Two Poems by Nathan Graziano

Rel­a­tive to Guns 'N' Roses

In a box in the base­ment, strewn with cob­webs,
I find a photo album and the ratty blond wig

I wore one Hal­loween in col­lege when I dressed
as my alter ego, the front man of a lip­stick band

named Chix that I quit the band in a hissy fit
when my drummer’s heroin habit left him

unable to keep time, nod­ding at live shows
and absent when it came to the stu­dio tracks.

So my alter ego pur­sued a solo project, aborted
when I col­lapsed on stage then went to rehab

and came out a Sci­en­tol­o­gist, pay­ing big bucks
to have the thetans expelled from my body.

Or that was the nar­ra­tive I told the pretty girl
who did my make-up that night as I snorted

an eight-ball of cocaine and tried to pre­tend
that I was inter­est­ing and unpre­dictable, claiming

I had a high school friend who was a roadie
for Guns N’ Roses who said that Axl Rose

sucker-punched him back­stage dur­ing a black­out.
And as she applied a thick stripe of blue

blusher, trac­ing each cheek­bone, I told her
that rel­a­tive to Axl Rose, my own drug use

was strictly recre­ational. And now, as I stare
at this pic­ture of me at twenty-two, wearing

a skintight pair of thrift-store leather pants,
I can hear her tell me, “You’re try­ing too hard.”

With Salt

Roger, a friend from the bar,
can’t stand Bart, a guy in his 50s
who wears farmer’s over­alls,
dri­ves a red antique road­ster
and par­rots the pro­pa­ganda
he picks up from Fox News.

One night, soused, Roger
explained to me that salt
will dis­si­pate the head on a beer
as Bart strolled into the bar
with chicken chunks in his beard.

I don’t under­stand why
the homos think they can
marry like reg­u­lar peo­ple,”
Bart said then sucked back
a bump of house bourbon.

Bart the Fart,” Roger barked,
lick­ing his top lip and grin­ning.
Bart didn’t hear him but I laughed.
With salt, what else needs to be said?

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Barre Daze, poem by Kevin Ridgeway

Don­ald Fagen croons from fifth avenue

about hav­ing a tran­sis­tor radio and a large sum

of money to spend as we jet along Main Street

in our ragged white Cut­lass Supreme stained

with the burn of mud and snow from the winter

and spring back roads, my ex wife at the wheel

behind her black rimmed glasses, her eyebrow

raised as beau­ti­fully as John Belushi's; storefronts

are shut­tered except for Ruth's Diner, with inbred

apple pie cherry puffed heads with star­ing possum

eyes in cov­er­alls dusted by gran­ite from the nearby

quar­ries we park our car in at night to get stoned;

we're en route to the Shaw's Super­mar­ket in Montpelier

that sells our favorite hum­mus, and we scare off the

deer at night in our dri­ve­way who come to drink from

the small creek we get drunk and swim in, the neighbor

lady yelling at her kids at far too early an hour for the

hang­overs we earned from a whole case of

Long Trail Dou­ble Bag ale we split watch­ing Joseph

Camp­bell videos filmed on Sky­walker Ranch and old

episodes of Star Trek, and so we threw a half-drunk

beer bot­tle "pho­ton tor­pedo" at that loud, roly poly,

mu mu clad klin­gon that shat­tered against one of the

trees in our back­yard woods, but every­one was too out

of it from the bugs and the humid­ity to notice or much care

up here in red­neck space where no one can here you scream.

ridgewayKevin Ridge­way was born and raised in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, where he cur­rently lives and writes. He spent many years in the rural north­east, where he hopes to some­day return. His work can be found or is forth­com­ing in Chi­ron Review, Nerve Cow­boy, LUMMOX, Right Hand Point­ing and The Mas Tequila Review. His lat­est chap­books are On the Burn­ing Shore (Arroyo Seco Press) and Rid­ing Off Into That Strange Tech­ni­color Sun­set: Dallas-FT. Worth Poems (The Weekly Weird Monthly).

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Hounds, poem by Jessica Wiseman Lawrence


Hound dogs run off.
It’s a sci­en­tific fact that they can phys­i­cally close their ears
to the humans who love them and shout “Come back here!” as the dogs go chas­ing
some­thing small and quick and run a trail.

They get lost.
They get skinny.
They get instinc­tive.
They get aban­doned.
They get found.
They get hit by cars.
They get put into ani­mal shel­ters.
They get put down for mul­ti­tude and com­mon­ness, and
in the coun­try, they get to hunt­ing.

Oh, I love the smell of a hound,” my friend, Cari said, bury­ing her face into the fur on my dog, Buttercup’s neck.
At that, Buttercup’s wary tail uncov­ered her gen­i­tals and then it swept back and forth in sweet, dog-level happiness.

A mostly-white hound dog is run­ning
along­side my car on an unlined road.
Another walks into the rural ser­vice sta­tion
while I wait for my oil change.

My mechanic laughs. “All he hunts is some­one to pet him.
Plain worth­less is what he is.” He is smil­ing as he rubs his hound
dog’s smooth, brown head with his heavy, work­ing hand.

The gro­cery store com­mu­nity board is cov­ered with pic­tures
of miss­ing hound dogs, past and present.
Some of the Polaroids are decades old.
I would look at them when I was a girl,
and later go into the woods behind the house, call­ing for the hounds by name.

Some­thing in a hound dog likes to be sneaky.
Every coun­try cook-out has a hound dog, pussy­foot­ing off
with some­thing stolen, head down, eyes side­ways and
intel­li­gent. They find a barn or shed to hide behind.

But­ter­cup ran off one night and I found her
dead in the road the next morn­ing,
yards from the house, her tongue nearly bit in two
by her own teeth and the force of what hit her.
I cried on the asphalt and touched her gray-ticked coat as cars slowed down and drove around us.
I’ll never own another hound dog.
They’re too damn free.

Jessica Wiseman Lawrence, HoundsJes­sica Wise­man Lawrence had the priv­i­lege of grow­ing up on a hay farm in Vir­ginia, then stud­ied cre­ative writ­ing at Long­wood Uni­ver­sity, earn­ing a B.A. and par­tic­i­pat­ing in the University's M.F.A pro­gram. You can find her recent work upcom­ing or pub­lished in Ori­gins, Helen, Antiphon, and Third Wednes­day, along with many oth­ers. She still lives in rural cen­tral Vir­ginia, where she com­mutes an hour to her job as office man­ager each day, because she just can't live any­where else but the country

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Five Poems by Richard L. Gegick


Tony’s been a cook here ever since
he was placed in the renewal cen­ter
over a decade ago.

Twice a GED fail­ure, he can barely read,
but knows how to cook a steak, how to
work hard, show up on time.

His room­mate, Daryl, is dying of cir­rho­sis.
They were cell mates in the pen,
rumored lovers.

I went to their apart­ment once,
and they slept on bunk beds like jail,
Daryl was top.

Now Tony dri­ves after end­less ticket
Sat­ur­days to spend the night bed­side
at Cleve­land Clinic.

The late night high­way air soothes
grease burned arms and hands cov­ered
with blisters.

Sun­days he dri­ves all morn­ing to
make it back for the early
din­ner rush.

Dur­ing pre-shift I ask how Daryl
is doing in Cleve­land though I
already know.

Not good,” he says. “But at
least while I was up there I finally
got to see the ocean.”


Five min­utes after you
take his order, he’ll
wave you down, say
he’s ready to order.

You tell him he has
already ordered and
then he will say,
“I want a turkey sandwich.”

The aver­age guest age
in this restau­rant is
deceased. Christ.

This ancient man comes
in every sin­gle week­day,
and the rou­tine never

Gin­ger ale, turkey sand­wich,
cup of decaf, shits his pants.

You’d feel sorry for the
decrepit bas­tard, but
you don’t have time.

The crones on 206 need
cap­puc­cino and the young
cou­ple sit­ting patio,

drink­ing mar­ti­nis needs
to know if the cala­mari
is gluten free.

So you let him sit
in his booth with
crapped pants.

You run his black Amex,
call his aide, froth the milk,
and grab a mop.


I remem­ber the world pre-internet
and then after.

How the elderly signed up for AOL
accounts and played

Sling-O for hours in their ther­a­peu­tic
desk-chairs, and learned

how to IM their grand­chil­dren while
their grand­chil­dren were

try­ing to score cyber-sex in cha­t­rooms,
ask­ing for age/sex/location.

How they didn’t know how to delete
their browser history,

vis­ited web­sites like boobs​.com and
thought you didn’t know.

Worse how it gave old per­verts,
those stag party vets

who used to set up the pro­jec­tor
new hobbies.

Like this guy, Bobby, I worked with
68 and obsessed

wanted my email so he could send me
dirty pictures.

He told me once that a pig’s dick is
curly-cue like its tail

and he never knew that until he watched
a pig fuck a woman online.


Even though I know bet­ter, I am here because
my Grand­fa­ther can’t roast a turkey and wants
to treat the fam­ily to a Thanks­giv­ing din­ner.
What bet­ter can it get than all-you-can-eat for
twelve dol­lars and ninety-nine cents?

He’s chemo-sick and his fin­ger­nails black, rot­ting.
Still his sleeves are rolled up to show off his tat­toos
done in 1941 when he was thir­teen and there was a war
and he was a run­away on a Mer­chant Marine ship with
a forged bap­tismal certificate.

He fills his tray with turkey, stuff­ing, cran­ber­ries, pota­toes,
only man­ag­ing to eat half, sav­ing room for pie.
There are so many pies here, apple, pump­kin, cherry.
And he calls the wait­ress, “Peanut,” and asks for cof­fee,
but any­more they don’t smile back.

I could go on about the despair here as I eat my baked potato
and breaded chicken wings. Here, where the lonely and obese
line up at the never end­ing choco­late foun­tain. Where tooth­less
dere­licts eat sweet potato mush with their bar­ren wives
and wash it down with Dr. Pepper.

But I won’t.

Look at all this food, he says.

My Grand­fa­ther believes that this is the best life can offer,
an end­less bounty at a dis­counted price.

I will never disagree.


Never been to France, though,
rid­ing motor­cy­cles along the Rive­ria,
a supermodel’s arms around my waist
like Mick Jag­ger, fuck­ing movie star­lets
and socialites.

Or Keith Richards so afford­ably
torn and frayed in a Nazi man­sion
base­ment, high on pure junk, and
fuck­ing movie star­lets and socialites.

Been up to Youngstown,
and you don’t get laid there.
Not even Jag­ger could man­age
in that pot­hole town.

East Pitts­burgh is a maybe at best.
The sex­i­est girls in Bob’s Lounge
all have chewed fin­ger­nails and
pound shots of well tequila and
have boyfriends with mon­ster trucks.

Even if you got the Vicodins she
wants she’s prob­a­bly not going
home with any­one, but she’ll buy
the pills with her boyfriend’s cash.

And you’re exiled on Greens­burg
Pike, another loser in another town
full of losers. Two gen­er­a­tions now who
never got lucky.

gegickRichard L. Gegick is from Traf­ford, PA. His fic­tion has appeared in Hot Metal Bridge, Jenny Mag­a­zine, and oth­ers. He lives in Pitts­burgh where he writes and works as a waiter.

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The Mad Farmer's Wife Delivers the Foal, poem by Rita Quillen

It is the turn­ing I most remember:

Just another ordi­nary day

I woke and looked out the window.

The mare stood with the colt half out of her,

Mem­brane still com­pletely intact.

I ran like a war­rior, butcher knife in hand

Stabbed into that death bubble

Liq­uid gush­ing out, the foal lifeless.

I had sense enough to won­der for a moment

Will she kick me?

But she just looked back.

It is the turn­ing I still remember

Wide-eyed, nos­trils flaring

While we shared the stare of horror.

I grabbed the one front leg that had made it out

And pulled and pulled and we both fell.

Rain began to beat down

Her body heaved and squeezed

Her baby, its life­less tongue lolled out.

As I lay on my back on the ground for the first time

In a long, long time, with rain­drops falling on my face

I pulled and pulled once more and in a rush

Like an earth­quake or a heartbreak

The motion­less gor­geous dap­pled foal was free

Of her, of me, of the fence and rain, of earth.

I opened my mouth to the sky’s tears.

We all laid there in that stunned moment,

Both the liv­ing pant­ing, me crying.

It is the turn­ing I remember

She only raised her head again, stared

At what could never be,

Then looked away

Out across the dark cedar thicket and pine shadows

While I dragged myself to my feet

To stag­ger up to the house and cof­fee and shower.

I got ready and went on to work

Death school hav­ing let out early.

rita and her cowsRita Quillen’s novel HIDING EZRA, pub­lished in March 2014 by Lit­tle Creek Books, has a chap­ter included in the schol­arly study of Appalachian dialect, TALKING APPALACHIAN, pub­lished by the Uni­ver­sity of Ken­tucky Press. She also has a new chap­book SOMETHING SOLID TO ANCHOR TO (Fin­ish­ing Line 2014). One of six semi– final­ists for the 2012–14 Poet Lau­re­ate of Vir­ginia, she received a Push­cart nom­i­na­tion and a Best of the Net nom­i­na­tion in 2012. Cur­rently, she’s work­ing on turn­ing her poems into songs. This poem is in her new col­lec­tion The Mad Farmer's Wife, due out in 2016 from Texas Review Press.

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Two Poems by Tiff Holland


We was all afraid of that bridge, just
ropes and slats, spaces between where
the crick came right up at you if
you looked down at it, and Billy, that’s
what we called him, after the fairy-tale,
squat­tin’ under­neath. I was eight. Mama
sent me for flour. I had to cross the bridge
goin’ and comin’, tryin’ not to look, but
thinkin’ about all those rocks under­neath,
the water, and me not able to swim.

I was pleased with myself on the way
back, prac­ticin’ holdin’ the flour on
one hip, the way I did John Jr. and Brooks,
pre­tendin’ it was a baby, only I was
the mama and not the sis­ter, got
the lovin’ and not just the diapers.

Five pounds is a lot; I know that now,
enough to throw off your bal­ance
sus­pended by ropes and held up
by slats, weighin’ just a small mul­ti­ple
of five and the wind in the hol­lar.
Maybe I wanted to fall. I think that,
too, but not into Billy Gruff’s arms
or close to.

I landed flat on my back, cradlin’
that bag just like it really was a baby
all the way down until the sharp point
of a rock almost halved me, and I
let loose the way Mama did when
Brook­sie was being born.

The flour started makin’ itself
into other things the minute it hit
the water: snowflakes and stars,
crooked-creek clouds, and me
just watchin’, wan­tin’ to scoop
it all up, bring it to Mama, knowin’
five cents was heav­ier than five pounds.

Billy picked me up, slung me over
his back and car­ried me home, just
like we actu­ally knew each other, not
me just knowin’ the top of his head and
him knowin’ the shape of my shoes,
the space between my legs up under
my dress.

He didn’t say nothin’ or even knock
when he brought me in the house,
laid me on the bed. Mama ran after
him, yellin’, what have you done?
caught in my throat as
she chased him down the road.

I spent a week in bed. Couldn’t get up
not even to pee. The girls took turns
changin’ the sheets of the bed we shared.
After she was done cryin’ about the nickel
and the flour, Mama brought me saltines
and cider from Uncle Lawrence, tellin’
me as she tipped the cup, how those
saltines could be bread, if only I hadn’t
dropped the flour.

Polly, Age Nine

I got my embar­rass­ment
at Twelve Pole Creek
I was messin’ with craw­dads
wear­ing just panties
a group of boys came by
they didn’t say nothin’
didn’t do nothin’
Or even look at me
I had a stick, but
I hadn’t been pokin’
but then the boys came
and I knew
by the way I felt
just the way I felt inside
that I couldn’t go
with­out a shirt again.

Tiff Holland's poetry and prose reg­u­larly appear in lit­er­ary jour­nals. Her novella, "Betty Super­man," recently appeared in "My Very End of the Uni­verse." Tiff teaches at Wind­ward Com­mu­nity Col­lege on Oahu.

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Sweet and Clear, essay by Terry Barr

I saw her smil­ing at me in K-Mart, over by the jeans. She had red hair, and no mat­ter which aisle I turned into—the Men’s groom­ing prod­ucts, the albums, the “notions”—there she was, smil­ing. I don’t know if it was her hair or her smile, or those eyes, green and wide like two Per­sian limes. She looked at me as if she knew me, as if she knew some­thing I didn’t know. As if she’d like to know more.

I turned back again and again to make sure it was me she saw. I was only fif­teen, and I knew she was older. I rec­og­nized her from high school, but I didn’t know her name.

That night after my par­ents fin­ished their shop­ping and drove us home, I looked her up in our last year’s “Largus.”

Denise Gosling.

There was only one Gosling listed in the Besse­mer phone book, and the next night, at a more decent hour, I dialed the num­ber and held the last digit on the dial for ten or fif­teen sec­onds before I let it go.

Hello.” It had to be her.

Is this Denise?”

Yes, but who is this?”

It’s funny, but though we talked for ten min­utes that night, I don’t think I ever iden­ti­fied myself as any­one but “that guy you smiled at in K-Mart last night.”

Is this how guys do it,” she asked. “They just pick up the phone and call girls who’ve smiled at them?”

I don’t know. It’s what I’m doing though.”

I called her again the next night.

Do you want to go out with me some­time,” I said.

Can you even drive?”

No, but we could dou­ble with some­one, maybe my friend Steve.”

Any­way, I’m dat­ing Ricky Russo.”


Some girls are that hon­est, some even save the moment.

Do you have a favorite song?”

Uh, yeah. I guess it’s “Coun­try Girl,” by Neil Young.

Mine is “Rock and Roll Lul­laby” by BJ Thomas. That song just hurts me,” she said.

Hurts her. What a thing to say.

I didn’t call her again, this girl who smiled at me, who tried to tell me some­thing with her eyes. That week­end I went back to K-Mart, but of course she wasn’t there. It didn’t mat­ter. I bought the record anyway:

Sing it sweet and clear, O mama let me hear that old Rock and Roll lullaby.”

The next week at school, I saw her in the hall­way, argu­ing with Ricky. I could hear them clearly. Denise had been flirt­ing with another guy, a senior named Eugene who was the lead drum­mer in the march­ing band. Even­tu­ally, Ricky would blacken Eugene the drummer’s eye, but on this day, Denise turned her back on Ricky and walked away, down another aisle.

And when she did so, she caught my eye. Only this time she wasn’t smiling.

terrybarrTerry Barr's essays have been or will soon be pub­lished in Deep South, Red Truck Review, Belle Reve Lit­er­ary Jour­nal, Blue Bon­net Review, and Hip­pocam­pus. He is the proud owner of a Car­olina Wild Dog, aka the Dixie Dingo. He prefers Alabama bar­be­cue to the Car­olina ver­sion, though he'll eat it any­way you serve it as long as it's grilled in a pit over hick­ory, pecan, or cherry wood. He lives in Greenville, SC, with his family.

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Transformer, fiction by Benjamin Soileau

I’m fid­dling with one of those trans­form­ing mon­strosi­ties that toy com­pa­nies make just to drive men like me crazy. It’s some kind of dinosaur that turns into a speed­boat and I’m look­ing down at it, turn­ing it this way and that, call­ing it about a hun­dred dif­fer­ent kinds of moth­er­fucker. My boy stands watch­ing me until he gets bored and runs out of the room. I’m just about to throw the thing on the ground and stomp it to pieces when I hear Janie call­ing to me. She’s stand­ing over a pot on the stove, an orange apron draped over her big belly.

“What’s up?” I call to her.

“I said did you think of any­more names?”

“What about Pico and Paco,” I say.

She stops stir­ring the sauce for a sec­ond and looks at it like it’s an old friend whose name she can’t remem­ber. “I’m seri­ous,” she says, and gets back to it.

“Give me some time,” I say to her. Hell, that’s the one thing I need most. I look down at the damn conun­drum in my hand.

She’s been after me to set­tle on names for a while now. Tom and Huck. John and Jim. Cody and Collin. I hate think­ing about it. I think maybe we should just name them Smith and Wes­son, and be done with it, but I keep that to myself. The smell of onions is mak­ing my stom­ach turn. Janie’s been using too many onions in just about every­thing she makes now.

The god­damn trans­former has my nerves bun­dled up so tight that I’m pissed at my mother in law for giv­ing it to Sammy in the first place. If they didn’t give him all these expen­sive toys that require an instruc­tion man­ual then maybe Sammy would behold a stick and string as some­thing mirac­u­lous, and we’d would be off the hook. I put the trans­former down on a shelf behind some pic­tures where he won’t be able to see it. Maybe he’ll for­get about it. I move behind Janie and stretch my arms around her belly. I kiss her on her cheek and sort of rub against her behind, but she just bumps me off of her and keeps on stir­ring. I’ve been get­ting the bump a lot here lately. I peck the back of her neck and leave her in there with her onions.

I go and sit in the sewing room and look out the win­dow at the front yard. It’s the qui­etest room in the house. I can’t fig­ure out how things got so far gone so quick. I think of Janie and me mov­ing together in that old boat in the sun on Bayou Pigeon. Things were so easy. At least we had more fun back then, went out to eat every once in a while. I’d wanted to travel or maybe go to a col­lege some­where to be some­body impor­tant, and she was talk­ing about going to hair­dress­ing school, but then Sammy popped out and we got mar­ried. Just like that. I knew that I had more in me than to stay work­ing at the plant my whole life, but I can’t just up and quit, espe­cially now. I feel the con­crete set­ting around my feet. I do what I can though. I get a lot­tery ticket from the Cracker Bar­rel every Mon­day night, and it’s fun to dream about until I look at the num­bers, but you can’t get struck by light­ning if you don’t go out in a thun­der­storm. That’s what I tell myself anyway.

Some­thing catches my eye out front and that’s when Sammy tears into the room scream­ing and laugh­ing. He goes run­ning right behind me, and when I look over my shoul­der I see his naked ass run by. Next comes Janie, who’s hol­ler­ing bloody mur­der after him. She’s yelling at me from the next room.

“Danny!” she’s call­ing. “Danny, get in here!”

I can hear the pad­dle slid­ing off the top of the fridge and then she sticks her head around the corner.

“Sammy put shit all over the dog.”

I hear her, but I’m watch­ing the fel­low that has pulled into my dri­ve­way. He’s stand­ing at my mail­box, read­ing the num­bers on it and con­tem­plat­ing my yard. His shiny peach El Camino is idling at the head of my dri­ve­way, fart­ing blue smoke out of the muffler.

“Did you hear me?” she says, stand­ing in the door­way with the pad­dle in her hand. “Biscuit’s cov­ered in crap!”

She takes off and I hear her strug­gling with Sammy. She must have caught him because I hear him cry­ing and wail­ing around. I think he likes when his mom whips him. It’s like a wrestling match for him.

This fel­low at the end of my dri­ve­way gets back into his car and sits there look­ing at my house. I smell some­thing awful and I notice that Bis­cuit has come into the room and is look­ing out the win­dow. We watch the peach El Camino back into the dri­ve­way and then Bis­cuit starts bark­ing. I grab him by the col­lar, care­ful not to get my hands dirty, and bring him in the bath­room. I walk by Janie who’s strug­gling with Sammy and tell her not to let Bis­cuit out of the bathroom.

“Can I get some help here?” she says.

“I got to see to some­thing,” I say, and walk out of the house, away from the onions and all the crap in there.

It feels good out­side. I step out onto the car­port and the man has got­ten out of his car and is stand­ing with his hands in the back pock­ets of his jeans. The car is still run­ning and I’m won­der­ing to myself why on earth he’s backed in when he notices me.

“Howdy,” he says.

“Howdy your­self.” I step out into the sun­light. “What can I do you for?”

This fel­low seems about twenty-five, maybe thirty. He’s got jet-black hair that comes down to his shoul­ders and a mus­tache that reminds me of a young Burt Reynolds. He’s dressed in what Janie calls a Cana­dian tuxedo, denim from head to ankle, with a belt buckle and some nice brown cow­boy boots. There’s some kind of lizard or frog on his belt buckle, but I don’t want to stare. He steps up to me and sticks his hand out.

“My name is Kyle Ducet. I lived in this house when I was a boy.”

I take his hand. “Good to meet you Kyle.” I tell him my name.

“Still looks the same,” he says, putting his hands back in his pock­ets and peer­ing out into the back yard. “My daddy built that,” he says, nod­ding his head toward the shed. “And that mag­no­lia tree behind it,” he says. “Me and my daddy planted that.”

I tell him that I’m glad for it. “There’s some wasps up in that shed that I’ve got to take care of, but it’s sound oth­er­wise.” I ask him where he lives now.

“Oh, here and there.” He scratches that mus­tache. “I moved up north with my old lady and I was in town so I just wanted to sort of revisit my youth.”

“We’ve been here about four years,” I say. “I believe it was the LeBlanc’s before us.”

“They bought it when we left,” he says. “Lis­ten, I don’t want to be rude, but do you mind ter­ri­bly if I just sort of walk around the yard a bit. It would mean a lot.”

“Help your­self,” I say. “You want a beer or something?”

“No thanks,” he says, and scratches that big black mustache.

I tell him that I’ve got some­thing to do inside and I leave him to it.

I don’t want to go back inside, but I know what old Kyle Ducet is feel­ing. I once went back to the house that I grew up in. This was right after Sammy was born, and I was feel­ing sen­ti­men­tal as hell. I sat in my truck and balled like a lit­tle baby. I didn’t get out or any­thing, but it felt pretty weird being back in the house I’d grown up in, think­ing about my momma and daddy, and about how a person’s options in life dwin­dle as they get older.

Back inside Janie’s hunched over the stove. She looks at me when I walk in and a string of her brown hair falls out from behind her ear and dances a lit­tle in the steam ris­ing from the pot. I want to go over and bump up against her, but I know where that will get me.

“Who’s that?” she asks, point­ing the wooden spoon over her shoulder.

“Some fel­low says he used to live here and wants to have a moment.”

“He looks like a red­neck Frank Zappa.”

“Burt Reynolds, I say.” I grab her by the elbow and spin her around and she humors me for a minute and lets me two step her around the kitchen.

“Sammy keeps ask­ing about that toy,” she says when she breaks loose.

I guess I knew he wouldn’t for­get about it. The thought of fool­ing with that thing makes my head hurt. “Where is he?”

“I made him put on some clothes and I told him to stay in his room.”

The dog is scratch­ing against the bath­room door. I put my hand on the small of her back and she looks at me. “You know,” she says. “I could really use your help.”

I open up the kitchen win­dow to let those onions out and that car is idling in the dri­ve­way. I make my way back into the hall­way and look in on Sammy. His bed­room door is open, but I don’t see him. That boy is trou­ble. I go into the bath­room and get the water run­ning. Biscuit’s got shit all on his back and even on the top of his head. This is the sec­ond time Sammy vio­lated the dog like that. What the hell kind of per­son does such a thing? I hope he won’t end up in one of those mag­a­zines that truck­ers keep under their seats. I get Bis­cuit in the tub and start wash­ing. I don’t want to think about what it is I’m doing at the moment. I think instead about lying on a ham­mock on a beach some­where with Janie, or else argu­ing about some­thing with some aca­d­e­mic fel­lows at a round table, maybe even receiv­ing an award for some­thing or other. Hell, I’d rather be clean­ing fish that what I’m doing. I hear Sammy behind me. I’m on my knees bent over the tub, and I look at him over my shoul­der. We’re at eye level and I don’t wait to hear what he has to say.

“Boy,” I say. “You should be the one doing this, you hear me?” He stands there in his lit­tle green shorts and scratches at that brown hair.

Daddy,” he says. “There’s a man dig­ging a hole outside.”

I ask him what the hell he’s talk­ing about.

“It’s a big hole,” he says. “As big as,” he stretches his arms out, and I get up and leave him in there with the dog.

I grab a towel and clean off my hands as I make my way out­side. I go out the side door and I can see a shovel lean­ing up against the shed. I can’t see how big the hole is, but there’s a pretty impres­sive pile of dirt stacked up next to the mag­no­lia. When I get in the yard I can see old Kyle trot­ting to his car. He’s hold­ing a big brown satchel over his shoul­der. I look at the hole in the ground and then back up at him and he looks over at me and that’s when he starts running.

What the hell, I think. “Hey!” I holler at him. I see the bag he’s hold­ing is cov­ered in dirt, and I take off after him. His boots are clack­ing on the dri­ve­way and then he’s almost to his car. He throws the bag toward the win­dow, but it bounces off the door and a bunch of money spills out of it onto the con­crete. He starts scoop­ing the money back into his satchel, and he just about gets all of it as I’m get­ting up to him. He slams the door and peels out. I get up to where the car had been and I stand there in a big cloud of blue smoke. I squat down and pick up the lit­tle bit of money that he left behind. It’s caked with dirt, but I flip through it and there’s ten hun­dred dol­lar bills wrapped up in what looks like den­tal floss. I imme­di­ately shove the cash down into my pocket and slap at the front of my jeans for my truck keys. I run inside and grab them off the kitchen counter. Janie’s stand­ing at the kitchen win­dow look­ing con­fused, but I don’t wait to hear what she has to say. I get in my truck and go screech­ing off after him. There’s no way in hell that I’m gonna let some Burt Reynolds son of a bitch stroll into my back yard and make out with what I fig­ure is legally mine. I can’t believe what’s hap­pen­ing, but I’m not the sort of per­son to stand around scratch­ing my head over it.

I haul ass through the neigh­bor­hood, blow­ing right through stop signs. I get to the entrance of the sub­di­vi­sion and I see where some tire marks veer off to the left, and so I fol­low them. I won­der how much money was in that bag. Jesus, I think. How many times had I mowed the grass right over that spot? Five years I’d been out in the yard walk­ing right over a for­tune. I start fan­ta­siz­ing what I can do with a bunch of money. Hell, I just want to talk to the fel­low and find out what’s going on and what that money was from. Maybe we can even work some­thing out since it was on my prop­erty. I pass up a few cars on Green­well Springs Road and then I start com­ing up to town. When I get up to the Kroger’s, I can see the peach El Camino idling at the red light. There’s two other cars in front of me, and just as I’m about to get out and jog over to him, the light turns green.

He goes squeal­ing off and me right after him. I get in the next lane and zig-zag my way up beside him. He looks over at me, and I’ll be damned if he isn’t wear­ing that black mus­tache any­more. “What the fuck!” I shout out my win­dow to him. That car has some mus­cle, because it coughs out some more blue smoke and shoots off. I kick down on the gas and go after him, but he’s really mov­ing. I chase him for another mile or so, and am feel­ing pretty good about my chances. He’s not get­ting too much ahead. I let out a loud hoot, almost a laugh, think­ing about what it is I’m doing. I sure didn’t think I’d be in a car chase when I woke up this morn­ing. I fig­ure it’ll be inter­est­ing on Mon­day morn­ing when the fel­lows ask me how my week­end was, but then I won­der would I even have to go to work. I feel like I’m in somebody’s dream. I press my hand against my leg and can feel the money in my pocket. Even if I don’t catch him, I think, I’d still have a grand. Then I start think­ing about the doc­tor bill that’s com­ing and I gun it. The cell phone buzzing in my front pocket just about gives me a heart attack. It’s Janie.

What the hell are you think­ing!” she screams into the phone.

I tell her what hap­pened, how I’m fol­low­ing him at the very moment. She wants to know how much it was in the bag.

I don’t know, baby, but it’s enough for us to get out the hole and get a maid. Hell, go to Hawaii.”

She’s quiet for a minute and then she begs me to just come home, to please not get hurt. “I need you here, Danny,” she says.

I just want to talk to him.”

Well if you go off risk­ing your ass with all you got rely­ing on you then you’d best catch that thiev­ing son of a bitch!” she screams.

I snap the phone shut and toss it on the seat and keep my eye on the road. I feel glad I’ve got a cheer­leader, but it hits me that Janie can be tricky with her words. I really don’t have time to ponder.

I won­der where Kyle Ducet is really from and where he’s going. Once we get over the Amite River Bridge the two lanes turn into one. He’s a good hun­dred yards in front of me, but I’m deter­mined. I check my gas gauge and fig­ure I can go for as long as he can. Up ahead, a big, red truck pulls out into the road right as the El Camino passes him by. I’m yelling every name in the book.

I step on the gas and go to pass up the truck even though there’s a car in the other lane head­ing my way. I get up as far as I can along­side that truck and I glance over at the dri­ver. All I see is a blonde bushy beard under­neath a cam­ou­flage hat. He’s scream­ing at me and shak­ing his fist. I hear the dri­ver that’s head­ing toward me lay­ing in on their horn, but I keep on. I cut back into my lane with no time left, and I nearly clip the front of that red truck. Horns are blast­ing every­where. I floor it. I can see the truck in my rearview mir­ror go screech­ing to a stop, smoke from burn­ing rub­ber envelop­ing it. That El Camino has gained some more, and I call that old bas­tard in the red truck every name I can think of for imped­ing my progress.

I keep my eye on the peach El Camino, but it’s get­ting far­ther and far­ther away. It turns left off the road toward Sher­wood For­est Boule­vard. He’s gonna try and hump it to the inter­state. I think about all the stops between there and here, and I start feel­ing some hope. Once you get out to Sher­wood, there’s about four red lights before the on ramp to I-10. I know traf­fic will be a mess on a Sat­ur­day. My heart’s beat­ing in my wind­pipe. There’s just no way in hell I’m gonna miss out on this. I’d been in the trenches for too long. Me and Janie have dreams and two lit­tle alarm clocks on the way. I imag­ine that with even half of the money I saw in that bag that I won’t be show­ing up at the refin­ery on Mon­day. I can see us not hav­ing to strug­gle any more, and I can damn near taste the salty breeze of some exotic beach, but I shake my head and try to con­cen­trate on the task at hand. There will be time enough for dream­ing later.

The phone starts buzzing again and I know it’s her want­ing to know what’s hap­pen­ing. That gives me some wind. I don’t plan on com­ing home empty handed. I pic­ture our house and it takes on a strange glow in my mind. Five whole years we’d been liv­ing in a gold mine.

I come up on the first red light, and I can see the lit­tle prick up ahead stuck at a light. I was right. Traf­fic is bad. I have to wait another hun­dred feet or so before I can get out from behind the cars in front of me, but when I do, I cut to my right and haul ass through the Wal-Mart park­ing lot. The El Camino is at the sec­ond to last red light before the on ramp and the park­ing lot will spit me out right behind him. I punch it down and soar along the edge of the lot with no prob­lem. I’ve got him. When I come up along­side him the light turns green, and my truck goes lurch­ing out from the park­ing lot back onto the road behind him. Horns are blast­ing every­where, and I’m so close. There’s only one car sep­a­rat­ing us now and I’m fly­ing. The last light turns red as we come up to it, but he guns it on through and pulls up onto the onramp. The car in front of me brakes for the light, and I’ve got nowhere to go. I slam on my brakes and cut the wheel at the very last sec­ond. I swerve off to the right into the Waf­fle House park­ing lot, scrape a phone booth, and slam to a stop against a light pole. I feel a lit­tle fuzzy, but when I look out the win­dow I don’t see any peach El Caminos, just some smoke hiss­ing out from beneath my hood. I turn the igni­tion, but noth­ing happens.

I want to get out my door and bor­row somebody’s car, but I’m hav­ing trou­ble mov­ing. There’s a fel­low in his lit­tle Waf­fle House hat stand­ing at my pas­sen­ger win­dow look­ing in at me and ask­ing if I’m ok. A siren rings in the dis­tance, get­ting louder. I look away from the man and out my win­dow. Peo­ple sit in their cars star­ing at me. I hear the screech­ing tires. I look in my side mir­ror and see that red truck that I’d clipped come sail­ing into the park­ing lot behind me. The bearded man gets out and starts march­ing toward me. My cell phone buzzes gen­tly from the floor­board. I lis­ten for the sirens to get louder, but before I know it he’s pulling me out of the cab. He’s got my shirt all bun­dled up in his fists, stand­ing over me, cussing me to hell and back. His words wash over me, along with his spit, but for some rea­son, I focus in on his hat. It’s cam­ou­flage and there’s a car­toon of a lady on it with her back show­ing. Her rear end is whiter than the rest of her body and the cap­tion reads, I hunt white tail year round.

Right before he lays in on me, I’m aware of a crowd of peo­ple stand­ing around watch­ing. I pic­ture my back­yard with a big pile of dirt and an empty hole. I can see that peach El Camino just cruis­ing into the sun­set and I won­der how far I would have chased it away from town, away from my fam­ily. I feel like laugh­ing know­ing it was there the whole time. I can see Janie stand­ing over the stove back home, and Sammy chas­ing the dog around. I remem­ber the toy that I’d been work­ing on and I know I’ve got to get it right. I can’t start on it soon enough. Maybe when I fin­ish with it I’ll put it in the hole out back before refill­ing the dirt. Any­way, that’s what I’m think­ing about before I’m all out of time.

Soileau-Benjamin-1Ben­jamin Soileau is a rag­ing Cajun from south Louisiana who self-exiled to the Pacific North­west. His fic­tion has appeared in The Monarch Review, Eclec­tica Mag­a­zine, B O D Y Lit­er­ary jour­nal, Bor­der Cross­ing and else­where. He dri­ves a beer truck in Port­land, Oregon.

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Triadelphia, WV, poem by Jay Sizemore

The hotel room seems damp—
cold as the West Vir­ginia sky,
a cer­tain kind of humid­ity
left behind in the empty space
that light can never fill
and that only the nos­trils
can inter­pret as mois­ture
in the atmos­phere of green car­pet
and com­forters. I’m wear­ing
my blue jean jacket, the one
with the Grate­ful Dead pin,
and this sec­ond skin of denim
isn’t enough to fight off
the chill.

These peo­ple stare at me
as if they have never seen a man
who doesn’t enjoy hair­cuts,
who doesn’t comb his face
with a wagon wheel,
who doesn’t have the con­fed­er­ate
flag tat­tooed on his heart
like a stub­born crown of thorns,
but their accents say
that his­tory will soon learn
its place is in the books
and not on the bumper stick­ers
of rusted out Fords.

After four beers I don’t care,
I start to wish that I had
asked out the wait­ress
at the Olive Gar­den,
whose black hair and imper­fect
teeth struck me as hon­est
and beau­ti­ful.
I start to won­der how
I’ll ever fill eight more hours
with con­ver­sa­tion
when the first leg
of the voy­age turned into
sum­ma­riz­ing the bill­boards
after only four hours
and lis­ten­ing to Jerry Gar­cia
smother the silence with raspy
tunes from beyond the grave.

These coun­try roads
look more like Inter­states
that lead to adven­tures dis­guised
as job inter­views
sur­rounded by leave­less trees,
coal mines, and houses built
like patch­work quilts,
as the sun con­tin­ues to set
right on sched­ule
and the lone­li­ness of bare walls
seems like a reflec­tion
of my dream­less self,
but I know these same high­ways
will lead me home
as soon as I turn around
and go back the way I came.

sizemoreJay Size­more brought the high-five out of retire­ment. He still sings Ryan Adams songs in the shower. Some­times, he mas­sages his wife's feet. His work has appeared online and in print with mag­a­zines such as Rat­tle, Prick of the Spin­dle, Rev­o­lu­tion John, Men­ac­ing Hedge, and Still: The Jour­nal. He's never won an award. Cur­rently, he lives in Nashville, TN, home of the death of mod­ern music. His chap­book Father Fig­ures is avail­able on Amazon.

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Roulette, poem by M.S. Lyle

You move around the house, a cord attached
to that spot on your back that no mat­ter how hard

you try to reach, you can­not reach. At the other end,
the cham­ber. And you are so small; you heard the doctor

say you are 40lbs, so you’re almost sure that it’s not weight
that will trip the trig­ger. You fig­ured out that some things

come from deep inside of her and some things
don’t, so you might be one of the out­side things

that make her not work the right way, but maybe
you could be a thing that does. You like when she

is hum­ming at the kitchen win­dow, light through
the screen pat­tern­ing gold on her taupe hair,

so you run in the woods for lessons from birds
on how to sing and how to fly (just in case).

The clouds look like warn­ing signs; you think
she might be a witch, power so dark and magical

it could change the sky. Then the cord tugs
and the cham­ber spins. You run in circles,

for­get­ting all the birds told you, flap­ping your lit­tle arms
in des­per­a­tion, as she casts another spell on the sun.

136M.S. Lyle grew up on farm­land in the Watchung moun­tains of north cen­tral War­ren, New Jer­sey, She now lives and writes from Atlanta, GA, where she's also known to orches­trate the ancient art of wine impor­ta­tion over the high seas. She grad­u­ated from Les­ley Uni­ver­sity with an MFA in Cre­ative Writ­ing and is cur­rently pol­ish­ing her first poetry man­u­script, "Recla­ma­tion." Her next project includes col­lected essays and pho­tographs that chase Steinbeck's ghost across America.

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