Scaring the Stars Into Submission

3:48am

Sleepless. Not just for a string of nights, but for several months. Is this what dying feels like? To be in a constant state of shuffling through the ether but going nowhere? Melodramatic, maybe, but there is something heavy pressing in around me. Katherine sleeps soundly on the other side of the bed, but I… cannot seem to force my pillow to make dreams. She sleeps on her side and I watch as her chest expands up and out with each rhythmic breath. If I catch her at the right moment, she will snore a little, but only enough to elicit a smile and never enough to keep me awake. She denies that she does this, but I hear it. I know it to be true.

The sheets are warm between us. Our collective body heat has sucked out the coolness found at the moment we slip beneath them. My pillows are the same, warm to the touch with no cool side to flip over and rest upon. I sit up against the headboard and stare out into the dark room. I know the furniture; I could walk this room blind and never touch a thing, but my eyes eventually adjust and I get up quietly so as not to wake her. I won’t be returning to bed anytime soon. Once I’m up, I’m up for the entire measure of the day.

I head down the hall to the guest bathroom and take care of my morning business. In the kitchen, I slide open the window above the sink, turn on the exhaust fan over the stove, and light a cigarette. I exhale through the window, the smoke from the cigarette disappears up into the vent. The first smoke of the day always makes me woozy in a way that makes me feel I exist.

I don’t know how to explain it better than that.

 

4:15am

Lift lid, add filter. Scoop three spoonfuls of coffee into filter. Fill pot with water, empty pot into reservoir. Turn on. Brew.

The smell of coffee fills the kitchen, mingles with the leftover tobacco. The paper has not arrived yet, so I’m alone with my thoughts. I rummage through the drawers, looking for nothing in particular. I open the linen drawer, lift each pot holder and hand towel, find a pair of orange-handled scissors. I place them on the kitchen table. In the living room, I come across some old magazines; pages of art and celebrities, political news and home furnishings. I take a stack of the periodicals and place them next to the scissors on the table.

Open cupboard, remove mug. Open fridge, remove creamer, fill mug a quarter of the way. Put creamer back into fridge. Pour coffee. Watch it swirl from black to vanilla brown.

The steam from the mug wafts up to my face, bathes me in smell. I sit at the table and flip open the first magazine, one filled with home improvement projects and how-to guides on making your home less cluttered. These simple bookshelves can be run along the walls of any finished basement or unused room as storage, a page reads. I wonder why someone wouldn’t just toss the stuff out if it’s clutter. I turn the page.

A wrap-around porch on a stout two-floor ranch home is spotlighted. The roof covers every foot of it and it seems obvious there is room for a dining set and a rolling barbecue grill beneath the eaves. Perfect for hosting!

Katherine and I wanted a house with a porch. We wanted one like in the magazine, big and comfortable in case the weather turned, but the houses themselves were either unaffordable or just too big. We settled on a place crammed next to others that looked the same, deep in wild suburbia where you could get lost in the maze of same-looking streets lined with same-looking families.

Wake up, go to work. Come home, have dinner, watch television. Lay in bed reading, fall asleep until whenever. We rarely talk anymore, Katherine and me.

Each day tastes the same flavor of beige. Even after the dawn started rising red.

 

5:27am

But it’s Saturday. Katherine will sleep in until I wake her with breakfast, something I have done every weekend since we married eleven years ago. Perhaps it has lost its sentimentality because she can count on it. Perhaps she still secretly loves that I do it, despite the quiet fracture that has come between us as of late. It’s early yet and I won’t start breakfast for another few hours.

I lean in closer, inhale. It smells like sky and rain, snow and lightning. It smells like everything and nothing all at once.

I go outside, shut the front door behind me gently. The morning sky is cloudy and the alarming color of deep maroon. Even the grass seems to be dew-kissed with little, glistening droplets of blood. Unnerving at first, this change in the weather and morning routine, but we adapted. It’s what we do, I suppose. Change our routine into something unexpected and we adjust to it accordingly. We thought the red skies would dissipate, that some scientific phenomenon had occurred, but they stuck around and we later heard they were man-made. The fear never really left, but it’s abated, tamped down, simmering just below and ready to come back out and play sometime. Maybe we’ve just adjusted to the fear, infused it to our daily living.

We’ve heard a thousand excuses for it all, never truly believing any of them. Solar flares, the earth moving closer to the sun (though we weren’t getting hotter), airborne pollutants mixing with atmospheric molecules, so on. I don’t claim to know much, but these all sounded like nonsense to me. One day the sky was perfect blue and the next? The next day looked like the world had been painted in blood by some new millennial angel of death. We felt like aliens on our own planet. Perhaps some still feel that way. It’s understandable.

I walk around the perimeter of the house and pull random weeds from the dying flowerbed. Without proper sunlight, our lawns have withered, but we keep on trying to play house. What else are we to do? Nightly news is one-note and depressing, but there’s always been work to be done around the house. We try to forget the red is what’s killing the flowers and work at the garden anyway. Doing something helps in the forgetting, but we know it’s a Sisyphean thing.

I often forget to put shoes on before coming out in the morning and today is no different. The grass feels lush between my bare toes. When this happens, I like to imagine I can feel the grass growing up and out, covering me like vines as it tickles its way across every inch of skin.

 

5:43am

I carry the weeds to the garbage cans on the side of the house. From the corner of my eye, I see an object in our backyard. The sun peeks up over the horizon and blinds my line of sight, burns corona images onto the back of my eyelids. It’s a large thing, squatting perfectly in the center of our backyard and rising several feet higher than the fence. I cannot remember it being there last night and I’ve heard no one make any noise near the house since waking. I place my hand over my eyes, try to block out the sun. No good.

I pass through the chain-link gate and shuffle through the grass. The dew feels especially nice, but my feet are covered in grass clippings now and start to itch. The object is massive. I walk around it twice, once clockwise and once counter-clockwise. I think I am just tired, just seeing things, perhaps hallucinating. It is a fluffed kind of round shape, but not perfectly so, and seems to hover just an inch or so above the lawn. I get down on my knees and press my face to the ground. I see right through to the back fence.

Cotton candy. The phrase screams in my head. It is a giant ball of cotton candy. Of course this can’t be right, but the texture, the look… I imagine burying my face into its gossamer surface, biting into it, and swallowing the tendrils of whatever it is made of. I imagine it tasting oversweet as it melts on my tongue.

I lean in closer, inhale. It smells like sky and rain, snow and lightning. It smells like everything and nothing all at once. It is a singularly unique smell that I cannot definitively place or name, but it is calming and reminiscent of quiet autumn evenings. I rub my hand across its surface, feeling it give softly beneath my touch. Spongy, springy. It rebounds slow when I take my hand off. The texture is incredibly plush, pillowy, a softness that I don’t believe man has ever achieved on his own.

 

6:01am

I could not be sure before, but I am now. It is a cloud, sitting fat and soft in my backyard. Tendrils of cloud fiber snake out into the morning air, lifted and moved by the first breezes of the day like medusa hair. I climb up the side of it, feeling my hands and bare feet dig into the spongy surface easily. I pull myself up over the edge. My first thought is that it is a large atmospheric cushion or pillow and I fall easily into slumber. The top layer gives beneath my weight, creating a large man-sized divot in its surface, and cocoons me in a feathersoft embrace.

 

8:45am

I awake to Katherine calling out to me, wondering where I’m at. She is on the ground below and, I’m sure, shocked at this new manifestation resting in our yard. I feel lighter, as if some unnamed burden has been lifted while I slept and my body tingles with a soft energy. I suppress a laugh; she won’t have expected me to have climbed up and fallen asleep here. I lean over the edge and wave. Hello, dear, I say. She gasps and gives me an unsure smile, waves limply.

What are you… what is… Jesus. What’s going on?

I shrug my shoulders. Come join me.

How?

Climb. I’ll take your hands. I’ll help you up.

She begins to climb and the oppressiveness of the morning seems to have gone away. I watch her struggle up the side of the cloud, tongue hanging out the left side of her mouth in concentration. She reaches up and our hands touch, clasp together, grip tight. Her face is lit up by the sun, seems to glow in a way I have not seen (noticed?) in years. I feel like I’m twelve years old and crushing again.

I don’t know how to explain it better than that.

 

9:17am

We lay next to each other. My hand rests on hers which rests on my chest. I can feel my heart thump through her. Or maybe it is her heart I feel thumping through her hand and our arrhythmias match.

Her face is nuzzled into my neck, her leg draped over mine. This cloud mattress has done something to us, something wonderful that neither of us wants to question for fear of losing the moment. We drown ourselves in the feeling, let it wash over every pore and slip into every orifice, let it fill us to the brim before overflowing.

I feel her breath along my neckline. It is warm and sweet and I breathe it all in. For the briefest of moments, I’m reminded of our courtship, of days spent laid out on shoddy quilts and blankets at the park, swapping secrets in whispers and napping with each other beneath a yellow sun in a blue sky. The memories are fuzzedwarm and comfortable. I slip into them easily, but find my way out of them less so.

 

9:18am

What do you think it means? she whispers.

I’ve no idea, but I like it so far.

You were up early again. 

He nods. Though, somehow I napped up here before you came out.

It’s like laying on a wish, she says, murmuring into his neck.

Do you remember the last time we did something like this? Just curled up together with no plans of doing anything?

Three years, two months, fifteen days, six hours, and twenty minutes ago. Far too long.

He runs his hand through her hair, feels her irregular scalp below, agrees. Far too long.

She opens her eyes and sees, across the red sky, bits of cloud breaking off, falling slow as if the entire city were caught in a molasses dream.

That one looks like an elephant, she says.

That one, an alligator with sunglasses.

A flower.

A bus full of children.

Popcorn.

A snow fort.

An ocean liner.

An angel.

A second chance.

They watch the tufts fall soundless from the sky, remaining wrapped up in each other on top of their own bit of grounded heaven. It is a strange storm falling in slow motion. The surfaces of buildings and cars become dusted with cumulus. Large chunks fall in backyards and intersections, parking lots and highway exit ramps, on playgrounds and sandboxes. The world stops and takes stock of itself for the first time in forever.

They lay next to each other. His hand rests on hers which rests on his chest. He can feel his heart thump through her. Or maybe it is her heart he feels thumping through her hand, and their arrhythmias match.

 

10:01am

Katherine vaguely remembers him waking that morning. His early risings had become small anomalies in her dream time, bumps in the road on the way to the subconscious. Her eyes would flutter open when he rose, but would calm again once he left the room.

His side. Her side. Wasn’t the bed supposed to be their side? Why had it taken this strange bit of skycandypillow to get them to curl up into each other, to feel each other from the inside out? For the life of her, she couldn’t remember what he sounded like when he slept beside her in the bed, but she knew she’d remember what it was like for them out here. She’d remember his breathing, the heat beneath his undershirt, the throbbing of his blood pumping out to every appendage, the un-showered smell of him, the feel of his fingers combing through her hair, the way her lips dry out against the skin of his neck, the soundfeelingmovement she feels through her skull when he swallows, the way she feels protected laying on top of him. Before she awoke in her (their) bed, she saw:

Confined in black. Not swimming, not moving, simply there. Feet planted in a nothing ground. From the black, a hand extends, gives her a bouquet of day-glo yellow daisies. The arm connected to the hand is sheathed in the same black and disappears off into nowhere. There is no face to the figure, no form. She presses her nose into the middle of the bouquet, feels the petals tickle her nose and cheeks, rubs them across her lips and feels their color melt on her face. Pollen colored lipstick drips down her chin. She looks up. The flowers are gone, the black nothing has been replaced. A once verdant valley stretches out for miles, now the color of brown burn and blackened char. She walks, feeling dead, flaky petals turn to ash beneath her arches, feeling the ash cake between her toes like thickening leather thongs. The ash becomes grey mud, sticks and dries to the top of her feet, hardens and cracks, becomes a thin layer of varying shades of blue scales that climb up her legs, her torso, her breasts, her neck, her face. She is a myriad blue, except for her lips, which remain yellow, though she doesn’t know how she knows this. The ground beneath her opens up, sucks her down into the slickery of ash-mud, begins to pile itself on top of her, the sludge slipping into the gaps between each blue tinted scale, covering her yellow lips and filling her mouth, her throat, her lungs.

When she wakes, she sits upright, breathless, gasping, alone in her (their) bed. She remembers flecks of moments spread across her memory. She cannot remember it all, but she is distraught, heavy, weighed down by a something she cannot put a name to, cannot wrap her brain around tight enough to squeeze out meaning.

She doesn’t know how to explain it better than that.

 

10:17am

Things that happened to others:

Herman Effen saw himself mirrored in the side of the cloud in his front yard. His reflection danced and laughed. He put two shotgun shells into the side of the fluffy interloper, but the reflection continued to dance.

Rita Jackson-Danforth was gardening when hers fell. It shamed and excited her, made her tingle beneath her sundress. She said it smelled like fresh laundry when she grinds her body against it like “a teenager again in the back of a car with some boy.”

James Ritter and his friends climbed on top of the one that fell in the forest near his home, turned it into a club house, a meeting place for their neighborhood “gang.” They imagined themselves as pirates and cutthroats before fighting and disbanding over ownership rights. James Ritter is, ultimately, brained with a rock by young Joel Martin from down the street.

Ethel Madison was crushed by one she could not escape from fast enough. It fell on her, around her, suffocated her within its ivory fluff. As she struggled to breathe, she felt the decades of dry twist in her bones dissipate.

Bethany Pilatas found herself unable to stop tearing off tufts of cloud and stuffing them down her mouth, not bothering to chew. She did this for an entire afternoon and swelled up, puffed out grotesquely. Her parents found her when they returned home from work, a fat smile played across her lips.

Roger Matthison cut large swathes of cloud off, replaced his mattress with the stuff. He fell asleep inhaling deeply the new surface. He woke up inhaling deeply the new surface. He spent a week doing nothing but inhaling deeply the new surface. He quickly withered into a shriveled version of himself and became folded deeply into the new surface.

The residents of the Oak Valley apartment complex found themselves crushed beneath the weight of a hundred clouds, all bearing down on the roof, which came crashing down on upper floor apartments, which crashed down on mid-floor apartments, which crashed down onto those living in the basement.

 

3:28pm

We hear the noise of exploration across the city, me and Katherine. We hear the excited screams of children having preconceived notions shattered and parents turning into children themselves. We hear the thunder of clouds falling and resting upon buildings and people, jostling birds and scaring the stars into submission.

We take an entire day of watching the clouds dissolve like cotton being slowly pulled apart, wispy curls frayed and stretching out as if begging to be put back together. It is a cotton-candy bombardment against which we have no defense. Katherine is mesmerized and I hear her questions through a muffled haze, a buffer. Her words are warped by the atmospheric spell cast upon me.

I turn to smile at her, to acknowledge her even if I can’t hear what she is saying. Her body is light, not weightless, but glowing faintly. Her veins are lit up with a pulsing white and her skin is translucent, melting into and becoming one with the cloud as I struggle to speak. Her face is wide with smile, her hair wafts below inside the clouded bed already. She is sinking into the ether of this thing and I am powerless to stop her descent.

I see it in her eyes; this is not bliss, but frightened improbability, impossibility. She fights the smile as I thrust my hand down into the cloud to scoop her out, to save her, to fly her back to the last few hours. My hand passes through her body as easily as it went through the cloud. She is ghostly now, pale and untouchable. Intangible and unreachable. Her hand reaches up and out, touches my chest.

My hand rests on hers. I can feel her heartbeat thrumming through her. Or maybe it is my heart I feel thumping through her hand and our arrhythmias match.

A breeze wafts over me, blows unshowered hair across my face, and she is gone. There is no face, no body, inside the cloud below. She has disappeared. I do not know how to explain it better than that.

Adam "Bucho" RodenbergerAdam “Bucho” Rodenberger is a 34-year old writer from Kansas City living in San Francisco. He holds dual bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy & Creative Writing and completed his MFA in Writing at the University of San Francisco in 2011.

As of January 2013, he has been published in Alors, Et Tois?, Agua Magazine, Offbeatpulp, Up the Staircase, Gloom Cupboard, BrainBox Magazine, Cause & Effect Magazine, Santa Clara Review, Crack the Spine, Penduline Press, Bluestem Magazine, Aphelion, Glint Literary Journal, Fox & the Spirit’s “Girl at the End of the World” anthology, and Phoebe.

He blogs at http://triphoprisy.blogspot.com.

We Breathe Through Harmonicas and Four More Poems

We Breathe Through Harmonicas

The anarchists must be somewhere says
the orange man in the sun hat.

He chews his blade of grass. The cringe
of grass in his teeth, his sunflower seed mouth: I have
trouble breathing. His Betelgeuse eyes bore
through me and my eyes retreat to my tongue. I cradle
my harmonica, already finger-worn and tired.

I hum through my harmonica. He doesn’t understand.
I hum louder. His eyes so transparent I see
through the iris, retina. He smiles, louder,
he says, breathe louder

hum louder, the harmonica overwhelms wind,
his dusted voice, my lone brass breath.
The orange man hums
                                           The anarchists are everywhere.

 

The Revelers Should Have Died

My ears hover above my head, then waver down
to the soft dirt: on with the picking
fingers, the tapping foot. Bone-deep bass
caresses my spine and you
+++++++++++++++++++jolt.
I bathe my ears in measured breaths—
dissonant, melodic. A trumpet
swings a hypnotic tune. With each bend
of the trumpeter’s back your voice
perspires a bit more. My
fingers reach over—
+++++++++++++++hesitate
on the solitary half-note. The song
meanders in my hands. We dance in
burgundy, your hair dull with wine,
the cat drunk off your blue breath.

 

Two Poets Meet in a Confluence of Echoing Songs

Take it back my little vertebrae. My nightmares of stairways and powdered faces always moving,
++++++your lips always brooding the banister to its essence: the moving faces, the withered
++++++++++++stairway. I can’t breathe these days, I’ve been eating at the sun for way too long
++++++++++++++++++I exhale sun spots in silhouettes emit smoke from my dust lips, I
take it back. My fingernails peel my livelihood away I dream I live underwater play
++++++my guitar for the sea anemones, they sting my back. In the dry ocean
++++++++++++breeze I hear the sound of a single pelican that lonely breeze redolent
++++++++++++++++++of wilted raspberries in moonlight trumpet in firelight I burn in orange
I take it back all those years I swallowed you whole my breath
++++++burns like dry ice salt in my eyes and your tongue a river of caterpillars in my esophagus.
++++++++++++I never heard the sheen of your voice till it was gone, I listen now as I make this roux,
++++++++++++++++++as I bathe in rice water to absorb the ubiquity of you, my darling palimpsest,
take it back. This time of year the salamander crossing obstructs my tongue—in the winter, I am
++++++silent. The salamander in my breath, the spring in the salamander’s breath, it’s all so familiar,
++++++++++++the sting of it in the moonlight, redolent of you, my darling salamander. I
++++++++++++++++++lose you daily, caraway seeds drip from the ceiling, your lips dripping, say
take nothing back. My watch slowly melts onto my arm, and my arm slowly melts onto
++++++your lips. The world becomes amorphous. Let’s leave time out of this, I hear you
++++++++++++say, the toad, also melting, the baker kneading, always with floured hands and nose.
++++++++++++++++++The always of the baker’s face, the bread of her fingers, the need—that smell.
++++++++++++++++++++++++The dough says take nothing back, your lips
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++barely moving.

 

The red sky leaves no room for sorrow

The sting, the sweet viscosity of raw
honey, with dates and black coffee beachside,
pits in sand; the sky runs red leaves, night is
replete with sea revelers dancing in dark
reed, with drums. There is no moon tonight.

An elder plays this mandolin, I smile, you are the
grandfather I don’t remember. Fingers vibrato: bronze,
worn strings, in darkness his rough hands ride,
writhe with this sonorous music for two-thousand years.
And in this time, his hands disintegrate;

the mandolin grows weary, morose. Fire
wood crumbles, flames fade modestly. We proceed
in color negative—shadows are always
luminous. And in dawn we break our silence,
let tongues serenade us. I think of you

always, your absent smile in the silver nightingale night.

 

Time Ticks Itself Away

This ravenous world grows grey, grotesque. A
grazed woman crawls up to a red oak door,
the wind nearly immobilizes her (the weeping widow). She
gropes for the glass knob, moving further by the finger. A man

crawls up to the red door, his pants are torn. He
can’t see his fingernails, the wind flares with seawater. He
gropes for the knob and loses his fingers in green;
the bitter leaf, the alchemist, mourns in color.

The wind flares her nostrils with seawater. She
plunges into the uncertain wind, blaring sounds of mystics
long forgotten, the brittle leaf mourns its tired alchemy.
The waves crash against the jetty she cries, he

plunges into the mystics blaring sounds of wind long
forgotten the whine of the dead longshoremen curls his ears
the waves crash against the jetty he cries, he fights the
gale, opens the door, he doesn’t see her. The gale retreats.

The whine of the dead longshoremen curls her ears
she breathes in lemons: his fingers. She fights
the gale opens the door, she doesn’t see him. The gale retreats.
She collapses in the stalled minute, the heaving sunflower

withers over him. He breathes in jasmine oil: her hands.
Lost in this sea of rose hips, she lets one wither on her lips.
He wanders, catches rose hip dust with his tongue;
this sentient world grows grey, grotesque.

Monique ZamirBorn and raised in New York, Monique Zamir lives in Stillwater whilst she attends an MFA program for poetry in Oklahoma State University. She’s an Assistant Editor for the Cimarron Review and has written on sundry topics of urban intrigue for publications like Untapped Cities. She finds the screeches of the subway to be energizing, and, yes, comforting.

Mind the Gap

Hello, fellow scribblers!

We need to talk about what you are going to do next. I, myself, am nearing the end of my MFA experience and have to make certain life decisions. Like what to do with a time in my life called Post MFA. I believe this is something like menopause; a state that will last until I die.

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It is time to embrace this change of life.

It is time to face the fact that while I don’t actually feel like a writer, I will soon have a certificate that says that otherwise.

It is also time to tell the government that the joke is one them: I won’t be repaying these loans anytime soon!

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As a writer, this is a weird time.

There is a lot of PRESSURE to do two things:

PUBLISH,

and

PUBLISH.

You could say that I am starting to feel the pressure.

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Perhaps I am making things too hard.

Perhaps what I need to do is listen to what Ira Glass has to say about this time in my life: The Gap

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Some gems from Ira Glass not found in the video:

“If you are not in a situation where you are failing all the time, then you are not in a situation where you can be super lucky.”

“Learn to abandon the crap.”

“You will be fierce, you will be a warrior!”

“You will not get published, get over it. That is not why you are doing this.”

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So, what am I supposed to do?

I think what Ira Glass wants us to think about the post MFA not as a curse given to me by my mother, but as just a beginning to getting down to some serious business.

Well, Ira Glass, I’m tired.

Tired of slogging through a novel that is not working at the moment.

Tired of making sure I have “met the requirements for graduation.”

When does it get better?

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Where do you find the strength to keep “being in a situation where I am failing all the time so that I am in a situation of being super lucky?”

J.K Rowling said in her speech to Harvard Grads in 2008 that if she hadn’t failed so miserably at life after college she could not have stripped away everything that didn’t matter and just do the one thing she knew how to do: write.

What the Post MFA really is, is a time to fail.

What I need to learn is that I need to be OK with failure because I am not doing this to get published, I am doing this because I love this.

GAWD!!!

How cheesy is that?

When I think about it, J.K. Rowling and Ira Glass are right: failure is a good thing because it sets you free from the pressures that you put on yourself, like publishing right after your MFA.

I’ve learned about 10,000 new things in my MFA, and I should use the time after my MFA to try them all.

And keep trying

And quit worrying about publishing

It will happen

It happened for those two, why not me?

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Let’s Do Math Together!!

Hello!

How are you, my fellow laureates?

It’s getting to be the end of the submission cycle for winter/spring journals. We are tired people. So many submissions!

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It’s also that time of year when we all pull out our calculators, or ask someone, anyone better at math to crunch the numbers, or we just give up all around and try and Google it.

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It’s not just tax season, people.  It’s the time that writers check their email by the minute waiting for the accepted/rejected emails. It’s also the time when, when you read for the fiction team, and you cry a little when you look at ALL the submissions that have JUST come in that day, and you wonder why you agreed to do this in the first place.

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So, let’s crunch the numbers for Lunch Ticket, shall we?!

Fiction gets 14 slots to fill in the upcoming issue. We have split it up so that we have 10 slots for fiction over five pages long, and 4 slots for flash fiction, or fiction less than four pages long.

As of today, when I did all the maths, Lunch Ticket has received 218 fiction submissions, and counting.

And now it is time do some magic!

(also called math)

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If we do the mathemagic, then we see that with just the submissions we have now and the slots we have, every piece has a 6% chance of filling that slot.

However, so far, we have only accepted 8.

I say again, we have only accepted 8.

This makes our acceptance rate 3.36 %.

Which makes our rejection rate almost 96%.

Granted, the rejection percentage will come down when we close to submissions. If we project our stats, I think our acceptance rate might go up to around 5%, thus lowering our rejection rate a bit.

Doing some more mathemagic, let’s look at who we are accepting:

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So far, we have accepted 5 men and 3 women (one person submitted with just their initials, so who knows?).

Our acceptance rate for men is about 3.3 %, but for women we have barely cleared 1%. These are the numbers that our literary magazine looks at when accepting new pieces. We are trying very hard to have our final count be 7 women and 7 men. We just have a lot of sorting to do until we have our final numbers.

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Why, as a writer, are these numbers important? Because we spend so much time writing our own stories that we forget that other people are doing the same. When we turn to the business end of writing and getting published, if we want to increase our chances of getting published, it helps to know where we would have the best chance of that happening.

Transparency in numbers is hard to find for other lit mags. However, Bartleby Snopes has a good breakdown of their own stats. When I compared their data with ours, our rates of rejections and acceptances are running pretty close to each other.

What does this mean?

It means that an acceptance rate around 3% is pretty standard for just about every literary magazine. This means that it is still tough to get your work published with online lit mags such as ourselves.

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So, we need to do what Dory tells us, and just keep swimming. While the numbers are daunting, it should remind us all that our personal fiction needs to be the best it can be in order to be published. All we can do is just keep writing.

 

 

 

 

 

Get Your Book Banned

Hello!

Welcome back, you crazy Bannagahammers!

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While licking my wounds from my latest rejection, I’ve been taking a LOT of Buzzfeed quizzes. Evidently, I am not very 90s (which was weird since that was the decade of my youth), however, when I took the “What Era of Rock Are You?” quiz, I got 90s indie rock (very confusing);

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 If I were to be a 90s teen girl icon, I would be Laney Boggs (not surprisingly, I also have no idea who this is).

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Everyone knows that if I am going to be a 90s teen girl, I would have been Kathleen Hanna from Bikini Kill.

The Grey’s Anatomy character that I most resemble is Lexie Grey (I don’t know this person since I don’t watch this show); and in a past life I was an ancient Grecian philosopher.

You get the idea.

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I then took all the “How many of these ____ books have you read?” quizzes.

When I took the banned books quiz, I had read almost the entire list. And that started me thinking about why so many of the books I adore were on that list.

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 Did I read them because they were good books, or did I read them because they were banned?

What gets a book banned?

I went here and found out that there is really no rhyme or reason why books get banned, but there were some major themes that most people cited for the reason they wanted a book banned.

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Offensive language:

Books that have been banned because of “offensive language” include Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, a bunch of books by Henry Miller because they were written by Henry Miller, and Sherman Alexie’s book An Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian were all banned for using offensive language. But, it’s more than just swearing a lot.

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It’s how you swear, and how your characters swear. If you and your people use words society has a problem with, ones that speak to a larger problem like the N-word, people are going to become sensitive and are going to judge you on how you use it. When you’re a writer, swear words are no longer words you can just drop because you are frustrated and mad, they carry all the connotation and weight that made them swear words in the first place.

Sexually Explicit Content:

Toni Morrison’s Beloved has a yellow card for having sexually explicit content, as does Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaiden’s Tale. 

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Beloved and A Handmadien’s Tale are not books that I think of as overtly sexual. However, they do deal with complicated feelings about sex and intimacy from a point of view that is not the standard one. We already know the story of the characters above: Fabio is a swarthy wild-man who lives by his wits and brawn, the Blonde is a plucky girl whose father dies and she has to head west to find a teaching job; they can’t fight their attraction and start doing it like monkeys; and at the final moment Fabio turns out to own the entire town and is filthy rich. They live happily ever after.

Or, something like that.

It is the “happily ever after” that people like. If you step away from this in your fiction, prepare to get your book banned.

Homosexuality:

Probably the fastest way to get your book banned is to have some sort of homosexual connotation to it.

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The most recent brouhaha about a homosexual book was And Tango Makes Three, which is about two male penguins who do not have sex with each other, but do bond as a couple, who are given an egg to raise by the zookeeper, which hatches, and who then raise Tango, the hatchling, as their adoptive daughter. This kerfuffle  has already been made fun of quite well:

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  But, still, it was just a book about penguins. Naked Lunch has actual homosexuals in it and it has been banned on and off since it was published. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman has a red mark, as does Howl by Allen Ginsberg. People have tried to ban The Color Purple not because it deals with issues like incest, but because of its homosexual content. 

Violence:

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Here, as in most things American, the rules are little more lax when it comes to violence. However, some interesting books have been sidelined for being “too violent.” Jack London’s Call of the Wild is a pretty good example. What gets a “too violent” label are memoirs or manifestos like Malcolm X’s Autobiography of Malcolm X, or The Words of Caesar Chavez by Caesar Chavez. Anything that might rile up the status quo can be threatening, and could possibly get your book banned.

Religious Viewpoint:

This is a pretty straightforward reason. However, it’s a free-for-all that depends on who is doing the condemning. Books get banned for religious reasons because they anger certain groups of people, like Salmon Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses or the Harry Potter series. It really all depends who is doing the banning. Bizarrely, Twilight is usually banned on religious grounds, and not for being “overtly sexual.” 

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Drugs:

Books banned on the grounds of excessive drug use are usually getting banned for other reasons, like Howl and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous is the poster child for a book banned due to including excessive drug use, and even though the book predates Lifetime movies, it really should have been one because it shows the main character, Alice, falling into despair because of her teenage drug use.

 

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What does it all mean?

I think that if people want to ban your book, you’re probably doing something right. What I think you’re probably doing right is exploring a thought or a feeling that is uncomfortable and complicated, and in so doing exposes some hypocrisy that resides in us all. I saved my best example for last: Lolita. In 1955, the Sunday Express called Lolita “the filthiest book ever written.” Yet, on the cover of the copy of Lolita that I have, Vanity Fair’s blurb says that Lolita is the “only convincing love story of our time.”

Think about that.

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Nabokov told Playboy that “I think my favorite fact about myself is that I have never been dismayed by a critic’s bilge or bile, and have never once in my life asked or thanked a reviewer for a review.”

Truth.

When asked about Ernest Hemingway and Joseph Conrad, authors who have not had their books banned to the extreme that Lolita was, Nabokov says that “in neither of these two writers  [Hemingway and Conrad] can I find anything that I would have cared to have written myself. In mentality and emotion, they are hopelessly juvenile, and the same can be said of some other beloved writers, [to be] the pets of the common room.”

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It all depends if you want to make cute and cuddly art or not. To make a really great book is to risk being banned. So, follow these rules, and your book will probably get banned:

It is how you swear and your characters swear.

Deal with complicated feelings about sex and intimacy from a point of view that is not the standard one.

Just make your character gay.

Have all the violence you want.

Don’t worry about the religious vote: it will come, no matter what you do.

Do all the drugs you want.

If it gets banned, your book will live on because people will be talking about it, wrestling with it, and, especially, thinking about it for a very long time. Your book will live on long after the people who banned it do.

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Monsters in the Agapanthus

My niece clutches the kitchen doorjamb, her brown eyes wide. Her face is streaked with something dark—mud, dirt, ash. Her thin hair is flyaway, thin, uncombed. “There’s monsters in the bushes.”

I put a plate in the dishwasher, wipe my hands. She’s a dark child, full of nightmares. I wish I weren’t taking care of her. “What bushes?”

“The shiny ones. At the bottom of the backyard.”

“The agapanthus.” I snap the door shut, plates rattling. “There are monsters in the agapanthus.”

Deena nods. She’s so slight, so tiny, I can actually see her swallow articulated in her throat. I’m not sure what a seven-year-old should weigh, but it’s got to be more than this, her arms like reeds, knees like tangerines, eyes that take in the entire world.

“Come on,” I say, holding out my hand, dried and chapped from so much hand-washing. “I’ll show you the monsters.”

 

The monsters rattle the agapanthus, moaning and growling like something from a Sci-Fi movie. In the cheesy film, the small things would spring out, covered in fur or scales but certainly with enormous teeth, biting one of the supporting cast. Deena shudders at my side as the tuberous mounds shake, the growls roaring to a crescendo.

Deena grabs my pants. I imagine her on a ship, the stowaway clinging to the sail during a sudden squall.

“Puppies,” I say. And just then, Marcel and Lulu pop out, Lulu first, and she tears off to the far side of the yard, Marcel at her heels. They are smaller than the noises they make but fast and very happy.

“Puppies?” Deena gasps.

“More fur tornado than monsters. My friend calls them a furnado,” I say, but Deena, rapt, walks toward the puppies wrestling in the far corner of the yard. I follow. Her sad sneakers are flat and worn. A tag sticks up from her small T-shirt.

“I didn’t know you had puppies,” she said as she crouches down, her hand hovering over Lulu’s head.

“I didn’t know I had you,” I want to say, but don’t. Instead, I say, “Twelve weeks old. Got them almost half a month ago.”

“Are they nice?”

“They have sharp teeth. But they don’t bite hard.”

Lulu stops her tussle, pants, looks at Deena, and then moves into Deena’s cupped palm. Lulu licks her, snuggles against Deena’s stick body, and then reaches up and licks her face. If Lulu were a cat, she’d be purring.

That’s when Deena finally cries.

 

When I was little, I thought every night was a horror show. Something was bound to get me. Monster, ghoul, vampire, devil.

I don’t know how to make food kids like. Mostly, I make what I want, and no one but me likes to live on bowls of fruit and yogurt. Or vegetables and hummus. Smoothies made of brown bananas, rice milk, and ice cubes. Everything served cold. So I tried to remember something my mother used to make us, her repertoire Midwest and bland. I settled on mac and cheese. And carrots. I know kids like carrots, the kind that don’t look like roots but severed thumbs. For dessert, I bought some popsicles, but I remembered the minute I left the store that you can make your own. With orange juice and such.

The fork looks enormous in Deena’s hand. There’s a snail’s trail streak of snot on her right cheek, but I don’t say anything. She’s not paying attention to her meal but to the puppies and my adult dogs, all slumped like sacks at her bare feet. That’s how I used to sit at the dinner table. After my mother died, no one was there to make us wash before dinner. We were raised by ourselves and neighbors. By wolves, my older sister Mara used to say, Mara who escaped the wolves. But maybe that’s why I like dogs so much. They remind me of home.

“They have long tongues,” Deena says, chewing. She’s missing a couple of bottom teeth, and I hope that’s normal.

“The better to lick you with.” I glance to see if she gets the reference, but she keeps eating.

“Are they the babies of your other dogs?”

I chew the slightly too-al dente macaroni and then swallow. “No, I got Rocky and Bullwinkle a while back. But they’re all real pound pups. Saw them advertised in the paper and went and got them.”

Deena blinks and then nods. “You’ve got a lot of dogs.”

My friends have said the same thing, most telling me I’m becoming the crazy dog lady. My friend Carrie threatened to stage an intervention.

“A puppy is like two dogs,” I say to Deena. “So that means I don’t have four—“

“Six!” Deena cries out.

“That’s right,” I say, oddly proud. “For about a year that’s what it will feel like around here. Six dogs.”

Deena watches me, and I can see her calculating how her time and this new dog time will mesh. She chews her food and then says, “You can buy six leashes and six bowls.”

“And six beds,” I say. “We can have a doggie bunk bed.”

“A doggie hotel!”

She looks as if she will say something else, ready to add more detail to our doggie world. But then she catches her breath, almost sinking down onto her chair, shrinking back to her true shape. Then it’s my turn to cry. Or at least feel like it. Only seven, and she knows how not to believe in hope.

My younger sister Lynn, Deena’s mother, is the pretty one. The youngest by ten years and spun of gold and bright blue and long leanness, she came wired for excitement. None of us three older ones liked her much. She was the last evidence of our parents’ connection, something we’d given up on years before she was born. But after my father disappeared and before our mother died, Lynn was the designated favorite, given all the treats we’d been trying to discover for years. By the time I left for college, I’d decided Lynn would either be a stripper or a dentist. All those big white teeth.

Deena clacks her fork against her bowl, spearing a raft of macaroni. After every two bites or so, she leans down to pat one of the dogs, Rocky licking her hand and wrist. I idly wonder about worms and other parasites but then decide to ignore the thought because the attention makes her smile. Besides, by the time the symptoms of either appear, Deena will likely be somewhere else.

“My mom never let us have a dog. Said they were too—something. Something that ends with a y.”

“Hmmm,” I say, thinking of Lynn “Y” words. Sexy, crazy, naughty, scary. Lynn took her time getting to neither dentistry nor sex work. Instead, she became the girl next to one powerful man after another. Well, if the married president of a lawn mower company or owner of a string of auto-body shops counts as power. Which one ended up Deena’s father, I never knew. But at some point just shy of forty, she got pregnant. Of course, she was the best looking pregnant woman ever. Glowing, lush-haired, still slim-hipped, she carried Deena as if born to breed, like one of those native women who pushed out her baby over a dirt-floored hut and then headed back to the harvest. It was just plain irritating.

My other siblings and I strung together rosaries of questions, all starting with What, How, Why, Where. Lynn never answered a one of them, disappearing sometime in her third-trimester and sending only yearly shots of her baby girl.

“Can I have some more?” she asks. My heart flickers as I scoop out a mound of mac and cheese.

 

“What next?” Sal asks me.

“Don’t know. Some lawyer will tell me, I’m sure.”

I slump against my headboard, staring out into the hallway and the half-open door of the guest room where Deena sleeps. When I was little, I thought every night was a horror show. Something was bound to get me. Monster, ghoul, vampire, devil.

I’m just waiting for her scream.

“I guess I can’t come over for a while.”

I sigh. It’s possible Deena was an answer to my prayers. Sal and I have needed to break up for months. She wants to travel the world, and I just want to stay home. She turns up the heater, and I’m in favor of blowing out the pilot light. Etc. On and on. Who knows what she would think of Deena.

“Let her settle in,” I say. “Give her time before we tell her that the wombat she’s living with is not only a wombat, but an old grizzled lesbian.”

“You’re hardly grizzled,” Sal laughs. “Well, maybe in some places.”

“She’s been through too much,” I say. “All she needs is more oddness.”

“Nothing gay is odd in California, you know. Deena’s got to know that, too.”

“She’s not happy,” I say.

“Why isn’t she with your brother? The one with the kids.”

“Hardly kids. They’re in college.”

“But still,” Sal says. “There’s got to be a bicycle or a ball hanging around. A twin bed. “

“Oh,” I say, standing up. “She’s calling for me. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

“Ti—“

But I hang up. The house is silent, except for the hum of the furnace, set at 68 degrees.

 

“Marcel and Bullwinkle fight a lot,” Deena says. Today it looks as though Deena’s been playing with someone’s lipstick, something I haven’t worn any since 1976. Back then, it was called lip-gloss.

“It’s a male thing. They’re establishing who’s boss.”

“Who is the boss?” Deena bites down on another strawberry and watches Marcel mount Bullwinkle’s left leg.

“That we don’t know yet,” I hand Deena a napkin.

“I think Marcel.” She watches them play. “He’s smart. He knows when you’re going to feed them before anybody.”

“He hears me thinking about dog kibble.”

“He hears you think about walking to the kitchen.”

I laugh. “He is smart, then.”

Deena puts down her bowl of berries and wanders out onto the lawn where the dogs tussle. I’ve heard a lot of things in my life, too, and none of them very good. I’d like to unhear a few dozen for sure. The way a foot in a shoe on a floor trying not to make a sound sounds. I know the way a hand on a blanket sounds. I know the way cries-that-aren’t-yet-cries sound. No one should hear things that aren’t hearable.

All at once, I hear the things Lynn must have heard. The whack of air right by her head. The crack of skull on tile. Breath leaves my body, air leaves the backyard.

“Maybe Lulu’s the boss,” Deena cries. “She’s smart, too. And she’s the cutest.”

Like Lynn, I think. It’s the cute ones that go first.

 

The social worker is a stereotype, though why we call things that are true and real a type, I don’t know. She’s soft and formless, and her glasses rest on the bridge of her nose. Her gray hair is bone fide grizzled, but full, a messy halo. Her bag could be Mary Poppins’, a carpetbag full of magic. Except, of course, she’s here on business. My brother Tom picked up Deena for a park and ice cream afternoon, and I’m left to answer the questions.

“She was brought here two nights ago.” Mrs. Beadle reads from her notes. “A friend of the mother’s dropped her off?”

I nod. “It was late. I was half asleep. Didn’t ask what I should have.”

“The next morning is when you found out.” Mrs. Beadle peers up over her glasses. “That’s when you got the call.”

I look down at my feet in their sensible gardening shoes, one shoelace puppy shredded. The night after Deena arrived, I’d spent a few hours disgusted with Lynn for her this and that, her wastrelness, her incapacity, her inability to see that her shine had dimmed. Couldn’t she grow up and take care of her child? I thought every bad thing I could and lined up some more to mull over in the morning. Then I’d paced the floor, emailed my siblings and Sal, worried how I could keep the child alive.

“Right,” I say. “The police. A neighbor called it in.”

“It happened the night before,” Mrs. Beadle says gently. “And the friend who dropped off Deena?”

I nod. “That’s the one. At least, they think so. It’s ongoing.”

Mrs. Beadle shakes her head as she writes. “Does Deena know?”

“No,” I say.

She looks at me, bites her lip, shrugs. “You’ve got to tell her soon. Otherwise, she’ll be upset about the wrong things.”

Hadn’t I known this my entire life? I’m the poster girl for being upset about the wrong things, Who Else Can I Blame my cri de couer.

“I was just waiting…”.

“She’ll blame her mother for this.”

And why not? Isn’t it Lynn’s fault, all of it? She put herself right in the middle of bad and stayed there. That friend of hers, the one at my doorstep with Deena in the middle of the night. I could see why Lynn hitched her star to his. I can’t totally fault her. Even as I stood there in my terrible bathrobe, bleary-eyed, foul-breathed, I saw his smile. The way he cocked his head. The tattoo on his bicep.

“Worse, she’ll blame herself.” Mrs. Beadle rummages in her bag. She pulls out pamphlets and papers. “There are support groups.”

“There’s not going to be time for support.” Whatever help Deena needs will come from the place she lands. Here? I can be popsicles and puppies. Mrs. Beadle looks up, her black eyes intense over her eyeglasses.

“You are going to keep her with you?” She leans forward, close enough I can see the soft dark hair on her upper lip. She smells like gingersnaps, like the witch in Hansel and Gretel, the one who charmed with sweets.

“I—.”

“After what she’s been through?” Mrs. Beadle flips through the file, thicker than I’d ever imagined it could be. Seven years old!

“I’m not cut out for this.”

She rolls her eyes. “No one’s specifically cut out for this. Who could be? Not a pattern anyone wants to repeat. Middle of the night and all with no warning. But she’s your niece. She needs something known right now.”

“But later—.”

“One day at a time,” Mrs. Beadle says, handing over the information. “Make that one minute at a time. Or less, if need be. Just do it.”

 

Then we sit in chairs as if dressed in those bomb suits, immobile, muffled, hot as hell.

Tom’s wife brought over real food, and tonight, Deena and I dine on lasagna. As she scoops up cheese and sauce, I study her head. She doesn’t remind me of Lynn much, not with her sparse hair and plaintive features. That was one thing Lynn never was. She never complained. Not when we were eating lentils for weeks or her shoes fell apart. No, Lynn found a way to get invited to live with the Robinsons down the street. We’d see her through the window eating chicken drumsticks and drinking Coke, just like she’d been put into the wrong family the first time. Found at last. She even convinced them to send food to us, leftovers and junk food we ate in a tear.

“When’s my mom coming?” Deena’s fork clatters to the table. Rocky whines, the puppies stir.

I look down at my plate, a massacre of red, a swirl of blobby cheese. “When did you last see your mom?”

“I already told the men that,” Deena’s voice is dime hard.

“Maybe so, but I didn’t hear.”

She sighs, her thin shoulders touching the back of her chair. She’s sitting on an old phonebook and Shakespeare’s collected plays. Her eyes are caverns I could get lost in, the way in frightening, the way out impossible.

“She put me to bed. Then Bobby woke me up.”

“How did he seem?”

For a second, she looks right at me and then shrugs.

“You didn’t see anything… her again that night?”

Deena shakes her head and then leans down to pet one creature or another. One time when I was parking near the ATM, I noticed a big white truck in the space next to me, red and black words spelling out “Crime Scene Cleanup.” I waited in my car for awhile, just to get a gander of the person who would perform the listed services: Homicide, Suicide, and Accidental Death Remediation: Cleaning, disinfecting, and removal of all contaminated items to restore the scene to a safe, non-biohazardous state.

Whoever did those kinds of things never showed up. But I had the picture. I got it. The brain matter on the wall. The pools of blood. The trail the dying person left as she clawed her way to the backdoor, trying to get to her car, forgetting about her child even as she died. Then the body, lifeless, stiffening fingers permanently clutching the carpet.

The puppies growl and tumble. Deena smiles.

“Ice cream?” I ask.

 

My parents were young and stupid when they got together, and stupid stuck. Here I am, a retired high school librarian, living in Oakland as quietly as I worked. No permanent relationship to my name other than four dogs and a handful of family. We keep our distance, circle the holidays as if they will explode on contact. Then we sit in chairs as if dressed in those bomb suits, immobile, muffled, hot as hell.

What else? Oh, Sal in the corner, still waiting. Deena asleep in her bed, only a few years away from the acting out that has to happen sometime. Memories, too. Guilt, boatloads of that. And monsters, still, at night, in the closet, under the bed. The old monsters I brought with me from my childhood. Now they live in the agapanthus with Deena’s.

 

There’s a summer school program with a reading focus. Testing. Counseling. A tutor. Tom’s wife arranges play dates. My friends bring over toys. Deena has her first physical. I go to support meetings and learn about “Talking about Violence” and “Talking about Death.” I hear stories that remind me of my own. And Deena’s. I come home and make things that are hot. Chicken coated in flour and baked in the oven. Boiled green beans from a neighbor’s garden. Sticky potatoes riddled with lumps but full of butter.

I break up with Sal, who is surprisingly calm. Later, I hear she’d already found another girlfriend and was hoping to let me down easy. Win-win, as my mother used to say.

The puppies grow, the days lengthen. Deena and I sit outside on the bench after planting nasturtium seeds. Wisps of fog roll in from San Francisco.

Marcel and Lulu race their superhighway through the agapanthus, but they’ve grown—gaining a pound a week—and their fighting seems real, though so far, no bloodshed. Rocky and Bullwinkle lie on the grass, waiting for calm. Deena has gained weight, too, though she still looks like she might fly away on a stiff wind.

“Your mother,” I begin. “The night you came here.”

“I heard it.” Deena stares out at the agapanthus. “She screamed.”

“What did you do?” I breathe out.

“I waited. There were other noises. And then Bobby came and got me. He put a blindfold on me. Told me it was a game. Hide from Mommy. He put me in his car, and we drove away.”

Something tears at my throat, and I cough. “Did he tell you what happened?”

“He said my mom didn’t love him. Or me. He said he knew how to make things better. That he was going to take me where I’d be safer.”

I only met Bobby the once, at the door. There he was, half murderer, half savior. “Do you feel safe here?”

Deena nods.

“Could you live here?”

Deena is silent, her eyes trained on the puppies’ path. A figure-eight, an X, a back and forth. Around and through, over and under, their growl and whine and moan rising and falling. We can see their every move and lunge and parry, no hiding spots left, the agapanthus thinned and ruined, flattened to the earth.

Jessica BarksdaleJessica Barksdale is the author of twelve traditionally published novels, including “Her Daughter’s Eyes” and “When You Believe.” Her short stories, poems, and essays have appeared in or are forthcoming in Salt Hill Journal, The Coachella Review, Carve Magazine, Mason’s Road, and So to Speak. She is a professor of English at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California and teaches online novel writing for UCLA Extension. You can read more at www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com.

Chameleon; The Most Beautiful Thing; Uni-Love

Chameleon

I’ve found you
Imposter
Erect against the araceae backdrop
Stealing your neighbour’s hue

Garbed in flowers of false truth

Yesterday I thought you were a rock
Stoic in potent iron, even as my belly
Slipped over your scales

You beg the sun for her gold
The stones for their silver
The dirt for his muddy brown
The leaves for their tangerine

Shapeshifter
Scurrying through life with a colorful shield
Now, veiled
In yellow leaf-veins
Branching down your back
to the emerald stem of a tail
Feet inch deep in bough’s brown

Your guise dismays
Your buggy black eyes
Wearing no second-hand color
Naked in fear, defeat, regret
You cannot change the color
Of your destiny

 

The Most Beautiful Thing (Two Cups of Tea)

Mother
Hunched in an elegant bridge
Gallops of tangerine hair
Sweep the kitchen counter

Sunrise, the sky
Is grey dancing with
Soft amber, brilliant carmine
Waltzing into her
Liberated hands
Freeing one, two
Tablespoons:
Leafs of obsidian glow
Rests into my favourite
Purple cup, her favourite red

The kettle whines, she carries
It off the sienna flame
Gracefully decants a river
The leafs plump, release ecru
Steam pirouettes midair

Carefully, she lays the cups on the table
Checks her watch, sits down, and waits
For me to find
Her and two cups of tea
Not knowing that I am
Already here

 

Uni-love

We are lonely drunk vessels
blindly,
finding each other
in the dim library light

We thrust our hands, gape our mouths, stab our tongues, and let
Our gender emblems defile each other
Clumsily, senselessly, in a sea what-is-that unpleasantness.
Discovering what we’re made of
In kindred inebriation

We swap
Partners or positions or
Pink body parts
All in an effort to achieve
A believable rhythm of delight

eventually we will forget
names, faces, earnest promises,
foreplay, and afterglow
None of the dinner by candelight
We might imagine
The intimate glances
The talk until dawn

as soon as they’re gone we sit alone,
eating cold spaghetti from a can,
detach ourselves from
another emotionless encounter.

i find remnants of your faceless lovers
beside your unmade bed:
Empty condom wrappers.
An ashtray with butts
From their lips squished
By their thumbs buried in ashes

in your white-walled, smoke-filled, dirty-laundry strewn dorm room
That I find myself coming back to again and again
For no other reason I can think of
Than that you desire to have me in it.

Carly Breault is a second-year psychology student at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo,
BC, Canada.

Glitter Pen 2014

Hello, fellow pen dancers!

Let’s talk about the hardest part of writing. And no, it’s not giving a reading, like I said last week. Submitting your work is terrifying.

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Putting your work out there to be judged and scrutinized seems to be the most nerve wracking part of the business of writing. I’ve been thinking a lot about this since I’ve been reading fiction submissions for the upcoming issue of Lunch Ticket. And since doing all this reading, I’ve come to realize that not everyone shares this fear.

Some people have no problem putting their work out there.

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Isn’t he amazing? What makes him so brave? How come some people have no fear and others, like me, stay in the shadows?

NO MORE!

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I surveyed (read: messaged on the Facebook) some very successful writers for some tips and secrets to submitting your work and getting it published. What came back a lot was what Winston Churchill said about World War II:

Never, never, never give up.

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He also said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” This seems to sum up trying to get published. However, there are some small tips that can help our efforts in getting published.

So, let’s keep going.

1. Follow directions.

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No matter how confusing you think they are. Even if you think they are pointless or cannot understand why they would require you to send it in the way they want it, it will be the first one rejected. Read the submission requirements before submitting your work. And especially if you’re sending in money to a contest, it’s in your best interest to be thorough. Just before you hit that submit button, double-check again.

2. Do not get creative with your query or submission letters. No funny stuff!

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Just say no to glitter pens or anything that might be “eye-catching.”

It won’t work.

They will laugh at you.

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3. Be persistent in your submission numbers.

I have a friend that I know has submitted at least 25 times to one literary magazine, and was rejected every time. She does not let a rejection deter her, though. Just because you can’t use glitter pens does not mean you can’t be shameless when submitting. Just keep submitting. You never know, maybe the 26th thing you submit will be the golden egg. You never know unless you keep submitting.

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5. Find magazines that publish work you like.

We’ve talked about this before, people: READ the magazines that you want to submit to. Even within my MFA community there is still an attitude that you don’t have to read all the magazines you submit to. Submittable has seen to it that submitting has become one of the easiest things you can do, even easier than spending an hour reading the magazine.
Another reason to read the magazines you want to submit to is so that you know the little things about the editors, like if they’re a boy or a girl and have preferences about the little things like being addressed by certain pronouns.

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Don’t be a princess. Get your hands dirty, put your back into it.

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6. No matter what, never, never, never give up.

Winston Churchill was a wise man. No matter what you do, just don’t give up. Have complete conviction in your work. No matter how many times you get rejected, just believe that there is someone out there who will understand your work if you are persistent enough to find them.

 

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