(Cover copyright © 2008 Lisa Snellings-Clark)
Please note: the online version of this issue only features short excerpts from the fiction.
- Hermit Crabs by Elissa Malcohn
- Waiting at the Window by Ezrebet Yellowboy
- Them by Michelle Scott
- The Last Tiger by Tracie McBride
- The Artificial Sunlight of Memory by D. E. Wadsen
- Recipe for Survival by Sandra Mcdonald
- Sashenka Redux by Jennifer Pelland
- Your Blood by Leslie Claire Walker
- No Bubblewrap for Little Guys by Sara Saab
- Bull by Sharon E. Woods
- #1 by Leslie What
- Perfect Tense by Lisa Mantchev
- Stepsister by Melissa Mead
- Evighed by Sonya Taaffe
- Asylum by Lida Broadhurst
- Hyldegarde Speaks to Jacqueline by Erin Hoffman
- Sampling the Aspic: Al Dente by Penelope O’Shea
POETRY Issue #14
by Sonya Taaffe
She hands me her name
in the signature of the sea,
the weights of cold salt
and desires ciphered
from this restless hem
where sand and storm-wrack
starfish, limpets palmed
like dice, hinged clams
drilled to punch-cards
and the bluebottle sheen
of mussel shell. Seaweed
drips from her wrists
in chains. To unbind her
I would raise waterspouts,
fish up the least leviathan
from its trench, and drown
locked in her luminous arms:
so others before me,
her ghost-court of petrels
and sea-mews; tossed souls
whose last puzzle was this.
Or I will speak her name
to the forgetful air,
that she may rise or fall
as her own tides demand—
and pearls, coral, kelp, I
may scatter to the winds
and lie at last redeemed
from this drydock flesh
to her depths returned.
Asylum by Lida Broadhurst
Once I clutched my dreams close, to keep
me safe, even scrubbing in the ashes,
a human salamander.
I begged any goddess for any prince,
offering sanctuary in his heart,
and. according to legends,
in his palace. A white horse would
gallop us to bliss, hooves shredding
my mind’s tapestry.
But I forgot that others call
this safety: asylum.
Here families stack beings who answer
odd desires. With their gold,
he shapes their dreams,
But never mine.
He needed a housekeeper, someone
who would never uproot herself.
My stepmother, eager to place her own
daughters on the board, told him
such tales of my talents.
He sent a patient, who could somehow
create belief in small spells.
Other inmates, trapped in delusion,
exulted as king and queen.
And I thought myself wicked, relying
on illusion, transformed rats
and pumpkins, never screaming
as those slippers pinched my feet to blood.
Ah, how charming he still appears. When,
smiling, he tells me his joy that I keep
the house shining like the gold of my hair,
I let my tears dry. They feel wet
and real enough. I offer my goddess
thanks they are not part of any legend.
Hyldegarde Speaks to Jacqueline by Erin Hoffman
This new man you’re seeing,
yes, certainly there’s a spark, something
there between you, your heartbeat
accelerates when you think of him, endless
possibility there, sunlight and
fragile hope. You
click, an effortless understanding, something
the same between you, written in
a harmony of sinew and synapse.
But you know it can’t last. Not with
me here inside you, three’s company, you know,
and all your deepest secrets, your
unmaidenly past, men
you’ve slept with, their current
phone numbers and pet names
will appear in the least likely places,
where you will never find them, but
That unpleasant habit, you know
the one I mean, I will whisper
it to him over the sorbet when
he takes you to that fancy French bistro;
the darker neuroticism, that one I will save for
the Chinese restaurant, opulent silk
rugs a refined blizzard of color around
you both, your ugliest idiosyncrasies divulged
as he blows across a tiny porcelain cup
through delicate coils of rising Jasmine steam.
Oh, we all want to be known, but
glancingly, and our entirety is
inevitably too much for a person
outside of us to bear. So I will
make this painless, make it fast
and you will realize, finally, my
darling, my love,
that you really are better off
FICTION Issue #14
Hermit Crabs by Elissa Malcohn
Mandy gazed at blurred roadside daffodils as Noah floored the accelerator of her father’s car. For someone intent on killing them both, he kept amazing control of the wheel. He wanted to do this right. Her lips ticked upward into a brief smile.
She leaned back into a forest green leather bucket seat and breathed deeply. Early spring snow had clung to her boots as she climbed into the metallic sedan; now it melted and puddled on a plush floor mat. Noah’s sneakers were second-hand and worn. Mandy wondered idly whether his feet were wet.
Waiting at the Window by Ezrebet Yellowboy
Every so often, Alma peers out of her window. She does this by plucking the heavy curtains aside, pinching the fabric between her forefinger and thumb and edging it over just a hair. She hears a noise and rises, creaking, from her rocker, or has a suspicion that something or someone is creeping around her house, and she feels almost forced to acknowledge the existence of the beyond by peeking at it in this manner.
Them by Michelle Scott
A construction worker in a sweaty t-shirt sits at the counter of his favorite diner and chats with the skinny waitress who refills his coffee. Two seats down, a young man with large sideburns listens in on the conversation. The young man’s fingers are poised above the keyboard of the laptop in front of him; he is waiting to take notes. The construction worker and the waitress are speaking of the price of gasoline. And flirting. Neither one notices the eavesdropper.
“It’s expensive,” says the waitress. “Too expensive.” She tucks her recently highlighted hair behind her ear and smiles in a way that her former boyfriend found fetching.
“It is,” the construction worker agrees. He eyes the skinny waitress’s breasts and wonders if she has a boyfriend. “Too damn expensive.”
The Last Tiger by Tracie McBride
Hunger has made you reckless. You track the sound of human voices through the woods until you find a man and a woman. They are shouting at each other. The woman slaps the man’s face. He presses his hand to his cheek for a moment, and then lunges at the woman, knocking her to the ground. He squeezes his hands tight about her throat. The noises she makes are ugly.
Your nostrils flare. You smell food. It is in the pack on the man’s back. You come closer to the couple, deliberately snapping a twig underfoot. The man whirls around, almost losing his grip on the woman.
You point at the back pack.
“Food,” you say.
The Artificial Sunlight of Memory by D. E. Wadsen
At one time or another, my street housed five Dalis, a pair of Goyas, two Van Goghs, a Picasso, and a Matisse. Our manufacturers, Yakov, partnered Picasso and Matisse together, and they lived two doors down from each another in Studio City. The Picasso departed by the end of my third year.
Once Picasso went on holiday to Luna for a refit, Yakov coupled Matisse and I, since I had been without a support Nandroid since my arrival. Unlike Picasso, I did not enter the realm of ‘Meebly Meep,’ a syndrome defined by inflicting one’s charge and owners with random utterances such as ‘meebly,’ ‘meep,’ and ‘meeblymeepmeep.’ The beeps of insanity.
Then again, I always liked Maddie, especially the way her twin pig-tails bobbled when she was happy.
Recipe for Survival by Sandra Mcdonald
Brewis is a traditional dish from Newfoundland. It’s pronounced just like one of the black-and-blue marks your father’s grip has left on your arm and when properly prepared comes out as a thick, fishy mush. Your grandfather usually cooks it but on this fine summer day you’re fixing it alone for the first time and want to make sure it comes out exactly right.
First you break apart the hard biscuits (also called hard tack) that Grandpa’s sister sends down now and then from St. John’s. Soak them overnight in a large pan of cold water. Do not use the pan that Grandpa uses to soak his calluses and corns. Do not use soft biscuits that you can buy locally. Hard biscuits are made with wheat flour and water but no leavening agent, and on sailing ships of yore, when your kind would come to slaughter my kind, they could last for entire voyages without spoiling. Try to eat one without softening it first and you’ll break all your teeth.
Sashenka Redux by Jennifer Pelland
Sashenka desperately wanted to live.
At least, this copy of her did.
A quiet ping issued from her tablet and Sashenka’s stomach contracted into a tight knot. Not again. She should have been used to it by now.
Maybe there were some things that couldn’t be gotten used to.
“Aren’t you going to look?”
“Not at all curious?”
“You know you want to.”
She resisted the urge to groan. That would only encourage her. “It’s another dead Sashenka. Does it really matter why?”
“Of course it does.”
“She’s dead. That’s all that matters.”
“Oh, admit it—you want to know as badly as I do.”
“You’re not real.”
Your Blood by Leslie Claire Walker
Inches of dust on the countertop. Motes floating in the Saturday afternoon sunlight that streamed red, violet, and green through the stained-glass window. Tom didn’t know what the hell he and Julie were doing, breaking up in a magic shop.
“There’s nothing left to talk about,” Julie said. She gripped the shelves beside her so tight her knuckles bled white. And the statuary shook precariously.
“You break it, you buy it,” the shop owner said from her place behind the counter. The end of her long, brown braid swung at her hips. The sleeves of her green cable-knit sweater hung past her fingertips.
No Bubblewrap for Little Guys by Sara Saab
I chased a little boy through the city.
We did not run in a straight line past districts of the city’s prim neighbourhoods and manicured squares; instead we traced a tight ellipse through the market and a pastel street, etched like scarring, demarcating the end of outdoor wares and gentle wind perfumed with spice. I rolled down that street, my knees and the tired gravel suffering at the behest of gravity and mutely commiserating. The five-year-old boy sprinted ahead of me. He was possessed by the fright I’d given him, nebulous and impossibly fast.
The market tried to shoo away our cat-and-mousing, procuring the corporal punishments of shoppers’ bony shoulders and bike stands against my shins and a stray mango to split wetly under his foot, upsetting his balance. The chase went on. It had its own momentum, was outside of us. My lungs began to seep hatred for my obstinate self, and then to outright cry, big welling tears of lactic acid that dripped off the apex of each sharp respiration. But I could not stop running; I had to stop him.
Bull by Sharon E. Woods
They told me the old widow had a sense of humor, but I didn’t believe it until she moved me to the end table.
“Nice and low, Bull,” she said, pearls swaying with the drooping folds of her neck as she adjusted me. “All the ladies will have to bend down to have a look at you.”
The old widow was, without refute, simply capital.
My third placement proved to be my final one, the spot that became my domain. Pete, the gas lamp of ivory-tinted glass that stood at my side, told me she always shuffled new acquisitions about a few times. A celadon vase had been removed to make room for me. We weren’t sure where it had gone. Rumor had it the third floor on the harpsichord.
“Good riddance,” Pete sniffed. “Total prude.”
#1 by Leslie What
My husband calls me a cherry-picked trade-in in the used-car lot of life, and he ought to know. He’s the Sales Manager of the Deck of Cars lot downtown, but I met him when he was a fitness consultant at my gym. He sold me on a long-term membership, reasoning when you signed up for four years, the monthly rate dropped, so it was like getting the last eight months for free. Good salesmen know how to make others feel they’re sharing something special, the same as good actors, of which I’m proud to say I’m one.
It’s after six and dusk drops like a second curtain call as I walk home from a long day of modeling lingerie. I have perfect feet and legs, so a lot of the shots are below the waist, which says no hair and makeup. A woman who’s pretending to be my sister follows me home, as she has every day since April. Technically, Clarissa is my half-sister, though, given the circumstance we’re beyond technicalities. What we share in genes we lack in life history. She was raised by a woman I haven’t seen since I was five. Clarissa, my supposed half-sister, was the chosen one and I was the one Claire gave away. I don’t let it bother me.
Perfect Tense by Lisa Mantchev
The door to my dorm room burst open and a woman strode over the industrial carpeting and grabbed me by the front of my t-shirt.
Behind her, a baby wailed and I could smell dog shit.
“Do you hear that?” she screamed. Her hair stuck out at all angles like she’d rubbed a vial of superglue through it. “THAT, my girl, is your FUTURE. Nothing but CRAP as far as the eye can see.”
As scared as I was, I sneaked a look over her shoulder. “My future?”
“With a baby?” My eyes got a little misty at the thought.
“Are you deaf?” she said. “That ain’t a fucking monkey!”
Stepsister by Melissa Mead
“Stop snivelling, Annis,” Mother hissed as we followed the butler into the drawing room. “You’ll make your face red. Myrtle, don’t grin and show your teeth.”
When Mother called Annie by her Christian name, we knew better than to protest, so I didn’t point out that Annie’s face was already red. Mother had scrubbed her with pumice-stone so her pockmarks wouldn’t show. Her eyes were red too, from crying. And I wasn’t grinning. I was trying to smile becomingly, because Mother had threatened to whip us both if we said or did anything to disgrace ourselves in front of Lord Ashbury. Lord Ashbury: titled, owner of a country estate and a London townhouse. Lord Ashbury, whose friends’ sons perched even further up the social heights than he. If we behaved, we might someday wed one of those shining beings. One slip, and Lord Ashbury would have us thrown in the poorhouse. So Mother warned us, at any rate.
“Grace and decorum, girls,” she said under her breath.
Sampling the Aspic Issue #14
by Penelope O’Shea
Isn’t it funny that whenever we are somewhere unpleasant, as I often seem to be, we mentally vacate for more tranquil settings? And, with me, that escape happens with the stomach first. Call it survival instinct at its most refined, but when threatened, by, say, a loud screeching noise too near my aural senses, I tend to think first of food. I know that sitting in this horribly sanitary space, tipped supine and at the whim of a man in slick medical goggles peering over my receding periodontics, food should be the last thing on my mind.
But, you see, when I know that, upon leaving my current surroundings, I will likely not be eating anything of substance, I begin conjuring that meal that will in no way be feasible for some time. Not only will I be barred from the eating itself, but I will miss the comfort to my physical pain and the personal humiliation that I will also bear at the hands of the horrific contraption that my current torturer will leave me with. And as it is summer, I think of all those simple pleasures of summertime eating that I will be missing.
The first thing I will be missing is the lovely summeriness of bruschetta. How easy and how satisfying . . . especially when you’ve already got the grill heating for that primal ritual of charred bestial feasting. Bruschetta is so no-nonsense that it is barely a recipe at all. But here is the best way I’ve found to make it . . .
4 vine-ripened tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 small bunch of basil, cut into fine ribbons
To do this ribbon trick easily, simply pluck the leaves and pile them atop each other. Roll the whole bunch lengthwise and cut across the leaves . . . viola, strips!
Kosher salt, to taste (depending upon the sweetness and juiciness of the fruit)
Mix all these ingredients and let mingle while you get on with the rest . . .
1 loaf of Italian bread, cut on the diagonal, into 1 inch slices.
Take this bread out to the patio and lay it on the grill to toast. Keep your eye on it, as your fire power can make toast into charcoal . . . quickly. Flip and toast the other side so you have lovely grill markings striping all your pieces. Once these are gorgeous, rub both sides of the toast with a halved clove of garlic. And don’t cheat yourself with that yellowish, powdery stuff sold in plastic jars. Using a pastry brush, swipe one side of each toast with extra virgin olive oil. Plate your toasts and spoon the tomato mixture over the top . . . but keep any accumulating juices in your mixing bowl. Serve as is, or with a slice of fresh mozzarella, a wedge of parm, or a thin cutting of avocado. This is a recipe for anyone who can barely cook . . . it looks and tastes genius and is ridiculously pain free—OUCH!!!!
A smirking, “Did that hurt?” brings me from my reverie and I’m momentarily blinded by that super-watt swiveling lantern. The good doctor has hit a nerve—literally—and reminds me that I might feel a bit more of the same before he’s finished. This, reader, makes me despair, because the meat of my gums already aches. And meat is what takes me back to the refuge of my patio grill, for the second course of food escapism. You cannot have a true barbeque without the sauce and this one has pork written all over it. Actually, it is our little piggy that will have it all over him . . . but anyway, try this.
Pork and Rib Sauce
½ c. brown sugar
½ c. ketchup
½ c. vinegar
½ tsp. dry mustard
½ tsp. cloves
Paprika, as you like
Mix all together in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once everything is combined, whisk in
1 T. flour
Work this over the heat until all the lumps are gone, everything is smoothly dissolved and bubbling. Once you’ve boiled the sauce for a minute, pull from the heat and cool. The longer you boil the sauce, the thicker it will be as it cools. So if you like your sauce thick, give it a couple extra minutes.
Bathe whatever parts of the porky you like in this luscious auburn slick. Leave them in some of the sauce in a plastic bag for a few hours (or overnight) and then take that little piggy to the grill, keeping him succulent with more sauce as he cooks. This is superb with ribs, cooked slowly over several hours on indirect charcoal heat, perhaps flavoured with a bit of wood smoke . . . .my preference is for apple wood, but do as you like, by all means.
By this time, I’m drooling. And not so much from the visions of my smoky swine, although that has compounded the issue. I also have not had a spit in several minutes—minutes filled with gauze packs and cotton strips—in my now-numb gums. A sweet cherub-faced hygienist wipes my dribbles and whispers, “It’s almost over, hon.” At this point, I’m so hungry that I begin hallucinating about something I might be able to get into this reworked and wired mug . . . something cool and voluptuous . . . like ice cream.
What is summer without ice cream? Like a birthday without cake or a stool with two legs. It’s simply broken. Now, I use this basic base for every kind of ice cream I make and then I just add or change the flavourings and the add-ins as my whim (or my eating abilities) dictate. Mostly, I play around until I come up with something good . . . but this works well for plain ole’ vanilla too.
Scald to 150 degrees, stirring constantly
1 cup milk (whole, of course, is great, but it isn’t absolutely necessary)
1/2 c. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
3 egg yolks
I always cook them because it takes the concern about raw eggs from the equation. Technically, these can be added after to avoid the need to strain out the cooked bits. If you choose to cook, by default, you are also choosing to strain. Of course, I have other reasons for it anyway . . . as you will see. (I also freeze the whites for whatever comes my way! You never know when a meringue occasion will pop up on the horizon.)
Add a vanilla pod, halved and scraped into the custard, and then thrown into the pot, too. (see why I strain it anyway?)
Once you get to 150°, pull from heat and strain into a container for the fridge, with some room to add more liquid. For plain vanilla, add 1 T. vanilla extract. If you want other flavours, add at least 2 tsp. vanilla and ½ to 1 tsp. of your other choice. (Coconut is amazing!)
While this cools a bit, whip 1 c. heavy cream to barely stiff peaks.
Once whipped, add to the cooked eggy mix and whisk together gently (try not to lose all your foam . . . I end up with a thicker layer of fluff standing on top).
Fridge for at least 4 hours up to overnight. Place in an ice-cream mixer and once the mixture has begun to freeze and thicken, add whatever add-ins you like. If you want some phenomenal coconut choco-almond ice cream, add about 3 oz. chopped dark chocolate, 1/3 c. shredded coconut and 1/3 c. chopped whole almonds.
Finish the mixing and freezing process and serve soft or put into an air-tight container in the freezer and freeze hard for a couple hours. I usually serve it soft, as I am a glutton with equally gluttonous acquaintances, and what I do with any leftovers is freeze them for later . . . but that never seems to materialise!
Want a couple more good variations? If you want super pistachio ice cream, use 1 tsp of almond extract and about 1/2 c. chopped unsalted pistachios for the add ins (of course, oven-toasted nuts are the best way to gild the lily here, but not completely necessary). If you really want it to be green, add food colour with the extracts, but I prefer it white, because the green nuts remind me of emerald jewels studding this creamy opal-white creaminess.
I have used this base, too, to make ice-cream with fresh-picked fruit (strawberry, peach, raspberry or combinations . . . peach-raspberry is frozen melba divinity!) I just make the vanilla custard, and then cut some of the fruit up into pieces (or leave berries whole) and pulverize some more of the fruit into pulpiness . . . I add the liquidy ooze to the freezer straightaway with the custard at the beginning and then add the bigger pieces at the very end (say, the last dozen revolutions of the machine).
As I groggily and speedily amble down the hall and out of the office, now equipped with what looks to be my mouth’s apocalypse, I fret that even ice-cream may not be easy to insert between wires. This leaves me with only a liquid diet. But, liquid can be a good thing . . . depending upon the strength of the concoction. For even through the tightest of wires, one can always find room for a tiny cocktail straw.
A few years ago, a certain older gentleman I know introduced me to the peachy cocktail, silk panties, which is always drunk as a shot. Since shots are definitely out of my realm for the foreseeable future, I’ve decided to concoct a beverage that can be pulled through a straw, in honour of said gentleman. He also had a love of lavender panties, the silky lace-strewn kind. Of course, you can drink this in whatever skivvies (or less) you’d like. By saying the drink’s name in your most proper English accent, you might almost forgive your lack of restraint in the amount you can guzzle through a swizzle straw. Besides, lavender has many medicinal properties . . .
Make lavender simple syrup by boiling equal amounts of water and sugar with 1 T. lavender flowers. Strain before use. If you like your drinks with weeds, skip this step . . . but, me, I think cleaner is neater.
In a shaker filled with ice, combine:
1 jigger of cranberry juice
1 shot of peach-flavoured vodka
½ shot of lavender syrup (adjust to taste)
A splash of blue Curaçao
Shake vigorously and strain into a sugar-rimmed glass. Lavender-coloured sugar is, of course, appropriate. Garnish with a sprig of fresh lavender. And don’t forget the swizzle.
Perhaps, with this kind of liquid diet, my summer will not be a complete loss. Enjoy yours. Drink, eat, and live heartily!