Month: September 2016

From Issue 11: Search History

Joey Stamp
Google Search History – J. Malcom – August 2013
Thursday August 22nd 4:10PM Google: Local music Waterloo Iowa
Saturday August 24th 3:12PM Google: Bands performing in Waterloo Iowa
Saturday August 24th 3:13PM Google: Local events Waterloo Iowa
Saturday August 24th 3:15PM Google: Bars Waterloo Iowa
Sunday August 25th 10:31AM Google: hanGover Cures
Tuesday August 27th 5:31PM Google: How to talk to girls
Wednesday August 28th 10:30PM Google: Waterloo Iowa escorts
Wednesday August 28th 10:31PM Google: Waterloo Iowa hookers
Wednesday August 28th 10:31PM Google: Waterloo Iowa prostitutes
Wednesday August 28th 10:32PM Google: Waterloo Iowa craigslist paid sex
Wednesday August 28th 11:15PM Google: How to stop feeling lonely
Wednesday August 28th 11:21PM Google: pornhub
Thursday August 29th 9:03AM Google: How to ask girl out on date
Thursday August 29th 9:08AM Google: Is it ok to ask co-worker out
Thursday August 29th 9:11AM Google: GMAC Sexual harassment policy
Thursday August 29th 12:31PM Google: How to handle rejection
Friday August 30th 2:01AM Google: Ashley Jenson
Friday August 30th 2:08AM Google: Ashley Jenson Facebook
Friday August 30th 2:13AM Google: Ashley Jenson Address
Saturday August 30th 3:07AM Google: How to get rid of bad smell
Saturday August 31st 4:54PM Google: How to dispose of a body.
Saturday August 31st 4:57PM Google: How to dispose of body in home.
Saturday August 31st 5:01PM Google: How to dispose of body with chemicals
Saturday August 31st 5:15PM Google: Where to buy Lye
Saturday August 31st 5:17PM Google: Home Depot Addres.
Sunday September 1st 1:37AM Google: How to tie noose
photo- joey stampJoey Stamp is a writer from Iowa living in New York City. Some of his works include: Marley: A Musical Tragedy, Official Selection: Cabrini Festival 2013; Eightball, a short play, performed at The Dirty Blondes festival 2014; Psychosis, a short film, Official Selection: 2015 World Music and Independent Film Festival.

From Issue 11: The Color of Pitch

Andrea Christoff

Drinking coffee does not

give you energy. All it does is tell your

brain that you are not tired. But people are tired for

different reasons; an ill-fitted dress in a meeting, a cab that comes

too late, a cigarette without a light. A sea turtle waits

30 years for sex, and even then, it finds no

pleasure. It is in a single day

that someone realizes they are

old. A twitching eye, an unrecognized gut.

Too many shots become too many, when too many had

been ok. Finding your passion, when you’re unable to feel passion.

Starting over, when starting over is no longer fashionable.

Heading upstate for a breath of fresh air, a

pint of syrup and the feeling that

the city has left you.

captureAndrea Christoff writes out of  Appleton, Wisconsin. Before graduating with her Master of Arts degree from Marquette University, she worked for a non-profit in the Pacific Northwest where she started a writing workshop for homeless youth. She is a member of the Wisconsin Writers Association and loves the outdoors, her chocolate lab, books and wine. 

From Issue 11: Sackville Street

David Halliday
It is the quiet that wakes me. I rise with the sense that something unplaceable has changed. Unsure of the time, I peek under the curtains. Morning sun glints white off pre-Federation chimneys and corrugated iron roofs.
The rain is gone. For weeks, the entire sky was liquid and glassy. During the perpetual downpour, sheets of water had whipped my eyes raw, shuddered window-panes and hacked at trees and flower gardens. As a series of cold fronts, it was dubbed by the papers as the ‘Antarctic Vortex’. Even if you could stand the rain, the cold would prowl the streets like a hooded stranger, and knife-blade you through the ribs.
Walking to work, I would always stare along the Moyne River, stretching away inland to some indefinite place. It would push up and north, passing the camping ground, golf course, the airstrip, and curve into the unknown. I open the window and find the town has vanished. It has been replaced by a lake from which cars and buildings rise like islands. Up and down the street, the town and streets are gone under a smooth sheet of brown water, hazy in the morning sun. Houses stick up through the surface like half-sunk gravestones.
Small waves lap against the front door, spilling muddy water inside. The river has come for me, I think. Eating up all the houses.  I find an old ruler in the attic and dip it in the water outside. When it touches the bottom step, my arm is wet past the elbow. I dry my arm on a tea towel and check my phone. My shift starts at 10. Would the flood cancel it? Chris would have known what to do.
Since I can’t exactly walk to work, I revisit the attic to find an inflatable dinghy or something, but there’s nothing except three old beanbags, once belonging to Chris, mum, and me. We sat on them to watch television when we replaced the old couch. I can’t think what year in high school that was. Mine looks like an 8-ball. I run my hand across the vinyl, pushing up rolled slugs of dust. In the attic corner stands the box for the LED flat screen Chris bought mum for Christmas, packed with polystyrene. Okay, I think. Okay. With a gaffer tape, I cover the box in green garbags. And I tape the box on top of the three beanbags. Of course, there’s no oar. I grasp Chris’s cricket bat from behind the door. Bat under my arm, I lug the pastiche sea craft to the door and set it to rest on the water.
I ease myself on. The raft groans, squeaks and wobbles. I feel the bean bags pull against their gaffer tape bonds as they bulge alongside the box. I sit, knees-up, like on a paddleboard.
In all the chaos, today I could go anywhere. Anywhere that isn’t the cigarette counter of the IGA. Any of the places I forgot to go following graduation.
I think of what Shannon said when she called last night. Shannon is Chris’ ex. She became my ex not long after. I didn’t ask right out what she wanted. She said she was going to be in town soon, her voice thin over the sound of rain.
“How’s Chris?” she said.
“Okay. Teaches political theory at a university in Tokyo.”
“Wow. Good for him. And so what do you do now?”
“Read about him on Facebook. Sometimes the news.”
“He enjoying it out there?”
“Dunno. We spoke a couple of Christmases ago. He sent me a book of Japanese poetry. I didn’t open it for months.”
This is all ground we covered last time she called.
“You end up traveling?”
“Not exactly. Still planning on it.”
“It’s weird,” she said after a pause, “people dream about a tree change. Moving to a town like this. They just can’t imagine once you’re there, where to go afterwards.” She was quiet for a moment. “So what do you do, really.” A statement, not a question.
“Sell smokes to guys who can’t afford them.”
Out here all difference between road and sidewalk has dissolved. All paths have disappeared. Instead, the streets and avenues form a single giant waterway that stretches out to infinity. I imagine I’m in a different city, one of great canals and complex watercourses.
The town is a white mirror of cloud. I paddle quietly past submerged cars, whose tops push up from the water like glistening mushrooms. I take a breath. There is a salty stink to the water, of beach decay and human rot.
Locals lean out windows, staring at the inverted images of themselves, their lives in water. Some with car keys in their hands, or nuzzling a phone.  Some old guy in a dressing gown attempts to clamber on his roof.
I find myself still paddling to Sackville Street, like any other day. My raft bobs to rest outside the IGA. Inside, the water must be shin-level. The store is open, a small kayak tied to a support beam. I hitch my own beanbag raft next to it with tape.
Inside, I see Andrew, black trousers tucked into gumboots, his blue manager shirt ironed and his hair finely clipped. Ever since primary school, he was always Andrew. We tried to call him Andy and Ando a few times but it never stuck. Said it sounded too unprofessional. He’d study a lot, but we’d often catch him scouring online catalogues, sending off for things like Omega wristwatches that cost $600 plus. Andrew was always aspirational, probably quietly saving to make his grand exit, like so many of our upwardly mobile former comrades.
This morning, he doesn’t ask me to tuck my shirt in. “Help me with these sandbags,” he says without making eye contact. I take a wad of canvas sacks.
“Crazy out there huh?” I say. “Never seen anything like it.”
He pretends not to hear, like he’s in a foul mood. You never know.
“What’s going to happen to all the food?” I say.
“Look. All this stock is spoiled. I dunno. I briefly spoke to the owner.” His voice sounds like a commercial voiceover, grave, yet insincere. “I hear there’s talk of a fund already for victims. Disaster relief. All that. Anyway. You’re late.” I know I am letting him push me around.
I see big old Phil Young swishing his mop through aisle five, his gumboots ankle-deep in water the colour of weak coffee. Floating price tags make small flotillas with wrappers and old receipts.
At Griffiths Island at the other end of town, we used to swim in the lagoon there during summers: me, Chris, Sarge, and Rich and the rest of our friends. The lagoon is the most beautiful part of the most beautiful town in the state, and I think of all the people I know who left it. On warm nights, there’d still be a comforting sea breeze. We’d cook tins of beans over the fire. We’d share cigarettes and drink goon, squirted straight from the box. On those nights, each of us talked about how we’d get out, what we’d all achieve. I guess I assumed it was the drink talking. It was there, waist-deep, where Shannon and I first kissed. Same place where I found Shannon with Andrew two weeks later.
I splash behind the cigarette counter. The bench timbers are already warping. Unlocking the doors, I see the cigarettes are fine in their cellophane. You have to hand it to Big Tobacco: cigarettes are products packaged to last. And the only people who’d appreciate the fact are my gap-toothed regulars. No one buys cigarettes anymore. With the packs stored behind plain wooden cupboards, I always felt like a peddler of secret goods. You’d never know what was behind those doors unless you remembered how things used to be.
I flap a garbag and peel open the mouth.
Andrew looks over. “The fuck are you doing?”
I nod to the cigarettes. “Packing these up.”
“Forget that. I need you on sandbags.”
“Okay. The supermarket will be compensated, right?”
“They’ll be fine. It’s not the first flood, believe it or not. Probably won’t be the last. Insurance covers things like this.”
I hear helicopters. “Right. Do you know, did anyone die?”
“How should I know?”
I learn to fill sandbags with white sand from the hardware store and stack them into compact little walls.
A white boat passes, a tinny voice on a loudspeaker calling for evacuees to remain calm. I hear a chopper somewhere far away. I see men in waterproof trousers and hi-viz on an aluminium tinnie with a two-stroke. Soon they will arrive at the glass doors. They’ll continue the sandbagging and in no time the place will look like a post-apocalyptic movie set.  We’ll get some press, and then the waters will recede as suddenly as they arrived. After a clean up, all will return to normal.
I notice Andrew is talking on the phone. Laughing. I wonder if it’s Shannon. I wonder, what would Chris do? After a minute, he covers the mouthpiece. “How are we going? Much more to do?”
I turn, grasp a garbag, conscious of Andrew’s gaze. “Where you think you’re going?” he says, frowning.
I would need a lot for my journey, or until the floodwaters receded enough for me to hitch a ride somewhere. I start stuffing cigarette packs inside the bag, wading through the aisles, snatching up protein bars, chips, and a sixer of Carlton. Andrew’s eyes follow me. “Hey – hey what do you think you’re doing? You little prick! You can’t just take all that!” Maybe I’ll settle my bill from somewhere down the road. Hauling my load, I splash out the door and no one says a thing. Except Andrew who yells: “Asshole!”
Outside, I unhitch my raft and hoist my sack on board. It seems easier to balance, negotiating the added weight.
I could go anywhere, I think. I pass a soaking dog shivering on the roof of a burgundy sedan like a plum-coloured deserted island. Poor thing whimpers to see me and I would help him but there’s no room on the ark. I wish he had one of those little dog jackets. No dog should be out here without a jacket.
There’s a poem I memorised from the book Chris gave me. It goes:
Cold winter rain . . .
Poor monkey,
You too could use
A little woven cape.
I always liked that.
Troy is one of my more regular customers. See him every second day. For a DSP, I have no idea how he afford smokes. The sullen type, he only ever says a couple of words. And never seemed too bright, wearing his room key around his neck like a middle-schooler. Sometimes I’d see him fish in the Moyne but not much else.
I face in the direction where I imagine the old path river used to stretch, then twist and paddle my irregular craft around. This is the best thing, I think. This is best. Hauling my Santa-sack of contraband, I know my work is not yet done.
I paddle by the group home. It’s red brick and owned by the government. Usually there are clusters of men in beards and beanies sitting out front on plastic chairs. But today the chairs are gone. By an open window, I see Troy sitting on the roof, his Yankees cap covered in lines of salt like a topographical map. He clutches an old fishing rod, line sparkling taut in the water. As I paddle over, he doesn’t look surprised, acknowledging me with a nod. I wave and toss him a carton of Marlboros, which lands on the roof.
Troy gives me the thumbs up, twisting off the plastic. He lights up a smoke with a clear blue lighter from the pocket of his tracksuit pants. And he just sits on that roof, smoking and fishing, looking as happy as I ever saw him.
In that poem, I like that the writer noticed the cold monkeys in the first place. So I paddle around to the homes of the rest of my regulars and rain dogs who, in all the mayhem, won’t let themselves be evacuated anywhere. The council houses, community houses, hospices, government-owned apartments. I toss packets of chips and cigarettes into their open windows like a Philip Morris Father Christmas. I keep at it until my bag is near empty.
Rainbow light presses through the cloud and the helicopters sound far away. I think about using the empty bag for a sail. Instead, I cross my feet and twist open a Draught, and watch the colours. The Norfolk pines all stand in rows and watch me float past. I lay back on my raft, forming a whole with it, and float there like a water lily with the floodwaters lapping at my shoulders.
Dave3A writer and educator with a Masters in writing, editing and publishing, David P Halliday has had fiction and non-fiction appear in print and online publications including GQ, Huffington Post and short fiction anthologies. He is author of non-fiction book The Bloody History of the Croissant and contributing author to forthcoming book The Music that Maton Made.

From Issue 11: De-presh-uhn

Rachael Walker
Depression /dɪˈprɛʃ n/
like (adj.) 1. therapist number one says it is like living thirteen years in a downpour. I say it is like a drizzle that just keeps coming, like the sun will never find its way back on my skin again. 2. mom says she’s never seen me like this before. dad says it is like I am walking with someone else’s feet. my friends say they don’t know what this is about, how it feels to not be at home in my own skin, but it is like a new person is sitting at their lunch table. 3. I don’t like the way my heart beats so loud, don’t like how I can hear it thwick-thwick through my teeth and in my toes and through my tongue, soft beat beat of broken heart. whisper wonder if anyone will like me or if I’ll count flower pedals, one two, staring at skies and hoping for the promise of rain, wash me away, wash me away. 4. it looks like rain every night and I wonder if I’ll ever be able to see the moon again because it is so massive but feels so small in that big empty sky. it feels like tomorrow, the hazy in-between of late nights and very early mornings, but I am not quite sure where I fit in, how to build myself up out of paper and ink, what is left in my veins more opened than sewn shut.
be (verb.) 1. I wonder what it is to be, what validity beating hearts and shaky hands have on red- rimmed eyes and two shots of gas-station vodka. my lover tells me I can be anything if I breathe- in breathe-out catch my breath steady my hands open my palms and count. she says I will be something great if only I fight if only I stay if only if only if only. she tells me I will be okay they all say that you will be okay maybe not today but keep breathing, you will be. 2. I was a real girl before all this happened, I promise, I was made of flesh and blood and bone but now just plastic and glass and broken things. it was something better, probably, something warm like heat lightning in the middle of august but remember that september still comes with its falling leaves coming to take away the sun coming to bring the rain coming to drench me again. there was a sun on the horizon waiting I know, waiting to rise and coat the world in gold and warmth. 3. I am my mother’s daughter after all, we know the same sorrow. we are like broken chains of cheap necklaces, barely clasping, not coming together. my lover still counts my scars and I say I am whole now I am clean and I am lying to her lying through my goddamn teeth but she listens with her soft warm heart beat beat in my ear remind me of what is real, lover, remind me who I am. 
but (conj.) 1. therapist number three says I am doing better but she cannot see the marks on my arms like little cat claws little pin scratches she does not know the landscape of my tangled head my shattered heart pieced back together like broken mirrors. girlfriend number four says I am a diamond but does not know the fires in my heart burn me like cigarettes still scared of matches but I’ve made my peace with it. left arm scar number 210 still mocks me but I think I like seeing it in t-shirts in tank tops in the sun like defiance like dreams I’ll never get to achieve but will always hope for. 2. there is no hope but for the dawn that comes so stubbornly over the mountains always lighting up the trees and branches of the blue ridge and I could spend my life here opening my arms for the dawn extending my soul to reach it. there are no listening ears but those that have listened for six long years and have seen my blood boiling for the surface heading for the hills and I am broken like beer bottles, amber on the highway. 3. there is but hope lingering in my heart, stubborn hope like stubborn love, refusing to end, keep me warm and safe even as the rains come even as it hails even as the clouds roll over the fractured mountains.
12109122_1093662913992074_3475613693934084970_nRachael Walker is a student at Hollins University. Her hobbies include struggling through French movies without subtitles, reading the same five books over and over again, and petting dogs whenever and wherever she can. She speaks French, Spanish, and about five words in Irish Gaelic. 

From Issue 11: Each Wounded Thought Begins to Dance Almost Painlessly

Each Wounded Thought Begins to Dance Almost Painlessly
Chris Hutchinson
East of here, groves of magnolia
Shade troves of rust-darkened auto parts.
No one walks anymore.
The sun stains the horizon with an iodine tincture before dusk
Seals the wound shut.
No one reads Henry David Thoreau.
The unmistakably sparrow-headed Prince of Hell
Dons his caldron-helmet. His eyes
Are a drugstore’s promise of late-night hours
Preferable to cutting thru
Or driving on, alone.
jU7rIVIlRSCFuvw8xlDy_full_AUTHOR FOTO 2Canadian expat Chris Hutchinson is the author of three collections of poetry, plus his most recent book, Jonas in Frames, which has been variously described as a “picaresque novel,” a “novel in verse,” and “an epic poem disguised as a novel.” Visit Chris online here:

From Issue 11: His Press

Tovah Yavin
A body was found.
Headless, armless, legless.
Charred to a rustic brown.
Who it was is hard to guess.
Who did it was an easier call.
One’s been caught, one ran away.
Each blames the other.  Some sort of brawl.
They’ve even tried to blame their prey.
But all in all, a newsman’s dream.
Families caught in flash bulb stares.
Quotes from friends – He never seemed
The type who’d even dare.
And the news world thrives in all its glory,
Sharing the facts.  Missing the story.
T. S. Yavin 7-8-14Tovah Yavin’s middle grade novel, All-Star Season, won the Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award and was named a 2008 Notable Book by the Association of Jewish Libraries.  She has published poetry for both adults and children in a variety of magazines including The Formalist, Poetica and The Road Not Taken.

From Issue 11: Sigh

Ben Serna-Grey
I woke up with months of my life missing, your beard and hair streaked with stripes of gray, heavy bags under your eyes. You told me to just lie still for a while. I stared at the ceiling while I felt tingles run up my arms and legs, and my vision filled with flakes of static.
I wasn’t breathing.
You came over to me and motioned for me to sit up. I slowly pushed up into a sitting position. “Do you remember me? It’s John.” You came in and pressed a light kiss to my lips. In the window I saw myself reflected, the dingy light from the bulb hanging from the ceiling sheathing me in a dirty aura. Wires splayed out of my head like a halo, my eyes shined too perfectly. I dimly remembered that I used to wear glasses. I wasn’t breathing.
You said it had been about half a year while your eyes kept flittering around, unable to sustain contact with mine. “There was that project I was working on before . . . well it’s not like there’s anyone who could use it now and I was so alone. . . .” You looked down at the floor.  “I’m still not sure how you’re going to react overall. The brain in there’s made from top-of-the-line solid-state technology, so you’re going to get faster the more you work it.” I tried to work my vocal cords but only some small squeaks came out. I didn’t remember how to talk. “You’re going to be acting a little stupid for a bit until you strengthen your neural connections. It’s kind of like you’re a baby again.”
By the end of the day I was able to walk again. Soon seconds felt like an eternity and years passed by like minutes. I remember in that first week you brought Jacks to me. The old bunny couldn’t smell humanity on me, only the metallic, oily tang of machinery and synthetic skin and he was scared. I tried to pet him and I felt bones break with a loud pop. That was the first time I heard the scream rabbits make when they’re scared and in pain. We tried to nurse him back to health but the bones had punctured his lungs and you ended up breaking his neck to save him from suffering. We buried him outside by the old pine tree, a tiny plot and wooden cross. I tried to weep that night but no tears came out and strange mechanical chirping poured out of my mouth. It burned.
Every day you turned on the computer for a couple of hours and you downloaded everything you could onto these huge hard drive towers that fill the house now. You told me you were trying to get as much information as you could before the internet went down for good. Before the rainy season came and the solar cells on the roof would lose most of their use. After a while I was able to talk again and we sat for long hours outside chatting, watching the waves come in and out as we sat on the cliffs in isolation. We would sit at the table and you would talk while you ate—vegetables from the garden, some mushrooms you foraged, maybe a wild rabbit you trapped. I hated it. Our conversations felt so unnatural. I felt drugged as words crawled by at a painfully slow pace and my tin can voice would shriek out of my mouth in counterpoint to your cow-stupid lowing. What kind of conversations are you supposed to have when everything is dead or dying?
At times I would stand up in the middle of you talking and walk out to the rabbit pen. I knew you were breeding them mostly for food but you stopped because you remembered how much I loved bunnies. Kella was still alive but I could tell she was missing Jacks. She was sitting in a box swaddled with thick wool blankets feeding a new litter of kits. When she stopped freezing with fear at the sight of me and let me touch her I was so relieved.  I could only give just the softest touch or I would break her. This body was monstrous and I hated myself.
One day I tried to jump off the cliffs and into the sea but I found myself unable to actually step off the edge.  Later that night I tried to plunge a knife into my neck. I raised my arm and brought it down with all my strength and the blade stopped just before it would have pierced me. When you slept I downloaded your logs from the months when I was out, dimly hoping you wouldn’t wake up, dimly hoping you would. I found out you had programmed in a safety feature that made it so I would be unable to intentionally hurt myself.  I think part of you knew that I would feel like a beast. Like a freak. I missed Jacks. I didn’t know if I still loved you.
In the blink of an eye years had gone by. Your hair was more salt than pepper. We were watching the water from the window. On the walls were paintings of this area, young and beautiful brown deckhands and stevedores with corded muscles and wide backs, sweat and saltwater glinting off of them as they worked. I leaned over and kissed you and you returned the kiss, slightly surprised. We stayed like this for a while, your hot, wet sloppy tongue jittering across my synthetic one, catching in random moments of friction like skin that had just been washed.  Then I climbed on top of you and ripped open your shirt while you took off your pants, and then I fucked you, shuddering at the feel of the automated system pumping out a dollop of synthesized lubricant. It didn’t quite feel like it was supposed to, like I remembered, but it was something. Then I leaned over to kiss you and I grabbed your arm and heard a sick snap. You started screaming and I opened my eyes to see a shockingly white shard of bone jutting out of your forearm. You had to splint yourself out of fear that I would break more of your bones. That arm never healed right; forever it sloped into a slight angle.
After your arm had healed, despite your knees beginning to lose cartilage and the arthritis developing in your hands and feet, you took me out to the old town to go scavenging with you. I had cloudy memories of the sound of cars swishing by on the roads and airplanes occasionally roaring overhead. Now everything was eerily quiet; the calls of songbirds became shockingly loud in the silence. We carried backpacks and we would walk into empty homes and buildings and steal supplies. I say steal as if there was anyone left, as if you weren’t the last man on earth and as if you hadn’t trapped me in the an immortal body. You walked us over to the radio tower where you had hooked up solar cells and we climbed up into the control room. You slowly checked all the frequencies but there was only silence and static. Occasionally I thought I heard muffled voices in my head but I pushed it down, dismissed it as worthless hope.
Off in the distance I saw swaths of forest yellowing and dying off. When I asked you about it you said that the unmanned factories and power plants were dumping pollutants into the earth as they decayed. There would be a brief period of sickness followed by a bounce back as nature reclaimed its stake. You never really did tell me what happened. I had to find out about it years later. After we were finally able to fuck without me breaking you. After we were no longer able to have sex because you had grown old. After your hair started falling out and you began to look like a wrinkling and moldy piece of fruit.
A while back I went into town and took a radio, which I hooked up to the solar cells before they had fully decayed. I would turn it on and micrometer by micrometer I would turn the dial until I thought I could hear those muffled sounds again. Old talk shows. The Beatles. Classical music. Public radio. I figured that whatever I was hearing must have been broadcasts that were somehow left over or replaying. Or too far away for me to bother trying to find where they were coming from.
You used to like reading books and doing puzzles, but one day, after so many long seconds and short years, your hands began to shake and your faculties started to fail you. I remembered when I met you, so long ago. You were a dockhand in Seattle , with strong slabs of muscle in your back like the beautiful brown boys in the paintings. You were paying your way through college, computer engineering. I was working freelance as a graphic designer while I finished my fine arts degree and we met in one of the common core classes. You always sat next to me and we got to know each other, started having coffee after class. I miss the taste of coffee. I miss food and drink and shitting and coughing and salivating and breathing. When we graduated you asked me to marry you and I said yes, so long ago now.
It wasn’t long after you started failing that you passed away. You had me come to your side as you lied in bed and you had me read Leaves of Grass to you until you died. When you died, after so long of being unable to get it up no matter how much I kissed you or gyrated on you, an erection reared up and tented the blankets. I walked outside and began digging your plot next to the little bunny graveyard. A poppa grave and all its little children, a field of tiny wooden crosses. The thought made me begin giggling while I dug, the vocal synthesizer overloaded into multiphonics and chromatic clusters.
Did you know that the sense of smell in this thing isn’t very good? I couldn’t smell you rotting as you aged. There was a part of me that wanted to remember that decaying smell of the dead and dying. It wanted to take pleasure in the scent of you wasting away.
When I finally dragged you out to the plot, along with the sheets from the bed, freshly shat in after you died, and I buried you it began to rain. Poetry from the earth.  I built a headstone from a thick piece of PVC sheeting and I carved lines from your favorite Whitman poem: Neither a servant nor a master am I, I take no sooner a large price than a small price . . . I will have my own whoever enjoys me, I will be even with you and you shall be even with me.
Moss and grass and flowers grow over your plot now, even overtaking your bone-white plastic headstone. The rabbits are all gone. They stopped mating until there was only one lop-eared doe left. She was sweet and kindly and rubbed in close despite my machine smell. She died in her sleep and made the final miniature plot and small wooden cross. Large dark clouds cover the sky but bring no rain. Animals flock here and lie calmly in wait as they waste away. The trees have begun shrugging off their leaves and turning brittle and gray. The moss is drying up. It is as if all life that is left has gathered here in this place to lie down and with one final, exhausted breath, die. And I have to watch.
Alone. Unable to end it all.
1798864_10203111769019460_1258763438_nBen Serna-Grey is a writer and musician from the Pacific Northwest. He has a Bachelor of Music degree from University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and is currently obtaining a Master of Music degree from University of British Columbia.  Selections of his writing, compositions, and performances are on

From Issue 11: The Games We Play at the Intersection of Monday and Sheridan

Josh Gaines
The alarm clock wakes me, like it does, like I ask it to, and I’m pissed anyway. It’s Chicago, end-of-October dark at 7am, and the floors keep getting colder. These old buildings, their fireplaces all sealed up after one of those citywide fires. No one’s ever stayed warm in this house in winter. I want a rug path to the dresser. I had one. I also have a cat. The two didn’t mix.
Fast forward forty minutes. Tile kitchen floors remind me of my laziness, and the shower ended a while back. Feet dry, I finally put on socks and slip some potato-starch toast in a zip-lock for later. I hate diets. Sun’s comin’ up clear and cold-skyed, and fuck work. And fuck my landlord too, standing outside the back door like a jerk, making me have to feign polite before coffee earns the too much I pay for it.
“Mornin’, Clarence,” I say.
“Hey, Amy, a dead guy,” he says, and points. A stupid game.
“Hmm? Oh!” Across our alley, and alongside a parking lot, from a stunted autumn willow some guy’s hanging by his neck, surrounded by gold-brown leaves. It’s a little far off, so I can’t make out his face.
At first, I think it must be a Halloween thing, dead bodies hanging all over. But this one’s different, I dunno, heavy—pulling the branch low, a wet spot across the front of his pants. Below, three cops stare at the guy, like they’re trying to figure out which of them’s gonna climb up there.
“Crazy,” I say and kinda mean it. I mean, I guess I’m sad, guess I’m jealous. Mondays.
“Yeah,” he says again. I realize he hasn’t looked at me, just staring at that body. If he wasn’t my landlord I’d grab his neck and yell.
“See ya.”
“Sure. See ya.”
My car’s not in its spot. I pat my pocket, but I know the keys are there. I walk the three apartment-lined blocks to the bus stop. Iced-Lake-Michigan wind tears through the tunnel of buildings and pushes tears from my eyes. The bus stop bakery’s open anyway, and I care less than usual this morning about the smell of cinnamon rolls I can’t afford and, even if I could, can’t eat—gluten and all. It’s a short wait. I decide again it’s the last time I leave my car at work to pretend to be social. Don’t care who’s buying. The woman who sits next to me, in the blue plastic bus seat with the fabric covers that make your ass itch even through jeans, has ear buds in. I’m not sure why she bothers with the privacy. I can hear it fine. TLC, Waterfalls. She catches me looking and I look away, stare through the window and feel stupid. It’s automatic, lonely. The park we pass still has snow piled in the shade of trees.
I get to work five minutes early, but stand in what used to be the smoking section before the law, before they moved it away from the building and across the parking lot, far enough away we could pretend no one here smokes. They constructed this place in the ‘70s with built-in ashtrays. I wait for ten minutes, humming Waterfalls, step inside and push every button for the guaranteed five-minute elevator ride. Someone gets on at floor two and sees the lit buttons and judges me. I walk in late and no one notices. We’re all still waking up.
“Weird mornin’,” I say to co-worker Carol who rolls her eyes.
“Seriously. I am so hung-over,” she says.
I walk to the coffee pot—“The Bunn” we call it, even though it says Krups. The Bunn choked on the grounds two pots back, hissed a bunch and died.
“Weird mornin’,” I say to Greg-Receiving, and top off my nearly full mug.
“Yeah,” he stirs in the powdered shit. There’s half-n-half in the fridge two feet to his right and he’s told me he prefers it.
I want them to ask me why. It occurs to me, maybe I say weird more than I think, and most times, it’s not so weird. Maybe I tell too many stories about my cats.
I do something forgettable in between posting on Facebook about the guy in my alley until noon or so. Autopilot. At lunch, I head down to sit under the lunch-tree, but sitting there feels wrong, so I decide to go to the break room. Buzzing lights, three conference-style white plastic tables, and a few bites of toast go down dry, boring, stick at the back of my throat. My boss comes in, gives me the head nod the cool kids give each other. We’re friends, it says. We’re not really. Someone died in my alley. This day should matter more.
“Hey Greg?” My boss’s name is also Greg. Boss-Greg, Greg-Receiving. I’ve stepped into his office on a Monday after lunch. We all feel it. His big thing for the day: Sign and send time sheets. They’re laid out across his desk like a battle plan.
“What’s up?” the head nod, again.
“Can I cut out early today?”
He looks at me for the first time. Honestly, looks at me, a caring lift in his eyebrows. He walks to the door of the office. He’s going to close it, he’s going to take me in his arms and hug me awkward and tell me it’s alright to feel this way. And then he’s going to ask me.
He looks around the corner into the five-foot-high-cubicle crowded room, gray and fluorescent lit. He takes in the spirit of it, turns back, leaves the door open.
“Long night?”
I look confused, I guess. Not the question I had prepared for. I flip through my mental note cards.
“Know what, it’s none of my business. Yeah, we’re good here today. Wish I could leave with you. Sure looks nice out. I’m not all business 24/7, you know? We should hang sometime.”
I just don’t know what to say.
“Anyway,” he yawns, “enjoy the afternoon.”
“Thanks.” And I numb.
“Can you shut the door on your way out?” He doesn’t look away from the pile.
“Course,” I say. I see the nap he’s going to take in the fingers he barely lifts towards the door.
Parking lot: In the car, I’m yelling, “Why doesn’t anyone give a shit?!” And Greg-Receiving knocks on my window, scares me enough to do a quick bladder check. I let the window down.
“You forgot this.” The coffee mug in my face says, I know kung-fu. He’s shaken.
“Oh. Thanks.”
He takes a step back, makes an unnatural half turn, stops, you can see his brain grinding, turns back. “You okay?”
Actually—I nod anyway. It seems to work. Composure on his face and conscience, he walks back and is lost among the cars: the hero who asked.
At home, I come in the front door and Google. Google used to be a number, now it’s a verb. I browse crime. There’s about twenty local news blogs repeating the same source story. A woman in her 30’s hung herself on Sheridan. The apartment super says, “She was just doing her laundry Friday night. Weird. She never caused any trouble.” I promise myself to never use that word again.
She had nothing to do on a Friday night. The two comments on the news story say, “Worst piñata ever,” to which Anonymous replies, “Your ignorant.”
I was there. Friday night. I’m always there on Friday night, laundry night, when the machines are open. She had looked away from me when I looked at her and she stared into her clothes tumbling in the dryer, whites and grays. I could have said anything. Instead, I returned to my book about another vampire love triangle.
It bothers me I got her gender wrong, that I couldn’t tell. There was nothing masculine about her. I pull up Facebook to make it right, and people are commenting on the World Series.
“Aw, damn it.” I spin the chair, the remote finds my hand, and the TV beeps on. Bottom of the 2nd. Red socks v. Cardinals, game five. I’m not too late.
What comes first: This is Chicago, and this is baseball. Know what it takes to live here. We root for the team who lost to us last, or beat us least, or lives farthest away, or bought the least of our players.
Top of the 3rd, these ump’s are morons. “Really?” I scream. I don’t actually know nuances of the rules, but no way that was a strike. And it gets worse. He slides in and stands on the bag. The asshole on 2nd calls him “out.”
“What the fuck! Are you blind? She was right there!”
Of course I meant, he. I increase the volume. Chicago, yesterday five people were killed in you. Nineteen were reported raped. I yell some more to make it matter. I turn it up more and I’m sure my mascara’s running, and I’m glad no one’s here to watch the loss.
Baseball. Volume. Chicago, these are games we play.
josh biopicJosh Gaines ditched a promising military career to earn an MFA from SAIC, write books, run a profitless press (Thoughtcrime Press), and build blanket forts with his daughter. His stories and poetry have been published internationally, most recently in London’s Dark Mountain. Josh can be found performing poetry from his book, Cigarette Sonatas, around Portland, Oregon, or on Facebook at

From Issue 11: The Devil is in the Details

Max Talley
Emily prepared for the interview. A journalist meeting with a prisoner was never a relaxed experience, and rarely an enjoyable one. Not because of the question/answer sessions themselves, but due to the prohibitive restrictions placed on such meetings by prison authorities. In this case, Virginia prison authorities. Absurd time limitations, no unsupervised discussions in the same room. That kind of nonsense.
First, a journalistic request for a private interview, then when that was quashed by Warden Cliburn, contact with the prisoner’s attorney led to the journalist being placed on the prisoner’s visitor list. Rules dictated they would communicate on phones through a partition, the conversation monitored by prison spooks. But that didn’t matter. A bestselling book could come from this story. In the last years, lone gunmen opening fire on innocent people in malls, schools, and churches had become a monthly occurrence in America. Sometimes even weekly. Isolated incidents? Nobody believed that cable news commentators excuse anymore. So why? Perhaps Emily could find answers. Since this would be the first book to truly get inside the mind of a shooter, Emily felt privileged to be involved. Money, acclaim, prizes. All possible–if her series of interviews went well.
Emily’s co-workers Charlie and Bernie counseled her beforehand.
“These guys are serial liars,” Charlie said. “They tell you what they want you to hear, charm you, manipulate you. Do not be swayed. Some of them are very convincing.”
“Yeah. Remember what happened with Perry Smith and Truman Capote?” Bernie added. “You saw that movie, didn’t you?” Both Bernie and Charlie were veterans of these exact situations.
Luckily, Emily had a photographic memory, since no recording devices were permitted for the meeting, nor were laptops. Not even a pen and paper. Many modern prisons allowed open discussions at tables in a visitation lounge, supervised by guards. But not in this leftover 1950s era facility. Southern states seemed more determined to hold onto their past. The room smelled of cement and dust, of body odor barely masked by chemical cleaners with bleach. Emily caught a faraway whiff of cafeteria food: mashed potatoes, beef stew, oatmeal. Things that could be scooped out of large stainless steel pots with ladles. She pulled her chair close to the bullet-proof separation, then picked up the bulky phone from another century to speak with Dante Hodgson.
“May I call you Dante?”
“Yes, of course.” Dante had a neatly-trimmed beard, glasses, short dark hair, and a high forehead. Not the forehead of a manipulator or a maniac, but of a thinker, even like a writer.
Don’t be distracted by his appearance. Everyone’s mother claims they were a sweet child.
“For my initial question…” Emily started.
“You mean I can’t ask you questions?” Dante frowned.
“Since this is our first meeting, face to face,” Emily said, “I thought it best that I do the questioning.” Stay in control. “In subsequent interviews, I’m open to give and take, back and forth.”
“I guess I’m at your mercy,” Dante said, “but for this project to succeed, we’ll have to work together.”
“Granted.” Emily pressed her hair back from her face with a free hand. “Since we only have thirty minutes, let me get right down to it. You were college educated, Dante. What do you think causes these occurrences?”
“Gun massacres?” He gave her a quizzical look.
Why was this one so different than all the rest? Remain detached.
“Yes,” she said. “Some call it temporary insanity, others say it’s evil, you know, a person being possessed by malignant forces. Though psychologists would consider it a chemical or mental imbalance. Then there are the copy-cat theories, where the media’s relentless coverage sparks people into taking similar actions. What’s your opinion? What is the nature of evil?”
“You mean, do I think it’s chemical or hereditary or conditioning or… satanic?” Dante gazed at her through the partition, a gleam in his eyes, the slight curl of a smile forming. “I hoped you’d have theories on this matter. But since we’ll be collaborating on the eventual book, I guess I should lay my cards, my beliefs on the table.”
Emily heard clicking noises, the chatter of ghost voices inhabiting their phone-line, and imagined sweaty, overweight men sitting in a bunker-like room somewhere nearby monitoring the prisoner-to-visitor conversations. Stay focused. That’s what Charlie told her. Keep the upper hand.
“Your last name is Duvel,” Dante said. “Is that French?”
“Belgian,” she replied.
“Were you born there?”
Emily smiled with impatience. “Can we get back to my question?”
Dante looked away for a moment, his forehead strained in thought. “The media sometimes says that lone shooters are born evil,” he said, “like it’s in their blood. Or that it was inherited from their parents’ teachings, and genetically. Some go along with the idea that killers are possessed by spirits, whether it’s violent insanity, or evil forces perhaps spiritual in nature.” Dante paused. “I come from a religious background. The desire to go to heaven and the fear of eternal hell were very real for me growing up.”
“And where do you believe you’re going, Dante?”
“With my history?” He laughed. “I don’t think there’s much doubt.” His eyes turned hard. “But seriously, you’re the first woman…”
“To meet with you in prison?”
“It’s always been men before. Always.”
Emily shuddered. She felt Dante was manipulating both her and the interview with his guile. She hadn’t expected him to act normal, and worse, to look attractive. She caught a glimpse of her spectral reflection in the hard translucent surface separating them. No, don’t imagine yourself on  Dante’s side of the partition. Do not identify with him. Emily squeezed her eyelids shut as she imagined Charlie and Bernie’s counsel. They were hard-asses; they would guide her through this. Emily opened her eyes.
Dante stared at her, his face taut and constricted, then he relaxed. “Sorry, we can work up to that angle later. Let me continue with my theory,” he said, and Emily nodded. “I don’t believe people are born evil, or possessed by Satan. Our actions—good or bad–are controlled by chemicals in our bodies, as well as synapses sending electrical signals that influence brain functions. The only rational way to look at it, to explain these incidents, is through the prism of science.”
“Is it? So you see it as chemistry over behavioral science.” Emily paused. “Do you believe you were rational then and are rational now?”
“Me?” He seemed surprised. “Yes, definitely.”
Lawyers didn’t want to hear that answer. Maybe that’s why recordings were forbidden in these interviews. Temporary insanity would be the only way to beat a death sentence in a gun massacre case. A sympathetic jury? Impossible. Emily squinted to see deeper through the fiberglass partition with its scuff marks and dull surface. What was it like on the other side? Could she survive a single day in that regimented order, in a world poised on the brink of violence?
“Many believe that the Salem Witch Trials were a result of ergot poisoning,” Dante said. “If so, the women weren’t evil witches, but the ergot changed the chemical makeup in their bodies. It caused them to act differently, do things they would never have done ordinarily.”
Gates clanged open and shut nearby, while distorted intercom voices made announcements in faraway areas of the prison. Emily studied Dante. She expected a fool, or a zealot filled with ideological fervor and a warped viewpoint. Not only was Dante intelligent, but he spoke dispassionately, like a science professor discussing experiments and data in a university classroom.
“Anyway, that’s why the idea that Hitler was the Devil, or that Charles Manson was possessed by demons seems laughable to me. Our brains and bodies are intricate and delicate systems. If one chemical lessens and another increases through dilation brought on by drugs, or by anxiety, or by adrenalin levels spiking when there’s a threat, then a stable personality can completely change in an instant. In other cases, the chemical balance alters incrementally. Until a  paranoid person becomes anti-social, then progresses to believe that they are somehow threatened. At that stage, they may arm themselves in defense, before finally reaching a breaking point where they take action, go on the offense. Unfortunately, that leads to tragic consequences. As we’ve seen, over and over again.” Dante looked at Emily with an almost ancient sadness. “Does any of this ring true?”
“In my studies of other shooters?” Emily asked, but he didn’t reply. “Your theory has validity, Dante. But I’m wondering, is that the argument you wish to put forth? Is that your defense?”
“I thought we were collaborating on a book,” he said. “I don’t need a defense, and we’re not meeting today for you to defend me. That’s what lawyers are for.”
Yes, lawyers. Linguistic magicians who could turn murderers into disturbed people not responsible for their own actions. Emily said nothing. Dante was trying some transference trick on her. He clearly held a near genius IQ. She’d have to prepare more, be unrelenting in their subsequent meetings. Charlie and Bernie had been right. It was a chess game, and Emily wasn’t winning this match. She could imagine her associates chattering away and critiquing her first interview later on.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to snap at you.” Dante removed his glasses and wiped the lenses.
The media and mass murderers, wrapped up in an unholy matrimony of reckless desire and needless carnage. Was Emily an accessory to Dante’s crime, or was he an accessory to hers?
A buzzer sounded, then a prison guard moved through the visitation area with eight phone connections to signal the various guests and inmates that their time was up.
“I really hope you’ll let me ask questions next time,” Dante said, gazing over his shoulder. “For the sake of the book, and because you’re the first woman.” He frowned. “It’s always men. Young, isolated white men.” Then Dante looked happier. “That’s why this book, our book is going to be a best-seller. You broke the mold. People are curious.”
A male and a female guard escorted Emily out.
“I guess it’s back to my office with Charlie and Bernie,” she said to them. “Are they waiting to pick me up?”
“Sure, whatever,” the male guard replied.
“You’ll have the upper hand next time,” Charlie told Emily, appearing beyond the gate of the hallway. “You let him talk too much. Ignore his dazzling blue eyes; Dante’s not your friend. He’s using you.”
“You can’t let him fuck with your mind again,” Bernie whispered into Emily’s other ear. “Don’t you know that journalists and writers are the lowest of the low? They trick you by saying whatever they have to. They will lie, cheat, or steal to get their story the way they want it to be, not the way it really was.”
“Fiction is their preferred drug,” Charlie said, “and they only resort to facts when it suits their narrative.”
The guards led Emily downstairs into her solitary confinement cell, then locked it and left.
She had been placed there for her own safety. Shooters who massacred a bunch of random people disturbed the other inmates, and scaring potentially-violent prisoners rarely went well.
When Emily tucked into her thin cot, both associates continued to counsel her in breathy whispers. Emily nodded and told them yes, yes, yes, then pulled the itchy blanket around her until she became just an amorphous balled-up shape wedged into the corner of her cell. It didn’t matter. There would be another visit with Dante to correct things, to reveal his secrets, and another one after that too. A lifetime filled with possibilities.
2-The-Soft-Explosion-of-FallMax Talley was born in New York City and currently lives in Southern California. His writing has appeared in The Rogue Voice Journal, Iconoclast, and Back Issue. He won a best fiction award at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference in 2006 and 2007. His novel, Yesterday We Forget Tomorrow, was published in 2014.

From Issue 11: Aftermath

N.L. Shompole

I have been

wrecked & ravaged,

my belly

is a sea

I am

reeking of


AUTHORBIO NLShompoleN.L. Shompole was born in Kenya and currently lives, works and writes in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. She is the author of four poetry collections including her debut chapbook Cassiopeia at Midnight, 2013. Her latest collection Spectre Specter Blue Ravine was released November 2015 to spectacular reviews. Shompole can be found at: and