Chewing Gum

Posted on: August 27, 2015

The cold rain fell in sheets of vellum paper—thin and transparent enough to see the shapes and colors of the life it was trying to protect. We ran, like ink on a page, dripping sweat and pain and ecstasy. She had just finished working and I had just finished watching. She said she was tired and wanted to go home. I wanted to be anywhere but home. Home reminded me of my wife.

The sun had long set and slow jazz spilled from the speakers of the End Street Depot as we waited. She cried. Or maybe it was the rain, I couldn’t be sure. I hugged her close, smelling her hair—a mixture of lemon, rosemary, and artificiality. I liked it.

The train pulled into the station, slowly coming to a halt a few feet away from where we stood beneath the overhang. We held newspapers over our heads and ran into the safety of barren seats and chewed gum left to die on the metallic floor of the nearly empty car. She sat next to a window, avoiding me. I sat across the aisle, staring at her from behind the steel pole that stretched between floor and ceiling. Her sleek black hair now soft with damp waves. Her red lipstick smeared across her face—and mine.

“It’s not enough for me,” she said, watching the blurred landscape as the train sped out of the station.

“I’m sorry,” I replied, not knowing what else to say. I could feel unfamiliar eyes staring me down from a few rows up.

It started as sex. No strings. An escape from my life. She stayed with me for the money, the gifts, the things she couldn’t have as a stripper. I was fine with that.

“I can’t give you more.”

She turned to face me, her freckled nose crinkling in frustration. She was fucking beautiful.

“It’s not enough,” she repeated.

I sat up, as though correct posture might make this conversation easier. I turned to face her, my legs blocking the aisle. I no longer cared about who heard us. “Elana, I don’t know what else you want from me. This was the deal. A good fuck and a nice new dress…nothing’s changed.”

Everything has changed,” she said turning to face me, her eyes bloodshot. “I want--”

“I already told you—there’s nothing left to keep us apart. She’s gone!”

“I know what you said,” she snapped, turning back to the window.

I thought about the day I first met her. Stubb’s Hall. She lit up the stage with her black glittered heels and wicked smile. I thought about the slow burn of the whiskey as I watched her undress to the wail of the low saxophone behind her. I knew my wife would have killed me if she knew where I had been, but the whiskey had already convinced me that I didn’t care.

Sinking back into the hard seat, I let my hands fall helplessly to my sides. “I just need more time.”

“For what?” she yelled. “I’ve given you nothing but time!”

I told Elana I would leave my wife, but I didn’t mean it. In the same breath, I promised my wife that it was over, that I was through with Elana—she was just a toy, a plaything. Something to keep in my back pocket for the days I got bored—like chewing gum. She would ask why I got bored, but I never could seem to answer that question. The sicker she got, the more I clung to Elana—coming home with glitter stuck to my groin—and the less I tried to hide it.

“I just…I don’t know. It’s complicated. My God, she hasn’t been dead a month.”

The night my wife died, my heart broke. I buried it with her and I knew I would never get it back. I didn’t deserve it back. Fuck Cancer, I thought. Fuck me for being such an asshole.

The train jarred us both as it pulled into the next station. The rain kept a steady beat on the car’s metallic roof, falling harder. The soft shapes of the world outside now hid completely behind opaque sheets.

“You’ve had enough time, Shawn,” Elana said as she stood, steadying herself on the steel pole that stood between them. “I can’t wait another six months for you to decide what you want.”

I watched her tears fall in a stream of sparkling black. There was no mistaking them for rain this time. I shoved my hands in my pockets and made no attempt to go after her. The train jerked forward to the next station. I thought about my wife. Her innocent smile. The paper skin around her gray eyes. How I chewed her up and spat her out just like I did Elana. I hated myself.

The beckoning lights of Stubb’s Hall flashed pink through the window. I hadn’t realized that the rain had stopped, once again revealing the world around me. Bracing myself for the next station, I stood and took hold of the pole. The cold stung my hand. When the car had come to a complete standstill, I made my way to the exit. Apparently, this was where I got off. Stepping from the platform to the ground, I stopped as my foot caught on something. Inspecting the underside of my shoe, I couldn’t help but laugh. A wad of gum. Freshly chewed and strung along between the bottom of my foot and the hard metal floor.

Written by: Amber E. Box
Photograph by: Matthew Wiebe

So Full of Loving Echoes

Posted on: August 25, 2015

“Do you remember that little glass house?” he asks, taking a break from the faded magazine splayed across his lap. “The one with all the different colors, on the banks of the Seine.”

Of course you remember the little house. The way the light from the nearest streetlight danced through the stained glass, illuminating it from within and shooting refracted beams of color that bathed the whole area in an otherworldly glow. You remember the busker belting out “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and him grabbing you and holding you close, spinning and dancing as if you two were the only people in the world. And you remember him singing the words of the song in your ear, his gesture sweet, his voice comically off-key. You don’t have the heart to tell him it was the Hudson, not the Seine.

“What made you think of that, dear?” you ask.

“Oh, I don’t know,” he says. “It just popped into my brain, I guess.”

You watch as a sublime smile spreads across his face, lost in thought and time and place.

“We should go back there, after the kids are grown,” he says. “A second honeymoon. Just the two of us.” His wrinkled hand wanders across the little table that separates your two recliners until it meets yours. “We could try to find the lock that we put on that bridge.”

Your body betrays you, a sigh rushes from your lungs like air escaping an untied balloon. A single tear wells in the corner of your eye and hangs a moment before dropping down your cheek.
We have never been to Paris.

“What is it?” he asks. “What’s wrong? Is it because I haven’t done anything romantic lately? Honey, I swear…”

You have to think quickly. You have to get yourself under control. For his sake, just as much as yours.

“No, it’s not that,” you answer. “The other night, on the news. They had to cut off all of those locks. It was just too much weight for the bridge to bear.” A feeling you know all too well.

“Oh, really? I don’t remember that.” He pats your hand. “That’s okay. We’ll put another one on there.”

You want to grab him, you want to scream.
We never put a lock on the Pont des Arts in the first place. That was our daughter. On her honeymoon. Why can’t you remember that?
But you don’t scream. Instead you get up and lock the bathroom door behind you and stare at yourself in the mirror. You swallow hard, trying to keep down all of the pain, all of the sadness, but today there is just too much. You run the water to mask the sound of your sobs.

When the storm has relented, you crack the door. You watch as he rereads the same magazine, the one he has read countless times before. Watching his eyes track across the page, you drift back to those nights so long ago, entwined in his embrace, listening to the rhythmic swings of his voice as he reads aloud to you. You never made it more than a chapter before you were fast asleep. And you recall eavesdropping in the hallway outside your daughter’s room, listening at the way he brought her bedtime stories to life; the low, lumbering voice he would use for dragons and ogres and the eruption of giggles when he would break into a shrill falsetto for the princess. These are the little things you are going to miss, that you miss already.

A passage from Vonnegut creeps into your mind.
…the big, hollow man so full of loving echoes.
That is what he is becoming. Hollow. Nothing more than the husk of the man who has been your everything for forty years. You never thought it would be like this, never thought that it could be like this. This was not what you envisioned when you vowed in sickness or in health.

After the stroke, when his motor skills started returning, you had so much hope. The doctors tried to warn you, to tell you the truth of it, but you wouldn’t listen. They showed you the CT scans and MRIs, pointing out the gaps in his temporal lobe, little black holes that looked like scattered buckshot, but you couldn’t bring yourself to see them. And now the doctors were saying there was damage to the hippocampus as well. That soon even his muddled memories would start to fade.

You don’t know which is worse: the man that you love getting your entire life together wrong, or the thought that someday he wouldn’t recognize you at all. That you were going to sit helplessly and watch as he disappeared, day by day, memory by memory.

Jesus, why did it have to be his mind? Why couldn’t it be his heart? Something quick, painless. Hell, even cancer had to be better than this.

The realization of what you are thinking makes you wretch. Is this really what you’ve become? So selfish that you are wishing pain on the person you love the most just to ease your own torment? You are sure this is not the bargaining phase they talk about in the grief books piled up on your bedside table. Or maybe it is, maybe you are on your way to acceptance. Or maybe it’s you who is becoming hollow.

You look out the crack of the door again. He is humming to himself. It takes you a minute to place the tune and for that you are ashamed. The words come to you. You close your eyes. Once again you are dancing in the night, the glass house shimmering behind you.

When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I’ll take your part
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

You splash water on your face. You breathe deep. You can do this. You can be strong. You have to remember. For both of you.

Written by: Ben Cook
Photograph by: Anthony Delanoix

The Divorced Man

Posted on: August 20, 2015

The divorced man, recovering from the social inadequacy that was a product of his recently dissolved marriage, attended an event for single lovers of literature at an Upper West Side bookstore. The gathering, organized by the latest dating app, took place in a reserved section of the shop’s second floor, in a wide row splitting memoir from fiction, where the hosts from the hot-or-not app had set up tables with finger foods and cheap wine.

First to arrive, the divorced man poured himself a plastic cup of dry white to avoid tooth stains and browsed the Zs on the last fiction shelf. He picked out a Chilean writer he’d been meaning to read and the fluorescent light reflecting off the paperback’s glossy cover made him uneasy. The place was too damn bright, surely enough to illuminate the asymmetrical tendencies of his face: the tip of a slender nose leaning left, a right ear higher than the other on the side of his head, and stubble growing only on one cheek he’d forgotten to shave before his morning commute. He knew, though, this was his best shot at landing a date in this isolating city, this island that imposed its identity on and induced a debilitating loneliness in the most unsuspecting residents.

Even in a dimly lit Brooklyn dive bar where his physical flaws wouldn’t be accentuated, the divorced man wouldn't know what to say to a cute girl confident enough to catch his attention with her fuck-me eyes. They couldn’t be meant for him—maybe she was squinting?

It was excruciatingly difficult for the divorced man to reconcile his physical desires with his decision to vacate that oath-sworn relationship. After all, a divorced body was nothing else but neglected and in dire need of affection.

The divorced man hadn’t been inside a woman in months, not since he’d tried to outrun the heartbreak of his failed union by fleeing the nation’s capital. Best-case scenario: literary conversation would be the sexual catalyst he needed it to be. At the very least, he wanted simply to feel noticed. To feel a flirtatious hand squeeze his arm, hear the sincerity of a woman’s laugh at his sorry jokes.

He read and re-read the book’s first page, but the arrival of other dating-app users prevented him from retaining any of the minimalist prose. He was facing the staircase, feigning interest in the book and nonchalance toward the women, heartbeat accelerating each time heels clicked on the hollow steps.

When men reached the top stair they would nod at the divorced man, not in solidarity, but as if to communicate their status as competitors. We are here for the same reason, their looks said, therefore we cannot be friends. They would puff out their chests and strut over to a single lady, cups filled and ready for a practiced toast to their favorite dead white writers. It looked effortless, like they picked up more women than books at these events, an easy lay for every hardcover lining the walls of their hip lofts.

The divorced man could hardly afford to fill his one flimsy bookcase, let alone the drafty room he rented from his Dominican landlady-slash-roommate in Washington Heights. She was a sweet woman with kids his age and had been married once too, but he hadn’t confided in her—or in anyone else—the emotional pain of losing his best friend and the person in the world he most loved.

The room was crowding and his wine drying up, so the divorced man poured himself another cup at the table, where a woman he hadn’t seen asked his name. She was wearing flats and thick-rimmed glasses, blouse tucked into a skirt that flowed from her hips to her ankles, a pen holding her dark hair in place.

Underneath HI! MY NAME IS, the woman wrote the divorced man’s name in cursive with a smiley face and pasted the tag on his shirt, smoothing it out over his chest. They made small talk while standing next to shelves of writers who disclosed every dirty detail of their lives; however, he had no intention of dropping the D word to a woman who lived in a city where marrying as young as he had was taboo.

While the woman shared tales of learning to hang with New Yorkers, the divorced man noticed how she talked with her hands and pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose and curled her lips when she laughed. He wanted to take her in an unoccupied aisle of the shop, between the pages of love stories, to lift the back of her skirt and pull aside her panties.

Upon her request, he recounted silly adventures like getting lost in Queens, ending up in the Bronx after falling asleep on the express train, and having a bagel so good he chewed it slowly to prolong the deliciousness. The woman took hold of his bicep, a look of surprise on her geometrically proportionate face, when she realized she’d had the same artisan lox bagel with a thick layer of cream cheese at the same Park Slope deli and had also eaten it slowly.

Two refills later and buzzed, they found themselves half-naked in the divorced man’s apartment, on the bed he’d inherited from the previous tenant, their bodies entwined beneath the covers.

                              —What’s wrong? the woman said.

She’d stopped kissing him.

                             —It’s been a while.

                             —Then this shouldn’t be a problem.

                             —I guess you have a point.

                             —Did I do something wrong?

                             —No! No, you’re perfect.

He lay beside her and slipped his hands under his head and closed his eyes and listened for a moment to the honks of Broadway taxis filtering in with the fall breeze through the open window.

                             —But you’re not my wife, the divorced man said.

Written by: Eric Zurita
Photograph by: Anthony Delanoix

The Architect

Posted on: August 18, 2015

Tamar watches her twin sisters gaze at the horizon as the merchants row them across the harbor toward the port town of Kerr. There is a crisp, salty bite to the winter breeze that blushes their noses and cheeks. This is the first time that Tamar will lead the priestesses to commemorate the winter solstice with gifts of dried sea plants and pearls. She hides her hands from the chill in the folds of her cloak as her head tilts to the side, eyes gazing beyond the blue as the boat rocks like a cradle.

“Are you excited to see the finished fane?” one of the twins, Adah, calls back without turning.

Tamar blinks to attention, remembering that she will meet with the architect they commissioned to build the temple that would serve as their headquarters during their solstice visits.

“Yes. I hope it meets Mother Aviva’s expectations. ”

“Do you think the architect is very old and bald?” the other sister, Zillah, asks.

Tamar’s hush comes out like a hiss as the twins giggle to themselves. The merchants hop into the shallows to pull the boat ashore as the black cliffside towers overhead. Tamar recalls a dream from the night before in which she stood waist deep in the sea and looked up at this very cliff, grasping a silver key in her hand. Her seven sisters stood in the water behind her, waiting as the waves lapped against the small of their backs. Tamar notices the merchant’s hand reaching to help her out of the boat and takes it as the memory of her dream dissolves.

“More comfortable in the water than on land, eh?” asks an older man with a craggy face.

“You should know,” she says, smiling as she steps onto shore.


Tamar did not expect to see the stained glass windows and the oak altar encircled by benches of shaped wood and stone. Breath stolen, she approaches the center, noticing light falling from above. She tilts back her head to see the window depicting an ornate silver key surrounded by panels of blue and green glass. She remembers her dream, the feel of the key in her palm, and her desire to find it’s owner.

A priestess acolyte approaches, bowing her head before speaking.

“High priestess, this is Liam Eklund.”

Tamar turns around, meeting eyes with a man a little over half a foot taller than herself. His beard is full and betrays his youth.

“Hello, Liam. I am very pleased with your master’s design,” she offers.

The acolyte’s eyes dart toward Liam and a flush spreads across her face and neck, but he is smiling.

“Oh, Tamar. Liam is the master architect, the one Mother Aviva commissioned for the fane,” the younger priestess stammers.

The architect is laughing now.

“It’s really fine. I’m used to it. You’d only know if you noticed the ink on my hands,” he says as he raises them.

Tamar sighs and covers her face for a moment before looking up at him.

“I am sorry, master architect. I only assumed because you are young. I was expecting someone…”

“Old and bald?” Liam interrupts.


“Well, if it makes you feel any better, I didn’t expect the high priestess to be so young either. I guess this means I don’t have to be too formal?”

“Formalities are for funerals,” she replies. “Can you tell me about the key? Is that your signature or did we request it?”

Liam rests his hands on his hips and leans back to look up at the skylight.

“Mother Aviva said the image of a key came to her in a dream. When she was searching for architects, she found me because I tend to place it on my work,” he says.

“She had a dream?” Tamar asks, brow raised.

“Yes. She dreamt that her priestesses stood in the sea and one of them held a key. Then, she heard a voice say that love would reveal the truth of our desires.”

Tamar is silent, beginning to sweat beneath her arms.

“Anyway, that’s how she found me. And now I’m here.”

She swallows, hearing the chirp of birds outside beyond the heat of her ears.

“The stars know better than we. I’m very glad to meet you, Liam.”

“Me, too, priestess.”


The town is quiet and the moon is high as Tamar cracks open the door of the temple and slides in, closing it with a backwards lean. Her eyes are drawn to the altar, to the moonlight that bathes it and the cold silence emanating from the stones. She takes a seat on a bench and grips bunches of her cloak in her hands, thinking of Mother Aviva.

“Love will reveal the truth of our desires,” she whispers, wondering at the meaning.

“Priestess,” Liam murmurs, stepping into the light.

Tamar looks up, startled, and sighs with a laugh.

“Hello, Liam. I guess you couldn’t sleep either?”

The architect rubs the back of his neck with his hand as he takes a seat next to her, then leans forward with elbows on his knees.

“Strange dreams,” he says.

“You and me, both.”

“What did you dream?”

Tamar takes a moment to consider her response, then takes courage as she says, “I’ve been dreaming of your key, Liam. Even before we got here. And in the dream I’m desperate to return it, knowing it is lost and precious.”

“The key represents my mother. She passed after giving birth to my sister, whom I also lost.”

“Your sister did not survive the birth?”

“She did, but she was taken by female relatives. My father did not trust himself to rear her properly. I want to see her, to know her name, but all I remember is the darker patch of skin across her foot.”

Tamar turns her head, heart pounding. Liam also turns as she slides her foot out of her boot and pulls off her stocking, the birthmark just visible in the moonlight.

“Brother, I am here.”

Written by: Natasha Akery
Photograph by: Kayla King


Posted on: August 13, 2015

The Sunrise Recreation Center didn't make you wear any kind of uniform. They issued t-shirts, mostly second-hand short sleeves from Goodwill that they'd stenciled their name over. It was up to you to find the size closest to your fit in the pile at the beginning of summer.

The counselors could barely be distinguished from the tourists and the high-schoolers when they went out on field trips. The first hint was they all wore whistles around their necks. Some of the shirts were plain white undershirts, cut for men. Then one of the board members found a gross of used red t-shirts from an old sporting club downtown, which were issued to us in the first week of August.

Because of the shirts' uniformity, along with their abundance, they unofficially changed the name of the rec center to Sunset. Same difference. There was no sign out front anyway. We had a temporary office in the gym next to the First Presbyterian Church in Seaside.

Although I finally looked like I belonged, I never got used to the change, and I kept finding reminders of the old name for the rest of the summer. On stationery, or written in sharpie on volleyballs and ice chests.

I spent more and more time in the offices, away from the noise and the whirlpool of touch football games and the teenage politics among the rest of the staff. There was never going to be a better time to replace those blue Havaianas flip-flops. I was moving to Alaska in the fall, and the dog had chewed them both at one time or another to varying degrees. I'd buy some canvas deck shoes, espadrilles, to keep out the water and the cold.

The fine purple sand of Big Sur got between my toes when I walked the beach at high tide, up by the duckweed where it wasn't packed down and damp. The purple color came from the eroded quartz and manganese garnet that had been washing downstream into the surf for eons. The beach, particularly when wet, took on a translucent hue, made up of a million grains of glass that caught light off the water, like a stagnant pond turning oily, a chemical rainbow at sunset.

The officials had posted warning signs, but the teenagers still went out there to make out and smoke dope. It looked dark and featureless at night, and more than one teenager had lost their footing and drowned during the cold autumn months.

I wouldn't have to get a new bathing suit. The light in Alaska wouldn't catch the mica in the sand in the same way, and the temperature of the water would keep me out as well, regardless of the coverage or the material I wore.

The old one no longer fit me, being as it was one of those one-piece modest types. My step-father picked it out for me one summer in grade school, telling me two-pieces weren’t for swimming. I think he was trying to keep me as young and innocent-looking as possible, for as long as possible but I also sensed he was protecting himself from my increasingly ripening puberty and the temptation it posed for him. While the one-piece covered all provocative skin zones, it also grew tight as I bloomed. I never felt comfortable alone in the house with him.

That wet-suit I would find myself in would prevent any untoward thoughts, from him or from the instructors in Alaska who might take my arm or waist when helping me into or out of a kayak.

The protection, and the warmth, would also help me when I started at the tourist bureau in Nome. Ex-patriots and outsiders still streamed into Alaska chasing the promise of pipeline jobs, fishing boat riches, and the promise of the open space. I didn't want to work that hard for so little gold. Someone had to serve the miners their breakfasts.

And, I didn't tell Jess what my plans were. He'd invited me to his parents' house up in the bluff while they were away in San Francisco. He was more interested in writing a screenplay and telling me his old jokes, barbecuing plank steaks and enjoying his last chance to feel like he wasn't obligated to turn something in, or be anyplace at a specific time.

Possibly, he would invite Brittany and Molly, or Steve over for another long weekend. Or he would turn on the charm and the Maroon 5, and try to get me naked again in his hot tub. Jess was living in a dream, and the best dreams don't have a resolution or end, they just burn off in the sun. He was going to Brown, and his dad would make sure that if he ever really was jerked out of his drifting, it would be an awakening as soft and painless as he could make it.

At the end of the summer, the kids started dropping out early, before the actual end of camp. Some for last-minute vacations, others because the funds didn't last, or the water got too cold, or their inherited intolerance to the sun and the mosquitoes got to be too much.

The days were growing shorter. The water around Big Sur got choppy this time of year. In Alaska, because of the cove surrounding Golovnin Bay, in the Norton Sound, I heard the water was always preternaturally calm. They told me the days were long in summer, and the sun never completely fell below the horizon. It never quite got dark. All winter, it seemed like it was always sunset.

Written by: Roger Leatherwood
Photograph by: Anthony Delanoix

Memorial Day

Posted on: August 11, 2015

Nadine had foolishly decided she would join her sister down at the beach for the long weekend.

“No, no, I can leave on Friday. It’s fine,” she’d said. Her sister laughed and warned her about the apocalyptic traffic, but Nadine didn’t mind. It would be worth the hours on the Bay Bridge to see her sister and feel the sand baking the soles of her feet. It had seemed like a good idea a few days ago.

The highway leading to the bay was a parking lot. An accident was only a half mile or so away, and Nadine watched an ambulance wedge its way through the traffic. A school bus merged onto the shoulder, its windows gaping open with teenagers hanging out, watching the scene.

The air conditioning roared, but Nadine’s face still felt sticky. She stretched her hands, popping her knuckles. She had a habit of clenching the steering wheel as if her car might drive on its own and careen off a bridge. Her jaw felt tight, too, another sign of her anxiety and stress. Unlike her sister, Nadine could never be accused of having “resting bitch face”—instead she had a sort of “resting Frankenstein face”—a jutted chin, teeth clenched. When she felt her face hardening, she would wiggle her jaw until her face softened, reminding herself to loosen up.

That’s how she met Dale.

In an effort to relax a bit, Nadine went out to the karaoke bar with some co-workers. “Friends” wouldn’t be the right word for those people, but she liked them well enough, and she had hit her limit with binge-watching sitcoms. When her co-worker, Hannah, lamented how pretty and boring Nadine was, Nadine felt a twinge of agreement. She accepted the invite for drinks and karaoke, surprising both Hannah and herself.

She felt self-conscious walking into the bar, like someone might look up from their drink and shout, “Hey—she doesn’t belong here!” It’s not that Nadine was anti-social, but she preferred to be alone most of the time. Her sister—older, prettier, bossier—seemed to be the sole owner of chattiness and volume, and Nadine was happy to be the quiet, “pretty enough” sister.

When Nadine spotted Hannah and her other co-workers, she felt relief. In the back of her mind, she’d always suspected that she’d end up like Carrie: covered in pig’s blood and humiliation and friendless. She had no reason to think this other than too many hours of high school TV dramas. Hannah waved her over, sliding a beer toward Nadine. “We ordered for you. Hope that’s okay.” Nadine thanked her and took a sip of the beer. The icy bubbles tasted good, and for a moment, Nadine felt some relief from the late May heat. She reminded herself not to clench the bottle too tightly.

After the group chatted about the day at work—the boss is an asshole, those customers were rude huh?, I can’t wait for vacation—they turned their attention to the stage as the lights were dimmed. “Hey everyone, I’m Dale!” The emcee raised his beer and continued speaking,

“Welcome to Karaoke Night. If you’re new here, be sure to talk to the DJ and sign up for your song.” He pointed his beer toward a booth off to the side of the stage. “If you aren’t new, do us a favor and sing something different!” He laughed awkwardly, his breath hitting the microphone a bit too hard. He put the mic into the stand and called up the first singer. A young woman in a bachelorette sash climbed on stage and began her shout-singing rendition of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”

The emcee walked over to the group and leaned onto the table. “Hey, Hannah. Can’t get enough of this place, huh?” He leaned closer to her, a dopey grin spreading across his face.

Hannah responded with an exaggerated groan. She nodded toward Nadine and introduced them. “You can have him, Nadine. I’m going to the bathroom.” She slid off her barstool, and Dale sat down, now grinning at Nadine.

“Nice to meet you, Nadine.” He shook her hand and took a long swig of his beer. “Are you new to the group? I see these guys here all the time.” Nadine immediately liked Dale. He was friendly and attentive, and Nadine didn’t understand why Hannah seemed so dismissive of him.

The rest of the night was a blur. She felt her cheeks ache from smiling and giggling with Dale, and when she’d spilled her beer on his lap, he didn’t even flinch. He laughed it off and bought her a new drink. Nadine was pleased with herself, pleased with Dale’s kindness, pleased with the evening overall. They went home together that night and settled onto her couch, Dale polite as he kissed her. They made love that night, and it was sweet, restrained, and appropriately quiet for Nadine’s liking.

They parted ways in the morning with a kiss, and Dale promised to be in touch soon. Nadine believed him. He seemed so genuine. At work that day, she fended off Hannah’s questions and criticisms of Dale. Nadine felt special—not weird, like usual—and she wanted that feeling to last. The work day dragged on, a blur of collating and stapling, and Nadine hadn’t heard from Dale. Her phone buzzed with a reminder to pack that night, but no other message appeared. She worried he would forget about her while she was gone for the holiday weekend.

She had plenty of time to obsess over Dale now that she was sitting in Memorial Day beach traffic. She kept reminding herself that it would be fun. She wanted to tell her sister about her adventure. Nadine was giddy at the idea of shocking her.

The traffic inched on slowly, and Nadine’s car was almost to a large overpass. She wanted to be out of the direct sun, and the promise of shade was only a hundred yards away. And then she saw it: the overpass and the enormous scrawled message. I <3 U. The fuzzy black letters emblazoned on the grimy concrete. The letters were so scraggly and misshapen, she imagined the painter hanging upside down to get the right angle.

She thought of Dale the night before, his slow fingers tracing lazy hearts on her shoulder, how he said he loved her serious eyes. She imagined Dale’s hands swooping together two pieces of a heart on the overpass. She imagined him standing back to survey his work, nodding to himself, and praising his work. The flutter of imagining made Nadine flush with embarrassment.

But why? Why should she be embarrassed? It was possible that a man could become infatuated with her and that he might want to share that with her and everyone else on the highway. He felt so confident that she would know this message was for her, from him. Had he pictured her sitting in her ’98 Corolla, pondering life and traffic, then her serious eyes moving upward to the declaration?

Nadine thought of taking a picture, and for a moment, she clutched her phone, angling it toward the overpass. No, she put the phone away. Free of criticism or speculation—she wanted to keep this for herself.

Written by: Whitney G. Schultz
Photograph by: Matt Crump


Posted on: August 6, 2015

I wait for you to say something perfect. Niri finishes stringing the lanterns around the patio. All those colored paper shells look like sugared sweets; a candy necklace for the night. I wish they would melt into syrup and trap you and Kinsey; the two of you ambered together forever. Maybe then you would find something to say.

From my spot in the yard, I’ve watched you fight and kiss and maybe do a bit more. Niri’s parents presented me when she moved into this new place, back when you were with her, and not anyone else. She’s been here for five years, eleven months, and twelve days, but everyone still calls it the “new” place, and everyone seems to forget about the two of you.

But I’m still here. Albeit I’m a little less pink and my ankles have rusted from last summer’s rain. Grandy still tells me I’m beautiful, but I’m not sure I believe him. He’s so much younger than I’ll ever be. Tonight I’m not talking to him because I’m too busy trying to listen to you. And Kinsey. These past few months it’s been Wade and Kinsey at every party.

“Niri!” You yell her name, pulling her in for a hug. She makes a face at me and Kinsey over your shoulder. Her eyebrows rise and say no way, her eyes go wide and wonder what happened. Even I know that you and Kinsey have something.

“Somebody get this girl a drink,” you say, passing Niri off to the others at the party.

Kinsey hands her a glass of your homemade sangria, and Niri dumps it by my feet as soon as you’re not looking. I suck it up through my legs and it makes me feel good, almost great.

“Kinsey, girl,” Niri says.

I smile even as my stomach sloshes with too much sangria and sappy daydreams of what tonight should have been for you.

“And nothing,” Kinsey says. She chews on a soggy orange wedge. I imagine the fruit bursts with booze and saturates her tongue in slime and seeds. When she spits into the bottom of her glass, I know I am right.

“Like, really nothing? Not even hey or hi or you know, let’s fuck?” Niri asks. No one looks because it’s Niri. But if it were me or Grandy, they’d all be like acid trip? And then maybe they’d drink and dance and forget that the lawn ornament said something so profane.

“It’s not like that. We just, I don’t know, and it…he’s just different here,” Kinsey says. I want to say he is different, he gets you, he just gets confused, and I think he might love—

“The dance floor is calling us,” Niri says.

There is no dance floor.

You drink that gin with yesterday’s lips, the ones that talked about Kinsey. You said she was brilliant and beautiful and you finally got that there was something real about her. So where is that guy? Why isn’t he here tonight? Why aren’t you kissing Kinsey and keeping her in your arms? Why are you so determined to fuck everything up?

“Later,” you say to a girl named Kat when she asks you to dance. I follow your gaze to Kinsey swaying, seeped in those lanterns’ colored light. She looks like some sort of mystical creature, and she smiles when she sees you staring.

You still haven’t said anything to her. You hugged everyone but her. You laughed with everyone and just nodded your head when she said the stars, even though we all know that is your special code for let’s talk. Because everyone remembers the last three parties and how you brought champagne because Kinsey loves it and it makes her crazy and it reminds you both of the galaxy.

Tonight it’s like you are trying to put as much distance between you and her as possible. I hope you know that your Kinsey is a philophobiac, and the idea of loving someone, like really loving someone, scares her. But sometimes you are sweet and you sang that one line from your favorite song to her that night she got sick. I think she still remembers that version of you.

Everyone dances and sings another shot before we kiss, but you stand still beside me. You sigh and I miss the end of that line and the one after. But when it gets to the chorus, you whisper the words, and smile. I know you want to join the party, but you don’t. I’m not sure if it is because of the song or because of whatever has happened with Kinsey. You pull your phone from your pocket, start typing into your Notes. How will she get back up?

I know it is about Kinsey because you only write things about real people. They are never characters created from blood and ink. And knowing that, your silence makes sense, but it doesn’t satiate my need to hear it straight from your lips. I want to ask: how do you know she’ll fall? How do you know she’ll care as much about whatever isn’t happening as those of us who know the two of you might add up to something better?

You say “only sunshine” to Kat as you pull her into a slow dance. I wonder if you said “only stars” to Kinsey. I wonder if you will ever just love someone to love them.

When you lead Kat to the porch, we all watch. Kinsey stops dancing and leans against Niri and they whisper back and forth. I can’t hear them from here so I try to read their lips. Kinsey’s mouth moves slow and it looks like she says fudge, but I know she must be saying fuck you because that’s what we are all thinking.

Kinsey doesn’t crumble, even as you lift Kat, and take her into the house. She is so much stronger than you. Maybe you don’t care. Maybe you care too much and that’s why you feel the need to hate fuck strange girls instead of making love to just one.

“It’ll be okay,” Grandy says, nudging me with his little grey wing.

I’m not sure that’s true. Grandy hasn’t seen enough of you to know either way. But I think about how you almost kissed Kinsey at the last party, the way you closed your eyes, and drank in her words. I remember the way you leaned in and whispered something I almost heard, but never would. And now our lives consist of the almost.

Written by: Kayla King
Photograph by: Garrett Carroll

Anderson Ridge

Posted on: August 4, 2015

The ferry ride was long and hard and left the boy feeling serious. The trip up the coast took three days and three nights, dropping them in the bush at the end of June. Pop had already been at the camp for months; he always headed to the forest the second the snow was off the ground. Before leaving, Pop took the boy aside to have the talk, reminding him that while he was gone, the boy would need to be the man of the house. It was his job to look out for Mother and little Shirley, to protect them from trouble and danger of any kind. The boy took his duties to heart, diligent in his watch all through their journey, eager to be reunited with his father and to relinquish the role of ‘Man.’

Now that they have made it to the camp and found his father still absent, off in the bush with a group of laborers and lumberjacks, the boy sits quietly in the corner listening to the rain and waves, attentive for any sounds that could mean trouble. He watches as his mother attends to the most immediately pressing problems. Behind a silk screen she removes her travelling clothes and pulls on a white lace gown. Her next necessity is a drink; she pours the whiskey, a neat two fingers, and drinks down half of it in the first gulp. She sighs and makes her way to the other side of the room, smiling at the serious boy and his restless little sister before she winds up the gramophone and music fills the cabin.

Little Shirley is unhappy, crying and fussing on the floor, she stretches her chubby arms out towards the soft white vision that is their mother. Mother gulps down the last of her drink and dances a few steps around the room before twirling towards the toddler and swinging her up into her arms. Little Shirley squeals with delight and leans her curly head against her mother’s shoulder. They waltz around the room, their voices raised sweetly in song.

Like Jack Horner, in the corner. Don't go nowhere, what do I care? Your kisses are worth waitin' for

Clad in silk ribbons and ivory buttons, they are elegance, they are sophisticated femininity, they are a contradiction in this old wooden shack with its leaky roof. Mother keeps singing, her voice made sultry by the whiskey sipped from a crystal tumbler. The sound of her song weaves around the music of the gramophone and the laughter of Shirley in her arms. The joyful noise slips between the cracks in the walls and out into the logging camp that surrounds them. The sweetness of them mingles with the rough sounds of men living in the bush. It melts into the sounds of the waves of the northern ocean and the dull patter of raindrops on wood.

The boy, still serious, thinks of the waves and the unknown men. He imagines them and all the other dangers crashing against the cabin walls. He squares his shoulders, sitting taller, watching the women he’s been assigned to protect, picturing the gun that is already loaded and tucked under the bed. He thinks about how much time it would take him to pull the weapon from its hiding place if the doors burst open. If wolves and bears and bad men were to set upon them, he knew he could have that weapon out in an instant. Pop would be proud.

His mother has always been an enigma among women, refusing to be left behind in the city. Every summer she insists that she be brought to the bush, where she can dance barefoot across dirt floors and swim naked in moonlight when none are watching. She has never known fear, not in the cities or in the woods. She is oblivious and bold.

His sister, a joyful toddler laughing in her mother’s arms, has never been to the lumber camps before. As an infant, she was left behind last year, kept safe with the house servants in the city. It is her first time in the forest, and she doesn’t know to be fearful. They are his to guard, here, deep in the north pacific rainforest, miles away from the parlours and parties of North Vancouver. He will be brave and mindful for all of them.

The boy senses the change before he hears it, a shift, something different in the sounds of the men. The waves keep on crashing in their regular rhythm and the raindrops tap with the same regularity, but the murmurs of the men have changed. The boy is on his feet in a flash, the gun is raised to his shoulder, levelled confidently at the door.

“Clay?” His mother asks.

The boy does not answer. He aims the rifle, cold steel held steady, waiting for movement. He is ready for whatever will come next. He stands on knees that tremble, a shield between the women and the outside, ready to do his duty as a man. The shadow of something makes its way around the cabin, though there are no windows set in the walls, he can see the passage of the creature in the chinks between boards; he can hear it in the men’s voices. Something is coming for them.

His finger tightens on the trigger, ready for action as the door pushes open. Before the boy can react to the dark figure on the threshold, Mother reaches down from behind him and plucks the rifle from his small shaking hands.

“Hush now, Clay. It’s just Pop.” She meets Pop at the door with the rifle in her hand and a sultry smile on her mouth.

Clay feels the fear fizzle out of him. He has been relieved of duty; for the moment he can be just a boy again.

Written by: Sarah Scott
Photograph by: Rob Gregory

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