“The Vivisection Caravan by Rebecca Gransden” by Rebecca Gransden

41813564641_976de1838f_o.jpg

Cracked bones tinkled along the sides of the meat caravan as it drifted down a lay-by at night. Car headlights streamed through brittle tree trunks. Traffic monotonously pulsed past on the motorway beyond, as the caravan turned away from it and moved cautiously to find a shady backroad.

The caravan drove itself, untethered from any vehicle, led by the compass of biological impulse. Cartilage exterior making a scratchy progress, rotten teeth attached to dead nerves and swinging from the roof, scraping a clinking music while wheels of rubberised fat churned the septic road surface.

A sigh escaped in an oesophageal puff as it edged forwards. Worn by travel outside of timeframe, the signals of feeling had been muted by the punishment of planetary conjunction. A warning went up, and the flesh reanimated in a flurry of remembrance before sinking to a state of preparatory decline. For now, the exterior whiffed of butchery.

Deeper into the trees, the caravan swaying on uneven ground, the drone of traffic disappearing with the light too. Starlight lit the way, stroking the flexing musculature of the brackets and consumed windows. The doorway stood out for being pink and fresh, resting like a tongue ready to lick. Trees closed over the road, thicket a chaotic black, twisted stems above poking out supernovas.

A rusty metal barrel burning ahead on the track, flames whipping and rolling high, the stink of bad oxygen plumes reeking all about. Straining ducts in the barrel peepholed a torrent of seething hellfire, the metal itself sustained by the heat, which would eventually amplify and send it to destruction. Drenched in ossified smoke tubers, the caravan edged to a halting brake, rocking to a standstill. Flame illuminated the front and flickered down the facing side, the rest of the caravan lost to the shadow of the darkening road.

A leather-aproned man strode out from the black road ahead, as if the barrel was his. A valley of scars criss-crossed his face, his features mangled by tissue torn, formed to manmade geometry. The ritualistic markings traversed his body, visible as elevated tracks along his bare arms, the pale wormlike lines running to disappear into a faded wifebeater.

He held a gnarled piece of broken log in one hand; a hand oversized and fleshy with rounded muscle, like the rest of him. With a wink he lobbed the log sample into the raging barrel, causing a spiral of fiercely singed sparks to fly in a turbulent whirlwind. He spat and coughed and walked through the disturbed burning cloud until he reached near enough to the caravan.

A low moaning came from inside, faint and dreadful, like an injured animal. The man raised his sweaty arm and scraped it across his face, leaving a sooty smear.

“Knock, knock,” he said, his voice a quiet vibrato, unfitting to his face. He sniffed, taking in the night, and what was to come to him.

The door peeled away, glutinous folds the consistency of luncheon meat curling to reveal a murky hole.

A glint flickered from inside.

Its source poked forwards—a polished metal clamp attached to the exposed brain of a laboratory raised cat. The cat walked on its hind legs, its ginger and scruffy fur thinning around bald patches, some covered in a red rash, some displaying healed curved incision scars. The man fell to his knees and put his palms together, tears trickling along the trackways he’d carved in his cheeks ready for the process.

From behind the cat and out of the throbbing doorway hurried four lab rabbits, pink eyes weeping scarlet trails into their fluffed up white fur. Each rabbit held the bottom end of one of the four legs of a stool, the seat lilting badly as they struggled to balance it. They carried the stool into position, placing it a few feet away from the still flaming barrel. The cat positioned a paw onto the man’s forehead and silently imparted that he rise.

The man got to his feet and moved—hunched and methodically—to place himself onto the stool, his back to the oscillating barrel light. The bunnies scampered to the caravan and hopped inside, squeaking shrilly.

With the raggedy grace of a beleaguered soul, the cat gently climbed the hulk of a man, travelling up his body before settling on the muscly platform of his overdeveloped shoulder. Its eye twitched and its paw-pads tightened around a scalpel. The cat placed its furry front leg firmly onto the man’s face, to at once steady itself and also to obstruct the man’s vision. With great strain it lifted the sharp blade to the top of the man’s head, and forcefully sliced into the scalp a perfect square that framed his entire crown.

A bound saw the cat off the man and over to the caravan, where it leaped inside, for no more than a few seconds, reemerging with a bound, the scalpel swapped for a bonesaw. Now the cat sprang back to the shoulder, ripping the man’s scalp upwards, dislodging the square skin flap, and flinging it into bushes. The new instrument buzzed and hit bone, the man sitting up straight, conscious somehow, the cat’s forepaws busy, leaving the man’s eyes left to convulse in flexing bulges. Dark pupils displayed the spectral languor of his wife, troubled with cancerous blood, drowning in a fate of vampiric victimhood, across the land and in their bedroom and on their marital bed. Illness was draining her away, the gauze of her presence ready to dissolve.

The cat dropped the bonesaw, which sputtered to a stop on the ground. This was the cue for the reappearance of the rabbit parade, and the bunnies rushed forwards once more from out of the caravan, their eyes almost exploding with excitement, between them holding another metal clamp, an exact replica of that attached to the cat’s head, but scaled up to be large enough to fit a human skull precisely. The bunnies shuffled up to the front of the stool and communicated in soft bleeps to each other. In perfect synchronisation they united their efforts and with combined strength launched the heavy metal clamp upwards and into the waiting bloody paws of the lab cat.

With speedy dextrousness the cat installed the clamp, pushing it with a crunch to snugly fit the square void atop the man’s head and cover his bare brain tissue. A short funnel of metal poked erect from his crown, the central area of attachment—the previous purpose of which would’ve been to hook up the test subject to an electrode or injection device, ready for experimentation. The man blinked, trying to assess if his faculties had survived the violent process. He couldn’t tell if his giddiness was a result of the primitive surgery, or of shock and blood loss. In any case, he tried to stand, and felt steadier as a result.

The cat backed off and retreated to the caravan, tentatively keeping an eye on the man until it moved to the door and padded careful steps inside.

Alone, the man stripped himself, halfheartedly trying to wipe the blood that had cascaded his scar tracked arms, but time enough had passed for the dark liquid to turn tacky, so his rubbings were only partially successful. He turned to face the barrel and the black road beyond. High above, the fiercest stars twinkled energetically despite the brightness of the flame. The man chucked his soiled clothes into the barrel, and it again sent sparks into the air, though no smoke followed. He glanced down at his body, wearied from a life of toil, his comforts displayed as a dimpled potbelly.

After consuming the fresh fuel of his clothes the barrel began to die, and he staggered forwards, keen to find a rhythm to his walk, gradually straightening his gait as he strode into the backroad black.

He trampled along, the path familiar, and the darkness filled with enough starlight that he didn’t have to think too much about where to place his next step. At a point between thick twin tree trunks he’d passed so many times before in daytime, he turned and went off the track, and onto a grassy throughway, dipped to a path gouged into the sandy soil, created by years of feet looking for a shortcut.

In no time he emerged from weedy trees and onto an open hill, sweet meadow flowers kept low by grazing animals, every one of the beasts sent to slaughter weeks ago.

All sounds of nature ceased, as if a strange insulation had fallen. No noises from the town drifting up from below like there should be, no nocturnal chirrups to freeze the blood. Only a silence born of static, the pause of the engine building for a breaking point.

He reached the top of the hill, guided in a state not quite conscious, not quite not. A momentous crack occurred somewhere above him, dreamlike and reverberating to create a thrum in the air. A coagulation of hazy electric threads wafted overhead, glowing and tinged blue, curling wraithlike to form a hovering gaseous mass, warmly humming. It descended and he watched the far off stars, and as it touched him it enfolded his shivering skin, engulfing his exterior which slowly accepted a fluorescing pink aura. Once it had covered him, the pink extended to be haloed by an unearthly indigo surround, the hum transferring to his body, no louder than a spirit’s whisper. Like a radiating tin man he awkwardly made his way down the hillside, across the silent scrubby fields, along shadowy roads which trailed to the suburban hinterlands and then up to his own front door.

In the dark he climbed his stairs, the smell of home forcing hot tears, and he entered the bedroom he’d shared with the woman who was his wife, and had been for more years than he’d been a man. He approached the bed, disrobed this woman’s body, keeping her asleep, and  then put her back down to rest. The intense pink of him hit her pallor and reminded him of the life she had once possessed, the flush and force she’d shown him, when she could, when her blood carried her towards him and not away. He laid her out and placed himself on her bare body, caressing her, kissing his final breaths into her, until his pink dimmed and she shone an electric godly blue.

Lifeless, he tumbled from her and to the floor, his final twitches the misfiring of a desire for forgiveness entwined with deep satisfaction.

The laboratory animals of the vivisection caravan stirred, sensing that once again their sufferings had born a cure, the cure that had evaded their torturers but had risen in them, the result only experience can bring, whatever the hopes of observation. The cat, and the rabbits, the rats, and the piglets, snuggled into their nests of warm meat, to dream the sunrise and conjure another day to travel the invisible road ready to spread their special remedy to the next poor soul in line.

 

Rebecca Gransden lives on an island and writes sometimes. She can be found on Twitter @rlgransden and online occasionally at rebeccagransden.wordpress.com

“An Audience of Feathers” by Jared Povanda

26020674317_64e9ca8ce9_o.jpg

I arrange the birds in an archipelago.

They stay still for me. The sparrows. The crows. The parakeet I borrowed from Mr. Thomas in 10A. All still. All silent. I crouch, haunches bunched tight, as it begins to snow outside. Gentle, so gentle, these March snow flurries. Goosebumps raise on my arms. I try to ignore the pain from the scratches, the pecks, the long, red, meandering talon marks.

“My grandmother taught me this,” I tell the audience of feathers. “It’s for conjuring. For bringing something into the world.” A large crow cocks her head, but she doesn’t leave her position at the front of the procession.

“You should understand, crow. It’s your kind who hold funerals for their dead. It’s your kind who practice necrophilia. Stop looking at me like I’m the weird one.”

I stand, muscles raw, back sore, arms stretched to the ceiling. I’m shirtless for the effect of it, and the goosebumps trail down me, make my hair stand on end. The windows in front of me collect snow on their sills.

There is a desk to my right, and it’s piled with letters. Harvey’s letters. I almost cross the room and pick the newest one from the pile. The paper isn’t yet yellow and cracked from over-reading.

“Ready?”

The birds stare at me with their beady, bright, bounding eyes. None of them move.

I nod and take a breath. Take a breath. Take—

Latin spills from my mouth. Words with round edges and sharp curves. Words that make my tongue itch.

It’s March 15, and Caesar’s ghost has dropped through the ceiling to watch. Caesar and Brutus, friends again and grammarians. I can hear them correcting me, and I want to shout at them, they’ll scare the birds before I’m done, but if I stop, everything’ll surely go to Hell.

I have to trust. I have to take trust between my hands, cup its shape on my palms, and stroke the letters until they trust me back.

This is for Harvey. Harvey, Harvey, Harvey and his letters. Harvey and his hatred of strawberries. Harvey and that piece of hair of his that’d never stay gelled down an entire night before springing up again. Harvey, the journalist. Harvey, my best friend. Harvey who loved the ocean. The sand. Harvey, my piña colada man. My little-pink-umbrella-in-a-drink guy. Harvey and his smile. The way he stood tall, protecting me from bully-punches, a grin on his face. Harvey, the brother. The son. The prince of his family. My king.

I remind myself of this as the Latin rolls off my tongue in foam-tipped waves. I remind myself of this as the parakeet begins to shake, feathers erect, and then blinks from existence. The other birds do not move. Do not panic.

One by one, as Caesar and Brutus look on, quiet now, the archipelago implodes. The avian islands sink into the air, into nothingness, into the syllables spinning in the breeze like last autumn’s leaves.

The blood, the bones, the beaks, all for Harvey. For his long, hairy legs and his arms and broad chest and the way his nose hooked. Harvey, and his loamy eyes. I plant the spell in each iris.

His body unbends, unfolds from that same nothingness, levitating feet off the ground. The bullet’s entry wound closes. His lungs knit back together.

When we were children, who could have guessed he’d be dead at twenty-eight and I’d be building a new Harvey out of bird bodies in my living room? Who could have known the ghosts of Roman emperors would watch me, and then pick through those letters, the letters he always insisted on writing—email was too impersonal for him—when we were states apart, in college, and then after, both of us traveling separately and too often for work? Who could have known the bullet would strike him dead on impact?

Who could have known I would eventually cradle his bleeding heart to my broken one?

My mouth is dry. My lips crack from the cold of the snow. There is only the last crow now, and she goes to open her beak, goes to say something, but the world is unfair to women of every species, and my spell rewinds her into the void with all the rest before she can do it.

The Latin dies.

The ghosts look on, Brutus gripping Caesar’s shoulder, and I wonder, fleetingly, how many times Brutus has apologized to his king for what he did.

The snow is on a soft descent outside.

Harvey drifts to the ground with it. Perfect Harvey. And I smile. I smile, and I start to laugh and bounce up and down.

“You’re here! Harvey, you’re here. Open your eyes, man. Open your eyes.”

I crouch by his naked body, haunches bunched tight, hope a sky we’re both flying through. His heart beats a steady rhythm. Wing flaps of an eagle.

I wait. I wait. I wait, and the ghosts wait, peering over my shoulder, and even they smile when Harvey’s brown eyes stare back at me.

I wipe away a tear. “Harvey, god, Harvey. It’s so good to have—”

He jolts up, sudden, fast, and fast-forward, like a video of an island being born from the sea. Like a bird, launching into flight.

“CAW!” Harvey shouts. “Caw, Caw, Car—lack! Car—lack, caw! Caw!” His hands are on my shoulders, and his nails embed themselves in my skin, and I’m bleeding, but I can barely feel it through the tears.

“What? But I did everything right? I did!” I’m shouting, trying to stand. Harvey’s cawing, trying to keep me down, and we’re a tangle of messy limbs and blood and feather-bits and bits of bone and we crash into the table with his letters.

Something cracks, but I don’t really feel that, either. Papers float down all around us, all around— white, white, white, snow on the inside—and I look into his anguished face, those eyes of his, and he keeps squawking. Keeps pointing at his throat.

Caesar retracts into the ceiling, I hear him, and I understand his English.

“Every year, I tell people to beware the Ides of March, but do they ever listen? Do they? No…”     

“I’m sorry,” I coo to my Harvey. “I’m so, so sorry. But I can fix this! I can! Trust me. Trust me.”

I reach a hand out to him, praying, but he just stares at it with beady, bright, bounding eyes, uncertain and unmoving, the start of a new archipelago, maybe, but also just a man. A man who’s looking at me now as if I were his great betrayer, as if I wanted this. As if I plunged a knife deep into my king’s back on purpose.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper, sobs shaking me. “I didn’t mean for this to happen.”

Harvey tips his head up in answer, muscled arms spread wild like wings, and lets out one final, piercing cry.

“Sisyphus Witness” NF by Ira Rat

466384525_6070f6b266_o.jpg

One summer my brother told the Jehovah’s Witness boy that I would most likely be interested in learning more about Jesus Christ.

So, for the next six months, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I had less than zero interest. So, he came by our trailer every Saturday to talk to me on our porch about… something.

He would always show up when I was still half asleep, so much of it has been melted away in the haze my blurry-eyed half-wakefulness. All I really remember is that every other word out of the kids’ mouth was about God or Jesus.

Realizing how many people had probably slammed their door in his face every day, I stood there and took the brunt of his sales pitch.

The kid seemed nice, and he looked like a teenage Forest Whitaker but had a soft-spoken voice that made me wonder how much he got picked on in school.

Maybe if we talked about something other than the bible, we might have even gotten along.

It probably wasn’t his fault that his parents made him wear the short-sleeve white dress shirt and clip-on tie that made me feel slightly uncomfortable.

Something about kids wearing clothes too adult for them always put me ill at ease. Like they were trying to pull something over on the world.

One morning he rang the bell, and I decided not to answer. I could hear him outside fidgeting before he knocked.

I didn’t answer that either.

For the next few months, I decided that I wasn’t home every time he came by to talk to me.

I felt a little guilty that I was wasting his time by not telling him that I wasn’t interested, but not guilty enough to actually answer the door.

One morning, my parents decided it was time to move. Something that we did with some consistency. A few days later, we were gone.

Sometimes I wonder if he still comes to that door and knocks wondering what happened to the one person who would listen to his pep-talks about Jesus.

Or if all the people who lived there after us, were held in the minor threat of never being able to answer the door on Saturday mornings.

 

 

Ira Rat works and lives in Ames, Iowa. www.irarat.com

“Photo Finish” by Paul Negri

8258071530_1f607490ca_o.jpg

Klondike, Candy and Tim perched on stools facing out the big front window of the Koffee Klutch Kafé. They had been sitting for four hours and had collectively consumed six cups of coffee, two chocolate croissants, one large slice of coconut praline pie and six frosted organic oatmeal cookies. Candy had consumed more than half. Klondike rested his elbows on the narrow counter in front of him and stared out the window at cars and trucks rumbling through the wide, busy intersection. His Nikon D850 DSLR was appended to his hand with a padded wrist and grip strap that effectively made the camera an extension of his hairy arm. Candy fingered her tablet, her long nails making little click-clicks. Tim, with his big head resting sideways on the counter, made soft bovine noises in his throat.

“This is a waste of time,” said Klondike.

“It’s only been three days, K,” said Candy, not looking up from the tablet. “We’ve waited longer than that. Remember Sunrise Boulevard? 24 degrees? Ice and wind?”

Klondike smiled. “Part of my frozen ass is still on that bench.”

“Did I call that one right or did I call that one right?” Candy sipped her latte. It left a little ridge of foam on the dark hairs above her lip.

 “You called that one right, C. A double.”

“How many have I called right?” Candy nudged him with a sharp elbow. Despite her addiction to sticky sweets and three-sugared coffees, she was razor thin. Klondike thought it unnatural.

“40%. 45 maybe.”

“58.6%”

“No way,” said Klondike.

“You want to see the spreadsheet?” Candy narrowed her pinprick eyes at him, as if preparing to spring. “Not that you would recognize a spread sheet if you slept on one.”

“You’re the odds-maker, C. I’m just the camera man. Just the best fucking camera man you’ll ever have the privilege of working with.”

Candy snorted. “Odds-maker. I’m a statistician. A probabilist. Very nearly a prophet.”

“A prophet of doom,” said Klondike.

“Just doing my job.” Candy scrolled through her tablet.

“And what about T  there? What’s his job? Drooling on the counter?”

“He’s there if we need him. He knows the cops in every borough. How do you think we got so close on Sunrise Boulevard? I mean, after. And those were your best shots, right?”

“I would’ve got them anyway.”  Klondike lowered his voice to a whisper. “I don’t like T. I bet he was dirty. Why isn’t he still on the force?”

“Try old and fat. And you don’t have to whisper. He’s half deaf.”

Tim raised his head momentarily from the counter. The side of his face had a pink diagonal line running across it, the impression of a plastic coffee stirrer that had been under his cheek. He blinked and laid his head back down on the other side.

“What’s he doing?” asked Klondike.

“Turning the other cheek,” said Candy.

“I mean most of the time we’re finished before the cops get there. What’s T’s cut for doing nothing?”

Candy looked hard at Klondike and Klondike felt it. “He’s here because Dr. Z wants him to be. His cut is none of your business.”

Klondike shifted his gaze out the window. A red SUV screech-stopped at the light. “I can’t believe this stuff is not illegal,” he said.

“Even if he posted it on a public site, it wouldn’t be. Anyway, it’s all for members only. Private club. For Dr. Z and his kind. And it’s not kiddie porn, after all.”

“Still,” said Klondike.

From behind the counter, the African American man in the white cap shouted, “Another round? It’s been an hour.”

“Oh Jesus, I can’t,” said Klondike.

Candy hopped off the stool and went to the counter. “How bout I just give you a five and you give me a donut?”

“How bout you just give me a ten and I give you a donut? We ain’t no bus stop.”

Candy remounted the stool with a chocolate-drizzled pumpkin-spiced donut in her teeth, as if she’d swooped down and captured it. Klondike looked at her stumpy legs dangling from the stool and wondered if she qualified as a midget or if she came up just short.

“You should see my legit stuff,” said Klondike.

“This is legit stuff,” said Candy. “Everything’s legit for somebody.”

“You remember that pair of red-tailed hawks that nested over the façade of the Fifth Avenue luxury condo a few years ago?”

“No.”

“My shot of them made it into National Geographic.”

Candy sucked the rest of the donut into her mouth and wiped the chocolate from her lips. Tim raised his head from the counter. Klondike squinted out the window—

 

a metal screech hot and brittle in the air with a bass drum hard banged once a raincoat like bat’s wings flies up out of sight and out of mind makes reentry thud-thudding on the coffee shop sidewalk Bingo Candy off her stool Jesus Tim stumbles Klondike galumphs first one out click-click-clicking hop skip and jumping shoot-shooting from here and there and everywhere one two three—jump—four five six—jump running round in circles hot and heavy sucking wind the driver in the truck pale as paste the driver crying the old lady on her belly her face impossibly looking up at the sky a pool thick like chocolate slowly spreading from the back of her head—

 

  “Call the police,” yelled the man behind the counter.

“Give it a minute,” said Candy. She stood in the doorway watching Klondike do his work. “Face, get the face,” she called. “Enough?”

“Enough.”  Klondike dropped his camera-hand.

Candy hit 911. “Accident. Pedestrian hit. Cleveland and 4th. Looks bad.”

“A fucking masterpiece.”  Klondike was breathing hard, his eyes round as quarters.

“Did I call it right or did I call it right, K?”

Klondike stood panting. “You called it right, C. You are a fucking prophet.”

 

Paul Negri has twice won the gold medal for fiction in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Writing Competition. His stories have appeared in The Penn Review, Into the Void, Pif Magazine, Gemini Magazine, Jellyfish Review, and many other publications. He lives and writes in Clifton, New Jersey.

 

Interview with Craig Rodgers, Author of “The Ghost of Mile 43”

gom43 promo.jpg

 

I had a chat with Craig Rodgers about his new book that we released that I thought was pretty fun and provided interesting insight into the thought process behind this amazing novel.

—————

Where did the inspiration for Shaw as a character come from? There are hints from a past life he once held before he exiles himself but not many details, did you originally come up with Shaw as a full fledged character and use that as a starting ground or did you just throw Shaw into the wild and feel it out from there?

 

Everybody has those thoughts about just being done, leaving everything and moving off to the woods, or here it’s a ghost town.  But the world comes right along behind, you’re never really leaving it.  Everybody’s lost things or had some straw dropped on them and they just feel done with it.

What events in your life, our lives you’ve witnessed, made you want to tell this story? How does “The Ghost of Mile 43” reflect reality as you’ve witnessed it?

 

A few years ago my identity was stolen, and going through the process of trying to wrangle that, all the calls about debt that wasn’t mine, the idea of up and literally walking away seemed appealing.  This is probably too literal an answer.

From both your perspective and from the perspective of Shaw, do you feel he is better off at the end of the novel? Why or why not?

 

I don’t want to tell anybody what they should or shouldn’t take away from the ending or the story as a whole, but if I were to answer in the most general fashion I would say he is not better off at the end, no.

There are a lot of characters that tend to meddle in Shaw’s isolation. The two teenagers, for example, refuse to give up on helping him. What do you think motivates these characters to get involved with Shaw?

 

Misguided energy.  Misguided optimism or the intention to do good.  Their motives are pure enough, but the way they go about it misses the mark.  This man’s a complete stranger.  They don’t have the tools or the perspective to be the help they want to be.

The ghost car is certainly a rather vague abstraction that readers can apply meaning to as they see fit, but what does it mean to you? Why is it haunting Shaw?

 

Oh I definitely won’t be answering that.

There is a running theme of survival and resilience in the book that I found particularly alluring. Despite wanting to escape from society as a whole, Shaw still wants very much so to live. He fishes, poisons himself with a frog, and scavenges to supply himself with nourishment. He maintains human form and principles despite not being a part of the collective whole of humanity, what do you feel that means for us as a species, as animals?

 

There’s something appealing in this visceral way about surviving in circumstances that are miles outside your norm.  This guy is not an outdoorsman, he has no idea what he’s doing, but he’s doing what he can with what’s there.  There’s a satisfaction in that.

What do you do to clear your head when writing gets to be too much for the day? Are there any hobbies or little moments you like to soak up in order to unwind?

 

The boring things. Cliche things. Drink too much coffee. Buy office supplies. You feel like you’re doing something when you buy office supplies. Someday that spiral notebook’s gonna be full of stories. And you can never have too many notebooks or pens.

As for as artistic inspirations go, whether it be painter, musician, or writer, who has influenced you and how? What artists have you been drawn to throughout your own endeavors?

 

Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, Donald Ray Pollock. Who else. Shirley Jackson. Robert Aickman. I’ve been going through a Dashiell Hammett phase lately. I’m spacing the names of painters. Shit. You know Genieve Figgis?  I like her stuff.

What other projects do you see yourself working on in the future? What aspirations are bouncing around inside of your head? 

 

Oh tons of stuff. I’ve been working on a series of short stories that take place in a lake town.  They share some faces here and there and some locations, but they’re each their own thing. At first I wanted to write it for screen as each one being a few episodes in an anthology, a sort of shared universe thing, but that’s all well outside my wheelhouse. I’ve also been showing around another book, so maybe that’ll pop up soon. And other things.  Always other things. But a lot of that I’ll need to pair with an artist for. That’s down the road stuff.

Any final words, shout outs, or random snippets of information you’d like to share with the readers?

 
Yeah, just enjoy the story, tell a friend, you know? Enjoy the next one too.

 

“Building Bodies” by Jane-Rebecca Cannarella

 

13234320524_be85df044d_o.jpg

This morning I touched the swarm of knots at the back of my head to confirm that we had sex last night. I was glad it happened even though I drank too much to remember anything other than you explicitly asking me for my consent and how I bit your freckled shoulder.

My hand still clutched my hair as I reached for my belongings, it was a bun made from motion and when I removed my hand it stayed in its wad. I dressed and moved out of the pillared beam nakedness of your bedroom. The paint stains were the only decoration on the grainy exposed wood and it always felt like you would get a splinter just by being inside.

When I looked in the mirror before I left, I was wrinkled and too-dry. When I was younger I didn’t know that dehydrated skin looks like the creases in clothes after being pulled from a pile of laundry mountain-ing in the corner of a bedroom. But here we are. I am a body made of pleats. I let myself out; there was no one else to see me out, anyway, except your roommate’s cats and they don’t like me.

 

 

On the mud banks of the snow slush train station where I waited for my train, you sent me a text that said, “you’re out of my place, right?” and I respond back “I had to fight a robot to get out but I succeeded,” followed by a bunch of emojis to indicate that I was funny, and casual, and cute when silently I was hurt that the only question was if I was out of your home. What did you think I would do? Stay? …Because in all honesty, that’s what I did for a while. I slept late and held your pillows like they were bodies and it was okay that they didn’t hold me back. The weight of the text asking if I had vacated like a shitty tenant carried itself deep and sunken within me as I thought about how nice the insulation of your blankets had been only a handful of moments ago.

Overly blue days that are also cold are so annoying when you’re in that sort of dull emotional pain that comes with not totally being in pain, feeling feeling-less. It makes the prettiness of passing bright hours feel sharp like pieces of glassy ice against sensitive teeth. The train came as my phone buzzed, and it was you again, and you texted, “you’re such a cool girl. So easy breezy.” And those words were loaded gunmetal grey. I’m not a girl; I’m 34.

The train showed up and glinted against the big big sky. And its hollow body housed me while we both traveled through Philadelphia station after station, carrying me to my job in a paternal motion like a baby being rocked. The broken bodies of abandoned buildings were planted in huge unharvested rows. They had jagged window teeth like teenagers who needed braces and I loved them for their fawn-ish adolescent shyness, covered with ivies and with red bricks like cracked chapped lips from teeth-held bites during winter days.  In the very least, I wish I could have remembered us kissing last night. But I don’t. I don’t think we did.

The mouths of mournful building bodies, like children not holding hands while crossing the street, became multiple-night-stand mile markers, and the train and I coasted by a station three stops before my own. I played a game that I used to when I was a teen, making bets out of probability and the universe with the too too big sky a kicked off comforter from swinging legs above me. If he texts me again before the Fern Rock stop, he actually likes me. And again, if he texts me before the Jenkintown stop, he actually likes me. But you didn’t text so my phone stayed quiet, branch fingers from vulnerable trees gently clawed the windows of the train. Once more, if he texts me before the Glenside stop, he actually likes me. The train rocked forward and I got off at my stop.

 

Jane-Rebecca Cannarella is a writer living in Philadelphia, She is the editor of HOOT Review and Meow Meow Pow Pow Lit. She was a genre editor at Lunch Ticket, as well as a contributing writer at SSG Music. In her spare time, she is a candy enthusiast and cat fan. 

When not poorly playing the piano, she chronicles the many ways that she embarrasses herself at the website www.youlifeisnotsogreat.com. Her chapbooks of flash/prose-poems, Tiny Thoughts for Tiny Feelings and Unicorn Tracheotomy, were published by BA Press, 2002. Her forthcoming story collection, BETTER BONES, will be published by Thirty West Publishing House come summer 2019.

“Timeshare” by Daniel Eastman

11809807314_b7131dc0db_o.jpg

When I was very young about seven or eight, my family had taken a vacation to Disney World. I know I was very young because my sister was still a baby. Anyway, I guess to save some money my father had figured on attending one of those timeshare breakfasts. They give discount tickets to the parks for attending. Being very young and seeing the roadside outlets—storefronts shaped like tropical fruit, colonial ships, and mouse ears—I got a little too excited on the way to breakfast. There are kids, I mused, real kids who get to live here all the time. When was Mickey Mouse, a face around the neighborhood probably, going to jump out and greet me? When would we see the grand finale? This, place we’d arrived at, this was just a parking lot. 

“Breakfast?” I cried into the blistering blue morning, my voice echoing over the vehicular sea, “I can’t wait through breakfast! Tower of Terror!” My father’s monstrous mitts grabbed hold of my arm, a twig not yet a bicep, and the bloodshot old man stifled a throaty scream through his teeth, “the fucking baby is slee-ping!” I suppose I was being too loud. We checked on my infant sister still snoozing, soundly strapped into her car seat.

I can’t recall now when the bruise formed, this warped watercolor of yellows and blues. Sometimes I think about it. Now that I’m grown I do things I’m ashamed of and there’s a mark, a totem I guess, keeping me on guard. And that thing seems to always be there. Little things. Following me. Staring. Look at me, my empty finger might say when I lose my wedding band. Look at me, my wide eyes say after briefly nodding off at the wheel. I’m not going away, the shame says even after I’m once again wearing the band. Even after I’m shrieked awake by steel guardrail. I’m always looking out, spinning the titanium band on my finger or looking in the rearview. When you’re a child you don’t realize all these secret items people carry with them. I wonder what symbol of shame my father carried around that park all week, as it followed him, holding his hand, what he felt when I stepped before that ginormous silver globe and raised my glowing arm to the azure sky.

Anyway, he bought that timeshare after all.

 

Daniel Eastman is a writer residing in Allentown. His work has been featured in Stone Canoe, The Write Launch, and Sink Hollow Literary Journal. He was awarded the 2019 S.I. Newhouse School Prize for Creative Nonfiction.