look lovely.”