Issue 14


Peter Patapis for “I Ash My Body

Tim Barzditis for “I wouldn’t live there if you paid me


The Path to Freedom
Courtney L. Novak

Sarah’s Baby
Anne Hosansky

Glen Weissenberger

The Doll
Vivian Lawry

Dinner and a Movie
Kerry Jones

Joan Presley

Broom Jumping
Mark Ali

Kamikaze, 1945
Burton Shulman

Aye Calypso, the Places You’ve Been To
Shelby M. Koches


Witches Reminisce
Susan Johnson

Reverse Poem
Samantha Madway

Cindy King

Laine Chmielewski

692 MPH
Garth Pavell

Empty Orison
Linda L. Dennis

Brothers Chosen
King Grossman

Please Come Off-Book
Kevin Kantor

Pinnacle Peak and the Star That Live There
Lisa Compo

Phone Call
AE Hines

Orbit // Obit
John Sibley Williams

Elegy for the Unknown
Dawn Morrow

Serena Eve Richardson

Ass Backwards Live Free or Die
Gerard Sarnat

Meadows Unit
Lisa Compo

A Twist of History
Lynn Hoggard

The Craftsman
Ed Krizek

See Me
Donna James

Now that we’re dead, tell me where we lived
Vy Anh Tran

Houseboat in the Desert
Mary Ann Dimand

Out of Mind
Ruth A. Gooley

All Mine?
Eleanore Lee

Curious Debris
Susan Johnson

Counterturn in the Bear Pit
Lynn Hoggard

No Longer for our Amusement
John Grey

Objet d’Art
Alan Elyshevitz

Chekhov’s Gun
John Sibley Williams

At Dolphinaris
Meisha Rosenberg

Ritual for a Hummingbird
Linda Neal

Snake In the Woodpile
John Grey

Call It Dancing
Christine Terp Madsen

If someone asks, this is where I’ll be
Tim Barzditis

Brian James Lewis

The Wound in the Self Through Which We Exit
Victoria Anderson

Dawn Morrow

First Apartment
Suzanne O’Connell

Across the Park
Mark Belair

From Somewhere at the Bottom
Betsy Martin

Dick Bentley

Contemplating the Toothache
Brad G. Garber

North Country
Charles Elin

Proposal: Purchase This Citizen a Bourbon
Gerard Sarnat

Mark Belair

Albert Wells Pettibone III

Kevin Kantor

New Hampshire Lakeside (Lake Winnipessaukee)
Ed Krizek

The Bullet
John Grey

Beautiful Retribution
Brad G. Garber

Kevin Kantor

Carrying Coffins
Denzel Xavier Scott

Heart with Prickly Wings
Linda Neal

If They Come For Me
Dana Robbins


Destined to Teach
Ronna L. Edelstein

Familial Paper Trail
Danielle McDermott

Dancing Reflections
Connie Flachs

A Roar Deferred
Carolyn Sherman

When in Rome
Paul Sohar

No Child’s Play
Ariella Neulander


A Tigress at Ritter’s Diner
Lizzee Solomon



Peter Patapis
I Ash My Body

I nap in oral sex, wine and more weed without
realizing the darkness. I ash my body and wait
for the sear and the mass of grey flakes floating
off to the earth. I ash my body and ease my
temples, pour honey into my eyes. Overindulging
on late-night snacks and second dinners, I rot
in half-bottle increments. I recalibrate the 4 a.m.
insomnia into daytime hibernation. Tequila
sunrise burns into my cheeks, looks for the big
blue eyes and the next resentment. In this room
everyone wants one more song cigarette
connection, change in an atom, but in the end
I stare at the floor of the kitchen and chew alone


Tim Barzditis
I wouldn’t live there if you paid me

[side A]

Last May, my brother escaped
with a girl to OK City.

Years before, the soft vibrato
of crawling storm clouds

twisted him silent.
Now, we write to each other

about whatever record
we might be spinning.

In my last, I offered a drunken
theory that “The Big Country”

was really David Byrne
calling us out for craving

that elusive sense of home.

[side B]

The circles I have carved
out for myself are small

and silver, echoes
of grey sky in black vinyl.

I am proud of you, brother,
how you’ve found enough

space to widen the shape
of your sound. I am still

here, engaged in a game
of vacuity, waiting

to hear the needle’s skip
and stutter give way

to new noise.


Susan Johnson
Witches Reminisce

In those days you were either a chicken,
had a chicken, or could balance one
on your head. Superstitions inspired
suspicions which inspired accusations

of cats flying, bats conspiring in the pastor’s
well. Was that your dog talking, your pig
that spilled the cream? People were
deciduous as trees, rooted in steep hillsides

of belief that leafed out new commandments
each spring. Religion a fence bent, patched
with pitch. If you see something, swat
something. Life a boot to be broken in.

And once broken, how it cracked along
the seam like a ship’s beam. Your only
light a stick aflame, a window cut in ice,
a puddle reflecting the music of the moon.

When the young spoke, their tongues were
turnips. Always on edge, at the edge of
something you could not see, you could run
all you wanted but never escape. Inside

each forest, another forest. Thoughts rusted
like tools left overnight in a field. To survive
you pulled yourself up into your own nest
and watched as your neighbors’ was set on fire.

Peter Patapis
I Ash My Body

I nap in oral sex, wine and more weed without
realizing the darkness. I ash my body and wait
for the sear and the mass of grey flakes floating
off to the earth. I ash my body and ease my
temples, pour honey into my eyes. Overindulging
on late-night snacks and second dinners, I rot
in half-bottle increments. I recalibrate the 4 a.m.
insomnia into daytime hibernation. Tequila
sunrise burns into my cheeks, looks for the big
blue eyes and the next resentment. In this room
everyone wants one more song cigarette
connection, change in an atom, but in the end
I stare at the floor of the kitchen and chew alone

Tim Barzditis
I wouldn’t live there if you paid me

[side A]

Last May, my brother escaped
with a girl to OK City.

Years before, the soft vibrato
of crawling storm clouds

twisted him silent.
Now, we write to each other

about whatever record
we might be spinning.

In my last, I offered a drunken
theory that “The Big Country”

was really David Byrne
calling us out for craving

that elusive sense of home.

[side B]

The circles I have carved
out for myself are small

and silver, echoes
of grey sky in black vinyl.

I am proud of you, brother,
how you’ve found enough

space to widen the shape
of your sound. I am still

here, engaged in a game
of vacuity, waiting

to hear the needle’s skip
and stutter give way

to new noise.

Samantha Madway
Reverse Poem

When life gives you lemons,
squeeze the juice in your eyes
and call it fresh tears.
When the fisherman tries
to teach you to fish,
have him show you
how to put hooks under
your fingernails, then glide
around the swimming pool,
catching nothing but strands
of yourself that come loose.
When you take a penny,
empty the whole tray,
leave only smeared fingerprints,
and smirk with thinking those
will be worth something someday.
When you race, don’t
dare be slow or steady—
just remain certain
that anyone who bests you
isn’t best or even better, is
just a cheater with a blue ribbon.
When you’re a wolf,
cry out for help, then gnaw
to bone all who try to save you.
When you’re a sheep, baa
at all the spilled blood, then be a hero
for acting like a cotton swab
and soaking it back up.

Dawn Morrow
Elegy for the Unknown

I met my family in Wisconsin
once, a long time ago—
a graduation or wedding, some kind
of life-changing event.
But “family” seems like too strong a word.

A group of related things, says Webster,
all the descendants of a common ancestor,
and by that definition we’re all family
if you just go back far enough, or by dint
of a shared block, or school, or job.

What makes us family doesn’t make us kin.
Last week my Aunt Midge—identical twin
of my grandmother—died, and I pulled up
her obituary, surprised to see
“Genevieve.” All that shared blood—
I didn’t even know her name.

Serena Eve Richardson

I became a photograph today at
1 p.m. while sitting on the back steps
smoking my last cigarette. The ghost of
girlhood flits from my face like melt on flame.

I became a photograph today due
to an accident my husband made while
snapping around with a brand-new lens in
the honeysuckle shade of the garden.

I became a photograph today and
now I am something from back in the day
sepia and old-school cool, ancestor
creased in the dust of an attic album.

Captured as this still image, I rose to
ripen into frame for a new being.

Donna James
See Me

with your hands, as if you are blind
and passage to my inner landscape
loops over contours of my body,
as if the code to me

hides at a distance in one fold or another,
in whole-palmed stroke of slopes,
textural subtleties,
mold of round,

the circular rise of my invitation,
slither through hollows; touch
as if reading me
gives to you sight.

Ruth A. Gooley
Out of Mind

The wind catches on the eucalyptus
and scratches its branches
like a squeaky hinge.
The dryness of the Santa Ana wind
steals the moisture from my arms and my lips,
fires them like paper.

The one-winged owl clings,
tethered, to the top of its cage,
eyes me with one yellow, unfriendly eye.
Ron spins to the cabin
like a boy with a new top,
leaves me at home, forgets to call.

No way to recall the breeze,
fill the air with fog,
give the owl back its sight,
the eucalyptus her leaves,
her scent. I sit on the rocker
and hang, out of place, out of mind.

Eleanore Lee
All Mine?

Agreed: this world’s our home, we’ve got our room and place.
It’s called “squatters’ dominion” under Common Law:
Just stay, and make your mark, and stamp it firmly: “Mine.”
You can see our lights from far-off outer space.
For thousands of years this world’s been ours. See all our stuff!
True. But we’re beginners. Here in this crowded world we’re new.

Long, long before our time, in steaming swamps.
Dripping toothy reptiles splashed and roared.
Through marsh and beach and pond for many million years
Lumbering lizards were Earth’s favored guests.
Earth was theirs they thought—them with their muscled wings,
their flapping lizard limbs,
Their smoking piles of eggs in prickly bristly, nests.

All gone now. Now us, we’re here. But only interim, I fear.
How much longer do we have? And after us…what’s next?

Alan Elyshevitz
Objet d’Art

He hopes for an unfinished epitaph and directs that, before he is
buried, his name be removed from his clothing.
-Keith Waldrop, “First Draw the Sea”

He’s acquired some object that belongs to the world, with
brushstrokes and a signature everyone knows. Nothing proves
its provenance, but it smells like the last standing gallery of a
bombed museum. The object depicts a saint’s suicide the Church
calls “martyrdom.” In fact it belongs in a farmhouse, forgotten,
awaiting exposure to the Prado or the Louvre. It’s displayed
on his balcony where three lazy cats—Dostoyevsky, Kafka,
Camus—share a stained cushion, shifting positions, each one
awakening from time to time with a melodramatic leap in its eyes.

He subscribes to a French newspaper he pretends to have the
vocabulary to read with coffee overlooking the plaza framed by
the Socialist Club and a five-hundred-year-old clock in a city that
thinks it’s in Belgium at the nexus of kunst and thievery. The crowds
go by like illegible writing, handkerchiefs pressed to their brows as
though someone important has died on a very hot day. Intolerable
are the church bells and footprints in yesterday’s puddles.
Fried foods and other corrosives widen the cracks in tourists.

For years he has been unremarkably alive, weathering time like
a ceasefire city, but his heart, beyond restoration, is not what
it was, betrayed by teenage cigarettes and the death camps
of grandparents. At sunset on the plaza the final survivors
vend what remains of protein they carry in their packages of
cosmopolitan skin. Food on a stick and quick sketches of
landmarks litter the cobblestones. The clock and the club
withdraw into shadows of dry history while the objet d’art
dapples then blurs, rehearsing decay for his killer ending.

Linda Neal
Ritual for a Hummingbird

On the dining room floor, a hummingbird
iridescent feathers on pale oak
like a piece of ribbon off a gift box.
Beak intact. No blood.
Knocked dead against the plate glass
with a security sticker
pasted to the bottom corner.
What does a hummingbird know
about security? What does it know
about invisible walls of glass?
How does anyone survive
pushed into invisible walls
of sunsets and feathers?

Cradled, soft in my hand
feathers tight to its body
the bird lay,
its two-inch beak
pointing to the sky.
Dark and round
still moist, its eyes
made me want to believe
it lived.

I laid it on the glass garden table,
wrapped in a paper towel shroud.
Should I make a coffin of sticks?
A sarcophagus of rocks?
A soft bed of leaves?
I left the bird, laid out there
for most of the day.
By late afternoon the miracle
of iridescence hadn’t faded.
Not a feather had moved.

In a remote village in Indonesia
the family polishes the dead ones.
Dresses them in feathers and lace.
Props Mom or Dad against a wall
talks to the corpse
until it’s time
for the funeral. Days. Weeks.
Years go by.
So, I talked to the bird.
You are beautiful, I said
and left it there,
went inside
to talk to the maple box of ashes
in my bedroom—
my father, my husband,
picturing their bodies
laid out iridescent in feathers
assuming they could hear me ask
what to do about the bird.

Brian James Lewis

The place is packed and people are dancing
to the rhythm guitar and drums
while the bass player, a cool cat in a hat,
holds down that bottom end

Smoke rafters to the ceiling and the lights
are low, making this tiny New York club
feel like Mississippi in July
The overworked AC groaning along

As the singer belts out a song about
“You can have my husband, but please
don’t mess with my man.” In a sexy,
slinky leopard skin dress that clings

To every curve of her lithe body
and gives you that smile and wink
that feels so good, like you both know
something that nobody else here does

Awww, yeahhh! And she’s shakin’ it
like you ain’t never seen nobody do before
while the lead guitar weaves in and out
sliding tasty little licks of sweet and heat

Throughout the song, dotting the I’s
and crossing the T’s with quick jabs
that grab your heart and soul tight
until it’s time to soar the solo into the

Night sky like a laser beam, making
the women scream and the men holler
draining out that bad news, bills due,
and the dead pick-up truck in the drive

Drinking cold beer from plastic cups
Eating barbecue and maybe slipping out
to your car to smoke a quick joint and
make some love with your baby

Under the light of the moon, bodies
rockin’, to the music still going on
while one lone cricket sings in the
gravel underneath your old car


Suzanne O’Connell
First Apartment

I was 20. It happened.
Tomatoes and squash grew in the garden.
Baked potato and Spam, cooking.
Television tuned to the news.
Traffic going by on 14th Street.
My first apartment happened.
My own little oven, my fireplace.
Cleaning all day happened.
My first bath in my own tub happened.
A stranger’s eyes sparkled, watched me
through the crack of my bathroom door.
I screamed. That happened too.

Later, the police asked why I screamed.
Why hadn’t I acted normal?
Dried myself off with a towel,
strolled to the bedroom naked?
Why hadn’t I acted normal?
Called them on my rotary phone?
Dressed slowly, a reverse striptease?
They would have come, they said,
they would have arrested him.
All that didn’t occur to me.

I was an unbaked cinnamon bun on a hot pan.
I was a newborn puppy.
I was a lily bending in the heat.
I was a scream I didn’t know I had.
I was only 20.
It happened.
It wasn’t normal.


Charles Elin
North Country

So many colors in a dying sun.
Insects, the last to find water,
shelter deep in the bark.
Mutations are under way.
Biology braces for its promise
of a melting pot.

Mark Belair

My dad driving, we were revisiting
his boyhood haunts
during an excursion
to his hometown in Maine
when the discussion came up
of directions and magnetic north
and my dad
drew a scuffed compass
from the glove compartment
and set it on the dash, a compass
that called north
wherever he directed the car—
angling it around a parking lot
with stops and starts—
until he gave up on the instrument—
which he nevertheless
returned to the glove compartment—
and resumed our tour
of once-thriving stores boarded up,
of old family houses fallen into ruin,
my dad, at eighty-nine, still
knowing his way around, the town—
with the mill buildings our family worked in
empty since their closing after the Second World War—
an Alzheimered version
of its glory days, a town
that my dad
would never forsake
no matter how forsaken
for as a fatherless boy
he could count on
the magnetic north
of its clear, stoic, French Canadian codes;
scuffed codes he still counts on—
as he grows more frail—
to guide his remaining

John Grey

The Bullet

It’s in a rush because it has a flight to catch—
your leg.

It’s not a long journey
but, one microsecond late,
and you walk right by—
it crashes into a wall.

Its destination is the sidewalk
and it can’t get there,
if you don’t buckle at the knee,
drop like an elevator,
crash onto the pavement.

Luckily for the bullet,
it makes it just in time.
But there’s no more luck
beyond that.

Denzel Xavier Scott
Carrying Coffins

In America, it’s sad, but practical
to plan for a black child’s funeral—
R.I.P. shirts,
peace lilies,
photo collages,
limousine seating,
repass menu—
long before
our children dream
of walking across
a graduation stage
of any strata
or down the aisle
of their unlikely wedding.
We give birth to
casket-pretty babies,
who are the closet things
in this world
to the walking dead.


Anne Hosansky
Sarah’s Baby

“Last stop,” the driver calls out again, staring at her. She’s the only rider left on the bus. She goes out the back door so she won’t have to walk past that puzzled look. All the drivers know her by now. The playground is almost deserted today, too cold for children to be outside, except for two little girls struggling with a rope. Why aren’t they in school? She won’t ask them. Children don’t like to be reminded of school. The taller girl is tying one end of the rope to a bench. “You can jump first,” she tells her friend. “I’ll turn.” But she has trouble holding the rope with her mittens on. “Would you like me to turn for you?” Sarah asks. “We’re not allowed to talk to strangers.” “I’m not a stranger. I’m here every day.” Giggling, the girls yank the rope free and race away. “You’re the strangers,” she shouts after them. She walks to the other side of the playground, past the swings and seesaws motionless in the icy air. Some swings have those little seats with bars to keep the children from falling out. That’s what she’ll put Jamie in so he won’t get hurt. She will push him high in the air. Hi diddle diddle you’re flying over the moon, she’ll sing. A woman is sitting on a bench, a baby carriage in front of her. Nearby, a little boy is trying to fill his dump truck from the sandbox. “Mommy,” he calls out, “it won’t dig.” “Sand’s frozen,” the woman says without looking up from her magazine. “No!” he shouts, kicking the truck.
“Play with your ball,” she says, tossing it to him. “And stop whining. You’ll wake the baby.” “I offered to turn the rope for them,” Sarah says, sitting on the bench. “But children are taught to be suspicious these days.” The woman glances at her. “Yeah?” “Even in playgrounds,” Sarah says. The woman shrugs, looking at the glossy face on the magazine cover. “I bet she doesn’t have to change diapers.” “What a beautiful baby,” Sarah says, peering into the carriage. “Boy or girl?” she asks, looking at the yellow snowsuit. “One can’t be sure without a pink or blue cue.” She laughs at her joke. “Boy,” the woman says. “You’re so fortunate.” “He’s my third. I’ve got another boy in kindergarten. I was hoping for a girl this time, but some people have no luck.” “No.” “You got kids?” “A baby. He was born six weeks and two days ago.” “That’s really a new one.” “He was baptized James, for my father. But I call him Jamie.” The woman’s watching the boy race after the ball. “Don’t run!” she shouts. But he trips and falls. “For Heaven’s sake,” the woman mutters, going to the screaming boy. His pants are torn. There’s a bloody cut on his knee. “Can I help?” Sarah asks. “You can use my scarf.” “No thanks,” the woman says over the boy’s sobs. “I’ll take him into the bathroom and wash his knee. I hope he doesn’t need stitches.” “I’ll watch the baby for you.” The woman hesitates. “We mothers have to help each other,” Sarah says. “Well, I suppose. . . I’ll just be a few minutes. Rock the carriage if he cries.” She pulls the sobbing boy toward a stone building, through a door marked GIRLS. Sarah reaches into the carriage and touches the baby’s cheek. “Soft as a marshmallow,” she murmurs. He’s whimpering. Picking up his pacifier she tries to put it into his mouth, but it falls out and he cries louder, waving his fists. “She didn’t even put mittens on you,” Sarah says. “Poor baby, are you cold?” She lifts him out of the carriage and wraps her woolen scarf around him. His head is banging against her breasts. “You want dinner, don’t you?” She starts walking, holding him tighter. “No more milk, all gone.” He’s hitting against her frantically. “Look at the swings,” she says, carrying him past them. “When you’re older you can ride way up in the air.” She’s near the gate. Across the street, a vendor is selling coffee. “Let’s go see that nice man.” The coffee smells good. She can’t remember if she had any this morning. Did she make it for Tom before he left for work? He’d been angry at her for taking so much time to arrange the toys in the crib. The teddy bear kept falling over and the music box wouldn’t wind. “Nice baby,” the vendor tells her. “How old?” “Six weeks,” she says. “And two days.” She walks on, humming the tune from Jamie’s music box. Love makes the world go ’round. . . She and John picked out that music box when she was pregnant because it was one of their favorite songs. “I want him to have a good start in music appreciation,” Tom had joked. So sure it would be a son. The music sounds fainter lately, maybe she winds it too much. “Love,” she sings to the baby. A bus stops at the corner. “Getting on?” the driver calls out. She’s changed his diaper the way the training course taught her and is warming the bottle in a pan of water when she hears Tom.
“I’m home,” he calls out as he does every evening. Only lately he sounds different, as if he’s afraid. “What did you do today?” he always asks, to make sure she’s staying “busy.” “It would be good if you got a job,” he keeps telling her. “Keep your mind occupied.” She is occupied. She has to fold the little clothes in the bureau, arrange the toys in the crib. “How are you?” Tom asks, coming into the kitchen. She tilts her cheek for a kiss, the way she used to. She can see the surprise in his eyes. “Honey, you look more like yourself.” He puts his arms around her. “It’s good to see. . . What’s that bottle?” “I’m warming his milk.” “Sarah! Stop this!” “Ssh, you’ll wake him.” “There isn’t any baby. You’ve got to accept that.” His voice is cracking. “We both do.” “Of course there’s a baby. He’s in the crib.” “You’re making both of us crazy.” He pulls her toward the open bedroom door. “The crib is empty, see? Oh, my God!” “Yes, God gave him back to us.” “Christ! Whose kid is it?” “Ours.” Her fingers twist the top button on his jacket. “Have I made you happy?” “Where did you…? The police will be looking for you!” Her hand moves down to the second button. “I just wanted to borrow him for a while.” “Borrow? Sarah, you can not borrow a child!” “He’s crying. Let me get to him.” Jamie never cried. “You don’t want to be in a crib, do you?” she asks, carrying the baby to the window. “What are you doing, Sarah?” “I’m showing him what the world looks like.” She holds the baby closer, kissing the fuzzy top of his head. How sweet it smells. “See the moon way up there? High diddle diddle cat and the fiddle,” she croons. But he’s crying louder. “He’s hungry, Tom. Here, hold him while I get his bottle.” “I can’t…” “Of course you can. Careful, don’t drop him.” “Drop?” His hands are shaking. “You better sit down, Tom.” “Sit?” But his arms are reaching. “I’ll get the bottle. You can sing to him.” She laughs. “Remember how we joked that you’d ruin music for Jamie if he heard you sing?” “Yeah.’” He’s staring at the baby’s face. “Hey, he’s quiet now. See what effect I have on him?” She laughs again. It’s been so long since she’s heard Tom say anything funny. “Back before you can count to a hundred and one,” she says, their old line when they didn’t want each other out of sight. The bottle’s still standing in the pan. Good thing she remembered to turn off the stove. Important when Jamie starts crawling. She hurries back to the bedroom. “Hi there, little fellow,” Tom’s murmuring. She holds out the bottle. “Do you want to feed him, Daddy?” He shakes his head, tears in his eyes. She’s never seen Tom cry, not even when the doctor told him. “Let me have him. I’ll feed him in the rocking chair.” She cradles the baby against her, holding his head up so he can drink, puts the nipple against his mouth, the way she did with the doll in the training class. He’s sucking so hungrily. She’s doing it right. “I did everything they told me to, Tom. I ate the right foods, didn’t lift heavy things.” “I know, honey.” “Tom, did Jamie…? He didn’t cry at all?” “No, honey…” “Was it my fault?”
“No, Sarah, it wasn’t anybody’s fault. Sometimes these things happen for no reason. That’s what the doctor said.” He kneels beside the chair, stroking the small head, the light brown hairs the same shade as his. “He’s got a good appetite for such a little guy.” “Like his daddy,” she says. There’s a loud knocking on the outside door. “Police! Open the door!” Tom jumps up. “How did they…? I‘ll tell them you didn’t mean…that you’re sick but the kid’s okay. “Don’t open the door! He’ll go away.” “I have to open it. Hand me the baby. I’ll give him to the police. Then maybe…” “No! That woman’s got other children. I have none.” “Police! Open up!” “None,” she cries out, clutching the baby. “Coming,” Tom shouts, hurrying to the door. The baby’s crying again, he’s lost the bottle. “You’re scared, little one, aren’t you?” “Where’s the kid?” A gruff voice. They will hurt him. She runs to the window with him. It opens with one hand. They were going to put a lock on it, keep Jamie safe. “Hush, little baby,” she sings and flies with him over the moon. She’s holding an empty blanket. “I’ll take that from you. He’s always throwing it out of the carriage.” The woman comes out of the bathroom, pulling her little boy. “Nice of you to watch him. As a matter of fact, I’m looking for a baby sitter. Three days a week. Would you be interested in the job?” Sarah looks past her where the leafless branches form a pattern against the gray sky. “You could watch him and your own kid at the same time,” the woman says. “I’m sure my baby would be fine with you. I’ll pay well.” Still, Sarah’s silent, watching the faint crescent of a moon take shape. “You better find someone else,” she says.

Vivian Lawry
The Doll

I hurried from my rented parking space toward my apartment, collar turned up, hat pulled down against the wind, moving as fast as I could go on the icy sidewalk, thankful the business trip was over. It was two o’clock in the morning. Halfway down the block, in the middle of the sidewalk, stood a baby stroller—empty. I stopped short, looked up and down the street. No one in sight. Only the glow of streetlights—and the empty stroller—shared the night with me. Drawing closer, I saw a baby on the sidewalk and bit back a scream. But it was only a doll, a doll the size of a six-month-old infant, face down on the icy concrete. She wore a black dress, white panties, and booties, a thin rainbow scarf knotted around her neck. I picked her up, and a wave of nausea hit me. She smelled like a garbage bin, and her head… Dirt and ice crystals flecked her face, neck and short, frizzled hair. Lashless, cobalt eyes the size of quarters— rimmed in black—stared at me. Her blue nose ring matched her eyes. How could plastic eyes look bloodshot? Forest green mold powdered her cheeks and titanium studs pierced her forehead, both nostrils, and her lower lip. A spike protruded from her right ear. I swallowed my rising gorge and flung the putrid mass toward the curb. But she wouldn’t let go of my hand! Was it the wind, or did she say, “It’s soooo cold.” My breath became labored; my heart hammered in my breast. I bent double and stomped on the doll’s body, trying to pull my left hand free. Excruciating pain shot up my arm. My shoulder felt like it was pulling from its socket. Whatever this doll was, I dared not to take it into my apartment. I called 911 just before I fainted. I woke in the emergency room, surrounded by people in blue scrubs and masks, hands encased in latex. The rotting garbage smell of the doll mingled with the antiseptic smells of the hospital. I blinked in the glare of the overhead lights, and the man taking my blood pressure said, “She’s awake.” A man who had been ordering others’ actions turned to me. His ID said he was Dr. Daniel Bell. “How did this happen?” “I thought I saw a baby on the sidewalk. It was this doll.” I waved my left hand, the doll still attached. “When I tried to throw it away, it… wouldn’t let go.” His eyebrows inched up. “I’d admit you to the psych ward for that sort of talk—except here you are, and there’s clearly something wrong with your hand.” I glanced at my hand, fingers and palm half-sunk into the doll’s body, then back to Dr. Bell. His gloved hand passed right through the doll as he tried to straighten my fingers. He doesn’t see her! Over the next twenty-four hours, they treated me like a cross between a sideshow freak and a laboratory specimen, never left alone, poked and prodded, stared at and talked about as if I were insensate. Dr. Bell injected IV muscle relaxants, but I continued to clutch the doll. Neurological testing revealed no apparent physical basis for what they termed my paralysis. He continued the muscle relaxants and ordered everything from massage to water baths to try to straighten my fingers. Everyone behaved as though the doll didn’t exist. When Dr. Bell ordered all manner of imaging, from X-rays to MRIs, I felt a surge of hope. But they revealed nothing. To my dismay, they showed no shadow—no telltale sign—of the doll. Was I truly going mad? On Tuesday, an orderly was wheeling me to my room when we passed a woman taking her therapy dog to the cancer ward. The dog—a beautiful brindle boxer—stopped so fast her nails skidded on the tile floor. The dog stood almost eye to eye with me in the wheelchair. She looked at my lap and sniffed, then lay down and whimpered. The woman said, “Bernie, what’s come over you? C’mon, Bernadette, heel.” The dog would not budge till we had passed and I was back in my room. No matter how the woman tugged and coaxed, the dog would not pass my door. I breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe I’m not crazy after all. Dr. Bell came in to discuss the possibility of breaking my hand and then splinting it to make the bones heal straight. “I hesitate to try that, except as a last resort. Of the two hundred and six bones in the human body, twenty-seven of those are in the hand.” He peered closely at my hand, his headlamp almost touching the doll. “When did this start?” I followed his gaze to the pale green rash inching up my wrist. I shrugged. “I hadn’t noticed it.” “I’m going to send a scraping to the lab for analysis. In the meantime, I’m ordering antiseptic baths and an antibiotic ointment.” When the rash darkened to forest green, he added an IV antibiotic cocktail. All failed, while the baths and ointment made me feel burned to the bone. I begged Dr. Bell to stop. The only good that came of these treatments was the weakening of the garbage smell. One night I thought she spoke to me, though her lips never moved: “My name is Gracie.” My heart pounded. My mother’s name was Grace—my dead mother. Another night—of course, it might have been the whispering of crepe-soled shoes in the corridor—but I thought I heard, “I need Mommy.” The words reminded me of the abandoned baby stroller. I told Dr. Bell and he initiated a police inquiry for reports of women and/or children who went missing on that night. They found nothing. I never rested easily. Awake in the night, with Gracie whispering “Mommy” into the dark, I could no longer suppress memories of Darren insisting he wasn’t father material and then leaving anyway after the abortion. I moved on. I’d come to accept—to revel in—being child-free. In the gray dawn light, I hated Gracie for dredging up all that. Three weeks later, Dr. Bell said, “Your left hand and wrist are putrefying. My advice is to treat this like cat-scratch fever: amputate to keep this—whatever it is—from advancing.” I shuddered but nodded. Just before the anesthetic dripped into my vein, I said, “What will happen to—what you take off?” “All amputations—anything with blood or several other bodily fluids, actually—is consigned to the biohazardous waste bin.”
My last thought was, how sad. I woke with Gracie in my bed. She was still clutched in my hand, and the amputated part of my arm was reattaching to my stump through the surgical dressing. When the dressing was changed, no one seemed to notice anything amiss. As the amputated part of my limb felt more solid, my upper arm became feeble and green. Dr. Bell amputated again, above the elbow. He did a third amputation at my shoulder. No matter what was done, Gracie always showed up by the time I woke, knitting my severed parts back together. I shuddered to realize that my body was no longer my own. My sisters came. I took care that Gracie was completely covered by the sheet, though I had no reason to believe they would see her. My older sister gave me a pedicure. The younger brushed my hair. She held a mirror for me to see. My eyes—ringed in black—looked huge. Orange blotched my chin. I was beginning to look like Gracie! My sisters wanted to know why I was in the hospital. I’d not given the hospital permission to discuss my treatment with anyone. I said only, “I’m in to have a growth removed.” When I declined to elaborate, they eventually stopped questioning and tried to make small talk. Their smiling lips trembled and they couldn’t seem to look at me. They didn’t stay long. That night Dr. Bell came in around midnight. Green mold was visible on the left side of my torso. I took his hand. “Is there any hope of a cure?” He shifted and cleared his throat. “One can always hope.” His eyes focused anywhere but on me. I squeezed his hand. “Then I want to be discharged. Do it as soon as possible.” “But… But…” He shook his head. “You are in no condition to leave the hospital. That’s madness. I won’t do it.” I smiled. “Then I will discharge myself against medical advice. Show me what waivers I must sign.” After half an hour of haranguing, he produced the forms. Nurses, aides, and orderlies helped me dress, gathered my things, and wheeled me to the exit. They deposited me in a taxi with a bag of surgical dressing supplies, bottles of antibiotics, and an injunction to come back daily for dressing changes. I said I would, knowing that I wouldn’t. I settled back in the taxi, my left arm and Gracie cradled in my right arm. One way or another, Gracie would have me. I wondered briefly whether anything of the old me would be left, but then I grinned and murmured, “We already look like mother and daughter. Over time, motherhood is growing on me.”

Burton Shulman
Kamikaze, 1945

Two days after the flamethrowers were done cooking the coral caves, one day after Ike and Hump had shot a film record of thousands of dead Japanese twisted across those cave floors, GIs started loading artillery and supplies back onto the ships. Ike’s unit had orders to remain on Cay-Ak another two days, ostensibly to film infantry patrols rooting out the remaining Japanese snipers who’d so far declined to surrender, but mostly because the brass hadn’t worked out their next deployment. At the moment, Ike sat on the hood of a jeep with Hump, killing time ritually, running through inventories of the anatomical highlights of various Hollywood bombshells. Hump’s head flopped forward in a mock-swoon. This was mildly amusing until it started sliding down Ike’s chest and came to rest in his lap. Ike told him to cut it out. Hump didn’t move; Ike asked him loudly what the fuck he was doing. That was when he noticed that his own fatigues were darkening, saw a hole in Hump’s forehead, and became one of the guys the medics had to jab full of morphine and drag off to a field hospital to stop the screaming. After the morphine, the medics didn’t notice that Ike’s eyes were empty; anyway, they didn’t mention it. Within a few weeks, he passed the reflex tests and was able to speak more-or-less normally. He no longer sobbed before answering questions. Saying his name, the name of the current President, where he was, what had happened to him, convinced the docs to let him return to his unit. The docs were eager to get rid of anyone they could, as quickly as possible. Ike knew he was now crazy, but suspected he wasn’t going to stay that way. He felt that the fastest way to recover was to get back in the field. Hump was the main reason he felt that way; he kept admonishing Ike to get off his ass and go back to doing what he did. Ike didn’t tell the medics about Hump’s pep-talks; Hump pointed out that it wouldn’t help his case if he explained that he himself, Hump, had taken up residence in the middle of Ike’s brain. A few weeks later, the General, General MacArthur, took them back to the Philippines. Ike’s unit had the honor of filming the Supreme Commander splashing around in the surf, chewing his corncob pipe, and reciting his horseshit. Two years earlier, when he’d abandoned the Philippines, some PR boys made him famous with the quote: “I shall return.” Ike found it amazing how one line had papered over such massive tactical fuckups. The General liked it so much that he now wanted to be sure everyone in the world knew that he’d kept the promise he’d never made. He kept repeating it, “I have returned, I have returned,” muttering it even when he thought no-one else could hear. At those times, with Ike eavesdropping, the General sounded surprised. He was a terrible actor. They had to shoot him from every angle to ensure that somewhere amid all that footage, he looked convincing for a few seconds. Ike also filmed the survivors of the Bataan death march, as they were liberated from the Japanese camps. Two years earlier, at the end of a chaotic battle, MacArthur had abandoned them to a Japanese forcedmarch that lasted eight days and covered sixty-five miles with barely any food or water. The public reason for this betrayal was a direct order from the President to leave. Few believed this. A surviving journalist printed a parody of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” that he said some of them had sung: Dugout Doug MacArthur lies a-shakin’ on the Rock Safe from all the bombers and from any sudden shock. Dugout Doug is eating of the best food on Bataan And his troops go starving on. Another wrote a poem that one of Ike’s buddies read out loud: We’re the battling Bastards of Bataan. No mama, no papa, and no Uncle Sam. No aunts, no uncles, no nephews, no nieces, No rifles, no planes or artillery pieces, And nobody gives a damn. Reports of what had happened to them in these camps. Ike struggled not to think about them. Blinking in the white sunlight, they seemed more interested in chocolate than freedom. They hardly acknowledged they’d been liberated at all. MacArthur insisted on repeated shots of himself shaking skeletal hands. Ike made sure to catch their winces as the General blessed them with his famous grip, ignoring the fact that it caused many of them pain. The General ignored things like that unless he was trying to work up a teary-eyed oath, or display the humble gratitude of a great commander. Ike caught a few GIs staring at his noble Roman profile with enough hatred in their eyes to melt him into the cracks in the earth. The General ignored that too. The problem wasn’t that the man had abandoned his troops. It was that he should have come back crawling, tearing his clothes off the way his heroes in the Iliad would have, begging their forgiveness—not for having left them but for having let himself go on living so well, knowing they were back here starving to death, mostly because of him. His phony vow shouldn’t have been to return but to never stop repenting. It was regular grunts like these who made it possible for assholes like the General to go on with their death-dealing. He should give one of them a gun and let him decide whether or not to blow his head off. Instead he walked around imperiously, followed by cameramen filming his victory parade. Whenever Ike got the chance, he swung his camera around to shoot the GIs reactions to him. He knew this wouldn’t make it into any newsreels but it made him feel better. He wondered if any promise kept had ever meant less to those to whom it had allegedly been made. The GIs looked eerily similar to the Japanese who had surrendered after weeks of starving in the Cay-Ak caves. They were like walking dead. The difference was that where the Japs’ eyes had most often seemed empty or terrified, the eyes of the GIs were full of hate. During his two-and-a-half years in and around combat, Ike had managed to stay free of nightmares. Hepatitis, malaria, and dysentery brought hallucinations, but even the hallucinations were relatively benign. When his unit was ordered onto a destroyer in a 3rd Fleet convoy headed, rumor had it, for the Japanese homeland, panicked dreams started chewing him up as if they’d been sharpening their teeth. Hump became his child, his mother, an old man. Shocking him awake nearly every night was a dream of falling into a hole stuffed with dead Humps, hands reaching for him as Ike lay paralyzed. Sometimes he’d drag himself awake and lie sweating in the dark, trying to slow his heartbeat. Other times he’d be shaken awake by one of his buddies, who hissed that though Ike was now the senior shithead in the unit, if he didn’t stop yelling they’d get him Section 8’ed out so the rest of them wouldn’t go as crazy as he was. Another rumor came down: the convoy was going to hit Japan itself, in advance of the full invasion. The ocean war was almost over; island combat would shift to street fighting—but not the kind they’d heard stories about from Europe. No, in this case—guys kept saying it to each other, as if hoping one of them would deny it—they’d be killing more civilians than soldiers. Why? Because the civilians would be trying to kill them. He’d always taken secret pride in the knowledge that for all the combat he’d witnessed, he himself had never fired a single shot in anger. He was sure he’d never killed anyone. One morning his unit received their new orders: they were being redeployed as common infantry. They’d only pull out their cameras when there were breaks in the fighting. About this, Hump was silent. Japanese Zeroes were no longer bombers but bombs—kamikazes, suicides. Pilots were chained into cockpits, their planes packed with bombs and flammable chemicals. Fuel was in short supply, so they were only given enough for a one-way trip. Ike wondered if they considered themselves corpses even before they took off. There could be something calming about that. But what did a breathing corpse feel like? Since Cay-Ak he sort of thought he knew, but wasn’t sure. The only open question about a kamikaze pilot’s future was whether his body would blow apart or drown—whether he’d hit a ship full of GIs or an ocean swell that would swallow him without a trace. When the sirens went off, Ike was fighting to keep his attention inside the IMO’s viewfinder and stop shaking each time one of the battleships fired another round at a group of Japanese ships. But sirens were bad. He tucked the IMO under his arm and raced for the ladders to get below. As he started down, though, he glanced up just as a Zero slammed into a neighboring ship and blew apart, opening a crippling hole in the destroyer’s side. Inexplicably, his panic vanished. He stopped, and watched himself crank up the IMO then start back up the ladder against the rush of fleeing bodies. The problem, he saw later, was that in the course of his ongoing mental conversation with Hump, he forgot that Hump wasn’t exactly there anymore. Had he been, he’d have screamed at Ike and shoved him back down the steps. When that didn’t happen, it seemed as if Hump was, in effect, ordering him to go back and shoot. So that’s what he did. Shooting, after all, was his only relief. At first, he focused the IMO on the GIs leaping off the thirty-foot deck of the other ship, landing in open ocean that moved up and down, patchy with flaming oil and wreckage. A bee-like hum spun him around; a Kamikaze was coming for Ike’s own ship. Hump spoke, suggesting—reasonably, Ike thought—that since he was already here, he might as well get the best shot he could. To do so he had to move toward, not away from, the Zero. Everything in his mind was working perfectly except his sanity; he estimated maybe twenty seconds to set up as he looked around for the best angle. He decided that if he wrapped his legs around the gunwale, he’d have a good vantage point and his hands would be free. A voice that wasn’t Hump’s asked him why he was doing this. He chose not to address the question. He adjusted the IMO’s aperture to accommodate the midday sun, and while climbing onto the gunwale, managed to start shooting, trying to hold the Zero in the shot by keeping one eye on it and the other in the viewfinder. He achieved a rhythm of refocusing and readjusting aperture and angle in almost continuous motion, capturing the Zero’s progress toward Ike’s annihilation. When it entered its dive, Ike was momentarily paralyzed; that’s when Hump changed his mind and said that maybe it was time to get below. The Zero’s forward machine guns were now spitting at him, as his ship rode the swells. Working out of reflex, Ike was mostly able to hold the guns in the center of the frame. It occurred to him that the only way this was possible was if he himself, standing alone on the deck, had become the pilot’s focal target. If that were the case, each would be the last person the other would see. Ike considered this with psychotic detachment; the brass was going to love the footage as long as the IMO itself didn’t get hit. He saw that he was killing himself exactly as the pilot was, and realized he now knew how Kamikaze pilots felt when they took off. One part of their minds was shrieking, “Run!” though it was clear that they wouldn’t. At which point the other part went into a deep sleep. Ike suspected that part might include the conscience, but he wasn’t sure.
He regretted the fact that he wouldn’t be able to tell anybody this. Hump seemed to understand. Just before impact he saw the pilot’s face; this close he could see that the pilot wasn’t looking back because he was already dead, cut apart by bullets from Ike’s ship. Ike had the impression the man’s mouth was open, and while it was possible the last thing he’d screamed was Banzai, it seemed far more likely that it was Mama. The word “Mama” awoke Ike’s sleeping mind just enough so he himself now screamed “Mama” before an unexpected shell slammed into the Zero’s fuselage, shoving it sideways and causing a wingtip to bend down just enough to touch the ocean. The plane spun into a half-cartwheel, slammed sideways into a swell, and blew apart fifty yards to starboard. The concussion nearly pitched Ike overboard, but somehow his legs held on as razors of shrapnel hissed by, faster than machine-gun bullets. One sliced open his arm, which felt, at first, like a light touch. The rest sliced into the deck and the ocean, sizzling metal accompanied, no doubt, by bits of the pilot’s flesh and bone and—who knew?—memories and emotions. Ike was told later that he’d continued to crank the IMO long after the attack was over, and the film spent. A sailor emerging from below heard strange, consonant-less wails. He said it took some doing to pry Ike from the gunwale and get him down to sickbay. This time, his not-so-temporary insanity won him a Bronze Star. The CO also took the occasion to nominate him for a Silver Star for extreme bravery under fire. Decades later he would insist to his son that he’d simply gone mad. None of the combat footage he shot in later decades came close in risk; on this one occasion he’d been suicidal. In the field, looking through your camera sometimes made you act bravely because you felt as if you weren’t where you were. On the other hand, one of the few positive effects of his time in combat was to teach him to find ways to tolerate, even appreciate, wherever he was at a given moment, rather than always wish he was someplace else, as he had for most of his life ‘til then. Once again, though, Ike surprised himself with something like resilience. Within a few days he felt well enough to fake that he was well enough to be released from sickbay. He kept apart from the others, instead engaging in marathon conversations with Hump. The hopeful part was that he was rarely unaware that he was crazy, and fully understood that Hump was dead. He chose not to worry because he would soon be dead himself. Shooting was the only reason he’d ever found for living, so it didn’t seem so crazy to be willing to die as long as he could keep shooting till the end. Because, for the most part, he now thought of himself as already dead, he was no longer all that afraid. He no longer cared about anything at all, which, under the circumstances seemed to him quite sane. Late morning on August 6th, 1945, the ship’s company was ordered on deck. The captain seemed subdued. He announced that he’d received a communiqué explaining that a few hours earlier, a U.S. plane had dropped a new kind of bomb on an industrial city in Japan. The communiqué promised more detail was forthcoming. For now, it said that a single bomb had destroyed an entire city. The captain, who looked to be in his forties, showed none of the queasy thrill that Ike himself started to feel. He simply made the announcement and dismissed them. Ike’s reaction mirrored that of most of the men around him: he started shaking with hope. Despite everything, he discovered, he still wanted to live. A few days later they were assembled on deck again: another bomb, another Japanese city. Then, several days later, against every shred of prior evidence that such a thing was possible, Hirohito surrendered unconditionally. Ike screamed himself voiceless, along with everyone else. No one was saying how many civilians had died. But forever after, Truman’s decision to drop those bombs seemed to Ike wise beyond measure. He was certain that if that group of civilians hadn’t burned and died, millions more would have, along with GIs including Ike himself, in vicious, close combat. Whatever else they’d done, those bombs had saved his life. But as the euphoria faded, he faced a new crisis: he hadn’t counted on having to fill up another forty-odd years of living. The thought of redirecting his energies yet again, this time back toward the laborious business of building a life, was exhausting. He was glad to be alive. He wasn’t sure about having to live.



Danielle McDermott
Familial Paper Trail

Photograph of Dad’s family

One December morning, I lied to my dad. I asked to stay home from school, giving some garbage excuse about a hurt stomach. Dad’s eyes were pink-ringed and heavy. I noticed the quivering of withheld tears, and I couldn’t understand why he was upset. He placed his large calloused hand on my forehead. I dreaded he’d figure me out and drag me to school. I hated third grade because of my teacher who bullied her students. I’d considered running full-speed on black ice to try and bust up my leg.
At nine years old, I believed that my pain tolerance was exceptional. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d done something drastic—
once I’d locked myself in the gym’s storage room for an hour before someone realized I was missing. Mom was furious, but Dad had convinced her not to punish me. They already knew about that teacher. She’d targeted my brother two years before.
Patrick would come home each day on the verge of a meltdown— crusted snot stains on his shirt, face peppered with dried jagged tear trails, enflamed oozing scabs where he’d carved gorges into his dark, tan skin.
Maybe Dad’s empathy persuaded him to let me stay home. Dad moved his hand away, scrutinizing me with his shiny wet eyes. I wanted to ask if he was about to cry. Is a kid allowed to ask an adult that question? He left to call the school. Sticky slingshot hands dripped from the ceiling.
Most were adhered on the window to cast a kaleidoscope pattern on the walls. I wasn’t allowed messy goo or Play-Doh anymore; I kept losing the stuff in the carpets. Mom tolerated the sticky hands, but just barely. They started to peel off the ceiling. How long would an actually-sick person stay in bed before moving to play Spyro on the GameCube? I heard a muffled sob and wondered if I should find who was crying.
Opening my door, I snuck down the stairs the best way I knew how—exactly like Scooby and Shaggy—and stopped where the wall changed into a twisted metal railing. My dad was on the couch, his shaky hands clinging to a large photo, the black Document Box laid open like a discarded Muppet. His broad shoulders blocked my view of its details. I weaseled under his arm to hug him even though his tears upset me.
He had pulled splinters and glass out of my feet—scrubbing salt on the entry point while his kid shredded her voice raw wasn’t a fond memory, but he still did it. The trade was fair.
The picture’s edges were worried into tattered softness and rounded corners. Two adults and three boys sat together in a restaurant. The discoloration distorted the distinction of each person’s face. I could figure out which was Papa, the cigar between his fingers faded into red pastel. I had a hard time telling which child was Dad. I didn’t know the woman in the photo with dark hair. I knew Papa’s wife was Nonna, so who was she?
The only similarity Nonna and her shared was their pale skin. Nonna has blonde hair, blue-green eyes, a shorter face. The unknown woman was Grandma Pat. She was Dad’s mom. She was his Wonder Woman who took care of a big house and four kids while her three boys rotated through the emergency room in Connecticut. Grandma Pat was amazing and wasn’t to be messed with. Dad loved her. Tears started to navigate over his textured skin. Dad didn’t shake this time; his eyes stayed focused on the faded still of Grandma Pat. He, at twenty years old, came home from his college’s final exams. He went into the bathroom. She was already in there. She sat rigid and slumped over, wide-eyed, dull-lipped—a burnt-out cigarette inches away from the bathroom rug. He closed the door and apologized, thinking she was using the toilet. A few minutes went by before he registered what was behind the door.

Missing Files

In seventh-grade science, I learned about space. My assigned project was to track the constellations and the moon’s phases across the October sky. The orange-polluted darkness of Pottstown blotted out the weak stars of Pegasus. I relocated the Document Box onto the roof, flashlight in hand and homework discarded. The gray handle was cracked, the black top a gradient of dark gray and brown, and a busted up clasp. Dad put all the important paperwork, photos, and mementos into it. I made sure to wipe the smudgy slick dust onto my plaid uniform skirt before touching
Dad’s white yearbook.
I was enthralled with the grayscale photos of his high school yearbook that showed pictures of a person who was simultaneously my dad yet not—a version of him with his mom before his car accident and without me. I wondered about Mom’s yearbook. Nothing of hers was there.
No childhood photos or the drawings that Grandma talked about, not even adult photos or birthday cards. Only her brutalized birth certificate, wedged inside a blank envelope alongside mine, Dad’s, and Patrick’s. Her certificate was black, but the yellow of the heavy paper slipped through, crumbling edges worn into velvet, a hole eroded into the center from years of folding and unfolding.
A father’s name wasn’t there, and I knew Mom was beaten for it by her stepfather. She told me of the anger that came her way if the remote
wasn’t where he left it, if Mom stayed in her room too long, if she didn’t come out often enough. Grandma would have darker spots on her deep brown body if she tried to stop him.
“Bruises on black skin are easy to miss unless you know what you’re looking at,” Mom told me.
Did Mom keep her mementos elsewhere? She most likely would have kept them separate and scattered throughout the blue storage bins oriented into our two-bedroom apartment. I wasn’t allowed in her boxes; no one was. She would yell at us, fearful that we’d throw all her things away.
When Mom came home from her double shift at the deli, I asked her about her yearbook. “I never got one. No one’ve signed it anyway. I told you about those girls who tried to get me raped, right?” Maybe she’d have her drawings instead. Grandma told me whenever
we visited about her charcoal and pencil drawings of the insects she collected to sketch their minuscule details.
“It all got tossed out. Why are you asking me about all this, Bee?”
All her artwork got shredded and thrown away by her stepfather when she married Dad. Her stepfather wasn’t fond of him—a sentiment nearly all of my mom’s family shared since my dad’s white. I knew my baby album had been destroyed in the same flood that had ruined her high school diploma. She must’ve had some of her childhood pictures, like Dad’s photo of him at the Woodway Beach Club or the one
of his mom looked at every December. I considered asking about her new Rune Factory farming game instead. If I pushed too much, she’d leave me and cocoon in her fuzzy brown blanket, the “M” in her brow the last thing I’d see of her for the night. I wanted to know about the photos and risked setting her off.
“Your grandmother has all those pictures. I’ve always been ugly, anyway. Praise God that you have such beautiful curls instead of my nappy
rats’ nest. You and Patrick were such cute babies. Do you want to see your pictures? They’re in my wallet.” The only photos of her as a kid are the ones in Grandma’s house, each framed in silver etched with crosses and doves. Every bit of Grandma’s small townhouse spills with frames, cat figurines, and smooshy furniture smelling of sweet pimento and sharp ginger root. The photo I see the most is the one I have the hardest time looking at. It sits in the middle of the coffee table, completely unavoidable since the couch is the only open sitting spot.
The photo shows Mom as a child in a white blouse with a rounded collar. She sports two thick braids, each tied off with red hair ties. Her right cheek and neck are darker than the rest of her. Mom wasn’t exaggerating—you can only spot the bruises if you know what you’re looking at.

Copy of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) Packet

I stopped enjoying school around the first grade. Running around the playground was boring—the swings were always taken, and my classmates’ shrill voices overwhelmed me. Halfway through the year, I met the second-grade teacher who taught my brother. Rather than going to recess, I helped her prepare for the afternoon activities. I was more than happy to use the squishy sponge to clean the blackboards. The dried tracks left behind by the imperfect sponge were more interesting. I preferred the muffled claps of the erasers that billowed out chalk clouds.
The second-grade teacher asked me about Patrick, wondering whether he liked third grade and which subject was his favorite. I lied to her.
She’d be hurt to know how his new teacher treated him, the verbal abuse he received and the comments about his appearance. Who would believe me, some first-grader, anyway? She asked if Patrick was getting the help he needed. I didn’t understand. I just wanted to be useful.
Patrick was first misdiagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) a month before entering third grade. He was later re-diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a subtype of Autism. His second grade teacher recognized Patrick would begin to talk at random and
speak “at length about topics unrelated to the [class] discussion.”
Being my oftentimes only friend, the unrelated comments were normal.
He liked to teach me things, like puzzles and magic tricks. When playing Super Mario 64, he’d start off silent, totally immersed as he controlled a blocky Mario to solve and teach me the game’s puzzles. Patrick would start talking about different types of birds and the purposes of their different beaks.
Patrick plays mostly shooter-type games now, which I’m too anxious to play. I’m the “panic and use all the ammo” type, or as my dad says, the “spray and pray” player. Patrick isn’t willing to show me the controls. Granted, I prefer puzzle or story-driven games that we used to play together but that he now finds boring. In middle school, he taught me how to solve 3D puzzles shapes. I liked the pyramid the most, not only
because of its color but the simplicity of its shape. The clear yellow-tinted pieces click together to form a semi-transparent pyramid, every division line white and opaque. It was obscenely difficult to put together, but he helped me as we talked about ancient Egypt and ancient gods.
Oftentimes, he’ll struggle with the shapes of words. The counselor noted in the IEP that he “often stumbled over what he was trying to say.”
Patrick still does, and coupled with Dad’s dyslexia, I’m accustomed to offering words or tail-ends of sentences. I noted the pattern to Patrick.
His brows came together like Mom’s “M” as he asked, “Do you hate me because you do that?”
Patrick often asks how we feel about him—he’s not able to read people’s body language or emotions, especially not complex ones like frustration. After his diagnosis with Asperger’s, Dad had to choose between his career and health or becoming Patrick’s primary caretaker. The other option was to send Patrick away, which Dad couldn’t bring himself to do. When asked how Dad could sacrifice so much, he establishes a jocular manner while he shrugs—how could he send his son away? Dad had tried to kill himself when he had been sent away—failing only because the donator of the gun lied about it being loaded. He didn’t want Patrick to experience that hopelessness.
A middle school teacher remarked in the IEP that Patrick has “juvenile-almost-like temper tantrums.” If communication falls apart during an argument (usually between him and Dad), Patrick will grasp fistfuls of his pillowy black curls while doubling over, screams vibrating in his
throat while strips of spit dribble from his mouth.
“You hate me because of what you gave up! You’d all be happier if I just went away or died! None of you would care if I just killed myself!” My position in our family was the peacemaker. I’m told that I understand Patrick’s spoken and unspoken language the most. Even the IEP mentions me in the “Parent Input and Concerns,” not by name but as “sister” who “helped organize him.” He needs the reminders since he
doesn’t have a routine; he says it’s too hard and already has one. When I point out the inconsistencies, I’m accused of believing he’s a bad person. Once, I offered to play Diablo 3 with him to avoid a confrontation. He wanted to ask Mom and Dad to play. I tried to stop him.
There’s usually an argument if Patrick plays—Mom hangs around the safe area too much, Dad’s hack-and-slash Barbarian character clashes
with Patrick’s shoot-and-bolt Demon Hunter, and I like to explore for all the in-game loot while he speeds ahead. He asked why I didn’t want our parents to join in. I tried not to answer; I initiated a boss fight as a distraction and outright lied. He asked again, and I chose the least likely solution. I told him the truth.
“So you all hate me, right? Can’t even play with me without having a problem. I’m just a problem to you! You’d be happier if I was never born.” I don’t hate him. I don’t think I ever could, but I told him I was done, exhausted of always being yelled at, of being attacked whenever performing my role. He screamed at me. He scrunched his face together, his voice pitching higher, telling me that I couldn’t be done; I’m his sister. How could I do this to him?
“So you really do hate me? You’ve been lying all these years, huh? I’m just something you can throw away!”
I’m tired of being asked if I hate him. Why does he keep asking when my answer never changes?
“Because I don’t believe you.”
His distrust is fair. I offered him a lie as my escape. Now instead of mediating, I watch for the warning signs, emerging to see the aftermath. Dad laughs about his growing fear of Patrick despising him. Mom’s flees to her bedroom and blankets when Patrick comes home. When the shouting starts, I think about the puzzle pyramid. I recall our discussion of the history, Yu-Gi-Oh, the structural integrity of pyramids, the friendship we had. He didn’t notice the puzzle was missing. I’ve decided to keep it for myself; it wouldn’t fit into the Document Box anyway.

Ariella Neulander
No Child’s Play

I. Balance Beam

Strokes, like voracious Pac-Men, have chomped through huge swathes of my mother’s brain. Now my once-articulate, super-competent mom can barely feed, wash, dress, or explain herself. Aides help her do everything she forgot how to do for herself; doctors keep watch over her
heart and brain; my sibs visit when they can; and my still-working dad brings home love poems and roses, along with a web of anxieties, expectations, and demands.
I am local and retired, so I referee. I was a lawyer in my former life. A career as a tightrope walker would have been better preparation. The aides want a predictable schedule and salary. My mom likes them; we all rely on them; I want to keep them happy. My dad resents them. He cancels or sends them home without notice when he is off work or home early, then docks their pay. I cajole; I argue; I attempt to take control. My father stomps his feet and digs in his heels. A favorite aide threatens to quit. My mother needs her meds. She also needs her autonomy and self-respect.
We put her pills in front of her before dinner, but after dinner, they are still there. We remind her; the pills remain untouched. So we hand
them to her. “Stop that; I’ll do it myself!” she says. The big hand on the clock makes another orbit and the meds are just where we put them. Soon it will be time for bed. “She won’t take her pills!” my father shouts, banging the table. She can’t take her pills, I think. “I’ll do it; just leave me alone,” pleads my mother.
The cardiologist says we should lower my mom’s blood pressure to prevent another stroke. The geriatrician says we should raise it to keep the blood flowing to the brain. The neurologist says a baby aspirin each day could help. The cardiologist says, “Too dangerous.” My mother says she doesn’t feel safe spending weekends alone with my dad. My father says he can take care of her alone. “Please!” he screams.
“I can’t stand this! Strangers in my house around the clock! I am going to go crazy!” My mom is a frail reed and my dad a ticking bomb. My big sister says, “Have you checked into this? Have you considered that? Did you ask her this? Did you tell him that?”
My little sister says, “Stop with the obsessing already. There’s only so much we can do.” My father says, “Make her eat. Make her drink. Make her wake up and walk with me outside.” My brother, from six time zones away, says, “You’re amazing; thank you.” My friend says, “Has it occurred to you that maybe your mother wants to die?”

II. Merry-Go-Round

My mother had three more strokes at home last week. I was with her after each one. Zach and Becky, my son and daughter-in-law, asked if I could still babysit Monday. “I hope so,” I said. “But this end stage of Grandma’s life reminds me of the end stages of Becky’s pregnancy. It’s difficult to plan. You never know when that big event will come that will change everything.” My granddaughter, Aria, is now one year old. She uses the bars of her crib, the seat of the couch, or the top of the coffee table to pull herself up to stand. She does this over and over again, every hour of the day. I remember when Zach first did this at the Danish modern wall unit in the living room of our garden apartment. He kept his Thumbkin Fisher-Price people there. Soon, he’d put them on the turntable of our record player and spin them around as if they were on a merry-go-round. My mother can’t always pull herself up to a standing position anymore, even if we place her hands on the arms of the dining chair. When she does manage it, the effort can take her an hour.
Aria is starting to talk in two languages. She says “duck-a-duck-adoo” and we do not understand. She is also saying words that we do
understand. “Bebe,” she says, for baby. “Elmo.” “Agua.”
My mother is quieter than ever. When she speaks, we often do not understand. She is forgetting her words. Soon, I fear, she will be down to
three, like Aria. Or none at all. Aria helps us dress her in the morning. She knows that the shoes go on her feet and the hat on her head.
Until recently, my mother dressed herself. But when she tried to put her legs into the sleeves of her sweater and her arms in her pants, the
aides had to step in and help. Aria found her cousin’s carriage yesterday and, grasping it, took her first few steps. Soon she may give up her stroller.
My mother almost tottered yesterday until we brought the walker for her to grasp. Soon she may need a wheelchair.
Aria eats with her hands. She has a hearty appetite. She loves to slurp up milk from a bottle, drink water from a sippy cup, and sometimes, still, nurse from her mother’s breast. My mother eats with her hands. She has almost no appetite. She can look at a half-cup of juice placed in front of her for most of the afternoon without touching it to her lips. Aria makes in her diaper. So does my mother. Aria claps hands for me. My mother practiced clapping hands last week with her exercise teacher. Aria sleeps eleven hours at night and takes two naps during the day. My mother sleeps eleven hours at night and sometimes most of the day. Aria’s smiles are broad, her laughter unbridled, her mirth overflowing and infectious. I play peek-a-boo with her, as I did long ago with Zach and then his little sister, and she giggles. She lights up every room she enters.
My mother’s smiles are fleeting, and her laughs few and restrained. Sometimes, as I look at her, she seems to disappear behind an invisible screen. But each moment of connection and joy reflected on her face stabs my heart with a sharp sliver of light.

III. Seesaw

It has been four weeks since my mother’s last three strokes. In the hours following each one, she could not sit or stand. She did not want to
speak or eat. She stared blankly into space. She cannot possibly recover this time, I thought. I need to prepare myself. I need to prepare my siblings, my children, and, most importantly, my dad. Then she recovered. She sat and stood on her own. She spoke with friends and relatives on the phone. She took a long walk around the neighborhood and accompanied my dad to a concert. She smiled when she saw me. She laughed when I cracked a joke. She asked about my novel and my husband’s tooth pain. I felt awful for killing her off in my mind.
A week ago, my mother couldn’t figure out how to climb the three stairs to her bedroom. Then getting up from a chair or bed, once again,
became too hard. By Mother’s Day, she had no interest in gifts, cards, or greetings, let alone the brunch and chocolates we had brought to share.
She had a few spoons of soup her aide fed her. Otherwise, she did not eat. She said nothing all day. And I did not see her smile even once. I spoke with my father. I wrote my siblings and children. I began thinking about a eulogy. Last night, my mother fed herself four scrambled eggs with a fork. She laughed at my father’s joke. When he sang, “Here comes the bride, all dressed in white,” she corrected him. “I’m wearing blue,” she said. Maybe she will bounce back after all, I thought. But today, she is barely opening her eyes.

IV. Peek-a-Boo

My mom could always see the real me, even when I tried to hide it behind a mask. She was like that with everyone. She got the gist of people
immediately. And she could read emotions swathed in any number of defenses and disguises. Now my mother is lying, or more accurately dying, in the hospital bed that hospice delivered three weeks ago. I am watching her closely, mostly to be sure she is still breathing. But I am not sure I am seeing her. Here is what I do see. My still beautiful, elegant, uncomplaining mother in an adjustable metal-railed bed by the window with a pillow wedged under one hip, another under her shins, and one under each elbow to keep her from developing bedsores. She has barely eaten in weeks and has not even had her typical half-cup of ice chips in days, so her belly is shrunken and her cheeks, wrists, and ankles are sunken. Her hands and feet are growing ever more mottled and purple while the formerly peach tinge of her chin and the rosy-pink hue of her lower lip are bleaching out to a single, eerie grayish-white. Her lovely white hair, which my sister washed in bed for her last week, is now mussed despite my effort just an hour ago to brush it into place. Her eyes are closed and her mouth wide open. She is panting fast and hard one minute, and the next, I cannot tell if she is breathing at all.
That is now. About a month ago, when my mother was still sharing a queen-sized bed with my father, she was transported one evening into a frantic, waking nightmare. She told my dad that she saw a baby alone in an abandoned house. She cautioned me that my granddaughter, Aria, was about to fall and that I had to tell my son to catch her, quick. And she insisted to her overnight aide, throughout the night, that there was a baby stuck in traffic. “Over there,” she said, pointing urgently to the closet. Then, without warning, when the aide stepped away, my mother leaped out of bed, bounded to the closet, and fell on her backside. “I thought I saw a baby there,” she told me, puzzled, the next morning when she returned to our world. “But maybe I didn’t.” A week or two ago, alone now in her hospital bed, my mother once again floated away. We could not tell if she was merely in a long, deep sleep, or if she was heading toward a coma or death. We were just grateful that this time she was calm.
Hours later, my mother suddenly opened her eyes, looked at my sister and me, and told us she hurt. With her permission, we squirted a small dose of morphine into her mouth, and when she said it tasted bad, we offered to brush her teeth. My mom smiled when I admitted I wasn’t sure where her toothbrush was. “I wasn’t expecting to take this trip,” she admitted. “So I didn’t pack my bag.” Then she opened her mouth for the toothbrush, asked for spoons of chocolate ice cream, diligently did some gentle leg lifts and pelvic tilts with her exercise instructor, and chatted away smilingly with her aide, Liz, and me.
After that, she closed her eyes again and left on an even longer journey. This time her face looked blissful. She opened her eyes a day or two later. With her children sitting beside her, she announced that she’d better have some ice chips and broth. Otherwise, she said, she would die. My sister asked if she’d been someplace nice. “It was…perfect,” she said dreamily. “Per-fect-ly perfect. But then…” But then. But then she came back to a world where she cannot sit, stand, walk, or turn to her side. A world where even breathing is a struggle.
And a world where, perhaps worst of all, her daughter looks at her and sees a dying woman in the body where her mother used to live.
Wait. My mother’s breathing has changed again. Her open-mouthed pants are shallower, calmer, but before each one, she takes a dramatic intake of breath that lifts her entire chest and shoulders. Soon, I hear what sounds like a quiet snore. The nurse comes. “I can barely hear a heartbeat anymore,” she whispers to Liz and me after examining my mom. “I think she may be taking her final breaths.”
My mommy’s eyes are now open, just a slit, but I do not think she sees me.
She lets out a gentle, quiet sigh.
The nurse looks at me and nods. “That was it,” she says. “That was her final breath.”
I look at my mother. She is not smiling, but her face is peaceful. I close her eyes and lift the sheet to cover her head.
Peekaboo, Mom. I see you.
I see you now.


Lizzee Solomon
A Tigress at Ritter’s Diner


We asked each contributor the following questions:

1. What’s the best thing to buy for a dollar?
2. What’s your favorite type of fabric?
3. What’s the worst thing to put in a fish bowl?
4. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever had in your pocket?
5. If you were a mixed drink, what would you be?
6. What’s your favorite invention?
7. Which literary character would you trust with the password to your phone?

We hope you enjoy their answers as much as we did!

Mark Ali is a Pushcart Prize nominated writer whose work has recently appeared in Cimarron Review, The Superstition Review, The Emerson Review, Big Muddy Journal, Verdad Magazine, Lalitamba Magazine, and Forge Journal. He has studied under Stephen D. Gutierrez and Tony D’Souza. Mark writes and lives out of Oakland, California.

1. Something someone couldn’t afford for themselves without the benefit of my buck.
2. Cotton for the warmth and comfort, as well as being a reminder of what black people contributed to this country’s enduring capital, both economically and culturally.
3. A tree to be climbed.
4. A lost tooth, which didn’t belong to me.
5. A Shirley Temple straight up on the rocks, grenadine, ginger ale, with two maraschino cherries.
6. Melanin, because it forces to me wonder why and figure out how.
7. Hassan from The Kite Runner because he epitomizes the good in human kind, which is a reminder for me to do right by others.

Victoria Anderson lives and writes in Chicago. She has published three books of poetry, most recently a chapbook from Kelsey Books entitled The Hour Box. She has been a three-time recipient of Illinois Art Council individual artist’s grants and has published fiction and poetry in numerous literary magazines, among them Gulf Coast, New South, Agni, Mississippi Review, and American Short Fiction. 1. A potato, a sprig of parsley, & a clove of garlic. 2. Linen. 3. A cat’s paw. 4. A child’s tooth. 5. French 75. 224 6. The blender. 7. Moira from The Handmaid’s Tale.

Tim Barzditis is a poetry candidate of George Mason University’s Creative Writing MFA program. Prior to his time at GMU, he earned his BA and MA in English at The University of Lynchburg. Tim’s work has been featured in The Lindenwood Review, Foothill: a journal of poetry, Whurk, and elsewhere.

1. Either a load of laundry or three fun-sized bags of Swedish Fish from your local convenience store. Can’t go wrong with either.
2. When my father was an active-duty marine, he was given some water-resistant military ponchos. Those ponchos were given to child-me to use as blankets. I measure all blankets against those ponchos.
3. Inarguably, a toaster.
4. I did have a sugar glider for a while, so I guess it wouldn’t have been too outlandish to see a small marsupial pop her head out of there.
5. A Harvey Wallbanger.
6. Mechanical pencils and the Sony Walkman. I owe a lot of who I am to those two gizmos.
7. The Master and Margarita’s Behemoth: a snarky (but 225 well-mannered), shapeshifting demon who spends most of the novel as a liquor-drinking, chunky black tomcat. A real creature of integrity, y’know?

Mark Belair’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Harvard Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and Poetry East. His latest collection is Watching Ourselves (Unsolicited Press, 2017). Previous collections include Breathing Room;Night Watch; While We’re Waiting; and Walk With Me. Please visit www. 1-7. In short: The best fabric to buy for a dollar is the worst thing to put in a fish bowl or, just as weirdly, in a pocket where it could get shaken like a martini against a favored invention— the phone—which would require the assumption of the logic of a Sherlock Holmes to deduce, from the memory-cueing fabric purchase, the phone’s ever-forgotten password: Steel Wool.

Laine Chmielewski is currently a high school student living in Sarasota, Florida. Her love for strange words and other people’s minds is what inspires her poetry. She hopes it can touch people’s hearts, letting them know that everything will be alright, no matter what.
1. A present for someone else.
2. Pure cotton. It’s such a kind fabric. 226
3. Fish. Let them be free.
4. Probably a lucky cat charm my older sister gave me a while ago. I used to carry it around everywhere with me.
5. Welch’s sparkling grape juice. It’s not even a mixed drink but I’m still a minor so I don’t really know any besides that.
6. The pen. Writing by hand is so liberating, and has really helped me through difficult times.
7. Esther Greenwood, I feel like I could trust her with anything.

Lisa Compo attends Salisbury University on the eastern shore of Maryland where she studies creative writing, works as a writing center consultant, and is currently the poetry editor for Scarab. She has work forthcoming or recently published in journals such as: Natural Bridge, Asterism, and Bluestem.

1. Gas station coffee!!!
2. Anything blue and fuzzy.
3. Bread!
4. A fallen whisker from my cat (they’re good luck!).
5. Blackberry Sangria (I just feel like the dark maroon color reflects perfectly to my soul…).
6. Telescopes.
7. Samwise Gamgee.

Linda Dennis has written a collection of poems in addition to four novels and a screenplay-Gone by Morning, Cold by Nightfall, Sweete Omission, The Descent to Avernus, and A House Divided. A native Houstonian, realtor, photographer, and art enthusiast, Linda currently resides in The Woodlands, Texas (USA). 1. Lemons! Yes, I eat lemon. . . with salt. 2. Spandex/Acetate mix-comfy, slinky, travel fabric. Love it, love it, love it. 3. Drano. 4. East German Mark-when it was East Germany. It was illegal to take the money out of the country and I forgot I had coins. They detained us but never checked or found the money. 5. Unicorn Kisses Cocktail, because I like the name. 6. The iPhone. 7. Lisbeth Salander of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (because she’d figure it out anyway).

Mary Ann Dimand lives in Colorado where she practices the crafts of writing, thinking, economics, theology, and small-scale agriculture. This leads more to harmony than to confusion. 1. 400 farthings. 2. The space-time continuum. 3. A chainsaw, but I bet it’s a massive tie between horrible ideas. 228 4. Probably a hole—weird on philosophical grounds. 5. I might be a Bloody Mary. 6. Though they may be gifts rather than inventions, are writing and repentance. My second favorite invention is plumbing. 7. Wow, this is tough. About forty years ago I read a 1950s SF novel in which aliens gave golden capsules to a varied selection of Terrans—if they did something or other cooperative with their capsule(s) the Earth would be preserved, otherwise not. One recipient was an East Asian woman stuck in some war, who promptly died. I choose her to get my cell phone password.

Ronna Lynn Edelstein is a devoted mother, avid reader, published writer, theatregoer, and lifelong learner and teacher. She finds meaning and beauty in the world around her—and in those who inhabit it. Ronna believes “it is nice to be important, but it is more important to be nice.” 1. I would purchase a pen—a tool that enables me to record my thoughts and feelings about the people I encounter and experiences I have. 2. Polyester cotton evokes memories of my mom; she always purchased items of this fabric to avoid having to iron. 3. Couscous fills me up in a healthy way, but might be too coarse for a fish to digest. 4. I often carry with me a pink plastic Buddha. Its calm eyes 229 and serene smile remind me of my beloved dad—a man who embraced me with unconditional love. 5. Since I have never had a mixed drink, I can only see myself as a glass of Ovaltine—one cup of skim milk mixed with a heaping teaspoon of chocolate powder. 6. The older I become, the more grateful I am for the remote control. I appreciate being able to change television channels and adjust volume without leaving the couch. 7. Harper Lee’s Atticus Finch, the moral hero of To Kill a Mockingbird, was a whole man who tried to treat all people with respect and dignity. He would protect my privacy.

Charles Elin was a student of the late Larry Fagin, who published a chapbook of his writing. His flash fiction has appeared in the Columbia Journal, Corium, Midway and Larry’s The Delineator. His poetry has been published by Rosebud, California Quarterly, RiverSedge, The Griffin, Lindenwood Review, Forge, Chantwood, Borfski and Mantis. Alan Elyshevitz is the author of a collection of stories, The Widows and Orphans Fund (SFA Press), and three poetry chapbooks, most recently Imaginary Planet (Cervena Barva). His poems have appeared in River Styx, Nimrod International Journal, and Water-Stone Review, among many others. He is a 230 two-time recipient of a fellowship in fiction writing from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. For further information, visit 1. The good will of a barista. 2. Ordinary soft cotton. 3. Fish, of course. 4. Nothing edible, anyway. 5. I’d like to say I would be a mojito, but I’m not really that exciting. 6. In grade school, I was often told that my favorite invention should be the cotton gin, but frankly I’ve never had a good idea of what it does. 7. The problem is: Most interesting literary characters are not particularly trustworthy.

Connie Flachs is a connector, dancer, writer, listener, traveler and coffee shop frequenter. She is in her eighth year as a professional ballet dancer. She co-founded Better Body Image Conference in Grand Rapids, MI to help raise awareness and heal body image issues. Her writing has been published in many local Michigan publications as well as Dance Magazine’s blog. You can follow her on instagram @conniex721. 1. The mini York Peppermint Patties are only ninety-nine cents! 231 2. I love velvet fabric. 3. Plastic (goes for the oceans as well!). 4. Nothing that can compare with what Hagrid has stored in the pockets of his coat. 5. An Old Fashioned-comforting, classy, and just a little spicy. 6. I love bicycles (see, I told you I would be an Old Fashioned). 7. Hermione Granger, hands down.

Brad G. Garber has degrees in biology, chemistry and law. He writes, paints, draws, photographs, hunts for mushrooms and snakes, and runs around naked in the Great Northwest. Since 1991, he has published poetry, magazine articles, essays and weird stuff in such publications as Edge Literary Journal, Pure Slush, On the Rusk Literary Journal, Sugar Mule, Third Wednesday, Barrow Street, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Barzakh Magazine, FIVE:2:ONE, Ginosko Journal, Vine Leaves Press, Riverfeet Press, Smoky Blue Literary Magazine, Aji Magazine and other quality publications. 2013 & 2018 Pushcart Prize nominee. 1. A condom. 2. Cheesecloth. 3. A fish. 4. A green tomato. 232 5. A Southern Comfort “Old Fashioned.” 6. A pen. 7.Robert Jordan.

Ruth A. Gooley has published a chapbook called Living in Nature (Flutter Press, 2018), as well as a variety of poems in publications such as The Corner Club Press, The Hamilton Stone Review, Ibbetson Street Press, Peeking Cat Anthology, vox poetica and BlazeVOX, among others. She resides in a cabin in the Santa Monica mountains, where she lives in harmony with the abundance of nature. 1. I will hop on the bus, the bus that gives me a view, a smooth ride, a way in and out. It allows me to sleep, dream, to write, to be. 2. The silk of worms, spun and washed, painted, and tossed across the shoulders. Oh, silk! The wearing, the perfume, the story. 3. A fish in a fish bowl, a bird in a cage, me in my room. I know I thrive outside the room, my canary Mr. Yeller outside his cage, the fish outside its bowl. 4. My hand. Hands stretch out pockets, deform them, cause them to fray. Best to leave hands out in the open and let the pockets be. 5. I would be a Blue Nile, a mixture of river water, tides, and the moon, with a dash of tequila and lime. To be served in a sphinx of glass, of course! 6. My favorite invention is movable type, the elixir of life. 7. Miss Havisham may be entrusted with any password of mine. She will scribble it onto the hem of her wedding dress and walk it to shreds, where it will lie, hidden in plain sight.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Midwest Quarterly, Poetry East, and Columbia Review with work upcoming in South Florida Poetry Journal, Hawaii Review, and Roanoke Review. 1. A donut. 2. Alpaca. 3. Dirty socks. 4. A large hole. 5. A dirty martini. 6.The electric toothbrush. 7. Jane Eyre.

King Grossman lives in Carmel-by-the-Sea with his wife, Lisa, dog, Bogart, and sun conure parrot, Sunny. His poems and prose appear in The Round, Tiger’s Eye, Ignatian, and many 234 other publications. His recent novel Letters To Alice received five literary awards. Think Wendell Berry crossed with Eduardo Galeano. 1. A highly-used copy found in some musty old bookstore of, say, John Kennedy Toole’s novel A Confederacy of Dunces, or The Battlefield Where The Moon Says I Love You by Frank Stanford. 2. Really, really soft cotton, as in a really, really soft cotton T-shirt. 3. Your head completely submerged, especially when the water in the thing hasn’t been changed for so long that its turned chalky gray. 4. About $150 in cash on the night during finals week in college that me and my best friend got to spend the night in jail for walking a game of bowling without paying for it. 5. Sloe gin fizz, because it makes me think of being a slacker poet or something. 6. The talking stick circle of Turtle Island’s indigenous tribes, for here you listened deeply and spoke wisely, until on any issue brought forward consensus got reached by We The People of the community. 7. Holden Caulfield, and if he happened to be indisposed on other matters, then I’d ask John Yossarian.

AE Hines is a poet and practicing financial advisor who lives in Portland, Oregon. He is a recent Pushcart nominee and his work has appeared in recent and forthcoming issues of Atlanta Review, California Quarterly, Pinyon, I-70 Review, glassworks, Third Wednesday, SLANT, Windfall, and other publications. 1. A small package of peanut butter flavored M&Ms. I mean, duh! 2. Donegal tweed. Named after the county in Ireland, I love the look of the patterns, the feel of it beneath my fingers, and the music of the words. On my to do list is to get the words “Donegal tweed” into a poem. 3. A replacement betta for the one you find dead during your toddler son’s nap. Sadly, the dead blue fish had to be replaced by a red one because that’s all the pet store had. When my son finally noticed, I feigned amazement at the inexplicable color change. 4. Human teeth. Okay, to be clear, they were also from my son, who extorted over the years great sums of cash from the Tooth Fairy. 5. An Alabama Slammer, for sure. Just like me, it’s been around since the 70s, and like me, has southern roots. It’s sweet and fruity, loaded with Southern Comfort, and best consumed in moderation. 6. The Do Not Disturb toggle on my iPhone.  7. Uh…do I have to? Ok, any character, except the Doctor’s Wife, from Jose Saramago’s book, Blindness.

Lynn Hoggard’s poems in the past five years have appeared in more than sixty peer-reviewed journals across the U.S.. Her books include three translations, a memoir, and a poetry collection, Bushwhacking Home (TCU Press, 2017). Her poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Best of the Net. 1. A pencil and a pad of paper. 2. A sweater woven from my Samoyed’s fur. 3. A piranha. 4. Worms. 5. A Bloody Mary. 6. Any musical instrument. 7. Hester Prynne.

Anne Hosansky is the author of the memoir “Widow’s Walk” and four additional books. Dozens of her stories and poems have been published in the US, Canada, England and Israel. This is her second time being published in SLAB. In her “other life,” she was an actor.  1. Bottled water from my local news stand, only place I can get it that cheaply. 2. Any material that makes me look slimmer. 3. Goldfish—the survival rate in there is pretty poor. 4. Someone’s hand! 5. Since I’m a New Yorker it has to be a Manhattan. 6. I should say the computer, but there are days when I yearn for the easiness of a typewriter. So I vote for the telephone—it brings voices to an isolated writer. 7. Seabiscuit. He wouldn’t say a word!

Donna James has spent thirty-five years meeting clients in the intimate confines of her psychotherapy office. After years of academic writing, she returns to poetry, her first literary love. Her poetry gives voice to idiocy, affliction, hope, and resilience peculiar to the human psyche. 1. Whatever that chunk of dark chocolate with hazelnuts is that’s sitting on the checkout counter at the grocery store. 2. Silk. I have purchased my shroud—a gold and red silk wrap that will carry my body elegantly into the dirt. 3. Rice. I like my fish bowls with noodles. 4. Nothing. Pockets deserve to cradle something, don’t ya think? 238 5. Brown Derby—tart smack of grapefruit eased by a dab of honey atop heat of bourbon that will linger a while. An acquired taste. 6. Fire. Or maybe the opposable thumb. Or sticky notes. 7. There were no passwords in Middlemarch in the 1800s, but there were a lot of secrets.

Dorothea Brooke could be counted on for discretion. Susan Johnson received her MFA and PhD from the University of Massachusetts Amherst where she currently teaches writing. Poems of hers have recently appeared in North American Review, San Pedro River Review, Off The Coast, Pinyon, and others. She lives in South Hadley MA and her commentaries can be heard on NEPR. 1. A pack of gum which would sustain me for miles of hiking. 2. Cashmere everything. 3. I would never put an introvert in a fishbowl. 4. Banding fall warblers once, I ran out of cloth bags and put a Magnolia Warbler in my jacket pocket. 5. Kahlua in my coffee. 6. Birth control pills. 7. Gabriel Oak.

Kerry Jones grew up in Catasauqua, Pennsylvania. Her fiction has appeared in many literary journals, including Alaska Quarterly, Night Train, Bryant Literary Review, and Sycamore Review. She spends her free time explaining to her friends and family that tornadoes are not an everyday occurrence in Kansas. 1. Four quarters 2. Cashmere, of course. 3. Your car keys, and those of your neighbors’, especially if you live in a small neighborhood. 4. I refuse to incriminate myself. 5. It’s nine degrees today, so an Old Fashioned (they’re warm). 6. The computer, of course. 7. None of them—they’re all unreliable.

Kevin Kantor (They/Them) is a New York based non-binary poet and theatre artist working to challenge and deconstruct traditional semiotics of gender onstage and in performance. As a poet, their work has garnered more than 17 million collective views online and is available in their collection Endowing Vegetables With Too Much Meaning. 1. Drugstore makeup. 2. Lamé. 240 3. Turkey chili. 4. Fake rose petals sprayed with flame retardant. 5. An Old Fashioned. 6. Indoor plumbing. 7. Arthur Weasley.

Cindy King’s work has appeared in The Sun, Callaloo, North American Review, American Literary Review, TriQuarterly, Blackbird, River Styx, Black Warrior Review, The Cincinnati Review, and elsewhere. She currently lives in Utah, where she is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Dixie State University and Editor of The Southern Quill. 1. A kiss. 2. Charmeuse, organza, chiffon (in that order). 3. Antidepressants. Don’t do this. Ever. 4. Someone else’s hand. 5. Sloe. Gin. Fizzzzzzzzz. 6. Christmas vacation. 7. Papa LaBas.

Shelby M. Koches is a senior Political Science, Psychology, and Creative Writing student at Capital University in Colum- 241 bus, Ohio. She grew up in Kingwood, New Jersey, singing and playing guitar with her sister. Shelby’s poetry is also being published this year. She is excited and grateful to be sharing her work. 1. An Arizona Lemon Tea. 2. Velvet—for all your soft, 1970’s needs. 3. Two lost souls. 4. Small hands and matching small feet–don’t worry, they were plastic. 5. Anything with whiskey. 6. The illusion of time. 7. Cedric Diggory—no worries about him squealing.

Ed Krizek was born in New York City and now lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA. Ed has published over eighty poems, articles and short stories. You can see more of his work on his website 1. A lottery ticket. 2. Flannel. 3. Cigarette butts. 4. Emptiness. 5. Virgin Mary. 242 6. The microchip. 7. Huck Finn. Vivian Lawry is a psychologist by training, a writer by passion. She now lives and writes near Richmond, Virginia. Vivian has published three books. Her short works appear in more than fifty literary magazines and anthologies. Learn more at where she blogs twice a week. 1. A vintage dictionary at a library book sale. 2. Fleece. 3. Toxic rocks. 4. A lapis lazuli skull ring. 5. Scotch and soda. 6. It’s a toss-up between the printing press and a smartphone. 7. Fitzwilliam Darcy.

Eleanore Lee writes poetry in addition to her work as a legislative analyst for the University of California. Journals where she has published include Atlanta Review, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, The Portland Review, and Tampa Review. She was an International Winner in Atlanta Review’s 2008 International Poetry Competition. 243 1. Slipping it in the cup of the neighborhood homeless guy. 2. Cotton percale. 3. Your cat’s paw. 4. A lump of cat poop that I found in the front hall just as company was arriving. 5. Definitely a gin martini. 6. Actually, the desktop computer. It has allowed me to write both for myself and for work quickly and to revise easily. In the olden days it was multiple drafts on a typewriter. Before then, a pen on parchment—but that was before my time! 7. Perhaps Moby Dick (i.e., someone with no fingers).

Brian James Lewis is a disabled poet, writer, and book reviewer. After an accident left him with spinal injuries and mental health problems, Brian found a second life in writing. His work has appeared in Econoclash Review, Bards & Sages Quarterly, and Trajectory. SFPA member. Reviews at Hellnotes and 1. A T-shirt. 2. Flannel. 3. Gasoline. 4. A Dodge truck starter relay. 244 5. Gin and tonic. 6. My favorite invention is the typewriter! I use one every day and repair old ones. Have a Royal KMM formerly owned by Rod Serling that I brought back to life. 7. My password would be safe with Jack from D.W. Gillespie’s novel The Toy Thief. But, I don’t own a smartphone.

Christine Terp Madsen lives in Moretown, VT, where she writes poetry and hunts wildflowers. A former editor and writer for The Christian Science Monitor, her work has appeared in the Bellevue Literary Review, Creative Colloquy, Cold Lake Anthology, and Shark Reef Literary Review, among others. 1. Sunday newspaper. 2. Silk, yards of it. 3. A dead fish. 4. Razor blade. 5. Dr. Pepper and Diet Dr. Pepper. 6. The typewriter. 7. Boo Radley.

Samantha Madway is working on a collection of interlinked poems and flash fiction. She loves her dogs, Freddie, Charlie, 245 Parker, Greta, and Davey, more than anything else in the universe. Her writing has appeared in Sky Island Journal, Remington Review, unstamatic, The Flexible Persona, After the Pause, Maudlin House, and elsewhere. 1. Two rounds of Skee-Ball. 2. Denim that’s so worn out it’s questionable if it still qualifies as a solid. 3. Liquid hand soap, specifically when it’s put in there by a two-year-old who thinks the fish need a bath and then accidentally kills her sister’s fish (yet somehow her own fish survives). 4. About half a pound of loose almonds. 5. Whiskey and bail money. 6. The exceedingly specific niche single-function kitchen utensil industry. 7. Bilbo Baggins *mic drop*.

Betsy Martin’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Atlanta Review, The Briar Cliff Review, Cloudbank, The Green Hills Literary Lantern, Juked, The Louisville Review, Pennsylvania English, and many others. She has advanced degrees in Russian language and literature. Visit her at betsymartinpoet. com. 246 1. An apple. 2. Alpaca. 3. Too much food. 4. A gerbil. 5. The Butternut Old Fashioned. 6. The subway. 7. Prince Myshkin from Dostoevsky’s The Idiot.

Danielle McDermott is a current MA student at Rutgers University and former editor of SLAB. Now living in Philadelphia, she is becoming reacquainted with the many museums and fantastic food in the area. When she’s not in the depths of YouTube watching “speedpaints” or glass-blowing videos, she’s looking for new reading material and new ways to spoil her pets. 1. A box of Goobers, those chocolate-covered peanuts. I’d drown myself in those for a bottle of air. 2. Tulle is a pretty neat since it has a sort of floaty fairy-ish property to it. 3. A cat, but it’s not usually you who decides to put her there so much as her own hubris and curiosity. 4. A USB drive I spent four months looking for while it hibernated with the sweater I put away for summer. 247 5. Something like a No Tequila Sunrise. Not only is it a fun drink, but you can convince others it has alcohol in it and watch them act as if it’s doing something when really it’s just juice and soda. 6. Candles. Their little fires are quite charming, and the scented ones create a great atmosphere, especially if they smell sweet or like peppermint. 7. Samwise Gamgee, which probably isn’t a very unique answer, but he’s deeply loyal and honorable. He wouldn’t know how to use a phone, but he wouldn’t tell anyone the code either.

Dawn Morrow is a poet, currently pursuing an MFA from Seattle Pacific University. Although she holds a BS in Engineering from the University of Iowa and an MBA from UNC-Chapel Hill, she’s a Jersey Girl at heart. Her poetry recently appeared in the Molehill, vol. 5, published by Rabbit Room Press. 1. A McDonald’s ice cream cone on a summer road trip. 2. Flannel. Especially when Chicago temps dip well below freezing. 3. A cat. 4. The crushed remains of a sand dollar I picked up on the beach in Alaska. 248 5. An Old Fashioned. 6. My iPhone. I’m addicted. I admit it. However, if someone invented a teleportation device, that’d be it for sure. 7. Mary Poppins.

Linda Neal is a word lover, dog lover, and tree hugger who holds degrees in linguistics and psychology. She’s been a therapist for years; she’s currently enrolled in an MFA in poetry program. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and won awards from Beyond Baroque Foundation, Golden Quill, and Pen Women Writers. 1. When I can buy a used book of poems for a buck, I salivate. 2. I love plush fabrics like chenille and velvet, especially when someone I love is wearing them, and I can pet them. 3. Never put a small animal in a fish bowl unless you want it to die trying to climb out. 4. A photo of a clown in drag in my pocket?! 5. I’d be a dirty martini full of pimento stuffed olives. 6. I love Duette blinds. They keep secrets where you want them and expose you to the world on your own terms. 7. I am certain Josephine March would never give out my phone number or my password.

Ariella Neulander (a pen name) told celebrities as a lawyer what they could and couldn’t say on TV. As a retiree she studies writing. Ariella’s essay “The Perfect Grandmother” was published in the fall 2018 issue of the Santa Fe Writers Project The Quarterly. She is currently working on two novels. 1. Chocolate. Always chocolate. 2. Anything comfy, cool and concealing. 3. A writer. Authors should not have to live in fish bowls. Their works are generally a whole lot worthier and better crafted than their lives. 4. My daughter found a heart-shaped stone on the ground several years ago and gave it to me. I put it in my jacket pocket and kept it there. I rub it sometimes, like a talisman. 5. I hardly drink but my son says maybe an Old-Fashioned (classic, warming, unpretentious), a Negroni (earth, strong and reminiscent of a fireplace), or my occasional vacation indulgence, a piña colada (mushy and sweet). 6. I hate to admit it, but air conditioning. I’m at that stage in life where I’m always hot. 7. Mma Precious Ramotswe of The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.

Courtney L. Novak is a Writer, Artist, Somatic Healer, and Single Mother living in Tucson, AZ with her son and 250 their dog. She enjoys writing and reading jarring stories that feature strong femme characters at odds with integration into broken worlds. 1. A small bag of salted pistachios. 2. Velvet. 3. A fish with long term memory. 4. A counterfeit one hundred dollar bill. 5. Cactus fruit juice, sake and a squirt of lime, with a cilantro palate cleanser. 6. The wheel. 7. Lilith Iyapo of Lilith’s Brood by Octavia E. Butler.

Suzanne O’Connell’s recently published work can be found in North American Review, Poet Lore, The Menacing Hedge, Steam Ticket, American Chordata, and Forge. O’Connell was nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. Her first poetry collection, A Prayer For Torn Stockings, was published by Garden Oak Press in 2016 and her new poetry collection, What Luck will be published in March, 2019. 1. Sweet pea seeds. 2. Crepe. 3. Fish (Only flowers). 251 4. A man’s hand in my child pocket. 5. Any drink with Fizz or On The Beach added to the name. 6. Printing press. 7. Helen Keller. Peter Patapis is a poet from New York. 1. NYC pizza. 2. Batiste. 3. A fish. 4. A coffee bean. 5. Vodka sour. 6. Desvenlafaxine. 7. Lucy from The Pisces.

Garth Pavell writes stories, poems and songs. His writing most recently appeared in Avatar Review, The Writing Disorder and Drunk Monkeys; and his band, Garth and the Unwieldys, perform in the New York metropolitan area. 1. The smile given by a panhandler. 2. Cotton although I have my eye on a hemp jacket so who knows! 252 3. Fish. 4. My pet toad. 5. A spiced cappuccino. 6. Space travel. 7. Gandalf.

Albert Wells Pettibone III, more commonly known as Will, is an English undergrad at the University of Missouri. Will lives alone, eats ramen, has a dog named Foo, and can recite all nine original members of the Wu-Tang Clan in less than four seconds. “Garden” is Will’s first published work. 1. The $0.99 cup of coffee from QuikTrip. 2. Whatever those ‘90s windbreakers are made of. 3. Cheez-Its. 4. I have three oversized dice in my pocket at this very moment. 5. I’m definitely a Tanqueray gin and tonic with two limes. Shout out to Scotty C! 6. The box fan. 7. Seeing that he lived the latter portion of his life as a cockroach, I’d entrust my password to Gregor Samsa from Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis.” Good luck sharing that password, Gregor.

Joan Presley lives in Reno, Nevada. She is a retired fire marshal who has studied creative writing at Truckee Meadows Community College and the University of Nevada, Reno. She recently began an MFA program at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon. She writes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. 1. Trick question—nothing costs a dollar anymore. 2. Denim. 3. Fish because then you have to feed them. 4. My boyfriend’s teeth. 5. Tang. 6. HBO. 7. Mrs. Dalloway—she’d have no idea what I was talking about.

Serena Eve Richardson is a writer and singer/songwriter. Her poetry was most recently published in The Round, Good Works Review, Straight Forward Poetry, Pennsylvania English, and Rubbertop Review. Her forthcoming album features poetry that has been transitioned into songs. Serena enjoys practicing Siljun Dobup, and holds a second-degree black belt. 1. A dollar burning in my digital pocket is best spent on a song. It’s a low risk slice of musical escape, and you get to support an artist working in an often profitless medium. 2. Tulle; it’s ethereal yet it can hold structure. I like the contradiction. 3. At 7, I had a cat who was determined to drink aquarium water. She succeeded in removing the cover late one night. I remember the childish terror of lying there, helpless as she triumphed. 4.. I think rocks are beautiful. I collect them. But it’s possible to have too many rocks in your pocket. I’ve crossed that line. 5. Vodka martini, dry and a little dirty, blue cheese-stuffed olive garnish. 6. I’d love to choose something sophisticated and historical, but frankly, my favorite inventions are the chocolate chip cookie, and those tiny bow ties for pets. 7. Melanie Hamilton. She can definitely be trusted, she’s too boring to do anything damaging with it, and even if someone tortured it out of her, she’d defend whatever they found to a fault.

Dana Robbins obtained an MFA from the Stonecoast Writers program following a long career as a lawyer. Her first book, The Left Side of My Life, was published by Moon Pie Press in 2015. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous journals and anthologies including Muddy River Poetry Re- 255 view, Paterson Literary Review, Drunken boat, Calyx, and Fish Anthology. Her poem, “To My Daughter Teaching Science”, was featured by Garrison Keillor on the Writer’s Almanac. Dana lives in Bronx, NY and Palo Alto, California. 1. An orange. 2. Flannel. 3. Bleach. 4. A tourmaline. 5. Gin and tonic. 6. The washer dryer. 7. Mary Garth (from Middlemarch). Meisha Rosenberg’s poems have recently appeared in Cold Mountain Review, The Connecticut River Review, and Caesura. She’s a freelance journalist and cultural critic living in New York’s Capital Region. Read more at: meisha-rosenberg. 1. A song on a jukebox. 2. Lycra. 3. Nothing should suffer the fate of being put in a fish bowl. 4. A clutch of bright yellow Nerf Rival darts. 256 5. Caffé Mocha with orange zest and whipped cream. 6. The hot shower. 7. Bartleby the Scrivener.

Gerard Sarnat MD’s won prizes and has been nominated for Pushcarts/Best of Net Awards, authored four collections, and is widely published including by Oberlin, Brown, Columbia, Virginia Commonwealth, Wesleyan, Johns Hopkins and in Gargoyle, Margie, Main Street Rag, New Delta Review, Brooklyn Review, Los Angeles Review, Voices Israel, and Fiction Southeast. Denzel Xavier Scott earned his BA in English from the University of Chicago and received his Writing MFA at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Savannah, GA. His works appear in Spillway, Bombay Gin, Decomp, the Missing Slate, Apeiron Review, the Gambler Mag, and Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal. 1. Chips. 2. Silk. 3. Fish. 4. A long pipe from a broken desk. 5. Jamaican Sorrel (Google it, it’s amazing!). 257 6. Modern plumbing. 7. Bartleby of Herman Melville’s short story “Bartleby the Scrivener.”

Carolyn Sherman grew up in St. Louis and loved to write as soon as she learned how. While her writing got derailed by life, earning a living and raising kids, fortunately now she’s back at it. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Delmarva Review, and various other places. 1. A king-sized Snickers bar. 2.Velvet in winter, silk in summer 3. A fish—put him back in the ocean. 4. As a five-year-old, I carried my pet horned toad in my jeans pocket for a week or so—then I let him go in the woods. 5. I’d be a very good Cosmo with a twist of lime. 6. Can’t decide: Is it salad bars, language, dogs, ketchup, sunshine? 7. The Sphinx.

Burton Shulman’s collection, Safe House has been called, “Lean and beautifully written. . . A strong and unusual debut” by Andrea Barrett. Publications include: “Cakewalk Island, 258 1944,” Forge Journal; “Sid, 1926,” The Paragon Journal; “Pogrom, 1919,” Elm Leaves Journal; “My Father’s Voice,” Global City Review; “Tony,” Bottomfish. He was a finalist in this year’s Tucson Festival of Books Literary Awards. 1. A used book. 2. Cultural… or maybe a nice alpaca. 3. Fish (I belong to the “Free The Fish” movement). 4. Laundry lint (the weirdest thing I’ll admit to). 5. A Boilermaker. 6. The zero. 7. Alyosha from The Brothers Karamazov.

Paul Sohar’s seventeen volumes of translations, including The Conscience of Trees (Ragged Sky Press, 2018). Own poetry: Homing Poems (Iniquity Press, 2006) and The Wayward Orchard (Wordrunner Press Prize winner, 2011). Prose: “True Tales of a Fictitious Spy” (Synergebooks, 2006) and a collection of oneact plays from One Act Depot. 1. Entrance fee to the Metropolitan Museum of Art; but now only for those living within NYC city limits, starting last year. I live across the river in NJ; now I pay yearly membership. That and the Met Opera are my favorite haunts. 2. Cotton for my shirt, polyester for my bathing suit. I swim 259 for my physical therapy and used to use nylon bathing suits, but they become threadbare too fast; After being accused of indecent exposure I switched to polyester, and the old ladies stopped looking at me. 3. Your hand if the fishbowl houses piranhas. 4. The hand of a stranger, a young man in athletic outfit, who rushed past me on Times Squarein broad daylight. He got about 100 dollars and ran off with a big grin. 5. Americano; there’s something exciting about Campari, even more exciting with vermouth added. 6. Computer, what else? I’m staring at it now, I’d be lost without it. How would I read your acceptance letter? I only wish I knew how to get full use out of it; as it is, I’m a technophobe. Which should answer your last question, too. 7. I don’t have a password on my cell phone, I cannot burden my feeble (and flighty) mind with such trivia. Cell phone? Only in case of emergency. Like, Do we need milk at home?

Lizzee Solomon was born in New York, NY and grew up north of Chicago. She earned a BFA in Studio Art at Carnegie Mellon University, and has studied in Valencia, Spain and Oaxaca, Mexico. Since then, Lizzee has been based in Pittsburgh, PA and incorporates new and traditional media into her practice. When not making artwork, she enjoys lis- 260 tening to Latin American music, watching bad reality TV, and meeting friends at her favorite neighborhood bar. Visit www. to see more of Lizzee’s work. 1. “Homie” figurines. 2. Spandex. 3. Succulents and glass stones. 4. Pieces of coral. 5. Whiskey sour. 6. Podcasts. 7. None! No way! Vy Anh Tran was born in Saigon, Vietnam, in 1995. She’s attending San Jose State University for her Master’s degree in English while working as a professor’s assistant. She believes in writing things she will want to reread. Her hobbies are reading and going on mini adventures by herself. 1. Chocolate. 2. Silk. I like to run my hand down the fiber to reduce stress. 3. Food, especially oily foods, is hard to wash out of a fish bowl because the shape of the bowl makes it hard to rinse. 4. A ticket for a play I went to years ago. 5. Chocolate martini. It’s a drink that looks nice and sweet but 261 is actually quite bitter with only an aftertaste of sweetness. 6. The microwave. 7. Joe from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

Glen Weissenberger, a Harvard Law School graduate, distinguished himself as a trial lawyer, a law professor, a legal scholar and a law school dean. After four decades in the legal profession, Weissenberger began a second career devoted to writing short stories, novels, and popular culture subjects. 1. A used, dog-eared book. 2. Linen. 3. My parrot, Louie (eclectus, male). 4. A thumb tip (ask any magician). 5. Single Malt scotch with one ice cube. 6. Paper. 7. Atticus Finch.

John Sibley Williams is the author of As One Fire Consumes Another (Orison Poetry Prize) and Skin Memory (Backwaters Prize). A nineteen-time Pushcart nominee and winner of various awards, John serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review. Publications include: Yale Review, Atlanta Review, Prairie Schooner, Massachusetts Review, and Third Coast. 262 1. Sticky Notes. I live by Sticky Notes. 2. Barkcloth. I love the texture, and I’m a sucker for mid century furnishings. 3. Gasoline? 4. Someone else’s wallet, having found it on a street corner. I was oddly enticed to buy something using her ID just to confuse a cashier. 5. An Old Fashioned. Rye whiskey with a touch of bitters and a twist of lemon. Drop a cherry in for garnish and you’ve pretty much defined me. 6. Is coffee an ‘invention’? If not, the movie camera. 7. Randle McMurphy from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He’d send my contact list some pretty memorable messages.