1987 by Eileen Tomarchio

A year in and we were still feeling our way, marriage a loose string around our fingers, the tugs no harder than making the bed first thing and wiping toast crumbs off the sticky Orange Blossom jar and not going on too much about our day at work. We’d end the week roaming a mall with bad heating and reclusive clerks, touching the power drills at Sears and valances at Ames, the broken coin-op horses and C-battery puppies, the closeout pianos by the dry fountain. You’d laugh at shoppes on the directory, the ye olde spelling, pronouncing it shoppies the way you called lollipops taffies and tomato sauce gravy and said I’m wishing for instead of I want, a South Jersey thing you said you never minded me teasing you for, though I was doubtful.

It was a Friday night in December when I said it to you, not long after Black Monday, after Baby Jessica trapped in a well for fifty-six hours, after little Lisa Steinberg lay battered on the bathroom floor of a Greenwich Village apartment while her fake adoptive father took off to smoke crack with other lawyers, after a local bank teller my age was snatched during her lunch break and found stabbed to death near the water treatment plant we could see from our duplex. We ordered limp pretzels and egg drop soup from the only food court shingle still hanging, racing nobody to the one table not covered with upturned chairs, and it slid out of me—So I’ve been thinking I might not want to have kids—while you bent deeper, meeting your plastic spoon like how a boy eats cereal or how I pictured you in fifty years, little grip left to steady the teeter of cutlery, the heavy lifting of everything. It’s not so much the money, I said when you reminded me that you’d moved expired cans of Manwich with you so many times they had pet names, that for two years I’d eaten ToastChee packages and green peppers for dinner, no problem, so we could be frugal, right? We were simple people, agreed, so then what was it? Why? I looked around the field of chair legs for an answer, the soup gone cold, the pretzels hard, my heart squeezing like Baby Jessica’s in the well, Baby Jessica with her cheek against the weeping walls, singing “Winnie-the-Pooh” to make eternity go faster, that silly Pooh Bear with his head in the hunny pot. Stuck like little Lisa, waiting for someone to lift her from the cracked honeycomb tiles. Blinded like the teller bleeding out alone in the plant’s shadow, her last awareness of taste the diamond of baklava she’d had with lunch. Confused like I was by what I’d said, trying to forget the tumble and the hand strike and the knife, but knowing I never would, and so I said what I always did near closing, but this time in your way: I’m wishing for treats. And you nodded like always but without looking at me.

We got to the bulk barrel place with fifteen minutes left, following our 1:1 healthy-to-junk rule, me filling baggies with yogurt-covered raisins and animal crackers, you with sesame snacks and Bit-o-Honeys, and damn, was the register lady pissed at you for putting the scoopers back in the wrong cradles, making a mess of the cords. We left at the third Please make your final choices, as the gate was half-drawn, and when they turned off the overheads I thought of your way of saying the same thing, passed down and for passing down still—Shut the lights—like the sound of a world that’s safe, a darkening and a quieting both, a child’s last want and wish before sleep, all echo, taffy still on her breath.

Eileen T

Eileen Frankel Tomarchio works as a librarian in a small NJ suburb. Her writing appears in Longleaf Review, Pigeon Pages, Barrelhouse Online, X-R-A-Y, and Pithead Chapel. She holds an MFA from NYU Film. She’s on Twitter at @eileentomarchio.

The Parable of the Good Immigrant by Sally Badawi

A Prologue to Firefighters Find Curling Thank You Note in the Rubble of Burnt Bungalow

There once was a woman who traveled 10,409 kilometers only to land in the U.S. and be told in the long customs line that she should contour herself into a Thank You note. Later, when she had washed her clothes in the hotel sink and dried them across the curtain rod, she found the business center where she stripped and squeezed into a laser printer, and once she was perfectly flat, she folded herself into a white 4×6 envelope and hoped no one would hear how she essed the th in thank you.

She waited patiently in a dusty drawer until someone used her, scribbled all over her & licked the envelope, spittle dripping on the word You—she thought this was enough. When she was mailed and read and recycled, she shapeshifted into her dream trailer: A Keystone Cougar Half-Ton RV with her windshield sloped at just the right angle (or so she thought).

Visible even though she had not yet earned visibility, stark against gray highways & washed-out strip malls, cars honked their frustration at how much space she took up and how slow she moved. She instinctively knew that the airplane passengers had been wrong. This country wanted pain, a currency she was familiar with since she had been born.

Shrunk again, she drifted into a tiny bungalow in need of smaller objects & every year she transformed in search for the perfect fit—

(x) toddler rocking chair

(x) hairdryer

(x) hammer

When she voiced her slightest discomfort, the landlords scolded her & threatened to banish her to the Salvation Army where items squished on shelves waiting to be bought. She had never seen a Salvation Army, but she knew that any place that claimed to save you was a place to avoid. Upon seeing her distress, an ice cube who had been safe while frozen made a simple suggestion before he dissolved: “Think of your deepest fear. That might be enough.”

She fought a memory from back home but within a day she lay diligently on the stove, stared hard at the ceiling & let them cook on her. The hiss of scalding oil drowned out her cries until she had finally endured enough grease that invisibility was no longer an option.


Sally Badawi is an Egyptian-American writer and teacher. Her most recent poems are published or forthcoming in Neologism Poetry Journal, Pink Panther Magazine, Orange Blossom Review, Second Chance Lit, among others. She is currently an associate poetry editor at Typehouse Literary Magazine.

Sally About Town by John Carr Walker

After Sally left work at Spearwood Dental she took the chicken dinners from IGA’s deli counter across town to the sheet metal plant where her boyfriend worked swing shift. Unlike Sally, her boyfriend grew up in Spearwood—so did his wife—so we’ll call him Lucky. Lucky smoked by the fence while he waited, rocking from his heels and catching himself on his toes. Sally parked in the stall farthest from the plant door and let him in the passenger side. She always gave him her chicken skins and a blow job. Some of us changed dentists because of Sally: she would not be sliding strands of floss between our husbands’ teeth, thank you very much. Others made unnecessary appointments, waiting for the chance to spit in front of her, to laugh, laugh on the inside at least. Once, at The Shay Bar and Restaurant, Sally told the hostess someone else would be coming and the hostess laughed out loud. After someone left a bottle of mouthwash in her glovebox Sally started locking her blue Elantra, something Spearwood prides itself on making unnecessary. We noticed the color had left her complexion. She put on more makeup to cover herself, but that made us look closer, close enough to count the grooves in her lips. Sally gained weight—we wonder if she’s been eating her own chicken skins. She hasn’t been back to the parking lot in weeks. Lucky still smokes during his break, rocking back and forth in that boyish way of his, probably waiting for the next stranger. Sally goes straight home from the dentist’s office. She lives in Pine Manor, Unit C, Apartment 220. Her bedroom window’s on the corner, farthest from the orange streetlight, the one with the new blackout curtains.

johncarrwalkerJohn Carr Walker’s story collection Repairable Men was published by Sunnyoutside in 2014. Lately, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Gimmick Press, Shantih, Hippocampus, Gravel, Five:2: One, The Toasted Cheese, Inlandia, Split Lip, The Collagist, and Pithead Chapel. A native of California’s San Joaquin Valley , he now lives in northwest Oregon.

This Splenda Packet Advises Me, “BE THE ENERGY YOU WANT TO ATTRACT” by Carolyn Oliver

Lately I have been the energy of the kitefin shark, enormous-eyed, fatty-livered slow cruiser of the mesopelagic depths, hunting the sweet edge of daylight and everdark, belly glowing secret blue. Given this bit of encouragement, though, I’m considering attracting a new kind of energy: the energy of a petrified tree sixty feet tall and twenty million years old, the one paleobotanists just uncovered and lovingly extricated from highway dirt on Lesbos. Yes, I am now the energy of this tree that fell, whole, all its tree organs still attached, this tree making the best of a volcanic eruption. I am the energy of slow hardening, of lying in wait for the right eyes. That Miocene kind of patience.

Carolyn_Oliver_color_photo_by_Benjamin_OliverCarolyn Oliver’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Massachusetts Review, Tin House Online, Indiana Review, Cincinnati Review, 32 Poems, SmokeLong Quarterly, Terrain.org, The South Carolina Review, Necessary Fiction, and elsewhere. A nominee for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net in both fiction and poetry, Carolyn is the winner of the Goldstein Prize from Michigan Quarterly Review, the Writer’s Block Prize in Poetry, and the Frank O’Hara Prize from The Worcester Review, where she now serves as co-editor. Carolyn lives in Massachusetts with her family. Learn more about her work at carolynoliver.net.

Gold by Michele Popadich

zhito / I never knew what it was made of / this wheat berries dish / boiled / ground down & mixed with nuts / sugar & packed into a crystal bowl / for special occasions like  holy days & in mourning on the morning of Nana’s funeral / Baba hands me a box of raisins / gold & dark ones stacked together to draw on top of the zhito / a cross & I feel as if the task is too holy for me / this placing of pieces in place of piecing us back together / “Ona je otišla” / She is gone / Baba tells me / the orchestrator of grief / with her hands on the neckline of my black dress / I  pinch it an inch higher / in church light pours in like fire / stained glass stamps a kaleidoscope of color / I am having a very hard time putting a hand on Nana’s hand but Baba collapses into her casket / she calls out to her / with a name too holy to write on this page & I cannot look away from this wholesome embrace / Baba a slanted black silhouette / bun flattened at the base of her head & I feel bad that it was so hard for me to put a hand on her hand & that the only coat I had was purple & not black but I never knew what grief was made of / in English — she is gone is state of being / a happening to you / in Serbian — “ona je otišla” is agent she went / left / departed / when I cross the sweet zhito with raisins / the pieces are coming together / Baba tells me to pluck away the dark ones for her departure / only the gold ones for / Nana

PotraitMichele Popadich is an MFA student in creative nonfiction at Northwestern University. Her essays have appeared in Hippocampus Magazine, Talking Writing, and Driftless. Her poems have appeared in Heavy Feather Review and LOCUS. You can also hear her tell stories in various live lit venues around Chicago. Follow Michele on Twitter @miche1ewith1L and check out her past work on michele with one l (www.miche1e.com).