The MFA in Creative Writing Program at Manhattanville College

May 21st, 2016

Guruji

“Will all those who have not done their homework, please stand up,” said Naithaniji in his deep gravelly voice. A bolt of cold terror ran down Murli Prasad’s back. Not only had he not done his homework, he also did not know how to say that in English, which he knew from experience, was going …

“Will all those who have not done their homework, please stand up,” said Naithaniji in his deep gravelly voice. A bolt of cold terror ran down Murli Prasad’s back. Not only had he not done his homework, he also did not know how to say that in English, which he knew from experience, was going to be Guruji’s next request. He was absolutely right. “Those standing will now tell me why they haven’t completed their homework,” Guruji’s voice was cold and he was menacingly stroking the thin cane in his hand.

It was a time to test friendships. While Guruji turned his back to the class to spit the remains of the betel nut in his mouth into the dustbin, Murli whispered urgently to Ajay sitting next to him. “Batha, jaldi batha,” he growled, “homework nahin kiya ko angrezi mein kya kehte hain”. (Tell me quick, how you say you haven’t done your homework in English).“I did not do my home work,” Ajay whispered back, wiping his running nose with the back of his frayed sweater sleeve while pretending to be deeply engrossed in the English textbook open on his desk. A smart move since Guruji had turned back to the class again and was wiping his white moustache (that had acquired a fine spray of red from the chewed supari whose remnants he had so deftly deposited in the bin). “Yes Murli? ” he asked, prowling around Murli’s desk like a bagh in the forest. Murli was getting confused. He and his mother had come to live in Jaiharikhal with his father who was a soldier in the Army, only recently. Back in the village, he had never been exposed to spoken English. He could write the alphabets and do the A for Apple, B for Boy routine quite well if there was a picture book at hand. But speaking full sentences was a formidable task. “I d-d-d …I do not do my homework,” he mumbled, trying desperately to remember the sequence of words. The cane had landed on his bottom before the sentence ended. “You village bumpkins, you squat on stones to shit. You think you can be like the English? Angrez kursi pe baith ke hagte hain (the English sit on chairs to shit),” Naithaniji growled, moving on to pop some more supari into his mouth. Murli Prasad was allowed to sit down on his sore backside. He immediately got into a hushed discussion with Ajay about what the toilets of the English would look like and how difficult it must be to shit in a formal sitting position.

Other than his English class, he was enjoying school. The boys were rosy cheeked and friendly and often came to class in slippers and pyjamas, which made Murli feel quite at home. That mother had washed their grey school trousers and they had not dried yet was a good enough excuse to not be in uniform. Jaiharikhal was a cold place and Guruji knew that none of the families could afford to get more than one school trouser stitched for their children. As long as you had some parts of your uniform in place, no punishments were meted out. While some of the boys wore pyjamas with school shirts, ties and sweaters; others teamed uniform pants with their home pullovers. Some even came wearing their older siblings’ footwear, either having broken the straps of their slippers playing football or not being able to find one of the pair in a hurry to get to school before the assembly bell rang. Many of the girls wore skirts with hems let out term after term, the faded stitch line showing just how much they had grown.

While Guruji got very upset with incorrect English, he was quite understanding about shabby dressing. In fact, he endorsed it. Often he would himself come to class in a pullover that was gently unraveling from the back where he had caught it on a lose nail sticking out of his chair in the classroom. In fact, most of Naithaniji’s clothes had a tear at the back from the nail, which acted as a sort of indication that he was the class teacher for standard five.

Whatever be his animosity towards the English language and Naithaniji’s cane, Murli bore no malice towards his teacher. In fact, one day he decided to put an end to the nail’s evil acts. He got hold of the heavy class duster and was in the process of hammering the wicked nail poking out of the class teacher’s chair in with some hearty knocks when Naithaniji walked in and caught him by the ear, suspecting that he was up to some trick. While Murli was too tongue tied to explain what he was doing (he also could not say it in English) the best student in class explained his attempted good deed and made Naithaniji take off his sweater to show him the tear the nail had made.

“Thank you my, boy,” a visibly touched Naithaniji said to Murli, letting go of the ear he was holding, “I’m sorry.” “Menshon nat, guruji,” Murli declared, blushing as pink as the tip of his pinched ear. “Not. Pronounce that as ‘naught’”, smiled Guruji, correcting him gently. That was the first time Naithaniji had smiled at him. For Murli the sun came out from behind the clouds and sent a warm ray right into the classroom where he was standing next to his English teacher.

Thereafter, Murli Prasad started liking his English class. He learnt that instead of “My come in Sir,” he had to say “May I come in Sir”. What he thought was “Omlette” was in fact “I am late”. And if he rephrased “May I do toilet?” just a bit and instead asked: “May I go to the toilet?” it made Naithaniji so much happier.

On his way to school, a five kilometer walk from his house, Murli would sometimes catch the maroon of Naithaniji’s pullover far ahead in a turn on the road. He would sling his bag across his back, sprint along the hillside, and clamber up the slopes, getting wisps of fern and fallen pine leaves caught in his hair, to catch up with his English teacher. Breathless and red nosed from the early morning run in the cold, he would greet Naithaniji with “Namaste Guruji,” adding a “Good Morning Sir” for good measure. The two would then walk together in companionable silence listening to the rustle of the wind up in the Pine trees and the piercing “Kafal pako, mil na chakho” (the kafal fruit has ripened but I didn’t taste it) of the hill bird, hidden in the thicket somewhere. They would watch the white flecked Whistling Thrush hop across the track and see the snow covered Dhauladhar ranges far in the distance changing colour in the sunlight on a clear day. Sometimes, they would come upon a patch of wild flowers and Murli would point them out because he had come to love the verse Guruji would break into.

“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils.”

Murli did not know what daffodils looked like and when he asked guruji, he didn’t either. “They grow in England Murli. Maybe when you grow up you will go there and see them some day. I know I never will. But that doesn’t matter, I’m sure they are as pretty as the yellow marigolds we have growing in our town”.

Many years passed. Murli cleared his civil services exams and interview (in English) and joined the External Affairs Ministry. On his first posting to Birmingham, he came across a clutch of golden yellow flowers growing along the bank of the Edgbaston Reservoir. Next to them was a signboard that read: Please don’t pluck daffodils. Murli stared at them for almost an eternity. He looked beyond the still blue waters to the narrow mud track that turned along the edge of the lake. He thought he could see a man with a familiar shuffling walk and an old maroon pullover with a rip in the back, darned with a mismatched thread. If he could have, he would have run after that fading figure and pulled at his elbow, where the sleeve sagged a bit. Instead, he just blinked to clear the wetness in his eyes that was blurring his vision. “Look Guruji, daffodils,” he said to himself, gently reaching out to touch a yellow petal.

Naithaniji had passed away many years back making his final journey in a bier lifted by his sons. There had been yellow marigold flowers scattered on the white sheet covering his body.

*

Rachna Bisht Rawat is a full time mom and part time writer. She lives in Delhi with her husband Manoj, teenage son Saransh the Wise and a crazy overgrown Golden Retriever – Huzoor, which (roughly translated from Urdu) means, Your Highness.

What motivates her to create?
I was a quiet, shy, introvert in my childhood. Scared and insecure. When I started writing I realised it gave me the gifts of confidence, perception, happiness and the ability to make friends, if only in my stories. Slowly these qualities started seeping into my personality. Writing comes naturally to me. If I didn’t write, I doubt I would be as happy and content as I am now.

The ideal 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 hurt. 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 health 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 drugstore can lightly help you for solving your all personal problems.

Minimize
May 20th, 2016

2 poems

Reading Ravensbruck These women suffered Unimaginable brutality. Kicks, Floggings, standing hours in icy rain, subsisting On rutabaga soup and ersatz coffee. Shot for amusement or for talking To a friend or for praying. Gassed In groups. The hellishness torments me Like a bird of prey ripping A rabbit into bits. A friend says at her …

Reading Ravensbruck

These women suffered
Unimaginable brutality. Kicks,
Floggings, standing hours in icy rain, subsisting
On rutabaga soup and ersatz coffee.
Shot for amusement or for talking
To a friend or for praying. Gassed
In groups. The hellishness torments me
Like a bird of prey ripping
A rabbit into bits. A friend says at her age
She reads for enjoyment. But these things
Happen again and again. These women,
Many of them couldn’t believe they would be taken
Or that their destination was not another camp
But a grave. Some smiled and waved
From the truckbed. One Polish girl
Pointed skyward. She would have turned these pages
Of despair just as I do thinking knowledge
Could be a defense
Against the future. It is the future:
Boats full of refugees are sinking,
Families shot in their beds,
Girls abducted from school rooms,
Children taught to slaughter.
All these printed words can’t capture
One moment of happiness or surcease,
Yet some of the women marched singing
To the lethal showers, some of them
Holding hands.

No Trophies of the Sun
After Hart Crane

Splashes of light beneath the trees
Migrate like birds in a forecast
Of instinct and pressing time

Which repeats itself like words
Misunderstood in the common tongue
Of dailyness. What we expect

Is what we think we earn.
So no surprise that flowers overnight
Will take us in white arms

As if engaged with lilies.
The coffin-haunted blooms
Engulf the rooms of people

Who dust the shelves and pour
Coffee into morning mugs. Who wait
For each day to imitate the other.

*

Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review,etc. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She has published 16 books including Selected Poems” from FutureCycle Press which received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize and “Ribcage” from Glass Lyre Press which has been awarded the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. She has two books forthcoming in 2016 and 2017. One of her poems is among the winners of the 2016 Atlantic Review International Poetry Contest. Colby is also a senior editor of FutureCycle Press and an associate editor of Kentucky Review.

What motivates her to create?
I’ve been writing poetry and fiction all my life. Insofar as poetry is concerned, my chief motivation is that I hope the poem will reveal something to me that I didn’t previously know.

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 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 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.

Minimize
May 17th, 2016

1 poem

Going Nowhere It’s a glitch in the cell towers, signals flitting about in the air like gnats; people trace their filched phones to a green, clapboard country house. They arrive red-faced, raging. Sometimes they bring the police, pound with fists to get in, don’t believe the man that opens the door only to mumble, mistake. …

Going Nowhere

It’s a glitch in the cell towers,
signals flitting about in the air like gnats;
people trace their filched phones
to a green, clapboard country house.
They arrive red-faced, raging.
Sometimes they bring the police,
pound with fists to get in,
don’t believe the man that opens the door
only to mumble, mistake. No one wants
to think, mistake. One time, the police tracked
a kidnapped girl’s phone to that home,
forced those who lived there
to stand outside while they searched.

Like the misdirection when you and I
talked and it felt as if we had tried for too many
years, and we agreed to try harder, hoping
for peace. I thought I had heard
something real. I didn’t want to think
I’d made a mistake,
its buildup of ceasefire impossibility.
Though then, no one pounded on the door.
No one was of interest to the police.
No one cried, but rage was everywhere.
No one ever acknowledged jurisdiction.

*

Susana H. Case’s newest book is 4 Rms w Vu (Mayapple Press, 2014). Author of four full-length poetry collections and four chapbooks, including The Scottish Café which was re-released in a Polish-English version, Kawiarnia Szkocka, by Opole University Press, she is a Professor at the New York Institute of Technology.

What motivates her to create?
I was taught at an early age that creativity was more important than money, than a fancy car, than many material things that often motivate people. Writing isn’t the only activity that makes me feel alive, but it is up there in importance to me.

The unimprovable 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 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 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 malfunction 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.

Minimize
May 14th, 2016

2 photos

“A Boy in Dark Glasses at Night”   “U”   A poet, visual poet, artist, essayist and playwright working in New York and Washington, DC, John Vieira’s art and visual poems have been exhibited at museums and galleries internationally, including Artpool Art Research Center (Budapest), the Pace-McGill Gallery (New York), and “The Golden Jubilee National …

A Boy in Dark Glasses at night

“A Boy in Dark Glasses at Night”

 

U

“U”

 

A poet, visual poet, artist, essayist and playwright working in New York and Washington, DC, John Vieira’s art and visual poems have been exhibited at museums and galleries internationally, including Artpool Art Research Center (Budapest), the Pace-McGill Gallery (New York), and “The Golden Jubilee National Festival of Arts and Culture” (Kumasi, Ghana), and can be found in many special collections, including The Sackner Archive of Visual and Concrete Poetry (Miami). An entry on his career with a specimen of work appears in A Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes, 2nd ed. (New York, Schirmer Books, 2000).

What motivates him to create:
Creating is a means for me to be ecstatic which I find an important element to constantly be re-introducing into life, to give me relief from my egocentricity (which is otherwise what is usually mostly operating in my living). Our society tends to think of “ecstasy” as being “high”, but the etymology of this word suggests a more fundamental meaning: “to stand outside”, or, as I’m saying here, “to be outside of oneself”. And anyone who creates knows this feeling (when you get out of the way and the work mysteriously comes together almost on its own), and if, in the making of a work, we’re true to the allowing of this to the best of our capability moment to moment, then, subsequently, others reading / viewing / or otherwise appreciating that work may also–to whatever degree–enter into the ecstasy that hopefully inheres in it (and of which their egos probably also need that same enjoyment and relief).

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 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 malfunction 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.

Minimize
April 29th, 2016

Winter Haven

The sun is coming up now, its first light a promise of warmth. It’s probably a lie, though. I’ve lived here long enough to know that the cold will fight off the day, that the snow won’t melt, that the icicles hanging from the gutters ain’t going anywhere.

The sun is coming up now, its first light a promise of warmth. It’s probably a lie, though. I’ve lived here long enough to know that the cold will fight off the day, that the snow won’t melt, that the icicles hanging from the gutters ain’t going anywhere.
Darla is still asleep. She won’t wake until I’m making lunch. Which is fine by me.
It’s cold in the bathroom. I lean one hand against the wall and hold myself with the other while I piss. It takes forever.
I want to crawl back into bed but I pull on my wool socks, my thermals and the cleanest pair of jeans I can find then make my way to the kitchen. There are still some embers in the wood stove so I shove a few logs in on top of the crumpled sports section. The paper catches and the flames march across it in a steady advance. I close the stove door, drop the latch and hold my hands over top of it.
It ain’t like this down there in Florida. In Florida they got palm trees. Here it’s just snow. Here it’s just two chairs at the eating table. I got half a mind to put the third one out, just to remember how things used to be. That wouldn’t change nothing though.
The birdfeeder out back is empty. Two sparrows with white stripes on their heads are scratching at the frozen ground below it. A cardinal lands on the perch, looks at the empty tray and flies away.
We keep the birdseed in the shed. We keep it there because it attracts mice and we can’t have that in the house. At least that’s what Darla says. I say bullshit. Put it in Tupperware on the top shelf of the pantry. But Darla’s not having none of that.
The cold stings. My breath freezes in my lungs as I walk along the path I’ve shoveled in the snow. The shed is locked. Seventeen, twelve, thirty-six. I pull down on the lock and it comes undone. It’s warmer in the shed. The wind is blocked but still the cold comes in through the building’s seams.
I turn on the electric heater. It hums. The coils glow. It’s old and very likely will burn down the shed one day. The lantern throws shadows against the walls. I pick up a wrench and hang it in its spot. Darla hates the shed. She says it smells. She says nothing’s in place. She says rodents nest in the walls. I love the shed. It smells. Nothing’s in place. Rodents nest in the walls.
I’ve come to get birdseed. I tell myself that but instead I lift up a floorboard and retrieve a shoebox and set it on the bench. My hands are shaking. It’s the cold. I crack the door. The house is quiet. There are no lights on.
I return to the shoebox. I breath in, the air now warmer, thanks to the heater. I grasp the lid. I close my eyes.
Darla won’t wake until I’m making lunch.
She’ll want me to make her bacon and eggs. I’ll say you know where they are you make them. She’ll yell at me and call me an ungrateful bastard. She’ll throw something. I’ll cave and make her eggs and bacon. I’ll remind her later, at night, when we’re both in bed, I’ll remind her what I did for her and ask her to repay the favor. Maybe she will. Probably she won’t. I’ll beg but it won’t matter.
The shoebox is held together by tape. The lid has lost two of its sides. I run my hand along the top. I look out the door again. The house is still dark. There are no birds under the feeder.
I should just put the shoebox back. Instead I lock the shed door from the inside. I open the box and pull out the pictures. It’s kind of silly, I know, because I’ve looked at them so much that if I were an artist I could paint them with my eyes shut. The wave of her hair, the dimple of her smile. The hand on her shoulder.
It’s all that’s in the shoebox. Three pictures. One held together with tape.
Outside there’s a noise and I drop the picture and run to the door, put my ear against it. The metal is cold. My breath hangs in the air. I hear nothing. Darla is still sleeping. She won’t wake till I’m making lunch.
I pace a couple times. My daddy used to do that same thing. The apple falls where it does. I pick up the picture that’s been taped all over. Tape nowadays don’t yellow like it use to. I run a finger along it. Sometimes I think when I do this she’ll come to life, just show up right there in my shed. I know it’s no good to think that but sometimes I think it anyway.
I push down on the floorboard that’s in front of the workbench. I pull out a different shoebox. Inside there’s an ad I’ve ripped out of one of those magazines Darla used to subscribe to. It’s a woman in a bra. She’s not a supermodel or anything. She’s just a damn fine looking woman. I think, when I first saw her this is what I thought, that she looks like the kind of woman I would have married if I hadn’t married Darla so I ripped it out and stuck it in my shoebox. It’s an old picture, but I don’t care. I’m old now too.
I set it aside and pick up the other ads I’ve ripped out of magazines. They’re paper clipped together. I take the paper clip off and set it on the bench. I walk over to the door and open it a few inches. This spooks some snowbirds and they fly off into the shrubs I planted with Amanda. The house is still dark. Darla won’t wake till I’m making lunch. I shut the door again and slide the deadbolt into place.
The ad on the top of the pile has a girl wearing one of those skimpy bikinis. She’s on a beach in Tahiti. The sun is shining. The sand is white. The water is light blue. There ain’t snow everywhere. The next couple of pages are a paid advertisement section I ripped out of a magazine I stole from the doctor’s office. It’s one of them infomercials but printed and not on the tv. It’s all about Polk County Florida. They got a place called Winter Haven there. A fellow could buy himself a trailer and live there and never have to light a stove first thing after he waked and pissed. There’s a phone number for a real estate person. I know it by heart. One day I’ll call it. Twenty-five hundred dollars could start me out just fine down there, in a trailer in Polk County.
I feel guilty thinking this and I look back at the taped together picture. This is the picture I had under my mattress. She’s eight years old, looking up like she’s looking at angels. Darla found it one day and ripped it up and beat on me. The doc said he thought my ribs were broken but I said that they probably was just cracked. That was the only time I ever hit her back. Punched her in the eye. Knocked her down. I hadn’t never hit anyone before. It didn’t feel good.
Darla said if the good Lord were going to take our little Amanda away she weren’t going have reminders of her all over the place. Not in her house. So after that there weren’t any pictures of her anywhere. Except for the three I kept.
I put the lids on both of the boxes and set them to the side. It’s starting to get warm in the shed but the stove in the house probably needs another log so I go back to the house. The sun is higher now. It reflects on the ice that coats the porch railing. I throw in a few more logs and then peek into the bedroom. Darla’s sleeping on her back. Her mouth is wide open. She won’t wake until later, when I’m making lunch.
I go back to the shed and lock the door and slide back the third floorboard. This is where I keep the moneybox. I got it from KMarts back when they was Walmart. Darla gives me twenty dollars every week to spend. It’s all inside this box.
I set the box on the bench and unlock it. I go back over to the deadbolt and give it another shove to make sure. I put this week’s twenty in the box then unfold the piece of paper I keep inside the box. I do the math. It’s easy. Two thousand, three hundred and eighty. I erase the old number and write the new one. I’m so close. I can feel the Florida sun on my face. It’s bright and it’s warm. I look directly into it. I close my eyes. It’s still bright. But there’s a black spot to the side. It’s always there.
I pick up a worn newspaper clipping. Johnstone’s Memorials. I cut it out of the Courier the day after Amanda passed. My company gave me ten thousand dollars to help pay for the service and what not. The headstone would have only cost two thousand five hundred. We had enough left over. We had plenty but damn her to hell, Darla wouldn’t have none of it. She weren’t going to waste good money on a headstone. God knew what He’d done. We didn’t need to make no monument for it.
But damn her to hell. Amanda deserves better. The snow covers her plaque. She looks so lonely. And I almost got enough to buy a proper headstone. I don’t give no care to Darla what she would think about it. It’s my money. She ever actually get out to the graveyard she might have some words for me. Maybe even give some bruises. But damn her to hell, Darla Jeannette Jones.
In six weeks my moneybox will have twenty-five hundred dollars inside of it.
I set all the boxes in their spots. I put the floorboards back. I pull the deadbolt and slide the door open. Long shadows cross my path. I walk out into the snow and hold my arms up. I’m in Winter Haven. There’s no aches in my joints. There’s no snow to be shoveled. There’s a girl in a bikini. I’m no fool, I know she ain’t looking at me, old coot that I am. But still, she’s there. The world spins around me. Palm trees go by but then I’m at Amanda’s grave. She needs dignity. Ain’t nobody should be treated like a dog, being buried without no proper headstone. Sometimes I imagine she’d say Go to Florida, Poppy. Spend that money on a trailer. I don’t need no proper headstone. Do what makes you happy. But no eight-year old girl ever talked like that.
I go inside. I pull the bedroom door shut. I stand by the stove. I put a pot on the burner. I go to the parlor and look at the third chair. I pick it up. It’s rickety. I put it down and go back to the kitchen without it. Soon I’ll make some porridge and eat the last of the donuts I’ve been hiding from Darla. She won’t know no different. She won’t get up till I’m making lunch.

*

John Bartell is an East Coast transplant who has resided in Fort Worth, Texas for the past fifteen years. Though he still hasn’t broken down and got himself a cowboy hat or a big old pickup truck, he has taken a fancy to Shiner Bock and the Austin music scene. He’s a winner of the Weatherford College Canis Latran Writing Contest and has short stories published in Sanitarium Magazine and in A. Lee Martinez’s Strange Afterlives Anthology. He has served two years as the president of the DFW Writer’s Workshop and is currently working on his second novel in between earning his keep as a microbiologist, which is probably the most glamorous job a person could have.

What motivates him to create:
He’s inspired to write because he has an unquenchable drive to express the beauty and the pain that defines our world, but also, and probably pretty much closer to the truth, it’s mainly to get the girl, which has worked out pretty well so far.

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 hurt. 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 disfunction may hide a heavy health 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 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 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.

Minimize
April 22nd, 2016

Bees

It was blazing hot the morning of Great-grandma’s funeral. I was eight years old.

It was blazing hot the morning of Great-grandma’s funeral. I was eight years old. Bees tap-tapped into the screen door of Grandma and Grandpa’s old house. Visitors squinted and shielded their eyes from the sun. Cars shimmered in the dazzling light. Stiff-haired ladies in black dresses, slathered with tons of makeup and doused with perfume you could smell a block away, and men in wrinkly dark suits paraded slowly up the walk and into the house. I kept an eye on the bees.

My mother dusted off two big fans my father had lugged up from the cellar. She and Aunt Ellen bustled about, serving coffee from Grandma’s silver pot and slices of cake with no frosting, washing and drying dishes, showing where the bathroom was. Some ladies held hands. Some cried. People spoke softly, as if apologizing. Bouquets of bright, sweet-smelling flowers shivered in the wind from the fans.

When my grandfather strode into the living room and announced that it was time to go, the guests rose, set down their half-empty cups and half-eaten cake, and filed past me out the door. Ladies sniffled and buffed runny streaks of makeup on their faces into gleaming patches. The men wrapped their arms around the ladies’ shoulders and eased them forward protectively. My grandmother, who hadn’t come out of her bedroom all morning, came out now, supported between my mother and aunt. A black veil covered her face. She swayed back and forth, weeping, struggling every few seconds to catch her breath. Grandpa hugged her to himself and guided her to the door. I jumped in front of her and peered up into the black veil, but Grandma didn’t see me.

My mother rocked my shoulder. “Come on, Jimmy,” she said. “We have to go.” Fine creases lined her eyes. She adjusted the black band on her bare upper arm. All the adults in my family were wearing black armbands. Bedsheets covered all the mirrors in the house.

“Anna, are you ready?” Aunt Ellen called to my six-year-old cousin. Anna skipped into the living room and held still long enough for Aunt Ellen to straighten her barrette and smooth down her white, flowered dress. My aunt scooted her along to my Uncle Henry, who stood by the doorway, almost as tall as the doorway, with his hands folded in front of him. He took Anna’s hand and led her outside. She smirked at me as she flitted by.

“Jimmy, you go with Uncle Henry and Cousin Anna, okay, honey?” my mother said. “And Auntie Ellen will go with Daddy and me.”

“I don’t want to go with them,” I said, but she was already busy with something else.

I took a deep breath, checked under the eaves, and pushed against the screen door. I held back a moment, then bounded away from the cloud of bees swirling around the stoop.

“Ma, don’t let the bees in!” I shouted. She ushered the last few people out, and the screen door swung shut and clicked into place.

At the temple, Uncle Henry stayed outside with Anna and me. He hung his jacket on the little hook inside the back door of his car, rolled up his sleeves, and leaned against the fender, smoking cigarettes while Anna and I played on the swings. My hands were sweaty and my back was hot. Little black curls of dirt collected in the crooks of my elbows.

“Can I take my shirt off?” I asked Uncle Henry.

He said yes.

“How come boys get to take their shirts off?” Anna asked.

Uncle Henry smiled.

As people began to emerge from the entrance, six men at a side door struggled to load a long wooden box into a big black station wagon with curtains and dark windows. Anna and I stared.

Uncle Henry crushed his cigarette with his shoe. “Let’s go, kids,” he said.

Anna scampered down to greet Aunt Ellen and threw her arms around her neck. “Mommy, are we going back to Grandma’s now?” she asked.

Aunt Ellen kissed her forehead. “No, honey, not yet.”

Anna leaned forward on tip-toes and asked Aunt Ellen, “Will you ride with us this time?”

Aunt Ellen looked towards my mother.

“Go ahead, Ellen,” my mother said. “We’ll see you there.”

Anna clapped her hands. “Oh, goodie!” she exclaimed.

“Jimmy, get your shirt on!” my mother hollered.

I slipped an arm back inside my shirt as I ran towards my parents. I wanted to ask about the box.

“How about if you stay with your aunt and uncle?” my mother said to me.

“Again?”

“Now, Jimmy,” she said. “Be a good boy. You and Anna can play together on the way.”

“But I don’t want to play with her,” I said.

“I don’t want to play with you,” Anna answered.

“No one’s talking to you!”

Cars were starting up as I stood there with my shirt half on and half off.

“What do you say, Jim?” Uncle Henry asked.

They were all staring at me like zombies. I wanted to scream.

“All right,” I grumbled.

Uncle Henry patted my back.

My parents hurried off, my father trying to hold onto my mother’s elbow as she tried to run in her high heels.

Anna stuck her tongue out at me.

“Cut it out,” I said, and gave her a shove.

“Hey, hey, none of that,” Uncle Henry warned.

“Be nice,” said Aunt Ellen.

Anna climbed into the back seat and I followed. For just a second, I thought of running out back behind the temple so they’d have to come looking for me. But what if they didn’t come?

My father’s car slid in front of us, behind the black station wagon with the box in it and a limousine carrying my grandma and grandpa. The other cars lined up behind us.

Anna shook Uncle Henry’s shoulder. “Look, Daddy, all the cars have their lights on.”

Uncle Henry just nodded.

“Are your lights on?” she asked.

I nudged her aside. “Great-grandma’s in that box, right?” I said.

Aunt Ellen frowned.

“Hey, I was talking,” Anna said as she tried to elbow me away.

Uncle Henry glanced at me in the rearview mirror. “That’s right, Jimmy,” he said. Aunt Ellen started to brush something off her lap, but there was nothing there.

Anna looked at me, then at Uncle Henry. “How can Great-grandma be in that box?” she asked.

“`Cause she’s dead,” I said.

Aunt Ellen groaned, as if someone had punched her in the stomach.

“Well, I know that,” Anna said.

“Well, that’s what happens to you when you die,” I said.

Aunt Ellen cleared her throat.

“Aren’t I right?” I asked.

“Enough, okay kids?” she mumbled.

“How did she get in the box?” Anna asked.

“Look, can we please change the subject?” Aunt Ellen said, more loudly.

“Daddy, how did Great-grandma get in the box?”

“Anna, please,” said Aunt Ellen.

“Huh, Dad?”

“Anna, honey,” Uncle Henry said softly.

“What? I just want to know how she got in the box. Why won’t anyone tell me?”

Aunt Ellen slammed her hand against the dashboard. “Because I’ve asked you to stop talking about it!”

We all hushed. Aunt Ellen made a soft little noise and hid her face. Then she was crying, her shoulders rising up and down, up and down. Uncle Henry gently rubbed the back of her neck.

Anna turned back around and gazed out at the line of cars with their lights on. I didn’t say a word. Finally we started moving and all the cars wound around the temple parking lot and edged out into the road.

After a while, Uncle Henry lifted his hand from the back of Aunt Ellen’s neck with a little squeeze. He steered with his right hand and stuck his left hand out the window so he could tap the roof with his fingers.

“Boy, it’s a hot one,” he said. “Roll down your windows, kids.” Anna and I raced to see who could roll down whose window first. She said she won; I said I did.

“I wish we had air conditioning,” she said.

The wind made a noise like sheets on a clothesline. My hair blew across my face and stung my eyes. Thick strands of Anna’s long brown hair came undone and flew all over the place; in her eyes and in her mouth. She giggled. Aunt Ellen’s window was still up.

Anna bounced on the seat. “Where are we going anyway?” she asked.

“To the cemetery,” Uncle Henry answered.

“Ce-me-te-ry,” Anna chanted as she bounced. “What for?”

Aunt Ellen looked at Uncle Henry.

“We have to bury Great-grandma,” he said.

“Bury her?” Anna made a face and stopped bouncing.

“Yeah, like when you bury something in the sand at the beach,” I said. I imagined Great-grandma’s toes sticking up out of the sand.

We stopped at a red light. Anna pushed her hair away from her mouth. “What’s Great-grandma’s name?” she asked.

“Ida,” Aunt Ellen answered wearily, her head leaning against the window. She was slowly tearing at a soggy, crumpled tissue in her hands.

“That’s a pretty name,” said Anna. Aunt Ellen looked back at her through puffy eyes and smiled.

We slowed down as we drove into the cemetery. The wind stopped. The tires squeezed small rocks out from underneath the car. Uncle Henry pulled next to my father into a little circle surrounded by trees and bushes and bright yellow and white flowers.

“Daisies!” cried Anna.

Thin clouds of dust rose as cars rolled in. Brakelights flashed. Doors creaked open and slammed shut. Aunt Ellen stepped out.

My mother stuck her head in my window. “We won’t be long,” she said. “I want you kids to stay here.”

“I knew it,” I muttered.

“Can’t we come?” Anna asked.

“No,” my mother said. Aunt Ellen shook her head and stared at the ground.

“Jimmy, you take care of Anna, now,” my father chimed in. Anna was looking out her window, running her finger up and down the inside of the door and humming.

“Please don’t make me stay with her,” I said. “I’m old enough. Why can’t I come?”

“We’ll only be gone a little while,” my mother said. “You’d just be bored anyway.” She patted my arm. My father smiled.

“I don’t care,” I said. “I want to come.”

They shook their heads.

“It’s not fair!” I shouted. I was almost crying. I jerked my head around so no one would see.

There was Uncle Henry, looking right at me, his arm swung over the seat.

“Don’t worry, Jim,” he said. “You’ll be fine. Put the radio on if you want. Just leave the windows down, or it’ll be like an oven in here. Okay?”

I nodded.

He turned to Anna. “Give Daddy a kiss,” he said, and Anna scrambled into the front seat and hugged and kissed him.

“We’ll be okay, Daddy,” she said, and he laughed.

He pulled his jacket off the hook and eased himself out of the car. “See you soon,” he said. Aunt Ellen waved with her tissue and blew us a kiss. My father put his arm around my mother and the four of them tramped away. I slumped down in my seat. I heard their shoes crunching gravel and kicking pebbles and then the sound died out. Anna stayed at the window, her arms resting on the door, her chin resting on her hands. She rocked her head slowly back and forth and hummed. Then she started to sing, first one stupid song, then another. She was driving me crazy.

“Stop singing!” I shouted.

She whirled around. “No! Who’s gonna make me?”

“If you weren’t such a little baby, I wouldn’t have to stay here with you.”

“You’re the one who acts like a baby,” she said.

I was ready to smack her when I noticed a bee outside, hopping from one daisy to another. Then I saw a second one, a yellowjacket, flying around angrily, hurtling wildly from flower to flower.

Suddenly the radio blared. My heart jumped. Anna’s hand rested on the knob.

“Lower it!” I yelled.

She glared at me before turning it down. Then she pressed all the buttons again and again and finally shut the radio off.

“Know any games?” she asked.

“No.”

She scowled at me and grabbed the door handle. “I’m going outside,” she said.

I reached for her arm. “Oh no you’re not. We have to stay here.”

“Don’t touch me,” she said.

“Then don’t go outside.”

Anna rolled her eyes but let go of the door. She sat back and played with the steering wheel and made engine sounds. She crawled over and rolled down the window Aunt Ellen had left closed. She sprawled across the front seat with her knees raised, dropping one knee sideways to the seat, then swinging it up again. Each time her leg fell, I could see her panties.

“What are you looking at?” she snarled. Her leg stopped swinging.

My face grew hot. “Nothing.”

She pulled the hem of her dress down against her knees. I looked out the window.

A bee buzzed past my face and I toppled back inside.

Anna poked her head over the seat. Her eyes narrowed. “What’s the matter with you?” she asked.

“There was a bee out there.”

“So?”

“So, bees can sting, you know.” I pulled myself up. “Some people die from bee stings.”

“No way,” she said.

I folded my arms. “If you’re allergic, you can die.”

Anna leaned over the seat and looked outside with me. Her legs kicked behind her. She tugged at my arm and pointed. “Look, there’s the bee!”

“That isn’t the same one.”

“Wow, look at that one!” she gasped as a fat black bumblebee zoomed up into the sky and plunged back down. “Can you really die?”

“Yup.”

A bee landed on the hood. We stared at it through the windshield. It spun around crazily a couple of times, then whizzed past the window.

Anna turned to me suddenly. “What if one gets in?”

“Maybe we should roll up the windows,” I suggested.

“Won’t we be too hot?”

I was already sticky with sweat. “Well, what else can we do?”

She thought for a moment. “How about if we close the back windows, but leave the front windows open halfway?”

“But a bee could still get in,” I said.

“Then you think of something.”

I couldn’t. We tried her idea, but even with the front windows half open, trying to breathe the still, heavy air was like having your face inside a plastic bag.

There were bees everywhere. They tore off into the bushes and shot up into the air. They flew straight at the windshield, then at the last second curved up and over the roof and out of sight.

“I’m sweating,” Anna said. “When are they coming back?”

“How should I know?”

A black and yellow bee tapped against the right front window. It danced and skittered up the glass, climbing closer and closer to the opening.

“Jimmy!” Anna could barely speak. She slapped at my arm. We held our breaths and backed against the doors. The bee flew in.

Anna shrieked and I grabbed my door handle, ready to spring the door open and run. “Go away!” she cried at the bee. The buzzing sounded like high tension wires. My arm hairs bristled. The bee hovered and dipped, then darted back out.

“Close that window!” I screamed. Anna leaped across and rolled it up. I reached over to get the other one.

“I’ll do it!” she yelled, and she bumped past me and closed it up tight.

Silence. My heart pounded. Anna shuddered, wide-eyed and panting, balancing herself between the seat and the dashboard. I checked and rechecked all the windows, then lowered my head against the seat. I blew on my arms to try to cool down but it didn’t help. Nothing helped.

I heard Anna fidgeting so I looked up.

“I’m hot,” she said. Her hair was wet in front and her forehead was all red. “Can I open a window?”

“What about the bees?”

She sank down onto the front seat. I sat back. My hair was wet, too. I felt like I could hardly breathe.

“When are they coming back?” Anna moaned, and then she started to cry. Soon, I was crying, too. I wiped my eyes with my sleeve but I couldn’t stop. Tears dripped off my chin onto my collar. I huddled in the back seat and closed my eyes.

The sun was hot on my face. Anna sobbed quietly in front. I leaned over on my side and fiddled with the metal ashtray on the armrest. It felt cool against my fingertips. I could see bright red light through my eyelids, as if the whole world outside were on fire. I wished I could watch them bury Great-grandma. I wished I could see what she looked like. I thought of everyone outside in the hot sun, and her inside the box, under the ground, lying there alone in the dark.

The dashboard clock ticked. My hand dropped to the seat. Bees struck the windows, sounding almost like raindrops. Hundreds and hundreds of bees…

*

A car door banged shut. I opened my eyes and gazed dreamily up at the sky. There were noises outside. I pushed myself up and looked around. People were coming back to their cars.

Anna was sleeping. A rectangle of sunlight shone on her face. Her mouth was open and sweat had dried in her hair, straggly across her cheek and forehead. One knee was up, resting against the back of the seat.

A rap on the window made me jump. It was Uncle Henry. He knocked again and I rolled down the window. His voice filled the car:

“Why are all the windows up?”

Anna stirred in front.

Uncle Henry shook his head. “You two must be dying in there.”

Anna sat up and yawned and said with her eyes closed, “There were bees, Daddy.”

“Bees?” Uncle Henry said. “Why, the bees won’t hurt you.” He stood back and lit a cigarette. “Besides,” he said, looking at me, “Jimmy was here to protect you.”

*

Since completing Naropa University’s Creative Writing Program in Prague, CZ in 2005, Laurence Levey has had short stories published in Cezanne’s Carrot, Art Times, Versal, Ellipsis, and the Barcelona Review, book reviews published in Drunken Boat and Word Riot, and poetry accepted for publication in Fulcrum. He was a semi-finalist in the Summer Literary Seminars-2010 Unified Literary Contest and he writes for The Review Review.

What motivates him to create:
The desire to communicate and to express myself, both of which I often do better in writing than by speaking. The desire to tell the truth, or at least a version of it. The desire to fuse work and play. The desire, mostly unrequited, to make a little cash. The desire to please. The desire to be thought well of. The desire to contribute something of value.

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 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 hard-on. Sexual diseases often signal serious problems: low libido or erectile dysfunction 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 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 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.

Minimize
April 15th, 2016

I’ve Known

All night stars burn themselves out, spending
energy in Dionysian dance. I have felt the moon
pull my blood in giddy tidal surge, as night wheeled
along its course and dawn seeped red and purple
across the sky.

the joy of water carving canyons
through rock, long, slow joy of rain, of rivers

slowly mingling waters with the sea. I’ve known
the wild spill of gulls glancing off sparkling waves.

All night stars burn themselves out, spending
energy in Dionysian dance. I have felt the moon

pull my blood in giddy tidal surge, as night wheeled
along its course and dawn seeped red and purple

across the sky. Winter whispered in my ear and
turned my breath to mist. In Africa I felt big cats

stir as night fell. A bull elephant in must charged
past so close I could have touched his leathery hide,

which shivered in the lust of gigantic loins. Once
I watched a hundred frogs climb from a muddy

lake to serenade the pines. My canoe slipped
past a Northern as it floated near the surface, black

and spotted with gold. Alone but not alone, I breathed,
arms aching with the joy of effort in quickly fading day.

*

Steve Klepetar’s work has appeared in ten countries, in such journals as Boston Literary Magazine, Deep Water, Expound, Red River Review, Snakeskin, Ygdrasil, and many others. Several of his poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Recent collections include Speaking to the Field Mice (Sweatshoppe Publications, 2013), My Son Writes a Report on the Warsaw Ghetto (Flutter Press, 2013) and Return of the Bride of Frankenstein (Kind of a Hurricane Press).

What motivates him to create:
It may be that the act of creation is a basic human need, or at least a common desire. When I was a child, I wanted badly to be able to draw, mostly scenes from my imagination. It turned out that I had no talent in that direction, but I found I could do something with words. It’s become an almost daily pleasure to create using language, its sense and sounds, as a medium.

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 hurt. 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 hard-on. 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 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 pharmacist 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.

Minimize
April 9th, 2016

Beauty and Blue

Don’t bring me flowers; better bring me fruit.
Not roses but raspberries, not gladiolas

but apricots.

Beauty and Blue
Chagall, Bella in Mourillon

Don’t bring me flowers; better bring me fruit.
Not roses but raspberries, not gladiolas

but apricots. I can focus well next to a plate
of plums, or maybe eat them while I’m reading,

but dahlias unravel me, unlike Chagall’s Bella
in Mourillon, who is working next to a vase

of flowers that light up her face like a lamp.
Shadows slide, allude to a white rhythm

of home and dream. Green lines separate
petals from blue, connect shapes and longing.

The table opens and closes a universe
of yearning and yielding. Hypnosis of pistils,

trance of perfume. She concentrates despite
beauty and blue, enchantment of purple.

*

Lucia Cherciu was born in Romania and came to the United States in 1995. She teaches English at Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie, NY and her latest book of poetry, Edible Flowers (Main Street Rag, 2015), was a finalist for the Eugene Paul Nassar Poetry Prize. Her other books of poetry are Lepădarea de Limbă (The Abandonment of Language), Editura Vinea 2009, and Altoiul Râsului (Grafted Laughter), Editura Brumar 2010. Her poetry has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize and for Best of the Net. Her web page is luciacherciu.webs.com.

What motivates her to create:
I have a three-year old daughter who loves words and books. Now that she is fluent in Romanian as a second language, we are learning Spanish together and every new word is cause for celebration, the way it happened when she was a baby. Similarly, writing poems keeps me connected to my inner child, makes me see the world with new eyes every day.

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 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 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 malfunction medicines for a temporary solution. Once you’ve studied the basics about men’s erectile malfunction 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.

Minimize
March 30th, 2016

The Projectionist

The reel spun futilely. The end of the film flapped repeatedly against the empty film gate. Below, a steady beam of light shone out onto the screen, featuring nothing more than dust particles flashing by, and through the keyhole from the theater seats in the grand old auditorium, came the grumbling sounds of patrons. “Roll …

The reel spun futilely. The end of the film flapped repeatedly against the empty film gate. Below, a steady beam of light shone out onto the screen, featuring nothing more than dust particles flashing by, and through the keyhole from the theater seats in the grand old auditorium, came the grumbling sounds of patrons.

“Roll the film, damn it!” one cried out.

“Come’on for God’s sake, start the movie!” yelled another.

But the old man did not awake. He lay still, breathing heavily, his head resting on his arm which lay on the table. In his mind was a vision of Greta Garbo in full Mata Hari headdress, dancing seductively before a mesmerized crowd. His ears were full of the sultry sounds of middle-eastern music and he could see smoke rising from the incense burners in the nightclub’s elegant showroom. Dancing like a drunken elation in his head, Garbo approached the multi-armed deity, a statue of Shiva, and her hips began moving feverishly and the coin-laden scarf around her waist chattered with great intensity. The audience, consisting of bartenders, politicians, tourists, and military attachés, went silent with anticipation. Then she came right up against the statue, took her top off, and pressed her body into it. For a moment it was as though she was going to make love to it. Everyone was breathless. Then the room darkened and a cloaked woman dashed by, coving Garbo from view.

“She’s not a spy,” the old man mumbled. “She is not the great enemy of France like everyone thinks! She is not!”

A loud bang awoke him. And when he lifted his head he saw the projection booth door slammed opened against the front wall. Through it came René, the theater manager, rushing past him like a madman.

“You imbecile!” he yelled.

René bolted for the second projector and clicked the ‘switch over’ button. Instantly the film began to roll and angled beams of light shone once again through the keyhole, bringing back to life the oscillating images of characters and the sound of their dialogue.

“Bravo!” somebody yelled from theater seats.

René came back to the first machine, turned it off, and pressed his palm against the lamp canister, but it was so hot he had to withdraw his hand quickly.

“Where is your brain?” he cried. He pushed at the old man’s chest; his eyes were burning. “What is it with you?”

In truth, the old man knew, he had taken too many naps, too often at the wrong times, and with greater frequency in the past weeks. It was a problem he could not cure.

“If you cannot do the job,” René cried. “I will find someone who can.”

The old man only looked up at René with sorry, puppy-dog eyes.

René looked around. The projection booth was in a typical state of disarray. There were film canisters lying on the floor, some with their lids off, candy wrappers shattered about, and a half-eaten sandwich dried and crusty from the day before, lying on the table. The trashcan near the door was full and overflowing.

“You can’t leave this place like this,” he said. “You can’t leave these cans lying around.” He gathered them up, put their lids back on, and stacked them in a neat pile against the wall. “You have to clean this place up! It’s part of your job! It’s your last chance. If you want to sleep, go home and sleep!”

The old man wisely remained silent.

After a few more minutes of huffing, René stood silently with his hands on his hips. He glanced up at the big wall clock. “It is the last showing. Can you handle it?”

“Yes.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“Don’t forget to cap the film canisters!”

“I know.”

“And the lamps! Remember to shut off the lamps!”

He was referring to the time the old man had forgotten to shut off a projection lamp and burnt out an expensive bulb.

“Yes.”

“And lock up properly.”

“Of course.”

René took another glance around the projection booth. “Only three more months!” he said, shaking his head.

When he turned to exit, the old man mumbled something, inaudible.

“What?” René asked.

“Nothing.”

René hesitated at the door, but then left, closing it securely behind him.

Spencer Tracy would have never stood for that, the old man thought. Not for a second. He wouldn’t have.

When the film finished, the audience slowly cleared the auditorium and departed out the front lobby doors. The old man watched them through the key hole until the last patron was gone. Then he canned the two film reels and set the canisters on top of the neat pile René had stacked against the wall. He tidied up the projection booth, swept it clean with a broom, hiding the small pile of trash in a corner, and he made sure the lamps were off. Then he exited, locking the projection booth door twice around with the key before descending the narrow staircase to the foyer. He swept up the popcorn and garbage scattered throughout the theater auditorium, dumped a garbage pail into the dumpster out back, and fixed the large theater curtain so no screen was showing. Finally he returned to the lobby, opened a wall panel and pulled down the switch that doused the large marquee light out front.

A lonely walk down a lonely street brought the old man to his dreary, one-room apartment. There were no windows inside; only a bed, a little table, a sink, a small closet, and a separate closet for the toilet. It was a place to lay his head and close his eyes, and he could imagine himself in another world; a cinematic world of swashbuckling swordsmen and adventurous sea captains, but in truth, it offered little in the way of sustenance or comfort.

He lay down on his shaggy old mattress to the sound of squeaky springs, and unable to sleep, he stared up at the dark, opaque ceiling.

“You are the beauty,” he said, speaking aloud to Garbo.

Not everyone could to communicate with movie stars of the past. It was some kind of cosmic, telepathic thing that only he possessed, and he prided himself on this ability.

“I understand every word you speak,” he said. “I understand every move of your dance. It is you, yes? It is you who will save the world from itself? And not for country, but for love itself. Am I correct in my thinking? Of course I am.”

He pictured her clearly, as if she was standing there in the room beside him; her image as vivid and beautiful as she had ever been on the silver screen.

“If you want, I’ll help you. I’ll be your secret accomplice, your attaché fidèle. I know where to go, how to end it. I have seen how it ends, and we will end it differently. Together we will overcome the French military and German spies. Okay?”

He waited for her reply, but there was none. It didn’t always work, he knew. But this night, he was really hoping for some two-way dialogue.

Then he thought of René’s words and became even more depressed.

‘Only three more months!’

As horrific as it sounded, it was true. The era of film projection at the Arlington was coming to end. When he first heard the news, he didn’t believe it or accept it. It was not possible, he thought. How could an art form requiring such skill and finesse be replaced by a computerized robot? But it was going to happen. He had even read about it in the papers. A new, digitized projector was to be delivered in the coming months and his skills of threading film and swapping reels was to become obsolete. As the silent era gave way to sound, the film era would go down to light; the light of new technology.

He looked over to his small table. There was the bottle of gin waiting for him. He could see it in the darkness. For over five years now had been there. It had been that long since he’d been away from the stuff. And if he returned to the sharp-tasting liquid now, he knew he would return to it for good – until the end. It was the great morphine, he thought. It was the anesthesia for life’s tragedies; the sweetest of all escapes. And it was not unusual. All the stars had one in one form or another. For Ray Milland it was whiskey on his long Lost Weekend. For Richard Burton it was vodka and soda water, which he liked as much in life as he did in his on-screen rants with Elizabeth Taylor in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? And as for Sinatra, well, of course, he preferred a well-mixed cocktail with the merest hint of dry vermouth, although heroin was his fix in The Man with the Golden Arm.

But it was gin that Spencer Tracy liked best. Gin was his favorite, his one and only; the drink he used to kill the real-life pain of the ordinary man.

The old man closed his eyes and tried to sleep. And though he finally drifted off, his sleep was restless. On through the night he awoke often, and when he did he looked over at the table and saw the bottle of gin still there waiting.

The morning was usual, nothing different; a poached egg at the corner café, some time to browse the newsstands, and a long walk along the river. He kept occupied until it was time for work. That was his routine, anything to keep him from his dreary apartment. When the afternoon came, he made his way to the old downtown district. A long sidewalk led him to the vertical, art deco marquee of the Arlington Theater. The overhead billboard displayed the films ‘Now Playing;’ Beat the Devil and The African Queen.

“Ah, it will be Bogie night,” the old man mumbled.

He unlocked the front door, went into the lobby, and looked around. Everything was as he had left it the night before. He climbed the narrow staircase to the projection booth, slipped the key into the door lock, and opened it.

As always, the projection booth greeted him like the arms of a beautiful woman. Stepping inside always gave him a warm feeling, like a welcoming home. He smiled broadly. That is, until he saw the note René had left on the clipboard along with the daily features. It read: “Don’t fall asleep! And don’t forget to turn off the lamps!”

The old man tore the note off the clipboard, crumbled it up, and tossed it in the corner.

“He knows nothing of film projection! He is the boss of no one!”

He searched though the pile of film canisters, and when he could not find the scheduled films, he glanced around the room and located them on top of the projection table. Evidently René had placed the films there to make it easier for the old man.

“So now he thinks I’m not capable of finding the proper film cans?”

There were only four reels, which was good, he thought, only requiring two changeovers per film. Not like the old days when you had to do three or four reel changeovers for one movie.

He opened the ‘Beat the Devil’ canister; the one marked ‘one of two,’ and took out the reel. He flipped opened the cover on the first projector, placed the reel on the sprocket, pulled out an arm’s length of film, and held it to the light. Once he found where the numeric countdown begun, he threaded the film through the gate, running the machine just long enough for it to catch, then looped the end of it onto the empty reel and advanced the film to the opening credits. He repeated the process on the second projector, loading the second reel and advancing it to the switch-over cue.

“Life is an illusion,” he mumbled. “It is best to live it as such. Sometimes you win, sometimes you loose.”

He sat at the table and ate a sandwich. After forty minutes, he looked down through the keyhole and saw only one person seated in the theater auditorium. When he looked down a second time, the audience had grown by three. At a quarter to four, he pressed the mechanical button which opened the theater curtains. And when it was exactly four o’clock, he started the film, framing it first, sharpening the focus, and synchronizing the sound. When all was set and done, he sat at the table and listened, to what, for him, was a most beautiful melody – the sound of film clicking through a gate at twenty-four frames a second. It was a six-thousand foot reel, which meant he’d have an hour before he would need to switch over to the second projector.

Through the keyhole came the sound of Humphrey Bogart’s voice. Though he could not see the film from his seated position, he knew every scene, every film angle, and every word of dialogue, verbatim. He had seen the film a hundred times, maybe two hundred.

“What’s our wide-eyed Irish leprechaun doing outside my door?” Bogart’s voice asked.[1]

“Just wanted to have a little talk,” the voice of Peter Lorre replied.

“Okay, but make it fast,” said the old man quickly, stealing the line before Bogart could speak it.

“Okay, but make it fast,” Bogart then repeated on the big screen.

The old man chuckled.

After fifty minutes, he turned on the lamp on the second machine, giving it time to warm up. After another five minutes he began watching for the cue mark; a small circular flash in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, and when he saw it, he clicked on the motor of the second projector. And when it flashed a second time, he pressed the changeover button. Then he heard the splice go through the machine and the images from the second projector immediately took over, flicking out the black and white celluloid, without interruption, exactly where the first reel had finished off.

“Now that’s the way to do it!” he said. “None of this three, two, one,” referring to the numerical countdown seen onscreen if the cue mark was missed.

The old man chuckled, thinking back to a time when René had mistimed a changeover. He had been left to manage the projection booth for only a minute and still

couldn’t get it right! And there was that awful gap of white screen between the reels, and the painful groans of all the theater patrons.

The old man clicked off the motor on the first machine and began watching the film through the keyhole. On screen now were Jennifer Jones and Humphrey Bogart, standing on the Terrace of Infinity, high above the Amalfi Coast. The cinemascope image

provided a panoramic view of sea and mountains that stretched from one side of the screen to the other. It seemed to be filmed from the height of an airplane, which gave a real appreciation for the beauty of this place. And the dialog was the quick and clever, bringing a smile to the old man’s face.

“There are two good reasons for falling in love,” Jennifer Jones said. “One is that the object of your affection is unlike anyone else, a rare spirit. The other is that he’s like everyone else, only superior, the very best of a type.”[2]

“Well if you must know, I’m a very typical rare spirit,” the old man said before Bogart echoed the same line onscreen.

“How long have you lived here?” asked Jennifer Jones.

“The longest I’ve lived anywhere,” the old man recited, again beating Bogart to the punch.

“Didn’t you ever have a mother and a father and a house?”

“No I was an orphan,” the old man said loudly. “Then a rich and beautiful woman adopted me.”

The old man smiled as Bogart repeated the lines; “No I was an orphan. Then a rich and beautiful woman adopted me.”

Like Sunday mass, the old man thought, easier than reciting lines from the good book. And as the movie progressed, the old man lost himself, as he often did, in the romantic action and intriguing storyline. The images on the screen danced in his head as if they were real.

Now a trio of characters, Robert Morley, Peter Lorre, and Bogart, found

themselves shipwrecked and washed ashore on a deserted beach. A hoard of horse-

backed nomads stormed down a hillside firing shots at them. Everyone was frightened, except Bogart, and the old man, who stood fearless in the projection booth.

The old man raised his hands and said bravely, “Better get down everyone!”[3] He made his voice sound tough and cynical.

Seconds later, Bogart raised his hands and repeated the line on the big screen.

“Africa,” the old man then said aloud as if he were speaking directly to the nomad chieftain. “It’s not a bad place to land. No customs forms to fill out.”

When Bogart repeated the lines, the old man chuckled.

The film finished, and during the intermission the old man replaced the reels with the second feature, The African Queen. He waited the customary twenty minutes for everyone to return from the concessions and then rolled the film. Once he heard the projector running smoothly, he sat down at the projection table and listened to its melodic sound.

“You are a good machine,” he said, patting it on its side. “You bring life to the ordinary. You create magic from nothing.” Then he sighed. “But like me, you are old and replaceable!”

He stretched his arm out comfortably on the table and laid his head upon it, and in his mind he watched the movie, following along as if it were playing in his head. He knew every scene, every word; all the facial expressions. The smooth clicking sound of film rushing through the gate, coupled with his cerebral reenactment, brought him to the place he loved best, his nirvana.

But he did not watch Bogart and Hepburn. He was with them in the boat, going down the Ubangi River. And he recited Bogart’s lines as if they were his own. And he

watched Katherine Hepburn’s transformation from one who despised an aging old drunk, to one who loved. And now that she’d become smitten with this rugged old man, unkempt and capable as he, he accepted her expressions of adornment as if they were meant for him.

In his head, the reels spun forward at lightening speed. Before he knew it, Bogart stood with a noose around his neck being interrogated by a nasty German sea-captain; accused of being a spy for which death was the only penalty.

But it was not Bogart; it was the old man.

“Don’t give in!” the old man mumbled. He felt the ship rocking beneath him as if he were really afloat. “Be brave Rosie! Be strong! It is for love and country!”

As the large German vessel, the Louisa, drifted closer to the African Queen, the makeshift torpedoes pointing from the Queen’s bow closed in on theLouisa’shull.

“Take cover Rosie!” the old man shouted, bracing himself for the explosion. “I’ll be with you shortly!”

Though the celluloid images danced vividly in his head, they had barely finished the first reel on the projector beside him. On the screen, the first cue marked flashed by, then the second, then the end of the film looped through the gate, and suddenly, nothing but a white stream of light shone out from the projector. And the groaning and booing from the audience was almost instantaneous.

“Roll the damned film!”

“Hey! Wakeup up there!” another screamed from the front of the house.

But the old man’s head remained down on the table, resting on his out-stretched arm; his eyes closed and his expression intense. Even if he wanted to, he could not move. He had a noose around his neck, and the rope was pulling tightly.

“Be brave, Rosie!” he mumbled again.

Then the projection room door swung open with a bang, slamming against the forward wall, and in stormed René, as livid as he could possibly be.

“This’s it!” he screamed. “You are through!”

The old man lifted his head as René rushed past him and lunged for the changeover button on the second projector. He pressed the button, and instantly the images returned to the screen below.

“Thank you!” someone yelled from the auditorium.

“About time!” another screamed out.

“You are finished!” René shouted to the old man. “Get your things and leave!”

“What?” the old man asked.

“You’re fired!”

It took a moment for the old man to gather himself. He had barely stepped off the deck of the Louisa.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Get your things and leave! Now! I’ll mail you your check.”

“But I thought I had three more months?”

“Not no more. You are through, now!”

René grabbed the old man’s collar, lifted him from the chair, and using his grip, escorted him to his bag, which was against the wall. The old man picked up the bag and then René pushed him to the door.

There was nothing the old man could do. He was too dazed and confused to resist, and when he was heaved through the door, pushed out like a rag doll, he nearly tumbled down the stairs. He dropped several steps before he could stop his momentum and regain his balance. Then he straightened himself, turned back, and looked up at René, who stood with both hands on his hips.

“Get out!” René yelled, pointing toward the front door of the lobby.

The old man continued down the steps, made his way through the foyer, and pushed his way out the front doors.

“He is a man without honor,” he mumbled to himself. “He is a man with no loyalty.”

As he walked down the street in darkness to his apartment, he thought of Garbo; her persona as Mata Hari, strong and defiance against all odds and in the face of certain death. Her image danced in his head, feverously; the coins of her hip-scarf chattering like wind chimes in a hurricane. Every movement of her body showed him her strength and will to overcome. She is the bold and daring one, he thought; the one never to give in to the misalignments and abuses of power.

Then, in his mind, he saw the bottle of gin awaiting him, there on his table in his dreary apartment, and the image of Garbo faded to black.

The End

[1] [2] [3] Dialogue from the public domain movie Beat the Devil, screenplay by John Huston and Truman Capote.

*

Pushcart Prize nominee Frank Scozzari resides in Nipomo, a small town on the California central coast. His award-winning short stories have appeared in numerous literary magazines including The Worcester Review, War Literature & the ArtsThe Tampa Review, Pacific Review, Eleven Eleven, The Emerson Review, South Dakota Review, Hawaii Pacific Review, Minetta Review, Reed Magazine,Berkeley Fiction Review, Ellipsis Magazine, The Nassau Review, and The MacGuffin, and have been featured in literary theater. His novel “From Afar” was featured in USA Today and received a 5-star book rating at Readers’ Favorite

What motivates him to create:
Someone once said ‘if I didn’t write I would die.’ Perhaps that’s a bit drastic, but it is my sentiment in many ways. Writing and creating are my passions and I would be unhappy without them. Once I have an image or story in my head I feel obligated to make it real. If someone likes it, that’s great, but if not, I’d create nonetheless.

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 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 disfunction may hide a heavy heartiness 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 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.

Minimize
March 23rd, 2016

A Mystery

with the memory of flesh
on the tip of their brains
they eat and drink
like nothing happened
caught up in another day

“the young wives who have been pregnant for thirty hours”
from “Gentlemen Without Company,” Pablo Neruda

with the memory of flesh
on the tip of their brains
they eat and drink
like nothing happened
caught up in another day

the world moves slowly away
from their childhood dreams
and blooms inside of them
one cell into five, five into a hundred
a thousand more by sunset

they smile
at a cardinal with a blue feather in its beak
and have no idea
why

*

David James third book, My Torn Dance Card, was published in 2015 by FCNI Press. His second book, She Dances Like Mussolini, won the 2010 Next Generation Indie book award for poetry. More than thirty of his one-act plays have been produced from New York City to California.

What motivates him to create:
I write primarily to reflect, question, understand, wonder, and make sense of what is  happening around me.  Most poems have some personal thread or link in them, but others wander a bit into unknown territory; this is where the questioning and imagining happen in poetry. What does it feel like to die?  I can’t know that yet, but I can try to imagine and write about it. Poetry is always expanding my views, my perceptions, my ideas and, hence, my world. In the ideal situation, I want to create poems that muck around in the personal and then slip away quietly, effortlessly into the unknown, taking me (and the reader) into places I never thought I could go.

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 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 hard-on. Sexual diseases often signal serious problems: low libido or erectile malfunction 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 dysfunction medicines for a temporary solution. Once you’ve studied the basics about men’s erectile malfunction 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 pharmacy can lightly help you for solving your all personal problems.

Minimize