“resume builder” by SR Gorski

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A2

I lay naked in the tub with my back flat and feet up on the wall underneath the shower head, while using my feet to turn the knobs. The water has not yet reached my ears—wait, there it is, the vacuum-packing sound and low rumble of water seeping into my ear-canal. I bear it. Then the island of dryface gets slowly enveloped. As the tide makes its way into my nostrils I try to resist the choking sensation of water passing through my nasal passage and down my throat. Everything but periscoping pursed lips submerged, and I know I must look ridiculous. I stop right as the toohot water begins tipping over my lips directly into my mouth. And in a low-grade, self-asphyxiated epiphany it comes to me. Right at this moment I get THE idea: the ultimate résumé builder…

B2

 “In the tub? No dearth of womb symbolism for you Tommy,” Dolly, my agent, says. She hadn’t looked at my face since I walked in her office. Cheap polyfiber carpet rapids mire her floor in homage to Dolly’s penchant for furniture rearrangement. Her intern, Josh, had bought mover’s gloves months ago after catching on to his boss’s obsessive tendencies. “Think about it Dolly.” It’s fool-proof, I’ll land a job within the month. Modern minimalism meets performance art meets stigmata. An indomitable work of genius,” I say triumphantly. She is fully on board. Dolly calls in Josh and he begins dragging an aluminum filing cabinet between our conversation as she pantomimes pointless directions. 

A2

Another bath-time revelation. I lay in the tub as it drains. The cheap rusted varnish on the spigot and handles, for some reason, is a combination of turquoise and tooth-paste-white. Sitting there, play-paralyzed and unthinking, I notice that the shadow of the faucet neck makes the shape of an arm and finger pointing down towards the drain. There is still a small amount of water funneling through the perforated metal, getting wider in circumference as it runs out. I choose to avoid the more obvious symbolism of seeing a shadow point down towards a dark abyss; instead, I concentrate on the vortexing water. Momentum and a downdraft create swirling medium surrounding a vacuum. Debris with the most mass gets taken to the outermost limits and is ejected. It is a most telling omen for tomorrow’s endeavor—as if physics had extended its laws to my mind— a curious and overlooked micro-phenomenon but, for this moment, for some reason just out of my grasp, it inspires.

B2

 “Okay, I’m ready, I think,” I yell. But Dolly can’t hear me from below. There’s an 8” x 10” paper rectangle five stories down on the asphalt and she is standing next to it holding the camera I lent her. She is wearing some nurse scrubs she also borrowed from a roommate in case this gets messy. I focus on my target while standing above the building’s logosign: Jersey City United Packing HQ. I’ve practiced the jump in my head and I know I can make it. My résumé, an insignificant target, until I land—then it becomes something entirely different. This will show everyone that I am to be taken seriously, and that all of those acting classes weren’t just hobbied pursuits. I take a few shuffles then a half-hearted fakelunge just to see how it will feel. Dolly winces, “Even I knew that wasn’t the one,” she yells just loud enough for me to hear. No more thinking, I lean forward to get a lateral bearing on my target and pushoff the building as if it is going to pushback. I free fall stiff legged and t-posed. You got this Tommy. The ground closes in and I barely make out some blurredblack ink on white background just below where I think my chin will probably land. 

C2

I think of pastbaths and instead decide to shower. Need to keep my head clear for final calls, interviewers can’t get enough of me. I had to take down all of the mirrors in my apartment because I got tired of staring at mangled mandible and torn velum. “It’s enough that I feel like I look good,” I say, holding in jutting collar bone so I can tighten my tie. As I leave, I pass my résumé, plaqued up on the wall. Dolly was right, it did look good up there, limned with bloodspray and some teeth indents (hallmarks of my good aim). It had been a stupid thing which always made me feel incompetent; anunfair judge—a funhouse mirror and tipped scale. “You landed just how you wanted. You landed it and they can’t get enough of you.” I exclaim with a brokengrin.

 

SR Gorski is the pen name of a person obsessed with thought. SR graduated with an english/creative writing degree and attends writing workshops regularly. SR is interested in speculative fiction, specifically the effects our era of access has on social interaction and cognition.

“portrait of the ‘artist’ sitting with a second tallboy  at the kitchen table in the dark listening to a random  youtube playlist” by David Henson

 

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portrait of the ‘artist’ sitting with a second tallboy 

at the kitchen table in the dark

listening to a random 

youtube playlist 

 

hello other spirits.

here we are again. breaking down doors. packing up the crib. pullin’ out babies. and broken boys. and busted brown shoes. we got knobby knees and heart veins, arteries, shoelaces, codex cola, cryogenic freezes, totally antonym spellings, let’s pull another track, not get hooked on language, why go from music to language, why not just divorce the words from the music, forget about chords, focus on the movement of hands, better yet let machines make it random and be totally surprised the first time you hear it, you are no longer the composer you’re like the maestro god, you’re like the god who accidentally set the world in motion and still delights in its idiosyncrasies, you’re like the boy shut in the closet and raised by dust bunnies, coming out thirteen years later speaking nothing but dust.

if someone gave you a laser as wide and strong as you wanted you would wave it around all drunk like a madman, splitting every heart from every mind. 

back to my second point, all this structure shit is structuring my thought process, which sounds healthy but is completely detrimental to ‘flow,’ to life in general. achievements should only be unlocked in video games. movies should only be made by those who are on a path to madness anyway. what path is this if you’re drinking and typing nonsense into your email in the pursuit of you don’t know what? no one will respect you if they don’t recognize the structure somewhere, if you don’t adhere…you’re already caught on a track. you want to be free of tracks but something else inside wants you on a track. 

we want the backsides of celebrity, well yes, but I mean we want underneath the hood, no we want the factory, no we want to follow the factory workers home and know what time they finally fall asleep. 

you can help relieve suffering. you can help nothing else. let me make a list – do dishes after dinner, push a car out of a muddy ditch, with taxes, with exams, get you the credit you deserve, build a nest(egg), fight the war…..if you help spread death or pain you aren’t really helping. if you are kind and present maybe you help without knowing it. i am on my way to giving up everything. is that healthy or suicidal?

if you could will the skin on your hands to open and drip your own blood in slo mo, you would feel powerful and maybe content. if you could be the most drunk and not hang-over then you would be better than god and more fun. 

piling snow, packing it down, hollowing it out=the most happy you’ve ever been. why didn’t you convince yourself to take that nap out there? 

is it bad karma to try to commodify your dreams? is that what I’m experiencing? 

how do you write a whole novel when there are no instruments to choose from?

what if your art was to leave not a trace of yourself the moment you died?

watch a show on the couch next to your spouse, tell her she is pretty, rub her back, tell her not to feel guilty when you watch another one, bring her the hot sauce, remember what it was like when you walked around in china, remember that it is better in your apartment where it is warm and your thoughts can swim and mingle and uh oh feedback loop, closed circuit, nothing new. 

why is new important? why grow?

i love the phrase ‘force quit.’

no one has asked me to do anything other than job stuff and to clean the apartment for many years. and most of that is intuitive and unsaid anyway. 

if you aren’t distracted by fighting a disease, you start fighting yourself. oh fuck, this song. i thought it was shouting outside. 

my smartest, most insightful friend makes cheese for a living. grows cheese? mongers cheese. 

i asked him in an email to convince me to have a baby soon. his response was no response, which is not uncommon for him, to take months to respond, but this was something i thought he would have responded to quickly, especially with the news of another one on the way. maybe he is teaching me something with no response. oh, i get it. 

fucking love the concept of a drum circle, have no patience or desire to be a part of it. maybe just scared. plus white dreadlock stigma. it feels. it always feels. 

it feels. feels. don’t pin it down. ethereal. dollar signs. uh uh. 

this song is not totally adhering, or maybe it is. but does not matter. 

to love chess but never get even one percent better at it. is that better than anything?

to be worthless and know it. is that honesty?

a present friend, but not particularly thoughtful. i mean me. 

 

David Henson’s short fiction has won multiple prizes and his short story chapbook, AN EXPLANATION, was published by L’Éphémère Review in 2018. He records music under the name Shadows on a River and makes comics and art at Kinda Zen Comics. He tweets @davidbhenson. 

2 Prose PIeces by Mary Anne Bordonaro

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Jaywalk

It was the day of the Lincolnville Middle School Class Trip Car Wash. They were set up in front of his dad‘s tire store off Route 26. Georgie didn’t have anything to do. His father was running around the parking lot directing teenage girls in tiny tank tops towards their waiting customers. Most of the boys were just enjoying the view. Georgie looked in the same direction. He tried, not for the first time, to see what they saw and failed.

“You just gonna stand there with your dick in your hand for the next two hours? Huh?” His father’s face flooded his vision, blocking his view of Laurel Brolhouse, who, God bless her, wasn’t wearing her training bra. 

“Be a fucking man and help make some money.” With George Mitchell Sr.’s words came the slap of cardboard against Georgie’s bony chest. 

 

 

CAR WASH $5.00

The sign was lined with blue and yellow paint, and the girls had covered the yellow lines in glitter, making them shine like gold. He walked out to the curb on the far end of the Mitchell’s Tires parking lot. The light at the small intersection was red. His audience was captive, if only for a moment or two.

His body acted on its own, hands gripping the edge of the sign for a second before swinging it into the air, glitter flying everywhere. The sparkle clung to everything, working its way into his hair and sticking to the sweat on his arms. He could hear Rory Keener mutter something about him looking like a “fucking fairy,” but he couldn’t bring himself to care.

The sign flipped through the air, coming back to his hands every time. With every throw, glitter joined the yellow pollen covering the cars closest to him. He was Midas, turning their fenders into gold. With disgruntled sighs, bejeweled drivers pulled into the parking lot, where the girls relieved them of their shining messes.

As the sign spun in the humid afternoon air, Georgie threw his body back, legs leaving the ground, gravity ceasing to exist. It was only Georgie and the sign and the glitter that was now filling his eyes so that everything he looked at shimmered in the 3 PM sunshine.

He walked along the cracked pavement, sending smiles to his adoring fans. The marching band began to play, spit valves filling and being emptied with such speed that a puddle formed beneath them, saliva spreading through the black tar capillaries of the Mitchell’s Tires parking lot, mixing with the water and soap bubbles dripping from the line of sensible sedans and sudsy eighth graders.

Georgie twirled the sign with the beat of the drums, the roar of the trumpets, the stomping of feet, and the clapping of hands. The light had long since turned green, but aside from the glitter-covered cars pulling into the lot, no one moved. 

Mrs. Johansen, the organist at Mission Baptist Church, climbed out of her husband’s pickup and into the truck bed. She pulled the bobby pins out of her tight updo, waved her scarf over her head, and yelled for the whole crowd to hear.

“Yes darlin’! Show ‘em what you’re made of!” She was greeted with a fresh shower of glitter in her direction.

By now Rory had grabbed George Sr., who had been busy flirting with Mrs. Thompson, and turned him around to see the show.

George Sr. was not a very rational man. Georgie’s mother, Elaine, had divorced Senior when their son was four years old. Senior had come home and found Georgie dancing in his bedroom, his tiny feet in his mother’s bright red pumps. When Elaine returned from the grocery store, the babysitter was on the front porch, holding a sobbing Georgie, and George Mitchell Sr. was standing in the backyard in front of a bonfire. The crackling flame was fueled by every pair of heels Elaine owned.

The fight lasted for two weeks, but the bonfire that sparked it has been the last straw for Elaine. Since then, there’s been no trace of a feminine touch in the Mitchell house. What Elaine had left behind was burned in the same way her heels were. Georgie managed to save one photograph and a small diamond pendant necklace that had fallen out of her jewelry box in her rush to pack. He wore it under the football T-shirts his father bought him.

Senior put his son on the football team at age 7. Georgie was actually very good at the sport. And he didn’t much mind the short cropped haircut his father forced on him. His curls were unruly after all. And he liked being a Boy Scout and doing wilderness training and working in the tire store on Saturdays. But none of it mattered. The other guys would always see it. Whatever it was, Georgie didn’t quite know. But they saw it and his father saw it and he’s pretty sure his mother had seen it too. 

And his father saw him in the parking lot covered in glitter, diamond pendant in full view. Mrs. Johansen had wrapped her scarf around Georgie’s neck, her husband put his Gamecocks ballcap on the boy’s head, Mr. Jordan from Glensbury Farm had taken off his cowboy boots and put them on Georgie’s feet, and Miss Brown had wrapped her crocheted shawl around his shoulders. Some kids from the local high school were sitting on top of their cars, and they threw dollar bills as Georgie danced into the middle of the intersection, his father storming behind him, fighting through a tornado of gold dust to get to his son. 

The sheriff and the deputy pulled up to see what all the ruckus was about and found Georgie swinging upside down from one of the cables suspending the traffic light above the street. George Sr. was jumping up and down beneath him, veins bulging and curses flying. His son was just out of reach. 

 

Mary Anne Bordonaro is a creative writing teacher, writer, and traveler from South Carolina. She graduated in 2018 with a B.A. in English/Creative Writing. Since then, she has taught ESL, Literature, and Creative Writing in France and American Samoa. She has been published in Heavy Feather Review, The Roddey-McMillan Record, Taco Bell Quarterly, she has work forthcoming in BULL Magazine and The Poetry Question. 

“Cheap Fish” by Addison Reilly

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I’m not really above it
like I like to think that I am –
I don’t ever put change in the
Salvation Army
buckets outside grocery stores,
Santa hats notwithstanding;
I’ll shoot a wasp
out of the air with a thick rope
of pesticide
for sport;
And I love the feeling of your
failure
because it makes me feel better.
But I’ve taken a moral stance
concerning the frogs.

You might never have seen the frogs.
I don’t see them in suburbs or the city
as much as I saw them in my hometown and all the little podunk cities
nearby.
But you’ve seen the cups of
solitary beta fish
at pet stores (cohabitation not advised)
and it’s the same idea.
They’re generally translucent,
long-fingered, webbed,
staring dumbly
in a plastic container with
nothing else
in it.
Totally still.
Until some jackass kid shakes the
plastic to-go universe they inhabit.
They scurry, nowhere to go
and then
eventually
settle back down.
Still.
Always.

Walmart.
$3.99.
Buy two get one free.

When I was a kid, I thought about
how boring that must be:
stuck in that see-through world.
How many frogs lived their
whole lives
there? Never finding an algae-frosted
home aquarium
replete with suckerfish and African cichlids
(the cheap fish).
But now that I’m older,
I don’t think that way.

I think about the horror.
Do frogs have that existential
terror of loneliness?
Of insignificance?
Of suffering so deep that
you can only detach and float away?
Ambivalent.
Amphibious.

I am afraid of the frogs.

 

Addison Reilly is a writer and ghostwriter based in Dallas. She received her Bachelor’s in Religious Studies from Southern Methodist University. Her writing has appeared in Black Horse Review and under various pseudonyms.

 

3 Poems by Josh Olsen

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Road Trip

Gas station cashier
told me my change
was $6.66. 

I said,
“I hope that’s a sign
of good things
to come,” 

& he replied
with a hearty,
“Hail Satan.”

 


 

On the 5th Anniversary of Taking My Daughter to Warped Tour 2013

“Sell out … with me, oh yeah” – Reel Big Fish, “Sell Out”

I was informed at the gate that I wouldn’t need a ticket to enter, because I was accompanying my 14-year-old daughter, & several of her underage friends, so I tried to sell my extra ticket at the door & was almost immediately arrested for scalping, but thankfully, I was not apprehended, which allowed me the opportunity to witness a Stefan Struve doppelganger get knocked out cold in a parking lot moshpit fistfight, while Reel Big Fish covered A-Ha’s “Take On Me.”

 


 

the big rig ladder

[found/erasure poem]

 

some people weren’t cut out
to be cooped up

maybe you’re one of them 

you want to climb
the big rig ladder
know what it is like
to swing up into a big rig cab 

show it who’s boss
make those 855 cubic inches
of raw diesel power
behave 

tame them 

drive trains
transmissions
braking systems 

move on to the real thing 

three tough weeks
on the driving range
& on the road 

backing
docking
coupling
reverse serpentines 

then taking the big rigs out
on the interstate 

you got what it takes
to take on the big rigs?

if you want to climb
the big rig ladder
start with the pros

Source: Ryder Technical Institute mail-in advertisement, 1975

 

 

Josh Olsen is a librarian in Flint, Michigan and the co-creator of Gimmick Press.

“Blast Pattern” By Alex Miller

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Walmart toy aisle.

T-minus three days till Christmas.

Today I am a grown man staring at a plastic military-shocktrooper-gunship playset. Looks pretty rad. Action figures sport big muscles and oversized rifles. Bright orange missiles snap onto the side of the chopper. I recognize it as just the thing mom and dad would have given me for Christmas when I was a kid. My folks were something else. They laughed at those other parents, the ones too precious to let their honor-roll darlings play with toy guns. Mom and dad loaded me up with G.I. Joe tanks and up-armored hovercrafts, life-sized plastic M-16s, WWII-style combat helmets. I’d spin circles around the driveway in a camo-patterned Big Wheel tricycle decked out with gun barrels, scanning the backyard for creeping Russian soldiers, sweeping the sky for bogeys. 

Today I am eight years old. I stuff a G.I. Joe into some random plastic car. When it comes to toys, I mix and match. He-Man rides into battle atop Optimus Prime. Barbie goes on dates with all four Ninja Turtles. I pretend the car runs over a bomb. Boom! I flip the car into the air, watching it spin circles before slamming against my bedroom floor. I fish the brave soldier out of the vehicle. Disaster. The rubber band connecting its legs to the torso has snapped. My G.I. Joe is an amputee, split cleanly in half. 

I rush to my father. Wake him from a Sunday afternoon nap. Dad can fix anything. He’s that type. Square jaw. Reliable. He fought in Vietnam. Infantry. Volunteered for it. I don’t think he saw much action, but he received the Purple Heart twice for wounds suffered when landmines detonated nearby. For the rest of his life, a pattern of dark blotches remained visible on his arms—a grim pointillist masterpiece, black marks from the heat and debris of explosions. If you’d glance at his arms and didn’t know, you’d just think it was a million freckles. Faded black globs, seeming to flow, combining into some kind of super freckle. Only they aren’t freckles. They are the fingerprints of landmines.

Dad examines my bifurcated toy. Fiddles with it, tries to loop the split ends of the rubber band around a small metal hook in the torso. He asks what happened. I tell him about my game, the imaginary bomb. Dad shakes his head like he understands. Tells me it’s fine. His voice sounds strange, like he’s speaking from far away. He tells me he saw the same thing in Vietnam. Some guy he’d known. A bomb. Explosion. Dad was right there beside it. When the smoke and noise cleared, the guy lay on the ground in two halves. 

Dad fingers both pieces of my toy like an old woman with a Rosary. Frowns. Hands them back to me like he doesn’t want to touch them anymore. Tells me he can’t fix this one. Sometimes people break, he says. Sometimes you can’t put them back together.

Today I am a grown man writing a story about my father.

 

Alex Miller is a writer and graphic designer who lives in Denver. His fiction has appeared in Pidgeonholes, Maudlin House and Rabbit Catastrophe Review. He is the author of the short story collection, “How to Write an Emotionally Resonant Werewolf Novel.”

“Fell Out of the Car” by Lanny Durbin

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Fell out of the goddamn car. Can you believe that? Really made me think, honestly. Made me think, man, what the hell am I doing anyway? The things I did to lead me to tumbling out of my 1994 Ford Taurus and eating shit on the pavement—I probably shouldn’t have been doing all those things. Maybe I deserved it then? As I walked in the ditch by the side of the road towards where the car finally stopped rolling and hit a tree, I really wondered if I deserved it.

Driver’s side door didn’t latch all the way anymore. You gotta pull this stretched-out coat hanger through the door handle and then spool it around the steering wheel or something to get it to stay shut. But I was a zombie and I forgot about the coat hanger. Leaned my head against the window, for just a second you know, and I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, and then—baddabing—that’s how I fell out of the car going thirty. A thump, my gut slamming against the pavement, then some scratching and thuds as I rolled like a stupid baked potato into the ditch. 

I felt a little relief when no cars passed me by as I walked, a bloody scuffed up mess. I was embarrassed to be seen, for one, but it also had me thinking of this episode of Unsolved Mysteries I watched with my mom back then. This lady had a flat on a two-lane like this one. Guy in a Wrecker pulled up, bam, shot her in the gut. Didn’t rob her or touch her or nothing—just wanted to shoot someone. She didn’t die, just lied there and bled until another wrecker showed up and didn’t feel like shooting someone. Never found the guy. And this lady was a nurse or a veterinarian, can’t remember, and I’m just some bum who pours my paycheck into the video poker machines. My episode of Unsolved Mysteries wouldn’t make the cut!

Got to my car. It was toast. Some drippy hissings coming from the hood, some smoke, front end absolutely creamed against a tree. I grabbed my wallet and the handful of change out of the center console and the sack lunch I’d brought to work and left the car. The sandwich was fucked but the can of Sam’s Choice Cola and the bag of Cheetos were both doable. Not all bad, considering. Left my dead car and dead sandwich there in the ditch and kept walking.

Knew I wasn’t far from town proper, could see the lights of the little strip of a neighborhood that sat on the cusp. There was a NASCAR bar there. Figured I could lay low there for a while. And they’d have to have a couple video poker machines. The sun was still up when I fell out of the car but I couldn’t tell you how much time had passed. Was for sure night time. I got into Duffer’s and I was right—a couple video poker machines. A lot of things I thought would always be around, well, they weren’t around anymore. Things like helpful friends, self-worth, ambition, or a clear signal to a good feeling. If not gone—hell if I know where they were hiding. But there was still something I had that, at least, gave me something to focus on for a while. Video poker machines. The Slots. You put the money in and maybe some more comes out if you press the right button, or land on the right number in the algorithm. There’s nothing else to worry about when sitting in front of The Slots. The Slots were the last thing I had around.

The Slots and booze.

Maybe you come out in the black. Maybe you win big as hell and drift on that high a while. Also, maybe you really shit the bed and have to work doubles for a month to climb back out and then you fall asleep at the wheel and fall out of the car like a stupid baked potato. But that can’t be the norm. Plus, how the hell else was I gonna get a new car?

I started hot, like red hot. Stayed in a groove for a couple hours. Started greasing up, ordering gin and tonics for myself and rounds for the few patrons that shuffled in and out. Hey, thanks, pal, they might’ve said. Some looked at their free drink sideways. What is this about? It is kindness friend, kindness that exists only when my hand is HOT and I’m lining up the little treble clefs inside the Rock N Roll Dice game. I was the king of Duffer’s Bar and a benevolent one at that. Duffer himself came out from behind the bar to marvel at my winning ways. Slapped me on the shoulder and laughed, said what are ya gonna buy my bar with those winnings? 

I said, maybe! 

We laughed again and then he left. I sat and waited for my own personal wrecker to roll by—a slug in the gut or a ride back into town. Was just like the Slots. Who knows what was gonna happen! 

And I thought about the next car I’d buy for 1,200 bucks and in which ditch it would look best, rotting away.

A stupid carcass.

A real worthless thing.