Month: December 2015

Collage Series

Collage Series

      ______________________________________________ Bill Wolak is a poet, photographer, and collage artist. He has just published his twelfth book of poetry entitled Love Opens the Hands with Nirala Press. His collages have been published in over thirty magazines including The Annual, Peculiar Mormyrid, Danse 

LA SIDACEANERA: Una Pachanga Y Muchos Cuentos

LA SIDACEANERA: Una Pachanga Y Muchos Cuentos

Casting 8 – 12 Latina/o/x actors: A mix of US Caribbean, Mexican, Central American & South American professional actors and community members.   2 actors should be native Spanish speakers 2 actors should be trans, though the trans actress need not necessarily be cast as 

All Hallows Eve At the Amarillo Jehovah’s Witness Weekly Grief Group In the Backroom of the Y Just Off the Feeder

All Hallows Eve At the Amarillo Jehovah’s Witness Weekly Grief Group In the Backroom of the Y Just Off the Feeder

CHARACTERS

JAKE: Group Leader

PENNY: Macabre.

DAN: In a Halloween cow costume

TANYA: Fanatic.

LIGHTS UP ON AN ILL-ATTENDED GRIEF GROUP. LOTS OF EMPTY SAD FOLD OUT CHAIRS. DAN IS OUT OF PLACE AS HE IS IN A HALLOWEEN COSTUME, A COW. PENNY HAS JUST FINISHED SHARING.THE GROUP IS HORRIFIED BY WHATEVER SHE’S JUST TOLD THEM. JAKE IS THE TIRED LEADER.

 

JAKE: Thank you for sharing Penny, the language of grief is a unifier and we all learn from you when you speak it with such visceral-uh- gory- horrifying details.

 

PENNY: Thank you Jake. The lord tells me to share and I must.

 

TANYA IS ABOUT TO THROW UP.

 

JAKE: You may sit down now.

 

PENNY: Thank you Jake. This grief group has given me so much. So much solace in a world I do not understand. So much comfort after the gruesome death-

 

JAKE: Please, Penny- sit. Thank you.

 

PENNY: Thank you, Jake.

 

PENNY SITS.

 

JAKE: We’ve all come here to talk about our feelings in the here and now. To honor that large container which is ourselves. Which has room for all things. Let’s put both feet on the floor- palms on our knees either face down or facing the heaven. Let’s close our eyes. Dan, please. Let’s breathe and be here together. We’re Jehovah’s Witnesses and we witness to each other. A few reminders and announcements- Please no cross talk or interrupting. No physical contact. Please continue to spread the word about this grief group. We hope to give our services to more in need.

 

Now, Let’s think of all the things we are grateful for today. We are living. We were lucky enough to secure the best Y backroom in Amarillo and we should count our blessings to be here together. To be present, to be exactly where our feet are and encourage the expression of emotion –

 

DAN: Can we talk about Halloween?

 

BEAT. THE GROUP DOES NOT WANT TO HEAR THAT WORD, LIKE A FORBIDDEN WORD.

 

JAKE: Dan- Please no cross talk.

 

DAN: Oh yes- Thank you Jake. May I taking the sharing position to discuss Halloween?

 

DAN: I uh-Is there something you are struggling with?

 

DAN: No.

 

JAKE: Any rising uh issues with our fundamental core belief in not acknowledging holidays?

 

PENNY: Dan, it is ok to struggle

 

TANYA: We all struggle

 

ALL: Yes-it’s true- that’s what we’re here for etc. etc.

 

JAKE: Please! The Cross Talk!

 

DAN: Can I- I’m sorry- Can I share?

 

JAKE: In that?-

 

DAN: Yes.

 

PENNY: This is a safe space Jake-

 

JAKE: Penny. Cross Talk. I mean yes please this is, of course, a safe place.

 

DAN ASSUMES THE SHARING POSITION.

 

DAN: I was born on October thirty first. On Halloween.

 

THE GROUP WINCES.

 

DAN: -which is- Halloween is- I’m sorry I have to say it

 

TANYA: Don’t-

 

DAN: Halloween is my birthday.

 

THE GROUP GROANS.

 

DAN: And I understand about God and the Pagans and how this is their doing and I understand about Satan and I know that while Halloween does include fun with family and friends, these gatherings are centered around attributes such as witchcraft death, deceit, and fright which are opposing to God

 

JAKE: Well, it’s not that these attributes are subtly snuck into the day, Halloween openly boasts them

 

DAN: But I-I-I

 

JAKE: It’s ok-

 

DAN: I- miss my dog you know- And I have to thank you Jake because this group has really helped me work though a lot of this. I miss Banjo so bad- I miss watching him run through the field, ears flapping as he chased the cows. He’d bark and circle them and they’d look down and moo apathetically and he was in heaven. Well, no, now he is in heaven but I don’t know if there are any cows there.

 

PENNY: Of course there are cows there! He has his cow friends in heaven-

 

DAN: And if it’s even possible that on my birthday-

 

GROUP GROAN.

 

JAKE: yikes-

 

DAN: Banjo’s spirit or ghost-

 

PENNY: Ghost?!

 

DAN: Yes Penny- if his ghost can walk the Earth on this day according to the Satanist pagans- if by any infinitesimal chance they are even some kinda right then I want to be here for him. Suppose Banjo is roaming our street looking for anything to remind him of home. I want to be there and if I can make his ghost just a little bit happier by waiting for him dressed as those cows he loved so much then I’m going to do it.

 

JAKE: I think we should read a passage now-

 

TANYA: -I want to commune with the dead too. I want to talk to my cousin.

 

PENNY: Cross Talk! Can we get some more leadership here? This is ridiculous.

 

JAKE: Ok Ok Ok Tanya, that was an example of cross talk but let’s go with us. Your cousin was an adventurous woman

 

TANYA: I want to talk to her spirit. I applied for Long Island medium like 4 times, but apparently you have to live there to participate. May I?

 

JAKE: Sure.

 

TANYA TAKES HER SHARING POSITION.

 

TANYA: My cousin died. She thought she wanted to be an engineer and she always wanted to know how everything worked. It was really cute. And this one night we were at Pastor Rick’s- they are so rich- they’re house is unbelievable- they had a dumb-waiter. And Rena wanted to know how it worked because she’s predictable like that so she stuck her head in the bottom to see the gears. And I don’t know how this happened but it snapped and the whole thing fell and chopped her head off.

 

THE SOUND OF A BLOOD CURDLING SCREAM.

 

TANYA: Rena?! REEEEEENA?! Is that you?!

 

A PERSON POKES THEIR HEAD IN FROM OFF STAGE

 

PERSON: Sorry for the disruption folks, we’re rehearsing that last scene in Our Town in the Y front room here. Apologies. We’re pushing ourselves today.

 

JAKE: No worries brother, thanks and bless you.

 

PERSON: Howdy!

 

PERSON EXITS.

 

TANYA: I lived my entire life with a cousin Rena until that day. Pastor Rick says that’s what happens to women who get into science but I think Rena is out there somewhere. I think she still wants to learn things and I imagine she’s snooping around with her head under her arm and now she can take that head and fit it into smaller places to see all the gears she wants.

 

And that makes me happy for her.

 

DAN: Yes. Just like Banjo

 

JAKE: No.

 

TANYA: What?

 

JAKE: There are no ghosts or holidays or birthdays or cow costumes.

 

TANYA: I think Rena would want me to help you Dan. I think Rena would’ve loved Banjo and so would I

 

DAN: He would’ve loved you

 

TANYA: So let’s wait for him. Let’s see if he comes by, or Rena or Penny’s son who went by Christina.

 

PENNY: He won’t come by. He hated me.

 

JAKE: You mean ‘It’- Stephen King’s ‘It’

 

TANYA: Cross Talk Jake. Let’s just see. See if we can call their ghosts- Because wouldn’t it give us comfort and isn’t comfort what this grief group is for?

 

THEY ALL LOOK TO JAKE.

 

JAKE: I can’t.

 

TANYA: Don’t you miss Pauline, Jake?

 

JAKE: I do.

 

TANYA: What if her ghost-

 

JAKE: Pick a different word-

 

TANYA: -or spirit-

JAKE: Nope-

 

TANYA: Her little tinkerbell light what if walks on by… wouldn’t you want to say hello.

 

JAKE: I would. I do.

 

DAN: Let’s do this- ok- Everybody put something in a middle here, something that reminds you of your loved one. Come on- here’s Banjo’s Bone.

 

TANYA: Here’s Rena’s Einstein choker necklace from the accident. It’s got some blood on it maybe that will help-

 

JAKE: Pauline’s hanky.

 

PENNY PULLS OUT A BUTCHER KNIFE AND PUTS IT IN THE CIRCLE. THE GROUP TAKES THAT IN.

 

PENNY: Christina’s favorite.

 

DAN: Ok. Let’s sit- everybody put both feet on the ground.

 

THEY SHUFFLE CHAIRS AROUND. A FLURRY OF MOVING AND SITTING AND ADJUSTING.

 

JAKE: Please don’t tell Pastor Rick

 

TANYA: Never- no one is telling Pastor Rick- Penny?

 

PENNY: I won’t. I promise.

 

TANYA: We all promise?

 

THE GROUP NODS. EVERYONE IS IN.

 

DAN: Ok we ready?

 

THEY INDICATE THAT THEY ARE READY. SOME SCARED. SOME DESPERATE.

 

DAN: ok. Tinkerbell light Séance-

 

JAKE: Don’t use séance

 

DAN: Tinkerbell light brigade sit in grief group Amarillo chapter edition call to the dead- begin!

 

THEY SIT IN SILENCE.

 

JAKE: So uh- what are we supposed to do here?

 

PENNY: Yea are they just gonna come in?-

 

DAN: I don’t know-

 

TANYA: Ok ok calm down. Ok How about this-

 

TANYA BREATHES AND JUMP A LITTLE LIKE ACTING WARM UP.

 

TANYA: Ok everyone. Stare out to a fixed point. Soften your focus. Stare far far out past the Amarillo city line into the great unknown. Focus and think of your loved one. What they smelled like on the best days, the kindest thing they ever said to you, that look on their face in their final moments

 

A SCREAM FROM OFF STAGE.

 

TANYA: Reeeena?!

 

PERSON STICKS HEAD IN.

 

PERSON: I’m so sorry folks- we’re making headway on this scene though!

 

PERSON EXITS.

 

TANYA: Think of how unknowable life is, death is, what your loved one like to eat for dinner.

 

PENNY: I feel nothing!

 

TANYA: Close you eyes. Hold hands! I feel it!

 

THE GROUP HOLDS HANDS. THEY SQUEEZE. THEY TRY TO FEEL IT.

 

TANYA: Jake misses you Pauline

 

JAKE: I do!

 

TANYA: He forgives you for the affair

 

JAKE: I do!

 

FLICKER OF LIGHTS. DAN GASPS

 

DAN: Satan is joining us-

 

PERSON FROM OFF STAGE RE-ENTERS.

 

PERSON: Son-of-a-breadbasket We blew the fuse sorry! Art is dangerous- sorry to- What are you guys-? I’ll just- ok bye-

 

TANYA: If you are out there. Wherever you are- behind a rock or under a tree or behind the moon know we love you. Know we wait for you here and will find you in the here after-

 

AS TANYA SPEAKS, VERY SLOWLY AND SOFTLY THE SOUND OF A DOG BARKING CREEPS IN. AS SHE SPEAKS THE BARKING GROWS LOUDER AND NEARER.

 

TANYA: We’ve forgotten how bratty you could be Rena, or how sexually confused you were Christina,

 

BARKING. THE BARKING BEGINS TO OVER WHELM TANYA’S SPEAKING. DAN OPENS HIS EYES AND HE CANNOT BELIEVE WHAT HE SEES. BANJO!

 

BARKING. CLOSER.

 

DAN STANDS. THE GROUP CONTINUES TO HOLD HANDS AND FOCUS. TANYA MUMBLES.

 

BARKING.

 

DAN WALKS FORWARD TOWARDS THE NOISE. THE GROUP FINALLY NOTICES. THEY WATCH DAN, WHO MOOS A LITTLE TO CALL BANJO OVER.

 

JAKE PICKS UP THE BONE AND HANDS IT TO DAN. THE GROUP HOLDS HANDS AND DAN TOSSES THE BONE OUT INTO THE AUDIENCE.

 

BLACKOUT. END OF PLAY.

______________________________________________

Molly Beach Murphy is a playwright and director originally from Galveston, Texas. Molly is a three-time artistic resident at the OBIE Award-winning Incubator Arts Project for which she created Molly Murphy & Neil deGrasse Tyson On Our Last Day On Earth (also seen in Ars Nova’s 2015 ANT FEST), Indigo Dai: Immortal Men, and Morbid Poetry. Molly is a 2015 member of Fresh Ground Pepper’s Playground Playgroup, JACK’s Creating Dangerously Writing Workshop, and The Habitat’s Director’s Playground. Recipient of the Garland Wright Award for Achievement in Directing. BFA, Southern Methodist University.

Golden Shower

Golden Shower

The love letters awaited me in the thin aluminum box of apartment #2 at the Idalia, a brick, pre-WWII apartment building spangled with ivy. I’d ridden the city bus home from my university. The Ninja woman was on my bus that day. My ex-boyfriend called 

Eat

Eat

I ordered food I could not eat. I sat across from him and thought I might throw up or pass out and either way the bathroom was probably the best place to be. Not in the booth of the greasy hipster diner, its cushions partially 

Loves You To Death

Loves You To Death

Turner joked to some that his mother was one of those people incapable of dying, and so (not as a joke) for her eightieth birthday he had it in mind to put her into a retirement home—a place where there was nothing to do, ultimately, other than die. Not that he would relocate her immediately. He would wait a few weeks to devise a plan for packaging the move as good intentions, as a gift to someone other than himself.

Since he had no siblings, Turner’s mother’s welfare was his responsibility, but as far as he was concerned time makes strangers of everyone, and in the category of gifts received—and Turner viewed it as a gift—he already had power of attorney. He was also executor of the estate, which was considerable but by no means inexhaustible.

“We’ve discussed this,” he said. “Remember when you turned seventy-nine? We talked about when you hit the big eight-o, that it might be time to quit driving. Why not move, too?”

Turner got up and walked behind his mother to the kitchen. “Let’s find a place where you can stay independent. Like we talked about.”

“Did we?”

“Remember, once, when you visited for Christmas?”

“That was a while ago, and I’m sure we didn’t talk about it.” Her speech was frail and even sweet until she had to cough up a syllable that had gotten caught in her throat.

Turner poured two bourbons, and when he presented his mother with hers, he genuflected like a suppliant or one about to propose marriage.

“We have.”

“That’s strong,” she said. “How’s Jessica?”

“She’s fine,” he said. “Sends her love. She’d have come down, but she has work. If you moved, you’d be closer to both of us. There’s another reason to live in the city.”

“You know how I hate the city.”

“To a home outside the city then.”

“A home?” She said quizzically, as one might pronounce an unknown word. “This is my home.”

“I know how much you adore Jess and how much she loves you. You’d be closer. Have you thought about that? It’s one of the things we talked about.”

“I’m sure we didn’t,” she said.

At moments like this, his mother retreated to their mutual affection for Jessica. She seemed content to say, as she often would, “Marrying Jessica was the smartest thing you ever did.”

“Ready for another drink?” Turner asked.

“Not quite, sweetheart.”

“Well, at least think about it.”

“Maybe when I’m done with this one,” she said, reaching for the remote.

“I mean about moving.” But Turner’s mother had already redirected her attention to the Weather Channel. “Think about it,” he said again. “About moving closer to Jess and me.”

“I will,” she said distantly, scanning the room for her cat, Mr. Chips.

It was far from the surrender Turner had hoped for, but would have to do until he could visit again. She’d better come around soon, he thought on the drive back to Atlanta, remembering with a renewed sense of loss that the deposit he had made to Sherman’s Manor Retirement Community was only fifty percent refundable.

***

They’d tried the city once, five years ago, the Christmas after Turner’s father had died. Turner thought that if they took the train up it might wean his mother from the idea that driving a car was so necessary, but in the space of three hours, the locomotive encountered two switching delays, freight traffic, and then hit a vehicle, finally arriving downtown after dark. By the time they got to the hotel, they had lost their reservation and had to settle for a smaller room. They also missed the appointment Turner had made with an agent who was to have shown his mother a condo in the Presidential Towers building.

Turner had decided then, while her grief was fresh, to distract his mother with the delights of city life: food, stores, sights, and all of the things he and Jess loved.

“Shopping?” Turner suggested.

“Where would you like to go?”

“Anywhere you like.”

“Is there a place that sells mysteries?” she asked.

“There’s a bookstore in the 700 block.”

“Do they have mysteries?”

“Of course,” he said, putting his coat back on.

“Is it far? It’s so cold out.”

“Not too far, and it’s no colder than when we came in.”

The avenue was like a neon garden with lights in full bloom and a dry, chalk-white snow drifting brightly down from the blackness above.  

“Everything’s so beautiful,” she said.

“What’s that?” Turner wanted her to repeat it—the part about how beautiful everything was.

“Beautiful . . . all the lights, and decorations, and buildings, but is it always this cold? My circulation’s not good.”

Turner’s mother, who was tall, moved in overly deliberate half-strides. If she had enjoyed any part of trudging through five city blocks of holiday crowds, it was not apparent from her expression, which was the marriage of physical pain to the dread that each step was the antecedent to a fall.  

Inside the Hanover Building, things went from bad to worse.

“I think I’ll go to J. Crew,” Turner said, pausing in the atrium as currents of shoppers flowed past. When a Williams Sonoma caught his mother’s eye, she indicated that she would be “over here,” and blindly swung the back of her hand into another woman’s nose.

“Mom! There are a half-million people in this city. You’ve got to watch what you’re doing!”

The woman who had been struck hurried on, clutching her face.

“Well, she should watch where she’s going,” his mother said.

When they got to the bookstore, his mother realized that she had forgotten her glasses at the hotel—or worse had left them on the train—so Turner spent forty-five minutes reading plot summaries aloud. Then, on the way down the escalator, she took a misstep and tumbled forward, shrieking as she cut her leg above the ankle.

“Christ!” he cried out.

“Are you alright?” asked the gentleman behind them.

“We’re fine, thank you,” Turner said. “This is a nightmare.”

“What?” she said.

“Nothing. We’ll stop at Walgreen’s to get bandages on the way back.” Blood ran even with the seam of torn leggings and into her therapeutic shoe.

“I’m sorry,” she said, hobbling on. “I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it. Just don’t worry about it.”

At the Ambassador Room, Turner brooded through dinner, less willing than able to eat.

Unprompted, his mother would never say a word in complaint, which made the situation all the more frustrating. Her silence was a reminder that, after all that had gone wrong, Turner couldn’t possibly broach the subject of her moving to the city.

“Will Jessica be joining us?” she asked finally.

“What’s that?” Turner’s attention wandered. “Oh, no. Tomorrow night.”

The old have a way of dragging the rest of the world down with them, he thought. If there was a silver lining to the day, it was this: she had proved that she was an accident looking for a place to happen. What if these things were to occur at home, when her housecleaner, Leticia, wasn’t around, and there was no one else to help? The only thing less in dispute was how thoroughly circumstances had undermined his efforts to make urban life seem desirable.

Turner’s mother seemed to sense what was wrong, and she insisted that, rather than take a cab, she was fine to walk the three blocks back to the hotel. The snow had stopped, but the streets remained slick and black.

“Can we rest here, honey, for a minute?” His mother trundled over to an iron bench next to a stone fountain, which had been drained for the season and stood caked in snow like a shrine to winter.

“Are you alright?”

“It’s my leg,” she said, wincing. She sat, reaching to feel her injury with such a show of effort that Turner wondered if somehow she wanted him to do it for her.

Her fingers, tacky with fresh blood, came up into the yellow light. “Damn it,” she said.

“I’ve bled through my bandages. Do you think we could get a cab after all?”

“Of course,” Turner sighed.

“I’m sorry. I’m ruining everything.”

“Don’t worry about it,” he said, ready to fault himself for not having seen this coming.

“I’m sure any cab driver will be happy to drive us one block back to the hotel.”

***

Turner kept no secrets from his wife, except for the particular ones he did not want her to know: a part-time girlfriend and some hidden debt. He made no pretense, however, when it came to frustrations over his mother, and since Jess was a check on Turner’s intolerance, in this way she was an ally.

“She won’t have it,” he said when he returned to Atlanta from his latest visit. “She won’t even move to be closer to you, and that’s the best card I had to play.”

“So what’s the big deal?” Jess said, drying the last of the plates. “That you have to keep calling her once a week and visiting now and then?”

“No, the big deal is when she runs over someone with that Deville and gets us sued, or exhausts the trust on home shopping, or gets scammed—”

“—or remarries!”

“That’s sort of what I mean by scammed,” Turner said.

“She lives for QVC, that’s for sure, and that cat.”

“I don’t know what she lives for. At least she’s given up on grandchildren.”

Turner instantly regretted saying this.  

“What I mean is—” But he could see from Jess’s face that the damage was done.

“Right,” she shot back, launching a towel at him, “If she were waiting for that, I guess you’d be stuck with her forever.”

***

After the fiasco in the city, Turner’s mother had been in no hurry to return, and his and Jessica’s annual summer trip to spend a week with her became all the more important—the fifty one weeks in between representing a chasm of space that would be, it seemed to Turner, impossible for his mother to fill.

From what he and Jess gathered from phone calls, his mother’s life consisted of a weekly cycle of sameness, anchored by Leticia coming to clean on Monday, a visit to the beauty parlor on Wednesday, and grocery shopping on Friday. She had long ago quit her altar guild duties and the church entirely in favor of televangelism and Face the Nation. He guessed that she liked the host, Bob Schieffer, because he was old, and imagined that the elderly must trust their own kind most.

On their most recent visit, Jess found a series of lists in a notebook on a table next to his mother’s recliner. “What do you make of this?” she asked Turner.  

In the small worn spiral, they read through catalogs of tasks meticulously spelled out and crossed through:

cereal
pills
dishes
wash whites
check mail
dry whites
wash colors
feed Mr. Chips
dry colors
post office
call Eleanor
call bank

 

“Do you think she forgets things?” Jess asked.

“No,” Turner said, feeling that he knew his mother well enough to be certain of this. “I think she looks forward to them.”

***

“When we’re at dinner, watch your drinking,” Jess said later. Though Jessica didn’t drink at all, she rarely tried to curb her husband. “It’s not a contest. No need to keep up.”

“What’s it to you?” Turner said, already on his second bourbon. “Besides, we leave tomorrow.”

“You say things you shouldn’t when you’ve been drinking. You’ve been doing it all week.”

“How do you know?”

“I know. She tells me, and I’m tired of her asking me if I think you love her.”

She asks you that?

“Neither of us likes doing this, Turner, but she’s your mother, and seeing you is the only thing she has to get excited about. It’s her one joy. Can you please try not to poison it?”

“I’d like to poison that cat.”

“It’s as if you want to take away whatever pleasure she has left. Face it. Whether you like it or not, she loves you to death.”

“Really?” Turner was astonished to hear this. “You keep me grounded,” he said, kissing  Jess on the cheek. “Do you know that?”

“Let’s go,” she said.

But Turner had already collapsed face-first onto the bed.  

“What’s the rush?” he spoke into the pillow. “She won’t be ready for another twenty minutes. You know she’d make this last forever if she could.”

***

When they returned from dinner, Jessica went to bed. Turner and his mother were both drunk, and Jess, who seemed to be in no mood for any of it, excused herself on the grounds that she would be driving first thing in the morning. In the meantime, Turner poured nightcaps while his mother changed into a robe and looked for Mr. Chips.

“I wish you didn’t have to leave so soon.”

“Me too,” he said, putting a drink into her hand.

“Is everything alright?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well,” she eased into her recliner, “it’s just you’ve seemed upset all week, and you’ve been rather short. Is everything okay?”

“Everything’s fine,” Turner said, and knocked back half the glass.

“You know,” she said, “it’s a bitch getting old.” Turner knew that she meant to be audacious, and yet all he could think was how comic dotage is when it tests profanity.

“Yep,” Turner said, finishing the drink as he stood to get another.

“So, you’re sure you’re alright? There’s nothing you want to talk about?”  

“Well, there is one thing,” he said.

“Yes?”

“It’s not something Jess knows about. I don’t want her to know.”

“You know I won’t say anything,” she vowed.

“I’m having an affair.”

“No!”

“For about a year,” Turner said. “She just moved, and I’m having a hard time.”

“How did you meet?”

“That’s not important. She’s younger than me,” he added, as if that was.

“How much younger?”

“She’s twenty-two. She was attending community college, but transferred to a school in Savannah.” Turner waited for his mother’s expression to change—for the glower of condemnation that did not come. “I’m in love with her.”

“Turner! Do you still see her?”

“She calls.” He downed the glass. “We see each other when she’s in Atlanta.”

“And Jessica has no idea?”

“No.”

Only then did resentment strain his mother’s face. Only then did it register, the anger and the hurt that Turner had been coaxing. “I wish that girl would leave you alone! Doesn’t she know you’re married?”

“No . . . God, no. I’d never tell her that.” Turner sighed. “Anyway,” he said, “there’s nothing I can do about it. I’ve made my bed, as they say. Speaking of bed, I should turn in. It’s getting late.”

Turner kissed his mother on the forehead, as one would venerate a sacred object, and he went away feeling satisfied that she had gotten what she deserved even if she was too stunned by the immediacy of the news to know it. He had spat on her trust in him and all she held dear, including Jess. It would be impossible for her to love him now, impossible for her to believe him of love, and—as if that was not enough—he had saddled her with the burden of his most damning secret.

It did not immediately occur to Turner that his mother, who didn’t sleep much anyway, might have stayed up, stroking Mr. Chips and coming to terms with these realities, that she might be lightened by the revelation of her son’s daring: a depth of worldly success and masculine sophistication of which, perhaps, she would not have thought him capable, and that for the first time in years she could feel young herself, like she was some kind of lover.

On future phone calls, Turner’s mother rarely missed an opportunity to ask about the matter he least wanted to discuss—his secret girlfriend—who had entered her son’s life to complicate it in new and exciting ways. Her mind even seemed to sharpen as she became a steward of great responsibility not to let a word slip in front of Jess, but most of all, Turner imagined that she treasured the trust he had placed in her. How much she must think I love her, he thought over and over until, before long, he guessed that it had become enough, and more than enough, to live for.

______________________________________________

Lyle Roebuck is a native of Saint Simons Island, GA. His fiction has appeared in the Arkansas Review, the Roanoke Review, Straylight Magazine, Redivider, A Torn Page: 2012 Summer Short Fiction Anthology, and Split Lip Magazine. “They’re All Gentlemen in the Dark,” a book-length collection of stories, was shortlisted for the 2014 Serena McDonald Kennedy Award.

Rickies

Rickies

Ricky Q During the earliest years of elementary school, Ricky Q was my second-best friend. Ricky was his nickname; teachers called him Frederick. Joey G lived nearer, right around the corner, so he was my best friend first. Ricky Q lived half a block away 

Of Water

Of Water

______________________________________________ Adeeba Shahid Talukder is a Pakistani-American poet and translator. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program, where she received her MFA in Creative Writing. She translates Urdu and Persian poetry, and seeks to recreate the Urdu and Persian poetic 

The Annex

The Annex

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Joanna Rosenberg
is an award-winning playwright and poet. She holds a degree in playwriting and Holocaust studies from Hampshire College. Her work has received the Denis Johnston Playwriting Award, the Gloria Ann Barnell Peter Playwriting Prize, and the Smith College Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared in several journals, including Sediments Literary Arts Journal, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and Jewish Currents. Joanna lives in Boston, MA, and in between writings does yoga and explores this beautiful world.

Someone Wants To Forget This

Someone Wants To Forget This

______________________________________________ Sierra Jacob is an MFA candidate at the University of Montana, where she received the Richard Hugo Memorial Scholarship for poetry. She is currently a poetry editor for CutBank Literary Magazine. Her poetry has appeared and is forthcoming in LUMINA, Yemassee, Sonora Review, The Louisville Review, Compose, Cream