Special thanks to Cynthia Naughton & Robert Brown for their generous contributions. They’re definitely about it!

We would also like to give thanks to the public school teachers and librarians for turning badass kids into badass wordsmiths. And cheers to the submarines.

i b a i


[p u l l ]

a lit / art zine. issue #6 - printed May, 2013 in San Francisco, CA. edited by Alexandra Naughton. layout/design by Jillian Knox. cover art by Amy Berkowitz. To submit or for more info: thetsaritsasez.com | zinebeaboutit@gmail.com

It’s you and the door. You pull. Nothing. You pull harder. Still nothing. You put your weight behind your throbbing bicep, dislocating a disk in your back in the process. The door remains shut. In that moment, you realize the sign said “Push”. It’s time to get stronger prescription glasses. So many situations are like this. Sometimes it’s correct to push and not pull. Like if you need to take an elevator, Pulling those buttons are a bitch. Sometimes pulling is the only solution. Say you “forgot” the condoms and you’re in the middle of making ugly faces and pregnancy is not in your immediate plans. Well then you pull out. Believe me it ALWAYS works. Some situations are lose-lose propositions. For example, you’re at a party and some loud, drunk guy tells you, “pull my finger.” Please don’t. In a work situation it’s wise to make friends with those that have pull. The drawback is that you will have to engage in bullshit small talk like “Sir I’m pulling for you!”, If you need to pull heavy shit, you get a pulley, If you need to lift a bull, you get a bully. If you’re broke and you crave pizza and you have lots of friends, you pull your money together. Though they sound similar, do not confuse “pool”( the place in a home where you swim) with “pool” (The table game where you use a big stick to hit balls into a pocket). It sounds like a painful game for men but it’s actually kinda fun, Currently, many kids are dying because we have made it so easy to pull the trigger. It’s up to us to push for reform.

- Israel Carrasco

Pull the Trigger
too soon and it blows up in your face too late and it's over never to be replaced when to pull the trigger stop the fall from grace

- E. Love

Art: Grannell Knox

Art: Cora Mitchell

Men Think They Know
They think they know me, when my nipples sprawl beneath my shirt, sweet and tight as grapes on a plate and the sweet little flames of my heels invite, making sparks like a little girl's tin pinwheel. When that swinging sign of my lush behind reads like a circus poster, pointing the way to the stretch of my legs and the reach of my arms, letting them guess just how tightly they can wrap and squeeze, that's when I sense their approach of greed, with their heavy scent of ships and cars and fortuitous transport and the heavy sucking mud of their need, queuing for a glance, a whiff, a wisp-like touching of my fingers which they can only imagine dancing the length of their hard kept, ill concealed secrets. So I dance the streets like a nomad, dirty-girl style, as if I have no intent at all, to entertain or give a puff of my sweet breath, deep and heady as fine bourbon. I never need to work hard at it, the night is all about the thrill and tonight, I'm on the pull.

- Intimate Witch

How We Wake Into Color
this backward-blooming that knows only the dance between the moon and the tide this tug that pulls the soul earthward and thieves it from the silk of the night

- Carleen Tibbetts

There was nothing rational about driving his Tempo all the way across town on his half hour lunch break. Ted couldn’t fully explain it himself. The pull was almost supernatural, a cosmic force. “Two Wonderdogs with the works. No onions, extra cheese.” The teenage girl in the striped hat attempted to force her disdain upon him with a look. She could not perceive the work of the gods. “Do you want the relish?” “Absolutely.” Wonderdogs from the Velvet Freeze on East Washington Street always made him feel better. He had been going there since he was a kid, and on a hot Spring afternoon he was transported back to his Senior year of high school, when he had two study halls, an independent study art class and was a history teacher’s lab assistant. Ted couldn’t even count the number of days he’d skipped that year. They had given him the Ferris Bueller Award. That’s probably why he had dropped out of community college after three semesters, and his proudest achievement to date was ascending to the shift manager position at Blockbuster Video. He hated his job, but the almost daily reminder that the business probably would not exist in another six months was a very compelling form of torture. Ted looked around the pavillion and saw the people eating together and felt a little self conscious. He didn’t mind being alone or eating alone... but in only a decade he’d gone from being totally surrounded by people, to total isolation. Where had they all gone? The Wonderdogs were delivered to his concrete picnic table, served on wax paper in a red plastic basket. The same girl in stripes gave him a tight lipped acknowledgement like he’d just made a quip that fell flat. But all he’d said was “Thank you.” They weren’t chilidogs.They were so much more. They were delicious hot dogs served topped with a thick and tangy meat sauce, authentic relish, cheese, mustard, and Ted even put ketchup on his because no fucks were given at Velvet Freeze. Not then. Not ever.

He forgot everything. The dense traffic of the morning commute, the constant search for affirmation from those around him, the crushing sensation of the present and the emptiness beyond... Ted closed his eyes like a lover moving toward a sensual kiss. Just as he opened his mouth for the first bite, the hot dog stand and the entire shopping center surrounding it was rocked by a catastrophic explosion. Holly Golightly returned to the alley to join Fred in search of the cat. Laura was horrified. The afternoon screening of Breakfast at Tiffany’s for her literature as film class was her first real experience with Hollywood bastardization. It hit hard. She had a page and a half of notes, sitting in her lap, on the subtle differences between page and screen. Across the last twelve lines she scribbled simply and furiously: WHAT THE FUCK?? Existence itself had been undone in five minutes. Up until that moment she had been in love with Hepburn, Peppard, Capote... the film and the story both. Especially Holly. This was her coming of age in celluloid and ink. The delicate and wild transition between girl and woman, the hunger for freedom and the damning tether attached to a monetary world. Holly Golightly was Laura’s immortal avatar. And she was being forced to watch her bleed out upon the cross. Sitting alone in a dark theater on a Tuesday afternoon had felt so novel and thrilling. And she’d been quickly reduced to another silly girl who had bought into a vicious con. “Yeah!” the masculine cheer made her jump. It came from a few rows back. Laura turned as the two trenchcoats embraced in the rain. She didn’t recognize the clapping figure, but as the room lightened, the last few years of homeroom came into focus. “Don’t tell me you enjoyed that,” she said, as they walked down the aisle. “I’m supposed to be in Algebra II right now. Of course I enjoyed that.” Only later would it occur to her how attractive it was that Ted had skipped class to see Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Even if he hadn’t cut explicitly for that purpose, the relative value of hours

spent ditching school was not lost on Laura. She was only there to get college credits early. “The ending ruined my life.” “I know what you mean, but isn’t it nice to know there’s an alternative?” “What do you mean?” “Everyone deserves the occasional happily ever after. Even Holly Golightly and her gay companion can end up together, once in awhile.” Laura couldn’t admit it, but that did make her feel better. Not just about the character she had idolized, but life in general. She secretly loved the obstinate fluidity of an infinite universe. Specifically, Laura faithfully held onto the idea that her trajectory may not determine a landing strip... or crash site. They paused outside the lobby. He took in her straight brown hair, and fluctuating nebulae. Laura had a slight frame, highlighted by a black spaghetti strapped top she wore almost three days a week. Few noticed because everything around it changed. Laura hoped they would notice her clavicle, which was perfect. “Where to next?” Ted smiled, as if they were obviously headed there together. “Well,” she laughed, “I told Paul I’d watch his hockey practice.” “I’ve never understood that,” he said, lips tightening. “Watching practice.” “Honestly, neither do I.” “I mean, unless you’re a bookie or something. That must be it.” She laughed, “No.” “No? Don’t have a line for me?” “I think you’ve got plenty.” That was it. Her wit had rendered him defenseless. Her warmth left him speechless. And before he even knew what had happened, she left him standing alone in the parking lot. “Fuck,” he muttered. Ted pulled the blue polo over his head and clumsily attempted to fasten his nametag as the gas pumped into his tank.

The uniform usually remained in his car when he wasn’t on the clock. It was his first morning opening the store and he was already six minutes late. He stuck himself with the safety pin, but didn’t notice until he doused his hand in gasoline, which overflowed when he hastily tried to replace the nozzle. “Mother fucker!” Her eyes were wide, shining aquamarines. They lingered in the sliver of space between the price and the pump. Ted’s shoulders drooped like an impaled beanbag chair when he realized they were watching him. Laura’s head poked around the corner, channeling a curious velociraptor, followed by her body. “Hi, Ted,” she said pleasantly. “Where’d you come from?” She looked around, not sure how to respond to that. “Right here. Just getting some gas...” “Yeah, yeah, sure.” he said, like that made complete sense to him. He could relate to the need for fuel. “You on your way to work?” “Yeah, I guess,” he shrugged. “Kind of running late.” “Blockbuster, huh?” She hoped that didn’t sound condescending. “Get to watch movies all day?” “Yep,” he flicked his nametag. “Mostly family friendly shit, but it isn’t bad. Just got a promotion.” “Score,” she bobbed her head with the exclamation. “I would definitely take a paycheck right about now.” “How about you?” Ted nodded toward the classic Mustang to her left. “Still with Paul, huh?” “Yeah... yeah,” she lowered her eyes. “I’m at U of I, so...” “Ah, how’s that going?” “Egh,” she shrugged. “A lot of aimless wandering around campus and drinking. Trying to force myself to class.” Ted was a junkie who’d just had his first taste in years. Nothing mattered except more. “So, do you have time to catch up?” She laughed, puzzled. “Don’t you have to get to work?” “Not really. They’ll cover for me.” They would not, and he would certainly be fired. “Just hold on for a minute for me.” Ted took a few steps toward the building and realized she was not fol-

lowing him. “Don’t you need to pay?” “Credit card.” “Right. Just one second.” Ted waited anxiously as an old man in front of him picked out a dozen scratch off lottery cards, with at least ten seconds of deliberation in between each choice. He asked the numbers of every ticket and explained that he never took the evens. He repeated that several times. The evens never won. He didn’t like the bingos much. He’d never had much luck with the bingos. Laura took a call on her cell phone as Ted crept ever closer to homicide. He saw her gesturing, and it looked like she was providing an explanation to an unreasonable line of questioning. The scene was a familiar one. He knew who was on the other end. She gave up soon enough. Laura just covered her face with one hand and listened to the voice. “What can I get you, man?” the bald bull behind the counter demanded. Ted paid for his gas and turned toward the door. She was gone. The old man was using the counter to scratch a few of his tickets. “Hey! I got a winner!” He looked to Ted and then back to the clerk. “Free ticket.” Laura was in the First National Bank when the abandoned outlet store 150 yards away was destroyed in a massive gas explosion. One of the tellers ushered Laura out the door when she attempted to go deeper into the bank. Her mother was in the vault, getting her grandmother’s antique wedding ring. Despite her brief protest, and the teller’s assurances, Laura ended up across the street wading through the chaos alone. All the customers scattered to the sidewalks and parking lots surrounding the strip mall. They watched as fire trucks, ambulances and squad cars arrived and blocked off the area. People were coming out of their homes to take-in the scene. Everyone seemed to be headed a different direction. It was hectic, but not hysterical. There were two dozen minor injuries, mostly from glass, and no fatalities. After a few linear laps, Laura decided her mother must have ended up on a different strip of sidewalk. Her calls went straight to voicemail.

There was a bus stop bench she’d passed, she thought it would be a good place to wait. She made her way back and spotted a greasy mop of brown hair that seemed familiar. Ted was halfway through one Wonderdog, the other was in the red plastic tray resting in his lap. Laura joined him on the end of the bench. He extended the tray and, with his mouth full, insisted she take the extra dog off his hands. They ate together, watching an old woman having a cut on her head bandaged behind an ambulance, firefighters rotating in and out of the gutted store, and police officers on crowd control. “You know what would be good right now?” Ted asked, rubbing crumbs from his hands. “Hmm?” “A milkshake. And if I remember correctly, you still owe me a trip to Steak n Shake.” “Too bad we can’t get to our cars,” Laura said, covering her mouth. All in one motion, Ted stood, grabbed her around the wrist and pulled her toward the nearest crosswalk. The last two bites of Wonderdog fell to the ground. Laura was too busy trying not to laugh and choke to argue. They trotted across the street and went unnoticed, edging the forbidden parking lot. Two police officers, between Ted and his car, communicated something to each other and walked away. The path was clear and they’d only be in unauthorized territory for twenty-five yards. “This is it,” Ted whispered. “Be quick. Stay low.” “You are insane,” Laura giggled quietly. “No! Wait.” They stalled. She reached down to her belt loop, pulled off her large black sunglasses, and put them on. She nodded a confident affirmative. Ted agreed. He led the way in a crouched scurry toward the nearest group of vehicles. They ducked between them and clung to the side of a Honda Civic. Ted held up a fist to signal “stop.” He pointed toward himself, his eyes, and then motioned around the corner. She smiled and mouthed “What?” He peaked around the Civic and quickly pulled back. With his right arm, Ted pressed Laura tight against the car and turned

his head toward her urgently. As if by not facing the danger, they would be invisible to it. The two police officers walked past casually. Ted exhaled, shaking his head slightly, in a way that conveyed “that was too close.” Laura was covering her mouth with both hands to keep from laughing. They moved across the open lane and made it to the row where Ted’s Tempo was parked. Laura waited beneath the passenger side window while Ted unlocked his door and crawled in. He opened her side and she joined him. “We made it,” she beamed. “Not quite, but I know a few maneuvers. I’ll get us out of here.” Ted’s plan was to back out and creep so slowly toward the street, no one would be able to tell they were moving at all. It worked like a charm and the police blocking the entrance didn’t even look in their direction until they jumped the curb, and went over the sidewalk. The cops just looked at each other and shrugged as the Tempo sped off down the road. “Woooo!” Ted shouted from the open window, when it was clear the escape was a success. “That was amazing!” “She hasn’t let me down yet...” Ted said, patting his steering wheel. “It’s pretty impressive you’ve kept it running all this time.” “Like a champ. Just put in a pair of those annoying ass halogen headlights you can see for a mile. The old ones weren’t worth a damn. And I like that they glow blue.” Laura remembered the reason she’d been in the bank and had a pang of worry about her mother. She checked her phone and called again to no avail. She explained to Ted how they got separated. “I’m sure she’s fine,” Ted offered. “She was further from the explosion than you were. And in a fucking vault.” “Yeah. I just don’t know why her phone is off. Or where she could be.” “What was she doing in there, anyway?” “Getting my ring.” “Oh.” The meaning took a moment to set in. “You and

Paul?” “Yeah. We’re getting married on Saturday.” “Saturday,” he uttered. “Well, congratulations.” He tried not to sound deflated. “It feels like the right time. He’s taking over the landscaping business and I might take another year off before grad school... if I go. Our families have gotten really close, so...” “You guys have been together a long time.” “Seems like forever.” “I don’t even talk to anyone I knew in high school.” He wondered if he’d known anyone since, or if he ever would again. Laura stared straight ahead. Ted thought her tone was too neutral, like she was trying to talk herself into it as much as justify the decision. But maybe that’s just what he wanted to see. “Well, I think it’s great,” he said, attempting to inject some artificial enthusiasm. “That’s what we all really want. Someone who reminds us who we really are... what we were like when the world was still full of possibility.” “You should write my vows for me.” Ted chuckled and declined for ambiguous reasons. But he did agree to come to the wedding, if he could get off work early. As they pulled into Steak n Shake, Laura’s phone rang. It was her mom. After a brief conversation Ted couldn’t pull much from, she hung up and told him they’d probably have to settle for drive-thru. “What happened?” “The explosion set off the security system and put the vault on lockdown. She just now got out.” “Wow,” Ted blinked. They didn’t say much on the ride back. Laura sipped her vanilla milkshake elegantly from the tall, transparent plastic cup. Ted’s strawberry began to melt in the cupholder. Laura sat alone in a white chair. The last bit of sunlight gave way to the stars. She had a tall glass half full of champagne to go with her silk dress. She had told her mother she needed to get very drunk indeed. The grass was cool and dewy beneath her right foot, swinging over the tops of the blades. She was numb on the surface and wondered why Paul

hadn’t shouted. Maybe he would have if she’d admitted it was a nineties one-hit wonder song she heard on the radio that day which pushed her over the edge. Part of her wished Paul had been angry. She almost wanted the dirty mascara tears streaming down her cheeks, so she could have just run away. So she could have escaped to Brazil. Laura didn’t run. Her makeup and hair were still the perfect picture of the young bride she was not. The guests were surprised but tactful at the announcement. Some collected their gifts from the table, others forgot or didn’t know if they should. Their cars headed off into the dark. The winding trail through the park seemed to spread the red lights away in all directions. Laura watched the glowing shapes, the last remnants of anyone she’d ever known, become tiny and fade into oblivion. And then there were blue headlights.

- Tyler Sutherland

i can’t chant love
when I see the government being utterly wasteful and stupid and killing people-animals--raping this space where their souls will remain i can't chant love --i can't but i can, and i must

- Zack Haber

Art: Eleanor Bennett

the weightless object stringed to his wrist to keep his eyes follow the sphere his father unaware of the knot’s loosening the boy notices slips his fist out of the loop detached from the wrist the boys joy the balloon rises his head tilted toward the ceiling he points the red dot won’t drop he says bring it back down

The Red Balloon

- Daniel Suarez

After Seven Years of Sobriety I Finally Tell Someone I Care for Her as More than Just a Friend
Jason once told me if you bite your tongue your mouth only fills with blood; but after she told me thank you for sharing your heart, I’ve wanted to taste iron.

- Daniel Suarez

Art: Eleanor Bennett

The Origins of Angst Cat
This is a story about my friend Katie J., and how she followed a powerful pull away from one creative project – the novel she felt she was supposed to be working on – to another creative project – a blog that started as an irreverent, frivolous break from the Serious work she was doing on the Serious novel. Readers know Katie as Katherine Valentine Jaeger... maybe you've seen her much-loved piece "The Duck of Your Life" in American Short Fiction? Guys, this is a short story with a cult following. Cult followings don't really happen to short stories, unless you're Mary Gaitskill or something. What I'm saying is, if you can find it online (I think you can?), it's worth checking out.   But I'm not writing to tell you about "The Duck of Your Life." She wrote that back in 2009. I'm writing to tell you about the historical novel about China she worked on next. She did a lot of research on Shanghai. She wrote a lot of words. She deleted a lot of words. She wrote many more words. A couple of years passed. She wrote more words. She felt more and more frustrated with the novel, and started to question why she was putting so much time and effort into a project she didn't feel deeply invested in. As she puts it, “If you don’t care about your own characters, you can’t expect anyone else to care. And the day I realized I had stopped caring about what happened to those characters was the day I stopped working on the novel.” She took a step back and looked at her writing desk – the computer's blinking cursor, the tower of dog-eared reference books, the piles of marked-up drafts, the bottle of Trader Joe’s pale ale she felt guilty for drinking in the afternoon – and got a new perspective on her situation. She propped up a stuffed cat – named Angst Cat, because his arms are raised in shocked surprise and his mouth is stretched in a grim rictus of horror – in her empty desk chair. She found that the juxtaposition "formed a sort of tableau," and noted that "the look on his face was much the same as the look I make on the inside when I am

trying to write my novel." She snapped a picture, captioned it "NOVEL WRITING," and that's how Angst Cat was born. Katie made her first post (see photograph) back in October, and she's been adding to the Angst Cat blog since then. There are loads of images on angstcat.tumblr.com and as you scroll through you witness Angst Cat experiencing various scenarios of shame, guilt, and despair. We see Angst Cat receiving unwanted affection from a slobbering bulldog and thinking "GERMS." We see Angst Cat looking at his own website, screaming "GOOGLING MYSELF TO MAKE SURE I EXIST." Standing in front of a bin full of empties, crying "THE RECYCLING GUYS WILL THINK I'M AN ALCOHOLIC." Listening to Internet radio as it plays Nickleback, observing "NOW PANDORA'S MAKING FUN OF ME." Literary and film references are interspersed (the cat has dressed as Emily Dickinson and The Dude from The Big Lebowski), and seasonal entries are in there, too: December found Angst Cat tangled in Christmas lights, complaining "EVERY FUCKING YEAR." Sewing costumes, making props, and taking photos of Angst Cat wasn’t just more fun than working on the novel – it also provided a more immediate way of talking about important feelings. Says Katie, “In the novel I was dealing with all these huge set pieces – China! Opium! The Sex Trade! Colonialism! – and I was using those to build towards the human drama. However, I became more and more drawn to moments of raw emotion, and less and less interested in the accuracy of, say, the street layout of Shanghai’s old city. And although Angst Cat started as a lark, in it I found the perfect means to examine feelings in extremis.” Angst Cat feels a lot of the same feelings we do, but the main emotion Katie is interested in exploring with the project is shame. Katie and I have had long conversations about how strange and damaging it is that shame is barely discussed in our society – not in art, or in regular discourse either. We are, essentially, ashamed to admit that we experience shame, or any negative experiences at all. And so unfortunate situations both large and small – feeling depressed, struggling to care

about our chosen careers, bingeing on ice cream in the wake of a breakup – take on an extra layer of heavy negativity. We don't just feel depressed, uninspired, or lonely – we feel ashamed that we're not happy enough, ashamed that we can't be passionate about law school, ashamed that we're eating unhealthy food to cope with sadness. Without major societal change, shame about shame isn’t going anywhere. Katie sums up the problem nicely: “A Capitalismdriven patriarchy wants you to feel shame, so you will buy more bras/cars/liposuction/self-help books. To expose one’s own shame publicly, through art, is in my case a call for sisterhood and brotherhood that circumvents this entrenched consumerism.” And that’s exactly what her project accomplishes: “What I’m saying with Angst Cat is ‘I feel shame about my depression/ writing/body hair/drinking; do you?’ And it’s a stuffed cat, after all; I think that the humor gets our guard down and allows us to more easily identify these gnarly emotions.” Many people want to read a historical novel set in China, and fortunately for them, our vast world contains many such books. But what I want to read is a sincere, immediately relatable expression of a feeling we all have but aren't supposed to talk about: shame. And when that shame is brought to me in the form of artful photos of a handsome stuffed cat experiencing many of the same difficulties and disappointments as I do, I'll scroll through all seven pages before finishing the project I'm supposed to be working on. And I won't feel bad about it at all.

- Amy Berkowitz

Storage: Chapter 3
He seemed happy when he got home; he told me that he had had a good day at work. This was the first time I had heard his voice. It was odd – like hearing yourself on an answering machine. He helped lift me out of the box and carefully stepped back inside. I still didn’t have much energy but I did feel better having spent my day resting rather than at the office. Over the next few weeks my health began to deteriorate even further. He began going into work for me regularly – he was making new friends, he told me one day as he pulled me out of the box. I paced the apartment for a little while before I went to sleep. That night my bed felt large and uninviting. At work the next day people treated me differently. I don’t exactly remember when or how I finally realized something was different. It almost seems like it happened gradually, but that doesn’t really make sense. One thing’s for sure – one day he didn’t take me out of the box. I would peer out over the edge and watch him moving around my house. I wasn't able to muster the energy to speak. I could see him cleaning, redecorating, restocking my refrigerator. Soon I could barely recognize my old apartment. Before I knew it I was too small for my box. He noticed this and moved me into the old clothing box. I probably should point out here that I didn’t feel scared or anything, it seemed perfectly natural at the time for him to put me in the smaller box – the other one was simply too big for me. It took up too much room in the apartment. He held me gently but his hands felt rough and the apartment gigantic and intimidating. I was glad when he was finished. I felt better being in an enclosed space. It was comforting. Relaxing.

That day he moved me out of the kitchen and placed me on top of the shelf in the living room. He was having company over – a girl, he explained – and he didn’t want her to see me. I watched from my perch as the secretary from my old office came in. I remembered watching her while I worked and fantasizing about talking to her, about asking her out. I watched them eat dinner. I watched them go into my bedroom. I imagined them fucking. I watched her leave the next morning. I watched him kiss her goodbye. Soon it was time for me to move again. He took me down off of the shelf and found the original box. The one I had received at the restaurant, the one in which I had found him. What I could once easily carry in one hand now seemed gigantic, cavernous. He gently scooped me up and placed me inside. I watched him as he considered what he should to do with me. I could tell it was a hard decision – I appreciated that. As he carried me through what was once my apartment, I noticed how different the bedroom looked: so clean, so orderly. I was surprised to find the clothes were all neatly folded as he opened my (or, I suppose, his?) closet door and placed me on the top ledge. He looked at the floor for a moment and, then, he closed the top of the box. With the top on the inside of the box is entirely black. I hadn’t noticed it before but growing up in a city there is always at least one light on somewhere. It is darker in this box then any black I’ve ever experienced. Sometimes I forget if my eyes are open or closed. Every once and awhile he opens the box to look at me. Other than his face peering down at me I haven’t seen anything in ages. He’s wondering whether or not he should keep me. - Mauzy Virginia

The Dying Art of the Pornography Collection
As cloud puting irrevocably alters the masturbatory landscape, The bell tolls for the thrills of old A deleted mpeg, a discarded Hustler. - Stuart Finnie

i pulled the wet hair clogging the drain and used it to fashion a rope that i can use to climb into myself. feel around the dark for a body that isn’t mine. the blinds are drawn and i am wearing my dead grandpa’s shirt. there are cherry cokes that are as empty as the minutes you spend on your phone i turn on the lights. my neighbor’s dog is the saddest dog


i pulled at the cord on the ceiling. the vitamins and minerals spilt like a clumsy child tumbling (activate the sprinkler system at your local grocery). it is nice to feel nervous about being with someone you like. we saw a jet split the sky in half and it wasn't a big deal, we were just two people watching the world happen while the sky hung like a light on the air


-Nathan Springer

Pull Away So Many Times
The sunlight gently woke me and I slowly opened my eyes. For the first time that I could recall in days I cherished the morning and drank it in. The usual harshness about the bright light that so often rudely snapped me awake each day now enveloped me with warmth and peace. I lingered happily in the cloudy dream state that one wanders in that place between the waking world and sleep. I could float through this oasis for hours, days...and the nagging pull that the world, time, and life had constantly had on me could not find me here. I had never been this happy before. The stupid grin that I had most likely been wearing was abruptly wiped away with a sudden realization. I had a visitor. She had been next to me the entire time sleeping quietly so very close to me. Shame crept into my sanctuary of oblivion as I realized that I did not remember her name. I began my mental search to avoid embarrassment upon her imminent awakening. Her name eluded me but she was so very familiar to me. Important, even. Memories of our time together were there but as soon as I began to chase one it would float away and out of my reach. I stared at her in dumb hope that one fleeting memory would come back to me and enlighten me. I waited and not one had made its return. She looked content in her sleep and for some reason that didn't sit well with me. I wasn't sure why.  Maybe it was because the realization of her presence had taken away that profound feeling of joy that this odd morning had gifted me. Maybe it was that I felt ashamed now because I couldn't remember who she was and I knew for some reason that I should. I couldn't find

her in the recesses of my mind but I felt a connection to this being and a strange desire that I couldn't quite place. It wasn't lust. It wasn't love. I couldn't give this feeling an emotion but it was quite present and pulling. I watched her for what seemed like many confusing hours before I noticed something odd. Her chest wasn't rising with each breath as it should. Her face had become pale and though I hadn't touched her I knew her body was rigid and cold. Panic coursed through my being. I tried to reach to shake her awake. I couldn't.  I couldn't feel my arms to move them. I realized I had no sense other than what I saw and felt in my mind and then I knew where I was.  Though the happiness I had earlier felt was gone, I was still stuck there on that plane between consciousness and the void. My beautiful dream became a nightmare. I tried to break free of this paralyzing grip but it held me tight. There she rested in silence, evading my grasp just as memories of her had. I felt a barrier. I fought it. I failed. I closed my eyes to erase the worry because this was just a dream, right? I let myself sink back into it. Instead of falling back into a deep sleep I found myself in a darker place. I opened my eyes, but they were no longer mine; they were hers, the nameless One that earlier rested beside me. In an instant those memories that escaped me poured over me all at once. Every thought, every moment, and every feeling she had ever felt flowed into me and I felt myself drowning in them. With a gasp I felt a breath of life awaken her. She was alive and was  aware that she was not alone. I knew she felt me there because I shared her thoughts. She was not happy about this. I wasn't either. This new dwelling I had trespassed upon was dark, dank, and full of hatred...for me.  I longed to be free of it even if it meant I would be stuck there with the barrier that kept me from her. I hadn't seen it as the gift it had been. Struggling free of this new prison proved easier than I had imagined it would be. I escaped this darker nightmare with ease and found myself again in the place I had awoken into on that beautiful morning that seemed so far away. I saw her again on the outside with clouded eyes. Tears blurred my sight. I knew she was gone again. She looked content at my passing though no breath of life filled her. I didn't feel that

hatred anymore. She didn't, either. She had nothing to feel it with. Her soul had left her. I took one last look and with a sigh departed from her side. She now walked in the clouds and looked upon herself with a disturbing confusion, happy to be away from that prison we both shared. She once looked upon her lifeless body with a longing to be in that place again. She even crept back in there for a few  anguishing moments. She had escaped that horror as I had. We walked together once more. - Evy Simonson

Art: Wandah

Music in Parts
In the first age, on tiptoes. Before we lost our language. Opportunity makes the thief. The sound of meaningless conversation, clitoral. Borrowed giants. The bodiless heads, the whores, the lamenting army. Tricked into rape. "Pan's hour, the faunal noon." A contest between the prophesy and history. (She is a place as well as a person.) The portion, enclosed, us. Confessed inside it, garlanded and waiting. The blotch bleeds and the beginning is found. Contrasted with Eve. The mark of a cycle is both the beginning and the end. After the age of the people. The chorus listens. The dog has been left outside. Tripping along the story, throwing stones. He's pointed at me, ready. The Black Stone white, falling. Upright, moral, corseted. We are obliged to pray. Wait for when the gods bow. The saints, a zenith, absinthe. The desert dweller woman, the spider. For sleep. Dreamydreary. For sleep. Occasionally the stone's answerer answers. What the hidden away takes away. Morning traffic. Similar creature to the dragon. To pagodas. Murmur marine-like Merlin murmur, quiet.

- Carrie Hunter

I went to grade school with a girl who had chronic trichtillomania, a psychological disorder that causes its victims to compulsively pull out their own hair. Before her condition, she was one of the most popular girls in my class, and I, a strange, socially inept outcast with a bad haircut, had always secretly wished to be like her. The first signs of her malady surfaced in the sixth grade, when she was absent from school due to illness. Her mother requested that her work be sent home, and when our teacher opened the top of her desk to gather the necessary books, he discovered a large clump of brunette hair hidden among her school supplies. Ruler, pencils, calculator. Hair. Over time, the girl’s hair became noticeably thinner. Patches of fleshy scalp peaked through sections of brown locks, until one day she came to school wearing a wig. You have two choices in this type of social situation -- either duck back into your shell and camouflage yourself into the scene; or stand on the sidelines and study your surroundings (one of the beauties of being an outcast is that it lets you hone your observational skills).   I chose the role of the observer, witnessing the ostracizing of this girl each day, as her circle of friends grew sparser. Conversations and girlish giggle sessions included her less and less, gradually replaced by whispers and furtive glances toward her wig-capped head, and her sad, confused demeanor. She continued to pull. Across the classroom I’d catch her reaching stealthily under her wig with sneaky fingers, then moving to her arms, her eyebrows. She pulled until there was nothing left. She pulled until she had not a friend in the world. She pulled until her parents admitted her to a mental institution. And when she was gone, nobody asked about her. It was like she’d never even been there. She’d pulled herself out of the

whole picture. I still wonder about her. I, too, had plenty of inner turmoil, but my response was always to push outward -- to put my demons on display, allowing them to dance wildly and with rebellion. Across the classroom, she chose to pull, soothing herself with each strand of hair pinched between thumb and forefinger, pulling her troubles below the surface. While she pulled herself out, I pushed against every insult, cruelty, and neglect. But maybe it’s just that when you’re hurting, those are your two choices: Push. Or pull. - Ellen Oh

The 7th of 7 items of Here Comes Everybody's Clothing
If I translate it back you know what will happen. Monuments make me cry. His sleeping body. Not a museum but an obelisk. The sky's moss. I can't walk in the water. Or our eye disease. There is a magic that wants to hurt us. In their perfection everyone is diminutive. Underneath the beneath. Its just like how I announce myself everywhere I go. Or quiet. Charlotte Brontë. Showing you mine. The stole, color of entrapment. How you get away. This mistake that I've made every time I make it. Without my armor you see what I look like. Or foliage.

Useless, fanciful building. The museum's erotics. How you are just born with what you have, a stupid power hanging off you. Useless, fanciful power. One of the stories that are not my story. The rivalry of brothers. The father, the engineer, the paddy cakes. I just have one. The money remembers that name of what you do not. Or tears it apart. Palimpsest's full story. Not valid. Where everything broken is housed. This past I'm so past. Jabes's God located only in the future. Getting past the thunder-word. Pushed not pulled. What we are guilty of. My own mistranscriptions. Sitting down in trains. Satiated. The outhouse, the backyard, the treehouse, the tavern. The password forgotten. But the secret a secret of something that we want out of. Waiting by the door. Kate the Cleaner. Our duodrama. Eleven signifies renewal. Good karma used up. Fragments I've found that I don't know what to do with. For being a woman. An illegal dunghill. The other occurrences. A window in the bedroom of whatever dreamer is dreaming the dream that is the text.

- Carrie Hunter

I. I peered through a dark hall but only my lumen glistened softly back. Error 404: I’m sorry, but what you’re looking for doesn’t exist. I despaired and dissociated into A red embryo. On the drive home I Noticed all the red things On sticks. I don’t trust you My mother said, narrowing Eyes at her phone. Buttons I have pressed With increasing urgency (it doesn’t work) If you wish for complexity you will receive it. Signposts will mutate. I’m trying to grow on A sugarless gel because Sugar is so old school. Packed with nutrients! How to be emotionless In 12 easy steps! II. I can’t read a sen tence anymore it takes too long. I like poems

Things That Happened in One Day

They tell me when to breathe. The internet is ruining me. It’s ok because all world religions have Punishments. When curiosity strikes look into a well and know that it’s likely nothing. III. RRRRRRRRRRR you’re broken! IV. (tucking my hair back) It’s great that you have this outlet For all your troubles you know? Yeah, I said as I wiped my mouth.

- Jayinee Basu

--pu l l
me pull me into you but tell me what you're doing yes you're doing well to tell (don't stop!) to tell me what you're doing with a-tiny touch of breezy without being for example when you make a touching lightly in the personal her--the fluttering fur. don't stop! to woman know to need--the extra pull make effort. pull me pull me pull me pull me into you but tell me what you're doing yes you're doing well (don't stop!) to tell to tell me what you're doing but--

- Zack Haber

Dear Guadalupe,
I hope you're enjoying that poison ivy you stole. Because of you I am always feeling like I stepped in shit. Remember staring into people's houses without getting caught? We were older then, believing everything we did made sense. I know better now, but I am sure you do not. You are adept at blocking things out of your brain, especially things I am trying to teach you. My dear Guadalupe, how could you forget clutching the letter opener so hard there was blood on the carpet? Do you think you could see me again? Also I am writing you to say you have neglected to wish me a very happy birthday. - Emily Siegenthaler

So he pulls out my chair!
 “Bonjorno ragazzi!” a man in a suit booms as we pass. “Che bella donna!” Justin beams. I think he couldn’t have been more pleased if the compliment was actually about him. “Lo so! Grazie mille!” The man acts taken-aback. “Italiano?” “Certo!” “Ah! Mangi qui! It will be good to have a real Italiano in the house.” Now he has flattered this third-generation Italian-American and Justin lets the man lead us to a table in a sort of giddy trance. As he is pulling out my chair he asks, “Did you want to eat here?” I shrug. He turns back to the server and continues chatting. When I understand that this is to be a lengthy catch-up between suddenly old friends I smile politely at the waiter before completely cutting myself out of the conversation by burying my face in the menu. I am deciding between Pasta Carbonara and Gnocci when the menu is jiggled out of my hands. “Don’t worry,” Justin says, “I ordered for you. You’re going to love it.” “Going to love it!” the server chimes. The furrow in my eyebrows is involuntary, I swear. I am only aware of it when the server’s grin falls. He thanks Justin, tells him he’ll be right back with our drinks, and walks away in a sudden hurry. Justin watches him scurry through the kitchen’s double doors, then looks at me quizzically. “What did you order me?” “Did you not want me to order for you?” “I mean, who does that?” He presses his back to the chair, holding his body as far away from me as possible. I copy him to show I too want to be somewhere else. “I’m sorry. I’ll never order for you again. Simple.” His mouth is ajar when he finishes speaking. His stare is cold. I am not interested in righting anything. I meet his eyes defiantly. Let him stop liking me over Gnocci.

- Miquila Alejandre

Pull Your Weight
Sometimes, baby, it doesn't pay to try. and sometimes happiness hides on skid row. The strange satisfaction of just scraping by. Of operating on the bare minimum.  Where the big things are so out of reach that the small things easily make life beautiful. A big break is a hot, homespun meal, or a couple dollars you didn't know you had. One smoke left in the pack you forgot. Where a bottomless cup of diner black and counter top conversation with  the Early-birds and All-nighters  is the only thing on your social calendar.  In watching the world wake up & come alive from the daybreak stoop of your jobless day  that holds any possible hope with no expectation. When peace & quiet comes at 2 AM  after your scurvy neighbors have stopped yelling... And started talking low..  And then go silent. And you fall asleep together. Together in your beautiful,torrent squalor through paper thin walls. Un-alone.   And sometimes salvation hides in skid row....  Through paper thin walls shared with heated, derelict lovebirds  who show how much they care by how loud they squawk    and then how soft they coo, On littered steps, pitying the hopelessly busy

 who move too fast and feel so little. In the charred residue of an empty mug and some red-eyed small talk  with others near the bottom. In that long,harsh drag you pull from your last stale cigarette  so sharp it cuts your throat and makes you feel your still alive. Through life, it can be all or nothing.  And sometimes-if you let go-  Nothing can feel daaamn fine.

- M. Weaver

Art: Wandah

this is a dream, and this is too
 i recall the cabin, where the dream started. a square room set in old wood. and wood lined the old table where we all sat in solitude collections of give and take, in conversation. i stood up and took the bag of weed from a nameless face in order to refill the emptied glasses scattered. we all felt a little drunk, i think, but being drunk in a dream is the same anywhere.   leaving the room in confidence, i passed the doorway opened without a door, a screen or anything in between. crossing a field occupied by calfs in playful poses grazing green green grass, the way a child would play after a stern gesture from an adult. attentions cautious, yet lost in action.  at the end of the yard i entered a different house. the same splintered wood appeared forborne and weathered. closing a door behind me, i heard the calves alarm one another to the bear that appeared from behind the woods. scattering, the calves learned they were not safe. as i learned the reason for the door.   the bear cleared the field. everything seemed darker. and i noticed a water faucet to my right. looking at the bag of weed in my left hand, i naturally filled the bag with water. pouring the water out while keeping its contents in place, i filled the bag again with water. pouring out the water again while the weed remained. repeating this step once more as the bear was getting closer to the door. i instantly thought of my friends in the other house, exposed.   opening the door, to the bears delight, i reached into the bag and pulled out a rather large nugget. the bear stopped its advance, sat back on its hind legs and disappeared; as the bud bloomed Malus blossoms in the palm of my hand so wildly i thought of popcorn popping.  - Robert Brown

Reading Phases Timeline From Grades 3-5
3rd Grade, Roald Dahl:
  I think I was reading James and The Giant Peach independently for SSR, when I loved it so much that I asked my teacher if our class could perform it in front of the entire school. It had nothing to do with our curriculum, but I think my teacher admired my ambitions enough to make her really want to see if I could pull this off. She allowed me to direct it. I was really against performing it as a readers theater but she didn’t feel like pressuring any of us to remember our lines. As a result, I think the assembly took around three class periods. I can remember seeing classes leave before we were finished. I think we missed lunch. I played the centipede.  

4th Grade, Goosebumps by R. L. Stein: 

How many Night of the Living Dummies were there? I want to say three. That was probably my favorite part of the series. I always thought R. L. Stein was the guy from those clear eyes commercials because they share last names. But I’m pretty sure the guy from the clear eyes commercials’ first name is Ben. I think I stopped reading them after they started that series where readers were supposed to choose their own endings.

5th Grade, Animorphs by KA Applegate:
The covers of these books used to excite me so much. I guess I thought to myself, ‘kids changing into animals? I have to read all of them.’ I used to write fanmail to KA Applegate. I think her publishers would respond with presskits, which I would then use for show and tell. I don’t remember how this was perceived but I think I stopped reading them after her series began to remind me of the Power Rangers. Something about Tobias reminded me too much of Tommy. Tobias could turn into an eagle. Tommy was the Green Ranger. Both characters were introduced into each series a lot later.

- Jesse Prado

Push Me, Pull Me Back In Place
I leave the house quick, stepping fast across the park. I am late for an appointment where I will be programmatically beat up by careful hands. I never thought of it like this until my chiropractor told me that when he yanks and breaks me, my body releases extreme endorphins. As if, he said, the shit were being kicked out of me.   Five minutes ago, I woke up after a 20 minute nap. I had collapsed like a kitten, and fantasized about a nipple rubbing against a wrought iron gate, somehow familiar to me. The gate stands between my velvet stool, ruby and gold, and this dancing woman. There are other men viewing, each from their own stools, from behind their own sections of pretty rusted crosshatch. Their fingers latch into each little shape in the grate. Their knuckles are white as they pull the iron weave towards them in desire. Lights catch the plump stomach of this warm girl. Her skin shines soft folds like satin. Never my fantasy, that one. But how do I know where things come from? I don't even know that as I walk, the pithy purple smear of a blueberry sits on my cheek. It remains from the handful that I grabbed on my way out the door. It sits along the slope between nose and cheek bone. The cheek valley smudge walks on me fast through the park, peeks with me down alleys at a sky turning roses. My chiropractor should tell me of the smudge as he directs my breaths in and out, as he sets his entire body weight on my twisted limbs in places designed to make cracks sound. But he doesn't. Instead, he bends my spine and makes me see the space between the base of each rib and my knobby spine. I imagine the air that fills those tiny spaces. Yet, I never see my blue spot, and he doesn't say a thing. He lets up, I breathe in, and he crushes the air pockets like bubbles kneaded out of bread dough. He then takes my hand and pulls me to a seat. It

feels like waking up for the third time today. Sitting, I see myself in the frame of a mirror. I realize my cotton dress is too thin. The band of my leggings and the outlines of my bra make slight ridges. My chiropractor jots notes in my file, and I look at my skin. I see the blueberry and grin. I've carried it around like thick wool and hiking boots carry seeds unknowingly. I pull loose the sketch of blue, and rub my cheek with a wet fingertip. I put my sweater on, and step back outside into an evening wind, sundown purple. When I turn up my alley it is nearly dark. A motion light turns on, and next to a green bin overflowing with take-out containers, I see the iron grate. The tips of my fingers fit like keys into the diamond shapes in the weave. I tug and the grate bends slightly towards me. Shadows obscure what lies beyond it.

- Kelly Thomas

One wants to be minimal. One speaks with an in-touch tongue. One says, No thank you. They’re talking about the deaths of companies. And starting new things. Also companies. Isolation may be a solution but is not finally solvent. What is present is a key card, lots of compost, this flat aesthetic. Spider something. New ribbon. Now is not a good time. I say you don’t need to be so accommodating. It is part of my accommodation. Maybe a ceiling– proto-dream. A contingent proposition being neither necessarily true nor necessarily false.

- Maya Weeks

it's the moon that's colorblind
John texted Ann: I can't write. What are you doing? Can I suck your toes? John went back to staring at the blank screen. He had written ten sentences and formed no narrative. He sent Ann another text: Narrative vs. poetic imagery, lol. John shut his laptop and got off his bed. He opened the blinds and looked outside. There was a small garden, a fence, the wall of another house, power lines and the sky. Why do I want to write, is what John was thinking about mostly. John would have been depressed if not for Ann. Whenever he couldn't write, which was often, he slept a lot and smoked cigarettes but Ann had moved back from the southern part of the state into the northern part and this made John happy and writing wasn't so important, other than to impress Ann. John thought about Ann. They went to pre-school together but didn't know it. They watched Garden State together on Valentine’s Day in high school. He bought her flowers and he was nervous the whole time. John hoped the only time he would be alive without Ann was that first eleven months after he was born. John thought he was probably really sad without Ann, even as an infant. Ann texted John: You're so weird! Why not take a break from writing? Meaning, you do it all the time so just be easy on yourself. John liked Ann's mind because it didn't compliment his own, her thoughts violently crashed into his own and this made him think. John wanted to fuck her mind because it was beautiful. John walked into the garage and got his bike. Anytime John was in a garage he thought about his dad. His dad hanged himself in a garage. John would think "this is similar to the place my father died."

John rode his bike to an AA meeting. He wasn't an alcoholic, but the NA meetings in his hometown were full of meth-freaks and they talked too fast so he went to AA meetings and no one seemed to have a problem with him. Smoking a cigarette in front of the church, John thought "modernism should come back, seems like 9/11 rebooted the alienation and anxiety that the first world war caused." John thought that was stupid so he shook his head and put out the cigarette. He felt weird being at a church, but he wasn't actually at a church, just an old storage building that was tucked safely away from the public. John thought there was no difference between the mindlessness in his culture and drug addiction but it was clear that not many others agreed with him. Whenever he told someone he was a drug addict they recoiled, same thing with his father’s death. So John stopped sharing anything about himself. John thought about having sex with Ann. He wanted to fuck her every morning and every night until he was a corpse. He had never been in-tune with someone sexually as he was with Ann. John wanted to marry Ann. In the storage room, chairs were set up in a circle around a table. John sat in the back, hoping no one would ask him to speak. He never had anything enlightening to say. Everyone else said things that inspired, but John said "umm" a lot and could never think straight. John drank a cup of shitty coffee and thought about writing. Always being pulled back to writing, everything John saw was through the lens of "how can I turn that into a story?" After the meeting, John rode his bike home and texted Ann. He told her to come over and she said okay. They watched a movie and had sex and talked in the dark. She made him laugh. He asked to suck her toes again and she said no and he made a pretend pouty face and kissed her. John wasn't thinking about writing. - Cory Bennet

Mostly snowflakes.
What pulls us, attracts us, to other people? Every relationship we develop is, at its heart, based on the fact that we deem certain people acceptable and possible connections. These individuals are “better” than others. Is the attraction merely a lack of push? Do our friends, lovers, partners, drinking buddies, even acquaintances pull us toward them simply because they lack the qualities we dislike? I’ve always felt that those to whom I feel connected share something special; an awareness that makes them stand out from the crowd. It is a discernible but not entirely definable commonality that makes me feel that these people can fit into my life. It is a way to view the world and to be viewed by it. The next time you make a new friend or have a promising first date, take a moment to think about whatever made that person light up in the darkness, and what you share with that person that allowed you to feel the connection. 

- Paul Martens

lizard country wrong wind succulent brigade i’ve got a lot on my plate and i feel like shit stretch from sacrum skull finns där a deeper sense of gentleness you want a clear view of the northwest horizon a twenty-five day forecast the sharpest sun a dapperer america vanidades blindside turn in out bust up the road like rabbits back from the promised land up up up a tung stig push me pull me fish this sea on the coast you can always find good seafood i am looking for the deepest darkest red pancetta sopressata i’m the most sentimental boy you know - Maya Weeks

Stay right there and allow me to sink my teeth into your autonomy. Don’t you think I would change my name if I thought it would make a difference? Sit there and smell my dis-pleased look. I left the Electric Sun Band back on the horizon when I was young. Go on. Slather it on. Rub it. Rub it in. Suck on the vapors Of my authority. I won’t stop until I’ve covered every exposed part of you with it. And when you have finished then all things will be possible we will be anyone anything we want again finally

Until then, somebody other than Andy needs to distribute the mail. And I’m too goddamn busy to do it.

- Paul Corman-Roberts

I Mistook the Train For A Phone
I must have been homesick. I dialed my parents' number and the housekeeper answered. She swiftly reported their absence due to an opening night. My parents don't have a housekeeper. I hung up the train. Injured and irritated, now the passengers were 12 minutes late. Despite my apologies, I couldn't seem to get my story straight. Had I thought the train was a phone, or was I simply taking the train home? Did I need to borrow fifty cents? Enough. I was so tired I had lain down on the tracks. In retrospect, it would appear this was a case of traveler's anxiety; once the train had gone over me I felt I could breathe again. The bears were nice in that area, and funny, too, gnawing on my legs, keeping me warm at night.

- Emily Siegenthaler

Art: Joe Carrow


Start of the drop, in the ecstasy of flight, sound of air whipping past our ears, I wanted to say, let’s not forget this moment. But there were shopping lists and errands. A slew of pressing obligations. I wanted to do that little thing I do with my thumbs held high. But when I looked at you and smiled, it was already too late. Your face had frozen. You were turning away. Don’t crawl back inside yourself, I should have said, never surrender, and I would have if I’d thought you could hear me, it I’d thought there was a way to say it without sounding like your mother. Already you were too far away. We’d grown apart. Entropy they call it. So what I said instead was birth and life and death, it’s all the same to me, or something like that. Rambling now. Trying to steady my nerves. Adrenaline seized my throat. In case the chute doesn’t open, I choked, say a little prayer. Hallowed be the ground. On earth as it is in heaven. Groundless, really, such suppositions on the nature of nature. Where we were headed there would be fire enough. I blinked, twenty-five knots of wind pressed the wet parts of my eyes to the side, flattening the curvature of space and time itself, but for a brief moment, I felt like I could see everything: Sky an ancient indigo. A wild dance of orange soot near the horizon. A whisper of

low lying clouds like cotton candy. And you were there, someone new. So glad to have you at this carnival. Jump buddy. Cast in silhouette, arms and legs flailing. Don’t worry, I’m going to talk you down. I’m sure we both looked ridiculous. I wasn’t sure either one of us knew what would happen next. It would have been comedic if we weren’t so deadly serious, up above it all and already certain of the end. Only thing to do is assume the position, you told me. Arms and legs extended, I even wiggled my fingers and toes, grinning like a holy fool. This little piggy went to market. There you go. Now you’ve got it. It’s fun to stay at the YMCA. Cut back on your trans fats. Take your multivitamin. You liked my humor. Never a laugh, but a knowing smile. I’ll take a smile. Did you know the frequency of Pull My Finger jokes increases exponentially when the moon is full? For years, I puzzled on the science before I realized the gravitational pull was giving everyone indigestion. The red rocks continue rushing by. It’s a gas. A cosmic blur and we were the punch line. I thought of Roadrunner cartoons. I thought of my old physics professor, Dr. Harding. I wondered about the feather falling by my side, but didn’t have time to remember any of the Newtonian principles. When you reached across the airspace, brushed the tip of my Gortex glove, I felt my spine tingle. That odd sensation of human touch. We were running out of time. That somehow made it more poignant. Fart jokes and things in general. I could see the years whip by, the tensile of your once youthful cheeks flap in the wind like the unholy flag of some forgotten amusement park. Ground approaching. Last stop us and straight ahead. Gallows humor now. Everyone was dying to get there. I wanted to remember the sensation of flight. I wanted to put that down in my diary. For all those jumpers who would come after us so they’d know the impulse that propelled us out into open air. I wanted to remember the way the wind felt on the fabric of my cape whipping against the backs of my thighs. Hoo-rah, we are alive!

Jump buddy, would that we could pause at the line of mountains, a ridge of loblolly pines, and live a thousand years. Would that we could live like birds in the peaks of branches, feasting on scrubs in feathered nests. Tend our young. Swim, you and I, breathe underwater until our ears hurt, finally find that ancient, lost city of Atlantis. I know this isn’t how it’s supposed to work, but I find the more time I spend up here, the more I almost get used to it, the less I want it all to go away. Doctor, I said, I can’t see my toes anymore. Says he: I’ll let you know if they turn up. Each hour after death, our body temperature falls 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit. I can’t stop smiling most of the time. I can’t believe our luck. And though we fall at a consistent rate, my perception of the ground is always present. I can see the fire now. Make out the white hot embers. I spy with my dry eyes bears moving through pockets of smoke along the scarred surface. We’ve got our work cut out for us. We turn green, then purple, then black. Bacteria in the lower intestine create an awful-smelling gas, causing our bodies to bloat and our eyes bulge out. We were supposed to be counting weren’t we? Pull the cord too soon and drift off course. Major Cormorant says pull it too late and you break your legs or worse. Where did you go, sweetheart? You must have pulled or putrefied. I’m all alone now and darkness gathers near. I can smell the crackling pinions, the weeping pinesap. How fragile and wondrous our beauty. Average wind from surface to 4,000 feet is fifteen knots. How I got myself tied up in this one I’ll never know. Gordian, strange. I want to say love was the impulse, but really it was self-preservation. That and a long list of half-remembered regrets. Better to forget. Pull the cord. Roll into the fall. Release.

- Jeff Von Ward

Amy Berkowitz lives in San Francisco and is currently reading Like Life by Lorrie Moore. Carleen Tibbetts lives in The Bay Area and is currently reading Cadaver Dogs by Rebecca Loudon. Carrie Hunter lives in San Francisco and is currently reading Finnegan’s Cory Bennett lives in Vacaville, Wake. California and is currently reading Eat When You Feel Sad by Zachary German E. Love lives in San Francisco and is currently reading On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of Eleanor Leonne Bennet lives in Stockport, Cheshire and is currently the Kitchen by Harold McGee. reading Freelance Photographer Handbook 2013. Ellen Oh lives in Philadelphia, PA and is currently reading Kafka On The Shore by Haruki Murakami. Evy Simonson lives in St. Paul, Minnesota and is reading Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Israel Carrasco lives in Anaheim, CA and is currently reading Understanding Wall Street. Jeff Von Ward lives in Pinole, CA and is currently reading Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life by Adam Phillips. Joe Carrow lives in San Leandro and is currently reading Smila’s Sense of Snow. Emily Siegenthaler lives in Noe Valley and is currently reading Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures: Mary Ruefle. Intimate Witch is a pseudonym for a NY born author and she is currently re-reading ‘Spy in the House of Love’ By Anais Nin. Jayinee Basu lives in San Francisco and is currently reading Seeing Voices by Oliver Sacks.

Jesse Prado lives in Hayward, CA and is currently reading Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis.

M. Weaver lives in Philadelphia, PA and is currently reading Knut Hamsun’s Hunger. Mauzy lives on the internet and is currently reading The Last Novel by David Markson. Maya Weeks lives in Oakland and is currently reading The Politics of Touch: Sense, Movement, Sover- Miquila Alejandre lives in the Westeignty by Erin Manning. ern Addition in San Francisco and is currently reading Love and Shame and Love by Peter Orner. Paul Martens lives in Philadelphia, PA and is currently reading “God is Dead” by Ron Currie Jr. Nathan Keele Springer lives in El Cerrito and is currently reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

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Paul Corman Roberts lives in Fruitvale and is currently reading The Robert Brown lives in Nashville, TN Amazing Days of Abby Hayes. and is currently reading Jim Carroll’s Fear of Dreaming.

Stuart Finnie lives in Glasgow and is currently reading Fifty Shades of Tyler Sutherland lives in Peoria, IL Grey. and is currently reading Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You by Sam Gosling. Zack Haber lives in Oakland, CA and is currently reading People of the People of the Bomb: Portraits of America’s Nuclear Complex.

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