2/28/14

Rahne Alexander

Feb 29

One time I booked a reading and I kind of had nothing new worth reading. I got this idea that what I probably ought to do was just go into some random section of my unexpurgated writings, perhaps something nice and jittery from the heart of my absolute meltdown. It wasn't easy to choose because if I just read whatever it would just make me look like a big gross pile of garbage. I don't like to go on stage completely unrehearsed, and whatever I read it needed to still be pretty raw to be of any use, so I couldn't rehearse. So I did my reading, and it was fine but I couldn't tell you what I read and when it was all done the writer Michael Kimball, who'd booked me, said to me something to the effect of “So what you're saying is that naming something equates to alienation?" as if he thought that idea was perhaps a little bit crazy but was willing to entertain the notion that I knew anything about what I had said and then my response was, "Yes." And then I thought about it for second and I still agreed with myself and I repeated myself. "Yes, I think that is true for me."

XX

That may have not been exactly what I said but it's what I meant. We were standing on the second floor of Minas, the historic Baltimore shop and gallery which closed this month. 

XX

I asked my friends. Not all of my friends. Some friends that I felt like asking at the moment. Some friends I wanted to hear from. Some that I know all too well. Some that I barely know at all. All of them friends who I thought would have something to say about redefinition. So much depends today on what I was concerned about last October.  

XX

When I was a child I often wished I had been born on February 29. It seemed equal to hitting the lottery, although there were adults who tried to cast it as a sort of a tragedy. Those kids would only have a birthday every four years, they’d say. Who’d want that? 

XX

Why aren’t there more kindly ways of telling another person that their ideas are ridiculous and completely dismissible? 

XX

February 29 was invented to patch the calendar like a robust piece of duct tape. It was invented as a buttress to steady a slightly-teetering structure, When those adults started in with their weird birthday dogma, I realized that not only were those with February 29 birthdates members of an elite percentage, they would be granted a certain amount of leeway in the ways they mark passing years. Which led to the realization that without February 29 my own birthday would sort of migrate through the season. Were one to live long enough, one might find that their springtime birthday would wind up in midwinter -- revealing time itself to be an elaborate, if necessary, fiction.  


XX
   
In which aspect ratio are your mythologies? 

XX

I went around asking everyone to tell me what they think about redefinition. It was hard not to feel like I was cheating, because as far as I’m concerned every word I write is a redefinition and I pretty much expect the same of everybody else.

XX

I write this sentence and I go back and read it. Then I write this sentence, and I go back and wonder if that is what I meant. I may not think that anymore, but now I’ve written it. Maybe I’ve changed my mind. Maybe I should erase that. Maybe I should delete it. Maybe that’s not what I meant to say. Maybe next year I’ll be appalled. At my short-sightedness. At my jealousy. At my immaturity. At my lack of articulation. Maybe I should never write again. Maybe I should destroy all my false starts one more time. 




Rahne Alexander is a performer, multimedia artist, and writer from Baltimore. She has a band called The Degenerettes and a variety talk show called Everybody All The Time and she apparently can now perform weddings. She thanks Publishing Genius profusely for allowing her to run rampant this cold, cold month.

2/27/14

Melina Giorgi

Bodega Still Lifes







Melina Giorgi is a photographer based somewhere between Oakland and Baltimore.  If you see her at the Oakland Art Murmur, she'll take a photo of your aura for free the3rd3y3.tumblr.com/.  To see more of her work, visit www.melinagiorgi.com

2/26/14

Sarah Pinsker

Why I Don't Go Out Anymore



"Why I Don't Go Out Anymore" was previously published in Preface (1996). 

Sarah Pinsker is a Baltimore-based fiction writer and singer/songwriter. She has two solo albums and one with her band, the Stalking Horses, on various indie labels. A fourth is forthcoming. Her fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Asimov's, and the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and her 2013 novelette, "In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind," published in Strange Horizons, has been nominated for a Nebula Award. Her website is http://www.sarahpinsker.com and you can follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/sarahpinsker.

2/25/14

Antoinette Suiter





The ghosts are all still here.
We're just no longer there to entertain them.

The “Burger Chef” still stands.
I arrived in town on Thursday and was surprised to see it still running. I ordered  french fries and a soda. They tasted exactly the same as they did twenty years ago.

The signage changed, and the teenagers changed, but the brown brick and yellowish windows somehow stayed new. Maybe there's a warehouse somewhere in Detroit, supplying yellow glass salvaged from abandoned Arby's restaurants. Scrupulously, this ensures that time continues to move the slowest in places where space sprawls the widest.

I was convinced that if I just waited long enough I'd see my grandmother driving down Main street in her blue 80's Buick, and enormous black cataract sunglasses.
Because
she'd have no reason to leave.

It's the drainage and supply piping systems in a residential building that transport water, clean and soiled, cold and hot, throughout the structure. Keeping the basement dry and keeping the used separated from the new.

During the pipe joining process in the construction of these systems, the solvent fumes created are heavier than air and may become trapped in newly installed systems. Ignition of the solvent vapors caused by spark or flame may result in explosion or fire. Caution of this danger should be exercised throughout the assembly process.

Ectoplasm, also, can be heavier than air.
Outweighing oxygen.

In spaces where disbelief remains suspended,
the animalism of emotional attachment somehow materializes
in physical form.

Lens flare on old snapshots, like the hoax-soaked cheese-cloth, outweighs the device capturing it.

The ghosts are all still here.
Traveling on bits of old t-shirts, on hairs hidden in crawl-spaces, and with auditory remnants leaching from building orifices.

They're still here.
Because they have no reason to leave.

They just live on,
humming, and
unbothered.




Antoinette Suiter grew up in Tipp City Ohio, but was heavily involved in the arts community in Baltimore Maryland before moving to Chicago. She recently received her MFA in sculpture from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and was recipient of the Edward L. Ryerson Fellowship. She is interested in the collision between nostalgic extremes, humor, and the uncanny.

2/24/14

C Pancake

Mustang

“A sentence plays with it for them.” Gertrude Stein

********************

What did you do with the rabbit?

When the whole damn grill fell off the fire escape and tumbled six floors to?

I couldn’t stand the howling or the length of his hair.

I felt your hand on my elbow when we stepped quietly around the three men burning a small pile of bloody clothes under the bright morning sun in the park.

Although you frequently called yourself crazy with euphoric glee, you cried when you hacked my email and read a note to my sister in which I said I was leaving you because you were crazy.

Still is a noun.

Straight has a point.

Remains are different for each one who stays.

A shot missed can fall either way.

You didn’t want to end things because you said I would forget about you.

As was your way, I can only remember you with startling clarity at entirely inappropriate moments.

C Pancake is an instigator pure and simple. "Mustang" was originally commissioned for 7308-230, Galerie AVU, Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. 

2/21/14

Kristen Anchor

I'll Pass



Kristen Anchor is an audio-visual artist, a curator, and a musician.  Her work has screened at film festivals, events, and galleries throughout the U.S.  Anchor recently received an MFA in Imaging & Digital Arts from University of Maryland, Baltimore County.  Anchor plays drums for Baltimore’s all-girl lofi art pop band The Degenerettes, and is the creator of the out of this world performance duo Monster Drummer Thunderupagus. 

2/20/14

Ryka Aoki

The Mark of a Good Day

I consider an Egg McMuffin the mark of a good day. If I have it together enough to get to McDonald’s while they are still serving breakfast, I know something in my life is going well. It’s a reality check, and living in Hollywood, you need as many reality checks as possible. There are too many ways to lose your mind, to think that breakfast with friends means some sort of goat-cheese-and-soy-chilaquiles at 2:30 p.m. at a hip café served by a waitress you might have seen in a dental commercial. “No rush—you want a mimosa at 4 pm? Sure. Here’s some whole-grain, gluten-free toast.”
But breakfast at McDonalds? No one is pandering to your artistic inclinations, or made-for-TV love life. Breakfast ends at 10:30. 10:35? Sorry! No Egg McMuffin for you! Your fickle muse, your chronic insomnia, your industry-party hangover be damned.
This morning, I’m up early for no reason other than I had no choice. Fatigue has been a depressing constant since my anemia acted up. Sometimes I ignore it, but heroics have only made me worse later, and besides, it sucks not to be able to walk up stairs without being out of breath. My girlfriend says, “Stop the heroics. Let the iron supplements do their thing and sleep when you have to. Use some common sense!”
Which I did, and now, my reward is an Egg McMuffin. There you go. In fact, I seemed to have used so much common sense that this morning I’m not even doing that bit: “Crap—it’s 10:45! Wait! Breakfast goes to 11 on weekends, thank the goddess”.
I’m here at McDonalds at 9am, and this might as well be another planet.
Within a half block of Sunset, the Vine St. McDonalds is always crowded, but instead of the late night hipster/homeless crowd, this morning the place is filled with parents chit-chatting with grandparents. Grandparents with their children. Moms wiping ketchup off their struggling daughters. Dads wiping sodas off their struggling sons. Wow. Families. Lots of them.
I get in line. I’m kind of short, which usually means someone ahead of me will back up and thrust an elbow in my eye. But here? There is no elbow in my eye. In part, it’s because there don't seem to be many tall people around. But also, I notice that folks are giving each other space. No one pushes. No one breathes into my hair.
I get my food and move to the dining area, where I see families at big tables and single diners and couples are at the smaller ones. Wait a minute. Families at are at family tables and singles and couples are at smaller ones?
When does that happen? How many times have I seen one person taking up a whole table, forcing families to separate; or sit elbow to elbow with double-parked Happy Meals? Gee—how often have I been that person?
And, though it’s early for me, it’s actually somewhat after nine, which means the place has been open for at least three hours. My server’s probably four hours into his shift. Yet he’s not beaten down and bitter, like folks I’ve seen who work the afternoon lunch crowd. He’s pretty chipper, actually. Of course, for a night person, anyone chipper before noon seems weird to begin with. But, to still look pressed and starched after a breakfast rush?
I get my tray, sit down at a small table, and settle in to unwrap an experience: the prefabricated goodness of my Egg McMuffin Extra Value Meal. It’s so good that I’m halfway through my hash browns before I realize the place is full of moms and children and families and all that stuff, yet I’m fine. In general, I hate noise. And yes, I like a miter-cut, golden-brown slab of hash brown as much as the next girl, but regardless, with all these talking families, this should sound like mini-Armageddon.
But here, it’s all blending in. Sure, it's noisy, but nothing is setting me on edge, nothing is standing out.
Then I get it. The voices aren't dominating each other. No one is speaking excessively loudly. Of course. That’s why the restaurant doesn't seem crowded, even though it’s full. Why the server still has a smile. Why no one tried to poke out my eye with an elbow. Why families are able to sit at family tables.
Everyone is aware of everyone else. Not overly polite or fake, just aware of themselves, of each other, of the space they are taking. When I refill my soda, a mother gently guides her daughter to clear a space for me. We make eye contact and smile. It’s nothing over the top. Nothing earth-shattering.
Just, “Hey, I notice that you’re here, too.”
Actually, there is one single person taking a larger table. Spread out, oblivious, working intensely on some sort project on a laptop. Or not quite oblivious. The person stares, then glares at the next table. A frown, and then back to the keyboard. A child cries; the taps get louder. Another dirty look. And—there goes the cell phone! And suddenly, I can hear one loud, singular voice pushing over all the others.
It’s like I’m watching a little piece of the rest of my life.
I think sometimes we feel like we’re the heroes and stars of our own TV series. Maybe it’s an easy metaphor because I live in Hollywood, but then again, Hollywood wouldn't be Hollywood if its stories did not have some degree of universality. We identify with heroes and leads, and whether it’s because we are accustomed to it, or because we feel our work or our history makes us special, I am sure that person is furiously, perhaps even heroically, fulfilling the lead in whatever movie was playing in his head. Of course you're going to take a big table and spread out. You’re the star! It’s your stage. Everyone else is an extra, there to fill out the setting, create scenery, and for God’s sake stay in the background and not get in the way.
But our lives aren't movies. And even if they were, who’s to say where the camera is pointing? Who’s to say there aren’t cameras all over the McDonald’s, each shooting whatever gripping drama, tender love story, light comedy, or tale of survival is playing in front of it?
More likely, though, there are no cameras. Just people, inhabiting their space, meeting their needs as I am meeting mine. There might be only two soda machines for the entire place, but if each of us gets our drink, smiles, and moves along, it’s really not so bad. It can even be fun.
I’m sure that person thinks the project on that laptop is very important. And it probably is. But that person doesn't seem to realize that these other noises and voices are important, too. They aren't from extras who wandered into the shot. They are from the families connecting, the server earning money, someone bringing in their blind parent to her chair. And a lot of them eating Egg McMuffins, just like you or me, when I’m lucky enough (or sensible enough) to wake up in time.
Sometimes, we’re just not that special, and that’s fine. Sometimes the world doesn't need special. Sometimes the world is not a movie with a jet fighter, insurmountable obstacle, or super villain with a cat. Sometimes, what’s ailing us is not some exotic unidentifiable medical enigma, it's just anemia, and we don't need three surgeries, a helicopter, and Hugh Laurie. We just need to take our fucking iron supplements.
You may notice I haven't yet talked about how race figures in the equation. Or sex, or color of skin, or sexual orientation. I haven't introduced my activism, my blood type, my forthcoming novel, or my plans to rehabilitate my knee. In fact, I wonder sometimes if mentioning all that stuff makes us not simply feel special, but more special. More important. More necessary. And that, I think, is tragic.
Sure, there are cases of injustice, attacks, people in need. Sometimes, the spotlight hits, the moment arrives, and it’s all about us. We get the medal, win the promotion, walk the red carpet, get the Lifetime Achievement Award. Go us!
But usually, I suspect far, far more times than we’d like to think, we’re waiting in line at McDonald’s with everybody else. And we can either get uptight and think of these other beings as obstacles and extras; idiots who don't get our orders right, or who can't control their children, or who stop talking when we’re trying to manifest our destiny. We can back into each other, poke our elbows, take the big table, flip off the family giving dirty looks.
Or we can look around at other people going about their lives, and realize we’re all here together. Why not? Is it really so terrible to share a similar existence? Is it so novel to think that maybe what the world needs is not more heroes, but simply more people aware of each other, acknowledging each other’s presence?
Is it so wrong to think that maybe there’s no need to be first? There’s no camera to hog? Instead of finding ways to be special, maybe we’re trying too hard. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with not being that special, and just having some good sense. It might just be that we’re all somehow together, and when we notice each other, give each other space, maybe with a smile, we do something far more blessed than raising ourselves above others.
Maybe the best times of all is when we give each other a just a bit of our attention, our time, our goodwill, and allow ourselves to share – not in individual greatness, but in a beautiful weekend morning, unashamed of who we are, which Extra Value Meal we are eating, and who is in front of us in line.

Ryka Aoki is a professor of English at Santa Monica College and of Gender Studies at Antioch University, and her forthcoming novel, He Mele a Hilo, will be published by Topside Signature Press this spring. Her collection Seasonal Velocities was a finalist for a 2013 Lambda Literary Award in Transgender Nonfiction. and her chapbook Sometimes Too Hot the Eye of Heaven Shines won RADAR Productions’ Eli Coppola Award  For more on her work, visit www.rykaryka.com.

2/19/14

Mole Suit Choir

The Air Felt Great Today





The Mole Suit Choir, comprised of Liz Downing and Rupert Wondolowski, are one banjo, one guitar, a triangle, two maracas and two interweaving voices in harmony singing of glories past and those promised in all new breaths drawn. Burrowing beneath the fecund soil like cagey moles are the dreams of life eternal. The Choir was first given life beneath a starry sky at a Shakemore Festival in Westminster when Rupert was on parole from the Patsy Cline Institute for the Emotionally Disabled and Liz was forced into community service to pick back up a damaged soul. Long fans of each others' voices they were given extra cause to join forces by the passing of their beloved friend and poet Chris Toll and by Liz finding occult messages in Rupert's book The Origin of Paranoia As a Heated Mole The Mole Suit Choir, comprised of Liz Downing and Rupert Wondolowski, are one banjo, one guitar, a triangle, two maracas and two interweaving voices in harmony singing of glories past and those promised in all new breaths drawn. Burrowing beneath the fecund soil like cagey moles are the dreams of life eternal.

2/18/14

Kate Bishop


HOW I LEARNED TO EAT PUSSY (excerpt)



This short play tells the story of a young woman's sexual awakening through a conversation between different aspects of her psyche. The piece is meant to be read by four different actors, all about the same age, spoken directly to the audience as a monologue in four voices.

CHARACTERS:
MOLLY -- The host
CLAIRE -- A Doctor
BETTY -- An American Girl
MICHELLE -- A student



MOLLY:  
(to audience) Yes, People?  Do you want to hear the story of how I learned to eat pussy?

(wait for response) Ok! (to Betty) See? I contracted with the “people.” They are consensually participating in listening to my story. Satisfied?


MICHELLE:
Do they have a safeword?

(to MOLLY) Wait, wait, wait!  How is it just your story?  I get some say in this!


CLAIRE:  
Absolutely.  Each of us must be allowed to tell her own version of events.   


MOLLY:
Yes, I know, it's your story too, we could hardly have done it without each of you.  But you're going to tell it from a completely biased point of view!


MICHELLE:  
So are you!  The myth of objectivity is the ego's greatest conceit!


BETTY:  
You gals are going to make it dirty and only tell the sex parts!


MICHELLE:
And you’ve got a problem with that?  I seem to remember that you thought it was pretty sexy at the time.  You got off like the rest of us.


BETTY:  
It’s not that I didn’t…I don’t…I mean, that’s private! I thought it was very...romantic, yes. But a lady doesn't kiss and tell unless she’s a tramp. And I know how you are, especially you (points to MICHELLE) you'll just have to tell it with all the obscene details. It's gross!


MICHELLE:
GROSS! Seriously, you really said “gross”? GROSS!! Do you even listen to yourself? How do I share a gender with this woman, let alone a brain? You're calling our BODY, our DESIRE, the whole worldwide COMMUNITY of dykedom, descendants of the Amazons...GROSS?  

(crosses to BETTY and gets in her face) Why are you even in here with us?   Step off with that bullshit!  You are such a...a...tool of the heteropatriarchy!

(BETTY bursts dramatically into tears, then tries to start a slap fight. They squabble indistinctly and call each other names.  MICHELLE pulls back a fist like she's going to punch her)


CLAIRE:  
(getting in between to break it up) OOOO KAY!  Taking it down a notch! Ladies, try to be rational!

(MOLLY takes wailing BETTY by the shoulders and walks her to the side)


CLAIRE:
(to MICHELLE) You need to take a breath. (puts one hand on MICHELLE's neck and the other on her forehead)  As I thought: your hypothalamus is throbbing. Allow your muscles to become relaxed. Let the adrenaline receptors release your epinephrine. (checks eyeballs) You'd better constrict your pupils.  And slow your heart rate.

(MICHELLE jerks away.  BETTY is crying in MOLLY's arms across the stage)


CLAIRE:
You know exactly why she's here, and she has a right to her point of view no matter (MICHELLE starts to interrupt) NO MATTER how much it may seem "colonized" to you.  She is an inevitable product of our influences, just like you are.  Her habitual stimuli, all those checkout line magazines, encourages faulty thinking. Don't blame her that the social construct has been polluted.


MICHELLE:  
Poisoned by the patriarchy!  We need to be vigilant against her kind of…infection!


CLAIRE:  
She's genuine.  She's another lens in here with all of us, whether you like it or don't. And remember, she makes it much easier for the rest of us to get through a family wedding.  She's charming, in her way.


MICHELLE:  
I know, I get it.  It's the nature of perception, every mind is a collection of conflicting interpretations.  Can I just be disappointed that part of us is so deluded?


CLAIRE:  
We all have our piece to tell.  

(MICHELLE sits down in a mediation pose, closes her eyes and breaths loudly.  She keeps opening one eye to see what's going on.)


MOLLY:
(To BETTY) You don't need to speak if you don't have anything to add, no one will pressure you.  But, hey, honey. I know this is a happy memory for you.  You remember when we, um, made love with our very first...galpal, right?  Remember?  The car?  The rainstorm?  You loved how romantic it was, right?  She swept you off our feet?


BETTY:
Yeah...


MOLLY:  
Well, everybody is friendly here. They all want to hear what you have to say.  You want to start us out?  Tell the people how you saw it first?  (BETTY nods) Good!  Great. Ok, we'll all listen to your story.

(CLAIRE brings a couple chairs forward)  

ALL of us will listen.

(MICHELLE also gets a chair and sits backwards on it)  


MOLLY:
Ok, everyone is listening.  We'll all chime in.  How does it start?


BETTY:
It was during college, natch! I went to a tiny liberal arts college in a rural area.  It was out in the middle of a cow field, really. It certainly was liberal, though!  All the girls who went there seemed to want to... experiment... Oh my! I know it's a scandal but in my generation, just everyone went to college to learn to be bisexual.


CLAIRE:
Wait a second, not everyone, that is patently ridiculous.  I'm sorry to interrupt, but you do have to be a little bit sensible about it. They told us 10% of people were gay or lesbian, though the Kinsey studies rely mainly on self-report -- a method notoriously prone to error. New findings, published in our junior year, reported that homosexuals make up a much smaller ratio of the population, perhaps a mere 2%. Anecdotally, I do think it was more.  10% definitely, perhaps even 15%.


MICHELLE:
And of course they were looking for people engaging in homosexual behavior as opposed to counting everyone who claims a self-defined queer identity.  Plus they only studied Gays and Lesbians. More like 85 percent of our students were queers of some flavor.


CLAIRE:
85 percent.  Really. Are you, in fact, actively high right now?  


MICHELLE:
Shut up!  It was a LOT of people!


MOLLY:
Bisexual was a real popular self-defined identity among my friends, that's what I know. Mostly not the men, though, they were usually just gay.


BETTY:
Well, some were bisexual for a blink and a giggle, weren't they? They were in between stations on a speeding train that started in Omaha but ended up at Fire Island.


CLAIRE:
There has recently been some intriguing research about that. Men seem, as a very general rule, to have a more...definitive sense of their sexual orientation.  At a very young age, many men who grow up to be gay-identified adults report always knowing some internal quality was “different” from their peer group.  In contrast, not many women report that sense of clarity. We tend to view our attractions as more fluid.


MOLLY:
ANYway, in college, in the early 90s...


BETTY:
Did you have to date us like that?

MOLLY:
It seemed like all the women I knew at college were studying real hard to be bisexual. In both behavior and identity.


CLAIRE:
It was curious, how bisexual references rapidly emerged from all quarters – books, music, magazines, television, art, science, theater. It was truly an American meme of the early 90s. Bisexuals went from mythological to ubiquitous in a single semester. Maybe it was some rogue microbial agent in the water?


MICHELLE:
But remember, the very act of observation changes the object observed. Your position relative to the topic made it visible to you. We were coming out of the closet, so every mention of sexual orientation was echoing in our ears.


MOLLY:
Sure, of course, but there was also something about that moment in history. I think there really was an uptick in people coming out and being visible. Like, Queer Nation groups started then, you know? Maybe it was just the inevitability of peer pressure.


BETTY:
Peer pressure?!? Peer pressure must be resisted!  It's a test of your character. You cannot give in to what the gang would have you do! Giving in to peer pressure is a girl's one-way ticket to a bad reputation! You don't have to pet to be popular.


MICHELLE:
Yeah, um, Reefer Madness called, it wants its histrionics back?


MOLLY:
Anyway, I did engage in rigorous study on the subject of cunnilingus.  I was an excellent student; curious, motivated. Not like it was a proper class...


CLAIRE:
If our culture didn't have such archaic views about sexual initiation and instruction, pedagogical guidance on establishing a sexual orientation and related stimulation techniques would have been developmentally appropriate for the population.


MICHELLE:  
I’d take that class!


CLAIRE:
Oral-vulvular stimulation seminars...


MICHELLE:
With lab work?  


BETTY:

Be my study buddy?


Kate Bishop is a playwright, social worker, sex educator and vaginal enthusiast who delights in the tender awkwardness of being a person. How I Learned to Eat Pussy has been the most popular of her four plays, including productions in Cleveland, Baltimore, and Seattle. Her 10-minute play Rare Affair was the winner of Fells Point Corner Theater's 10X10 festival of new works in 2013. She devotes time to making the world a safer place for women, queers, fatties and people of color and she's an awesome cook.

2/17/14

Temim Fruchter

The White Things


The sun was loud white and the grass was morning wet and Isabel wanted to go out to The Field. It was first recess and my clothes like usual hung on me at some places and clung to me at others and I wanted to feel cold air on my cheeks so I wouldn't have to think about the dull pinch and sag of my skirt and sweater. Plus, Isabel was my friend, and I was a little bit scared of her -- her skin was blue-white and her hair was the thinnest straightest blackest down to her waist like a haunted mermaid -- so I followed.

We called it The Field but it wasn't actually such a field. It was just the expanse of the shabby balding grass past the tubby plastic play equipment and the basketball courts of our little Jewish schoolyard playground. It wasn't actually far but it felt like forever when we walked out there, like away from the orange warmth of sun and voices, someplace the grass curls dark and blue and strange.

We were playing detective and Isabel led. I followed at least a shadow behind like usual, letting the wind catch the slow of my skirt around my legs, letting the sun dazzle me and make me sleepy again. My skin's moments of cold as the voices of the other kids got more and more muffled. Always this feeling we might get lost. Some part of me turned awake, the part of my skin that thrilled for secrets.

Isabel's and my games were skimpy on rules. When we played mad scientist in the crack between the school buildings, I led. I always knew exactly which pebbles were beakers and which pebbles were precious gems. When we played detective, Isabel led. She never had clear rules, but our unspoken agreement was to follow the leader. So when Isabel started running out further than usual, I ran, too. I felt thick and slow behind the stern thin whip of her hair but I pushed my blunt legs hard. I could feel my running in my teeth and like shock to my knees. I felt scared then, and stupid for feeling scared, and that's when I saw them: the white things.

That's what the inside of my head called them, anyway: the white things. They were plants, like something between a flower and a fungus. They were tall and they had girth, maybe more than a plant should. They shone a little, sweaty and alien. Sick. Where had they come from? A sudden fat blanket of white in the middle of all the green. Wasn't this a school playground? Was this an invasive species? Was I about to die?

Isabel! I screamed. I was always screaming too dramatically, louder than the other kids, and so Isabel was unfazed as she ambled back toward the rest of kids. Look, I screamed. Nothing. Was Isabel gone? I panicked from someplace loud and stuck at the front of my throat. Isabel was gone and detective was over and I was alone in The Field. I stared at the white things, trying to make them make sense. I moved closer. The sky felt lower and my nerves blurred. Something this starkly new: a surprise, a metallic lull through the all of me.

I moved closer.

I moved closer.

It hurt so close.

And then I was there. I mean right there. I felt a little proud of my sweaty self. I was standing at the edge of the patch, just inside where the plants were congregated. I teased in a little further. They were thick in the air now, the smells of wet petals and grass and pungent dirt. Something too alive. I felt a little nauseous. A saccharine sweet tickle to my gut as my foot fell between the plants, a dare to myself. I was alone. I was there. This was the playground, right? Recess? Why did nothing make sense? Why was my body this wracked?

Something else happened to me then. A mystery of feathery wet bushes plumed in my chest. A fishnet around my organs, pulled tight, pulled back, pulled together. A tightness in my everywhere. A feeling from the gray sky from the wet ground from the round wind to my deepest core. A pleasure shiver that snaked through my thighs, the opposite of lava, an electric cold direct to the crack of me. A voice that didn't feel like mine caught in my throat and lived there. The most sensitive parts of me -- the lace behind my eyes, the marrow of my wrists, the skin at both ends of my back -- prickled relentlessly.

And just like that I couldn't move. Actually. Couldn't. Move. Didn’t want to, either, even though I was scared. There was so much prickling. The heat. I could recognize the shape of me in beats. I looked past my skirt at my sneakers, wondering whether looking would help. It didn't. The grass grew teeth around my ankles as I stood there alone, unable to move or speak. I felt awed and terrible and trapped and freed in the presence of these weird plants. I felt the air around me grow sound and then grow fur. The air purred. My skin purred. My feet ached and my face beat hot red. My vision slurry and forgetful, I let the heady air hold me tight and spill me there for I don’t know how long.

Somehow, I heard the bell, far away but still effectively alarming. I heard Mrs. Guttman's muted shrilling, a call to arms, the lazy sun sliced quick.


My eyelids drooped and my knees gave to melt. I had to go, had to extract myself from this place. I sort of wanted to run but I sort of wanted to stay, here where my bones had grown spikes and my temples squeezed sudden color to my beating lips. Here was the dizzy smell of honeysuckles and wet wolf hair and unseen danger forest. Here was the sacred terror of things never meant to be seen or touched or felt. I swooned in my damp denim skirt, my eyes crossing hard and squinting to uncross, the cotton of my underwear sweaty with questions. I walked with a sharpness through layers of skirt and grass back to the sun and the other kids. The sky screeched. My head sang. Tremors of something unspeakable.


Temim Fruchter is an obsessive adjective collector and story-teller who just moved to Washington, DC and lives in a house full of windows and surrounded by trees. She believes in magic despite years of trying not to. Her heart spans the distance from the DC to her recent and longtime beloved home, Brooklyn, NY. She loves noodles, peanuts, letters, chocolate, pickles and adventures. She hates it when her socks get wet.