The Last True Romantic (Dharma Wheel)

Posted on: March 27, 2014

She wakes to a text message, all the better because she’s expecting it.

Today is your birthday. Look outside.

She rushes to the porch in search of daisies. They are her favorite and he promised them to her on this, her day.

Instead of flowers, there are leaves. Her heart sinks and her smile follows.

“Cry me a river, Justin Timberlake,” spouts William The Terrible.

“Shut up, William,” she sighs.

She is too distracted to deal with her younger brother and his smug smile. He doesn’t know what it means to dream of promises kept, and she doesn’t have time to deal with his shit.

“Where’s your flowers?” he asks. “From your boyfriend? You told, like, everyone you were getting flowers.”

“I don’t know, William!” she shouts and goes back inside. There she’ll find her mother and she needs her mother at this moment. There is that feeling spreading through her body and she can’t shake it. Its unique, and vicious, and it’s heavy like honey but without the sweetness.

“Mom! Mom, where are you? Seriously! Mom! Where are…”

“What, darling?” asks Mom.

And this is when it happens. Conductor, tap your little stick once or twice for pitch or attention. Raise those hands. One, two, three…let the waterworks begin. Call it the “Symphony of Sadness.”

The stuttering shrieks mix with the breathless heaving until Mom holds her tight and echoes “sweetie” over and over. She wipes the tears away with her thumb. A gentle stroke of the head, and “Breathe, honey.”

Mom pries away from her, cradles her head between palms like a sobbing treasure; a golden head, an icon of love that dates back further than we know. Mom’s movements are careful and crafted. Mothers and daughters are a house of mirrors; if you look at just the right angle, you can see where you came from and where you’re going.

After the storm, there is relative calm. She’s rubbed her eyes red, and she gulps air like she’s trying to finish off the glass. Mom wants her to say, “You’re the only friend I’ll need,” but instead she says, “I don’t understand…”

Now that she’s calm, it’s time to ask.

“What’s the matter?” As if there is a sufficient answer out there for any of us.

“Flowers,” she says. “Daisies. My favorite…”

Hiccups punctuate her speech like commas, and if she were a grammar mark she’d be an ellipses. Such is her expression.

“…And then…hiccup…well…hiccup...I just…hiccup.”

Mom strokes her head and pulls her tight again and finally the story comes out, leaking like a winter pipe.

“He said he would get me flowers. Daisies. He said it was my birthday. He said it meant something.”

“Boys say lots of things”.

It’s then that Mom remembers the letter, and the familiar light bulb glows bright.


She asks about it, obviously. First it starts slow. Mail? And then she is hysterical with anticipation. A letter? What?!?!

She sprints to the kitchen, to the counter, to the pile of bills. She flips them away like playing cards; go fish American Express, nothing here for you. And then it lights up like something alien in the deep blue sea. To her? Glorious.

She holds a cream-colored envelope that bears her name. This is what it says:


I know you wanted daisies because you said so. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, on the porch you’ll find no daisies. You will, however, find something better. Calm down, wipe your eyes, and let me explain.

I don’t know if you remember (I’m sure you do), but we went to yoga once. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, we went to yoga. Obviously, these sorts of things never really work out for me like they do for you. I suppose I drink too much for yoga, or perhaps I lack the humility. Regardless, inspiration was in that hot, sweaty room that mid-morning, and so for your birthday I want to tell you what I’ve learned. I want you to be proud of me, on your birthday, which is nothing but selfish. Fuck it.

Eight leaves for the noble eightfold path. All that time and I wasn’t paying attention? Come on, baby. Give me more credit than that. This is what you mean to me:

1. Right View
2. Right Intention
3. Right Speech
4. Right Action
5. Right Livelihood
6. Right Effort
7. Right Mindfulness
8. Right Concentration

Surprised? I don’t blame you. Confused? Ditto. But here’s the deal; I might not be much for yoga, but I’m way into you. Buddhists say these are the eight ways to an enlightened life and I want you to know, sincerely, that they remind me of you. You make me want to do better, and that’s pretty great if you ask me. You aren’t perfect, but I don’t care. Nothing is perfect and there’s always a bit of beauty in the flaws.

In conclusion, yes, I gave you leaves for your birthday, leaves and this letter. And it’s not because I’m cheap and it’s not because I’m unimaginative; it’s because I didn’t want to get you something that would rust, rip, tear, or die. It’s because you’re amazing.

Also, it’s because your real present is on backorder through Amazon. Yay.

-Your favorite admirer

Written by: Logan Theissen
Photograph by: Sophie Stuart

1:1 - Matt Crump

Posted on: March 26, 2014

interviewed by Mark Killian
Welcome back to 1:1, the second interview in a series of conversations in which 1:1000 sits down with 1 writer or photographer, and forces them to spill their creative secrets.

Last week I chatted with Matt Crump, the photographer behind behind “You Only Live Once” and “Finding Faith at 30,000 Feet,” while hiding in the luggage compartment of Lady Gaga's tour bus as she fled SXSW covered in vomit. With a pound of Pop Rocks and a hundred miles of I-10 behind us, Matt was finally ready to explain why his Instagram account looks like something out of one of Katy Perry's teenage dreams.

1:1000: Candy Minimalism. Is that your term, or are you one of a handful of Candy Minimalizers?

MATT CRUMP: I started using the term "candy-colored minimalism” to describe my style about a year ago. 43k Instagram followers later, I launched the Candy Minimal movement with the hashtag #candyminimal. In just a few months, candy minimalists from across the world have tagged over 11,000 deliciously colorful photos. I feature the best ones on @candyminimal (which is the sister to my main account, @mattcrump).

1:1000: Wow. Two plugs in the first answer. You've come prepared.

MC: You can take the boy out of advertising but you can’t take the advertising out of the boy.

1:1000: So what came first, your photography or Instagram?

MC: Instagram came first. If I hadn’t joined IG, I doubt I would’ve become a candy minimalist, or even a photographer.

1:1000: Well thank God you did. What's the first thing you remember photographing?

MC: My first Insta-post was of my friend @rygal. It’s an awful photo. She’s overexposed, the background’s underexposed, the composition is crap, and I used Earlybird, the worst filter with an even worse frame. I thought frames were pretty cool back then.

1:1000: Ha! Frames. It's encouraging to know that even a pro like you was once trapped by that four-sided barrier. However, how DARE you besmirch the good name of Earlybird! How else am I supposed to soften my latte art at sunrise?

MC: You are literally the most pretentious person I know.

1:1000: What-evs. Moving on. From where and/or who do you get your inspiration?

MC: I have tons of Instaspirations, but I credit @mollymgrubbs as my first influence. As for what inspires me: wide open spaces. Being in a wide open space is freeing. Think about that field in The Sound of Music. I would’ve frolicked through it just like Maria. Wouldn’t you?

1:1000: I prefer to think of the battle scenes in Braveheart, but to each his own. Speaking of battles, a little birdie (aka your Twitter account) just told me you recently slaughtered your advertising career in the name of Candy Minimalism. What was stronger, your disdain for the ad world or your devotion to your craft?

MC: Advertising has taught me a lot about creativity. What people like, what people buy, and how to sell things—the very tools I need to run a successful business. There is plenty to hate about advertising (focus groups, amiright?) but I appreciate everything I learned. I’d never have left if it weren’t for my Candy-Minimal passion.

1:1000: What was the straw that broke the camel's back? What made you say, "Eff it! I'm focusing on my passion?”

MC: One morning at, IDK, 2 AM, I was finishing some spec work for a client presentation. I knew the work was going to die. Everyone did. So the next day I put in my two weeks notice.

1:1000: And did it?

MC: Yes. RIP.

1:1000: Well, you fought bravely. What was the most encouraging piece of advice you received while making your exit?

MC: "If you fail, you can always come back to advertising."

1:1000: And the most discouraging?

MC: “If you fail, you can always come back to advertising."

1:1000: ZING! What's on the horizon for the leader of the Candy-Minimal movement, other than stand-up comedy?

MC: So much, Mark. So much. But that’s classified. What I can tell you is that I’m launching a how-to guide at for anyone interested in candy-minimalizing their own work.

1:1000: WHOA, WHOA, WHOA! You can't give away the secrets to Candy Minimalism! That'd be like Coke teaching everyone how to give little kids diabetes! That's your thing, man! You've got to hoard it.

MC: That’s exactly what my mom said! But candy minimalism inspires a lot of people, and I love seeing how people interpret it. So what if I tell them how to find the hue adjustment in Photoshop? It's the least I can do for the supporters of Candy Minimalism.

1:1000: Well while you're being all generous about it, will you Candy Minimalize me?

MC: Is the sky not blue?

1:1000: Anything else you'd like to tell our readers?

MC: Get involved in the #candyminimal movement! Tag your photos, check out my accounts, buy some of my work.

1:1000: If they ask nicely, will you Candy Minimalize them?

MC: For a nominal fee.

Interviewer Note: At time of publication, Mr. Crump had yet to Candy Minimalize me.

Finding Faith at 30,000 Feet

Posted on: March 25, 2014

I found God on Jetblue flight 794 to JFK.

Figuratively, of course.

We didn’t breach a cloud to find a bearded man in a flowing white robe shaking his omnipotent fist at us like we were teenagers doing donuts on his front lawn. It wasn’t some cinematic near-death experience where a high-school wrestling coach thwarted a terrorist by putting him in a full nelson. And the pilot didn’t heroically land our faulty vessel on the Hudson River—which is good, because I refuse to swim in un-chlorinated waters.

Nope, I’m afraid my epiphany was much subtler than that. Kind of like how a parent’s silence hurts more than the back of their hand—but in a good way.

Wait, wait, wait. I’ve, “shot my wad,” as they say. For this spiritual awakening to actually mean something, it’s going to need a little backstory.

First, an introduction. My name is Larry, and I’ve been hopelessly neurotic for as long as I can remember.

Good. Now that we’ve been formally introduced, allow me to take you back six-months before my fateful flight. Join me in the waiting room of Dr. Spellman, M.D., the finest General Practitioner within my healthcare network.

Dr. Cold Spell—a nickname I gave him after a particularly frigid prostate exam—was my first line of defense against any inexplicable pain or sensation. If my stool changed color, I made an appointment with Dr. Spellman. If my nose was bleeding for no discernible reason, I made an appointment with Dr. Spellman. And every year on October, 23rd, when I’m re-eligible for my free physical, I dropped trou, turned my head and coughed for Dr. Spellman.

This visit, however, had nothing to do with irregular bowels, bloody nostrils or testicular fondling. The fear du jour on this occasion was an odd and persistent metallic taste in my mouth. It was similar to the one you get when you floss like you’re strangling your molars with piano wire, minus the bleeding and sensitivity to popsicles.

Yes, I already consulted my dentist. No, he didn’t have a clue. As a matter of fact, he gave me nothing more than a compliment on the pinkness of my gums and a complimentary toothbrush. Once again, my fate and sanity were in the poorly circulated hands of Dr. Spellman.

My name was finally called. But first, I had to pass the gauntlet of preliminary tests. I took off my shoes, stepped on the scale, lifted my tongue, rolled up my sleeve, and all of the other things one must do to see the all-knowing individual in the white coat. The only obstacle that stood in my way was the most trying one of all, the Wait of Indeterminable Length.

What would it be this time? Five minutes? Fifteen? Thirty? AN HOUR?

Knock, knock.

HURRAY! Dr. Spellman is here to tell me exactly what’s going on in my mouth—while wearing his usual you should save your money for a psychologist expression. Proceed, Dr. Spellman.

Huh? You CAN’T say what’s causing the taste? You’re PRETTY SURE it’s not brain cancer? You DON’T see the need to run anymore tests?

Join me the following morning at 3:38 AM, as I fire up my laptop while my cat lets out a hostile “meow.” Sorry, Zeus. I tried to go to sleep, I really did, but I just couldn’t get the fear of death out of my head. Unlike you, I only have ONE life.

After my dentist and Dr. Spellman offered nothing more than a shoulder shrug, I turned to the one source I knew would at least try to give me an answer; Google. Alright, Google, what’s this “persistent metal taste in mouth?”

I have a brain tumor. OR, I have a rare blood disorder only found in Eastern European livestock. OR, I can ask Dr. Plath, the Manhattan Diagnostician whose close rate is second only to Dr. Gregory House. I choose option “C.”

That ALMOST brings us up to speed. It explains why I’m heading to New York. It explains why my cat now sleeps in the bathroom. But what it doesn’t explain, is how I found God at 30,000 feet. I will now reward your patience with an answer.

There I was, enjoying a Superman-eye view of the world, when it hit me; something’s missing. Nothing tangible, like a neck pillow or an iPad. Nothing crucial, like my credit card or driver’s license. It was something I’ve never lost before. It was my sense of fear.

How, in this tiny, airborne compartment where people pop anti-anxiety medication like breath mints, am I finally at peace? The answer is surprisingly simple: it’s out of my hands.

I am 30,000 feet in the air, hurtling through Earth’s atmosphere like Zeus’s disapproving hiss, and there’s nothing I can do but sit back, chew my Terra BLUES® Potato Chips and hope for the best. As anticlimactic as it sounds, that’s how I found God.

Not a Christian God, or a Muslim God, or one of the umpteenth-thousand Hindu Gods—they can keep their talking serpents and 72 virgins. I’m simply referring to an almighty entity that’s keeping this minuscule shuttle we call Earth safely coasting through our infinite universe.

WE are suspended in spacetime, perpetuating an existence not even our greatest scientific minds can fully explain, and there’s nothing we can do but sit back, play nice and trick ourselves into thinking we have some say over our destiny.

Depressing? I say LIBERATING.

Tomorrow, instead of asking Dr. Plath for a THIRD opinion on my mysterious ailment, I’m going to wake up bright and early. I’m going to put on a comfortable pair of shoes. I’m going to walk to 189 Spring Street. I’m going to stand in a ridiculously long line. And I’m going to wait until I successfully replace this tell-tale taste with the supposedly unparalleled flavor of a Dominique Ansel Cronut. I have faith that God, whoever (he/she/it) is, will take care of the rest.

Written by: Mark Killian
Photograph by: Matt Crump


Posted on: March 20, 2014

Do I feel bad? Of course I feel bad. I mean, what kind of heartless soul wouldn’t? You would have to be a monster, an unfeeling deviant of the most malicious kind, not to feel a little sorrow. But I still maintain it wasn’t my fault. Not entirely my fault anyway.

It was the third day of my freshman year when Miss Johnston first took me to task in front of the class. Well forewarned about her rigidity, I knew that my tardiness would not be tolerated, but the degree of her indignation was as shocking as the shrill timbre of her voice.

“Jacob Abbott, if you do not have the courtesy to show up on time, you will not be in this class long. Take yourself to the principal’s office.”

“I’m sorry Miss Johnston. My last class is…” I tried to catch the breath that was stolen from me by the three flights of stairs I had just bounded up.

“I do not care what your last class is, nor for any other excuses. Advanced placement classes are an honor and a privilege.”

“Please Miss Johnston, I swear…”

She cut me off with a sharp smack of her pointing stick onto her desk.

“Lest you forget young man, I taught both of your brothers and I taught your father. I know what ilk you Abbotts are, and I assure you it is not the advanced placement kind. You are walking a very fine line here. Be on time tomorrow. Good day, Mr. Abbott.”

She flashed a curt sardonic smile and I closed the door, shutting with it the notion that my good deeds had outrun my family’s tainted legacy. Miss Johnston apparently didn’t believe that some apples could indeed fall far.

Jean Johnston was an institution here in Magnolia, even more so than the block-long brick building of Gerald R. Ford High School in which she had taught for so long. So long in fact, that when she taught her first class, the eponymous Mr. Ford was still twenty-six years away from his rapid ascendance to the Presidency. Back then the school was known as Hall County High, and Harry Truman was Commander in Chief. Through ten more presidents, through Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm, through desegregation and the civil rights movement, surviving Miss Johnston became a teenage rite of passage. For fifty-five long and arduous years, Miss Johnston hawkishly patrolled the hallways and made life hell in room 301.

In those first few years, there was much speculation around town about Miss Johnston. She came up to Magnolia from Charleston, answering an ad in the Ledger for teachers. When asked about her family, she would only divulge that they had passed on. She joined the Methodist church, but didn’t participate in the all day affair of communion and community. Miss Johnston was only interested in the message, arriving just before the sermon and leaving just as quickly.

Adding to the speculation was her self-imposed spinsterhood. Twenty-two and single when she arrived, it was surmised around town that she would be married quickly. Suitors came from all around Magnolia, only to be sent on their way. Behind closed doors, the old guard of Magnolia bandied about terms like “uppity” and “snobbish” and even whispered of the love that dare not speak its name.

But as the years progressed, so did the attitudes and values of the townsfolk. The chauvinism of the forties and fifties erupted into the personal liberation of the sixties and seventies. And by the turn of the century, an aloof, seemingly asexual, professional woman wasn’t quite the scandal that it once was. Miss Johnston was mostly forgotten, except by us, the scarred students left in her wake.

After the dressing down I had received two months prior, I made it a priority to arrive to class early. One day, the sight of Miss Johnston conferring with Principal Rogers at her desk greeted me. As the other students filed in, he handed me a note.

“What do you know about this, Jacob?”

It featured a rough caricature of a batty old woman. Written underneath was Miss Johnston IS Miss Emily.

I had to stifle a laugh. We had just finished reading Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”, his classic tale about the death of an eccentric elderly southern woman.

“Miss Johnston found this on her floor yesterday,” said Principal Rogers.

“The AP class is the only class that is reading that story. He…” She came around the desk and got in my face. “Is the only one capable of doing such a despicable thing.”

“What?” I was exasperated. “I didn’t draw that. Look at it. That’s some pretty feminine handwriting.”

“I know you did it, you little punk.” Her voice dripped with scorn. “You may have all of the others fooled, but you can’t fool me.”

I tried to appeal to Principal Rogers.

“See, this is what she does, what she has been doing all semester. She assumes that because my last name is Abbott that I am the only one is this class capable of doing anything wrong!”

I turned back to face my accuser.

“I am not anything like my brothers… I am not close to my brothers… I have no idea what it is that they did to you that you obviously can’t get over, but I am sick of it!”

“You are vermin, just like them,” she hissed.


“I didn’t draw it, but you know what? I agree with it. And I bet everyone else here does too. YOU ARE A CRAZY OLD BITCH.”

Her pointing stick came whistling through the air and smacked me right across my cheek, leaving a gash under my left eye. She realized immediately what she had done. Tears welled up in her eyes.

“Oh my… I’m… I’m…”

She fled the room as fast as her seventy-seven year old body could go.

By the end of the day the entire school was abuzz with what happened. Miss Johnston was suspended indefinitely. I was sent home and told to take a couple of days off, so I wasn’t there the next morning when they found her, sitting at her desk.

They couldn’t say for sure it was suicide, though that’s what most of the people around here thought. The autopsy proved inconclusive, and she left no note. Unless you count the blackboard. Scrawled across it, in varying degrees of legibility, was just one repeated phrase. Not a rose for Emily, my darling dear.

Me? I guess I like to think that she was a tired old woman who had just lost the only thing that she had ever had, and that she died of a broken heart. That way it wasn’t my fault.

Written by: Ben Cook
Photograph by: Emily Blincoe


Posted on: March 18, 2014

"Aren't you excited?" Steph's voice carries from the hallway. I do my best to ignore the bile churning in my stomach. My face is a mask of pain and anxiety, and a few shades paler than it should be. I nod at my reflection in the mirror, trying to convince myself of a lie before I tell it.

"Yeah," my voice wavers in response. Not convincing. "Totally."

Definitely not convincing.

"Alex," she draws out my name, each letter a syllable. The sharp points of her stiletto heels click in the hallway, drawing closer. She opens my door, not bothering to knock.

"You promised," Steph says.

"I just don't feel very well," I respond.

"Bullshit, you just don't want to go."

She isn't wrong. I don't want to go, even though I did promise Steph that 2014 would be the year I got out more. 'You can't just hang out at the house every night,' she'd told me.

"I don't want to go," I admit. I stare at the wall, willing it to somehow turn into a time machine. I imagine it shifting, the paint and boards peeling away to reveal a panel of buttons and bright colored lights.

Oh, or better yet, the boards slide open and illuminate a secret passageway that takes me to a Delorean. Run for it, Alex!

"It's just dinner," Steph says beside me. "It's like, the most low-key double-date ever because Garrett barely knows this guy so there's no pressure to like, ever hang out with him again. And I bet he's way better than those weird guys you met online last year."

I look at Steph but continue to think about my imaginary time machine. Where would I go to stop this double-date from happening?

I could go back to the train ride, when Steph first proposed it. Living in an old house away from the action of the city has its perks; I get tons of reading done on our morning commute. Steph plays Candy Crush, and apparently matchmaker.

The New Year's Eve promise is a strong contender, since I regret it more and more each day. It was a night that began with glitter, shots of tequila, and flirtatious boys; night yielded to residual liquid courage, adrenaline from going out and not hating it, and an impossible resolution I no longer want to pretend I'll keep.

"It'll be fun," Steph sing-songs as she twirls a perfect curl of blonde hair around a manicured finger.

There was the OKCupid debacle. I like vintage things, I'd written in my profile. My high standards were met by two different men, and to reward them I invited them back to my place. I caught Tim batting the old lanterns downstairs because he thought they were 'like touch lamps or something.'

Mike was a little better - he knew what the lamps were and admired them from a respectful distance. He was problematic in a different way. I didn't see it coming, but I should have – he got distracted by Steph whenever he saw her. Maybe distracted isn't the right word. He was obsessed with her. His eyes would linger on her, and it took too many instances of me staring at him staring at her to realize it could never work out.

I settle on a time, envision Doc Brown adjusting the date in the Delorean: May 22nd, 2013, the day Mom convinced me that Steph and I should once again live under the same roof.

'She's your baby sister,' Mom said. 'She wants to move to the city, but your father and I just don't think it's a good idea for her to use Craigslist to find roommates. You've already got a job, and that second bedroom was nowhere close to an office or a study or an exercise room when I visited a couple months ago.'

I agreed to this, but if I'd known the consequences -- men more interested in my little sister, coerced drunken promises, mandatory double-dates -- I would have put my foot down and refused my mother.

"You can't do this," Steph's eyes get serious. "I didn't believe Mom, but she’s right. You never do anything exciting."

Because what's happening in my head is almost always more exciting than what's happening in real life.

"You don't have any friends, Alex," Steph sounds sad and distant.

Imaginary ones. I have imaginary ones.

I look down at my feet and a trap door opens. It’s the same one I always imagine: my social escape hatch, a way to ignore everything around me and live comfortably inside my head.

I'm not sure who to expect this time. There have been hobbits and elves, superheroes and supervillains, boy wizards and talking paintings.

Her back is to me, but she has a trim, petite figure and long pale hair.

“Khaleesi?” I ask, confused. I'm not a huge fan, but it was a popular enough Halloween costume. The woman turns, and it's not the Mother of Dragons.

It's Steph.

I want to ask how she ended up in my imaginary panic room. I want to ask why Mom told her I never did anything, if our living together was as much about me as it was about my little sister. Questions pile up in my mind, but before I can articulate any of them she is gone and I am alone in the dark made-up space inside my own head.

I get off my bed and walk downstairs. My sister follows at my heels, radiating pain like a new blister.

“Alex?” Steph asks. I grab my purse from its hook and stop in front of the mirror. I don’t want answers to new questions - why I’d rather dream experiences than live them, why I wore my favorite outfit, why I envisioned my sister as part of my imaginary friend panoply. I say that I’m ready and smile when Steph yelps with glee. She darts back to her room, her stilettos tapping a percussive beat.

I see a shape move in the shadows, another flash of my overactive imagination. Maybe it’s just what I need to stay sane tonight, to blur reality enough to make it tolerable.

You can come, too, but keep it down, okay?

Written by: Erin Justice
Photograph by: Emily Blincoe

A Woman's Desire

Posted on: March 13, 2014

Leila opened her eyes for the first time.

Tiny beads of humidity blanketed her naked skin, catching light from the faintest rays of sunshine peeking through the canopy. She was in fetal position upon the damp earth, arms threaded between her thighs and knees pressed against her breasts. She blinked a few times before tilting back her head, peering up at the arms of the tree she rested beneath. Then she heard something, a high pitched sound that had a rhythm and melody, and she realized it was coming from a small bird with a red forehead and bright yellow chest sitting on a branch above.

She smiled before her mouth open in wonder.

Leila rolled over onto her back and stretched her arms and legs, easily six feet tall if she ever decided to stand up. She interlaced her fingers beneath her head, gazing up at the leaves, and digging her heels into the dirt. Another bird called out from the distance and she tried to replicate the sound, bracing the back of her throat and pressing the tip of her tongue behind her bottom row of teeth. The attempt delighted her, evoking a ringing laughter from somewhere behind her eyes and nose.

But someone else was laughing, too.

She sat up and pressed her back against the base of the tree, eyes darting left and right before locking eyes with someone emerging from the foliage ahead. He wore a red tunic and brown gloves, carrying a bow in one hand as he stepped forward, smiling at her. Leila had never seen a man before. She was horrified, yet mesmerized at the same time. He must have felt her fear because he knelt down in front of her, about ten feet away, one arm draped over his knee and his other hand resting on the ground.

“Hello, bright eyes,” he said.

Leila swallowed and said, “Lo.”

He laughed again, lowering himself to the ground and wrapping his arms around his knees. She was afraid of him because he was strange to her, but she could not ignore her natural desire to gaze upon his face and lean toward him.

The man placed his hand on his chest and said, “I am Arthur.”

“Thoor,” she said.

Another laugh and, “Yes, that’s right. That will do. And you, what shall I call you?”

Although Leila had never spoken her name before, she seemed to know deep down what it was, a combination of song and sigh that rolled off the tongue with ease. It pleased her to say it, and even more to say it to him.

“That’s a beautiful name,” Arthur said.

Leila crawled forward, her brown hair falling over her shoulders and swaying. Just in front of him, she sat back on her heels and offered her right hand, palm up. Arthur took off his leather glove and held her hand in his, meeting her gaze and wanting nothing more than to hold her against his body and kiss her neck. He wanted to smell the earth on her back and run his thumb over her hip. Leila’s quiet strength buffered his self control, and then he knew what she was.

“Ah, Leila,” he said. “You are a dryad.”

She smiled, pulling his hand to her chest.

He removed a leaf from her hair and looked up at the tree behind her. “And is this your tree, sweet nymph?”

Leila turned to look and she nodded with understanding.

“Extraordinary,” he said as he stood up and approached the tree, still holding Leila’s hand. “She looks old and very wise.”

Arthur turned to Leila and placed his hands on her shoulders, tracing her collar bones with his thumbs. She pressed her palms against his chest, assessing the fabric of his tunic with her fingertips.

“It’s curious that you should appear in my moment of need. For a year now, I’ve been seeking the answer to a question, and it escapes me. Being with you only makes it harder to discern. What do women most desire?

Leila seemed to ponder his words as Arthur squatted at the base of the tree, leaning back against it and pulling a small knife from his boot. He dug the tip into one of the roots, then dropped it, startled by Leila’s sharp cry. She fell forward, placing her hand over the spot where his knife pierced the bark. Arthur reached for her, but she recoiled. She glared at him as if a wounded woman, ready to retaliate. Her warmth was gone.

“Leila, I’m so sorry. It was thoughtless,” he said.

He reached for her again, but she shrugged him off, avoiding his eyes and staring at the ground. The silence stretched for miles between them and he could feel her spirit harden against him. For a moment, Arthur imagined bringing her home with him. He could make her his wife, his queen. She would bear his children and become the face of the kingdom. She would be a woman, not a spirit. So long as this tree lived, Leila could easily outlive him. His fantasy ended when he felt her hand upon his. Their eyes met and she smiled, but she also shook her head.

“No, Thoor,” she said.

What do women most desire?

They stood together, fingers interlaced. Arthur wanted to wrap his arms around her naked body and press his mouth to hers, but now he knew the answer to the question. His life as a soldier and a king was made up entirely of choices, and sometimes making choices against another’s will. Arthur could not bring himself to overpower her despite the fact that he could. He could not bring himself to seduce her with empty promises, nor threaten the life of the tree. He waited to see what Leila wanted, to see what she would choose, if she would choose him.

Leila’s lips were on his.

Then, she was gone.

“To choose,” he said. “The power to choose.”

Written by: Natasha Akery
Photograph by: Angela DeRay

Life's a beach

Posted on: March 11, 2014

A crashing wave rushes towards the shore, leaving a young girl curled up on the sand in its wake. The child opens her eyes and takes in her surroundings as the foamy water retreats to the horizon.

She pushes her elbow into the soggy ground and peels herself from the earth like the skin of an orange as another wave crashes in the distance. She rolls over onto her knees and trudges towards the Beachgrass gates lining the bright-white dunes.

She explores the terrain on all fours, astounded by every handprint and knee dent she leaves in the landscape. She giggles each time her tiny digits disappear beneath the supple surface that’s cradling her fragile figure.

The land hardens as the girl travels farther from the water line and her gleeful laughter turns into grunts of frustration. She pauses for a moment and studies the fading trail of prints leading back to the ocean. Her youthful smile morphs into a look of panic once she realizes her place between the water and the dunes.

She turns to the left and sees a young boy constructing a tiny castle from the same sand that’s resting beneath her. She lifts her hand and plunges her rigid fingers into the topsoil, signifying the groundbreaking of her new project.

She defines her property with a trench, much like the border surrounding her neighbor’s construction zone. She then piles the displaced sand in the center of her territory and contemplates what shape the elements should take.

Her eyes lock on a condominium towering over the coast. She makes note of every detail, from the scalloped columns spanning the height of the building to the golden lion statue eclipsing the sun from above the penthouse.

She shapes the mound of eroded shells into something resembling the colossal structure that’s casting shadows over the ocean like a sundial. Cloaked by the shade of the condominium, the little girl pats and smoothes the sand into a rectangle so tall, she’s forced to stand on her toes and blindly level the roof with her outstretched fingers.

The weight of gravity wears on her forefeet and she returns her heels to the sand, cursing her height for hampering her productivity. She sits with her back against her unfinished project and calculates how long she has until the salty waves breach her barricades. She crosses her arms on her knees, lowers her head and weeps, as if collapsing under the pressure of time.

Her sulking is interrupted by a hand on her shoulder. She looks up to find a tall girl silhouetted by the sun. The stranger’s braid ticks back and forth between her shoulder blades like the pendulum of a grandfather clock as she peers over the top of the castle. She effortlessly pats down all the unreached bumps and the little girl joyfully kneels and starts pinching cylinders up and down the sides of her tower.

The two girls laugh and sing as their building expands in every direction. Somewhere in the midst of all the digging and rezoning, their worksite merges with her pint-sized competitor’s. After a playful exchange of accusations, the girl and boy decide to join their castles into one massive estate.

As the sun fell from the clouds and the water crept up the shore, the young boy, the little girl, her taller friend and some newfound acquaintances continued inventing new tasks to ignore the persistent march of time. The turrets rose higher, the moat dipped lower and every wall of the castle was covered in embellishments reflective of their maker.

The little girl continued perfecting her masterpiece as, one by one, her colleagues were summoned to the dunes. She only allowed herself a brief moment of grief as she watched each cohort approach the bright light of the setting sun.

She kept busy until it was time for her tall companion to answer the call echoing from beyond the Beachgrass gates. The little girl watched as her closest friend walked away from their castle, her braid now resting motionlessly down the center of her back.

As she waved goodbye, the little girl noticed swells of wrinkles crashing along the back of her hand. She studied the ripples until the young boy took her weathered palm and helped her to her feet. He led her alongside their estate until they reached the frail sand at the foot of the dunes, each mound resembling the bottom half of a depleted hourglass.

They turned and watched as a wave from the rising tide cascaded over the edge of their boundary, occupying every crevice of the trench like milk on a tile floor. Another wave filled what remained of the moat as the young boy’s hand slipped from the little girl’s grasp. She stood there, alone, reminiscing on everything she and her friends had created.

As another wave surged towards her castle, the little girl searched for the condominium she had set out to replicate. She spotted the golden lion statue staring out over the water and began comparing the buildings. She was shocked by how far she had strayed from her blueprint, but even more so by how little she cared.

The endless layers of perfectly aligned balconies now seemed cold and lifeless next to the dissimilar terraces constructed by her and her friends. Even the great lion whose chin touched the clouds wore a somber expression without the luminance of the midday sun amplifying its features.

The little girl smiled. She took a final look at her castle, turned and walked peacefully towards the dunes. Waves continued battering the sculpted terrain until it returned to a flat patch of land with no signs of the little girl’s labor of love, hardship and friendship.

The sun rose the following morning and a crashing wave rushed towards the shore, leaving a young boy curled up on the sand in its wake. He opened his eyes, peeled himself from the earth and began his journey to the dunes.

Written by: Mark Killian
Photograph by: Emily Blincoe

The Memory Assassin

Posted on: March 6, 2014

The menu says you’re not supposed to have more than five. It’s marked, clear and concise, right there in loopy text protected by the plastic sheen you’ll find on cheap menus in cheap restaurants. The drink in question is dubbed “The Great White,” and according to the “Booze-Cruze Handbook,” these are its side effects:

1. Drink One – Consumer might feel a slight heat on their cheeks, akin to light sunburn.

2. Drink Two – Consumer will begin to feel the effects of this potent elixir. Watch for a slight blurring of speech and vision.

3. Drink Three – Consumer will be intoxicated by drink three. Do not operate heavy machinery or unknown members of the opposite sex.

4. Drink Four – Consumer has reached DEFCON II. Signs of consumption include sweating, tripping, and yelling.

5. Drink Five – Consumer MUST NOT DRINK FIVE!!!

I read it once through, and then twice for good measure and, why yes, that appears to be a challenge. I did not train for seven years in college to drink four measly drinks. I do not abide by menu rules designed to protect consumers. I am a man and a drinker and I do what I damn well please. I look at my watch. 11:30AM.


2:00PM. Holy shit, what have I done? I’ve made a huge mistake. I’ve gone past the five-drink instruction. Like a homecoming queen, I parade-waved past the limit on to six…seven…eight?

Eight? Fuck. Really?

You know it’s bad when the waiter stops swinging by the table, and I haven’t seen the waiter in quite some time. Waitress? Is it a male or female? Who cares, I decide. Who gives a flying fuck? As long as they do their job, I’ll do mine. A champion will rise.

Well, since you asked, I’ll tell you about my mission. It is not a mission from god, nor is it a Desert Eagle-pumping, tobacco chewing, Marine Corps, bitch - mission. No, my mission is to drink away a memory. Have you ever tried this? To drink away a memory? It’s very difficult. See, alcohol works by altering the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, both excitatory and inhibitory in nature. What I’m targeting here, sitting in this restaurant by the ocean, is an excitatory neurotransmitter known as Glutamate.

Glutamate normally increases brain activity and energy levels, but “The Great White” does a fine job of suppressing such things. It slows everything down. By this mid-afternoon hour, I’ve surely exhausted my body’s supply of the stuff.

But I digress; let’s get back to my memories.

I’m trying to wash away a series of memories that evolve around happiness. See, I’ve decided that I don’t want any part of happiness. Happiness is a real cunt, if you ask me. My thought process is such; as part of a yin and yang world, everything must be viewed through context. Action, reaction, that sort of thing - you know what I’m getting at. Ergo, happiness is inexorably linked to depression and sadness. And this is the shit I’m talking about; you can’t have one without the other.

It’s become clear to me that I cannot handle the reverse of happiness. Sadness does not agree with me, and as it appears I cannot have happiness without sadness…well…


There’s something tapping on my shoulder, so I do what anyone would do and blindly swipe at it like you would a bug.


It takes me at least five seconds to lift my head from the table. When I finally do, I’m met by a set of eyes looking down at me. They belong to a woman.

“Sir, you have to leave,” she says.

This fine beauty, delicate as a waif, must be my waitress.

“Why?” I ask.

“You’re freaking out the other customers.”

Freaking out? Really? I’m just sitting here minding my own business.

“I’m just minding my own…”

“Sir,” she interrupts. She puts up a finger as if she’s going to tell me how it is. “You’re yelling at the ocean. Something about neurotransmitters, or…listen, I don’t know, but my boss just told me to tell you to leave.”

“Glutamate?” I slur.


“My target,” I spit. “Glutamate. My target. I’m here to wipe out memories.”

“Well,” she sighs. “You’re wiping out my boss’s business, so hit the road. Go home, man.”

“You want me to leave?” I ask. “I’m a memory assassin.”

“Right,” she says. “A memory assassin.”

“The Great White is my tank!” I yell.

On the table is Great White #8 with its huge straw. I reach for it. I knock it over.

“Sir, you’ve had too many,” says the waitress.

I hold up my fingers totaling eight.

“Seven? Seriously, you’ve had seven of these things?”

Seven? What? No, I mean…One…Two…Three…Six…Seven…

I raise one more finger.

“Eight?” She says. “You’re joking.”

“Serious as heart-tack,” I burp.

The waitress puts one hand on her hip and scratches the back of her head with the other, looking pensively at the ocean.

“Well,” she sighs, “I’m going to need help.”

Me too.


8:00AM. Shiva, destroyer of worlds, is holding court in my head. He?...She?...It? Sits cross-legged, fat and happy, doing work on my cerebrum. Life is not fair.

I open my eyes and, good morning, I am greeted by two observations.

First? I am not in my room. Second? I am dans le nu, as they say along the Siene, butt- ass naked as they say along the Hudson.

Sooo…concerning the room: it’s not too shabby, an oldie but a goodie. The ocean lives outside my window. The breeze, smelling of saltwater and fish, makes its way into my lungs. I drink it in. And speaking of drinking... I need water.

I get up and look for pants. Finding none, I say, “Fuck it,” aloud. By the time the woman comes through the door, I’m up on my feet. She’s holding a glass of water and looks neither surprised nor impressed by my dangling manhood.

“Hello,” I croak. “Are you my waitress?”

The woman doesn’t smile at me. Instead, she glares.

“No,” she says. “That’s my sister, Lola. I’m Marta.”

“Marta,” I sigh.

What do you do with a problem like Marta?

“Nice,” deadpans Marta. “You know, you were shouting last night, when my sister brought you back here. Kept saying you were on a mission, something about destroying memories. Kept calling yourself Shiva and yelling ‘champion.’ Champion this. Champion that.”


“Really,” says Marta. “Anyway, I guess you accomplished your mission. Congratulations, you’re a champion.”

She pauses.

“Now find your pants and get the fuck out.”

Written by: Logan Theissen
Photograph by: Daniel Vidal

You Only Live Once

Posted on: March 4, 2014

I’m standing in line for what my son and in his friends call the “YOLO-Coaster of Doom,” and my son's cutting me that slicing teenage glance that lets me know this is my one opportunity to prove myself. I've got my pup tent clearly parked on the border between Lame Dad and yo, Michael, your dad's all right. I am determined to end up in the preferable camp.

I’ve worked hard since Joanna and I split to cultivate a look that says I’m with it. Half-zip grey sweaters. Hair wax. NPR glasses, which Jamie, the optometrist's cute assistant, swore make me look thoughtful. I’m trying too hard, but at least I know I’m trying too hard. And shouldn't I?

When the woman you've mostly loved for seventeen years drags your name through a mixture of mud and sewage, you have to become the kind of dad your kid isn’t embarrassed to be with in public. But so far it's easier to get approval from the optometrist's assistant.

So here I am in line for the YOLO-Coaster of Doom. Michael's a respectable distance ahead, goofing off with his stoner buddies who I am trying hard not to judge, as they've got the power here. Dan, the taller one, doesn't say much, but laughs a fakey huh-huh at everything the other two say. The second half-bake, whom everyone calls Squirrel, is busy ogling a busty park employee escorting a Make-a-Wish group to the front of the line.

"They're like! They're like! Torpedoes!" Squirrel booms, and Michael makes that explosion sound with his mouth, the one he's been perfecting since he was six.

"Huh huh," Dan laughs.

Now Michael's cutting me another glance to see if I'm going to shut it down. To see if I'm going to pull a Joanna and remind them about the connectedness of the universe and the equality of humanity. To remind them karma's a total bitch.

Using only my eyebrow, I send Michael a look that says, "You make your own choices."

My son. My son, who is angry and has the right to be. My son, who has just transitioned from smoking pot at the end of the driveway to the bold test of smoking pot in his bathroom with the window open. Who has taken to sporting a ridiculous Rasta hat. Who complains when he comes over to my shitty rental, grumbling, “You should’ve fought Mom for the big TV.” He loads each action, each rolling eyeball, with a dare.

The line’s finally moving.

“You’re not gonna puke, are you?” Michael asks.

“I think I can hold it together,” I say.

“One time? I was here on Halloween? This lady was drunk?” Squirrel starts, his voice getting higher at the end of every phrase. “She puked EVERYWHERE.”

“Huh huh,” Dan laughs.

“Sick,” says Michael. “You better not puke, Dad. But just wait for the corkscrew. It is insane.”

“I’ve ridden a few coasters in my day,” I say, realizing this phrase has the opposite of the intended effect. In my day. Jesus.

The park employee with the boobs ushers us into the boarding area. Squirrel and Dan fist bump as they score seats in the front of the coaster. Michael looks vaguely sullen, but then elbows me.

“Buckle up,” he says.

The coaster cranks into motion. We start up the first hill and grind toward the top, each click and jolt of the machinery pushing us farther into the morning sky. I button my glasses into my shirt pocket.

“Your hat,” I say to Michael, but the coaster is toppling over the edge now, and Michael just grins and holds a hand to his head.

“Woooooo!” whoops Squirrel.

The YOLO-Coaster is everything. The first drop is perpendicular with the ground, and I’m suddenly relating to that warning about old-timey scuba suits—when you cut the air line and it depressurizes too fast, your internal organs force up into your helmet. But I don’t barf.

The corkscrew isn’t much better. The ground and sky become a giant loop. Squirrel is still Wooo-ing, and I look over at Michael, who is clenching his Rasta hat in one fist. He’s gritting his teeth. Is he—crying? Without my glasses I can’t tell. Maybe it’s sweat, but I swear it’s a tear, sliding from his eye and clinging to his cheek, despite the g-force wind pulling his skin against his bones so he looks like a corpse.

After I moved out, Joanna and I dividing our possessions like picking teams in gym class (Her: Give me the couch. Me: I pick the grill), Michael did what all the divorce websites said he would. He didn’t cry. He started acting out, failing tests and getting caught with pot on school property. Joanna would text me from work, and I’d go down to the high school and do the dad thing. I’d stand in the principal’s office and say, “We’re going through some stuff at home right now,” while Michael grabbed his crap from his locker to prepare for a two-day suspension.

Sometimes, before Joanna met Suraj at her yoga class and all the shit went down, we’d rent a convertible for a few hours, and I’d drive us, fast, out in the country. Her hair would whip in the wind like a commercial for youth and happiness, and I’d catch her crying, overwhelmed by the rush. She’d put her feet up on the dash, even though she knew it could kill her if we wrecked. But we would never wreck.

But that was before. Before Joanna met Suraj. Before I met Ashley Kletzinger, to get Joanna back for Suraj. Before even my friends took Joanna’s side, saying stuff like, “It’s really not for me to judge, but how old is Ashley?” Before I broke it off with Ashley and told Joanna that love was a choice I was committed to making. Convertible rides and happiness were before she said she was choosing to direct her love somewhere else, and I should probably come over and clean out my half of the closet.

The coaster jolts to a stop back at the boarding zone.

“Duuuuuude!” Squirrel bellows.

“Epic,” Dan grunts.

“You were right,” I say to Michael. “That was insane.”

Michael wipes his face with the back of his hand.

“I think I got a bug in my eye,” he says.

“Bummer,” I say.

“Hey Dad,” he says.

Thanks for bringing us here, I want him to say. Let’s ride it again, I want him to say. Then I’ll know he’s okay, that the half of him that’s Joanna was feeling free and alive, and he’s happy. Or what I really want to hear: I still love you.

“Yeah?” I answer.

“Can you give us money for the midway?”

“Sure,” I say. “Whatever you want.”

Written by: Dot Dannenberg
Photograph by: Matt Crump

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