Push to Exit by Nick Perilli

 

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Push to exit: a new button to limit intrusion into the break room and create a clear distinction between
useless and productive hours in the minds of the workers. It’s green.

O

The workers have already stopped pushing to exit. They mill around the door, their hands hovering over the delicate button. It is difficult for them to choose to work because they know work is bullshit. They build a colony in the break room and it thrives. It is self-sufficient with its own economy and robust
culture.

Push to force exit: a new button to limit abuse of the original button. Administration pushes it. The door blows open, sucking all but one worker into the endless vacuum of responsibilities. They can’t breathe out there. They go limp and choke. The blue light of the planet glows across their sad faces.

O

An administrator descends the emergency elevator to the break room. They can’t stand the air down there, so they wear several breathing apparatuses. They prod the lone straggling worker – holding fast to the edge of the break room door – with a broom handle. The worker fights back, grabbing the handle and pulling the administrator with the rest of the workers into the howling vacuum.

Administration doesn’t know what to do. We sit in silent penance and grief. In time, the emergency elevator snaps back to life. We do the same, tearing webs from our crusted eyes.

We welcome the admin back as a hero. They are changed; shifted; they look nothing like their employee ID. Before they even remove their breathing apparatuses, they install a new button.

Push to pizza party: a new button in administration to be slammed all damn day, filling the voids of this place with radiant pizza.

But the admin pushes it too much. There is only so much space for the pizza and we are concerned. The pizza filled this place and has begun to encroach on our person. A few of us fight through the impossible amount of cheese, of sauce, of dough that’s not too chewy or crispy but just right, to reach the lost admin in their office.
Some of us succumb to the lack of oxygen and the pressing weight of the pies growing against our chests with each push to pizza party. I don’t just yet.
The admin sits at their desk, slamming their raw fist down on the button. They see me enter, a knowing look on their stark worker face. I am already suffocating. I tell the “admin” to look out over the company floor. The workers are dead, consumed by the product of this endless button. The admin knows this already. The workers died happy, they tell me, a party all around them and pizza in their lungs. Perhaps a new company—a new world—will be born from the sauce-soaked remains of this one. Until then, the admin will push to pizza party.

I cannot speak. My mouth is dough. My blood is marinara.

Nick Perilli is a writer and librarian living in Philadelphia with loved ones who have yet to watch Gremlins 2 with him. Links to more of his published work are on his discount website nickperilli.com. Sometimes he tweets as @nicoloperilli. That’s it.

Rusted by David Bassano

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Rusted brick-red Chevy van

with our sleeping bags

spread out on plywood

in the back

 

Carrying our amps through

slushy parking lots at three AM

 

Playing those bars in

Wildwood

Somerset

Vineland

Stockton

Atlantic City

 

We lived from our music

and a little theft and dealing

eighteen, nineteen,

very poor and very happy.

 

We said a musician’s life

was the best in the world.

Enjoy your 9 to 5 prison, drones.

 

One by one, we left that life.

I remember Mike saying,

quietly and decisively,

“I’m tired of this,”

 

of having no money

of sleeping on friends’ floors,

of eating on the sidewalk,

 

of sex in back rooms

and hangovers

without stability

without love

 

So

we cut our hair

went to college

bought new clothes

 

Got jobs, wives, houses, and children.

 

And then

we got tired of those lives, too.

 

You get tired of everything

eventually

I guess.

 

It worries me about heaven.

I’m sure we’ll get bored with that, too.

But where do you go from there?

David Bassano gives history lectures for fun and rent money. He likes bike trails, Paris along the river, and Glenmorangie on the rocks. He published a novel called Trevelyan’s Wager. Any complaints should be addressed to: https://www.facebook.com/davidbassanoauthor/

F/24/Manic by Jenna Houchin

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The smartest mouth breather
In the conference room,
And I yell, “fuck a 9 to 5”
Mr. and Mrs. Miserable
On a good day,
Wish we could just
Fuck while getting high.
Wouldn’t take it back
Even if I tried,
I was raised poorly.
It feels like a waste.
Sitting right here,
Now with first class seats,
And still, with an economy sized taste.
No matter how sweetly
I write the chorus,
My therapist never seems
To comprehend
The duality of man:
I think apple juice
Is the best chaser,
And I’ll never be as
Close to the Son there again.

Jenna Houchin is an artist based in Los Angeles, California, originally from the midwest. She recently has self-published her first poetry book, FULL THROTTLE. For more information, check out her website at jennahouchin.com, or reach her on Instagram (@jennahouchin).

All Created Equal by Bud E. Ice

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I stood there looking at this hole in the ground. Six feet deep with walls made of dirt. That’s where Soapy was going. Everyone at the job called him “Soapy” because we came to the conclusion that he never took a shower. We found humor in the irony even though it wasn’t that clever.

I decided to attend the funeral because I was off from work that day and Soapy had never given me a particular reason to dislike him. I was one of three people there, with the exception of the priest and those working for the cemetery.

Soapy’s gravestone was so small that it could have easily been stepped on had there not been a big ass hole dug up in front of it. The priest said some prayers and I blessed myself once I saw everyone else do it. Then it was over. The whole thing took about ten minutes. The groundskeepers stood off to the side, waiting, so they could lower the body in and cover it up with the excess dirt.

I walked up to the gravestone as everyone began walking back to their cars. One last look to take it all in and see what the inevitable future was headed for. Apparently Soapy’s real name was Bernard. He was also a lot younger than I thought he was. Aside from the bad hygiene, I didn’t know much else about him. But I still ended up paying my respects somehow. There were probably people out there who had known him much better than I, but they were nowhere to be found.

“You almost done here?” I heard a voice say from behind me. It was one of the gravediggers, an elderly man who looked five seconds away from burying himself.

“Yeah.”

“Sorry for your loss.”

“Huh? Oh, yeah. Thanks.”

I didn’t know what else to say. It wasn’t really my loss. But there was no point in explaining any of that to him. He was on the clock and had a corpse to bury.

“How do you guys get the hole so perfectly squared?” I asked.

“We get a lot of practice,” the old man replied. I almost forgot that people die everyday. And that other people get paid to bury them.

I looked around and scanned the cemetery. I saw a group of men constructing a rather large monument a few yards away.

“What are they doing over there?” I asked.

“That? It’s called a mausoleum.”

“It’s a lot  bigger than my friend’s little plaque, here.”

“That person probably had a lot more money than your friend.”

“Even in death you can tell who the winners were.”

We may have all been created equal. It’s just a shame we don’t always get to live or die that way.

 

Bud E. Ice is a functioning alcoholic and part-time lowlife located right outside the ratchet grounds of Southwest Philadelphia. His work typically involves a comedic take on social etiquette, race, class, morality, battles within the self, family issues, death, vulnerability, and whatever other realities seem relevant at the time of the writing. It’s HIS reality, but a reality nonetheless. So the reader can either RELATE to it or LEARN from it. After all, isn’t that what this is all about? There’s far worse ways to waste time. Follow him on TWITTER: @BudEIce

2 Prose Poems by Rickey Rivers Jr.

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Conversation

I don’t like quietness in conversation. At some point it’s not a conversation anymore. It’s just me talking and the other person sitting or standing there listening. Not even a sound of confirmation, not even a head nod, just silence. It’s at this point where I begin to wonder where their mind has taken them and why have they not chosen to take me there with them. It’s important to involve others in your mind, to not let conversation become stagnant. It’s okay to let others in. One time I held a one way conversation with a woman and she stared at me the whole time. Once I was done talking I expected a response, actual politeness. At least acknowledge me. But no, even after I finished she stared blankly as if transported to some pleasant far away land. I didn’t ask. I just walked away from the rudeness. What use is conversation with a corpse? I ask you this question seriously. Even now I’m reminded of her rudeness, her sitting there leaning, her blankly being present and yet not present in conversing. A person is a shell if they refuse to converse. You might as well be discarded if you’re a shell, and she was a shell sitting there, quiet, like she hadn’t moved for a long time.

 

Bounce

At the club people dance, romance; you want to join but you don’t know the meaning of coordination. So you sit back and watch, merging with the walls, becoming a pattern of flesh and bone colors. The people don’t notice. No one notices the person who has now become the scenery. They continue to dance and romance, so many bodies on the floor. It stinks in here and yet the smell is not unpleasant. Someone rolls over to you, almost catching your eye but you refuse their iris and instead pretend to be elsewhere. So they roll away and romance with another. The unrecognizable song blaring from the sound system suddenly changes and the people begin to bounce. They behave as if drug induced, bouncing off the ceiling and hitting the walls viciously. They move in coordination, booming and splatting against you, their bodies sweaty and large. How much longer can you last before you leave? Will you die here unnoticed? Finally, you exhale and withdraw from your self-made walled enclosure. Almost immediately vomit exits your body and the people are still bouncing. Some land in front of you, splashing and slipping in your waste. They seem not to notice in their current rate of motion. You apologize to no one and stand to make your leave. Just then someone grabs you, placing something small into your retched mouth. Now you are bouncing as well. There is no care in the bounce, no worries or troubles. It is almost like life itself is pulling you away from it all.

Rickey Rivers Jr was born and raised in Alabama. He is a writer and cancer survivor. He has been previously published with Fabula Argentea, Back Patio Press, Every Day Fiction, (among other publications). https://storiesyoumightlike.wordpress.com/. You may or may not find something you like there. Tweets at @storiesyoumight. His third mini collection of 3×3 poems is available now: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07VDH6XG5

3 Poems by Capella Parrish

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Break

It is not the depression
I can handle quicksand
It always stops at the nape of my neck
It is the anxiety
The inability to feel / cuts me
Asked the question / I fall apart
I have no answer to

 

Trajectory of Decay

Recovery is a process
The road is fraught with demons
Looking for relief from the pain
Why should I try, I am not worthy of it
Everything shatters; This is why we can’t have nice things
Moment to moment, I shut down and go into my head
I exist in a hospital without walls
My soul is glass
Look inside: it is rotten

 

Press Start

Look in. Press start.
It does no good unless you turn it on. Press start.
Clear liquid. It also helps if you put a filter with coffee in it. Press start.
It is even more helpful if you flip on the switch in the back.
Coffee is overrated. I should wean myself from my caffeine addiction.
I should stop trying to make things work and just wing it. Cold turkey.
Not today.

Capella Parrish works as an intern in Behavioral Health and is a EMT Disaster Service Worker working with the homeless. She writes without a filter from the underbelly of life and is a first-year MFA Creative Nonfiction candidate with an emphasis in Narrative/ Poetic Medicine at Dominican University of California.

“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. 

 

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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.