Colleen Wells, 8/19/2019

Current Occupation: Writer, Editor, Wordpool Press, Activities Assistant for a retirement community, Owner, “Putting the Funk in Junk”- Antiques, vintage, painted furniture.


Former Occupation: Adjunct Faculty Member


Contact Information: Colleen Wells’ work has appeared most recently in Gyroscope Review, The Ryder Magazine, The Voices Project, and Workzine. She is the author of Dinner with Doppelgangers – A True Story of Madness & Recovery and editor of One in Four – a collection of student narratives about mental illness.  She believes a bad day can get better with a pen, paintbrush, glue, pretty paper and maybe a little glitter.


www.ColleenWells.comwww.dinnerwithdoppelgangers.com.

 

#

Sunshine in her Soul

Ms. Robar, the newest resident at the assisted living facility where I work, pushes her walker purposefully to the sitting area for current events. She parks it by the end of the couch. Her walker is collapsible with a seat in between the sides that lifts up. Underneath is a basket where she keeps her Bible. Ms. Robar plops down in the chair next to me, adjusting her navy-blue scooped-neck shirt over her big belly. She has short, salt and pepper hair and sports large, black glasses. They remind me of the ones Buddy Holly wore. 

 “Hi, Ms. Robar,” I say, collecting my magazines and newspapers into a pile. 

“Good morning, Colleen. How are you?

“Great. How are you liking it here?”

“I love it. Everyone is so nice. Thank you for asking.” 

She is quick to answer trivia questions. Most of the other residents are slower, except Mrs. Quinn who knows everything, but repeats herself often like a skipping record. She has told me probably fifty times already this morning her son is a heart surgeon. 

Ms. Robar attends most activities. In the afternoon she likes to have a cigarette on the porch. I learn that she lived with her brother before moving in, and she used to be a nun. She wears a cross on a simple chain and often says, “I love you. God bless you.”

When I come to work I look forward to her enthusiasm, as not all of the residents are exactly bubbly in the mornings. She loves coffee and enjoys going to the coffee shop down the street. 

One afternoon when it’s time for our outing, I find Ms. Robar lying in bed crying. Her eyelids are red, her hair a greasy mess. “My brother’s cat died,” she says. 

“I’m sorry,” I tell her.

I’m sorry for crying so much,” she says.

“That’s okay. It’s sad.”

“The doctor said he needs to adjust my medication. I have bipolar disorder.”

“You take care of yourself,” I reply. “Maybe we can get coffee next Thursday.”

“Oh, I’d like that,” she says. “Will you pray for my brother?”

“I’ll pray for both of you,” I tell her, noticing the silver crucifix hanging on the otherwise stark white wall above her bed.

I hesitate before leaving. I want to let her know I have bipolar disorder too, and that when things get stressful or tragedy strikes, I empathize with the process of getting meds tweaked, but Ms. Robar likes to talk and soon all of the residents and staff would know. 

Instead I say, “I was really sad when my dog died.”

“Oh, I love you. God bless you.”

The following week Ms. Robar is feeling better and we go for coffee. Steam rises from our mugs and she shares the story of a time when she was manic. “I had to go to the hospital. I was running around telling everyone I loved the sunshine in their souls.”

I take a sip of my coffee.

“And you know…” She pauses in thought. “Not everyone wants to hear that.

The times I have been manic I am also prone to recognizing the light in people too. There is no such thing as an enemy; I have only friends. Once I invited myself to go deep-sea fishing with a group of strangers in Florida, thinking after we returned to the dock that we were best friends.

When we return to the home, Ms. Robar kisses my cheek. I try not to look at the crumbs on the corner of her mouth or the black hairs sprouting from her chin.

 

A few weeks pass and suddenly it seems like overnight that Ms. Robar starts declining. Returning to work on a Monday I see Mrs. Quinn in the lobby. “Ms. Robar is moving to a nursing home,” she says. Before I can respond she continues talking, saying, “Did you know my son is a heart surgeon?” 

“That’s great,” I reply, feeling a loss over the news. “You must be really proud.”

I visit Ms. Robar two weeks later at the nursing home. When she sees me, she beams. “Hi, Colleen!” 

“Hello! I brought you something.”  I hand her a small tube of lavender lotion and a coin with an angel embossed on it. She thanks me for the gifts, placing them in the side pocket of her wheelchair. She looks tired and doesn’t offer any kisses. A ray of afternoon sunlight fills the visiting room, illuminating dust particles. 

The Activity Director walks in and introduces himself. He squeezes Ms. Robar’s shoulder, saying, “She’s like a breath of fresh air around here. You really enjoy singing the hymns, don’t you Ms. Robar?”

“I do,” she says.

I smile. The sunshine in her soul has dimmed a bit, but it’s not gone.







 

Danyal Kim, 8/12/2019

Current Occupation: Debt Specialist at a government agency
Former Occupation: college student
Contact Information: Danyal Kim lives in Chicago, where he works at an office job with a government agency by day and writes poetry by night. He will occasionally share his poetry at open mics. 

 

#

Tattoo Artist of New Orleans

 

I really wish you’d let me ink 

those fleshy apricot arms of yours 

I could draw a goldfish or fancy laces

it’d look good, I promise. No? 

Your religion doesn’t let you? Okay, well

If your God changes his mind, let me know

you have my number in your phone, okay hon?

 

I’m so glad I’m a tattoo artist now 

I was aching for a fun job for so long.

I don’t want to live a life of toil.

My father, this frail Polish man,

skinny, brittle piece of stale bubble gum,

made eyelets at a factory – remember those

metal hooks on the holes of shoes? 

He made those by hand and his fingers

puffed up, looking like popped popcorn. 

All those years of boring work 

made him go crazy. Before he died 

he walked around Magrinity in flip flops

talking to palm fronds and alley cats. 

 

I really miss my dad, and my grandma.

Feel my ponytail – it’s rough like her hair

only hers was orange since she was Irish. 

She also had huge balloon tits

I didn’t inherit her tits, sadly – haha!

Her stupid husband liked fucking fat girls

ones with the jiggly jello tits and ass

and she ended up dying of a broken heart 

had a heart attack on our living room couch. 

 

But like I was saying,

I’m really going to become a successful tattoo artist 

I’m going to skate around the neighborhood 

the tattoos on my arms will be noticed by people 

walking around Frenchman street.

They’ll ask about my tattoos. My business cards 

will fly out of my purse, bees in service to their queen!

That will be my life now. Life is too precious 

to spend it doing something you hate… wait, 

they’re playing my song on the jukebox! 

Won’t you come and dance with me, hon?







#

Ones who go away

 

As a poor child growing up 

I watched my friends go on vacations

on massive cruises through foreign seas

while I was stuck in a small Illinois town

alone with geese and tortoises

on the muddy banks of tiny ponds. 

 

Now, as a 27 year old with a federal job

I have some money to fly or drive away

staring at old grimacing faces, hanging down

hallways of the Louvre, the Smithsonian.

Or listening to a blaring trumpet give away 

to the light strumming of an acoustic guitar 

between bars down a street of New Orleans.

 

I broke my phone while traveling once. 

Back in Chicago, at the phone shop, I asked 

the man looking at my phone if he travels 

he said, “no, don't have the time or money.”

His resigned tone reminded me of how 

oppressive my bland childhood seemed 

staring at baby geese that waddled across 

the town I sometimes thought I'd never leave.

 

 

Bob Thurber, 8/5/2019

Current Occupation: Writer
Former Occupation: Shoeshine boy, paperboy, dishwasher, factory worker, painter’s assistant, soda jerk, short-order cook.
Contact Information: Born in 1955 and raised in abject poverty, Bob Thurber spent his adult years working menial jobs while studying the craft of fiction. He served a lengthy apprenticeship, writing nearly every day for twenty years before submitting his work for publication. Since then his short stories have received a long list of literary awards and citations, among them The Marjory Bartlett Sanger Award, The Meridian Editors' Prize, and The Barry Hannah Fiction Prize. His work has appeared in 60 anthologies and in hundreds of publications including Esquire. Bob is the author of "Paperboy: A Dysfunctional Novel" and two collections of stories. He resides in Massachusetts where, despite vision loss, he continues to write every day. Visit his website at www.BobThurber.net.

 

#

At The Factory

 

 

 

I work a four-day week, four ten-hour shifts. I can't complain. All my Fridays, weekends, and every major holiday off. I work the line. All I know is the line. It's what I was hired for, trained for — which was plain dumb luck, because all that's left now is the line — just the line and the crew on the loading dock. Big shots up in Houston pushed everything else over the border. Three hundred miles dead south. Weavers, braiders, dyers, tippers, inspectors — all gone. Two hundred and eighty-six jobs.

Outsourcing, they call it.

I call it a sin.

Loading dock, they couldn't touch. Because of the union. I ain't union.  Nobody on the line is union. There are fifty of us left. Quotas keep climbing. One or all of us could go any day.

The morning I got the call, I said to the line boss, Hey Fred, mind if I stumble in late tomorrow?

Tomorrow, he said. What's tomorrow?

We were in the break room, a long narrow space, formerly an empty corridor, and well on its way to being one again. After the big lay off they sealed the cafeteria, donated all the tables and benches to some orphanage. Fred and I stood between a double row of vending machines.

He frowned at the mention of my being late as he studied his clipboard.

Wait a minute. Hold on. You don't work Fridays, he said.

I said, I know that, Fred. I realize that.

Then I said, My mother just died. Her funeral is in the morning.

That moved him back a step. He leaned against the soda machine and studied his clipboard some more. I honestly don't believe he knew what to say.

I said, Hell, it's no big deal, Fred. Everybody dies. Right?

Sure, he said.




I said, I thought maybe if it's okay with you I might go to the funeral and then wander in here. You know. Sometimes it's better I work and not think too much.

He studied my face. He looked at me hard. Then he agreed that sometimes working was better than thinking. He showed me his clipboard. He slid his finger across my name, and then down.

There. That's Friday. See. He shook his head. No Xs.

An X represented a machine with no operator. If there were machines available Fred was authorized to give hours to anyone who wanted them. I told him if I didn't work I'd drink.

He kept frowning, kept shaking his head.

I said, I'll end up crazy drunk with a bunch of creepy old aunts and uncles who believe Elvis is a Saint and still alive and that aliens do nightly flybys and that JFK is hiding in a bat cave somewhere in Montana.

I then made mention of several additional mostly old horribly creepy Hispanic people none of whom I can stand to be around and one of whom has a plaster of Paris impression of Big Foot's big footprint hanging on her living room wall. 

You a big drinker, Carl, Fred said.

I told him I hadn't had a drop in four years, honest to God, and that I would consider it a personal favor if this one time he could please cut me some slack, which is a stale joke around a shoelace factory.

How long you been sober? For real.

One hundred and twenty one days, I said.

That's still a lot of days, said Fred.

It's my new world record, I said.

He put his hand on my shoulder and steered me over to one of the coffee machines. He said he was terribly sorry about my loss. Then he fed the machine a few coins. He bought me a coffee.

Listen, he said. Tell you what. Coming in tomorrow is pretty much up to you, okay? What ever you want to do.


He smiled and I shook his hand. I thanked him. I told Fred he was a swell guy. 

Then I emptied six sugar packets into my coffee and stirred it with a pencil. On the walk back to the line he asked if my mother's death had been sudden. 

She died this morning, I said.

He nodded. Then he said what he had meant to ask was had she been ill for a long time. 

I shrugged. You're asking the wrong person, Fred. I haven't seen the woman in a dog's age. 

How old?  

Not very, I said. She had me at fifteen. I was born on this side, about 800 feet over the border, which makes me one hundred percent legal, and would have made her a citizen too if she'd stayed. Mostly my aunts raised me. They did a good job. 

But then I ran out of aunts.

He sipped his coffee and looked everywhere but at me. I think he knew I wouldn't come in.  





*** 





The next afternoon, five or six hours after the funeral, I called in. I asked to speak to the line boss. It was late, right around shift change. I had to have Fred paged. Every half minute the receptionist came back on the line. Ace Shoelace corporation, can I help you?

Each time I told her the same thing: I'm holding for Fred.

One moment, I'll connect you.

This went on and on like a bad dream.

When Fred finally picked up, I told him how terribly sorry I was that I hadn't made it in. I apologized for letting him down. I said I felt stupid, and that I hoped he hadn't actually been counting me in the numbers.

Who is this, he said.

Carl, I said. 

Carl? Which Carl? 

Carl with the dead mother, I said.

It came out like a sob and for a moment I thought he'd hung up. Then he said he hadn't forgotten about me, that in fact the whole plant had been informed of my personal tragedy and everyone, management included, was deeply saddened by my sudden loss.

That did it for me. I lost it. I lost it badly. I told Fred the truth was my mother had been a cheap Mexican whore her whole life, had never given two shits about me, and that right now she was dancing with the devil in some cantina in hell. 

I said, I know this to be a fact, Fred. Because I'm in her sorry excuse for a house and it is full of crucifixes and creeps. Fred, they are everywhere, like roaches. They're spilling out onto the road.

Then I explained my simple yet elaborate plan to throw up on anyone who tried to wrestle the phone away from me.

Fred said that he couldn't talk anymore because it was shift change.

He said he was sorry.

You don't like me very much do you, Fred?

Why do you say that?

Because this is the longest conversation we've ever had.

The next one will be longer, Fred said. I promise. Then he asked when I was scheduled again. 

Monday, I said. 

See you on Monday, Carl.

Hey, Fred, what about tomorrow, I said, but he'd already hung up. 





*** 





My mother is dead and my boss feels bad news travels fast as my uncle Salvordor could make them I said Sal make me another mother, mine is dead Sal, my mother is dead, and he slapped me, hard, on the chin, almost a punch, so I said alright Sal, I said okay all you creeps, get out of my mother's house, get out you fuckers, get out of my sight you hypocrites, you rat turds, I couldn't see them or anything, blurred by drink but I was screaming leave, get out of my mother's house, go! and the next thing I know I'm coming to in the Emergency room which is really a two bit undercover abortion clinic, a shack with just one doctor and one nurse and I'm there with Sal, my uncle Sal, who suddenly doesn't look so good, so I'm asking the nurse is his heart strong enough to take this, so the doctor gives him the once over, and the doctor says not good, you better take these, give him two, never more than two mind you, four times a day all day, so all day Saturday I tried but Sal said no pills, Carl, no thank you no more god damn pills, but the doctor said I said, and my uncle said to hell with the doctor, Carl, get it through your thick skull your beautiful mother is dead.

And that told me something about Sal that I had never wanted to know, like it or not.  





*** 





First thing Monday morning I told Fred all about the ER. I related every part of the story that I could remember. He had called or I had called, I forget which. I don't remember the phone waking me up but I don't remember dialing, either. I was on a binge, but I didn't tell Fred that. I told him my uncle Sal drove us back across the border and carried me dead drunk up three flights of stairs. I reminded Fred that I weighed almost two hundred pounds. My uncle's about one ten, one twenty tops. It could have killed him, I said. 

Fred said, it should have.

I cleared my throat. 

I said, Sal's gone now. He left his pills and some money that he said my mother wanted me to have, and a grainy black and white photograph of her cradling something in her arms. He says it's me she's holding but you can't tell, not really. I'll bring it in, let you decide for yourself. 

Fred said he thought it might be a good idea for me to take a couple of days off. Think things over, he said. Get your act together. At a time like this by your family's side is really where you want to be, Carl. Are you hearing me, son? 

I said, Shit Fred, I ain't got no family. And I'm never very good at times like these, which is why I like to work.

I hear ya, Fred said.

By then I was sniffling snots and bawling like a brat. Fred kept talking but I couldn't make out half the words. Then I went to move the phone to my other ear and I dropped it. I kept reaching and fumbling the thing because my hands were wet and I was trembling so bad. When I finally got the phone up to my ear I figured Fred was gone for sure.

I screamed his name three times before he answered.

Easy Carl. Easy! Take a couple of breaths.

I didn't think I was going to make it. I couldn't get any air into my lungs.

Then Fred said: On second thought maybe you better get your ass in here.

He said, I hate to make demands on a grieving son, a man who just lost his mother, but I've got three machines sitting idle, Houston is screaming in my ear, and I've got fresh quotas to fill. You know how it is. Can you handle two machines at once? Can you do that for me, son? Can I count on you to help me out? 

Sure thing, I told him, I can do that for you, Fred. Hell, I said, what else am I good for? 

William Metcalfe, 7/29/2019

Current Occupation: Having retired from profitable work, I am playing about with either writing or photography.


Former Occupation: There were 40 years of picture framing. My company was one of the first in Washington, DC, to push for preservation as a very important aspect of a framing job.


Contact Information: After 30 years of aimless travel, I settled down in Washington, DC. after I found I enjoyed working as a picture framer. In the years of travel and of working with customers, I have accumulated a large collection of stories, which exist as short notes. For a period, I was also, by acclamation, a interesting photographer, but a move to a near suburb, a wonderful wife and our 3 children took more and more time. I had to curtail my pursuits. Now that I am retired and my children are adults, I have returned to earlier interests. The iMac which sits on my desk offers itself as a means of rendering a legible copy of a story from the dusty corridors of my mind. It also offers itself as a instructor in converting digital snapshots into something much more meaningful, might I say art. One can only hope.

 

#

HOW I LOST A CUSHY JOB IN THE ARMY

In my past, I have often said funny things without thinking, which is not courage, but stupidity. In the early 60s, I lost a great job in the US Army by replying to a serious request with a joke. There were three of us assigned to putting out a 4-page newsletter for our outfit. The four pages were assembled from military stuff sent to us from on high. The work, if one did not stop for lunch, would be finished before lunch on Tuesday. That is if it arrived on Monday. During the rest of the week, we goofed off. Our office was in a separate building and no one ever entered it other than the three of us. One of my co-workers had in civilian life been an escort for dowagers who enjoyed interminable operas. He also was a member of a religion whose Sabbath followed the tradition of beginning at sundown on Friday nights and continued until sundown on the following day. With this help from his faith, he managed a weekly three day weekend, which he spent in downtown Seattle.

 

One day, our phone rang. I was alone and, until that moment I hadn't even known that we had a phone. I picked it up with the full confidence of a frequent user of such devices. The company's Sergeant Major was on the line. He asked if I would be willing to give blood. To draw a laugh, I asked if I would get a day off. After the Sergeant Major reached the end of his litany of obscenities, he hung up.

 

I lost my chance to volunteer then, but a few days later I did.

 

Two of us reported to the local hospital to donate our pristine, clear blood. I smoked then but I assumed that the smoke exhausted from my lips was equal to that which was prevailed over my home city’s streets. The kind nurse directed us to lie upon a gurneys. Then she displayed the bags which we would fill with our life fluid. After a small prick with a needle, we watched a red fluid slowly flowing into the clear bags. My friend and I lay there, relaxing as though we were at the beach.

 

Then, from a speaker in an upper corner of the room, an authoritarian voice commanded all to drop everything they were doing and hurry to the emergency room. A horrific accident had resulted in a strain on the hospital's staff. Our nurse promised she would soon return. Her wave of farewell had seemed innocuous, until we saw that the blood bags were nearly full. Neither of us could answer the other's question: what would happen when the bags were full.

 

As my blood was nearer to the top of the bulging bag, I saw that I would soon have the answer to our query. As in a soap opera, the nurse suddenly appeared, though without entry music, and casually unhooked us. She thanked us and directed our tottering footsteps to a table in an adjoining room where we would find coffee and donuts.

 

2 weeks after this, I received my orders that I was being sent to Anchorage, Alaska. Probably, the Sergeant Major considered this was the most inhospitable place on earth where I could be sent legally.

 

For the next two years, I had such a wonderful time in Anchorage, that I should have sent him a postcard whose face said, "Wish you were here". On the back, I would tell him how great life was in Anchorage and then I would fill him in on all the neat things I was doing.







 

John Grey, 7/22/2019

Current Occupation: Retired

Previous Occupation:  Financial Systems Analyst

Contact Information: John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in That, Muse, Poetry East and North Dakota Quarterly with work upcoming in Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal, Hawaii Review and the Dunes Review.

 

#

A MINER PHOTOGRAPH

Forty years slamming a pick
against an unforgiving black wall,
filling a handcart
with debris –
no wonder he looks so haggard.
No guessing his true age.
Not with his crown buried
in a rag cap,
face slumped below his shoulders,
and beard gray as slag.
None of his descendants
ever had to work so hard
in such a dismal, confined space,
for low wages,
back bent to the belt buckle,
breathing soot for air.
I stare for a moment
then close the album covers,
shut down the pit
until the next time.

 

#

THE MACHINES

Working the machines indeed!
May as well be me
dipped in the grease,
crunched by the gears,
spat out onto the assembly line.
With brains numb,
feet chained to floor,
and foreman’s monologue
screaming in my ears,
humanity gives way to apparatus.
Eight to five,
who’s being conveyed
if not the one
with sorry head on weary shoulders.
And who gets wrapped and boxed
and sent on to a broken home?
You guessed it.
The one with the flimsy paycheck.
It’s a factory.
You learn on the job
just how expendable you are.
The message is clear:
if you don’t like it,
you can quit.
There’s plenty of people out there
looking for work they won’t like.

 

#

JACKHAMMER
Another day
cracking open a sidewalk,
shards of concrete flying
every which way
under the brute insistence
of my jack-jammer.
I've enough forehead sweat
to fill a bucket,
back's aching
but still a slipped disc or two
from worker's comp
and my ears, despite the headphones,
are as jackhammered
as the earth below.
But it has to be broken up
so some pipe or other
can be fixed down below
and then everything
cemented over
so it looks like it did
before I got here.
I'm no different
from the pavement.
I'm hacked apart,
go home for some repair,
then a little smoothing over.
Except tomorrow,
I move on to someplace else.
More jackhammering.
is there when I arrive.

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 his adult life as a theater director. He has 14 published chapbooks. 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, Rude Awakenings, The Remission of Order and Contusions (Winter Goose Publishing). Conditioned Response (Nazar Look), Virtual Living (Thurston Howl Publications), Blossoms of Decay, Expectations, Blunt Force and Transitions (Wordcatcher Publishing). His  novels include Flawed Connections (Black Rose Writing), Call to Valor and Crumbling Ramparts (Gnome on Pig Productions), Sudden Conflicts (Lillicat Publishers). Acts of Defiance  and Flare Up Wordcatcher Publishing). His short story collections include A Glimpse of Youth (Sweatshoppe Publications), Now I Accuse and other stories (Winter Goose Publishing) and Dogs Don’t Send Flowers and other stories (Wordcatcher Publishing). The Republic of Dreams and other essays (Gnome on Pig Productions). Feast or Famine and other one act-plays 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 magazines. He lives in New York City.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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: My short fiction was performed at Liars’ League events in London, England and Portland, Oregon. Another story, The Day Truman Ruined our Jam, was included in the Saturday Evening Post’s Great American Fiction Contest 2018 Anthology. Others were recognized by Writer’s Digest, Short Story America, Willamette Writers, Oregon Writers Colony and published in various literary magazines. I have also authored a chapbook, Beneath the Boughs Unseen, featuring holiday stories about society’s invisible people. Feel free to contact me at jearov@msn.com

 

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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.

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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.