12/31/10

Colin Winnette

The Monster Mask

I was a stand-up comedian for sixteen years, and that is a lonely life.  Before I agreed to do it, I forgot that the reason I liked to make people laugh was because it meant, for that moment, no one was looking at me.  For that moment, no one was thinking about what I was doing or why.  So then, for sixteen years, I was doing this stand-up act, and no one was looking at me.  I started wearing a monster mask and people laughed even harder.  I stopped telling jokes and started growling all the time, into the microphone.  One guy was laughing his ass off.  At my last show, a man stood up and said if he’s not going to get started I’m going to take you home.  He put his hand to a slender young creature all in white - which is a very trusting color to wear out - and I’m going to sleep with you.  Then I’m going to cook something for you.  Then I’m going to sleep with you again.   The woman stood up and left with him and I got to thinking, what the fuck am I doing with this monster mask on and with all this growling?  So I took the mask off.  I sat down by the footlights.  Nobody look at me, I said.  Nobody.  But that laughing guy - his eyes rolled back and up to watch the ceiling - was laughing off his ass.  You should have taken that mask off, he erupted, a long time ago.  He was on his back in the aisle, tipping side to side like a canoe.  You are my favorite person in the whole great big entire world of comedy!
Colin Winnette's writing has or will appear in American Short Fiction (January 2011), Necessary Fiction, The Ampersand Review, The North Texas Review, the Tex Gallery Review, The Denton Scramble, and Unsure If I Will Allow My Beard to Grow For Much Longer.  He blogs at www.allofthisbeforeeleven.blogspot.com and his website is at http://colinwinnette.com/.
     He is a MFAW candidate at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a curator/coordinator of Tex Gallery, a collective art space in Denton, TX (www.texgallery.org).
     Part of him is still in Vermont.

12/30/10

Kent Szlauderbach

Our Favorite Realtor

My mom calls the police. She is told the social work involved is going to be serious.

Bryce’s girlfriend says to the police that she knew that Bryce had jerked me off that night I stayed with him in Rhode Island. The girlfriend says she knew about the video games. The milkshakes, too.

We were Bryce’s first family. He had screwed a lot of big upward others to get us into that first house on Marley, a street up in the hills against the forest above Woonsocket. After two years of living there, Mom called Bryce to resell the thing, so Bryce had to be at the house. Bryce drove over the curb in a brown Geo and parked it on the huge dark lawn. He slipped out of the car and hugged the FOR SALE sign. He had to moan because he was so nervous to love me like a father, he said, and he didn’t want to watch me leave in a black limo. Bryce resold the house on Marley to Mr. and Mrs. Brady of New Jersey Waste.

We hadn’t seen him since ten years ago in December when he flew all the way from Providence just to visit our new house and bring me a birthday hat with the Chicago Bulls of Michael Jordon. Remember when he visited you on your birthday? Mom said. Your favorite hat? Bryce had gently screwed the hat on my head and then told me to take it off because I needed to remember my manners. I didn’t know my manners back when he came. Mom felt now we owed a visit to Bryce.

I wake up at Bryce’s condo. I like Bryce’s condo when I see the video games. I was tired, so Mom went to see a relative and she drank wine and stayed there, but I chose to stay at Bryce’s condo.
--Do you want a milkshake?
--Okay.
--You came over to my house one time and danced to Billy Joel, he said.
--I did?
--You were young. It was really fun.
Eventually I fell asleep.
I was woken up by the girlfriend. I could hear her on the other side of the door. Every couple of seconds her body wound up to run and the whole building rattled. Bryce came downstairs from the loft and his mouth was unhinged, was screaming that she’s here! I need to close my and eyes pull everything over my head, but I could not sleep with her charging him around the house and her busting through the door and them falling over the kitchen bar. Mom shows up in a few hours and we go home.

This is bad, mom says. She admits it to her friends, throwing up the glass in her hands, saying, I know, Mom’s big mistake, being family friends with Bryce for so long.
 

That the little man with that honeyed voiced and nervously starched shirt always supported our family and wouldn’t do anything to harm us, yeah right. 
           --And he didn’t, I told her.

I watch a detective in a ratty shirt that’s stained under the button of his tan blazer. He wheels in the chart with an outlined boy. The boy has no head on his penis.

--Did he touch you here, asks the detective.
--All we did was drink chocolate milkshakes.
The Bryce the detective is telling me about is not the Bryce my mom and family knew. People like Bryce have targets, it’s explained to me. It’s obvious, they say, because of the movies. They like to hang out with you.

I study picture after picture of droopy-eyed men with cascading shoulders and puffy faces and they’re all after boys. I’m supposed to try and identify him because they can’t find him in Rhode Island, and maybe he was a repeat. They’re all in orange and look like they’ve been fried by desire.
--I just want to let you know that you’re being recorded. The guy paused. Can you point to where he touched you?
--No
--Did he touch you there?
--No.
--Did he talk about touching anyone else?
--No.
--We just want you to know you are safe now.

Kent's stories really haven't appeared much of anywhere. He's a student of English at the University of Kansas. Visit www.cargocollective.com/kentszlauderbach or google him.

12/29/10

Justin Runge

+

Heart of metronome
shepherding
           throngs. Heart
           of megaplex
distended. Heart
of megapixel
           descend. Benthic
yet a heart
of iridescence.
           Vented
and methyl. Heart
of wood wrung
until wine.
Heart of clean
coal. Heart
           of centrifuge.
Heart of Powerball
televised. Heart
of vocoder
           godlike. Heart
of wharf where
typhous
smudged in
           incense smoke.
Heart of corrugation
bent to
           box. Heart
of aircraft. Heart of arc
falling.
           Heart of osprey.
Heart of resolution
a fine tune.
Heart of refinery
           tied to.
Heart
of permafrost.
           Heart of balsam
fir. Heart of ultraviolet.
Heart of CPR
           and push. Heart
           of halftone. Heart
of dotted line
a mantel.
           Heart of monorail
           nowhere
else nor close.
           Heart of bandit.
Heart of pine
leaned into balefire.
           Heart of bitrate.
           Heart of knuckle.
Heart of thermos
opened
           to steam. Heart
of garage door
eyelidding.
Heart of march.
Heart of pilot
           light an orchard
of effuse. Heart
of mass.
Heart of contrapuntist
           left hand.
Heart of dither
           a synonym heart
for pointillism. Heart
           of hybrid
           a hybrid
           manticore
or muscle car. Heart
of papercraft
use of synthetic
bone.
Heart of bento.
Heart of carbine.
Heart of conch baying.
           Heart of porthole
framed matted
tilt.
Heart of satchel.
Heart of symptom
given physic.
           Tungsten taste
           of heart
           of filament.
Heart of mattress.
           Heart of icon
blessing and blessing.
Heart of alias.
Heart of whip
bent to
           heart of cosine.
Cause of heart
a confabulation.
           Heart of downshift.
Heart of
iamb.
Heart of
iamb.
Justin Runge currently lives in Lawrence, where he works as a graphic designer and edits Blue Hour Press. His own poetry can be found at DIAGRAM, Linebreak, SOFTBLOW, and elsewhere.

12/28/10

Paige Taggart

From To People Who Sometimes Read


Today I spoke on the phone with a customer with the last name Marquez; I almost asked if he was related to Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Or if he had heard of him, at least, if he had read, "Chronicle of a Death Foretold," or "Memories of My Melancholy Whores." The man, Ernesto, was calling from El Paso. His voice sounded youthful, about thirty-four, he ordered a pre-amp for his guitar with some vintage tone control. I said that's very Marquez of you, going for a little magical realism. I almost said, what was the travel like, from Columbia? He now resides on Star Fish Court, "two separate words," he said. Something in his voice annunciated an above average devotion to language.

I email everyday: an affectation, current nerves reiterate the past. I tell you about my dreams, and such-and-such key-players. You were in the last one. I guess we did heroin on a cliff and I saw god. I woke-up feeling faint with an undesirable clicking underneath my skin; a thread of galaxies through my liver. My obvious nature is put-on, for people to observe. Besides this is an omen. The bad characters in films fill me with sadness. A whistle trying to find a tune for the villain inside me to burst through.

I'm thinking of the way history becomes perfunctory. Staring at its insulted past and parting from it. I'm small but I can breakdown its effects in a certain state of mind. My family is so tied up in it, and I'm not doing a damn thing— not a political bone in me. If I laid an egg as a chicken does, I may even eat it, oh wait, that's immoral or some weird polysci-libido. Yesterday I broke down and took the train to who-knows-the-fuck where.

I'm at work; I walked through an avalanche to get here and came out the other side with snow makeup and a snowy halo. My ribs are crashing in— it felt this way before the blizzard. I am still shipping strings and guitars, nothing will stop us. I'm trapped behind the glass of a snow globe, the overhang of fluorescent lights stream into my subconscious, there's far less oxygen than I can handle. Our off-spring hopefully won't have to work the way we do. I could be a spokesperson for barley wheat. How often do you read something and realize you are living without any creative inventions? Why does it feel like I've been scouted for an average baseball team. The Wizards?


Paige Taggart's chapbook Polaroid Parade is forthcoming with Greying Ghost Press. Recent or forthcoming work can be found in the following journals: No Tell Motel, Glitterpony, Forklift Ohio, Spinning Jenny, Bateau, So and So Magazine, RealPoetik, Sentence. Peruse her blog: http://mactaggartjewelry.blogspot.com/

12/27/10

Louise Krug

The Mother Is Often Gone

The mother has started wearing the grandmother's old clothes.
See, she was the same height as me, but much wider, she'll say to the daughter, bunching the back of a plaid wool jacket, or maybe a mink coat. She wears the grandmother's blazers with shoulder pads and gold-braid detail to work, and has even gotten into the costume jewelry, like coral necklaces or rings with big, black stones. The mother and the grandmother had the same shoe size, too, so in the winter the mother goes around in some white fur boots with brass toes. In the springtime she starts appearing in some dirty cork sandals.
The mother and daughter will be in a car, riding to a outlet mall for new jeans, or sitting across from each other over warm turkey sandwiches when a cartain type of talk will start. The mother talks bad about the grandmother as she plays the straw in her drink and the daughter sits up straight.
She used to write checks for five dollars instead of using cash, how stupid was that? the mother says. And she always had to be at the church, picking up trash in the parking lot. Once, she cleaned the pews with furniture polish, remember? She and the daughter see each other about once a month because they live close The daughter reminds her mother of all of the good parts about the grandmother, who died unexpectedly. She fell to the floor in front of her closet early one morning, had been ready to mow the lawn.
One day, the two sit at a tiny table and try not to spill coffee. I have a surprise for you, the mother says, and gives the daughter a heavy paper sack. The mother is wearing a baggy blouse with a ruffled collar and putty-colored pants. The mother says she will be gone for the weekend to a small, dwindling town, visiting her father, the widower. He keeps saying he wants to kill himself and booked a trip to Borneo. When she gets home, the daughter empties the bag on her bed. It is nothing but stretched-out sports bras in colors like hot pink and purple and thin nightgowns. She thinks abou wearing them, tries them on.
Louise Krug is a Ph.D. candidate in creative writing at the University of Kansas.  She has been published in Juked, metazen, and elimae, among others.  She has a memoir coming out by Black Balloon Publishing in spring 2011.

12/24/10

David McLendon

Orison

Strings of waste and what appeared to be blood dripped from the backside of the animal. Something moved from inside the liquid and disappeared among the strings. I propped the animal on its back against the ground. I placed my blade against its body. I made a cut from the skin above the genitals to where the blade touched the base of the ribs. I was careful to cut through only the hide and stomach muscle. Otherwise I might have easily opened out the intestines and freed the foulest of odors into the air. I slanted my blade from against the sternum and cut upward through a number of ribs. This made it easier to reach into the chest. I propped the animal on its side and allowed the guts to fall out. I cut away the fat that held the intestines. Most of the fat was in the upper cavity near the spine. I removed my arm from inside the body. I cut around the anus of the animal and tied off the sphincter with a length of string. I held my blade with the handle placed outward and returned my arm into the cavity. I reached to where the cavity narrowed down along the hips. I turned my blade outward with much care so not to puncture or break the bladder. From across the bladder something crawled across my arm. The animal was tainted from its insides with parasites. The meat of the animal would likely kill the families before their plates were fully cleared. I tried picturing the faces of my family among those who ate weeping or in silence before being led out into the garden for the saying of a final prayer. I recalled the touch of my father’s hand and nothing more. I shook myself from such thoughts and cleaved deeper into the body. I cut backwise and forth along the wall of abdominal cavity. Again I was careful of the bladder. I was careful not to empty any droppings or urine before the bladder was expelled from the body. I touched against the diaphragm at where it separates the lungs and heart from the stomach and intestines. I cut upward from against it and reached with my other arm as far into the chest as possible and took hold of the esophagus. With my free hand I slid my blade into the chest and worked it upward. I cut the esophagus from above the grip of my other hand. I pulled at the heart and lungs and the intestines fell out from behind them. I lifted out my arms and stood alongside the body. I said a prayer for the families. I said a prayer for the animal. I dragged the body out from the woods to where the woods became a road. I kept to the shoulder. The sound of the body against the ground kept me company. It became one sound then another. By the time I reached the village it was every sound I’d ever known.

David McLendon is an Edward F. Albee Foundation Fellow. He is the founder and editor of Unsaid. "Orison" is from a work in progress.

12/23/10

Iris Ann Moulton

We Would Come to the Edge
 
Every week of every summer we would walk down to the river, my sister and I. My mom called it a creek. She is from the south, and has family there even still, but we are from the west, my sister and I. And then once we saw it, The Mississippi River. And we knew that what we had back home was not a river to them, maybe, but it was a river to us, because it was the most water we could find in one place that wasn’t just standing still. And every week of every summer we would walk to the river to look for a dead body. I always pictured it as a woman, with maybe red blonde hair that I would later find out was called strawberry blonde, and I thought that sounded delicious, and it made my body warm that anyone could be named for something so sweet and wild. My sister, I have never asked who she pictured finding, but I bet it was the same woman. My sister and I often have the same nightmares. We would come to the edge of the river that ran beneath a road in our neighborhood and we would look at first as far as we could see along the north and then we would cross the street and look along the south. We would check under the road, the part of the water that was hardest to see and is the most likely place where someone would want to hide a body. There was never a body. Sometimes there would be a volleyball, or a plastic bag that we would open, ready to scream no matter what was inside. So we would just drop a leaf in on the south side and run to the north side and watch it pass. I still don’t know where the river leads, but I know we were both imagining sending our leaves and sticks very far away, carrying imprints of our fingers. When we were probably getting too old to walk there because we could almost drive, and too old to go together because we were making friends outside of the family, we went to the river during the hottest part of the summer. There was nothing on the north side, but on the south side of the river was a bald, cold, headless body of a chicken. We knew it came from a grocery store, and we knew that a whole bird cost a lot of money, because we remembered our mom talking about it every Thanksgiving. We weren’t sure who had decided to throw it away like this. But it was naked, and dead, and ours. We nestled on the bank as the day washed into evening and pulled it to the shore, and poked it with whatever we could find, and didn’t say a word.
Iris Ann Moulton was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. She now lives in Lawrence, Kansas, where she is pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing and works as the Assistant Poetry Editor for Beecher's.  Her work has appeared or is forthcoming from elimae, Pebble Lake Review, and Cider Press Review.

12/22/10

Rebecca Evanhoe

Be it a Knife
“I’ve got a knife!” said my sister.
She pointed the knife at me.
“Thanks,” I said. I took the rusty blade.
She gave it to me because I’d said to her, “I need to get this package of ravioli open. Do you have scissors?” And she hadn’t had scissors.
I held her knife in my hand. We were making dinner in her first apartment, her kitchenwares from the thrift store. I thought of my own kitchen. Stainless steel, copper-core pots and pans, hanging from pegs. High-carbon knives sharpened on diamond whetstones. Measuring cups so heavy-bottomed you could maim with them. My sister had this ancient chef’s knife, a glass baking dish, a thin aluminum pot, a warped omelet pan, and a rubber scraper she kept calling a spatula. Her kitchen the size of a bathroom. When we were both in there, in her kitchen, together, we were almost kissing.
I thought of my husband, at home with his glass of scotch, pan-frying chicken nuggets in our wedding cookware. I ripped open the package. Frozen raviolis clattered onto the counter.
“Thanks for coming over,” my sister said, winking, scooping the ravioli from the counter to the pot. “I missed you.”
           I lit a cigarette from the burner. The paper at the tip curled with gray, then took flame. I blew it out. I sucked on it. I thought about her thin hair igniting from her hairspray. “I missed you, too.”
“Aren’t these gas stoves great?” she asked.
           I thought of the six-burner range my husband bought me. I looked at the setting of my diamond ring. “Remember to check the oven before you go to sleep. Invest in one of those gas detectors,” I tell her. “Gas can be dangerous.” I looked at her skinny tank top and her denim work shirt. I looked at her jeans. They had pasta sauce on them, on the thigh.
“Where’s Mick tonight?” I asked her.
           “Away. Working,” she said, licking hot sauce from a spoon. “He’s supposed to get off before midnight, but you never know. The bar gets busy around the holidays.” I leaned my butt against the countertop, smoking my cigarette.  She placed a hand at the nape of my neck, fingering where my heavy hair collected into a ponytail. “I thought you quit.”
           “I did,” I said, “most of the time. I’m slumming it tonight.”
           “What’s wrong with my apartment?” she asked, gripping the corkscrew in her other hand. She let go of me. She reached for the bottle of wine.
           “Nothing,” I said. “I love it. It’s so manageable.”  I turned to wipe the counters. I scrubbed the grout between the tiles. Coffee grounds clung to the paper towel. I thought of the smooth countertops at my house, the seamless sink.
“So you’re good for something,” she said, nodding toward my scrubbing hand, my bright ring, as she opened the wine gracelessly, clutching it between her knees and pulling up. She punched herself in the face when the cork released.
“Ow!” she said. She grabbed my glass, bourbon and ice, and put it to her cheekbone.
She poured wine into a mug with her other fist. She took it to her mouth.
“Look at us go,” I said. “Here we both are!” I took my drink from her. “Cheers!” I exclaimed. Hers to mine. We drank. I brushed her bangs behind her ear with my fingertips. I kissed my sister softly on the cheek.
    “There’s nothing wrong with what we’re doing,” my sister proclaimed. “This is a perfectly fine New Year’s Eve dinner.” She waved her hand about the kitchen, over the foaming pot, toward the dinner rolls still icy in their freezer bag, the salad greens. “I got that salad you like.” It was bagged spinach.
“You should let me cook for you sometime,” I said to my sister. She gulped from her wine mug.
The pot hissed, its ravioli-water boiling over from its tiny vessel. “Shit,” hissed my sister.
She grabbed the pot from the stove — so unnecessary, always this way with her — and twirled it to the sink. “Shit!” Water sloshed from the pot onto her bare, black-bottomed foot when she dropped the pot against the porcelain. She slid to the floor. I slid to the floor. I put my arm around her, cradled her hair, put her ear against my cheek as she wrapped a spotted damp towel around her scarlet foot.
“It’s just pasta,” I said. “It’s just a foot.” We watched her foot turn purple beneath its towel. We watched a roach emerge from under the stove.
“Give me the knife,” she said.
“It’s just a roach,” I said.
“Give me the knife,” she said.
I held the blade and put the hilt into her hand. “This knife is awful,” I said. “It’s rusty.” She leaned forward in a clumsy way to stab at the roach as it skittered back under the stove.
“It’s fine.”
“It’s New Year’s Eve,” I said. “Let me polish it. I’ll make it like new again.”
“It’s almost midnight,” she said.
“Then I haven’t got much time, have I.” I stood up to slice a lemon in half and squeezed its juice all over the cutting edge. I scattered salt on the blade and scrubbed it. I rinsed. “See?” I turned the knife in the light so it glinted. I looked at the clock on the microwave.
“Let me see,” she said from the floor. I handed her the shining knife. She pulled her last cigarette from the pack in her denim shirt-pocket. “Watch this.”
“Ten,” I said. “Nine.”
She laid the cigarette against the floor and pinched it with her thumb and forefinger.
“Eight,” I said.
With the brilliant knife, she slit the cigarette lengthwise. The two halves fell open cleanly, making two thin trays of tobacco. Like slim little oysters on the half shell.
“Seven,” I said. “Six. Five.”
My sister held one half of the cigarette like a kazoo, and with the other hand, she carefully pushed up from the floor to standing.
“Four,” I said. “Three.”
“I’m going to make a wish,” she said.
“Two.”
“Make a wish!” she said, lifting her half-cigarette to her pursed lips, and blew. In the confetti of the tobacco, she turned on tiptoe with her red foot, grinding.

Rebecca Evanhoe is a native Kansan. She received a B.A. in Chemistry from the University of Kansas, and she is currently a student in the University of Florida’s Program in Creative Writing. Rebecca’s work has appeared in Chemical and Engineering News and NOON.

12/21/10

Rhoads Stevens

A WOODEN PEOPLE, A WOODEN DANCE
A mantle.
A father.
Some money—maybe sixty dollars.
           A father leaves some money on a mantle, knowing that his son will steal it from him.  The amount he leaves is sixty dollars.  In the past, he’s left other amounts—twenty, five, six-hundred.  His son always steals the amount if it’s left on the mantle.  And the father does nothing.  He doesn’t accuse.  Doesn’t confront.  Doesn’t.
           But what does the son do with the money?  What he does is put it in a sock.  He gets on his bike and rides fifteen miles to the bus station.  The bus station’s waiting room is vast.  Its benches look like pews, and it has chandeliers with actual candles.  If the wind blows a certain way through the bus station’s waiting room, then some of the candles go out.  If that happens, then a man has to go up on a ladder to re-light the candles.
           So this son buys a ticket to another town—a town that’s a two-hour trip away.  Once, the son sat next to a circus clown who had just quit.
           “I never was funny or sad or drunk,” this clown had said.
           Once he sat next to someone from Spain.  “Cruel es mi destino,” this person had said.
           “Just make me some bananabread, and I’ll be happy,” a man who had sat next to the son once said.  This man reached into his jacket pocket and came out with brown, slimy bananas.
           This son rides a bus to go to a store that sells wooden spoons.  He buys however many he can before he takes the bus back and his bike back home.

           “Stop doing that,” the father says to his son.  His son—yet again—has bought wooden spoons.  And, to make it all worse, his son has carved small people into the handles of his spoons.  This way, when he eats his oatmeal, it’s as if these small people march or dance.
           The son makes his spoons go around fast in his bowl of oatmeal.  “It’s a race,” he tells his father.
           “Do they ever speak to each other?” the father asks.  His son slows his spoons to a halt.
           “Well,” the son says.  He positions his spoon people so that they’re across from each other.
           “I am from another planet, and I am in desperate need of alien currency,” the son makes one of the spoons say.
           “Oh yeah?  What does the money look like?” the other spoon asks.
           “Like trombones,” the first one says.
           The father then takes a spoon and makes it say, “Have you ever stolen from me?”
           “I haven’t,” the spoon says.  The spoon motions at the son and says, “But he has.”

Rhoads Stevens grew up in Honolulu and spent his summers in New Jersey.