Old Women in Trees

old women in trees mean trouble
their wits nimble as cats
won’t come down though you
call sweetly or threaten mega-voce

old women love trees’
whispery embraces
the gentle shade at even
the womb of the morning

if old women ran things
behold a wilderness of trees
auto-carcasses rotting in
the gentle swamp of mater natura

old women don’t want to go
anywhere fast
they are there already
thank you

 

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Grace Andreacchi is a novelist, poet and playwright. Works include the novels Scarabocchio and Poetry and Fear, Music for Glass Orchestra (Serpent’s Tail), Give My Heart Ease (New American Writing Award) and the chapbook Berlin Elegies. Her work appears in Horizon Review, The Literateur, Cabinet des Fées and many other fine places. Grace is also managing editor at Andromache Books and writes the literary blog AMAZING GRACE. She lives in London.

Lena

The shantytowns began along the outskirts of her organs, like neighborhoods of a newly minted megalopolis, the rural poor moved into her looking for work.

Lena thought, I’m flattered, but I don’t have much in the way of industry.
Lena thought, I’m not in manufacturing; I’m not a tourist economy.

After the shanties crept up her esophagus and into her mouth she felt guilty brushing her teeth.
After the shanties moved into her mouth she didn’t know what to do.

Then a man showed up from the shantytown. He asked her for some change.
She asked him what neighborhood he was from.
He said, “The space between the lungs.”
She asked him what it was like there.
He said, “It’s nothing special.”
She said, “Tell me about it, I want to know about between the lungs.”
He said, “The kids play football down near the sternum. We make great stews. We eat all together. After dinner we play music on homemade instruments.”
“What do you do for work,” she said?
“There is no work. There’s no tourism. There’s no manufacturing. There’s no tech industry.”
“Why did you move here then,” she said?

 

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Leif Haven lives in Northern California because of the trees. His work has appeared & will appear, etc. He is responsible for the publishing venture Persistent Editions, which makes chapbooks. Other things. Other things. Other things

Survivors

On their third date, they huddle in her bathtub with her schnauzer because of a tornado warning.  She sings old pop songs, mostly of the Hall and Oates variety, while he paints her toenails fluorescent orange.  She likes his beard, his calloused hands, and his manners.  He likes her legs, her voice, and her dog.  “If there wasn’t a tornado, you’d totally get laid tonight,” she says.  “Mother Nature’s always cock blocking me,” he says. The dog only cries when the sirens stop.

A few days before New Year’s 2000, on their first anniversary as a couple, he’s hopped up on Y2K fever, joking about moving to Idaho and starting a survivalist camp where they could live off the land, make babies, and live like the Swiss Family Robinson, only with high powered machine guns.  “I’ll teach you to shoot,” he says.  She pats him on the head, calls him “adorable.”

For his birthday, she takes him to a Tapas restaurant, tells him they should go to Spain and swim in the nude.  For her birthday, he takes her paintballing, and then afterwards, with yellow paint streaking his hair, he kneels, proposes.

In 2003, when they get married, his uncles from Tulsa come up and take him shooting for his bachelor party.  They give him a Glock, which she hides from him saying he must have lost it when he was drunk.  She goes to an Irish Pub with her sister and cries for a long time.

They honeymoon in Rocky Mountain National Park.  She likes to doddle along the trails, singing old camp songs, while he keeps looking for bears.  It keeps him awake the entire night.  “Relax,” she told him.  “We’re in a campground with a swimming pool and internet access.”

In 2005, after two years of begging, she relents and lets him buy a 9mm semi-automatic with the stipulation that he also buys a safe for it and keeps the ammo in her underwear drawer.  “I don’t want you to shoot me if I get up to pee in the middle of the night,” she says.

In 2006, they have their first child, a boy.  He wants to name him George.  She prefers William.  They settle on Steve.

They stop talking about politics after the 2008 election.  “Just know,” she tells him.  “There are certain opinions I’ll never let you live forget.”  He drinks a beer, clearly crying, tells her “whatever.”

In 2009, they have a daughter.  Both like the name Michelle, but for different reasons.

In 2011, she decides it is time to return to work as a nurse.  He’s always liked her medical skills—just in case, you never know—but he surprises her by his objections.  “Don’t I make enough money?” he asks.  “No,” she says.

In 2015, after October’s Monsoon floods, which were even worse than the September Monsoon floods, he buys a house on top of the largest hill in Illinois (it was about 60 feet high) without telling her.  Yet, the kitchen and bathrooms are nice, so she forgives him soon enough.  A month later, after the Thanksgiving dust storm that blinded the dog, he starts talking about Idaho again.

In 2016, on the eve of her 40th birthday, she goes to that same Irish pub—her husband home with the kids—and makes out with the bartender in the bathroom, giving him a vociferous and thorough handjob before begging him not to tell anyone.  She calls her sister, confessing.  Her sister, ever practical, says just one thing: “Bartenders never rat.”

After Michelle loses a thumb to a snakehead fish in 2019, they decide upon homeschooling.  “You have to quit your job,” he tells her.  “Fine,” she says.  “But this will make you miserable.”

After the great riots of 2021, when farmers with John Deere’s march upon the Post Office and mothers with electric rolling pins burn down the banks, she agrees to Idaho.  Her children, however, are unhappy.  “Mom,” Steve says.  “They have Giant Radiation Wolves there.”  This was not an adolescent exaggeration.  The Giant Radiation Wolves are real, but, fortunately, they mostly eat bears.

Idaho isn’t awful, she tells her sister in 2023.  “Now that we’ve got the holo-Skype working again, its not so lonely,” she says.  Her sister, living in the Lake Shore Chicago compound, laughs.  “Yeah,” she says.  “But how are the bartenders?”

They find themselves in agreement 2024, when Florida and Texas declare independence.  “Let ‘em go,” they say in unison.  They have sex for the first time in two years.

They electrify the fence in 2026 after Michelle nearly falls onto a wounded Black Bear glowing green.  He says it’s time the children start carrying guns.  “And I’m digging a bunker,” he says.  She doesn’t fight him.

In 2027, when the First Great War of Southern Aggression breaks out over an HMO dispute, he wants to go fight for the Nationalists, but she puts her foot down.  “If you leave,” she says.  “That fence will be electric when you come back.”  He chooses neutrality.

They can’t stop Steve though, who, to spite his father, flees to Boston to join up with the Internationalists.  Horrified, his father says he is never to return.   Banished.   His mother, however, gives him all the gold bullion she has stashed in her underwear drawer along with the twenty-five year old Glock.

On the eve of her 53rd birthday, she takes the Humvee into Idaho Falls, to the town’s last remaining Irish pub and fucks the bartender in backroom after hours.  There are no calls to her sister, no confessions to her husband.

About a year later, after too much Barley Wine, they codify a list of topics not to talk about that includes politics, his bunker, his handguns, the Nationalists, the Internationalists, the Red Cloud, the Spider Monkeys, her sister, and their children.  “What’s left?” he asks.  “The dog,” she says.

The next ten years pass in near silence.  She takes up rutabaga farming and he works on his bunker.  Michelle eventually marries a Nationalist captain and they move North Oregon, while Steve occasionally sends a letter from his cell in coastal Atlanta.  On nights when the static storms get so fierce they have to shut down the generator, she plays solitaire by the kerosene, while he drinks shine from his still.

Inside the bunker during the Great Tornado Outbreak of 2053, she begins to cry.  They’re both old now; their children gone nearly twenty years; her sister dead from West Nile III; his uncles long perished in battle.   He puts down his rifle, takes off his night vision goggles, un-velcroes his bulletproof vest.  She’s still beautiful, he thinks.  “What’s wrong?” he asks.  “Nothing,” she says. “Except.  This is so much better than the bathtub.”

 

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Originally from Los Angeles, Michael Gutierrez holds an MFA in fiction from the University of New Hampshire and an MA in history from the University of Massachusetts. His work has been published by Scarab, The Pisgah Review, and LA Weekly. He currently lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina where he is working on a novel about 19th century New York barmaids and teaches writing at the University of North Carolina.

J.J.

One day, our friend J.J. turns into a brick. This is good news for everyone, especially J.J. For example: buying presents is affordable and fulfilling – a silk sock or a velvet boxer – something he can cozy up to. J.J. likes it because now we have to pay attention to how smart he is because he insists we write down his formulas on a big chalkboard in the living room. It is so big there is a ladder to reach the higher-up equations when things get complicated.

J.J. is trying to solve a problem everyone’s pretty sure he can solve. We don’t know math, but we’re confident in J.J.’s abilities, especially now that he’s a brick. It is not a problem, he tells us, his voice low and professorial. I am trying to find the Euler Brick whose space diagonal is also an integer. Because he is a brick, he doesn’t have to bother with everyday distractions (eating, sleeping, brushing teeth, showering). He does, unfortunately, still have to pay his bills.

His girlfriend sits down once a month and presses buttons on the laptop because she is the only one J.J. trusts with his account information. Why don’t you just enroll in auto-pay? we ask him, but he tells us he needs something to keep his foot tethered to reality. His girlfriend snarfs in the corner and then apologizes.

Their love life is quite hard. They tried for a while, but his girlfriend told me it was like rubbing up against something painful and has taken to masturbating with her back turned while Brick pretends he’s sleeping.

We’ve started calling him Brick behind his back. It’s hard, in fact, to remember him as J.J. The face bears no resemblance. The red clay clashes with our memory of his pale, pale skin. Because J.J. was almost translucent – his veins coming through his skin like road maps – and his face still had that boyish charm – curly, blond hair around his ears that set off his blue, blue eyes. And Brick is opaque, matt, red. He is all right angles and corners. You know how looks begin to affect personality? Brick has become hard.

He’s also hit a snag in his algorithm. One morning, he has us erase the board. People we have never seen before fill the living room with a computer that rivals the chalkboard.

Why don’t you solve the problem of how to turn back into a human? we ask him.

I am not a scientist, he retorts. I am a mathematician.

Don’t you think that finding the perfect brick or whatever is a little self-indulgent?

He rolls his eyes like we have no idea what we’re talking about, which, fair. We don’t.

We take shifts sleeping. Those of us who had jobs have lost them. We are worried about J.J. who is now Brick and consumed by his work. There are thousands of pages of data to analyze. There are a million dollars at stake and another mathematician, Brick assures us, right around the corner on the verge of finding this thing. Keep up! he yells to us from his desk.

Sometimes, if you wake up at three in the morning to take your shift and the person before you has fallen asleep in a chair, fingers rested on the keyboard mid-stroke, you can hear him weeping, or trying to weep, and it makes you think about what it must mean to know you’re not human – to have that kind of awareness and be powerless to effect change. We grow old and gray, cut our fingernails day after day, watch the creases grow around our eyes. His disintegration will take time. A few molecules here and there, the softening of his corners.

He worries about it – the disintegration. He worries and worries and worries. He’s taken to having us measure his sides every morning. He worries mostly to his girlfriend who walks around with swollen eyes. Her arms are raw because she scratches them up and down, up and down whenever Brick is talking to her.

Isn’t this what you wanted? she screams, throwing mortar at his face. The saddest fate for a brick, we think, is to be stationed in a wall. We pry the spatula from her fingers and sooth her with chamomile tea. We wipe Brick clean, quickly, before he hardens.

 

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Talia Mailman is a writer and musician. Her stories have appeared in Flyway Journal and Bluestem, and she received her Masters in Harp Performance from Boston University. She grew up on the East Coast and now lives in Texas, where she is pursuing her M.F.A. in fiction at University of Houston.

Subtext at the OK Corral

Even during the honeymoon years of your marriage, dinner meant little more than frozen meat and corn divided by the walls of a plastic-sealed, microwave-safe tray. Grab a Heineken, wash down a Centrum, and pray that the vitamin helps whatever cancer you’re harboring. At your age, probably testicular. But tonight you’re all out of two-dollar Salisbury steak. All out of chicken nuggets. All out of buffalo wings. Tonight it’s the shit that should’ve been trashed months ago. Tonight it’s chalky cashews, stale potato chips, frostbitten ice cream. Not all together, of course, and not necessarily in that order.

You pull the spoon out of your mouth, its silvery face streaked white. Your wife sits on the couch, jabs the keys of her laptop, saying, “You know that the quote-unquote natural flavor in that ice cream is made from beaver anus? You know that, right? Vanilla and raspberry. Beaver anus.” Eyes glowing behind the computer, she jams the delete key, stopping only to glare at you. “Guess you could always fuck a pint of Ben and Jerry’s then, huh?”

You scrape the bottom of the bowl and sigh, because what she’s really saying is: Remember how we were laying in bed yesterday and you couldn’t get it up because we were trying to fuck for the billionth time this year, so I thought it’d be a great idea to discuss our fantasies in hopes that it would send blood rushing to your flaccid penis, and sure I promised that you could be completely and totally and utterly honest and that I wouldn’t judge, and though it all started off innocent enough with us describing all the various places we could fuck, like on a beach or in a changing room at Macy’s, and how we could try mutual masturbation and break out the purple dildo I bought from that sex-toy party years ago, but then I said, Tell me your kinkiest fantasy, and while you should’ve known this was a trick—maybe on some level you did since, after all, you avoided saying threesome like any other guy would—you were stupid enough to believe that I wanted you to be honest, and so you went with anal? Anal sex even though you once stuck a finger in my ass, resulting in me giving you the silent treatment for an entire week as well as denying you sex for an entire month? You dumb, horny, piece-of-shit excuse for a husband.

All that, that’s what she really said. So here’s where you, the shitty husband, should quietly place the bowl in the sink and go somewhere else, anywhere else. Leave before you say something that really gets you into trouble. Go smoke a joint. Whatever. Just leave this conversation. Then, after she’s cooled off, pay her a compliment about her legs, about her haircut. Whatever. Though she’ll reply with something snarky, your chances of getting to sleep in bed will have significantly increased.

And so you’re turning away from the kitchen sink when wifey tells the computer, “Yay, another dish for me to clean,” but what she’s really saying is: I will continue this passive-aggressive nitpicking until you hate life as much as I do right now. You lazy, overweight, piece-of-shit excuse for a husband.

Your jaw tightens, flexes. Air heaves out your nose, vibrating those unkempt nostril hairs. Run, man. Run. Run before you start going off about Labradors not humping this much, or about her brown-spotted underwear littering the bedroom floor, or about her pathetic need to seek her mother’s approval. Or about that ugly, Alaska-shaped birthmark behind her ear.

You lay a sweaty palm onto the railing, a foot onto a step, ready to make your escape when she says, “You aren’t having second thoughts, are you? Is that what it’s all about? Because I’d rather you tell me my vagina was too big or that you’re a gay or whatever. Bisexual. Just please don’t tell me you’re having second thoughts.” She nibbles her cherry-colored fingernails, incessantly blinking like she always does whenever she’s nervous. “You’re having second thoughts, aren’t you?”

What you want to say is: Baby, I’m scared. Scared this could tear us apart more than it already has. Look at both our parents. Divorce occurred after us, not before us.

What you want to say is: Given the choice, I’m not so sure I’d want to be born into this decaying shitscape we call earth. Second thoughts? Shit. Before we even started trying I was having fourth, fifth, sixth thoughts.

Now think of your wedding day, the reception. How Dad hooked his weathered arm around your neck, breath reeking of open-bar booze. How he winked, congratulated you for marrying “a young broad.” How he checked his gold wristwatch just before leaving you with one piece of advice. Lie. Told you that whatever you do, if it avoids a fight, lie. The less fights, the longer it’ll last. It’s easier this way, he said, trust me. Although currently courting his soon-to-be fourth wife, you’ve come to realize he’s right.

More and more, not just in marriage but in all relationships, life feels scripted. Maybe you get to play supporting actor, though usually you’re just another extra. Just another part of the scenery. Whether it’s facing forward in an elevator pretending you don’t smell a fart, or remaining silent while your racist uncle rants during Christmas dinner. It’s a flexible script, yes, but a script nonetheless.

“I’m sorry about the whole, you know, butt thing. Guys at work mentioned something about it.” You say, “And no, I’m not into men and your vagina is fine.”

“It’s fine?”

“Perfect. I meant perfect.”

“Yeah, I bet you did.”

An awkward silence turns into a staring contest, the type fit for a gunfight at the OK Corral. You shift your weight and the wooden stair creaks, prompting you to say, “You think you’re still ovulating?”

 

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R. M. Schappell writes stuff. Get stoked. His work resides (or will soon) at Monday Night, Urban Graffiti, The Legendary, and elsewhere. Send him your hatemail at facebook.com/rmschappell.

FUN CAMP

Question

Dave and Holly, how old are you? And is camp like your whole job all year or is there other stuff?

 

Too Far

Where were you coming from? Is this part of your normal route? How soon before the prank did you notice the prankster? At what point did you realize you were going to be drenched? What do you think drew the prankster’s attention to you? What did the prankster say? What was your response? Were any props displayed? Did you get a good look at him? Did he have any scars, tattoos, or otherwise appealing characteristics? Did he appear to be a boxer, martial artist, magician, or in any other way more dangerous than a normal prankster? Did the prank seem good-natured in nature? Could you see how it’d be funny had it happened to anybody else but you? Do you think the prankster knew the pig’s blood was pig’s blood? What’ve you been scheming up for the ultimate payback? Do you want to go shower off first or come visit the prank trunk now? I’ve got whoopee cushions, itching powder, diuretics, laxatives, Vagasil, fake knives, fake guns, paint guns, stink bombs. I’d offer you some pig’s blood but a kid nabbed up the last of it this afternoon. Take whatever you need, ma’am, and consider me a resource. This is what I do. My role is to make sure rivalries escalate responsibly. And god—seeing you like this, all nasty, coagulating before me— damned if it doesn’t feel like a vocation.

 

Suggestion

Maybe some rule where everybody has to be nice and talk to you and not move away when you sit by them since it is hard and I am trying.

 

Ice-Breaker

You’re riding an elevator with a vacantly beautiful woman who pulls a wad of cash from her purse and says to you, “I’m going to use this to purchase a goat, which I will sacrifice to Satan.” Then she gets off the elevator and leaves the purse behind. Do you call out to her and return the purse? Do you remove the “goat money” and then return the purse? Do you keep the purse and the money, then run up her credit cards to be sure and disable her powers as a conduit of darkness? If so, would you only spend the money on donations to worthy charities or might you take a small portion of the money and buy a sandwich? And if that sandwich is a goat sandwich, are you really any better than the Satanist?

 

Question

What’s the rule on campers soliciting curly locks from loved counselors?

 

My Face Hurts

It’s so hard to command emotions, Fun Camp! It just is. But we believe, don’t we, that commanding the good ones, like, “I’m having a smiling time in the managed danger of this hot field,” is a shot at actually feeling happy and that commanding the bad ones, like, “I’m hungry,” or “Trees suck,” or “Fire in the building!” is a shot at nothing at all? Unless it’s Oscar season? Put another way: Is fake it ‘til you make it just for job interviews, or for when flossing too? Or still another: Which would win the genuine face pageant: The “everything is good and ends badly” face? The “not getting as much sleep as I’d prefer” face that’s so popular around here? Or is it the one that implies, as the young pop star once declared at the receipt of her own Commander of Bad Feelings award, that this world is bullshit? God, I hope not. How embarrassing for the friendly and what a coup for the sultry. My closest approximation of sultry is pouty, and I never think I’m being pouty when I’m being pouty. How Holly reminds me I’m being pouty is by telling me it’s important to try and enjoy this. This being anything, whatever’s in front of us.

 

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Gabe Durham is the author of FUN CAMP, coming May 31 from Mud Luscious Press. Other writings have appeared in Mid-American Review, DIAGRAM, The Rumpus, and Quarterly West. He lives in Los Angeles. Blog: gatherroundchildren.com / Twitter: @gabedurham

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART

Old Floozy sits in the kitchenette athletically smoking cigarillos, discarding stubs
extravagantly on ceramic dinner plates. She puts on Captain Beefheart and unpins
gnarls of tumbleweed hair. Beefheart says hey hey hey all you young girls and she takes a
defiant drag off her cigarillo, pulls smoke sharp through closed teeth.

hey hey hey all you young girls

Not young, but she used to be. Back before her brain was a rock.

Before her skin turned to paper. Before her legs split to scissor.

Beefheart says

hey hey hey all you young girls whatever you do
well come on by and see me I’ll make it worth it to you

And that cold harmonica comes in and plays to her guts and she’s on her feet, pulling at
her blouse, pushing hands slow down thighs, parallel pathways performing complex
computations required to push those soft raw hands over soft raw denim. She knocks
smoldering cigarillo carcasses clean across the room; she don’t give a fig. She dances the
letter S, polished fingernails pressing hard over Jordache. One hundred forty eight
pounds, legs corded with muscle. Ventricles enlarged. Grinds the balls of her feet deep
into rotting peach carpet. She’s drugstore decadence: generic musk and fruit fantasies.
Not a trace of fetal fuzz. Well sure ’nuff and yes she do.

She’s not yours, but she could be. She’s safe as milk.

 

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Kate Nacy writes. She lives in Berlin, where she’s at work on a chapbook and several unauthorized “tell all” biographies.

Receding

I am doing my nightly flossing routine when I notice it, the pink flesh of the gum curled back just above my left, I guess if you were looking at me it would be your right, cuspid, leaving the tooth unsightly, long, I pause, twist my head back and forth in the mirror, pull my lip back, yeah the gum is higher above the left, I guess if you were looking at me it would be your right, cuspid, the gum line looks even above all my other teeth, or at least I think it looks even, I trace the gum line with my tongue, I touch the cuspid tooth where it meets the gum and feel a wiry pain, “Shit” I say, “Shit”, I try to remember, was it like that yesterday, did it look like that a week ago, or a month ago, maybe even, maybe even a year ago, but I can’t remember, or tell, as this is the first time I have noticed it, I trace the gum line again with my tongue, “Shit” I say, I go to my room, I leave the light on in the bathroom and I go to my room, turn on the computer, log online, look to see who is online, I see my ex-girlfriend is online, I send her a message, I say “Sorry to bother you out of nowhere, but when you were with me did you ever notice if the gum line above my left, I guess if you were looking at me it would be your right, cuspid was receding?” “What? What are you talking about” she says, I mean she is typing, “I don’t know, I don’t remember”, I say “You don’t remember, but then is it possible that it was”, She says “What tooth is the cuspid”, I say “Canine, you know, cuspid, canine, same tooth”, She says “I don’t think it was, but I’m not sure”, I say “So it is possible it was, but you just didn’t notice”, She says “Yeah, I don’t know, I don’t remember or didn’t notice, but I guess that means it was possible that it was, but I don’t remember or didn’t notice”, “Shit” I say, “How are your parents doing” She asks, and I sign offline because I don’t need that shit, or don’t need to deal with that shit, not right now, I click on My Computer -> My Documents -> My Pictures, I circle through photos of myself smiling, I note the date of each one, I put my face close to the screen, I squint, was the gum line above the cuspid receding or not, I click through some more pictures, find one where I hate myself doing a big goofy grin, I put my face up to the screen, I squint, I zoom in but the image pixelates, “God dammit” I say, “God fucking dammit”, all the while molesting with my tongue, I type google.com, I type big gum line, No, That’s not it-, missing gum line, Receding gum line, That’s it, Gingival recession, “Sensitive teeth – Teeth become sensitive to hot and cold or to sweet, sour, or spicy foods. If the cementum covering the root is not protected any more by the gums it is easily abraded exposing the dentin tubules to external stimuli.”, Have I noticed any additional sensitivity from external stimuli, I don’t think I have noticed any, I get up from my chair, I leave the bedroom, I leave the computer on, I leave the article about Gingival recession on the screen, I go to the kitchen, I open the fridge, I pour myself a glass of cold milk, I swish it around in my mouth with an intense focus on the left side, I guess if you were looking at me it would be your right, But I don’t notice anything out of the ordinary, nothing peculiar so to say, I take another swig and swish, I notice the coldness of the milk, but did it always feel this cold, Or does it now feel colder, Does my tooth feel more sensitive now to the cold milk than it used to, I’m not sure, I swish and swallow, I brew a cup of hot coffee, I repeat the same steps with the hot coffee as I just did with the cold milk, It doesn’t hurt, But maybe I notice the heat of the coffee more than I used to, I don’t know what to do, so I take my phone out of my pocket and the first contact is my brother, who I haven’t spoken to in 1 year and haven’t seen in probably close to 2 years, but I think, who knows someone better than their own brother, right, so I call him, and before he can finish saying “Hello”, I say “Hey, It’s Steven”, “Steven! Man! How are you!” he says, and I say “Look I know we haven’t spoken in awhile”, and he says “Yea, like two years or something”, and I say “No, one year”, and he goes “Really? Are you sure?”, I say “Yeah”, “I think two or at least it feels like two” he says, and I say “I’m sorry but look, I am kind of in a hurry and I have a weird question, last time you saw me did my cuspid seem unsightly long to you?”, and he says “Cuspid? Which one is that again? Is that like the vampire fang?”, and I say “Yea, but you know, some old drawings have depicted vampires with their front two teeth as the fangs, but anyways, it’s the one that would be a dog’s fang”, “Yea, a dog’s fang”, “Yea the canine” I say “my left canine so if you are looking at me it would be on your right”, he goes “I don’t know, I don’t really remember, or I don’t remember noticing that, why?”, I say “While I was flossing tonight I think I noticed it receding but I cannot remember if it has always been like that or if this is a new development”, and he goes “Oh shit, yea, I know a guy that that shit happened to, he brushed too hard or whatever and he had to get some surgery or something where they take a piece of skin from the roof of your mouth and graft it onto where your gums are or else he could have lost the tooth or some shit”, I say “Lose the tooth?”, He goes “Yea, but anyways, how the hell are you?”, I start to panic at this moment and I say “Look, I’m sorry, as I said I’m in a hurry and I have to go but call me tomorrow and we’ll catch up on everything”, I didn’t say I promise because I knew if I would have said I promise I would have felt some kind of obligation, and then I’d have to take his call and have a long talk about everything that is happening, and or has happened, so I hang up, I run back to my room, the article on “Gingival recession” is still on my computer screen, I read beyond where I had stopped previously, it says something about cavities in the exposed notch or exposed root of the tooth and losing the tooth or the tooth becoming loose and being lost, But I can’t really focus because the screen is kind of shaking, I shuffle my feet in a kind of anticipation, I need to call my dentist, I need to make a dentist appointment, but if I call him now I will just get the machine, it is after hours and all, so I have to wait until morning, but so I decide to call anyway and leave a message about my problem so that when he gets in, first thing in the morning, he will hear it, and expect me to come by, there isn’t anything else I can do, So I decide I’m going to go to bed, yes, I am going to go to bed, I turn the light off in the bathroom, I go to bed, but here is the thing, once I get in bed, I can feel the tooth throbbing, if I turn my head a specific way on the pillow I swear, and I swear to gee ohh dee, that it escalates the throbbing, and all the while I am fondling the gum line with my tongue, I’m not sure if I can sleep, If I can fall asleep I mean, I just feel a throb, throb, throb, and I am caught in this cycle of turning my head in this specific way, like the tide coming in and sucking out.

 
 

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Freddy Ruppert currently writes and composes in Prague. http://www.freddyruppert.com

ACHILLES MOM IS A MILF

in a neon painting

crush velvet

you see her

3/5th’s of the way in the water

naked riding a dolphin

you promptly buy the painting

and hold it in front of you

as you leave the thrift store

hiding the erection

the sea woman has caused

you wait til midnight

and then you bring the painting

out of your bedroom and hang it up

near the kitchen table

and it is so dark her nipples seem three dimensional

and the sunset looks like an actual photograph of

hawaii under blacklights

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Wyatt Sparks is a boy who wishes he was a wooden puppet. His work is featured or forthcoming in Red Lightbulbs, GAYNG, and PANK.

Crooked Neck

Ed’s son has a neck injury from Peewee football, one so bad that the boy’s head is stuck cocked to the side. The doctor said surgery, but Ed’s poultry farmer neighbor said his turkeys get crooked neck all the time. He feeds the birds sunflower seeds for extra vitamin E. Cure-all, he said, they either get better or they die. A pack of seeds costs ninety-nine cents at the liquor store. Ed finds the black shells littered all over the house.

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Annie Hartnett lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She has stories published or forthcoming in Indiana Review, PANK Magazine, and RHINO Poetry.