The MFA in Creative Writing Program at Manhattanville College

Fiction Archives

January 22nd, 2016

2 poems

I’ve come for coffee,
a visit with the other grandma,
who needs some company.

I think we’ll chat
for an hour or two.
She knows she’s dying.

Visiting
for Carolyn

I’ve come for coffee,
a visit with the other grandma,
who needs some company.

I think we’ll chat
for an hour or two.
She knows she’s dying.

Cannulas hiss.  Pulse ox
we watch.  She nods
and gives a thumbs up sign.

I’m OK for now, she mouths,
then coughs from the effort.
Morning passes into afternoon.

We talk of respirators and
ministers.  I call her daughters
Thank you, she mouths again.

Our grandson plays
quietly in the next room.
Rain pelts deck furniture.

Here in the den old friends
wait, hold hands, think of
childhoods and parents

long gone, siblings,
husbands and children
we’ll leave behind.

[Death waits just outside.]

 

 

Doric Loop

I.

It’s a simple casket, its wood polished to a high luster, the lid edged by a pleasing curve. Something simple; only needed for a couple of days.

Casket: 1. a small case or chest, as for jewels or other valuables. And what could be more valuable than this boy, this almost man, this never to be a man? 2. a coffin, possibly an alteration of the old French, cassette. An endless loop? Is this an endless loop of foolish choices and bad judgment leading to inevitable tragedy?

Not a cask: (a barrel, a cylindrical container that holds liquids.) Nor a casque, so famous for Poe’s The Casque of Amontillado, and poor, vain Fortunato, left chained to a moldy brick wall behind an archway, deep beneath the river. (Fortuna: Spanish for fate, the inevitable, nothing to do with fortunate, meaning lucky.) In ancient Greece the three fates, Clotho, Lachesis and Atropos were thought to control human destiny. I’ve met them in the Sunday crossword every now and then.

A casket. A tisket a tasket – a green and yellow one would surely stun this assembly, a bizarre mix of family and my nephew’s druggie friends – black-clad boys with ear plugs and tattoos on their necks and a girlfriend/baby mama with the obligatory nose ring, a spray of red roses tattooed across her chest and black latticework along her arms.

The classic curve of the wood, the inverse of the fluted columns on the simplest of Classic Greek styles. Is this an ogee curve? Another crossword puzzle word.

II.

An old man told me once about the worst funeral he had ever attended. It was across the river in Haverstraw, back in 19 and 36, he said, a very cold winter in these parts. As cold as this one? As he spoke, I pictured Depression era men in overalls carrying a casket like this one across a snowy field on a cold, blustery day like today. The cemetery was on a steep hillside looking out over the Hudson, and when one pallbearer lost his footing, the coffin dropped and slid – to the horror of the assembled family and friends and well-wishers of one sort or another – and took off down the steep incline like an Olympic luge, till it rammed a tall monument erected some years before in honor of the town’s former mayor and sprang open, flinging the corpse in a perfect 10 of an arc to land in a seated position a little further downhill, leaning against the headstone of a Mrs. Mary Ellen Hitchens, may she rest in peace, before it (the corpse, not the headstone) fell over on its side.

Women screamed. A flock of crows flew up into the winter sky cawing excitedly, a black cloud circling and blocking the sun. Friends moved to shield the horrified family from the ghastly sight. Funeral employees and pall bearers hurried to recapture the elusive body. With each step as they ran down the hillside, their feet broke through a thin crust of ice into softer snow below, which proceeded to fill their black dress shoes with clumps of icy crystals that melted into frigid pools. Embarrassing wet spots appeared on their pants where they fell. It was some time before they could get the deceased positioned back in the box and the box placed into its resting place.

I don’t really believe this story, though the old man promised it was true. But then, again, Santa Claus was supposed to be true. God was supposed to be true. I’d like to think that the spirit, at least, flew through the air, to meet with dear ones again on God’s golden shore, as the Soggy Bottom Boys sang. Though how our spirit selves will recognize each other without bodies, still trapped down there under the snow, I don’t know.

III.

There’ll be no snow for this casket. My nephew will find a warm welcome tomorrow at the local crematorium, a small brick affair, absent of any decorative moldings, smooth Doric style or otherwise.

This afternoon, aunts, sisters and friends of the boy stutter out sad stories. The boy’s uncle, my brother, plays his guitar and an aunt holds her hymnal and sings, “In the sweet bye and bye. We shall meet in the sweet bye and bye.” And my sister sits and wrings one wad of tissues after another till this crowd of weeping mothers and fathers and friends finally goes home.

The lovely curve of the lid is almost hidden under the spray of roses and carnations, all white for the boy, white for his youth, white for… I don’t know what for.

And we scoop my sister up and get her some food at Cappola’s down the block, in a brick building that has been partially stuccoed to resemble a Tuscan villa, with stone Italian-style arches, like those where poor Fortunato found his eternal rest.

*

Katherine Flannery Dering holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Manhattanville College. Her memoir, Shot in the Head, a Sister’s Memoir a Brother’s Struggle, was published in 2014. Her poetry and essays have appeared in Inkwell Magazine, The Bedford Record Review, Northwords Press, Sensations Magazine, Pandaloon Press, Poetry Motel, Pink Elephant Magazine and River, River. A narrative non-fiction piece, which later became a chapter of Shot in the Head, was included in Stories from the Couch, an anthology of essays about coping with mental illness.  She is a member of the advisory board of The Katonah Poetry Series.

What motivates her to create:
Most often a sudden inspiration while I am driving requires that I pull over to the side of the road and jot it down. A phrase, an urgent new expression of a belief or attitude toward the world, a moment of sorrow, a truth. Scraps of scribbled paper beg life as a poem or essay. A series of inspirations becomes a book. I love beautiful sentences, a carefully crafted images, and I strive for the aha! moments when writing something I never knew before.

The perfect day to resolve any problem is before any visible sign only appear. Mercifully, there are web-sites where you can buy treatment options effortlessly. What can we buy in online pharmacies? There are anticonvulsants. It affects chemicals in the body that are involved in the cause of some types of ache. There are remedies only for children. If you’re concerned about erectile dysfunction, you perhaps already know about how fast does cialis work. What patients talk about how long does it take for cialis 20mg to work? The symptoms of sexual disorders in men include failure to have any erection. Sexual diseases often signal serious problems: low libido or erectile dysfunction may hide a heavy heartiness problem such as soul trouble. Sometimes men who take street drugs like marijuana find it awkward to get an erection and turn to erectile disfunction medicines for a temporary solution. Once you’ve studied the basics about men’s erectile dysfunction from us, you may want to see what other reputable websites have to say. The most common potentially serious side effects of such medicaments like Cialis is stuffy or runny nose. Tell your dispenser if you have any unwanted side effect that does not go away. Absolutely, online drugstore can lightly help you for solving your all personal problems.

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December 22nd, 2015

Spotlight: Manhattanville Writing Alumni Contest Winner

Out of the Blue Most days I wake up with the sun, walk from my home along Coast Lane, hang a left onto Main Street, and pick up the newspaper from the sundry shop at the hotel on the corner. I pass the hardware store, where I breathe in the perfume of its first batch …

Out of the Blue

Most days I wake up with the sun, walk from my home along Coast Lane, hang a left onto Main Street, and pick up the newspaper from the sundry shop at the hotel on the corner. I pass the hardware store, where I breathe in the perfume of its first batch of popcorn percolating in the popper. I meander past that new exercise place and sneak a peek at the slender ladies in their skin-tight bodysuits, even though I know I shouldn’t. Then I roll along past The Coin Shop and end up at The Coffee Club. I order rye toast, and a coffee. If I have any errands to do, like I do today, I set out from there to tick them off one by one.

I like the calming rhythm of routine.

Today I see Fernanda, the post-person, who gives me a big smile and says: “Beautiful day, Mr. Lark.” If they still wore caps, I have no doubt she’d be tipping hers. A few minutes later, I’m transacting with the ATM machine at Wells Fargo, when I am jolted by a KABOOM. It’s like a bomb has exploded behind me. I turn to see an instant crowd form around the source of the noise. I can’t see much from my position on the outskirts of the group but, as I inch around looking for a better view, I see a cream-colored Cadillac that appears to have hit something. Everyone has rushed to surround the something that’s been hit but, oddly, no one approaches the now stopped Caddie. The Cheese Stands Alone comes to mind from The Farmer in the Dell. Silly, sentimental tricks of the brain.

The multitude of noises I hear do remind me of a barnyard though. One attacked by foxes in broad daylight.

I start to make my way over to the Caddie, to see if I can help there since I can’t seem to get near whatever’s been struck, and because I feel an inexplicable pull coming from that Caddie.

A woman wearing a Wells Fargo name tag blocks my path.

“Are you a man of faith?” she asks me.

When I do not answer, she takes my hand anyway, and I am swept up into a prayer circle faster than I can say Amen.

***

There it is. The Coin Shop. Sandwiched between Exhale Fitness and The Coffee Club just as her dad said it would be.

Amanda McKesson slides her Prius into an open spot across the street and turns off the engine. Taking a deep breath, she reviews her earlier conversation with her father regarding the coins. She has to get it right, yet she knows nothing, absolutely nothing, about coin collecting. But her children’s education depends on the outcome, so she takes five more minutes to rehearse.

Those three kids — Annie, Ellis and Charlotte — are her life. Together they are her North Star, the most enduring light in the heavens, keeping her ship on its destined path. Just that morning she drove them all to school and stayed for Annie’s Lacrosse game at Waterview High. Her boss gave her the morning off, but now it’s 11:41 am and she still has to conquer The Coin Shop before she swings by the house, makes her Dad his salami sandwich, and hightails it to work.

“There’s a lot of junk in there, Amanda,” Dad explained earlier over breakfast. He pushed his eggs around his plate then dropped his fork on the floor. “Let them bargain you down on those, but stay firm on the 1969 Lincoln penny. It’s worth at least $35,000.”

Dad had been collecting coins since she was a child. She could still smell and taste the metal on her fingers after counting jars full of coins on rainy afternoons. Her fingers had tasted salty and coppery like blood.

“Dad, are you sure?” Amanda asked as she leaned over to dab the corners of his mouth. She picked up the fork from under the table and started to clear the plates. She knew he was finished eating. The fork on the floor had become his signal that he was done with his meal.

“Amanda, I am sure,” he said while backing his chair away from the table and smack into the wall. “I am tickled pink that my silly hobby can be converted to cash for my grandkids’ college fund.” His tone was reminiscent of his gentle but firm instruction when she’d been just a girl. “Now…that 1982 dime without the ‘p,’ the one you found on eBay offered for $3,000, that’s not so valuable so don’t insist, but that 1965 silver dime? That’s a beaut. Worth at least $10,000. If old George gives you guff, make him weigh it. They stopped making silver dimes in 1964 so the ones from 1965 are a rare mistake. They weigh 2.5 instead of 2.27 for the copper and nickel versions.”

Amanda is always amazed at how her father can remember minutiae such as weights of dimes when sometimes he forgets her children’s names.

“Then there’s the 1914 Indian head gold eagle. I call that my Amanda.” He chucked her under the chin as he said it, making her feel five-years-old and care-free again. No man had ever loved her so, not even her ex-husband.

“Dad, come with me to the shop. I’ll be lost without you.”

“Amanda, you’re the smartest person I know. What if I forget what I’m saying in the middle of negotiating?” As if to prove his point, he tossed his knife and plate into the trash along with his dirty napkin. “That old fox George will take advantage and we’ll never get top dollar. Besides, he’s got a weakness for a pretty girl.”

Amanda sighed. “Is there anything I can do for you before I go?”

“That play list you made for me, honey. The one with Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra on it. You know, that Nature Boy song. Play that.” She rescued his dish and cutlery from the bin as soon as he’d tottered off, contentedly singing to himself: “There was a boy, a very strange, enchanted boy….”

Oh God, how she’d miss Dad when he was gone. To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.

It took a court fight with her ex-husband, Todd, to get permission to leave Washington, DC with the children to care for her father. Dad gave up his driver’s license when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a year earlier. It wasn’t too advanced yet but he needed someone to drive and tend to his other needs. He’d been all alone in the modest ranch house since Mom passed a few years ago.

Honestly, Amanda was relieved when she returned home to California. After the initial ego- swell and prestige of landing the job in the Obama administration, she’d felt deflated most of the time. New jobs were like sugar highs. Once the sweetness was forgotten, the aftertaste of office politics lingered on the tongue.

In the rear view mirror, Amanda studies The Coin Shop, as if expecting something about its face to change. The front glass window benignly reflects dwarf palms and sunny skies just, as she imagines, it always has. It’s the kind of October day that would be called Indian summer in Washington, D.C. but here, in California, it’s just another perfect day.

Amanda exits the car and walks around to the trunk, opening it with the remote. Dad packed his treasures in a blue and white Pan Am carry-on that he and Mom acquired on their first and only trip to Europe. Amanda opens the Pan Am bag and gingerly picks out the most valuable pieces, which she clutches in her right hand. She slings the bag with the remaining coins—and her cheat sheet—over her left shoulder. She slams the trunk and makes her way back to the car’s front door to grab her purse, when she is distracted by a red-haired woman wearing sunglasses on the sidewalk, gesticulating wildly. Next to the redhead another woman, wearing a baseball cap, seems bolted to the sidewalk, eyes open wide and hands glued to her mouth, as if to halt a hiccup, or suffocate a scream. A car door slams. Someone shouts: “Watch out!”

Amanda’s senses are on high-alert. She smells the aroma of popcorn from the hardware store and the metallic scent of the coins now embedded in her moist hand. Everything seems to stop and sharpen, like a high-definition TV show on pause. Before she has a chance to turn, she freezes, like the hare who feels danger but not the direction from whence it comes.

An excruciating blow from behind forces the air out of her lungs and sends her purse and the Pan Am bag flying. A fleeting image flashes behind her eyes, of the World Trade Center as it is rammed by a 737. She feels on fire too. She realizes that her father’s collection is being scattered across the asphalt. Someone will steal them, she thinks, so she wants to chase after them. The coins are rolling, rolling, rolling, every which way, under cars, in the street, but she cannot move her legs. She is pinned between her Prius and the monster that has hit her from behind.

She hears screams and sobbing, yelling and praying. Sounds amplify and echo, as if she were listening from the bottom of a swimming pool. Distorted, slow, and deep. She floats there, between the cars, in a space neither of nor not of this world.

What’s happening, what’s happening?

Images flutter through her brain, a magic lantern Zoetrope, moving backwards from that moment in time, skipping too fast through those episodes she would have thought of as profound – Charlotte’s crooked baby tooth, Annie’s first kiss, Ellis’s tonsillectomy when he had almost died from too much anesthesia. The slide show stops in the most unexpected place, a roulette wheel arrested, the ball falling on the wrong color after you went all in with your life’s savings. Todd. Of all people, why Todd? Because he’ll get the kids IF…

“What do you think about while you’re running?” Todd asked her the day they had met.

Amanda’s been a runner for as far back as she remembers. In the playground, around the school track, along dirt trails, on a treadmill. If only she could run now. Run and not look back. Run to the top of Mt. Horn, run in place until the sun sets over the Pacific, bruising the sky purple and bleeding red all over the horizon. Run for her life.

A groan erupts like the grumble of a volcano, beginning somewhere in the center of the earth, entering her body through the asphalt, shuddering through her useless legs and melded-to-metal diaphragm. It escapes her swollen lips with a guttural, prehistoric sound.

Amanda tries to make her legs move to run, run, run. She tries to will it. But her legs ignore her.

Oh my God. Who will pick the kids up from school? Todd? Oh but Todd’s not here. But if he were, would he?

Would Todd know or care that Ellis hates sports? That Annie spends too much time on her iPad? That Charlotte has problems reading?

Amanda can no longer look up or turn her head. Her eyes feel like slits and she sees only shadows and the color red. Her car is red. Her hands are red. The street is red.

Is someone chanting? Prayers? For me? Am I dying? I cannot be dying. I need to be at work at one, I need to cash in the coins, make Dad’s sandwich. I need to pick up the kids…..

“DON’T MOVE THE CAR!” several onlookers shout at once. Amanda hears feet running. She hears a creaking sound, similar to the sounds from an old spring bed when a great weight is lifted. A sound eerily like a death rattle. She feels her body move. She is still pinned between the cars but the miniscule shifting causes a thunderbolt of pain and her body slides. Amanda slides deeper and deeper. Here but not here.

An old song whispers to her gentle as a lullaby. She imagines a boy serenading her, an enchanted boy, a little shy and sad of eye, with a message of great import. She strains her ears to hear him, his message, but suddenly sirens hum, then buzz, first one then a swarm. Deep barking male voices.

Am I saved?

Amanda has to concentrate harder than she ever has before to hear his song, the boy who now shares her father’s voice: The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, Is just to love and be loved in return.

***

Ruth Larsson has been shopping at the hardware store for some Rose-Tone, pleasantly distracted by the old-fashioned popcorn machine emitting the most delicious memory-filled scent into the air around her. Now she returns to her car and inserts the key into her cream-colored Cadillac and the smell of popcorn helps her remember bringing her grandson, Reed, here and his father, Stanley, before that. Stanley died five years ago of massive heart failure and Reed, himself a father thrice over, settled down on the East Coast. Ruth frequently reminds herself that Stanley was an old-ish man of 66 when he passed, but still it’s unnatural when your child goes before you do. Especially an only child.

Stanley was born here in Waterview, as was Ruth. Both at Central Hospital, which has since been converted to expensive condominiums with ocean views. Ruth shook her white-haired head in disbelief when she read that someone had paid over five million dollars for what used to be the morgue. The irony of rebirthing a place known for being a repository of death was not lost on Ruth.

Waterview was a different world back then. A sleepy little hamlet, where everyone knew everybody else. Seems as though all you have nowadays are tourists. And dogs. Nearly every person has one. She could see a French bulldog walking his owner at that very moment. The tourists are a different matter altogether. They travel in throngs, like gnats, so thick sometimes you can’t see through them.

Ruth has her eyes glued to the rear view looking for an opening to back her car out into the opposite lane (she’s going west, not east, after all). Long ago, in the off-season, the only traffic on Main Street was bicycles. Gosh, she and her friends did cartwheels down the middle of the street, like human tumbleweeds. Yup, things change. But, all in all, she’s had a good life, compared to most people she knows, and she counts her blessings every day.

Even though traffic on Main is light today, it’s still tricky to find a synchronized opening in both lanes. The cars in the rear view swell like the waves on Waterview Shores, growing larger in the mirror as each one approaches, until it seems about to knock you down, before dissipating into the road ahead.

Finally, an opening!

Ruth swerves across the two lanes in reverse and pauses. She looks ahead to make sure there aren’t any pedestrians in the crosswalks. It gets confusing sometimes, glancing this way and that at an intersection, checking all four crosswalks, making sure no one had entered just as you take your eye off the ball. As luck would have it, all four are free and clear. Ruth steps hard on the gas.

The first thing Ruth Larsson thinks when she feels the THUMP in the back of her car is that some teenage driver has hit her rear fender. She sure hopes that this one has insurance.

Within seconds, Ruth realizes that something more than a fender-bender has occurred. For one thing, she’s gone backwards, not forwards. And the racket. Gasps, commotion, clamor, pandemonium. She hears a roaring to rival Reed’s old high-school football games. A small crowd charges toward the rear of her car, so thick it blocks her view. Ruth doesn’t know what to do. She feels as though her 91- year-old frame is shrinking inside the clothing she so carefully chose that morning — black slacks, white Peter Pan collared shirt, pale blue cardigan. All 110 pounds of her willfully channeled into her right foot, which is glued on the brake like an anvil.

Time isn’t relative, as Ruth had once taught her students. It is irrelevant. Ruth has no idea if she has been there for five minutes or five hours, and it matters not one iota. Although it is a warm day, she is shivering. A knuckle tap, clicking on the driver’s side window like Fred Astaire’s heels on a marble floor, disturbs her reverie. A man, about the age Stanley would be if he were still alive, opens the door. He looks vaguely familiar but, when you live in a small town as long as Ruth has, everyone looks familiar.

The man reaches over Ruth and shifts the gear from reverse to park.

Is this the man whose car she just hit?

Ruth leans toward the glove compartment to get her insurance card ready. She is still shaking and knocks over her purse, which had been sitting on the front passenger seat. The contents scatter across the floor. Helter skelter are her rosary beads, blood pressure pills, Coral Crème lipstick, Life Saver candies, house keys on a Sea World key ring, and other detritus of an ordinary life. Loose change spills out, coins rolling, rolling, rolling, on the worn car mat.

The man practically lifts Ruth out of the driver’s seat. With only the changing of gears and slight shifting of weight, the Cadillac emits an exhale that sounds to Ruth like a sigh of relief. The subtle sigh of relief is drowned out by loud shouts: “DON’T MOVE THE CAR!”

“What happened?” Ruth asks. She repeats her question but the man does not answer. He shields her eyes and leads her to the sidewalk.

Ruth hears sirens and sees police arrive. They cordon off the scene, with yellow and black tape, stretching for blocks on end, returning those streets and intersections to the deserted and solemn ones Ruth remembers. She barely stands, still shaking, held up only by the strong arms of a Good Samaritan. As he tries to shelter her from the worsening storm, Ruth is pelted by a hail of judgments:

“Old people shouldn’t drive.”

“Lock her up and throw away the key.”

“No one over 75 should get a license.”

***

The woman from the bank, four others, and I are in a circle holding hands. The others are praying but I’m silent. From the chatter, I’ve put together that the Cadillac backed into a pedestrian, pinning him or her between it and a white Prius. The soft chanting around me is interrupted by an authoritative shout. I use the distraction to break from the circle so I can better see what’s going on.

“Disperse, disperse.”

I stop and look for the speaker. No megaphone in sight, but you could’ve fooled me.

“Are you an off-duty police officer?” a redhead with sunglasses asks the first voice.

I see the first speaker now, in the middle of the street, waving her arms to divert traffic. A female shape dressed in black Spandex.

“No. But this is bothering our patrons. I work across the street at Exhale Fitness.”

I feel the fury rise from the crowd at this callous remark.

“Do you think she’ll make it?” A woman in a baseball cap asks.

“I don’t know….she must have massive internal injuries,” a blonde lady answers. The blonde has a dog, a French bulldog, tugging and pulling at the end of its leash.

Through a break in the crowd, I see a lovely young woman, maybe mid-forties, pinned between the rear of a cream-colored Cadillac and a white Prius. Her expression reads like a dictionary of emotions, like those paintings of Christ on the cross in the Villa Medici in Florence. Pain, defeat, sadness, surprise, resignation….I watch her face until I can’t watch any more.

There are so many on-lookers I wonder where they’d all come from. I see a young Latino man in a restaurant apron taking pictures of her with his cell phone. Other people are frantically poking at theirs, dialing 911, I suppose. Ladies in exercise clothes, tourists with shopping bags from The Gap and Lululemon, bodies without names drawn from their offices, cafes, shops, by the Big Bang. Random particles thrown together by an accident.

I see the Caddie, and its driver, still alone.

At first I only see the back of the driver’s head, hair white and wispy, like albino cotton candy. Something feels familiar, but it isn’t until I break from the prayer circle and walk to the driver’s side door that I recognize her. Ruth Larsson, the mother of my childhood friend, Stanley. My 8th grade science teacher from nearly 60 years earlier.

My reflexes take over; I have to get her out of that car. Without another thought, I tap on the window, grab the car handle, fling open the door, shift the car from reverse to park, and practically lift Mrs. Larsson out to safety.

I don’t know why I don’t re-introduce myself to her. She clearly doesn’t recognize me. Perhaps knowing each other is such a low priority at such an intense moment. Maybe anonymity is prophylactic. Perhaps I want to remember her as I knew her, pure and wholesome as milk. The Mrs. Larsson who opened my mind to Einstein and baked the best Devil’s Food cake in the world.

A policewoman approaches as I stand on the sidewalk with Mrs. Larsson. She is shaking so hard I worry she might have a heart attack right there in my arms. She feels so slight, I am afraid that if I release my grip she will flutter away like a scrap of newspaper in the wind.

“The driver?” the officer asks, indicating that she means Mrs. Larsson.

I nod.

“You know her?”

I nod again.

I give my name, address, and cell phone number and agree to wait until Mrs. Larsson is settled to give my statement. The officer leads Mrs. Larsson into Wells Fargo and I wait for an indeterminable amount of time. I focus my eyes on what seem to be hundreds of coins, flat and lifeless, in the street.

Stan Larsson was in my class at Waterview Middle School. We sat next to each other in nearly every class, him being Stanley Larsson and me, John Lark. Those were the days when we recited both The Lord’s Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance in home room. I knew from Stanley that his mother was a young widow and that’s why she’d gone back to teach. And I’d heard that Stan died a few years back too. Damn shame, really. Elderly, alone in this world, and now this.

The randomness of it is terrifying. What if Ruth Larsson had woken up with a cold and decided not to do her errands that day? What if a telemarketer had delayed her by five minutes to try to sell her a reverse mortgage? What if that young woman got stuck in the check-out line at Trader Joe’s delaying her just ten minutes? What if her husband or boyfriend or brother had sent her roses that morning and she had phoned to say thanks?

Horrible things happen to people all the time, seemingly out of the blue. What keeps us going, day after day, and from not just drowning in a cesspool of despair?

“Mr. Lark?”

I look up to see the fresh-faced officer hovering over me. “Yes, officer?”

“Ready to answer a few questions, Sir?”

“Sure. Is the driver ok?” I ask.

The officer looks me straight in the eyes. “She’s in shock.” Pen and pad poised. “So, Sir, did you see the actual moment of impact?”

“No.” I answer honestly. “I heard it first. I was over there, at the bank.”

From the corner of my eye I can see the EMTs lift a stretcher onto an ambulance.

“What exactly did you see?”

I close my eyes. I see chocolate cake. I see a rose garden. “It, it…was a horrific accident.”

“I understand, Sir. But I need facts. Anything you can remember. A woman is near death and we need to know what happened.”

Two women, I think.

“Sir? Did you happen to notice what gear the car was in when you opened the door?”

I try to make sense of it. This incident just a microcosm of what I see daily on CNN. If I ever believed in God, the arbitrariness of what I’ve come to think of as tragic selection — a kind of perversion of Darwin’s theory — had long convinced me otherwise. But what do I believe in then, if not the desperate thread of hope that others call God?

A kind word, a soft touch, a rose garden, chocolate cake….

“No,” I say. “I did not.”

I quietly leave the scene as the police continue to interview witnesses and collect evidence. As I walk away, a curtain of sadness seems to fall over this final act, as though signaling to the audience that it’s time to go home to their real lives and safe beds.

In the paper the next day, I read that Amanda Jane McKesson, 45, mother of three, died of her injuries at Waterview Hospital. The story is an inch long on the bottom of page four. A life reduced to six lines of type. A week later, The Waterview Light runs an obituary that Ruth Larsson, 91, former science teacher, member of Waterview Presbyterian Church, recently involved in a vehicular homicide, is discovered dead in her home. In a note left on her bedside table she requests that her ashes be scattered in her rose garden.

*

Editors
What are the three things you couldn’t live without?

Jessica
Seriously: My family, my writing, and my muse, Daisy, a 10-year-old Jack Russell Terrier.

Qualitatively: Reading, ice-cream, the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle.

Editors
What is the first thing you’d do if you won the lottery?

Jessica
My husband always buys lottery tickets. I always hope he loses. (He always has). I’m afraid to think how so much unearned money would change my life. But…if I won, first thing I would do is buy everyone I love a home they could afford to maintain on their own, pay off my own mortgage, and donate the rest to humanitarian causes devoted to saving the lives of people and animals.

Editors
What do you do when you’re not writing?

Jessica
Think about writing. Read what others have written. Walk. I try to do a good deed every day.

Editors
Cats or dogs?

Jessica
I have an almost eccentric affinity for all animals, but especially for my dog, Daisy. She appears in my most recent novels, The Glass Curtain and The Eye Inside, as the protagonist’s soul-mutt, Kitty. These two works of fiction are the first two in a planned series about a New York City investigative reporter embedded in the NYPD.

Editors
Beaches or Mountains?

Jessica
BOTH! Three years ago, I moved to San Diego, CA. I live across from the Pacific Ocean, where I enjoy the unparalleled climate, the salt-laced air, and beach walks. I spend at least a month a year in Santa Fe, NM, where I bask in the beauty of the mountains, the open air opera, and daily hikes.

Editors
If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

Jessica
Although this sounds sacrilegious coming from a born and bred New Yorker, I have found paradise on the “left” coast. The physical beauty, climate, and niceness of people not burdened by stress is wonderful.

Editors
What’s your favorite word?

Jessica
Hummingbird

Editors
What was your process behind writing this piece?

Jessica
In October of last year, I witnessed an elderly woman back out of a parking spot and pin a younger woman in-between two cars. I watched as the life drained out of the younger woman. I watched her die. I was haunted by this experience and felt compelled to write about it. Everything except the accident itself is fiction. The “inciting incident” was real.

Over the next several months I revised the story numerous time. I experimented with POVs and first vs. third person. Writing it had a cathartic effect on me. Only when I transferred the feelings to paper could I begin to resolve the turmoil within me.

It was particularly rewarding to win this contest with this story, since it meant so much to me.

Editors
What’s the strangest thing you’ve gotten inspiration from?

Jessica
I wrote a short story once about a housewife who discovers that her chauffeur is a terrorist.

Editors
Do you usually mine your own life and experiences when it comes to your writing or is it pure imagination?

Jessica
I’ve had such a rich and varied life, full of people and places worth memorializing. My characters often are a composite of interesting behaviors and idiosyncrasies I have observed in real people, but never based on one person. Settings are always places I have experienced first-hand, which I think imbues them with authenticity. The stories are pure imagination.

Editors
Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Jessica
No. My recommendation to writers who do is: pick up a book and read.

Editors
Who has been your greatest influence, writer or otherwise?

Jessica
Without hesitation – John Herman. I took several courses with him at Manhattanville. He is a great writer, a great thinker, and a great teacher. He made me understand what I was meant to do with the rest of my life – write!

Editors
What are you reading right now?

Jessica
I read at least a book a week. My preferred genre is literary fiction. Oddly, I never read mysteries, although that is the genre I am currently writing in. Now I am reading, The Quartet by Joseph J. Ellis, about the years following the American Revolution. I just finished The Secret History by Donna Tartt, because I loved The Goldfinch, We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride, and Two Rivers by T. Greenwood. T. Greenwood leads the read & critique group I have been a part of for about a year.

Editors
Are you working on any other writing projects at the moment?

Jessica
I am putting the final tweaks on The Glass Curtain, a mystery novel. My agent will start marketing it when I am done. Then I will start revisions on the completed first draft of another novel called, The Eye Inside. Both novels revolve around the same characters. I’m hoping for a two book deal. If successful, I plan several more mysteries in this series.

Editors
What motivates you to create?

Jessica
Over the course of my business career, I always felt dissatisfied with my work. Energy expended with money as the sole end product falls flat. When I write, I feel sated. I liken the difference to junk food vs. a gourmet meal. I am driven to write by the elation I feel when I see a story spun solely from my imagination. And, it gives me untold joy when readers appreciate my stories.

Thank you Manhattanville!

*

unnamed-1
Jessica Dee Rohm, a lifelong writer and a serial entrepreneur, started her career at the New York Times. Her first solo enterprise, Jessica Dee Communications, a marketing and communications company, grew to be the sixteenth largest in the country when she sold it to the then largest advertising agency in the U.S., Chiat/Day. She earned her M.B.A. in management and marketing from Columbia Business School. In 2010, she was awarded her second master’s degree, an M.F.A. in creative writing, from Manhattanville College.

The perfect period to resolve any problem is before any visible sign only appear. Mercifully, there are web-sites where you can buy treatment options effortlessly. What can we buy in online pharmacies? There are anticonvulsants. It affects chemicals in the body that are involved in the cause of some types of ache. There are remedies only for children. If you’re concerned about erectile dysfunction, you perhaps already know about how fast does cialis work. What patients talk about how long does it take for cialis 20mg to work? The symptoms of sexual disorders in men include failure to have any erection. Sexual diseases often signal serious problems: low libido or erectile dysfunction may hide a heavy health problem such as core trouble. Sometimes men who take street drugs like marijuana find it awkward to get an hard-on and turn to erectile malfunction medicines for a temporary solution. Once you’ve studied the basics about men’s erectile disfunction from us, you may want to see what other reputable websites have to say. The most common potentially serious side effects of such medicaments like Cialis is stuffy or runny nose. Tell your pharmacist if you have any unwanted side effect that does not go away. Absolutely, online pharmacy can lightly help you for solving your all personal problems.

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October 8th, 2015

Postmortem

When I walked in the door, I hadn’t expected the room to be so full. My Dad was a funny guy: boisterous, entertaining. But the depth of most of his relationships ended there. He had a few good friends but otherwise people seemed to come and go in his life. He spent his afternoons in …

When I walked in the door, I hadn’t expected the room to be so full. My Dad was a funny guy: boisterous, entertaining. But the depth of most of his relationships ended there. He had a few good friends but otherwise people seemed to come and go in his life. He spent his afternoons in his Lay-Z-Boy watching the local news and any other free time at the bar or on the tennis court. The people milling around the room indicated a part of my father that I didn’t know. He was in the front; and he looked good, which even as I said it in my head sounded weird. How could anyone look good dead? It’s one of those things people say at funerals, though.

I took my seat in one of the front rows.

A preacher I didn’t know got up and starting saying things about my Dad, the general things you say when you don’t really know someone.

“Life is precious,” he said.

Life is short-lived, I thought.

“We need to cherish it,” he said.

It had been a long time since I’d been back here. Years ago, I played soccer across the street on the prairie dog fields and a few miles back I swam laps in the neighborhood pool every day after school. But the fields had been replaced by a large mall and the pool by a condominium complex and nothing was the same, yet I was expected to pretend like it was.

I probably should have made it out here before this. My father had lived here since he was six years old when his own family had moved from Nebraska to the budding Denver suburbs. I was born here. It was once home to me too, but sometimes memories aren’t enough.

“I’ll come next month,” I would say to him over the phone.

“That’s good,” he’d respond.

And I’d look for plane tickets the next day but never buy one and he’d never ask about it again.

Once, I did purchase the ticket. It was a humid summer day after a light rain that made it worse. I took the train out to JFK and waited at the airport. My flight was delayed, repeatedly, so that an eight o’clock in the morning flight still hadn’t taken off by the same time in the evening. I remember spending a lot of money that day with nothing to show for it but burnt coffee, tabloid magazines, a soggy turkey sandwich, a bag of jelly beans, and three bottles of water. The flats I wore dug into my arch, slowly building a blister, which went against the main reason I’d chosen them in the first place.

At just after nine, they cancelled my flight. I picked up one of those phones that dials some call center in another part of the country, probably Texas or Chicago, and told the woman I needed to rebook. I called him when she put me on hold.

“What’s a good weekend?” I looked at the calendar on my phone. Then put it back to my ear. “Two weekends from now?”

“Your flight is cancelled?”

“I’ve got the woman on the phone on my other ear.”

“What woman?” He smacked his gum.

“The United woman.”

“I knew this would happen,” he said.

“I’m on hold. She’s going to come back.”

“I hate flying. They’ve turned it into a nightmare.”

“Can you check?” I asked.

“I went grocery shopping.”

“What?”

“What am I supposed to do with all this food?”

The woman was speaking to me from the other receiver. Telling me she had an available flight and did I want it.

“Another time,” I said and hung up on them both.

That was the last time we spoke. Most people would probably feel bad about that, like they should have known it would be the last time or if they could re-do it, they would do it differently. But I didn’t really feel that way. That was how it was between me and him. At least we weren’t pretending.

The first man to speak at the funeral was about my age, thirty, and using words that didn’t enter my mind when it came to my father: good-listener, thoughtful, gentle.

“He was like a father to me,” the man said.

And I looked at him, closely, for a sign that I knew him, that I might have heard about him. He had ice blue eyes and a sharp chin. He was thin and tall and the clothes he wore didn’t seem to fit quite right—a little too big in the neck, a tiny bit too short in the arms, a tie a shade darker than it should have been. He spoke with a bit of a lisp, gestured frequently with only his right hand.

“I’ll miss you, Jerry,” he said and you could hear tears in his words.

As the blue-eyed man made his way back down to sit, people were murmuring in the crowd, agreeing with him.

“What is there to say about someone you love so much?” I asked the crowd when it was my turn at the podium.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t lie, that I wouldn’t tell them something about my father or our relationship that wasn’t true. So, I related a few fond childhood memories: our hikes up in Red Rocks and pretend concerts on the empty stage, the voices he made during long car rides to keep me entertained, the baby bird with a broken wing we carefully took to be rehabilitated at a local vet, the weeks he spent teaching me how to punt a soccer ball. I mentioned how much he made me laugh. I asked the audience if he did that for them too? They nodded.

“Laughing is important,” I told them. “It makes living easier. So maybe we can take a moment and thank this man for the ways in which he made our lives easier. Maybe, in the end, that’s all anyone can focus on for another person.”

I sat back down and listened as person after person got up to describe a man that I was coming to realize I had known differently than them.

Afterwards, in the lobby of the church, everyone gathered around a collection of things that used to be my father’s: a tie patterned with different colored dogs; an old tennis racket missing two strings; a signed football; a tarnished trophy from his induction into his college’s hall of fame; a well-used screwdriver; a heirloom mantel clock that donged every fifteen minutes; a large, crystal bowl full of his favorite type of gum.

“I heard you gave a nice speech,” the blue-eyed man said. “I’m sorry I didn’t hear it. I had to step out.”

I nodded. “Yours was nice.”

“He was a great man.”

I held out my hand, introduced myself. He took it and I waited for the recognition.

He pointed to the bowl of gum. “Bazooka was his favorite.”

“I know,” I said.

“How did you know Jerry?”

I said my name again.

He shook his head.

“His daughter.”

He leaned back, surprised. “He never told me about you.”

I wanted to tell him I’d never heard of him either, but instead, I looked to the bowl of gum. “He used to read the cartoons to me as a kid.”

The man was cradling each elbow in the opposite palm and staring at me.

“But maybe he did that for you too,” I said. It came out more spiteful than I’d wanted it to.

“I’m sorry,” the man said.

I picked up the crystal bowl and took it back into the church where my father was laying, a person or two still sitting in the pews.

He looked like a wax figure of himself, the stillness unsettling.

I rattled the gum in the bowl. Then did it twice more. And turned it upside down, pouring the pieces into the casket, the hard, little squares scattering about my father’s body. I thought about telling him how much I hated him for not being there and how little time we’re given and how he wasted his, wasted mine. I thought about whispering how I really felt into his waxy ear and having the last word. It was unfair for the room full of grievers, for the blue-eyed man, to know a better man than I did. I thought about yelling and screaming and pounding my fists against his chest.

But it was pointless, to be angry with a dead man and words no longer mattered. My hand brushed against the hardening shell of his body as I picked up a piece of gum, unwrapped it and read the comic to him.

 

*

 

Leslie Rapparlie’s short stories have appeared in The Stoneslide Corrective, The Evening Street Review, The Broken Plate, Flash Fiction Funny, Picayune, and South Philly Fiction. She received her MFA from Rutgers University, and also writes extensively about experiential education, teaching, and writing. She is currently a Writing Coach for MBA candidates at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and an instructor at The University of Colorado.

What motivates her to create:
Ideas and images come from the beautiful, complex, confusing, amazing, horrible, and dynamic world around me. I find myself using an interaction that I saw between people on the street or pulling a line of dialogue from when I was out to coffee with a friend or exaggerating a characteristic of someone I love to shape the lives of the characters on the page. I am motivated to write about situations that confuse, inspire, and torture me. I write to have a tether, to put what is inside, outside.

The perfect season to resolve any problem is before any visible sign only appear. Mercifully, there are web-sites where you can buy treatment options effortlessly. What can we buy in online pharmacies? There are anticonvulsants. It affects chemicals in the body that are involved in the cause of some types of hurt. There are remedies only for children. If you’re concerned about erectile disfunction, you perhaps already know about how fast does cialis work. What patients talk about how long does it take for cialis 20mg to work? The symptoms of sexual disorders in men include failure to have any erection. Sexual diseases often signal serious problems: low libido or erectile dysfunction may hide a heavy heartiness problem such as heart trouble. Sometimes men who take street drugs like marijuana find it awkward to get an erection and turn to erectile disfunction medicines for a temporary solution. Once you’ve studied the basics about men’s erectile disfunction from us, you may want to see what other reputable websites have to say. The most common potentially serious side effects of such medicaments like Cialis is stuffy or runny nose. Tell your druggist if you have any unwanted side effect that does not go away. Absolutely, online drugstore can lightly help you for solving your all personal problems.

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June 5th, 2015

Refrigerator Mom

Mother’s first four children were all appliances. Cuisinart was the oldest, then came the Microwave twins. Everyone assumed I’d be the last. Mine had been a difficult birth; Mom’s screams had caromed off the walls of the warehouse for a day and a half. One of the washing machines told me in confidence that he’d …

Mother’s first four children were all appliances. Cuisinart was the oldest, then came the Microwave twins. Everyone assumed I’d be the last. Mine had been a difficult birth; Mom’s screams had caromed off the walls of the warehouse for a day and a half. One of the washing machines told me in confidence that he’d been afraid her hinges would pop off.

“You almost finished her,” he said. “She was at the repair shop for three days. It was touch and go for a while, but she came back good as new.”

After I came along, Mom kept her doors closed for a long time, but shortly after my sixth birthday, we began noticing small changes. Her lights were shutting off for seconds at a time and there was an odd rumbling in her ice maker, and we all knew she was storing something extra.

Mom was mum on the subject of our fathers, but we had our suspicions. She could never resist a sale. The twins arrived a few weeks after a special on microwaves. Space heaters had been marked down twenty-five percent two months before I pushed my way past her water chute. The early days before my first plug-in are hazy, but I have a vague memory of hearing Mom sigh when a particularly sleek, tricked-out model was taken off the shelf.

The origins of her fifth child, however, were a complete mystery. His birth wasn’t met with the usual round of congratulations from the other machines. No one had a clue what to say or do. We’d never seen anything like my little brother – a small, hairy, mewling creature who was warm and wet to the touch. Everyone just stood around staring until Vacuum flipped him over to check for a battery pocket or electric socket, but the only openings on my brother were small holes at each end that didn’t conform to any plug shape I’d ever seen. When I brushed up against him, he left a greasy smudge on my shiny black surface and I didn’t go near him for a long time after that. Mom released a blast of water from her filter to clean him off and he let out a howl that rose to the ceiling and stayed there, like a dark cloud.

The twins, Cuisinart and I were all more or less able to fend for ourselves after our first power surge, but the new baby remained helpless long after Mom disgorged him. It took him days just to roll over. Unable to turn back again, he just laid there, his four little legs flailing in the air, until Mom managed to nudge him over with her foot grill.

After the initial shock, Mom warmed to the new baby, so much so that her ice cube maker couldn’t maintain its proper temperature and began to leak on a regular basis. From time to time, I had to clean up after her, turning myself on high until the water dried.

“My little Furball,” she would wheeze, flapping her right door open and shut to keep him cool.

“You’re going to damage yourself if you keep that up,” Cuisinart warned, but Mom ignored him. In spite of, or maybe because of, his strangeness, she seemed to love our new little brother best of all. At night, she would scoop up the fuzzy creature in her salad bin and rock him in and out in vain attempts to put him to sleep.

“She never did that for me,” Cuisinart grumbled.

“By the time you were his age, you were already blending and mixing,” I reminded him.

Furball wriggled around all night, but spent most of the morning curled up like a light bulb filament. As the days leached into weeks, I stopped resenting my little brother. Watching his daily struggles softened my springs. Nothing came easily to him; breathing, eating, sleeping all seemed to require a colossal effort that made his whole body quiver. The rest of us used grills and platforms to avoid contact with the ground, but he would purposely lower his pink, squishy belly to the floor and rub against the pocked concrete, emitting strange little grunts as he rolled around in the grit and dirt. When he was done, he would sit up on his back legs and pick off bits of dust and muck with his front ones, occasionally popping some small bit of something into his mouth.

For my mother’s sake, the other machines tried to ignore my brother’s odd habits, but I was strangely compelled by him. Mother often told me that when I was young, I was fascinated by clipped wires and would poke and pull them even if they were sharp or hot. It was the same with Furball. I couldn’t stop watching him, no matter how painful or embarrassing his behavior. He moved in small, cautious steps and sought out dark, cramped spaces. He clawed at holes as if he was trying to bury himself alive. Some days, he kept digging even after he’d cut himself. Then he’d waddle back to wherever Mom was, leaving behind bright, red streaks to mark his trail.

“He’s going to rust over before his first year,” Cuisinart predicted, “and I’m guessing his warranty doesn’t cover self-inflicted damage.”

“I don’t think it’s rust,” I whispered, careful to keep my whirr down so the others wouldn’t hear.

“Then what is it?”

“I don’t know. Something worse.”

“What could be worse than rust?”

I saw a few of the dishwashers leaning toward us so I didn’t answer. Relations with our neighbors were bad enough. Whatever sympathy Furball had generated when he first arrived had evaporated without a trace. When they thought I had shut down for the day, I sometimes heard the others gossiping about our family, blaming Mother for the stain on the community.

“She should have gotten rid of it before it slid down her chute,” Coffee Maker hissed one night, steam coming out of his cover so fast and thick it soaked his filter lining.

Convection Oven agreed. “She had to have known something was wrong. A mother always knows.”

“Killing it would have been a mercy. What kind of life is that – slithering around like a silverfish, sponging up crumbs and spiders.”

“Please, not while I’m baking.”

They changed the subject to the upcoming shift in daylight savings time, which required everyone to re-set their clocks a week earlier than usual.

Cuisinart has tried to convince me that I imagined the whole thing, but I swear I saw Coffee Machine lean over to pour boiling water over Furball a few days later. My little brother was on the floor licking himself at the time. Like so much else about him, Furball’s self-cleaning mechanism was painfully inefficient. No matter how much he contorted his limbs, he couldn’t reach all of his parts. And somehow he smelled worse after a cleaning than before, as if all he’d managed to do was add a layer of fresh must to his already rank odor.

His cleaning cycle took forever to complete. He sometimes worked on the same spot so long I was afraid he’d rub off his glossy, black finish, which was his only attractive feature. Ordinarily, he would turn at the slightest noise or motion, like a highly sensitive thermostat that adjusted to the tiniest change in the atmosphere, but when he was washing, he shut down. Anyone out to harm him would have waited for that part of his day to make a move.

Since it was an unusually warm April afternoon and I didn’t have much to do, I noticed Coffee Maker fill himself up past his high water mark. At first I thought it was a mistake, but then I saw him lean to one side to accommodate the extra liquid. I decided it was some kind of experiment. The last few years had been rough on the coffee machines. They were required to perform all kinds of new tricks – steam cream, foam milk, melt chocolate. I’d heard Coffee Maker complain bitterly about having to keep up with all the new fads.

“You have no idea what the pressure is like,” he’d fumed more than once. “I have recurring nightmares about spontaneous combustion. It’s gotten so bad I had to cut down on the caffeine.”

When I saw him shuffle to the edge of his shelf just before he was about to boil over, I knew he wasn’t testing his liquid capacity. I blew my alarm whistle as loudly as I could. He jumped back at once. The hiss of steaming water hitting the floor was smothered by the fuss over my safety valve going off. By the time I managed to assure the others I was alright, all signs of Coffee Maker’s crime had dried up. Since I didn’t have any evidence, I kept my suspicions to myself. Cuisinart was the only one I confided in and he dismissed my concerns with a single turn of his blades.

“You overheated,” he whined. “No machine is reliable in that condition.”

“I was fine the night I heard him talking to Convection Oven.”

“Let’s face it, he didn’t say anything the rest of us haven’t thought.”

I kept quiet about Coffee Maker, but it turned out that I wasn’t the only one who had seen him cross the line from thought to action. Furball retreated more and more into the dark, moist edges of the warehouse, sniffing and pawing at the ground as though he was searching for something. Every now and again, his head would pop up and he’d bark short, happy barks, but then, moments later, he’d be stretched flat on the floor, like a deflated plastic tube.

He began disappearing for longer and longer periods of time, discovering hidden pockets of filth and damp that none of us would have gone near. At first, Mother panicked whenever he was out of sight for more than a few minutes, but she gradually became accustomed to his absences.

“My baby is growing up,” she would sigh, causing the cubes in her ice maker to shift slightly. She managed to convince us that she’d adjusted to the new independence of her youngest child until the day that he failed to reappear before dark and she blew her light out worrying.

“He’ll be back. You know how he is, always chasing after some dust bunny or piece of lint,” Big Microwave said, but I could tell from his uneven ring tone that even he didn’t buy what he was saying.

Since Cuisinart and I were thinner than our wide-bodied brothers and better able to negotiate narrow spaces, we went out to look for Furball. After an hour or so, I found him crouched up at the back of a packing crate. I signaled to him with my lights, but there was no response. Cuisinart ordered him to come out, but he still didn’t move.

“That’s it,” Cuisinart grunted, gears grinding, “I’m going to get him.”

“Let me do it.” I was afraid Cuisinart might switch into his blend cycle given his mood and the noise would be too much for my fragile little brother. As I inched toward the back of the box, I noticed scratch marks all over the cardboard. Bits of chewed up paper were strewn across the bottom of the crate and it was covered in mouse shit. I couldn’t help wondering if Furball felt some kind of kinship with the rodents that were the bane of the warehouse. Whatever the source of its appeal, he was reluctant to the leave the crate. In the end, I had to drag him out. By the time we brought him back to Mother, she was vibrating from her egg container to her bread box. Streaks of water were running down her sides; I shifted my dial to high to dry her off before she did any permanent damage.

After his discovery of the crates, Furball seemed happier. He slept peacefully for long periods of time. He ate voraciously, gobbling up every cabbage leaf and tomato slice that Mother tipped out of her salad bin. Within weeks, he doubled in size. He no longer tested the floor before taking a step, but covered ground in quick runs, his body a furry blur.

By the end of summer, Furball was no longer the subject of constant speculation. He’d become a fixture of the community, albeit a strange one who didn’t seem to serve any particular function. Life at the warehouse was relatively quiet until the quarterly visit of the exterminator. Since summer was my slow time and I was off a lot, I’d completely forgotten about the seasonal purge. I’ve often wondered if things would have been different if it hadn’t been such a hot, sluggish afternoon and I’d been functioning at a higher capacity, but really what could I have done – sealed Furball in a crate, forced him into storage? By the time his howling woke me up from a deep sleep, it was already too late. Following the keening sound, I found him pawing a pile of dead mice, as if he was trying to wake them up.

He rarely left Mother’s side after that. Every now and then, he would nibble a few bread crumbs, but he didn’t eat enough to sustain a cockroach. His already warm body began to burn. Desperate, Mother scooped him into her ice tray one afternoon to cool his fever, but when she checked on him a few minutes later, he was dead.

At first, she sealed herself up tight, refusing to part with the body. By the fifth day, however, the smell was unbearable and she reluctantly released Furball’s remains. She never recovered from the loss; from that day forward, water ran continually down her sides.

I begged her to activate her cleaning cycle, but she lost all interest in taking care of herself. When the first signs of rust appeared, my brothers and I took pains to hide them, covering Mother’s spots with every magnet we could find, but “Kiss Me I’m Irish” and “West Virginia Is For Lovers” failed to save her. She couldn’t stop leaking. Worse, I don’t think she really tried. It was as though she wanted to pour herself out, drop by drop.

“You and your brothers will be just fine,” she said when I pleaded with her to lower her temperature. My once pristine Mother, who used to reline her shelves every month without fail, was slowly rotting away. When I nuzzled against her, red dust stuck to my surface and powdered the ground. On hot days, when we kept the windows open, the wind blew pieces of her away.

And then she shut down altogether. One by one, my brothers and I pressed against her, hoping to hear the familiar buzz that used to lull us to sleep, but she was gone. The next day, a truck came to take her to the landfill. I knew that I would never stop missing her. Time only repaired the superficial injuries, the cuts and dents that hurt like hell at the time but could be painted over. Real damage couldn’t be fixed.

We reminisced about Mother from time to time, but no one ever mentioned Furball again. It took me a while, but I gradually understood why we were so afraid to acknowledge my brother’s pitifully brief existence. It wasn’t his dampness, his mewling, his weakness – mice and maggots had always been part of our world. What we couldn’t bear was the knowledge that this helpless, hopeless creature had slid out of one of our own, and maybe, just maybe, another Furball was growing inside us, waiting to be born.

*

Amy Bitterman has had short fiction accepted by The Cream City Review, The Literary Review, The Chicago Quarterly Review, The G.W. Review, The William and Mary Review, Switchback, Kerem, Jewishfiction.net, The Crescent Review, Poetica, The Sand Hill Review, Emrys Journal, Folio and Lilith. In 2015, she received a “Special Mention” for the Pushcart Prize for her story “Breeding Grounds”.She currently teaches at Rutgers University.

What motivates her to create: “To be honest, the primary reason I write is that the creative process, for all its frustrations, makes me happy. I love the effort of focusing my thoughts on a specific idea or emotion and then working through the puzzle of trying to find the right words to express that event or feeling.”

The perfect day to resolve any problem is before any visible sign only appear. Mercifully, there are web-sites where you can buy treatment options effortlessly. What can we buy in online pharmacies? There are anticonvulsants. It affects chemicals in the body that are involved in the cause of some types of pain. There are remedies only for children. If you’re concerned about erectile malfunction, you perhaps already know about how fast does cialis work. What patients talk about how long does it take for cialis 20mg to work? The symptoms of sexual disorders in men include failure to have any erection. Sexual diseases often signal serious problems: low libido or erectile dysfunction may hide a heavy soundness problem such as core trouble. Sometimes men who take street drugs like marijuana find it awkward to get an erection and turn to erectile dysfunction medicines for a temporary solution. Once you’ve studied the basics about men’s erectile dysfunction from us, you may want to see what other reputable websites have to say. The most common potentially serious side effects of such medicaments like Cialis is stuffy or runny nose. Tell your pharmacist if you have any unwanted side effect that does not go away. Absolutely, online pharmacy can lightly help you for solving your all personal problems.

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March 12th, 2015

Cat’s Paw

I’d lost track of how long I’d been living alone, Padre, but some habits die hard so every June I still hauled the beach chairs out of the cellar, mine and Edna’s, wiped away the cobwebs and dust, cleaned off the mildew, then lined them up straight and neat as a firing squad against the …

I’d lost track of how long I’d been living alone, Padre, but some habits die hard so every June I still hauled the beach chairs out of the cellar, mine and Edna’s, wiped away the cobwebs and dust, cleaned off the mildew, then lined them up straight and neat as a firing squad against the wall of the trailer. Get the joke, Padre? Neat as a firing squad. No matter. I liked the view of the mountains from under the carport, especially in the evening when the sun did things to the greenery. I’d take supper in the carport those evenings, setting my plate on Edna’s chair. Nothing ever changed ‘cept for the weather. That was my only visitor, the weather, until Lemmie, short for Lemieux or Lemoine or Lemaire or Lemanger or some name like that, slouched by walking on the shoulder of the road where no one ever walked ‘less their car broke down and they were looking for help.

Lemmie didn’t stop that first time, just trudged by with a nod. I liked a man what respected another man’s privacy. I wished Lemmie did stop that first time ‘cause if he had I would’ve run him off which means you and me wouldn’t be having this chat.

Few weeks later, saw Lemmie again, this time at the Key West. Funny name for a bar in a place where first snow’s October and ice-out comes late May. Some barkeep converted the last unit of a factory row house into an after hours place with plastic pink flamingos and inflatable beach toys shaped like palm trees and sharks and an old fishing net or two and called it the Key West. Even hung a picture of Ernie Hemingway over the bar, telling the factory workers Ernie was an old fishing buddy. I didn’t read more than the next guy, but I recognized Ernie from Life magazine. That’s why I liked Life, the pictures.
Where was I? Lemmie. Right. Anyway, that night Lemmie sat down the far end of the bar, away from the pinball and the juke box and the horny factory girls wondering where their beauty went, sipping Canadian. Not nursing, sipping. Drunks nurse; drinkers sip. Lemmie was a drinker, never looking nowhere but deep into his glass like some special secret was hiding out  under the Canadian. Me, I only drank beer, one or two a night, and there was no secrets at the bottom of the schooners favored by the Key West. No one but me ever noticed how schooners fit the décor of the Key West more than mugs. I mentioned it to Scales, the barkeep when all this went down, and he gave me that look he saves for people he asks to leave against their wishes.

You say get to the point. You in a rush? Well, one thing I got is time, the whole rest of my life as a matter of fact, and stories always expand to fill the time you got.

Speaking of time, it was the time of year for me to take my chairs in for the season. You remember the chairs, mine and Edna’s, in the carport. I always waited for the third frost, more trustworthy sign of winter than some weather man with maps and radar; but third frost came late that year, postponed by one of them long stretches of Indian summer that lingers like a woman’s smell on your skin after one of them nights. When it came though, it came with a vengeance, like waking up the morning after to an empty bed and an empty wallet and knowing you been had. Still, when the sun warmed the chairs enough to melt the frost, I took them in for the season, stacking them behind the furnace which was the warmest place in the cellar, the place where the cat slept. Always had one. That’s why my friends call me Cat, ‘cept for Scales who didn’t call me nothing. The mildew you ask? I could never figure where it came from neither.

One morning shortly later the doorbell rang which confused me ‘cause I didn’t remember what it sounded like; but I figured it out by the second or third ring. Lemmie looked like he hadn’t found much truth in Canadian, but he didn’t smell like he’d been drinking and I’d already made the coffee so I figured there’d be no harm being neighborly and asking him in to share it. What did I know, huh Padre?

If Lemmie was anything he was direct. Said, they say you’re good with ‘lectricity. I just stared into my coffee, not letting on how right he was, asking him if them’s the same they that call me Cat. Lemmie said he’s looking for a good ‘lectrician so I figure he’s working construction and tell him about some of the others, the ones good with wood, plumbing, bricks, drywall, things like that; but Lemmie just shook his head and said he only needed a ‘lectrician and only one at that. Cash pay, Lemmie said.

Lemmie stopped coming to the Key West after that and I didn’t see him around town none. No one did, but then so many people drifted through on their way to or from that strangers didn’t keep their novelty too long. That’s why no one at the Key West remarked ‘bout Lemmie’s absence. Finally, come early November, Lemmie phoned, said to pack for a few days, said he’d pick me up sunrise in the morning. Not an early riser but I needed the jack so I said I’d be ready. I thought about saying adios to Scales since most others just snuck off without saying good-by. Don’t know why I decided ‘gainst it. Might have been different if I had, do you think? Spare me one of those smokes, Padre. Thanks. Always said I’d quit someday. Guess someday’s finally here.

Anyway, Lemmie picked me up and drove me down county to Munroe Falls, the biggest city in the whole county and all, but Lemmie said he’s got more people on his block back in Brooklyn. Big block, I said, but Lemmie he just smiled and said he liked it that way. Person could get lost in Brooklyn, he said. Person could get lost anywhere, I said back. Anyway, I wired the Christmas displays, doing everything ‘cording to code, testing and retesting the connection, the grounds, thinking nothing ‘bout it ‘til I read in the paper how the Mayor was ‘lectrocuted turning on the Christmas lights. Paper figured someone rigged the wiring, did a big write up on crosswiring, front page. Funny, though, it never actually explained what crosswiring was. Just quoted the FBI report how the wires was rigged to send a killer jolt through the switch. Anyway, that’s how I got fingered for the Mayor’s murder.

Next day, Chief arrests me so I tell him about Lemmie and Brooklyn and all, but no one’s seen Lemmie since he returned me back to my trailer and Brooklyn never heard of him. Lot of blocks in Brooklyn, I guess. Chief asks about fingerprints but that coffee cup Lemmie used it’s been washed ten times over. I still had the hundred Lemmie paid me stashed under the living room rug. Hated to part with it, but, as Chief said, I’d have no use for it if he couldn’t turn up a print. Only turned up mine. You know how it goes when you see a big bill like that ‘specially when it’s been a lifetime since the last one. Another joke, Padre. Get it?

You don’t believe me, do you, Padre? No matter. Everyone here’s innocent or they wouldn’t be here. No, I don’t blame the jury. I’d vote the same way. And that lady attorney, she did her damnedest, but, hell, whoever messed with them wires was a damn better ‘lectrician than me.

Regrets? I’d like my last supper in my carport, beach chairs and all, watching the sun do its thing to the greenery. It’s almost the season to take ‘em out. Instead of lettin’ you pick what you want to eat, they ought to let you pick where you eat it. I’d pick the carport, facing the mountains. Hell, they could do me right there soon as I finished. Wouldn’t be so scary then. Well, Padre, thanks for hearing me out. If you ever make it to the Key West, tell Scales Cat said, hey. Tell him I still got eight lives to go.

*

 
S. Frederic Liss, a Pushcart Prize nominee and a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Prize sponsored by University of Georgia Press, has published or has forthcoming 36 short stories and has received numerous awards and other forms of recognition for his short fiction including The Florida Review Editor’s Award for Fiction; James Still Prize for Short Fiction sponsored by Wind; Midnight Sun Award for Fiction sponsored by Permafrost; Third prize in the Arthur Edelstein Prize for Short Fiction; Finalist for the Raymond Carver Award for Short Fiction sponsored by Carve Magazine; and Honorable Mention in the New Letters Literary Award for Fiction and the Glimmer Train June, 2014 Fiction Open. Liss has also been published in The Saturday Evening Post, The South Dakota Review, The South Carolina Review, Dogwood, The Worcester Review, and Fifth Wednesday Journal. In addition, Liss was a finalist in the Bakeless Prize Competition sponsored by Middlebury College and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. Liss earned a MFA from Emerson College, Boston, MA and was the recipient of a Grant-in-Aid in Literature from the St. Botolph Club Foundation, Boston, MA where he leads a workshop in writing fiction.  

What motivates him to create:
“I write fiction because I enjoy it. When it stops being fun, I’ll stop writing fiction. This doesn’t mean its easy as enjoyment is often more difficult to attain than disappointment. I appreciate this response may seem selfish compared to those who claim they write fiction to communicate great truths, but it goes to the heart of the matter. Truth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.”

The perfect when to resolve any problem is before any visible sign only appear. Mercifully, there are web-sites where you can buy treatment options effortlessly. What can we buy in online pharmacies? There are anticonvulsants. It affects chemicals in the body that are involved in the cause of some types of pain. There are remedies only for children. If you’re concerned about erectile disfunction, you perhaps already know about how fast does cialis work. What patients talk about how long does it take for cialis 20mg to work? The symptoms of sexual disorders in men include failure to have any erection. Sexual diseases often signal serious problems: low libido or erectile malfunction may hide a heavy health problem such as heart trouble. Sometimes men who take street drugs like marijuana find it awkward to get an erection and turn to erectile dysfunction medicines for a temporary solution. Once you’ve studied the basics about men’s erectile disfunction from us, you may want to see what other reputable websites have to say. The most common potentially serious side effects of such medicaments like Cialis is stuffy or runny nose. Tell your druggist if you have any unwanted side effect that does not go away. Absolutely, online apothecary can lightly help you for solving your all personal problems.

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January 8th, 2015

Last Patch

I gently place my hands on her small shoulders, guiding Rebecca to walk in front of me in an attempt to give the approaching elderly couple some extra space on the sidewalk. They slowly make their way past us, coming a bit closer than is normally socially comfortable. I catch a whiff of too-sweet perfume, stale …

I gently place my hands on her small shoulders, guiding Rebecca to walk in front of me in an attempt to give the approaching elderly couple some extra space on the sidewalk. They slowly make their way past us, coming a bit closer than is normally socially comfortable. I catch a whiff of too-sweet perfume, stale bread, and hair pomade. I can’t exactly tell which one of them is helping the other, bolstered by arms and time. They seem to know one another as well as two people can. Both painful and beautiful to take in, I refocus on my own task of getting us in the door of the clinic. But I am drawn to them once more, momentarily as I hear his nearly inaudible statement, “I’m ready to go.”

We enter the cool dark of the red brick building, which is always a relief from the blistering New Mexico sun. But once inside, it’s all bad here. A toxic mix of bleach, rubbing alcohol, and old carpet hits me like ton of bricks. I’ve got my ibuprofen just in case a headache seeps in. People of all ages clog the waiting room. Most of them are older. My guess is sixty-five and up. Walkers, electric power chairs, and a few regular wheelchairs hold geriatrics lining the far wall of the waiting room. With the frail and hunched are their upright, adult children who push, wipe, fill out forms, and play on their phones. All there to assist their parents and loved ones more comfortably maneuver toward death.

I sign us in at the desk and we take our seats. Rebecca is dwarfed among them. I see a few folks who have noticed us pull their lips in toward their teeth and look down with an I’m-so-sorry face. Most look away except one who frowns as she shamelessly examines Becca’s soupy brown patch of hair, the rest of her head now nearly baby-bald where falls of once-glistening, penny-tinted locks framed her peachy cheeks. Only the sun truly knew the depth of that red. But my Becca does not care if people stare. She says she is a duck as she lets it roll off her back. She smiles at them. Always on the high road, that girl, making me proud.

It’s our turn now. The young aide makes a grand gesture that we should follow her. She’s new, but we’re not. We know the way to the infusion room where twice already this month the nurses have celebrated two patients’ last chemotherapy treatment with bells and clappers. Becca loves it when that happens. She thinks it’s a good omen. It might be my imagination, but it seems like it’s been happening more often. It’s happening again as we enter the room.

“Mommy! They are going to do that for me one day!” I force a smile, a nod, and a “Yes.” I do this because I have to, not because I believe it. There goes another patient set free. Becca runs up and hugs the elderly gentleman who’s surprised but is genuinely grateful. He smiles and pats her on the back with the side of his arthritically bent hand.

Shelly, one of Becca’s favorite nurses, is on duty. We are escorted to the large, sand-colored, reclining medical chair that my little girl will spend the next four hours in. Shelly and Becca chatter about fun, normal things, kid things. Shelly works while she talks and removes the small piece of plastic wrap where Becca smeared on the lidocaine cream more than an hour ago. Running smoothly and on time, as things always do when Shelly administers what could be life or death, the clear poison begins to drip.

Juice box on the side, blankets tucked in tightly, remote in hand, my only child fully reclines and turns her full attention to the wall-mounted TV that she takes complete control of. Flipping through a few soaps, a special on Egypt, and Judge Judy, she deftly lands on the cartoon channel where Spongebob and Patrick are singing something silly in front of The Krusty Krab. She’s already laughing and I can’t help but smile with her. I watch the underwater shenanigans for a few minutes. I’m pulling a book I’ve brought out of my bag as I hear her mumble something. I look at my baby. I am surprised to find that she has fallen asleep so quickly. It usually takes her at least a half hour to doze off. As I study her small features she stirs again. The dull patch of brown so proudly displayed a mere fifteen minutes ago fails to follow as she moves her head. I freeze, witnessing the last little patch lose its hold and slide down the pillow to her shoulder. Heart in my throat, eyes glued to her, she moves her dry lips just enough to eek out an early inaudible statement, “I’m ready to go.”

 

*

 

Bleuzette La Feir was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, She is a graduate of the University of New Mexico with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theater. Her work has appeared in Blood Lotus, Blue Lake Review, decomP, Descant, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Forge, Lindenwood Review and Storyscape. Her flash fiction piece, “Bangs,” was nominated for the Best of the Net 2012 anthology.

 

What motivates her to create:

“Putting words on the page is magical. Remembering the childhood books I read such as The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, gave me my first taste of the bittersweet world of storytelling. Bittersweet because once I began reading a wonderful new story I knew that it would end. I never wanted the story to end.

“I lose myself as I let rise then begin to knead a new story. I press and fold words together that create rich environments that paint luminous images and birth multi-dimensional, relatable characters. It is the way for the story to live on. Now that I create the stories they have lost the bitter and are just sweet. I am stuffed full and satisfied.”

The ideal time to resolve any problem is before any visible sign only appear. Mercifully, there are web-sites where you can buy treatment options effortlessly. What can we buy in online pharmacies? There are anticonvulsants. It affects chemicals in the body that are involved in the cause of some types of ache. There are remedies only for children. If you’re concerned about erectile disfunction, you perhaps already know about how fast does cialis work. What patients talk about how long does it take for cialis 20mg to work? The symptoms of sexual disorders in men include failure to have any hard-on. Sexual diseases often signal serious problems: low libido or erectile malfunction may hide a heavy soundness problem such as heart trouble. Sometimes men who take street drugs like marijuana find it awkward to get an hard-on and turn to erectile dysfunction medicines for a temporary solution. Once you’ve studied the basics about men’s erectile disfunction from us, you may want to see what other reputable websites have to say. The most common potentially serious side effects of such medicaments like Cialis is stuffy or runny nose. Tell your druggist if you have any unwanted side effect that does not go away. Absolutely, online apothecary can lightly help you for solving your all personal problems.

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July 21st, 2014

The Deserter, the Priest, and The Gun

The deserter and the priest sit in the church playing Russian roulette. The deserter’s face and hands are black with gunpowder and grime—only his eyes and teeth glow white in the dim candlelight. He gives the priest an exuberant smile and pulls back the hammer on the revolver. The cylinder spins with a reptilian hiss.

               The deserter and the priest sit in the church playing Russian roulette. The deserter’s face and hands are black with gunpowder and grime—only his eyes and teeth glow white in the dim candlelight. He gives the priest an exuberant smile and pulls back the hammer on the revolver. The cylinder spins with a reptilian hiss.
               “Perhaps if you told me what was troubling you,” the priest says tentatively. The game was not his idea. He had been hiding under the altar when the deserter climbed in through a breach in the wall. The war had been raging along outside for days and everyone but the priest had fled.
               “Nothing is troubling me,” the deserter says. He holds the gun to his temple and pulls the trigger. The hammer crashes, shockingly loud, on the empty cylinder and the sound echoes off the ruined walls of the church for a very long time. The deserter gives a dry little laugh and places the gun gently on the altar, his eyes on the priest. “I told you. I have come for a duel with God. If the bullet chooses me, God is stronger. If it’s you, well…” He shrugs, and his overcoat makes a strange rustling noise as it settles back around him. It is torn in many places, black and stiff with blood. “Your turn,” he says.
               The war had been sniffing around the town like a jackal for months, but it arrived in force ten days before, with the rebel army taking up positions in the surrounding hills. The priest had been instructed by his bishop to protect the church from looters, so when the metallic crackle of gunfire drew close, he bolted the tall oak doors shut.
               For over a week he heard the ebb and flow of the battle outside—small-arms fire, explosions, the despairing tramp of refugees, the cries of the wounded—tidal currents of violence and motion washing continually around him. The priest roamed the church in an agony of doubt. Was this truly what God wanted from him? That he should hide in this church, concealing himself from the struggles of the world? He imagined opening the doors, the oak spreading like angel wings before him, and striding bravely out into the inferno. But then he thought of his instructions, the stern warning that the purity, the sacred ground of the church depended entirely on him. Sometimes at night he would hear voices outside, women and children pleading for him to let them in. He would stand, his hands shaking on the latches. “I can no longer stand idly by,” he would tell himself. “Now, at long last, I will act.” Each time, however, he stepped back. He was so small, and the suffering outside so large. He would wander through the church, stroking the tapestries, running his hands along the inspirational inscriptions carved into the walls. But the saints of the stained glass windows cast their dark eyes heavenward, having already dispensed with the works of man.
               “I could shoot you. I could fire into the air,” the priest says.
               The deserter looks disappointed. “If there is a bullet in the chamber and you kill me, then God wins. Otherwise I suppose I will be forced to club you to death. It’s only fair.”
               After a week or so, the sounds of the battle began to ebb. It seemed that he had endured the worst, that the war would move on, leaving the church unscathed. With each new morning the priest felt faith swell inside himself with a hard brightness. The rising sun shone through the windows, the delicate panes still impossibly intact, and bathed him in the glorious light of God. The priest found himself filled with a brilliant feeling of joy. He had won. He had submitted himself to the will of God and, though he had endured a great trial, had emerged transfigured, humbled, and purified.
               Then, in the middle of a nearly silent afternoon, there was a deafening explosion. A single artillery shell had landed near the front of the church, shattering the stained glass windows and blowing a jagged black crevice in the stone wall facing the street. Smoke and dust filled the church, and fires caught and burned fitfully on the tapestries and some of the pews. The priest, his ears ringing, his breath coming in gasps, huddled behind the altar with a bottle of sacramental wine where, a few hours later, the deserter found him.
               “There are riches here,” the priest says. “Treasures. I can show you. You could be a wealthy man. You can take anything you want.”
               “This is what I want,” the deserter says. He looks at the gun, and then expectantly back at the priest. The priest doesn’t move.
               “You know, all of this,” the deserter waves his hand around airily, somehow including not just the ruined church but the whole town, the countryside, the world at large, “this was me. I did it.” He reaches over and grabs the priest’s bottle, draining it and throwing it down the nave where it crashes on the flagstone floor and shatters into bits, scattering among the sharp shards of stained glass, the remnants of God and the lives of the saints. “I was an artillery man, you see, before I settled on my new career as assassin of God. We sat up in the hills for days, tossing explosives down onto this town. We wrote prayers on the sides of our shells before we sent them off, our most heartfelt wishes, that your town be reduced to rubble, that everyone in it die a painful death. We would launch them heavenward, the embodiment of our desires, and God would bless them and offer them back to you.” He paused, craning his neck to look at the gash in the church. “I can’t be sure this was one of my rounds, but it’s very lovely nonetheless.” He gazed thoughtfully at the breach, and then looked back at the priest. “All good things must come to an end, of course, and the war moved on. But I had a powerful urge to see what God and I had done. So I slipped away from my company in the night, and came to visit.
               “I met such devout pilgrims on the road, father. You would have wept at their piety. I saw a young man, his chest shattered by a blast. With each breath I could hear the grate of his ribs against each other, and the burble of blood in his lungs. I found a woman in a ditch. I imagine that she was beautiful a few days ago, but her legs were bloated and useless and smelled of the putrefaction of the grave. I saw a baby. Someone loved that baby once, but when I met him he was alone, shivering and whimpering at his dead mother’s breast. His skin was wrinkled and gray, already ancient and tired of life. I gave them all the only gift I had, and they each met the bullet with joy, having had their fill of God’s presence in the world.” He paused and looked slowly around the church, at the vaulting ceiling, now torn open to the sky, the great gray walls painted with soot, the windows, their edges still jagged with bright fragments of glass. “When I had only one round left it occurred to me that I might be equally generous with myself, for I too had grown sad and weary with the burden of God’s love. Just then, I saw your church, and I thought that perhaps there was one sacrament I might yet perform—that God, selfish to the end, might want my final bullet for himself.”
               The moon, clear in the sky, beamed through the rent in the roof and the shattered walls of the church gleamed silver. The priest imagined a bullet tearing through his skull, admitting all of that light while a fine mist of blood and brains scattered onto the stone beyond. The revolver, silent and inscrutable on the altar, shone with such brilliance that he thought it must sear the flesh from his hand, but when he touched it, it felt bitterly cold. He picked it up and looked into the eyes of the deserter. A warm breeze sprang up, whispering through the walls, and he smelled gunpowder and smoke, the sweet odor of a new spring, rotting flesh, shit. Rats and carrion beasts shrieked and squabbled over corpses outside as birds, just beginning to stir, opened their throats in tentative song. The priest realized he was biting the inside of his cheek, and the taste of blood mixed with the scent of flowers in his mouth. He looked up at the sky and thought that the dawn, when it came, would be the loveliest thing anybody had seen.
 

*

 
John Haggerty’s work has appeared widely in magazines such as Confrontation, Nimrod, Salon, Santa Monica Review, and is the recipient of the 2013 Pinch Literary Prize. His novel Saline Springs, which he hopes to finish very soon, was a finalist for the 2013 James Jones First Novel Fellowship. He is enrolled in the MFA program at San Francisco State University.
 
 
What motivates him to create:
“My first thought was that I create out of envy and fear. Envy because, when I see a piece of great writing, I think, ‘Damn, I wish I had done that,’ which spurs me on to do something similar. Fear because the world is a scary place, and I use writing to try to make sense of it. But viewed in a more positive light, beautiful things, especially beautiful writing, makes me wish that there was more of that in the world, and inspires me to add my own pale contribution. And whether I am afraid of the world or not, art remains the best way for us to examine it in its entirety—its joys and sorrows, the terrible beauty of life.”

The unimprovable day to resolve any problem is before any visible sign only appear. Mercifully, there are web-sites where you can buy treatment options effortlessly. What can we buy in online pharmacies? There are anticonvulsants. It affects chemicals in the body that are involved in the cause of some types of pain. There are remedies only for children. If you’re concerned about erectile dysfunction, you perhaps already know about how fast does cialis work. What patients talk about how long does it take for cialis 20mg to work? The symptoms of sexual disorders in men include failure to have any erection. Sexual diseases often signal serious problems: low libido or erectile disfunction may hide a heavy soundness problem such as core trouble. Sometimes men who take street drugs like marijuana find it awkward to get an erection and turn to erectile dysfunction medicines for a temporary solution. Once you’ve studied the basics about men’s erectile disfunction from us, you may want to see what other reputable websites have to say. The most common potentially serious side effects of such medicaments like Cialis is stuffy or runny nose. Tell your pharmacist if you have any unwanted side effect that does not go away. Absolutely, online pharmacy can lightly help you for solving your all personal problems.

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June 4th, 2014

Evangelical Initiative

              The morning after his old man pressed charges and I bailed Roy out of jail, he asked me about cabbing. Roy’d been to my house a couple times, sometimes nursing a black eye his father had given him when Roy interrupted the fists falling on his mom. We’d talked about taxying before, but he’d said …

              The morning after his old man pressed charges and I bailed Roy out of jail, he asked me about cabbing. Roy’d been to my house a couple times, sometimes nursing a black eye his father had given him when Roy interrupted the fists falling on his mom. We’d talked about taxying before, but he’d said it sounded like slave labor.
              I explained about owning my own car and making my own hours and rules, and Roy started coming around. I flashed my wallet and said, “John Chisolm, independent businessman.”
              I didn’t tell him about how it’s scary sometimes to have people riding behind you or about the immigrants, the way they stink up your car, Somalis worse than Hmong. I didn’t tell him how they travel in packs or jaw on their cell phones, screeching so fast there’s no way anyone on the other end can understand.
              At the kitchen table, Roy used single words for questions cause of his cut and swollen lip. His voice sounded scratched. I gave him a couple of ice cubes to put in his coffee, so he could drink it. I ran my hand over my beard and watched him weigh his options. He was thinking of leaving the plant where his dad worked even though the money was decent. I offered him my couch for as long as he needed it, my place empty, Amber and her cheating long gone by then. By Sunday, he’d written a letter giving his two weeks’ notice, filled out an application for Cab College, and moved a few things from his parents’ house in Anoka to mine while his dad was out and his mom nursed her own split lip. Twin Cities Taxi’s not the best company to work for. They take a huge chunk of your fares, but it’s a place to start because they supply the cabs.
              Roy and I might have met having drinks at the bar, or maybe the track. Can’t remember. But I know when we met, he was the same age Buck was when he walked into bullets in Vietnam. Roy and I clicked, probably more than Buck and me ever did. Feels like Roy’s closer to my side of sixty than his side of twenty. He’s got that salt of the earth thing. I like to think that if Buck was around, he’d hang out with Roy and me on Fridays. He’d work the graveyard shift and come over for beers. We’d stop bitching about airport runs and shitty tips and sit by the garden and watch the sun rise over the rotting wooden fence. He’d a liked that.
              I don’t remember saying goodbye to Buck. Feels like something a person should remember. It gives me a little cramp in my side that I can’t see it. Now that Mom’s gone, I can’t ask her. Sure as hell can’t ask Dad since he took off long before that. Buck left on a bus, but I don’t remember being at the bus station. Maybe I was in school. Maybe I was sitting in Mrs. Sutton’s algebra class trying to look down Vanessa Beeker’s sweater while my brother boarded a bus, his first steps toward those bullets.
              Funny, if that’s true, that now I drive a cab. Kind of similar though hell if I’d be caught dead driving a bus. A cab’s just one step away from a limo. A bus is a slum on wheels. And no bus driver owns his own bus. He’s not an independent businessman.
 

#

 
Near the end of his first Friday night in the cab, I called Roy on my way home from dropping off my last fare. “You finished?” I asked.
              Roy showed up around four a.m., after taking his last bunch of yawping college kids from the bars downtown to the apartments near the U. His eyes shined, and he hardly sipped his beer for all the telling me about his customers. “Can’t believe how many of ‘em leave trash in the back, but it’s cool. Some kid left a Hustler.”
              I nodded. It reminded me of my own first day. My first passenger— downtown, briefcase, trench coat— to one of the hotels that’s not even there anymore. Polite guy, tipped okay, and luckily didn’t ask for change. I’d forgotten the cash on my dresser. A neat pile of ones and fives, back when ones meant something. Now the pile of fives is as soft and warm in my jeans pocket as the pocket itself. The woman that day, I remember her too. Black woman, dressed in heels and a suit, coming out of the hotel where I dropped the first guy off. Thin, not big like so many of them. “Hennepin and Second, please.” A short drive. Maybe came to five bucks back then. She tipped too.
              And it seemed everything would be right for a long, long time.
              I remember wiping my first Old Yeller down, using Pine Sol on her interior. On the stone driveway of my old apartment building, I scrubbed her and told her we would have a long time together. I’d spent good money on her, a ‘93 Crown Vic, an old squad car, so she knew a thing about loyalty and reliability. Used all my money for the down payment, and hoped she’d be good to me and bring in what I needed, so some day I could buy a house of my own for someone (not an Amber, even then I knew, not someone like Amber) and maybe some kids and a dog. Turns out I got Roy instead.
              Sundays and Mondays we always take off. It’s slower then, and we let rookies have the fares. In winter we play a lot of cards and meet at Scamp’s Bar. Summer’s better; we sit outside drinking beers, bullshitting. We talk about how it feels good to help the old people to their door. Roy always has questions. Little and big ones. He asks a lot about how to fix cars, but he wonders about other stuff too. Once he asked what my happiest memory was, and I had to think for a while. I almost said, “banging Amber,” but that wouldn’t have been true, so I told him about the garden. Being little, seven maybe, laying in the dry dirt, feeling just as light as clumps of soil. Dad weeding the vegetable garden and humming, Mom nipping suckers off tomato plants, so that each time she did, the peppery smell mixed with her cut flowers in the basket nearby. Buck and I snapped ends off beans, tossing the tips at each other, aiming for the small opening that gaped at the neck of our t-shirts. It was close to sunset and real nice.
              Roy shook his head. Slurred his words a little and said he couldn’t imagine having a memory like that.
              I can’t remember how it went from good in that old garden to bad. Dad, suddenly gone. Though, now older, I guess I can pick out the signs. His too sweet smell of whiskey, his whiskers grown so his hugs, less frequent, scratched instead of soothed. Gone a lot, then just gone. So Mom said Buck and me were the men of the house. And then three years later Buck got on the bus. The Chisolm men, gone except for me, just a boy.
 

#

 
After six months with Twin Cities Taxi, Roy had saved enough to get an apartment and buy his own cab. By then his mom had taken off, fleeing the bastard that beat them. Roy didn’t have anyone else. So when I saw an ad for the auction in March, Roy and I went together. I was real proud of Roy and I knew he had enough money saved, but I told him on the way over that I’d make the down payment. He didn’t say much, just reached over and grabbed my shoulder. He nodded at me as he pulled his hand away.
              The auction was jammed, but I knew right away which trooper would be best for Roy. “The ‘04. Can bang that dent right out,” I said, running my hand through my beard.
              Roy popped his knuckles. “You sure?”
              “Wouldn’t steer you wrong, brother.”
              When the car was painted to match Vivid Taxis’ specs, it looked damn close to mine. I smiled at the sight of the two of them sitting next to each other in the driveway. Roy worked on the car at my place because his apartment building didn’t have a hose. The way he was with it, hand washing and waxing, scrubbing the white walls, and polishing the interior brought back all the old pride I’d felt for my first Old Yeller. “What you gonna call her?” I asked.
              Roy continued buffing the wax he’d just applied. “Thought I might call her Buck, if it’s okay with you.”
              I kicked a pile of grey melting snow and rubbed my hand through my beard. “Shoot.” I walked over and gave Roy three quick slaps on the back. “Hell yeah that’d be okay with me.”
 

#

 
Initially, Roy struggled getting used to someone always sitting behind him. Someone he didn’t know. What with a Dad that beat the shit out of him, it would be tough to trust strangers. I told him to watch the rearview mirror, and after the first few months, he got comfortable. Close to his year anniversary with Buck, some white kid pretending to be black, wearing his pants all low and stupid, pulled a gun on Roy and refused to pay. When Roy told me about it, he shook and his voice cracked, and I wanted to kill the little punk bastard. Afterwards, I told Roy my own gun and knife stories, told him that never once had I been hurt. Just scared. We drank a lot of beer that night, skipped work the next day.
              During those first few years of Roy working as a cabby, I thought a lot about how his timing had been off. He didn’t have the same advantage as me, driving close to eight years before the Hmong and Somalis really started buying in. It used to be that I just had to pick them up. They reeked, didn’t tip much, and left garbage on the floor. But then I started counting the immigrant cabbies. More and more of them kept coming, and a bunch of them, sometimes a whole family, got together and bought a car, so they were always out. One of them would sleep, one would drive, and there was always another one waiting to start the moment the other was tired. Even the ones who don’t share, they’re not afraid of working twenty-four hour shifts. Or doing pickups in North Minneapolis at 2:30 in the morning. Can’t compete with that kind of shit. Nothing personal.
 

#

 
It was an accident the initiative ever started. The January cold had been keeping people home, and the weekend had been stale, so I went out on a Monday for the “tight ass shift,” Roy’s name for 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. because all the suits go to their meetings, cocktails, and dinners. Tips aren’t great, but a steady stream of cash passes through. That Hmong was the last one of them I picked up for a long time. Dressed in a suit, his back faced me because he hailed a cab coming from the other direction. The approaching cab was a Twin Cities Taxi, and I always loved screwing those guys out of a fare since they’d screwed Roy out of his due cash his first six months.
              When the Hmong got in my car, he said, “Immigration,” all quiet and tentative. I thought he’d be okay. They look as smart as the Japanese and Chinese.
              The traffic moved on 35, and I calculated the trip to be about forty bucks. A good lunchtime fare. If the guy tipped. When I pulled up on Metro Drive, gangs of Hmong, Somalis, and Mexicans stood around. Future cabdrivers of America. As if anyone can drive a cab as well as anyone else. From the back, the man said, “Wait. I be back.”
              I turned around to face him. “Whoa buddy. I don’t wait without cash. You pay now.” I held my hand and rubbed my thumb and two fingers together.
              He smiled and kind of bowed to me and got out of the car, taking his briefcase with him. I got out and met him on the curb. “You pay now.” I said it loud and crossed my arms in front of me. A group of immigrants nearby shut up and watched.
              “I be right back.” He tried to step past me.
              “You be paying right now.”
              He showed me the inside of his pockets, nothing. I grabbed at his briefcase, but he swung it away from me just in time. I lunged again. He swerved and the pack of immigrants laughed. I stepped toward him and swung my fist, but it only glanced off him as he turned and darted through the glass doors. A police officer stood just inside with his back to the door. I was pissed at the cop for not doing anything to help, but he had to keep immigrants in order all day long, so I let the Hmong go. He’d get what was due.
              At the curb, a Somali family stood at my cab. The man asked, “You give ride?”
              I’d already done my charity work for people who didn’t bother to learn English, so I shook my head, got in, and drove home. I put my window down and let icy air wash over me. I opened my phone and pushed speed dial number one.
              “Hey, bro,” Roy answered.
              “Coming over?” I asked.
              He had planned to work a couple more hours, but when I told him I was done for the day, he said he’d pick up beer on his way over after he dropped his last fare.
              Two hours went by before Roy showed. He looked the same way he did when I bailed him out of jail after his dad beat him. His left eye closed, bottom lip fat and eking blood. It was a Somali. Jacked Roy when he stopped for beer.
              After Roy told me about the asshole taking off with the cash, I got a bottle of aspirin and told him about the Hmong. We sipped beers and swore. I said, “Not taking them anymore. No matter what. Even if it’s slow. Sick of helping them- they don’t pay taxes, got better health care than we do, living off our hard work. Fuck ‘em.”
              Roy listened and messed with the pop top on his beer. I crushed my can and got us two more. As I passed Roy his, he said, “Like those fuckers at Twin Cities Taxi. Just cause the Hmongs own all the damn cabs doesn’t mean I shouldn’t make my cash.” He took a long pull off his beer. “Time to take the initiative. Enough letting them have everything easy.” On board without me ever asking him to be.
              “Initiative, I like it,” I said. In bed that night, I thought it over. A kind of pledge for brothers.
              Winter passed. We met a few women at Scamp’s. None of them interested me much, and I thought back to Amber and wondered if I should have tried harder to keep her around. Mostly Roy and I drove, late winter and early spring always the busiest. The snow and salt forced a car wash after every shift, and I was itching for some warm days.
              I brought out the seeds, grow light, and plastic trays the first week of March. The tomatoes and peppers could start now. I’d bite into the first tomato like it was an apple, let the juice run down my arm right there in the garden. But that was a long ways off yet.
              Roy brought beer over and watched as I filled each of the holes with a bit of dirt. He’d looked at me funny the first year he saw my seedlings, but he just watched now. He said, “I been thinking. About the initiative.”
              With my finger, I pressed a tomato seed into each plastic depression, sinking it into the dirt.
              Roy said, “The problem is, if we aren’t picking them up, and the others are, they’re the ones making money.”
              He had a point. It had occurred to me on occasion that I was giving up multiple fares a day cause of the promise I’d made to Roy. And coming into spring, we’d need the fares we could get as people who took a cab all the rest of the year, didn’t when the cold and snow let up. I asked, “Just pick them up like it doesn’t matter they’re taking our jobs?”
              Roy shook his head. “No, if we allow them in our cabs, we can teach them. Make things clear for them.”
              It was an interesting idea. Tired of watching me plant seeds, Roy flipped on playoff hockey. I’d stopped watching as soon as the Wild blew their chances at the Cup.
              I covered the seeds with pinches of good, black dirt and thought about Roy’s plan. A way of educating immigrants, letting them know what it takes to be an American, a way of making up for Buck.
              We talked through it. I added my own ideas, and by the time the trays of seeds had been watered and grow lights buzzed, we knew what we’d do.
              Only later, after I’d seen a news story about another group of men on a mission on the Texas border did I ask Roy about calling it the evangelical initiative. “Because we’re doing the work of angels. Angelic work.”
              “Sounds like a chick job,” said Roy.
              “It means publisher of glad tidings.”
              We laughed.
 

#

 
We piled the D class rocket engines into our cart at Wal-Mart and moved to the checkout line. The big black woman at the register smiled when she saw the engines and said, “My boys love these things. My husband pretends he hates it, but he loves those rockets. You all got kids?”
              I ran my credit card and listened to Roy mumble no. One late night last week after too many brews, he confessed he needed a woman, liked his new girl Becca, said he wanted to be a dad. Hurt me a little, but I remember feeling that way once. Caught myself wishing Buck was still around.
              I snatched the bag from the woman’s hand, and we went to my place to break open the engines.
 

#

 
The first teaching I did for the evangelical initiative was for a Somali family I picked up downtown. That morning I’d checked on my tomatoes. They’d grown strong under the false light in April, struggled through thin sunshine in May, even survived a heavy inch of wet snow that came the third week of the month. Now, yellow flowers produced their first fruit, golf ball to baseball size, and in another month they’d begin to blush red. I’d share the crop with Roy.
              The second the Somalis got in Old Yeller, I could smell them. They smelled the way they all do, thick and spicy, and I could feel their pores leaking onto Old Yeller’s seats. Only the lemon wipes I had in the trunk would help. I put my window down though the June morning felt cool and damp. The man said, “Immigration first, then the airport please.” I’d been back to immigration a few times since we discussed the initiative, but the timing was never right. But this one, this one I knew would work. I’d be glad to wait. I imagined Roy and I toasting beers, Becca nowhere to be seen.
              The operation was smooth. The Somali handed me twenty bucks over the fare he’d already run up, helped his wife and young boy out of the cab, and took his briefcase into immigration with him but left their suitcases in the trunk. “Wait right up there for you,” I said and pointed to a loading zone.
              He nodded, and I pulled a few car lengths ahead, put my hazards on, grabbed the plastic margarine container from under my seat, and went to the trunk. The Somalis two bags looked new, none of the zippers broken, and no rips in the black cloth. I checked behind and in front of me and peeled the lid off the margarine container. I shook some of the gun powder we’d collected out of the rocket engines onto the suitcase. Gently, I turned the bags over and sprinkled the other side too.
              The powder matched black most closely. When we first discussed the initiative, we started inspecting all luggage. After our shifts, I talked to Roy about what suitcases were best, some blues, some dark greens. I mentioned a U.S. army duffel some Hmong must have bought at the Army Navy store, but drab green looked risky. Blue was good, black best. I assumed Roy had had the same off luck I had until today—opportunities close but not quite right until now. We didn’t talk specifics—might bust the luck.
              I snapped the lid back on the margarine container. I got in the car and thought about calling Roy to tell him what was in the works but worried I would jinx myself. On the radio a caller from Blaine bitched about the Twins’ pitching. The meter ticked, already the Somalis were up to fifty-two dollars; by the time we got to the airport, it would be about eighty.
              I turned the radio down as they approached. Again the Somali helped his wife and child into the backseat, then slid in himself. I put the car in drive. We cruised on Crosstown. Sun and wind came through open windows. The airport was quiet, and before I could ask what airline, the Somali said, “Northwest.” I pulled up to the door, popped the trunk, and hustled to the suitcases. I sat them on the ground carefully so as not to shake much of the powder off. He gave me the rest of my cash, folded neatly. I watched him roll both suitcases and watched his wife take the boy’s hand, as they walked through the first set of double doors. I wished I could wait around to see the lesson. I closed the trunk and got back in the front seat. He gave me a total of ninety bucks for an eighty-two dollar cab ride. What I expected.
              I stayed in the same lane and inched ahead, but kept checking back through rows of glass doors. Soon I lost the Somalis, and by the time I turned my attention back to the road, I had merged into a cluster of cars and cabs. As I was about to reverse, some asshole in an SUV parked me in. I cranked around in my seat to see if I could get one more glimpse of the Somalis and their black luggage, but I couldn’t find them. As I waited, a pack of Hmongs spilled out of a Gopher State van. A man in a blue sport coat lifted two little boys out of the middle seat as two older girls helped a grandmother type out of the front. As the Hmong herded his family through the door to ticketing, the brothers laughed just loud enough so I could hear them over the radio. Some debate about local schools came on, and I turned it off. Finally the SUV pulled away.
              I pushed on the gas and flipped open my phone and speed dialed Roy. He didn’t answer. As I merged onto Crosstown, I called again. “I did it,” I said.
              “Did what?”
              “The initiative. Just leaving the airport.” I told him about the Somalis, immigration, the luggage.
              “You really did it?” Roy asked.
              “Hell yeah, I did.”
              Nothing came from Roy’s end, and I pulled my phone from my ear to see if I still had a signal. “You there?” I asked.
              “Yeah, yeah.” Then nothing.
              “Roy?”
              “You really did it? They’ll be arrested. They have a kid.”
              “Good way for him to learn, right?” Again nothing. Again I looked at my phone. “This connection sucks. You coming over?”
              “I don’t think so, bro. Seeing Becca,” Roy said.
              I snapped the phone closed and punched the gas to pass a minivan. Old Yeller’s engine droned.
              At home, I let the door slam, grabbed a beer, and gunned it in the garden. I thought of the black powder but didn’t want to waste it, didn’t want to burn my own shit. I stomped on the can and picked the biggest green tomato, careful at first, prodding it from the stem, but it wouldn’t come loose. I yanked on it and bruised the tight fruit, the spot under my thumb pulpy and slack. I studied the spot, saw a weeping insect hole nearby where some bug had bored, the edges black. The beer’s aftertaste bittered in my mouth. I pulled back my arm and slammed the tomato against the fence. Not even the thwack of it against the dry rotted boards satisfied.

 
*
 

Heather E. Goodman grew up in the woods of Pennsylvania where her family raised raccoons, opossums, kids, and dogs. Her fiction has been published or is forthcoming in Shenandoah, Gray’s Sporting Journal, Hunger Mountain, The Crab Orchard Review, Minnesota Monthly, and the Chicago Tribune, where her story “His Dog” won the Nelson Algren Award. She lives in a log cabin along a creek in Pennsylvania with her husband Paul and pooch Zane.

What motivates her to create:
“Of course, creative motivation is everywhere: the wren’s scribble song, the magician’s skunk, the elk that got away. But broadly, there are two motivations I always come back to: one, to thank the people I love for the experiences they’ve given me, whether it’s butchering a deer or growing a hellebore. And two, to try to understand different perspectives. If I dismiss an unfamiliar point of view, I contribute to a problem. Through writing, through empathy, I try to riddle how a person might arrive at her belief system, try to figure out where that will lead her. I attempt to see how the world breaks a person and if there’s a way to unbreak her. If not, as in this story, I let her hang herself.”

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April 4th, 2014

Somber Fever

My plant is dying. There’s nothing I can do to change this fact. I’ve had her for three months. The first month her leaves were long and emerald, like painted fingernails. She shined with ebullience but mortality quickly seeped into her soil, turning her towards the rusty hue she has today. I’ve watered her. Trimmed and prayed. I’m not religious, but for her, I’ll fast until sunset. The praying hasn’t worked. Neither has the Miracle Grow. Soon, my plant will die, leaving me with an emptiness far too familiar.

1.

 
               My plant is dying. There’s nothing I can do to change this fact. I’ve had her for three months. The first month her leaves were long and emerald, like painted fingernails. She shined with ebullience but mortality quickly seeped into her soil, turning her towards the rusty hue she has today. I’ve watered her. Trimmed and prayed. I’m not religious, but for her, I’ll fast until sunset. The praying hasn’t worked. Neither has the Miracle Grow. Soon, my plant will die, leaving me with an emptiness far too familiar.

2.

 
Mom says, Talk to her, it helps to talk things out, not just with people but in life.
               So I tell my plant about my job as the receptionist at the insurance agency. I’ve memorized all the extensions in our mid-sized office and can dial them at a moment’s notice. Since I sit at the front desk, I welcome everyone who enters. The delivery boys drop off burgers and pizza for my coworkers. I smile at them. My coworkers scurry up to my desk to pick up the cheesesteaks they shouldn’t be eating. I smile at them too.
               I update her on the Middle East, so my plant can appreciate how easy her life is with me. We take walks around the apartment. This is the television—isn’t it big? That’s the bathtub where I take baths to relax. This is my bed where I sleep each night. Do you like the canopy? Isn’t the bedroom the most perfect fire orange? See how the couch is turquoise? Everything has color! Aren’t you glad you don’t live in Beirut or Tel Aviv?
               Don’t worry, I say to her, The Middle East is far away.
               She’s not worried. My plant never gets excited, weary, or cold. She just sits there, even when I mention the hang-ups at work, which I know are my ex, Johnny. He calls three times a day. Sometimes the calls occur in rapid succession, and the phone rings like thunder. Other times, he calls twice in the morning and I sit tense for the remainder of the day, because I know the third phone call’s coming, it just hasn’t happened yet. He never says anything when he calls but I can hear him breathing, steady and deep.
               Stop calling me! I sometimes scream. This is the reaction he desires, but I can’t help my hysterics. Johnny knows how to dig into me, down beneath the skin.
               I tell my plant all about Johnny and how at first he was scary in a way I liked, a way that excited me. I met him at the café where I worked. Writers and private tutors spent their days ordering coffee. Johnny walked in like a cowboy with a vendetta. His ink black hair, tan leather jacket, frayed jeans and fire orange boots rattled the café’s quiet, austere environment. He waltzed up to Sylvester, a tutor with a long frizzy ponytail, who was sitting at his regular table. The table had the best view of the park across the street.
               Are you almost done? Johnny asked.
               I’m waiting for my next student, Sylvester responded.
               Johnny pointed to Sylvester’s empty coffee cup, and said, It looks to me like you’re done. Johnny loomed over Sylvester, who sat too nervous to move. I was frozen myself—a coffee pot tilted in my hand, threatening to spill scalding Italian roast down my leg. If it had spilled, I wouldn’t have cared. The bubbling scar would have reminded me of that beautiful, angry man.
               When his student arrived, Sylvester escorted the boy to a table in the back. Johnny settled into his seat and snapped his fingers in my direction. I heard it like the crack of a whip and reflexively turned to look at Johnny. His eyes were tiny galaxies, resplendent and dying simultaneously. He pointed at an unused coffee mug, sitting on his table. I walked over and poured him some coffee.
               That wasn’t very nice, I said. My knees trembled. I feared he might take his hand and move it between my thighs. I hoped he would.
               I’m not always nice, he said and winked at me.
               The wink was affected. His smile was too. Everything about him—clothing, ragged fingernails, spiked hair, those boots—all affectations. The intensity of Johnny’s desire to appear damaged and destructive fascinated me. And for the next six months, I craved every part of him.
               I tell my plant how Johnny would lug home crates of records with melodies he thought I would like and would pore over thirty cookbooks to construct the perfect chicken Marsala recipe. Those were the moments when Johnny’s intensity endeared me. Other times, he checked the odometer in my car to see if the mileage was up more than the few miles it took to drive to my office or to my mother and Ronnie’s home. And if I threatened to break up with him, he’d graffiti his love for me across town so that I could see how destroyed he would be without me. Now that we don’t have to see Johnny anymore, I tell my plant how much better we are.
               After, I laugh into her leaves. I don’t want her to be sad and keep on dying, so I tell her jokes. The one about the peanut at the bar and the one with the elephant that had antlers. I flatter her; there are plants at work, even one that sits on my desk, but they aren’t nearly as pretty as she is. She sags her already drooping foliage, seemingly asking, Are you sure? You’re sure I look pretty?
               I say, You’re my plant and you’re gorgeous. My compliments don’t help. She keeps dying all the same.

3

 
My mom tells me to name her. She says, Give her individuality. Plants are like any life form; they require compassion.
               My mother has a vegetable garden that spawns produce every summer, so I trust her advice when it comes to plants.
               I decide to call my plant April. I got her in April. April is the month of my birthday, a month full of hope. But April is only a month long. So I name her Millennium instead. That way you’ll out live me, I explain. I call her Millie for short.

4

 
I don’t know how Johnny got the phone number at the insurance company where I work. The last time I saw him, I was still working at the plastic surgeon’s clinic. The week after I’d ended things with Johnny, a woman had checked in with a collapsed nose. She had asked the doctor if, when he reconstructed her nostrils, he could also remove the bump along the bridge. The surgery was successful. When she came to, the bump was gone. Her boyfriend and parents visited her in the recovery room, their smiles masking disappointment. She would forever look different from the woman they loved. I couldn’t imagine a sadder fate. After the patient was released, I put in my resignation.
               I remained unemployed for a month before I found the job at the insurance company. A week after I started, Johnny began calling the office. The first time he said, I miss you, then hung up. That was the only time he spoke. Now his deliberate breath fills the receiver. The sound is undeniably his.
               I’m not surprised that he found me. Johnny could find me if I was locked in the trunk of a car abandoned in the woods or if I was drowning at the bottom of the river. When I walk home alone, I pretend Johnny’s following me. That I have an infantry of one. But when he calls me at work, I remember that Johnny isn’t going to save me.

5

 
Mom tells me I need to relax. Plants come and go, she says. Maybe Millie can remind you how stable your life is.
               I work a job that bores me. I sit at a desk next to a plant that I hate, warding off an ex-boyfriend who won’t stop hanging up on me. If that’s what she means by stability, I want the rockiest life there is. Mom just shakes her head. That wasn’t what I meant, she says. She’s just a plant.
               No, she’s not. You should know that. You were the one who told me to name her. To feed her compassion! I can hear the desperation in my voice. I don’t care. Millie is dying; I am desperate. These are the stable elements of my life.
               Come on, mom says. If Millie dies we’ll buy you another plant. Don’t get exasperated over this. You’ve got a good job, a nice apartment. The rest comes with time.

6

 
Mom says, as a child, I took everything too seriously.
               It’s not good for a child to be so somber, she told me when I was seven. It sounded like a disease– somber fever– where your arms would fall off and your nose would turn blue. The thought terrified me; I pinched my nose all the time. Clamped my nostrils shut so my nose wouldn’t get too cold and turn blue. And I made a point of laughing often.
               What are you laughing at? My mom would ask.
               It’s none of your business, I’d say, then laugh harder. But my laugh lacked jolliness. The sort of hoho that one associates with politicians. I couldn’t laugh my way out of somber fever any more than I could skip my way free from chicken pox, something I had also attempted. Besides, forced laughter reminded me how far I was from being easygoing. So I stopped laughing and accepted my fate. Somber fever. I’d stand in front of the mirror and tuck my arms in my shirt, looking limbless.
               This is me when the fever sets in, I’d tell the girl in the mirror that I was destined to become.

7

 
I should have ended things with Johnny after he got me fired from the law firm. I was furious with him, but more so, relieved. I hated that job, and he knew it.
               The Sunday before I got fired, Johnny and I had a vicious fight. He’d torn one of the pillows on my couch. I showed up to work on Monday with puffy eyes and tattered hair. My boss muttered something about personal hygiene when she passed my desk.
               The first package arrived after lunch. Beneath layers of Styrofoam peanuts, it held a heart-shaped pillow, purple as an eggplant. I put the pillow next to my computer, knowing that, by day’s end, the sight would either infuriate or endear me. My boss glared at the pillow when she walked by. A few minutes later she called me into her office.
               If you can’t leave your personal life outside the office, she said, We are going to have serious problems. I nodded, telling her it wouldn’t happen again.
               An hour later I got a second delivery—stuffed crimson lips. Twenty minutes later another arrived. It continued all week. By Friday, hundreds pillows overtook the lobby. Each pillow apologized in its individual hue and shape. An aqua unicorn followed by a coral arrow. Johnny wouldn’t back down until I forgave him; I couldn’t help but be charmed by the force of his desire for my forgiveness.
               On Friday, my boss called me into her office again. This isn’t working, she said, pointing to the door. I grabbed as many pillows as I could carry and left to find Johnny.

8

 
I haven’t heard from Johnny in over two weeks. Did he forget about me? I ask Millie. Do you think, this time, he’s really disappeared?
               Millie’s leaves sag. She has no answer. But we’re better without Johnny. Without the phone calls. It’s just that he stopped calling so suddenly. Last Tuesday. When it was time to go home, I didn’t get up from my desk. I wasn’t sure what would happen if I walked outside without hearing from Johnny. Would the sidewalk collapse and trap me underground? Would I find Johnny standing outside my building with a can of canary yellow paint, ready to repaint my apartment and with it our relationship? Would there be a world outside my office walls if I left before hearing from Johnny?
               For three hours after the office closed, I sat, waiting for Johnny to call. The janitor vacuumed, dusted the lobby, and watered the plant on my desk. The night outside had fully darkened. I took the long way home, hoping a man might mug me and Johnny would busting out from behind a dumpster to give the guy a black eye.
               I arrived home unscathed. I had no messages. No flowers. No chocolates. No gallons of paint. Just my quiet apartment. And Mille. After watering Millie, we sat down on the couch. He’s gone, I said. He’s really gone. This should have made me happy.

9

 
The fact that Millie won’t stop dying makes me hopeless. How can I expect to control my life when I can’t even keep her alive?
               I don’t trim Millie too short or water her too much. These are common mistakes people make when they try to love their plants. I’ve joined chat rooms where Internet friends send me pictures of their plants. There’s Lila and her lily, Lily. I have a snapshot of Paul and his bonsai, Jean Claude Van Tree on my refrigerator. I send them pictures of me and Millie, snuggling on our couch and dining on our balcony.
               Lila says to hold the scissors at a forty-five degree angle when I cut Millie back. I send her a close-up of my scissors at forty-five degrees. Paul tells me to count to five as I water her, to ensure I’m giving her the same amount of water each time. I water her twice a week. I trim her once every ten days. They concur; I’m loving Millie just right.

10

 
My mom doesn’t understand why Mille is so important to me. I want to explain it to her, but she never liked Johnny and wouldn’t understand why I wanted to hold onto anything that connected me to him. But each day Millie continues to live is another declaration that I’m progressing to the next stage of my life. A stage without an explosive, irrational man. But I don’t tell my mom this. She’d comment on my somberness, the quality she locates as the root of all my problems.

11

 
Johnny bought Millie from a boy working at the county fair. The boy had the prettiest blond hair; I wanted to wrap a strand around my index finger and suck on it, tasting its golden perfection. Johnny watched me in the bumper car rink when I drove into the wall because I couldn’t stop looking at the boy’s luxurious locks. He noticed me stare at the boy while he had his fingers inside me on the Ferris wheel. I should have stopped looking, but I couldn’t. We exited the Ferris wheel, and I tried to hold Johnny’s hand. He pushed me away. Johnny’s face grew angular in the way that made him look like a tiger.
               What’s wrong? I asked.
               Nothing, he said, frowning. He brooded until his entire body fell stiff with rage. This wasn’t the mulling anger that made me want to pounce on him, but a jealousy deeper than any Johnny had previously displayed. Johnny circled the blond boy the way a cat encloses his prey. Don’t, I whispered. Don’t, I said loudly. Johnny didn’t flinch at the sound of my voice. He was so focused on the boy that I didn’t exist.
               Step right up, the boy shouted, oblivious to Johnny. Hit the bull’s-eye and win a prize. Hit it twice and win an even bigger prize.
               The prizes ranged from plants to stuffed animals to coupons for a free cotton candy at the stand next door.
               He repeated these sentences until someone came up, attempted to hit the bull’s-eye and failed. It looked easy, but it was a very small bull’s-eye.
               How about you? He called to Johnny. Want to try your hand at ar-till-er-y? He said artillery like he was a machine and I hoped that he was, that way he wouldn’t feel the pain Johnny was about to inflict upon him. Perhaps I should have gone over and dragged Johnny back to the car where I could kiss him until his anger subsided. But I didn’t. Although I didn’t realize it until later, I wanted to watch Johnny torture that beautiful blond creature; I needed to witness the entirety of his brutality.
               The boy held the rifle out, but Johnny reached out instead to take hold of his golden hair.
               How much for the plant? Johnny shouted, tugging at a fistful of the boy’s hair.
               It’s not for sale, the boy said, You have to win it.
               Johnny yanked harder. The boy screamed a high-pitched yelp like he might faint.
               Am I winning? Johnny asked.
               After a few tugs from Johnny’s strong mitt, he gave Johnny the plant for the price of two games. As Johnny walked towards me, looking like he’d just won a home-run derby, the boy collapsed to the ground, hyperventilating. His feeble expression made him even more beautiful. I wanted to spit on Johnny’s stupid orange boots for what he’d done.
               Johnny handed me the plant but I wouldn’t take it. That wasn’t nice, I said. Johnny forced the plant into my hand.
               I’m not always nice, he said and kissed me with his wide-open mouth.

12

 
Maybe I’m killing Millie not because of how I water or trim her but on account of my demeanor. I try to laugh into her. I do. But I’m either dragging my feet around our apartment; rushing to work in dress clothes that don’t fit me; or returning home too tired to do anything but watch television. On the weekends, I try to do fun things with Millie. We brunch on my balcony and read stories about countries we will never travel to.
               Millie enjoys the stories from abroad but pales when I show her pictures of the Eifle Tower or the Taj Mahal. Images of Stonehenge remind her that she’s never even seen the sidewalk beneath our apartment building, let alone the English countryside. So I walk her to the front of our building and point to a window on the second floor. That’s us, I tell Millie. Our building is no Versaille even though it’s called Le Chateau. The paint is chipped around the windows, and the front door creaks when opened.
               Don’t worry, Millie. We’ll move up and out of this.
               We walk towards downtown, and I show her the apartment building we’ll move into once I get a raise and the three-bedroom Victorian house we will buy when I’ve decided on a career that supports down-payments. When we reach the park, we sit on the bench that faces the coffee shop where I used to work. It’s bustling. Sylvester sits at his regular table, his ponytail flapping against his back as he nods at a student.
               See, I say to Millie. We’re already on our way.
               We sit in the park until the sun sets. Millie grows nervous on the walk back and, instead of telling her that Johnny will come to our rescue, I say, I’ll protect you Millie.
 
Millie’s leaves are cold by the time we get home. I breathe my hot breath over her until she’s warm. We settle on the couch to watch the evening news. Millie’s leaves look greener than I’ve seen them in months. They are no longer brown, but yellow. Images of Iraq fill the screen. The Middle East, I say. Millie’s leaves grow lime. She appreciates her life with me.

13

 
When we got back to my apartment after the fair, I told Johnny we didn’t fit.
               He held me tight against his chest. You seem to fit right here, he said.
               And I guess that was the problem; I did. My head fell snug into the hollow of his clavicle. I pushed him away from me. From a few feet, I had to strain my neck to look into his eyes. At that distance, we didn’t fit at all. No, I said. We don’t.
               I made him leave but he stayed outside my door the entire night, muttering to himself. A week earlier I would have opened the door, and we would have spent the night on the couch, holding each other like we never wanted to part. A week ago, that would have made me feel safe. But watching him bully the blond boy didn’t attract me; it didn’t make me feel safe. And it wasn’t because the incident was out of character for Johnny. It was just that, we all have our limits, and I realized that this was mine.
               In the morning before he left, Johnny kicked my door. The mark of his shoe is still etched into the paint. I tried to wash it away, but the imprint proves too deep. After that he was gone. I didn’t hear from him for a month. I quit my job at the cosmetic surgery firm and began anew. Until the phone calls at the insurance agency started, I couldn’t believe how fully he had disappeared.
               Millie, though that wasn’t her name yet, was sitting on my coffee table. There was a dark ring around the bottom of her pot. Her leaves sagged, and she needed water. She looked in worse shape than I did. I thought, I should throw you away. I didn’t want any connection to Johnny. But reminders of him were everywhere in my apartment. He had convinced me to paint my bedroom the same shade of orange as his boots and had given me a teapot with Love, Johnny stenciled on the handle. I wasn’t going to repaint my apartment—I liked the orange too much. And even if I did throw the teapot away, my new, unmarked teapot would be the one that replaced the pot Johnny had bought me. If I got rid of everything in my apartment, the vacant space would prove an even stronger reminder of him. I wouldn’t forget Johnny just by throwing Millie away.

14

 
When the first frost hits I tell Millie that we’re ready for a change. Johnny hasn’t called us in over two months. I carry her to the thrift shop and we buy a 1960’s wool pea coat with rabbit trim along the cuffs. The fur is white and soft. All afternoon, I wear the coat, rubbing the fur against Millie’s leaves until we realize that we’re comforting ourselves with the softness of an animal that was killed fifty years ago. We throw the coat in the trash. Instead, we go to the department store where there are racks of coats. They come short and long. Down, wool, and fur. Millie likes the camel wool pea coat but it’s too similar to the one we’ve just thrown away. I insist on down. It’s the warmest, other than fur, but Millie and I do not like fur. We agree. Millie steers me away from black.
               No more black, her greening leaves warn me.
               On the far rack, against the wall there is a coat so royal blue it makes me choke. Millie’s leaves perk as we approach. This is our coat.
               On the walk home, we pass a paint store and turn around to go inside. We choose two gallons of mint eggshell. Mint is more calming than orange. Our new down coat is ideal for winter. These are sensible choices. We’re working on being sensible.
 

*

 
Amy Meyerson is a writer living in Los Angeles. She teaches writing at the University of Southern California and is currently at work on her first novel.

What motivates her to create:
“As I get older, most of my motivation to create comes from those rare moments of complete connection with those around me. A great conversation inspires like nothing else.” 

The unimprovable date to resolve any problem is before any visible sign only appear. Mercifully, there are web-sites where you can buy treatment options effortlessly. What can we buy in online pharmacies? There are anticonvulsants. It affects chemicals in the body that are involved in the cause of some types of pain. There are remedies only for children. If you’re concerned about erectile malfunction, you perhaps already know about how fast does cialis work. What patients talk about how long does it take for cialis 20mg to work? The symptoms of sexual disorders in men include failure to have any erection. Sexual diseases often signal serious problems: low libido or erectile dysfunction may hide a heavy health problem such as heart trouble. Sometimes men who take street drugs like marijuana find it awkward to get an erection and turn to erectile dysfunction medicines for a temporary solution. Once you’ve studied the basics about men’s erectile disfunction from us, you may want to see what other reputable websites have to say. The most common potentially serious side effects of such medicaments like Cialis is stuffy or runny nose. Tell your pharmacist if you have any unwanted side effect that does not go away. Absolutely, online apothecary can lightly help you for solving your all personal problems.

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February 13th, 2014

The List

Winter nights in New York harbor the kind of cold that skips your skin and goes straight to your bones, as if its eternal purpose is to numb your soul. Standing by the darkened road retrieving the mail conveniently forgotten about for three days, it’s unusually quiet. There is nothing and yet… something Always something.

                   Winter nights in New York harbor the kind of cold that skips your skin and goes straight to your bones, as if its eternal purpose is to numb your soul. Standing by the darkened road retrieving the mail conveniently forgotten about for three days, it’s unusually quiet. There is nothing and yet… something. Always something.

                   The hinges of the mailbox squeak as I close it. Holding the envelopes in my hand, I think about my “to do” list and its length. It’s strange how things can seem exceedingly overwhelming until you’ve written them down in a list. “Check Mail.” After crossing something off the list, sometimes I feel stupid for even writing it down in the first place… “Assemble Desk.” As if it were an easy task to forget that I’m typing on the floor. Another day… another list, I’ll assemble the desk tomorrow.

                  I sit on the porch. The cold doesn’t bother me. A man walks by alone. I notice he’s wearing army fatigues and carrying a tattered backpack. Home for the holidays? Maybe. When he sees me, he slows his pace and takes a moment to smile. We make eye contact for a moment and I return his smile. I say, “How are you.” He says what he’s supposed to, “Good, and you?” I wonder if he’s really good. I respond the way I’m supposed to, “Good, thanks.” No one wants to hear the real answers to those types of questions. They don’t want to hear about your torn cartilage, or how you watched the nurse call the police on a suicidal client. Politeness is an acceptable form of hypocrisy. I’m a hypocrite. So is he.
 

***

 
                  Later, I’m sitting on the floor because my desk is still in a box, and I remember the man I saw earlier. I remember first his clothes. I wonder why they’re called fatigues. I think they’re named appropriately. Fatigue. Weary. Exhausted. I can’t envision fighting a war that I’m supposed to win, when my clothes are already telling me how tired I am. I remember his eyes. They were brown. Our gazes locked only for a moment, but it was enough. In his eyes, I saw his clothes.

                  My desk is still in the box. I get dressed for work. My clothes are supposed to say stable, or functioning, something like that. I still think of the soldier. I remember his tattered backpack. I wonder what was in his backpack as I grab mine. Maybe we have something similar in them. My bag isn’t tattered. His bag says the same thing as his clothes. Worn out.
 

***

 
                  “I take the desk parts out of the box. All twenty-five pieces are lying on the floor. I’ll do the rest later. Back on the list… “Assemble Desk.

                  “How’s the desk coming?” Stephanie asks me.

                  “In pieces. How’s your cold?” I ask.

                  “A little better.” She says.

                  “That’s good.” I respond.

                  She doesn’t really care about my desk. She’ll get over her cold. These are the things people say when they want to reassure the other person that they’re paying attention to their lives. It’s polite. Stephanie is a hypocrite. So am I.
 

***

 
                  Thanksgiving was yesterday. My Mom is outside stringing up Christmas decorations. The desk is still on the floor.

                  “Why aren’t you helping me?” She asks.

                  “You didn’t ask me to.” I say.

                  “Why is your desk still on the floor?” Why does everyone keep asking me that?

                  “Why rush? I don’t have anything to put on it anyway,” I tell her.

                  “You’re computer is on the floor.” She reminds me.

                  “I know. It doesn’t mind.” I say.

                  “Jackass,” My Mom says with a smile. I like her sense of humor.

                  “Joey is coming over later. He’ll want to see your room.” She tells me.
 

***

 
                  I go upstairs and stare at the pieces of desk on my floor. The box tells me it weighs two-hundred and nineteen pounds. This is going to be a blast.
 

***

 
                  “Sissa, book? Pen?” Joey asks me. I smile. The smartest two-year old I’ve ever met. I notice his pants. Army fatigues. I remember the soldier’s brown eyes. Joey looks up at me. His eyes are brown, too. They’re different. I don’t see his clothes in his eyes. Joey is never tired.
 

***

 
                  We sit at the new desk, Joey’s warm little body perched on my knee, and we draw together.

                  “Sissa, Daddy!” He exclaims proudly as he points at a big circle he just made on the paper.

                  “Great job, buddy! How about we draw Mommy?” I grin at him. Joey continues to draw circles, and small shapes. He’s focused. His pen slips off the paper and makes a mark on my new desk. I smile. I reach over to the list lying on the shelf and cross off, “Assemble Desk.

 

*

 

Melissa Marino grew up just outside of New York City, spending most of her formative years outdoors creating wild ghost hunts with neighborhood kids, setting booby-traps to capture unwitting family members, and building clubhouses on top of ten-foot walls. Melissa wrote her first story at the age of twelve and titled it “Circles of Friendship.” Through the years, Melissa has written several short stories and poems, all of which met the wrath of the “Not Good Enough” monster and ended in fiery demise.
 
Melissa regained her confidence when she began writing scholarly articles and research theses on her first trip through graduate school. It took several years for her to break the habit of the formal writing that marred her creativity. An additional Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing was Melissa’s biggest support in this. Melissa writes primarily sci-fi/fantasy, paranormal romance, and young adult stories.

What motivates her to create:
“My dreams. I’ve had vivid dreams since I was a kid. Of characters, adventures, and wild scenarios that, when I wake up in the morning I say, ‘Someone might find entertainment in this!’ Or ‘wouldn’t that be nice to share?’ Once I start a project though, the motivation falls in its completion, especially with writing. It’s haunting. I bleed when I write, I bleed when I don’t write. I’m in a constant state of hemorrhage until a project is complete. There’s nothing more fulfilling than writing, ‘the end.'”

The perfect time to resolve any problem is before any visible sign only appear. Mercifully, there are web-sites where you can buy treatment options effortlessly. What can we buy in online pharmacies? There are anticonvulsants. It affects chemicals in the body that are involved in the cause of some types of pain. There are remedies only for children. If you’re concerned about erectile malfunction, you perhaps already know about how fast does cialis work. What patients talk about how long does it take for cialis 20mg to work? The symptoms of sexual disorders in men include failure to have any hard-on. Sexual diseases often signal serious problems: low libido or erectile disfunction may hide a heavy soundness problem such as soul trouble. Sometimes men who take street drugs like marijuana find it awkward to get an erection and turn to erectile dysfunction medicines for a temporary solution. Once you’ve studied the basics about men’s erectile dysfunction from us, you may want to see what other reputable websites have to say. The most common potentially serious side effects of such medicaments like Cialis is stuffy or runny nose. Tell your dispenser if you have any unwanted side effect that does not go away. Absolutely, online pharmacy can lightly help you for solving your all personal problems.

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