fiction

Kenneth Pobo

Ever since Adeline was a little girl she wanted to be
rich.  Not rich, really, but rich beyond
compare, the richest woman in the world.
It could happen!  On late night TV
when she was seven she saw Ruth Chatterton starring in The Rich Are Always With Us.  At the end, charming rich Ruth married George
Brent, a sexy novelist—who made money.

For twenty-one years Adeline was married to a
porridge-looking guy, Ernie, who ran a sporting equipment store in the Divine
Gator Mall.  She never set foot in the
store, even when Ernie and his employees celebrated its twentieth year in
business.  That was the beginning of the
end.

“You
missed the balloons, Adeline.  Shit.  Some wife.”

“Everything
pops sooner or later.  Congratulations
anyway.”

Clearly, Ernie would not make her the wealthiest woman who
had ever been born.  It wasn’t Ernie’s
fault, she knew.  A guy who wore old
hushpuppies everyday, he wouldn’t get it.
In “real” life, George Brent and Ruth Chatterton got married.  For two years.  Real life didn’t impress Adeline.  It never had a fur collar.

She routinely entered the lottery but say you won 500
million bucks, you’re still not the richest.
It’s a boost, but you don’t get to be number one.

Adeline was like a mannequin in Ernie’s store, holding a
ball, something she couldn’t throw, an eternal pose.  She died at sixty-eight.  The lights went out, tennis balls huddled in
tubes, and the mall took an enormous pink pill and fell asleep.


Kenneth Pobo had three new books in 2015: When The Light Turns Green
(Spruce Alley Press), Bend of Quiet (Blue Light Press), and Booking
Rooms in the Kuiper Belt (Urban Farmhouse Press).  He teaches creative
writing and English at Widener University.  He gardens, is somewhat of
an authority on Tommy James and the Shondells, and read Hardy’s
Return of the Native this June.

The Unsure Girl

Mitchell Duran

This
hasn’t happened yet.

That doesn’t mean that this this
may happen, because it may or may not. What may occur could be a number of
things and the events that have yet to occur all concern the Unsure Girl. Some
say that it’s not about the Unsure Girl, it’s about him or some say that it’s
never been about him, it’s always been about her. Some say it’s actually never
been about either of them; it’s just about love in life.

The Unsure Girl goes back to school
to really focus on that MFA and leaves him or she goes back to school and
doesn’t leave him or she goes back to school staying with him but moving out or
she stays with him but gets rid of their cat. College is a lily pad of farces
anyway. A few say the Unsure Girl left him because he didn’t ask her to marry
him fast enough or she left him because he didn’t have any passion or she’s not
one hundred percent sure if they’ll ever be on the same page, a very natural
reaction to have in your late twenties. We’re the only generation that believes
we should start at the top and stay there. The Unsure Girl can’t help but ask
herself every morning and every night the same question: is he the one? Or she
wants the security of a household, or the label of a wife, or a conflict free
diamond ring. Or she just doesn’t love him anymore. The Unsure Girl is not
sure.

A handful say the Unsure Girl
starts biking to school to get a tighter core and is hit by a car. By then, she
has re-discovered that she is in fact gay, something she assumed in her youth was
a phase. Or, she’s bi. After the surgeries of her pelvis, her femur, her
tailbone, her ankles, her big toe, her cuboid, her phalanges, she goes viral,
becoming a spokesperson for The United Cyclists fighting for the rights of all
cyclists, no matter gender, religion, or sexual orientation. A handful say why
should she be in United Cyclists if she can’t even ride a bike anymore? Though
– and this may be true or it may not be – a handful say she never rode again
and found herself only able to think of him as she laid on the bubbling hot
pavement after being struck by the car, her last wish being, if it were in fact
that, to tell him she doesn’t know how to say sorry for taking three years of
his life, leaving him with nothing but himself again. But even then, the Unsure
Girl was unsure whether she would even be able to do that. The only thing the
Unsure Girl was certain about as the paramedics guided her into the ambulance,
was that eventually, she would have to be ok with not being sure about
anything.


Mitchell Duran is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. His work
has been seen in the Turks Head Review, Penumbra Magazine, Riverlit.
He’s currently attending a short story workshop at The Writers Grotto.

image

Darren L. Young

Sheer violence of stimulation bombarded Will’s intake.
Unfamiliar faces careened by, fixed atop bodies blended amongst the choppy
crowd. Loud noises from unseen sources barked directives toward alien ears.
Motorized carts loaded to the brim with worn baggage cut a path within the
chaos carrying disabled, yet fortunate travelers toward distant destinations.
Somehow Will managed to make his way through the confusion with a determined
outlook. Just before reaching his gate, Will paused in front of a series of
dimly lit monitor screens. His flight was on time, but an hour still remained
before departure.

Will peered through the crowd and spotted a storefront that
flaunted a guaranteed escape. Walking toward the establishment his anxiety
subsided. One seat was available within. The seat looked like a makeshift
arrangement. It was built on top of a wall separating the dining area from the
bar. The surface of the barrier had been converted into a table-top. Will
grabbed a stool and sat down in between two other solo travelers. As he pulled
the chair forward he peered down upon the booth within an arm’s length below.
He inadvertently spied upon a family in the midst of enjoying their meal.

A server rushed by.

“312 wheat please,” Will said with a raising hand
and voice. “Tall!”

Will removed his cell phone from his three days unlaundered
denim pants pocket. He collected his thoughts for a moment before hitting send.

“The wedding was really something.” Will said.

“I can barely hear you,” his mom said. “The
wedding went well? What all did you do?”

Will cupped his left ear.

“For the bachelor’s party, we roasted Kody.” Will said.

“Did you have anything to say?” Mom said.

“Yeah, I brought up some old stuff from childhood,” Will
said. “Remember Kody’s big head?”

“The big head?” she said. “Yeah sort of.”

As the waiter proceeded to set down the beer in front, Will
removed the hand from his ear and cupped the glass before it made contact with
the table top. He brought it to his lips and sipped.

“I made a skit about it,“ Will said. "Big head
stuff.”

Will set the glass down.

“You know, I  had
doubts about whether the roast would be a success, but it turned out
magnificent. Everyone brought genuine insight. Kody has some really witty and
sincere friends.”

Will reached back for the glass.

“Remember Mark’s wedding?” Mom said. “His best man
made such a great toast.”

Will swigged down the top quarter of the container’s liquid
content. A bitter aftertaste coated his mouth.

"Yes, I remember Mark’s best man was his wife’s cousin,”
Will said. “Honestly, I was quite inebriated during the event. But my
recollection leading up to it is clear. Mark didn’t have a bachelor’s
party.”

A robotic pronouncement blasted from a loudspeaker outside
the bar.

“Everyone was,” his mom said. “It was such a
great time.”

“Wait, it’s coming back now. I remember making out with
two bridesmaids,” Will said. “And didn’t dad give a speech at some
point?”

“They just couldn’t resist your uniform,” his mom
said and then groaned. “Your drunken father made a fool of himself like
usual.”

Will observed a family walking in front of the bar amidst the
chaos. The husband and wife shielded two children with gentle smiles.

“He does tend to do that,” Will said. “He was
mostly sober for Kody’s wedding.”

“How is your father?” mom said.

“He’s doing well. He just sold a house.”

The televisions within the bar spewed sports jargon.

“Why’s he selling property?” mom said.

“Getting ready for retirement I suppose.”

“I babysat your nephew this weekend,” she said,
changing the topic without a pause.

The booth to his front had cleared. Will cupped his hand over
his mouth to belch.

“It’s too bad that Mark didn’t make it out to the
wedding,” Will said.

“He had drill,” Mom said. “You know how busy
he is.”

“Kody was pretty bummed out,” Will said.

The loudspeaker outside spouted a notification about someone
waiting for their party.

“Does Mark’s absence have something to do with
dad?” Will said.

“Oh, surely not,” Mom said with a guarded tone.

“Well, why doesn’t Mark talk to dad?”

“I wasn’t aware of that,” Mom said.

Will brought his free hand to his forehead, “Mom they
haven’t spoken in years. Practically since Mark’s wedding.”

“Well, I’m not involved. It’s between them.”

Will motioned toward the waiter. “Another…”
Will said as  he motioned with his free
hand toward the empty glass.

“Okay. Let’s go back at bit. Well actually, way back,” Will said. “Remind
me. Why did you get a divorce in the first place. I don’t recall the details
very clearly. It happened so long ago.”

“You remember,” his mom said. “He was mentally
abusive.”

“I’m not sure that I even know what that means,”
Will said. “Anyway how can you
blame him? Weren’t you the one who cheated on him with a younger man? And then had the police escort him away
from his own house as he returned home from work?”

The waiter brought a full glass. Will grasped it.

“That was a long time ago,” his mom said.

“Exactly. And just because your marriage failed, doesn’t
mean that you have to carry on the grudge. During my graduation and at Mark’s
wedding – the only times that you two have been in contact in recent years –
let me remind you 15 years after the divorce, you were still bitter toward him.
There must be more behind it.”

“He drank too much,” mom said.

Will took a swig from the container.

“You’re absolutely right. There is no doubt about it –
he is an alcoholic. So when he became mentally abusive, was he drunk?”

“He drank very often.”

“And why do you suppose he drank so much?” Will
said.

“Will I don’t like where this…”

“Mom, you have to stop this constant berating of all of
dad’s actions. Let it go. Your marriage failed. It’s unfortunate. You weren’t a
good match. And life goes on. But yours hasn’t. You’re still carrying the
burden. And now you’re influencing Mark’s decisions in a negative way.”

Will took the glass down halfway. He brought it down to the
counter with a thud. The froth rose to the rim.

“It just occurred to me that for a very long time,
throughout my entire young life I had no idea what family meant,” Will
said. “I recall a time just before starting my undergraduate degree during
freshman orientation, this sad realization was made clear. Although, I didn’t
notice it at the time. It was during a group activity led by the Resident
Assistant, when I was supposed to jot down on a worksheet the five most
important things to me. I wrote down something like my T-bird, lifting weights,
and my favorite metal band. But that’s all
that I could think of.” Will swigged from the mug, “Much to my
surprise and dismay, when we went around and shared our thoughts, everyone else
had listed family at the top of the list and love of specific family members
just under. Looking down at my unfinished list, I was embarrassed. When my turn
came around, I didn’t want to appear superficial or materialistic, and so I
followed their example and spouted out the something along those lines. But it
was a lie. When the RA collected the
papers, I didn’t hand mine in. Why is that? Why do you suppose that I didn’t
consider writing down family in the first place?”

There was no response. Will waited, but the line remained
silent. He wondered if she had hung up.

“Mom, dad folded his hand long ago. Please stop the
competition,” Will said. He pressed end.

Will placed a twenty under his half full glass. He walked
toward his terminal and past the radiant departure screens. At the gate his
plane had arrived. He stood as he waited for the passengers to exit. The mass
confusion subsided for a moment as Will watched smiling strangers greet their
loved ones.


Darren L Young was born and raised in the rural Midwest. He served for
10 years in the United State Army before settling down in Arizona, where
he earned a Master of Science from Arizona State University. Darren has
publications in Dual Coast Magazine, Heater, Gravel, and Black Mirror
Magazine. He can be found at www.darrenlyoung.com.

– Ronald Pelias

The infestation of ants crawling over the morning paper, finding their way to whatever was left exposed

Or the words that were never spoken and the ones that were

Or how they saw themselves buried, under a stack of demands, under a pile of pressures, under an avalanche of missteps

Or the trash accumulating, waiting to be put out

Or a mother leaning toward the house, a tilting telephone pole after a storm

Or the dust that settled, asking not to be disturbed

Or those nights when the moon appeared as an angry eye

Or two children, one difficult as the desert sun, and the dog, always wanting to be fed, always licking, always wanting out

Or the gun, supposedly for their protection, kept under the pillow

Or the broken birdbath, its stagnant water a home for falling leaves

Or the neighbors, their television always blaring, their refusal to say hello

Or the lights that needed to be on, the water that needed to run, the grass that needed to be cut, the rent that needed to be paid, the car that needed to be repaired, the loan that needed to be settled, the fence that needed to be fixed, the credit card that needed to be destroyed, the booze they needed to drink

Or the rain that would never stop and the muddy shoes at the door

Or the empty, backache jobs, unnatural labor, best suited for a machine

Or the anniversaries that came and went without notice

Or the wind with its howl, with its promise of another place


Ronald Pelias’ work has appeared in a number of journals, including Small Pond, Yet Another Small Magazine, Out of Line, Midwest Poetry Review, Margie, and Whetstone. His most recent books, Leaning: A Poetics of Personal Relations (Left Coast Press), and Performance: An Alphabet of Performative Writing (Left Coast Press), and If the Truth Be Told (Sense Publications) call upon the poetic as a research strategy.

– Kay Merkel Boruff

When a [man] is killed,
the cicadas go looking for their shells,
and put them on again and climb
back into the earth and the year
returns to February … .

A woman tries to remember
the name of her [husband]
but each letter is so heavy
that carrying a whole word
to the front of her [brain]
is hard.

              —Tim Seibles

“I swear, Merk, the American Embassy is run by
a bunch of goddamned ingrate maggots.”  I
folded tissue paper around the red silk kimono Merk bought me in Hong Kong.

“I
know.”  He listened to my tirade, nodding
in appropriate places.

“After
a hard day at school, I walked into the Embassy office at one o’clock and left
two hours later, when they completed the paper work for our exit visas. Of
course, we would have to live in a county that requires an exit visa.” I put
rings and bracelets in a silk travel case, medication in pill boxes. “I mean
entrance visas are hard enough to get. The woman tells me, ‘Remember, dear,’ as
though I were a child, ‘we’re
visitors in their country. We must
follow “their policies.”’ I felt like telling the bitch, ‘Remember, deary, this
we pays your salary, and we could be a bit more helpful.’”

“Rausch
and several guys got thrown in the clink in Singapore last month, for something
minor—disorderly conduct or something—and the American Embassy never lifted a
bloody finger. They finally ended up sending for someone from the British
Embassy who—with great expediency—got them out of jail. I guess the British
have been at international diplomacy longer than we have,” Merk said.

I
looked at my Day-Timer, studied the open armoire filled with rows of silk
dresses and pants, the bottom lined with a rainbow of leather sandals.

“I
love to go on STO, but it frazzles my nerves, never knowing if you’ll get leave
time, never knowing if we’ll get exit visas, never knowing if Air Nuoc Mam is
flying. I never believe we’re going until the plane is airborne. Actually, not
until we land.”

“Kay,
quit contemplating your navel and finish packing.”  He grinned. He found the word omphaloskepsis
in our unabridged dictionary one day, walked into the bathroom, announced to me
as I soaked in the tub, he’d found the key to my existence. He lorded his
psychology degree over me, that and his four years seniority. He knew me better
than I knew myself. “You still have a few things handing in the closet.” I
couldn’t bear to be uncomfortable. “The Princess and the Pea Syndrome” he
called it. And I insisted on being perfectly put together, in the 50s tradition
we were raised—the “revised” Christ Complex: be ye perfect.

The
phone rang. “Let Nhàn get it.” He looked out the window. “There’s the van. If
you need anything, Baby,” he reached under my short miniskirt and snapped my
lace pants, “we’ll buy it in Bangkok.

This
was a special STO. It was my birthday and our second anniversary. Last year we
went to Hong Kong in September. We loved the city, its night life. Then at
Christmas, we went to Singapore. That holiday was a dream sequence. At the
Raffles, we ran into Bridgett and Frank Ulrich, close Air America friends. We
had “slings” and my first chicken Kiev and baked Alaska. The shopping in Hong
Kong and Singapore was better than Bangkok, but the Thai city remained my
favorite, I had conquered it on my own.

The
ease of traveling today is never the same as it was with Merk. His Air America
ID whisk us through customs almost as fast as a diplomatic passport. After a
two-hour flight, Company transportation in Sai-Gon and Bangkok, we were at the
Siam International Hotel in three hours. At the Siam, the Thai clerks knew us,
gave us the best rooms, arranged three dozen tiny purple orchids for our
arrival, and decorated my chocolate birthday-anniversary cake with white
violets. I am amazed Merk and my marriage lasted two years. I would have run
home with each fight if I’d been in the states. I always retrieved an incident
I’d been harboring for months, hurl the incident at Merk, no matter who was at
fault, and finally lose face and apologize for being a twit. The last apology
was for getting pissed at Merk and leaving him at Raush’s party. I don’t
remember what I was pissed about. He had to scale the six-foot wall outside the
house, wake Nhàn at three in the morning, and sleep on the couch. Merk seemed
grateful that I loved him. At our wedding in Texas two years earlier, his
friends from Virginia told me he had never been happier.

Merk took pictures of everything. Had he not,
I would have few memories. I sometimes wonder if he was recording memories for
me to have later—when he was gone.

That
night in Bangkok, we had a romantic dinner, great sex. Pictures at dinner.
Pictures in my new peignoir. Pictures I was sure couldn’t be developed. The
next day we went sightseeing, early before the sun was too hot, early so we
could see everything. More pictures on the floating market tour. A lady and her
husband sat by us in the small narrow boat. I remember being shocked when she
told me she lived in South Korea. It was dangerous, wasn’t it? I asked her. She
gasped when I said I lived in Viêt-Nam. I explained Sai-Gon was perfectly safe.
Minor tear gas incidents, the occasional rocket, monks torching themselves. I
rarely noticed military fatigues and Mattel toy guns. More pictures of a
solitary monk and his oarsman in a boat beside us on the klong. Pictures of a man
brushing his teeth in the muddy water. Pictures of the King’s royal barge, the
Queen’s smaller one.

After
the floating market tour, we dashed to the Rama Hotel on Sukhumvit to see Thai
dancing. More pictures of the instruments, a glawng khaek, bongo drums, a pi
chaw, bag pipes, and chings, tea cup size cymbals, the songs now less
offensive, even melodious in their dissonant patterns, the 5/4 rhythm set by
the sitar and tiny finger cymbals less irregular. Pictures of the first dancers
in batik tops and sarongs, dancing slow, like Indian round dances I saw growing
up, simple turns, eight counts, then a skip. Pictures of six Elysian female
dancers performing classical Thai dancing, embellished faerie queens in a
Wagnerian opera—three in ballooned pantaloons to the knees, three in
sarongs—heavy costumes beaded and jeweled, gold and silver brocade, like
iridescent nacreous shields in the sun. All the diminutive dancers wore
spiraling crowns the shape of temple dome spires, haloes framing their faces of
flawless complexion, their dancer hands, smooth, willowing backward, each nail
covered with a jeweled guard. The women move in unison, one flowing river of
light gliding over a faille emerald sea. At the performance’s end, the dancer
closest to me meets my eyes. The girl, who looks my age, shyly smiles at me
before she bows her head, remaining in unison with the other five dancers. Merk
caught the smile. She raises her head. I return the smile.

Merk went out on the lawn after the dance was
over, the sun to his back, so the pictures would be more brilliant. The girls
frozen: arms jutting skyward, legs perpendicular to the ground, feet in awkward
angles to the sky, caught to place me in their world. My sixth-grade students
ask me what it was like, living there. Girls want to know things like that. I
lie, tell them it was wonderful. The pictures seem wonderful.

More
pictures at the King’s Summer Palace and a souvenir, a temple bell for our bo
tree in Sai-Gon, now hanging in my house by the front door. Merk and I enter
the gate of the ten-foot wall surrounding the grounds and leave the little boys
hawking souvenirs, the traffic and noise, the reality of time. I stumble into a
mirage painted by a Persian artist, a fantasy for kings and queens and other
ethereal characters. The temple walls, the courtyard walls, everything is
covered in gold. The reflection teases the bright sunlight. A photograph of a
two-story statue, my figure dwarfed by it. I beg to see the Summer Palace.
It’ll be cool, I say.

The
temperature inside is degrees cooler. Everything is spotless. Pictures of
murals, mythological beasts and fables, oversized carved teak furniture,
Chinese Buddhas, rigid arm positions, rounder faces, eyes more pronounced. Not
pictured are my mood swings. A tender bud, brittle and unresponsive in winter,
a butterfly, buom, tattered-winged
and disoriented, backwinded in a hole in summer.

I
drag Merk out of the palace. We brush against a scaffolding hanging eight feet
up from the walkway. A young Thai woman sits cross-legged, applying thin
squares of gold leaf. She turns to smile at us. Another picture. The swish of
Merk’s Nikon engages numbered images for the future. This
picture I remember, even though the slide’s been lost, probably some
careless student borrowed the slide to prepare a report, but I don’t need it
now. It’s real. Merk says in her lifetime, she will barely complete one wall,
square inch by square inch of gold leaf. The contentment of the young Thai’s
face is mine. Her perfect posture is mine; the straight spine, the green and
golden patterned cotton wrapped gently around her hips, mine; the white
polished cotton blouse, her hair in a chignon, shining iridescent in the sun,
mine:  a living lotus:  the sarong a lily pad, the blouse a glossy
lotus, petals opening, tan arms joined with reflecting gold, mine.

The
sun had risen higher and higher. The gold refracting from the buildings,
momentarily dazes me. I peer into the sun, now directly overhead, the red tile
roof piercing thirty feet into the clear sky looms above: the red shifts
upward. The roof repeats the Oriental pattern again and again in romantic
refrain, each lilting point swinging up, around, under, up, around, under,
shaped to ward off evil. No negative Karma must enter the temple: insouciance
preserved and repeated. I hear the bells and look up to see them swaying from
the tipped roof points. They create a lotus blossom. The faerie-like
tintinnabulation of the miniature dome-shaped bells harmonize with the gold
effulgence in the sunlight. Looking at the dome of the temple, staring into the
sun, I feel faint. Our excursions from one alien culture to another upset me
more than I allow Merk to know. Shocking infusion of Eastern mores into my
fragile psyche: alien feelings woven into the warp and woof of my life, all
absorbed into my schema. The dream continues, a schizophrenic disputation: Why
am I here? What is the purpose of my life? But I’m afraid to pause long enough
to find answers.

We
climb the thirty steps to the temple, then remove our shoes to cross the holy
ground. At the top, before entering the temple, I turn to look below, my eyes
gazing down the steps, steps worn smooth by disciples drawn to this holy place
for millennia. I can see myself in the courtyard at our casita in Taos, sitting
in a worn but comfortable can-back chair, a frayed straw hat down low, shading
my face; in my lap, palms raised upward, fingers suppliant. In the shadows, dew
hangs cloyingly on cornflowers heaped on the patio. A grey field mouse nibbles
on apples stacked by the wood pile. Tiring of the chore, it scampers to the
figure in the courtyard and sniffs, whiskers twitching at bare feet. I sit,
meditating on my writing, compelled to delve deeper into the past, to find
answers. A lone hawk silhouette in the noon sun. A fluorescent luna moth dances
from blue spruce to pine, aspen to cedar, mercurially through the paint brush
and dandelions and thistledown, to light on my left palm, the curling, twisting
tail caressing my encircled thumb and forefinger. I stroke the velvet chartreuse
wings, the Argusian eyes. The black and white etched wings kiss my fingertips.
Opening. Closing. Opening. Closing. Opening. Closing. I am a dry well filled.
Muscles loosen as pieces of a puzzle comfortably mesh. Behind me I feel a
shadow approach. Perspiration runs down my pale cheeks and drips onto my
sundress. The sparrows stop their chattering. The sky is cloudless with the
smell of bitter almonds. The image fades. I feel the thread from Merk tangle.

“Kay,
let’s go in. Are you okay?” One of his hands grips tight at my waist, the other
tight on my arm. His lips reassuringly brush my ear. I cannot allow him to see
behind my mask. I smile, obdurate, and enter the room through the center of the
three doors.

The
sunlight diminishes. I am with the dark again and out of the light and at
peace. The cool floor calms me. My feet feel fresh and clean, as though
removing my sandals and the dust on them had removed my questioning.

Inside
the temple, the sparsely furnished room has a feeling of asceticism. Remotely
placed at the other end, away from the three doors, the altar holds the small
Buddha. I anticipate a huge room-size god. This altar, however, possesses a
two-foot high, lotus seated, graven image. Carved from a single piece of
emerald jade, the statue is covered in a garment sewn from silk spun with gold.
The focal point forcing my attention, seducing my eyes as I approached from the
outside of the temple, is the small Buddha, beginning initially with the ascent
up the step—elicited to come up the path—educed to enter the temple
doors—magnetism compels me to cross the floor, to stand in front of the emerald
idol. I feel a oneness: a wholeness, a sanctifying fusion. The encounter is
unlike anything I have experienced in a Christian sanctuary. A suffusion with
Buddha Dahmna, the truth.

I
continue to stare into the statue’s eyes, into the emerald brilliance of opaque
darkness: into the gauche lightness of dark. I feel fear, sitting like a mother
brooding over her young, clawing, demonic, refusing to relinquish the
imprisoned offspring, damning me to an existence of pain, a symbiotic existence
without Merk.

My
shoulders shake.

“Kay,
what’s wrong? Are you alright? You look pale, baby.”

He allows me my silence.

“I
just get scared … far away from home … without Mother and Daddy …
sometimes … I feel small and alone … . “

“I’m
here.” He runs his fingers through my hair and pulls me toward him. “I’ll never
leave you.”

The
scent of bitter almonds draws me to the three doors. The flicker of a shadow
passes by the middle door and for a moment darkens the sun.


New York Times 18 Feb 1970

CIA Pilot Killed
First Casualty Plain of Jars

A U.S. helicopter pilot was killed by sniper fire while ferrying
supplies to beleaguered Laotian government forces on the Plain of Jars. The U.S.
Embassy  spokesman reported Sunday the pilot was identified as Jon Merkel of
Fort Worth, who was flying for Air America, a contract airlines to the Central
Intelligence Agency.  


Misprision

History is written as we speak, its borders are
mapped long before any of us open our mouths; and written history, which makes
the common knowledge out of which our newspapers report the events of the day,
creates its own refugees, displaced persons, men and women without a country,
the living dead: Are you still alive, really?

                 —Greil Marcus


Kay Merkel
Boruff
lived in Viet-Nam 68-70 & was married to an Air America pilot who
was killed flying in Laos 18 Feb 70. Her work has appeared in the New York Review of Books, Vanity Fair, Texas
Short Stories 2, Taos Magazine, The Dallas Morning News, and the Wichita Falls Record News. In
addition, she has work in Suddenly,
Grasslands Review, Behind the Lines, Fifth Wednesday, Adanna, Stone Voices, and Paper Nautilus. Letters of her husband’s
and hers were included in Love and War,
250 Years of Wartime Love Letters. NPR interviewed Boruff regarding her
non-profit Merkel & Minor: Vets Helping Vets: A Class Act Production. She
attended Burning Man 2012 and then climbed Wayna Picchu in Peru on her 71st
birthday.

image

Terry Sanville

Something in the rear of the Plymouth station wagon rattled, kept me awake, that and the snores from my two sisters. We girls filled the rear seat of Dad’s aging clunker, its way way back crammed with our family’s luggage.

At 4:50 AM Dad had uttered one of his many proclamations, “We leave in ten minutes. Anybody not ready gets left behind.”

Even at fourteen, I never functioned well in the morning. I had downed a few gulps of Mom’s battery acid coffee, but it had little effect. We girls had squeezed into the downstairs bathroom of our 18th century stone farmhouse, brushed teeth, pulled combs through tangled long hair, and pestered Mother to let us use her lipstick. Dad paced the hallway outside, twirling the car keys on a finger while his face turned dangerously crimson.

Finally, he shouted, “I’m bloody well leaving,” betraying his British pedigree.

Squealing, us women and almost-women flew from the bathroom, grabbed sweaters, jackets, and purses, and hustled out the kitchen door to the rumbling car. Within five miles of home, nine-year-old Nancy fell asleep. Carolyn clicked on the dome light and squinted at a dog-eared edition of Glamour Magazine. Her 12-year-old femininity far exceeded mine.

In the front seat, Dad hummed classical music that he played incessantly in his artist’s studio. We shared a love of that longhaired stuff, while Carolyn and Nancy wanted to buy Elvis records. The car twisted and shuddered. We shot through the darkness, heading west and south through the Pennsylvania hill country, then across flat farmland into Maryland. Carolyn clicked off the dome light and fell asleep with her head on my shoulder, drooling on my new blouse that I’d bought specially for that summer trip to North Carolina’s Outer Banks. I complained to Mom.

“Margaret, just put a Kleenex on your shoulder,” she whispered. “You know how hard it is for her to sleep. You’re older. You can handle it.”

“Gee thanks.”

Carolyn had survived polio a few years before and suffered recurring nightmares of weeks spent in an iron lung. Our whole family had those dark dreams.

At dawn we cruised through Baltimore, the city asleep, the highway and boulevards still free from the morning’s traffic crush. I retrieved my sketchbook and penciled quick drawings of brick row houses with their identical marble front steps. The day filled with Mom’s complaining about the heat, Carolyn’s chatter about Hollywood stars, Broadway, and the New York fashion scene, and Nancy’s insistence that every fifty miles we take a pee break. After one of these stops I caught the faint scent of Christmas trees in the car. Dad had brought his pocket flask full of gin and had taken nips. He thought none of us knew about it. He was careful, but not careful enough.  

Sometime in mid-afternoon while we girls and Mom discussed buying clothes for the upcoming school year, Dad cut loose. “Will you women shut the hell up? I’m trying to concentrate here.”

“Now Charles, please don’t swear at the girls,” Mom said. “This trip was your idea, remember?”

“Yes, yes. I bloody well remember. I just miss my afternoon cocktails. They take the edge off, you know.”

“Believe me, I know – for the afternoon and the rest of the evening.”

I waited for the argument to erupt. But neither of them took the bait. She continued to stare at her Good Housekeeping Magazine, pretending to read while Dad muttered to himself and drove faster. The speed combined with the unrefrigerated sandwiches we’d downed at lunch to make me carsick. Mom looked over the seat and yelled at Dad to stop the car. He stomped on the brakes and we all squealed. I scrambled out and barfed into the weeds somewhere north of Newport News. We were in sight of water and the freshening wind off the Atlantic made me feel better. I sucked in deep breaths. My head cleared. I staggered back to the car, slumped onto the seat and barely got the door closed before Dad gunned it and spun the tires on the gravel shoulder.

“Slow down, Charles,” Mom yelled. “You’ve already made the girl sick.”

“I’m taking a bus home,” I muttered. “You guys can drive this thing into the ditch after that.”

“Oh come now, Margaret,” Dad crooned. “We’ll be there by the cocktail hour. You can walk the beach and collect conch shells, like the ones in those nature books Uncle Alf gave you.”

Mom handed me a Kleenex to wipe my mouth. “You’re gonna love it. My school chums and I used to drive down from the City on long weekends. Took us all day. Back before the war we’d camp right in the dunes near Kitty Hawk. It was so romantic.”

Carolyn sighed and I sensed that her pre-teen imagination was at full throttle.

Dad grumbled. “Your Mother always fantasizes about those years before she met me. Why don’t you ever tell them our story?”

“They’re your daughters too, Charles. If anyone is a story teller it’s you, especially fiction.”

We all laughed, except Dad. I sometimes felt sorry for him, ten years older than Mom and living in a house full of women marooned in the middle of Pennsylvania Dutch country. I knew he missed New York, his commercial artist friends, and the nightlife. He told me plenty of stories while teaching me how to draw and paint in his home studio. But the City had…had destroyed him, a nervous breakdown the doctors called it. They’d ordered him to stay away, and he had, for the last seven years.

The late afternoon turned cool. Mom handed me the road map and I traced our progress. We crossed Croatan Sound to Roanoke Island, then pressed eastward to the Outer Banks before turning north toward our final destination, an inn near Currituck Beach and its famous lighthouse. Everyone shut up and stared at the harshly beautiful landscape sailing past. A wide lagoon bordered the western edge of the narrow island, its waters dotted with sea ducks and gulls. Sand dunes and broad beaches formed its eastern edge. Endless lines of combers rolled onshore under a blue sky with clouds tinged in gold. It felt wide-open, wild, desolate, and exposed. A stiff evening breeze bent the dune grass over, bringing with it the smell of the Atlantic. I could almost taste the salt in the air. I shivered with excitement and fear. Was this the place we were supposed to relax? The place where the problems between Mom and Dad would magically dissolve into the sea?

We rolled along for miles, through tiny villages called Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, and Kitty Hawk. Near Corolla we pulled into the quarter-full parking lot of an inn that overlooked the island’s seaward side. Parts of the lot were covered with sand drifts from the adjoining dunes. The two-story structure rested on a raised foundation, with a veranda encircling its first floor. Its wood siding was bleached a dull gray-green, the color of the ocean.

“All right, everybody out,” Dad ordered. “Grab as much as you can. I want to unload in one trip.”

We struggled up the steps and pushed through the inn’s front door into a foyer and a check-in counter. A parlor with overstuffed chairs and sofas opened off to the left while the entrance to the dining room opened to the right. A pleasant looking dark-haired woman relaxed behind the counter. She read a copy of Life Magazine with a sexy photo of Margaret O’Brian on its cover. When we entered, she rose quickly.

“You must be the Colgrove family,” she said. “We’ve been expecting you.” The woman spoke correct English but with a smooth Carolina cadence.

“You are correct,” Dad said, letting the two bags in his hands drop to the floor.

The woman smiled. “We have your room ready for you. You’ll find the inn quiet since it’s the middle of the week. The weather’s been fantastic.”

As Dad signed the guest register, Mom held Nancy’s hand and we girls shifted from foot to foot, waiting for the key and the final dash to our room. Dad had asked for a big suite that could fit all of us and leave space for him to set up his easel and paints. He never went anywhere without them. At Christmas his brother Alfred had criticized him sternly.

“I know you freelancers never take breaks. I’m going to book you into that resort your lovely wife’s been talking about. And damn it, you’d better rest.”

No chance of that happening, I thought.

After Dad signed in, the hostess thumped a call bell twice and a young woman dressed in a maid’s uniform descended the stairs into the lobby. Three chattering couples passed us on their way to the dining room.

Dad stretched his arms and sighed. “Is the bar or lounge open? I need a Martini immediately, if not sooner.”

The clerk frowned. “I’m sorry sir, but we don’t serve alcohol.”

Dad stopped fiddling with the room key. “What the seventh-circle-of-hell do you mean?” His face twisted into one of his ugly sneers, lips quivering. Blood filled his nose veins and he swelled to his full height.

The clerk backed away from the counter. “We…we can’t serve alcohol to anyone, sir. This is a dry county.”

Dad’s eyes got huge and he turned on Mom. “Edith, what the bloody hell…you let Alf book us into a dry county? Are you out of your God damned mind?”

Mom shuddered and shoved us girls into the parlor. “Put your things down and be quiet,” she whispered and rejoined Dad.

Nancy’s lips trembled and tears spilled down her cheeks. She buried her face in my skirt. I’d seen my father furious plenty of times. Several months before I’d found them in our kitchen, Dad clutching a carving knife and pointing it at Mom who’d backed against the counter. He’d quieted down when I’d walked in on them. After that I didn’t like leaving Mom alone with him until he calmed down for the night.

Dad stood clutching the room key and muttering. Finally, he glared at the frightened clerk. “Here’s your damn key. We’re leaving.” He slammed the key on the counter and turned toward the front door.

“Please…please, sir,” the clerk pleaded. “I’m sure you’ll enjoy your stay with us. We have a fine dining room…and…and the island is so beautiful. Why don’t you take a look?” She pointed through a side window at the dune tops bathed in golden light.

Dad stormed out the door. I moved to follow him. Mom gave me a dirty look, but I continued to tail him at a distance. He walked into the dunes, working hard in the deep sand for a couple hundred yards before he stopped. He held his shaking hands out in front of him, then jammed them into his pockets. I backtracked, keeping low so he wouldn’t see me, and rejoined Mom and my sisters. She had dragged all of our luggage into the parlor.

“What’s he doing out there?” she asked.

“Just staring at the ocean. I think he’s calming down.”

“I hope so. He’s just tired, you know. It’s been a long day cooped up with us in that car. He’s been working too hard and his New York clients are so pushy.”

“Yeah sure, Mom.”

The desk clerk joined us in the parlor. “I’m sorry your husband got so upset.”

Mom sighed. “He gets that way when he doesn’t have his…his evening cocktails.”

“I have a brother who acts the same,” the woman said and ducked her head. “You know, we can’t serve liquor in the dining room. But we can provide the glasses and ice if you bring your own supply and serve yourself.”

Mom brightened momentarily. “If this is a dry county, where can we buy what…what he needs?”

“There’s an ABC store in Nags Head. But they close early on Wednesdays. You’d have to go inland, probably to Manteo or Manns Harbor, about a ninety-mile run, round trip.”

“Thank you, you’re very kind.”

Mom sat with us on one of the huge sofas, cradling Nancy’s head in her lap. That kid could sleep anywhere, anytime. In a little while, Dad returned. He kept his hands in his pockets. Mom, Dad and the desk clerk huddled at the counter. In a few minutes Mom returned to the parlor.

“Now listen to me, girls. Your father and I are going for a drive to buy some…supplies. We should be gone a couple of hours. But don’t worry if it’s longer.”

“I should come with you,” I said. “You know how Dad can get…”

“No, you stay here with your sisters. The night maid will also help out. They’ll bring you food here…I know how you all love spaghetti.”

Nancy and Carolyn grinned at the idea.

“But why can’t we just go to the room?” I asked.

Mom tisked. “They don’t like children left unsupervised in the rooms. Besides, your father hasn’t exactly given them a good impression of us.”  

“Come on, Edith,” Dad called. “Let’s get moving while there’s still some light.”

Mom touched my cheek and hurried to join him. At the door she glanced back, her lips turned downward, and waved. The door clicked softly behind them. We settled into the parlor. I read from a book of Shakespeare’s plays that Uncle Alf had given me for my birthday. The night maid approached me slowly. She had a pretty face with blonde hair tied in a bun.

“Ma name’s Lucy. Sorry your folks had to run off and leave ya with me,” she said, smiling. “Y’all feel like eatin’ supper?”

“God yes,” I blurted, realizing how famished I felt. My sisters nodded vigorously.

“I’ll bring it to ya here,” she said. “That way me and Evelyn can keep track of y’all.”

I nodded sheepishly, not wanting to acknowledge that I needed to be babysat, but grateful for the help with my sisters. After spreading a cloth on one of the parlor’s low tables, Lucy brought us plates of spaghetti and meatballs, with hot garlic bread. We girls sat Indian style around it, slurping up the noodles and trying not to mess our clothes. Other inn guests descended the stairs, heading for the dining room. They stopped to gawk at us and whisper to themselves. Nancy greeted them with a wide grin and a face smeared with tomato sauce.

After eating we cleaned up in a tiny bathroom off the foyer. Returning to the parlor, we found that Lucy had left us board games, including one of my favorites, called Risk, and fashion magazines for Carolyn. A wall clock in the corner chimed every fifteen minutes. After the dining room emptied, Lucy joined us and told stories about the Outer Banks, how her family had lived there since before the Depression, had survived hurricanes with huge storm waves that had cut clear across the barrier island and created temporary channels between the east and west shorelines.

Outside the wind picked up and slammed against the inn, causing it to creak and groan. The louder it howled the more nervous I got. Two hours passed, then three. The desk clerk turned off the light over the check-in counter and disappeared into her adjoining apartment. Lucy left to turn down beds and to service the restrooms. Lights in the dining room flickered off and the kitchen staff left for the night.

I clutched a couch cushion to my chest and waited, imagining all sorts of calamities that could befall our parents, including murder and suicide. Nancy continued to snore and Carolyn had joined her. As time passed, my fear turned to anger. Where the hell were they? Mom said they’d be back in two or three hours. They should have phoned the inn and let us know they’d be late.

At half past midnight I heard a low rumble. The wind had died and the cold seeped in through the walls. I rose quietly so as not to wake my sisters and moved to a window next to the front door. Our Plymouth wagon had turned into a parking stall filled with a sand drift, its front wheels half-buried. Dad slammed the car into reverse. With tires screeching, he backed out of the space and slid into a vacant one. The headlights clicked off. Mom and Dad climbed from the car slowly. He opened the tailgate and lifted something out. Mom joined him and they moved forward unsteadily, cutting a crooked path toward the inn.

As they came into the full glare of the porch light Mom pushed him away. Her lipstick was smeared, coat open, dress disheveled with buttons unfastened. Dad clutched a cardboard box. I heard the clink of bottles. He put a finger to his lips and shushed Mom who had started to giggle. I hustled back to the parlor, slumped into an armchair and closed my eyes. A blast of cold air hit me as they pushed inside, followed by whispering and more giggles.

Dad’s heavy footsteps sounded on the stairs. Mom laid a hand on my shoulder and I jumped.

“Sorry to wake ya, kitten. Time for beddy-bye.”

“Where…where the hell have you been?” I growled, ignoring her baby talk that she hadn’t spoken in years.

“Sorry. We kinda got lost. Then we stopped for some grub at this little joint on Roanoke Island. Best damn bay scallops I’ve had in years. Reminded me of the time Charley took me to–”

“You’ve been gone more than five hours. You shoulda called.”

Mom smiled and patted my head. “Look whose playin’ the little mama tonight. Relax, we’re all on vacation, remember?”

“Yeah, yeah.” I felt royally PO’d but hugged her hard anyway.

“Ah, honey, it’s gonna be all right.” She rocked me in he arms. “Your father and I just need to…to get reacquainted. Maybe this Godforsaken island will be good for us after all.” She laughed softly and stood to rouse my sisters.

In the morning I woke to gray light filtering in from the suite’s sea-facing windows. I moved to the balcony in my nightgown and stared out at Dad. He gazed along the beach and the rolling dunes with their carpet of golden sea oats. His easel held a large sheet of watercolor paper. His hand grasped a paintbrush, dabbed at a palette of grays, browns, and blues, and made  confident strokes. Mom sat in a deck chair beside him, hair a tangle and wearing no makeup. She sipped coffee and watched him paint.

I backed away from the balcony door, dressed quickly and slipped downstairs to the dining room. After gulping a glass of orange juice, I left the inn and picked my way through the nearby dunes, keeping low on their shaded sides. I crouched against a dune shoulder. The Atlantic looked immense, with wave after wave pushing up the strand toward me. The gulls wheeled and turned in the blue-white sky, their cries barely heard over the sea’s constant rumble. I pulled my sketchbook and pencils from inside my coat and turned to stared up at Dad, his thin hair whipped by the wind, his glasses balanced precariously on the end of his nose. Mom sipped coffee and smiled to herself. Their shadows stood out sharply against the building. I began to draw them, trying to capture the details of that moment, to freeze it in time so that I’d have something to show them, to remind them when we got home.


Terry Sanville lives in San Luis Obispo, California with his artist-poet wife (his in-house editor) and one skittery cat (his in-house critic). He writes full time, producing short stories, essays, poems, and novels. Since 2005, his short stories have been accepted by more than 200 literary and commercial journals, magazines, and anthologies including The Potomac Review, The Bitter Oleander, Shenandoah, and Conclave: A Journal of Character. He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for his story “The Sweeper.” Terry is a retired urban planner and an accomplished jazz and blues guitarist – who once played with a symphony orchestra backing up jazz legend George Shearing.

Ryan Frisinger

Mick Jagger’s a nice enough guy, for a rock star. Chatted with him once over coffee—sort of. Listened to him all growing up, never dreamed I’d meet him. My old man, with his records and Rolling Stones tee-shirt—the iconic lip-tongue graphic diminished to a cracked tooth and single taste bud from years and miles of spin cycles—saw to it I was well-acquainted, prepared for the big day. 

Ti-i-i-ime is on my side, yes it is, deployed from the hi-fi in our basement, ascended the stairs to bedrooms and kitchen. My father’s favorite, he’d skip ahead to just the right groove on the vinyl and rouse the sleepy, Sunday-morning household with wails and blares, as much from his throat as the set of Yamahas. 

Afternoons, he’d fish out his old acoustic guitar, teach me a few chords. The wood trapping so tightly the decades-old burning of joints and teenage passion, that if I pressed my nose against the bridge, I’d cross into the past. Like a reverse crystal ball, pot-smoke parting to reveal what was. Two sets of carved initials on the neck of the instrument, my dad’s and another’s. When I asked who they belonged to, he smiled, laughed a little, and said, “Your mother,” which, of course, wasn’t true.

He died of a heart-attack on a Saturday night. That afternoon, he’d taken off work; came out to support my own teenage efforts at a rock band. My buddies and I played a downtown street festival. He recorded the whole thing with his cell phone; never took his eyes or smile off me for the entire half-hour. The morning after, once my mom, sisters, and I returned from the hospital, I contemplated firing up the stereo as a sort of last tribute. Ti-i-i-ime is on my side, yes it is. The record was halfway out of its sleeve, before I changed my mind.

Senior in high-school, boy to man overnight, I figured it was about time I found my own pair of initials to show me the ways of the world, take my mind off things. C.A. sat two desks over in chemistry. Lab coat filled out in just the right places. She’d come to see our band play once. 

I approached her one Tuesday after class. “You wanna hang out sometime?”

“Yeah.”

“Tomorrow night?”

“Yeah—wait, no.”

“No?”

“Thursday. My parents will be gone.”

“Yeah.”

She seemed to know what she was doing. Lights were off, music on when I arrived. Coolly, she invited me to the couch. 

Recognizing the tune immediately, I wiped my sweaty palms on the legs of my jeans as I sunk in. “You like the Stones?” 

“My parents do, and I know you do, because of that shirt you always wear,” she said, referring to the ratty keepsake I’d claimed as part of my inheritance.
We kissed and fumbled, groped and moaned—not because the passion had escalated to such heights, but because we’d heard movie stars make the same sorts of noises in films we weren’t supposed to have seen. Mr. Jagger’s howling vocals accompanied the pair of us down the first base line. Ti-i-i-ime is on my side, yes it is.

Auxiliary percussion—jangle of house keys, rattling door knob, quickening footsteps—provided a sudden and unwelcomed complement to the sweet melody. The shouting of names—not like I’d imagined or seen in the movies—ripped out-of-breath bodies apart on the couch. Shamed head hung, I followed the ferocious glare and pointed finger of her father’s hand out the front door.

“Tell your mother to expect a phone call.”

I never spoke to C.A. again. And, of course, those initials never made it onto the back of my guitar. 

Our band broke up the night before graduation. It was supposed to be just another rehearsal. I spent an hour beforehand, writing out chords and lyrics to a cover song we wanted to learn—Ti-i-i-ime is on my side, yes it is—but, never got to. Donny showed up drunk, Neil never did, and Mike was dead set on ending it: “We’ll all be living in different places next fall, I don’t see the point.”

With no other plans for the summer, I took a road trip out to LA. Spent a day people-watching at a trendy coffeehouse in the Silver Lake district. Mid-afternoon, in struts Mick, shades and unassuming green scarf to hide behind. I’d know that face anywhere. Out of instinct, respect, I stood up immediately, like he was the President or something. Drying palms on pant legs, I started forward. 

I wanted to tell him about the music—what it meant to me, to my dad, how it stayed with me even when my dad didn’t. I wanted to break into my father’s favorite song: Ti-i-i-ime is on my side, yes it is. Maybe Mick would join in for a duet. I wanted to tell him that underneath my jacket, I was wearing an old, faded tee-shirt that I wished I wasn’t. 

Most of all, I wanted to tell him he’s a liar.


Ryan Frisinger is a professor of English, holding an M.F.A. in Writing from Lindenwood University. He is also an accomplished songwriter, whose work has been featured in numerous television shows, such as America’s Next Top Model and The Real World. His non-musical writing has appeared in publications like Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, The MacGuffin, and Punchnel’s. He resides in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with his more-talented wife and couldn’t-care-less cat.

Free preview of our brand new issue, now available! FEATURED artists and writers in Volume 6: Michael Aronovitz
, Michael Bernicchi, 
Carl Boon, 
C.J. Cioc, 
G. Michael Davis, 
James Esch
, Stacy Esch
, Sarah Estime, 
Shuli de la Fuente-Lau
, John Grey, 
Courtney Gustafson, 
Brandon Hartman, 
James Croal Jackson, 
Adam Kluger, 
Rose Knapp, 
Blake Lynch, 
Tina McQueen
, Kirkley Mehndiratta,…

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And She Gets That Look Like She Forgets She Wears Glasses

Rich Ives

I saw one of Eric’s shoes galloping into the sunset. Not like that. The moon slivered in a bone-cage. Like that, but not like that. Familiar, but not like anything so poetic you’d tell me about it. 

I want to say something gentle now. I might attempt to harvest the delicate water content, which is not all water but doesn’t remind you of that. I might want to stroke the blue light its fur makes sparking against the sides of the tunnel. I might ask you for my questions back and embrace them. Interrogation by desire. It confuses leaf with foot, and meets all the lips in time for the emergence of perception, linking one thing pleasurably with another and another until I’m pouring out and landing in the other world, where my eyes are. Now I’ve left my sense for my senses although I know I still could reason my way into explaining what I’m happy to say I don’t really understand.

About the air she is happy, my accomplishment, but still leaking. I admire this, so I scream, pushing the comforting air about and getting excited that I know I’m doing this. I’m doing this, and it surprises me that I sound like I’m directing air through a small vibrating skin flap. 

Of course, Eric wants the whole story, and an explanation, and all the names, even if there’s only one. Just knowing he wants this removes the thing itself from the experience, which I describe in a way that cheapens it enough to keep it from imitating what it really is. So it changes. 

Eric, of course, knows all this and doesn’t care. Eric’s girlfriend cares, but she’s not in the story, and by the time he tells her, it will be her story. She will take from it what they need, which has been told to them as a different story, the one she can’t see galloping into the sunset.


Rich Ives lives on Camano Island in Puget Sound. He has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation and photography. His writing has appeared in Verse, North American Review, Dublin Quarterly, Massachusetts Review, Northwest Review, Quarterly West, Iowa Review, Poetry Northwest, Virginia Quarterly Review, Fiction Daily and many more. He is a winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander and has been nominated twice for the Best of the Web, three times for Best of the Net and six times for The Pushcart Prize. He is the 2012 winner of the Creative Nonfiction Prize from Thin Air magazine. Tunneling to the Moon, a book of days with a work for each day of the year, is available from Silenced Press, Sharpen, a fiction chapbook, is available form Newer York Press, and Light from a Small Brown Bird, a book of poems, is available from Bitter Oleander Press. He is also the winner of the What Books Press Fiction Competition, and his story collection, The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking, is now available.  

An Advantage

Rich Ives

Does this Victorian approach change anything, this past with its remaining anticipation? Or does it operate like cheerful things, a good pair of heels circumambient to a hairy hind-paw? Flounces aflutter. Little Blossom released from obligations to Mr. Nuzzly-Bum, Mr. Do-As-You-Please, Mr. Silky-Talk, Mr. Not-to-Worry.

Because people with shoulders worry about the shapes of their gowns.

Meanwhile the dog has grown horns. A nocturnal emission like the voice of the moon. Listen. Darken. Welcome mythic forms of circumstantial happiness. Even if my friend Eustace does not agree.

Followed by a deep mumbling tortuous boom of gastric delight. A fat frog in a well. Let him sing. Let the echoes of indulgence pleasure the ear with the nose’s disgust.

The dog turns and turns, trying to understand the nose’s advantage.

Little Blossom pees on the lawyer. “I’ve wetted less than my appetite for authority,” he tells the lawyer’s mother, after she signs the papers. “It’s a discovery not greatly honored although settling is cheaper than winning,” replies the mother.

It was a great and lucid affair of olfactory departure, which I will not describe in great detail. Though I could. I certainly could if I wanted to.

Twenty-three days ago today. That’s enough time to happen oh again and again.

Yes, this can be easily handled, this situation. But does it change anything?

Now I want to say that despite the disapproval of Eustace, I have befriended both Little Blossom and her mother and bedded the lawyer, who shall remain nameless at his own request.

A mouthful of spiders puts him at ease, his postures questioning like a prehistoric bird’s. He kept his lover’s fleas in a pillbox. None of them ever escaped.


Rich Ives lives on Camano Island in Puget Sound. He has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation and photography. His writing has appeared in Verse, North American Review, Dublin Quarterly, Massachusetts Review, Northwest Review, Quarterly West, Iowa Review, Poetry Northwest, Virginia Quarterly Review, Fiction Daily and many more. He is a winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander and has been nominated twice for the Best of the Web, three times for Best of the Net and six times for The Pushcart Prize. He is the 2012 winner of the Creative Nonfiction Prize from Thin Air magazine. Tunneling to the Moon, a book of days with a work for each day of the year, is available from Silenced Press, Sharpen, a fiction chapbook, is available form Newer York Press, and Light from a Small Brown Bird, a book of poems, is available from Bitter Oleander Press. He is also the winner of the What Books Press Fiction Competition, and his story collection, The Balloon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking, is now available.