Madlib by Kim Magowan

Mom, when you were at the FERRIS WHEEL Saturday, Ron BENT the CLOCK, so I couldn’t HICCUP. He put his KNEECAP over my EYEBROW, so I couldn’t even GIGGLE. Then he stuck his ELBOWS inside my EAR. I JUGGLED and JUGGLED. Remember, you asked why my TEETH were so TURQUOISE? I know you MIX Ron is FIZZY, but really, he’s a KANGAROO. Mom, I don’t SNORT you, I know how SUGARY you’ve been, but I fucking CARTWHEEL him. Ron said if I KNITTED you, he would FLY me, and besides, you would never WHISPER me. So, do you SNIFF me?

 

Kim Magowan lives in San Francisco and teaches in the Department of Literatures and Languages at Mills College. Her short story collection Undoing won the 2017 Moon City Press Fiction Award and was published in March 2018. Her novel The Light Source is forthcoming from 7.13 Books in 2019. Her fiction has been published in Atticus Review, Bird’s Thumb, Cleaver, The Gettysburg Review, Hobart, New World Writing, Sixfold, and many other journals. She is Fiction Editor of Pithead Chapel.

Outline by Darrin Doyle

“Please lie down,” the man said. He gestured at the pale sidewalk pocked with divots.

“What for?” asked the boy. Could he trust this man? This stranger?

“I can’t draw your outline unless you’re on the ground, can I?” The man’s lips smiled. His eyes sparkled.

He was younger than the boy’s father. Better looking, slim and athletic. Carried himself with a bright and bouncy step. Dressed in khaki shorts and a blue shirt the color of the afternoon sky. The boy had been reading on a bench in front of the library, waiting for his father to get out of his doctor’s appointment down the block.

“Jack London,” the man said, nodding at the book. “Man versus nature, am I right?”

The boy closed the book, embarrassed. Reading was his own private experience, and he didn’t like talking about it. Not to anyone, not even his parents.

“Man doesn’t usually come out on top in that battle.” The man threw back his head and gave a robust chuckle, as if he’d made a great joke. His blond hair was as bouncy as his step.

“Like I said,” the man continued, “I’m doing an art project. Kind of an experiment, actually. What kid doesn’t like experiments?”

He set his case on the sidewalk. It looked like a suitcase, rectangular, bound in dark leather the color of a storm cloud. The man unsnapped a button. Kneeling, he spread his wares, revealing an extensive collection of chalk. Each piece was strapped individually to the inside of the case.

“My own personal rainbow,” the man said. “Pretty much every color you can think of.”

The boy’s curiosity was piqued. He’d been warned not to talk to strangers, but this man seemed kind. Other people – families – strolled along the sidewalks on this sunny warm day, peering into shops, licking ice cream cones. The boy felt safe and he was enjoying the attention from the man. He didn’t have any close friends. When your parents were both ill, kids didn’t like to play with you.

“Take one,” the man said. “Whichever one you want, it’s yours.”

The boy selected a piece the color of blood. It was nearly as thick as his wrist and as long as a pencil. “I can have this?”

Seeing the boy admire it, the man said, “You won’t find this at the local art supply store. This is special chalk, the only kind like it in the world.”

“Where did you get it?”

The man’s expression was thoughtful but guarded, as if remembering an event he wasn’t sure he wanted to share. “I’ve had it for a long time, put it that way. Got it when I was around your age.”

The man said they needed to relocate so nobody would step on the boy, or bump him while he was tracing. Around the back of the library the two found a square of pavement close to the dumpsters. From this vantage the boy could no longer see the sidewalk.

“Don’t worry,” the man said, noticing the boy’s concern. “Won’t take long.” He opened his case again and slid on a pair of gloves. “Were you waiting for someone?”

“My dad. He’ll be back soon.”

“He left you at the library?”

“He’s at the doctor’s,” the boy said. “Should I lie down here?”

“Looks like a good spot. Nice and clean.”

“I can’t think of a pose.” The boy was sitting on the pavement, suddenly at a loss, suddenly weighted by the inevitabilities and possibilities of life, which he was only now beginning to recognize.

“When someone walks past your outline, what should people think about? Anything you want to be, we’ll make you come alive.”

“Flying, I guess.”

“Wonderful. A common request.”

The boy lay on his stomach. He extended his hands and tried to imagine he was soaring through the sky. But the ungiving cement, rough against his bare arms, made him terribly aware that he was stuck to the earth.

“You thinking about your dad?”

“I don’t know.”

“He sick?”

For the past few months the father had been having dizzy spells. It was hard for him to take deep breaths. The boy’s mother had an advanced case of M.S. and couldn’t walk or move well. She’d been suffering for years, since the boy could remember. The boy tried not to think about what would happen if he lost his dad.

The man began chalking. The boy could feel the pressure of the man’s hand against his ribs, wiggling back and forth as he drew a thick line. The raw scraping of the chalk sounded small and lonely. The concrete was cool against the boy’s cheek. He imagined the man cutting a hole in the world. The boy would drop through it, leaving a space in the shape of him. He wanted to experience falling. He wanted to be pulled toward something terrible and permanent where bodies didn’t exist. “To Build a Fire” was the story he had just finished. The man froze at the end. It was sad, but everybody dies.

That’s what the boy read.

The man worked without speaking, a steady pace, as if completing the outline was both necessary and urgent. It was a strange and unfamiliar sensation, someone working so diligently for him. It gave the boy a feeling in his stomach he’d never had before. The man progressed around the boy, doing the arms, hands, and head. The boy breathed in the man’s body: rich, salty sweat mixed with the dust of the chalk. Pressed against the pavement, the boy became aroused. Before long the man’s hands were positioned inside the boy’s thighs: back and forth, back and forth, jiggling the boy slightly but persistently. His erection strained. A powerful surge rushed through him. He gasped, feeling his own hot breath as he kissed the pavement.

“All done,” the man said. “Let me help you up.” He extended a hand.

The boy stood on his own. Wetness on his belly. He hoped the man hadn’t seen, didn’t know. The man’s face gave no indication. The boy slid the gifted chalk into his pocket.

The man stepped back a few feet and looked hard at the outline, as if searching deep water for something he was certain lay just beyond his vision. “What do you think?”

The boy was shocked by what he saw: “It’s me.”

The man had used vibrant colors, lines weaving through each other, intertwining in a braid. The effect was of a pulsing energy, like a force field in the boy’s shape. The boy couldn’t believe how big he’d gotten.

A faraway voice called his name. The boy ran to his father without looking back, the blood-red chalk nestled firmly against his thigh.

 

After graduating from Western Michigan University with an MFA in fiction, Darrin Doyle taught English in Japan for a year. He then earned his PhD from the University of Cincinnati. He is the author of the novels Revenge of the Teacher’s Pet: A Love Story and The Girl Who Ate Kalamazoo, and the short story collection The Dark Will End the Dark. His short stories have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Blackbird, Harpur Palate, Redivider, BULL, and Puerto del Sol, among others. Currently, Darrin teaches at Central Michigan University and lives in Mount Pleasant, Michigan with his wife and two sons.

A Wrinkle in Grief by Savannah Slone

whitewater rafting in molten silence,
a blunt abstraction
to distract yourself from your own humming of
insufficient hymns
melancholy was served as an appetizer
with a dirty glass later filled with water
with mostly melted ice cubes
that day
and it didn’t matter
because how could anything matter
when you’re mending your soul
lacerations with patches of anointed amnesia
sewn tight with silver seams but the
light still invades through the slits
since you’re not very good at sewing
wounds, your flux repairs an attempt worth giving up on

 

Savannah Slone is a queer writer who is completing her M.F.A. in the Pacific Northwest. Her poetry and short fiction has appeared in, or will soon appear in Heavy Feather Review, Boston Accent Lit, The Airgonaut, Ghost City Press, decomP magazinE, Maudlin House, FIVE:2:ONE, Pidgeonholes, TERSE Journal, Glass, and elsewhere. She enjoys reading, knitting, hiking, and discussing intersectional feminism. You can read more of her work at http://www.savannahslonewriter.com.

On the Point Between You and Infinity by Chloe N. Clark

I had a dream that you submerged my body in the lake. My husband told me this, as he washed dishes after breakfast. He was so careful with the plates, slowly turning them in his hands as he washed away the remnants of French toast and syrup. I almost didn’t hear him, he spoke soft as he stared out the window. I wondered for a moment if he meant to speak aloud at all. His gaze was out the window, focused on a distant point—maybe the tree that grew on the hill behind our house, he was always looking at that tree. But then he turned to me, looked me directly in the eye, and asked, why the fuck would you do that?

In dreams, when I was a child, I’d get lost for days, weeks, once even for my entire lifetime. My mother called me “her good dreamer” and other mothers marveled at the way I would nap anywhere—the limbs of trees, the backs of cars, under tables at neighborhood birthday parties. In my dreams, I’d always be going somewhere else, I could never stay in one place. Sometimes my legs ached when I woke up, from all the trudging through forests, the swimming through oceans, the walking through cities I’d never been in before. But I’d never submerged anyone in a lake. So I turned to my husband, what are you talking about?

I don’t mean you, like in reality, I mean the dream you. Why would you push me under the water? He turned back to look out the window, hands returning to the work of dishes. His back turned to me reminded me of the first time we’d met. I’d been lying on the river bank, elbows spread wide so my hands could clasp behind my head, staring at the sky to watch clouds. I liked to find the shapes that I knew weren’t there—it was easy to say what a cloud might look like, much harder to figure out what it could never look like. I heard a splash and turned my gaze earthward, to a man at the river, who was trying in vain to skip a rock across the surface. As if you could do that on such a moving surface, there was something so hopeful in his foolishness. I’d yelled out, I don’t think they’ll skip. He’d turned to me, one hand going to shield his eyes so he could see me through the sunlight. I’m not trying to skip them, he said. I’m just throwing them.

Maybe I was mad at you? I ask him. I tried to imagine the stream of dream events that would lead to me wanting to sink him like a stone. He shrugged, I don’t think I’d done anything. He has moved on to drying the dishes, to the slow movement of towel across plates. Well, what happened before the submersion? I stood up from the table, walked to him, put my hands around his waist, tucked my head into the crook between his head and shoulder. That was the beginning, he said.

About a month after we were married, he’d told me that when he was a child he had used to sleep walk. His mother would find him halfway across town, some nights. His parents had rigged up bells, alarms, ways to make sure they heard him or he walked up. He told me that the strange thing was that he never dreamed of movement, he was always still in his dreams, removed as if he was watching a movie of someone else’s life. And then one day he stopped doing it, he started dreaming as himself. He never woke up again, outside, staring up at the night sky peppered with sharp stars.

Well, what was the end then? I asked. He stopped drying the plate in his hands, set it down, turned so we faced one another, his hands now on my waist, my hands again on his. Outside the birds in the trees were singing, the crickets were chirping, such sounds. He pulled me a little closer, let our bodies sway together to the sounds. Our hearts beating to the same tune for a moment, and then he spun me out into a single twirl. He said, I think you pulled me back out.

 

Chloe N. Clark’s poems and fiction appear in Apex, Future Fire, Little Fiction, Uncanny, and more. She is co-EIC of Cotton Xenomorph, writes for Nerds of a Feather, and teaches at Iowa State University. Her debut chapbook, The Science of Unvanishing Objects, is out now and she can be found on Twitter @PintsNCupcakes.

as a love story by Gervanna Stephens

I think I’m dying
for my heart forgets its job
to circulate blood.
There’s a fluttering in my chest.
An incessant flapping. Maybe
my heart remembers being a butterfly. Maybe
my heart remembers itself a false start
shooting off before the trigger
stalling along the way. Maybe
my heart remembers a past life
yearning for completion. Maybe
these butterflies will choke up
my throat, scrape pink
vomit heart from chest. Maybe
my heart sputtering is only
lack of use and not failure. Maybe
the ba-dum-dum-dum of my chest is louder. Maybe?
but I still think I’m dying
loneliness a persistent suitor
visits me every morning, reminds me
the sheets are cold
no one can fit in the house of my chest
laid bare a naked flame
ready to ignite everything
but my passions are dying
which are me right?
I think I’m dying
heart failing turned jelly
feet heavy but present
persistent in their opposing move
black goes first in this game
pawns protected by king’s castle
weak held dainty
toes after polish locked
skeletal to protect this path
this need to love, my heart
forgets I was once a martyr
dying. There’s a buzzing in my chest.
An untiring humming and drumming
a ba-hum-bug of forgetting. Maybe
my heart remembers being real
feeling and breaking down like a widow
old wood and weathered rock. Maybe
my heart thinks it’s dying
love an old cracked thing
weightless and priceless
flowing and steady.

 

Gervanna Stephens is a Jamaican poet and proud Slytherin with congenital amputation living in Canada. Her work has appeared in magazines like 8 poems, TERSE. Journal, WusGood.black, Whirlwind Magazine, Enclave, 12 Point Collective, and Anti-Heroin Chic. She hates public speaking, has two sisters who are way better writers than her and thinks unicorns laugh when we say they aren’t real. Tweets @gravitystephens.