Wind Howl Hold Steady

Posted on: April 29, 2014

The road runs beside cliffs that look like someone cut them with a giant celestial butter knife. Down and drop to rocks and waves of death. What possesses you to do it? To take the wheel and jerk, to take the plunge, to wave the white flag? Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away.

When I first told him that I didn’t believe in ghosts, he said, “Well that’s too bad, because they believe in you.” When I replied that I was curious how he knew such things, he came back with: “Because they told me.”

His wisdom lifts up into the warm air and is whisked away, shoo fly don’t bother me, by the wind. He waves goodbye to it and we continue down the road. I ask him to tell me more about the ghosts of Cliff Road. “Well, first off,” he replies, “First off, they are all happy.”

“No hauntings on Cliff Road?” I ask.

“No hauntings on Cliff Road,” he reiterates. “It’s because they all want to be here. They all want to be dead.”

“They all want to be ghosts?” I ask. “Suicide?”

My travelling companion nods his head. “Affirmative,” he mutters. But then he reverses course, back it up, back it up. A little further now.

“Actually, no,” he says, “I guess if you think about it they probably hate being ghosts just as much as they hate being alive. That would make more sense.”

“Maybe they wanted to be ghosts to haunt people,” I say, “And that’s why they kill themselves. The grass is always greener sort of thing.”

My companion has a deep beard that resembles the forest that flanks Cliff Road, and he scratches it constantly. He’s scratching it now: “I grew up here,” he says. “Funny thing about growing up.”

I believe he will continue, but when he doesn’t I’m not surprised. He appears to be that sort of fellow.

“Like, here, here?” I ask.

He shakes his head. “In the region, though. Not far away.”

“Is that why you’re here? To come home?”

“No,” he says. “Have you ever heard of Aokigahara Forest?”

I don’t reply.

“It’s a forest in Japan,” he continues. “People go there to kill themselves.”

“Why?” I ask.

“Well,” he begins, “I guess their life isn’t all that great. They say suicides go up during the holidays, but I read somewhere that was actually an urban legend, and that suicide rates actually stay pretty constant throughout the year.”

There is a beat of silence while I wait for him to catch up.

“Oh,” he says, “Right. Why do they go to the forest?”

His voice trails off gradually, more and more after every sentence, disappearing until he’s nothing but mumbles.

We continue walking in silence, thumbs out. Books in a bag slouched on his shoulders; romance and Dharma Bums and half-smoked cigarettes. You’ve seen it all before.

There is a fog rolling in, not uncommon to the region. The warm, moist air from the land encounters the cool waters of the Pacific and sparks fog – Mr. Gardner taught me that in sixth grade, probably the closest I came to a mentor.

I saw him again when I graduated-Gardner; his son was in my grade. He was awful. Three months out from a divorce he surely knew was coming. Drunk on scotch and self-pity.

“We are all atoms,” he slurred at me. “Buncha’ protons and electrons circlin’ like a hurricane the eye of our nucleus. Carbon pullin’ us all together, fusin’ us with one another and the world we inhabit at large. Until the sky and stars are made of us and vice versa.”

“Goddamn fog, man,” says my companion. “Gives me the creeps.”

“It should,” I say and finally, finally, finally he looks at me like he really sees me. Finally, he seems to know.

What happens next will take some time, but I’ll savor the moments as his face contorts slightly, before the naturalistic display of toughness. No fear, his chin will try to say – but it shakes. I want to pat his head and whisper the truth. You can’t escape fear.

“They go because they’re called there,” I say.


“The forest…In Japan,” I whisper. I know he can hear me, I don’t have to raise my voice. “I asked why they went there to kill themselves. Of all the places, why there?”

“I mean,” he stutters, “Nobody really knows. It’s probably because it’s like the cool thing to do now, you know? Like if you’re going to do it, might as well do it here?”

He looks like they all look about this time; like he wants to run away but can’t. His body is even angled away from me, down the road toward the bend, into the fog.

“No, you’re wrong,” I smile at him. “They’re called there, just like they are to other places. Golden Gate Bridge…Beachy Head…Mount Mihara….Aokigahara Forest.”

I pause for dramatic effect.

“Here…” I finish, “Cliff Road.”

The young man looks around. He is on the verge of weak, puny tears.

“Who?” he asks, “Who calls them?”

“All of us,” I reply. “All of us that came before. The more the merrier.”

I laugh and he begins to cry. Poor boy. He looks through the fog and sniffs and wipes tears because he knows what’s out there. That’s what so beautiful about it; he can’t see it but he knows it’s there.

“I’m sorry,” he apologizes.

They all apologize. I apologized. There’s no shame in the fear you find at the end of the road.

“I’m sorry,” he says again. “I was sick. I was so tired and there’s just…there’s just everything…”

He trails off again. It strikes me that, really, he’s just a child. The beard made him look older, but the sadness and the designation and the pity show his true age.

“You’re not here to stop me,” he says.

I shake my head and say, “On the contrary…”

“Why?” he asks.

He cries deep, hard tears and his body convulses. All like the rest, all the same.

I shrug. I am void of this pity. I am tired of this show.

“Are you going to finish this?” I ask. “Or am I?”

Written by: Logan Theissen
Photograph by: Angela DeRay

Be Great

Posted on: April 24, 2014

Taking the train home from the other side of town is like visiting a weird zoo—one where all the animals are different from you, and you shouldn’t look them in the eyes. There’s a tourist holding a pole and standing over me, looking like Willy Wonka wearing a Hawaiian print shirt. In the seat on my right, a man in a ratty coat reads Chapter 20: “Tentacles.” Sitting across the train car, two little girls in braids cut up, tickling one another. Then the older one leans over and licks the smaller one on the forehead. In front of me, there’s a woman carrying a purple orchid. A man reading a Spanish newspaper. A girl who interjects her rapid-fire Chinese with “I’m just sayin’.”

If I were in a praying mood, I’d pray we don’t get stuck in a tunnel.

When I switch trains at L’Enfant, I get back on my turf. Everything evens out, and it’s the strangers I always see. People I know, but don’t know. Tired people headed home from work. Sometimes a panhandler, but one who knows better than to ask here.

Walking back through the neighborhood, I find the boys playing ball.

“Z, come play!” Mike says.

“Nah, man, can’t.”

“Where’ve you been today?”


“School?” Mike says, throwing the basketball at my chest. “The fuck?”

“I told you I was doing college,” I say.

“Z’s too good for us now,” Arthur laughs from over by the fence. “Come on, Mike. Leave him alone.”

I throw Arthur the ball. I expected this. I just hoped it wouldn’t happen on my first day. Up at the school, they said they could see I was different. How I pay attention to things. But I don’t need anybody telling me I’m special. My whole crew’s been getting that our whole lives, and look where it’s gotten most of us. Playing ball in the middle of a weekday. Doing nothing. Like they told us we were special just to keep us alive.

“I’ll be out later,” I say. “Got to check on my mom.”

I go in the house, making sure the door doesn’t slam behind me. She might be asleep.

“Baby, is that you?”

She’s awake. I can hear her oxygen tank making its puffing noise, like a big dog sniffing something every few seconds.

“It’s me.”

“How was school?” she calls from her bedroom.

“It was good, Mama. Everybody’s nice.”

“I’m so proud of you, baby.”

“I know. Did you eat yet?”

“I did. There’s some in the fridge for you.”

I heat up the leftovers, peas and rice, and turn the TV on. It’s the local news, and the ugly anchor with the shoulders like a linebacker is talking about the usual. Somebody’s missing. Somebody’s shot. Somebody’s crashed their car on the beltway, and there’s a massive pileup. I decide I’m not hungry and put my bowl back in the fridge.

I leave the news on and go back to Mama’s room. Her eyes are closed, but she opens them when I enter.

“You get enough to eat?”

“Yeah,” I lie.

“Tell me all about school, now. What classes did they give you?”

“English and computers. And introduction to criminal justice.”

“You’re going to be great, baby. You know that? You’re going to be great.”

“I’m going to try,” I say. “I’m going out. You good without me?”

“You go on. Tell Arthur I said he needs to go back to school, too.”

“I will.”

We play fast and hard. It’s August, still too hot to play with a shirt on, even at night. Mike tries to cheat every chance he gets, but I hurl myself around him, not meeting his eyes. My Jordans smack the cracked pavement. The game breaks down to nothing but sound—the huffs of our breath, the thunks of the ball on the backboard, the metallic rattle as it rolls through the hoop.

“Z thinks he’s a scholar, he doesn’t need ball,” Mike says.

“No team will take a dropout like you, Mike,” Arthur says. “You don’t need ball, either—you need the lotto.”

“Shut the fuck up,” Mike says, but he’s not mad. Mike may be bitter, but he’s not unhappy. He runs shit around here, and that means something. And his girlfriend’s about to have a baby. Even though Mama wouldn’t agree, I know Mike’s going to be a good dad. He cares when it matters.

“What’s it like over there in white-ville?” Mike asks, wiping the sweat from his forehead.

“Nice,” I say. “Shiny-ass buildings. Nobody getting caught smoking a j on kiddie playgrounds. Nobody like that around.”

“That was one time!” Mike yells. “What, you think I could’ve gone home like that? My grandmother would kill me if she caught me high.”

Arthur laughs so hard he doubles over. “Well, when you get sick of all that law-abiding bullshit, you know where to find us,” he chokes.

“I’ll remember that,” I say.

Arthur and I hit the corner store for beer, and he follows me back to the house.

“So you really like it at college?”

“Yeah,” I say. “It’s not like what you think. Everybody’s just like us. It’s just regular people. And they say they can help you find jobs.”

“Jobs. They could get me something better than Checkers?”

“Maybe.” I push open the door to the house. The TV is still on. The linebacker news anchor is gone, replaced by the bald guy who does the weather. Tomorrow: hot. The next day: hotter. The day after that: more of the same.

Arthur takes the beer to the kitchen, and I go to Mama’s room. The oxygen machine’s still making its noise.

“Mama,” I whisper. “You need anything?”

She doesn’t answer. Must be sleeping. But she’s more still than usual. I watch her stomach to see if it’s going up and down. It’s not.

I go closer to the bed and touch her arm.

“Mama, you okay?”

Arthur sticks his head around the doorframe.

“She asleep?”

I shake my head.

“She’s gone.”

“Shit, man.”

I call my aunt and the hospice nurse. Arthur sits with me while we wait for them, and I heat up the peas and rice, the last meal my mother will ever cook for me. I sit at the table and eat, each bite feeling more like food of the dead. Arthur starts on the beer and flips through my new computer book.

“I’m sorry, Z,” he says. “What are you going to do now?”

“I don’t know.”

Outside, I hear the hospice nurse pull up. Somewhere, kids are laughing and running down the street. Off a ways, a car’s backfiring. The whole neighborhood’s still alive.

Written by: Dot Dannenberg
Photograph by: Daniel Vidal


Posted on: April 22, 2014

"Just start the car and drive," she said to herself. Her hands were trembling. She fumbled with the key, nearly dropping it before she managed to jam it into the ignition. "Just start the car," she chanted. "Just start the car... just start the car... just start the car."

A twist of her wrist and the car shuddered to life. The throaty rumbling of the engine momentarily startled her. She hadn't expected it to start; it was old and she was used to things not working. She gripped the steering wheel, knuckles burning white.

"OK. Now," she instructed, "just drive the car. Just drive the car. Just. Drive. The. Car."

She stepped on the accelerator. The engine roared, but the car remained stationary. First, panic - "No. No… No… NO!" - then, relieved realization; she hadn't put the car in DRIVE. She cursed her own stupidity and shifted the gear stick. It settled into place with a clunk. The car lurched forward, churning up a thick, brown cloud of dust. At the same time, she felt the weight of doubt, like a ball and chain, holding her back. But, no. It was now or never. She had to go. She had to go or she would be stuck here forever. She had to go or she would die here, without ever having lived. She couldn't look back. She mustn't look back.

She glanced in the rear-view mirror.

"No… No… NO!" She yelled, hitting the steering wheel with the palm of her hand. She scolded herself for being weak. She must never look back. It was over. Over. From now on, this place was dead to her. It was no longer home. For the time being, she was homeless. She thought of all the trite sayings she'd heard over the years: ‘Home is Where the Heart is.’ ‘Home Sweet Home.’ ‘There's No Place Like Home.’ She considered the meaning of the word 'home' - A place where one lives? A place where one feels safe? Yes, she had lived here, but no, she’d never felt safe.

Salvation was a small town, the kind of town outsiders often saw through the rose-tinted glasses of romanticized nostalgia; a town forgotten by time, with white picket fences, unlocked doors and friendly locals. But the reality was far less idyllic. The white picket fences needed painting and repair. The unlocked doors and the so-called friendly locals – residents who felt it was their business to know everybody’s business – made Salvation a gossipy, judgmental community, one completely devoid of privacy and personal space. In her opinion, there’d been far more suitable names – Stagnation, Suffocation, Strangulation – but she’d always kept those to herself, until this afternoon.

“This place, it’s killing me. I have to get out. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe with all these hands around my throat.”

The memory replayed. It clouded her mind - a stubborn storm of thought, a tempest she couldn’t shake.

“What did you say?” he slurred, grabbing another beer from the refrigerator - his fifth of the hour. He popped the metal cap from the bottle and flung it at her face. She flinched and turned away. The cap bounced off her head and clattered to the floor. He scoffed. “Pick that up,” he said.

But she didn’t move.

“You hear me? I told you to pick it up.”

She felt the burning heat of his glare and thought, ‘If you do this, life will never be the same. If you do this, there’ll be no going back.’

She returned his glare. “I heard you,” she said.

His eyes narrowed and he stepped close. “Then. Pick. It. Up,” he hissed. Spit flew from his lips with each punctuated syllable. His speech was slow, shaky, angry.

‘If you do this…’

But she already knew.

‘Life will never…’

She was going to do it.

‘No going back…’

She straightened up, looked him firmly in the eye and said, “No.”

The pain from the blow was momentarily blinding and she crumpled to the floor. When her vision cleared, she saw him standing over her with clenched fists. She reached up and fumbled for the edge of the countertop, finding it with the pads of her fingers. Using the wooden surface as support, she pulled herself to her feet. She was dazed, but determined, and when the second blow came, she was ready.

She ducked and grabbed the kettle – heavy and full of water – and swung it at him. The rounded metal connected with the side of his head, making a musical, watery gong sound. To her surprise, he fell straight to the floor. She hadn’t expected it to work; he was strong and she was used to things not working. But he was sprawled on the floor, out cold. She knew she had to act fast. She grabbed some money, a change of clothes and the key to the car.

Now she was on a long, empty road - tires crunching over the gritty surface of the tarmac below, sky stretching, blue and wide, above. She rolled down the window, letting the wind play with her hair, and she thought, ‘This must be what freedom feels like’. She breathed in, deep, and briefly closed her eyes. When she opened them again, she caught sight of something in the rear-view mirror. In the distance, in the middle of the road, stood a girl - a vision of herself – a girl with the same face, clothes and hair. The girl looked panicked and distraught.

Her heart lurched and she gasped, slamming on the brakes. The car stopped. She considered turning around and going back. But then she thought, ‘You can’t save someone who doesn’t want to be saved. You can only save yourself.’

She took her foot off the brake and pressed it down on the accelerator. As the car picked up speed, she glanced in the rear-view mirror. The girl was gone.

She fixed her eyes on the road ahead and never looked back again.

Written by: Angela DeRay
Photograph by: Emily Blincoe


Posted on: April 17, 2014

9:59 PM

Jennifer’s head is turned towards the window and she has to squint to see — she's blind without her glasses. She closes her eyes and lets out one last breathe as if to say "I'm ready."



"What happened?"

"I'm done."

10:00 PM

"That wasn't so bad. I expected worse. It hurt, but in the good kinda way, ya know? Claire told me it would be like that,” said Jennifer.

“Ugh, Claireee…” Tom says under his breath with a hint of disgust.

“Well, thank you," she says sheepishly, not knowing what else to do.

After an embarrassing peck on the cheek, he leaves.


"Dude, but I'm pretty sure she was looking at the clock," Tom says shaking his head.

"Nah man, I'm sure she didn't. Don't worry."

"Well I looked. One minute. One fucking minute. Actually, a little less but I have to round up. That's okay, right?"

"Yeah man, chill out. It's happens to everyone. You'll get better and she'll want more," Chris says, nodding and grinning.

Chris is kind of creepy but he's Tom's friend and Tom needs support right now.

It’s been 16 hours now since Tom lost his virginity to Jennifer. Tom has had his eye on Jennifer since the eighth grade. He loved her smile, her eyes, her hair and the way she dressed. She had an annoying voice, everyone thought so too, but he didn’t care.

They started as friends in English class and Tom was always there for her, stuck in the friend zone. He was okay with this though. He figured this was good enough; he thought she was way out of his league anyway.

As terrible as this was, he saw the friend zone as an investment – a term he heard his dad throw around a lot and one that he quickly adopted. It made him feel smart. An investment that he thought, may, pay its dividends (another one of those words) further down the road but one that he was willing to take a loss on if nothing played out.

It was the last thing he expected but he just struck gold. Except, it was like he spent all the gold on one lame night in an arcade instead of a crazy trip to Vegas. It was anticlimactic and he was embarrassed. He had no idea how he’d ever look at Jennifer again.



Jennifer rolls her eyes.


“CLAIRE,” Jennifer sternly whisper-yells.

Claire is too busy wrapping her lips around a sucker while looking over her shoulder at Jason to hear her name.

Jennifer nudges Claire’s shoulder, says something about how dirty she is and then finally lets it out.

“I lost my virginity last night,” says Jennifer.

“To Jeremy?” she asks.

“Ew! Gross!” Jennifer says. “To Tom.”

“Oh, I would do it with Jeremy,” Claire says, not impressed. “Well, how was it?”

“I was so embarrassed. And kinda scared and it was just like you said it would be and it kinda hurt but it felt good in that weird way like you said and it felt like it lasted forever. I couldn’t look at him though. I looked out the window. At the stars. It was really nice.”

“Eww,” Claire says. “You’re so lame.”

Claire isn’t the best of friends, but she’s Jennifer’s friend and she obviously needs some support right now.

It’s been 16 hours now since Jennifer lost her virginity to Tom. Jennifer has had her eye on Tom for years. Since the eighth grade actually. She didn’t know what it was. Maybe it was his smile, his eyes, his hair or maybe it was the way that he always wore cargo shorts and a hoodie no matter how warm or cold it was outside. Everyone thought he was a little nerdy, and you know what, maybe he was, but she didn’t care.

They started as friends in English class and Tom was always there for her. She had quickly put him in the friend zone but she loved having him around. He was such a sweetie and she was so grateful to have him there when her mom got mad at her or that one time that Chance broke up with her or that other time Claire told everyone that she made out with Trevor under the bleachers. “I NEVER did that,” she’d try to explain, but Tom didn’t let off that he cared.

It was the last thing she expected to do that Friday night but she was very happy with her decision. It was like the planets were aligned and for the first time she realized how compatible her sign was with his.

He was slow, careful, respectful and everything that she had wanted. The whole thing was embarrassing, there was no doubt about that, but she was still excited to see Tom again.


The bell rings and class is dismissed. High-schoolers flood the atrium.

Jennifer is listening to Claire gossip about something she doesn’t care about. She wishes she wouldn’t be so rude sometimes.

Tom is taking a punishment from Chris as he punches him in the shoulder repeatedly and makes fun of his band hoodie. Chris goes silent for a second and Tom barely notices until he gets shoved again.

“Dammit dude!” Tom runs into someone and turns around to apologize while flicking Chris off.

“Jennifer.” His face is frozen in shock.

“Tom!” She says with the biggest smile.

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay! How are you?!”

“...uh…just...peachy?” Tom says, his face bright red. He shuffles away quickly, leaving Jennifer a bit confused.

“Just peachy?” Chris asks, as they move down the hallway, embarrassed for his friend. “What the fuck dude, you’re so lame! That’s something my grandma would say. Go talk to her, she obviously likes you.”

“Really? You think?” Tom asks.

“Yes! Go!” says Chris with a shove.

Tom chases after Jennifer, his heart racing, holding back a smile.

He’s going to be late to Chemistry but everyone knows that Mrs. Patterson is too old, too deaf and too oblivious to notice. And he doesn’t care; he’s in love. At least he thinks.

Written by: Daniel Vidal
Photograph by: Emily Blincoe

Hokey Pokey

Posted on: April 15, 2014

You put your right leg in,
you hear a shot ring out,
your eyes well up with tears,
and you scream a violent shout.
Your shin bone blows to pieces,
and you plummet to the ground,
here comes a-no-ther round.


They’re scowling. I must’ve been screaming again.

Yep. The piss in my lap confirms it. Another night, another night terror.

I’d ask for a little sympathy, but these poor bastards are no better off than I am. Homeless shelters weren’t made for people with pleasant pasts. They’re holding pens for society’s most forgettable members: the alcoholics, the drug addicts, the mentally disabled, the emotionally disturbed, the socially inept, or in my case, all the above.

I can’t find a clock, and I don’t even know why I bothered trying. My urine-soaked mattress and the adrenaline of memories made falling back to sleep about as likely for me as running a marathon.

I pull my soiled ass up into my wheelchair and connected the dots between the beams of moonlight leading to the bathroom. I strip down, rinse off and make a trail of water droplets from the showers to the communal closet. Behold, all the shit that even the Salvation Army couldn’t get rid of.

I wheel out of the room wearing a light-blue dress with roses embroidered from the neckline to my nubs. Why? Because it was within reach and why the fuck not? Shoving what’s left of my legs into a pair of pants makes about as much sense as volunteering for war in the first place. Proud of me now, Papa?

The kitchen table is littered with day-old baked goods; throwaway pastries for America’s outcasts. I grab as many stale bagels and croissants as I can shove up my skirt and coast towards the front door. My momentum is interrupted by Lucille, the fat bitch who enjoys her false sense of superiority more than the minimum wage she’s probably earning.

“Not so fast,” she said, wrapping her sausage fingers around the handles of my wheelchair.

“Get off.”

“Where do you think you’re going?”

“Wherever I WANT. It’s a free country, thanks to pawns like me.”

“You know I can’t let you out of here without a reason.”

“I’m job hunting.”

“In a dress?”

“Call me Tootsie.”

“I’m not letting you go out like that.”

“What am I, your daughter?”

“You’re the one in a dress.”

“And I’m gonna stay in a dress. It’s summertime, and my balls enjoy the breeze.”

“Fine, but you need bandages.”

“I don’t need bandages. You just need to hide my scars from all the squeamish SOBs outside that door.”

“You’re a real piece of work.”

“Yeah? Well you’re a real piece of shit!”

After wrapping each of my legs in an ACE bandage and stealing three of my bagels, Lucille finally lets me roll on.

“Don’t get arrested,” she yelled from the stoop.

“Don’t go into cardiac arrest,” I answered.

I stick a croissant in my mouth and wheel down the sidewalk like a squirrel carrying a nut up a tree. I alternate between bites and thrusts until I reach the Army recruitment offices about a mile from my temporary housing. Just in time for my first target.

“Excuse me, young man?”

“I’m sorry, Mister. I don’t have any money.”

“Of course you don’t. Why the fuck else would you be signing up for the Army?”

“I ... I ....”

“Let me guess, you want a free education? You want to make your daddy proud? You want to let freedom ring?”

“Yeah, all that.”

“Yeah? Well so did I.”

I lift my nubs to my chest and the prick is halfway to a hippie commune before the bandages hit my nipples.


“Well if it isn’t Sgt. Cock Sucker.”

“What’d I tell you about talking to the cadets?”


“Then why are you still doing it?”

“Freedom of speech.”

“That’s it.”

The red-faced recruiter flings open the door and picks up the phone sitting on the front desk. Any minute now a cop will pull up and tell me there’s no loitering. I’ll tell him to lick me. He’ll tell me he’s going to arrest me. I’ll dare him. He’ll cuff me. I’ll hock a loogie in his face. He’ll throw me in jail. I’ll sing little ditties until they toss me back to the streets like an undersized fish to the sea. The world keeps spinning.

You throw your left hand up,
you put your weapon down,
you cry and beg for mercy,
till your pants start turning brown.
They drag you to their bunker,
and proclaim a victory,
wish I had legs to flee.


The guard summons a college student wearing a vomit-stained polo as I wheel into the holding cell. Society would probably consider this a favorable trade. Who am I to disagree?

The next jailbird to fly the coop is a middle-aged man in a well-tailored suit. His lawyer—and potential fashion consultant—loomed over the guard as he turned the lock. I wasn’t sure what the man was in for, but I could tell the arresting officer was about to get into some legal trouble of his own once the Brooks Brothers were done with him.

Before long, it was just me and the menagerie of minorities: skin tones ranging from deportable to charcoal. You name it, any jail in the country’s got it.

We sit quietly on steel benches like Life’s last-round picks. Well, they do. I’m off to the side in my sweat-soaked wheelchair, trying to remember what it felt like to be wanted. Uncle Sam wanted me when I was willing to take a bullet for Old Glory. The media wanted me for photo ops once they brought me home. And now, they just want me to disappear.

Mission accomplished.


You put your whole life in
to make your country proud,
you follow every order,
till your legs cannot be found.
You get a purple pendant,
and they tell you not to pout,
that’s what it’s all a-bout.

Written by: Mark Killian
Photograph by: Pekka Nikrus


Posted on: April 10, 2014

“Hey, Hazel,” Miriam says, “just the hour, please.”

“Usual room?” Hazel asks. She peers down bright pink reading glasses, perched precariously on the tip of a bony nose. She is all angles and anger today, irritated because Miriam is late. Hazel’s already deep into her puzzle book, a flimsy tome that manages to occupy the same shelf as the Holy Bible and a warped paperback so worn its spine bears no identity.

“If you can spare it,” Miriam forces a laugh and it comes out like the squawk of the territorial swan on the 7th Hole, the one she always warns the kids against taunting.

“Shit, ‘course I can,” Hazel mutters under her breath. Twice offended already. Miriam hands over an extra twenty, locking eyes with the woman. Hazel says nothing, but she smirks as she slides the crisp bill into her puzzle book and hands Miriam a worn key with a chipped plastic key ring, the number 202 fading in dull, gold letters.

Miriam pulls her scarf over her hair as she exits the office. She does not anticipate running into anyone here, but she won’t take any chances. Friends and acquaintances know the buxom blonde as Miriam Ashley; strangers mistake her for a well-preserved, resurrected Marilyn Monroe.

The road by the motel is quiet. No cars pass, and Miriam lets her guard down as she climbs the stairs. Her heart pounds as she slips the key into the lock.

202 is Miriam’s favorite. Hazel told her once that she wanted each room to be a little unique, like one of those boutique hotels. The exteriors are Miriam’s point of reference. She has only ever stayed in 202, worried that after the first time here the experience might be compromised in any other room. 202 is Miriam’s, and when she closes the door she breathes in her air.

Miriam takes out her iPhone, the unlock sound a familiar echo. She sets the timer for an hour, making her usual personal vow: she will not touch the phone, not until she hears the shrill sound of the alarm, a stark trill that slams her back into reality, into responsibility and selflessness and goddamned duty.

Miriam places the phone on the old dresser. It still smells of varnish, and she catches her hand on the sticky patch. Sometimes she does not think about what the tacky substance could be, and sometimes it is all she thinks about during the hour: the pleasure of endless possibilities, permutations of something meaningless.

A low moan interrupts the stillness. It is the man next door, the one Miriam has seen the last few weeks. He wears his graying hair long and thick, giving him a savage and primal appearance.

Miriam takes a deep breath, ignores the sound: this is her hour and she doesn’t want to share it with anyone, even aural interlopers. She closes her eyes, going through the list of options for how she can use this time.

One day she sobbed: thick, heavy wails muffled into a lumpy pillow and itchy comforter. Miriam cried until the skin under her eyes thinned and bruised, tears eroding makeup. But she is not in a maudlin mood today, so Miriam eliminates that activity from her list.

Miriam takes off her clothes and places them on the bed, each piece forming a preppy outline. She stands naked and stares at the silhouette; this is how it will look when the Rapture happens.

The Rapture. The fear of it, instilled by a lifetime of Southern Baptist services, makes her heart pound. Instinct compels her to pray, to get down on her knees on the worn rough carpet and call on God for salvation.

Miriam turns her back to him and the rest of the world.

“My hour,” she says, her voice heavy with guilt, “I’m sorry, but my hour.”

Miriam knows what she wants to do. She walks to the bathroom and turns the faucet as far as she can. The shower sputters to life, and after a moment the water is a steady, scalding stream. When she steps in, the steam envelops her. The water doesn’t feel as hot as she knows it is; she thinks of heated pools and warm summer days at the lake.

Howard maintains that a long, hot shower will cure almost anything mental or emotional that ails you. And Miriam gets it now - but Howard hasn’t been in her shoes. He hasn’t missed a long, hot shower in months. At best, Miriam gets five lukewarm, tepid minutes. More often than not, there’s a perpetual repeat of this morning: a speedy cold shower with a tantrum or fight (or both) happening in the background.

Miriam spots a bar of soap and unwraps the flimsy paper. It’s cheap, breaking in her hands, but she scrubs herself until her skin smells medicinal and floral. She wants to stay in the shower longer, stay all day and not have to worry about screaming kids or meals or whether she should keep the door open or closed, but the heat and possible allergic reaction to the soap have turned her skin a violent red.

When she steps out of the shower, residual steam clings to her in a warm embrace. Miriam smiles and wipes the mirror down. Her hair is half-wet and limp, but she’ll let it air-dry, tell everyone she’s just trying something new for a change.

Miriam has just finished dressing when the alarm shrieks its warning. She slides her finger across the iPhone and pulls sunglasses out of her bag. Even with the extra $20, her therapy is pretty darn cheap.

Howard calls her as she drives home, the windows down and the air fresh and cool.

“Hey gorgeous,” her husband’s voice radiates love, “what’s for dinner?”

Written by: Erin Justice
Photograph by: Emily Blincoe

Stress in the Workplace

Posted on: April 8, 2014

“Please, have a seat,” says Dr. Baylor.

Anna’s arms are folded over her chest as she sits down, taking note of the various types of mason jars scattered around the office. She wants to ask about them, but decides against it. Dr. Baylor takes a seat at his desk, crossing his legs and interlacing his fingers in his lap.

“So, Miss Hirsch, what brings you here today?”

“My heart beats really fast sometimes, like someone’s coming to get me. I get these adrenaline rushes. My stomach starts hurting and I have some trouble sleeping.”

The sound of his fingertips on the keyboard of his laptop is like rain pattering on a windowsill.

“And are you working?” he asks.

“Yea, I’ve got my own thing going...”

“Which is?”

Anna expects him to scoff at her line of work.

“People call me to get rid of ghosts.”

“You’re an exorcist?”

“No, I’m an extractor. Exorcist comes with too much baggage, like demons and stuff. I don’t just help the client. I help the ghost, too.”

“I see. So, you believe in ghosts?”

Anna squirms in her seat and feigns nonchalance when she props her elbow on the arm of her chair. She doesn’t want him to think she’s bonkers, but she doesn’t want to lie either.

“There’s a lot of money to be made in this line of work. You don’t make a dime telling someone they’re crazy. Gotta feed the need, you know?”

Dr. Baylor doesn’t make eye contact as he leans back in his chair.

“Describe your life recently. How’s work been? Are you socializing?”

“Umm, I work a lot. I’m kind of an introvert, so I don’t hang out with people too much unless it’s to meet clients. I paint. Is that enough?”

Dr. Baylor smiles and asks, “Has work been stressful? I can’t imagine ghost-handling being easy.”

“I should probably just get the hell outta here…”

“Miss Hirsch, I can’t help you if I don’t understand you.”

“Well, in that case,” Anna says with an eye roll.

“Just answer the question. How’s work been?”

Anna’s palms are starting to sweat and the last thing she wants is for this guy to call her a schizoid.

“It’s been friggen’ crazy. One of my clients almost died and I got there just in time to stop it. Her boyfriend almost killed her.”

“Did you have a confrontation with the assailant?”

“So to speak.”

“Did you have a confrontation with a ghost?”

Anna says nothing.

Dr. Baylor returns his hands to the keyboard, filling the silence with his virtually manifesting thoughts. Anna begins to imagine her padded cell and the window that doesn’t open.

“You know, Anna, I can prescribe you medication, but it’s always better to actually extract the thing that’s causing your symptoms in the first place.”

“I like what you did there.”

He scribbles on a pad and hands her a prescription.

Anna lifts a brow. “Valium?”

“Low dose. Take it when the palpitations start. And avoid belligerent ghouls.”


Anna scales three flights of stairs in the parking garage and sucks one last drag from her cigarette before flicking it at the banister. When she started the business, she knew she would run into a real ghost here and there, but was hoping the majority of her clients would just be grief-stricken widows. Now, she’s receiving supernatural death threats and it’s making her reconsider her career path.

Anna attempts to unlock her car when someone shoves her into the driver’s side door, one large hand on the back of her head. She screams for help and presses the panic button on her remote. Her attacker yells at her to shut up as he searches her pockets for a wallet he can’t find. Sensing his panic, she braces herself and shoves back, getting one boot up on the car and then falling to the ground when he loses his hold on her. He kicks her in the ribs before making a run for it, not daring to look back even though his hood hides his face.

“Mother fucker,” Anna gasps, bracing her side with her arms as she tries to get on her feet.

She decides against chasing after him as she picks up her crumpled prescription from the ground. She winces and then silences the alarm on her car.

“Miss Hirsch!”

You’re too late, asshat.

“Are you alright? I was just coming out of the elevator when I saw you fall,” says Dr. Baylor, a little out of breath.

“Yea, yea. I’m fine, doc. All he took was my dignity.”

“Who? Were you mugged?”

“What the hell do you mean? You didn’t see him take off when you saw me fall? The coward.”

“Miss Hirsch, I saw you propped between the cars and then fall down…”

Anna shakes her head and starts the car, reaching to close the door. She notices Dr. Baylor looking at the blood dripping from her lip.

“I probably just missed him. You know, Miss Hirsch, there’s something to be said about the person who fights back.”

Anna freezes, staring at the steering wheel.

“They’ve got nothing to lose,” Dr. Baylor says.

“Well, Baylor. I guess you’re starting to understand me.”

Anna pulls the door shut and backs out, leaving her psychiatrist staring after her. She doesn’t bother calling the cops, knowing it’s a waste of time if they’d be chasing some disgruntled spectre. She just wants to get that Valium and throw it back with a couple bottles of High Life. Maybe she should just wait tables. Or conduct seances for sorority parties.

As she descends the parking garage to the exit, she notices the security officer asleep in his office. Fueled by leftover adrenaline and rage, she puts the car in park, gets out and walks straight in. The officer nearly falls from his seat, startled awake.

“Hey, your garage is fucking haunted. You know, just in case you thought your job was getting boring.”

Written by: Natasha Akery
Photograph by: Daniel Vidal

For more in this series, see The Extractor, Beloved, Bury Their Own, and A Tremor in Your Name

1:1 - Angela DeRay

Posted on: April 3, 2014

interviewed by Dot Dannenberg
Welcome back to 1:1, a series of interviews in which 1:1000 sits down with 1 writer or photographer, and forces them to spill their creative secrets. 

Angela DeRay, the photographer behind “Rx” and “A Woman’s Desire,” is truly an artist of sincerity. Her photos, which she calls “the moments of my choosing,” often capture the world in its most unassuming state. She joins us today to talk inspiration, success, and the human side of Instagram.

1:1000: How did you get into photography?

ANGELA DERAY: For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved cameras and photos--they stop time; I find that astonishingly magical--but it wasn’t until a few Christmases ago, when my husband surprised me with a "proper" camera (a not-so-subtle hint on his part), that I finally shifted from procrastination--“One day, I’d love to learn photography…”--to implementation. I enrolled in a couple of photography classes. I read a ridiculous amount of photography material. Before long, I bought an iPhone and a friend introduced me to the Instagram app. Gleefully I fell, further and further, down the rabbit hole…

1:1000: Your photography is very connected with the natural world, and often of the simpler moments in life. What draws you to these subjects?

AD: I am drawn to subjects that create emotional responses in me; ones that make me feel something. When I pull out my camera and snap a photo, it’s more about trying to capture a feeling than producing a perfect image. I am drawn to nature because it makes me feel small (in a good way!) and makes me feel connected to something more infinite than myself. I am drawn to the "simpler moments in life" because they make me feel big, in an abundantly blessed way.

1:1000: Henry James, in The Art of Fiction, advised writers to be a person "on whom nothing is lost"--do you think this applies to your artistic process with photography?

AD: Oh gosh, Mr. James, that’s a lot of pressure! And, with all due respect, I’d have to say my artistic process disagrees. I’m easily overwhelmed by the enormity and complexity of life; it can be too much for me to take in as a whole. But, I find, when I focus on the smaller details, I’m more easily able to absorb, process and appreciate the bigger picture. My process is more to do with finding and honing in on the things that really speak to me rather than aiming to make sure that “nothing is lost.” Instead, I seek to "lose" the bits that don’t speak to me and capture the ones that do.

1:1000: You're an ex-pat--an American in the UK. Do you think there's a difference in sensibilities when it comes to British vs. American photography?

AD: It’s difficult to generalize in terms of British vs. American, because individual photographers differ so much from each other, in both style and content, regardless of where they live. But as an American expat living in the UK, I’ve definitely developed an appreciation for the individuality and quirks of each country. I’m in the unique position of being able to see each place through the eyes of a foreigner and a native, respectively. And perhaps that mixture of wonder and affection is evident in my photography.

1:1000: What do you think Instagram has done for photography?

AD: Instagram has made photography more accessible and less intimidating. It enables anyone with a camera(phone) and the app to experiment, play and get creative. Joining Instagram was one of the first, vital steps in my creative journey. It helped remove a lot of the "fear barriers" that were holding me back.

1:1000: You've built quite a following there--how did that come about?

AD: One of the things I enjoy about Instagram is the sense of community; there are lots of talented, friendly, supportive people (from all around the world!) interacting with one another. I consider myself fortunate to be part of those interactions and I think my following has grown as a result of the connections I’ve made there.

1:1000: Who are some photographers you admire?

AD: I like different photographers for different reasons – not necessarily because I think one is better than the other. On Instagram, I’m partial to galleries that combine photos with writing, and I adore posts that give me that "warm, fuzzy feeling." I’m always hesitant to pick favorites, but since you’ve twisted my arm, see @biancaelizalde, @caitlindskoog, @candacecatherinee, @celerinapie, @elliequent, @sendiong, and @robinmay for a few (of the many!) galleries that have captured my heart.

1:1000: You mentioned on your blog that you first used Instagram as a platform for your writing. What was that experience like?

AD: Scary! Exhilarating! Liberating! It was a bit like "Goldilocks and the Three Bears"-–when the idea of trying to start a book or a blog was "too big" and the thought of confining my writing to a private journal was "too small," Instagram was "just right." It allowed me to ease back into writing, with small(ish) captions, and get myself into the habit of writing something on a daily basis.

1:1000: What writing projects are you working on now?

AD: I started my blog, Little Tiny Scribbles, in January, and that has taken up a lot of my recent time and focus, but I hope to expand further over the course of the year. I have a book idea I’d like to develop and I’d be interested in exploring the world of magazine writing.

1:1000: You write in your blog about what you call "The Big Lie"--that notion, in part supported by society, that a person needs to be very good at something in order to do it. This is a stifling fear for so many artists--the little voice demanding success. How were you able to reject this lie to get on with your work?

AD: "The Big Lie" is a powerful lie, one that kept me silent for an awfully long time. But ultimately, I decided I didn’t want to reach the end of my life filled with The Regret of Never Trying; I decided I wanted to be able to look back with The Pride of Knowing I Tried, instead.

1:1000: What would you say to writers and artists who are nervous to put their work out there into this over-saturated market?

AD: If you enjoy creating, then create. Do it for you. Do it for the joy or the peace or the fulfillment it brings you. Take your creativity seriously. Give yourself credit. Let the fact that you’re creating be your ultimate measure of success. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “The only real failure in life is the failure to try.” So try. And know that by trying, you've already succeeded.

You can find more of Angela’s photography and writing at Little Tiny Scribbles and on Instagram @shutterdoodles.


Posted on: April 1, 2014

The way the light reflects on the water makes me think of my old life. The world looks doubled over. There are two treelines in the distance, one on the horizon, one seemingly subterranean. In my old life, I‘d stand beside the water and take a photo of my feet kissing the edge of the reflection. I’d text the photo to Joshua, saying, It’s so beautiful. Wish you were here.

That all seems so ridiculous now. I’m disconnected. My pulse pounds an urgent rhythm where once it was smooth.

I had to get away. I’ve been hiding out in this tunnel since I made a run for it yesterday evening, but in the daylight, I’m exposed.

It’s still early. Nobody in sight. I gather up the wrappers from the energy bars I stole when I left and shove them in my purse. Gotta cover my tracks. It’s time to move.


Officer Harkless slides his sunglasses into the pocket of his uniform shirt. It’s a new idiot every week—desperate and demanding, and with no comprehension of the system.

“Like I told you,” Harkless says to the man, “it’s too soon. We can’t do anything till she’s been missing for over twenty-four hours. I’ll take your information, and you can call again if she’s not back by tonight.”

“But—she’s gone!” the man stammers. “Isn’t this your job? Finding missing people? She’s never taken things this far before.”

“So she’s done things like this before?” Harkless asks.

“No! I mean—no,” the man barks. Short-tempered and idiotic.

“Just give me your information, sir.”

“Joshua,” the man says. “Joshua Brenner.”

Save the date!

Joshua & Julie
17 May 2014
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. –Helen Keller.

It was Julie’s idea to add the fucking Helen Keller quote. She said she saw it on Pinterest and thought it was so inspiring, so representative of marriage. The great adventure! Two people wandering into the unknown with nothing but the stars to guide them! I told her if she found one more thing on that goddamned website I was going to take back the ring and call the whole thing off. No more handmade boutonnières or cutesy place cards constructed of Scrabble letters and burlap. And no. No to Mason jars. Forever.

Now the save-the-date card taunts me from its shrine on the fridge. Julie smiles her radiant, fake grin, the one she gave to the clerk at the Kum & Go just before I watched her shoplift a handful of shit and go around the corner of the building to “find the ladies’ room,” never to re-emerge. I remind myself I love her. I love her.


Maybe I was born for life in the wild. I’ve been taking what I needed from this world for as long as I can remember. But I should’ve taken more food from the Kum & Go.

I look around for edible plants. This area’s a treasure trove—mint leaves, honeysuckle, mushrooms of various degrees of risk. I fill my pockets with them all.

In my old life, honeysuckle was the color I’d chosen for bridesmaids’ dresses. Honeysuckle yellow satin. I can’t remember why that would have been so important.

My mind rushes. For once, it’s not my legs that tingle, but my brain. A mantra, chanting between my temples. I can’t be caught. I can’t be caught.


He’s back. Harkless sighs and flips to a new page in his notepad.

“Mr. Brenner, can you describe your fiancée’s recent behavior? Is there any reason we should believe she’s in any sort of danger?”

“Danger? No! I have no idea. She’s probably mad about something—some passive aggressive shit.”

“No disrespect, Mr. Brenner, but this case is taking time and resources we could be spending elsewhere. So if this is all some sort of domestic dispute—“

“No, I’m sorry. Sorry,” Joshua says. “This is different.”

“Again, I don’t mean any accusation, sir, but have you noticed anything different about your fiancée lately? Spending time with new people? Any alcohol or drug abuse?”


Along with joining Pinterest and adopting a frenzied skincare regime, Jules stopped eating meat the millisecond we got engaged. She always bitched about the idiocy of her friends who did juice diets, but figured going vegetarian would help her with the whole bridal beauty vision. It’s all a giant racket, women getting too worked up over all that crap. Something’s always wrong with them. Things that aren’t even real. I have fat under my ass. My stretch marks have stretch marks. My legs feel like they’re crawling all the time. Julie went into full combatant mode for all of these imaginary ailments.

“I’m going to teach you the most important two words of your married life,” my father-in-law told me after Julie came back from two days of doctors’ appointments with a prescription for curing restless leg syndrome and a pamphlet about liposuction.

“What’s that?” I asked him.

Yes, dear.”


“Hello?” I hear from behind me.

I freeze. I shouldn’t have left the tunnel. I should have stayed until it was dark.

“Ma’am, are you lost?”

“Stay back! Stay away from me!”

“I’m not going to hurt you. But this is my land.”

“I won’t be here long—I’m passing through. I’m gone!”

“Hey, wait—aren’t you the woman from the news? The one who went missing from that Kum & Go?”


“Harkless, they found your girl.” Rhodes stretches the phone in his direction. Harkless waves it away.

“Get the address. I’m on my way.”


Mirapex. I squeeze the bottle in my fist as I watch the cop escort Julie up the driveway toward the house. She looks confused, as she should—the drugs are probably still in her system. In my other hand I’m clenching the packet of fine print. Mirapex may cause trouble breathing, tremors, changes in vision…and in rare cases, compulsive behaviors such as gambling, excessive drinking, or shoplifting.

Of course I wouldn’t have noticed. Planning a wedding breeds compulsion. I’m not sure what I can blame on the wedding and what on the drugs. What is Julie and what is some phantom.

“They caught me,” Julie says, freeing herself from the cop’s grasp. “I guess I’m back.”

“Why did you leave?” I say. I’m trying to slow my breathing, reminding myself I shouldn’t expect a coherent response.

She doesn’t answer me. She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a flower—a honeysuckle blossom?—and offers it to me.

“I’m back,” she says again.

My muscles, tensed for two days, loosen. Then she reaches into her purse and retrieves a pair of shiny aviators.

“I got these for you,” Jules whispers.


Harkless pats his empty pocket.

“Rhodes,” he says. “You seen my shades?”

Written by: Dot Dannenberg
Photograph by: Angela DeRay

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
1:1000 The Design of this Blog is All rights reserved © Blog Milk Powered by Blogger