November 22, 2018| ISSUE no 245
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Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar
Sheree La Puma
West Side Story,
The Capeman, And Me
short fiction by Wim Hylen
The original title of West Side Story was East Side Story. It was to be set on the Lower East Side and involve Catholics and Jews at the Easter/Passover season.
The Capeman, a musical by Paul Simon, tells the story of Salvatore Agron, who as a 15-year-old, stabbed to death two teens in a New York City park in 1959.
I was born in Midwood, Brooklyn in 1939 to Gertrude Roberts (nee Stein), a homemaker, and Bernard Roberts, a tailor. They named me Leonard but always called me Lenny. I did not have brothers or sisters.
Steven Sondheim, who wrote the lyrics for West Side Story said, “what the critics didn’t realize- and they rarely realize anything- is that the show isn’t very good.”
Gangs feature prominently in both West Side Story and The Capeman.
There were a few gangs in Midwood in the 50’s: the Jokers, the Golden Eagles, the Diplomats. None of them were particularly violent or scary. They were more like social clubs that dabbled in violence and thievery.
West Side Story began production in 1957; The Capeman in 1997.
A rumor would occasionally circulate that one of the toughest gangs in the city, the Fordham Baldies, would be showing up at Midwood High to wreak havoc. I have heard that similar
rumors were spread about the imminent arrival of the Baldies at other New York City high schools, none of which proved accurate.
Although Steven Sondheim ended up writing the vast majority of the lyrics to West Side Story, he told Leonard Bernstein that as long as he received sole credit for the lyrics, he was fine with a split on gross profits that gave the lion’s share to Bernstein, a statement that probably cost him millions.
In my sophomore year of high school, I told Richard Ginsburg that I had no objection to him asking out my close friend, Lottie Gold. The truth was that I was in secretly love with Lottie and it tore me up when they began going steady.
On August 30, 1959, Salvatore Agron and other members of the Vampires, a Puerto Rican gang, entered a playground in Hell’s Kitchen planning to fight the Norsemen, an Irish gang who had beaten up a Vampires member. Several teenagers, including Robert Young and Anthony “Skinny” Krzesinski, were sitting on benches in the park. In the ensuing confrontation, Agron stabbed to death Young and Krzesinski, neither of whom, it turns out, was a member of a gang.
In the run up to the opening of The Capeman, Paul Simon was quoted as saying he was turned off by current Broadway shows, in part because the music all sounded the same. Given that, many in the musical theater community were hoping that Simon’s show would be a flop.
My family would have no more thought of going to Manhattan to attend a Broadway show than of trying to hitch a ride to the moon.
Agron, who was dubbed “The Capeman” because of the black cape he wore when he killed the two boys, became the youngest prisoner ever to be sentenced to death row in New York. A few days before he was scheduled to be executed, Agron’s death sentence was commuted by Governor Nelson Rockefeller. Eleanor Roosevelt was one of those who urged the Governor to spare his life.
My mother and father wanted me to be a lawyer or a doctor. Neither profession appealed to me. I was torn between studying to be a teacher, a psychologist or a social worker.
At the time of The Capeman killings, West Side Story played at the Winter Gardens Theatre on Broadway between 50th and 51st Streets, just blocks away from the playground where the killings occurred.
Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, despite being friends since the 5th grade, often did not get along as adults.
Nobody got along with Jerome Robbins, the mercurial choreographer for West Side Story.
In 1960, I graduated with a degree in social work from Brooklyn College and went to work as a parole officer with the City of New York.
Carol Lawrence, who played Maria in the original Broadway production of West Side Story, was born Carolina Maria Laria, and was of Italian descent.
In 1961, I married Anna Capostelli, a high school teacher and classmate of mine at Brooklyn College. Anna was a musical theater aficionado and I took her to as many Broadway shows as I could afford. The first show I remember seeing was How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Although it took some time, I eventually found myself becoming a fan of musical theater and began to read widely about its history.
After his arrest, Salvatore Agron was forced by the police to speak to a group of reporters. “I don’t care if I burn. My mother could watch me,” he told them. When a reporter asked how he felt about killing the two boys, he responded, “I feel like killing you.”
The rehearsals for West Side Story were described as being akin to a gang war, with Jerry Robbins attempting to foment animosity between actors in the opposing gangs.
Sal Agron’s friend, Luis Hernandez, dubbed “The Umbrella Man” by the press because he wielded a sharpened umbrella on the night of the stabbings, was also convicted of murder. Hernandez had this to say about the absence of strong parenting in his and Sal Agron’s life: “We were razors slicing through life. I loved my father and I loved Sal’s mother. But they were too loose. Stronger parents would have saved us.”
The West Side Story song “Officer Krupke” humorously explores the relationship between one’s upbringing and juvenile delinquency.
Sal Agron had a difficult childhood. He, his sister and his mother lived in a poorhouse in Puerto Rico for a time. When he was living with his father, his stepmother committed suicide by hanging. He was functionally illiterate in both English and Spanish.
Within a year of our marriage, Anna and I had a son, Michael, a beautiful boy with dark ringlets and big brown eyes. I made it a point to spend as much time with him as I could. My father, although a kind man who clearly loved me, was often too busy or too tired to do much with me.
The Umbrella Man was released from prison in 1969. He married, had eight children, worked as a janitor and was never again in trouble with the law.
Michael caught the acting bug early and Anna and I took him with us when we went to shows. He often sang show tunes at home. I remember him belting out “More I Cannot Wish You” from Guys and Dolls when he was 10, trying his best to do an Irish brogue.
The four creators of West Side Story, Leonard Bernstein, Steven Sondheim, Jerome Robbins, and Arthur Laurents were all Jewish and homosexual, although Leonard Bernstein was married to a woman.
My son, Michael, came out to us as gay the summer before his freshman year in college. We were not shocked.
West Side Story is still frequently performed in high schools, colleges and repertory theaters. The Capeman, not so much.
My son played Tony in the senior year production of West Side Story at The School of the Performing Arts in Manhattan. He was magnificent. I cried when Chino shot him and he died in Maria’s arms.
I was a sophomore in college when Sal Agron was arrested. I remember the headline of the Daily News was, “Killed Because I Felt Like It, Says Cape Man.”
The review of The Capeman in the New York Times compared watching the show to watching a mortally wounded animal. The show closed after 67 performances.
In the summer of 1978, between graduating from high school and starting at NYU as a theater major, my son had a job making deliveries for a Chinese Restaurant in midtown Manhattan. After delivering to an apartment at 38th Street and Broadway, he was robbed and shot by a group of teenage boys. He died in the way to the hospital.
Sal Agron did his time in several New York prisons, including Attica, Sing Sing, and Auburn. Although his prison record was far from spotless, by all accounts, he used his time to better himself. He read voraciously, attended college classes, became a competent writer, and agitated for prison reform.
For at least a month after Michael’s death, I lived in a daze, unable to sleep, eat, or work and crying almost constantly. My wife was no better.
On West Side Story’s opening night out of town in Washington, D.C., after Tony had been killed and the curtain rose, the audience was silent. The cast feared they had a bomb on their hands. After a pause, the audience jumped to its feet, stamping and yelling their approval.
When Agron’s death sentence was commuted, the mother of one of his victims taped a note to her front door that said, “may he die a thousand deaths every day.”
When we received the call that Michael had been killed, Anna and I had just come back from watching “Heaven Can Wait,” a silly film starring Warren Beatty. I remember that in the moments after hearing the news, the words “our lives are over” flashed through my head like lightning bolts.
Three weeks after my son was killed, they arrested a 17-year-old, Albert Daniels of the Bronx, for the murder. Two others were involved in the robbery but both identified Daniels as the one who pulled the trigger. Both of his co-defendants testified that Daniels had frequently spoken about the possibility of killing the individuals they robbed so that the victim could not testify against them.
A group stood outside the precinct where the Capeman and the Umbrella Man were being held, yelling “Kill the Spics!”
The New York Times review of West Side Story said, “although the material is horrifying, the workmanship is admirable.”
Sal Agron was released from prison on April 1, 1979 and I was assigned to be his parole officer.
After Michael’s death, Anna and I tried desperately to have another child. We were unsuccessful.
Paul Simon and his wife, musician Edie Brickell were involved in a domestic incident in 2014 for which they made a court appearance. Simon’s lawyer explained to the judge that “Edie Brickell is from Texas, and he is from Queens. And you know what? Things are done one way in Texas, and there’s another way of doing things in Queens.”
After release from prison, Sal Agron lived in the Upper West Side with a woman he had met taking college courses while in prison. Within a year, the couple broke up and Sal relocated to the Bronx where both his mother and sister lived.
Albert Daniels had previous arrests for assault and robbery but as far as the police were able to determine, he did not belong to a gang.
I had been the parole officer for several convicted murderers in my career. The only thing that differentiated Sal Agron from the others was the infamy of his crime.
I attended the sentencing of Albert Daniels. He was an unremarkable looking kid: thin, about 5’ll, with a small tuft of facial hair and a scar on his right cheek. He did not have the cold eyes of a killer. And believe me, I looked him dead in the eye as they led him out of the courtroom.
After Michael’s death, it took a long time for Anna and me to resume the activities that had given us pleasure, including going to Broadway shows. The first show we saw after Michael died was A Chorus Line, which we enjoyed.
By the time I met him, Sal Agron bore little resemblance to the thin, pompadoured teenager who had appeared on the front page of the papers. He had filled out and lost some of his hair. He spoke with a thick New Yorican accent. Sal told me that for the first few months after he was released, he visited the playground where the murders occurred almost obsessively. I later learned that he took his first hit of crack cocaine in that playground. This was before the days of mandatory drug testing for parolees.
Even before Michael was killed, Anna and I had been bemoaning the state of the city in the 70’s. It seemed to be crumbling before our eyes and even though we were committed liberals, we grew frustrated by the constant panhandling. We seriously considered leaving the city in the early 80’s but decided we would wait to see whether the tide would turn.
On the second night of West Side Story on Broadway, a businessman who had likely come straight from work looking for some light entertainment and was instead, presented with dancing juvenile delinquents and knife fights, left early into the performance. On the way out, he spotted Steven Sondheim standing in the aisle and deduced that he was in some way connected to the show. “Don’t ask,” he said.
I went into social work because I wanted to help those who had the deck stacked against them. But I had lost some of my starry-eyed idealism by the time Sal ended up on my case load. Not that I believed any less in what I was doing; I was just more realistic about a parolee’s chance of success.
In almost every circumstance I am aware of, the death of a child either shatters a marriage or brings spouses closer together. Thank God, for Anna and me, it was the latter. We clung to each other for dear life in the years following our son’s death.
Sal Agron worked odd jobs after his release, including a stint working with juvenile delinquents.
I rooted for all my parolees to make it but I especially rooted for Sal Agron. His stabbing of the innocent boys was something I initially couldn’t help holding against him but I eventually was able to put it to the side, especially since it was almost 30 years in the past. I grew to genuinely like Sal. He had the manner of most convicts; they initially put on a show, trying to convince you they have changed. You have to peel back the layers of bullshit to get to the real person. And when those layers were pulled back, I found Sal to be down to earth, intelligent, and remorseful for the course his life had taken. Although he abided by the terms of his parole, I got the feeling that he was drifting, unsure of how to navigate his freedom after spending his entire adult life in prison.
Albert Daniels was sentenced to 20 years-to-life for first degree murder and began serving time in Attica.
I find it is helpful in getting to know parolees to let them do most of the talking. Sal Agron once said to me, “You’re so quiet, man. Sometimes I wish I knew what was going on in your head.”
The New York State Department of Corrections has a website that allows you to check on an inmate’s status, including which prison the inmate is assigned to, and possible release date. I occasionally check on Albert Daniels’ status, although recently I have been trying to curb the urge. Why should it matter to me where he is? I am confident I will be dead by the time he is released.
In 2010 I retired from the City of New York with a full pension. Anna retired in 2012. We considered moving to Florida but after much debate, we decided against it. Although the city is so gentrified these days, we can still feel its heart beating, however faintly. We still take in Broadway shows but are disappointed by the trend of movies being turned into musicals. We loved Hamilton, though.
Sal Agron died on April 22, 1986 from a heart attack, likely a complication related to his drug addiction. I attended his funeral, which was in the South Bronx. I later learned through a magazine article that Billy Luken, who had been injured during the fight in the Hell’s Kitchen
playground and was Anthony Krzensisnski’s best friend, had stood across the street from the church where the funeral occurred, just so he could see Sal Agron’s coffin being carried out. The Umbrella Man, afraid of being recognized, also stood across the street, weeping. The Umbrella Man later said that he and Luken may very well have been unknowingly standing next to each other.
Although Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents and Jerry Robbins have all passed away, Stephen Sondheim is alive and working, which makes me happy.
I still have dreams about Michael. In some dreams he is a little boy. In others, he is the same age as when he died. But when I dreamed of him a few nights ago, he was a grown man. He was eating Thanksgiving dinner with me, Anna and Sal Agron. “I’m so sorry I stabbed you, man,” Sal said to Michael as he poured gravy over his turkey and mashed potatoes. “Don’t mention it, Sal,” Michael said with a smile and a wave of his hand. “As you can see, everything turned out fine.” I woke with a feeling of grief so profound that I found it difficult to breathe. It was a cold morning and the tree branches outside our bedroom window were heavy with snow. I turned over and wrapped my sleeping wife in an embrace, wishing I never had to let go.
The Silent Siren
The moon demanded attention, her urgency casting opulent glows below. Each day the sun and moon curtsied to each other in passing, the cliffed lands would shape shift into giants; the waves into crowds of adoring subjects lapping at the shore. From time to time, a ship would glide through and break the peace, the continuity, between water and sky. They were becoming less frequent, however; less accessible to Maris, but her patience knew no end and so she filled on more of it each day, and even more again each night.
The last ship that went down did so quietly with no bravado, no declaration, as if it had accepted its fate—as if fighting the depths was futile. It didn’t burn. There were no screams that echoed and traveled with the current, and Maris wondered if anyone had been on the ship at all. She had watched the water swell and rise, swallowing it whole.
The first curious vessel that glided by prompted her to swim up to it, curious at the looming presence. It was sleek and steel gray. The bow, like the pointed nose of a shark, broke through the surface of the ocean with command. She swam close to it and observed that there were no barnacles, no splintered edges to catch fire in a sinking. Maris’ hands had nowhere to grip to join for a joy ride, and in her attempts to hold on or catch a glimpse at who (or what) was onboard, they instead slid off. The ship kept moving, unperturbed, while she remained behind like a character plucked from a dream and cast aside.
After the last sinking, the moonlight spilled below to reveal a book drifting towards Maris—the only evidence left behind, as if spit up by an ocean too full to devour stories.
The siren’s serpentine tail, thick and slick as a seal, cut through the water and stretched out beyond the rock she had poised herself on. It coiled itself around the salt soaked covers and broken spine and reeled the book in with effortless elegance. Maris’ fingers, webbed and crusted with half broken shells, flipped through transparent pages that ran with blotted ink that bled through and dripped over corners.
There was a hunger brewing at the tip of her tail as she flipped vigorously, ungluing what was stuck together. Born from the pages of mythological encyclopedias, Maris had heard whispers as the times changed. Beaches that once remained empty now saw visitors regularly. There was once a fear of the ocean that she took particular pride in. Now she hid in shadows, her tail waving through the waters as children ran squealing that they saw a shark or a whale.
A page pulled apart with its words half melted; there was a sadness to how the letters drooped and dragged across the surface.
A singly wispy cloud passed over the moon like a lid blinking over a curious eye. She’d let the siren have the attention, just this once. In the dimming light, Maris saw herself on the page—hair stretching and color fading; tail breaking as the delicate paper fell apart. The top of the page had only half a word left, barely legible: aid. The m before it was barely a shadow.
A bygone era had never questioned Maris’ existence, but how real can someone be who came from the imaginative thoughts of frightened sailors?
flash fiction by Nikoletta Gjoni
poetry by Monica Kagan
Plight of plankton fleeing the night
and whale's cavernous snout.
Limbs, shy, cubs and calves emerge
claws and tusks thrust and skewer
prowling the sun-scorched plains.
The smooth-skinned newborn's fingers unfurl.
Bipedal bodies lengthen,
a mélange of protean emotion—
Phosphorus souls ignite
on a quest for succour from
the veined leaves of oak trees,
and the roar of seas.
Flesh, scoured of cartilage
muscle and bone morph
into wrinkle-ridged hands and feet
reciting an elegy to youth
before the black-winged cloak,
velvet night descends.
It’s cruel to laugh at the man in the Laundromat quoting Shakespeare. He punches out words, shadow boxes in the corner.
It’s 82 degrees outside & the wind is blowing from the east.
He has a spirtual connection with the color green.
He draws ordinary subjects.
He likes cats.
He doesn’t like ovens.
He doesn’t like writers that shoot themselves.
There’s a black hole in his past.
He eats handfuls of dirt to fill the void..
They will find him in an alley, next to a motel.
His skin will match the color of the drapes, dark grey.
micro fiction by Sheree La Puma
What happened originally was that neither of my lousy roommates would wash the dishes like they were supposed to. So I started breaking those dishes, loudly and regularly. During the constitutional convention precipitated by that period of violence, they created this thing called The Semaphore System, like a chore chart except absurdly complex. It was to be rational, consensual, and, I was assured, totally non-magical.
A semaphore is a machine that uses flags or other signs as a means of visible telegraphy in which information is encoded in the position of the flags. Jon, the one roommate, had found an old US&S T-2 railroad semaphore while he was on a road trip through Utah with his girlfriend Anastasia. Basically, this Semaphore was a big metal case with a paddle-shaped flag sticking out one side, sitting on top of a thick twenty-foot pole with a ladder. The white paint was flaking off where your feet would go on the rungs. It's a testament to how weird that house is that they were able to install it in the kitchen.
There was also something called the Key Cabinet which Jon had hammered together out of plywood and stuck three off-the-shelf locks from Home Depot on. The key to the Semaphore was in the Key Cabinet; the keys to the Key Cabinet, we each had one of.
It was Jon who did all the building and Todd, the other roommate, who made up the rules: The Semaphore System required us to meet every night at 10 pm, whereupon we were to simultaneously unlock the Key Cabinet, then the last one to have done the dishes was permitted to take the Semaphore Key and adjust the position of the paddle. While the paddle was pointing up, I had to do the dishes; if it was at a 45 degree angle, that indicated Jon; and a 90 degree angle meant Todd. This was all articulated in a long and obsessively meticulous edition of the House Rules that we all signed.
I figured it was pretty silly, but maybe these nerds needed some consistent ceremony to fasten their attention to their responsibilities, and the nightly meeting under the Semaphore seemed to have that effect, at least at first. I'm afraid I treated them like they were both, probably, a little bit autistic.
The Semaphore System had been in place for approximately three weeks when I woke up one night at 2 am, my body miserable with the earliness of the hour. Something was strange, but I couldn't tell what. I lay back and tried to sleep.
It didn't work. Time passed. I rolled over. More time passed.
It was when I turned on my light and went online to read some doujinshi—amateur Japanese-style comic books, often hilariously bad, often pornographic—that I noticed Diesel's silence. Diesel was my hamster. I actually made him myself, from a kit. He was gray, with a twitchy pink nose and a double black stripe down his back, like a sports car. Hamsters are nocturnal—usually he would be making comforting scratching and rustling noises at night.
Actually, he wasn't even in his cage, which was a large habitat next to my desk, with a wheel and a bunch of elaborate tubes. I examined the cage's corners, because hamsters can chew through plastic if they're patient, but there weren't any holes.
Well, I thought, in an old house like this he can probably hide behind the walls for as long as he likes.
Fifteen minutes later, though, he was back in his cage. I looked up from my computer when I noticed his little hamster noises. I thought, maybe since he's back now I'll be able to sleep.
But no. Consciousness seemed glued to me, even after I tried a few DIY sleep cantrips off the Internet.
Sometimes people don't seem to understand when I mention having made Diesel from a kit. I suppose they never had pets growing up. And of course, it's magic, so young people won't have seen it. But actually, a lot of us used to do this kind of project. There was a whole Internet community around it. For Diesel, I used parts from two different kits: the Yekha 201, from a trendy Scottish company, had long fluffy black hair and was independent and active, while the Neskey was considered much more cooperative. The Neskey was where Diesel got his gray coloration.
The boxes they came in only contained five or six parts, none of them much bigger than a grain of rice, and each in its own individual baggie. The instructions would have you click them together like Legos and set them in a shallow dish, where they marinated in a slimy green solution that came in the kit. Every hour or so there were instructions to follow, and in between steps you kept it in the oven at 200 degrees. Over time, a hairless pink animal began to emerge.
Finally, you performed a pretty standard bureaumantic spell that bumped you forward an hour and produced a clear fluid distilled from the lost time. A very precisely calibrated amount of this had to be put into your baby hamster's mouth (actually, only the Neskey model was picky about the exact amount) and then it would begin to stir.
It was when you put your own personal time into it that it became a real hamster, like the kind made by, well, mommy and daddy hamsters. Up until that moment, it was pretty sturdy; you could put parts together wrong or slip and break something, and it wouldn't matter because you could go back and fix it. But afterwards, it was as fragile as any other living thing.
From that night on, no matter where it was supposed to be, every morning the Semaphore Arm was found pointing straight up. Somebody was cheating the system, and as a result I was washing the dishes every single night. My insomnia also became a regular thing, occurring like clockwork at 2 am, and always coincided with Diesel's mysterious absence.
“Have you let either me or Todd have your key?” said Jon, when I confronted them.
“No,” I said.
“You haven't lost it, so that one of us could have made a copy?”
“No, I keep it on my key chain.”
“Have any of the three of us failed in some way to follow the rules?”
“I don't know, but I set the arm to horizontal last night. You both saw me.”
“I remember. Or, I seem to. Todd, do you remember?”
“Yup,” said Todd.
“Look,” I said, “obviously it's not really my turn. I washed the dishes last night, so it's not my turn tonight. If the Semaphore System is designed to do anything, it's to make sure the person who does the dishes one night gets to pick who does them the next night. I picked Jon. So now it's Jon's turn.”
Jon was shaking his head. “House rule 1B subsection ii makes no reference to whose turn it was the previous night,” he said. “Only the current angle of the Semaphore Arm matters.”
“Listen,” said Todd, “the whole point of the Semaphore System is the physicality of it. I invite you to check the physical integrity of the Key Cabinet and the Semaphore. If somebody's broken into one of them to change the angle of the arm, we would see signs of tampering. I invite you to check. The whole point of the Semaphore System is that there's no need to rely on idealized, entirely imaginary entities like a schedule, which are so subject to interpretation. Remember when we were on a schedule before, and it didn't work? I interpreted the schedule one way, Jon interpreted it another way. You started breaking dishes, and I sympathize with that frustration. Under the Semaphore System, if the physical equipment is intact, the obligation to wash the dishes is intact. The system works because it reifies the schedule. The apparent schedule is actually epiphenomenal to the condition of the physical equipment. Nobody can weasel their way out of it. The way I see it, we have two seemingly-contradictory phenomena: First, an apparent shared memory of some events from last night. Second, an intact physical apparatus before us, right here, right now. A Semaphore Arm that is angled vertically. A system of keys and locks that all of us understand and none of us can transgress. I think it's clear which of these two phenomena the Semaphore System would have us favor.”
I decided, of course, that they were behind it all and I had to catch them in the act.
I was pretty good at scrying in my youth; it was actually my final project for Magic II back in high school, with Mr. Krazkowski. The tricky part isn't the actual catoptromancy—you just make sure the liqueur's got a really high sugar content (this was traditionally mead, but I used McGuinness crème de menthe because mead is nasty)—the tricky part is getting your eye out safely. Because obviously, you want to be able to get it back in again afterwards.
Every spell involves a vertex, a charm and a locus. Spells like this one that involved just one of each were easy and anybody could do them, but more than that and it becomes very difficult sorcery-level magic. So for instance, back in history this spell had two charms, the water and the booze, which would have been in separate silver bowls, and I wouldn't have been able to do it. But by the time I was growing up you could consolidate them into one single charm by spreading a thin layer of mercury atop the booze, then the water on top of that and voila: Eye, booze to cover, mercury, water. Runes marked around the edge of the container to keep the mercury from sinking. Like a fancy mixed drink except do not ever drink it.
When the ripples in the mercury settle down, you get this perfectly clear mirrored surface in which, if you've done the spell right, you (the vertex) can see things happening at the locus from far away. Perfect for spying on those who cheat at household chores.
It was around this time that I saw the first bluebird. Before that I didn't really believe in them, you know? Like the Tooth Fairy, or, uh, Tom Bunyan and his blue ox.
It was early in the morning, during the now-regular period of painful insomnia. I had gone outside to look at the sunrise, which I don't normally see, and there it was, sitting on a power line. And you know what? It was making a sound just like the children's song, like “bluebi-i-ird”.
My friend Paul from college claims to have seen one while high; the LSD made it so that he could see flashes of light coming out of the bluebird's eyes, touching everything that moved. He watched a woman walk past him and every joint and surface of her body was attached to the bluebird by these ethereal, luminous lines. The same with a passing car, his own hand, and the air as the breeze blew past.
This is a bit different from what your kindergarten teacher tells you: According to Paul, it's not just that they make the sun and moon rise and set or tell the animals when it's time to migrate; it's that literally every particle in the universe that has any velocity whatsoever has it by means of the intervention of a bluebird somewhere.
I didn't see any of that, though. I just saw a bright little bird sing his song, turn his head to the side, and fly away.
The catoptromantic spell I used could look backwards in time a certain amount (not real time travel, of course, which is impossible; just residual shades, like historians use) so when I awoke at 2 am that night, I could see what had been happening in the kitchen about fifteen minutes prior. In the shifting silver surface I didn't find Todd fiddling with any kind of trapdoor or secret hatch on the Semaphore, as I had expected.
Rather, I saw Diesel. He came into the kitchen from the door to the hallway and scurried up the wall and through a crack into the Key Cabinet. Then he climbed down with the Semaphore Key in his mouth, crossed the floor, climbed up the Semaphore, unlocked the case, and went inside the control mechanism. I watched, stunned, as the paddle slowly rose from its 45 degree inclination, a degree at a time, to vertical.
Then Diesel put everything back the way it had been and left the kitchen.
My own hamster!
“I was against you getting a hamster in the first place,” was what Todd had to say about it when I confronted him.
“If you want to go back to the way it was before The Semaphore System,” said Jon, under similar circumstances, “that's fine with me. Just don't start breaking plates again; the noise really bothered my tarantulas.”
He was digging a huge pit out in the backyard, at least forty feet in diameter, and sweating through his T-shirt although it was pretty cold out that day. Something about installing a tree, but it looked more like groundwork for a swimming pool.
This would have been after Anastasia was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, so I felt uncomfortable giving Jon a hard time. I think they didn't know yet quite how bad it was; but of course it ended up being terminal. It was a difficult period in Jon's life, and I remember wondering why he was digging a huge pit instead of spending time with her. But I suppose everybody deals with things in their own way.
“Also, where's your eye?” he said, removing one work glove and scratching his face.
“Wouldn't you like to know.”
The other skulduggery revealed by my scrying also took place in the kitchen and happened while I was on my lunch break at work. I saw Jon and Todd sitting on the linoleum in the full yoga lotus position, wearing, for whatever sorcerous reason, complete Santa costumes, with a candle and a plastic toy hamster between them, muttering. Probably backwards Latin.
The toy hamster is how I knew what they were up to—basic sympathetic magic, obviously, with their friendship as the vertex, the toy hamster as the charm and Diesel, the real hamster, as the focus—and that's why I called a magician friend of mine to come lift the spell. It's no good having a possessed hamster going around messing up the chore rotation.
She was a grad student in the Miskatonic University Witchcraft Department. I think she was on the augury track, which should have been a warning to me. I'm not going to mention her name, because she still lives around here and we are not friends anymore.
What she did was: she showed up in her big thick glasses and witch's hat and asked to see Diesel. She took him in her hands and looked at him very closely for a minute, then told me to get my roommates together.
We assembled in the kitchen.
“I've been given to understand,” she told us, “that this hamster has been causing some distance between the way your household is supposed to run and how it actually does. Some, shall we say, epistemological space.”
She made a gesture and Diesel fell asleep. She spread some newspaper on the kitchen table, made a little bed of paper towels, and laid him down gently on top of it.
“The way to break a spell like this is by means of a rigorous investigation.”
She unrolled a small black case filled with shiny tools and selected one.
“What's that for?” I asked.
“Shhh,” she said, and bent over Diesel. She put three fingers on his chest, but then her hair fell in front of her face, so she straightened up, put her hat on the table, created a quick ponytail with a scrunchie from her wrist, and put her hat back on. Then she bent to Diesel again, pinned his torso down with her left hand and brought the precise, triangular, scalpel-looking tool up to his throat.
“Seriously,” I said. “What are you doing?”
I stepped forward as she made the first cut, a quick, deep meridian down his belly from chin to tail.
She looked up and put the bloody scalpel down on the newspaper, then shushed me as effectively as I have ever been shushed, her eyebrows up and left hand making a circular motion while pinching thumb and forefinger together, like a conductor.
I looked over my shoulder to Jon and Todd. “Are you seeing this?” I said. Jon shrugged, and I don't even know what Todd was looking at.
“Oh man, he's really bleeding, I've got to get him to the vet. Here.” I took another step forward, reaching for Diesel, but another shush stopped me in my tracks.
“I think I've had about enough of this,” she said. “Young man, you can go to your room.”
It was a powerful hex; I went.
I watched her reflection in the silvery scrying bowl on my desk as she cut him up into about forty pieces. Sounds were transmitted with crystal clarity, which is not normally the case; the witch must have been letting off a lot of ambient magical charge. She spread the pieces out and shifted them around with her fingers, looking contemplative. Finally she held each organ up in front of my roommates' faces. “Is this something that could turn the key of the Semaphore?” she asked. No, it's just a liver. “What about this?” No, that's a hamster face. And so on.
“Therefore,” she finally concluded, “what you were taught was a singular entity is not, and therefore could not have changed the angle of the Semaphore Arm, and certainly will not be capable of doing so in the future. Spell: broken.”
Todd yawned. Jon thanked her for her time, and she gave him a questionnaire to fill out for her thesis project. She also wrote out a note for me in big, looping, witchy cursive that I couldn't see very well over the scrying channel.
She held the note up in front of Todd's face, looked him in the eye and spoke ominously.
“This weighty message to thy roommate Al I charge thee deliver full speedily.”
He brought it to me in my room after she had left. It was a regular piece of lined notepaper, folded in quarters, with my name in blue ink on the front. I thought of the prophetically-trained witch, sifting through my beloved pet's guts. What had she seen? I picked it up and stared at it for a while, then put it away somewhere, unopened.
At 2 am I took a break from packing my things and went down to the kitchen. I turned on the light and sat at the table, the Semaphore looming in shadows on my left, the Key Cabinet on my right.
There was a rattling sound, and the door to the Key Cabinet shook, and then went still, and then shook again, and the Semaphore Key emerged from it. I stood up. The key floated down the wall to the floor and jiggled from side to side as one end skidded along the linoleum, to all appearances as though being dragged by something small and invisible.
I stooped down and picked the Key up. A slight force pulled it magnetically toward the Semaphore. I felt all around on the floor with my other hand, but I wasn't able to find a ghost hamster, or anything like that. I put the key down and it continued its slow path along the floor, then went up the side of the Semaphore and into the lock. It turned. The Semaphore door opened.
The arm slowly rose to vertical, one degree at a time, not a hamster in sight.
Then the door closed and was locked, the key floated back the way it had come, and everything was still again.
I scratched my head, then went and poured the scrying formula out into the toilet (it was beginning to degrade anyway) and put my eye back in.
Soon after I moved out, Jon finished his big backyard project. According to what he posted on Facebook about it, he had been exiting the highway in his car and, looking to his right, had seen, in the grassy area within the looping cloverleaf ramp, the most beautiful tree. But the beautiful thing about it wasn't the tree itself, but the way it looked as he drove clockwise around it and it seemed to rotate. This tree was bare of leaves, and something about the way the smallest outer twigs passed across the larger inner branches, while themselves turning, something about the way the whole subtly changed shape, both internally and in its outline, something about the interface between regularity and chaos in the tree's fractal structure becoming visible through motion, put him into an ecstatic state, and he vowed to reproduce it.
And reproduce it he did, at the cost of what must have been much effort and expense, somehow causing this giant oak that he had transplanted into the backyard to spin slowly around its axis, at about two revolutions per minute, strung with little white Christmas lights. I don't know if it was the same tree from the cloverleaf or not, but it really was beautiful to see.
The thing is, there's no magic that does that. Theoretically, it makes no sense, because is the tree supposed to be the charm or the focus? It can't be the focus because a focus can never be purely ornamental, and it can't be the charm because then where's the focus? And if it wasn't magical at all, like if he had some kind of entirely mechanical lazy susan thing under there, it would have weighed more than 2,000 tons. So nobody really knows how he did it. He never told anybody.
I still think about that tree sometimes.
I would have let the memory of Diesel go. I would have washed my hands of Todd and Jon and moved on. I would have told this story to my new roommate with a laugh; I would have used the witch as an anecdote about the disconnect between academia and the real world; I would have gotten another hamster.
It was them who wouldn't let go. So what happened, they brought on themselves.
You see, even after I moved out, I was still coming back to that house to wash their dishes. It seemed I wasn't able to sleep, at all, while the Semaphore Arm was vertical, even miles away, and that the Arm would continue to be raised invisibly at 2 am each night, even with no hamster.
So I went to another magician. This one, an accredited practitioner with four and a half stars on Yelp, and very popular among my friends in the anime community.
It could have been that the angle of the webcam was deceptive, but the man looked like he wasn't even 200 pounds. I felt a fissure develop in a long-held stereotype, like meeting a white vodouist. His neckbeard and ponytail were Samsonian in length, though, which reassured me, and he had one of those angled desks that confer such artistic authority.
This was Tad Aquino. I told him my story: The Semaphore System, Diesel, sleeplessness, the Muskatonic witch.
“Yes,” he said, stroking his chin, “you were right to come to me.”
There were a few other questions, and at one point he did some back-of-the-napkin calculations. I sent him pictures of Todd and Jon for reference.
“You can only be free of this curse,” he finally told me, “by being reborn—”
He pulled his glasses down and looked at me over their top, significantly.
A few weeks later, I pulled into the long circular driveway at around 9:30. There was a light in the window of the north spire, which meant they had replaced me. I would find out later that Anastasia had moved into my old room, and was dying there.
In the backyard I counted four bluebirds on the branches of Jon's tree. This time I took some pictures on my phone, but when I went to upload them, none of the birds were visible. For whatever reason, you just can't take a picture of a bluebird.
Inside the house, I found Tad's work on the kitchen table.
The Semaphore System
The book's binding was no longer perfectly tight; it had been read.
I washed the dishes, dried them and put them away. At 10:05 I went and pounded on Jon's door.
“It's ten o'clock,” I said. “Come on.”
“Are you kidding?” came his voice from within.
He came to the door, a second copy of the manga in his hand. “What,” he said, shaking it slightly by way of indication, “is this object?”
I cleared my throat, but didn't say anything.
“Is this for sale, um, nationally?”
“I don't think Barnes & Noble is going to be carrying it,” I said. “It's a small press. But Tad's work is usually pretty well-reviewed in the community.”
He lowered the book, ever so gently, into the glass aquarium with his tarantulas, and came with me to Todd's room.
You should understand something about Todd's room: it is not always easy to get to. I'm pretty sure he has Asperger's, but guess what? He's the one who decided to curse my hamster, and now he was going to come with us into the kitchen and play his part in the Semaphore System he created, whether he liked it or not, and then there were five more issues of Tad's doujinshi still to come, so if he felt uncomfortable now, just wait.
“Todd! Come on, it's ten o'clock,” I said.
“Todd, let's just get it over with,” said Jon.
“Jon,” I said, “if he doesn't come out, you're the one who has to go in there and get him.”
Jon's lips tightened, but he nodded.
That was not the last time we enacted the Semaphore System. I was still waking up at 2 am every night when the Semaphore Arm shifted to vertical, and it was going to be that way until Tad's charm finally overcame Jon and Todd's. Mangamancy is slow, but inexorable. Starting right then, however, it was apparent that something had shifted. It was like a fever had broken.
By the time the third issue of The Semaphore System arrived, they were doing the dishes themselves, before I even got there. And one of them would get up every night at 2 am to put the arm back down. But since even that would wake me up, so that I still wasn't sleeping through the night, I wouldn't give them back my house key, and I kept coming over to make sure that they remembered.
Every time I came by I saw more and more bluebirds on the tree in the backyard.
“Listen,” Jon said, when the time was coming for the fourth issue to arrive. “What can I do to make this stop?”
“You can give me back my hamster.”
He sighed. “I talked to Tad Aquino. He says he's willing to keep back the rest of the issues, but not without your permission. I'll take down the Semaphore. We'll leave the Key Cabinet unlocked. Or just disassemble the whole thing. I'm sure you'll be able to sleep then.”
Taking apart the Semaphore would have as much effect on The Semaphore System as taking apart the hamster had, and he knew it. So I had rehearsed my response to this, in my mind. “The doujinshi stops the day after I sleep through the night.”
He let out a kind of frustrated sound, and balled up his fists.
“Seriously,” he said. “I'm being really serious now, no joking. Anastasia is about to start another round of chemo. It's a really risky drug. They're saying she has a fifty percent chance. I'm taking care of her here full time now, and this manga thing is just... it's not helping. So I'm coming to you, in all seriousness, man to man, and asking you, please, to make this stop.”
“In all seriousness?” I said. “No.”
“Please. Come on.”
As for the Muskatonic witch, whose office location was publicly available on the university web site, I hired a mariachi band to follow her around for a day playing a sad, sad song, slightly altered.
Diesel yo te pido
que perdones mis errores
de rodillas a tu tumba
te traigo estas blancas flores
tu que estas alla en el cielo
mandame tus bendiciones
Rumor has it the band made it all the way into the actual classroom of the Teutonic Metaphysics course she was TAing before they were escorted off campus by security, who were apparently pretty good sports about it. I paid the band extra, and bought a couple copies of their CD too.
I heard about Anastasia's death from Todd, over Facebook, on a Friday morning.
“Anastasia's dead,” he said in a private message, and then unfriended and blocked me.
I went to the house that night at 10 pm as usual, but nobody was there. The door was locked, and my key didn't work. I stood on the porch for a while, listening to the riot of birdsong coming from the backyard.
There was a copy of The Semaphore System volume 5 on the porch, still in plastic wrap. I left it there and went around back. The Christmas lights had been taken down, but the tree was still rotating and was somewhat illuminated by the back porch light, and I could see that practically every branch had a bluebird on it. There were hundreds of them. They made a huge racket, like it was a lake in the woods at dawn, and not just a weird house in the suburbs.
I knew I wasn't going to be able to sleep until somebody put the Semaphore Arm down. But there was nobody. So I stayed there, pacing around in the backyard, or sitting on the porch playing games on my phone, or calculating my chances of falling and breaking my leg if I tried to climb up to a window. The spell wouldn't be broken until the final issue hit the public, which was due to happen Monday morning.
At dawn I gave up and called Jon and then Todd, but I got no answer. I don't know why I didn't go into town and get some food or something. Or just go home. I kept thinking about what I would say to them when they got back, arguing round and round in my head with Jon, but they never came.
That weekend was a pretty miserable timeless stretch of tired disorientation. I just haunted that house, like a dead person, wreathed in frantic, spectral birdsong. The sun went down again, and came up, and was about to go down again, when this very strange thing happened.
Every single bluebird in that rotating oak tree fell down dead, all at once. I was pacing in the backyard at the time—a sudden silence, then the thump of the first body hitting the grass, then more thumps, and then twenty seconds or so of birds falling like rain.
I felt a sudden physical lightness, and dizziness, and heard a ringing in my ears. Then I was on my knees and my vision was blurry, and I couldn't feel my hands.
I fell asleep.
I woke up with the sun shining on my face and the smell of decomposing birds all around me. It was Tuesday morning; I had slept through Monday, all day and night. My clothes were soaked with dew. There was a snail on my left elbow. I got up and went home.
And then I suppose I sort of forgot about the thing with the dead bluebirds, because that week was when magic sputtered to a halt and stopped working forever, and everybody was talking about all the incredibly strange things that had happened on that Sunday night, all over the world: For example, of course, Anastasia had come back to life. And every vertebrate creature born that night, mammals, reptiles, birds, all of them were born with gills, and they could all breathe water just fine. Tulips opened Monday morning with Spanish doubloons inside. A Sharpie-brand marker the size of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier appeared from the sky and drew a giant, boiling, toxic ring around Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Things like that. A bunch of dead mythical birds you can't photograph didn't even register.
You have to remember that I wasn't talking to Jon or Todd anymore at that point. We all moved on past whatever sick dynamic had been going on in that house.
But what I heard was that, after she died, they took her body to the Mississippi River, because Jon said it was the United States' 'Heart of Darkness', and they were going to tie the body with weights and let it sink. But it wouldn't. This was at about sunset on Sunday. No matter how much weight they put on her, she just floated on top of the water. I suppose they stood there for a while, not knowing what to do.
And then suddenly, the big stone they had on her belly rolled away and sank, and she got up and walked to shore, and she was fine. They did an MRI and the cancer was totally gone.
Any more than that, you'll have to find out from somebody who was there.
I only ended up reading the first volume of the doujinshi. I didn't like it. I had thought that I would be depicted as the hero of the story, because after all it was my curse the thing was intended to break, but apparently that's not the way it works.
I still have the note the Muskatonic witch sent me on the day she vivisected Diesel. “Al,” it says. “Tell your friend to stop hitting on me.”
 "Diesel I ask you / forgive my mistakes / on my knees before your grave / I bring these white flowers / you who are up in the sky / send me your blessings"
The Semaphore System
short fiction by Matthew Talamini
Every day I dress like that day ─ ruby-colored lips, lacy chiffon dress (that hangs loose on me now), your ruby ring on my finger, chandelier earrings on my lobes ─ and wait for you.
Violinists and saxophonist set their chairs, hats, and blankets near me; panhandlers stand, their arms outstretched, forming a line beside me; peddlers display their keyrings and shell-necklaces, forming mini-markets around me. I am the clock tower.
Curious eyes, young and old, scan every inch of me. Some fingers touch my discolored cheek; some curl around my bony wrist; some throw coins at my seaweed-clad feet. Some women shut their eyes for a second and blow their wishes on me.
When not many humans are around, crabs crawl up and down my long legs; seagulls perch on my head.
I don’t blink at the fizz, or the salt-laden air, or the camera flashes, or the birds’ claws digging into my scalp.
My eyes are fixed on the sea, tiring and shaming it. The sea will return you back.
flash fiction by Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar
Walker says, Whenever I drive
a car, I have the feeling I have become
invisible – and for that reason
alone I keep the car moving.
wheels on auto-pilot toward self
involved not quite self-aware,
while Not Being Seen claims motives
separate from red marker-traced
criss-cross maps, charted stops for rest,
& places to point the camera.
When traffic accelerates and lanes
come to life like a 3-&-2 fastball
caught watching, requisite experience
driving cars lives under seat trash accumulation,
& all I need besides an upchuck bag
is to raise “dialing for dullards” from dead
levels of not knowing
where to go, and submit
to hazard flashes that slip
on & off like water
in the fuel line.
Tailgating Walker Percy
poetry by Marc Meierkort
n at a Korean Day Spa)
It’s one of those late afternoons veering into night, and the beach is glorious.
Look at my boy. He is racing along, kicking up his heels. I can see the whiteness of the underside of his soles of his feet flashing as he runs in the dusk, barely imprinting the hard-packed sand, just the five concavities of his toes digging in. Now he stops on a dime, crouches, examining something intently, then runs back to me. He is holding a small jellyfish in the cup of his palm; he thrusts it forward for inspection.
“Look!” he commands, and I do. “Look at the rim—that’s where the tentacles are.”
He slides his finger around the inside of the rim. It looks like a gelatinous cervical cap. It would give a clear view up the cervix. I think about the life and death of sperm, and he jiggles it in his palm.
“Rainbow. With these little ridges all around. Do you want to touch it?”
“No.” I shake my head. He turns then and runs down to the edge of the water. Leaning back like a pitcher, he hurls the jellyfish into the sea. It arcs and lands in the little waves that tickle the shore. He turns and smiles, triumphant, running back to walk by my side for a companionable bit before wandering off. I see him stoop, gathering up parts of jellyfish shredded by the ocean. Then he spots a man fishing, surfcasting for blues. He tosses away the pieces and he is off.
“Don’t go too close,” I yell, thinking about a hook flying back or a man interrupted in his solitude by a boy with too many questions. I stand a little ways away, watching.
The man wears some kind of orange jumpsuit. He looks expensive and a little dangerous. He is fit, hard-bodied though he’s my age; he has the kind of defined muscle that doesn’t give up easy. You can see from his dark skin that he’s been outside a lot and from his eyes that he likes women. He holds up a sandy bluefish, two fingers under its gills, for my boy to inspect. The gills flap against his fingers, forced opening with a flash of pink that is too intimate.
“That’s how you hold them.” He watches the boy study the fish. “You have to watch out for the teeth. Look.” He holds out the fish, deftly opening its mouth with his hand and pulling back the lip. My boy touches the teeth with his fingertips. They stand very still, the moon rising bulbous in a gray sky behind them.
The fish moves suddenly, and my boy jerks his hand away.
“The dorsal fin. Did you get hurt?”
“Wash it in the ocean. You have to hold it like this.” The man holds the fish out again, his fingers deep in the gills. “Do you want to keep it?” he asks, and my boy turns to me, questioning.
“I don’t know.” I pause, and the man waits. “Do you want to see me sever its spinal cord, slit open its belly, and scoop out the insides, the intestines and the stomach, then put my heel on its tail and scale it?”
“No,” my boy says softly, “I guess I don’t want it.”
The man turns and walks off.
“What’s he doing?”
The man turns and comes back, two fingers and now a thumb inserted under the other gill. He is watching me. Now he looks at the boy.
“Want to put it back?”
“Yes please,” my son says, suddenly humbled, and they walk together to the edge. They squat, holding the fish steady; it lists to one side and rolls in the shallow water. The man strokes it gently then launches it into the surf. It wiggles to life, there’s a glimmer of scales, a whisk of tail, and it disappears into the lip of a wave. We wait, watching the dark water for some kind of sign. Wisps of cloud obscure the sky. Seaweed pods gum the surface, but beyond that there is nothing but the ripple and churn of water.
My boy tugs at my hand.
“We’re going home,” I say.
The man stands still. Moonlight stipples the water. His jumpsuit is iridescent now, the orange a beacon. He doesn’t speak. My boy waves. I don’t know if the man sees or turns to watch us as we, too, disappear into the darkness.
creative non-fiction by Susan Haar
Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar
Sara Siddiqui Chansarkar is an Indian American, born in a middle-class family in India and will forever be indebted to her parents for educating her beyond their means. She is a Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee and her work has appeared online in The Ellipsis zine, Lunch Ticket, Star82 Review, and also in print, most recently in the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology 2018. She blogs at Puny Fingers.
Nikoletta Gjoni is a fiction and creative nonfiction writer living outside of Washington, DC. She currently has a collection of linked short stories out on submission about people living in Communist Albania, spanning the 1970s through to the present day. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in Kindling Volume III anthology, Cleaver Magazine, Cotton Xenomorph, and Riggwelter Press, among others. Her first published story was nominated for the 2018 PEN/Robert J. Dau prize.
To date, Susan Haar’s work has been primarily in theater. Her play The Darlings was published by Broadway Publishing (2006). Her plays have also been published in The Best Men’s Stage Monologues of 2007 and in The Best 10-Minute Plays of 2018. Haar’s work has been produced at Primary Stages, The Women’s Project, 13th Street Rep, and a variety of other venues. Her work has been recently published in bioStories, The Borfski Press, Forge, The Furious Gazelle, Glint Literary Magazine, and Saint Ann’s Review. Haar is a member of The Actors Studio, Ensemble Studio Theatre, and HB Playwright’s Unit, was a selected participant at The Women’s Project, and served a residency at New River Dramatists. Haar received her J.D. and a B.A. in visual studies from Harvard University. She is currently a real estate consultant to the dean of New York University Law School. When Haar is not writing, she enjoys gardening and beekeeping.
Wim Hylen’s work has been published in Four Chambers, Café Irreal, Boomer LitMag and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, among other places. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona.
Monica Kagan lives by the sea in beautiful Cape Town, South Africa with her wonderful cat. She is a reader at FICTION on the WEB. She is also a contributing writer at Rhythm & Bones Literary Magazine on their blog #Necropolis. Her work appears in Fourth & Sycamore (USA), Bonnie’s Crew (UK), and at FICTION on the WEB (UK), among others.
Sheree La Puma
Sheree is a Los Angeles based author/producer. She holds an MFA in critical studies & writing from California Institute of The Arts and has published poetry/fiction on a myriad of topics. Her flash fiction piece, ‘Assumptions’ is featured in the July, 5th issue of Burningword literary journal and she has work forthcoming in the I-70 Review, Ginosko Literary Journal and the Oct, 5th issue of BurningwordLiterary Journal.
Marc Meierkort is a life-long Chicago resident and currently teaches English and Film Studies at Thornton Fractional North High School in Calumet City, IL, where he has taught for the past 19 years. He is a graduate of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (B.S.) and National-Louis University (M.A.T.) He currently lives in the western suburbs of Chicago.
Matthew Talamini is a recent graduate of the Brown University Literary Arts MFA program. He lives and works in Providence, RI.
Short Fiction Editors
Laura Huey Chamberlain
Creative Non-Fiction Editor
Kerri Farrell Foley
Flash Fiction Editor
Preston Taylor Stone
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