JEANETTE by Steve Anwyll

I've never worn a wig before. But as she walks up to the van. I know for a fact that hers isn't on right. The netting isn't supposed to be down so far. It ruins the illusion. It makes her look insane.

But who the hell am I to judge her motivations?

Mark takes the large rolling luggage from her. He does his best to stuff it into the storage space behind me with all the other bags. A noble feat I'm sure he'll fail. Until I hear the latch gently catch. And envision our belongings shooting out the back. Scattered somewhere between here and our final destination.

The new passenger waits at the door. She's dressed in all black. 50 years of wrinkles. Back hunched. Wrists like twigs. A fog of pungent perfume. My eyes watering already. And she's only hanging in the door.

Having Emily beside me is a godsend.

Then like lightening the old woman scampers up into the van. And right back out. Surprisingly too quick for Mark to slam the door shut. She takes a step away. Paces back and forth. Snow crunching. Never breaking eye contact with the last remaining seat. Her only choice.

I start to chuckle. Emily nudges me before it turns into something deeper. The woman climbs in. Mark wastes no time blasting the door shut. The van shakes as she tries to settle like a dog wandering around a rug before it finds where it wants to sleep.

Mark gets in the drivers seat. His weight outweighs the rest of us. And the whole vehicle sinks down towards the front left. When he turns the key, the old piece of shit coughs into life. The local classic rock station plays through the speakers.

Hand me Down World about halfway through.

As the van putters through the streets. Making it's way towards an on ramp out of town. The old woman turns to the girl she's sitting beside. Extends a skeletal hand and introduces herself as Jeanette.

Oh hi, the girl near screams with cheerleader enthusiasm, I'm Julie. They shake hands. Mark pipes in from the drivers seat. Then a pretty girl I hadn't noticed. Sitting in the front passenger seat. Turns around to say her name is Beth.

The old crone starts craning her neck in our direction. As it creaks towards us I pull a pair of cold mirror tinted glasses from my pocket. Slide them on just in time to avoid eye contact.

Any small success I always say.

Emily introduces herself. And I let her do the same for me. A quick nod my only form of communication. The college kid beside me. Hiding in the shadows. Stays silent. Until prodded by Jeanette. When instead of a name. He gently emits a soft moo.

Jeanette, with the undernet of her wig pulled down to her eyebrows, looks at him like he's nuts. And I sit there stupefied. Unsure of who the bigger kook is. But it doesn't matter. Because before I can come to any conclusion. Julie asks Jeanette what she's doing. Where she plans on going.

Work, she says without elaboration. Hunh? If she takes a 2 hour rideshare to work every day she's crazier than I thought. And I'm not the only one. Beth can't hold her tongue. She asks her what the hell?

My mother has a house downtown. I stay for the week. Which makes more sense. But I'm in the back imagining a dark sitting room. A mummified mother sitting erect in an old chair. Jeanette singing softly to her as she dusts. Like nothing in the world ever goes wrong.

What do you do for a living Jeanette? Mark asks while turning his torso completely away from the road.

I'm a bouncer at a club downtown, she says like it's what we were all expecting. But it's not. And after she names the place. One notorious for patrons bleeding to death on the sidewalk out front. My eyes shut. And I see my mind explode into a million tiny bursts of light.

Continue Reading...

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)

Continue Reading...

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.”

Continue Reading...

NINE STORIES by Edward Mullany

Bay Ridge

I’d fallen off my barstool and had been helped back up onto it by the man who’d been sitting next to me and who was laughing at me, or with me, as I was laughing at myself, though this man wasn’t someone I’d known before I’d entered the bar that afternoon, several hours earlier, when I’d found myself on the street on which it was located, having walked a long way, without much purpose or direction, from the neighborhood in which my apartment was, and in which I’d been arguing with the person with whom I’d been living and with whom I was in a relationship, and who, in fact, I had been and still was in love with, though it had become clear to me that this person was no longer in love with me, and maybe never had been, though this person did not want to admit it.


Translated from the French

I’d been reading a novel about a woman who is haunted by the ghost of her husband, though she does not at first realize she is being haunted by anything, and though, even after she does realize, she does not know that the ghost who is haunting her is her husband’s ghost, though after a while she begins to sense that maybe it is his, for it interacts with her in a way she begins to recognize, or remember, so that by the close of the novel she knows for certain that it is her husband’s ghost, though after she arrives at this certainty, and is relieved of the sadness with which she till then had been living, his ghost no longer haunts her, and her life proceeds without incident until it ends, many years later, one night when she is peacefully asleep.


Orpheus at Rest

When the old man who was sitting on a stool beside mine at the bar discovered I was a writer, after I’d told him as much, after he’d started talking to me after I’d come in from the rain and had sat down and had ordered a beer and had drank it and had ordered another, he told me he had a story about his life that he himself would’ve written if he was a writer, but that he was going to relate to me now, as a favor, so that I myself could write it, as if it had happened to me, though I would have to promise him, he added, that if I became famous from it, and made a lot of money, that I’d return to this bar and buy him a beer and thank him for the inspiration.



After I’d finished what I’d said was going to be my last drink, and had headed toward the door of the bar in the company of a woman who was my friend and who was trying to get me to leave with her, so that she could make sure I got home safely, though she had not come to the bar with me, but had only arrived after she’d realized, from the texts we’d been exchanging, that she was worried about me, and had thus left her apartment, in her neighborhood, and had gone down to the street and had hailed a cab and had gotten in it and had told the driver to take her here…yes, after all this, when we were almost to the door of the bar, which was open onto the sidewalk, where one could see that it had been raining, I wheeled around and went back in and tried to order another drink, so that the woman who was my friend felt compelled to remain there with me, by my side, though at this point the bartender had seen what was happening and had decided not to serve me anymore, so that now I really did leave with the woman who’d come to retrieve me, although I did so in a belligerent way. 


Almost Over

On the sidewalk out front of the bar we’d only now come out of, having spent several hours inside it with a number of friends who’d all now departed, either in pairs or by themselves, so that you and I were the only two people remaining, though even we were not so much remaining as we were waiting in the vicinity of that place we would’ve been remaining had we not gotten up and gone outside and begun looking at our phones and watching the vehicles on the street for the next available cab, so that one might have said that we were no longer conscious of our present surroundings, or happy to inhabit them, but rather were anxious or impatient for what we hoped those surroundings could provide us with, or for how they might imminently change...yes, while we were standing out on the sidewalk like this, outside the bar, both of us in possession of our phones, but not very much aware of one another, or how one another was feeling, or what one another was thinking, if we’d been thinking anything at all, I realized we hadn’t said a word to each other since we’d found ourselves alone, after the last of our friends had said goodbye to us, and something about the knowledge that this realization imparted to me scared me.


The Glitch in Reality

One morning, on my way to work, I found no one on the platform in the subway, waiting for a train, though when I’d been up on the street, walking toward the corner, I’d seen many people, as I always did, crossing in front of me, or going past me, or alongside me, entering stores or coming out of them, waiting at the stoplight as traffic went by, standing and talking, or yelling, in a word, doing many things, so that it seemed to me now as if everyone had disappeared, or as if they’d decided that day not to commute into the city. Though when I went back through the turnstiles and up the stairwell and out onto the sidewalk, so strange had I found the sight of the empty station, I saw everyone again, doing all the things that they were doing. And when I went back down again, slowly this time, with an awareness or consciousness of every action I was engaged in, or was undertaking, I saw that people were now where I’d expected them to be, on the platform, looking at their phones, or standing with idle expressions on their faces.   



We get in an argument on the sidewalk outside the bar where we’ve spent the afternoon drinking, though we do not finish the argument there, but continue it as we walk down the block in what we think is the direction of the nearest subway, though because you are ahead of me, and won’t let me walk beside you, and are not, in fact, responding anymore to any of the things that I say to you or ask you, I eventually lapse into silence, and can imagine that we must appear, to anyone who might pass us or observe us, not as two people who are walking together, but rather as two people who happen to be near each other, heading the same way, but who may or may not even know each other.



The bottle that I’d finished the night before, when I’d come home from work after a day on which many things had gone wrong, or, anyway, had transpired in a way that was not to my liking, though they may have transpired in a way that was to the liking of some of the people with whom I worked...yes, the bottle that I’d finished when I’d come home that night, after such a day, and had decided to have a drink or two, but had ended up having more than I’d intended to, was the first thing I saw the next morning when, waking on the floor in the shirt and tie and pants I hadn’t changed out of, I groggily and painfully, and somewhat unwillingly, opened my eyes, though the bottle itself, which was near enough to me that I could’ve reached out and touched it had I wanted to, though just then I did not want to, and in fact wished that it was not there at all, even to be seen, let alone touched, was no longer upright but had been tipped over onto its side.


Carbon Prevails  

I’d decided to quit drinking, and had done so, and had stuck by the decision for many months, so that, with every passing day, the sense of accomplishment and resolve that had come to me, upon making that decision, was increasing, though so was, strangely enough, a sense of precipitousness or danger that I had not anticipated, and that seemed to be inversely related to that sense which I’d first felt, and which had caused in me a feeling of tranquility, or well-being, but which now I understood was at risk of being undermined, at any given time, by some part of me that wished to return to that life I’d had prior to making the decision that I’d made, and that was not a happy life, but rather an unhappy and dissolute one; or, if not return to that life, merely to find pleasure in ruining the life I now was attempting to build, as if I was not constituted solely of one volition, or will, but rather of two of those things, or, at any rate, more than one, though however many volitions or wills did comprise me, if that was the case, I couldn’t have said.  

Continue Reading...

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.   

Continue Reading...

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.”

Continue Reading...


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.

Continue Reading...


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.   

Continue Reading...

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.

Continue Reading...


(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.

Continue Reading...