Tag Archives: Fall 2014 (#3)

“Laundromat” – Fiction by Smith Smith

Lace and Ghosts - Victor Hugo, 1856
Lace and Ghosts – Victor Hugo, 1856

Laundromats, like bus stations and West Virginia motels, are weird freaking places. The kinds of places haunted by parasitic ghost-men, where thoughts echo and sentences often end without periods– just like in “Laundromat,” Smith Smith‘s piece from our Fall 2014 issue

{ X }

THE LAUNDROMAT LOOKED NO DIFFERENT ON THE OUTSIDE. It was bulbous and tar-black, rising from the concrete at the intersection of Garden Street and a pile of rusted bicycles, where it had stood for ninety nine years.

But what I found inside was a ghost-man, a functional yet parasitic half-being. As I entered, my thoughts blended with his as if we were light and shadow, as if one of us could only exist as a function of the other. He drank from a mug. He wore dark jeans and faced with tired eyes the spinning, noisy chambers that washed the traces of a town’s life from its clothes.

He spoke first, “You’re early”

“Don’t be silly. I have never seen you before”

He rolled his eyes. The ease of our interaction was uncanny, our words and thoughts like echoes.

“Go home. I’m working” he told me before taking a sip of his drink, his sagging eyes in a trance, following the cycling of the chambers.

“Oh please, nobody knows you exist”

He grunted and said something absurd.

His tone suggested omnipotence and I decided to call him out, “Yeah like hell you are, and I’m the devil.”

He turned to face me and I could no longer see him. I laughed and spit on the floor, wiping blood from my brow. The roar of the spinning chambers rose in volume until we were both part of the crescendo. I felt airless, lungless.

Yet I spoke, “sorry I just expected –” then he spoke from nowhere, “don’t expect things”


mind began to fill with static, with hallucinations of threadbare roads


mother’s withered screams overlaid with finger-mist drowning us in His brightness


felt shadows and an unworldly heat beneath my eyes I lost


And our voices erupted.

“the consciousness of man is a fucking fallacy”

Our eyes softened. We were fading and we knew it.

“trust me you need me you’re lost let me inside you”

“you feed on the young, the hopeless”

“take me inside you”

“I couldn’t care less about your metaphysical cock”

Yet we

rambled for years about giving and taking, unable to distinguish us from us


decided to stop expecting sensation


fell in a sort of exhausted love, the ghost-man and I


spent nights dying together on that tile floor, unclothed, unbodied, listening to the roar of the walls, wondering silently

if we

were platonic

{ X }

SMITH SMITH lives and ruminates in the Midwest.

“Friday Night, Saturday Morning” – Poetry by M.N. Hanson

Night – Anna Ostroumova-Lebedeva, 1923

From our Fall 2014 issue, M.N. Hanson‘s poem “Friday Night, Saturday Morning” is a dark, fractured journey from the alluring anticipation of evening to the cold light of day.

{ X }

Weighed myself – without shoes
Weighed myself – holding the cat
Stripped down and weighed myself naked.
Weighed myself wearing nothing but an apron and holding the cast iron skillet.
(I’ve always wanted to make dinner for someone and wear nothing but an apron.)

There is no escape on winter nights.

Leave house, walk through cold dark to someone’s darkened car.
Strapped into darkened car, shuttled through dark.
Leave darkened car, walk through cold dark to dark bar.

Oppressive darkness into oppressive light,
Oppressive pressure of bodies against bodies;
Bare bulbs blinding against deep, empty shadows,
And bodies, bodies, bodies,
Bodies all the way down.

I was too drunk.
I was drunk and dehydrated.
He tried to use water for lubricant.
It didn’t work –
                    My insides tore,
And he used my blood.

When we went out for a walk, the kitchen table was still on our front porch.
The table was square – chrome and formica, legs rusted toward the bottom.
While we were gone, someone stole it.
We replaced it with a pipe organ we found,
Disassembled on the curb in front of a Lutheran church.
We didn’t eat breakfast that morning; at noon, I had broth,
Huddled against the organ’s wind chest,
Experimentally fingering the stop knobs.

{ X }

M.N. HANSON is a recent graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s master program in writing. Previously published in Vine Leaves, Burningword, Revolver, and Gothic Blue Books I & II. Please visit http://mnhanson.com to complain. 

’12 MFA: Writing – The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
’09 BA: English, Cinema and Comparative Literature – University of Iowa, Iowa City
’08 Irish Writing Program, Dublin, Ireland

“Pentacost” – Poetry by Emily O’Neill

Calligraffiti of Fire – Brion Gysin, 1986

One of the 5 poems by Emily O’Neill in our Fall 2014 issue is “Pentacost,” a song of towering flame and ghostly visions.

{ X }


I hid in the bathtub, a tower of flame
around me as the shower curtain turned ash
& the ash undressed itself & kissed my skin & the porcelain
grew warm as a sun-baked river stone. Ghosts are the only city I’ve seen

since childhood. They stand straighter than buildings, sigh
louder than a house settling in the suburbs. Ghosts have street between them
we call space and airports we call hauntings where they take off & land
in, on, & around us, disturbing all our night rituals. A bath will never
warm my bones the way the oven can, so I crawl inside & leave

the front door wide.  No guests beyond the dead
come to stay. I’ve been burying letters in the mud
because rivers cannot close their ears

when someone is weeping. The bathroom is the only temple
I have left.  I press my face to the honeycomb floor, waiting

quiet for the dead & their backwards sun come to swallow every day
into its slippery heat; waiting for the hive to drop.
for the whole swarm to sting me.

{ X }

IMG_1535EMILY O’NEILL is a writer, artist, and proud Jersey girl. Her recent poems and stories can be found in Electric Cereal, Gigantic Sequins, and Split Rock Review, among others. Her debut collection, Pelican, is the inaugural winner of Yes Yes Books’ Pamet River Prize and forthcoming in 2014. You can pick her brain at http://emily-oneill.com.

“Chicken Sandwich” – Fiction by Rebecca Ann Jordan

Chicken Parts - Frederick Sommer, 1939
Chicken Parts – Frederick Sommer, 1939

The dotty narrator of “Chicken Sandwich,” Rebecca Ann Jordan‘s contribution to our Fall 2014 issue, just wants to make the world a better, pink-slime-free place. All that’s standing in her way are McDonald’s corporate interests… and those pesky demons in her blood. 

{ ONE }

ONE WEEK AFTER GETTING MY NEW JOB AT MCDONALD’S, I go to the doctor because it hurts to walk. I’m told I have an in-grown toenail, and I need surgery to fix it. It’s going to be a death sentence; it’s dead winter in Colorado, I live alone and I have no social life except for my mom’s occasional calls and now my coworkers too, and after the surgery it’s going to be two months of recoup time, during which I will not be able to walk on my foot except to go to and from the bathroom.

{ TWO }

After a day of feeling sorry for myself, I think maybe I should pick up one of those old dreams that used to haunt me. I could sew, once upon a time. I Google the only fabric store in a 50-mile radius and drive an hour down a dirt road and pull up into the driveway beside a ghost-town lemonade stand. In the distance there is a fence, presumably with cows behind it. Lunch break done, I drive back to work without getting out of my car.


Maybe with my last days I should try to change the world in a small way. This has never occurred to me before, but the impending two-month death has me thinking clearly. I have never been the lucky sort, but “You’re up, kid,” says the manager (whose name is Reba and who I think is a lesbian), because the fry cook dies suddenly in his sleep. I guess it’s not hard to do if you fall asleep in your car. I notice immediately the pink slime that the media is having a heyday about: the unnatural chicken parts. It’s a responsible choice for the earth, so I decide to turn vegetarian.

{ FOUR }

I try a hand at my hobbies again. With my first two weeks of wages I buy a digital camera that can do a bunch of things I’ve never heard of. I spend my lunch hour wandering around the parking lot photographing broken bottles, as though it’s some metaphor for the state of the world or my broken toenails. Speaking of toenails, they’re victims of the camera too, at night in my bathtub, with the camera strap dangling in the water and my toes on display against the tile wall.

{ FIVE }

I start getting rejection letters. The camera gets a time-out in the trunk of my car. I leave it there indefinitely, just in case.

 { SIX }

I join a local meet-up for vegetarians. We eat hummus and carrots, which somehow reminds me of snapping off dirty toes. There is a baby-faced man named Arnold who whispers something about a co-op. I don’t know what a co-op is, but I’ve never been interested in group sex.

“Now,” says a teeny little woman of 60 years, “let’s talk conversion. You’re new, so just watch, but feel free to chime in. What we want is to show the world about the horrific crimes that happen when we eat animals.”

“I work at McDonald’s.” I say this to prove my ethos.

Instead they all begin to scorn the sort of people that enable places like McDonald’s.

I second-guess my decision to be a vegetarian.

 { SEVEN }

“I want a chicken sandwich with fries.”

I overlook the fact that fries have not exactly been outlawed by the FDA yet, but they can still kill you, like everything. “We’re having a special,” I lie, “on Big Macs.”

“Oh, I don’t eat beef,” the man with the stiff hair and stiff tie says. “Just the chicken sandwich, please.”

“No. I don’t think you understand. It’s cheaper with the Big Mac. I can take the patties off.”

“What I want is a chicken sandwich.” I think this man hates me, but doesn’t he know I’m trying to save his life?

“Please, please buy the burger.”

The man leaves. Apparently Reba thinks I show promise because she lets me keep my job in the back, where I don’t have to talk to anyone, just keep plopping pink slime onto the stove.

 { EIGHT }

McDonald’s is open until midnight. I trudge through the snow at one in the morning. The parking lot has been cleared by salters but I put my boots down where the grass used to be and where the crystalline snow now is, because it gives me immense satisfaction to make my mark, like the satisfaction of breaking tiny bones.

I don’t know why I never noticed this before. On the balcony above my unit and three units to the left, there is a woman who is naked from the waist up. She leans over the balcony, smoking a cigarette, and her hair is curlier than mine. She probably gave up trying to tame it when she hit puberty. I think, with the moon behind her like that, wouldn’t she make a great photo? I run back to my car on the tiny bones and find my camera in the trunk. When I come back the glass door slides closed, and I can’t see inside because it is so damn bright out with the moon. I go into my apartment and run a bath. Continue reading “Chicken Sandwich” – Fiction by Rebecca Ann Jordan

“Cold Duck” – Fiction by Joseph Tomaras

 carverFor decades now, hundreds of short fiction writers have been regurgitating the esteemed Raymond Carver– but as far as we know, none of those writers has dared to do so the way Joseph Tomaras does in his story “Cold Duck,” from our Fall 2014 issue.

{ X }


– How drunk were you?

– I was getting to it. I was so drunk, the next morning I vomited up Raymond Carver.

– As in just one story, what we talk about when we talk about whatever, or the whole fucking Collected Works?

– No, not his stories or writings or whatever. I vomited up Raymond Carver.

– How the hell? He’s been dead for 25 years.

– How the fuck should I know? I was that fucking drunk. He was totally alive when he came out of my mouth.

– Was it, like, a tiny Raymond Carver, like that tiny Elvis character they used to have on SNL?

– Fuck, no, I wish. Full size.

– How the hell did he get out of you? How the hell did he get into you?

– I already told you, I have no fucking idea. It was just one of those nights. I didn’t really get any sleep, and when the sun was rising, I could tell I was going to yak. Couldn’t even get to the toilet, just had enough in me to roll onto my side and face the edge of the bed so I wouldn’t choke on whatever the hell was surging out of me. You know when you’re really vomiting so hard that you have to keep your eyes shut the whole time, and it feels like you’re giving birth out your mouth like, fucking, fucking, uh, Kronos vomiting up his kids, the Olympian gods, that’s what it was like, so I didn’t see what it looked like when he was coming out. It did kind of feel like I was getting jabbed with fingers, elbows and knees from the inside, though.

– Did you at least get any decent writing advice? Continue reading “Cold Duck” – Fiction by Joseph Tomaras

“Meeting” – Poetry by Jeff Laughlin

Love and Death - Francisco Goya, 1799
Love and Death – Francisco Goya, 1799

“Meeting” is the pièce de résistance from Jeff Laughlin‘s yet-unpublished poetry collection “Life and Debt.” Also available in our Fall 2014 issue, “Meeting” is a screaming sigh from beneath the hefty weight of love, work, and death.  

{ X }

only that I compare it to working.
The action item list reads identical:
–That careening of blood through
the walls of the heart marking the
time you did it right the first try.
That’s enough, just that one on the
list convinces me that nothing is
different, nothing is that moment
more than anything else could be.

To clarify the following, too:
I have loved and lost and lived
a million lives. I have lived in
the margins– those college-ruled
maniacs trapped me there from
the start. And I will die there,
with no work grinding my bones
and no laborious thought in my
hawkish mind. I will die without
comfort or love, but not regret.

Folly of endeavor, folly of light,
prayers for the uninitiated who
just learned to work. Folly of fall,
folly of man, a layer of ice upon
the next worker who mentions he
is on sick leave. Folly of summer,
folly of synergy, a weigher of soul
and reciprocity delivers the memos.
Folly of function, folly of form, we
are not ideas we speak into the void. Continue reading “Meeting” – Poetry by Jeff Laughlin

“Just Another Evening” – Fiction by Dusty Wallace

photoOne of the most bizarre pieces from our decidedly bizarre Fall 2014 issue has to be Dusty Wallace‘s giddy flash of Python-esque absurdity titled “Just Another Evening.”

{ X }

THAT FUCKING ALLIGATOR stretched out on the nine-foot Steinway in the center of the stage was really distracting.

I nudged the guy next to me, “Do you see that?”

He looked offended at the interruption or maybe he was just worried I’d creased his penguin suit. “Yes. Mr. Nakamura’s agility makes Chopin’s Minute Waltz look simple.”

He was probably right. But who the fuck cares about Chopin when there’s an alligator on the piano? And why were me and this posh motherfucker the only people in the theater?

“Perhaps because you’re naked,” said Posh Motherfucker like he’s reading my mind.

Wait a tick… I’m naked. Naked. That explained the draft, but not the alligator.

Mr. Nakamura stopped playing, standing to face the auditorium. “Would you two please shut the fuck up?” he shouted. “It’s hard enough playing with this fucking alligator on the piano. The last thing I need are two disrespectful assholes running their mouths right in the middle of the waltz.”

He sat back down at the piano, cracking his knuckles, and picked up exactly where he left off.

When he hit the last note Posh and I gave a standing ovation. I clapped with such enthusiasm that my penis slapped back and forth on my naked thighs and it sounded like three people applauding.

“Like I give a fuck,” Nakamura said, ambling off stage.

“Well, it was nice seein’ ya,” Posh said.

“Wait, aren’t you gonna give me a ride home?” I asked.

“Why would I do that?”

“I’m naked. I don’t even know how I got here.”

“You find yourself in this position often?”

“What? Fuck you,” I said.

“Good luck finding a ride,” he said. “Maybe you should ask Eric.”

“Who’s Eric?”

Posh pointed to the stage. Only the alligator was in sight, still stretched across the old grand. “You don’t really expect me to…” I began, but when I turned around Posh was gone. Continue reading “Just Another Evening” – Fiction by Dusty Wallace