Archive for September, 2011

Kachina by Isaac Weil

Sep 29 2011 Published by under Stories

A cramped adobe huddles in the desert on the bright road to flagstaff. A splintered sign on its front calls it The Native American Emporium. The two halves of its tile roof tilt against each other, sagging at the apex as if the whole building had previously swelled with a tremendous breath, but has now collapsed into a sigh, accepting the sun. Inside, the shag carpet stinks of sage. Here, Chris and his father rest from the heat of their southwestern road-trip. “Don’t touch anything,” his father says. “We can’t afford it.” Chris nods. He is too thin for his skin.

Chris hides from his father among the plywood shelves, ducking under dream catchers, bumping his head into tortoise-shell rattles. There, on a red cabinet, black, primitive and vital, a kachina doll dances in ritual stillness, still as dust. It stomps behind stone fetishes and black and white pictures of Indians in headdresses. Its knee juts, its foot dangles, and its chin bends in a dark nod, yellow mask twisted to the right. Chris gazes at its Stomp Dance, blood rushing to his fingertips. The yellow mask bites his eyes the same way the sage bites his nose, and he wants it removed, to see what is there behind it, and its black whittled teeth are not enough to discourage him. Standing on tiptoe, he steals the kachina under his shirt, then crouches in the dark crevice between the cabinet and the wall.

In the private shadow there, he turns the kachina in his hands, exploring its alien weight, its unexpected heat, holds it up, its feet to his nose, squinting under the mask trying to see, but he can make out no features of its face in the dark. So he cradles the kachina in his lap. Stretching his legs across the carpet, he runs his hand over the feathers fanning from its mask; he slides his thumbs across its eye slits, its yellow cheeks; he pauses on its chin. Trembling. He presses down hard on the edge of the mask and pops it off to the floor. Beneath, he sees nothing. Only the smooth curve of dark wood.

His father discovers him lounging against the cabinet, breathing as if exhausted, his chin jutting, head dangling, eyelids bending low over his pupils, the sunlight painting yellow on his cheeks, his fingers curling deep into the carpet, tips finding the root of the shag, and his thumb stroking the wood, empty of a face.

“Put it back quickly, before the shopkeeper sees.”

Isaac Weil is confused. He doesn’t know his place, and writes to find it. He is also a student at Fresno City College. For the last three years he attended the CSU Summer Arts Creative Writing programs, a source of infinite joy (thank you Doug and all the rest), though only for a month each year. He plays piano and plans on attending UC Berkeley in the fall of 2012.

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Love in the Trenches by Daniel Davis

Sep 22 2011 Published by under Stories

They left the bar laughing, her leaning on his shoulder, him leaning on hers while making it seem the other way around. Neither paid attention to where they were walking, and so when they hit the gravel parking lot and tripped into a pothole, they both fell unsuspectingly, mouths dropping in surprise, eyes shifting out of focus in an effort to fight intoxication and the shift in gravity.

They landed on their knees in a thick liquid. His hands fell into it; she managed to keep all but her fingertips free, but whereas his legs were covered by denim, hers were left bare by her skirt. After regaining his composure the best he could, he pulled his hands out and looked at them. The liquid, deep red in the dim glow from the street lamps, clung to his fingers. He could feel it slowly trickling down his arms, softly burning against his palms. She could feel the same, except on her legs, creeping not downward but up, warm and tingling and almost as painful as it was pleasurable.

It was cool out, but the liquid was as warm as blood. That wasn’t what it was, though. He said, “What is it?”

“It’s love,” she said. Her hesitation was due only to the alcohol, and the stirring sensation as the liquid hit her waist and went higher. She eyed her fingers, and put them in her mouth one at a time, sucking them clean.

“Love,” he said. He wanted to wipe his brow; he wanted to wipe the hair away from her eyes. But the liquid was all over him. He said, “How do you know?”

“Women know these things,” she said. She smiled shyly as it reached her breasts.

He felt it constricting his chest, and he gave in and stopped fighting. It was gone from his hands now, seeped into the skin he supposed. He could feel the warmth within him, neither pleasant nor unpleasant. It was something new, that was all. Something foreign. It was too soon to know if he liked it.

She had felt it before, but this was different in that way you can’t really explain but just know. As he stood, then helped her to her feet, she couldn’t decide if she liked this difference more than the last time, which had been different from the time before that, too. The last pothole hadn’t been as deep, the fall hadn’t scratched her knees as much. The time before that had been a canyon, though. You don’t always recover from that.

His hands free, he brushed her bangs away from her eyes, then kissed her. He tasted it in her mouth, she in his. They tasted it in each other until a horn honked and they had to move. They went back to his place. The feeling lessened a little. Whether it would be there in the morning, he couldn’t say. She was sure it would be, was counting on it; he was wondering if it wasn’t the whiskey after all. All things considered, he would prefer the whiskey. Cheaper, and he could put the bottle on top of his kitchen cabinet as a souvenir.

Daniel Davis was born and raised in Central Illinois. His work has appeared in “Bluestem Magazine,” “Bartleby Snopes,” “Necessary Fiction,” and elsewhere. You can find him at

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Your Basement Misses You by Amanda Himmelmann

Sep 09 2011 Published by under Stories

In the beginning it was empty spaces, cold concrete and spiders that nestled in my corners. Then came the stuff, boxes and trash bags, dented folding chairs and empty tiki torches from the first party you held in the backyard, then the plastic margarita glasses, still sticky. A smiling ghost, dirty from outside, and the fake fall flowers in rustic vases. Glitter and glass, a tree in a box, little orbs wrapped carefully and arranged into shoeboxes, then colorful baskets with plastic eggs. The crib, toys, toys and more toys, little blue onesies that no longer fit. I remembered all the things you forgot.

Then came the fun. The sheetrock and carpet, the whistling and hammering, the recessed lighting and drop ceiling. There was noise and excitement, a television that kept the silence away, a couch for cuddling and popcorn. There were games and laughter, toys got bigger and more exciting until they too got pushed into my closets and dark spaces where I watched over them.

I saw new people, I saw old people, I saw slumber parties, then secret parties, then wild parties that made holes in my walls and spilled beer on my floors. I heard him with her when they were alone, hushed whispers in the dark, saw soft kisses that became something more, but you never knew. I giggled on the inside.

Then, one day, there were tears. He spoke gently and held her hand, spoke about car trips and long distance and everything being okay. I felt sad and pretended he was talking to me. I watched as you started bringing everything out, scattered memories on my floor that got put into big cardboard boxes or simply thrown away. All those things that I held onto for you, kept safe, years and years, now gone. I felt so empty. Soon the couch was gone too, the TV, the laughter, the warmth.

And I was alone in the dark.

Amanda Himmelmann is a Senior Creative Writing Major at the State University of New York at Geneseo.

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Say Hello by Michael McCloskey

Sep 01 2011 Published by under Stories

You enter the kitchen through the patio door, in a dark blue bikini, hair wet, towel covering a pregnancy just beginning to show, and there he stands, at the far side of the room, up against the cabinets, your murderer, in sandals, khaki shorts and light blue golf shirt, video camera in hand, filming you becoming suddenly aware of his presence and saying Jesus!, putting your hand on your chest, laughing and covering your face.

Come on, don’t be shy, you’re a sexy mother now, your murderer says behind the camera.

You wave him off. You walk to the refrigerator, wet flip-flops squeaking, and open the door, pull out a bowl of fruit, carton of juice, which you tuck under your arm, and slide the ice-tray from the freezer.

What, we don’t get to see the belly? your murderer says. Come on.

Uh, you should be making your pregnant wife the shake she likes, you say, walking to the center island, to the blender, without looking up. Ignoring your murderer and obviously holding in a smile, you put the fruit, juice and ice in the blender as your murderer sings, Kay-cee, Kay-cee Bay-bee. You shake your head and start the blender.

Uh, hey, Kay-cee? Tell everyone how your back feels, your murderer says.

You stop the blender and look up.

Got her attention! he says, and you finally crack, you smile, and as you pour slush into a cup your murderer says, You gotta say something, come on. You gotta say hello at least.

Blurry figures moving in the swimming pool somewhere in the background, you wave both hands, smiling wide now, and say Hello! to the camera. You step back from the island and open the towel to show your belly, spin around, playfully moving your hips, your ass, you blow your murderer a kiss, leaning toward him—Marilyn Monroe! he says—and then cover your belly, pick up your drink and say, Now turn that thing off, and he does, and you’re gone.

Michael McCloskey recently graduated with a BA in English-Literature from Monmouth University in central New Jersey, where he grew up and still lives today. Currently he is working in a local family business as he considers applying to graduate school.

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