She Should See This by Nadia Staikos

The cousins have been taking turns in the backseats of different cars as we zig our way across the States; the parents switch us up so siblings won’t fight and drive them up the wall. There are gummy bears in this uncle’s car. My cousin eats them by first biting off every tiny appendage, one at a time; ear, ear, arm, arm, leg, leg. Body. Chew. She’s the eldest, and she doles them out at the same pace in which she eats them, and I sit with the aftertaste of each one for a while before I get another, watching the scenery whip by.

It’s 1990. When someone has to pee or gets hungry, a message is written in big letters on a piece of paper and gets held up in a window. The driver pulls up beside each car long enough for the passengers to read the message, then takes the lead, everyone following behind them to the next gas station or to pull off on the shoulder. We’re in a constant state of picnic; trunks are popped open and out come blankets, coolers full of food. The moms take the kids to pee in the trees while the dads have a beer and look at maps.

“M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I.” Another aunt is in the front seat of this car, and so now we all know how to spell Mississippi. My little brother repeats it over and over again, and he’s only five years old, so everyone thinks it’s so great, but enough already, we get it. There was an oversight, and we’ve ended up in the same vehicle. There’s a cousin buffer between us, listening to a Walkman.

“Holy cow,” my aunt says, every time we pass fields of cattle. I feel like my giggles are expected, and I pray for no more cows.

“How do you get from Canada to Las Vegas?” Everyone keeps asking my brother, every day.

“You just follow the yellow line on the road,” he explains, earnest.

 

My dad’s brother is driving this car. Things get tense in the front seat.

“Look at him,” my uncle says, angry. “What is he doing?” He has a voice that sits comfortably in anger, but I can tell something is really wrong. I crane my neck around the headrest, trying to see through the windshield. My family’s car is ahead of us, my dad at the wheel. I’m not sure about the rules of driving, but I see my dad has pulled into the next lane. He’s driving so fast, right towards the oncoming traffic. “That son-of-a-bitch is going to get everyone killed!” I feel heat prickle through me. Grown-ups can’t get mad like that, not at other grown-ups. My dad swings the car back into the right lane and my uncle swears with relief. My aunt is fiddling with the radar detector. I stare out the window, turned to hide my face, hot with shame. I refuse to speak.

When we make the next stop I run to my parents, and now I couldn’t speak even if I wanted to. My tears won’t stop. He almost got them all killed, and words were yelled, like yelled about him, and he was a son-of-a-bitch, and what did that make me?

 

Everyone is getting out of the car, but I keep my eyes closed.

“She’s going to miss it. She should see this.”

“Let her sleep,” my mother’s voice decides over the sounds of belt buckles clicking, chunking door handles, excited children stretching legs. I can feel eyes on me, expectant, but I’m good at pretending. I’m thrilled by how good I am at pretending. My cousins slide out, bouncing the seat, but I don’t move an inch. I’m a daughter-of-a-son-of-a-bitch, doing what I want. The doors close and the voices are muted by glass and steel. Our fleet has pulled over to see something beautiful; they’re gathering for a family photo that I’ll be missing from, smiles stretching like the Nevada desert. I stay still, listen to myself breathe.


 

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Nadia Staikos (she/her) lives in Toronto with her two children. Her work has previously appeared in perhappened, (mac)ro(mic), Fudoki, and elsewhere. She is prose editor at Chestnut Review, and is currently working on her first novel. Find her on Twitter @NadiaStaikos.

 

Still Chewing On It by S.P. Venkat

“What did you have for lunch?” she asks, over Zoom. I promise, I wasn’t watching the whole class. I had other things to do. But I caught that. I stop and listen. What will he say? Will he tell her the truth?

“Rice and dal,” he says plainly.

I realize I’m holding my breath. Waiting to hear what she says. To hear what the others say. Will they allow it?

I am transported back to the school canteen, where my beloved puri and potato are currently being sneered at. “What’s that yellow mush?” One of them ask me. She is not really interested in the answer.

To have my meal thus slandered, hurt. But I also see what they see. A sad curled up little circle of oily bread in my lunchbox. And a square of unrecognizable, save for the peas, yellow mash.

Under their scrutiny, I am ashamed. They don’t know how tasty it is. The chewy bread is so satisfying, even cold. I’d been looking forward to it all morning. It’s a different but equal pleasure as leftovers. A pleasure twice anticipated and twice savored.

I tear off some puri, scoop up the potato and eat it. My mouth is watering with pleasure. But my heart isn’t in it. I try to be nonchalant, and it seems to have worked. They’ve moved on to other topics. They don’t really care. But look at me, 27 years later, remembering and still hurting. I’m still chewing on it.

I think of a story a friend once told me. It had been a similar thing with a teacher asking each child to state their favorite foods. “Rice and yogurt,” one boy had said. The teacher shook their head. “That’s not a real meal, honey.” The boy had looked crestfallen, my friend told me.

I imagine him baffled. If it wasn’t a real meal, why did he eat it every day? And love it so much? My friend had been there, another fellow yogurt-rice eater. But she’d stayed silent. She’d let him swallow the humiliation alone.

“Well, what did you say?” I’d asked at the end of the story.

“About what?” she’d asked.

“As your favorite food.”

“Oh, I don’t remember. Probably pizza.”

I don’t blame her. I probably would have done the same. It’s not a big deal. Whatever, right? But why did she tell me this story, so many years later?

I’m watching a documentary on Netflix. It’s hosted by a famous chef. He is of Korean descent. He’s got a famous restaurant in New York City. There’s this one segment where they film him in his parent’s house.

He’s asked about what he ate as a child. And he talks about how embarrassing it was to bring his home food to school. This guy? Are you kidding me? That food has literally made him a millionaire. A household name. But he still remembers having his food called stinky. When he talks about the taunting, his eyes wander. He doesn’t look at the interviewer or the food. I shake my head in disbelief. He shouldn’t be holding on to this, but clearly, he does.

Back in the present, I am still looking at the screen. “Rice and dal?” the teacher asks. I brace myself.

“That’s your favorite, right?” she asks tentatively and smiles.

He nods. No big deal to him. Or her. She’s already moved on to the next child. Anyway, half of them aren’t even listening. Distance learning with 5-year-olds is a mess.

It was all so matter of fact. I am relieved. No, it’s not just relief. I am grateful. I breathe again.


Smita_Profile_Pic_09.2021S. P. Venkat is a writer and comedian obsessed with the idea of displaced and reforged identities, aka immigrant lives. She also creates interactive comedy experiments, like her viral “Parenting in a Pandemic Simulator” which was featured in the Huffington Post. She is currently working on her first novel, Fired Up, which is a finalist in the SparkPress STEP contest for BIPOC writers. Find out more at http://www.almostfavorite.com.

That Which We Call a Rose by Samantha Costanzo Carleton

SAMANTHA

My mom thought Samantha meant strong: The female Samson, destroyer of limits and all variations of “no.” But it means listener instead, and I listened to her lest I take half a step outside of the route she mapped. I strained so hard to hear that when I finally did become strong, it surprised her. I tore up the tracks with my own bare hands and told her no—no, thank you. Now I listen for signs in the sound of autumn leaves, for something that falls in my fingers and melts like a snowflake.

MARIE

In Paris, I thought of Marie, but we’d never been that close. She belonged to nearly every girl in school—the ones who didn’t get diamonds, at least. My sister was given Francesca. So unique! said the other Something-Maries. I didn’t expect to love Paris, the city that slumbered in every heart like Marie stuck in so many names. But something in me understood the gardens right away, the river and the islands and the stone. I have only ever lived near water, after all.

LUCY

The confirmation teacher told us all to pick new names, and I don’t think he ever said why. We took classes but lacked understanding, said prayers because we should. I looked it up. A new name stood for change and maturation, like an oak. It meant we were standing on roots. I knew who I wanted to be right away. For me, it had always been Lucy: a name that meant light in the darkness of winter, a flicker of faith buried deep and begging for air. There is no Santa Esperanza, but one day, I’ll name a daughter after hope.

COSTANZO

Once upon a time there were five Costanzo brothers, all rascals who snuck into golf courses at night and slid down sloping greens on blocks of ice they stole from their jobs at Foster’s Freeze. Then one of them said the wrong thing, and one of them threatened a war, and that was the end of them all for so long, I forgot I was also Italian. I was cien por ciento Cubana instead, no hyphen-American there—just Cuban like Granmamá Lily, who always dropped the S’s at the end of Spanish words. Well, maybe 95 percent. I have always been my father’s daughter, after all. We feel too much and think too much and yet, we still believe the world is mostly good.

CARLETON

I worried, at first, if I was committing treason, and then, I didn’t care. I chose the season and colors and cake. I wrote a check for the photographer with money I made myself, and handing it to her felt like taking one last look at where I’d been. I chose the man and the life and three names, performed the surgical procedure to remove and rearrange them and then stitch them in a line. I wanted to mark the transition with more than a dress and a party. I wanted it to show like tattooed ink. I’m sorry, Marie (just a little). But love is a decision.


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Samantha Costanzo Carleton is a writer from Boston. Her work has been published in The Cabinet of Heed and Full House Literary Magazine. She really wants to know your middle name.

Palace Tent by Lindsey Harding

Night falls as we make our way back from the bathhouse on crunchy gravel, teeth brushed but little else clean. Our tent is a palace, a gray nylon dome for a dozen. We number just six. Even on tippy toes or jumping, I struggle to hang the lantern from the center ring. The kids cheer when I do, when soft light fills the tent, enough for us to read while the youngest plays with a plastic alligator.

Later, after we close our books and click the lantern off, a stuffed turtle casts wavy bands of blue light from its shell across the tent walls. We quiet one by one. The youngest resists. He’s three and shark-like, moving, always moving. Now he makes his way from one sleeping pad to the next, from one sibling’s side to another’s. Plastic alligator in hand. Then blanket in hand. Then blanket wrapped around his body like a cocoon. Eventually he comes to me, hands empty. “Can I lay on top of you?” he asks. I am to be his sleeping pad, he my blanket.

Someday, I think, he’ll be too big for this. He’ll need and want more space, like his brother across the tent, body unfurled, frugal now, bones and muscles only. “Sure, buddy,” I say, rolling onto my back, releasing my arms from my sleeping bag. “Come here.” He crawls on. His head rests on my chest, and a hand flutters to my hair. His fingers comb the ends, a ritual that pulls us both toward sleep. I wrap my arms around him and hold fast. His weight against me, the swirling blue lights, all of us here in this one place with cicadas calling from the woods and whispers of night’s coolness—peace settles upon us, dense as the dark. My nose smarts.

When all is calm, all is dark, a memory, like a knife, slips through this peace in a single cut. Yesterday in the car, we had stopped for to-go burgers and fries and drinks. One drink, root beer to the brim, fell between the seats, a pass from one brother’s hand to other’s incomplete. I had raged at this spill as liquid soaked the already stained carpet, splashed onto stuffed animals and jackets scattered on the floorboards. “What is wrong with you?” I screamed. “You’re nine years old. This is ridiculous.” Meanwhile, both boys cried, the younger one for the drink lost and the older one because of me, my sudden temper, my disappointment.

In the tent, bathed in watery blue, the youngest breathes, and I feel his breath as my own. Someday, I wonder, will I yell at him the way I yelled at his brother? Will I make him cry, too? A spilled drink was all, is nothing. Ten feet away, the older boy sleeps, arms and legs flung about, deer limbs. I must have held him like this once, years ago.

I feel in this moment a multiplicity, the echo of bodies against mine, words reverberating across time. In this cavernous tent, there’s room for our family now and then, all the thens since we became a family. There’s room, too, for the distance time commands and the growing bodies, the expanding lives our children lead, will lead, will lead them away, further and further, from us. This space yawns before me even as the baby tucks his knees to my ribs, his breath on my arm humid, insistent.

The turtle light shuts off, its automatic timer expired. The tent disappears. We are both inside and outside among the droning insects, the cracking branches, the star-filled night. Time, too, becomes diffuse: I yell again while I hold tight to me what I cannot bear to lose while I apologize in the morning.

“I’m so sorry,” I say the next day, the breakfast fire spitting smoke and white ash as you throw sparks. “I was wrong to yell like that in the car, and I’m sorry.” I feed wood shards and dryer lint into the haze. You grit your teeth and strike the magnesium rod again. A flame steadies, holds. “Yes,” we cheer as the fire begins to crackle, to roar, its heat climbing to our palms, our cheeks as we stare into its blue center, where I can see all the fires we’ve made and put out.

Soon we’ll eat oatmeal and Pop-Tarts while the three-year-old roasts the marshmallows that remain. And later, we’ll take down our palace tent, tuck it back into its canvas bag to store until next time. But I’ll imagine the dome remains around us after we put out this fire and head home, contracting and expanding to fit us, the shape of us, as we grow.


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Lindsey Harding is the Director of the Writing Intensive Program at the University of Georgia. Her flash fiction and stories have appeared in CRAFT, apt, Spry, Soundings Review, Prick of the Spindle, The Boiler, and others. She lives in Athens, Georgia, with her husband and four children.

The Ravine by Genia Blum

KIEV

In September, the foliage turned yellow and red. Bodies fell, clothed only in fear, into the ravine, the pit, the abyss.

Naked flesh on naked flesh, warm blood, excrement—hell stinking beneath sand and earth.

All night, the bonfires flared, smoke rising into God’s desolate kingdom; a hundred thousand souls and more, tracing runes between the stars.

MUNICH

Every evening after Vespers, as altar candles flickered, pious sisters hunched over stacks of newspapers in the cloister’s vaulted hall, scissors opening and closing, snip-snip, click-clack.

They’d warned the children not to play in the verboten ruin that separated Schloss Nymphenburg from their reinstated convent school. Lucifer could snatch them up and drag them to an inferno under the crater where an Allied bomb had hit the palace. The attack destroyed the royal chapel, converted by the Nazis to an infirmary, and Mater Sekundilla had perished, as did a nameless patient who’d survived the Eastern Front.

The school’s lavatory was an unlit purgatory: wet floors, no soap or towels, no toilet roll, only unfinished wooden boxes filled with squares of inky newsprint—reminders of the trivial deprivations of the recent war.

Wimpled nuns worked their rusty shears, and Jesus glared from His crucifix on the wall, begrudging His forgiveness, tallying each snip-snip, click-clack.

WINNIPEG

The name escaped my parents’ throats with a soft, fricative “G.” They’d christened me “Evgenia” in a ceremony at Saints Vladimir and Olga Cathedral, but always addressed me by the diminutive “Genia,” with the inflection that led people to assume they were mispronouncing the far more common “Jeannie.” My schoolteacher called me that in class, which made me feel pleasantly ordinary. She also suggested my parents stop speaking Ukrainian at home, warning them of the foreign accent I’d acquire. Never. My mother bristled. We lost everything else.

After the war, my parents rescued consonants, vowels, a trail of syllables. They spoke and prayed in their mother tongue, worshipped their God in a church erected by immigrants, and denied the concept of collective blame.

The hymns and litany of the Divine Liturgy resound in a gilded nave; the sun pierces stained glass windows exalting rulers and saints, The Blessed Virgin of the Cossacks, Kiev’s Golden Domes.

Illuminated by colored light, dust ascends into incense-filled air: ashes from across the ocean, from the ravine, the scar, the abyss, where flakes of white bone remain.


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Genia Blum is a Swiss Ukrainian Canadian writer, translator, and dancer. Her work has appeared widely in literary journals, both online and in print, and she has received several Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominations. “Slaves of Dance,” based on excerpts from her memoir in progress, Escape Artists, was named a “Notable” in The Best American Essays 2019. Find @geniablum on Twitter and Instagram, or visit her website: www.geniablum.com.

What We Omit by Victoria Buitron

Someone asks me if I’ve ever fallen on a hike.

The question conjures the sounds my body has made when I’ve lost my footing. A sudden scrape of boots on loose rock, the clash of hiking poles pinging against each other, the grunt from my chest once I realize what’s happening. I remember my last fall on Hunter Mountain. I’m descending on an October day, close to the summit, where the ecology differs from the trail’s first thousand feet. Here mushrooms the color of fog with splotches of pink line the path, and beyond them the damp moss reigns like bright algae, taking over most of the downed wood. Before the fall, I stop to stare at a worm-like creature, covered with white fuzz, making its way on a thin twig. Then, I’m on the ground, my butt wet and poles stiff at my sides, the throb of recently broken veins spreading.

I want to answer with Of course I’ve fallen. It’s like asking if I’ve ever had a falling out with a friend. Haven’t we all? I withhold my gut answer in case it’ll sound too curt, but before I can speak, my almost-response evokes another memory that swoops in hastily and leaves just as fast.

I’m in the country I was born in, before I’ve ever climbed a mountain, when I only understand boots as a fashion choice and not a means to protect the feet. I’m in the parking lot in the town of Durán, Ecuador—after its yearly music festival—staring at my best friend in the back seat of a van as she tells me there’s no space. I’d mentioned weeks before that I needed a ride to our town after the concert. I didn’t merely say Save me a spot. I laid out the plan. I’d be going with some high school friends, but they all lived in the town I went to school in, not in the town I lived in. I asked her to let the driver know I’d pay the roundtrip fee although I was just hitching a ride back home. She assured me she’d spoken with him, but on that night, she snuggles in the back seat next to her boyfriend and tells me it’s not her call. There’s no space she says. I know the Ecuadorian coast is always warm, but in my memory I’m wearing a light sweater and still feel a profound chill.

The van speeds away like bikers would swoop by me on trails in years to come. Panicked, I walk around, calling others with the slim data I have left on my Nokia phone. Then, a familiar face, the son of somebody my father knows. Hi, I’m Victoria, I know you I say. I’ll pay you all the money I have. Just don’t leave me here in this parking lot, I almost say. I get in the truck—a stranger among boys and men. The silence is piercing, as if they know there’s been a recent end to my most profound friendship. As if I would shatter if they ask me more than my name. She left me. She left me. Half an hour later, when only the headlights on the highway light the path, I wonder what would have happened if the man driving didn’t let me fit in between him and another boy in the front seat. I picture myself ambulating in an empty parking lot, hiding in the shadows, waiting for an uncle to make the hour-long trip as I stumble between fear and anger and sadness.

I know what it means to lose touch, even to ghost, but this is my first falling out. We fall out like a fledgling plummets from its nest, we fall out like how the rubbish manages to tumble from the trailhead garbage bin in a harsh wind, we fall out like how a dead tree thumps on dense snow during a storm. She left, continuing on the path in front of me without looking back. We still see each other; that same week she’s in my house. Not because I’ve invited her to talk or because she’s there to apologize. Our families are friends, confidants, kinfolk, and years will pass with us unable to avoid each other. I’m never able to retrace the steps to how it was before, unwilling to make space for her again.

I’ve fallen I answer. I’ve fallen hard.


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Victoria Buitron is a writer and translator with an MFA in Creative Writing from Fairfield University. Her work has been featured or is upcoming in Entropy, Bare Life Review, Bending Genres, and more.

Instructions for Fucking Your Postpartum Wife by Megan Pillow

1)  First, get the groceries. Get the baby when he cries. Get a clutch of flowers, and make sure they’re the wild ones. These, the ones that waver when your car wings past, the ones that seem to be stretching toward you with every stem and every filament.

2)  Forget your hands, your mouth. Forget that ancient come-on that you used back when it was just the two of you. Grab her breasts while she’s cooking, and she will become a stinging nettle. Put your hand down her pants when she’s washing the dishes, and she will become a man o’ war. If she lets you, touch her hair by hair and inch by delicate inch. Expect nothing.

3)  Imagine that you, instead, are the one who gave birth and every day is marked and made by baby. All day, the kick of his doughy little legs into the soft of your stomach, the cry after cry, the endless shushing and burping over the drone of the home improvement shows in Toronto or Waco or Orange County. There is love, there is love, so sharp and unceasing that you feel the cut of it all the way to your bones. There is also the constant weight of him, the yank and the clutch, hour after hour. You have become the glassy window the baby smears his lips against, the railing on the stairs where the polish has all worn down. Deep beneath the press of him, deep beneath the blade of your love, you know you are never free, you know you never will be.

4)  Let her sleep and sleep and sleep.

5)  If there is a bird, sing to it. If there is a children’s television show playing, turn it off. If there is open sky, if there is open air, make love to the both of them first. Fill your lungs. Tuck the shine under your skin. Take them to her as an offering. Let the breath and light begin to bring her back.

6)  Consider the people she’s told you about. Consider the people she hasn’t. The chiropractor who cried as she fucked him. The barista with the two different-color eyes who bit your wife’s fingers when she came. The doctoral student who told her he was married right after he put the condom on, who she’d liked a little more in that moment because it was the first honest thing he’d said. The neighbor whose testicle she’d found a mass in while giving him a blow job, the neighbor who said she was lying and who slapped her hand away.

7)  Consider that she is circling the edge of it, a dulling, a breaking down. Consider that she has been here before, the penny clutched in the hot of a hand, the worn brass doorknob, constantly turning.

8)  Imagine doling out your skin, your hunger, your hurt. Imagine what she has done with her worn-out body to keep you fed.

9)  Consider the people she fantasizes about while breastfeeding in the peach-soft light of morning. Consider the people who will ask no questions. Out there, somewhere, there is a someone who won’t pass her like she’s a piece of furniture on their way to go play video games. Out there is a someone who will tell her for a solid hour she is beautiful, no matter how soft her stomach, no matter what underwear she’s wearing. Consider, consider that those someones are just a text, a call, a handful of houses away.

10)  If she lets you, lay her down.

11)  Let her tell you where. Let her say that the only antidote to too much touch is more of it where the hands of a child will never go. Spread her legs and run your tongue along the inside of her thigh like a blade of grass, like the blade of a knife. Whisper between her legs you are the gloss over all of the universe, you are the fire and the light, you are everything, everything, burning. When she shivers, bury your tongue and your fingers inside her. Let her clutch the pillow. Let the roar and rush of her breath tell you the tempo that will take the pain away.

12)  And if her body is a house, then it is still haunted, and you must enter it slowly.

13)  And if her body is a sanctuary, then you must worship the whole of it.

14)  And if her body is the nucleus of the atom of your love, then you wait for her to beg you. You wait for her to tell you yes yes yes. And then you fuck her until she feels new again, until she is burnished, until her skin is gleaming.


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Megan Pillow is a graduate of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in fiction and holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Kentucky. Her work has appeared recently or is forthcoming in, among other places, Electric Literature, SmokeLong Quarterly, The Believer, Passages North, TriQuarterly, and Gay Magazine.

Essential Parenting Terms by Lauren D. Woods

1.  Time:  That which is always lacking. That which my own parents lavished on me, but which I can never wrest enough of, to be generous enough, to stop hoarding and make more of—see #2

2.  An Effort:  Trying hard. Like when I draw out letters for you to copy in purple marker, but you scribble over the page, rip it to shreds, and leave purple-colored scraps scattered around the living room. You must know I’m doing my best to ensure your life won’t turn out—see #3.

3.  Bad:  The kind of mom you call me when I make—see #2.

4.  Good:  The kind of mom you call me when I’m on the phone and let you start dinner with chocolate ice cream and sprinkles that you shake on yourself, because I’m on a work call, or a personal call, and I wish I were making more—see #1, because what I’m really feeling is—see #5.

5.  Sorry:  When I think of how you don’t live in a home with two parents, how little I give you sometimes in terms of—see #1, and that makes me afraid you won’t see this home as—see #4.

6.  Love:  Watching you sleeping in the bedroom you share with your brother and me in our apartment, with your mouth parted open, hair splayed on your pillow, legs longer than they seemed to be a week ago, which is also when I feel—see #7.

7.  Fear:  The feeling that your childhood will be harder than my early years with a mom and dad and comfortable house in the suburbs. The feeling that you will notice the hours I am working, or on the phone, or only halfway present, that I have not been generous, the feeling that when you rip apart those purple letters, you are expressing some deeper brokenness I cannot fix. The cost of—see #6.

8.  Anger:  The feeling I get when your teachers tell me you don’t want to practice your letters, that you’re distracted and have stopped listening. When they pause and ask gently if things are all right at home, a feeling that is based in—see #7. Please forgive me for not making enough—see #1.


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Lauren D. Woods is a Virginia-based writer of fiction and CNF, with work in Hobart, the Offing, Forge Literary Magazine, and other journals.

Reimagining: In Which I’m Not a Picky Eater & I Eat by Moisés Delgado

I top my tacos de asada / al pastor / lengua / cachete / adobada / carnitas with sal & limón, cilantro, cebolla, aguacates, salsa verde & salsa roja, eat both tortillas, half a rábano, the entire serrano, & when I ask for another three tacos mamá doesn’t wait for the sound of an empty stomach, doesn’t ask ¿Will you ever love yourself?

 


Moisés R. Delgado is a queer Latinx writer from the Midwest. His prose appears in or is forthcoming from The Pinch, Puerto del Sol, Passages North, Pidgeonholes, Homology Lit, and elsewhere. Moisés can often be found dancing on the moon.

Welcome to Treasure Island, Florida by Joyce Wheatley

Until the drawbridge opened, we idled on the Causeway and marveled at the monstrous Buccaneer, like one of those humongous bright balloons in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. His saber sliced cerulean sky, a Sunshine pirate greeting on a road to Paradise.

We joked about our final stop, this last resort of turquoise pools, abundant sun, alligators, Geckos and Palmetto bugs—indeed, every sort of crawler! Sea gulls called, crying over parking lots, Tyrone Square Mall, Winn Dixie, 7/11, palms. Salty Gulf breezes blew sand in everything. Transients and friends with names like Jinx and SuSu, natives of sun and storms, children born of heat and hurricanes, wafted cannabis and citrus. In Judy’s yard, grapefruits grew, big as melons, their juice profuse, sticky pink, and she told us in her Lakeland drawl of Spook Hill and vehicles rolling in reverse.

Which is where I find myself, going backyards up an incline, returning to a place and time, defying gravity and reason, somewhere so many decades gone––beaches of honeyed scents, coconut and mango, lotions slathered in lazy half-circles on each other’s back, and the newspaper was free if the sun didn’t shine.


 

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Joyce Wheatley is a librarian in a public library in Upstate New York. She writes brief stories, poems and recollections.