Mark Blickley with Amy Bassin, 7/15/2019

Current Occupation: Teacher
Former Occupation:  Mail Carrier
Contact Information: Mark Blickley is a widely published New York author of fiction, nonfiction, drama and poetry. His most recent book is a text based art collaboration with fine arts photographer Amy Bassin, Dream Streams (2019). He is a proud member of the Dramatist Guild and PEN American Center as well as a 2018 Audie Award finalist for his contribution to the original audio book, Nevertheless We Persisted.

 

#

 

 

 Sentenced to Death by the Muse

 

Sir, I have registered your desperate entreaty for guidance.  A meaningful dialogue between two receptive adults articulates in a myriad of styles.  Sensuality offers a portal to the subtle communication often not available in our daily lives.

 

Thousands of decades of life, love and experimental understanding have nurtured a powerfully feminine and wisely balanced woman. I offer a manner of engagement reflective of another era indeed; when grace, sensitivity and the healing power of intimacy were the standard.

 

As discriminating as I hope my clients to be, I take very few appointments after testing our communication skills to assure a mutually enjoyable and enriching encounter. Please offer your inquiries with a respectful metaphysical introduction and allow things to move from there. I present myself with straight-forward integrity and expect the same in return. That being said, I will simply not respond to queries that are blatantly solicitous or unforthcoming.

 

I welcome mature and urbane gentlemen to my hired accommodations in or around my Temple of Trust with availability thru 5 p.m. Weekend afternoon and evening visits to your discreetly hired accommodations are negotiable as well.

 

Given my desire to develop a repartee prior to our interlude, I cannot accept requests for meetings with less than 36 hours prior discussion.

 

You will find me quite generous with my time; an encounter being about a connection and its development rather than a mere chronological passage. However, I am a very private woman and therefore am not available for booked appointments exceeding two hours in duration.

 

Appropriate emolument as follows:

 

A. Genuflection for hour one

B. Total obedience for hour two

 

Please respect my professionalism and maturity by referencing my entire conditions as well as reputation prior to contact. Specific details noted within the forthcoming coda will not be discussed.

 

I make all arrangements through petition—without exception.

 

Please refer to me as Cyn.  I shall be in touch.

 

Gynecocracy Coda: 

 

I have holistic orgasms of innovation that allow for me to achieve an altered state; men do not. Men have ejaculations of thoughts. The patriarchy calls ejaculations orgasms because they never want women to consider themselves superior in any way.  Thus they pretend sensual experience is reduced to simple spasms that are equal for both genders. It is a phallic fallacy that leads to the small death of visionary inventiveness.  

 

Men are usually less adventurous.  Most like to do the same things and do not budge. My sensual tastes change. Boys grow up with chronic mental masturbation and so they train themselves to limit their view of sensuality to strictly physical pleasure. True sensuality encompasses the enriching aspects of both pleasure and pain and is why women don’t have penis envy, but men have pregnancy envy. 

 

 

 

I can always tell if  a man is aroused simply by looking at him. My response isn’t obvious, thus I can make the male work harder to prove his manhood by feigning a lack of desire so he puts more effort into pleasing me. His testosterone will poison his ego if he thinks he is not as desirable or cannot please. One of my greatest excitements is when I can sense a man’s intense desire for me. That is a visual/intellectual/emotional power I can choose to withhold until he consummates his desire with an exquisite display of heartfelt aesthetic curiosity and discipline.   

 

 

 

 

SUPPLICATION 

REJECTED

DUE TO 

SALACIOUS

INTENT

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ogu Chukwuebuka Kizito, 7/8/2019

Current Occupation: Digital marketer
Former Occupation: Digital marketer
Contact Information: Few words depicts me, more action defines me. The past made me, the
future is what I make myself.

 

#

The thought him to be deformed.

A one year compulsory service called National youth service corp (NYSC) is very important in every graduate in Nigeria. It is a time where you go serve your fatherland. During my one year compulsory service at sagamu, Ogun state camp. I remember vividly, his name was Emmanuel from Kaduna state. With legs deformed he still refused to go home after begging and placations by the NYSC Officials. The easiest thing for him to have done was just to make a sign of home or something and he would be redeployed back to his place. As a result of his zeal to serve the fatherland, the officials gave him their quarters to stay separate from us. As we did our compulsory morning parade, he sat on his sit and stared at us. You could see the passion in his eyes, the dreams and thoughts flying in his mind. One would have been, if only I had legs like this people, if only I could just match like them. The gaze on his face was blazing, the smile was heart touching, his body chemistry said it all. I wish I could just be like them and walk. It was all glaring from his countenance as he watched the crowd of corp member’s parade, with him sitting on his wheelchair.

 

More so, I quickly made him my friend when I noticed that no one wanted to be friends with him. His ideas so full of life. We had a unique handshake which we did in the presence of a multitude of fellow corp members. He loved reading more than anything, he was more intelligent than those people who claimed to be complete and not deformed. I learnt a lesson more learning than a professor would have thought me. He was always sitting at the base of the stadium backing the crowd, and he was always all smiles whenever he saw me, because I was coming for my handshake first and a discussion continues.

 

Even at that those who had complete legs complained about everything, about the food, about the house, even about the air. They complained that they were tired of everything. They were tired of matching, a million things to complain about. They failed to see what they had. Do you see what you have?

 

However, it hurt me that I lost your contact and picture of memories we shared together. My friend from a distance, you have got an extra to the ordinary man. Let no man hold you back from the dreams of your life. 

 

Do not be the man who have eyes but yet cannot see, the one who has everything but will spend his life chasing trifles. That which you seek is but in front of you, only if you decide to See more and look less. Even in the midst of nothing there is something you have that is someone’s dreams and prayer point, someone's dreams is that thing you do not value. 

 

The question is: Who was really deformed, Him or those who thought him to be?



 

Emmauel thank you for this life lesson.

 

 

Gary Beck, 7/1/2019

Current Occupation: I am currently a writer

Former Occupation: I was formerly a director/playwrite.

Contact Information: Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theater director, and as an art dealer when he couldn’t make a living in theater. He has 13 published chapbooks and 1 accepted for publication. His poetry collections include: Days of Destruction (Skive Press), Expectations (Rogue Scholars Press). Dawn in Cities, Assault on Nature, Songs of a Clerk, Civilized Ways, Displays, Perceptions, Fault Lines, Tremors, Perturbations and Rude Awakenings (Winter Goose Publishing) The Remission of Order will be published by Winter Goose Publishing. Conditioned Response (Nazar Look). Resonance (Dreaming Big Publications). Virtual Living (Thurston Howl Publications). Blossoms of Decay and Expectations (Wordcatcher Publishing). Blunt Force will be published by Wordcatcher Publishing. His novels include: Extreme Change (Cogwheel Press), Flawed Connections (Black Rose Writing), Call to Valor and Crumbling Ramparts (Gnome on Pigs Productions). As part of the continuing series, ‘Stand to Arms Marines’, Gnome on Pigs Productions will publish the third book in the series, Raise High the Walls. Sudden Conflicts (Lillicat Publishers). Acts of Defiance will be published by Wordcatcher Publishing. His short story collections include, A Glimpse of Youth (Sweatshoppe Publications) and. Now I Accuse and other stories (Winter Goose Publishing). Dogs Don’t Send Flowers and other stories will be published by Wordcatcher Publishing. His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway. His poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines. He currently lives in New York City.

 

#

Illusory Image

Our leaders,

nurtured by tv,

wear slick suits,

slicker faces

to get elected,

as qualified

as average household pets

to run a complex nation.

Somehow, sincere looks,

concerned statements,

convince many of us

unqualified politicians

can be trusted

to solve our problems.

 

#

Unreconciled

It's only been a few days,

but New Year's resolutions,

already forgotten

in recurrence of routine,

the normal pattern

for most Americans

struggling to survive

loss of prosperity,

diminished opportunity,

previous expectations

aggravated

by passing limousines.

 

#

Thwarted Shoppers

The prosperous course the streets

purchasing tantalizing goods

from beckoning shops

promising satisfaction

with extravagant treasures

denied ordinary folk,

who can no longer afford

to buy what they want,

rudely reduced

to second-class consumers.

 

Charles Rammelkamp, 6/24/2019

Current Occupation: Retired, Reviews editor for Adirondack Review


Former Occupation: Technical Writer and Teacher


Contact Information: I am the Prose Editor for  BrickHouse Books, in Baltimore and a compulsive writer, which falls more in the category of stuff-I-do than stuff-I-get-paid-for. Recent books include MATA HARI: EYE OF THE DAY, and AMERICAN ZEITGEIST, both as published by Apprentice House (Loyola University), and a chapbook, JACK TAR’S LADY PARTS published by Main Street Rag. Published by FutureCycle Press in 2018 is another chapbook, ME AND SAL PARADISE.

 

#

Taxi Driver

 

It was a year before the movie with Robert De Niro and Jodie Foster came out, but I still thought it would be a romantic adventure, more than just a job. Trouble was, I’d just moved to Boston from a tiny town in the Middlewest – Potawatomi Rapids, Michigan – that didn’t even have one-way streets or left-turn arrows.  But I figured the fares I picked up would know how to get to where they needed to be, right? How hard could it be?

 

I got a Hackney License downtown somewhere in Copley Square, no problem. I didn’t have a criminal record, I’d just gotten a Massachusetts driver’s license, I was over 21 (22 to be exact), a clean-cut corn-fed college kid.

 

I must have looked honest. The management at the taxi company over near Fenway Park hired me with no problems. My first day of work was the day the clocks jumped ahead an hour, February 23, a bleak, sleety, slushy morning For some reason – one of the original “energy crises” – somebody had decided that starting daylight savings time in February was going to save power.  I trudged over to get my cab from my roominghouse in Kenmore Square, a huge sprawling Romanesque Revival style building with conical towers built in 1901, the hallways of which were as confusing as a rabbits’ warren.

 

My first – and only – fare I forgot to throw the meter. Fortunately, the guy was only going a short way, and he kindly gave me a five-dollar bill.

 

“You wanna go back to the garage,” he confided, “hang a left onto Beacon.”

 

I was way out of my depth, for sure. Reality had run smack into the crazy romantic dream of a madcap escapade. I headed back through Kenmore Square, a middle-aged lady on Commonwealth Avenue yoohooing at me with her scarf. I ignored her, driving on and turning into Brookline Avenue and on toward Landsdowne Street, back to the taxi company, like the Trojans fleeing inside the walled city, escaping the Greeks.  Smartest thing I ever did in my life, even if I felt like a failure, my pride a dirty doormat.

 

Inside the garage, I got out of my cab, handed the dispatcher my keys and the five-dollar bill, explaining my folly to him, pleading incompetence.  No harm, no foul. He agreed I should maybe try again some other time when I was more familiar with the area.   Then I went back to the Charlesgate and crawled into bed. When I woke up a few hours later, I began scheming about Plan B.

 

 

Jean Rover, 6/17/2019

Current Occupation: Salem, Oregon freelance writer/editor
Former Occupation: I worked for several years in corporate and marketing communications for a large insurance company.
Contact Information: After years of writing about loss ratios, risks, new products and dealing with organizational politics, I finally escaped the dreary, gray world of cubicles. I am now on a happy, new path of writing fiction and poetry. Feel free to contact me at jearov@msn.com

 

#

Epiphany

 

As soon as I entered the doors of True Light Christian Church in the small town of Ricksdale for G. Ellen’s memorial service, a chubby young woman approached. “Thank you for coming,” she said, handing me a program. She stared at my fashionable gray pantsuit and Stuart Weitzman heels.

I extended my hand. “I’m Beth Terryjack. I used to work with Ellen at Braddock and Burdick Financial up at the Portland headquarters.”

She tucked the programs under the arm of her cotton blouse and clasped my hand with both of hers. “Ah yes,” she said. A warm smile lit her face. “Aunt Gwen was a shrewd business woman.”

Shrewd?

  1. Ellen sat a few cubicles away from my windowed office in the Marketing Division. The G stood for Gwen, but she used the lone initial followed by her middle name at work. I guess she thought it made her sound more corporate, even though her physical appearance never matched the image she apparently had of herself.

She was a short, middle-aged, rosy-cheeked beach ball of a woman with chin-length brown hair streaked with gray. I knew from office scuttlebutt that G. Ellen suffered from diabetes, knee problems and, at times, hard-core depression. Climbing stairs left her winded. She never married.

She had landed in the maze of cubicles on the fifth floor of our company four years ago. The then new management relieved her of the marketing manager position she held in one of our branch offices and reassigned her. The big boss, the full-of-himself CEO, totally disregarded Ellen’s solid track record, her years of service, and her very likeable personality. In his mind, heavy-set people made poor company representatives. He made no bones about how he felt.  Mr. Big would strut around the boardroom and make derisive comments about “land whales,” his term for obese women. People from accounting were “pencil necks,” janitors were “losers,” and some poor bloke from human resources “a pisser and moaner who couldn’t wipe his own butt.” I guess he never noticed his own jowls, his bald head, or the way his own gut obscured his belt.

  1. Ellen passed her days presenting canned training programs to the sales force and recording their continuing ed hours, so they could retain their licenses. Food became her opiate as she piled on more pounds.

A spray of white lilies and mums stood by the pulpit at the front of the church. I took a seat near the rear. There were no pews. We all sat on gray padded church chairs, which made the sanctuary seem more like a meeting room. I glanced around the half-filled room of ordinary folks—family, church people, a couple of crying babies, a lot of jeans, and no corporate suits. I didn’t see anyone else from work except Val, the friendly copy center gal, and Stella, the division secretary, who remembered everyone’s birthday and organized the anticipated “treat day” celebrations. I hadn’t known G. Ellen that well, but I considered her a worthy colleague. So where was Eric, her immediate supervisor, or the rest of her team⸻all those folks she interacted with on a daily basis?

The minister was a pleasant woman, somewhere in her fifties I’d guess, with dark-rimmed glasses and short, overly-permed auburn hair who punctuated her speech with distracting “ums.” From her, I learned, “Gwen’s parents … um … are no longer living. She … um … is survived by two sisters, a brother and several nieces and …um … nephews. She lived her last days alone in the cute house on Elm Street with her beloved cat, Groucho, and was supported by an adoring family who helped with the yard and housework, especially after her health started to decline. She … um … was sixty-two years old.”

Once the minister concluded her welcoming remarks and Ellen’s brief bio, she read scripture, and offered a prayer. She finished with, “Amen and Amen. Gwen wasn’t able to enjoy a long retirement, but she’s in God’s hands now.”  After that, she introduced a young man from the church choir who sang “How Great Thou Art.”

Finally, it was time for open sharing. A somber nephew told how Aunt Gwen had read to him as a child and helped pay his college tuition. “Thank you, Auntie,” he said, looking up at the ceiling. He wiped away a tear. “I know you’re in heaven with Jesus.”

Friends from her high school class remembered her as a shining star, only they all referred to her as Gwen or Gwennie, never as G. Ellen. A ruddy-faced, heavy-browed man in baggy jeans told about the time they had all piled into Gwen’s old Falcon on senior skip day, chugged off to the coast, and got stuck in the sand. “It was a bucket of bolts,” he said, “but Gwen loved that car. We all got grounded for being late.” His story brought a low hum of laughter from the crowd.

A bent, gray-haired grandma-type shuffled to the microphone. She introduced herself as Gwen’s home ec teacher and described the fancy purple dress Gwen had made in her class. “Let me tell you, it was real pretty. It won a blue ribbon at the county fair.”

Choking back tears, other family members filled in more of her history. After graduating from college, Gwen traveled to Europe, taught high school English, became an expert on Chaucer, and then left teaching in her twenties to work for the corporation.

The Corporation.

They said that word with such pride, as if Ellen had reached the Promised Land. “She was so organized,” her niece told the audience, pausing to swallow. “Aunt Gwennie used to paste those little sticky notes all over the place, including the fridge and the bathroom mirror. If you messed with one of Gwennie’s stickies, she knew it. Even when she quit work, she was a dyed-in-wool business woman.”

Odd. Maybe she was at one time, but that wasn’t the Ellen I knew. I recalled a meeting we’d had to plan the annual marketing convention—a big corporate deal. She came with a folder, which she accidentally dropped on the floor. When the papers scattered, she became discombobulated. I tried to help her put things back in order, but we were pressed for time, and I have to admit I’d left shaking my head. I wished now I had reached out to her.

In a quavering voice, her sister, a stocky but taller version of G. Ellen, presented a slide show of memories. Gwen’s mother had been a stay-at-home mom, and her father pulled green chain in a mill outside Ricksdale where they all grew up. Gwen was valedictorian for her graduating class, was elected president of this and that, and even sported a crown as a May Day princess, wearing what else⸻the award-winning purple dress.

Back then, she was chubby, but in the flush of youth, it looked more like baby fat minus the rolls and thick calves that came later. Her brown hair was shoulder length, and she had this radiant, young smile. That smile gleamed in the photo of her receiving a scholarship to Oregon State.  Ellen was the first one in her family to complete college. They were darned proud of that too.

Such bright hope, I thought, such a promising start for a young woman any parent would be honored to claim and any company would be proud to hire. Sadly, like a wounded songbird falling from the sky, it all ended in a downward spiral. I dabbed my eyes.

After becoming pigeonholed at work, G. Ellen never smiled much, and she was sick a lot. Maybe that happens when one minute you’re a star, the next an also-ran, when you’re undervalued, putting in time, and your unchallenged mind sprouts weeds.

“What happened to Ellen?” I had asked Charlotte, a marketing research analyst, and the company “knower-of-all-things.”  I’d suddenly realized G. Ellen’s cubicle had been empty for some time and looked “picked over ”⸻an unseemly practice of co-workers descending like buzzards on a former employee’s office space in search of a better chair, stapler, or calculator.

After twenty-five years with the company, I knew Ellen was eligible for early retirement, but I didn’t remember a party.

Charlotte constantly checked new employee directories against old ones, so she could keep track of people who mysteriously “went missing” from the corporation. She reached for the small three-ring binder on her desk, flipped it open, and announced, “Ellen’s not in it anymore,” as if quoting scripture.

“So, she actually did retire then,” I said. “Was it because of the diabetes?”

“Who knows?” Charlotte said. “Stuff like that is confidential. She had a lot of problems.”

“You’d think there would’ve been a card, a farewell lunch . . . something. I mean after all those years.”

Charlotte stared at me over the blue-framed reading glasses resting on the tip of her large, hooked nose, making her look like an educated parrot. “You should check with Stella about that. She’s the party queen.”

“I already did. She was clueless.”

“Look, whenever there’s a regime change, everything shifts. They’re always looking for new blood or have cronies that need jobs.  It’s best to keep your ears open and your head down. Wait for the next czar to make things better.”

“I’m fifty-eight. That’s not going to happen in my lifetime.” My shoulders drooped.

She waved me off. “Just sayin’.”

When the slide show finished, the minister announced a “celebration of life” reception. “It will be in the church social hall, following our closing prayer … um … there will be coffee, punch, snacks and … um … Gwen’s favorite blueberry cheesecake.”

While waiting for the service to wind down, my mind shifted to an ending of my own. In fact, it wasn’t long after Ellen had “disappeared” from the corporation, that Hastings, the marketing veep, called me into his office and showed me a draft of his new “reorganization” plan, all the time checking his watch. I had taken in my notepad expecting to get an assignment, but instead, he drew a line through my management position on the Marketing Division organization chart, claiming the department had to downsize. “You do a great job, okay?” he said, his beefy face reddening. “It’s just that with this economy, well … the big boss wants to flatten the organization, okay?”

“So, you’re flattening me?” I set the notepad on my lap, so he wouldn’t see my shaking hands.

“Not exactly. We’re … uh … moving you over to special projects.” He forced a smile exposing the small gap between his two front teeth. “You’ll still be reporting to me,” he said, as if that were some prize. He penciled in another awkward box for me somewhere off to the side and down, but with a dotted line. He checked our meeting off his “to do” list, ran his hand through his thinning, see-through hair, and ushered me out, never looking me in the eye.

I stood for a moment in the hallway stunned, my armpits wet. What had just happened? Who was I now? Being pushed out and down was tough news for anyone, but especially for me—a middle-aged woman. The world wasn’t exactly waiting for us. Special projects? That was the corporate graveyard.

Six months later, the CEO’s snappy, young son-in-law, Richard, (slicked back hair, three-piece suits, methodical brain, brown-nosing ass kisser) showed up to do my “old” job; only it had a different title, so how could it have been mine?

“You’re still in the directory,” Charlotte had said, trying her best to console me. “That’s something.”

Something.

 

The congregation sang, “When We All Get to Heaven.” I sat there like a sack of flour unable to join in. Afterward, the minister offered a prayer.

As people slowly filed out to attend G. Ellen’s reception, I saw Stella and Val slip out a side door. I followed the crowd to the church basement, but not knowing anyone, stood in the corner sipping a glass of tasteless red punch from a Styrofoam cup.

That’s something,” I heard a male voice in the distance say.

Something. I had no idea what he was talking about, but hearing that word triggered memories of my awful meeting with Hastings. A queasy feeling crept into my gut. My face flushed. The crowded room seemed to close in like I was wrapped in a giant rug. I crushed the empty cup in my hand and tossed it into the trash. Before leaving, I glanced at the photos of Ellen’s life displayed on a memory table near the entrance. Off to one side was a colorful bouquet of paper roses made out of Post-it Notes, a final tribute to a much loved aunt and sister. I mouthed, “Goodbye G. Ellen, I never knew the real you.” I fingered the edge of one of the roses. “I truly wish I had.”

Outside in the cool air, I took several deep breaths, glad I’d come and pleased to have represented the employment side of G. Ellen’s life to her family. But as I hurried toward my car, it became clear to me—I had to leave the corporation before it killed me, too.

 

Rajni Mishra, 6/3/2019

Current Occupation: Digital Marketer
Former Occupation: Patents & Innovation Expert
Contact Information: A poet by religion, Rajni has been writing verses and cooking up stories for as long as she can remember. Her stories and poems have appeared in the Breadcrumbs Magazine, the Bangalore Review and Basil O’ Flaherty magazine. She works as a digital marketer and content stylist to support her writing habit. She currently resides in Bangalore in a home built of books.

#

Recipe for a Perfect Blog-o-nese

 

Hankering for a one-size-fits-all, perfect bowl

of Pen-ne Blog-o-nese in a rich, creamy sauce?

This smart Blog-o-nese has it all –

Pen-ne thoughts, inflated attitude,

creamy copy-pastes and melted jargons.

 

What do you need?

 

3 big mugs of borrowed content

½ cup of raw words

3 tablespoon of saucy thoughts

200 grams of extra-lean attitude

¼ cup of motivation

1 teaspoon of chopped inspiration

A pinch of originality

Grated creativity, for serving

 

How to make it?

 

Heat the motivation in a

medium sized saucepan at high heat.

Add the borrowed content and

cook until golden, at medium heat.

Add the raw words with the attitude,

stirring, until browned.

Add the motivation,

and the inspiration, if required,

or with a glass of water, gulp it down.

 

Dilute it with the saucy thoughts

and cook until al dente,

run a check and drain

the extra content.

Add the pinch of originality

and toss the dish to mix well.

Serve with the modicum of grated creativity,

and if they aren’t hungry,

serve them anyway,

shove it down their throats,

until they begin to like it

or even better,

until they throw up

all over the place.

 

 

DS Maolalai, 5/27/2019

Current Occupation: Facility Maintenance Dispatch
Former Occupation: Hospital Control Room
Contact Information: DS Maolalai has been nominated for Best of the Web and twice for the Pushcart Prize. His first collection, “Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden”, was published in 2016 by the Encircle Press, with “Sad Havoc Among the Birds” forthcoming from Turas Press in 2019.

 

#

Control.

 

I liked it,

dying

surrounded by ringing telephones. if it hadn’t been

for an old girlfriend

coming to london

I’d have probably stayed on

indefinitely, like

one of those old

dusty fuckers

of whom we made

so much fun

on our lunch-breaks. mocking them

for spending their lives

always watching the call queue, always

from the corner of their eyes. it was

a call-centre, though we were supposed to call it

“control”. just a place

for lines

to converge over england.

 

“biker 3,

dispatch” “khc” “double activation”.

I knew the codes

for different calls

and learned

phonetic alphabets. it was

easy, watching

days move

like spiders through the window.

like stretching out

on a mattress

at night.

 

one day I heard

that my ex-girlfriend

had found a job

doing punch-up

in a local

theatre. of course

I left immediately;

some jobs

like control-rooms

anyone

can do anywhere;

why should I begrudge

giving someone a city

they want to be in

where they’re doing

what they actually

want to do?





#

High art.

 

I don’t trust anyone

whose whole job

is writing. it’s a great way to get

so you think

you’re more clever than other people,

or that writing things down

is difficult,

or some sort,

somehow,

of high art. I have my work phone in my pocket

and there’s a group text

between me, as the office co-ordinator, and our three

main building techs. mostly it’s used

for dirty jokes

and checking the status of burst pipes

and broken lightbulbs. but

they also send a message through

once a month

to make sure that everyone

got paid what they’re owed

for all the on-call time

and overtime. and it’s almost invariable

that someone’s wage

is wrong. that they’ll have to go

fight it out

to make rent

and pay for their daughter’s

schooling. seeing that matters,

I think. otherwise

you get too interested,

talking about politics and art

and humanity, and forget

what those words

mean.





#

Last Tuesday

 

nobody was answering any emails

except for the people

who were waiting for answers

only other people

could give. there were rooms

which needed stuff

moved out,

but the price had gone up

because now the work

had to be done

out of hours. and someone

was looking for numbers

on feminine hygiene waste products

used in each branch

and at the company which collected

they were too busy dealing with it

to dig figures out. at lunch

I didn’t have change

for a sandwich

and had to settle

for an apple

and a cup of the free coffee

which tasted like wee. and my boss

was down from belfast – kept asking me

for things

I didn’t know. then he gave me

“5 mins work”

which I got done with

after two hours. the sky

spat red down

and at 3

my shit

blocked the toilet. I got a message

that the pay was wrong.

at 4:30

I stood up and left

even though I was meant to be on

until 5.

sometimes

days are like that.





#

Kilbarrack to Tara: 8:45

 

I like it; going into town

on the train occasionally

like a man with a purpose,

a mind and a serious job. the track is suspended

for a good view of rooftops – they display

far more character

than the bits you see

every day. I am neither the least

nor the most romantic of men – I don’t imagine

that looking down

at houses like this

matters more

than any other direction.

but what? is it not still more beautiful

to see the leaves only, instead of the whole treetrunk? or see

where someone has installed a skylight

and angle a look

inside? and doesn’t your eye light up too,

and focus on the first spark that shines

when you’re trying your best

to get a fire going?

 

 

 

Darrell Petska, 5/20/2019

Current Occupation: Family Guy/Writer/Traveler
Former Occupation: University communications editor
Contact Information:  Darrell Petska has worked as a psychiatric technician, social worker, and communications editor for a university engineering college. His published poetry and fiction can be viewed at conservancies.wordpress.com.

 

#

In the Haze

 

Our hospital repurposed, its psych wards,

“patients” and “staff”—that line between us thin—long gone:

Jim K, whose inner voices nagged and quarreled,

Leo S, playing Carnegie Hall on the day room piano,

Rich H, inviting drugged stupors by screaming and fighting,

Billy J, who cut his wrists repeatedly but could not die.

 

Specters pacing yesterday’s hallways, falling into queue

for meds and meals, looking inward, privy to worlds of mind

and sense the mainstream shoves aside:

Jerry R, self-proclaimed monster who never hurt anyone,

Mary C, standing for hours like a mime in the square,

Carmella R, begging visits from family who didn’t want her,

Ralph K, no stranger to DTs, hallucinating snakes and bugs.

 

Bodies hunching on the edges of beds,

before the day room TV, in therapy with “professionals”

whose lives diverged from their charges but a little:

Pat W, avoiding her husband’s blows by working evening shift,

Bob L, who battled anxiety by smoking weed daily,

Jim B, equating his gayness with sinfulness,

Doctor Carl, addicted to the pills he prescribed,

Nurse Linda, trapped and disillusioned in the wrong profession.

 

Names and faces recurring like tides, asserting the right

simply to be human—belying scrawled charts,

locked doors, restraints or key rings that once defined us—

by doing one’s best to sort through life’s muddle:

that quintessential trait defining “normal”

better than heaps of sterile textbooks burdening a shelf.

Ernesto Reyes, 5/13/2019

Current Occupation: Instructional Student Aide
Former Occupation: Cashier
Contact Information: Ernesto Reyes is currently an undergraduate at Fresno State where he is studying English and creative writing. His short stories has appeared in the San Joaquin Review, Flies Cockroaches & Poets, Subtle Fiction, the Acentos Review, Brilliant Flash Fiction, the Big Windows Review, and Better Than Starbucks. He lives in Fresno, CA, with his family.
 

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Sorry, everyone, but there’s no such thing as the American Dream
When I was a freshman in college, I told my mother that one of my professors argued that the American Dream was nothing more than a myth. They said that the idea of escaping one’s social conditions by working hard and having integrity was “an outdated doctrine,” a “fallacious” way of thinking. To this, she nods intently but doesn’t bother telling me what she thinks. Instead, she tells me that when she came to this country, she worked in the fields 12 hours a day, six days a week. She tells me that she and her brothers would leave their house at four o’clock in the morning to pick grapes, onions, tomatoes, oranges, peaches, plums, boysenberries, and chilis. She tells me that she and her six other siblings lived in a two-bedroom house that had only one window and warm water on certain days. She tells me that when she got a job as a cashier, she cried because “Ya no tenía que salir y ensuciarse,” and that, out of nine years working as a cashier, she only missed one day, and that was to attend my grandfather’s funeral. She tells me that her employer, a down-to-earth man with “always a glimmer of hope and sadness in his eyes,” said she was the best worker he had ever seen and asked if she would like to be promoted. Manager? No. Co-owner of another store he owned: Country Corner Market. She did not hesitate on the opportunity. She tells me that customers and salespeople weren’t used to seeing a woman, especially a Mexican woman, as a “boss,” and that some tried to walk all over her; but although she was scared and nervous and shy at first, she never allowed herself to be disrespected or degraded. My mother, scared? Shy? She then tells me that she opened at eight o’clock every morning and closed at six-thirty every evening and worked every day for almost 20 years; I even took my first steps behind the counter and spoke my first words in her office. A tear runs down her face as she recalls this memory. Now, 26 years later, she finally tells me that she’s “tired” of having to work so hard. Now, she has days off and can finally relax and hear my stories about how my college professors say there’s no such thing as the American Dream.

 

Therese Miller, 5/6/2019

Current Occupation: Human Resources Assistant
Former Occupation: Full-time student, part-time writing tutor
Contact Information: While pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Management, I needed something to make me feel free. I found the freedom I craved in writing, and ever since discovering this freedom I haven't been able to stop writing, especially fiction.

 

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Moving Up

Being 5’2” made Jessa feel invisible.

At her new job with ZoCo, it was like she put on an invisibility cloak when she walked through the door every day. People bumped into her like they expected to walk through her. People on the finance team, her own teammates, didn’t look her in the eye when they talked to her. The work itself was fine, but she needed more than just work. She needed coworkers.

She needed coworkers who weren’t like Nicole.

Nicole was tall, at least 5’8” by Jessa’s guess. She was old enough to be Jessa’s mom, and in fact actually had seven kids, the oldest of whom was only about five years younger than Jessa. Nicole and Jessa’s cubicles were right next to each other, so Jessa got to hear from Nicole all day about how annoying her kids were. The worst part was her 15-year-old daughter. The only girl among six boys. Poor thing. To make things worse for the girl, here’s what Nicole said about her:

“I’d rather have six more boys than have to raise another teenage girl.”

Being short and young-looking, Jessa knew there was no way Nicole didn’t project some of that hatred onto her, even though she was 22 – not a teenager at all. Nonetheless, Jessa tried to be pleasant to all her coworkers, especially Nicole, and when she couldn’t handle her anymore she just put in her headphones and focused on her Excel spreadsheets.

After 7 months of dealing with Nicole’s passive-aggressive comments, Jessa applied for a promotion – from “Business Analyst” to “Senior Business Analyst.” It came with a handful of new responsibilities, a pay raise and, the best part, relocation to a new office. Bill, the supervisor for the other finance team in the office, approached Jessa about it the day after she applied.  

“Hey, did you apply for that Senior Business Analyst position?” he asked, standing over her ever so slightly. Bill may very well have been six feet tall, and he dressed just a little nicer than everyone else around him. He also had a strange habit of looking a little bit over Jessa’s head instead of at her face.

“Yes, I did,” she replied. “I know I’m a little underqualified, but I thought I’d give it a shot. I’d regret it if I didn’t at least try.” She smiled nervously.

“Well,” he said, seemingly fixated on the part in her hair, “I want to let you know this so you won’t be disappointed. We kind of wrote this position for Rick.” He scratched his bald head. “He applied for the position too, and since he’s got 4 more years of experience than you, we’ll probably give him the job. But we do still want to interview you. Does first thing Monday work?”

On Monday, Jessa made sure to get up early, so she wouldn’t be late for work. She tried on five different professional-looking outfits before deciding on one. She even put on high heels. When she entered the building that day, she felt slightly less invisible than usual. People didn’t bump into her on her way to the meeting room where she was interviewed. A couple of her coworkers even said good morning to her.

With every step, she felt her heart speeding up. She didn’t think she would be this nervous. I’ll regret this if I don’t try, Jessa told herself. When she opened the door to the meeting room, two men in suits were waiting for her. One of them was Bill. She didn’t recognize the other one.

They both stood up. The strange man was about as tall as Bill.

“Hey Jessa, it’s good to see you,” said Bill. He reached over the table to shake her hand, then gestured toward the other man. “This is Mark Harrison, the Human Resources Director for this office.”

Mr. Harrison, looking at her shoulder, reached over the table to shake her hand as well. “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he said.

“Thanks,” said Jessa. “Likewise,” she added.

“Please, have a seat.”

The two men sat down, and Jessa sat in a chair across the table from them. Mr. Harrison started. “So this position requires a minimum of 3-5 years of experience,” he said, looking down at a copy of her resume that he had on the table, “and it says here you’ve only been a Business Analyst for a few months.” He narrowed his eyes, looking up from the resume but still not looking at her face. “So are you even qualified for this position?”

Jessa wasn’t prepared for such a straightforward and downright rude question. “Oh, well, I may not have all the qualifications that were listed on the job description, but… I assure you that I had a great education and I’ve learned a lot over the past few months at ZoCo. I’m also a natural leader –”

“Okay, okay,” Mr. Harrison interrupted. “Next question…”

The rest of the interview went on like that until Jessa was near tears. Jessa left the interview knowing there was no way she got the job. It was one of the few times in her life that she wished she was smaller, because all she wanted to do was hide. After taking a few minutes in the bathroom to calm herself down, she headed back towards her cubicle. As she passed Nicole’s desk, Nicole turned her chair around and stood up so that she was right next to Jessa, towering over her.

“Hey,” said Nicole. “How’d the interview go?”

Jessa didn’t even look up. She stared at her own shoes, the ones she’d worked so hard to pick out. “Bad,” she said.

“Oh, what happened?” There was genuine concern in Nicole’s voice.

Jessa looked up and saw that Nicole was looking her in the eyes.

***

    If you’re not happy with this ending, consider the alternative.

“I assure you that I had a great education and I’ve learned a lot over the past few months at ZoCo,” Jessa told her interviewers. “I’m also a natural leader and feel as though I could make a big difference in the organization as a Senior Business Analyst.”

“Is that so?” said Mr. Harrison. “Tell me more.”

The rest of the interview went on like that and at the end, they offered her the promotion. They asked her to immediately pack up her cubicle, say goodbye to her old finance team, and head to the new office. This new office was state-of-the-art, and it was closer to her apartment, so her commute time was shorter. She got her own office on the top floor, where the finance team for that building was.

Jessa knew now that she would finally get the attention, and hopefully the comradery, that she craved in a workplace. As she went around and introduced herself to her new team of four, however, something started to feel off.   

“Hi, I’m Jessa,” she would say. “I’m the new Senior Business Analyst. What’s your name?”

You’re the new Senior Business Analyst? What happened to Rick?” the teammates responded.

She remembered that the position wasn’t originally written for her. “Well, I was the other candidate,” was her best response. She also realized that all four of them were probably about Nicole’s age, if not maybe a few years older. They all went back to work like Jessa wasn’t even there.

On her way back to her office, people kept bumping into her.

***

    If you were hoping that the second ending would be happier, I’m sorry to say that’s not how this works. The point is, no matter which ending you choose, Jessa either got what she wanted or what she needed. To have both would simply be impossible.

 

Robert Bak, 4/29/2019

Current occupation: Agent/Manager for BAK Editions.
Former occupation: DynaTheater & Planetarium Manager for the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.
Contact Information: Robert has published stories and essays.  He has been involved with the entertainment business for many years.  First starting as a stage manager Off-Off Broadway in NYC, and then working in Los Angeles and Albuquerque.  He has been a director and producer of plays with national award-winning playwright William Derringer.  In addition to his involvement in theater, Robert has written a number of short stories, essays, and plays.  Door Is A Jar magazine will be publishing his essay, “Robin’s Tea Leafs” in their Issue #10 Spring 2019 issue.  SERIAL Magazine thought that Robert’s story, “One Wicked Ride” was a real “slice of life.”  Fiction Southeast selected his story “I Became A Writer” a finalist for their publication.  Work Literary Magazine Issue 8.38 published Robert’s story, “Move To Make Move.”   Diverse Voices Quarterly published Robert’s “Why Is There A Queue?” story in their Volume 8 – Issue 30.  Robert’s short story, “The Magic Room” was a finalist with Fiction Week Literary Review.  Work Literary Magazine issue 7.9 published his short story “The Flying Vase” in their 2015 magazine.  Agave Magazine (Volume 2 – Issue 4) published his short story, “The Monthly Bill Is What” in their fall issue.  Work Magazine at WordPress.com published his story, “Dark All Over.”  He would like to thank William for the training and insight of what the writing process is. 

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Nimble Fingers
A short essay
The year is 1944, and the world has been at war for years.  In America, the war effort has been growing bigger and bigger.  Everyone is doing their best to support all of the soldiers and sailors by building as many planes, ships, and other needed military equipment.  There has been a large influx of women into the labor force, as the men had gone off to war.  They will be called “Rosie the Riveters” for all of their hard work and dedication to the national war effort.
Sadie had been living in Peterborough, Ontario for some years after her family had moved from Portage-la-Prairie.  She had been working at The Western Clock Company, a local electronic industry as well.  Her work there consisted of an assembly, with many small parts requiring a good degree of skill.  She was living with her parents, John, and Robin, helping with the monthly bills and supporting them.  Her mother’s sister Wilhelmina had moved to Paterson, New Jersey, and had been working at the Curtiss-Wright Corp for ten years, and told Sadie that there were so many jobs available with her training and expertise.
Sadie and her mother Robin decided to move to Paterson, NJ.  They took the train to Niagara Falls and on Feb 29th, 1944, crossed the border to America.  They then took another long train ride to Paterson to be with her Aunt.  Within weeks of arriving, Sadie had found a position with the Bendix Aviation Company at the local Teterboro Airport.
She had been working with electronics before and was hired to work on the Nordon Bombsight.  The piece of equipment was used by the Navy and Army Air Force to help the bombardier deliver the bombs to a very high level of accuracy.  The bombsight was a very complicated electronic device.  You had to have complete control as you were assembling the many intricate parts.  But Sadie had very nimble fingers and was within a short period an expert in making the unit.
Sadie would take the trolley from downtown Paterson to the airport and would join the many other workers, numerous of them women, making these important parts of the war effort.  The days were long and hard for these workers, but they knew it was making a difference in the war effort. 
These women may not have been wearing a uniform, but their efforts brought a major contribution to the Allied war machine.  Sadie was very pleased with her work and assemble the expertise that she had acquired.  She and her fellow workers were a much-needed supplement to ending the war.
After the war ended she meet a returning sailor who had served in the Pacific and within a year they had married and started their family.  Both Sadie and her husband had served in one way or other in supporting America and the final ending of the war.  Sadie was very proud of her handiwork, and her contribution that she and so many other women had made.