zac smith

FLIPPED by Zac Smith

Brad flipped his car after hitting a fire hydrant, right downtown, right on Fifth Street, right near our old apartment, the prefurnished one with the broken window and the red wall and the kitchen that had bookshelves instead of cabinets, he was driving, something happened, who knows, he hit the hydrant and the car went upward, upward, from the height of the hydrant and the height of the curb, and the car veered upward and over the hydrant, and the hydrant's base cracked under the weight and pressure of the car and the angle of it, and the cracked base gave way so that the water could come out, and it came out, one huge spray into the underbelly of the car and out into the street below while car ascended into the air itself, at an angle, fast and strange, twisting, up and around, the body of the hydrant lifted, dislodged, entirely broken free, the water coming out as a geyser, up and out, the body of the hydrant rolling away, or more tumbling away, bouncing under the force of the impact, the force of the water, the car's wheels spun and the engine roared freely, the tired no longer struggling against the friction of the road but against nothing, free air, spinning madly, the engine just bellowing as the car veered upward, the clanging of the hydrant as loud as the screaming of the engine and the roar of the water, all three a unified cacophony on Fifth Street near our old apartment, right in front of the convenience store where people would gather to smoke and scratch off lottery tickets and ask for change and sell weed and catch up with the other people who lived on the block or around the corner, and who we would sometimes buy forties with and scratch off lottery tickets and talk about what the other people on the block were doing, who they were with, where they had been and what they planned on doing, who was leaving town, alone, or leaving with someone else, people we knew or didn't know or had only heard about, or people who we saw buying beer but who never hung out, and right next to the laundromat where someone died once in the bathroom, then they closed off the whole place with police tape, and everyone was crowded around trying to see who it was, if it was anyone we thought it would be, anyone we expected to die in a bathroom, or who always hung out in the laundromat for whatever reason, but it was just some nobody that no one knew, it was right in front of that laundromat where he flipped the car, his foot still on the gas, the car in the air, the tires spinning, engine screaming, water spraying, hydrant rolling off, and when the car landed it was the loudest of everything, a real crashing down, the whole car coming down from the air with its full weight, just a huge crash, the windows crunching into a million tiny bits and the hood crumpling in and the engine letting up, finally, a big groan into nothing, but the water still spraying up and wide, less murky now that it was finished clearing out the old silty pipes in the neighborhood and pushing in fresh clean water, spraying all over the upside down car, all over the street, the curb, like the car, car half on the curb, half in the street, Brad pinned between the wheel and the seat and the roof of the car but able eventually to wrench himself out through the busted-out window, on his back, coming out like a baby covered in glass and blood and just staring at the water coming up and spraying out everywhere while the radio kept playing, louder than almost everything else except for the water spraying out and splashing down, louder than Brad muttering “shit, goddamn," over and over again, louder than him just muttering the same thing over and over again, wondering when the cops would come, whether anyone would call them, whether he would have to call them, wondering what would happen if they came, what would happen if they never came, all kinds of shit, over and over again, the same shit just over and over again in his head.

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mike corrao

NO THANK YOU by Mike Corrao

becomingplateaubecomingmachinebecomingplacebecomingbodybecomingbirdsongbecomingdirectionbecomingstasisbecomingmattressbecomingthinbecomingessencebecomingmaterialbecomingpersonbecomingurnbecominganimal (or No Thank You)


There are a thousand plateaus spanning across this plane. Each occupied by strange machines eating each other, who stare at the remains for as long as they can bear to. “What kind of fucking place” is this: somewhere locked within itself.

A body that crawls out of stasis, so tired of its previous immobility that it stretches out in every direction until it is so thin that it cannot see itself. It feels like there is a jackhammer at the face of my chestplate. And it’s telling me that I’m late for whatever I’m supposed to be doing / that I’m supposed to have done by now (jesus christ).

What kind of person finds themself in a place like this, where the sky is made out of static and echoing birdsongs. But this is not the point (there is a reason) (geographical purpose)

yy told me that ff used to live under a stranger’s mattress. I couldn’t imagine occupying a space like that, or spreading myself out so thin as to disappear from myself. (I want to materialize)

which means finding myself in a space. Wolf-man locked in the urn-shape (stasis again) (unmaterialized)

It feels like the echoes are crawling out of my bones (unmaterialized)

How should a person be? (materialized) (unmaterialized)

Someone caught in the act of becoming (materialized) (materialized)

then caught in the act of fully forming, then caught in the act of watching the essence fall out of their head like liquid. And then they don’t seem like Someone anymore (unmaterialized) (becoming)

Their head looks hollow and weightless, it floats over their body. (I want to materialize)

but I’m lost in the midst of these plateaus, lingering under cannibalizing mechanisms and gears soaked in blood and oil. I don’t feel like I contain anything anymore, more like I am a part of the contents, and our coagulation forms something unstable and loud (materialized)

I’m worried that I can be heard and found (not hiding)

but incapable if I wanted to hide / when I need to start hiding (because there is always a reason to be disappeared)

No sun / No moon / No sky / No ground / No way to orient myself

Sounds so deafeningly loud (how should a person be)

physically speaking, should I be made organismally, or would you allow me to build myself out of new parts? Could a larger Someone remain stable for longer? (materialized) (unmaterialized) (return)

This will be a fleeting shape, that reveals itself in my death throes. Form me out of the sea foam and watch as the air slowly returns into the atmosphere, bear witness, examine what this container is made out of (materialized)

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benjamin devos

THE LOBSTER by Benjamin DeVos

I clock in at Pirate Cove and try to find a good place to hide.

I stay in the bathroom as long as possible.

Until my boss barges into the stall and tells me to get my ass in gear.

The shift’s starting.

The first table is always the worst because I’m not ready to act like a pirate.

I’m never ready to act like a pirate.

My first table is a father with his daughter.

“We are ready to order,” the father says.

“I want to get the best of the best.”

He’s young, but his hair is already starting to gray.

He’s wearing khaki pants with a shirt that has sweat stains forming on the armpits.

I want his life, to have something worth stressing for.

He orders lobster for himself and his daughter.

I write down his order on a pad of paper then stop.

“Arr sorry me matey,” I say. “There’s been no lobster for a wee fortnight.”

And I know this because we only get lobster at the beginning of the month.

Sometimes I serve the scraps from the back of the freezer, but I don’t want to ruin this family’s day.

“Lobster is our favorite,” he says, looking at his daughter.

“We’re out, me hearty,” I say, watching the daughter sink with disappointment.

“Darn,” he says, looking at the menu with intense focus.

“My apologies, wee lass,” I say, hobbling on my wooden peg leg to gain sympathy.

I imagine the man and me on a pirate ship together, and the man unable to cope with disappointing his daughter, jumping overboard with an anchor strapped to his waist, letting the weight carry him down until he sinks to the bottom of the ocean.

He’s still looking at the menu.

He says, “Well how about the crab, I bet that’d be as good,” trying to convince himself and his daughter.

He hands me their menus with a smile on his face.

“This meal should be excellent; we are a seafood-loving family.”

I want to tell him about the quality of the food, how most of it is frozen and reheated.

I don’t tell him about all of the complaints we get, how much food gets sent back for being sub-par.

Because he’s doing his best to give his daughter a great meal and I respect that.

“We love lobster,” he says looking at his daughter, “So we’ll come in next time it’s available.”

“Crab is good,” I say, taking the menus from him.

“It’s the best,” he says.

I say, “Lobster freaks me out; they’re like, the cockroaches of the sea. Every time I go to the beach, I try to avoid the lobsters.”

The father takes a long gulp of water.

“Yeah, we like our lobsters. They’re so delicious. It doesn’t matter what they look like; they’re good eating.”

“But they’re undeniably freaky looking,” I say, “Just like so weird.”

“Sure, but what animal isn’t weird when you truly think about it.”

He rubs his brow and looks at his daughter, whose posture is wilting like a dehydrated puppy.

“Well, monkeys look pretty normal,” I say, scratching the hairy area between my two pectoral muscles.

“True, they kind of look like people,” he says.

“Well, evolutionarily they are people,” I say, “They just haven’t become them yet.”

“We’re Christian,” he says.

“Oh, cool,” I say, “Does that mean you don’t believe people originated from monkeys?”

He says, “We believe people were born from Adam and Eve, and that humans have always existed.”

I cough.

I say, “I wonder if the first people were freaked out by all the different animals. Like they probably saw lobsters and were like, whoa, what are those things?”

“I don’t know,” he says.

“Probably,” I say. “And crab is pretty close to lobster, but they’re more like the spiders of the sea.”

I think about the man going to church and bowing down to a bloody cross on the wall, holding his palms together in a praying position, lifting them toward the ceiling and shouting something about how God has not provided enough lobsters, begging, pleading, for more lobsters to be born so that he and his daughter can eat them, rip them apart limb by limb, chewing on their flesh for sustenance, knowing that the Bible says that man has dominion over all creatures, so he can do whatever the fuck he wants, killing and consuming, tearing them apart with his teeth.

“Yeah, well we’re really hungry,” he says, sending a covert message with his eyes that he wants me to leave them alone.

I take a few steps backward before turning and wobbling on my prosthetic toward the kitchen.

The chef once told me that I take too long to bring him orders and that the customers become annoyed if they have to wait too long for their food.

I imagine myself with lobster claws for hands, pinching the chef’s jacket, and telling him that we all have to wait our turn in this life.

It feels good to be assertive.

I take a smoke break even though I don’t smoke.

I stand outside and let the wind hit me in the face.

Maybe I need to start smoking cigarettes again so that I can relax.

I used to smoke cigarettes with my older sister when she was sixteen and I was nine.

She would come home from school to babysit me, and I would ask her for a smoke, and she would give it to me.

It was fun.

Not the best, but still fun.

Just me and my big sis smoking.

The two of us would sit on the front porch in old rocking chairs looking at each other and rocking back and forth, with smiles on our faces and cigarettes between our lips.

For five minutes at least.

Then no more smiles.

Which is how I feel when I’m serving a table.

Five minutes, then no more smiles.

Just doing my job.

After serving my table their crab, which was just chunks of imitation meat over unseasoned pasta, I go over to the busser’s station to fold napkins.

I fold napkins whenever service is slow.

It’s my favorite thing to do at the restaurant.

I fold the napkins to be shaped like pyramids and place them in a row.

Sometimes I try new shapes, like a lotus, or a star.

I can do a swan, but it takes a lot of time, and I can only do one before continuing my pyramids.

I imagine starting a business with the sole purpose of folding napkins like origami and selling them back to restaurants for ten times the price of the actual napkin.

I examine the pyramid-shaped napkin and each unique fold that brings it together.

I feel like more of an architect than an artist.

I picture myself with a construction helmet on, watching as a group of laborers erect a giant pyramid out of a million napkins.

I think about the customer who will eventually use the pyramid napkin, and how enjoying the intricacies for more than a moment would be impossible, because the rules of society state that one must unfold the napkin, flatten it, then place it on one’s lap.

And how the flattening, the disassembly of the folds, is just another example of how humans destroy everything that they come in contact with.

Folding napkins helps me understand the world, makes me feel better about all of the destruction I’ve caused in my own life.

I look around at the customers in the restaurant and think about how in the end, we’re all the same.

We’re the destroyers.

My boss comes up to me from behind and says, “The little girl at your table just asked me why we’re out of lobster. We have too much lobster as it is. God, you are such a dipshit.”

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christopher gonzalez

MINOR GRIEVANCES by Christopher Gonzalez

Adam tells me no one else will be by the water after such a bad snowfall. Edgewater Park should be deserted: just us and the lake, frozen into solid hills. It would be quiet, which I preferred—I kept quiet about a lot. Like the Grindr app I downloaded onto my phone as soon as I turned eighteen. How I’ve scrolled down that wall of guys, those photos of abs and round bellies, and the few faces concealed beneath the bill of a trucker’s camouflage snapback. I’ve tap-tap-tap-tapped the flame icon on a number of profiles, hoping to create a breadcrumb trail to the man of my dreams.

At least today, it’s led me to Adam.

There are no other cars around, so Adam drives onto the beach, parks close to the water. “Maybe when we finish, we can climb the waves and walk across them all the way to Canada.” I don’t laugh but sense that I should. He squeezes the steering wheel. The entire ride up I hadn’t said a word. “Come on, that was funny,” he says. “Picture it: you, me, and Justin Trudeau, frolicking.”

“Sorry, sorry, I’m having a moment.” I point out the window. There is still some sunlight over the lake; I want to thaw out under its burning glow.

“Yeah, it’s beautiful, huh? Almost as pretty as you.” He moves his hand from the wheel to my thigh, begins sliding it closer to my crotch. I’ve been here many times before. All those Friday nights spent following Siri’s voice across Northeast Ohio, spider-webbing down back roads and alleyways, to meet some random guy in the black mouth of night.

I place my hand over Adam’s, try to absorb all of its heat in my palm. Then his mouth is on mine and I wince at his cold tongue. My lips crack and sting at the edges, and his beard scrapes too roughly along my chin—but these are minor grievances. I keep quiet and lean back in the passenger seat, familiarize myself with the sensation of his body pressed against mine.

The guys I connect with are always older, sometimes by decades. They’re white men, mean men, greedy men. They live in dark houses, keep to themselves. On occasion, they own a dog. They shoot guns and kill fish and salute the flag and pretend they fit into the idea of a nation that wants very little to do with them and nothing to do with me. And still I slide beneath these men, risk disappearing altogether. Perhaps I’m already gone.

Neither Adam nor I make any sounds of pleasure, then it ends.

After, we walk along the edge of the lake where the ice meets untouched snow. He climbs onto the lake and reaches down to help me up. It’s eerie—the waves are so still. I can almost hear them crashing into one another, can’t stop imagining all that movement, exactly as they should be.   

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BUTTLOAD by Caleb Echterling

The king’s chief of staff flipped the display numbers. The occupants of the blandest room in the kingdom clutched their flimsy tickets, and sucked in a collective breath. Trumpets flared, and a crier bellowed, “Petition the King Day, now serving A377.”

A group of well-dressed, barefoot gentlemen rose to their feet. “That’s us, move aside,” they said as they elbowed through the crowd into the throne room. “Your majesty, we are representatives of the Cloth-Sellers Guild. Look!” They each thrust one bare foot into the air. “We all have different sized feet.”

King Rupert stroked his beard. “I’m afraid the absolute powers of the monarchy do not extend to ordering my subjects’ feet to grow. If you wish, I could take a page from Solomon and trim the excess from the biggest ones, although I do not see what that would accomplish.”

Guild members hopped about on one foot to let King Rupert take in the true scale of the difficulty before him. “Sire, perhaps we should explain the problem in more detail. You see, we sell our wares by the foot, which we measure by removing our shoes. Some of our less scrupulous competitors are hiring short-appendaged apprentices to cheat the public. Our guild is getting a bad reputation.”

King Rupert nodded. “What you require is a standard measure. The one perfect foot, so that all across the kingdom, there is no question what is meant by ‘a foot’. I, of course, nominate my own foot. Clerk, make it so.”

Workers scurried to the throne, built a form around Rupert’s foot, and took a plaster cast. Copies of the cast were distributed to the Cloth-Sellers’ Guild, and sent to each corner of the kingdom. Guild members showered praise on the king, and rained kisses upon his royal appendages.

Trumpets flared, and a crier bellowed, “Petition the King Day, now serving D183.”

A group of gentlemen with pants around their ankles entered the throne room. “Your majesty, our butts are all different sizes.”

King Rupert covered his eyes. A wince rolled through the royal court like the wave at a football match. “If it’s any consolation, they are all equally hairy.”

“A thousand pardons, your majesty. Allow me to explain. We are from the Banana-Sellers Guild. According to local custom, our wares are sold by the buttload. A few unscrupulous banana sellers are hiring small-bottomed apprentices to swindle the public. We ask the royal court to order all small-bottomed purveyors of the banana trade put to death immediately.” The Banana-Sellers Guild, as if executing a choreographed dance number after hours of practice, all scratched their respective right cheeks.

“What’s wrong with selling bananas by the hogshead?” a royal courtier asked.

A representative of the Banana-Sellers Guild swished his hand about. “Hogsheads? We live in a modern, cosmopolitan kingdom, not some ignorant backwater. Now please kill all the banana merchants with small butts.”

King Rupert thumped the floor with his mace. The room fell silent. “If I may interject, what you need is a standardized measure. The one perfect butt, so that across the length and breadth of my kingdom, there is no confusion about the quantity conveyed by ‘a buttload’. I, of course, nominate my own butt.”

Workers scurried to the throne, built a larger frame, and submerged King Rupert’s hindquarters into wet plaster. The cast of the royal butt was, with much fanfare, distributed to all corners of the kingdom.

Trumpets flared, and a crier called the next number. A group cupping piles of excrement in their hands entered the throne room. “Your majesty, we are the Useless Junk Merchants, and our poops are all different sizes. It’s complete chaos. No one knows how big a crapload is.”

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After nine days of nights, I went. On each of those nights I hadn’t gathered more than four hours of sleep, adrift still-dressed from the previous day on a bed that used to boast plural ownership. On three or four of those nights, I twisted toward the ceiling and tried to mumble a prayer or blessing so quiet it wouldn’t bother anyone, not even me, but failed. Baruch atah Adonai––blessed are you, Lord. That’s as far as I would get. There’s even a prayer to wake up having slept without sleep greeting death halfway, the Hashkiveinu. I don’t remember the words, only one of the melodies. I remember a lot of things from when I was young; words are not one of them. Failing to start the engine on a prayer, sometimes I’d twist to the side and whisper a fact: two years and I still don’t know if that’s his real name. I’d also sometimes try to decide whether shadows could be considered a subcategory of night, or the other way around. I never could.

The days between the nights were crowded with various shadows, sometimes in the form of small refusals I could present to myself as if ceremonial offerings or in the form of translucent avoidance that gave my coworkers the gift of not having to ask, but mostly in the form of lessons in reluctance, alone in my office, door locked, shirt sleeves rolled up, braced against the desk lost in something between vertigo and nausea and tremors and unattached grief I was reluctant to give a name. When I was younger but not young I learned reluctance isn’t just a vocabulary but an entire language, and that while speaking it fluently made me feel better, it wouldn’t help me make myself understood. The recent past: I didn’t learn much else. I learned how to manufacture importance (but was unsuccessful) and I learned the difference between hopes and expectations (I don’t remember what it is) but I learned fewer names than I should know. Awake at night in a bed that isn’t entirely mine and is sometimes partly a stranger’s, bought by the stranger at an outlet down on 76th St., a store with big-enough windows to disguise its real identity as a warehouse, I would sometimes search for what it is that wasn’t a name. Some important thing. Actions, maybe, I thought for a few days, until deciding even actions were names. Names could not be escaped.

I met him two years ago at a fundraiser. Met him and was introduced. He told me he admired my tie, a quiet, unironic bowtie. Wearing them helped me know how quickly I could ignore men who commented on them depending on the shape of their descriptions, the hesitation or smugness slid beneath their queries, their explanations for bringing it up. “Met” is an action, not a name, though he never used the word when we used the bed for stage whispers. Found. “I’m so glad I finally found you,” he said. I wanted to imagine a younger version of him roaming the Earth, using his thick hands to help describe an outline of who I might be. I wanted to imagine this but could not. I could imagine the plagues retold every spring, but couldn’t recall all of them, or even how many. I remembered blood. I remembered a plague of complete darkness but couldn’t remember how it had arrived. I remember the rabbi always pausing to ask us all why we thought God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.

On the tenth day, thinking something soft about plagues and blood and children I’d never have to worry about providing names that would make them sound successful, I peeled a lunch hour away from my Tuesday early and walked seven blocks from the building where I worked to the building where he worked without bothering to button my coat in the January wind, and ask I walked my misgivings began to solidify into more reluctance, familiar and uncomfortable like a wool sweater worn because it was the gift of a person encountered often. I stood in his building’s expensively empty gray lobby, hands in my pockets, thinking of whether one swipe of blood on the door would’ve been enough, back then, to be avoided, to be left unembraced, and readied myself to turn heel in order to paint my own door. When the elevator opened and he walked over to me, I forgot what my plan had been. I think I had wanted to ask him his name. Instead I told him I forgave him. I told him I almost forgave him. I want to forgive you, I told him, but I don’t know who you are. He watched me wait, and all he said is this: More than words, he said. More than words is how much.

I let him kiss me and I told him more than words was close enough. I even believed it, at least for a few years. I believed it for long enough to maintain warmth momentum through a yearlong storm of illness the specialists could never name, all of them whispering “stress,” I believed it until I was free to move west to a larger, less-icy city where I hoped no one had been searching for me but, when people did meet me, I’d say yes when they asked me if I tied the tie myself, and when they would ask my name and I would ask theirs, most of the time neither of us would lie.

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He wants a photograph of the baby in the bath. Or maybe lying on a sheepskin rug. You say you haven’t got a sheepskin rug and the baby’s already had a bath. Your father says, ‘ Well make up your mind, sweetheart.’ He wants a photograph of his grandson before he gets back on the plane.  

He picks the baby up, holds him by the window for a closer look. ‘There’s nothing wrong with him,’  he says. You point to the baby’s hairy legs.

‘It’s nothing,’ your father snorts. He declares the baby perfectly normal. He unscrews the cap on the camera lens.   

The baby, surprised by his own good fortune, kicks up a storm in the bath.   

You lift him out, a soapy shawl of hair over his back. Normal you say, perfectly normal as you wrap him in a towel. You wipe soap off his developing moustache.  Pat his legs and arms dry. You wonder whether a hair dryer would be better. But then you worry he might grab it, stick his little finger into the whirring head.

The baby’s warm, fat body presses into your back as you jog with him into the living room. Your father has already gone. He has other grandchildren to photograph. Already they are developing faster than he can ever record them.   

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THE TURTLEMAN by Patrick Reid

The turtleman has dark green skin, a thick, spongy surface, like wet clay. The turtleman lives by the lake. The turtleman has long, smooth legs, and even longer, skinnier arms. The turtleman reads fiction. The turtleman writes screenplays, hoping he will eventually sell one to Hollywood, but he doesn't let his hopes get too high, because he knows a lot of depressed screenwriters who have long since lost their creative spark. The turtleman has a mere bump for a nose, slits for nostrils, and two large eyes, cartoonish, mostly white. The turtleman has a shell. The turtleman walks on two legs, like the teenage mutant ninja turtles, although he looks nothing like them, he thinks, being much taller and lankier, although, sometimes, out of fascination, late at night, looks up YouTube videos of the live-action ninja turtle films from the 1990s and watches, with fear and fascination and a grotesque, uncanny sensation, the same way a normal man might feel watching the puppet character in "Mr Meaty".The turtleman tokes. The turtleman wakes and bakes, and then before breakfast, and then before driving to work, and then on the drive to work, and then at his first break at work. The turtleman has a job at Dunkin Donuts. The turtleman thinks the job is shitty, but he does not care what he thinks. The turtleman considers himself mindless and insignificant, and does not have a trace of self-interest, ambition, or ego. The turtleman is viewed by his coworkers as remarkably friendly and cooperative. The turtleman is responsive to people, like some kind of liquid moving around their solid, fuller existence. The turtleman steals white powdered munchkins throughout the shift, but only when he is working alone. The turtleman is nice to customers. The turtleman is never on his phone, but he does not correct coworkers who do use their phones, who read Twitter until customers grow visibly angry and shift or move something on the table to make a noise and get the coworkers attention, or say "hey" under their breath, because the turtleman understands why they would rather be on their phones than paying attention to their work. The turtleman knows that his coworkers could give a shit about their work at Dunkin Donuts. The turtleman still does his job well. The turtleman is Dunkin' Donuts employee of the month. The turtleman freaks his boss out, because she said once he seems like "a fucking robot," although she apologized later, so the turtleman was confused, although he understood where she was coming from. The turtleman understands people really well, and has a lot of compassion, and understands human flaws. The turtleman exercises 5 times a week, doing full body workouts, with an emphasis on back and legs. The turtleman plays basketball to cool down. The turtleman, after exercising, sits down in his apartment to write. The turtleman never finds it hard to be creative. The turtleman completed a screenplay last week about a woman who was raped, and sent it to Hollywood, fingers crossed. The turtleman, this week, is working on a screenplay about a man who was raped. The turtleman tokes while he writes, and feels it helps him think more clearly. The turtleman has many other ideas about many other kinds of people and creatures getting raped. The turtleman is always excited to get started on a screenplay. The turtleman reads. The turtleman has read Infinite Jest and Ulysses many times. The turtleman has murdered exactly 15 people over the course of the last 3 years. The turtleman is cute. The turtleman is desired by many women, but he feels no sexual attraction. The turtleman pokes himself sometimes to see his spongey skin pressed on like a memory foam mattress. The turtleman kills for fun. The turtleman feels bad after he kills. The turtleman does not rape. The turtleman has a very peculiar taste in art. The turtleman only likes art that centers around the topic of rape. The turtleman has right wing political views. The turtleman breathes. The turtleman tries to fall asleep. The turtleman thinks "fuck I'm fuck retarded" as he tries to sleep. "I can't articulate myself for shit" he says out loud. The turtleman says "Fuck. I want to rape. I want to get raped. I want to rape. I don't want to rape." The turtleman begins to cry. The turtleman screams. The turtleman smiles. The turtleman thinks "I can't even begin to express how retarded I FUCKING AM!" The turtleman thinks "3am shift, fuck," even though his shift is 4am.The turtleman wants to murder again. The turtleman is bloody thirsty. The turtleman, the turtleman, the turtleman. Then the dick slides off like butter.

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(According to the National Institute of Mental Health, and also Me)

1) Impulsive and often dangerous behaviors, such as spending sprees, unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, and binge eating. 

When I was five, I’d sneak sandwich meat, pudding, cereal—anything quick and easy to snack on—into my room and hide it so my parents wouldn’t find out how much I was eating. I did this until I was nine when my mom cleaned my room and found moldy bologna under the bed. Since then, I mindlessly eat almost every time I eat. I can’t control myself. I’ve been doing it for eighteen years.

2) Distorted and unstable self-image or sense of self

I was always the fat kid growing up. When I was twenty, I joined a gym and went six times a week, stopped eating like crap, and drank only water. I lost fifty pounds in three months. Everyone around me said I looked great—even skinny. It was the best compliment I had ever received. The only compliment that mattered. So, I kept losing weight. People told me I should stop working out so much because I was going to wither away. I still thought I was fat.

3) Self-harming behavior, such as cutting

I cut myself the day my brother attempted suicide in 2010. It was my first time. I was in ninth grade Earth Science, standing in the back of the room, running scissors across my left wrist. I wasn’t breaking the skin. I wasn’t bleeding. I couldn’t control all the pain Andrew’s attempt caused me; I wanted to control my own pain for once. When I got home from school and my parents were halfway to Charlotte to see Andrew, I tore apart my razor. I sliced my left forearm once, twice, three times. It worked much better than the scissors.

4) Intense and highly changeable moods, with each episode lasting from a few hours to a few days

One Thursday, I had a lot to do—homework, class, sending/reading e-mails, searching for post-grad jobs—and I planned to get everything completed during my four-hour shift at work. I wasn’t too worried. When I got to work, I looked at my color-coded planner and my inbox. I cried. I was so behind on everything. I did what work I could, but I was so depressed by the end of the shift. I thought about what it’d be like to dig through my secret hiding spot where I keep my razor blades and use them for the first time since August. I skipped my classes and meetings that day. I needed to cry in bed and sleep the emotions away. By the end of the night, I didn’t feel depressed anymore, just stressed.

5) Recurring thoughts of suicidal behaviors or threats

I missed the last three months of my junior year of high school because of a back injury. When I went returned for senior year, rumors said I had just been released from a mental hospital. My friends abandoned me. After not cutting for almost a year, I relapsed. Both my forearms looked like ladders. I thought it’d be better if I weren’t here. I planned how I would kill myself. I was too afraid to actually swallow a bottle of Ambien, but it was always in the back of my mind in case I decided to.

6) Feelings of dissociation, such as feeling cut off from oneself, seeing oneself from outside one’s body, or feelings of unreality

Last spring, an hour after a boy I was (practically) dating and I solidified our plans to watch Mean Girls, our favorite movie, I sat on the edge of my bed and stared at my closet door handle. I felt off. I couldn’t stop crying. It was a drastic change from ten minutes earlier when I was excited and bubbly. I texted the boy, described the feeling to him: the front part of my brain knew what was going on, but the back part just wasn’t me, and the back part was taking over. I didn’t feel like I was part of my own body. I canceled the plans with him, despite the fact I’d been obsessing over going on another date with him just an hour earlier. I asked a friend to drive with me to Myrtle Beach for the day—I needed to get out of my apartment. I didn’t trust myself. I hoped my friend would be able to bring me back to me. After half an hour of driving and talking, I finally felt like I was myself again: laughing, making sarcastic jokes, and having fun with my friend like always. All day, I thought about how I felt like I was watching my life happen from another point of view. I thought about how I never wanted to go back to it.

7) Chronic feelings of emptiness


8) Inappropriate, intense anger or problems controlling anger

Three of our neighbors were with my parents outside as I yelled at my father the second I parked my car in the driveway.

How could you get rid of Andrew’s clothes? They were clearly marked. You knew we were going to have a quilt made out of his T-shirts. Mom told you, I told you. What’s wrong with you? Is it ‘cause your brain is fried from all the coke? The twelve beers you drink a day? The pain pills? What the fuck is wrong with you? I hate you. I fucking hate you. I can’t believe you fucking threw the bins of his clothes away. Jesus fucking Christ. I can’t believe you. Fuck you. Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.

9) A pattern of intense and unstable relationships with family, friends, and loved ones, often swinging from extreme closeness and love (idealization) to extreme dislike or anger (devaluation)



The marching band from freshman year











Jamison (again)



The 2018 Orientation Leader team


Jamison (again)

10) Difficulty trusting, which is sometimes accompanied by irrational fear of other people’s intentions

I was drunk and crying when I told my best friend that I didn’t trust her even though she hadn’t done anything wrong. It slipped out as she sat with me on the ground outside my twenty-second birthday party. I saw the hurt in her eyes. She told me again how much she loved me and that she wished I could trust her. I told her I was trying but didn’t know how. I didn’t want to scare her away like I had all my past friends.

11) Efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment, such as rapidly initiating intimate (physical or emotional) relationships or cutting off communication with someone in anticipation of being abandoned

Three days before our four-month anniversary, I almost broke up with my boyfriend Alex. I wanted to break up with him before he could break up with me. I felt my random, deep depressions were too much for him. It didn’t matter that he’d just spent the past three hours holding me as I cried, or that he’d told me dozens of times he loves me no matter what—everything in me screamed that he was going to end things with me, so I should do it first.

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melissa goode

HERE WE ARE NOW by Melissa Goode

We play this game. You say something nice. I say something nice. You say something mean. I say something mean. We fuck. You aren’t so into it now. Your nice isn’t that nice—beautiful, really? That sounds like a lazy lie to me, but it’s my turn to say something nice. Your mean isn’t that mean. Something about my driving, like I care.

You say, “Are we just trying to manufacture feeling here?”


“Let’s keep it simple,” you say and take hold of my ponytail and pull it hard.

“Better,” I say. “Make it meaner.”

You do, making it hurt—I try and hide my smile.

You drain your beer and you don’t watch me over the bottle. You close your eyes and I tell myself it is against the glare of the fluorescent light in our kitchen, but there was a time when you wouldn’t let me out of your sight.


Last Friday night. You opened the bottle of tequila, sniffed the triple sec, and pulled out the fancy margarita glasses that were a wedding gift from someone forgotten. I couldn’t make the salt stick to the rim of the glass. You poured the salt into a saucer and left it on the table between us. We drank and put the salt to our mouths with a wet finger—my mouth, my finger. Your mouth, your finger. When did this happen?

The yard at the back of our house slopes downwards and has no fence, ending with a gully of trees. That night, it was a hill to be run down, full throttle, screaming all the way.


We don’t go out anymore.

Sometimes, I say, “Oh, [insert band] is playing at [venue in the city where we used to go].”

“I don’t even know who they fuck they are,” you say.

I say, “Maybe if you stopped listening exclusively to your nineties playlist on your phone, you would know them.”

This is your cue—Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, early Pearl Jam and no one else has ever measured up.


We don’t dance anymore, unless we are a bit drunk. Then it is in our front room, under the dim, yellow ceiling lamp littered with dead, gray bugs. It is slow. More like leaning against each other. You hold me close though, your mouth pressed against the top of my ear. I like that and I should tell you, while we still dance.


“Proud of you, babe.” You used to say that all the time. I didn’t have to do much—bake cookies, kill a spider, get you off.


“I don’t want to become maudlin,” I say now, when I’ve had three drinks, because that is my arbitrary point of no return and I don’t get happy anymore when I drink and it has nothing to do with the gin.

I know alcohol is a depressant, but I didn’t think it was until now.

You say, “Get drunk with me. Let’s get fucked up.”

I try. I do.

Every time, I come so close to saying it—can you believe that one day one of us will die first?


It isn’t too late for us to be the hipster couple making coffee in that new way that takes forever. Drip, drip. We have the red plaid shirts. You’ve got the facial hair. We’ve got the cannot-give-a-fuck attitude, except we mean it. I don’t know if they wear Converse.


Your appendix scar is a thin, silver-white line sewn near your hip when you were sixteen. We have been together for so long, but I want more. I want you from when you were sixteen and I was fifteen—as if we could run backwards into time.

I would have rushed to the hospital and brought you chocolates and a little teddy bear holding a helium balloon—GET WELL! And we would have made out, me lying along your uncut left side, until one of the nurses told me to leave your bed, this was a hospital not a hotel, and shouldn’t I be at school? Or maybe she would have smiled and told us we had three more minutes, but that’s all, swishing the curtain closed around us before she left, and we would have got it all done in three minutes in deathly silence, your hand covering my mouth.


This still works—you rising above me, lying down along the length of me, above my head, below my feet. Everywhere. Your mouth on mine tasting of our last meal and our last drink.


Sometimes you wash the dishes and you take your time with it, like you have all fucking night. You stare at the window above the sink, a mirror with the night behind it, and you sway and hum and sing every song from Nevermind, starting with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and ending with “Something In The Way”.

“Can’t you mix it up?” I said last time.

You were elbow-deep in lemon-scented suds and looked over at me. I swear you didn’t even see me when you sang, “I’m not gonna crack”.


You went outside onto the deck and made a call.

“We used to do shit,” I heard you say.

I didn’t know who you were speaking to, but I knew it was about us.

I pulled out our box of photos—when photos were printed, stacked in envelopes with negatives. There are photos of us on our phones and on the computer—not many though. Most of us is in that box.  

You came back inside, bringing the night-cold with you, tucking your phone into the back pocket of your jeans. I wanted to ask who you were speaking with. I didn’t though.


“Nothing lasts forever,” I heard you say. Or maybe I dreamt it. I dream about you all the time—me telling you not to leave. Know that. I don’t want you to go.

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