“Under One Minute Remaining” by Lucy Zhang

Mixed Media Painting (Detail) by Choichun Leung / Dumbo Arts Cen

Under one minute remaining. In theory, fifty-nine seconds, fifty-eight seconds, fifty-seven seconds…

It has been at “under one minute remaining…” for about half an hour now. 

Here’s how this came to be:

A father has a daughter who just started ninth grade. He didn’t grow up in the United States so he’s only now learning about college applications and National Merit scholarships, AP exams and extracurricular activities. This father comes into work at seven am and buys a bowl of oatmeal mixed with raisins and almonds, a habit that has endured for over two decades. Today his task is to animate the progress bar from start to finish, as accurately as possible. He figures he can divide everything into operations: each operation takes a constant amount of time, equivalent to some portion of the bar, and he’ll let progress move at constant velocity until it reaches the next operation where a new velocity will be defined. Or, he can hard code a time–like thirty minutes–and have the progress accelerate towards the end should the real work finish early. And if not, stalling at ninety-nine percent until everything finishes might be viable. But ninety-nine percent looks rather close to one hundred percent and people might think that’s good enough when really it isn’t. Because that last operation? Without it, you end up with a mutant system where launching Microsoft Word triggers the simultaneous destruction of the internal clock, roaring of spinning fans, and a defunct security mechanism whose original purpose was to save you from this very situation but now all it can do is write files to a directory forever. Perhaps he should make an indeterminate progress bar with flashing blue and white stripes, but he is certain the higher-ups wouldn’t approve a user interface without a time estimate. He is also certain the last operation will not complete in under one minute, but these are just semantics, the “nuances of language” so his high school English teacher liked to say, and all of this seems superior to “Under an infinite amount of time remaining…”. Plus he enjoys wasting millions of people’s time–time they could be spending making the world a worse place, so he’s probably a hero of sorts. He clicks into the text file, fingers rapidly hitting keyboard buttons for two or three seconds, saves his work, and pushes it to production with privileges he acquired back when the company was small and really someone should’ve redacted these godlike abilities because him hitting the “return” button is, at least today, surely a violation of corporate democracy.

Somewhere else, in a poor country where only one person has enough money to afford products meant to elevate the life experience beyond basic physical sustenance, this person stares at a progress bar moving neither forward nor backward, even though it seems so close to completion. Well, if it’ll take under a minute, it may be worth the wait. Governing a country can come later.

“ALONE WITH EVERYBODY” by Kat Giordano

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I was 22, and for the first time
I knew no one at the party

my friends had bailed,
and I just stood there, obscure
at the periphery of beer pong
with the smokers,
laughing when they laughed.

sometimes I’d bend to pick up a ball
that had rolled between my feet.
some guy would thank me
and I’d flinch when our hands met
in the handing-off.

it was kind of quiet there,
in the basement. with the door shut
you could barely hear the music,
the party up above a kind of mass
that swelled and settled
as the ceiling groaned under its weight.

down here it splintered off
into pockets of gossip
and aimless flirting. taken
under the wing of some girl
to a ring of friends riffing
on someone I’d never meet,
I stood darting my eyes
between their faces, searching
for ways around
the velvet rope of their grins.

they’d split to piss and come back
with dispatches from the field:
a pizza lost in transit.
Ryan’s Girlfriend.
some freshman passed out
hunched over the toilet and
when you walked in
you could hear his wet snores
echo off the bowl.

laughing at the right times, looping
all the right animations,
trying not to burp.

maybe the next joke will crack it open
and I’ll slide in,
the perfect size for that space.
I’ll say something
that everyone will laugh at
and they’ll lift me up
on wings of their acceptance,
up the stairs, out the door,
untouchable
and bathing in their light.

at 1 AM the beer was gone
and the basement near-empty.
two guys calling a ride,
another asleep in a lawn chair.
I wove past the stragglers and upstairs
trying to get un-marooned.
everyone left was on the couch
binging Vine compilations
to run out the clock.
it was a cuddle pile –
too much red tape.

I ordered the Uber
and waited out front, where Toilet Boy
was being coaxed back to life by his friends.
hey man do you want water? hey,
run in and get him some water,
make sure he has water.
alright buddy, just a little more
and once we get in the car
you’re golden. is he
going with you? yeah,
he can sleep on my couch.
you’re gonna be fine, buddy.

as I listened I pictured myself
passing out on the curb
and dying alone and friendless
in my own puke.

I spoke my first word all night
passing Toilet Boy to get to the car.
surfacing from between his own knees
with half-lidded eyes, he slurred,
“you’ve got a blood stain on your ass,”
and I said, “thanks.”

 

 

“there are trees here” by Stuart Buck

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there are trees here

that may never know the end of things
not us. we are forever gentle rot

you say look at the sun, here too is
something that waits for its dying

 

STUART BUCK  is a visual artist and award-winning poet living in North Wales. His art has been featured in several journals, as well as gracing the covers of several books. His third poetry collection, Portrait of a Man on Fire, is forthcoming from Rhythm & Bones Press in November 2020. When he is not writing or reading poetry he likes to cook, juggle, and listen to music. He suffers terribly from tsundoku—the art of buying copious amounts of books that he will never read.

“coyote sunset” by jordan pansky

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i lay in bed, saying my simple prayer
lord please help me, to stop my dumbfuck ways in this dumbfuck world,
amen.

the desert heat beats my brow. sweat dribbles down my back. i shut the plastic door of my car, and lock it. 

i’m in the waiting room, and everyone’s getting mad at the tv. i can’t see it, but it sounds like the guy from wheel of fortune, discussing that which concerns celebrities and their followers. i sift through the magazines and pamphlets. long spreads of lipstick glossed over, with a sun hat. a man at the front desk talks on two phones at once. his smile radiates. 

i finally get in to the doctor, and he tells me to pull my pants down, so i do. 

moved here a few years back. telling myself i’d build a cardboard house in a cardboard town. with a silly putty wife and a silly putty dog. stars made of cellophane.

she makes flapjacks, as the dog does jumping jacks as i play solitaire with a deck that’s missing the jacks. the clock strikes bonanza and she pours the pink mist. i think about what the doctor said about my hemoglobin. he said it was looking fine, everything in order. i went because i thought i’d vomit up blood if it ever got that far. if it got that far, that i’d vomit at all. 

i was having waking dreams, of some woman i used to love. sweating.

i kiss the silly putty wife, florence. i kiss her and tell her i’ll be home by six. i tell her to be ready by six. she says i’d better be ready, too. i will, i assure her. better run, engine’s gettin cold. 

out the door, into the car and down the windy roads. styrofoam cactuses darting past. thick greens set against the orange, and some sort of effigy enclosed by mesas made of salt. jutting out, on the outskirts. the news man says we’re reaching a heat wave. the hottest in 38 years. i roll the window down for a smoke. cotton lazily seeping out the tip of my stick. that’s much better.

great serenity washes over me as i sharpen my pencil. my boss walks in, his red comb is droopy. he’s been crowing since he was three, and now he does so at me. i yap back a bit, and head to the cooler. lester sips from a straw. 

i’ve been working on an expansion for the house, something that’s really gonna stick. i bought some chairs, finally. oh, they look nice in the bulb room. sometimes the neighbourhood bullfrogs come round, and i give them a pop, and they scoot. always prankin. always riding their high wheels down the bend, to the creek. 

it’s 5:30, and i punch the clock. i go to pick florence up, and silly dog must stay. we park on the main street. a slight wind causes the buildings to sway like they’re dancing around the fire. i can see embers and sparks if i think hard enough. 

corner booth, noise dampened. our tronic waitress scoots over to top up the pink mist. she sends idle chit chat. i ask her to call me mad dog, she commits it to memory. 

florence mashes her face, frowny. i ask what’s wrong. oh, nothing. the night goes on.

we put a dime in the robot and it emits frequency for us to drink to. the pitch is higher than normal, but palatable. maybe even a bit more roomy than normal. i pretend i’m on safari.

i see the cutouts in the sky. jfk and fdr and bogart. at the beach, a train line running over stars with cars backed up for miles and miles. miles davis in the window, frozen. and the dandelions swaying in unison with the monolith.

i ask the teller what’s playing. real cinema, he insists, taking token. i buy some buttered biscuits, and sit with florence. the lights go down, and it’s quiet. there’s only about 5 other people in here, tonight. the commercials were nothing to write home about. some value cream, and linked sausage. 

it begins. the flickering light, and running tone. blank screen, changing brightness intensities. i am in awe. at one point i notice the exit door has been left open. i’m having a hard time taking my eyes off the screen, but best i can tell it’s a smudgy gentleman. his walking cane is propped against the frame. he unbuttons his shirt, and buttons it back up. over and over. 

used to be we could tune in to soft core porn on friday nights. there’s a message on the machine waiting for me, once i get home. 

hey derrick, thought i’d give you a ring, but i must’ve missed ya. the waterboards all done. up in the shop. you really wore it in, didn’t you? i’m taking the fish to the lake if you wanna join, let me know. bye.

florence and i sit, staring at the cotton candy sky as it turns all shades of red and orange and pretty pink. those hues, cutting me deep. some memory tucked away, in a plain, unlabelled box. it’s summer, and not enough light is getting through the blinds. frequency is soft in the distance. the sprinkler is on. it’s some great buried sadness. like the world won’t be here tomorrow. i desperately want it to end. for it to become dark. but deep down, i know i’d rather live in this singular point in time, for the rest of my life, than ever have it leave me. was some time during the foggy years. when things took longer to form. 

the bulb dips beneath the tarmac, and it’s over. 

we slowly make our way back to the street. passing the laundromats, and dunk diners with their low hum. some people seldom sleep. sometimes i wish the same. 

 

——————————-

Jordan Pansky is a writer/video person. Currently editing Angels in the Outfield in the style of David Lynch. His videos can be viewed here.

“Hell” by Daniel Eastman

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I don’t think it’s really all fire and pain like they say. I think everyone’s got their own thing coming. Some guys, they get their dicks chopped off for all eternity. I dunno. My version of Hell? Well, my dick’s still there. The sun’s shining over the lake. Temp’s a comfy 75 during the day but drops to a cool 60 at night. We build bonfires out of dry branches when the sun goes down. Everyone I’ve ever loved is with me. Every friend. Hell, even some enemies too. We take the boat out sometimes or we just sit back in Adirondack chairs. We drink but we never get drunk. Cheap beer in an endless cooler. We’re forever in that sweet spot right after the first or second drink when your belly gets warm and you can talk about anything. Sleep is optional. Night comes. We share a furnished cabin with those green 70s countertops and pine needles in the carpet. Jealousy does not exist. Someone always plays a half decent guitar. Doesn’t suck at all, really. We circle the fire and listen to owls and the hush rippling of the shore. A column of smoke reaches the stars and all of our secrets are carried off and dissolved within it. People harp on cheap coffee but you ever have it in the cool good morning of a calm lake? We do that in Hell. Still, in spite of the eternal beauty of earthly nature and leisure at our disposal, none of us can escape the unspoken feeling that this is not enough.

Free bird #1, #2, and #3″ by Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad

Free bird #3Free bird #1Free bird #2

( 9.8″X8.2″ gouache, inks, and cloth remnants)

 

Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad is a Sydney poet, artist, and improv pianist. Her recent poems and artworks have been published in several print and online literary journals and anthologies. She’s a member of The North Shore Poetry Project, and Authora Australis. 

“TRASH PANDA” by Josh Sherman

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I want to be a guy who goes bald
and tattoos stubble on his head
I want to be a girl with a bad thigh tattoo
but a pretty face
I want to be born into a family of astronauts
because failure would be reasonable
—if not inevitable

I want to be the dude behind the wheel
of a Dodge pickup truck 

with faux testicles
dangling from the bumper

who ran over a raccoon this evening
that had already been hit
as it tried to crawl onto the sidewalk
using its paws

which still functioned like paws (somehow)

and not care

Instead, I am in bed crying about a raccoon
and the way the wheels rolled over its torso

 

Josh Sherman is a Toronto-based journalist with fiction previously published in Hobart and poetry in Back Patio Press, Neutral Spaces Magazine, and Okay Donkey.

“i am dave” by @yuhhboy2clout

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Jeremy is listening to sum gangsta shit from Shoreline Mafia “Gangstas & Sippas”. It is a nice song “bout that fuckin life” that be slappin. Jeremy looks at mirror to reassure himself of his beauty and that he is beautiful. He is so very beautiful. He is a perfect beautiful boy. His name should be Dave like that statue ass hoe in Italy all made up of chiseled marble n shit. “My name should totally be Dave cuz I be the epitome of male perfection.” The Shoreline Mafia song be deadass goin hard. Jeremy vibes. “GANGSTAS. SIPPAS. PACK FLIPPAS.” His phone has text from his girlfriend Krista. She always be textin. Jeremy likes her, enjoys her company, but hates that she be texting so much. “Damn, she always be texting me. I def have to break up wit her before Senior Year.” 

Jeremy sprays his bare chest with Axe body spray. He sprays Axe all over his chest. He sprays so much Axe Body Spray he creates a cloud of Axe mist. The mist mesmerizes Jeremy. Time pauses. Jeremy sees the truth. Jeremy understands now. He understands the universal theory of everything. The Axe mist slowly evaporates before his eyes, Jeremy watches, and contemplates the nature of his existence after he sees a microscopic wormhole leading to the outer edges of our Milky Way. “If I had the ability to fully stop time, and unlimited supply of Axe Body Spray; I could travel the cosmos.” Jeremy looks at himself in the mirror again. He adjusts his hair. Jeremy inhales the Axe fumes permeating from his body. “What the fuck just happened, yo?”

 

“Jeremy! Can you hear me? Clean your room, please.”

“Ayy mom, I can’t be worrying bout that shit right now. I’m headin out.” 

 

Jeremy finds a Champion heritage tee with the wrap around logo to wear. Jeremy picks up his phone. Krista wants to know when he’ll pick her up to go to Nathan Miller’s pool party. “Damn, you always be textin. No wonder I be breakin up wit yo textin hoe ass.” Jeremy walks out of his room.

 

“I know your room is not clean. Jeremy.”

“I heard you mom. I heard you. But I gotta dip.”

 

Jeremy goes to the kitchen to get a Coca Cola. His mom is in the living room watching Top Chef. She is dressed in a Martha Stewart robe over her sweatpants pajamas from Macy’s. She almost never goes out on the weekends. She watches TV and barks orders at Jeremy. “Clean your room. Do your homework. Say hi to your grandma. Help Mrs Clarkson next door bring in her groceries, she’s an old woman, Jeremy, a widow. Don’t you have any compassion? What is wrong with you? You’re becoming your father. A spoiled entitled frat boy. I’m at my wits end with you. No, I am not hiring a maid. You’re nuts, mister.”

Jeremy is sick and tire of chores. 

His dad would pay for a maid to do Jeremy’s chores, but his mom refused. His dad sends money every month in alimony and child support, but she refuses to take the money. Its in a savings account stacking up while they live in total squalor. The money is there, it is on the table, all she had to do was pick it up. Jeremy is not a butler. Jeremy has the best dick in the bizz. Everyone in town talks about Jeremy and the way he slangin dick. “Yo that Jeremy kid be slangin dick heavy. You know he fuckin runnin it.” His mom is just completely oblivious to how much of a fuckin smoke show Jeremy is. 

 

“Don’t drink soda. It’s not good for you.” his mother say.

“I don’t care. I have the best dick in the bizz.” Jeremy say.

“What?”

“Nothing.”

“Clean your room. I am watching Top Chef.”

“I have to go to a pool party and slang dis dick.”

” I can’t relax knowing that your room is a mess.”

“Moms – why do I have to clean this shit? I hate cleaning. I hate everything. I hate this apartment. I hate working at Pizza Hut. I hate not being respected by bum ass muhfuckas when I be slangin dick heavy and erry bitch around town be fuckin wit me. I’m like a greek god reborn. It’s so weird too because you and dad aren’t even Greek, and I’m practically Zeus’s son. I am Zeus’s son, Dave.”

“Zeus’s son? Hercules?”

“Whaa?”

“Hercules; Zeus’s son.”

“No, not Hercules. I’m Dave. That statue in Italy. Zeus’s son Dave from Italy.”

“My goodness, Jeremy. That’s Michelangelo’s David.”

“Whatever moms, I’m Dave.”

“It’ll take you 20 minutes to clean your room. Just do it. You’ve completely ruined this episode of Top Chef for me, but it’s OK. I’ll rewind. We have DVR.”

“DVR these nuts, yo.”

“On Top Chef, these chefs compete with each other to be the Top Chef. It requires commitment and the spirit of a champion. These people are champions. Do you think the Top Chef has a maid? If you want to succeed in life, Jeremy..” his mom sighs. 

“Fine, mom’s. If it’s that motherfuckin’ important.”

 

Jeremy walks back to his room. Jeremy makes his bed. Jeremy picks up clothing on the floor. Jeremy picks up an empty can of Axe and puts it into a wastebasket. Jeremy vacuums the carpet. While he is coiling up the vacuum cord he looks at his reflection. “I’m not Dave, I’m David.” 

That was the last time Jeremy and his mother argued over chores. A few weeks later Jeremy would lose his mother to a car accident. A drunk driver plowed into her car, flipping it over, and caused it to explode. After his mother’s death, Jeremy moved in with his father and stepmother in their fancy home with a maid service. But, like a good mother’s son, Jeremy insisted on doing his own chores. When he would do his chores it felt as if he was with his mom again in their tiny apartment. He would clean his room and talk to her with a big smile. “I’m making my bed, moms. No, I won’t forget to wash my pillowcase.” The alimony and child support that his father paid all those years wasn’t going into a savings account like Jeremy assumed. Rather, his mom had every cent of that money put into a trust for Jeremy. Over $100,000 was in the account, along with a message from his mother: “Be your best self, Jeremy.” Jeremy’s girlfriend, Krista, helped him immensely dealing with the tragedy of losing his mother. He thought he would break up with her but he fell very deeply in love with her. They were together all senior year, planned to go to the same college, and talked about marriage before Jeremy himself got shotgun blasted in the fuckin face yo when that crazy ass tried to flip his 100k into a milli buying packs off the cartel. The game is the game yo. You either play or get played.

 

2 Clout be writing screenplays and short stories. You can find him on Twitter (@yuhhboy2clout) makin those dope moves. 

“Bed Bugs” by Josh Olsen

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I was headed towards a garbage can, to throw away an empty cup of coffee, and suddenly caught a strong whiff of mint. Before I even saw the young man brushing his teeth over the garbage can, I had smelled his toothpaste, and there he was, in faded blue jeans and a hooded sweatshirt, a full backpack slung over his shoulder. “What are you doing, you fucking bum?” an assertive male voice inquired from a distance, and the young man brushing his teeth took a swig from his water bottle, spit a mouthful of foam into the garbage can, and laughed so hard he nearly choked. “What the fuck does it look like?” the young man replied. “You’re gonna be late for class, dude!” the distant voice chimed in, and the young man who had been brushing his teeth jogged away from the garbage can to catch up with his classmate and disappeared in the crowd.

With the garbage can no longer occupied, I dropped my empty cup into the foamy puddle of spit that had already begun to attract bees. Several of them lazily flew up out of the can, and when I felt something crawling on the lobe of my right ear, I tried, at first, not to panic, but being deathly allergic to bees, couldn’t stop myself from swatting wildly at my head. Luckily, it was only a ladybug. “Another fucking ladybug!” I said out loud, to myself. They were coming off me like spores. Already that day, I had found at least five of them on me. Or maybe it was the same one, returning after I brushed it off the sleeve of my moth-eaten sweater.

Later that afternoon, while walking with my partner, one of those rare moments when we were able to synchronize our schedules and grab lunch together, I mentioned that ladybugs were flying out of my orifices and was deftly corrected. She said that they were more than likely Japanese Stink Beetles, which didn’t sound nearly as magical, but did, in my opinion, seem more appropriate. “And speaking of bugs…” I grumbled while nudging KT’s elbow and nodding my head in the direction of a large, white truck being loaded up by men in coveralls and rubber gloves. Two by two, they paraded from a student apartment complex a series of twin-size mattresses wrapped in plastic. “Bed bugs,” KT gasped. “Ugh, that’s gonna give me nightmares,” I said, and it did.

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

2 poem by Tex Gresham

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dental pick

i’ve used dental picks more often
to clean out spent weed from my pipe than
to clean junk from between my mostly rotten teeth
at the end of the day i’m too high to remember to floss
i’m not in any pain
it’s a good inside joke between myself and myself
that every time i go to smoke and clean out the pipe
with one of those dental picks
i realize i’ve used them more often
to clean out spent weed from my pipe than
to clean junk from between my mostly rotten teeth
ha ha ha
yeah

 

 

both ways

i feel an immense connection to the world right now
in this exact fucking moment
i love it
it’s a pulling in my chest, a cord connected
to everyone i know and those who know me
i feel grateful though i am so distanced from each
it’s a connection, like a call i wished someone would make
the phone in my heart answering, starting that connection
i want to hug people
i want to laugh until i cry with people
and i know like all calls this connection will end
like kind of how i don’t call my dad often
and he doesn’t call me often
but we talk and i love it when we do
we say this thing––
“you know the phone works both ways, right?”
and that’s how i feel about this connection i have to the world
it works both ways
and i feel it now
it has come to me
so when it’s gone i have to be willing
to send out a connection to someone like me
maybe my dad.

 


Tex Gresham is the author of Heck, Texas (coming Sept 2020 from Atlatl Press). He has other work online and almost never posts on Twitter as @thatsqueakypig. He lives in Las Vegas. www.squeakypig.com