“VERSUS” by Alessandra Occhiolini

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There are only a few stories
There’s man against man
Man versus animal, animal versus man
(the order is different, it means different things)
Man versus woman, woman versus man,
Woman versus a lot of men (familiar), a lot of men versus a woman (too familiar)
Patriarchy versus matriarchy (think Zeus’ takeover of Olympus)
The matriarchy strikes back (unfamiliar, please write)
Man versus concept, concept versus man,
Reagan versus the AIDS crisis (a fiction in which disaster does not exist, too common)
Kangaroos versus the court, the court versus the kangaroos
The Russian government versus the uncertified bones of Anastasia and Alexei
The bodies at the door versus the coercive government (where will we bury them)
Man versus body, brains in bodies, brains that won’t die (we loved this in the ‘50s)
Mummies versus the tomb raiders (I only want to see it ordered this way)
Mall goths versus the elephant seals down at the beach
A genderqueer orgy versus the RA down the hall
Dionysus arrives in Thrace, battles city
King Kong and Godzilla versus the skyscrapers, King Kong versus Godzilla
Monster animal man body matriarchy versus those thunderclouds over there
The body in the corner of the classroom versus survival
That’s the thing, there’s only a few stories, If you’re not a mummy, an orgy, a kangaroo, how to tell yours? 

 

Alessandra Occhiolini is a writer and academic at UW-Madison who needs to learn to be more pretentious and stop talking about Godzilla. Her work has been published in Palo Alto Weekly, The Claremont Review, and The Swarthmore Review. 

“Dispatch from L.A Public Transit” by Joshua Hebburn

46153009445_eaa6e9efaa_o.jpg Valentines day. Down below Union Station a subway car has released people. There is a subway in Los Angeles. It undergrounds from D.T.L.A to Hollywood and Westwood. Connectors, buses and a couple other light rail lines, attach and lead into many other counties of this city. 

I will take either train down below a couple of stops today to no Valentines special, just a scheduled meal downtown and some chatter. It happened to fall on this discrete day. Neither of us thought.

The concoursing of people out-from and in-to the shopping area, down and up the stairs to the Red and Purple lines, is disrupted. I have taken trains and buses for years, I have acquired a feel. It’s in how people are different in density, grouped less tightly, having been pulled back by something. It’s in their attitude, how they look backwards, or occasionally are making remarks to one another as clear strangers, a violation of good conduct under normal circumstances. Privacy is the sovereign value on the metro. 

I take the first de-escalator, down, anticipating.

This is one of the few places and times in Los Angeles you see a flow of people, rather than a gleaming bump or glimmering swish of cars. It is always a sight, populated like Los Angeles the city, by all human variation. Here all the people are again, today. There is the disruption, excitement backwards to it, but there is also Valentine’s day in the crowd. It can’t have been too bad, whatever it is. People are mostly calm. I look around more.

My heart rises in my chest. I am in an instant love sliding down the escalator and looking. It’s not with somebody, but with all these people in love with somebody, or at least in affection. Young and old, dark brown skin, tan skin, pale pinkish and whitish skin, holding hands, pecking rapid kisses, grasping boxes and bags and big bright bouquets, roses but also some sunflowers, a bunch of lillies, a bunch of tulips, one ridiculous orchid up-sticking, and people laughing. It is abundant. The focused or gently disturbed faces of regular commuters only sharpens the contrast like sand that a bar of gold is laid on. 

There is a landing between the escalators and the underground true, the tunnels. The disruption is on the landing, and approaches me as I approach. There are the chest-high yellow cones, tight pyramids, separating with their yellow yell. They have caution tape wound around them at the top to prohibit a zone. The darker yellow of the tape, the blocky san-serif lettering, holds a hand up. People move around, looking in.
A policeman stands off to one side, fat blueblack, with no definite aim other than his authority. The altercation is over. The cleaning crew is arriving off to another side, orange vests on baby blue metro shirts.

Inside the cones and tape is an almost empty space. On the tile are rose petals and thick drops of blood. Somebody has really gotten the thorns. 

I get on another de-escalator. There is an unpleasant humid wind in this open underground part of the station. It is caused by the displacement of air when another train arrives. I get on a train. That, I think, is the best fuck you I’ve ever seen. And what a day.

 


Joshua Hebburn lives in Los Angeles. His fiction is in Lazy Susan, X-R-A-Y’s Boneyard Issue, Maudlin House, and Hobart.

Twitter: @joshuahebburn

“Wild Goose Hunt” By Molly Gabriel

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He spots me alone at the party and hands me a beer and tells me the story of the cement goose.

The goose resided on his next-door neighbor’s front porch. It dawned outfits to match occasions. The obvious being a red Santa coat and hat for Christmas and bunny ears for Easter. But it also celebrated obscure milestones: a yellow rain slicker for April Showers and a tuxedo for the local high school prom. 

Actually, he remembers, the tux had only just been removed a few days before his abduction. This detail was highlighted in the neighbor woman’s letter to the local editor. She pleaded that the goose served as the family’s only pet and cherished heirloom. She titled the letter, “Who would do such a thing” with an exclamation point instead of a question mark.

I actually still have the clipping at my parents’ house in Ohio, he adds.

I do not question this.

He says he wrapped his arms around the goose and pushed it from their porch. He struggled the bird into the car and drove to a friend’s—after slipping a pillowcase over its head. When they arrived, he ripped it off. Two guys wrestled the bird from the car. The gander crashed to the drive with such force that its head cracked clean from the body. 

He says he scooped the head from the pavement and drew Xs over the eyes. 

He says he decided they couldn’t afford to keep the body. 

You need to dispose of the body, he reminds me. No body, no crime.

They loaded the goose’s body back into the car. They drove to a bridge. They dragged it out and dumped the flightless, faceless bird into the river. 

You know the river? The Cuyahoga. He says Burned through Cleveland. 

I imagine him then: pulling a crisp, white pillowcase over the cement goose’s head and driving, serenely, to his friend’s house—the 

He sets down his beer. I move up the stairs. He follows. He’s not talking about the goose anymore.

mounting hysteria in the backseat: the flapping of wings, desperate hissing, shitting and  struggling—his throwing open the door and fighting the body from the seat with his          weight in his heels;

I step into an empty bedroom. I don’t know how I know. No, I’m sure I’ll find it. 

the head freed from the body, black blood pooling on the pavement; the new silence of      the gone bird; motionless cement wings shoved and cajoled back into the car.

He takes the tuxedo. He changes quickly. He grins. I lead, pull him back down the stairs by the hand. I open the front door. He follows me through.

I study him: sleeves too long, pants dragging beneath his sneakers, and the limp, dangling bowtie. But I put my arms around him. (He gasps at my pressure.)

And I push.

 

Molly Gabriel is a writer and poet from Cleveland, Ohio. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Queen Mobs Tea House, After Alexei, and Jellyfish Review. She is the recipient of the Robert Fox Award for Young Writers. She has been selected for flash readings with Bridge Eight Literary Magazine and the Jax by Jax Literary Festival. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband and toddler.

Twitter: @m_ollygabriel.

“ANOTHER WAY TO STAY CALM” by Sean Thor Conroe

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Another way to stay calm is to focus on the miracle of your shelter.
Of your amenities.
Your refrigeration.
Septic.
To turn away from things like the length of the day, the stamina required to endure its sheer duration.
How there’s no one you want to go see.
Nowhere to walk.
How seeing no one, walking nowhere, seems somehow like Not Partaking.
Not Engaging.
To instead Settle In.
Windowside.
Porch-posted.
On your roof.
The wildest luxury: private outdoor space.
And if no private: public will do.
Public made private by your sphere perimeter.
By the focus field of the thing you doin.
The breath boundary of your book.
Out here nah’m sayin dwelling.
You gon’ be alright.

Sean Thor Conroe lives in Harlem.

3 Poems by Mike Andrelczyk

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sitcom

always imagine
a laugh track
behind every situation in your life

 

Halloween Costume Idea

The uncaring eye of a hungry shark
A negative of an eye
like blood swirling down a shower drain
an eye like a void
like I’m taking your fucking candy
and vanishing your life
doomed to nothingness
not even infinity ya fuck
just death
your kid will love this costume

 

Mike Andrelczyk lives in Strasburg, PA. He is the author of the chapbook “The Iguana Green City & Other Poems” (Ghost City Press, 2018). Find more work at neutral spaces.co/mikeandrelczyk.

twitter: @MikeAndrelczyk

 

“Special Attention” by Ryle Lagonsin

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At one point, I had resolved that it was something to do with my face. Perhaps I looked as if I beckoned, it seemed, like I was pleading for attention.

The first time I noticed someone staring it frightened me. I was four. Maybe three and a half. I was in a dress shop for children with my mother and it frightened me. The way his eyes bore into me, pierced through me with an invisible red light like laser beams. My mother didn’t notice. Whenever I brought it up here and there, she’d say I was probably imagining it. 

“Yes, Hannah, you were probably simply imagining it. Wouldn’t I have noticed if there was a man glaring at you that time? Wouldn’t I have— and, anyway, I remember it differently from how you tell it. Yes, differently because from what I remember, you were screaming and kicking and crying your eyes out.”

Then, she’d laugh and say ‘it’s fine,’ as if a screaming toddler anywhere was cute and acceptable and nothing at all like what it actually is, which is annoying. Then, she’d plant her palm on my cheek and she’d look close to crying and I’d both love and hate her because of that sudden change in her face with her hand on mine.

Besides, I remembered neither screaming nor kicking. I didn’t remember ever doing that. I only remembered the man staring at me when I was four or three in the dress shop. He wasn’t staring maliciously, no. Not menacingly, sinisterly, or treacherously, really. No. His stare was merely intent, I would say. As though he was digging, searching for something inside me for no particular reason that I could think of, and that frightened me.

Over time I suppose, I learned not to mind it. I wasn’t friends with anyone in school. None of the other children thought me worthy of company but the teachers loved me. I knew they did. They adored me. I wasn’t the smartest or the prettiest or the most useful in class but the teachers stamped stars on the back of my hands, never called on me if I didn’t know the answer. Gave me candy whenever I failed a test. They loved me. Many adults seemed to.

One time this girl sat in front of me out of nowhere. I was fourteen then and she looked fourteen. My Dad and I went out for burgers and he had gone to the restroom, so I was sitting alone in the booth and this girl just appeared in front of me. She started talking in this foreign language – foreign, well, because I couldn’t understand it – and contorting, pulling her face in different directions and I heard snickers and muffled laughs behind me. She left before Dad returned. She carried the snickers and laughs out the door with her. The old waitress smiled at me afterwards. Said our meal was on the house and several times, while we ate, I could feel her eyes on me. I was uncomfortable. Dad ordered another milkshake.

From time to time, I saw them, adults, wince once or twice from afar before they approached me. Before they smiled. And the look in their eyes would suddenly changed as they approached. Even my grandparents used to do that. My Aunts and Uncles would do that before they dragged my cousins over to say hello. It happened at every family reunion, and I guess it felt good that I was always given the third best place to sit, after my grandparents. I guess it felt good that my Aunts and Uncles doted on me while they hissed at their children to get their own food. I never became close to any of my cousins.

Anyway, I just turned eighteen tonight. I’m meeting this guy I met online. He’s 21 so he can drink and go to casinos and do whatever. He asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I said ‘to never ask for permission again.’ 

“no rly wut do u wnt? ill get u smthn.”

I asked for a lighter and a bottle of cheap wine. He texted back: weirdo :))

His car pulls up and it’s half two AM. I’m five streets away from my house.

“I’m coming back tomorrow, okay? Family’s coming over,” I tell him.

“No problem,” he replies. Sniggers. Tilts the rearview mirror down a bit. “Here’s to adulthood then.”

I catch my reflection. I see my face. I find nothing special.

 

Ryle Lagonsin is a writer from Laguna, Philippines. Currently, she is working on a novella-in-flash, although she thinks it might morph into something else. She still finds social media “quite creepy,” but has learned to tolerate it “to a certain extent.”

3 Poems by Mike Andrelczyk

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motion sensors 

I like the lights that light up
Just a step ahead of me
Like they are
Following me from the future
And reminding me I am
Alive
And I am
Parked here in the cool lime green
Of Level 3 West

 

Jim Atkins

the sun comes through the automatic doors
like a dead star and stops
to watch a news report
on the opioid crisis
while Jim Atkins sings
you took the twinkle out of my eyes
and I am less and less
integrated with anything
even though that is everything

 

snakes can’t chase you on deserts made of silk

three vultures waiting in the teeth of a plow
two suns fast-forwarding up and down
one bar of soap dissolving into bubbles in the stream

tall grass whispering a story about a pie-eyed drunk
in the hallway of an apartment building he doesn’t live in
apologizing about all the dirt

and the pale corpse on the moon
and the tarantula crossing the linoleum floor
and the lurid gem in your cereal milk

sorry, I know, this should have been funnier
or at least came to a point

but one morning still in bed
you said that thing about the snakes
and that was good
remember that?

 

Mike Andrelczyk lives in Strasburg, PA. He is the author of the chapbook “The Iguana Green City & Other Poems” (Ghost City Press, 2018). Find more work at neutral spaces.co/mikeandrelczyk.

twitter: @MikeAndrelczyk