Tag Archives: Winter 2017 (#12)

“Seven Ate Nine” – Fiction by Hannah Lackoff

Death With Girl In Her Lap – Kathe Kollwitz, circa 1934

The grand finale of our Winter 2017 issue is “Seven Ate Nine,” Hannah Lackoff‘s deeply moving story of growing up, letting go, and moving on.  

{ X }

DEAR NINE,
WHAT’S IT LIKE IN THE AFTERWORLD? Ha ha.  Mr. Banks is making me write this.  I don’t know why I bother.  It’s not like you’re going to read it.  Mr. Banks is though, probably, so Hi Mr. Banks!  This Assignment is Very Important and not at all Futile.
Love, Me

 

To: 9Bishop
From: 7Seals
i miss u

 

Dear Nine,
Apparently last week I did not follow the assignment.  Mr. Banks was Not Terribly Impressed (his words), and he knows I Can Do Better If I Try (ditto).

So today’s assignment is to write about the last time I saw you.  The last time I saw you you were bone gray ash.  We took you to the field behind the Marshalls and we let you go.  Cage said in some cultures people mixed the ashes into a soup and ate them.  Meggie said that was bullshit.  Your mom told everyone to shut the crap up and then we all laughed so hard, and it was really inappropriate and the man from your aunt’s church turned red and told us we were being disrespectful but we weren’t really, because I don’t think you would have minded.  Then the priest guy said a few words that were all churchy and serious and your aunt cried but only her.  The rest of us were cried out, I guess.

Better Mr. Banks?
-Seals

 

To: 9Bishop
From: 7Seals
u always said u would come back and haunt us
r u there?

 

Dear Nine,
Today I’m writing in cursive because it takes longer.  I don’t like this class but I like math class even less, so I’m going to draw this out for as long as I can.  Did you know there is such a thing as imaginary numbers?  I mean what the fuck?  Like regular numbers weren’t confusing enough already?  Look at the loops in my Ls.  Lllll.  I haven’t used cursive since like 4th grade.  Only when I have to sign my name on birthday checks.

School is boring without you.  It’s more than boring.  It’s horrible.  In Home Ec we’re not allowed to cook for a while because someone turned the oven on to “clean” instead of “bake” when we were making the apple cobbler and it just sort of melted and smoked all over the inside of the stove.  Now we have to take a written safety test before we are allowed to use any equipment.  They moved all the seats around so there’s no gap where you used to sit.  Same in English.
-Seals

 

To: 9Bishop
From: 7Seals
what was it like?

 

Dear Nine!
Mr. Banks said since I chose not to do last week’s assignment (again) and instead use foul language and procrastinating mechanisms I have to do two this week.  I told him these were my private words and he shouldn’t be reading them but he said that’s not what this class is about and I can do that on my own time.

This week we are all writing a letter about a happy memory.  Remember when Cage and Meggie and you and me went to the lake and Meggie pushed Cage off the dock before he was ready and he sort of lost his swimsuit and we all saw his butt?  Mr. Banks is not going to like this memory.  I don’t think Mr. Banks wants to hear about butts.

But after the butt incident we went to Shirley’s and we had ice cream.  You picked the bubble gum out of yours and put it on a napkin like an eight year old and we were all grossed out but afterwards you had a big wad of gum to chew and what did the rest of us have?

Last week we were supposed to be writing a letter to your family.  I didn’t really want to do it, so I guess that’s why I used those “procrastination mechanisms.”  My mom sent your mom a card with a really beautiful painting of a little cabin on the front, next to the water.  It’s really peaceful looking and it reminds me of the lake.  Of our lake.  I think she’s really going to like it.  My mom wrote something inside that I wasn’t allowed to read.  Grown Up Talk Only.

This letter is getting long because I am really nervous to write to your mom, but I guess it’s time to bite the big one and get started.
-Seals

 

Dear Mrs. Bishop: Nine was/is my best friend and I miss her so much.  You were/are like my second mom.  I’m supposed to share a memory of you and Nine so here goes:

When we were little and we had sleepovers Nine used to have bad nightmares.  She said your house was haunted.  One time I woke up and she wasn’t there and I heard this weird rumbling noise.  I went out into the kitchen and she was at the counter drinking hot chocolate and you were waving a vacuum around, sucking up the ghosts.  It was really nice.
-Celeste Ingalls

 

To: 9Bishop
From: 7Seals
i heard a noise
are u there?

Continue reading “Seven Ate Nine” – Fiction by Hannah Lackoff

“The Last Cuban Militant” – Poetry by Juan Parra

illustration-to-for-the-voice-by-vladimir-mayakovsky-1920-11
Illustration To ‘For The Voice’ By Vladimir Mayakovsky – El Lissitzky, 1920

“The Last Cuban Militant” is one of two fiery & evocative poems by Juan Parra in our Winter 2017 issue.

{ X }

MY FATHER IS THE LAST CUBAN MILITANT.
Raul Castro is shaking his ass to hip hop,
And my father is still wearing his black beret, and green fatigues.
The cafés are jammed with clean-shaven youths
Whose heads are gel addicts, and bodies crave
The sexy stroke of European soccer jerseys.
A blind woman wants to discuss Rembrandt and Van Gogh with him,
And he doesn’t even want to believe that the lips that gently kiss
His swollen feet under the covers is Christ pranking him.

The Americans will bomb us one day; I’ll hide in the jungle.
The Europeans will have orgies on our beaches; I’ll pretend I’m blind.
I have a limited edition Makarov PM and a Mayakovsky poem,
I’ll fight the war being advertised for the last 50 years.

{ X } Continue reading “The Last Cuban Militant” – Poetry by Juan Parra

“I Feel the Same Way About You” – Flash Fiction by Jan Stinchcomb

 

Dante & Virgil Enter the Forest - William Blake, 1824
Dante & Virgil Enter the Wood – William Blake, 1824

Three friends suddenly find themselves in a strange realm in “I Feel the Same Way About You,” one of two diabolically surreal flash fictions by Jan Stinchcomb in our Winter 2017 issue.

{ X }

THE GIRLS ARE STUCK IN THEIR FUTURE.

It’s Emma’s fault since she was driving, but Cait and Lex know it’s not cool to say this out loud. They’re stumbling around in some rich person’s kitchen. At first they’re hesitant to touch anything but then they can’t help themselves. There is a bowl filled with tiny silver spoons and a set of crystal goblets. A dark forest is visible through the enormous picture window.

Cait picks up a leather-bound planner and flips through the pages. “Guys. Look at this. It’s mine.”

Lex’s hatred is swift and certain. Something about Cait always sets her off.

“See. My name is here, on the first page. This is my house. I’m married. I’ve got twins.” Cait squeals like a little girl. “I knew I would have twins! Lots of the women in my family do.” She looks around. “And I’m rich.”

There is a woman gathering firewood outside in the forest. She wears an ugly, tattered poncho and a sad face. Lex peers at her and startles into the realization that she is looking at herself. She tries to act as though she hasn’t noticed anything but Cait makes the connection and laughs. “Is that you out there, Lex? Don’t tell me you’re one of the forest people.”

“It’s not my fault,” is all Lex can say. She wants to wave to her future self but is afraid this might make her complicit.

Emma doesn’t say a word.

“It’s nothing to be ashamed of, Lex.” Cait has never been happier. “You always have to be the rebel, don’t you? Well, there you are. Outside.”

“I’m not staying in this kitchen,” Lex says but she’s terrified of going outdoors. She dreads brushing up against her older self. That woman is haggard. Starving. Lex tries to think of what she did to deserve such a fate. She knows Cait is not a nice person, but still. How did they go from carpooling in the morning to living in these separate worlds?

Emma’s eyes are black and bottomless. Her hands are ice. The girl Lex knew is gone, but she puts one arm around Emma and leads her to what must be a sunroom. It is all glass, beautiful, something she will never have.

Emma doesn’t seem to weigh much anymore. She glides alongside Lex to a wicker couch, where they both sit down.

Soon Cait appears, exultant, with coffee on a golden tray. “I have an espresso machine! So I thought, why not?”

Lex refuses to drink. She knows if Cait drinks, she will seal some horrible deal. At first, out of spite, she says nothing, but then she screams at Cait to put the cup down. Continue reading “I Feel the Same Way About You” – Flash Fiction by Jan Stinchcomb

“Beyond Kansas” – Prose by Marc Harshman

Tornado Over Kansas - John Steuart Curry, 1929
Tornado Over Kansas – John Steuart Curry, 1929

There’s a storm brewing in “Beyond Kansas,” a powerful piece of short prose from our Winter 2017 issue by West Virginia’s poet laureate Marc Harshman.

{ X }

In the U.S., you have to be a deviant or die of boredom.  – William S. Burroughs

AS LONG AS  THERE’S A BREEZE, the uneasy shimmy of shadows persists and, though he pretends not to care, a reckoning is sure to follow.  He’s seen this kind of weather before.  The jay’s screech fails in the monotone of the freeway. It might have been important. You see what I mean, he wants to say. Today is not the worst, but it is worth considering how bad it could get.  He knows that.  Someone is worrying about the banks.  He understands that, too.  Maybe they worry because they know they must worry, like he does, about whether the dog food will hold out.  He can imagine a self-imposed exile from life’s headaches without going so far as a vacation.  Perhaps a concussion is all that’s needed.  Or a break-through in his writing.  “Another round of TV and platitudes.”  He makes up phrases like these all the time, writes them down, then posts them like flags around the bedroom.  They will amount to something some day.  His mother had assured him as much, that he would, amount to something, some day, though he wonders sometimes if it was said parentally, or simply as a rebuttal to her boyfriend who’d kicked him off the couch as he watched Malcolm in the Middle.  It was a weird show. He’d masturbate after every episode.   Was he a deviant?  There are screams out there that knock on the door to come in.  He gets very still; lifts the curtain to see if what happens next will be enough.  He wants it.  He wants life to be real, yet it’s all so scary.  The wind is picking up the shadows and hurling them at the windows.  He should offer to help.  Open the door.  There are so many locks on it.  He wonders if he should add more.  Time falls through his head leaving its great holes.  The storm stops.  It will be useless to try to do anything now.  Did he hit his head?  The doorway is filling with sunshine and leaves.  The door itself is gone, blown back to Kansas.  There is a little dog.  He tries talking to it.  Picks up the single, yellow brick that came through the window.  Feels the lump on his forehead, begins to understand things.  Returns to his study, re-reads his notes, begins writing a letter to his mother, tells her he’s buying her a car and they’ll really go someplace this time, beyond the cemetery, beyond the weather, beyond the beyond.

Continue reading “Beyond Kansas” – Prose by Marc Harshman

“Terminal” – Poetry by Ron Kolm

Grand Central Terminal - Max Weber, 1915
Grand Central Terminal – Max Weber, 1915

There’s a good old-fashioned New York City panic goin’ on in “Terminal,” Ron Kolm‘s riveting poem from our Winter 2017 issue.

{ X }

IT’S A QUIET DAY
In Grand Central Station
And I’m killing time
At the information counter
Looking stuff up
On the bookstore’s computer.
There’s a sudden commotion
Outside the front window
As a crowd of people
Runs up the ramp
Towards 42nd Street
Yelling and waving their arms.

Something must have gone
Horribly wrong
In the terminal—
Maybe someone has a gun
Or a bomb.
Perhaps it’s the terrorist attack
We’ve been anticipating
For so long.

And just like that
They all come running
Back down, still shouting,
Just like in a Marx Brothers
Movie, and this finally gets
The manager’s attention.
Now even he knows
That something bad
Has occurred

As panic sets in
He gives the order
To evacuate the store–
We ask the customers
To please leave quickly.
A guy I work with
Pulls me aside and says
He’s going to slip out
The rear entrance
Fuck everyone else!
I follow him
Through the tunnels
Over to the shuttle
Where we exit the station.

When we reach street level
I see a horrendous sight:
The sky is blood red
And though it’s summer
Snowflakes are falling
And coating everything.
I figure that a plane
Must have crashed
Into a nearby building.

All I want to do
Is flee this nightmare–
But we’ve been told
That if disaster strikes
We’re supposed to assemble
On the corner of 43rd
And Madison where
A roll call will be taken
To make sure
Everyone got out ok.

On my way there
I stop in a bar
To watch the news on TV
And finally find out
What really happened–
A Con Ed steam pipe exploded
Just a couple of blocks away
And shot debris high
Into the surrounding sky.
I toss back a few
Glued to the screen
And forget all about
The bookstore.

Days later
Con Edison announces
That the snow is asbestos,
And sets up a collection point
Where contaminated clothes
Can be dropped off
And put in garbage bags
To be buried somewhere–
But I can’t afford
To trash mine
So I simply wash them
And hope for the best.

{ X }

Continue reading “Terminal” – Poetry by Ron Kolm

“Love Song of a Femme Fatale on Scholarship” – Fiction by Maria Pinto

The Seven Deadly Sins, Lust - Erte
The Seven Deadly Sins, Lust – Erte

Dive into the mind of an infatuated freshman with “Love Song of a Femme Fatale on Scholarship”Maria Pinto‘s frisky flash fiction from our Winter 2017 issue.

{ X }

SOMETHING ABOUT SEEING TEACHER ON THE BUS, under the yellow light, the ridges of his brown corduroys flaccid, the finger upon which she’d always assumed she would find a gold band if she bothered to look, how the finger tapped at his bony knee, something about the way the finger had a gold band-shaped stripe on it, the stripe pale, a little indented, the way the knuckle hairs had a practiced wither there, how the stripe rendered him vulnerable as a midair-poised ass, hot, pink from slapping, something about all these things taken together made her want to push the moment, to fuck him. She did not interrogate why. She was a freshman; there was only the urgent press of do, do, do.

When he’d boarded the bus at the foot of Crippling Debt Hill, she felt him see her reading from the anthology for his class. He took the seat across from her, but she didn’t feel him look at her again. Her cheeks burned. She wanted to get up and lean over, to dot his face with damp kisses. Instead, she pretended to keep reading till the lines on the page went blurry.

What was he doing on the bus? She’d never seen him on this route. Shouldn’t an older professor at an elite university drive a reliable Prius, at least? Here was proof of the bleak state of education in this country.

The bus made a sudden stop to let a yelling passenger off and everyone lurched forward or to the side but him. She sighed.

In class today, he had said something ridiculous about a poem and she’d felt those words rumbling in her chest all afternoon. These lines know they can never know a woman. Words can never know a woman. The interior of a woman is ineffable, which earned him a laugh from the others. She knew he was not joking, so she didn’t laugh. She felt him watch her mouth as it didn’t slip open to show her teeth. Maybe he was a cad.

On the first day of the semester, his brown-black eyes had lingered on her at the end of every sentence. She’d heard somewhere that everyone thinks a good public speaker is looking at them most of all, but that didn’t stop her from playing with her lip, watching him watch her do it. All the watching felt involuntary.

Continue reading “Love Song of a Femme Fatale on Scholarship” – Fiction by Maria Pinto

“The Unfed” – Fiction by Nancy Au

gwashingtonsteethlocFalse teeth, depleted mountaintops, and mysterious fruit tarts are just a few of the key ingredients in “The Unfed,” Nancy Au‘s fantastic short story from our Winter 2017 issue.

{ X }

BEA OGILBY POPS HER NEW DENTURES into her dress pocket for safe-keeping, runs her fingers along the empty grooves & bumps of her mouth’s spongy pink mountain range. She glances at her reflection in the mirror before heading out. White hair twisted in a bun. Her smile, all gums, no more chomp and chew.

Outside, blinded by the bright September sunlight, Bea nearly stumbles over a fruit tart left on her doorstep. The mountaintop, which once protected her home from the afternoon glare, had been stolen by Ye Old Mining Company; millions of pounds of rock and dirt, acres of trees and shrubs ripped from the mountain in order to extract coal. The village’s sacred mountain could no longer be called The Great Peak because all that remained was a grizzled, flattened stump. No trees to glue the remaining boulders in place, to keep mud from surging down the steep slope and destroying the village during the next monsoon. No guide posts pointing tourists up the path, nor signs to indicate the diminished mountain ever even had a name.

Across the narrow dirt road, her neighbor, Teddy Nun, waves. “Hello there!” Teddy is working in his meager vegetable garden. Misshapen carrots and wilted kale poke out of the sandy soil. Bea bends down to pick up the tart, observes the glistening strawberries and buttery crust. She eagerly dips her finger in the sugary dew, and tastes a lick.

“Hello there!” repeats Teddy.

Bea points to the tart, “Did you see who?”

Teddy shrugs, Bea nods. His useless I don’t know shrugging responses are legendary in town. But Bea appreciates this in a neighbor, with stories and gossip flowing in only one direction across the narrow road. Like, when the last of her teeth were pulled, gums red, swollen, tender—a finger without the nail—she’d asked the incurious retiree: How does the Tooth Fairy for the elderly work? Where do your teeth go when the Tooth Fairy dies? Teddy’s response that time was a handful of ice carefully wrapped in a red dishtowel, a cold compress for Bea’s sore mouth.

{ X }

The first to perish while rebuilding the mountaintop was an aging horse with a three-year-old mentality, named Wilson. This equine senior dragged boulders and planks of knotted pine, in metal carts with leather straps, up the steep rocky trail using just his chompers. Every tooth of this odd-toed ungulate were bloody and broken by the time he reached the top. Bea had nightmares for weeks after this first death, awakening at dawn, soft mouthing the horse’s name over and over, as if in prayer.

Continue reading “The Unfed” – Fiction by Nancy Au