in Issue 8

Cover Art

By Design: We Pull the Trigger, James Pate and students from DECA

Drama

Shoebox, Stacey Lane

Fiction

Dream Rider, Lori Lopez
Red Rocks, Joseph Downing
The Superman Theory, J.E. Tirey
One Sadistic Muse, Cyndi Pauwels

Nonfiction

Like Bees After Blooms, Bill Vernon
Pairings Review, David Lee Garrison

Poetry

“Study of Scrim veil-Black rectangle-Natural light” and the 9/11 Memorial, Wendy Dereix
The Slaughter Queue, Jake Sheff
U’n’I’n’M.d., T.J. McGuire
For Us, C. Dendy
Drop It! Elizabeth Cantonwine Schmidt
Icarus Bicycling, Herbert Woodward Martin
The Little Nun that Could, Eric Blanchard
Revising Fiction, Ed Davis
At All, Et Al, Brandon Edward North
Witness, Betsy Hughes
Summers Ago, Gary Pacernick
Michigan, Douglas Gale
After the Harleys Roared, Fred Kirchner
Finally Home, Meredith Ann Henrich
Dreams with Grandma Jane, Meredith Ann Henrich
My Daughter’s Coos, Jake Sheff
Purgatory of Lost Keys, Ed Davis

Visual Art

Downtown Girl, Shulamit H. Adler
Untitled, Hali Cobb
Mannequin, Trisha DeBrosse
Reach, Roxana Olt
Fragmented Thoughts, Nyanna Johnson
Pendulous, Rachel Rosen
Coney Island, Winter, David M. Novick
Mystic Madness, Douglas Gale
The Approach, Trisha DeBrosse

And thank you to
the Sponsors of Issue 8!

By Design: We Pull the Trigger

By Design: We Pull the Trigger
James Pate and Dayton Early College Academy Students

Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 12.12.54 PM

charcoal on paper

About the Cover

“Who pulls the trigger?” is a simple four-word question that is compacted with complexities and no clear-cut answer. The question is saturated with historical reference, social/political interaction, mental health mystery, media influence, and religious/spiritual justifications, to say the least. Answering the question artistically, or otherwise, was over my head, and beyond my maturity and intellect, until I collaborated with high school students from Dayton Early College Academy (DECA).

Surprisingly, from the offset of our initial conversation, the students took ownership of the question with a consensus that “we” (society) pull the trigger. We discussed other ideas and perspectives that centered on gun violence, which shaped and dictated the result of our piece. In a fundamental, yet complex way, this work of art attempts to illustrate and replace “who” with “we” pull the trigger. Our very own imperfect chemistry/biology seems to naturally energize to create an environment filled with negative and positive content that ironically backfires and influences our “we” behavior. Some of the content in this environment are art(s), standards by which to socialize, chemistry of all sorts, the creation of weapons and other firearms, religion, mass media, and so on.

In the foreground of this piece is a diagram of a bullet that “we” designed. It also has a chemically/biologically charged fetus dressed in a hooded sweatshirt (a.k.a. hoodie) while cradling a firearm in preparation for an environment that has a hostile design. There’s a simulated concept-patented design of a firearm system that allows only the registered owner to pull the trigger. In the background are chemical/biological representations of a human brain, neurotransmitters, and DNA helix strands made of bullets.

When the DECA students conclude that “we” pull the trigger, in essence, they are saying that the trigger was pulled long before a trigger was ever conceived. More to the point, before the trigger was designed, “we” were designed. Fittingly, the title of this 5’ x 10’ charcoal drawing is “By Design: We Pull the Trigger.”

—James Pate

about the artist
James Pate is an innovative multi-stylist whose work has been exhibited in a number of galleries, contemporary art centers, and museums throughout the country. James is a past winner of the highly competitive Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award grant and a two-time recipient of the Montgomery County Individual Artist Fellowship. James’ acclaimed series of charcoal drawings titled “Kin Killing Kin,” which depicts the devastation of black-on-black homicide, is currently touring the country.

DECA students
Ana Zacarias
Lyric Fields
Kayla Mitchell
Gregory Sampson-Fields
Ron’Necia Tanner
Tanisha Hampshire
BrAnn Porter
Jeremiah Holloway
Tommy Favors
Jordan Grandy
Ebony Anderson
Kiondria Robinson
Chloe Tate
Jovian Chapman
Zach Ellis
Dache Amos
Niela Flowers

“Study of Scrim veil—Black rectangle—Natural light” and the 9/11 Memorial

“Study of Scrim veil—Black rectangle—Natural light” and the 9/11 Memorial
Wendy Dereix

(An exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art by Robert Irwin)

A scrim veil hangs from a ceiling coupled with shapes that look like giant waffles—
squares within squares
housed within rectangles
within one giant rectangle.

Light from a window bleeds in and blends with the scrim veil creating shadows
that render the room a silent sketch of human silhouettes walking under—
squares within rectangles
housed within lines
of black and white/dark and light.

By an architect’s measure, the scrim veil hangs midway to the floor, held taut by a black beam merging with black lines on the walls. Parallel and perpendicular, the lines seem to—
float and bounce
disorient and deceive
the conscious and the subconscious.

In a new perception of reality, the scrim veil makes stationary lines move and at forty degrees latitude, an invisible line connects this space to an acre of footprints where—
the light has been wrung and compressed
two holes laid bare
in perfect geometric form—

Those squares within squares
reduced to lines within angles,
etched with the names

that bind space to infinity

about the author
Wendy Dereix is a sometime poet always struggling to put “the best words in their best order,” and is happy when she sometimes succeeds. Thank you, Mock Turtle Zine, I’m delighted to be part of this issue.

The Slaughter Queue

The Slaughter Queue
Jake Sheff

I never knew the gender of the person who taught me everything, with skin the color of prestige, a voice and dialect centripetal and turgid, and eyes that postponed definition. The name of this person means rug-burn in a language on the flyleaf of history, but its antonym is hatless. The very first story the person told me was about a black-eyed Susan outside a roller rink whose consternation was clenched and compounded by some girls in a “golden cabal.” Possessed by the discord, like a marigold or neoplastic nerd, my jittery allegiance threw a tantrum in my friable chest, and I wouldn’t be aware of it for another thirty years. I began to study jeremiads written in crayon and reconcile with my driveway. My wife said I was a wiener, but at least I valued the brochures impeding the middle, so all I could say was “crud buckets.” As banal as making out and Skittles used to be, sedum is now. And the routine of kidneys seems simply sophomoric. But in those first years the hypocrisy of macadamia nut farmers and the like was incalculable, more so the cosine of grief. Far be it from me to blame espionage or my scotoma for my love. The relics of talent are yummier than libraries, like rosin to a violin, but relegated to the wagon pulled by a pockmarked hit-man and brimming with crackers refused to the children with rickets.

about the author
Jake Sheff is a captain in the USAF currently training as a pediatrics resident physician. He’s married with a baby daughter and several rescue pets. His poems have been published widely online and in print, including at Pirene’s Fountain and Danse Macabre. His first chapbook, Looting Versailles, was recently released by Alabaster Leaves Publishing, and can be purchased on the publisher’s website or Amazon.com.

Downtown Girl

Downtown Girl
Shulamit H. Adler

Shulamit H Adler Tuned

black and white photography

Mask by Leesa Haapapuro

about the artist
Shulamit H. Adler, Ph,D., is an outdoor photographer and clinical neuropsychologist. Her photographic work can be seen in exhibits, installations and publications around the Miami Valley. Downtown Dayton Partnership, in collaboration with Activated Spaces and the Digital Fringe, installed a life-sized image from this series at the Biltmore Towers, in a street-level window on First Street, east of Main.

U’n’I’n’M.d.

U’n’I’n’M.d.
T.J. McGuire

Massage therapy will always come to mind,
not only when jazz speaks to you, so sweet,
but as it slowly f-e-e-e-l-s
Its way over your body, skilled warm hands
reading the Braille of your anatomy.
It gives an entirely new definition to a spiritual
Laying on of hands. Round midnight you learn that jazz,
on any night, can be heard in every language
without using a word, and yet still has voice
Enough to sound and sooth with every color.
It’s where every muscle is completely at ease,
as if putty were the origin of your physiology.
So do you become the center of the world at this hour,
speckled in the soft bronze light of dusk,
where all jazz settles low upon cheeks like freckles or cinnamon—

Dust? Imagine a trumpet whispering sorcery, hands sliding
over you as mellow as black silk, its slow treasury of brass
oozing towards your navel like melted caramel.
Adults know where this is going. I admit, there are nights
I picture you lying there under sheets, white flags
beneath a seduction of melody; how dark red
Velvet reminds you of a cozy cabernet;
how in the quiet deep of muted horn, you think of cities
in the rain. You look up towards the bedroom, wondering
If there really are only seven steps to heaven. And you’ve
always tried so hard to resist surrendering to that hands-on
approach to love, that healing life (and sometimes death) song.
Some nights I picture you lying wherever you may be,
eventually forfeiting to the hands
that read you in their own silent way.

about the author
T.J. McGuire is a juggler. He’s is currently having a blast juggling fatherhood, a nine-year marriage, being consumed by a Stephen King obsession, and writing a novel of which the mere scope of it turns his legs to licorice. Four of his poems have appeared in Flights magazine. He has been a Dayton resident for thirty-five years.

Like Bees After Blooms

Like Bees After Blooms
Bill Vernon

Based on my poem “Dayton” in POETRY OHIO (1984)

Could have been my imagination. I was commuting to a Dayton high school at the time, so learning was on my mind. I’d also read a lot about the Wright brothers, and their bicycle shop was just 15 blocks from my classrooms. What was left of it then was vacant and dirty. Twenty years before, Greenfield Village had taken the main building north to restore it.

Why didn’t Daytonians save it themselves? Maybe they should have, but they seemed to have preserved something more important: the Wrights’ way of thinking.

I’d wander the streets, gaze through large showroom windows, browse inside the big stores, and everywhere I’d encounter people staring off as if rapt in a vision. I didn’t understand this phenomenon until one day a girl spun out of her father’s hand and ran around him as if she were flying. These people would look at pigeons, then flatten their arms into wings, splay out their legs, and take off.

There seemed to be poetry in these visions as well, the merging of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s and the Wright brothers’ inclinations. An old timer staring off the Main Street Bridge told me that the carp leaped in the Great Miami to test how their fins were evolving.

The first fairly nice day of the year, you’d see kites darting about on the skyline like bees after blooms.

In March, when stores sold out of the diamond and box varieties, homemade kites rode the strong winds, butcher paper or layers of newspaper flapping, dragging somewhat heavy rag tails. Kids were fascinated with things that flew.

Adults as well. At ball games, they’d study the arc, spiral and spin, then argue about the dynamics of curving. Clustered on street corners, around tables in kitchens, they’d speak in angry, awed tones of the hangar on base where the Air Force was hiding the bodies of little green men, killed on a mission from some other planet. The city had to put up signs to ban hang gliders from the tops of tall buildings. However, it also planted large eXes of flowers in parks, providing targets for sky divers.

Every Easter, families religiously gathered downtown by the river to witness hot air balloons swelling colored and bright with the dawn, lifting higher than the trees, soaring off like humanity’s grandest ideas.

In those old days, my childhood, the history of such thinking inspired many people. They approached things with wonder and hope. The improbable was in fact possible. No one scoffed at the dreamers who surveyed the space between the land and the sun, bicycles lying beside them, watching hawks wheel and hover at Pinnacle Hill.

about the author
Bill Vernon served in the United States Marine Corps, then studied English literature in Ohio universities and taught it. Writing is his therapy, along with exercising outdoors and doing international folk dances. His poems, stories and nonfiction have appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies, and Five Star Mysteries published his novel OLD TOWN in 2005.

Dream Rider

Dream Rider
Lori Lopez

“Last time someone said that to me, I drew their entrails.” My smile was full of derision as I added in a whisper I didn’t think the boy could hear, “Death is never pretty.”

The room lay in shadowed darkness, though I suspected he’d been standing there for some time and his eyes adjusted so that he saw me clearly. He looked at me with brown puppy dog eyes, twirling a twenty-sided die in his hand as if I were the monster. In my world, he was the demon.

“Do you have a name?” I asked, hissed more apt. I extended a hand, retracting the claws at the expression on his face. “I am known as Arch.”

“What kinda name is Arch?” His nose twitched like a cat, and I involuntarily let slip a fang. The next he spoke, “You’re not human,” came out in a quiver. His fear smelled of anise.

“With seven-foot wings, claws of steel, and fangs, I’d say not. Nor am I something to be feared. You cuddle Charlie.” A hint of sulfur tinged the air at my sarcasm.

The boy I had no name for tried to hide the surprise that I knew he slept with a purple stuffed bear named Charlie. He shifted foot to foot then looked at me with renewed strength. In the years I’d been a part of his life, I’d yet to learn his name, and thus felt a measure of guilt. I waited.

He stood taller, still barely reaching my chin, and puffed his chest out. No longer a frightened little boy, nor quite a man, he was ready, while I was still trying to figure out how he’d gotten here.

“Elijah. I come from a line of heroes.”

“Humph.” The sound slipped before I could recall it. “Do you know what it means to be a hero, boy?” A beat passed and I lifted my wings. “To stand against those who will surely try to kill you, in defense of those who might as soon spit on the ground you walk, under other circumstances.”

“More than you.” He looked at my feet, bird-like with talons of carbon blades, then met my stare.

Deep in the windows of his soul, I saw a truth I’d not expected. He knew the breadth of me, knew what I was and how he’d come to be in my world, even as I did not.

“Tell then.” It wasn’t something I wanted to admit, that he was correct, but vain as I am, I am not stupid. “How did you come to be in my realm, and more immediately, why?”

Before me, he shot up my equal in height, shoulders broadened and jaw wide, aged. I took a mental step back. The Spiderman pajamas he’d been wearing when I’d first found him, when he’d insulted me, were replaced with a suit that in another text I’m sure would have been of armor, as it were: cloth, blue with navy pin striping.

“You’ve been absent. I thought you dead.” His voice, deeper than a scant moment ago, gave me pause. “You were my friend. The one I counted on. Someone I trusted. And the warrior I fought. You taught me to stand for myself.”

“And tried to kill you more than thrice.”

“Then you were gone.” He aged again, silver hair edging his temples, bags forming beneath eyes that had dulled, a sadness covering his very countenance. “You deserted me.”

“You left me behind,” I said, sure it was this and not the other. Years had expired, and I’d been negligent in my duties, I could see that now, but times shift. “What do you wish of me?” That was the pressing question. I’d been sleeping when roused, and irritated at the wakening. Now I worried what travesty had befallen, if he’d sought me in this domain. Before he spoke, I knew words of death would follow; somehow he wanted me to return and make it better. I could not.

“What the heck do you care,” he said instead. The boy stood before me again, and I realized, as I in his world, he in mine, appeared as I wanted, not as he truly was. He was a boy, scared, searching me out for my prowess.

Stunned, I woke to my temerity and found that which I’d dismissed. Day had risen, not decades traversed. Hurriedly, I dressed. An ink black feather wafted as I leapt to my station, bounding into his dreams. I, the monster under the bed, his utmost fear to face, that comrade who’d stand at his side before being dismissed and called to charge again at his night’s fall, had overslept.

about the author
Reader, writer, wielder of wrenches. By day, a mild-mannered postal mechanic turning wrenches for the USPS; by night, a purveyor of stories to tempt your imagination.

Pairings (A Review)

Pairings:
Poems by Lianne Spidel, Paintings by Ann Loveland

2012, 31 pp., $17 ▪ ISBN: 978-1-933675-70-1
Dos Madres Press, Inc. ▪ P.O. Box 294 ▪ Loveland, OH 45140 ▪ http://www.dosmadres.com

Lianne Spidel’s Pairings pairs her own poems with paintings rendered by an artist friend, Ann Loveland. In some cases, the painting was done first, followed by the poem; in other cases, the painting followed the poem. All of the works are stunningly beautiful, and conjoined, make for a deeply sensual, thrilling reading experience.

A fine example of the collaboration is the still life “Geppetto’s Son” and the poem that goes with it about Pinocchio and his fictional creator. The picture shows a wooden puppet that leans against a wall casting a long shadow. He is not at the center of the painting, however, which is taken up by the handle used to manipulate him. The handle lies on the floor, partially hidden by the puppet, a beautiful cloth scarf, and one of three pears in the picture. The red and yellow of the scarf also appear in Pinocchio’s costume and in the pears, bringing everything together. The accompanying poem reads:

Thoughts for Geppetto, Who Got More Than He Bargained For

I saw the angel in the marble and carved
until I set him free.
—Michelangelo

When you said the block of wood
spoke to you, I believed you.
The egg that would become my first
son did the same, telling me—
only half his possibilities intact—
to make him happen.
Pinocchio (cast aside now in a heap
of strings) emerged from your carving
to make clear that puppetry
was not an option. Nothing but being
a real boy would do. Getting there,
he took his own sweet time.

No angel—he lied, broke promises, sold
the spelling book you gave up your coat
to buy, ate your breakfast pears.
He consorted with assassins,
was imprisoned and hanged, was nearly
fried and nearly drowned.

In truth, Geppetto, our children
are never our creations. They own us,
break our hearts in finding their own way,
and if a happy ending comes to them—
no, even if they survive—we rejoice
and call ourselves blessed.

The central location of the handle subtly focuses attention on the role of the author of Pinocchio (Carlo Collodi), the artist (Ann Loveland), the fictional carver of the puppet (Geppetto), and the poet (Lianne Spidel). The handle, representing by implication all of these artists, is at the center of things because with it, the author makes everything happen, gives birth to his or her own creation and those that follow from it.

The poem turns on the metaphor of the author as parent. Despite giving birth to a boy (as the author of Pinocchio has also done), the poet realizes in the end that “our children / are never our creations.” Children and fictional characters take on lives of their own, as do paintings and poems. The role of the creator becomes, in the end, less than the creation itself. In a charming irony, the poem contradicts the painting.

Reflections on art and artist reemerge in “Apology from a Nonfiction Writer,” in which the speaker says, “I don’t intend to lie, not usually. / I start to tell it straight. / Somehow the telling makes things change.” The accompanying painting, “Forest Ranger,” is a chiaroscuro landscape of barren winter trees with a bear lurking among them. The poem plays on the idea of this animal presence:

Memory lumbers like a bear,
imagination buzzing at an ear.
Old details slip away among the trees.
New details find their way on quiet paws.

The bear emerges from the imagination of the artist to become, in the poem, a metaphor of the imagination itself.

The book includes poems about Barbie Dolls, eye surgery, rock collecting, reflections on the experience of people at home as they wait for news in World War II, falling in and out of love. In them, the poet shows an engaging willingness to be honest and vulnerable. She uses language that is both spare and yet richly textured with metaphor and ambiguity as she strives to find transcendence in life.

In one of my favorites, “Love Handles,” the poet plays with the colloquial meaning of that phrase in the surreal recollection of a marriage. The poet dreams that her ex gives her some metal handles, which she imagines placing on cabinet drawers. She moves from there to the comic metaphor of love handles and finally to expressions like “get a grip.”

Even in the dream I muse on meanings,
think for a moment of love handles—
not that he’d ever own a pair of those.

It seems clear that after all
the doors he’s closed—and witty
even without words—

he’s telling me one last time before
he goes, “Get a grip. Get a handle
on it. Get a life.”

The painting that goes with this one, “Still Life with Lemons,” pictures lemons on a table beside a yellow pitcher, a white vase with two sunflowers in it, and a gargoyle figurine on the wall. Bitterness, sweetness, madness—the stuff of dreams, of art and poetry.

Pairings will look nice on your coffee table, but it will not be just a decoration. You will pick it up, and read the poems and study the paintings again and again.

Reviewed by David Lee Garrison

about the author
The poetry of David Lee Garrison has been published in Connecticut Review, Nimrod, Rattle, and several anthologies. Garrison Keillor read two poems from his book, Sweeping the Cemetery, on The Writer’s Almanac, and one of those appears in Keillor’s Good Poems American Places. His latest book is Playing Bach in the D. C. Metro, the title poem of which was featured by Ted Kooser on his website, American Life in Poetry.

Red Rocks

Red Rocks
Joseph Downing

THE EXPANSE OF LAND made the distance between objects deceiving, increasing the space between land and sky so much you saw the earth curve before you. I saw this in the sloping rocks spread out before us, spaced with abandon as if cast off to lighten the weight of the ice that had covered this land not so long ago. Even the horizon, splitting the orange and green land from the azure sky, seemed a true black line, something from a child’s drawing. I considered trying to explain this to Sean, but it seemed silly, unexplainable, and I was tired of receiving vague nods. We went back to the songs.

“Airplane.”

“Blackout Blues.”

“Coconut.”

“No way. That’s what we most want to hear, so they won’t play it,” I said.

“You don’t think so?”

“Nope.”

“I hope they do anyway.”

We again fell silent, sitting on the bumper of my pickup truck, watching the line of clucking VW microbuses and expensive and dusty SUVs wind their way up the snakelike road to the Amphitheater parking lot.

“I’m glad we got here early,” Sean said.

“You’d think these people would plan a little better, since following this band around is all most of them have to do.”

Sean looked away and sipped his beer; silence returned. It had been that way since he arrived: small burst of conversation, both of us relieved to have something to talk about, followed by long periods of nothing to say. It’s always been that way, really. This was the first time he had visited me since I had moved to Colorado a year ago, and I wanted things to be different between us. We were older now. I had hoped time would smooth things out and we could just be friends, that I wouldn’t have to be the older brother anymore. But it was the same. So instead, we filled our time with activity: hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, touring the Coors Brewery, and tonight—his last night—this concert.

I watched him from the corner of my eye. Thin and pale, hair already receding at twenty-two. He sat quietly, alone in himself, staring off to the sky. I fought between wanting to hug him and wanting to shake him violently.

“The sky’s so blue here,” he said, with the awe of someone who had lived in a cave all his life and had walked outside for the first time. I’ve heard him say this at least three times now.

“You get used to it.”

“I don’t think I ever would.”

Around the edges of the parking lot people had set up booths selling vegetarian gyros, T-shirts, and bootleg CDs. Like us, many sat at the back of their cars, drinking, eating, mingling. Others kicked around Hacky Sacks or juggled those stupid little sticks they liked so much. Music from car stereos competed to be heard and people were already dancing that same hippie dance with militaristic consistency: swaying, spinning, arms swimming through the air, faces frozen in an expression of serene ecstasy. Tomorrow they would move on and set up in San Diego or Saint Louis, wherever the band went next. I was naïve to think this pseudo-hippie bullshit would end when Jerry Garcia died.

These people get on my nerves,” I said. If I could watch the concert from inside a bubble where I wouldn’t have to see or hear them, I would do it. Knowing I was irritated, Sean didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to ruin his last night here, and I resolved to improve my mood.

“Who knows, they may play “Coconut.” I pushed my beer towards him. “Here’s to your trip to Colorado.” A hollow ring echoed from the bottles when they touched, and we pulled them back, both swigging deeply.

I stood and stretched, rubbing the soreness from the back of my legs. The sun was beginning to drop and a purplish tint framed the edges of the sky. I looked back at the immense rock formation jutting from the earth that formed the natural amphitheater. The two monstrous slabs faced each other as if slammed into the earth with fury, with the stage and the seats separating them like a referee between two boxers.

My brother had seen Red Rocks for the first time yesterday, when we had driven up to look at the view. We had stood on the last row and had looked back to the rolling hills and then, farther on, Denver. A lone man had sat cross-legged on the stage playing the bongos. I had been shocked at how far the lonely sound carried, echoing off the rock to us at the top.

I was jarred back to the present when a stringy-haired kid, maybe eighteen, dirty and thin, dangled a T-shirt in front of my face. He had a dozen more draped across his arm. “Interested? Ten bucks. Years from now you can say you were here.”

“I can do that now,” I said.

He gave me a hazy grin. “Anything else you need before the show? I can help you out.”

“No, thanks, man. We’re good.”

He looked at Sean. “He’s good, too,” I said. Sean nodded.

“You’re gonna miss half the show, without what I have to give you.”

“You’re wasting your time.”

He shrugged and began walking away. “You’re first time at Red Rocks?” he said over his shoulder, smirking. Sean looked up and said yes, it was.

“You were here just yesterday.” I threw myempty bottle in the cooler, causing water and ice to splash out on the truck bed.

“Yeah, but not for a concert. That’s all I meant.”

“He was mocking us.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, oh.” I opened another beer and took a deep breath. Sean was again sitting perfectly still, staring off into the distance as if waiting for something important.

“You ready for one?”

He poured the last drab out of his bottle. “Yeah, sure.” We returned to drinking and watching the spectacle around us. “Do you think they make enough money selling stuff to follow the band around all summer?” Sean said.

“No, it’s just a pastime for them. I guarantee most of them are still living off their parents. Even the older ones. Trust fund babies.”

Sean didn’t say anything. We sat quietly for minutes that felt like hours, and I began to wish we hadn’t come. I was ashamed to admit to myself that I was actually looking forward to taking him to the airport tomorrow. Sean’s face was turned away from me the same way it had been turned away from me a thousand times before. When he finally spoke, the difference in his voice surprised me.

“She’s beautiful,” he said.

I followed his eyes to a van across from us where a cluster of hippie kids was hanging out. She must have just arrived, joining the group already there because I wouldn’t have missed her before. She was attractive in the way most of them were—tan, thin, natural—only more so. She was wearing a homemade dress covered with patches. Her dark hair was straight and parted in the middle and fell down past her shoulders. The guy next to her curly hair hanging in his face, Jim Morrison in a poncho. She tapped him on the shoulder and said something in his ear.

When he spoke, he seemed annoyed and quickly turned back to his conversation with the group. She stood there a moment and then caught Sean watching her, and for once he didn’t look away, but smiled back. She walked over and leaned against the fender on Sean’s side of the truck.

“Can you think of a better place to be right now?”

“No,” Sean said. I just nodded, deciding to let Sean have this conversation alone.

“Is this your first Panic show?” she asked.

“Yeah. But we’ve been to Red Rocks before, just not to a show. At least I haven’t,” Sean said, glancing at me.

“Mind if I have a beer?”

Sean opened one and handed it to her.

“You guys wouldn’t have an extra ticket, would you?”

So there it was. Sean looked disappointed and said we didn’t. She shrugged, as if to say I had to ask. She introduced herself as Cam and she and Sean continued to talk, but I stopped paying attention. She would leave soon anyway, now that she knew Sean didn’t have what she wanted.

After a few more minutes, the guy in the poncho and two of his buddies walked over.

Poncho-guy stuck his head between Sean and Cam, causing them to jerk their heads back. He laughed.

“Any luck?” he said to Cam, taking the beer from her hand and drinking deeply.

“Not with finding tickets. But I’m making new friends.” She introduced him as Buck and his two friends as Mike and Arron. Cam pulled a joint from the Poncho’s front pocket.

“Do your new friends want to get high?” he said.

She turned to us. Sean shrugged. “No,” I said.

Buck lit the joint, took a long drag, and then grabbed Cam roughly by the neck and pushed his mouth against hers. After a few seconds, he pulled back and Cam coughed, smoke escaping from her mouth. Buck grinned. “I think I’ll just give the joint to you, man,” he said, handing it to Sean. Sean didn’t say anything, took a small hit, and passed it back to Buck.

“Are you guys going to tomorrow’s show?” Buck said.

“No, just tonight,” I said.

“We’ll be at all three. Then on to the Santa Fe show. That’s the only way to get the real experience. Night after night. Watch them explore, evolve.”

“That is, if you get tickets.”

“The tickets will turn up, don’t worry. Just got to get into the zone, make it happen.”

“Oh yeah man, that’s all it is.”

He watched me, trying to decide if I was being sarcastic. He shook his head and smiled. He turned to Mike and Arron, and talked so I couldn’t hear him. He spun around and grabbed Cam’s arm.

“Let’s go, babe. Our tickets are out there somewhere.”

“I’m tired of looking for tickets. I just want to hang out for a while. Can’t you go without me?”
Buck turned, no longer smiling. “I’m not going to baby-sit you every show.” “I’ll catch up in a few minutes.”

“C’mon, man, it’ll be starting soon,” Arron said.

“If you can’t find us, I’m not waiting,” Buck said. They walked away.

Cam waited until they were gone and then sighed. “I’m sorry about that. I just need to be away from him for a while. He’s just not the same when he’s with those guys.”

“You can hang out with us,” Sean said. He scooted down the bumper towards me to make room for her. He was close enough that our legs touched.

“I’ll just stand for a bit,” I said.

People were starting to filter into the amphitheater and I could hear the muffled noise of the sound check on stage. Sean and Cam had their heads together and she seemed to be telling him a story because he just nodded with a concerned look on his face while she talked. I walked to the front, sat down in the driver’s seat and watched the dying sunlight fade to purple. Cam startled me by knocking on the window and waving. I looked back and Sean was still sitting on the bumper. I got out and walked back.

“Where’s she going?”

“Into the concert,” he said, looking away.

“Where did she get a ticket?”

“I gave her mine.”

“What? What the hell did you do that for? How are you going to get in?”

“I guess I’m not, but that’s okay. It made me happy to give it to her.”

“She was just using you, man.”

He stared straight ahead, his lips a tight line. “She didn’t want to take it. I made her. But it doesn’t matter.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

He turned to me, his face tired and sad, and slowly shook his head. “You don’t understand. You—” He started to speak again, but stopped.

I slumped down on the bumper, exasperated, feeling more drained than I remembered having ever felt. Sean was looking away, back to the same place in the sky. In our silence, the minutes ticked by, heavy and slow. People streamed by us towards the gates, their laughter and conversation white noise. I gave up.

“Here. Take my ticket. I’ve been here before.”

Sean looked down. “That’s not what I wanted.”

“I’m serious. I’d rather see you go. I’ll listen from here. Maybe you can find her inside. It’s not that big. C’mon. It’s your last night.”

He stood up slowly and took the ticket. He turned it over in his hands and then mumbled thanks. I pointed where to go and he started towards the entrance. He looked so frail from the back, moving awkwardly up the path. I watched him until he disappeared into the crowd.

I sat in the front seat of my truck and listened to the concert through the open window. I was surprised at how well I could still hear it. The parking lot was nearly deserted and it felt quiet, despite the music. The night had turned purple-black, and in its stillness, I felt a sense of seclusion, but not loneliness. No, definitely not loneliness. I felt sorry about a lot of things, without exactly knowing what they were. I didn’t know what Sean felt, and I wasn’t going to kid myself that my small gesture that night would make everything different. But that was all right. I stretched out in the truck bed, watched the sky, and listened.

The bright and multicolored stage lights bounced and glowed between the rocks, connecting them so they no longer seemed separate, but whole. Somehow, in the thousands of people inside, I was sure Sean had found Cam. I pictured him standing next to her, talking over the loud music, with her laughing and trying in vain to get him to dance. And tomorrow, when he left, he would remember her and being there, and he would think that the trip hadn’t been a waste after all.

The lights turned a sobering white and people began pouring from the exits, so I knew the concert was over. The band never did play “Coconut.” It wasn’t a perfect show, but it was still good. I could live with that.

about the author
Joseph Downing is lawyer and writer from Dayton, Ohio. His short story, “A Day in the Sun,” has been published in The Best of Ohio Writers Anthology and has won honorable mention in Glimmer Train’s annual new writer’s contest. He has twice published in Flights literary magazine, is an Impact Weekly Fiction Contest Winner, and his nonfiction book, The Abundant Bohemian: How to Live an Unconventional Life Without Starving in the Process, will be released in 2014.

For Us

For Us
C. Dendy

the bell tolls.
Morning chapel rings shadows and cotton
into cobbled brick

while the echo of footprints wrinkles
in bark and skirt, a staccato hymn padding like
cats’ paws across the fence on another day

ready to sound and spring.

Silence does not move,
but we do.

about the author
C. Dendy hopes to one day finish revising her young adult novel turned trilogy, so she can submit it for publication and start working on the next project(s). In the meantime, when not frolicking about one dreamscape or another with her children, she writes K-12 social studies texts. (It pays the bills, and it takes her across the globe and across time, into all sorts of nooks and crannies of civilization.)

Icarus Bicycling

Icarus Bicycling
Herbert Woodward Martin

In Memory of David Ignatow

My uncle “Jay-Bird”
dared gravity with
both his bicycle
and his penis.
They were
his lucky charms,
instruments calculated
to make music
and to seduce any listener
within earshot.
He made the wind
catch its own breath.
After a short
and dazzling life
he disappeared
behind a veil of mystery
concerning his exploits,
having never flown
towards the sun.

about the author
Herbert Woodward Martin has just published his newest volume of poems titled:On The Flyleaf.  It was published by Bottom Dog Press of Huron, Ohio. His Christmas/Hanukkah essay will be broadcast on WVXU on Christmas Day 2013.

Drop It!

Drop It!
Elizabeth Cantonwine Schmidt

The week was hell. You had a flat, your wallet stolen. You’ve lost feeling in your fingers, always a bad sign. The man said $1000 when you thought it’d be $200. You keep sinking, sinking, sinking, connecting one bad number after another. Who knows what you’re drawing? It’s starting to look like a gun. Someone dying seems possible. Maybe you. Or maybe you botched a bank robbery though you don’t remember putting on sunglasses, passing a note. This time tomorrow you’ll be in the paper, your neighbor saying “He was always so quiet.” That’s the way this day is going, like you’re cornered by police with no way out. Your plan is screwed and you’re nervous. What does it matter now if you shoot the banker, the old lady cowering in a chair? They’re on your path, your way, your trajectory for this awful day, the next number in a sick dot-to-dot. Hey, man, you didn’t design this maze; you’re just holding the pen, making the next mark. When the phone rings, it’s Tara. Her voice is soft. She calls you “John.” She knows about your day. She says you still have options.

about the author
Elizabeth Cantonwine Schmidt is a poet, librarian and mother of four.  Her poems have been published in Mock Turtle Zine, and read on WYSO’s Conrad’s Corner.

The Superman Theory

The Superman Theory
J.E. Tirey

Tiny insects hovered around Peter’s hair-lined ears. He waved with his liver-spotted hand, but summer heat makes even bugs lazy. They flew in a perfunctory circle before landing, again, just under the brim of his straw hat.

Cicadas argued in the bushes that guarded his porch. Stray dogs put aside territory squabbles to take shelter under a sycamore in Peter’s yard. Mary Jane was in the kitchen, mixing up lemonade and lingering in front of the open refrigerator.

Five boys on bikes weren’t smart enough to know it was high July. They pedaled up to Peter’s porch in a pack, none of them with shirts, most of them with freckles and all of them open mouthed. They were going to ask. They always do.

“Hey, mister!” one freckle-faced boy yelled.

Peter prolonged the inevitable. He pursed his lips together. Where were his dentures? He’d have to ask Mary Jane.

“HEY! MISTER!”

Same kid. They were all straddling their bikes now, these strange seekers of knowledge.
“MISTER?!”

Peter met his gaze.

“Mister, I heard you was Superman.”

Peter emitted a dry laugh. Old age was his kryptonite, inducing impotence, incontinence and indifference.

“Scoot,” he said. “Get on back home. Leave an old man alone.”

“Ain’t you Superman?” the kid pleaded.

He stood from his chair and stretched. He wondered if Mary Jane had finished the lemonade and decided to find out.

“He ain’t no Superman.”

The eldest punk chucked a rock that whizzed past Peter and struck the house. A cicada riot ensued. Shirtless boys sped off before Peter could retaliate with choice words and a switch. Mary Jane was calling. The lemonade was ready.

“More boys?” she asked as he ambled into the kitchen.

Peter nodded.

“Thought I was Superman.”

“I’m sure they meant Spiderman, dear,” she assured him. She handed him his drink and sat down. Pointing an arthritic wrist, Peter shot a web toward the ceiling and it clung neatly to the corner.

“Still got it.”

about the author
J.E. Tirey is a recent transplant to Dayton. She studied creative writing at Indiana University, and writes flash fiction and poetry, if someone sends her a writing prompt. She make a living writing about places she has never been. J.E. Tirey lives with her boyfriend, his two babies, two black cats, and a mastiff.

The Little Nun that Could

The Little Nun that Could
Eric Blanchard

for Jill

When lift plus thrust is greater than
load plus drag, anything can fly.

There is a moment when
the wind drifts at just the right
angle, rustling leaves, teasing
my habit. I have just the right
song in my heart, producing
lift. The aerodynamics of the
soul are unknown, the purity
of my body, the naivety of my
mind. Nothing tells me I can
not fly, so I try.

about the author
Eric Blanchard’s poetry has been published in numerous literary journals and reviews, both on-line and in print, including Autumn Sky Poetry, Rust and Moth, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Pudding Magazine, Amarillo Bay, Turbulence, and Poetry Quarterly. He currently resides in Dayton, Ohio with his beautiful girlfriend, her young son, three dogs, and two tiny fish.

At All, Et Al

At All, Et Al
Brandon Edward North

The explication of gardens, at all
transitions—seed to stem, stem to bloom—all at
integer intervals, give rise and fall
to transfigurations: the impossible proofs that
change is subject to change. (At all ats
genius voids through soil, time-tested calls
through Earth’s languorous confidence.) Death palls
the holy landscapes into broken-down stats,
so where must you posit your rationale?
In parallels you try to till, et al.

about the author
Currently an M.A. student at Wright State University, Brandon North was recently awarded 2nd place in Poetry in Sinclair Community College’s 2013 Creative Writing Contest. He has had poems published in Wright State’s online literary journal Nexus and previous issues of Mock Turtle.

Revising Fiction

Revising Fiction
Ed Davis

Kill off all your darlings.
You know: the parts you howled,
wept or bled over as you wrote.
Put the ending first,
the beginning last and reverse
sentences whenever possible.
Change commas to colons,
colons to question marks—
and absolutely, positively, under
no circumstances use exclamation marks!!
Omit all violence, ideas and emotions,
references to religion, politics and gender.
Always use “said” and never “scolded,”
“expostulated,” “exploded” or “screamed.”
Finally, highlight everything but action—
no editorializing, exposition, sermonizing,
no profanity, slang or propagandizing —
and please no contemporaneous names
to date your timeless,
deathless, priceless prose.
Then close your eyes
and press delete. What remains
is what you’ll leave for eternity.

about the author
West Virginia native Ed Davis recently retired from teaching writing full-time at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio. He has also taught both fiction and poetry at the Antioch Writers’ Workshop and is the author of the novels I Was So Much Older Then (Disc-Us Books, 2001) and The Measure of Everything (Plain View Press, 2005); four poetry chapbooks; and many published stories and poems in anthologies and journals. “Time of the Light” is his new full-length poetry collection from Main Street Rag Press. He lives with his wife and cats in Yellow Springs, Ohio, where he writes, bikes, hikes and blogs on mostly literary topics at www.davised.com.