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WT CHRONICLES
issue

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Riding on the # 3 by mamaspitfire

1\'1y girls' spray the red vinyl seats With waterfalls They bounce of spit rained fr,om rasberried uI?,and down restlessly lips.

like springs

And the wheels drone on and on. In the back of the bus a couple is slumped wall. The woman's short red skirt is hiked up past her thighs, against the rear

The man helps her stagger blearily out the door And into the night. A teenage girl grinds against her boy into the handrail,

A silver playboy bunny dangling between her exposed breasts.
My girls spoon into my sides like security

blankets.

\Ve stare at our faces peering back at us in the stripes of streetIigh Bouncing
t

off of the windows, forthe long ride home.

And steel ourselves

Pass-Off

by goatgirl

He was sitting at an orange booth, staring vacantly out the window, his knee jittering against the plastic table. His tall frame was squeezed awkwardly into the seat, and Andrea was reminded suddenly of the folded legs of a dead spider. She . gripped Joseph's hand and crossed the floor. He didn't see them; his gaze was fixed on the traffic crawling on Western Avenue beyond the glass wall. It was rush hour, vehicles crammed into the twolane highway. A rogue commuter had driven his car onto the median strip and was trying to squeeze around a wilting tree and its concrete planter. The three of them watched the driver inch around the planter and shoot past three cars to stop at the stoplight. "Idiot." Jeff said, startling Andrea. She hadn't realized he. knew they were standing there. His voice, low and bristly from smoking, pinched at her stomach. . "Hello," she said, and then stopped. She couldn't leave without saying something. -:"Joe." Jeff looked at the boy-and grinned uncomfortably. Andrea saw again how like their hazel eyes were, arid the heavy bone beneath their eyebrows. Her ,stomach clenched again . ....~. "Hey dad!" Joe said, and squirmed into the booth across from his father. "I brought two sets of clothes and his pajamas." Andrea held Lip Joseph's backpack, "And his toothbrush and his gameboy. He usually goes to bed by nine." "Ten," Joseph said, grinning up at her. "Nine. And don't let him have anything to drink after dinner or he'll wet the bed." "Mom," Joseph whined. "It's true." She paused. She felt like he should say something, and she waited. The silence crushed her chest, she could barely breathe. She was suffocating. "J guess that's it. You have my number if you need to reach me. You can call tonight if you want to, Joseph." Andrea stood uncomfortably by the table, watching father and son eye each other. Jeffstill hadn't looked at her. "Okay?" she gasped. "Okay." Jeff finally looked away from Joseph, down at the littered table. He picked at a smear of dried ketchup on his thumb and then wiped the stubble on his chin with a nervous hand. "Okay." Andrea bent.over the table and awkwardly squeezed Joseph's narrow shoulders, feeling Jeffs nearness like radiating heat. Joseph had to protest before she could let him squirm away "Be good. See you on Sunday" She told him, passing him the backpack. "Mom." Joseph rolled his eyes; and from the corner of her vision Andrea could see Jeff smirking in sympatlp'. Her chest filled with rage, sweet and strong, and she sighed to let it out. Aware of each flexing muscle, she turned and walk:ed out of the restaurant, keeping her neck rigid so that she would not look: behil1d.

putting a blow torch to the pipes or we'd be fucked for days hauling water up from brook below

from Two or Three Things I Know for Sure (1996) by Dorothy Allison
She might repeat something someone had said at work that day, or something she had said-lessonsin how to talk back, stand up for myself, and tell someone off. But behind her blunt account of the day's conversations was a myste1)T: the rest of IH~rlife. Mostly my aunts respected Mama's sense of propriety. They wouldn't tell stories she didn't want them to tell, nothing of my father or the husband she had loved and lost. Only my 6rrandmc)ther was shameless. Mattie Lee Gibson would tell people anything. Sometimes she even told the truth, She was the one told me I had an uncle who killed his wife, but said she didn't know if she believed his story about it, how he'd walked in CH1 the \\'om:1.11in bed with another man. She was the one told me my mama had been married three times. hi)' mama worked forty years as a waitress, teasing quarters out of truckers, and dunes out of hairdressers, pouring extra coffee for a nickel, or telling:1O almost true story for h:11 a f dollar. . "Get them talking," she told me when she took me to -work with her. "Or just smiling. Get them to remember who you are. People who recogIli~e you will tlunk twice before walking away and leavulg nothing by the pia te." Marn .."'1 was never confused about who she was or what.she was offering across that cOLUHer. "1 t's just a Job. People need their lunch served with a smile and a quick hand. Don't need to know your husiness-if you're tired ur sick or didn't get any sleep fur wurryu1g. Just smile and ' get them what they need." Three bouts of cancer and hal f a dozen other serious illnesses--not to mention three daughters and four grandchildren who courted trouble with every turn of the moon--but few of Marna's customers knew how stubbornly she had to put on that smile for them. She W:1S an actress in the theater of true life, so good that no one suspected what was hidden behind the :1,-ttiJlly applied makeup and carefully pinneo hairner "You should have been in the movies, like Barbara Stanwvck or Susan Hayward," I told her once ,-IS \\ie looked at those pictures of her aSJ girl. She Just shook her head .: "Life an't the movies," she told me. Mama always said 1 was tenderhearted, 1 trusted too easily :1nd would have to learn things the hard wav She was right, of course, and the th.ing I learned was the thu1g she knewinruitivelv: the use of charm the an ·'ofa~ting, the \Vay to tum 0~selT il~? .~.~_~ething·people fInd '

My marna never told me stories.

,.

understandableor sympathetic. Theater was what Marna knew and I learned, Theater is standing up terrified and convincing people you know what you're doing-eating oysters with a smile when the only fish you've known has been canned tuna or catfish fried in cornmeal. Theater is going to bars with strangers whose incomes are four times your own; it's wearing denim when everyone around you IS in silk, or silk when they're all wearing leather, Theater is talking about sex 'with enormous enthusiasm when nobody's ever let you in their pants. Theater is pretending you know what you're doing whet) you don't know anything for certain and what you do know seems to be changing all the time. Six days ourof seven T arna creation, someone who relies on luck, lust, and determination. The problem is that I know sometimes luck doesn't hold. _That's when I become my 111<1111a-a WOn1<111 who could charm time out of bill collectors, sympathy out of sheriffs, and love out of a man who had no heart to share. The tragedy of men in 111)' family was silence, a silence veiled by boasting and jokes. If you didn't look close you might miss the sharp glint of pain in their eyes, the restless angry way they gave themselves up to fate. My uncles went to jail like other boys go to high school. They' took, up girls like other people. choose a craft. In my mama's photos they stare out directly, uncompromising, arms crossed or braces on their knees. I thought them beautiful and frightening, as dangerous for those quick endearing grins as for those fast muscled arms, too tall, too angry, and grown up \vay too soon. I remember my cousins as boys who seemed in a matter of weeks to become hard-faced men. Their eyes pulled 111 arid ' closed over.' Their smiles became sharp, their hands always open and ready to fight. They boasted of brirls they'd had and men they'd get, ass they'd kick and trouble they'd make, talked so big and mean it was impossible to know 'what they meant and what they didn't. TIley wanted legend and adventure, wanted the stories told about tile uncles to be put aside for stories about them. "Just boys," Mattie Lee said of them. And so they remained all their lives.

l

"p.

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hometown by treason

boys

fuck me hard down 011 that sagging yellow mattress of broken dreams andashtrays because you smell. like home and empty beer calls which for me amount to one and the same take my hand and we'll fly down ever-y rank alley this city has to hide pin 'rue up against that dripping cement wall and slip your tongue past Illy chipped teeth where I'll nurse on-your arson lips as though life itself could spring out of another rain)' Friday night you stood out to me from a thousand nameless boys because you dri fted in straight off the wings of homesick and I wanted to feel your sex like sweet nostalgia rocking me back and forth to the tune of a landscape i wish had never existed hometown boys your faces float up to me behind bars in the forgotten spaces memory leaves behind over and over I can't escape the flock of you flying like ghost ships into my present time that has no room for those bloodshot eyes and grease stained hands you stand resurrected in this sweet stray who has colonized my' fantasies drifting in like clouds of belched nicotine going down smooth as schnapps burning in my chest like cheap bar whiskey tattered shipmate your salvation army smell and dirt stained knees remind meof souls i forgot that i missed and every breath of smoke you pour out fills my sails with wistful and lost take me down to the backseat of your car nail me against that torn vinyl with my skirt high over my head ,~/ and your zipper chafing my thigh cause only hometown boys like you can row me home, ~--

- '_,

(excerpt from) The House on Mango Street hy Sandra Cisnero«
\V~ didn'T always live 011 Mango Street Before that we lived on Loomis on the third floor, and before Th:1T lived 011 Keeler. Before Keeler it was Paulina, and before that I we can't remember. But what I remember most is moving a lot. Each time it seemed there'd be one more of us" By the time we got to Mango Street we were six=Mama, Papa, Carlos, Kiki, my sister NeWlY and me. The house on Mango Street IS ours and we don 't have to pay rent to anybody or share the yard with the people downstairs or be careful not to make to much noise and there isn'r a landlord hanglllg on the ceiling with 3 broom. But even so, it's not the house we thought we'd get. We were glad to leave the flat on Loomis quick .. The water pipes broke and the . landlord wouldn't fix theni because the house was too old. We had to leave fast. We were using the washroom next door andcarry'mg water over UI empty' milk gallons. That's why Mama and Papa looked for a house, and that's why we moved into the house on Mango Street, far away, on the other side of town, They always told us that one day we would move into a house, a real house that would he ours tor always so we wouldn't have to move each year. And our house would have running water and pipes that worked. And inside it would have real stairs, not hallway stairs. but stairs inside like the houses onT. V And we'd have a bas eluent and atle[,s; three washroomsso when we look a bath we didn't have to tell everybody .. Our house would be white-with trees around it, a great big yard and grass growing without a fence. This was the house that Papa talked about when he held a lottery ticket and this was the house Marna dreamed about in the stories she told us before we went to bed. But the house on Mango Street is not the way they told it at all. it's small and red with tight little steps in front and windows so small, you'd think they were holding their breath. Bricks are crumbling in places, and the front door is so swollen you have to push hard to get in There is no front yard, only four-little elms the city panted by the curb Out back is a small garage for the car we don't own yetand a small yard that looks smaller between the two buildings on the other side .. There are stairs in our house, butthey're ordinary stairs, and the house has only one washroom, very small. Everybody has to share a bedroom--Mama and Papa, Carlos and Kiki, me and Nenny, Once when we were living Oil Loomis, a mill from my school passed by and saw me playing out front. The laundromat downstairs had been boarded up because it had been robbed two days before and the owner had painted on the wood r"ES WE'RE OPEN so as not to lose business. Where do you live? she asked. There, I said pointing up to the third floor. You live then'? There. I had to look to where she pointed=the third tloor, the paint peeling, wooden bars Papa had nailed on the windows so we wouldn't fallout. . You live there? The way she said it made me feel like nothing There. I lived there. T nodded. I knew then I had to have a house A real house' One I could point to. But this isn't it 111e house on Mango Street isn't it For the time being, Marna said Temporary, said Papa. But Tknow how those things go.

Soft as Cement/Blando by branded

como cementa

Soft as cement, yielding as a battering ram, 17 and pregnant in an Italian Catholic community. Mama told us how the priest said God wouldn't allow her to walk down the aisle to marry our father, she. had to sneak in from fhe side, like a perpetrator in the eyes of Jesus, with no veil allowed to cover her sin and shame. It was true love, she said, the only man I've ever had . . It was necessity, he said, he already lost track of another bastard begot from some puta named Consuela, he had to do the right thing this time. Besides,she tucked around a lot anyway, he said, that other kid probably wasn't 'even his. She thought the weed he fed her was tobacco, she thought the dick he slipped her was an altar, they succumbed to the idea of marriage on the cement stoop outside, Grandma Ambrose's house in Nassau county. . She sucked it up, she rode it high, she wove a fantasy out of car parts and grease and the Schlitz.he came home stinkin' of at night. She thought it was a dream. Her belly swelled on a body lean and sharp as a butcher knife, thin ribs floating above the swollen belly.
,

when the pains started she thought she'd have time for one last cigarette and a cup coffee in the. 6am light of her mama's mustard kitchen, til the rush of an ocean pouring out between her· legs made her stub out her butt quick and go walking 'up Compass Court Hill towards the twinkling hospital lights.

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of

No surprise, she says, you were always a girl who had to hurry. Soft as cement. flexible as a metal rod, she bent that dream around condemned houses ond two room apartments, stretching like play-doh, stretcnino Papa's paycheck, skin around her young eyes stretching to meet the grouncl.

Pocks of Solem Menthol Ultra LighIs scattered among the bills, the balancing oct, who to pay, who to put off, when to steal the 1I10ney out of his drawer when 11e was late to come home, before money flew like a goose fleeing winter into a brown bog, into white powder, into the boys room in the basement that roared out a party under the peeling plastic on the kitchen choirs Mom slumped into, as she sunk deep like quicksand, buried like the dead under tile demands of those little white envelopes. Cushy as a razor blade, rusty like old knives, she blew out excuses to me in smoke rings of denial, well you know there ain't been no overtime lately, the boss don't like him, getting paid flat rate when the garage is slow is a killer, his no good family always borrowing money off of him, they'll be the death of us. He'll be the death of us. It rang silent in the air like thunder. Kinder ilion skim milk, fat'like a skeleton, she moved us farther and tortner away from home, to Florida, North Carolina, New Mexico, 05 if worm winters could ease the drinking and chase the bill collectors like leaves in the wind, make Papa tame as a pack mule. content to carry the load of a wife and two children on his broken back, on two dollars less than everyone else an hour because of his brown skin and accent. Never good enough, never fast enough, never white enough. . She kept her hoir long and dark for him, washed his work clothes in one of them old fashioned wringers, warning me to keep my fingers clear of the roll as we passed uniforms back and forth, her hands red and cracked from Cleaning and the clotheslines of winter. cooking breakfast. cooking lunch, haciendo 10 comida, arroz con habichuelas, todos los dlcs. there was no money' for anything else. She wore his culture like'a badge of honor, he dressed her in it like . a rnune co. she learned to dance to salsa, learned to cook pasteles for twenty, moved us to Puerto Rico for a while to live in a tin roof shack assaulted by swarms of flying cucarachas pinging off the tattered window screens, shrouded our beds in moqulteros. mosquito nets, tosove her girls'from being eaten alive. We threw the chickens leftover rice and went to town con no Chari to' sell the eggs. She learned to speak fluent Spanish. She forgot how to speak Iialian.

The long winter he was unemployed and migrated back up to Nueva York from Florida to find work we ate Wheatena for breakfast, pb and j for lunch, rice and beans for dinner. For six months. Mombragged about how nutritious Wheatena was when me and my sister mewled for the seconds tho! were never there, she told us how strong and healthy we would grow off of the good food she cooked us. At night she held her growling belly and wept into Papa's pillow. My legs grew long, my tits swelled against my training bra, I threw off Catholicism like a dirty rubber, wrote notes about boys in class, smoked my mother's ciqoreltescorno un good luck charm, made lies and snuck out my bedroom' window. Papa,saw me, growing soft as cement, yielding as a battering ram, tried to squish that growing sprout under his booth eel, tried to grind my cement into dust, tried to use those grease blackened hands to destroy, to soften, to disinigrate, to shame me bloody into long sleeves, little lies, ice packs and probing sch-ool counselors. I never told. Soft as a mattress, crumbling like wallpaper, mom told me it was my big mouth, my tongue like a knife, my cigarettes, my cement heart that made those bruises blossom on my flesh. She took a jet plane into the Florida of her mind, to warm winters, the truth melting like snow in the sun. She sighed defeat in yellow clouds of menthol smoke. She cursed me in Spanish and walked away. 19 and pregnant, no time for one more smoke before the pains got too strong. ' 22 and sorting through piles of snow covered bills. 25 and choking on the sheetrock dust that my baby daddy tracked in on the carpet. Looking in the mirror at the new bruises flowering on my cheek, the blood dribbling down my chin. ' I packed my little girl up in the back of my '79 blue Toyota last night, alone, and started driving for Florida. My cigarette smoke curled out of the window, like smoke signals; the blood on the styrofoam butt, like war paint. . Soy dura como cemento. I am hard as fucki(lg cement.

Apologies (1999) by goatgirl

I'rn sorry, my sun, cehter of my pale orbitfor the newly-minted rage that prickles my fingers and pushes j'OU f r oiu my lap.

potato

It's not for you, fists ge~tly tangled in your hair, chapped cheeks arid parted lips S\Jeet-sou'r aura of apple juice and cheerios It's not fOr you. It's for the bank account your whine for sweets,. for my hand~, cracked from scrubbing underpanis in thesirtk. ~. that taunts

for canned ~eget~bles and housebound Saturdays for snowy tv ~nd one~season,shoes for the exile of day care ~nd f o r loneliness.

LUNCHTIME
by mamaspitfire Bologna and Cheese Sandwiches on White Bread with Mayo. The, kind of boloqnc in the canary yellow plastic package, the red nylon string you pull to break the uniform thick soggy slices out of their' hard clear shell. The cheese, Crayola Orange, the word cheese on thi~ square of dyed vegetable oil is spelled with two E's and a Z. It's individually tucked inside flimsy clear stuff, a hybrid between real plastic and generic saran wrap. You peel carefully, so , carefully, so that the cheesy square comes out whole and doesn't crumble; clinging desperately to the shrink-wrap. Then the White Bread. Only in your wet dreams can your Ma afford Wonder Bread, with it's Chipper rainbow circles dancing on the bag, perfect white squares of fleshy dough waiting to be eaten. This bread comes In a package with all the fanfare ofo Wake. White plastic black" letters, bread so flimsy it tears at the thought of peanut butter on Cl knife. Last, globs of mayo, the genera-cheese's wicked sister, some vague mixture of vegetable oil, mystery paste; and Poor. Finally, The Sandwich. The bread turns to thick paste, the mayo glues each bite to the roof of your mouth, a strange Elmer's school paste reaction native only to the mix of this exact combination of ingredients with saliva. Bologna and Cheese on White Bread with Mayo. Even Better. Peanut Butter and Jelly. On the same white bread because Bologna and Cheese won't keep in your lunch box until noon and your Ma doesn't have those cute little blue ice packs that the Clean Girls bring to school with their lunches th~t come straight out of a fifties sitcom. And let's be honest, just skip the lunch box fantasy too. Replace it 'with a brown paper bag, wrinkled. stained from yesterday's lunch, big hole in the corner threa.:tening to give way ,in your locker. PB and J. Frprn an overgrown Vat of Peanut Butter from the food pantry, b'ol'd black letters on,white paper, lasts forever, the scme giant tub of sorry excuse for peanut butter taunting ycusecson after secscn.r-efusinq to empty no matter how mcny sandwiches it makes, sitting smug on your momma's kitchen shelf. The Jelly. Grape. Family Size. Won't

spread smooth and slick like sweet sweet strawberry jam reserved for the lucky. This jelly is the bastard lovechildof jello and vaseline. Globs fall off the knife refusing to float evenly over the bread's surface, which is threGtening to dissolve under the weight. This jelly makes a miracle transformation in the two and a half hours from when it is made on the kitchen counter in the morning . to when the school lunch bell rings. It undergoes a chemical reaction, transforming into something akin to sour.battery acid. It eats through the bread so when you pull it out of your used lunch bag it smells like laundry and has stained the lifeless bread grey, the color of white canvas sneakers that desperately need replacement, gaping holes in the toes, gaping holes in the bread. No snack, no side dish. Maybe on a good month an apple. Not Red Delicious, not plump and juicy, but the hateful cousin of the apple ,fed to Snow White by a spiteful witch's hand. small. Shriveled. Brown mush in the bruised spots. Small, the size of a baby's fist, the kind that comes in the Assorted Fruit Bag on sale for 3.99. Watching with envy as the Popular Girls unpack jello puddings, sandwiches with r-ecl.meut in them, wheat bread, crusts cut off, hot thermoses of soup o~'pasta, the steam hitting your nose from across the table. The smell of hot lunch on pizza day, the red squares of cheese and sauce, a fifth grade celebration. No money for hot lunch, not even the yellow strips of Free Lunch tickets that color your schoolgirl cheeks red but fill your belly. Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches. Maybe you choke down the food, trying like fuck to convince yourself that it tastes OK, trying to ignore the mounds of food pouring out of trays and lunchboxes around you. Or moybe you just throw the bag into the diesel grey garbage bins in the corner of the cafeteria and hide against cool green tile on the bathroom wall until the bell rings.

Questions, comments, bashes, praise, ideas or threats of bodily harm? Email us at wtchronicles@hotmail.com or send a letter to P.O. Box 11583, Portland, ME, 04104.

TI,e SPUnlS.1 Farrul» 19~3. Oil on canvas .. ~~1 :< :18" Collection

the Jrli~1 and/or

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20 Things About Class
(fou nd at www.steam i ron .corn/payday/cl ass-20 ,11trn I )

20 things you '~ill hea r if you try to talk about class:

The working class is disappearing * Class does not exist in America * Define working class * We're all 'really working class because we all work * My grandparents were working class * Can anybody cite statistics to show that a working class e?dsts in late capitalist America? * You wear your working clcssbcckqround . like a badge of honor * Unions are obsolete I read in the paper about a janitor who makes $50,000 a year - can you believe that? * White working class people are racist, homophobic and sexist * But you don't look .poor * Why are you so angry?, The men. who work for my dad's construction company are all cheerful, happy guys * You're just being divisive * I saw a woman in the grocery store buying lobster with food stamps * I know you understand this, but you're different - most working class 'people won't get it * Working class people don't reed> . You have a chip on your shoulder * Lighten up ~ white .' trash is hip * You're too smart to be working class * Once you get a college degre~ you're no longer working class * Nobody who lives in the suburbs is working class * You're not working class because you make too much money * You're not working class because you're hot a manual laborer * You're not working class because you're on the Internet and working class people can't afford Internet access because they don't

*

,

have enough money" ...

Why are you-se angry?