Paul Reynolds & Sharlene Teo

Picture 22

 

 

Angel at the Dogs

In 2012, when the world didn’t end, you tore up your giant poster of the Mayan calendar and chopped your long purple hair off. Suddenly you adopted the air of a petulant French boy, even though to me you are and always will be a Convent school, half-Chinese, half-Dutch girl. You began to make sweeping, cringeworthy pronouncements.

There are two kinds of women, you like to say: the first is the kind who dress up to draw attention. They watch their weight obsessively, grip the sides of a chair during a focus group, dreading the turn to speak. Bag items in a ham-fisted hurry at the supermarket checkout, nervous chortles, always aware that someone might be judging their groceries. The half-priced wine, the fat-free yogurt, the pak choi bunched up in a clear plastic packet.

The second kind don’t consider superficialities, or seem above them. Theirs are the faces you fall in love with on the train, in a cafe, on a sunlit pavement; beaming incandescence, tucked strand of hair behind the pink whorl of an ear. They fling their cardigans over the light wooden back of a chair, order full pints and creamy coffees with two sugars, toss their heads back with laughter, exposing straight, tiny teeth and unlined throats.

Angel was firmly in the first, clumsy camp, the majority camp, we the humans, but you mistook her for the second. Everything about her was affectation, but what was she doing but bumbling along, just trying to make do? I hated her and I hated how alike she and I were, even if I saw it and you didn’t. I had enough time to assess our similarity; you forced me to live with her. I would have preferred it if I couldn’t decipher her hesitations. I would have preferred it if she was the real deal, celestial. It would have made it easier to digest how much she mattered.

Now that enough time has passed, my dislike for Angel is fading into something altogether more manageable. A blue bruise instead of a paper cut too fine to plaster, which smarted when I wet my hands. With less hatred in my body I feel healthier, less prone to heart failure. Still it makes me flinch whenever you bring up her name, when we’ve had one too many glasses of pastis in the tacky French bar down the road. Until this day you tell people that Angel is the first and only woman you ever loved.

If I am in the same room, which I often am, seeing how we live together, rarely spend a night apart– I will correct you. Erica, I say, in that low, peculiar way that I have reserved for the same old conversations: you’ve said that about like, ten other people.

Girls, women, what’s the difference? I am a girl, to you. Angel is a Woman. Womb, wound, woah, woe, woman. Scrawled signature on a receipt. Lipstick ghost haunting wineglass. Sentimental happening; main event. She is all of those things, and I can only aspire to that status, still get ID-ed, even though I’m pushing thirty (we both are) and the lines across my forehead and around my mouth are deepening.

I know what I am to you, I know what I am. An oversized hoodie covered in cat fur, a sleepy trip to the provision store, a private snacking ritual. Some nights you pull me over you, facing away, no kisses, so I am a blanket covering your hipbones and the ridges of your body. My spine curves at an awkward angle, I try to slacken my elbows. I wish I was soft, patient fabric and not this mass of care and fidget, shivering because we need to fix the radiator and even after fifteen years I still can’t relax around you, can’t be complacent. Your knobbly, damaged knees jut into me and I bend. Your breasts are plain pancakes under the oven-warm board of my back. Your unmistakeable face under my hair, tilted sideways, so you can breathe. We rise and fall like this. As I try to sleep I imagine the end credits of a film starring you, me and Angel. My name, Erin, and a line of dots: Second Fiddle.

*

We met Angel at the greyhound races. It was our first time there. We lived near this ancient dustbowl of a stadium, run-down and rattled through with roars and whistles. I’m tired of all that noise, I said. Well, you replied, let’s go in then.

The sun beat down on the top of our heads and both of us were confused about what was going on and about the betting system but because we were hungry and annoyed with each other we did not confer. The dogs were scrambling around the track and they were tired and their tongues protruded.

We spotted Angel at the same time. It would have been hard not to. She was four rows in front of us. From the back she looked like she had walked in from the set of a made-for-TV adaptation of a Hitchcock film. She had sloping, slight shoulders, and she was wearing this cream-coloured, bias cut satin dress and a white mantilla veil in the 28 degree heat.

Who died? I said, pointing at her. What’s with the outfit. She’s like the Black Dahlia getting married.

Whatever Erin, you replied. I like it. And then you pushed your way forward like a caveman and poked her on the shoulder.

Hey, you said. Want to hear a joke?

Angel looked at you from under her smudged eyelashes.

Go on, then, she said. She seemed one or two years younger than us. The edge of her maroon mouth curled up. Her voice was nasal, small, accurate.

Your eyes were sickly-bright. Your voice trembled. I know this look, this voice.

Why won’t the lobster share his toys?

Why. Angel replied like that, with a full stop.

Because he is shellfish.

Angel blinked slowly, not like she was contemplating a response, but to get the dust out of her eyes. She reminded me of a sheep, right then.

And then she chortled. It was such an artificial chortle, a galumphing hur-hur-hur.

You had told a bad joke, something from a cracker or a chocolate biscuit wrapper. Not even worth the adjective of terrible, not even worth a smile, but it worked. Angel grinned. She had a fleck of lipstick on her left incisor.

We were in the third-priced ticket tier of the grandstand. All around us people were roaring, raising their fists in the air. Today there were six dogs racing and they made me sad. All sinewy legs and suffering faces and different-coloured little coats printed with numbers. They looked like they didn’t get to eat much. I wanted to pet No. 8, chocolate brown, getting dirt kicked in its face by the forerunner.

Around us, men clutched the race programme with their hairy hands, others clutched bills of money, flung palmfuls of sweet-n’salty popcorn. The popcorn went everywhere. There was some of it in my hair, some of it in your pixie crop, none on Angel. That stupid, theatrical mantilla had a purpose.

Do you come here often? You asked.

Every other weekend, she replied. My father is a greyhound trainer. I’ve got a trifecta bet on Sooty, Sweep and Starshine right there. What about you?

Oh, you said, I wanted to do something different on a Saturday afternoon. I don’t know much about racing myself. You gestured toward me, and Angel’s eyes followed, registering me for the first time.

Erin and I are best friends, you continued. We went to secondary school together, left our tiny city a few years ago.

How many falsehoods can you fit into a sentence? Sure, some of those things were true, you can classify them as fact. But it isn’t enough, doesn’t do justice. I bit my tongue and felt the copper tang of blood. “Tiny city” was the second-most condescending thing I had heard all day. The first was “best friends”.

You kept talking, and Angel kept talking, and she had this way of turning her right foot inward so she was balancing on one kitten heel. I knew she wanted you. What were the odds you’d find a girl dressed like a ghost who liked girls, at the greyhound races? This situation was so niche and irritating that it made my teeth ache. I hated her already. I didn’t want to be there but I couldn’t tear my eyes or ears away. I had to witness.

*

When Angel moved into our cramped rental flat you bought me a decent air mattress. I took up deep breathing and raisin meditation. Raisin meditation is when you take a raisin and hold it in the palm of your hand, allowing it to breathe into you, feeling its contours, finding stillness in this small edible object. At the end of the exercise you’re meant to lift the raisin to your nose and feel your salivary glands reacting. And then you eat it, slowly, even though it takes no more than one chew.

I became adept at long, purposeless walks and staying late at the storage facility where I worked, for no extra pay. I bought ear plugs and listened to audio books at night, with titles like MASTERING ASSERTIVENESS and UNSTOPPABLE YOU. One day I woke up to find Angel standing over me in her mantilla veil, her mouth bare and frowning. Around her were three Bag-For-Life wicker carriers, stuffed full of her vintage dresses.

I’m sorry for everything, Erin, she said.

I reached for my bag of raisins. She turned and left. She swung open the door and her patent heels clattered down the cramped, narrow stairs. You didn’t go after her, merely stood in the doorway.

Go back to your dog races, you said.

*

Yesterday I visited a mutual friend, Suzie. She asked me: Erin, what do you actually see in Erica, besides all that context? She is the most selfish person that I know.This is a bigger city than your previous. I’m sure you can meet a better girl.

It is 2015 and the Mayans have nothing left to foretell, or if they do, I’ve stopped following. I shook my head and I put my face in my hands and I said you’re right, Suzie, I feel like a veil has been lifted, and I can see her for what she really is. It’s as if I am coming out of a long illness.

Suzie nodded at me, and smiled. She couldn’t tell that I was lying. Only to her, not even to myself.

So you’re cruel and we share a bed, a room. In bars, in the post office, in the flat, every single time you cross the doorframe I feel all this at once; it is as dense and potent as a stock cube. I think to myself:

Erica, how is it that one body against another can lose its value over time if it is the same body, with the same intentions? How did I lose my traction? When did I get uglier to you, less vibrant? Back in our Convent school, years ago, you told me you understood when I said I didn’t know why I was here, in a life that didn’t feel like my own. Can you remember any of this? Can you remember how the running track of our old school dipped into the path at one place, as if it had been dented by years of white canvas shoes? Even the racing dogs would have stumbled. And you and I were two of a kind– we were lonely, and we were various, but we had each other, and you are the first and only woman I have ever loved. I don’t know what this says about me, or about you. I only felt not alone when I was with you, and although that has changed, I’ve kept my promise. I said I would follow you anywhere, and I did, I still would.

 

 

Photography: Paul Reynolds – https://www.flickr.com/photos/paul_reynolds/

Story: Sharlene Teo‘s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in publications such as Esquire, Magma Poetry and The Penny Dreadful. She is the recipient of David TK Wong and Sozopol Fiction Fellowships and is at work on her first novel.

D. Joyce-Ahearne

Trololol: To Carthage Then I Came

 

In July 2014, Irish artist D. Joyce-Ahearne’s work was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The exhibit, entitled Trololol: To Carthage Then I Came, was as controversial as it was short-lived. Following widespread outrage at the work on display, MoMA pulled the exhibit after only two days and shut the Des Connery Gallery in which it had been displayed, indefinitely. The space is to be reopened in spring 2015 under a new name, the museum having decided to shed the moniker of the notorious art critic.

The debacle was underplayed by the art world, with few outlets willing to discuss Joyce-Ahearne’s work. All references to the exhibit were removed from MoMA’s website and social media. The artist quickly distanced himself from the exhibit and in a statement released shortly afterwards, Joyce-Ahearne said that he had destroyed all traces of the work: “All models, rough sketches, casts, anything that went into Trololol is gone. There’s nothing left of it.”

Very few photographs taken by the public have surfaced. Last month however, a series of photographs taken at the exhibit appeared online. The photos, which appear to have been rushed and are in places blurry, are the only known record of the exhibit. They have seen little airing in the media, with few willing to comment on a topic which many happily believed to be buried.

 

The exhibition information as it appeared in the gallery, reproduced below (end of text missing) The exhibition information as it appeared in the gallery, reproduced below (end of text missing)

“It was with the work of D. Joyce-Ahearne (Irish, born 1993) in mind that the Museum of Modern Art commissioned the Des Connery Gallery, named after the infamous and late French-Irish critic. The gallery, the museum’s smallest to date, is curated by the artist and designed to highlight his work in a way that frames it in a setting comfortable to the viewer.

Joyce-Ahearne’s concerns, since his first exhibit, have been the nature of art, theory, people and museums, rather than these things themselves. His project is finding art in museums, theory in art, museums in art, art in theory, theory in people, people in art and museums in museums.            

Des Connery, with his irreverent and unique turn of phrase, described Joyce-Ahearne’s early work as ‘what will be described as his early work’, glowing praise from so discerning a critic, as it presumes that someone in the future will still be discussing Joyce-Ahearne’s work at all. However no one could have predicted that people would be talking about it so soon or that Connery would not be around to critique it, having taken his own life as part of his last exhibit.            

When MoMA approached Joyce-Ahearne with the possibility of an…”    

The Des Connery Gallery, showing the work Self-Portrait   The Des Connery Gallery, showing the work Self-Portrait?

Portrait of Two Women (information reproduced below) Portrait of Two Women (information reproduced below)              

Though it is unknown who the models are that sat for the portrait, they are believed to be twins. The original and its many copies adorn a Park Avenue apartment that Joyce-Ahearne was commissioned to decorate several years ago while working in the city.

The vague expression on the women’s faces, which are almost identical, have drawn obvious comparisons to Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, though many see Joyce-Ahearne’s Portrait of Two Women more favourably, as he evokes much the same sense of mystery with more subtlety.

The dreamy expressions recorded in the portrait have meant that innumerable interpretations have been aired, from incest to ennui. Asked for this exhibit, the artist described the deliberate vagueness of the faces as offering ‘an outlet for whatever people wish to project onto the piece and thereby possibly learn more about themselves.’”

I.C.B.U.T. A work attributed to an unknown Conor Marron   I.C.B.U.T. A work attributed to an unknown Conor Marron              

I.C.B.U.T, a work displaying a crudely bearded Rrose Sélavy (a pseudonym for the French artist Marcel Duchamp), though part of Joyce-Ahearne’s exhibition, was attributed to an unknown artist named Conor Marron. Marron, in turn, is now considered to be a pseudonym for Joyce-Ahearne himself, the name believed to be a pun on the French connard marrant.

Leveller (information reproduced below, text missing) Leveller (information reproduced below, text missing)    

“Leveller was deliberately chosen as the…

gallery’s namesake who famously axiomed: “A…

work was actually one of the last pieces on dis…

conceived during a particularly crippling period…

‘The idea for Leveller came to me as I wa…

Space and Language to Bright Colours. I was str…

concept and decided to sleep on it. When I turn…

struggle with the piece. It was then that the nam…

the same time I conceived Leveller.’

The interactive Leveller means the observ…

work, while partaking in the art itself. The obvio…

‘The Starry Night’ have been drawn, some claim…

between “inspiration” and “plagiarism”, an accus…”        

 

 

Self-Portrait (information reproduced below) Self-Portrait? (information reproduced below)              

“Jaded by the constant scenes of people taking pictures of themselves in front of works of art with their backs to them, Joyce-Ahearne devised an interactive installation that would allow people to ‘create something new, rather than literally stand in the way of art.’            

With the frequency of people coming to the museum just to record the fact that they had seen pieces (or could have seen them had they turned around), the artist decided to attack this mass indifference to art by taking it to its logical conclusion, that is, by encouraging people to just photograph themselves in front of the art, rather than appreciate it.            

By harnessing something unquestionably negative and redirecting it towards creating something new, the photographs taken in front of Self-Portrait? are unique and full of an artistic vibrancy that inverts the sadness of people taking photos of themselves in front of famous paintings.            

Photographs taken in front of Self-Portrait? cannot be curated with ‘Look at what I saw’ but rather ‘Look at what I am’ or ‘Look at what I made.’

Whether the inclusion of the hashtag is art, a cynical piece of self-promotion or an artistic pastiche of cynical self-promotion is left open to the public to discuss on Instagram and Twitter.”

 

Since the photographs have emerged, Joyce-Ahearne has denied that it is him in the above photo, despite a definite resemblance to the man pictured. Conspiracy theories have abounded since the leak, with some suggesting that the man is Des Connery and that the critic, in fact, faked his own death.

Other theories include that Joyce-Ahearne is an alter ego of Connery or that Joyce-Ahearne is perhaps the alter ego of Connor Marron (rather than the other way around). Some conspiracies go as high up as suggesting that MoMA themselves orchestrated the entire debacle and that Des Connery himself never existed but is rather an eighty year old experiment in conceptual art.

A blurred photo of The Curationist Myth, Joyce-Ahearne_s most controversial work (gallery information reproduced below) A blurred photo of The Curationist Myth, Joyce-Ahearne’s most controversial work (gallery information reproduced below)              

“Perhaps the most shocking piece of Joyce-Ahearne’s work so far, The Curationist Myth has been decried by many as being a step too far. Turned down by countless galleries as being ‘pure insanity’, MoMA accepted the piece as part of Trololol: To Carthage Then I Came, recognising it as, if not the crowning piece of the exhibit, then at the very least the cornerstone on which the entire concept of play between art, ideas, people and museums rests.            

The dichotomy of eternal serenity and crushing despair that the piece radiates comes from the realisation that it goes on forever. Its undertones of anguish and awareness of the abyss is softened by its very nature: it is curated. It is what it is.”

 

The Curationist Myth was the exhibit’s most controversial piece and widely accepted as the reason the exhibition was shut down. The piece consists of an information sign which gives the title of the piece and the materials of which it is composed, which simply reads “This”. The work is then curated by a copy of the same sign.

The Curationist Myth, which calls the very idea of a museum into question, resulted in hundreds of visitors demanding their money back from MoMA, having been convinced by the work that museums were an absurd idea.

 

D. Joyce-Ahearne is a third year English and French student and the current Deputy-Editor of Trinity News. He has had poetry published in both Irish and English, both in Ireland and abroad. His short fiction has appeared in The Bohemyth, The Incubator and berfrois. Last year, he wrote and directed his first play. https://twitter.com/D_JoyceAhearne

Victoria Kennefick

Shadow Bird

Inspired by a poem by Dimitra Xidous

 

In the bedroom we twist thumbs so they entwine, our fingers fan,

lined palms present themselves, undersides of dove’s wings;

hands couple, plucked bald and lined, flying towards light.

It throws shapes against pink-painted walls,

veins delicate where red life streams,

the dove-shadow wings over us,

cracks in half at the cornice.

We know those wings that cradle us

like an egg, whole and full and waiting; we throw

the bird further from the lamp, smoothness spreads

to take the entire room.  This bird has nestled in the scoop

of your chest, pulsing, but our tiny muscles shudder, the bird

faint, our fingers break beat for beat, as it grows light we fall asleep.

 

Victoria Kennefick won the Red Line Book Festival Poetry Prize in 2013 and was shortlisted for the Melita Hume Poetry Prize 2014 judged by Emily Berry. Her chapbook, White Whale, won the Munster Literature Centre Fool for Poetry Competition and was launched at the Cork Spring Poetry Festival 2015.  She has poems forthcoming in New Irish Writing, The Penny Dreadful and Bare Fiction.  Follow her @VKennefick.

Dimitra Xidous

The pink look

Inspired by a poem by Victoria Kennefick

 

When I eat pork I remember madness:

the blackness of that other mouth, as if Goya

had painted it on his dining room walls;

deranged and dark, it is the absolute

of Saturn Devouring His Children. 

 

That other mouth does not recall the spit rod hard-on

or how you wrapped yourself in bacon and made

an offering of meat – only you, as you were

before the first pig-eared twitch of excitement;

you, when your genitals had the pink look of a newborn.

 

Dimitra Xidous’ work has been published in literary journals in Canada, Ireland, and the US, including RoomThe Stinging Fly and The Penny Dreadful. Her debut collection Keeping Bees was published by Doire Press in 2014.  She was a finalist in The Malahat Review Open Season Awards (2014).  She was short-listed for the Bridport Prize (2013) and the Over The Edge Emerging New Writer (2013) and long-listed for the Montreal International Poetry Prize (2011).  She has work forthcoming in Hallelujah for Fifty Foot Women (Bloodaxe, 2015). Originally from Ottawa, Canada, she currently resides in Dublin, Ireland.

David Fragale

Dryad_David Chance Fragale

THE GUARDIAN Moloch_David Chance Fragale

THE GUARDIAN Whispering Corridor_David Chance Fragale

The most difficult thing is to see. And continue to wonder. For this reason, David Chance Fragale take photographs to escape from the places of desolation – Economic and cultural. And to tell stories that do not want to write.

David Chance Fragale official sites: http://davidfragale.wix.com/photography dcf.deviantart.com http://cargocollective.com/manwholanded https://www.facebook.com/pages/David-Chance-Fragale/203620086360196?fref=ts

Anna Meister

Unsolicited Advice to Adolescent Girls the Summer Before Heading East

after Jeanann Verlee

 

When he offers you guitar lessons, say no.

When he says you should singe your fingertips

for better calluses, become a chain-link fence.

Don’t forgo the condom because he calls your eyes

a rainforest. When the boy you think you love

fucks someone else & tells everyone about it

with a toothy grin, don’t let him kiss you

or get in your car. Claim you lost your keys.

Picture his bed cold. When he kisses you, don’t

hold your breath. Don’t leave the party

or call his friend. When he strums

his way through the song with your name in it,

don’t smile, don’t analyze. Don’t

call it romantic when two junkies get married,

or do, but know it doesn’t mean anything.

Break things to make friends. Bones, family

heirlooms. Watch the party marvel

at your one hundred & twelve pounds.

Drive across town to a house show.

Drive to Minnesota to swallow mushrooms

in an empty apartment. Don’t smile.

Make friends with all the girls, especially

the ones fucking the boy you think you love.

Kiss them when you’re drunk. Make all the boys

cheer. Make all the boys write songs

with your name in them. Be loyal

to your cigarette brand. Don’t cough.

Let the train track sleepers introduce you

as their smart friend. As a burning canvas,

a paper doll. Instead of guitar,

learn whiskey. Gulp it down

without wincing. Win

every drinking contest you enter. Earn

the nickname Fish. When you leave the party, don’t

go home with him. Tell everyone

he told you he’d been celibate. Tell them

you know he was lying. Show your teeth.

Be a canvas, a marvel, grin like the lost key.

Burn all your money. When you kiss, kiss

like a wasp. Fuck like an alley cat in heat.

 

Anna Meister is an MFA candidate in Poetry at NYU. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Sugar House Review, BOAAT, Word Riot, & Noble / Gas Qtrly. Anna was a finalist for the 2014 Button Poetry Prize. She edits poems for Mount Island Magazine, works with kindergarteners, & lives in Brooklyn.

Oliver Zarandi

Five Stories Of Starvation

Geography

This is Eratosthenes.

Picture 30

Eratosthenes was the father of what we now call geography. He was the chief librarian at the library of Alexandria and he created the first world map. As well as this, he was a noted mathematician and scientist, inventing an algorithm that discovered prime numbers to a specified limit.

Aristotle once said that the world was split into Greeks and Barbarians, and that the Greeks should remain racially pure. Eratosthenes disagreed, saying there was no one perfect set of people. Some people are good and some people are bad. Some days are good and some days are bad.

He was, too, known for his love of the outdoors, of nature, the world and its people.

So when he contracted opthalmia, he not only lost his sight but his reason to live. A man who derived so much joy from the world reasoned there was no reason to live anymore. He decided to starve himself to death. After about two weeks of starvation, his body’s natural alarm system kicked in. His body began to release different fluids in order to sustain itself just a little while longer.

He died at the age of 82, his body no bigger than a child’s.

 

Pillows

Drusus Caesar was executed for political reasons. He was put in prison to starve to death. He survived for nine days longer than expected thanks to eating the stuffing out of his pillow. Some believe he could have survived even longer had the stuffing remained in the pillow so he could rest his head on something soft instead of a cold, stone floor.

 

Ireland

Bobby Sands was a member of the IRA. He went on a hunger strike in 1981 and died after 66 days. After hearing about his death, President Abolhassan Banisadr of Iran sent a message to Bobby’s family. He offered his condolences. He also changed the name of Winston Churchill Boulevard to Bobby Sands Street, much to the Embassy of the United Kingdom’s chagrin.

Picture 31

Bobby Sands’ hunger strike was the focus of British director Steve McQueen’s film Hunger that was released in 2009.

Like a body losing its fat and function, the name of Bobby Sands has been starved too. The name, once representing one thing, now represents a multitude of things. Back in Iran, his name has been used for a shop — the Bobby Sands Burger Bar.

 

Author

At the age of 12, this author — whose father was born not far from Bobby Sands Street in Tehran — became concerned with a lump in his throat. Convinced there was a lump of bread in there, he started to try to cough it up. After a week of performing this action, the author realized he was not eating.

The lump in his throat had become a monster. Constantly rubbing his fingers upon his Adam’s apple, he was sure there was food in there. His parents told him that if he were choking, he would not be able to breathe.

Undeterred, the author ignored the advice of his parents and decided to believe the voices in his head. Slowly, he lost weight.

He often saw himself from an x-ray point of view.

Picture 32

Dinnertime was a time of dread. He would often cough with his fist to his mouth and spit the food into his hand. From there, he would lower his hand and put the food in his pockets and then ask to go to the toilet. From there he would flush it away. If there were no toilet in sight, he would place the food behind the radiator. Sometimes his father would discover the food crusted behind the radiator and shout at the author.

That is not to say that the author completely starved himself. Instead, he created a system of survival. Twice a day he would cook tomato soup on the hob. He would cook it at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. He would compliment this by sucking the salt off crisps. He would sometimes eat yoghurt, too and drink the gravy off his dinners.

He would hold his wrists to gauge how thin he was. He retreated into his own private affairs. After four years, he had forgotten why he was starving himself.

This is a picture of the author being swallowed by his clothes.

Picture 33

Coming home from school one day, his mother saw his face and cried. She said that he would die if he didn’t eat. So she took him to the doctor. The doctor put the author on Prozac. Prozac increased the author’s appetite.

His mother believed it was because he was sexually abused. The author only learned that his mother thought this years later, after he had recovered.

Although the author is better now, there are times when the author remembers that lump in his throat and wonders if it is worry about life or whether it is worry at all, or just nothing.

 

Fiction

One evening, the author laid his head down to his pillow and thought about how hungry he was. He thought he should follow Drusus’s example and eat the feathers out of his pillow. But then he realized he wouldn’t have a comfortable night’s sleep, which is what he wanted. And as he lay there, he fell asleep and had a dream that he’s been having for years now.

When the author was ill, he lived in a large Georgian house in the West Midlands of England. The house will now forever be known as a place of nightmares for him. He will never return there. Suffering is often a list of places you can’t return and this is no different.

And in the dream the author remembers the house in all its dimensions. The cold tiles in the hallway on his bare feet. The large living room with a piano resting in the half-dome frontage. A back room with two bookshelves either side of a filled-in fireplace. And then, at the back of the garden, where there was a patch of rhubarb is now a grave. The smell can be detected from halfway down the garden. The corpse’s stench is foul.

In the dream, nobody in the world has woken up yet. It is only the author who is awake at this point.

He feels guilt in his stomach. Did he do this? Did he murder somebody? He isn’t sure. He wipes sweat from his brow and decides to dig the grave and see what is lying in the ground below.

After hours of digging, he finally sees what is buried in the back of his house, the place of his nightmares but he doesn’t say what it is. This is where the author wakes up and waits for another time to catch that moment again, living for the nightmare’s answer.

 

Oliver Zarandi is a writer and editor. His latest work has appeared in The Quietus, The Boiler, Peanut Gallery Press, The Alarmist, HTMLGIANT, Dum Dum Zine and thenewerYork. You can contact him on twitter @zarandi or visit his website: www.oliverzarandi.com.

Zoe Kingsley

a concave sternum to roller-skate by

 

a conversation between a Russian Futurist and a New Yorker, recorded by a Sydney poet who dreamed in the ’80s of the latter still writing poetry ten years after his death in ’66

 

on the assembly line

don’t feel alone

amongst the masses

we’re equally concerned

with machinery

your doctor

prescribed the poem

as a nifty appliance:

an ice-box, my poet-friend suggested

or maybe something more sedate

yes! a blender

our individual populations tend to forget

the one onerous thing when

on the assembly line

/

a vibrating pin

to be punched out onto the cold sun

 

Zoe Kingsley is a writer living and studying in Norwich. She is associate editor for literary journal The Suburban Review (where her poetry can be found) and poetry co-editor for Lighthouse. She has written for music website Tone Deaf and arts magazine Rooms.

Bob Schofield

Came The Zeppelin

 

The Zeppelin came and it had soft hands. It would pet us one by one, and feed us tiny gasoline flavored cakes. We loved the Zeppelin because it could fly. It had conquered fire, and had no grass stains on its jeans. It could block out the sun. We sat in our barns and watched the Zeppelin through tubes of solid glass. We watched it do barrel rolls and spit at birds. We had always loved birds, but now we hated them. They were enemies of the Zeppelin, so they were ours as well. I remember the first time the Zeppelin ever touched me. It let me clamber through its rib, to where its guts live. The air was metal, and the world was spinning. I couldn’t breathe, but that was fine. Our barns had never looked so tiny, so manageable. It felt good to finally be part of something massive, even for a moment. Everything but your eyes and heart all turned to flame.

 

Bob Schofield is the writer and illustrator of The Inevitable June. He likes what words and pictures do. Find him at http://bobschofield.tumblr.com/ and https://twitter.com/anothertower.

Will Cox

Picture 36Picture 29Will Cox was born in Portland, Oregon, USA, studied business in Boston, and currently lives in London. He runs the Belleville Park Pages.   twitter.com/willjmcox www.bellevilleparkpages.com

Pearl Phelan & Brianne Kohl

Pearl_Phelan_02

Pearl Phelan is a photo editor and photographer from Dublin, now living in Bristol, and lived in Sydney in-between.

Obsessed with the process of painting with light and inspired by helping photographers to organise and promote themselves, she also makes pictures for herself.

Instagram.com/miss_pearl_p
Twitter @miss_pearl_p
pearlphelan.com

 

Alma Regards A Brutal Enemy

I.

Alma Villaner had known she was dying. Even if the doctors hadn’t been so clear about her prognosis, she’d known. The smell in her apartment tipped her off, like sweet fruit, rotting. She’d pestered the housekeeper for weeks before it occured to her.

Her long-dead daddy used to say he could smell sickness in his Redbone Coonhounds. He’d put one down on smell alone. Now the smell was her. She was dying. Her team of doctors confirmed it with sad knowing faces. She’d had no time for pity.

She’d enlisted the help of her estate attorney and settled her will.

She made a list of her favorite meals and even a few things she’d been meaning to try and gave the list to the housekeeper.

Alma planned her funeral and selected songs to accompany the service.

It took her days to choose the perfect invitations to beckon her family home: linen pressed paper in cream and gold with waxy glassine envelopes. She sent the order to her attorney who would see to their delivery upon her death.

She had movers come and close up her apartment in the city. She moved everything that mattered down to her little cottage in The Hamptons.

And finally, she contacted her publicist.

 

II.

Long ago, Dana danced in the surf, collecting her breaths as each surge hit. She tried jumping into the waves, through them, imagining herself a mermaid. She looked for her mother but she was gone, having slipped back up to the cottage for a nap. Dana looked for her older sister, Sissy, but she, too, was gone, having met a boy walking along the beach.

The water stung her eyes so Dana closed them tight and felt the world tilt in a queasy, watery slide. The tide hit her again and she felt the pull of the water and sand as it swept back out to sea. And, again, the waves, knocking her under, tumbling her around, pulling her askew of the horizon.

Dana tasted her own vomit and bile as it swirled with the foamy saltwater. A man splashed up to her and pulled her to shore. He had one big hand on her stomach, holding her up, as he pounded on her back.

“Are you ok?” he asked but she couldn’t speak, her throat burned with salt.

“Get away from her!” Dana heard her mother screaming from far off. “Get away!”

The man set Dana down on the sand. When he let her go, she pitched forward a little, still moving with the pulse of the ocean. He picked something up from the sand but Dana couldn’t see. The man was sunlit, his face and body thrown into shadow from the aura of sun around him.

“Smile, kid,” he said and Dana blinked as she heard the shutter of a camera. Her hair dripped in her face. Her lips were chapped and crusted in brine.

“Leave her alone!” her mother yelled, getting closer, running through the sand in her little shorts and thin tank top. Dana was on her knees at his feet. The man lifted his lens and framed her mother in the shot.

The photo became iconic. Printed as a pin-up poster, it sold millions of copies and hung from millions of walls.              

 

III.

Rebecca Regards A Brutal Enemy was Alma Villaner’s eighth feature film. It was filmed in Budapest in 1964, at the height of Alma’s popularity. It was the story of a woman, Rebecca, travelling by train from Bucharest to Vienna, who meets a mysterious man. It is always a mysterious man, living in shadows, who regards the heart and endangers the life of the innocent woman. Rebecca is thrilled by him. He turns dark, a spy, a double agent! Rebecca triumphs, en route.

Alma was nominated for an Oscar, but, ultimately, the win went to Julie Andrews for Mary Poppins.

The night of the 37th annual Academy Awards, despondent over the loss, Alma took twenty five Nembutal to help her sleep. Her daughter, Sissy, forced her fingers down her mother’s throat until she vomited.

 

IV.

The Associated Press reported that Alma died on April 3, 2003 at the age of 70 from Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). This disease affects a line of blood cells called the myeloid. It is characterized by a rapid growth of white blood cells that accumulate in bone marrow. AML progresses rapidly and is typically fatal in weeks, months if you are lucky, if left untreated.

Symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, bruising, and bleeding. The disease is devastating like brown rot on a stone fruit. It recalls the odor of cankers on a blighted peach. The cankers girdle the bones, the bones will die, the body will die.

If left untreated.              

 

V.

 

The entire family descended on Alma’s cottage in Southampton, the place where she died. The cottage gleamed bright and white: white cupboards, white floors, white carpet. Alma’s body had already been cremated. Her stepdaughter, Joy, spilled red wine on the carpet, sending Sissy into a fit.

“She went out on top, don’t you think?” Alma’s final husband, Ricky cried. “Really, what more can you ask?”

Ricky was 15 years Alma’s junior. The crying was a little over the top considering he’d once called her a “stone cold bitch” to the press. But, Ricky wasn’t half the actor Alma had been.

Dana pulled up to the house late. She made a detour around the house and walked, silent, down the path to the shore. She dropped her red windbreaker and shoes off on the dune.

She’d wondered for a long time how she would feel if anything ever happened to Alma. Now she knew. She felt nothing.            

She watched the clouds gather and darken along the horizon. She felt the salt already kissing her skin and she felt nothing.

 

VI.

The Wrath Of Desire, filmed in 1957, was Alma’s breakout role. She played the young temptress to an older man’s midlife crisis. That man, Robert Scolfield, an actor of once-great reputation, had been sliding downhill, older, older, too old for such a vibrant woman.

The magazines cried scandal because Robert was already married. Alma had been 24 years old. She’d been pregnant with Sissy before her twenty-fifth birthday.

 

VII.

Alma Villaner died six times throughout her life: four times on film (a shooting, a suicidal wrist cutting, a fall from a high rise and a stabbing) and twice in real life (the death that played out in the press of a sick, stoic woman — Legend of the Silver Screen! — and her true death, in bed, in her little cottage on the beach).

In the movies, it takes seconds to smother a person to death. But, in real life, it takes minutes, long, slow heartbeats drawn out by the intense pressure of the pillow on a woman’s face and her need to fight back even if she’s already dying, even if she’s already accepted it. She’ll claw at the hands that hold her down, unable to just give up.

Because her Daddy told her once that you never let them beat you.

Because her Mama used to laugh with her whole body until she’d shake.

Because everyone used to say she’d never be anything more than Appalachian trash.

Because the body can’t help it, wired as it is for breath.

 

VIII.

Sissy grew up in southern California in that dusty spot where the red carpet is stored.

When Alma was sick, as she was often sick back in those days, Sissy would stay with Robert.

But, he, too, needed his rest and so sometimes she would stay with Alma’s Manager. Then, Robert died and Alma, again, needed to recuperate so Sissy moved in with the Manager full-time.

But, Sissy got pregnant at 15. The Manager disappeared, unnamed on the birth certificate.

Her whole life, people always called Sissy the Little Mother – taking care of everyone around her. Even as a little girl. And, then it became fact.

It was true and then it stopped being true because Alma was furious and worked hard to hide the pregnancy. Industry insiders knew the truth, of course. Money was paid to keep the secret. But, officially, in the summer of 1973, Alma adopted a baby girl and named her Dana.

Dana, a feminine form of the name Daniel, meaning to judge or God will judge.

 

IX.

While filming Darling Star in 1976, Alma met and fell in love with her second husband, Harrison. The movie, itself, was ill-advised: the story of a washed-up, washed-out, tight rope walker who falls in love with her Ringmaster. It was meant to be Alma’s big comeback.

Filmed in Paris, Alma spent her time walking along Champs Elysées or eating at just the right places to be spotted in the press. Harrison was so dashing, Alma still so beautiful, if in a more mature way. Audiences swooned, watching them fall in love on film and in real life.

Sissy was in college. Dana was at home, cared for by nannies. Alma gave interviews, telling reporters that her children, both of her children, were her whole entire world. But, Sissy and Dana were two planets in wholly different orbits. Everything that has mass has gravity.

Darling Star featured a sex scene between Alma, Harrison and the lion tamer, a woman. It was meant to be vulnerable. Tasteful. Avant Garde, even, because the Director was the next big thing. But, it showed too much. They trusted the Director too much. The whole thing had been too much.

Alma’s marriage to Harrison was over before the film was released.

 

X.            

Alma’s final wish was to be cremated and her ashes scattered at sea. She’d arranged for a bus to take the entire family to the marina. There, a service called Paradise At Sea would take them out three nautical miles from land.

“Are you ok?” Sissy asked Dana, eclipsing her view of the dock before she could board the boat. “What did you do to your arms? They’re torn to pieces. Did someone hurt you?”

“I’m fine,” Dana answered and shouldered her way around, orbiting away. Everyone was silent as the yacht conveyed them from the marina. A champagne service followed and warm hors d’oeuvres were served. Dana watched the headlands sink away.

When the captain idled the yacht and finally dropped anchor, someone began to weep. Maybe it was Ricky or maybe a cousin. The minister began to speak. Dana and Sissy moved together towards the back of the boat. Sissy carried her mother’s ashes in a glass-sheen mahogany box.

“Did you love her?” Dana asked, whispered it like a child whispers to her sister at night, in the dark, when they both should be asleep.

“She was my mother,” Sissy responded and opened the lid. “Did you?”

Dana untied the plastic bag within, opening the mouth wide. Inside, she’d expected to see nothing but ash. Instead she found all that was left of Alma was course sand and tiny sharp fragments of bone.

Together, the women released Alma’s remains to the sea, watched dust and bone swirl with the white foam of the boat’s wake.

“She was my mother,” Dana finally answered and tasted ash on her lips.

 

Brianne M. Kohl is a fiction writer living in North Carolina and writing about places all over the map. She has been featured in several publications including The Stoneslide Corrective and The Master’s Review: New Voices. She is a multiple Pushcart Prize nominee. For a full list of her publications, please visit www.briannekohl.com. Follow her on twitter: @BrianneKohl

Emma Rayward

My most commonly googled phrase is ‘Disney Channel Original Movies from the 1990s and 2000s’ (A Love Story)

 

I would like to rub dirt all over your face and then lick it off

I would take fistfuls of your hair and put them in my mouth

I would tie you to the bed using garbage ties

I would wrap us both up in a wet, muddy tarp

I want to peel you like a banana.

 

I want to look at you in the eye while eating this banana and discussing Deleuze

I want to look at you in the eye while picking my nose

I want to look at you in the eye while I wipe my butt after doing a really great poop

I want to show you how my body is a Möbius strip, how it has neither an inside nor an outside, that its front is its back, that you could trace the entirety of me and return back to where you started without lifting your finger.

 

 

When you look at me I want you to see my flesh and my blocked pores and the discharge that occasionally leaks out and my heart that beats faster because I perceive a non-existent threat, a heartbeat which quickens because of my anxious mind and a body that shakes because of a nervous heart and the sweat between my breasts that I will wipe on my shirt, and the bubbles I pop between my knuckles, and my tongue, all white because I don’t drink enough water.

 

I want you to see that we could have a good conversation and that I might make you laugh and that I’m about to cry.

 

 

My skin will soon grow into the dirty sheet beneath me, and then into the dirty mattress beneath that, stained with blood and cum and sweat, rabbit piss, nail polish and coffee.

 

I will become a part of my mattress and someone new will sleep upon me, or I will be thrown upon the street.

 

If you choose to take me home I will watch as you cover me with biscuit crumbs, step on me with dirty soles, and lay on me, crying, because sometimes crying feels good.

 

I am ok now because I have turned into a mattress and can only feel mattress feelings, which at present is only either damp or cold.

 

I would try to hug you but you know I am only a mattress so I cannot move but if I could think anything more than my mattress thoughts, I promise I would want to. I don’t know if I would always wish to feel your body’s weight sagging upon me, or hope you would have something other to do than be in bed.

 

 

Have you ever cried while watching The Cheetah Girls? Or The Wizards of Waverly Place?

It’s like opening up a door to a parallel universe of your life.

 

The door is small but you can squeeze through and when you’re on the other side all you can think is ‘what the fuck am i doing? I don’t think this is cool’ and you turn around but the door has closed and is flashing a neon sign with ‘TOO LATE MOTHA FUCKA’ or ‘ur stuck here 4 lyf’, so you turn back to either an episode of Lizzie McGuire or the movie version and slouch into a beanbag with a box of pizza shapes and try to forget that life you had before, because you will probably be happy here with the live-studio-audience-pre-recorded-applause-tape romantic relationships that resolve happily,

 

and you’re okay with that because in your world everyone dies but here they only get cancelled.

 

Emma has recently completed her creative honours thesis titled ‘Topology of Abject Bodies’, she is interested in holes and surfaces and things moving through holes to reach surfaces.

 

You can follow her on:

Twitter.com/afinedeadsound

Tumblr.com/forafinedeadsound

Stephen Totterdell

Leonard Grape

 

Marmalade’s house looked mighty. No picket fence, now, but a certain Schickimicki exuded from the place, you know? Laura K and I tread up those cobbled steps like we might set off an alarm. Marmalade answered the door and I explained that we wanted to workshop a few jokes with him. He said “No, thank you, I’m busy,” and I managed to get my foot crushed in the door as he closed it. “Here,” I told him, “We’re both comics. Can we send you an email?” Marmalade pushed me backwards onto the porch, closed the door, and locked up. I banged again but got no answer from the damn recluse.

 

Laura K packed some ice onto my foot and we considered our ganz limited options. Nearby there was one of those awful ghost estates that housed a small human community. Here, Laura K told me, we could find the impresario and comic master Leonard Grape. I said “Grape’s got an instinct for this stuff,” and Laura K told me our artistic capital would win us entry. I longed for the respect that loads of cash had brought me in the past – my comedy capital had hit a low and was declining by the year.

 

The estate was quieter than we’d thought – Teufel, es war deserted. We pushed open the gate to Brownlow Residences and once we stepped inside the air changed – lights went on, eyes appeared behind bins, air freshener from a fucking industrial hose began spraying down one of the yards. I said as loudly as I could: “We’re here to see Leonard Grape. We’re comedians.” Something awful came scuffling our way, shaking the bins, causing Laura K to rub her earlobes like she used to. A door opened: number 17. When we found our way to the staircase, we looked up – quiet and intimidating stood Leonard Grape, hair flattened, eyes red, and a million other things (would you say enigmatic? The man had achieved near-Williams popularity). “Mr. Grape,” said Laura K, leaving my mind to wander, “We have a few questions about your stories.”

 

Inside his apartment we examined the fruits of a life in comedy. A TV – a fucking TV – and a microwave in the kitchen, a copy of Humans Quarterly. Couple of bean bags and a couch, and a chair, and no place to stand, really, in the living room. “What would you like to know?” he asked us. Not knowing exactly what to say, I launched into a Kommentar about comedy that I’d posted on one of his videos, “No shit what I’d like to know, what I’d like to know is how you write things that are both funny and relevant, provocative and real, and things that don’t come across as full of effort and reverence. You wanker.”

 

Grape rattled off a couple of one-liners, none of which were particularly funny, desperate, even, and then he handed us each a copy of his first collection Loving Your Robotic Husband. “You can read the mistakes I made, you can see the immature sense of humour,” he said to us, “Read my work in sequence and see how I improved.” I flicked through a couple of stories, which consisted of jokes about fucking and semen and farts. Real ‘early work’ kind of material. And yeah, so the stories drew on these adolescent experiences, but Grape took, frankly, remarkable lessons from each bodily function. If one could fart, one could live. While I analysed the stories, Grape and Laura K retreated all blushes and giggles to the bedroom. We left the estate eighteen days later when Laura K emerged from that bedroom, her eyes cold; her mouth wet.

 

She opened her new show. “I’ll tell you what humans are like,” she said, “They try to drink milk and it comes out their nose!” The robots guffawed, recognising the event from their own lives. Backstage I said to the catering staff, “She’s funnier than I thought. Grape really had something.” When Laura K came off stage I hugged her, but she screamed “Don’t touch me!” and I jumped off her, embarrassed as anything –  I could feel the stares. I asked her what the problem was and she said something total untrue and hurtful.

 

And her career took off. The worst thing that can happen when somebody disses you is that they become successful. Bullies are supposed to fail, right, wash the dishes and sweep the floors of society? Nobody liked my comedy anymore, and they loved this milk shit Laura K was coming out with. I visited Marmalade in the hopes of piggybacking on his jealousy for the new Comedy Matriarch. When I showed him my scripts and sketches he asked me the most important question you can ask a writer: “Where did you write these?” I laughed, and said “On a park bench, while feeding some robot pigeons!” He guffawed, and I knew I’d struck gold – it was the perfect trans-machine joke: a joke that appealed to both humans and robots – a joke that would take me to the top.

 

Marmalade took me to his viewing room, which by now was adorned with posters of Laura K. She’d advertised whiskey, she had written and produced two sitcoms, a sell-out stand-up tour, and was just getting started in the movies. “I’m studying her,” Marmalade activated his WebScreen – a fucking WebScreen, “Her act contains something; an unknown – I don’t want to say variable and sound like a robot cliché, but that’s precisely it.” Now came my moment to shine – my moment to prove to Marmalade that I had value as an investigative comedian: I produced Grape’s book Loving Your Robotic Husband. “She’s got something of Grape’s. We don’t know what. But something happened in that bedroom.”

 

In the ethers of the comedy club I found an audience. With a bunch of rehashed Grape jokes – and a Laura K style cynicism – I got a couple of robots chuckling. “Would that you loved my own jokes, oder?” But man, if the damn robots didn’t leave me just as soon as Marmalade – a robot, of course – started next door.

 

One night after a show in which I’d damn near hugged an audience member to get a response, I ‘tuned in’ to Robot Letterman. Laura K sat there, bathing in the love of the crowd. I repeated my trans-machine joke to myself and chuckled. On screen, Laura K acted pally with Robot Letterman. She brought up the recent human relocation to Frankfurt – “This one girl,” she said, “Said ‘Do they even acknowledge our existence? Why does nobody do anything about the ignorance of the Robot Empire?’ And then she did something about it – she killed herself.” Robot Letterman began to guffaw and then the fact registered. “She engaged in suicide?” he asked. Laura K said yes. The robots were silent, not recognising the event from their own lives.

 

“You’re saying she shut her body down?” asked Robot Letterman. On the WebScreen – I had gone and bought a fucking WebScreen – I analysed Laura K’s meticulously planned facial movements. Manipulative arsehole. This wasn’t comedy. “Yes,” said Laura K, “She stabbed herself twice in the heart.” Her eyes focused in that way I’d only seen on the day she left Leonard Grape’s bedroom. Robot Letterman stood up, “We must find the body!” he exclaimed, “We will find this poor girl’s body and feast upon it! Then we will dedicate downtown L.A. to the girl!” Cheers from the robot audience, then Robot Letterman led them out of the studio and onto the streets.

 

I dialed Laura K – I was probably drunk – and said “Hey, do you want to hear my trans-machine joke?” I said it to her and she laughed.

I said “Do you have any jobs on your show, you need writers, right?”

She said “Nee, not just now.”

I said “I’m a good writer, and I’m not doing viel for the next few months,”

“So write a show. You’re good. Write and perform.”

“But have any of your writers left?”

“No.”

I hung up and texted Marmalade to see if he wanted to go get some pussy with me, but the fucker was married or something. Schade.

 

The suicide story began to attract accusations of dishonesty and manipulation in the robot press. Audiences began to turn on Laura K, and somebody posted some of her nudes online. On the other hand, with strong hate comes strong love – and her Altona apartment had become a mecca for progressive comedy fans. I joined the throng one evening, and felt surprised to see Marmalade front and center. “We want more knowledge of suicide!” Marmalade said at full volume, “We want the statistics!” A few robots had set up tents on the green, and a few others had set up a database to trawl for information on suicide. “Laura K is our prophet,” shouted Marmalade, “And we will no longer be complicit in the injustices of the Robot Empire! Save the humans!”

 

I sat down on the grass and pulled out a flask of green tea. A tap on my shoulder – it was Leonard Grape. He sat down beside me, more amiable and open than before – maybe he’d drunk from the autism cup – and said “Tell me your famous trans-machine joke.” I said it to him, and he said “That’s terrible.” As angry as I felt at his dismissal, I knew that Grape – protege of the grand Tim Moran – couldn’t be wrong. I said “I’ve waited eight years to get a proper sitcom and Laura K has her own sitcom where is mine I’m the best.” Grape listened, saying little, and then passed me a copy of his book Divorcing Your Farts.

 

We moved to a lakeside cafe and turned on the WebScreen to see Laura K stripped of her show on WDR, given another show on Arte, and generally shunted around. WDR sued her for insisting that a girl had killed herself. The middle-aged robot waiter serving us got an autograph from Grape, and in return he offered us a few of his pitiful jokes. Ach. He didn’t recognise me. Sometimes I wished for the old economy again, for the respect that loads of cash had brought me – a billionaire at 28! I told the robot waiter my perfect trans-machine joke. He laughed. I knew the joke was a failure because the robot was middle-aged. I said it again. He laughed again. I felt so empty. Grape put his hand on mine, as if to say “Don’t worry, my son,” When he spoke again, his voice sounded weary and faded. I got the impression that he might be fatally ill. I asked him if this was so, and he said yes.

 

Grape snuggled his fingers through mine – through me – his lesser protege; or maybe just a reminder that he still had fans (did he even know my name?). As he held my fingers the life drained from his eyes until I held the hand of a corpse. His hair was still wet from the rain. I called out to the robot waiter, who asked “Is this a suicide?” He pulled Grape’s hair, “We have to stop more suicides.” I said no, I didn’t think this was a suicide. The robot waiter said something hurtful so I lashed out and called him a “Stupid robot!” I looked at Grape, who was dead. The robot waiter repeated my perfect, trans-machine joke to me, and I said “That’s copyrighted,” but I knew he didn’t care. I knew he would repeat it to customers.

 

I visited Laura K in Altona, where she was still paying off Arte’s lawsuits. Her lawyer sat by her, rifling through fines and criminal records. We lamented the comedic landscape, and I said “Arte really did a number on you,” and then “I think Leonard Grape killed himself.” She took me to her balcony – away from the ears of her lawyer – and said “There’s too little room for development here,” she pulled me closer, “Too little room to become myth; there’s only one way to become Leonard Grape.” Laura K climbed the balcony railing and jumped. Holy shit.

 

Stephen Totterdell is a writer and film scholar from Dublin. He lives in a large area.

Twitter: @sjtotterdell

Josh Silver

A Landscape

Hydro

Mirror Stage

Josh Silver is a photographer and architecture student in Toronto. He is an editor for Eyescream ‘zine, dealing with the Toronto hardcore music community and is a member of the Situate//Design//Build architecture collective and design studio. Links: http://eyescreamzine.tumblr.com/

Elinor Abbott

Rooms I’ve Lived In

 

The Under the Blanket Room, Colorado, Fall 1999:

I have the second dorm room from the end of the hall, next to the only black female I have ever spoken to in my life. She tells me, “I bet everyone thinks they’re having a diverse college experience because I live on their floor.” Her roommate is a tall blonde who looks like an ad for milk. My own roommate is a hair-swinging hippie from the other side of the Rocky Mountains, who smokes a lot of pot and has already lived on her own. She puts up Alex Grey posters, which disturb me. I tape up a picture of Milla Jovovich over my computer screen because I am determined to never use it. I have the bed next to the window, overlooking a courtyard. I prop my bed up with cement blocks so it’s perfectly level with the window. You could lay in my bed, flush to the window, and experience the illusion that you might roll out of it. I smoke cigarettes in bed and draw pictures of pill bottles and blue colored squares and people kissing. I spend many hours with a red blanket I brought from home stretched over my head, feeling relieved that the world can be brought down to such a manageable size. I listen to From the Choirgirl Hotel by Tori Amos. I read Milan Kundera and Michael Ondaatje and Arundhati Roy. At night I dream that I write all my secret thoughts about myself in red pen on the window, then a friend comes and wipes them all away. I write daily, sometimes hourly, in a green spiral bound journal decorated with a postcard of two children trying to bite a red apple. I am a virgin. I wear an oversized beige sweater that I call ‘the Kurt Cobain’ and a dog collar as a choker. I live here for one semester.

 

The Hellmouth Room, Colorado, Summer 2000:

I live in a white box with a window overlooking the driveway. I have no artwork on the walls, no furniture of my own, just a small tv on the dresser opposite the bed. It’s the dead of summer, the sun arrogantly perched in the cloudless sky. Pickled by ennui, I take long, lonely drives into the foothills, blaring Not a Pretty Girl by Ani DiFranco. I am alone in a three-bedroom townhome. All my college friends are gone for the summer and the town feels post-apocalyptic. The townhouse could easily be the setting for a horror movie; anonymous, beige and evil. I take the upstairs bedroom. The basement bedrooms, during the previous semester, were scenes for the following crimes: 1.) my attempted suicide 2.) my roommate’s assault by a man who broke through her window in the dead of night. We both went back to our families of origin afterwards, paying rent on our empty bedrooms, brains addled with PTSD. But eventually I drive back to this sarcophagus and try to breathe life into it. I smoke cigarettes in bed until noon and watch Gandhi and Doctor Zhivago in the bright, merciless sunshine pouring through my window. I occasionally wander from the TV in my bedroom to the TV in the living room so I can watch Survivor. I have an ensuite where I kneel over the tub to bleach my hair. Everything has a tinge of the surreal. I have no internet or cell phone. It’s the year of reading Sylvia Plath and Suzanna Kaysen. I sometimes wander through the empty downstairs rooms to look at the various crime scenes, as though I am haunting the townhouse. I live in this room for one month.

 

The Vampire Room, Colorado, Spring 2001:

I live at the bottom of the stairs in another three-bedroom townhouse. I live with Milk ad and the Hellmouth roommate, who is trying to move forward from living at the Hellmouth as much as I am. I have a calendar of Audrey Hepburn, a poster of Jenny Holzer’s billboard haikus and postcards from Bizarre magazine taped to the walls. I read Douglas Coupland. I am kissed passionately, and drunkenly, by a very handsome, pixieish man with a girlfriend. I get the spins and lay down on my bed. He shakes my shoulder a few times in frustration but leaves me alone. I steal the address of a friend of a friend I’ve never met and begin to anonymously send him collages I make. I write everything down in a journal/planner of vintage Harley Davidson posters, though I have no interest in motorcycles. I forget my laundry in the washer for two days and am shocked when I pick my clothes up and they’re stiff. “You have to put them in the drier right away,” Hellmouth roommate informs me. Hellmouth roommate has long curly hair and sometimes we stand in Milk ad’s en suite and “try on” her hair by flopping it over our own heads. We get high and Milk ad tells me she wonders if I’m a vampire because I stay in my room all day and only come out at night to go wait tables. I feel this is an unfair, but accurate, depiction of my lifestyle. I wear a floor length black sweater that is open in the front. A friend observes that it looks like I am “wearing a bathrobe”. I smoke cigarettes in bed and listen to the Sex Pistols and Bikini Kill. I live here for six months.

 

The Ghost Room, Minnesota, Winter 2002:

I live in a large hall closet inside a huge but unkempt apartment. I live with my friend the Swede and his friend from high school, who never speaks to me, but does lend me his copy of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. I loan him Culture Jam by Kalle Lasn in return. It is our only interaction. There is a huge window inside my “room” that looks out over an immaculate Victorian mansion, so it is not too bad. I have an Egon Schiele poster above my bed, though I don’t know who Egon Schiele is, and think maybe he’s some kind of graffiti artist since his style looks very modern to me. I smoke cigarettes in bed, ashing into a silver dragon I bought in Thailand. I look at pictures of food inside of a cookbook instead of eating. One night in my bedroom, I suddenly feel the ghost of my Grandfather next to me. I put down my book and say, “hello?” but nothing happens. I listen to Heartbreaker by Ryan Adams. My friend with Cleopatra hair spends the night and we see a blue ghost/spirit/demon inside the Victorian mansion across the street, but it turns out just to be a man jerking off to porn on his laptop. I write in a fuzzy fabric journal with red embroidered flowers from Urban Outfitters. Sometimes Cleopatra and I go into the Swede’s room, which he has painted bright red, and request that he play songs on his guitar that we can sing to, like To Be With You by Mr. Big. The Swede tells me I should try Gmail and invites me to join. We share a computer in the dining room. There is almost no furniture in the entire apartment. I call it ‘the dance studio’. I keep everything on shelves built above my bed. I read Kurt Vonnegut. Every day I wear a denim jacket with an army surplus hoodie underneath, jeans and sneakers. I live here for six months.

 

The NYC Loft, Colorado, Fall 2003:

I live in a loft over my kitchen. When people come to visit and say, “this is like something you’d see in New York!”, I think they’re saying that my apartment is very metropolitan and trendy, but what they’re actually saying is that it is small and insane. I’m roomates with Milk ad again. She lives in a loft above the living room. You can’t stand up in our lofts, only crouch. You crawl up to them on an unsafe ladder. There is no smoke detector. The apartment is part of a historic, dilapidated mansion that looks like someone split up a Scooby Doo set with a hacksaw. The owner is a crazy person who asks me to read his hand drawn comics. Milk ad and I throw a party with the other tenants where we tour each other’s bizarre apartments. Through the wall of my loft, I can hear my neighbor practice singing; he is an aspiring folk musician, who once helped me figure out the most effective way to sell my klonopin to some coworkers. I cut up old songbooks from the 1920’s and paste their forlorn chanteuses up around the rim of my room. I smoke cigarettes in bed and listen to Parachutes by Coldplay. Milk ad and I host a women’s book group and our friend brings bon bons from the chocolate shop she works at. We read Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Christanne Northrup. I buy an old dresser, paint it pink and line the drawers with fabric that looks like Cookie Monster. I wear a red A line skirt with a black skull on it and a black halter top. My roommate comes up my ladder, takes a sniff and says, “You do know you have to change the sheets every time you have sex, right?”. I had been too in love to worry about it. We scream at each other because she eats my food and I never do the dishes. We do not have internet, so I walk to campus when I need to check my email or write in my Livejournal. I feel as fragile and bright as a bell. Life is slowly smuggling in lessons to me about adulthood, like wrapping a pill in cheese so your cat will eat it. I never hurt myself going up and down that ladder drunk, which is something of a miracle. I live here for two years.

 

Elinor Abbott has previously published by The Hairpin, Human Parts, Bright Wall/ Dark Room and other publications. Her chapbook, ‘Is This The Most Romantic Moment of My Life?’ is forthcoming from Banango Editions. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland and blogs at littlethousand.tumblr.com.

Clare Cholerton

Old is Just a Mood.

 

Waiting for someone to take her t-shirt off,

 

that girl with pink hair and black caterpillar eyebrows she just met

or the guy who sells her pizza at 2am on saturdays with an eyebrow piercing that manages to be sexy,

 

she has been wearing the same t-shirt for six months now.

Since she walked out leaving a ruby earring behind & a note that said ‘xxx’ in purple biro pen.

She learns to never leave rubies behind.

 

OLD IS JUST A MOOD

 

written in bold on the front, let thoughts go floating into sentimental collage.

 

She’s sitting on a London park bench, no notation where, just that she is under a leafless grey tree,

staring at the photo on her phone of Doron Baga, the latest Boko Haram onslought.

 

‘I walked through five villages and each one was empty except for dead bodies’.

 

The accompanying photo cause you to look to long at it and not the article. Isn’t that was beauty is?

blots of ink smoke stains in that red you only get from a homemade Tikka Masala curry.

 

You could project the photograph upon a large white wall in a Palais de Tokyo and everyone would think it was art.

 

All the wooden fishing boats of the destroyed villages have fled off down stream,

leaving the villages ablaze, each house empty except for debris that hands couldn’t grab.

Any hands left behind linger as daydreams of death in a survivors mind.

 

She sees the movement of alive bodies around her.

Fluro pink shoes running laps around the park. Shadows of ponytails that bounce left to right with the prance of feet.

 

She takes of her t-shirt. She’s not wearing a bra. Folds it. Leaves it on the bench.

 

Clare Cholerton