Winter 2012 Issue
Problem! We've lost all digital content for this issue. We will eventually
re-build it by copying our saved paper version.
We've re-published below three of the missing stories: Shooting at Diamonds, Aunt Gwen Sneaks and How Mac Got Promoted... each one an outstanding piece and worthy of your attention!
Table of contents for this missing issue:
Fast Track, by Patrick Forgette
Dorothy, by Julie Morgan King
Flat Iron Blues, by Arthur McMaster
Calmato, by Donald Dewey
The Devil’s Cup, by E.G. Fulton
Feast on Flies, by Heidi Kraay
Red Tiger Walk, by George Eyre Master
Arachnids, by Michael Onofrey
The Man Who Harvests Redeemable Cans, by William Doreski
On Not Being Able to Dance, by Milton P. Ehrlich, Ph.D.
Karner Blue Butterfly, by Jamie Taylor
Shooting At Diamonds
by Rebecca Clay Haynes
THE RED PICKUP turned onto Highway 111, hewing to each turn tightly, cleanly, and heeding every touch on the wheel and tap on the brake. Luis drove that vehicle the way he made love -- no detours, no room for error, no unexpected stops -- through an autumn forest empty of people, empty of sound beyond the engine and the wind. Towers of fir and pine shuddered at their passing. White and orange chainsaws rattled in the bed, well-greased and poised for their chance.
Paula aimed at the No Outlet sign and fired. As they passed the yellow diamond, she searched for the hole she was sure would be there. But that warning had long since been decimated by bullets and she could hardly read the words let alone find the tiny lacuna left by a .22 shot from a Ford doing 40.
“I think I got it,” she said.
“How could you miss?”
“I have, you know.”
“I know,” Luis said. He parked the truck by a sun-streaked clearing crisscrossed with felled ponderosas and other conifers, their dense corpses showing few effects from their recent death. Mighty trees like this rot slowly. Sweet aromas rose up from the warm reds and yellows of the severed trunks framed by dead cones and the abandoned nests of fledglings long since taken to the wing.
“I wonder what Kit Carson would think of this place named after him,” Paula said, reaching for the smaller of the chainsaws, the one Luis had bought her last spring. It fit her hands perfectly, just like the gun.
“He might not care for it too much,” Luis said. “You know his father got himself killed by a tree he was chopping down that landed on him.”
“You never told me that.”
“I don’t tell you everything.”
He headed for some trees loosely stacked on top of each other and lowered a pair of white goggles over his laughing eyes, his chainsaw in one hand as he crouched beside the broken butt of the largest pine. His eyes were always amused, taking in the fervor of the human race, especially of the Anglos hustling Hispanic and Indian art back in Santa Fe, ever chasing a better trade, higher margin, more gullible prey. Luis had the blood of all three and respect for only one.
“So why do you spend time with me?” Paula had asked him once.
“You’re not like them.”
“My people killed your people.”
“And mine killed yours.”
“But yours were here first.”
“And we’ll be here when you’re gone.”
The quiet recoiled with the wail of his chainsaw as it slowly cleaved the compliant wood. Paula watched the rounds roll off and cluster by their feet. Luis, his black hair and beard, his strong arms and thighs, his ready smile, loved her despite her tainted genes and roots. He refused to call it that but love was what it was. She went to the truck and took out the ruana he had made her over coffee at Tia Sophia’s, with everyone wondering, especially the tourists, what this big man in a black Stetson was doing with a crochet needle in one hand and skein of dusty pink yarn in the other. This made him laugh all the more.
She draped the poncho over her shoulders and sat down on a stump to watch him work. He gestured with the blade for her to pick up her equipment and follow suit. She smiled and shook her head. Not in the mood, she mouthed. He shrugged and moved on to the next bark-wrapped fir destined for someone’s kiva in the coming months. For friends and friends of friends and even family if they didn’t renege on their promise to pay. It was this and waiting tables that kept his old adobe roof over his head.
The aroma of resin blended with exhaust and dirt still moist from an overnight rain. Paula breathed it all in and looked up at the sky now clear and blue. She would have to tell him. She would have to tell him about how Carl wanted to marry her and how she could no longer say no. About how the lawyer could give her a home and babies and a future. And about how she wanted him, Luis, and not Carl, even though she had told Luis this same thing many times before and he had always chuckled. That was when Carl had been just a name and not a threat and before he had insisted Paula become his wife. Before he had said he loved her and wanted to spend every day of his life by her side, even getting down on one knee and kissing her hands. And before he handed her the diamond ring she had tucked into her lingerie drawer before slipping on her cowgirl boots for this final day in the woods.
When the sun cleared the trees, it shone down hard on the man with the chainsaw and the woman with the heartache, seeming to hover and barely illuminate some truth neither could see. Later, when the truck was stacked with firewood and Luis was sticky with pitch and needles, giving off the scent of man and nature at their best, she pulled him down on top of her, knowing this would be their last. The shadows stretched over them in the crumbled bark and sawdust they could neither taste nor feel.
“I can’t offer you what he can offer you,” Luis said, tucking her hair behind her ear. “I can offer you nothing but this moment. And the next.”
As the afternoon light continued to ebb, like a tide washing their memories out to sea, they drove back in silence, his hand over hers and the .22 still loaded and tucked under their seat.
Rebecca Clay Haynes' stories have appeared in The Binnacle, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Bartleby Snopes and Mused, and are forthcoming in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature. Rebecca is also a journalist and author of non-fiction children's books. In May, she set off on a literary journey around the world, staying mostly at writer residencies. She'll be in India for the next three months.
Aunt Gwen Sneaks
by Kenneth Pobo
THE SERVICE BEINGS promptly at 11:00, the hour of the week that Gwen most hates. As a minister's wife, she feels that she is hard ground and the church members are a trowel, all scratching to open her up. She wants to be liked, and has spent her first forty years trying to please. Uncle Jim is hard to please though many call him a "loving spirit."
Hymns done, the morning prayer said, Jim grabs the pulpit as if it were a football he's going to toss into the end zone. Mr. Ranwood, the oldest deacon at 95, says that such displays prove that Jim Dremon is "spirit filled." While her husband preaches, Gwen pulls a screen over herself in the front pew. She changes clothes. Jim leads twenty-four souls in a prayer that could also be used for tanning lotion. In a bikini, Gwen stretches out. The sun breaks through stained glass and kisses her. Pelicans and cockatoos rest on the organ bench.
A minute before he is ready to invite people up to accept Christ, Jim notices his wife. Alarmed, he keeps speaking. It's important not to make a scene, to do things in the proper order. But he can't resist—blocked by the pulpit, Jim calls to her, calls to her, calls to her.
# # #
Kenneth Pobo won the Qarrtsiluni poetry chapbook contest for Ice And Gaywings. They published it in November 2011. Also published in 2011 was Kenneth's Tiny Tom Maps, a collection of microfiction, from Deadly Chaps. He teaches creative writing and English at Widener University in Pennsylvania.
How Mac Got Promoted
by Gale Tanner
WHEN LUCIFER FELL, Makalzedek was the weakest angel to go with him. Many angels in heaven were weaker than Mac, but they stuck with Big Gee. It was the powerful angels that sided with Lucifer and took the plunge.
During the Great Depression that followed The Fall, when Lucifer sat on a rock in Fire Lake and let Hell go to hell, the strong angels formed a band and fought each other for what there was. All the bands beat and buggered Mac and used him as their punk. Mac bit his lip and took the abuse. What else could he do? But Reckoning Day finally came. Lucifer rose from the rock, walked across the water, and began to kick chaos into order. He ripped Beelzebub off of Mac's back and tossed him into Fire Lake.
Mac's job was to empty Satan's slops. One of the first things Satan did, once he had settled for being Satan, was to impose time on hell, and every morning, though it was neither darker nor lighter than it had previously been, Mac would rise on the pile of rubble on which he rested and climbed the thousand steps to Satan's bedchamber. Exerting a great effort against so great a weight, he would force the stone door open wide enough to slip his slight being through, step soundlessly around the beautiful, strong angels who lay ripped and bruised on the floor after a night with their lord, and remove the stinking golden bucket, which he hauled to the shore and emptied in Fire Lake. Back at the palace, he would scrub the bucket until it gleamed, remount the thousand steps, and leave it at the stone door. Then he would return to his room of rubble, and wait to be of use again.
One morning, Mac crept into the chamber and was picking his way among the gorgeous angels discarded on the floor when Satan spoke to him, "Mac."
It was terrible for Satan to call you name, and Mac was not the only angel in hell who lived in fear of it.
"Yes, Lord?" he answered.
"Commere a minute."
Saten was standing on his balcony. It overlooked Fire Lake. The dome of Hell was rosy with the lake's glow, as it eternally was. Satan was gloriously naked. Mac averted his eyes.
Satan dropped on arm around Mac's shoulder and swept the other across their vista.
"Whatcha think, Mac? As good as heaven?"
Mac remembered Heaven's seasons, its infinitude of colors.
"Almost, my Lord."
Satan laughed and hugged Mac against his hip. "That's what I like about you, Mac. You tell the truth. Almost."
Mac and Satan stood on the balcony and gazed at Hell while centuries passed. Nothing changed. "Do you know what came of our rebellion, Mac? What the product was of all that power we hurled in the name of justice?"
”A universe, Mac. A place not Heaven, not Hell. And it grows. From a speck no bigger than the tip of your prick, and pushes us farther from Heaven. I hate it, Mac. I swear that I hate it.."
"Yes, Lord," Mac said.
Satan's arm tightened around Mac's shoulders. Mac tried not to tremble. Hell came alive as angels began to emerge from their hovels and go to their tasks that Satan had invented for them. At last, Satan loosened his grip and said, "Go empty your bucket, Mac." Mac turned away and caught more than one of the angels on the floor closing his eyes.
"Thanks for your time."
Another morning Mac entered the chamber. No angels lay on the floor feigning sleep. Satan stood again on his balcony. His back was to Mac. Mac was almost out the door with his bucket when Satan said, "Got a second, Mac?"
"Yes, Lord." Mac set the bucket down and came out on the balcony.
Satan turned and gave Mac his full gaze. Mac's knees buckled. Satan seemed not to notice.
"Do you remember when I told you about the universe, Mac? The one that grows. The one that pushes us from Heaven?"
"What do you think has happened now?"
"I don't know, Lord."
It's got life, Mac. Life. Not at its center. Not on the biggest or best piece of it, but on some chunky little rock not worth being dropped into your bucket. Why do you think Gee would do a thing like that?"
"I'm afraid to answer."
"Tell me anyway."
"To spite you, Lord."
"Exactly, Mac,' Satan said. "Exactly. To spit in my face."
That evening there was knock on Mac's door. Beelebub opened it and entered. Mac was sore afraid."
"Fear not," the angel said. "I'm a present."
A million mornings after, Mac came back from Fire Lake and set the bucket down outside Satan's door. He had one foot on the stairs, when Satan said, "I'm calling a council of the leaders of the angel bands, Mac. In the main room. I want you to sit in. Do whatever needs doing."
Satan smiled. "It could get ugly," he said.
All the angels were on time without being told what time the meeting was. Mac had arranged six golden thrones in a semicircle at the foot of Satan's rock, the on he had brought with him from Fire Lake. After all this time, it still glowed white hot. Its facets were sharper than swords. The strong angels took their thrones. Asmodeus. Beelzebub. Belphegor. Leviathan. Mammon . Molock.
Mac wedged himself in the farthest corner of the room, sat on the floor, and hugged his knees.
Satan entered when he was ready to. The band leaders stood and applauded. "Sit down," Satan said.
Satan stretched out his hand and the image of what Mac thought was a blue gem appeared over his palm.
"Ooh," the band leaders said.
Satan caused the image to grow until it seemed to fill the room. Then he zoomed in on a section of it, and there were greens to go with the blues. And browns, too. Zoom again the angels saw that the gem was infested with beasts. Some galloped. Some slithered.
"Uhh," the band leaders said.
Zoom again, and Satan's focus was on a pair of beasts on a savannah. To Mac, they seemed particularly disgusting. They were neither sleek-skinned nor furry. Such hair as they had was mostly about their heads. Nothing hid the marks of their sex. They were as filthy as if they had wallowed in the contents of one of Mac's buckets. Brutality and stupidity were written on their brows as if they were literate. As Mac watched, the beasts made a small progress across the savannah, though it was unclear to him why. What struck him was that the beasts had thumbs and fingers, like angels. With hands, they could play stringed instruments or hurl thunder at Heaven, but the beasts used their hands only as paws to lumber along. Then without any warning that they knew what they were capable of, the female rose on her hind legs and plucked a red fruit from a green tree, took a bite, and handed it to the male.
Satan dropped his arm, and the vision vanished. "Do you know what we just saw?" he asked.
None of the band leaders answered.
"Your replacements, gentlemen. Those useless beasts are Heaven's response to our request for redress. The final product of Gee's spite."
Some angels cursed. Others denied the possibility. Satan smiled. When the clamor was over, he asked, "So what do you think we should do?"
"Attack them," Moloch said.
Satan moves so quickly that even with angle eyes, Mac saw only motion. A step. A strike. And Molock lay on the floor, sliced and stunned. Satan dragged him by his locks to the window, kicked it out, and hurled Moloch into Fire Lakie. Then he returned to the front of the room. "II want fresh ideas," he said. "Let's hear what you've got."
Satan called each band leader by name, and each gave him an idea. He carved the ideas into the wall with the nail of the index finger of his left hand. Then he added a couple of his own ideas to the list. He stood silent and studied it. Mac thought it was a pretty good list. Greed. Gluttony. Laziness, Lust. Envy. Anger. Self-importance. Satan, however, did not look pleased. He turned back to the angels and scoured them with his eyes. His gaze fell on Mac, who was pressed like a cockroach as deeply as he could get into his corner.
"Come up here, Mac," Satan said. "We have an opening."
If angels could die, Mac would have. Certainly, he wanted to. Centuries flicked by before he could stand, but at last he did and made his way to the front of the room. He took Moloch's seat.
"See this little guy," Satan said. He's got more guts and brains than the whole lot of you. Every morning he carries out my shit. The rest of you aren't worthy to. I don't know why I brought you with me."
Satan turned to Mac and winked. "Ok, Mac, show these guys how smart I am. Gimme an idea."
Mac looked at the list. He read it frontwards, then backwards. He did not see anything that was missing.
"Come on, Mac," Satan said. "Don't let me down."
"Wait," Mac said, his voice sounding sharp in his own ears. He heard the angels suck in air, though angels do not use air to breathe.
"Patience is a virtue, Mac," Satan said. "That's hardly the business we're in anymore."
"Think about it," Mac said, making it up as he went along. "These are beasts. They eat, copulate, and die. It'll be a million years before they think about anything but their bellies or their balls. In fact, it'll be a million years before they think about anything at all. In the meantime, we can slide on in, use the weapons on the wall against them. Nothing wrong with that. It'll be fun. Keep the pot stirred. But sooner or later, they'll start to get an idea of Gee. They won't be able to help it, considering who made them. And that's when they'll be vulnerable."
"Go on," Satan said. "I'm listening."
"They'll get it wrong. They're bound to. They're beasts. They don't have angel eyes. It'll be like they're looking through black glass. That's when we'll spring the trap."
"We'll tell them that they're right. Whatever crazy notion they have. Whatever little piece of Gee they think they see, we'll tell them that they're right. And that they are the only ones who are. Then we'll give them power. All the power we can shovel on them. Can you imagine what they will do with each other?"
Satan walked slowly to where Mac sat. With the tenderness of a mother, he lifted him up and held him as high as he could. Then he set him on the hot seat. Mac glowed.
Satan stepped back and pointed to Mac. "This is my guy," he said. "If I'm not around, you do what he tells you to, just like it came from me. Got it?"
"We do," the angels answered.
"Good. Now let's get out of here and go to work.
# # #
Gale Turner lives in Forsyth, Georgia. His fiction and poetry have been published in River Walk Journal, Press 53 Open Awards Anthology and 14by14. He has a story forthcoming in J Journal: New Writing on Justice. Gale is married to Isabelle, and is the father of Jessica and Justin.
***Publisher's note: We were saddened to learn today (01/26/23) that Gale has passed on. We were hoping to ask him to resubmit a digital copy of this story because we had lost the entire Winter 2012 issue and we were too lazy to retype all of its stories. As we typed this story from a paper copy we had saved, we were continually wishing we could talk to him and tell him how stunningly brilliant the piece is. We're honored to save this piece of you, Gale! RIP!