This Zine Will Change Your Life
  • High School Night by David Masciotra

    Up against the wall

    We polluted the air with every exhale

    Fumes of alcohol and tobacco

    Dancing to the punk band

    Underneath our noses


    It felt good

    To live as



    Later in the car my father owned

    You invaded my jeans

    Your delicate hand

    Your nail polish

    The same color as night

    Chipped and messy


    I arched my back

    And howled

    At an old man’s open window


    Back inside

    The band and their mob

    Like ants out of a sandhill


    Moving Moving Moving

    I put my arm around you

    Your smile was

    Like cotton candy


    Your hair smelled like pot

    David Masciotra is an author, lecturer, and cultural critic. He is the author of Mellencamp: American Troubadour, from the University Press of Kentucky, and Metallica by Metallica, a 33 1/3 book from Bloomsbury Publishers. In 2010, Continuum Books published his first book, Working On a Dream: The Progressive Political Vision of Bruce Springsteen. His newest book, Barack Obama: Invisible Man, was published by Eyewear Publishing in 2017.

    Street Artist unknown.
    Photo by Adam Lawrence.

    Desert Liminal is the Chicago-based dream pop duo of Sarah Jane Quillin and Rob Logan. “Flashbacks” comes from their most recent EP, “Comb For Gold” (Fine Prints, Aug 2018).

  • (for what we are worth) by Chris Barickman

    out-wrought, with-out
    right (ed), and lee-ward
    leaning, blown, left
    ward of this state
    less, establish-ment
    meaning, meant, I
    did, mean and miser
    lee-ward, learnt
    to lean,
    mean, I
    meant, I ween
    off-road, off-hand,
    I comment, relent
    less, than leaning,
    lain, and lied
    to, and fro'
    and from
    me to you, too wise,
    two eyes, plus two
    more is lense to lense-
    -to fly, to swim, at
    four, a pair, one
    to one, and two
    by two, are you
    and me are we
    and us, together?
    ➳ birds, a feather
    dropped, falls, lighter
    in ruffled, up
    turned, crippled wind
    and sin and grains of
    cut glass, a mote
    a mottled-chip
    twisted, spark
    of re-upped, clicked
    flint, a strike
    I might repent,
    return, to send
    me, scuttled, pockets,
    less our change, equates
    two weights, suspended.

    This Zine Will Change Your Life previously published deconstruction by Chris Barickman. Check it out.

    Street Artist unknown.
    Photo by Adam Lawrence.

    Grapetooth is the fun Chicago-based duo of Clay Frankel of Twin Peaks and Chris Bailone (aka Homesick), and "Violent" is just the second single of this fairly new pairing.

    We are also happy to share some bonus Barickman drawing and music inspiration below.


  • Surveillance by Johnny Fuentes

    Grandpa spits into his mug with a little coffee left inside and watches his phlegm curve into a grin as he tilts it forward. He doesn’t know who I am anymore, but he doesn’t get upset with me either, so I take it there is a fraction of me still left in there. He likes to walk to the river behind our house. He sits at the edge and talks to it and drinks from it. When he walks in, all the way up to his knees, the experience becomes something holy for him. He whispers things that sound like prayers, but if everything were on mute he’d look like he is singing, he’d look like there should be some huge voice coming out of him.
         It’s my job to watch over him ever since he saw my sister wearing a towel and swung at her from his seat in the kitchen when she was pouring herself some OJ. After she locked herself inside her room, he took an antique dueling pistol from the cabinet and stuck the barrel into his eye socket and fiddled with the hammer, dry-shooting it, and then put it over his eye again, pointing the butt of the gun at me while looking down the barrel like a telescope. I was trying to find the words to calm him down, but all I could do was put my hands in the air like I was surrendering. My dad had to put all of his guns inside a safe in the garage.
         I've been taking care of him for months now, the longest job I’ve had— my dad pays me. I fuck up a lot too, and I don’t have something like war or old age as an excuse. My ex said once that watching me trying decide something was like watching a boxing match. She cringed when she said it as if she could see the brutality playing out on my face.
         One day I picked her and her friend Kimmy up and they wanted to go to the beach. I said
    alright, but I need to go to my place to get my shorts, but when we got to my place, instead of getting my shorts I got into bed. It was hot out; I felt the heat from the window sink into my chest, and it was like I was a kid again, feverish and staying home sick from school. I’d miss weeks at a time and puke into double-stuffed grocery bags and my mom would rub my back at night because I had just watched Alien and it felt like something was about to eat its way out through my shoulder blade. Each time I dreamt I saw its miniature face chewing away inside my lung, not in a big rush like the movie, but slowly, as if it were dining at a fancy restaurant. My girlfriend was standing in the doorway in her bathing suit asking me if I was ready yet. Her top looked like it was made of black rubber ribbons that lashed across her chest, and the bottom pressed into her hips, bundling her ass together into a bubble. I asked her to come over. I was facing the opposite direction in which I slept, with my feet at my pillow. Come over here, put yourself against me, I said. I tilted my head back, looked up, and watched her body above me and the way she looked down on me. She looked huge and god-like when the black fabric around her crotch rubbed against my forehead.  
         We all watched an action movie instead of going to the beach, they were still in their bathing suits. Kimmy was kind of pissed and retaliated by biting her nails and spitting them quietly on the floor, and I sat on the couch and stared at the screen and waited— sometimes their bodies sprayed blood like they were punctured cans of aerosol and sometimes they whispered things to each other while crouched in strange places, and I waited.

    Johnny Fuentes is a writer and graduate student in the MFA Creative Writing program at Miami University. He lives in Oxford, Ohio with his ferret, Olivia.

    Street Artist is possibly Banksy (but it's equally possible that it's Jerry Saltz and/or accomplices pranking him).
    Photo by Adam Lawrence.

    Deeper is a post-punk band from Chicago and "Pink Showers" is the first single from their forthcoming self-titled debut album (Fire Talk Records, May 25th).
  • history ever repeats (a brief history of six relationships) by Jim Warner

    “If you really wanted to screw me up, you should’ve gotten to me earlier.”

     ~ Rob Gordon (High Fidelity)

    A field trip. Rittenhouse Square.
    Picked a daisy; pushed it through
    a buttonhole.  Blue coat.  February
    weather.  You were glacial.
    Hands froze to your collar.  You.
    Detached. Contract like veins.

    A plural possessive.  Our dorm room couch.
    Petals wilting in waterless bottles. You
    were drunk.  Your father’s birthday. No
    cake.  Just candles.  Listen to Dead
    Flowers; turnover like vinyl in my sleep.  

    A coffee cup found in the grass.
    Overtaken. High tides and ragweed.  Your
    sewing machine hums unfamiliar songs. My
    car. Picture of Provincetown sewn into hems.
    Poems in spilled wine and broken dishes.

    A borrowed pickup truck.  Thirty-three.  
    I had already been to Stillwater. Camped
    in the shadow of St. Louis.  Their diamond
    anniversary. We grow, contract. Expand.
    Returned my heart to the stripmines.  You
    dated flea markets and auctions.

    A cancer left nothing but an empty bed.

    A pigeon feather.  Fire escapes into blind alleys.
    Roses in a dumpster.  Broken vase smashed
    into fake diamonds.  Iceless fingers. Muzzle flash.
    We got quiet.  Like snow still falling.  I’m awake.
    It’s just coffee.  Blood dries like ink. Contract.
    A different you.


    Jim Warner's writing has appeared in various journals including The North American Review, RHINO Poetry, Heavy Feather Review. He is the author of two prior collections, Too Bad It's Poetry and social studies (PaperKite Press). Warner is the host of the literary podcast Citizen Lit and teaches poetry in Arcadia University's MFA program.

    Street Artist unknown.
    Photo by Adam Lawrence.

    Fyans is a London-based R&B band and "Two Birds" is debut single. 

    "history ever repeats (a brief history of six relationships)" was published in its original form/title (Six Flowers from Now) in the Dr. TJ Eckleburg Review back in 2014. We're honored to reprint it in its current form in celebration of the forthcoming release of Warner's new poetry collection Actual Miles.

  • Shifting Junes by James Croal Jackson

    you forgot my name in the white smoke of phantasmagoria
    every transparent slide a memory under blankets of sweat
    my voice the fan’s whirred whisper
    and you the sun every season


    James Croal Jackson is the author of The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017). His poetry has appeared in The Bitter Oleander, Rust + Moth, Cosmonauts Avenue, and elsewhere. He has won the William Redding Memorial Poetry Contest and is founding editor of The Mantle. Find him in Columbus, Ohio or here.

    Street Artist unknown.
    Photo by Adam Lawrence.

    Darlingside is an electro-folk band based in Cambridge, MA. This is the first single from their forthcoming LP, Extralife, which is due out in Feb. 2018.

  • Early Morning Train by Alex Kudera

    The night before, I became someone I once vowed to never be—the enraged consumer, returning a twelve-dollar burger twice to the kitchen. In protest of its eternally rare pink midsection, I refused to pay. I told the manager, a wide and hostile woman, I wanted a burger perfectly medium well for the significant sum of twelve dollars. She said “fine,” snarled at me, and strode away. In shame, I left the bar.

    Before you accuse me of being a big fat liar, I wanted to admit I turned 36 last June. This all happened early in the morning. Too early. It took place on public transportation. I was late for class. On the crowded trolley, close to the back, I sat by a man manipulating himself—but a stab of flesh exposed—and so across the aisle I shifted and sat in gum. Blackened by dirt, it was the kind that stuck to the pants my mother had cleaned and pressed for me a couple weeks back. This was the second time I wore them. I said, “Fuck,” softly but aloud. I noticed the crusty punk next to me seemed pleased by this. Was she pleased a grown man in his mother’s pressed pants would curse aloud? Or was she merely pleased I sat in the kind that stuck? I can’t answer that, but I can tell you I sat there with an overstuffed book bag and all of my weight on one thigh until the crowded trolley emptied out at 30th Street Station. After that I moved to an empty two-seater and waited my turn. As the crusty punk departed at 19th, I could read all but the last half letter of the words on the back of her green tee: “College is a scar” is what I saw. Yep, she had the book on me.

    At 15th, I descended, turned right, ascended, turned right, descended, and walked all the way down, past the elevated line to the furthest steps for the Northbound local of the Broad Street subway. Subterranean Philadelphia stunk. Down the final stairwell, I missed my train and saw a SEPTA guy guarding an innocent book bag, which in this case was labeled a suspicious package. He told me to move ten yards back. So I did, where I looked for gum on a silver metal bench and then sat. A minute later, I took out a pen and napkin and started scribbling notes about gum adversity on the Green Line, and a minute after that, a man blasting music too loud for his headphones showed up with his 5-year-old son. They plopped down right next to me. The father was grooving to the beat, physically moving his body to the music coming out of the headphones. His elbow occasionally knocked against mine. The son was on his other side. I couldn’t see him.

    The son said to the father: “Dad.”
    He said it again, louder, “Dad.”
    He said it a third time, maybe even grabbing Dad’s arm, or so I imagined.
    “What is it?”
    “Can I listen too?”
    “No, son. No way you can listen to this music.” Dad put the headphones back on and returned to the groove.

    On the other side of my brain, I was mulling over an old expression, which may even be a cliché to some, but has been an endless puzzle to me: “Always treat children like adults, and adults like children.” I turned to the twosome and tried to see if this saying would help me understand a grown man blasting music in his ears while ignoring his small child. Did the father do the right thing by telling the son he couldn’t listen to the music? Was the father preparing the son for a lonely world in which you have to bring your own tunes on public transportation? Was this then treating him like an adult, the way you’re supposed to treat a child? Or did the father do the wrong thing by censoring the music, telling the son he was too young, a child, and that the music was for adults only. Should he have let the son
    listen to the music, and then explain all of the lyrics and why they were inappropriate to share with children?

    I peered as far as I could without appearing too obvious. I tried to get a look at the kid, to see his expression. The boy looked sad. I thought of my own father who split at three but almost never wore headphones and blasted music throughout his house while smoking pot aplenty right in front of me at five, and then to discourage me from smoking sharing regular cigarettes at seven, and even by accident taking me to see Barbarella by age nine. The authorities, my older sister anyway, claim “breast” was my first word and maybe that’s why Jane Fonda with wings made perfect sense to me. Indeed, when I was a child, it was the age of real ones, and my father often treated me like an adult.

    I got out another napkin and started scribbling notes down about parenthood. Little things I wanted to do better. So I wrote, “Avoid divorce at all costs.” Then, I remembered that at 36, I’m childless and I haven’t even the measliest bush, I mean bird, in hand, and somehow precisely that fact brings photographic images of virginity lost over 15 years ago, when I was 20, to a generous Jewish woman and in fact, five years previous to that, at 15, I first got tongue, again from a Jewish girl, and even fifteen years previously, I sense a pattern here, as you now know, I was practically born a boob.

    So I changed strategies and upon the napkin began scribbling, in
    1000 characters or less, what I first wanted the wife to know about me. On my jdate profile. I’d set up my account after reading in a conservative periodical that due to False Idols in reconstructionist synagogues there were free radicals in copious quantities-- liberal Jewish women that is—highly educated and earning good bank. It was time to leap away from the early a.m. hustle, and over to a suitable house-husbanding gig.

    I wrote, “I do not believe listening to loud music while ignoring one’s 5-year-old is an effective parenting strategy. But I’m extremely grateful for the lost virginity, the teenage tongue, and the tit from Mom. Although I’ve been out in the world for a while—caught up in the usual pan-Asian cuisine, East or South, 7—11, my first gig and so allowed to say it, work, overtime, the real-estate game, grading papers, even the blonde, blue-eyed traditional infatuation which upon our second date, in our fourth hour together, I’ll argue stridently against; okay, no, I will not admit to two timing, any sort of ménage a trois and there was nary, a red hot Latina lover, and the closest I had to rough trade was a talented and cultivated African American princess, but yes, okay, there were strip clubs and men’s clubs, maybe one or two true-blue fag joints in between but the lone barroom brawl was only to protect my good name. What? Can’t you use that sixth or seventh word back on the World Wide Web? I didn’t mean cigarettes or marijuana or any other dating simulation—Oy Vey! It’s so confusing but in conclusion, I’m your typical casual male, mixed up, mixed ethnic, a bit unsettled but interested in settling down—not particularly so much on this subway bench—God damn it all! I owe everything to Jewish women! I can produce! I will deliver! I think.”

    And then I crossed out “I think,” and not only because I wanted to end
    on that lightning rod of a note but because I could hear the train approaching, I shoved my pen back in my book bag, stuffed the napkin deep in the pocket of my gum-stuck pants, sprung alert from my seat and read on the billboard, “Labels are for packages, not people” and saw that McDonald’s depicts fresh, leafy lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and fine slices of unblemished apples in their advertising, as I stepped forward to gain good position for boarding the train. But in doing so, lusting over those apples, their browning apparently airbrushed away, I tripped over an old lady’s walker, which I noticed as I turned back to figure out why I was stumbling
    too quickly forward and about to fall flat in front of the train. Death on the
    tracks. Staring back at the survivor of my accident, I saw the old lady shared my look of guilt and horror--at what her walker had inadvertently caused or what my last writing on napkin would be? (All that pejorative filth and 7—11 absolution.) But just in the nick of time, Headphones Dad leaped up, grabbed both sides of my jacket and pulled me right into him. We stumbled back against the bench, almost but not quite directly into his son.

    His son was okay. I was okay. I didn’t even look at the old lady. The train stopped. I thanked the man. Profusely. Three more times. People left the train. He said, “No problem” every time. I told him I really meant it, I really, really meant it and was about to offer free conversation or tutoring for the kid when I realized this would call attention to the aforementioned parenting concern. “I never wanted to offend anyone” was all I said. The father looked at me quizzically and then helped his son board the train. The boy saw the whole thing and clearly recognized that his father saved a stranger’s life. “You okay, little man?” was all the father said to the boy. The
    boy beamed proudly. Proud of Dad.

    On the platform where my life was saved, I vowed never again to
    become someone I didn’t want to be. In fact, from that day forward, I planned to leave twenty minutes earlier, to slowly and methodically journey on public transportation, to smile at those impressionable minds as I strode into class each morning on time. I would become more like my savior; even during rush hour, he could see what was important and knew how to live.

    Back to literature, I tried to reconcile with myself over whether or not I should depict the man as a good father in the story. Should I leave out the headphones? Maybe not in the story version, but certainly to sell the script? I couldn’t decide.


    Life sure was one heck of a near-death situation. And then, just in time, I remembered to board the train.

    Alex Kudera is the author of the original adjunct novel, Fight for Your Long Day, and a comic crime novel, Auggie's Revenge. He has taught literature and writing in Pennsylvania, Ohio, South Carolina, and China.

    Street Art by Reddymade.
    Photo by Adam Lawrence.

    Formed in the Winter of 2016, the Chicago-based, grunge-influenced Bunny, fronted by Jessica Viscius, is already impressing local listeners with their debut EP, Sucker.
  • the star would come by bl pawelek

    on no moon nights
    i could see it
    from the west
    past the glow venus

    not burning through our sky

    but coming slowly and direct


    the star would come
    to rest in my hand
    as i asked

    you would be tied to it
    pulling it away
    you would be tied to it
    but i would stay

    staring into the darkness beyond


    bl pawelek's bio once read in part, right now bl pawelek is hiking in the Minnesota woods thinking of you, glaciers and the quicklysetting sun. We think that still works.

    This Zine Will Change Your Life previously published santa rosa / larkfield by bl pawelek. Check it out.

    Street Artist unknown.
    Photo by Adam Lawrence.

    Maggie Rogers is a Maryland based singer/songwriter and "Alaska" is taken from the ep "Now That The Light is Fading."

  • I Was Thinking Of You by Michael Onofrey

    I’d been watching the weather channel for a couple of hours when I got a phone call.

    Hi, James. I . . . I was thinking of you. How are you?

    Fine. And you? I was thinking of you too.

    Really? Oh, I’m okay. You sound different.

    Well, it’s been awhile.

    Your voice. Is something wrong? Do you have a sore throat or something?

    Maybe. No, I don’t think so. I feel fine. Hey, you want to get together? I moved. I’m over here in Ocean Park now, near Main and Pier.

    I think I have the wrong James.

    No, you have the right James.

    Who am I?

    You are you. Who else could you be?

    What’s my name?

    It’s right on the tip of my lip. If I saw your face, I’d remember. Or we could meet at your place. My place or yours, either one is fine with me. Or, if you like, we could meet at a neutral place. How about sushi? It’s a balmy night. What could be better than sushi and beer, Japanese beer? My treat. Or, if you like, we could split the bill. You know, some people like to do that.

    I got the wrong number.

    No, you don’t. You got the right number. By the way, how old are you?

    You must be sick.

    I told you. I feel fine. Listen, I don’t remember how old I was when we last saw each other, but I’m forty-one now. Does that put us in the correct ballpark? Anywhere from eighteen to about forty-four would work.

    You’re one of those sick weirdos. I’m going to hang up.

    Hey, wait a minute. You called me. You can’t hang up. I was sitting here, watching TV, and my cellphone buzzed. You said you had been thinking about me, and, as it was, I had been thinking about you. So what’s the problem? Let’s get together. It’s only seven-thirty.

    I can’t believe it.

    I’m a nice guy, and you’re a nice woman. I don’t mean to rush things, but just to reassure you, I firmly believe in safe sex. And, I’m not a racist or anything. I happen to be white, but I don’t have any sort of problems with brown or black or whatever.

    How about with white?

    Of course white’s fine. Are you white?

    You mean, you don’t know if I’m brown or black or white? I thought you knew me.

    I’m so nonracist that your race slipped my mind. I don’t pay attention to someone’s skin pigment or race or ethnic background. I don’t even care if they went to college or not. I hardly pay attention to someone’s name. After all, what’s in a name? I pay attention to who a person is.

    Do you pay attention to sex, as in male or female?

    Well, yes, I do. I’m male and I like females. I mean, I like males too, but not in a sexual way. And I’m glad you brought up the subject of sex. I’d like to get back to that real quick, but for now I want to say that I imagine you know that I’m male, and I can tell your female, right?

    How about weight?

    Weight? Well sure, if you want to get into dimensions. I’m six-one and weigh one-seventy. How about you?

    Silence . . . I got an idea.

    What’s that?

    If you give me your number, although I kind of already have it, but anyway, if you give me your number, I’ll think things over and maybe I’ll call you back. Then it’ll be kind of like a real phone call.

    I see. Okay, here’s my number . . . Do you got it? Repeat it back to me, just to make sure.

    . . .

    That’s right. Okay, I’ll be waiting for your phone call.

    Right. But what’s your name?

    We don’t need to go over that again, do we? How about you, what’s your name?

    If I call you back, I’ll tell you my name. So . . . goodbye.

    Goodbye. I’ll be waiting for your call. I really will. But just one more thing.

    What’s that?

    I love you.

    I sit, and I look at the TV, which is on mute. I always keep the weather channel on mute because it allows me to think better.


    The End


    Michael Onofrey grew up in Los Angeles, or so his age, regarding "grew up," would indicate. Currently he lives in Japan, as his surroundings attest to. A novel, "Bewilderment," was recently published by Tailwinds Press.

    Street Artist unknown.
    Photo by Adam Lawrence.

    Swim Good Now is the music of Jon Jasper-Lawless and this is the first single from his forthcoming LP Daylight which will be released on Ryan Hemsworth’s Secret Songs Label.


    If you want to see
    the commissioners for lost love,
    better have her photo handy,
    before and after if you have them.
    Grievances, details,
    don't mean a damn thing.
    It's all in the voice, in the face.
    We commissioners
    are expert gleaners.

    If you've written poetry,
    so much the better.
    Bring that too.
    Your lies say so much.
    Your wounds, your scars,
    are tattletales from way back.

    Now, keep in mind,
    we're not gravediggers,
    or forensic scientists,
    or witches, wizards, casting spells.

    We just make pronouncements,
    some silly, others profound,
    usually unrelated to your problems.
    We're merely a sounding board
    that's deaf to most of what you tell us,
    pontificators with theories
    untested and untried.

    We were like you once, heartbroken,
    came to see the commissioners.
    We stayed on.
    You should too.
    We're always hiring.

    The pay?
    if you've got this far,
    you've paid already.


    John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Front Range Review, Studio One and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Naugatuck River Review, Abyss and Apex and Midwest Quarterly.

    Mural in Queens, NY by multiple artists.
    Photo by Adam Lawrence.

    Michael Nau (Page France, Cotton Jones)  released a solo LP earlier in 2017, but this month has dropped a new EP called The Load. “Diamond Away” is one of the standout tracks on this soulful EP. 

  • Stop Me If I've Told This Before by Emily Butler

        It was the last day of the semester, the first time we said goodbye. I was helping him move out, an easy task given how little he owned. Transferring piles of his clothes to a hamper, I found a pair of girl’s underwear. Knowing him, they’d been sitting on his floor since before we started dating.
         I tried to give him a chance to hide them but heard his voice echo against bare walls:  “I found a pair of your underwear.” He handed me the lace panties. I put them in my back pocket. Touching a stranger’s underwear bothered me but seemed like the best option. 
         “Those are yours, right?” he asked. 
         “Yeah,” I said.  
         “That would have been bad,” he said.  
         We laughed.

    Emily F. Butler is a high school librarian by day, stand-up comedian by night. She lives in western Massachusetts and her work is forthcoming in Bone Parade.

    Street Artist unkown.
    Photo by Adam Lawrence.

    Chicago’s Pixel Grip is the electro-pop duo of Jon Freund and Rita Lukea, and “Golden Moses” is their latest single. 

  • A Family Portrait by Judy Tanzer

    The three runners.
    They were shorter then.  
    Those two boys.
    The boy who looked like a French actor at birth.
    The younger one.
    Sitting silently.
    Until he could greet the world with a joke.
    The father.
    The one who always ran.
    Our American boy.
    Running from the chaos.
    Towards the world that awaited him.


    Judy Tanzer worked as a Psychotherapist and now enjoys life.

    Street Artist unknown.
    Photos by Adam Lawrence.

    Har-di-Har is the work of Minneapolis husband and wife duo Julie and Andrew Thoreen. This is the first single from their forthcoming LP, We WIll Will You, which is due out this September.

  • Today's Hottest Literary Subgenres by Dan Roche

    Post-Ap-Rom-Com: Two heroes grapple with the pressures of singlehood while trying to survive a nuclear wasteland. Brought together by the mass extinction of humanity, the protagonists develop a love connection with tongue-in-cheek banter and the constant threat of murder. Secondary conflict includes massive natural disasters, radiation poisoning, and a jealous ex-lover who feeds on human flesh. Stories end with a wedding and/or a fusion of the lovers at a molecule level. Popular works include Hazmat Sweet and The Wedding Sirens.
    Stream of Conscientiousness: A 1st person narrator wavers between the pros and cons of a single, simple, decision. Inspired by maximalist novelists Thomas Pynchon, William Gaddis, and David Foster Wallace, Stream of Conscientiousness makes the ordinary, epic. Average book length ranges from 200,000 – 250,000 words. Popular titles include The Dinner Menu and Pants: One Man’s Fight For Comfort.

    Morning Lament: With roots in Awkward Erotica (see also Joycean Love Letters), Morning Lament attempts to capture the reality of sexual encounters.  Characters possess mental and physical flaws which may include obesity, heavy intoxication, uncleanliness, and impotence. Stories begin in the morning post coitus. Characters remain nameless due to the inability to recall the night before. Likewise details of the sexual encounter are not provided, however videos, pictures, and abused inanimate objects provide a general depiction. Motifs include regret and an aversion to gin. Martha Starts With ‘M’, Full Frontal Breakfast Burrito, and Dawn No More are popular titles.    
    [Word] + Punk: Ambitious novels that stop at 3,000 words. The plotline, should one exist, has little to no association with original punk counterculture. The protagonist has an edgy name so they sound defiant, yet sensitive and misunderstood. Examples include Strata, Gray, and Sleet. Foreshadow is weaponized to beat the audience over the head. The love interest, the best friend (who later dies), and the mentor who relies on tough love are all introduced in the first few pages. Gratuitous Nazi references solidify the antagonist. Examples of never complete works are found on writing forums with the title, Thoughts on novel - Space Opera, Pastoral Steampunk, Agripunk!      
    Bureaucraticity: A subgenre of action and adventure, Bureaucraticity focuses on the heroes behind the backline. Every war, shoot out, and car chase requires a report to be processed, signed by the appropriate manager, and filed in a timely manner. The protagonists are men and/or women who occupy the lowest rung in the organization. Paper jams and deleted files. The Goferboy of April 15th and Behind Every Frontline is a Backline.   
    Medically Induced Thriller: The 1st person narrator is comatose. Family members, friends, and doctors confess dark secrets while visiting the narrator.  Secrets include murder plots and/or the threat of international terrorist plots. Eventually desperate to save the save the day, the narrator establishes a psychic connection with an unexpected hero. Examples include a small dog, an orphaned toddler, and most recently a messenger pigeon. Once the day is saved, the narrator comes out of the coma and adopts the unexpected hero used as a psychic vessel. Recently the novel entitled, ‘…’ won the distinguished Keller Prize for Fiction.   
    Tragic Farce: Politics packaged as both fiction and nonfiction. There is no protagonist only a less bad antagonist. Primary conflict includes everything. None of which is resolved. Happy endings are determined by the non-use of nuclear weapons. Popular titles include Moving Forwards, Backwards and It Can’t Get Any Worse.


    Dan Roche teaches compostion and creative writing at the University of Colorado Denver in Beijing, China. His chapbook 'The Paperwork Rebuttal' (Philistine Press, 2013) includes narratives that were finalists for the Platypus Prize in Innovative Fiction and the Diagram Award for Innovative Fiction. He received his MA in English and MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State.

    Street Art by Dirt Cobain and Butterflymush.
    Photo by Adam Lawrence.

    Katie Von Schleicher is a Brooklyn-based musician and member of the band Wilder Maker. She will be releasing her new solo LP, "Shitty Hits", on July 28th via Ba Da Bind Records.  

  • Finnegan on the Case by David S. Atkinson

    The knuckles rapping on glass were like Tommy gun bullets in my head. Pounding me awake. My mouth tasted sour like old whiskey and grim reminders. They were delicate knuckles though, and the shape of the shadow in front of my office door was curvy as a bad road on a rainy night. A dame: a classy one. I swept the empty bottle off my desktop into the waste bin and called: "Come in!"
    And come in she did, and in.  The way she shimmied through that doorway, I thought sure she had to be part liquid. She crossed her long legs as she sat across from me, the only proof I had they ever stopped. My tongue would have been hanging out if it hadn't been so dry it was glued to my mouth.

    "I got a job, Mr. Finnegan," the dame purred. "I hear you handle that kind of thing."

    I leaned back in my chair, crossing my arms behind my head, and tried not to let her see me nearly fall over when the wave of nausea hit. I needed to be smooth.

    "I handle a lot of jobs, doll. I'm the best."

    Too bad the jazz band that must have been playing all night in my head left the place such a mess. I couldn't think straight and I needed to. There was something familiar about this dame. Real familiar. I needed to know if someone was playing me for a patsy.

    "It's my husband, Mr. Finnegan." She took a long, thin cigarette out of a gold case and lit it. "He's missing."

    I tried to remember to listen to her instead of just stare at her lips as she blew out the smoke. The doll wasn't making things easy. Luckily, blood rush started my head pounding painfully again and brought me to my senses.

    "My fee is twenty bucks a day, plus expenses," I said, "no matter what the case is. But still, tell me about your husband."

    She licked her lips, those luscious lips. "My Tommy isn't a bad man," she sighed. "He likes to think he's tough…but he's really just a big old teddy bear. I need to watch out for him, and I'm worried."

    The wheels in my head were spinning with the possibilities, grinding from the lack of oil. I really wished she'd dropped by after I'd located myself a little dog hair. I needed to lubricate up a bit before I could function right.

    But then it hit me like a gorilla with an attitude problem—my name was Tommy. I looked at her good.

    "Doll," I said, "I found your husband…he's sitting right here."

    She leaned over the desk and gave me a peck on the cheek. "Good job, you big lug. Here's your twenty." She slipped me a bill before she got up to stroll out again.

    "What about the expenses?" I asked.

    "Guess you worked too fast to rack up any," she replied, turning back briefly to smirk, "but do remember to at least get something to eat today. Maybe even come home sometime instead of just sleeping in that chair."


    David S. Atkinson is the author of Apocalypse All the Time, Not Quite so Stories, The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes (2015 National Indie Excellence Awards finalist in humor) and "Bones Buried in the Dirt" (2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards finalist, First Novel <80K). His writing appears in Bartleby Snopes, Grey Sparrow Journal, Atticus Review and others.

    Street Artist unknown.
    Photo by Adam Lawrence.

    This is the title track to Austin-based singer/songwriter Adam Torres’ latest EP which was released by Fat Possum back in February 2017. 


    Navigating the Volkswagen in the rain took all Vicky Lee’s concentration. Keeping both hands on the wheel, she closed her bad eye, and squinted the other. Phil had offered to drive, but he’d been sipping codeine cough medicine. They were in desperate need of hot and sour soup. White pepper and rice vinegar-spiked broth to soothe the hack and spit, calm the beast making them hate each other for being sick at the same time. Somebody was supposed to take care of them. Somebody was supposed to be in the kitchen banging around. Somebody was supposed to be running their fingers through somebody’s hair. Neither were naming names.

    Vicky lit a cigarette in the car though she said she wouldn’t. Promises had been made.

    “Jesus H., man bronchitis is no joke,” Phil said, rolling down the window. The fever only increased her tendency toward self-destruction, but despite the unspoken urge to drive fast and hard toward the other lane, she kept her foot ready over the brake, her gaze steady. There should be enough gas to get them to House of Chinese Gourmet and back to their apartment. Should be.

    They had to park on the other side of the lot from the restaurant. It was close to Christmas and folks clamored at Dollar General. Phil slammed the door, went to get the soup, dumplings, and sesame chicken she wouldn’t eat. Vicky watched the green twinkle lights in the window below the electric red bowl of noodles with its burned-out chopsticks. Her legs sweat against the leather. Every part of her was sticky from the humidity and she wondered what it meant when Christmas was turbulent like May, wet like June. The smoke from her second cigarette wasn’t going anywhere; it just sank down on her skin, looping itself through the steering wheel. She put her hand on her chest to see if she could feel tightness in her lungs from outside her ribcage. Dying at twenty would just figure.

    Phil tripped on the mat outside as he walked through the door. His hair was freshly washed and the blond wisps behind his ears caught the green light making him look horror or sci-fi or fantasy—an unreality genre of cool. He cursed, nearly dropping the bag. Vicky yelled as best she could, but it came out in squeaks. “Drop that soup and I’ll beat your ass.”

    “Bring it, Punky.”

    He called her Punky after the show she loved as a kid, said she still had the same fashion sense and looking down at her rain boots, Family Guy boxers, and lumpy pigtails, she couldn’t argue.

    “You know you’ll never get well if you keep that up.”

    “I’m trying, babe. You know they’re as addictive as heroin.”
    “Fool who says that has never done heroin.”
    “Hardest thing I’ve ever had to quit.”
    “Better hope that truth keeps.”

    Vicky walked around to the passenger side and opened the door for him, flicking the cigarette on the curb. “With a nickname like Punky, how could life get worse?” she said, winking as he tucked his long legs in her compact car.

    Vicky saw the blue lights in the distance before they even backed out.  Police lights always reminded her of her friend Cora who’d stretched herself out on the train tracks behind the mall. It was the late ’90s and half Vicky’s friends from high school had overdosed, done time, or pulled themselves apart in some other way by then, but there was still mystery surrounding Cora. She hadn’t seemed the type. There was talk of an older guy giving her bad shit and dragging her to the tracks to protect himself. Talk of her mama going to the apartment complex, banging on doors, crying to anyone who’d listen about her baby the track star. Talk. Talk. Talk. Mostly women answered. Mostly divorcees. Mostly recovered. But Cora’s mom couldn’t have known that.

    All Vicky knew was sometimes even young people gotta destroy shit, themselves included. She told herself it was the cigarette. Now, she’d get healthy. She’d start running. For Cora. For the rest of her lost tribe.

    “Did I ever tell you about the track star they found on the railroad tracks?” she asked, one hand over the seat, looking back toward the lights.

    “I think I’d remember something that sick.”
    “She laid herself down right in the curve so she knew the conductor wouldn’t see her until it was too late. At least that’s the story. Total disaster.”
    “Every story you tell is a disaster.”
    “That sort of thing seems to be all along my periphery, babe. Consider yourself warned.” “I’ll take it under advisement, he said, coughing into his shoulder.
    “You sound like shit.”  
    “You don’t sound so good yourself.”

    At the stoplight, a police car pulled up behind them. Vicky turned the volume down on the radio. Maybe Eminem wasn’t the best impression for the cops, particularly when you considered her pink hair and his Nine Inch Nails shirt, forearm tattoos, and waifish frame. Sure enough, when she hit the gas, the cruiser kept close. By the time they got to the pawn shop on 7th Street, the blue lights came on for them.

    “Pull in the parking lot at the pawn shop.”

    “Exactly. Probably cameras, too.”
    “You know I only have a learner’s permit,” Vicky said.
    “Nothing we can do about it now.”
    “I’m stoned on cold medicine.”
    “Shh. Do the best you can. Cry if you can.”

    As the officer walked up, two more cars pulled in behind him. Vicky couldn’t believe it. She wondered if she was the bad juju for everyone in her life. A knock at the window, a demand, another demand and they were outside the car, hands on the hood, legs spread, the Chinese food between them. There is talk of trash and pushing dope and questions about Vin from House of Chinese Gourmet. All they knew of Vin was his bracing manner, how he’d throw you out of the restaurant if you acted up, the gross way he’d only sell black customers takeout, how pissed he got if you ordered dumplings, which took twenty minutes, how one time he gave them scallion pancakes because they seemed like good kids and he could tell they had only ordered soup because they couldn’t afford the sesame chicken that day. It never occurred to them that he might be “slinging dope from New York.” They guessed it was the New York part that pissed the officers off most.

    “We need a female officer.”

    “Sandra, come on. You pat her down.” Vicky could barely see Phil’s face anymore, but she tried to analyze his expression when the barrel-chested woman ran her hand all the way up her shorts and the men behind her slapped her shoulder, saying, “Get it, girl.” When she was finished, Vicky looked her in the eye, wondering why she looked haunted when her hand wasn’t.
    “We only wanted soup.” In the span of five minutes, Vicky’s fever spiked and she’d sweat through her shirt.

    They said they should arrest her for sassing, let alone the permit and being visibly high. Phil sniffled, but Vicky couldn’t tell if he was upset, or because he couldn’t wipe his nose.

    “Consider yourselves lucky, kids,” the woman said. They warned Vicky and Phil to stay away from House of Chinese Gourmet. This meant giving up their favorite meal. Giving up the banter that comes with being regulars, letting go of the ease and comfort of rooster sauce and egg swirled into broth, the feel of seaweed between their teeth, losing the one place they wrapped their hands around ceramic cups of hot tea, their one place.

    When they got home, Vicky walked out to the back deck, white cartons of cold food in hand. She spun hard in little girl circles until her stomach lurched, stopping only to launch each container off into the parking lot behind their building. Phil didn’t know what to do so he climbed up on the rail and stood there waiting for some kind of answer. He coughed into his shoulder, watching the chicken splatter on a red pickup.

    “Let’s walk the tracks,” Vicky said. “I’ll show you where Cora died.”

    “Can I tell you something?”
    “Better not. Tonight’s bad enough. Let’s save the catastrophe of us for another day.”
    “Okay. When?”
    “Tomorrow or the next.”
    “Tomorrow or tomorrow.”
    “It doesn’t even feel like Christmas.”
    “It hasn’t felt like Christmas for years,” he said, pulling one of her pigtails. “You should go to bed, Punk. Your fever’s back.”

    Under two blankets, Vicky tried to remember what she looked like the day of tryouts. Did she wear her mom’s Tarheel basketball shirt? White Keds? But all she could think about was Cora fifty yards ahead of her, limbs firing like mad, frizz curling at her temples, and the kind of woman she could have been.


    Beth Gilstrap is the author of I Am Barbarella: Stories (2015) from Twelve Winters Press and No Man’s Wild Laura from Hyacinth Girl Press (2016). She thinks she’s crazy lucky to work as Fiction Editor over at Little Fiction | Big Truths. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Bull, WhiskeyPaper, The Minnesota Review, Literary Orphans, and Little Patuxent Review, among others. She lives in Charlotte with her husband and enough rescue pets to make life interesting (or flat out insane).

    Street Art by goochsoup.
    Photo by Adam Lawrence.

    Alyeska is dream pop duo from Los Angeles, and “Tilt-A-Whirl” comes from their debut EP, Crush which was self-released in March of 2017. 

  • When in Amsterdam or South Minneapolis by Seth Berg

    The Netherlands cuts fifty million Peony stems annually…
    ...more than any other country on Earth.

    I wake on my front stoop,
    my hands clutching flower pieces.

    I count no fewer than forty
    Peonies strewn about my lawn,

    their heads bursting with flavor
    and heft and ants.

    I once read that Peonies can not bloom
    without their ant inhabitants.

    I imagine an unopened Peony:
    all sweetness and industry

    and layer upon layer
    of silken petal and leg…

    ...I look back at the catastrophe
    spread across my lawn,

    and know that only you
    could fathom the brilliance of it all.


    Seth Berg is a zany professor who makes ridiculous stained glass sculptures and writes absurd books of poetry. He travels the multiverse in search of perfect glyphs. He is addicted to hot sauce and survived a 20 day coma. This poem is from his forthcoming third book which will melt your heart and blow your yearning, mackadocious brain.

    Street Art possibly by Dewey.
    Photograph by Adam Lawrence.

    French Vanilla is an art-punk band from L.A., and “Social Trappings” is the second single from their Self-Titled debut album due out March 24th, 2017 via Danger Collective Records.

  • The Love Edition: First Sight by Kristen Williamson

    It was in the way he introduced himself,
    like he knew he was going to be the love of my life.


    Kristen Williamson is currently a Graduate in English Literature and Creative Writing at Binghamton University In New York, where her fields of study include poetry,and fiction. She has been featured in: Slink Chunk Press, The Stray Branch, The Zine and others.

    Street Art by SacSix.
    Photo by Adam Lawrence.

    Woodes is the work of 24 year-old Australian Elle Graham and "Bonfire" is her latest single.

  • On The Eve of The Inauguration: Hey There Stranger, Come On Over and Hold My Hand by Mary Hamilton

    I am a jet plane. I am a super-sonic sound breaker. I am a magic wand, a crystal ball, a black top hat where doves rise like hologram hallucinations to create a surprise, a start, a whatthehell. I am a magic rock, the kind with a secret space for a key to open the door. I am a skeleton key. I am a shoe horn to make me fit. I am a rainbow. I am a guitar song about trains and thunder with a three chord rhythm and hand claps and background singers. I am a blade of grass, torn from sod and held between two thumbs to create a trumpet sound. A blade of green to play an elegy. A blade of grass to play a funeral dirge. I am a movie star, no I am a cement star. The kind that gets photographed and stepped on. The kind that lies on the street like lox on molded cream cheese and a stale bagel. I don't know.

    I am a long coat, a black duster, the kind that hangs stiff off your shoulders and brushes at the your palm. The kind that nicks the backs of your knees and parts open front and back to allow for movement. The kind of coat that makes you taller, kinder, ghost-like. I don't know.

    I am a razor. The kind to shave just close enough to avoid a cut. I am your favorite song. I am the cracked glass that held the image. I am the ribbon. O! I am a Captain. I am the secret statue on the back of a penny. I am the missed belt loop. I am the magic seed to make the beanstalk grow. I am the rock we threw for hopscotch games. I am the yellow cover to the biography book. I am the tea kettle. I am the weather map. I am the swing in the park. I am blue sky. Yeah, I said blue sky. I am the door to your dressing room with a star. I am your director's chair with your name on the back. I am the hanger that held the shape of your coat, before you put it on your shoulders. I am the shape it took after you put it on. I don't know.

    I am a wrinkle. I am a sunken cheek. I am an arched eyebrow. A hooked nose. A hair comb. A square tie. I am a stranger. I am simply a passerby. I am a doctor who heals. A misfit who breaks things. I am the history of mankind all rolled into one. Rolled into one handkerchief, stuffed in an inside jacket pocket. I am something to fold safe and secure next to your heart. Unfolded to dab the sweat on your brow. Unfolded to comfort the rebel widow when she cries.

    Mary Hamilton is an optician living in Los Angeles, and her work has previously been published in SmokeLong, PANK, the Indiana Review, and Storyglossia.

    Abraham Obama art by Ron English.
    Not My President Street Artist unknown.
    Photos by Adam Lawrence.

    Gal Gun is a new power pop band from Chicago preparing to release their debut album in 2017.

    This piece originally ran on November 3, 2008 and November 10th, 2012.

  • Support System by Sheldon Lee Compton

    I never understood people failing to kill themselves. Rita said she knew a man who shot himself but the bullet wedged under his scalp, traveled around on the surface of his skull, and exited through his scalp. When I decided to commit suicide I knew I wouldn’t have the guts to go through with it, but I was determined enough to figure out a way around that kind of cowardice.

    Roughly five minutes ago I crawled out on the balcony of my apartment and slipped myself down until hanging by my hands. I knew that unless I decided against dying within about the first minute or so then, realistically, the decision would become a permanent one.

    Already my arms are too weak to be of much use. Pulling myself to safety is impossible. To even attempt it would mean cutting my short life even shorter. At this point my hand and arm strength must be nearly spent. I’ll slip soon and that will be the end of Calup Nelson.


    Calup Nelson was one of those guys who held old-style New York artsy parties about once a month. So when his group of friends didn’t get a call from him by early Friday evening, they got in touch with each other and decided to drive to his apartment.

    The three of them – Dexter, Town, and Crane – took turns ringing the doorbell and when no one answered, Town checked the door. It was unlocked and the three of them piled in, expecting to find their friend asleep on the couch or in the shower.

    Splitting into different directions without finding Calup, they started calling his name. They weren’t panicked. The three of them called out, Hey buddy, where are you? Hey man. Everything was casual.


    The guys’ll come out here soon. I think. They should be quick, though, because I’m close. My fingers feel like they’re splitting apart at the joints. Same for my shoulders.

    “Hot damn, Calup.” It’s Town. He’s leaning over the balcony rail. “Did you fall?”

    I shake my head. “I’m killing myself,” I tell Town, and then explain to him my plan.

    He disappears and returns with Dexter and Crane. All three of them are leaning so I can see their serious faces. They have their elbows propped up on the rail. Town explains to Dexter and Crane the plan.

    “It’s pretty much foolproof, if you think about it,” he says, and the others nod in agreement.


    Sheldon Lee Compton is the author of three books and lives in Kentucky with his wife and two children.

    Photo by Adam Lawrence.

    "Ghosts" comes from Irish ambient folk/pop singer Katie Kim's third studio album, Salt, which was self-released in November.

  • Zero Gravity by Clayton Smith


    He grinned nervously and squeezed her hand as they stood together outside the smooth, white door. “I’ve never been inside a zero gravity chamber before,” he said, smiling his lopsided smile. “It’s safe?”

    “Perfectly safe,” she reassured him, squeezing his hand back and returning his smile. He couldn’t help but notice how tired she looked. Beautiful—always so beautiful—but tired, too. More tired than usual. The skin beneath her eyes was dark, her cheeks drawn and pale, and the corners of her mouth twitched, as if the effort of holding a smile was a worthwhile strain. But of course she was tired; she’d been working night and day on the zero gravity chamber for quite some time now. She’d skipped more meals than he could count, and most mornings, he woke up to find that she’d never even come to bed, but had fallen asleep on the couch instead—or, on at least three separate occasions, on the floor right outside the entrance to the chamber.

    But now it was complete, and she could finally rest. He tucked a stray wisp of her graying blonde hair behind her ear. “I can’t believe you made this.”

    “I made it for you,” she said. She gave his hand another squeeze, then she pulled it away and placed it flat on the chamber door. “Are you ready?”

    A dazzling beam of blue light blazed to life beneath the white surface of the door, a thin, horizontal bar that moved up, and then down, scanning her palm. Then, with a loudwhoosh, the door pulled itself back and slid to the side, granting them entry to the chamber.

    “Incredible!” he gasped. That this monumental piece of science-fiction actually existed—and in his own basement, no less—was absolutely extraordinary.

    “We’ll program your hand print too, so you can use it if I’m not here.”

    “Thank you,” he said. He took a step toward the opening, then hesitated. “Should I go in?”

    She nodded enthusiastically. “Yes, please! Everything is ready.”

    “I don’t need any sort of suit or anything? An oxygen mask?”

     “No, no, nothing like that. All you need is you.”

    She gestured toward the door, and he gave her one last, nervous grin. “Okay,” he said. Then he held his breath and stepped into the chamber.

    It was shaped like an egg on the inside, an egg big enough to hold a Volkswagen. He stepped gingerly onto the gleaming, sloping surface, afraid he’d accidentally crack the finish. As if reading his mind, she said, “Don’t worry. It’s very sturdy.” She had that way of knowing what he was thinking, sometimes before he knew it himself.

    “Okay,” he said, his voice shaking a little with nervous excitement.  He glanced around the sparkling room. It was truly beautiful. Elegant. It was her work, and wasn’t this way by mistake. “Do I just…?” He bounced a little on his heels, but he didn’t leave the floor. Gravity was still in full swing.

    “Hold on,” she said, slipping into the chamber behind him. He could even hear the weariness in her voice. Every word was a poorly disguised sigh. “I have to close the door.”

    She reached for it, but his hand instinctively shot out and grabbed her elbow. “Wait,” he said, suddenly feeling very claustrophobic. “How much air will we have?” He tried to sound nonchalant.

    “There are air filters. Up there.” She pointed to the top of the egg. “They’re flush with the walls. Totally hidden. But as long as there’s air in the house, there’ll be air in here.” Then she pressed her hand to the inside of the door panel, and with another blue light scan, it slid back into place and locked itself up tight.

    Once they were sealed in the chamber, she turned back around to face him. Her face was brighter now, and her cheeks had flushed pink around the rims. Her smile was easier, too, more solid. More real. She took both of his hands in hers. “What do you think?” Her voice was, at last, the old, cheery song he’d fallen in love with so many years ago.

    “It’s incredible!” His nervousness had evaporated, just like that. “How do you initiate the zero gravity?”

    “It’s already been initiated,” she said with a sly grin. “Don’t you feel it?”

    He laughed. “No,” he admitted, smiling as he bounced on the balls of his feet. “See? Still on solid ground.”

    She blushed a bit then, her eyelids becoming hooded. “It’s not that sort of zero gravity,” she said.

    “What do you mean?” He didn’t feel confused, exactly, by his lack of understanding. Rather, he felt excited at the possibility of discovery. His curiosity was obvious in the wide smile that spread across his face.

    “This room alleviates gravity completely…but not the gravity of physics. The gravity of life.”

    “The gravity of life?” he asked, his voice tinged with wonder.

    “Yes. All of our seriousness. All of our anxiety. All of that useless weight we carry in our words.” She was fairly beaming now. “It dissipates in this place. The chamber makes this a zero gravity zone.”

    He laughed out loud, long and hard. “You can’t be serious!” he said, though there wasn’t a trace of malice in his voice.

    “See for yourself! Talk about something that was weighing on you this morning.”

    He thought for a few seconds, tapping his lips thoughtful with his finger. “Ah!” he said, lighting upon a topic. “My job!”

    “What about it?” she asked.

    “I think I’m wasting my time there,” he giggled. He automatically raised a hand to cover his mouth, turning a bit red from the embarrassment of such a mirthful little laugh. Then his eyes widened a bit, and he tried again. “I’m miserable there!” His voice came out as bubbly as soap. He shook his head in astonishment. “Why don’t I feel sad about that?”

    “Zero gravity,” she said with a Cheshire grin. Her voice took on a game show host lilt. “The latest in relieving life’s little stresses!”

    “Incredible!” he repeated. “It’s almost as if…almost as if…” She raised an eyebrow, a subtle encouragement for him to go on. “Well, it’s almost as if I actually like the fact that my job is destroying me a little more each day!” They shared a long laugh. He took her hands in his and squeezed them tenderly. “What a brilliant invention,” he said through tears of joy. “And what an extraordinary woman you are.”

    She smiled and rested her head on his chest. “Thank you,” she said, closing her eyes and listening to the sound of his heart.

    They stood like that for quite some time, enjoying the restored airiness between them, their collective lightness of being. “Whatever possessed you to manufacture such a miracle?” he finally asked.

    Without lifting her head, she sighed happily and said, “I made it for you.”

    He smiled, content. “So you said.” He stroked her hair thoughtfully. “Is it because I’m too serious? Does it weigh us down?”

    She nuzzled her cheek in deeper into his chest and clutched her arms around his waist. “I didn’t make it for the gravity you have now; I made it for the gravity you’ll have soon.”

    “And what does that little riddle mean?” he asked with a chuckle.

    “I wanted to tell you, in here.”“Tell me what?”

    “About the cancer,” she said, breathing in the scent of him.

    “Cancer?” he asked.

    She nodded. “It started in my uterus, but it spread…it’s in my liver now, and my bones.” She sighed again. “And my lungs.”

    “What a startling bit of news!” he cried happily.

    She pulled away and smiled up at him, taking his face in her hands. “Isn’t it?” she grinned.

    “How long have you known?”

    “Not so long, in the grand scheme of things,” she said with an easy little shrug.

    “You bided your time before telling me,” he said, amused. “What do you know about that?”

    “I didn’t want to weigh you down,” she said simply.

    “I understand completely,” he said airily. “It’s serious, then?”

    “Yes, extremely.”

    “Any help for it then?”

    “Nothing worthwhile.”

    “What do you know about that?” he said again. “After all this time...”

    “Yes,” she agreed, her eyes shining with tears of joy for the moment unfolding between them.

    “There’s so much we’ll never do,” he said, thoughtfully, but not sadly. Nothing felt sad. Nothing hurt.

    “You’ll have to do them for the both of us,” she suggested.

    “A reasonable idea,” he admitted. He shook his head and grinned his lopsided grin. “Life is strange, isn’t it?”

    “Stranger than fiction.”

    He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. The air inside the egg felt crisp and freshly laundered. The filters were scented with lavender, the room filled with its subtle floral tones. He breathed it in, breathed her in. “What a wonder, to feel such peace about such tragedy.”

    “That’s why I built you this chamber,” she smiled. She kissed him, and her lips were warm, and full. “To spare you the sadness of it.”

    “How does one even know how to begin to make good on a blessing such as you?” he said.

    “You like it, then?”

    “I adore it.”

    “I hoped you would.” She sat down on the floor of the egg and reached up for his hands. “Come here, sit with me.” He did, and his knees popped, a startling sound that sent them both into a fit of giggles. They sat cross-legged facing each other, their fingers intertwined, as the smooth and complex interior of the chamber quietly and perfectly dissipated their despair. “I suppose we’ll have to leave the egg eventually,” he remarked.

    “Everyone has to leave everything eventually,” she retorted with a wink and a smirk. “But not yet. We don’t have to leave yet.”

    He meant to ask her what it would be like when they left the levity of the egg and their gravity was fully restored, but he couldn’t quite make the words. His mouth had no taste for them. “Zero gravity,” she told him, shaking his hands in hers. “Like it or not.”

    He nodded. There would be time for gravity—more than he might care to acknowledge. But this time, in this place, with this woman. It was a gift. Later would come the gravity. Later there would be the tears and the fear and the anger and the screaming and the fights about treatment and the denial of this punishment and the words that couldn’t be unsaid, not once they were lobbed like spiteful grenades, because those words would exist in the world, where they would carry a weight, a crushing, bruising press of sadness and blame and helplessness and regret.

    But later. All of that, later.

    Here, in the egg, there was him, and there was her, and there was a brightness of knowledge and acceptance and a shared familiarity centuries deeper and stronger than mutating cells. He kissed her fingers, and she kissed his fingers back. “I love you,” he said. “I love you,” she replied.

    And they sat in the chamber for a little while longer.


    Clayton Smith is a writer, publisher and teacher. He is the co-founder and Archduke of Dapper Press, and a lecturer in the Business & Entrepreneurship Department at Columbia College Chicago.

    Street Art by konair.
    Photo by Adam Lawrence.

    "Hat Tree" is the first single from the Brooklyn-based Very Fresh's new EP "Hey It's Me!", which is due out November 4th. 

  • count on it (artifact) by Panika Dillon



    a cloudy tour: fists of
              rain tower over
                   your foisted




    Panika M. C. Dillon hails from Fairbanks, AK and Austin, TX. She received her MFA in creative-writing poetry from Sarah Lawrence College. Her work has appeared in Oranges&Sardines, Copper Nickel, Borderlands, the Diagram and Breakwater Review. She works as a political organizer.

    Street Art.

    Top: Left Credit - Dee Dee, Right Credit - Dain
    Bottom: Left Credit - Artist Unknown, Right Credit - Myth

    Photos by Adam Lawrence.

    Swedish psych rockers Growth are preparing to release their new EP "Colour, Cut & Clarity" via Lazy Octopus Records on September 16th. "Wait" is the 2nd single off of the EP.