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Prose

:

Issue 1.1
Fall 2015

-An Exercise in Trust
by Alison Fulmer
-Where Did All The Lonely
People Come From
by Sara Marks
-No Magic For Luke Peters:
Chapter 1
by Matthew H. Jones
-What If All There Is To Life
Is That Pat Benatar Song
On Repeat?
by Wil Redd
-Hiatus
by John Michael

Poetry:

-My Beanie
by Brianna Gendreu
-Cheese Poem
by Daniela Edelkind
-Untitled
by Katie Bielski
-For Adriana
by Max Enos

Parental
Guidance
Recommended

Made in
Lowell, MA

Meet the creators:

Alison Fulmer is
an archivist/librarian
with a penchant
for fiction writing,
bookbinding, and
baking. She has 6
years of Nanowrimo
under her belt
along with an MLIS,
a viola, her Mini
Schnauzer, and 22
knitting needles. This
is her first foray into
literary magazine
publication.

If you’d like to
know more about
the Nano Lowell
Writers’ Group,
visit:
/nanolowellwritersgroup

Daniela Edelkind
loves writing poems
and short stories and
most importantly,
sharing the love of
writing with others.

Sara Marks is a librarian.
She has been involved in
National Novel Writing
Month since 2004, but has
been writing stories most
of her life. When she is
not writing she is reading,
knitting, and exploring Lowell.

@sara_marks
Matthew H. Jones writes. Obviously,
there’s more to him than that, but the
fact of his writing, in this context, is the
most important thing. He also lives in
Lowell, attends classes at UMass Lowell,
and has uneven legs. He has books – one
free and one for pay-, and he encourages
you to seek them out, to decide whether
he writes well or poorly. He’s been
accused of doing both.

If you’d like to know about him or
his writing, try screaming his name at a
southbound bird. If he doesn’t appear, try
his social media links.

@matthewhjones
/matthewhjonesauthor

Wil Redd is imaginary. It is
a disguise used to distract the
reader from the fact that the man
behind the mask is a charlatan.
Mr. Redd is a professional bad
cat behavior enabler, assistant
pop-culture t-shirt tester, and
former heavy-weight champion of
the crushed dreams league. His
physical body lives somewhere
in Lowell, MA with his beloved
fiancée, a pair of monochromatic
cats, and a barky little mutt.

@wilredd

1

Why We’re Doing This:
Cover:
Wilfredo J. Rodriguez
Design & Layout:
Wilfredo J. Rodriguez
Logo:
Wilfredo J. Rodriguez
Some elements designed
by Freepik
Introduction:
Matthew H. Jones

In a short story that will rightfully never see the light of day, I wrote about Lowell. I said: “it’s
like a cat, in that I love it but it might be trying to kill me.” During the winter of 2015, I got the
sense that all of New England might be like a living, malevolent being. I’ve lain beneath a roof
that pops and creaks like the wobbly knees of an old man. I’ve chanted that roof-collapses
happen to other people. Not me. Other people die beneath four feet of snow and ice. I’ve
done it until I’m lulled to sleep, but that sleep is brittle. A single, stiff wind shatters it.
I’ve walked jaundice-colored streets while cars run by, sounding like hot, wheezing lungs.
Some dented Toyota swerves across the solid, yellow lines. I see it and chant that other
people’s bodies shatter across the windshields of drunken motorists. Not mine. Death comes
for other people. I’ve been at the scene of a hit-and-run. An old, Hispanic man lay in the road
like he’d fell asleep in a pool of blood. I keep to the sidewalks as long as I can and I don’t
trust rolling stops.

Mill Pages in
Social Media

/MillPages
@MillPages
#MillPagesFTW
millpages.com
All rights reserved.
Text, images, and/or art
copyright of attributed author,
or artist.
Made in Lowell, MA
© 2015 Mill Pages

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons AttributionNonCommercial-NoDerivatives
4.0 International License.

I’ve also wandered into back alleys and into lonely storefronts and found Wonder. I found
music, and art, and stories like nowhere else. This city, this state, this part of the world is
both gruesome and glorious. Above the streaming Merrimack, I saw a toothless woman in
a wig sing to the rapids. She might’ve been insane, but it was beautiful. I have bought a man
a coffee and heard war stories. He told me how he went into the Army because people
who wanted him dead in general were better than the people who specifically wanted to
kill him. Here, houses have thin walls and I’ve heard muffled angry voices and the muffled
sounds of family.
New England is a storybook, waiting to be read. Though others have written its stories, it
still manifests more. This place is loud, and scary, and strange, and beautiful. It’s ridiculous
and inspiring. Many try to escape it. Some can’t. Some never wanted to. The purpose of
the following pages and the following issues of this journal is to capture some of the many,
many voices of New England, with a slight bias for our home - for my home -, Lowell.
Here, the stories may not be true but they are all honest.

How We’re Doing This:
In these pages, we’ve hoped to capture the zeitgeist of New England in the submissions
that came our way. We wanted stories from New England, or by New Englanders. We
wanted to hear the humor of this place, the pain of it, and its beauty. The submissions
that hadn’t been included did not lack promise. They just failed to speak to our view of
New England. I thank all who submitted and hope to see more from them. I sincerely
mean that.
For those who wish to submit to future issues, please write:
lowellwritinggroup@gmail.com
This journal comes to you from the Nano Lowell Writers’ Group. We formed from the
yearly celebration of all things novelistic called Nanowrimo. Its fundamental concept is
twofold: that anyone can write, and simply that writers write.
Nanowrimo provides a community for word-slingers, but it also gives them the excuse to give voice to the worlds in our heads. Check out the good folks at
www.nanowrimo.org.
2

ue
:
Is s
Th
is
In
Alison Fulmer’s “An
Exercise in Trust”
– The narrative of a
witch’s first day in Boston.
Exploring the city, she finds
that she doesn’t have an
exclusive claim to magic.
Brianna
Gendreau’s “My
Beanie” – A lovely
tribute to that piece
of knitted wool or
cotton that warms
one’s ears and
heart.

Sara Marks’
“Where Did All
The Lonely People Come From”
– A story of a girl
who finds a letter
and a kindred spirit
from her mother’s
past.

Daniela
Edelkind’s
“Cheese Poem”
– A poem chronicling
the warring urges
between good health
and good cheese.
Katie Bielski’s “Untitled”
– A poem about the pain of lost
and the audacity of hope.

#MillPages1.1

P.4-6 P.23-24

P.7

P.25-29

P.8-11 P.13-15

P.12
P.17-22

P.16

Max Enos’ “For
Adriana” – A poem
about the moon, the
winter, love and things left
unsaid.

John Michael’s
Matthew H.
“Hiatus” – An account
Jones’ No
of a Creative Writing
Magic For
student and a God;
Luke Peters:
Both of whom deal
Chapter 1 – The
with the fear that
first installment
they are unoriginal.
about a boy thrust
into a world of magic,
monsters and highstrangeness, and given
no magic of his own.

Wil Redd’s “What If All
There Is To Life Is That
Pat Benatar Song On
Repeat?” – A tale of highstrangeness that crashes in
on a man who’s just trying
to finish his shift.

#MillPages1.1

3

An Exercise in Trust
by Alison Fulmer

I

#AnExerciseInTrust

t was the big day. The first day. The day to end all days. She had arrived and she was finally a City Girl. Had she thought
to buy curtains, she would have flung them open as she stood at the window. The only window in the apartment. A window with a
view to the highway. But not a freeway type of highway, just your average sort, so on the whole not that bad.


With a wave of her hand the kettle started rising to a boil. A snap, and her bed made itself: sheets tucked and pillows
fluffed. She pressed her face to the window. If she moved all the way to the left and all the way to the top and squinted a bit,
she could see the CITGO sign. A ding from her phone reminded her to get going. If she was going to see everything before she
started work on Monday, she’d have to start early.


Her tea was hot and waiting in a mug on the counter. She sipped it quickly and swung open the pantry door, revealing
shelves packed with spices. A tiny label was stuck on each canister, peeling and faded. She took one jar, then another, then three
more, and threw them in her bag. Then she grabbed two more and tossed them in as well. It couldn’t hurt to be prepared and, if
anything, she needed to be prepared today. A springtime Saturday was bound to draw crowds, so she would need to move fast.


She frowned at her half-drunk tea, pulling out yet another spice jar. She sprinkled a pinch in her cup and poured it into a
travel mug twice as large. After filling the travel mug to the brim, there remained enough for a nice cup when she returned in the
evening.


She paused on her way out the door and fumbled with a little jar on the shelf. The silver flakes stained her fingertips as
she sprinkled it over her head. “Good luck,” she whispered, as she shut the door behind her.

The first thing she realized as she stepped on the train was that she hadn’t locked her door.


“Damn.” She threw herself into an available seat. Well, if nothing, it would be an exercise in trust.


A barely intelligible voice crackled over the intercom. Something about a delay. About construction? Or an interruption?
She moaned. She had hoped the train would be good enough, but now she’d have to resort to even less reliable methods.


Sliding out of her seat, she sulked to the far end of the car and sunk down, pulling open her bag. She rooted around for
one of the jars. With a quick tap, a quarter-sized pile of red granules fell into her palm. She crushed them with her fingers and
dabbed a bit on her tongue. She looked up and then put the jar back, pulling the strap of her bag over her head. This would have to
be quick. She muttered quietly, squeezing her eyes shut as music blasted out of someone’s headphones. Hebrew was her language of
choice and, if she could just remember the right order of things, this would work perfectly.

The train suddenly jerked, spilling the granules into her lap. Her eyes snapped open and she gaped down at herself. “Oh-”
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#AnExerciseInTrust

She found herself sitting in midair in a wide open square.


“-shit.” She flailed a bit and hit the ground. Hard. She lay on her back, eyes shut, willing herself to be invisible. Only she
hadn’t brought the right potion for that.Very slowly she lifted herself up on her elbows, face prickling and eyes watering. Only
three people had stopped to stare, but nobody offered any help.


She wheezed a bit and then forced a laugh. “Tripped! I tripped. It’s... it’s fine.” They continued gaping. Rude. She stood, legs
wobbling as she reached into her bag. She might not have anything for invisibility, but she always had something for memories. It
came with the territory.


One of the observers approached and started to speak, but she just smiled and shook his hand. “No problem. It’s fine. It’s
all good.” She quickly pulled him forward, made eye contact and whispered in his ear. She did the same to another man and, as the
third person turned to leave, she laid a firm hand on the woman’s arm, turned her around and whispered again.


“Thanks for the help.You guys are great! Bye!” She quickly walked away, wiping a fine translucent powder from her hands.
Can’t be too careful.


She looked up toward the rooftops at what she’d come to see and realized it wasn’t there. Looking around, she saw a
large globe shining in a fountain. She groaned. Wrong square. An interrupted spell never had quite the same results as intended. At
least it was still the same city.


There weren’t many people around, so she ran to one of the buildings and stood behind a pillar. She looked left and right
and peeked around the pillar for good measure. Not a soul. She dumped another palmful of granules into her hand. It wasn’t usually how she got around, but there was still so much to see. She’d already wasted time and to be honest she wasn’t very good with
subway maps. She’d get it right this time.

A cacophony of horns greeted her on the other end. She narrowly dodged a bus and tripped over the curb onto the
sidewalk. She immediately made a mental note to work on her arrivals. Arrivals had never been her forte, but it hadn’t really mattered before she moved to the city. The worst she could have done before was land in a pile of the neighbor’s dog crap.


Turning around to take in the view, she was pleased to see nobody noticed her little gaffe. A group walked past her
through a gate with brick buildings in the background. More people strolled along with headphones, maps, a stroller, an unrecognizable balloon animal. But no one looked twice.


“Perfect.”


“Hardly.” A voice came from behind her, and she turned. A young woman stood eyeing her skeptically. “You know, you’d
be a lot more accurate if you cleaned your hands.”


“Excuse me?”


“If you actually washed the mixtures off you hands before you tried another spell, it’d be easier is all I’m saying.”


She paused. Now it was her turn to be skeptical. “Wait, you know about... you know I’m...”


“Kind of obvious.”


“But I didn’t think I’d just meet someone. On the street! I thought we had to be subtle about it.”


The woman gave a pained groan. “I’m sorry, do you call any of what you just did ‘subtle’?”


“Well, I was trying...” She looked down at her palms. She could still see a light smudge of red in the center and even
remnants of the silver from this morning. Looking back at the woman, she scoffed. “It’s never been a problem before. It’s just that...
I’m in a new place.”


“Oh right, blame the city. What’s your name?”


“Ruth. And you are?”
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#AnExerciseInTrust

“Desiree.”
“So did you see all of... that?” She motioned to the street behind her.
“Yeah. Seems like you’ve had a rough day.”
“You’ve got no idea.”

Desiree laughed. “Actually...” She stood closer and showed Ruth her palm. Ruth stared down confused. Desiree swiped
her palm like she was zooming in on a screen and a video started playing. Ruth watched herself falling out of the air squarely on
her ass. Whoever was taping it started cracking up.


“What the hell?” Ruth started. “No really how the hell do you do that?”


“What, this? This is, like...Vine for witches. Easier to send around.” Desiree closed her palm and the video disappeared.

“Anyway, I saw this last stunt you pulled in the street and recognized you from the video. Figured you could use some
help. Especially with that,” she said, pointing to Ruth’s bag. It was soaked through in one corner.


“My tea! Damn, it must’ve spilled when I fell.” She opened her bag and fumbled for the right ingredient. Desiree stepped
around her and tapped a finger to the bag. It was dry as a bone.


Ruth stopped and dropped her arms. “How did you do that? I thought you had to use-”


“Common misconception. So anyway, about that last stunt. Did you end up getting where you wanted to go?”


Ruth closed her bag and readjusted it over her shoulder. “Not really.” She fiddled with a buckle. “It’s just, it was such a
nice day, and I wanted to see everything ‘cause I start work on Monday and I just moved here and I had it all planned out.” She
heaved a sigh. “I even used something for luck this morning,” she said staring at the silver stain on her finger.


Desiree looked at her hand. “Was it silver-based? ‘Cause that stuff expires.”


Ruth looked distraught. “What do you use?”


“Gold-based. More expensive, but hey,” she grinned, “Luck’s not cheap.” She pointed out the tiny flecks glinting in her
dark hair that made a sparkling halo around her face. “And gold is so my color.”


Desiree studied Ruth for a moment. “Since we’re here, want to get coffee?” she pointed out the Starbucks on the corner.


Ruth weighed her options. She really did want to sightsee and get to at least one museum. But the idea of learning how
to do that video trick seemed pretty appealing at the moment. Plus she didn’t know any other witches in town. Plus coffee.


“Yeah, sounds good. Maybe I can wash my hands while we’re at it,” she laughed, holding up her stained fingers. The museums would still be there tomorrow anyway.

The End

© 2015 Alison Fulmer
Photo by © 2015 Wilfredo J. Rodriguez

6

#MyBeanie

My Beanie
by Brianna Gendreau
This piece of cotton
wrapped around my head
Holding my thoughts and
the things I’ve said
Every pattern and color
every stitch just right
Hugging my ears
that’s my beanie alright
Blocking the rain, the wind,
and the snow
Keeping me warm
every place I go
A sense of safety
unaware what might come
I put on my beanie
as all my fears go numb
It’s not just a hat, a hood
or a lid
It’s a feeling of love, being
happy as a kid

© 2015 Brianna Gendreau
Photo by © 2015 Wilfredo J. Rodriguez

Holding a special place in
my heart
My beanie that is
never seeing us apart

7

Where Do All The Lonely
People Come From?
by Sara Marks

I

#LonelyPeople

spent my fourteenth birthday in Boston with my grandparents. My mother decided to let me spend the night at my
grandparent’s apartment in the Back Bay. I love my grandparents, but they are the most boring people in the world. At least, they
were when I was fourteen. My friends were back in Lowell. I was not at an age when exploring the city and its history was of any
interest. I usually spent my time there reading or watching TV. This was back in the days when a family had 1 main television. During the day my grandmother watched her stories and, at dinner time, she watched the news. If I was lucky they would let me pick
the primetime show, but then it was back to the news until I went to bed.

I finished my book faster than I anticipated on this visit. My only other option, at least in my mind, was to explore the
apartment in which my mother and uncle had grown up. I started in my uncle’s room. My grandmother had scrubbed her children
clean from their rooms as soon as each had moved out. My uncle’s bookshelves, once lined with comics and textbooks, now held
my grandmother’s paperback romance novels and my grandfather’s mystery novels. Their selection made me feel superior in my
reading choices. As an adult I recognize that while the quality was questionable, at least they read. The bedroom walls had once
featured posters. I could see their outline on the paint where the sun had not touched. Now my grandmother had pictures up of
all the grandchildren and cousins.

I found my treasures tucked away in the dresser, the desk, and the night table. The things my uncle had not removed
from the house were hidden in drawers. Ambitious treasure hunters and bored teenagers would eventually discover them. What
I found there was a collection of comics without plastic covers and of questionable value. Other items stuffed in included LP 45s
from the Beatles, the Monkees, and the Rolling Stones among other. I even found an old coloring book from the ‘70s-era Mickey
Mouse Club- a generation of Mouseketeers that most of us have forgotten. I read the comics for a while before giving up. I
moved down to the building’s basement to search my grandparent’s storage section.

Most of the other tenants used their storage for sporting and camping equipment. I saw items that suggested these city
dwellers loved the outdoors: skis, kayaks, tents, and coolers. My grandparents had packed their cage with odd items. In my life
I have spent more time in this basement than I should. My cousins often joined me down here. As children it was an adventure.
We needed our grandmother’s permission. She made it a game by packing snacks, putting hats on our head, making sure we had
flashlights, and giving us survival tips. My cousin Carl credits our basement adventures as the beginning of his archaeology career.
8

#LonelyPeople

There was an element of fear in our obsession with the basement. In the 80s one resident had used his storage unit as
a place to smoke weed. He was soon evicted, but the memories of his cage are still vivid. Especially so was one poster he had of
a hand coming out of a toilet. My little sister’s struggles with potty training were directly connected to this poster. I still wonder
if I would see that poster again each time I walked down to the basement. I looked to the cage that had once contained it and
found nothing but boxes.

My grandparents’ storage cage was full of old boxes, too. The cage door squeaked as I unlocked and pulled it open. I
pulled down a small box from the top of a stack close to me. I opened the box as I sat on the floor and found it full of family
pictures. They were in a reverse chronological order starting with the 1970s when I was a baby. They went back as far as the
1950s when my mother and uncle were born. The pictures changed from color to black and white. They evolved from Polaroid
to heavy card stock paper. The people aged from old to young. I found a picture of the great-grandmother who died before I
was born with whom I share a name. I found family pictures and noticed my mother never looked happy in these photos. While
her brother and cousins smiled for the camera, she was often on the edge of the group. When she did smile it looked forced.

I knew this smile because I made this smile. I had realized early in life that I was not like my family. I did not like what
they liked, want what they wanted, or see the world the way they see the world. Seeing this fake smile on my mother’s face
made me search for it on others. I spotted it again on my grandmother’s face in the oldest pictures. From mother to child to
grandchild, the three of us did not want the life people expected us to live, but we could pretend we did. At the bottom of the
box I found a letter. The handwriting was feminine, but not familiar. I knew my mother and grandmother’s handwriting; this did
not match their writing. I looked at the end, but it was not finished or signed.

It was a letter written to the Beatles. The writer told them she loved their song Eleanor Rigby. She told them how she
felt so lonely herself. She was looking for someone, anyone who understood her and could help her. She didn’t want the life her
parents thought she should have. Her parents wanted her to get married, to take care of her husband, to have children, and to
live a life like their own. She wanted to see the world, go to college, and who knew what else. She didn’t want children most of
all. She already knew she didn’t like children. She told them how she didn’t have any friends who felt the same way. It was never
finished though. There was no closing and no name.

I put the pictures away, closed up the box, put the letter in my pocket and went upstairs. I didn’t mention the letter to
my grandmother. I didn’t think either my mother or grandmother had written the letter. It made sense that it could have been
someone my mother knew as a teenager. I spent the night in my mother’s old room trying to match the handwriting in the letter to old yearbook messages. I didn’t find anything. Not even when I went back home and looked through her old yearbooks.
There was nobody with matching handwriting.

I put the letter away in my own diary. Even if my mother hadn’t written it, maybe she had read it. Maybe it was something my grandmother read. Maybe the writer got the help she needed or found someone like her. I hoped she got to live the life
she wanted.

Over the years I would re-read the letter to remind myself it was OK to want something different. I never asked my
mother or grandmother about it. I still assume, whomever found the letter, she got what she needed from it just as I did.

I Know Where They Come From

I bought the stationary and the album on the same day. I had earned the money after a difficult night of babysitting. I
hated babysitting, but I did it because I needed the money and it was the only job I could get. I had to choose. Do I get the
entire Revolver album? Do I just get the stationery set (that I had been eyeing for months) and the single of Eleanor Rigby? I
heard the song on the radio and it was stuck in my head. Not stuck in my head the way most songs get stuck. I wasn’t singing
it to myself. I was obsessing about the people Paul sang about. I knew those people because I was one of those people. I had
friends, but nobody close who knew me. There was nobody to talk to.

At sixteen I was feeling the pressure to decide what to do with the rest of my life. My parents wanted to know why
I didn’t have a boyfriend yet. Who would take care of me after I graduated from high school? How would I meet someone if
I didn’t meet him now? How could I have children if I didn’t have a husband? Any time I dared to tell them I wanted to go to
college they laughed. Then they reminded me they didn’t have the money to send me to college. Only rich girls go to college.
Only rich girls travel the world. They lived in a tiny apartment on the edge of Roxbury. The area was not a great one to live in. I
wanted to get out of Boston and away from my parents. I wanted to be free.
9

#LonelyPeople

My plan was to write to the Beatles. I was sure Paul understood how I was feeling. I hoped he could help. I wanted
the letter to look nice. I had wanted this stationery for months even before I decided to write to Paul. I just couldn’t get the
entire album if I also got the stationary. I wanted the entire album, but more than anything, I wanted to listen to Eleanor Rigby
over and over in my room. I finally made my decision: the 45 single and the stationary. I needed these two things more than the
entire album. I would reward myself the next time with the rest of the album.

I ran into my room and closed the door behind me as soon as I got home. My mother was sitting in the kitchen
watching a soap opera before starting dinner. My mother never seemed to leave the kitchen. I was safe until dinner. I pulled
out my small turntable from under my bed. It had been a birthday gift from my parents. They never got to use the family one
when I was home. I put on the 45 and composed my letter. I started and stopped a few times before I finally found the right
words. I wrote the drafts on regular notebook paper and in pencil to avoid wasting the expensive stationery. I thought I had
the right words before my mother called me for dinner. I put the draft and my stationery in my backpack so I could finish in
study hall the next day and mail it on my way home from school.

I sat alone at a table in the library for study-hall. One of the other girls in my group of friends was in the library. We
were not close friends, but I knew her name was Jen. I remembered that much and nothing else. I had to write the final version of my letter, so I sat alone. This was my only chance in the day because I took my classes seriously. If I was going to go to
college I needed to get a scholarship to pay for everything. My parents had no money and I couldn’t use babysitting as a way
to save money. I wasn’t good with kids so most people didn’t hire me often. I gave the letter my entire attention. So much so
that I didn’t notice Jen sitting down at my table.

“Hi Darlene.” I looked up and saw Jen smiling at me.

“Hello.”

“I thought we could sit together today. I hope I’m not interrupting you. I know you are trying to keep your grades up
so you can get into college and get a scholarship.”

“How do you know that?”

“You told me once at lunch. I am trying to get into college too.”

I didn’t know what to say. None of the other girls in their group wanted to go to college. I remembered the lunch
when I had shared this plan. They had all insisted I was better off trying to meet boys and find a husband. I don’t remember
that Jen had said anything that day.

“I know,” Jen said. “It’s tough to admit it, especially when everyone else thinks it’s a bad idea. My mother wants me to
do what I want. She was in the Navy during the war. My mom thinks it’s important that women be able to take care of themselves. She thinks we should do what we want. My mom gave into the pressure to get married and have kids, so she doesn’t
want me to ever feel like I have to be like her.”

“Do you want to get married and have kids?” I asked.

“I don’t know, but I don’t want them now. There is too much going on in the world. What are you working on?”

Right then I felt a connection to Jen that I had never felt with anyone before. I wished we had met sooner. I showed
Jen the draft of the letter and let her read it.

“Wow,” Jen said after she finished reading it.

“I am almost done copying it.”

“I don’t think you should send it.”
“Why not? I think Paul will understand me.”
10

#LonelyPeople

“Well, two reasons. First, I think I understand you and I have thought we could be friends for a while. Second, I don’t
think Paul can understand you. Not only is he a guy, but he can do whatever he wants and be whatever he he wants. Nobody
tells him no. The song isn’t about his understanding where the lonely people come from. It’s about his lack of understanding
about how someone can be alone. He thinks being alone is wrong, but sometimes it’s OK.”

“You think being alone and misunderstood is OK?”

“Well, yes, for some people. Some people can be alone without being lonely. Everyone is misunderstood. Everyone feels
alone and questions if they are being the person they want to be. Some realize it’s OK and others make changes.”

I looked at Jen. I wasn’t sure what to do.

“I should tear up the letter.”

“No!” Jen said. “How about this, I keep the letter. You keep the draft and I take the final copy. We should spend time
together. We can be friends. If you still want to send the letter in a month, then I will give it back to you. Deal?”

I looked at Jen. Nobody had ever seemed to want to be friends with me. I didn’t know if I should trust Jen with the letter, but there was nothing bad in the letter. Maybe Jen would share it and people would make fun of me. What would they make
fun of if this happened? I decided to trust Jen and passed the letter to her. Jen folded it up and put it between the pages of her
own notebook before sliding both into her school bag. Jen smiled,knowing we could actually be friends.

We forgot about the letter. Jen never said anything about it again. I did live the life I wanted and had no regrets. I didn’t
think about the letter again until I got a card from Jen for my 40th birthday. We didn’t see each other often, but had kept in touch
since high school ended. Jen and her husband had stayed in Massachusetts. I was living in London. The card arrived the day after
my birthday. Inside was a picture of Jen and her family. The card read:

Darlene, my daughter found your
letter while she was at my parent’s
home. I have not told her anything
about it, but I think she understands you better more than I ever
could. Come visit soon.
Jen

© 2015 Sara Marks
First photo by © 2015 Wilfredo J. Rodriguez

The End

11

#CheesyPoem

Cheese Poem

Ode to a Piece of Cheese
by Daniela Edelkind

© 2015 Daniela Edelkind
Photo by © 2015 Wilfredo J. Rodriguez

If Man must fall,
cholesterol
Is not a saintly way to go
The problem is
With those cheeses
That speak to me and tempt me so
They come from far
Both soft and hard
And some are made right here at home
So I can travel
Thoughts unravel
I taste a place I cannot roam
But cheese will be
The death of me
Resulting in a heart attack
So piously
I think of thee
And carefully I put you back.
12

#TheDarkMan

Chapter 1
The Dark Man,
The Old Man And
A Boot

L

uke Peters slept fitfully
because a dark man stood atop
a telephone pole while a cold
wind blew. This man had a
corncob pipe clamped between his black teeth and blue
smoke made a halo around his
head. The dark man’s yellow
eyes narrowed and his mind
worked away at the boy’s
heart. A dog bayed on the
street below and the dark
man hissed between his
teeth.

Luke’s long limbs tangled in
his bed sheets and comforter while his heart throbbed
into an irregular beat. The
dark man meant to kill the
boy. He meant to stop
Luke’s heart and sometime
in the morning or possibly in the afternoon, he’d be found, bathed in sweat and ice cold. The medical examiner would scratch ‘Congestive Heart Failure’ even though Luke was a sixteen year old in the prime of health. He’d be buried in the suit he had once worn
to his mother’s funeral while his father fought back tears.
The dark man nearly would have done it if it wasn’t for a worn, rawhide-laced, leather boot. The old boot sailed, end over end, and
nearly struck the dark man in the thigh. That had been enough to cause the dark man to recalculate his murder attempt. He was
an unknown element. He was the shadow lurking at the fringe of his prey’s mind. The fact that someone knew of him and knew
enough to try and stop him was distressing. The dark man dispelled like smoke from a snuffed out candle. Luke’s heart rate slowed
in his chest and his sleep became less fitful.
Having your heart clenched and compressed by a psychic hand isn’t good for your health, even if it doesn’t kill you. Luke’s body
understood this fact even if Luke, himself, did not. The golden sunlight spilling in past his drawn curtains was like daggers driven
13

#TheDarkMan

into his eyes. He slapped his hands up to his face to block out the light and the sudden movement caused his stomach to protest.
He could taste acrid bile seeping up the back of his throat. He swallowed it back and found himself swallowing it again and again.
His eyes were watering from the pain of the light, but also because his sinuses were flared up, making him want to breathe out his
mouth. This confluence of events was leading to one of two logical conclusions: either he vomited up last night’s Pizza Hut on the
carpet of his bedroom or he navigated his way to the bathroom and upchucked there. Rolling on his side and letting loose onto
his carpet seemed reasonable, but Luke figured that he wouldn’t think so after the deed was done.
He picked his body up like a very old man and he found that his legs had become mutinous overnight. They tingled and ached and
he found that they were ignoring half the commands he gave them. The action of gingerly lifting himself up from his mattress had
turned his stomach into a roiling sea and it was crashing up his throat. He couldn’t waste time on getting his legs under some
semblance of control. He made his way, on his hands and knees, to the small, dingy bathroom at the end of the hall. Luke and his
father hadn’t lived in a mansion by any means, but Luke could sworn that he traversed the entire length of Buckingham Palace on
his way to the bathroom.
Inside the bathroom, Luke purged in big, heaping gasps and it had actually made him feel better. His brow was sweaty, pasting his
brown hair to his forehead. His eyes had a watery film.
“No more. No more,” Luke whispered into the small bathroom.
At this point, in a normal father/son relationship, Luke would ask his father to stay home from school and his father would give
Luke a suspicious stare, put a hand to Luke’s forehead and then consent to him staying home. In a normal father/son relationship, there might even be a promise from the father to check on Luke. Luke and his father didn’t have that kind of relationship. It
wasn’t that Luke disliked his father. He actually loved his father. He just didn’t trust him. What Luke didn’t realized but might have
if he ever made it into a college psychology into his eyes. He slapped his hands up to his face to block out the light and the sudden movement caused his stomach to protest. He could taste acrid bile seeping up the back of his throat. He swallowed it back
and found himself swallowing it again and again. His eyes were watering from the pain of the light, but also because his sinuses
were flared up, making him want to breathe out his mouth. This confluence of events was leading to one of two logical conclusions: either he vomited up last night’s Pizza Hut on the carpet of his bedroom or he navigated his way to the bathroom and
upchucked there. Rolling on his side and letting loose onto his carpet seemed reasonable, but Luke figured that he wouldn’t think
so after the deed was done.
He picked his body up like a very old man and he found that his legs had become mutinous overnight. They tingled and ached and
he found that they were ignoring half the commands he gave them. The action of gingerly lifting himself up from his mattress had
turned his stomach into a roiling sea and it was crashing up his throat. He couldn’t waste time on getting his legs under some
semblance of control. He made his way, on his hands and knees, to the small, dingy bathroom at the end of the hall. Luke and his
father hadn’t lived in a mansion by any means, but Luke could sworn that he traversed the entire length of Buckingham Palace on
his way to the bathroom.
Inside the bathroom, Luke purged in big, heaping gasps and it had actually made him feel better. His brow was sweaty, pasting his
brown hair to his forehead. His eyes had a watery film.
“No more. No more,” Luke whispered into the small bathroom.
Of course, is that his situation with his father was so textbook that first year Psychology students might refer to Luke by name.
In that psychology class, Luke would learn about a term called Deflection.
Of course, he wasn’t angry with his father. That wouldn’t make sense. His father had no way of stopping the cancer cells from
spreading through his mother’s body. His father was mortal. True, seeing a parent’s fallibility can be a scary thing for a child, but
Luke understood that his father wasn’t Superman. He had caught his father sobbing at the kitchen table, gripping a ceramic bird
that Luke’s mother had painted. Luke had cried, silently in his room and it hadn’t occurred to him that his father might cry, as well.
Luke understood that it’d be unfair to be angry with his father for being human, but seeing his father cry with his hands around
his mother’s blue and white ceramic sparrow had knocked something loose in Luke. He loved his father, but he was waiting for
his father to fail. He thought of his father as being a cement dam with giant fissures running through the foundation. Luke was
sure of it. His father could break at any moment. He would not put pressure on such a crumbling structure and if that meant that
he and his father had become strangers in the same house, then so be it.

14

#TheDarkMan

Instead of speaking with his father, he kept silent in the darkened stairwell lined with four year old photographs of his mother,
waiting for his father to leave for work. The rattling tap cut off and there were the sounds of movement towards the back door,
leading out toward the driveway. Luke heard the creak of his father’s heavy boots on the wooden back steps. When he heard his
father’s old Chevy putter into life, he began rubbing feeling into his legs. Luke hardly ever skipped school and never abused the
system that allowed him to do it. When his homeroom teacher listed him absent, an automated phone call was sent to his house
around noon. The answering machine picked it up, but Luke’s father had never really grasped how the answering machine worked.
Messages normally remained on the machine for days, to be erased at Luke’s leisure. His father typically got home a few hours
after Luke, so there was no reason for his father to ever be suspicious of his quiet son being up in his bedroom.
Once Luke’s legs had awoken, he started for his bedroom but there was a repeated clanging, someone bashing the side of a metal
trashcan.
Clang. Chink. Clang. Chink.
There was the heavy ring of the trashcan and then a smaller sound of glass bottles resettling at the bottom. Someone was right
outside the house, just a little ways away from the cracked blacktop driveway and the creaking wooden steps. Luke’s first thought
was the neighbor boy, Jimmy. Jimmy, a three-foot tall, snot-nosed sadist with dreams of pro-boarding, had declared war on Luke after Luke drove over his skateboard during a driving lesson. Jimmy’s war mainly consisted the occasional egging, and leaving graffiti
on the side of their house. Luke wouldn’t have put it pass the punk to be playing a drum solo on their trashcans. He liked the idea
of scaring the little brat, but his stomach hadn’t settled enough for him to charge out, screaming his head off like an ax-wielding
psychopath. The next logical solution was turning the garden hose on him. It wasn’t exactly cold enough for him to get pneumonia, but a guy could hope.
Outside, he turned the rusted spigot and bent the green garden hose, cutting the flow of water so as to release the current at
the perfect moment. He crept around the house, dragging the hose behind him. He’d left from the front door, snaked around the
side, through the crabby, dehydrated lawn and picked up the hose.
Clang. Chink. Clang. Chink.
The sound rang through the cool, morning air. The trashcans were on the other side of a wooden fence with rotten knotholes
dotted through the ancient Gofer wood.
Clang. Chink. Clang. Chink.
Luke stole across the length of the driveway as fast as his tender stomach would allow. His plan was to sling the garden hose
over the unpainted, picket fence, letting loose the cold water and drenching Jimmy. That had been the plan and if it was Jimmy, the
neighborhood terrorist, it would have worked. Instead, the hose was suddenly snatched from Luke’s hands and Luke was snatched
up by the collar. The water from the garden hose sprayed out onto the cracked blacktop of the driveway. A shaggy German Shepherd went to the flow and lapped at the current while Luke stared eye to eye with an old man with old, gray eyes the dusty color
of abandoned iron. His face was lined with hundreds of thousands of little grooves and pockmarks. In the old man’s hand, there
was a polished wooden cane stained a deep crimson color.
“You’ll have to wake up a lot earlier than that to catch me with my pants around my ankles, Pecker-wood. Still, it’s a fair try for
such a green child,” he said and his voice was cold and dark. It was gravelly like a machine fallen into ill-repair.
Luke gripped the old man and attempted to free himself from his surprisingly strong grasp. The old man gave a wary sneer and
then released Luke, shoving him away in the process. Luke’s foot hooked behind the other and he fell backward onto his behind.
The jostling piqued his stomach’s ire, but his pride was the only thing severely injured. The old man stepped forward, looking
down at Luke and the dog had moved to the old man’s side, water dripping from his muzzle.
“Up now, boy. Ain’t much time before they come, trying to kill you again.”

© 2015 Matthew H. Jones
Illustration by © 2015 Matthew H. Jones

15

Shall I wither away like an Autumn leaf,
From deep sorrow, from painful grief?
How can I go on or find a way to be strong?
Will I ever again enjoy life’s sweet song?
Sometimes a warm memory sheds light in the dark,
And eases the pain like the song of a meadow lark,
Then it flits away on silent wings and I’m alone,
Hungering for more of the light it had shone.

#[Untitled]

[Untitled]
by Katie Bielski

Shall grief’s bitter cold sadness consume me,
Like a winter storm on the vast angry sea?
How can I fill the void and deep desperate need
To replant my heart with hope’s lovely seed?
Then I look at a photo of your playful smiling face
And for a moment I escape to a serene happy place.
Remembering the laughter and all you would do
Cherishing the honest, loving spirit of you.
Shall spring’s cheerful flowers bring life anew
And allow me to forget the agony of missing you?
Will spring’s burst of new life bring fresh hope
And teach my grieving soul how to cope?
Sometimes I’ll read a treasured card you had given me
And each word special meaning makes me see
The precious gift of love I was fortunate to receive,
And I realize you’d never want me to grieve.
Shall summer’s warm brilliant sun bring new light
And free my anguished mind of its terrible plight?
Will its gentle breezes chase grief’s dark clouds away
And show me a clear path towards a better day?
When I visit the grave where you lie in eternal peace,
I know that death and heaven brought you release.
I try to envision your joy on the shore across the sea
And until I join you, that’ll have to be enough for me.
For all the remaining seasons of my life on earth,
There’ll be days I’ll miss your merriment and mirth
And sometimes I’ll sadly long for all the yesterdays,
Missing our chats and your gentle understanding ways.
Yet the lessons of kindness and love you taught me
And the good things in life you help me to see,
Linger as lasting gifts that comfort and will sustain
Until I journey to that peaceful shore and see you again.

© 2015 Katie Bielsky
Photo by © 2015 Wilfredo J. Rodriguez

16

What If
All There
Is To Life
Is That Pat
Benatar Song
On Repeat?
By Wil Redd

D

#PatBenatarOnRepeat

avid worked at a Canterbury Farm gas station near the town line. Every day he would have to hear the same songs play on the
shoddy ceiling speakers over and over again. At the beginning, he didn’t mind, but as the years passed they became a harsh reminder
that he was getting old and going nowhere in life. “We are young,” he kept reciting in his head like a mantra, even though he hated the
song.
“What if all there is to life is this Pat Benatar song on repeat?” he said to a young blond girl waiting for him to fetch a pack of Marlboro reds. “Love is a Battlefield” played in the background, for the third time in less than an hour. David doubted she recognized the
song, which came out before she was even a determined little golden sperm in her father’s right testicle.
“Pat Ben…itar? Who’s that guy?” she asked tapping the counter with her credit card repeatedly, urging him to hurry.
He adjusted his glasses and laughed when he saw her expression of disgust towards him. “I’m done.This is it. I don’t even care if she
doesn’t know who Pat Benatar is, look at her stupid face. I’m the peasant store cleark who got in her way, unbelievable,” in his head every
word sounded more bitter than the next. “She does look young.” He decided to stuff the cigarette box back in the display and ask for
her ID. He sat in the makeshift milk cartoon stool waiting for her to respond. She pretended to have trouble taking out an ID, but
gave up after a second. Instead, she pouted and slammed a bunch of cash on the counter.
“Come back when you’re at least eighteen,” he said, reaching under the counter for his e-reader.
“Dude, come on. I thought you were cool,” she said to him reaching for his arm over the counter in a feeble attempt to seduce him,
but failing.
“Well, my mom thought I was smart, and look where I am today. We’re just never really what we appear to be kid,” he said opening
the faux-book cover of the reader.
“Go suck Pat Bentard’s dick you old fart,” she said scrunching her nose and opening her mouth as if she was sucking on a tiny straw.
“Pat Benatar is a woman, you Justin Bieber c u n-“ he stopped yelling when the automatic door closed behind her, “-and she’s gone.”
A few seconds after the doors closed, she turned around and flipped him off. “Classy bitch that one. I’m so tired of this sh-“
“Hey! Did you know Pat Benatar was an alien?” said a man behind the magazine display.
“Jesus!” David reacted by dropping the e-reader on the counter and stumbling to stay on the crates, “Where the hell did you come
from?”
“This song-“ He said pointing up, towards the speakers. “-it was all about her trying to tell us how to peacefully interact with her
kind.” The man was loafing around. He wore a long cream-colored trench coat and a Soviet winter hat. David kept a watchful eye on
the man, following every movement he made. It was that magical time after midnight when patrons were either on drugs, drunk, tired,
or criminally insane. It wouldn’t be the first time a crazy customer tried to strike up nonsensical conversations with him, but David
17

prayed it wasn’t another disorderly crackhead obsessed with Alex Jones.

#PatBenatarOnRepeat

“I’m not in the mood for this shit tonight,” whispered David as the man approached him.
“I’ve met one of the invaders, back in Ukraine,” he said dropping a handful of men’s magazines with scantily clad women on the
cover. “They make you feel a heartache, like a heart attack. They respond to love, but if you hurt them, they will destroy you. To
them, our society is their battlefield. I was lucky. I escaped right before it was going to rip me to pieces.”
“Sure,” David said dragging the word and rolling his eyes. “Is this all?”
“No, give me a pack of USA Gold and ten scratch tickets,” he said pointing at the dollar section of the scratch ticket wall.
“Of course you want that,” said David, remembering all the times crazy people bought that same brand of cigarettes and how addicted they were to scratch tickets.
The trench coat lunatic slammed his right hand on the counter and used his left hand to grab a hold of David’s arm. “You don’t believe me do you? Listen kid, I know shit, I know more than you think or could ever imagine. No one can tell me I’m wrong, because
nobody has seen what I’ve seen.” His eyes popped out like a frog’s and he spat a little when he talked. “I’ve been tracking them
down and I know there’s one in this town.You might have even seen her already, I feel like she’s losing control. I just know. I’m the
old man, the wanderer.”
David pulled back his arm and put his hands up, like in a robbery. He pointed at the camera near the door and the man looked back
to see what David was pointing at.
“Listen, whoever you are, you can either pay for all this stuff and leave or I can signal the nice people monitoring the camera to call
the police. Either way, you have to go,” said David, using his most convincing tone in hopes the man wouldn’t notice the cameras
were fake.
The man dropped a handful of dollars on the counter and again pointed at the scratch tickets. David grabbed ten from a bunch and
reached for the cigarettes on the overhead display. The transaction happened in less than a minute, and neither of them said a word.
“My name is Yuri. I’m not-” the man stopped talking when he saw a beautiful woman walk towards the store. She had a catwalk
strut and her wavy black hair blew in every direction as if she was being attacked by hairdryers. From a distance, all they could see
was her slender silhouette, highlighted by a Jeep’s bright floodlights, swaying and getting bigger and bigger as she approached the
store.
The door opened and a bit of snow swirled inside as she walked in. She had high cheekbones and fashionable form-fitting ski
clothes, which made her look like a snow bunny supermodel. The only thing in David’s mind was how much this moment reminded
him of the VHS cover of Weird Science.Yuri, on the other hand, dropped everything he had and pulled back until the counter was
digging into his lower back.
“Let me guess Yuri she’s an alien,” David said while resting his elbows on the counter.
“I’m not ready, you don’t understand. She’ll make me go. I’m not ready, she going to-” Yuri said stuttering and letting his thick Ukrainian accent slip more than before.
“Ready for what?” she said with a high society English accent. David pushed Yuri away from the counter towards her, and laughed.
“Come on dude, isn’t there something you wanna tell her?” David said chuckling and evoking once again the memory of Kelly
LeBrock’s accent in the 80’s.
The woman stood a few inches away from Yuri, but neither of them did or say anything. She was taller that Yuri, by almost a foot,
and her posture was straight and proud.Yuri seemed to be cowering before her, and his hands were shaking erratically.
“Hello, welcome to Canterbury Farm. Please excuse Yuri here, it seems he’s had a tough night,” David said pointing at Yuri to pick up
all the things he had dropped on the floor.
18

#PatBenatarOnRepeat

“Don’t worry, believe me I’ve been-” she paused as if to look for the right word, “-trapped by men like him before. So to speak,” she
smirked and fished out a golden pocketbook from her bag.
“How can I help you?” said David, ignoring the stuttering Yuri walking slowly away from the woman.
“Now that you say that, I wonder,” she extended her long arms towards David and grabbed his hand, “could you help me settle a
bet?” She lifted her right eyebrow and tilted her head slightly to the left.
“No promises lady. If I have to leave this counter, the answer is a definite no,” he said feeling goosebumps racing up his arm.
“It’s simple really. My friend out there bet that I couldn’t make a man fall in love with me with just one kiss,” her voice practically
echoed in David’s head.
“What kind of bet is that? Really? Listen British lady-“
“Welch-” she interjected.
“Ok, it’s not like I have anything against kissing random beautiful ladies, but I’m married. So the falling in love part, it ain’t gonna happen,” he said pulling his hand away from her gradually.

With lightning speed, she clenched his forearm and pulled him towards her. She kissed him for a solid minute. David could taste a
subtle hint of vanilla on her lips. She caressed the back of his head with her right arm and continued to clench on to him with supernatural strength. He felt his heart surrendering. “Was Yuri telling the truth?” he said in his head. When he opened his eyes, she pulled
back and smiled.
“Jeez, lady did I-” he said diving into the milk crate stool in defeat. “-I still love my wife. It’s not-“
At that point,Yuri was on the floor stammering gibberish. He ended up somewhere between the ice freezer and the unfinished seating area for the ‘café.’ The automatic doors opened and they startled everyone inside. A man as built as a gladiator stormed in and
walked straight towards the woman. Swirls of snow sneaked with the guy too, but this time the door didn’t close all the way. His red
puffer coat still had white powder stuck to the quilt stitches. He tried rubbing off a much as he could but the clacking of the door
stopped him. He turned around and forced the door closed, but snow still pushed through the small opening.
David had an overwhelming feeling of dread and that’s when the lights went out. The woman emanated some sort of light, a dull hazy
glow. In contrast, the man by the door appeared to be just a shadow, a man-shaped dark void.
“Thank you,” she said with a subtle lisp. Her voice made him recoil and he dropped his glasses on the counter.
“What the hell did you do? You fu-” a blood-curdling scream came from the bulky shadow that regained some of its color once the
woman approached him. David fumbled to pick up his glasses amidst the darkness the enigmatic woman left behind when she walked
away from the counter. He managed to find his specs and when he refocused on the screaming shadow, he saw the same man as
before clenching his fist so hard blood dripped from the knuckles. His eyes appeared to be clouding with crimson ink and from his
shoulders emerged a pair of dark red appendages.
“Holy, what the fu-” David was abruptly interrupted by Yuri, who pulled him away from the counter.
The woman began to transform as well. Her eyes appeared to dissolve in a pearly white milk and bone white appendages emerged
from her shoulders. Under the man, an inky black portal swallowed and tugged at his now defined rosewood wings. Above the
woman, a bright white portal also pulled and tethered her own snow-colored wings.
“When all this gets old, and we leave this battlefield, will you still feel the same about me? You know there’s nothing you could do to
stop this,” the woman said in a calm and monotonous voice.
“You’re wrong,” the man yelled at her while spitting blotches of an unknown black goo.
She reached into the unearthly window above her and pulled out a flaming scroll. The blue fire around the scroll burned the paper
until it left an incandescent blade. The man reached into the inky abyss and pulled out a smoldering charcoal-colored chain with a
19

fiery ball at the end.

#PatBenatarOnRepeat

“What did you do?” asked Yuri, trembling and stripping big chunks of scabs off his hands.
“Didn’t you know about this? Is she an angel? Is he a demon? Are we-” he held his breath as the now faceless white humanoid raised
its weapon to block an assault from the burning ball. “-are we dead? Did I start the apocalypse?”
Yuri started to cry and took off his Ushanka hat. He ripped open the inside lining of the headgear. Inside a tiny, thin wooden box hidden in a secret pouch was a mahogany coin. The strange looking token was covered with a writhing green moss that avoided the spot
his fingers touched.
“They might be looking for this,” Yuri retreated with the token, away from David and the supernatural battle. “I’m not ready to give
up immortality. There is no way I’ll let this body die,” he launched at David and cornered him behind a tall shelve. “Don’t let me leave,
you’ll need me to hold on to this or you won’t survive either,” he whispered in an abnormally resonant voice, that didn’t sound at all
like the Yuri from before.
Daniel tripped with a Doritos display causing a row of shelves to fall one by one like loud metal dominos.Yuri pulled away from Daniel again. He crouched in a corner and slapped himself repeatedly as if he’d suddenly forgot to take his antipsychotics.
“What kind of crazy fucking drug are they slipping in the water around here?” said David, recovering from the stumble and once
again directing his attention to the creatures being swallowed by their respective portals. “Well, look at that comrade Yuri. That wasn’t
much of a fight.”
The man clawed at the floor with one hand and held on to the woman with the charcoal chain. They were screaming at each other in
a surreal language that sounded clangorous and felt telepathic.Yuri stopped hitting himself and giggled. When he saw the chain break
and the creatures sucked in to their respective portals in one unceremonious motion, he burst into a maniacal cackle. Everything
about the strange foreigner’s reaction terrified David, but he felt like he couldn’t really run away.
“My friend, no worry about me. We must drunk,” Yuri said tapping David’s shoulder with his hand – the one with the token.
“No, I’m definitely not drunk or high or-” Daniel protested, but he felt a comforting warmth stemming from his shoulder that had a
fast acting inebriating effect. “-but I.”
“This is your life my friend,” Yuri said shedding more and more of the thick Ukrainian accent. A distorted version of “Love is a Battlefield” played at the highest volume from the store’s sound system. “When you hear this song you will wonder, but that’s it. A dream.”
His transformation wasn’t that supernatural, but it was visible. First his accent, then his posture, and finally his face.
“Maybe I should give you this. Lord knows I’ve had it long enough. This battle between good and evil, it is inconsequential to us. Remember that,” he twirled the enigmatic token in front of David for a second, but ended up putting it back in the little box.
“I-” David could barely speak. His eyes fought to stay open and if it wasn’t for Yuri guiding him back to the counter he would have
passed out on the floor. “What? Is there anything I help you can with?”
Yuri laughed again, whispered ‘no,’ and walked away.
Daniel rested his elbows on the counter and it was only through his eyelashes that he saw a light outside swallow the Ukrainian. Just
a few seconds afterwards, the flashing light illuminated the inside of the store causing him to faint. His forehead plummeted onto the
counter, cushioned by a thick lottery themed mat.
“Wake up!” a ghetto-sounding woman yelled from outside the store. “You motherfucker, you better not be sleeping.”
“Holy shit,” David wiped the drool off his beard and reached for his phone. “Oh, sh-“
“-oh, shit, that’s right son.Your shift is over. Get out, do not pass Go, do not collect 200 bones and-” she took out a tightly packed
blunt and winked, “-if you don’t tell, I won’t tell.”
“Jesus, Patty, you’re the manager,” he said to her as he gathered his things and noticed the electricity was back.
20

#PatBenatarOnRepeat
“Damn right,” she said, while going through the store checking for any customers. “Slow night?”
“I don’t know. It was weird.”
“Mind explaining me what happened here?” she said, switching from her ghetto to formal tone in an instant.
Daniel panicked. He’d forgotten about the mess by the racks and he’d hoped it was all a dream. She reached for a broom next to the
counter and swept away a small mountain of snow accumulating near the door. “Jeez, it was a dream,” he thought.
“Look at these marks here. Did you have to scare a raccoon or something last night?” she said inspecting the shallow claw marks left
by the demonic man. “Eh, could be one of them yuppie douchebags with spiky snow shoes.”
Daniel’s panic evolved into an unsettling disorientation. He stashed everything he brought to work in his messenger bag and walked
slowly towards the door.
“Hey, Patty, do you mind closing the register for me? I’m not feeling well.”
“What do you think I am son, your bitch?” she said smiling. “No worries, it ain’t no thang.” Patty’s pale complexion and tiny frame,
made David question her self-proclaimed street cred. Her accent never sounded quite right, as if she was desperately hiding her New
England accent with snippets of Ja Rule and Lil Wayne songs.
“Be careful, this place is-” Daniel looked for anything unusual in the store and “Love is a Battlefield” played again. Besides the shallow
claw marks near the door, everything looked pristine. “So was it a dream?” he thought.
“-unfinished. Under-construction. Whack?” she blared out from the area that has been eternally under construction. Patty checked
up on it every day out of fear that one day the flimsy, unfinished wall would collapse from the piles of packed snow the plows pushed
against the wall outside.
“I was going to say weird and sort of surreal, but we’ll go with whack,” he said waving good-bye and adjusting his coat hood.
“Careful son, I’m your boss,” she said in a semi-serious tone. “There’s something different about you today. Are you going back to
school or something? Finally gonna get that MBA you keep talking about?” she asked him the same question every week.
David had one foot out the door when he turned around to answer. “You know what, yeah. This place is messing with me and I guess
I’ve waited long enough. Fuck it, I’m going to enroll ASAP.”
Patty threw her hands up and yelled “Yeah, boi!”
“Jesus, Patty that’s like ancient. Nobody knows about Flavor Flav anymore,” he said with a smirk. He noticed how pointing out the
passé reference made her smile waiver, as if it physically wounded her.
“F-U, I caught you singing to Taylor Swift the other day,” she said teasing him by mimicking the hand gestures Taylor Swift makes in the
video “Black Space” when she’s going nuts.
“I’m done. I’m just gonna shake that off,” he said waiving the automatic doors open. She laughed, but once he left, she sank in the
milk boxes and stared at the ceiling. The song, “Love is a Battlefield,” played again right after David was out the building. Patty covered
her face with a magazine and it seemed she was about to sob, but she kept it all in and laughed instead. She unplugged a 3.5 mm jack
connected to the store computer and plugged her phone. The strong bass in the song she picked from her Spotify playlist made the
speaker crackle. She stood up when her first customer walked in the door, a manly Ukrainian woman.
“Welcome to Canterbury, how can I help you?” she said with a proper and professional tone.
“What if all there is to life is-” said the female Yuri, but she stopped to look at David leaving the parking lot.
“Hey, lady!” snapped Patty at the woman who just shushed her while staring outside with a blank stare.
21

#PatBenatarOnRepeat

David passed the mountains of snow around the gas station and checked his phone to see if he was on time for the bus. It was still
dark and the street lamps made it seem like all the snow was sepia colored on top and yellow brown on the bottom. He climbed a
few mounts of questionable slush to get to the icy puddle where he had to wait for the bus.
He didn’t see a single car on the street, and he wondered if the bus would come at all. He adjusted his bag and in an instant, all the
street lamps went out, except the one next to him. Under the light, in a clean bundle of snow, was Yuri’s box with a receipt on top.

“We are all young, so don’t surrender,” was scribbled on the back of a receipt from Canterbury Farms for a pack of USA Gold and a
waffle weave drying towel.
“What does that mean? I’m fucking losing it,” he whispered, trying to keep that unsettling disorientation in check.
The first ray of sunshine poked over the top of the five-foot high snowdrifts and the last street lamp went out. Daniel looked around
for Yuri or anyone, but all he could see were some distant headlights and the sign of the approaching bus. He slipped the box in the
outside pocket of his bag. “I’m too tired to settle this now,” he thought. The whole dilemma of was it real or a dream gave him a terrible
migraine. For now, he decided not to open the box. His phone ran, spooking him, and he picked up the call right away.
“Anna, you’re not going to believe the night I’ve had,” he said to his wife on the phone while waving at the bus to stop. “It’s hard to
explain. I’ll see you soon-” there was a pause and as he got inside the bus he said, “- I love you too. We are strong, heartache to heartache we stand.”
David sat on the first row behind the bus driver and responded to his wife, “yep, that was Pat Benatar. I don’t know why I have that
damn song stuck in my head. I guess it beats ‘Wind Beneath My Wings,’ right? Anyway, love is a battlefield and I love you. Sorry and
see you soon.”

The End

© 2015 Wil Redd
Photos by © 2015 Wilfredo J. Rodriguez
Original Cover Art from 1983 “Love Is A Battlefield” by
Pat Benatar.
Filter applied to collage of art from
http://deepdreamgenerator.com/

22

#ForAdriana

For Adriana
by Max Enos

I.

Your introductory romance disintegrated
rather quickly—fast hideous and insidious
your fastidious words
were lost in the twilight limelight
of our mime-like lives.
Thus, out of my red book of poems [for your
red lips to purse in
interior whisper, grey hours]
this
for your
browning eyes to read on a
bloodshot morning while
yawning under twelve cold moons, the last poem spilling
by your colden tea and ill catchild, Sedusa, who
blinks a tired cateye curiously in that blue room.
The blackbird at night… the sparrow at high noon…

II.

Your gin-scented whisper was an elixir.
I got caught: infinitesimal details.
The poem begins thus
in hiatus between labors
invariably: you.
How you did speak—How kisses, tinged
by chilled cigarettes were lost on sidewalk frosts—
Our lamppost silhouettes, our regrets
depart when we depart.
Shades, shadows, nuances
lost
on me.

I would not recognize your voice in the darkest room.

III.

Simply, the stars are blue, moss-tangled,
and run their course with cause
predicting the cost, the scars
from drawing our own constellations.
Your thigh tattoo, half-a-heart,
completed by my tongue in that sanctuary
wherein your skin becomes your own
in the dim grail beyond the nightwindow.
Our shadows, like newmoon waves
willow in abstraction upon the amber wall.
Your dreamcatcher earrings
stripped on the moonlit nightstand
fail to sort what’s haunted.

I do not want to talk about they,
they who go down to the sea in ships,
who go down to love with a parting kiss.
So I suspend belief, the lights retreat.
The moon’s lifeline creeps
across the rug, shaped by a sharp edifice—
how slowly, like a small hand
on a large clock [dawn approaches], it moves.
Your silver watch across the room
breaks under lunar illumination.
These are only petty observations to say
Your eyes beheld me.

IV.

Nothing so trapped in the ashen moment
as disembodied attraction.
Nothing—
ness survives.
Tell me,
what does not end?

23

#ForAdriana

VI.

V.

January ides:Yawns under a Wolf Moon’s light
But the parties.
make an ascent among the traffic of nightdrifting prayers.
Shychild, swoonmild, sunflower of the moon—
I must rest you off.
I become all three among your subdued crowd of crows.
Except only how I remember
Across the room brewing
bending to kiss you and
your eyes, swirling cauldrons,
you held your breath before my lips
pour moonlight on me.
(we kissed well) until…
Under the gaslight, our gazes engage
Well, because you hesitated I said no! Go! Lightly,
in feigned, haunted conversations
I will sleep elsewhere with no fear of rhyme.
uttering convoluted moonwild whispers, or
But what was it you could not tell me?
devotions, which are lost by midnight.
Was it something said in my fleeing eyes — I could love you?
I speculate.
Those eyes, your eyes, weary and possessed, jaded
eyes, wherein countless Irish goodbyes
have made endless sad-lipped boys, those eyes [motif of my strife]
resonate across this atrium in phantom reprisal—
I notice this early; I’ve seen this play playout before.

VII.

In retrospect, it was Boston gloom.
The ill December-morning sky when once again I had
myself to myself
(oh I was happy then! I should have ran!), but
the night before: Otis Redding’s perfect song,
you sleeping on my lap, it could have been 1969
or the present, this life or our past.
The problem: you were beautiful, probably still so.
(Again) I questioned my single martyrdom a fallacy.

VIII.

Tonight, yellow lights beyond
my studio in Seoul,
silence.
You are in New York
the first falling leaf
pinned in your hair.

We share only the things going forward.
We share silence.
There have been conscious outtakes here.
Let us be present. We seek only
an eventual balance.

The End

© 2015 Max Enos
Illustrations by © 2015 & 2010
Melanie Christopher
Backgrounds designed by
Freepik

24

Hiatus
by John Michael

D

#Hiatus

eath. Death to post-pentagenarians. Death to the old man snoring behind Gian Franco. Death to the middle-aged speaker
pushing her second book, Daddy’s Rittenhouse Over Pisqontuit River, written during her sabbatical from Northwest South New
England Liberal Arts College. Death to Gian’s creative writing professor for assigning a response paper on tonight’s reading on
top of choosing the two worst writers in the group for workshop. Death to Gian’s mother for enrolling him in a low-pressure,
graduate-level fiction workshop before the shame of being back home paralyzed him in his childhood bedroom. Death to working Baby Boomers for dooming subsequent generations to perpetual infancy. Death to anyone who convinces anyone else to get
a humanities degree. Death to legions of grammar school teachers who tell their impressionable students that everyone can and
will achieve his or her dream. Death to pre-millennials. Death to Death; Death; Death.
The program listed five short stories with a timeline of two hours, but the author is now crossing into overtime on only her third
story. It is well past dinner time, and taunting everyone in the farthest corner is a table covered in veggie plates, cookie platters,
and two, four, six, eight, eleven bottles of red wine. Every few minutes, someone will glance at their phones for the time, and in
both directions a cascade of dim, blue lights reflect off the beige metal backs of the folding chairs in front of them. Gian Franco’s
pits are dampening. There are too many people stuffed into in this small, fluorescent-lit meeting hall, with its matted carpeting running all the way up the two support columns set obnoxiously in the middle of the room.
Please, God, death to the old man snoring behind Gian Franco. The woman’s stories would have lulled Gian to sleep if not for the
old man’s bronchial battle with the reaper. Gian can hear each breath wriggling from the phlegm-choked ribcage, mixing with loose
viscera into a chunky, viscous gelatin, slapping against every dry bone and every wet tissue like a tattoo needle against Gian’s ear
drums.
God appears to decline the request, though He doesn’t appear to acknowledge it in the first place.

25

#Hiatus

“I see a lot of young writers in the audience tonight,” the author says after finally finishing her third story. Gian thinks it was
about her childhood in Indiana, or Idaho. Iowa? There was a proper noun that began with “I” in there. Is he just associating the
tracheal tumult of the casket filler behind him with a wheat thresher? “It’s funny, my students refuse to believe that you need to
write every single day, but if you want to be a writer, that is your work schedule.You don’t get weekends, you don’t get sick days,
there are no holidays or vacations, and you’re on call at any hour, on any day.”
Gian looks over the crowd of fifty or so professors and students, leaning left then right to get some blood into their numbing
asses. How many are in writing classes other than the fourteen in his workshop? How many expect to live off writing? How
many expect their work to be taught to their grandchildren or bear an Oprah Book Club sticker or earn them an interview on
NPR? What is their endgame? Do they harbor secret masterpieces, collecting moments and metaphors in the hope of writing
the great American novel? Do they earnestly write their stories, powering through without even a pencil shaving of doubt? Every year the offerings seemed to get worse: a Narnia appropriation starring coquettish, winged tiger cubs with character names
taken out of an encyclopedia of witchcraft; a horrifyingly detailed slash about Willy Wonka tricking Charlie into a life of violent
pederasty; a ninja sporting a conspicuous jester hat who fights a mobster army of mechanized goons. God, that last one was really bad. How can someone be so unabashedly bad at something?
God scoffs, disappointed. That poor kid just wanted to make a video game. He was in that workshop to fulfill a requirement; he’d
never tried to write a story before. And that story still provided more entertainment than anything Gian wrote. Gian and his
friends would do readings of the ninja’s battles for weeks afterwards, bowling over in hysterics at the story’s painful blockbuster
clichés, its reliance on empirical descriptions, and its rare capacity for consistently worsening in logarithmic bounds right up to
its abrupt end. Reaction to Gian’s pieces was comparatively boring. Gian misinterpreted the relative optimism and constructiveness of his workshoppers’ comments as confirmation that he was good when all it had ever meant was that he had potential.
Not to mention, Gian’s contributions to this current class have been bad–really bad. Sloppy, meandering pieces, written in the
preceding twelve hours by cobbling together unfinished stories and aimless rants. It’s no wonder. His journal’s presence in his
knapsack had become a cumbersome reminder of his former passion. He’d stopped reading in lieu of rewatching seasons three
through eight of The Simpsons. Gian had lost the spark. It happened as soon as he’d unpacked his last bit of clothing back into
his tiny childhood wardrobe after four years at college. A uniform matte finish suddenly replaced the special sheen of things
worth noticing. Amniotic fluid goggles, so to speak.
But even granting that Gian may have never written a good story, he had at least enjoyed the process of writing. He loved realizing that he had forgotten to eat for the same reason his ass was asleep, doing three hours of research to write one sentence,
and expanding the little universe in his head with new characters and histories. Being the Great Artist of his own internal existence allowed him to view his macro existence from God’s eye, to see his and all life objectively and without expectations.
A sudden slurp of the old man’s sinuses jerks Gian out of his head and back into the stuffy speaking room. He sits back in his
seat and tries to focus his attention on the author. She is still trying to rein in the tangent she started after her last story. “So
many of my students who are clearly very intelligent feel that they have to revolutionize literature, but their stories always come
out dreadfully because they never learned to leaven their precious sensibility with even a hint of plot.”
Jesus, is she reading from a list? God asks Gian if he’s talking to Him, but Gian isn’t listening. Gotta write because you love
it–they always say that. Trust your reader. Take risks. They never seem to believe that; that advice is always followed with “but
don’t try to remake the wheel.” Early 20th century filmmakers who used cuts were chastised by their colleagues who didn’t
think audiences would piece together that the shots were connected. At the same time, artists began painting kinetic motion,
forcing the third dimension into an unyielding second, and just flat out hucking paint at canvas to the dismay of established critics. Maybe if you want to change things, you need enough ego to endure the patronizing put-downs.
And you can’t suck, which you prove by imitating the greats. Shit.
Gian has wanted to be a writer since high school, ever since he found out getting a medical degree required passing chemistry.
That’s hardly a good origin story. It’s not the whole story. The whole story is that a heavily disliked creative writing teacher told
him he was talented and he took that idea, lodged his index fingers snugly in his ear canals, shut his eyes so hard his eyebrows
touched his cheeks, and ran with it. Truth is, Gian wants to be a rock star, but he’s too short and his fingers too stubby. Writing
novels just seemed like the next least bullshit job.
Gian feels no compulsion to write everything he thinks, but writing is the medium he always comes back to. Rereading his old
stories made his heart swell, his cheeks flush and his eyes dew with warm nostalgia. Perhaps Gian was always alienating his audi26

#Hiatus

-ence, but if you’re only supposed to write for the love of writing, you’ve still got an audience of you. Or Elijah, as it were.

Listen to that gargling! Is he trying to vomit up tar? Isn’t it rude to breathe louder than the speaker speaks? Surely, someone else
hears this? There must be a weed whacker powering this man’s trachea. Good God, how on Earth does no one else hear this?
God suggests Gian try to wake the old fart and Gian takes God seriously, digging through his knapsack for anything expendable
to throw behind him. He finds a pen still full of ink and his notebook with only two pages of writing. Out of respect to what the
instruments still mean to him, he finds that he cannot sacrifice them to the brief relief of his eardrums.
Gian Franco doesn’t believe in God but he talks to Him all the time. They came to the reading together; they’ll probably get
beer afterwards. That said, Gian Franco is well aware that he is just a figment of God’s imagination. Not God God: imaginary
friends are for children. Not that hippie-dippy bullshit about God being the forces of nature, either–there seems little point in
worshipping the Trinity of Thermodynamics. All things are made of information, and Gian is nothing more than a conglomeration of functional equations in the giant computer that some have called God. And God is a conglomeration of functions in the
head of His God–SuperGod, say–and SuperGod is a function in UltraGod, and it just keeps going and going and going like that
because the universe is always computing itself and numbers just sort of keep getting bigger and bigger slash smaller and smaller
slash irrational and imaginary, so what’s a little infinite regress among friends?
Sure, it would be nice to be one of the more fleshed out characters, a celebrity, maybe, but being alive is pretty okay. Gian had
no way of knowing when or even if he’d have another chance at life, so suicide was right out. He felt like he should be more
appreciative of the opportunity presented to him, the sole winner out of the three-hundred-million potential offspring from the
day’s batch. Every girl he’d got turned out to be a girl to skip. He’d never submitted a piece and never sent out a demo, and his
regrets about missed opportunities piled up like a stalagmite. Gian constantly lived in worry that God was into French New
Wave and that his life was an art project about how long it takes to die of disappointment. Darwin got evolution, Einstein got
energy, Franco gets ennui.
Why God? Why so many boring stories?

||
God lifts the needle. “Well I certainly don’t mean to,” He says, mostly to Himself. “Is this boring?”
God looks at Gian frozen in time. The boy’s shoulders are so tense with irritation and anxiety that he seems to bend a tiny outline of space around him. Another minute of this academic abrasion and he’s liable to take out the whole block. He needs time
off from all this schooling, some time to think about real things.
God could use a bit of a walk, too. He steps outside and into outer space, where the quantum barrage of solar wind reinvigorates Him after so many hours in the clammy room. He floats out of the Milky Way, up–relative to Massachusetts Bay–away from
all galaxies and light, into the realm where God does work and zones out.
The Holy Father takes in His greatest creation: the giant, infinite canvas. Every piece is perfect and brilliant before it is made material. He gazes upon the Pleiades, the Carina Nebula, the Pillars of Creation. Not bad. Early work, but not bad. That was when it
was about having fun, when it was about manipulating the elements, when it was about making something out of nothing–when
it was about blowing shit up. God takes in His favorite piece of His proto-life era, what Gian’s species calls Arp 148 but is really
called Lightning Bolt Through a Rainbow. Earth is not in the right position to see the object for what it is, but it is much more
obvious and quite breathtaking from the intended viewpoint.
Then God got ambitious. He thought, “What better art piece than art that makes its own art!” and so He hid away to perfect
His new project, the one He was calling “Life.” It would absorb cross-sections on the fourth dimension called memories and
combine them with other 4-D cross-sections in the still under-construction subjective reality to produce original creations in
space.
But sometime between the beginning of the galactic era and the formation of Population II stars, God got worried that Life
wouldn’t live up to all the hype. In a rush, He zapped a pond of amino acids caked in lipids and let them figure it out for themselves. Too embarrassed to watch the fruits of his laziness, God went off to investigate strange radio signals coming from distant
quasars on the other side of the universe. But when he got about half way, he ran into another God!
27

“Who are you?” our God asked the other God.

#Hiatus

“Who am I?” The other God was incredulous. “I’m God! Who are you?”
“I’m God!” our God replied, quite vexed. “And I’m in no mood to have this conversation right now, I just started life and I’m
really anxious about it.”
“Oh brother,” the other God snorted. “You can’t get life started? I’ve got life on twenty different planets in three galaxies. My life
is so good that planets birth Me.”
Our God became paralyzed with embarrassment and envy. “I’m really only just starting. Trying out some small rocks.”
“Try Earth, it’ll harbor anything.”
“Where?” Our God had no idea everything in creation had already been named.
“Earth!” the other God pointed straight behind our God. “You have to have passed it. Didn’t you notice all the other life on it?”
“Um, I–I guess I was a bit focused on my own thing,” Our God mumbled and watched the other God laugh so hard that it rolled
away. Our God floated in the black vacuum for a while before returning to Earth at the divine space-travel equivalent of trudging.
When God finally returned, the planet that had only just struck life out of a batch of pond scum was covered in disgusting, hairy
skin tags. They looked nothing like Him–a terribly inadequate number of limbs, only one heart rather limited in function, and a
truly bizarre extremity at the top that had all sorts of divots and curves and a bridge-on-the-top-of-the-saucer vulnerability that
was all too easily exploited by predators and political opponents. Whatever they didn’t destroy they ruined in more subtle ways.
For instance, whenever a book was made into a movie, they would put the movie poster as the cover.
Disgusted, God abandoned Earth altogether to try again on Jupiter’s icy water moon, Europa. But there, He couldn’t quite summon the same enthusiasm He’d had for Life. True, the half-squid, half-pterodactyl Krakalodons were unassailably awesome, but
they weren’t really suited for the planet’s brand of nautical monster, and were extinct long before they made it through the shell
of ice.
God eventually retreated home to Earth, where several billion people were carrying on the rich, timeless tradition of killing each
other over God’s true name. It’s Steve, by the way. Not Stephen, Steve. He tried clearing things up once, but no one listened.
Slaughtering babies and raping virgins in the name of Allah or YHWH carries some heft: those are powerful and spooky names.
But Steve? No one wants to kill for Steve.
God felt like he’d woken up from a weekend bender. Companions He didn’t recognize, events that were previously thought impossible; what the hell happened? When did all these people generate so much history? He would try to converse with a few of
them when the unavoidable loneliness of being God got the best of Him, but every time a human gazed upon the Almighty the
human would panic and feel like he had to ask something profound or beneficial to humanity. It’s all just one been difficult, answerless question after another since then. Why is there evil? What happens when we die? What is the purpose of all this? God
doesn’t know! Why does there have to be an answer? Why can’t it just be funny that it happened at all? And the people, sweet
lovable Krishna, always with the prayers! Cure my cancer, make my son straight, buy me a Mercedes-Benz, shut the fuck up!

>
With nothing but time and running out of ideas, the Deity returns to His seat next to Gian and continues playback. He ponders
setting Gian up with one of the girls in his class, or maybe one of the waitresses at the boy’s favorite bar. Gian has a striking
beauty for a boss, there could be an affair. Her husband could walk in on them when they’re supposed to be at work and she’ll
get pregnant with Gian’s baby and they’ll have to abort it and James Paul McCartney that old man sounds like he’s choking on a
slug orgy!
Suddenly consumed with making good stories for everyone, God begins panicking. His Greatness becomes concerned that He
has punished untold billions of people with aimless lives, setting up a stage that masquerades as an arena and never indicating
that the verb that most adequately describes the passage of time is “play.”
28

#Hiatus

God takes a few deep breaths. Just start with Gian, He tells himself. But God doesn’t know how to make Gian happy. He has no
clue about Gian’s history or his current concerns. God just liked his clever observations. There are so many people to meet, so
many things to do, and the universe isn’t even half dead yet. Existence was better when everything was just hydrogen. Every time
it bounced into something it changed. Humans do that too, but it’s so much subtler.You have to really invest yourself in noticing
anything and by then you’re concerned with their well-being and they’re so good at doing harm to themselves that it’s just not
worth the time.
“I don’t know what I’m doing,” God whispers into Gian’s ear. “I just wanted to have some fun, blow up a few stars, lose some
galaxies to black holes, and close up shop. I got in over my head. I wanted to do something really great, you know? Something
infinite, universal. I wanted a legacy to follow me after I decided to hang up the beard. And I think I’ve imbued that into you guys,
which I’m honestly sorry about.You shouldn’t have to suffer for my insecurities, never mind make up for my shortcomings.
“I don’t know why I made you the way I did. Perhaps at the time of your creation you were necessary, or you made whatever
scene appear more realistic, whatever that is. I’m Mickey Mousing. I feel bad because I’ve been avoiding you and deleting every
voice mail you guys leave Me. But if I have one thing tell you, it would be that there are no demands. About how to go about
things, I mean. Not from Me, anyway.”
Gian sits staring, his right eye twitching with every granulating snore behind him.
“No, wait,” God hesitates, trying to find the best phrasing for the secret to everything. “‘Don’t worry about it.’ That’s clear
right?”
The authoress is still looking for a segue into her next story. Gian hasn’t eaten in almost nine hours.
“Or is the ‘it’ without a clear antecedent? You know what I mean when I say ‘it,’ right?”
Gian does not answer God because he is too busy trying not to end up on the evening news.
“Oh, of course!” God eurekas to Himself, remembering that He created Life to take care of this for Him. The Prime Mover gets
up and walks over to the author, now finally wrapping up after forgetting and remembering her point, and sticks his hand into
her head, fitting his fingers into her cotton-white teeth like a sock puppet.
“At your age,” God says through the author, focusing her attention squarely on Gian, “unless you’ve lived an extraordinary life,
you have nothing worth saying. If I have any advice for you, it is to go out and take some stupid risks! Live a little! Live until
you’re twenty-six, twenty-seven, then write.”
“Amen!” Gian yells in triumph, popping to his feet and throwing his bag over his shoulder. “Thanks, ma’am,” he says facing the
audience on his way to the door, “that’s a new one”
God lets her go, stepping back to get a clear view of the whole room. All faces are turned towards Gian. Even the old man has
come back from the line at the Pearly Gates to see what’s going on. The carpet-heightened silence is cut by Gian’s apologetic
stumbling over everyone’s legs. He is just about to clear the door when his professor lumbers upright, red-faced with embarrassment and fury: “Mr. Franco! What on earth do you think you are doing?”
Gian stops briefly, turns on his heels, and smiles wide at the audience. “You heard the woman. I’m twenty-three.”

God laughs. He watches Gian stroll out of the room and off towards a place He cannot see. The other young students in the
room turn away from the door and look at one another. They hastily gather their coats and bags, the braver students running
for the snack table to gank a cookie platter or a bottle of wine. Their professors threaten them with failing grades, but it is too
late to stop. By the time the dust settles, just two wine bottles remain–wrested from the greedy hands of fleeing students by the
reading’s organizer–and no cookies. Only the scattered late-in-life graduate students remain seated with their flustered teachers.
With God standing behind them, they intercept the last echoes of light and sound from the young students long since out the
door.

The End

© 2015 John Michael
Illustration by © 2015 Matthew H. Jones

29

Special thanks:
Dear Reader:
Among these pages, you’ll notice a couple things:
the wealth of authorial talent and the extremely
photogenic nature of each member in our group
– note the handsome, coffee-colored gentleman,
for example. One member, in particular, should
be noted above all else. He has gone above and
beyond the call of duty to bring this magazine
to you: Wilfredo Rodríguez. With very few
exceptions– again, note the handsome coffeecolored gentleman-, if you’ve thought “that
looks incredible”, you have Wilfredo’s talent and
dedication to thank.
The Nano Lowell Writers’ Group is incredibly lucky
to have him as a contributor, friend and partner.
Sincerely,
Matthew H. Jones, the coffee-colored gentleman.

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Daniela Edelkind: outsidemywindowster@gmail.com
Matthew H. Jones: matthewhjonesauthor@gmail.com
Sara Marks: librarygurl@gmail.com
Wil Redd/Wilfredo Rodriguez: wilreddthewriter@gmail.com

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#MillPagesFTW

Guest artists:
Brianna Gendreau:

/b_gendreau

@brigxo18

/brianna.gendreau

John Michael:

@johnmichaeltxt

/johnmichaeltxt

Katie Bielski:

/kaitlyn.bielski

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Upcoming:
Keep your eyes peeled around
the Merrimack Valley & Boston
for a special printed edition of
Mill Pages coming out soon.

Want to write a novel in November? We do! Join us in our
yearly marathon to reach 50,000 words on a completely new
manuscript. For more information go to: www.nanowrimo.org

Good Idea:
Cut out this page and make a paper
plane.
Talk about the authors and artists
on reddit forums using Alien Blue.
Print a copy of this magazine to keep in
the bathroom for when your phone or
tablet dies.
Share the magazine everywhere
on the web.
Write thoughtful handwritten letters
with your twin in the library to send
us via social media or email later.

Bad Idea:
Cut this page out of your phone,
tablet or computer.
Talk about the authors and artists to
aliens with an affinity for abductions.
Print a copy of this magazine to keep in
the bathroom for when you run out of
toilet paper
Sell the magazine without the permission of
the creators or make money off our work.
Write ellipses with your mind in a
floating black balloon while squatting and
balancing a plank with your telekinetic
armless twin.

Got a bright idea? Share it with us on social
media using the hashtags:

#GoodIdeaForMillPages

#BadIdeaForMillPages

Remember to visit us at: www.millpages.com