Issue #2

Black Dog Review Issue #2

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From the Editors: We are pleased to deliver our second issue. We have outstanding fiction from Adam Kelly Morton, Mitchell Grabois, Liz Betz and our own contributing editor Steve Passey, along with some compelling creative non-fiction by A. Whitmore. We have poetry by Linda M. Crate, Diarmuid ó Maolalaí,  Tom Zimmerman, and James Croal Jackson. We also have two book reviews: Hermine Robinson reviews Darrin Doyle’s Scoundrels Among Us and Kathy Doll reviews the Coffin Hop Press all-female noir anthology The Dame was Trouble.

Table of Contents

Non-Fiction: “Not Criminally Responsible” by A. Whitmore       

Fiction:           “Dante’s Sneezing Blood” by Mitchell Grabois        

Fiction:           “Memories by Design” by Liz Betz

Fiction:           “Secondary Drowning”by Adam Kelly Morton

Fiction:           “Eyes of N Particular Color” by Steve Passey

Poetry:            “Sanitarium Lighting” by Diarmuid ó Maolalaí

Poetry:            “Shakey Graves” and” Lingerin’ til the Singularity” by James Croal Jackson

Poetry:            “Origami Kings” by Tom Zimmerman

Poetry:            “The Greed of Corporations and Men” by Linda M. Crate

Review:          Darrin Doyle’s Scoundrels Among Us reviewed by Hermine Robinson

Review:          Coffin Hop Press anthology The Dame Was Trouble by Kathy Doll

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Not Criminally Responsible

Non-Fiction/A. Whitmore

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Not criminally responsible. The defense lawyer enters the plea on behalf of his young client and feels the need to justify to the public that it isn’t a get out of jail free card. To the hesitant families of the once-vibrant, now-murdered young people it feels like a mockery of their loss. What if he goes on medication and is free in a few years? To the family of the killer, their son as they knew him is gone, and they carry a life-long sentence of knowing what he did, and who he is no longer. It is like a living death.

My youngest brother is schizophrenic. He was a fit, charming, intelligent and warmly humorous teen; rebellious, unruly, sneaking out the attic window of our tall, ginger-breaded Victorian house in the depths of the night to smoke pot and roam the streets with his friends. In vain my parents tried to engage him in more constructive activities.

He was perceptive and knew how to use words. “Mr. S,” he said in the middle of a high school history class, looking out the long wall of windows to the street. “There’s your mother.”

 With anticipation everyone looked, knowing Mr. S’s mother was eccentric. No one was there.

After high school my brother did not go to university like the rest of us, but joined the Marines. Boot camp was the best thing that ever happened to him: it pulled together all his good qualities, forced him to dig deep for his own strengths and gave him glowing confidence.

My father, a WWII counter-intelligence vet, was silently proud.

In less than two years my brother was expunged from the Marines after escaping a charge of attempted mass murder when he threw a pan of hot grease in the kitchen. He came home from Okinawa, where, my mother read years later, drug experimentation was carried out on the soldiers, maybe by them, too. Is that why the Marines ‘lost’ his medical records? Scruffy, unfocused, he rang the doorbells of random houses and asked women he didn’t know to marry him. My non-warm and fuzzy mother determined he just needed TLC to restore him to his former best self.

At this time I lived far away in Halifax, married, gestating a Bluenoser, confused by these smoke signals from home, helpless to know how to help. And, privately, glad to be away from my mother’s family who were ripping themselves apart through jealousy and weakness and greed over the fate of the family cottages after the death of my grandmother (who bought the property with her own money during WWII but, as a woman, was not actually allowed to own it).

My mother was wrong. My brother’s behavior grew increasingly bizarre. So that he “wouldn’t have to go all the way downstairs to go outside” he cut a large hole in the wall of his bedroom in the dead of a Western New York winter: the doorway to nowhere. A fifteen-foot drop that he never tried.

 My parents didn’t have much spare cash. Repairs were difficult.

They came home from a weekend trip to find their irreplaceable living room furniture piled at the curb for the garbage men to take away. My brother didn’t like the clutter.

Sometimes he threw knives around his room, shot at his radio with his BB gun.

Personal hygiene no longer interested him. He walked out of the house and didn’t return for hours, days, weeks — and when he did he would be frostbitten, rougher than ever. Or my parents would get a call to pick him up in some unheard-of town or the side of a country highway. He was jumped by a gang on one of those weeks-long journeys down south, when he drove off with my parents’ only car, no license, glasses left behind, abandoning the car when he burned out the engine.

He was flogged in the Marines, I learned while deciding where to live after being unexpectedly widowed with a 17 month-old and a baby about to be born and in-laws mean with grief.

My brother’s behavior became increasingly unmanageable and illogical. Over time my parents, finally accepting the diagnosis of schizophrenia, though not typical schizophrenia. Fearful for their lives, they did the unthinkable: my father phoned the police to have his youngest son committed, hopefully for a long time, to get treatment. It turned out unless he had physically hurt someone he could leave the psych ward after thirty days if he so chose. And he so chose. He had not hurt anyone.

He was in and out of jail for minor assault, minor property damage – I don’t even know what charges, my parents frustratingly trying to protect us. He lived on the streets. He looked fondly back on his time on East Hastings in Vancouver when he slept in Budget rental vans and ate pages ripped out of Bibles from Salvation Army street corner proselytizers. For an astonishing amount of his time living on the highways and byways, his charm and warmth was returned with meals, rides, assistance from complete strangers.

Then there were stints in psych wards, medication that put him back on track at which point he decided he didn’t need medication. One time my mother picked up the phone to learn that my brother had been in a psychiatric hospital in California for weeks and weeks. He came home cleaned up, mentally clear, in good shape and good spirits and registered for community college courses.

And went off his medication. Hope. Dashed.

Unable to keep him at home, my parents found him a long-term room in a motel in another town and, back on his medication, he was happy. After months of calm, my parents got the call that he was sitting in the yard eating stones, that he had defecated in the shower and not cleaned up. He had gone off his meds.

Hope. Dashed. 

My brother gravitated towards my mother’s hometown where we had cousins, to the cottage where we had spent summers having fun, Easters cleaning and opening gifts Thanksgiving with extended family and neighbour dinners and closing up chores. My grandmother putting her large gardens to bed, disappearing into the phlox, emerging with twigs and spider webs in her white French twist. The property over which my mother and her siblings could not cooperate, could not accommodate, could not be honest.

For a few weeks one summer he got work as a roofer, staying sometimes at the cottage. Then he took off.

Hope. Dashed.

He was at the cottage when it caught fire, neighbours sounding the alarm, a cousin in the next cottage not knowing what happened. My brother disappeared for months. My mother’s sister, whose own daughter eventually died of a drug overdose, was livid that my parents did not keep their adult son under control.

I watched my parents peer beneath the cottage for my brother’s body which was not there.

My mother’s family shunned us. No more cottage for us, even to this day, thirty years later. When my cousin died of a drug overdose one of her brothers refused the flowers I sent to the funeral home. The daughter my aunt and uncle used to tease by saying she would look after them in their old age.

Another short psych ward stint followed for my brother when he re-surfaced. Out again, he set fire to an abandoned barn. More jail. We talked of a not criminally responsible designation in the hopes of getting him sent to a psych hospital for treatment rather than jail, but it is an almost impossible designation: it was his right to decide to set fire to an abandoned barn, his psychiatrist said, the possibility of teens in there making love or smoking up a moot point. This psychiatrist was quick, though, to press assault charges when my brother punched him in the face for forcing something – I don’t recall what – he didn’t want on him. My mother refused to babysit but insisted I visit my youngest brother and so my young children came with me. At the end of our visit, wild that he could not come home with us, with one sweep of his arm my youngest brother cleared a nurses’ station counter and our last view was of him on a gurney being strapped into a strait jacket. Forgive us if our tolerance level for human imperfection is much higher than yours, if our sense of humour is much darker.

It seems to be the uttering of death threats against us, his family, just before he was released from another jail term, which earned him the not criminally responsible designation we’d wanted for so long. The death threats that forced me to choose between keeping my children safe by not going to my mother’s for Christmas where my youngest brother could show up, or taking them for Christmas as planned and hoping my siblings and I could protect my mother and ourselves if he showed up. And if he showed up would he be a problem, or not? He had never physically hurt us, even if he offered my children cigarettes and gave them his pills telling them it was candy. I think. That designation earned him the longest stay he ever experienced in a psychiatric hospital, the turning point in his over-all stability.

Now in his early fifties, my brother has been more or less settled into one imperfect place for a long time, where they spend the government-provided clothing allowance on their own Lincolns and help themselves, for their other residences, to the clothing we buy for him.  My mother complains but refuses to rock the boat in case they send him home. Periodically when one of us visits he is so heavily medicated he cannot complete a sentence or thought, this once-loquacious boy who read book after book on American political history and whom I believed would be a published writer.

I finally learned through his nurse that my brother cannot be put out on the street and this nurse suggested an apparently much healthier and honest living alternative. He suggested we look at it, but not take my youngest brother for that first viewing. My middle brother took my youngest brother for the first viewing. He said he didn’t want to move, and so my entire family vetoed it.

If you were to pass my youngest brother on the road, so looking like our father as he ages, you would see an obese man walking on the backs of his untied sneakers, his clothing stained and unkempt. If he were to smile at you with his warm charm, your heart would be gladdened despite his missing teeth.

Not criminally responsible is a designation given when the accused has a deep psychological problem. And if they have a problem that serious, they have a life sentence.

***

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Dante Sneezing Blood  

Fiction/Mitchell Grabois

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Dante’s sneezing blood. He didn’t know what he was getting into on this tour. He should have taken a Caribbean cruise. His wife wanted a Caribbean cruise or a week in an all-inclusive resort, where she could drink her brains out and try to recreate the pseudo-wild abandon of her youth. Instead they landed in Hell. His wife flaked early. She went off with a Greek gigolo who was an expert at doing the goat dance. While she was sleeping, he stole her Nikon, the one with the foot-long lens she got for five dollars at a yard sale, which has enough distortion to make her a photographic superstar.

Dante has his point and shoot. He aims it at his head, pushes the button, but after a moment he finds he’s still alive and must continue the tour.

Here–have some razor blades. They’re appetizers. Cheryl’s younger sister holds out a tray.

Cheryl has invited me to her Lou Reed farewell party. Dante has joined me there, as a crasher. Dante doesn’t worry about being obnoxious or unwelcome. He doesn’t care if people consider him a douche bag. What is that compared to his lonely pilgrimage in Hell?

Cheryl’s older sister has painted on the living room wall with black spray paint: Hey baby, take a walk on the wild side…

Three girls of color have been hired to walk around the room, softly singing single syllables all night, a performance art piece. Later they will tell each other how they almost screamed from boredom.

Someone has to suffer, one says, someone always has to suffer for art.

***

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Memories byDesign

Fiction/Liz Betz

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I search among the photos, captions, color schemes and embellishments. Memories by design, my wife called her hobby. First photo — our names in a tinfoil heart on the back of her parents’ car. Just married. Eileen and Herb. Life is so short, all the photos add up to very little. She’s gone and I’m following too close.

A melody haunts me, until I remember some words to go with the tune. When the saints come marching in. Oh, I want to be in their number. But I don’t. I don’t want this.

The facilitator of our Final Words group asks, what of this experience contributes to your suffering? The answer: every single part is hell.

A note from Eileen’s project diary; ‘Stencils and templates are essential tools in a scrap book toolbox.’

My Children Help with Cleaning Up

The kids, Jason, Margot and even Caroline, have promised to help. It’s not all chaos. I can point to places where my wife’s ways still rule, nine and a half years after her death. Her workroom is much the same as when she was alive to delight in the boxes of paper, files of photographs, cutting mats and scissors and all things designed to decorate the page.

‘Involve the whole family – selecting the photographs and memorabilia, deciding how to display them.’

Her confident handwriting belies what I remember. Not the whole family, Eileen. I was never part of it, and Jason only minimally. But the words will stand, no one will correct them. Eileen’s legacy is found in her scrapbooking and the diary she kept of their making.

Caroline claims Eileen’s workroom, the archives. Jason’s eyes are on my tools in the garage. Margot hesitates as she gives Caroline a lengthy list of warnings. I hope that if I have to intervene that I know how. I direct Margot towards the china cabinet.

“Your mother meant for you to have the Royal Albert.” A small lie, but why not?

‘Margot caught in the middle’, we used to call her.

When Eileen spoke the children listened. I wish she were here now but there is only me and my flaws are many.

The facilitator questions. What has sustained you emotionally and spiritually in the past? What sustains you at present? I have no answer.

‘Turn the day’s events into treasured memories of tomorrow.’

A Story That Could be True

The apple tree was newly planted when we bought the house. Both it and Eileen blossomed and bore fruit. Every spring there is a picture of us with a pink blossom cloud above our heads. Then there is the year of the horrible trimming I gave the tree. The event that started the rot. Every year, the black grows larger as the tree grows used to its death.

Eileen delighted in the sweet and gentle light coming through the apple tree in the evening. I have no picture of her there, except in my mind. When the dust settles, after I have joined her, I’ll ask how she knew to design the memories.

What is realistic? What is desirable? What is possible? This is where the patient is ready but their family cannot face mortality issues. I haven’t shown anyone the results. A leukemia that is associated with a poor prognosis. The word ‘poor’ is underscored twice.

‘Cropping and framing your pictures can create a far more interesting display.’

Eileen’s Work Room 

In her room, a florescent work light is still poised over the cutting mat – a beacon from another day. Her scrapbooking supplies are undisturbed. Sometimes I pretend Eileen will announce that today she will build a new album. Because of her I scribble dates on the backs of Christmas cards and photos, then add them to one of her sorting boxes. I’ve filled several now. It is the least I can do, she would have enjoyed them. She would have made them into something. I have not.

Caroline sprinkles flax seeds on her oatmeal, drinks eight glasses of water a day, goes to the gym three times a week, dabbles in yoga, vitamins and cleanses and prides herself in her good management. Will she hold my news against me; judge that my failure to be healthy is my own fault?

Yesterday, tomorrow and today, as if each day could actually be pinned down. No. Time is fluid now and laps on new shores. Did Eileen feel this way too, at the end?

‘The scrap book crafter has a special role as history keeper. Enjoy this.’

 My Abandoned Clutter

It’s not as bad a mess as everyone makes it out to be. I’ve seen worse. Margot takes it personally, always has. In her mind this failing of mine is the fault line that cursed her. My disorder equals her misery. I’m sorry. Children do that to parents, parents do that to children.

I could have hired people to help, phoned to have a bin delivered, done all of the things my children are doing. Eileen was a good wife, firm and fair and she would have told me long ago to get my things in order. Eileen’s thoroughness undermined me. Just like her lists chastised me, Monday is laundry day; Tuesday is the day to clean the kitchen. Follow the list, Herb, it puts an order in the work, makes it manageable.

“God will help you,” Eileen says.

“Bray on,’” I reply. “Your God is an ass’”

“He doesn’t like that,” she said as if she and God had long chats about me.

I have this wasteland of dirt and clutter around me, and though I pretend I am resigned to it, I bear shame as well. But it has brought my children here to help me. Since that first step is taken, surely I can find a way to tell them.

“I’m going away.” Florida is their guess. To the celestial everglades?

There is a library within the hospital with volumes that dissect everything, pages that beg for awareness, reports of research; all of it reduced to manageable paragraphs and informative phrases in billet form. I brought home some pamphlets. Is the first step dry, informational?

‘Don’t let that weekend break become a fleeting memory – preserve it, create a mini-memory album.’

Jason, Margot and Caroline          

I find Caroline in tears and I call out for Margot and Jason.

“This is our mother’s heart. It’s all we have left of her.” Margot’s voice trembles as the girls hug each other.

 “We should make copies of it all.”

“You’ll know what to do. I trust you,” I say. I don’t say I have no need for pictures. The albums are flat pages, flat images, flat to anyone not trained to their meaning.

Jason rolls his eyes and goes out to the garage Margot takes a deep breath and returns to the open drawer in the kitchen.

Tell them now, before it’s too late.

When if feels right, I will.

Is there going to be a moment today where it feels right?

Maybe they will figure it out themselves. After the day is over, they might phone each other to discuss what this day was about. ‘Did Dad seem different to you?’

Some image might linger and be turned over and examined. Will they wonder? Will my past turn into a story they tell each other?

Margot takes photographs of every room, the clutter and trash – before and after she says, but I recognize them as evidence. If I back away again from the cleaning avalanche, they are ready to bring in the authority and have this house condemned. Condemned, I know.

Pain has a protective purpose. It is the warning sign of wounding or damage. What sign is this pain pointing out? Pain.

‘To last well, photographs require a little tender loving care.’

Suggestions

Eileen has collected notes from other scrapbooking crafters, which she put into booklet form. I open a page. Photographs – choose wisely and treat kindly. I wonder if she thought me a wise choice. When Jason was born she gave me the ultimatum about my drinking. What an effort that must have been for her to make me into a husband and a father. She believed in me, brought me to my senses as best she could. Smoothed over the damage I did, Jason hurt the worst by my ways. Instructions, encouragements, facilitating a good life in the kindest of ways, Eileen made it happen.

Those of us who have not yet informed our family are asked to brainstorm Think of ways to break it to them gently. Perhaps begin with a letter. Tell about your love for them. Or you can give them copies of what you have written here, our group’s exploration.

I listen but I shake my head. That would have been something Eileen might have done, if she had the time, and if she had thought of it. Instead she left her albums, her hobby, we called it, but after she died, they became holy script. I cannot compete at that level.

Jason too narrow, Margot too scattered, Caroline, our late life child, too beloved. Jason starts a business out of the ashes of his last one, kindled with the slenderest of hopes. I should seek his company, just hang out, but I don’t.

Margot is living by herself, in the basement of the house where her ex-boyfriend and his wife are trying again to make their marriage work. She exists in limbo. Eileen would have salve for our daughter’s wounds, but I am lost.

Caroline has managed to qualify for social assistance, as I suspect, are the other people she lives with. The tick of approaching fate is steady for all of us.

What might you expect as the disease progresses? How are these symptoms being treated right now? Are there other possibilities? Grim. And definitely grimmer.

‘Keep yourself and your camera steady. Lean on something to support your arms if it helps.’

The Garden of Eden

Eileen’s apple tree. The fruit from the Tree of Knowledge made man and woman aware of good and evil. Suddenly they knew God was displeased and that they would die. With one bite they went from innocence to conflict, suffering, pain and death. How bewildered they must have been. How lost. Eileen has travelled this road. When will I slide off the journey of living?

I go over to the tree and place my hand over the rotten split, I grab at the stubby branch and pull, leaning my whole strength into this, hoping for something to break. Finally I stop, and rub my palm where a twig end has left a red mark. This mark is more real than what I’ve tried; tongue-tied pen and paper.

What will be remembered of me when I am gone? All my life I have believed that silence was the safest but now I understand that silence must be split open. This is no time to play small.

How has your definition of ‘quality of life’ changed with the knowledge that you have a terminal illness? What brings meaning to your life? I don’t know. I’ve never known. I may never know.

‘Cropping and framing your pictures creates a far more interesting and dynamic page in your album and helps solve problems of badly composed photographs.’

In The Garden

Jason finds me beside the apple tree.

“The old tree. You and mom planted it the first year you moved in here, right?”

No that isn’t right, but does it matter? These children of mine will sort through their memories. Finding what is useful to them and discarding the rest, until there is less and less.

Jason pokes at the black rot with the screwdriver in his hand. The metal shaft goes in without much resistance.

“This isn’t good.” He sounds surprised.

“It’s dying,” I say, but no more than that.

“You okay?” Jason looks at me.

“It doesn’t look good.” Then I cannot say any more as my throat closes

“It’s just a tree, Dad.” Jason’s bewilderment is my doing, I taught him to avoid words. For his sake I need to be clear, that is my gift to him. The girls will look to their mother’s memory. I will do what I can. But here…my son needs his father.

“More.” I lift my sleeve to wipe my face. “It’s more than that.”

The tree will bloom its last. Yet for now, it lingers, dispensing these courageous apples. It gives me heart. There are more memories to design.

“We need to talk.”

As we sit side by side on the bench, the apple tree gives me voice.

***

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Secondary Drowning

Fiction/Adam Kelly Morton

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The Oyster Shack is closed and Bob is drunk upstairs, doing his cash. With the lights out and the front door locked, the cops won’t be able to see Carole and me having a few nightcaps after hours. Not that they come around on Tuesdays anyhow. Or ever.

We’re on to whiskey with our beers. Bob’s iPod is playing Exile on Main Street. Carole is beside me smoking a roll-up cigarette, ashing into a conch as Mick belts out “Loving Cup.” Bob might join us later. It’ll be all right if he does, because there’s no way I’m going to fuck this bitch tonight. Tomorrow morning is another story. I’m hungry for it when I’m hung. It’s the best cure.

“Where you come from?” Carole asks, her thick Quebecois accent spoken through brown teeth. When we first met a few days ago, she told me her teeth were the colour because of a calcium deficiency when she was an infant. But I’m pretty sure it’s nicotine, too. Dentists nowadays can fix brown teeth. Otherwise, Carole’s not bad. Her hair is greasy, but blonde when she washes it. She’s skinny, but she’s got a fine ass. I’ll tap that shit first thing, with her lying on her side. Just the way I used to with June. 

For now, Carole wants to know where I grew up. I light up another Players and take a pull of my pint while staring up at the fisherman’s net. “Doesn’t matter,” I tell her. “Montreal.”

 “Oui, mais d’où?” She wants to know if I’m from the suburbs. Fucking downtown whores are all the same: French or English, they want to get an edge on you, so they can fuck you over. Why can’t they just be sweet?

Fuck it. I’ll tell her. “West Island.”

“I knew it,” she says, in that nasal, whiny, drawl of hers—smoke pouring out of her dragon’s maw. “One time, I think about moving out there, for my two boys. But it’s too far from downtown without a car.” 

I don’t say anything, and throw back my whiskey. Carole picks up our Cutty Sark and pours me another thick one, clanking the bottle back down on the blue tiles.

“So?” she continues. “You a rich guy?” I shake my head. “But Dan, you drink like a fish.”

“I didn’t always,” I say. “Eleven years.” Carole smirks and cocks her head, like she’s looking at my dick for the first time, or an oyster, wondering whether or not she’s going to pop it into her mouth. This afternoon when we woke up, she sucked me off. We were in bed, drunk, at her place because my mattress was still piss-soaked, leaned up against the window to dry. When I came, she swallowed it and lay down on the bed beside me. I got up and went to the kitchen for a drink and some food.

“For real?” she says. “You mean you didn’t drink since you was a kid?” I can see that she’s hammered.

“Huh?” I say.

“You know, the last time, when you didn’t drink. Since you… was eleven?”

I take another hit of beer. “Speak to me in French, for Christ’s sake. Your English is atrocious.”

June’s wasn’t. She read everything, every night in our bedroom, which I painted purple. “The colour of passion,” I’d told her. We bought a beige bedroom set made of maple wood. It had sharp, knee-high corners that we were always banging against. Constantly checking our reflexes. Keeping us on our guard.

 Carole means to say that the last time I was sober was when I was eleven. It’s a joke.

“No,” I say. “I was sober for eleven years.”

Carole leans in a little closer. “Vas donc chier,” she says. She doesn’t believe me. “How you stop drinking?”

Before answering her, I drain my draft beer then reach around the taps to pull myself another. I’m careful to not to spill any on Bob’s clean drip tray. “What about me?” says Carole, jiggling her empty pint glass.

I take it and fill it. “There you go, little dragon.”

Hein?” she asks. “Dragon? What for you call me a dragon?” She takes a final drag of her cigarette and crushes it out in the conch before exhaling.

I take a good wash of beer and work on my cigarette.

“So?” she says.

“I was married,” I tell her.

C’est cute, ça. I was married, me too. But then my boys’ father he leave us.” Carole’s leg is touching mine. I grab the inside of her tight-jeaned thigh and right away I start to get hard. She places her hand on my thigh and, using my other hand, cigarette in my mouth, I make her stroke my bulge.

Carole smiles. “You like that, eh?” I let go of her hand and she keeps stroking. “You wanna go fuck me in the bathroom?” she says.

“Shut up,” I say, and finish my whiskey. I grab my pint, then her by the wrist, and haul her into the back room where there’s a pool table. If it were a good table, I might not take her on the top of it. I wouldn’t want to stain the green velvet.  But this is a worn-out, dollar-a-game banger, and it can take it. I twist her arm until she’s down on the table, then put my beer on the floor.

“Not so hard, Dan,” Carole says.

I slap her across the face. “Shut the fuck up,” I say. Was that even an idiom? June was better at those things than I ever was. And I was the so-called English teacher. When we would lie naked, post-love, watching old movies on her laptop, like Ordinary People, or her reading passages of Secret Daughter to me, or Adam Bede—whatever she was reading, I would be looking at my phone.  

It doesn’t matter now. All that matters is that I blast my load into this fucking slag. My body needs it. She wants it.

I’ve got her with her back on the table. I unbutton and unzip her jeans and start peeling them off. They’re real tight around her full ass—so I yank them down. For what I’m going to do, there’s no need to strip off her ripped boat shoes.

Carole’s not fighting. Her cheek is red, and her black eyes have water in them. I take out my little, swollen cock and turn Carole over on her left side. Her big ass globes are puffed out for me. I clutch the top one and her lower waist, and heave her close. Then I push my middle and ring fingers into the crevasse, expecting wetness. It embarrassed Carole the first time we fucked, on my itchy sofa. “I get wet easy,” she’d said, the mottled chenille beneath her black.

She’s pretty dry now, so I coat my smoke-orange fingers with spit, rub it onto my knob, and shove it into her cunt. She’s looking away from me, towards the brown washroom doors. The skin of her ass ripples each time I pound. Keith is singing about how he needs a love to keep him happy.

Vas-y,” she says, still looking away. “Défonce-moi.

She wants me to fuck her hard, so I ram away. The pool balls locked inside the table are clacking together. Before long, sweat is pouring off me. Meanwhile, Carole’s looking at the women’s room door. It has seashell on it with an F, for Femmes.

“Look at me, you bitch,” I say. “Stick your tongue out.”

Carole turns her head to me. “Comme un dragon?” she asks.

“Yeah. Like a fucking dragon.”

Her grey tongue slithers out between her teeth. I slow down and start easing it in. The thrusts are coming more naturally now. Building.

C’est ça, mon beau Danny,” Carole says. “Baise-moi comme si j’étais ta femme.

She sticks her tongue out again and glides it over her lower lip.

I close my eyes.

Feel.

You walk into the bedroom and crawl onto the bed between my naked legs. “I love you, Dannyboy,” you sing, and you take me into your mouth. Your sea-green eyes are wide, your full tongue clean and pink on my sweet spot, your hair still shower wet, slipping over your cheek freckles in dark curls. Your hair is still a little wet when we meet for the first time at Café Remezzo and sip Greek frappés, sweet, with milk, and talk about how hard online dating is, and about family, and fear, and about never wanting to live in the suburbs. Then all the times at your walkup apartment on Esplanade, with the green-apple-coloured walls that you painted yourself, and your step-down bedroom in azure, drinking cardamom tea, making love, and in the morning you say, “Marriage is important to me,” and I understand. Then moving in together, our little apartment on Old Orchard, built in the 1940s, with the built-in display cabinet for all our family pictures, and how nostalgic we were about those old-style kinds of things, like Glenn Miller and Art Deco. On our October wedding day, when you come down the long, outdoor staircase with your dad, who gives you away under the gazebo, your ivory dress snug on your chest, your face and eyes and teeth sparkling in the sun as In The Mood plays over the loudspeakers, and the cheers from our friends and family. The warm afternoon in July, after forty-two hours of breathing, and walking, and holding, and clutching, and bending, and chanting, and driving to the hospital where you work as a nurse, and showering, and water breaking, and crying, and the epidural, and pushing, and at long last our daughter comes out into the open air, and we take turns holding her on our chests, and we weep, and we give her a name: Fiona. And she has wild, pumpkin hair, and she laughs easily, and we laugh with her, and soon she crawls, then wobbles, then walks, and we listen to the “C’est Si Bon” radio program with her on Sundays, listen to Glenn Miller and The Andrews Sisters, and take her to the splash park, and to the pool, and she loves the water, and when you work late one night and I’m watching her, I get her ready for bed, undress her, get her into the bath, and she splashes me, and I tell her No, and she smiles, and I go into our bedroom to get my phone, to look at something, nothing, just long enough. When I finally get in there she is choking up water, I check her and she seems fine, and you get home, and that night she is very tired, and at night she is coughing, so I tell you, and you say little, and we wake her, and she is delirious, and we take her to your hospital’s ER, and they take her right away, and chest X-ray her, and draw blood from her, and the doctor says there is water in her lungs, and he’s afraid of something called aspiration, and asphyxiation, and something called secondary drowning, and that it is so rare. Then Fiona’s oxygen levels start dropping, and you start crying and shaking, and they tell us to wait in the waiting room, and we wait. Then the doctor comes out, and he says that they did everything they could, and that he is so sorry. And our Fiona, on a cold day in November, on the north side of the mountain, called Mount Murray, where they bring the little ones, a small plaque in orange marble for her hair: Fiona Grace, June 11, 2011 – November 2, 2012. And in the car we say nothing to each other, and we never really do ever again.

I open my eyes and Carole is pulling up her jeans, standing beside me. She puts a hand on my shoulder. “Ça va?” she asks. “You thinking about your wife again, eh? About your little girl?”

I zip up, reach down and pick up my pint glass. “Speak to me in French,” I tell her. And as the tears come, I pour beer down my throat.

Acknowledgement: This piece was published previously, under a different title, in the now defunct online magazine Urban Graffiti.

***

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Eyes of No Particular Color

Fiction/StevePassey

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Every second Friday Mike took  public transit from work to his girlfriend Tracey’s place to get her car and go pick up his son Michael Jr. from the boy’s mother. Mike didn’t have a car. Tracey and her daughter Chloe lived in a house she’d inherited from her grandmother. Chloe would be waiting for him at the door, ready to go. He loved it how he’d walk up the steps and she’d be there behind the screen door, framed by the hall light, and bouncing on her toes, ready to go get Michael Jr. He’d walk in and Tracey would be in the kitchen cooking and he’d hold her from behind, one arm around her waist and the other around her collar bone and she’d lean back and they’d breathe each other in in the light of the kitchen with the smell of supper and Chloe filling the air shouting, “Let’s go.”

Tracey would give him her car keys and he and Chloe would go. Chloe loved the trips and loved being a ‘big sister’ to little Michael. She fussed over the boy and bossed him around unmercifully and he, a genial child, more or less put up with it. Chloe was ten now and could ride in the front seat and on the drive kept up a steady stream of amiable chatter.

“Hey Michael,” she said. She never called him Mike.

“What,” he said, half paying attention.

“Momma says you have eyes of no particular color.”

“She does, does she?” he said. It was true – true that Tracey said this. She did tease him this way at times, face to face, always after they had kissed, her own eyes only half-open.

“Well, what color are they, Michael?” Chloe said, with her teeth so white, her smile so bright.

“Hazel,” he affirmed.

“Well, what color is that?” Chloe said and laughed out loud. Her laugh was pure and high. She was happy with herself and with the trip and looking forward to seeing Michael Jr.

He did not respond. Chloe looked at her reflection in the window as the light grew dim outside. It was raining like it always rained on the coast, dense but not heavy, and the water ran in soft rivulets down the window. The wipers swept the windshield in a sleepy rhythm.

“Michael,” she said again, seriously this time, looking at him again, “How come mirrors reverse left and right but not up and down?”

“That’s a good question,” he said, not looking at her. “I’ll find out and get you an answer”.

“You fix computers, you should know already Michael,” she said and looked at her reflection.

“I’m a software developer,” he said, looking the other way. “I don’t fix computers. That’s hardware.”

He had come to a T-intersection at the bottom of the hill and had to make a left. He accelerated into the turn and blew through the stop sign, grey more than red with the soft rivers of water from the rain upon it. He was hit broadside by a five-ton furniture delivery truck whose bumper impacted Tracey’s little car at the passenger door right at the point where the window merged with the door. He did not see it happen and was instead overwhelmed by the sound, the crushing sound of metal on metal. The impact knocked Tracey’s little car into the other lane and spun it around to face back towards the truck, trailing glass and metal and one tire until it came to a stop right up against a sidewalk curb. He could not think of anything save the sound and the sense of uncontrollable motion while the broken car settled into place. When it stopped his hands were over his ears. The windshield of the car had broken into a thousand lines and he could not see out. His hands still over his ears he looked to his right and there was Chloe, dead in the passenger seat. He ran then, ran from his side of the car to hers and tried to get the passenger door open but the car’s frame was bent and he could not. Her window was gone, unmade in the collision; glass in pieces smaller than dimes, smaller than sparrow’s eyes, smaller than souls. Her head rested against her door and she faced the sky with her eyes closed and the rain running down her face.

The truck driver came and was running has hands up and down his legs and arms, checking to see if he was whole. The truck’s loader, some skinny kid who couldn’t have been much more than eighteen, wearing a baseball backward, came out too. He walked like a man stepping off of a boat. “What were you thinking?” the kid said, half-crying with adrenalin.

Mike ignored him and went back into the car from the driver’s side. Chloe had been wearing a thin cotton hooded sweatshirt over a t-shirt. He pulled it off and put his hand to her neck but could feel nothing. His hands shook and he could not feel anything. He put his ear to her chest. She had her house key on a shoe-string around her neck. He tore it off and listened again. Chloe was dead on the passenger seat, her eyes closed, her face wet from the rain.

“What were you thinking?” the kid said again. He was crying now and probably didn’t know it. The driver, his hands upon his knees, stayed where he was and would not look at Mike. He got up? again and went over the passenger seat, his hands on his ears again, and then on his head. Two women had come over, two women out walking. He looked at them and they did not talk to him. They looked like sisters. One wore a down vest of a baby-blue color, she took it off and covered Chloe with it, Chloe dead on the passenger seat. The other sister wore the same vest, but in white, and she stood with her hands over her mouth.

It had ceased to rain and against the grey sky a great number of small black birds had taken off, silent except for the beating of their wings, and they moved in a serpentine path over the road and through the trees on the other side, away, away from people on the asphalt below.

“What were you thinking,” the kid said, and again, “What were you thinking?” He was crying.

#

Tracey’s mother had called Michael on his cell and asked him not to come to the funeral. “She’s very upset. It’s too hard for her.”

“I understand,” was all he could say. What else could he say?

He’d gone back to work the day after the funeral. Human Resources was good. “Take all the time you need,” they had said. “We have an excellent Employee Assistance Program – don’t hesitate to call”.

“I’ll be better if I can just get to my desk,” he said.

Karen from Human Resources led him back to his desk. The other developers in their cubicles looked up at him as he walked past. He couldn’t look back. When he got to his cubicle he sat down. The picture was gone. He’d had a picture of the four of them – Michael Jr., Tracey, Chloe and him – all four of them, and it was gone. Chloe smiling at the camera, he and Tracey arm in arm behind her, little Michael looking up and way. It was gone. He looked at Karen.

“Tracey’s mom came by and asked to take the picture. She said they wanted it for the funeral.”

He could only nod, like he understood.

Karen went back to her office.

He typed out his resignation. At the end of the day, a day spent staring at the place where the picture used to be with his hands over his ears until he could see patterns of 1’s and 0’s in the cloth fabric of the cubicle wall, patterns like falling rain or the flight of birds, he turned it in.

“Don’t do this Mike,” Karen said.“You can take more time. Have you called the Employee Assistance Program?

“‘It’s better if I go,” was all he said, and he believed it when he said it. He walked out the door.

He moved. He rented a basement suite. It came with cable. He told the owner, a Chinese man who was very thin and who wore collared shirts unbuttoned to his chest and who smoked cigarettes very carefully, holding them between his thumb and forefinger and drawing very slowly and deliberately, that he didn’t watch television.

“Unplug it then,” the owner said, carefully. “It’s paid for. Rent is flat-rate. Who doesn’t want cable? But unplug it if you don’t want it.”

He was able to take the bus to get Michael Jr. on the next every other weekend. Little Michael must have asked something, must have wondered aloud, but he couldn’t remember. The weekend passed and then in time, another.

Late at night, when he wasn’t sleeping, he’d get up and turn on the TV and watch the static. Sometimes he’d fall asleep, and he’d dream of the two sisters standing beside Chloe’s car in the rain. They never looked at him. They drew each other close and looked down at Chloe. If he did not dream he’d stare at the static until he could see that it wasn’t static at all, but lines of 1’s and 0’s, lines of binary code moving in a definite pattern. He’d see the 1’s and 0’s and they would resolve into the picture of he and Tracey and Michael Jr. and Chloe that he’d had in his office. Sometimes the 0’s were rain and sometimes the 1’s were shafts of sunlight that came through the trees. He’d wake up on the floor beside the couch. He texted Tracey and the text bounced back as “undeliverable”.  He texted her mother. She told him only not to contact Tracey. “It will always be hard for her,” she said. He thought she might understand. She did not. A month passed, and in time, another. 1’s and 0’s. Pictures drawn in static. Pictures of rain and sun.

#

They got a company slo-pitch team together at the new place. “Michael, come and play ball,” they said.

 So on the Fridays he didn’t go get Michael Jr. he’d go with the others on the team and play ball. The sun was shining, shining bright and hot and it hurt to look at it and when it was done his knees were full of shale (“nature’s coagulant” one of the guys had said) and his shoulder hurt. They went to a pub after, one of those places that give a discount when teams show up in uniform. The talk? turned to work and to projects they’d been on and people they liked – or disliked – and had known at one time and place and had found again at a new time and new place or who had gone and remained unfound. It was hot outside and the pitchers were cold and everyone threw ten dollars in and then another ten and then another ten and it was evening.  People left the table. For home or other tables, and he was alone there with a woman named Elaine from Human Resources.

“Are you having a good time, Mike?” she asked, her eyes brown and large. In her team jersey she looked small and out of place, like someone in an older brother’s hand-me-down.

“I am,” he said, “I am. It’ll be a week to pick the shale out of my knees and even then only a fifty-fifty chance it won’t turn septic, but I’m having a good time.”

They both laughed.

“That’s great,” she said, smaller than ever in her oversized jersey, her eyes like  bird’s eyes. “After what happened, you just need some fun. You just need to be with people,  you know?”

He looked away, like he didn’t understand what she had said. He watched the others moving around the pub. He felt like he’d drank too much. The pub seemed loud. “I need to go to the bathroom,” is what he said. He sat in a stall for a long time.

#

Monday he came into work and sat down and logged in and opened up the HR module and filled out his resignation.

In the “Effective Date” box he typed: “Effective Immediately”. 

Under “Reason for Leaving” he typed: “Because Elaine is a bit of a cunt.”

He sat and read it a few times before highlighting the latter with is cursor and hitting the “delete” key. Then he hit the “enter” key and watched it upload straight to H/R and he got up and walked out in the morning sun. The sun came down everywhere and through everything and in the six blocks it took him to walk to the car rental agency he began to sweat. The rental people said nothing though – just rented him the car. He drove against the sun until clouds first appeared in the early afternoon and he parked in front of Tracey’s house. Wet with sweat he sat in a rental car and watched the house for a long time. No one would be home. It was a working day like any other. Tracey had to work too, child or no. He got out and walked up to the front door and took out the key – Chloe’s key he had taken from her on the day –,that day – with the shoelace still attached and he walked in through the front door, the same front door he had so many times before when he and Tracey had thought they were going on together, thought it without saying it, lived it without speaking of it, on the days when there were four of them in the house.

 He recognized Tracey’s shoes on the mat by the front door and Chloe’s shoes too. Tracey must have taken them from the hospital and there they sat like they had on the last day she had worn them. He moved through the hallway with his hands upon the walls to steady himself like a man stepping onto a boat and every door in the house was open but one, the one to Chloe’s room and he stood there, his forehead on the door for a long time before he turned the handle to go in. The room was the same as the day Chloe had last left it but there, there on Chloe’s little dresser was the picture from the office – the picture of he and Tracey and Michael Jr. and Chloe.

There it stood, real and not static and the light through the trees was light and not 1’s and the outlines of their bodies was form and not number and there was Chloe’s smile and Michael Jr. looking away because he could never look at a camera and Chloe couldn’t pass one by. That picture. He looked at her and she was a beautiful child and her eyes were a particular brown and her hair so dark it was almost black (her father had been from where?). He didn’t remember but he could see how tall she would have been and in her smile he could see her overbearing kindness and it didn’t seem right that he didn’t have this picture, his picture so he took it, took it in both hands and left the house, locking the door behind him and leaving the key in the mailbox. He got into the rental and drove, drove until the sun went down and the rain started to come soft and without a sound. He drove until he couldn’t see any more and finally he pulled into the parking lot of a shopping mall parking as far away from the lights as he could with the soft coastal rain misting the outside of the car and making it almost invisible in the night. He fell asleep with picture in his hands and did not dream. He was still asleep in the morning when the first pale blue light of dawn came before the sun hit the horizon. Down through the sky and through the trees came a great number of small black birds, without song and noiseless save for the movement of their wings. They lit upon the asphalt and bathed in the waters of last night’s rain as it was becoming lost to the sun. Their wings are iridescent with the wetness, green and blue and black shining things, their feathers softer than the water.

***

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Sanitarium Lighting

Poetry/Diarmuid ó Maolalaí

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

it’s a wonder –

waiting at 11pm

in the emergency room

with lights

like a call centre

office – no rest

in here, we must have a purpose –

we are here –

all of us –

because there’s something

which has us

worried –

something

which has gone

wrong –

some of us

just had a bad headache

or fell down

funny – a 14 year old

was brought in on a wheelchair

drunk and crying

in a party dress

and no shoes on –

an old lady

holding her bandaged hand

like a kitten

asleep in her lap –

my girlfriend,

who woke up screaming next to me –

something twisting

in her stomach –

and I called the taxi

as soon as she started

throwing up –

we can’t rest –

nobody can rest –

keep

getting nervous

and going outside

to stalk cigarettes

like a fox though the cabbages

in the carpark

and coming back in

and sitting down again –

a man

who has been lying on the benches

since we got in

has nothing obvious wrong with him

but it’s a cold night

and nobody begrudges him the space – but

he can’t sleep –

nobody can sleep now –

someone on a stretcher

goes through

straight away –

the whole sum of it –

people

who hurt –

people who hurt –

people who hurt –

the vending machine

is broken –

the nurses

exhausted –

turn the fucking lights down –

there’s people

hurt

in here –

***

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Shakey Graves

Poetry/James Croal Jackson

 

I never want to

not be friends.

Cold bonfire

nights & joints

sore from dancing

to Shakey Graves

(Your friends / were 

so true / when you /

were 22. / Now

you’ve got nothing

in common)

in a cabin

forgetting the world,

beer by beer.

 

Lingerin’ Til the Singularity

Poetry/James Croal Jackson

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

My body’s buried here, Ray Kurzweil.

How to be a hill, bumpin’ sleds til mornin’ mist?

More slope than barren tree, though memory

shovels in through the nose–

hell, still got knees of green.

***

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Origami Kings

Poetry/Tom Zimmerman

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

“Like daylight folded tight to make the night,”

your dad would say, but he was origami

king, malingerer and fingerer

of things he couldn’t understand. Your needs:

a girlfriend earthy as a basement couch,

smashed sandwiches so packed with glop and spice

you eat them at the kitchen sink, your mother’s

secret strings. A string quartet at least,

a jug band from the east of West Virginia,

mayhem in Metropolis, Immanuel

Kant in solitary at the county

jail. The scotch has too much peat. You fold

and tear at life, its ripped-out pages stained

and inked with characters you cannot read.

***

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

the greed of corporations & men

Poetry/linda m. crate

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

the gnarly wound

i received

because they refuse

to give us anything more than

cheap can openers

needed glued shut

now i am not allowed to soak my hands

for two to five days,

not allowed to get the hand wet that was cut open

for twenty four hours;

and tonight i’m supposed to work—

everything is always

about the money, and cutting corners;

but i’m not okay with that

especially now that i sport this wound

that was entirely unnecessary

had i had the right equipment it would have

never happened—

i tire of the greed of corporations and men

which allows people to suffer

for no good reason

in the name of money they cannot take with them into

their graves.

***

40541060

Book Review:

Scoundrels Among Us: Stories by Darrin Doyle

Tortoise Books, 2018

Reviewed by Hermine Robinson

Scoundrels are the characters who make life and literature interesting. Darrin Doyle’s story collection Scoundrels Among Us (Tortoise Books, 2018) gives readers not just one or two such characters to contemplate, but dozens of them. These are the people your grandmother would have warned you about, had she known they existed.

From the very outset, rogues abound. “Insert Name”recounts the lives, loves and philosophies of nine identical brothers living as a single persona in a large super mart. “The Source of All Feeling” will have readers checking the status of their inadequate elbows. A series of “Sessions”reads like the therapy notes of a deranged mind and creates a sense of cohesion in what could have been a loosely-themed collection of ramblings.

Doyle proves to be something of a scoundrel himself because his collection of twenty-nine stories refuses to follow the rules. Interspersed among what poses as standard flash fiction are pieces that range from a laundry list of bad behaviour, “The Kids in West End” to the raw prose of a failed fighter rewriting his history in “I Killed the Invisible Man”. Doyle, like his characters, refuses to be pinned down.

Scoundrels Among Us is more than just a catalogue of miscreants behaving badly. Doyle uses skillful writing, insightful observation, and unapologetic opinion to explore the boundaries of self while exposing the jagged edges of humanity. Close reading will reveal he is not just describing the scoundrels among us but the ones within us.

The collection is irreverent and weird – your grandmother probably won’t like it – but it is well suited to readers who accept that not all writing has to be neatly wrapped up in the form of traditional narrative.

***

Печать

Book Review:

The Dame Was Trouble: Various Authors (Anthology)

Coffin Hop Press 2018

Reviewed by Katherine Doll

The Dame Was Trouble: A Collection of the Best Female Crime writers of Canada. Coffin Hop Press, 2018. Edited by Sarah L. Johnson, Halli Lilburne and Cat McDonald.

This collection is Coffin Hop Press’ tribute to The Year of Publishing Women, 2018. And a fitting tribute it is. When you think of the word ‘dame’, what does that bring to mind? A femme fatale like Bette Davis, Lauren Bacall, or Barbara Stanwyck in their diverse film roles of the 1940’s and 1950’s; a whip-smart professional who isn’t afraid to show it like Kinsey Millhone, a hard-boiled private detective in Sue Grafton’s mystery novel series; a brainy young girl like Hermione Grainger in Harry Potter; or Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. All possible iterations of the dame archetype; women who are strong, feisty, fighting for what they think is right, and most importantly  know their own worth and are not afraid to let everyone around them know. They are great role models for women of all ages. Women who can speak their minds and not only talk the talk but also walk the walk.

The collection is written by writers of all levels of achievement. New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong wrote the first story in the collection. Several stories have won such awards as the Arthur Ellis Crime Writers awards, PRISM International’s Jacob Zilber Prize, Crime Writers of Canada Award, and other awards and publishing credits.

One of my favorite stories is “Parting Shot” by S.G. Wong. The story takes place in 1938, and has a mother/daughter duo of dames as characters. The main protagonist is Mei Wu, the granddaughter of the head of Wu’s movie studio. She is working in the family business as a camera technician when she is killed by a handsome stranger and becomes a ghost bonded to her own daughter Amelia, a very young dame. S.G. Wong creates a world where the ghosts of loved ones who have died stay with their closest relative or friend. The ghosts can speak to their hosts and to each other, but not to any other people, a fact which plays into the story later. Mei Wu and Amelia’s use of Chinese magic to attain their goals adds a fantastical slant to the story. This fantasy element makes an ethereal layer that overlays a solid mystery story. It is an entertaining combination of both.

“Rozotica” by R.M Greenaway has to be my favorite story with a unique set-up and really interesting plot.  The year is 1973, the dawn of the electronic age, and our dame, Heather, a somewhat schlumpy and sad-sack waitress is recruited by a fancy-dressed con man to pose as a real-life robot sex doll as part of an investment scheme in a fake start-up company. No one expected this to go well, least of all Heather, and when one of the prospective investors tries to buy her for the night all goes for shit. A slap stick chain of events leaves Heather in a precarious position from which there is only one way out.  

 “Silk” by Meghan Victoria is the most elegantly written of all the stories in my opinion, featuring lush, seductive and sensual writing. Our dame is a high-priced call girl who exacts her own kind of justice on her abusive client. The writing flows beautifully.

Another stand out is “Crossing Jordan” by Sandra Ruttan. The dame in this story is a tragedy in many ways. She is a prostitute suffering from cancer, as well as the never ending shame that has been heaped upon her all her life by her family and society. After many failed suicide attempts, a visit to a kindly doctor friend gives her renewed hope that carries her to the end of the story where she is pushed her to her limits in a desperate fight for survival. We are never told outright of her biggest secret, but by the end of the story you can figure it out, which is a kind of writerly magic in itself.

The time couldn’t be better for a collection like this. It’s serendipitously timely, like, when the 1979 movie The China Syndrome about a nuclear disaster came out, and then the nuclear facility at Three Mile Island in New York state exploded a few weeks later. It gave the film an unexpected timeliness and prescience. As women still struggle to be heard by men in power positions, and while protests like the pink pussy hat protest, and the ‘Me Too’ movement are forefront in the news and social media these days, the stories in this collection will comfort, inspire, sadden, anger, and entertain.

***

Contributors

Linda M. Crate

Linda M. Crate’s poetry, short stories, articles, and reviews have been published in a myriad of magazines both online and in print. She has five published chapbooks A Mermaid Crashing Into Dawn (Fowlpox Press – June 2013), Less Than A Man (The Camel Saloon – January 2014), If Tomorrow Never Comes (Scars Publications, August 2016), My Wings Were Made to Fly (Flutter Press, September 2017), and splintered with terror (Scars Publications, January 2018), and one micro-chapbook Heaven Instead (Origami Poems Project, May 2018). She is also the author of the novel Phoenix Tears (Czykmate Books, June 2018).

Tom Zimmerman

Thomas Zimmerman teaches English, directs the WritingCenter, and edits The Big Windows Review https://thebigwindowsreview.wordpress.com at Washtenaw Community College, in Ann Arbor,Michigan, USA. His poems have appeared recently in Rasputin: A PoetryThreadLittle Rose Magazine, and Sum Journal.Tom’s website: https://thomaszimmerman.wordpress.com/

Diarmuid ó Maolalaí

DS Maolalai is a poet from Ireland who has been writing and publishing poetry for almost 10 years. His first collection, Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden, was published in 2016 by the Encircle Press, and he has a second collection forthcoming from Turas Press in 2019. He has been nominated for Best of the Web and twice for the Pushcart Prize.

Mitchell Grabois

Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois  has had over fourteen-hundred of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He has been nominated for numerous prizes, and. was awarded the 2017 Booranga Writers’ Centre (Australia) Prize for Fiction. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition. To read more of his work, Google Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois. He lives in Denver, Colorado, USA.

James Croal Jackson

James Croal Jackson is the author of The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017). His poetry has appeared in Columbia Journal, Rattle, Hobart, Reservoir, and elsewhere. He edits The Mantle, a poetry journal, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Find him at jimjakk.com and @jimjakk.

Amy Whitmore

Amy Whitmore has had personal pieces appear on CBC radio Saint John, in the NB Reader, and won some writing awards: Tidal Wave (now Silver Wave) film festivals Laugh Out Loud award to finance the shooting of a short film; Atlantic Film Festival’s Scripts Out Loud for a feature length film (Mary Walsh read the part of one my characters, the only one she did). Writing in training for episodic television gig via CBC/Mobius Entertainment.

Liz Betz

Liz Betz enjoys her retirement hobby of writing short stories and is always delighted to have them published.  Recent publications can be found at Ambrosia, Danforth Review, RKRVY, Pif & South85 Journal.  Follow her fiction writing journey at http://lizbetz.blogspot.ca or read her essays at http://sixtyplusbylizbetz.blogspot.ca

Adam Kelly Morton

Adam Kelly Morton is a Montreal-based husband, father (four kids, all under-five), acting teacher, board gamer, and writer. He has been published in Open Pen, Talking Soup, Danforth Review, and Urban Graffiti, among others. He has an upcomin gpiece in A Wild and Precious Life, an addiction anthology to be published this year in London, UK. He is the editor-in-chief of the Bloody Key Society Periodical literary magazine.

Steve Passey

Contributing Editor Steve Passey hails from Southern Alberta. He is the author of the collections Forty-Five Minutes of Unstoppable Rock and The Coachella Madrigals and is a three-time Pushcart, one-time Best of the Net nominee.

***

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