A Tiger’s List by Lu Han

I started a list of things I would like to discuss with you if we ever speak again.

  1. The Dark Web. This is a thing? A place for people to demand illegal, terrible things that don’t belong to them like someone else’s kidneys and child pornography? Why hasn’t somebody – the government, vigilante hackers – stepped in to shut it down? And how does it work? Is it a structured hierarchy with an org chart and gatekeepers, or a free-wheeling Craig’s List market, rife with randomly capitalized letters and terrible grammar? More importantly, can I find you in it? And if I do, can it translate the words I said to the meaning I intended?
  2.  Infinite monkey theorem: if you have an infinite number of monkeys typing randomized sequences of letters, they would eventually create the text of Hamlet in its entirety. The proofs tell us we would need a ridiculous number of universes and an unfathomable amount of time (three hundred and sixty thousand plus orders of magnitude from the Big Bang to the end of the universe) to achieve a shot at Hamlet. This seems like a stupid thing to quantify. In this theoretical exercise, you have an infinite amount of time, infinite supply of typing monkeys. Isn’t that the whole point of infinity? The absence of limits?
  3. My mother was born in the Year of the Monkey. According to every guide, description, and magazine column I have read on this, Monkeys and Tigers do not get along. This could be a coincidence or it could explain a lot about my relationship with her. Yet my mother loved you, a Tiger not of her own blood, biologically alien to her. We have been told two Tigers cannot coexist without fighting. For a long time I thought our friendship debunked this. We rode the bus to high school together, Febrezed the cigarette stench from our clothes, went to prom ironically and slow-danced the final song without making eye contact, co-created an epic playlist to  help you assimilate in the midwest, e-mailed through two years of graduate school—you from your tundra in Wisconsin, me tucked in an overheated fifth-floor Upper West Side walk-up. We were close enough to draw blood from each other on a daily basis, but we didn’t. Our friendship lived in defiance of zodiac predestination for a decade and now, now we cannot be in the same room. I would rip you to shreds and you know it.
  4. In middle school, my best friend taught me about the pink elephant theory by tricking me into thinking about a pink elephant. It’s an annoying way of saying that among the many things you cannot control are your own thoughts. When high school started, my best friend’s family moved, forever swallowed by the suburban beast that is Long Island. Before cell phones tethered us together and force fed us information like a relentless placenta, this kind of distance was the kiss of death for friendships. I think you should know that when we met, I was still tender from my first significant loss—friendship death by geography. It was a slow, trickling death, like bleeding out internally from an ulcer. Back then, I didn’t know that people generally don’t die of ulcers.

Perhaps we will speak about this one day.

If we don’t, then do me one favor. I hope you invent a method for selective auto mind-control. An invention that allows us to choose which of our memories to frame and hang in the hallways of our minds, and which ones to drop in the trash icon, say “yes” to deleting forever. How difficult can it be? We do it all the time, often by accident. After everything, it’s the least you could do, to help me find a way to unclench my jaw, to pry my teeth from your flesh.


Lu Han is a Chinese-American writer based in New York, NY. Lu highlights the undervoiced and displaced through fiction and nonfiction. Her work is published or forthcoming in The Margins, The Jarnal, Overachiever Magazine, Inheritance Magazine, and elsewhere. Find more at www.helloluhan.com

In Death and Hate by Belle Gearheart

We are at a funeral, because her grandfather died last month. We find her mother in a pew, looking like all sorts of a mess, and her father is on the other side of the room, mumbling to her uncle about football in a way that was meant to not look obvious. Her mother greets me, distant and cool. I am the girlfriend, and she is the daughter, and there is her mother, and we are three women together in a room full of grief.

At the gathering after the service, at her childhood home that her parents still live in, we sit in a corner of the study while people mill about with glasses of wine and tumblers of whiskey. Her father’s desk is neat and organized, and the leather chairs have a deep wooden cigar smell that makes me want to hide my face in them. We are joined by her cousin, ten years older than us, who also lives his life on the outside of acceptance. He is restless in the way that former druggies are, his knee bouncing, jangling the keys in his pocket. His face is worn and tired, and he looks older than he is.

It’s a shame, he says, but I guess that’s life. We live the best we can, and then they put us in a box. He pauses and sips his soda water, the glass sweating underneath his large fingers. I’ll tell you though. I’ve been in that box too many damn times already, and I got lucky enough to climb out of it before I was dropped into the ground.

She looks at her cousin, her face smooth and expressionless. She watches his nose as it twitches in thought. I know she is thinking about the repeated cliches of addicts, and the perpetual cycle of debasement and self critique and upward motivation that stimulates the economy of recovery because we have had those conversations about her cousin before. But she doesn’t say anything to him, only pats his hand, looks back out across the room.

People shove plates of food at her that she piles up on the end table. No one seems to notice the small servings of stuffed mushrooms, shrimp, cheese and olives that she has made a mountain of. I nudge her to eat. She ignores me. Her family ignores me, except for her cousin, and his family ignores him.

She takes leave of me and begins her dance around the rooms of the house, giving polite greetings to ancient family members and long forgotten neighbors. I watch her body move underneath the black dress she is wearing, and wonder when the last time was that I saw her naked. Not naked in mere circumstance, like getting changed or jumping into the shower, but naked with intention, with desire. She has been oscillating between chaste clinginess and repulsion of my touch for weeks. She is a dazzling actress. I even see a few tears when her prim aunt cups her face in a long fingered hand.

She hated her grandfather, but he hated her first. When he died she didn’t cry, but she was angry.
He never got to meet you, she fumed. He would have fucking hated you.

Well, I’m sure you disappointed him enough for one lifetime, I assured her. Being a dyke and all.

We leave before the gathering becomes too sparse, in order to hide our sudden disappearance. She pulls the velvet headband through her hair and throws it on the passenger floor of my car, slams the door after she climbs in. Her body is turned away from me, head against the cool window. I try to hold her hand but it goes limp at my touch.

She gets out at the supermarket to run in and grab cat food. I pick up her phone to change the music, and I see a text from someone: i miss you so much, please come over and… When I open it, there is a picture attached of a woman with breasts that are small enough to hold in one hand but full enough to still enjoy. Her body is all angles and steep slopes, dainty but forceful. It is not the only photo, but it is the first sent today. The text thread goes back six months.

I look up and see her crossing the parking lot. I toss the phone back down. She opens the car door and gets back in, and as she sets the bag of cat food in the backseat, I wonder if it is time for me to finally get out of the box.

Belle Gearhart is an emerging writer with forthcoming work in Bullshit Lit, Flash Frog Lit, and the Longleaf Review. A displaced New Yorker, she lives in Southern California with her partner, child, and many, many cats.

See Ruby Falls by Sutton Strother

You won’t answer your phone the first time it rings, but you’ll know it’s me. I’m still in your contact list. You’ll tell me so on the fifth call, the one you finally answer. “Entropy,” you’ll say. “Laziness. Don’t read anything into it.”

I’ll let you have this one.

I’ll get to the point: in two days, a total solar eclipse will darken our hometown. I’ll remind you of a sixteen-year-old promise to watch it together. “When did we say that?” you’ll ask, and my words will conjure the living room of your college apartment: me on the couch in a pair of your boxers, astronomy textbook in my lap, you naked in the armchair smashing the Xbox controller, half-listening as I explain Gamma and Umbra and the Diamond Ring Effect. I find a page listing dates of eclipses for the next century and where best to view them. I see, printed there, the name of a place we avoid saying aloud, like the name of a demon or a ghost. “We could go back for that,” I say. “Only for that,” you say.

On your end of the line, a baby will cry. You’ll keep your word. I won’t ask what compels you.

We’ll meet at the motel and fuck before we even say hello. The sounds you make will sound like curses in a foreign language, harsh and a little silly, but your body will feel familiar. Sometimes I search out new photos of you just to look at your hands, to keep their shape committed to memory, to ensure that whatever else time alters your hands remain the hands I knew before. “The very same,” I’ll say aloud when I kiss your left palm, and you’ll be too far gone to ask what the hell I’m talking about.

We won’t linger. We’ll get in my car and drive around town. We’ll pretend our memories are fuzzier than they are – “Isn’t that where?” “Didn’t we there?” – like we don’t travel these roads every night in our minds to lull ourselves to sleep.

I won’t need GPS to find the barn where we used to get high and fool around. There are dozens like it scattered across the South, the words SEE RUBY FALLS emblazoned on the side facing the highway. This town sits three hundred miles from Ruby Falls. I’ve never been there, don’t even know what I’d find if I went, though as we make the old climb up to the roof of the barn, I’ll remind you of something I told you long ago: when I was a kid, I imagined Ruby Falls as a hail of gemstones tumbling over a glittering rock wall. I’ll recount how you rolled your eyes and said it was the goofiest thing you’d ever heard and how after, we split a forty and made out until the streetlights flickered on.

You’ll lay your head against my chest and call me your time capsule. I won’t explain how I hold onto these things hoping one day you’ll come to claim them.

The sky will dim. The air will cool. I’ll produce the special glasses I bought to protect our eyes, knowing you won’t have thought to bring your own, and we’ll laugh about how silly we look in them. Soon after, a car will pull onto the shoulder of the road. Its passengers will disembark – a mother, two boys. They won’t notice us at all. The mother will tell her sons how you don’t get many opportunities like this, not in one brief little lifetime.

Soon the moon will come, crescenting the sun. I’ll swear I feel the moment hum through me, through us both, through every atom on the planet, a buzzing promise. Cows in a nearby field will low in chorus. Coyotes will bark in the woods back towards town. The crescent will stretch into a corona then – “The Diamond Ring,” I’ll say, finger pointing heavenward. “Not diamond,” you’ll answer, and when I look again, I’ll see what you mean.

Light will pulse behind the moon, shifting first to orange then deepest red before it melts around the shadow, drips down from the sky.

Red rain will fall around us.

Not rain, hail.

Not hail, rubies.

Shrieking, hand in hand, we’ll leap from the roof and race away, past the mother and sons catching gems in their open shirts, marveling at the unexpected bounty. We’ll slide into the backseat of my car, reach again for one another as the rubies dent the hood and crack the windshield. A red rivulet will trickle from your head where a stone struck you, and when I kiss the wound, my lips will come away bloodied. “I told you so,” I’ll say, and you’ll holler, “You were right! Goddammit, you were right!” You’ll kiss me hard, and with your own bloodstained mouth you’ll proclaim the miracle, and I’ll believe at last we’re getting somewhere.


Sutton Strother is a writer and instructor living in New York. Their work has been featured in several publications including, most recently, Uncharted, Janus Literary, and HAD. You can find them tweeting @suttonstrother and read more of their work at suttonstrother.wordpress.com.