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 Volume #2                    January 21, 1995                     Issue #1 

                        CONTENTS FOR VOLUME 2, ISSUE 1
     Column: Stupid is as Stupid Does  . . . . . . . .  Robert Fulkerson

     Column: From the Belly of the Dough Boy . . . . . . . .  Matt Mason

     Potter's Wheel -- Shades of Arizona . . . . . William C. Burns, Jr.

     Enigma  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Julie Keuper

     When I Get Back From the Holy Land  . . . . . . . . . Richard Cumyn

     The Airplane  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sam Barasch

     The Onset of Autumn . . . . . . . . . . . . . William C. Burns, Jr.

     In The Basement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Pearl Sheil

     Vagina Dentata  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  

     Supreme Extra Value Meals . . . . . . . . . . .  Mitchell Cleveland

     Hips and Cheese . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Andrea Krackow

     Night Light . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Arthur Shotmind

     Things in Motion  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Doug Lawson

     Pictures of Perfection  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sung J. Woo

     About the Authors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Authors

     In Their Own Words  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Authors

 Editor                               +                       Poetry Editor
 Robert Fulkerson              The Morpo Staff                Matthew Mason                  +

 Layout Editor                                               Fiction Editor 
 Kris Kalil Fulkerson                                           J.D. Rummel                         
 _The Morpo Review_.  Volume 2, Issue 1.  _The Morpo Review_ is published
 electronically on a bi-monthly basis.  Reproduction of this magazine is
 permitted as long as the magazine is not sold and the entire text of the
 issue remains intact.  Copyright 1995, Robert Fulkerson and Matthew Mason.
 _The Morpo Review_ is published in Adobe PostScript, ASCII, ReadRoom BBS
 Door and World Wide Web formats.  All literary and artistic works are
 Copyright 1995 by their respective authors and artists.

                                EDITORS' NOTES
   o _Stupid is as Stupid Does_ by Robert Fulkerson, Editor:
   Forrest Gump was an idiot boy who grew up into a philosopher, among
   other things. I was a normal boy who's still striving to figure out my
   place in this world.
   _Forrest Gump_ the movie spoke to something inside of me, something
   deep inside of me. Forrest Gump the person also spoke to something
   inside of me. After seeing the movie five times, I'm still not sure
   what it is about Forrest that intrigues and inspires me so much.
   I'm pretty sure it's not the "idiot makes good" theory that the news
   media is trying to force down our throats. Anywhere you turn these
   days, the newspapers and newscasters are crying it out: "America
   embraces stupidity, thanks to movies like _Forrest Gump_ and _Dumb and
   But I don't think that those of us who are going to see movies like
   _Gump_ are embracing stupidity. There's something else at work in the
   movie. It has something to do with the way that Eric Roth took Winston
   Groom's 1986 novel and transformed it from a rough, lewd story about
   Forrest Gump the lucky simpleton into a moving parable for the 1990s
   about a devoted friend and family member.
   Who wouldn't want the kind of devoted love that Forrest has for Jenny?
   Who wouldn't want to _love_ the way that Forrest loves Jenny and his
   mother? Who wouldn't want the fortitude to always say exactly what's
   on your mind? Who wouldn't want to be in their mid-30s and still be
   able to act like a child, to be able to hold on to childhood dreams
   and remember and relive them as vividly as if they were _still_ a
   I think that what's at work in _Forrest Gump_ is not seeing an "idiot
   makes good" story, but rather an "I can make myself better" story. We
   walk away from the movie using Forrest as a yardstick by which we can
   measure ourselves and our lives. Are there things in my life that I'm
   not happy with that I can change? Can I be a better partner for my
   spouse? Can I be a better friend? Whatever happened to that toy truck
   I used to play with when I was a kid?
   Thanks to Winston Groom and screenwriter Eric Roth, Forrest Gump has
   become a real person -- someone that many of us can identify with.
   Someone that most of us wouldn't mind knowing or having as a friend.
   This is the power that the written word can have. Certainly Tom Hanks
   is to be lauded for bringing Forrest Gump to life so vividly, but if
   it weren't for the brilliant minds of Groom and Roth, Forrest Gump
   would not exist today in the lives of so many people around the world.
   Both writers had a vision of who Forrest Gump should be. Both writers
   took slightly different angles on defining who Forrest Gump is. They
   took a chance that this character and his story would speak to
   someone. That Forrest would _live_, given a chance.
   This is the chance that many authors take. Regardless of whether or
   not their characters or stories ever become blockbuster movies is
   beside the point. The fact that they believe strongly enough in a
   character and a storyline to write it down for others to read -- this
   is what gives those characters and stories life.
   In this issue of _Morpo_, you're going to read about the characters,
   stories and worlds that eleven individuals created. You may believe in
   some of them or you may not. Some of these characters and situations
   may speak to you, or they may not. For one reason or another, they
   spoke to the editors of _Morpo_, and we wanted to give them a chance
   to live outside of our worlds, outside of the authors' worlds.
   We hope you enjoy this issue of _The Morpo Review_ and enjoy entering
   these worlds and meeting the people in these worlds as much as we did
   when we read them for the first time, second and third times.

   o _From the Belly of the Doughboy_ by Matt Mason, Poetry Editor:
   And here we are getting wild and happy, entering our second year of
   _The Morpo Review_. As I look back, I have to ask myself certain
   questions such as, "did _Morpo_ make the world a better or safer
   place?" and "Why would anyone live in North Dakota?"
   The first question, as much as it may sound like a credit card
   commercial, makes me plunk down in front of the TV like a sleepy mule
   as I've never been good at philosophy or existentialism, but boy can I
   watch _Hogan's Heroes_ reruns without any anxieties.
   As for that second question, I don't know. All I know is that I used
   to be co-editor around here with Bob, then I went on a trip to Europe
   and couldn't edit the last issue of _The Morpo Review _and when I came
   back there were two new editors and people expected me to mop floors
   and empty trash.
   Kindly, they still let me include my sputterings here, but I have been
   banished to Grand Forks, North Dakota for the winter. But they tell me
   that if I behave, I can come back to Omaha and be promoted to dusting
   and filing, maybe even by spring.
   Anyway, I was talking about _Morpo_'s first anniversary before that.
   Happy Birthday to _Morpo_. With your submissions and comments and
   general interest, there'll hopefully be many more. As for me, I'd
   better go, it's 9 below outside but Sergeant Schultz just fell for
   Hogan's strudel bribe again...

 "Potter's Wheel
       Shades of Arizona" by William C. Burns, Jr.

        Smeared across your cheek
             and over chocolate-amber eyes
        Integrating you into the scenery
       You laughed when I asked
             just how to throw a pot
             your reply

        Your hands stained to the elbow
        Deep inside your latest undertaking
       A thing of soft geometry
        Taking shape in your palms
        Defying gravity
        Defying the Earth that bore it
        This thing swims up
             to meet your hand

        Unwilling to steal you
        From this place of mind
        That you love so
             so much
        I orbit just out of reach
             scratching paper with pen
        Cartographer of the moment

 "Enigma" by Julie Keuper 

       He sits silently
       in his chair
        as people stare
         at his ugly hair
          biker shorts with
           middle age creeping in
            living a lie on the edge
             he stares at his feet
              and tries real hard

 "When I Get Back From the Holy Land" by Richard Cumyn 
   The night Row told me about it, Winton Marsalis was on the stereo and
   I was watching La Serie Rose on the French channel with the sound off.
   One woman was lashing another one on the bare ass with a wooden
   switch. I was supposed to believe that blood was coming out of the
   welts. It was about half past one in the morning. Roweena's paintings
   were stacked all over the apartment. I could not walk without tripping
   over one.
   "I'm having the baby underwater," she said and I said, "That's fine."
   At the best of times, Row is a basket case. I think that is why I love
   She said, "With dolphins. In salt water. They'll have to be brought
   I said, "I hope it's a good bonding experience. You going to have a
   life-guard on hand or what?"
   Nothing surprised me anymore, not since she told me that I had to
   vacate because her best friend, Debra, was moving in with her, and
   they were going to live together like husband and wife. Her exact
   words. Husband and wife. I scratched Rafferty behind the ears and
   flicked off the show. They just discovered each other, Row and Deb,
   like explorers finding new land.
   One-thirty in the morning. She was cooking potato soup that was this
   thick, humid thing filling the air in the apartment.
   I said, "What if one of the dolphins butts the baby with its snout and
   kills it?"
   "You're just upset about having to leave."
   "What the hell am I supposed to say?"
   What I really needed was another month. She had no idea what it was
   like out there. There was nothing. I was just back from Africa. I
   wanted to stay in this country, but there was nothing.
   Then she got all agitated. She said, "I never noticed before. This
   place has no fire escape. We're on the third floor of this rat trap.
   How am I supposed to get out if there's a fire?"
   I said, "Can I at least take the cat? He'd be company for me. I was
   reading somewhere you're not supposed to keep cats around babies,
   anyway. Something about their litter boxes."
   She was thinking out loud. "I'm not sure about the logistics of this
   trip. First I have to get to New York somehow. Then meet up with the
   other women in the group. Then we fly over together. How am I supposed
   to pay for this?"
   "What about the cat, Roweena? Can I take him?"
   She wasn't listening. She said, "Do you remember when we got to Deb's
   that night, after you rescued me from Ray, I made you sleep in the
   other room and I said, "Don't you try coming into my bed in the middle
   of the night or I'll shoot you"? I didn't really mean it."
   "I know you didn't," I said.
   She said, "I wish you weren't here right now, but I don't want to have
   to close the door after you go. Does that make any sense, William, to
   you? Does it make any sense that the cat just isn't enough to keep me
   from disintegrating most days? But people...people -- you're not going
   to be here when I get back from the Holy Land."
   I said, "You don't have to worry about me."
   She said, "Do you want to go?"
   "Where? Israel?"
   "No. Away. Out of here. This apartment."
   I said, "We could get a better place. Bigger. You said that guy at the
   print store was going to phone you back. I could work."
   "The three of us live together, you mean? You, me and Deb?"
   "Four soon."
   She didn't say anything for a minute, just chewed on the ends of her
   hair. She hadn't calmed down much. Then she said, "I don't know. I had
   it all worked out. This baby was going to arrive balanced and
   connected. You know what I'm saying? And familiar, I mean to me. It
   doesn't matter that half of her is Ray. She'll be coming out of a salt
   sea into a salt sea. Well, it'll be a swimming pool beside the sea,
   but you get the picture. It'll still be holy land. And she'll arrive
   among her cousins. Dolphins are smarter
   than us, you know that? It's documented. But if my baby is not
   familiar to me, if I don't have something to link her to, then I'll
   start to lose her right away. I have to do this. Doing this is like
   putting a photograph away safe in a tea can so I can pull it out and
   remember who I was."
   "I could use another week," I said.
   "Debra will be here day after tomorrow. You know that."
   I said, "Who would you be if you weren't running people's lives for
   She said, right out of nowhere, "You remember that time at Oom-Pa-Pa
   when we rescued you from that slut who wanted to hump you right there
   in the middle of Bob Jokinen Arena? It was Oktoberfest. There was
   plywood down covering the ice."
   I said, "What does that have to do with anything?"
   "She's serving beer and she takes one look at you and the slut is in
   love with you. She comes out from behind her counter and starts
   unbuttoning your shirt. If Deb and I hadn't pushed her back onto her
   keister she'd of jumped your bones right there and then."
   "That was months ago. So?"
   "So, you and I have known each other forever, since we were babies
   practically. You never touched me. You were always a gentleman."
   "We were kids, Row. I didn't know anything."
   Suddenly switching, she said, "You think you have Deb pegged, in your
   mind, don't you? You think she's this bull dyke who chews men off at
   the root."
   "Now there you go making sense. Right on. Exactamundo."
   I could see that that hurt her. She said, "Why don't you get out of
   here right now? Why don't you leave? OK? Now."
   I scooped up the cat. I was all ready to go. I just wanted her to make
   a decision about Rafferty.
   "You never touched me, William, all the time in high school when we
   were going together. Why can't it be like that again?" Her pupils were
   blurring, starting to swim.
   "What about the cat?"
   "Forget the cat!" she screamed. "Just leave. Get out of here!"
   I got my clothes together in about half a minute. There was not much
   to stuff into the bag. She wasn't going to brush me off like this,
   though. She wasn't going to close the door. Not talk about dolphins
   and the Holy Land and then close the door on me.
   I hoisted the bedroom's little dormer window up as high as it would go
   in the frame and climbed out. As I swung myself up onto the roof,
   Rafferty scooted past me and perched against a chimney. Once I was
   settled I began to think about our finding each other again, ten years
   after high school, and about my rescuing her from Ray.
   It was the middle of December and freezing like Antarctica when I
   called her from the bus station to say that I was back in the country.
   She pulled up in a rust-spotted Chevy Caprice station wagon with wood
   paneling painted on the side. I had been teaching Namibians how to
   build irrigation systems. I had never even seen an irrigation system
   before, but I was the development officer and I had the cheque book.
   They loved every sweet thing I did and said.
   The heat and the flies, though. I was starting to go thin in the head.
   I got Roweena's new address from a friend and wrote her a letter,
   never expecting to get anything back. She wrote me and I wrote back
   and pretty soon we had a regular correspondence going. She mentioned
   that she was married now, but mostly she wrote her thoughts about art
   and politics. I told her about the fighting in Namibia, about the time
   soldiers stopped the bus I was on and began pulling people off at
   random. Eight, ten people, all black. There was no settlement there,
   just bush. Then they let the bus continue. We got about two hundred
   meters down the road when we heard the shots. The bus driver did not
   even slow down.
   Roweena's husband, Ray, was away selling for most of the week, she
   wrote, and she was thankful that she was able to read my letters and
   learn about an exotic part of the world she might never get to. I told
   her that it was not all that exotic.
   She began painting to fill the days. In her letters she described what
   she was working on, floral and still-life arrangements. She had not
   let anyone see them. Her husband did not even know she did it. She
   wrote that it was not something he would necessarily understand. She
   did not want to upset him too soon by showing him a part of her he did
   not know about. We exchanged nine or ten letters before I returned to
   The day she picked me up, the heater in her station wagon was broken.
   She said that things were a little tight right then and Raymond needed
   the other car, the Marquis, to be in good working order because that
   was his livelihood. We held each other for a long time in the front
   seat, rubbing each other on the back, hugging for warmth. She told me
   how good it was to see me again. I wanted to ask her how she got
   herself into this. We drove to a coffee shop in a mall where we got
   warm before continuing to her house.
   It was a Saturday. Raymond was home waiting for us in the kitchen when
   we came in through the back door. I guess Row and I had identical
   looks on our faces because her husband kept moving his eyes back and
   forth from one of us to the other as though he were watching a tennis
   After he shook my hand, he said, "Problem with the car?" and Roweena
   said, "No, why, Ray- dear?" and he said, "It doesn't take two hours to
   drive to the bus station and back." She told him where we went, but I
   could see he did not believe us. He was breathing heavily, clenching
   and unclenching his fists.
   Roweena said, "Why don't we all go into the living room and you two
   can get acquainted."
   Ray looked at her as though she had just spoken to him in a language
   he did not understand, and then he glared at me. I excused myself to
   use the washroom, which she pointed to at the top of the stairs. From
   up there I could hear them.
   "Don't make such a big deal of it. I'm sure he has a place to stay
   tomorrow night."
   "The weekend is my only time, you know that."
   "He was such a long way away from home, though. He's made this
   "Why'd you tell him those things about us?"
   "What things? didn't read my mail. That's private."
   "Just what do you two have to keep private, anyway?"
   She said, "Don't be silly."
   Then I heard a slap and the table legs scraping on the floor and a
   thud that I figured was Roweena falling. I was finished in the
   bathroom, but I kept still and listened through the door.
   She said, "If I lose this baby..." and started to cry.
   "Tramp. I want him out of here."
   She said, "You have no right to read my personal mail. It's all in
   your head. I'm sorry, Ray...Don't." A whack like the sound of a cane
   on fabric. Another slap. She sobbed, "Stop, I'm sorry. I won't do it
   again, Ray. Sorry. Please."
   "Tell him to go away. Tell him we've got family coming to visit and he
   can't stay. Tell him something like that."
   "All right. I'll tell him."
   "Good. Get up off the floor. Clean yourself up."
   I waited until things were quiet, then came downstairs. They were
   sitting together in the living room, side by side in the same love
   seat. Her eyes were puffy and red, and she was holding her hand
   against the side of her neck.
   He said, "I suppose you heard us." I did not say anything. He said,
   "You don't know the first thing about us."
   I tried to keep my voice calm. "Maybe you and Roweena should spend
   tonight apart."
   His face reddened. Ray was a big man. He was off the couch and into
   the kitchen quicker than I thought it possible for someone his size.
   He was there and back before I knew what he was doing. In his hand he
   was holding a thin fiberglass curtain rod about the length of his arm.
   "You're out of here, mister," he said.
   Roweena got off the couch and ran up the stairs.
   "Count of five," he said, sliding the rod across his open palm. He was
   smiling stiffly as if he expected to be photographed.
   "I think Roweena had better come with me, Ray," I said.
   "You don't know me. You don't know me well enough to use my first
   I was just about to say, "All right, you win," when Roweena rattled
   back down the stairs two at a time and then slid something across the
   pine floor. I felt it hit against my foot. I looked down.
   She said, "Pick it up, William. It's loaded."
   I did not want to touch it, but Ray was moving toward me. I crouched
   on one knee, picked the thing up, and pointed it at him.
   "He doesn't even know how to use it," he said, but he had stopped
   moving. The switch was still raised above his head.
   Roweena said, "William and I are going, Ray. You can keep everything.
   I don't care. Don't try to follow us. Come on, William."
   I began to shake as I tried to keep the pistol trained on him. Roweena
   held me by the collar as we shuffled backward toward the front door.
   She bumped into the half wall that separated the living room from the
   front hall and when I bumped back into her the gun went off. She
   screamed. The bullet hit the ceiling above Raymond's head. Chunks of
   plaster and dust fell down on him.
   He began to blubber. He said, "Don't go with him. Don't leave me here.
   I love you," but we were already out the door. We ran to her car as if
   we had just robbed a bank.
   I thumped on the roof with my heel to get her attention.
   She stuck her head out. She had to twist her torso around to get a
   look at me in the dark. The sky was packed with stars.
   I said, "This would be the way out if there was a fire."
   "Oh. Well, that's good," she said.
   "Put your foot on the eavestrough when you first climb out. It'll
   hold. Once you're on the roof you can step over onto the building next
   door. You should maybe put a couple boards across for a bridge.
   Something like that so it's safe."
   She said, in a tired voice, "Do you have somewhere to go, William,
   this time of night?"
   "Oh, I've got places," I said.
   She said, "It's cold. Maybe you should come back in."
   I said, "I was just wondering about something. What happens if the
   baby opens its eyes under water? Won't the salt burn its eyes? How's
   the kid supposed to breathe?"
   This perked her up. She smiled and said, "Oh, the baby will still have
   the protective mucous covering from when she's in the womb. I'll be
   weighted down on the bottom of the pool - it'll be deep, over my head,
   but body temperature warm - and breathing with scuba gear. When the
   baby comes out she'll float around for a few minutes still attached.
   She won't be breathing yet. I won't even hold her
   until later. After I cut the cord, the dolphins are there to guide her
   to the surface, instinctively. They'll treat her like one of their
   own. They're very gentle and loving."
   "Her first contact won't be human, then," I said.
   "That's what I like about it," she said. "It will be pure and holy.
   You better come back inside before you fall, William."
   I swung feet-first back in through the dormer window. I said, "What
   are you going to say to Debra? She's not going to like it that I'm
   still here."
   "I don't want to think about that yet. I don't know what she'll say. I
   mean, what can she say? Will you just stay and keep talking to me? I
   didn't mean what I said before. I'll paint. We'll grind some fresh
   coffee. I'll paint. Let's not worry about it right now. I'm pretty
   sure it'll be all right. Don't go yet."
   I said, "I can do that. That is something I can do, at least."
   It was getting pretty cold, but I left the window open wide enough for
   Rafferty to squeeze back in.
 "The Airplane" by Sam Barasch 

Strangers with magazines sit all around me.
My ears pop in the second hand air.
Red lipstick skitters up and down the aisle whispering loudly,
"Please make certain your lapbelt is securely fastened,
and that your traytables & seatbacks
are in the upright & locked position."
While outside our pressurized coffin,
the wind sprints by,
and the wings rattle like tissue paper.

 "The Onset of Autumn" by William C. Burns, Jr. 

        The clouds
            sequester the Sun
        But some of the honey-amber light
            still melts through

        The Sky moves
            out on the bay
        Impossibly bright
            flickering tiles of light

        I hold up my hands
            embracing the Autumn air
        And dance

 "In the Basement" by Pearl Sheil 

I like you, floor, all grey with paint spatters near the walls
Dirt and dust collecting at your edges,
And a microchasm fading out to nowhere in particular.
You are a good listener, floor, and you are adept at holding up my feet;
A privilege, might I add, that you wouldn't have had in another
As I walk to and fro across your chest
You don't moan as wood does, nor shush me to silence as does the snow
You seem very content between your walls, floor.
You seem very sure you ARE a floor; that whole heartedness impresses me.
Unpretentious, unoffending, chaste, you lie contentedly between my walls
As a good floor should. You don't vie for my attention nor my eye
Flaunting flamboyant rugs nor peek-a-boo furniture.
But perhaps, floor, you would like a coat for your nakedness
To colour you the same as your vertical companions?
Or would that confuse you and make you guess that you are now a wall
And should stand up? That wouldn't do at all.
Did your crack come from you making that very assumption before
As paint spattered down across your belly?
Just in case we'd best not risk it, for your sake.
Did I ever tell you, floor, that I like you ...

 "Vagina Dentata"
    This poem has been removed at the request of the author.

 "Supreme Extra Value Meals" by Mitchell Cleveland 

   No Nuts watched as Dival's Chevy Luv crept up the driveway and
   eventually stopped in front of the house. An enormous green tarp
   covered something tall and bulky sitting in the back. Dival sat behind
   the wheel for a few minutes, apparently fascinated by something in the
   rear-view mirror, possibly the tarp. Or a dirt clod. Or maybe it was
   something in the sky. A bird, or those black planes again. Maybe they
   weren't planes. The government wasn't telling. Eventually Dival got
   out and walked around the truck twice, slapping each door as he
   passed. Satisfied, Dival walked up to the porch and grinned.
   No Nuts, having been looking for several minutes now, nodded. "You got
   a tarp there."
   "Yes." Dival nodded, grinning. He grinned at the tarp a while and sat
   on the porch.
   "I hear we could be in for some rain."
   "Sure could use some rain. Been almost a month. Dry your teats out."
   Dival pulled a pack of gum from his pocket and carefully tore a stick
   in half. One half was carefully rewrapped and replaced, the other half
   chewed. Dival shook the pack at No Nuts. "Has been determined to cause
   cancer in laboratory animals. More exciting this way, braving death
   every time." Dival took a deep breath and stretched. "Wouldn't it be
   "Being able to live your whole life in a plastic bubble that only you
   could see through?"
   No Nuts shook his head at the Luv. "So what you got under the tarp?"
   Dival leapt to his feet and grabbed No Nuts by the arm. "Follow me!"
   He dashed to the truck and unhooked the tarp. He yanked it aside with
   a flourish. It was a Zaxxon game.
   No Nuts considered this. "It's Zaxxon."
   Dival hopped into the back of the truck and dusted the game with his
   shirt sleeve. "Yes! Isn't it incredible? I just bought it from the guy
   who used to run The Pittt over in the other county. You know the place
   with the plastic Indians? And all those tires? Well, I met Bo, the guy
   who owns it. He just got convicted, so he's closing the place down and
   sold me his Zaxxon game for ten bucks! Isn't it incredible?"
   No Nuts stayed on the ground. "It's very... large. What are you going
   to do with it exactly?"
   "I'm going to start my own arcade, of course! I now own the only
   Zaxxon game in this part of the state! People will come from all
   around to bask in the glow of my Zaxxon game. I'll make a fortune on
   this puppy." Dival's eyes shined with capitalism. "I'm going to charge
   a dollar per game."
   No Nuts coughed on the dust and his yawn. "You're going to charge a
   dollar? Who the hell do you expect to pay you a dollar to play a game
   of Zaxxon?"
   "Why, everyone!" Dival slapped the case. "This is Zaxxon, man!
   Everyone loves Zaxxon! And I'm the only one who has it. I name the
   price, and I make the rules. I can have this whole town eating out of
   my hand. I have the power."
   "Dival, it's just a fucking game of Zaxxon! It only cost a quarter to
   play when it was brand new, and that was ten years ago! No one gives a
   damn, and no one's going to pay you a whole fucking dollar to play
   your fucking Zaxxon! What the hell are you up to?"
   Dival stood motionless, staring through No Nuts like Elvis through a
   cheeseburger. Hitler invades Poland, film at eleven. Fifty-nine,
   seventy-nine, ninety-nine. "So that's how you feel, is it? You cast
   aside Zaxxon like some worthless, shriveled hulk? I don't think you
   really have any idea of what I have here."
   "It's a fucking Zaxxon game! Get a fucking grip, Dival!" No Nuts
   flapped his arms at the game, trying to get it to leave.
   Dival unlatched the back of the truck. "Here, help me get it out."
   "I said help me get it out. We need to get it inside before it rains."
   Dival hopped down.
   "Why is it getting out here?"
   "I'm giving it to you." Dival squinted at the sky, looking for clouds,
   or the black planes. One of them had crashed once. The Air Force
   wouldn't let anyone near it. Pig miscarriages were up sixty percent.
   One of them had four heads. "I want you to have it."
   No Nuts stared at the hulking box. Memories of the Carter
   administration, destroying glassware in high school chemistry. "I
   don't want me to have it. It's your Zaxxon game. What are you doing?"
   "I want you to have it. You're better off with it than I am. Come on,
   it's heavy. Don't lift with your back. Let's put it next to your
   "Look, I don't want it. It's yours. You haven't even gotten a chance
   to use it yet. Take it. I don't want it." It didn't want to leave.
   Dival's phone rang. He answered halfway through the third ring. "This
   is the telephone."
   "Dival, it's No Nuts."
   "Dival, I've been up all night staring at your damn Zaxxon game. I
   don't get it."
   "Dival, I can't figure out what you're doing. I know you've got a
   point. It's driving me batty. I know you've got some kind of moral
   here and I can't figure out what it is. I give up."
   "Look, you just don't get it. There isn't any moral. Sometimes there
   just isn't any point to anything. You've got to accept this. No one
   has to win, no one has to lose. The earth will continue to spin, Dick
   Clark will continue to host television bloopers shows. Everything just
   goes on the way it always has. The only difference is that you now
   have a Zaxxon game. What you make out of this is up to you."
   Silence. Home of the Whopper.
   "Did I wake you up?"
   "Well, all right. Talk to you later."
   Dival's phone rang. He answered halfway through the third ring. "This
   is the telephone."
   "Dival, it's No Nuts again."
   "Dival, um, look, I found something here. I tried the Zaxxon game, and
   it doesn't work."
   "I mean, I plugged it in, and the screen comes on, but it's just
   blank. It's sort of bright, but nothing ever appears. I can't get it
   to work. It's not working."
   "So I've been thinking about what you said about morals."
   "Dival, I think there's always a moral. There has to be. You can try
   to ignore them, but they're there. You need them to string things
   together, to keep things from happening and then disappearing. Like,
   like Zaxxon." Fries with that? All our miles are free.
   "Mmm, maybe you're right. We do need a moral. Well then there's this:
   what makes this country great is that we each have the freedom to
   choose to imprison ourselves."
   "God bless America."
   "Talk to you later."

 "Hips and Cheese" by Andrea Krackow

Sister makes me cheese sandwiches
with the plastic wrap
left on the cheese.
This is the year
mom goes to buy peaches
and never comes back.

Our kid years evaporate inside a radiator cap
off a tireprint in Kentucky --
for an introduction
to a man called
Dad    in a Baltimore bowling

This is the year
summer is hot soup, and
Sister wraps our blankets
in the freezer.  She has the wide

forehead of Grandpa.
Mom would tease

She's 14 years old, hates that I
sneak into her bed.  She burns the
spaghetti, ties my hair with her

She can't know she'll be pretty:
scraggle-fuzz, just ribs;
that in two years
Mom's heart

will sweat from inside

 "Night Light" by Arthur Shotmind  

     The vicar points his nose at the text,
     But my mind slips away.
     The wind scatters my blankets, woven of straw,
     To places I cannot reach.
     I dangle by a thread like a spider
     Hanging from a tree branch.
     "Perhaps if we tighten the skull a bit,"
     I hear the mechanic say.
     He is guessing.

     "No, we'll just sing and play our drums,"
     The princess tells him.
     She thinks I am a banjo.
     The soldiers join hands
     And circle the light.
     I turn away,
     Wondering which of us is lost.
     Now they point their rifles
     At the linen closet.

     "Who's next?" asks the vicar.
     He shoves me into a cave
     And tells me to draw pictures on the wall.
     I draw a spider and a banjo,
     I draw a bedsheet riddled with bullet holes.
     I step back to look at my drawings,
     But I can't see a thing.
     I can still hear the soldiers
     Buzzing around the light.

     There is a flash at the cave entrance.
     Pushing aside the cellophane curtain,
     I escape into the hallway.
     The mechanic lunges at me with a screwdriver.
     The princess sits on her stool
     With her face frozen.
     The vicar folds his glasses
     And puts them in the case.
     "Good morning," he says.

 "Things in Motion" by Doug Lawson 

   I'm looking down at the highway from the front porch. It's early. The
   trucks roar past, clearing their throats on the hill, and I can read
   the names off their sides-- Shop-Rite, Coke, Ames, BJ's Wholesale,
   Filene's Basement. I can hear these sounds in my dreams now; the
   shifting gears, the exhaust, the noise of heat-blasted rubber rolling
   between lines on the cold macadam. It's like a language I can almost
   make out the words to, I know them so well. I can make out the shadowy
   forms of the drivers from my perch, dark and unshaven, caps with brims
   pulled low, those men who rocket between coasts, filled with
   McDonald's and Mobil and Maxwell House, who fly past me, through
   fields and towns and cities while the air is still pale early in the
   mornings, when no one's had a chance to breathe it yet.
   Inside I hear my father wandering around, bumping into things.
   "Jeremy," he says. "Jeremy?" I stay out until he's asleep again, then
   wander around the house with a nearly hairless cat, a book on crop
   rotation, and the cordless phone. I listen to my Aunt Silkie talk.
   "Saw a UFO last night. Pulled right up to the pump next to me."
   Imagine my Aunt Silkie as a big, paisley housefly with an incredibly
   large mouth. I do. She likes to spend a lot of time in her window,
   watching everybody in the trailer park off route twenty-three, past
   Jim's Village Deli on the right.
   "Regular or Unleaded?"
   "A big glowing ball."
   "Self-serve or full?" I can hear her suck on the end of her cigarette.
   "He was dressed all in silver, from head to foot. He had hundreds of
   these tiny teeth."
   "What did he say?"
   "Hundreds." The static of the phone drifts in the air between us. Aunt
   Silkie's one of my mother's half-sisters. One of, because my
   grandfather got around a lot before the accident. That and the fact
   Branchville's a small town make it so that everywhere I go there are
   these people with big noses and bald spots and eyebrows that come
   together that I'm supposed to remember, who, though I'm a freshman in
   college now, point out the hair on my chin as if I didn't know it was
   there, and talk about my growing up like turkey vultures circling a
   dead deer. I can't escape them. I have to hitch out to Forrenger's
   Drugstore on two-oh-six to buy a rubber. Anyway, Aunt Silkie's not so
   bad. Since Mom died, we're like siblings, sort of. Friends. Only
   "He wanted to know how to get to Poughkeepsie." I feed Knucklehead,
   get some Jell-O out of the fridge and eat it with my fingers while she
   tells me about her lover, this guy who drives for Roadway that I've
   never met. According to her, he eats pasta plain, without boiling, and
   watches old movies in black and white on a portable set while he's
   driving. They meet, she tells me, once a month or so while he's in
   town. He parks down by the soda machines outside of Chet Wilkinsen's
   Laundromat. You have to take Aunt Silkie with a grain of salt
   sometimes. I think the sixties went to her head.
   "I like him," she says, with her throaty voice. "He moooves me." She
   starts to tell me what they do in the back of the truck and I know
   it's time for me to go. "Talk to you later then, hon," she whispers.
   "I watch TV until I fall asleep. It's some sitcom that goes on
   forever. The actors move back and forth across the screen, sometimes
   touching, sometimes not. All the girls have big breasts and thin
   shirts that show their nipples. All the men are clean-shaven and look
   like they live at the gym. I guess I fall asleep somewhere in the
   middle of it because I remember a close-up shot of the male lead. His
   mouth opens and closes, like a tollgate, and I'm letting my foot off a
   clutch on the ottoman and about to drive down his tongue.
   Ever since the transmission fell out of my eighty-one Datsun on route
   eighty westbound, I've been trying to get out of this town any way I
   can think of. Can you blame me? Agriculture classes at the county
   college are not my idea of a life. Still, I'd rather go to class,
   listen to some ex-farmer go on about fertilizer, than visit my
   grandfather. Nursing homes depress me, and this one sits just over
   Sparta Mountain, a low brick building that hunches into itself, with
   these narrow, slatted windows that watch you if you get too close and
   a large expanse of artificially green lawn. My father waves to Gus,
   the maintenance man. He smiles from the back of this lawn mower that
   has tires like the pick-ups Uncle Ernie and some of my cousins drive.
   The nurses at the desk crack bright pink gum as they look us over like
   wardens. We show them what we've brought. A fuzzy green hand towel. A
   stiff-bristled, brown handled shaving brush. A mug with Miss Piggy's
   face on it and a safety razor. Grandfather's room is down on the end,
   near the ambulance doors, and he switches on his hearing aid and
   powers up the head of the bed as we walk in.
   "'Bout time." He starts off complaining about the amount of time the
   staff spends discussing floor wax. "They're more concerned with what
   they're stepping on, than where they're going in the first place," he
   says. His white, bushed out eyebrows go up and down over his hatchet
   nose. He has no cheeks with his teeth out. "Now, if those young girls
   spend more time with those bed baths, well, there we have an idea!"
   Dad makes me brush on the lather. They watch.
   I hate it when they do this. I'm the only thing in the room that
   moves, and it's as if they catch everything I say or do on film so
   they can go over it later and decide what I did wrong. The corner of
   my mouth is too folded; I'm being too sarcastic. The way my left leg
   dangles over the edge of the bed, swinging next to the half-full
   catheter bag, means I'm too casual, too careless. I'm dabbing on the
   lather spot by spot, like paint, and my father says "Not like that.
   Turn your wrist back and forth like a plug wrench so it builds up the
   foam." So when my father sits with the razor, and carves away foam and
   spit, I walk to the window and imagine myself at the wheel of one of
   those tandem trailers, with three jointed sections, thirty-four tires
   and eighteen forward gears at my command.
   "Pay attention," he says. "You'll have to do this soon," but I'm off,
   barreling across the bridge between Port Jervis, New York and
   Matamoras, Pennsylvania doing forty-five. The stick-shift is alive in
   my hand. The CB is full of other guys all talking to each other about
   things, like where the troopers are set up, where the best coffee is
   on the turnpike and where to find all the easy women. Outside the
   window I watch old Gus cutting the grass with enthusiasm. The sound of
   the mower fills the room and drowns out my father's voice. Gus jounces
   in high gear around the lawn, pulling two-wheelers and flying over
   rocks and tree roots like they're not there. Each bump makes his jowls
   flap. Each time he turns a corner of the lawn he has to turn in on
   himself, though, so he drives in smaller and smaller circles. I feel
   like if I don't get out of here, that this is the way I'll end up.
   Doing wheelies and doughnuts on a tractor around a piece of Astroturf.
   Behind me, my father and grandfather talk about me and my relations in
   whispers. It'll be hours. It always is.
   The next night after class, the girl Kathleen I've been seeing for a
   few weeks decides it's time. We drive her old Toyota out through
   Walpack to this place I know where there's a graveyard right on the
   banks of the Delaware River. We're kind of cold so we leave her engine
   running while we drink some beer and then get her backseat down and
   covered with this old afghan blanket she says her grandmother made.
   It's got elephants and bears and fishing poles all over it.
   I have to tell you, it's not all that great. I have to fiddle around
   with the rubber in the dark and first I get it on upside down and it
   won't unroll right so we have to use another one, and then the car
   stalls so we have to get up and start it again so we don't freeze.
   Then somebody else pulls up in a van and parks, and it's my Uncle
   Rudy. He wants to sell us some dope.
   We talk some afterwards. She drops me home, and I heat up some
   cheeseballs in the microwave. As I'm chewing I look in the mirror in
   the bathroom. I move my eyebrows up and down and flare my nostrils and
   watch my father and my grandfather look out of my face. I put on my
   running shoes and go out to my grandmother's Dodge Dart that's up on
   blocks in the backyard. I climb into the seat, work the gas and brake,
   and shift the gears. There are some mosquitoes batting against the
   inside of the windshield, and I think this is what a bug must feel
   like, trapped between the wiper and a hood of a truck in motion. Tiny
   and powerless and out of control. Carried down a dark road to a place
   you don't want to go with a ton of wind in your face and thick glass
   between you and the steering wheel.
   Back inside, Aunt Silkie calls and wants to tell me about her dream.
   "I'm driving around on the interstate, right? I'm looking for an exit
   cause I have to go to the bathroom." In the background I can hear the
   sound of scraping porcelain as she loads her dishwasher. "I'm naked.
   But instead of passing signs or something, I keep passing crows! Old
   crows. With deformed beaks and these dark intense eyes."
   "What do you do?"
   "And teeth. Lots of tiny, tiny teeth." My father comes into the
   kitchen and opens the fridge. The little light on the door makes him
   look blue, like metal. "Hundreds. Sharp, like needles." He takes out
   the red bowl of solidified gravy and tries to figure out what it is.
   He does this a lot. Knucklehead purrs circles around him, leaning in
   against his legs. "Then I finally find a truckstop full of old men,
   but each stall costs a quarter and I don't have any change. I go up to
   the guy at the register, and it's your grandfather!" Then she wakes
   up. She tells me about her negligee then, and about this neighbor she
   met, this guy Todd who's about my age, who she got to undress her on
   her little fold-out table. I tell her I have to go, but then she tells
   me that her trucker will be back in town tonight, probably in about an
   hour. "You should meet him, Jer. Maybe he needs some help or
   "Where are you meeting him?"
   My father stares, clueless, into the gravy, tilting it back and forth
   and watching it pull away in a clump from the sides of the bowl.
   "Here, Jeremy. Right here." She sighs, pulls on her cigarette. In the
   background her dishwasher lurches into motion. "Where else is there?"
   I sit in the bathroom deliberating, and smoking a little of Uncle
   Rudy's finest, until it's about two a.m. and I know I've got to go
   over and know or not go and wonder, so I go. I know where the keys
   are, and I ride my father's Escort down the hill on the clutch so I
   don't wake him. Out on the road, the smoke from our woodstove crawls
   close to the ground, like a blind, probing worm in the headlights. I
   take a long way down five-nineteen to exit twelve, and get on the
   interstate, sliding in between a decorated Peterbuilt, with busty,
   big-hipped women on its mudflaps, and an old Diamond Reo. We jockey
   for position. A Freightliner changes gears and howls by in the right
   lane, hell-bent, and the Peterbuilt leans heavy on the horn. Up and
   over Sparta Mountain the road goes from four lanes to eight. The
   Diamond Reo signals, changes lanes, and begins to pick up speed.
   There's a figurehead of a Doberman on its hood that leans forward,
   bright silver in the light of the moon. I can make out the face of the
   driver in the instrument lights. I look over and wave. He nods
   distantly and pulls away with a deep, diesel throated roar.
   I get off at exit seven and work my way back northeast on three-twelve
   and twenty-three north. At the Cumberland Farms I get some coffee and
   say hi to Aunt Gert, who's planted behind the counter. At Jim's
   Village Deli, all the lights are out. At Aunt Silkie's trailer,
   they're all on. I don't see a truck anywhere.
   She meets me at the door in a housecoat she holds loose at her chest
   with one hand and offers me a bourbon and Coke with the other. We talk
   for a while, about the nature of things in motion, how something
   moving will tend to stay that way, and how something stuck will more
   than likely stay stuck. "Like cavities in teeth," she says. "Once
   they're there, you just have to make the best of them." She reads my
   horoscope, burns some incense I'm allergic to and puts my hand up
   against her left breast.
   OK. It goes on from there. My body goes through the motions well
   enough, but all I can think of is that Diamond Reo and its driver, the
   way his eyes looked through me without seeing, just looked right on
   past and I imagine the things he's looking through while I'm under the
   tapestries of my Aunt Silkie's bedroom. I'll bet he's not just passing
   crows, but signs for places that I've never even thought of, places
   with names like Great Bend and Independence and Pocotello. I can see
   him driving through the long, endless stretch of Pennsylvania.
   Tannersvile. Reading. Allentown. Pittsburgh. He rolls through Ohio,
   Indiana, Illinois, Nevada. I see him at the casinos in Las Vegas, on
   the beaches of the Rio Grande, chugging frozen drinks somewhere in the
   Keys, and in every truckstop between here and Fort Wayne, Oregon
   there's a woman waiting.
   "Oh, Jeremy," Aunt Silkie sighs. But out on the highway I know there's
   a diesel engine with my name on it, calling me too. I can hear it.
   Right now it's downshifting, working its way up that long, winding
   hill into town.

 "Pictures of Perfection" by Sung J. Woo 
   I was stumbling back from the Wheelbarrow when the phone rang.
   "They just fired that dope Dunn," Marty said.
   Marty and I used to be drinking buddies, but ever since he got the job
   at the local newspaper office, I've been drinking a lonely bottle.
   Marty was working as a janitor while I was collecting unemployment.
   "Who's Dunn?" I asked.
   "The dope that cleaned the first ten floors."
   Then I realized what Marty was actually trying to tell me.
   "I was head janitor of that motel, Marty, remember?"
   "You were the only janitor."
   It was an easy job and the pay was good. Twenty floors, about twenty
   rooms each floor, and split between the two of us, that meant
   something like two hundred garbage cans each. Most of the garbage was
   crumpled up paper, so it wasn't too disgusting. The lounges on each
   floor were probably the roughest, each having a tall garbage can with
   food, coffee grounds, and everything else. But since we cleaned up
   each weekday, it was only a few hours old and didn't stink. Mondays
   were probably the worst because some people worked during the weekends
   and left banana peels and half-eaten yogurts in their wastebaskets,
   but even that wasn't a big deal. Compared to some of the other jobs
   I'd held, this one was heaven.
   We had to sweep, but we didn't have to mop or clean the bathrooms. All
   that was done by a tiny, white-haired Polish lady who didn't speak a
   word of English except for "Hello" and "Goodbye."
   Marty cleaned floors eleven and up while I took care of ten and down.
   My favorite room was the corner office on the seventh floor because it
   had a big view of the seaport, and because it was summertime, the sun
   would set around eight o'clock and I would be right there for it. When
   it was a beautiful sunset, I would stop everything, sit in that big
   leather chair, prop my feet up on that huge desk -- and just take it
   all in. It was a shame, I thought, that the neckties who worked in
   these offices never got to see these sunsets.
   When done, I would roll my garbage can back into the little cubbyhole
   in the basement, go up to the main lobby, and have a smoke outside.
   After the first week, I always finished before Marty, not by much,
   maybe five minutes at the most. I wasn't trying to show him off or
   anything. That was just the way things were.
   After work, Marty and I would cruise on over to the Wheelbarrow for a
   couple of beers. We were drinking buddies again.
   But then things started to go a little strange. I was finishing way
   earlier than Marty, sometimes by half an hour. It wasn't that I was
   working any faster; it was Marty who was working slower. I had first
   thought that it was just that Tuesday, but when it continued on for a
   week, I thought maybe something was wrong. Maybe there was another
   bunch of rooms that had opened up (some offices were empty one day
   then occupied the next), or maybe another lounge. I didn't ask Marty
   about it because, well, to tell you the truth, I had a feeling it was
   going to be bad news.
   But when Friday rolled around, I finished up and decided to take the
   elevator up to the eighteen floor to find out exactly what was going
   on. I took a quick look around, but he wasn't anywhere. I climbed the
   stairs and got to the nineteenth floor.
   And there I found him in an office, the office of Brad Eyestone,
   Editor of Arts and Entertainment, staring at the pictures on the
   He didn't hear me and I didn't say anything. Standing there at the
   door, looking at Marty looking at these pictures, I was afraid. He
   scratched his beard every now and then, but he never took his eyes off
   the pictures. He was absolutely still, hypnotized by whatever he saw.
   What I saw were family photos of the Eyestones. The one on the far
   right wall was a picture of a good-looking man, a pretty woman, and
   two kids in a boat, a boy and a girl. The man and the boy were both
   holding onto a big fish, probably a tuna.
   Marty still hadn't noticed that I was in the room with him, so I snuck
   out a couple of feet, started whistling "Oh Suzanna," and yelled out
   Marty's name.
   "I'm almost done," he said from the office, and came out rolling the
   garbage can.
   "What took you so long?" I said. "The Wheelbarrow ain't gonna wait up
   for us, you know."
   "Just doing some extra cleaning," he said.
   I supposed it was something he didn't want to talk about. Maybe
   Eyestone's kids reminded Marty of his kids, but then I remembered that
   he didn't have any. He hadn't been married and I was pretty sure he
   hadn't gotten any girl in trouble when he was younger.
   I guess I could have asked him about it, but I didn't. I figured that
   if he wanted to talk about it, he would.
   Actually, I think he did tell me. He babbled about a lot of things at
   the Wheelbarrow, but afterwards, I couldn't remember a thing. We both
   got very drunk that night.
   So I thought about telling all this to Jackie, but we were having
   Jackie and I saw each other pretty much every day. It was obvious that
   neither of us had many friends, but it was more than that. When we had
   first met at the Wheelbarrow, we thought we were wrong for each other.
   That night, I told her she thought too much and she told me I didn't
   think enough. We laughed, shook hands, and agreed to be friends for as
   long as we were drunk.
   But now -- now we were used to each other. It was getting harder for
   her to leave my place or for me to leave her place, and that was
   making the whole thing weird.
   Maybe sex was the answer. Neither of us had any in a long time. But
   according to Jackie, "that is the short-term answer to a potentially
   long-term problem." She always had words like that, advice- words, I
   called them.
   So maybe we were in love and maybe we weren't. Or maybe I was in love
   and she was just lonely. I don't know. My life at the time was full of
   But anyway, I went over to her place that night after the Wheelbarrow,
   very drunk but still able to steer my van for a mile and a half to
   tell her about Marty and his pictures when she said: "We have to talk,
   buddy. We have to."
   So I listened and she talked, about how she was feeling uncomfortable.
   I told her that I was drunk, but that didn't stop her.
   "I don't know what to do," she finally said. We were both sitting on
   the couch. "We've become such good friends."
   She had on a long flannel shirt that ran a little short of her knees,
   knees that were hugged by a pair of black leggings, ankles that were
   surrounded by thick, red socks. Her face was a little pale, but that
   made her rust-brown hair all the more rusty.
   At that point I grabbed her by the shoulder, pinned her down on the
   cushions, and started kissing her all over.
   "Oh Jesus," she said, pushing me off with her legs. I fell off the
   couch and banged my head against the coffee table. I shook my head.
   The pain was something else.
   "Oh Jesus," I said, rubbing the side of my head. I could already feel
   the wound. "That really hurt."
   Jackie cradled her legs and balled herself away from me. "Maybe you
   better leave," she said. She didn't sound mean; she just sounded
   "All right," I said, and got up.
   "Can you make it home?"
   I nodded and left. The pain did wake me up, and driving home
   semi-drunk wasn't a big deal.
   After that night, Marty got better. He wasn't late anymore; in fact,
   there were a few days when he finished earlier than me. And he seemed
   brighter, happier, even at the Wheelbarrow, even when he was drunk. I
   guessed that whatever that had bothered him worked itself out, as I
   knew it would. Sometimes that's the best way to solve a problem, to
   just let it go away.
   Jackie called me a couple of days later. It was the first time we had
   spoken since I kissed her and hit my head.
   "Hey, guess what. I finally got a job," her fuzzy voice said. A month
   ago Jackie hadn't known whether she was working at Dunkin' Donuts or
   at a plumbing parts place as a secretary, so she quit.
   "We should celebrate," I said. "I'll buy, I'm in the money."
   We went out to a Chinese restaurant and ordered General Tso's chicken
   and a couple of Tsingtaos. Jackie wore a slinky blue dress with white
   polkadots. She looked really good, so I looked the other way.
   "I know you're thinking about last time," she said, her mouth chewing
   away at the chicken. Bits of chicken flew out of her mouth as she
   talked. It got me horny, watching her.
   "I was drunk," I said, and sucked on my bottle of Tsingtao.
   "It's a bad idea. You and I both know that."
   "I guess," I said. "I think we both better find someone, though. And
   She raised her bottle of beer. "To that someone else," and we clanged.
   We talked about our jobs for the rest of the evening. I told her about
   my garbage cleaning job, which wasn't the most exciting job around,
   but she listened anyway. I told her about the corner office on the
   seventh floor, and I almost told her the Marty-staring-at-pictures
   bit, but I didn't. Things were fine, things were smooth, there was no
   reason to bring up things that had nothing to do with anything.
   How Jackie got her job, or jobs, was quite a story. She saw in the
   classifieds that somebody needed a nanny of sorts -- "a glorified
   babysitter," she told me -- and since she did like kids, she went
   after it.
   "Gorgeous place," she said, chomping on a drumstick. "It wasn't a
   really big house but it was so nicely decorated. The place looked
   bigger from the inside than the outside, you know? This lady,
   Michelle, she knew what she was doing. Fluffy drapes and the whole
   nine yards." Michelle hired her on the spot.
   "The kids are totally adorable and very well behaved," she said. "I
   don't even know what I'm supposed to do, you know? It's not like I
   have to keep an eye on them. The boy, Christian, is four and the girl
   is three, Melissa. Cutest things you've ever seen."
   The only part of the house that seemed to worry Michelle was the
   basement, so she took Jackie down there. "I don't want the kids to be
   in here," Michelle had told her. And there Jackie got her second job.
   "You wouldn't believe the set-up they had. Radial arm saw, table saw,
   a full-sized lathe, disc sander, drill press, planer -- I mean this
   place had more equipment than the shop I worked at." Jackie, all by
   herself, had made the table that I banged my head against a few nights
   ago. Although she never had formal training for carpentry, she was
   pretty good with her hands.
   When Michelle saw Jackie's eyes light up, she asked her if she knew
   anything about woodworking because they were looking for someone to
   make them a couple of pieces of furniture -- children's furniture. She
   told Jackie that it was important for both her husband and herself
   that their children have "significant memories, tangible things that
   they could call their childhood." Her husband had wanted to do it
   himself, but work had taken over his life. It seemed all very hokey to
   me, but Jackie seemed to understand.
   "If you saw these kids, you'd want the exact same thing, I tell you.
   You wouldn't ever want to see these angels grow up," she said. So
   right now she was all into making a desk for the boy. She worked in
   the basement in the mornings and took care of the kids after school
   until dinnertime.
   "They're paying me pretty good," she said.
   "So dinner's on you next time," I said.
   Life was plain and sometimes even boring, but it was good. When your
   ex-wife isn't hounding you for alimony, when you don't get laid off
   and you do get laid, then life is what I call good. I was earning
   enough money to send the checks to my ex, Marty and I were working
   enough to not get fired, Jackie was having a great old time at her
   job, and I finally found a girl to sleep with me.
   She was kind of fat -- pudgy, I guess you could say. Nothing to look
   at, a plain and usual face, but those are the kind of women who are
   the easiest. The ugly ones get laid all the time because everybody
   thinks they're easy and the good-looking ones get laid all the time
   because they're so good looking. I keep my eyes open for the
   middle-of-the-row ones.
   You couldn't get much more middle than Sarah. She was middle class,
   had medium-sized breasts, had a ring on her middle finger, and
   preferred her steaks cooked medium. Although neither of us were very
   serious, I was happy and she was happy.
   It was a good time. I couldn't remember life being this fine for me
   and everybody else I cared about, so I wasn't stupid about it. This
   kind of happiness-across-the-board doesn't happen too often, so I
   remembered and enjoyed every moment (and I barely drank). Because
   sooner or later, things were going to fall apart.
   "I got fired," Marty told me at the Wheelbarrow. I knew that already
   because I had seen a guy with a glass eye, Jimbo, introducing himself
   to me at work. It was Wednesday, a sweatshirt night in September.
   Winter was around the corner.
   "How the hell did that happen?" I asked.
   He looked down into the bottle of Bud and said, "Didn't do such a good
   job, I guess."
   "Yeah," I said.
   Then we drank for a while in silence. Marty worked at peeling the
   label from the bottle.
   "What are you going to do?" I asked him.
   "Don't know. The classifieds probably have something or another. If
   not now, then maybe in a couple of weeks."
   "It had something to do with those pictures, didn't it?" I asked him.
   I didn't want to sound accusing, but I think it came out that way. I
   was mad at myself; if I had asked him about it that time, maybe he
   would still have a job.
   He didn't say anything for a long time. I drank up and avoided looking
   at him until he pulled a messy piece of paper from his back pocket and
   laid it on the table. He unfolded it and ran his hand over it to
   flatten out the creases. It was the picture with Eyestone and his kid
   holding the fish.
   "You stole the picture? You stole the fucking picture? Jesus! Didn't
   you think he would notice?"
   Marty just sat there and stared at the picture. "Look at it," he said,
   pushing it toward me. "Look at it."
   "I've already seen it," I said, pushing it back. "What the hell?"
   "I had to take it."
   I gulped my beer and stared him down.
   "It's perfect, don't you see? This guy's got what I don't have, what
   I'm never going to have. This guy's handsome, he's got family, got
   kids, it's just..."
   I didn't know what to say. I'd never seen him like this before. "I
   don't understand," I said. "What's so perfect about this picture?
   About him and his wife and his kids?"
   "I don't know," Marty said. "If I knew I would tell you, don't you
   think?" He quickly folded the picture back up.
   "So they fired you for taking that picture?"
   "Yeah," he said.
   "One picture?"
   "I took more than that," he said, looking at the beer again. "Took
   some other pictures," he said.
   "That is the...forget it. Let's just forget the whole thing," I said.
   "I can't work there anymore," Jackie said. We were in her kitchen,
   having some coffee.
   "Why not? The kids are wonderful, you're working with wood."
   "It's so depressing," she said, blowing the coffee to cool it. "You
   look at those kids and..."
   "I don't know. They're so perfect."
   "What do you mean they're per..." That's when I put it together. "Wait
   wait wait. Who do you work for?"
   "Michelle, I told you."
   "Last name."
   "Eyestone. Michelle Eyestone. What's the sudden fascination with my
   "So you say they get you depressed because they're so perfect, because
   they have a family, they have money, they have spankin' beautiful
   kids," I said.
   "Yeah, you could say that."
   "But you can't put it in words if you really had to."
   "Hey, you reading my diary or something?"
   "Don't have to," I said. "Remember my friend Marty that I sometimes
   talk to you about?"
   "Sure, the guy who got fired last week?"
   "Yeah, him," I said, and smiled. "I think you two should meet."
   At first, I thought it was a mistake. Marty and Jackie were very
   different people. They weren't exactly made for each other -- Marty's
   dream woman was a Southern belle, not a tomboy. And Jackie's was "a
   criminal defense lawyer with broad shoulders," not some skinny
   But see, this business with the Eyestones was just plain fucking
   weird. You had to be there. If you had talked to both of them and
   listened to how they thought about the Eyestones, you'd thought that
   they were the same people. It was like fate. No, it was fate. If I
   hadn't brought them together, something else eventually would have.
   But I'll admit it; my real fear was for me. These two people were the
   closest thing to a family I had, and once they got together, I had a
   feeling that I wasn't going to be needed any more.
   And that's exactly what happened. They were very happy and excited and
   spent a whole lot of time together. Marty and I still drank after
   work, Jackie and I still talked on the phone, but things were
   different. When they talked to me, they talked about nothing but each
   other. So in a way, I was in the center and not in the background --
   but at the same time I wasn't. It was complicated, I guess.
   And to make things worse, Sarah dumped me for some other guy. He told
   her that he was a doctor, a gynecologist. She wasn't the brightest,
   let's just say that. "I hope you're not mad, but Pierce is a wonderful
   man." Pierce! And she thought that was his real name? A guy named
   Pierce, a doctor, hanging around in a scumpit like the Wheelbarrow
   until last call? I wasn't mad that she left me; I was mad that she was
   so fucking stupid.
   So this probably sounds like a whole bunch of bad things and I was
   really depressed. But really? I wasn't all that unhappy. Around that
   time, when things were falling apart around me, my mind was on
   something else.
   My mind was on Brad. Michelle. Christian. Melissa.
   My mind was on the Eyestones.
   Because Jimbo had a slight limp, he asked me if I could take floors
   eleven to twenty. I didn't quite get it because we used elevators to
   go up and down, but I didn't want to argue. Jimbo wasn't all right in
   the head and that glass eye of his made me nervous, the way it swam
   all over the place.
   Now that I was in charge of the top ten floors, I had Brad Eyestone's
   office. Every time I cleaned that office, I think I sort of saw what
   Marty had seen. There were new pictures on the walls now and all of
   them were beautiful, as if those pictures were the ones that had come
   with the frames.
   I didn't want to take any of them, but I was spending more and more
   time in his office. I could tell because Jimbo, who used to finish
   after me, was gone by the time I rolled my garbage can back into the
   But anyhow, things were sort of back to normal. I was shifted up ten
   floors and maybe lingered in Eyestone's office a little bit, but I was
   still meeting up with Marty at the Wheelbarrow after work (he got a
   job at the downtown warehouse) and everybody was getting along.
   Then one day I actually saw him, Brad Eyestone, in his office.
   I saw him but he didn't see me. He must have been working late because
   paper was strewn all over the place. In person he was even better
   looking. He looked bigger.
   I thought about introducing myself and going in with my garbage can
   when the phone rang.
   "Eyestone here. Hello, Em. Yeah. Yeah." End of conversation.
   Em, which probably meant Michelle, his wife. I quietly rolled my
   garbage can away and took it back to the basement -- and waited
   I was on my second cigarette when a fancy blue car pulled up in front
   of the building. She wasn't Michelle Eyestone, but she was a pretty
   good looker herself. She had that slutty look about herself, dirty,
   the kind of women I sort of like if they're brunettes, but this one
   was a bleached blonde. She gave me a fake smile and went into the
   building, her heels clicking and clacking against the linoleum floor.
   When her elevator started climbing, I jumped in the other one and
   followed. She would be slightly ahead of me, which was exactly what I
   When I reached the nineteenth floor and Eyestone's office, the door
   was closed. But there were people in there.
   The walls were thin so I could hear just about anything above a
   whisper, but they weren't whispering anything. It took them about two
   minutes before they were going at it, thumping and groaning like mad.
   I could tell that she was a screamer because her moans and groans came
   out like there was a hand over her mouth. They had to be careful;
   Eyestone wasn't the only one I saw in his office that night. Listening
   to them may have gotten a few guys hard, but it didn't do anything for
   me. I was hearing them screw, but I wasn't really listening.
   I sat in the dark hallway for at least half an hour. Then they
   stopped, and for a while there was silence. I lit up a cigarette and
   then put it out, remembering that nobody was allowed to smoke inside
   the building.
   So they weren't so perfect after all, I thought, giggling to myself.
   Pictures may say a thousand words, but catching a few moans outside
   someone's office was just as telling, if not more.
   "How's _Michelle_," Em said like she was mad.
   "Do you always have to ask that?" Eyestone said.
   "Jesus, you're on the edge."
   "I went to see Dr. Prasad today. That's why I had to work late," he
   said. I heard the zip of a zipper and the snap of a button, an evening
   quickie coming to an end.
   "What did he say?" she asked.
   "You're not going to have to worry about getting pregnant, Em," he
   said, and laughed a little. "Fuck your little dial of pills, fuck fuck
   fuck," he said.
   "You mean..." she trailed off. Then he started crying. "Oh baby, don't
   cry," she said. "Don't cry."
   At first I couldn't figure out what he was saying through his tears;
   it sounded like "Mean Michelle bought." But after the third time he
   said it, I realized what it was. "Me and Michelle both," Brad Eyestone
   was saying.
   _ Me and Michelle both_. Both of them were out of luck. How do you
   like that?
   Last night Marty stopped by to say hello. We talked about, who else,
   Jackie. I asked him about the pictures he stole. He told me that he
   didn't need them anymore, so he went to my kitchen garbage and dropped
   the picture that he carried around in his pocket, as if to prove his
   full recovery.
   Right after Marty left, I dug the picture out of the trash. After I
   wiped off some spaghetti sauce and a couple of potato peels, the
   picture was in good shape. I rinsed it off and smoothed it out on the
   Brad Eyestone, a beautiful, dark-haired man who should be a movie
   star, eyes so blue that they stood out even when surrounded by miles
   and miles of ocean. Christian Eyestone, an angel, his youthful blond
   hair just starting to turn brownish and his blue eyes as bright as his
   dad's. Michelle Eyestone, almost as tall as her husband, in a bright
   pink string bikini that showed what Brad had and what everyone else
   didn't have. In the picture she sat with her legs crossed, her long,
   red hair flowing down to the middle of her back, her hand holding onto
   her daughter's hand. Melissa Eyestone, a curly blonde of three,
   wearing the captain's hat, her hands on the wheel of the boat. That
   day the wind was a soft breeze -- you could tell from the gentle waves
   -- and the skies were streamed with strings of clouds.
   They were perfect, all right -- but not quite. Anybody could tell.
   Well, maybe not anybody. Maybe only the people who are looking over
   and above the picture, maybe only the people who can do that. I'm not
   saying that I'm somebody special or anything like that. I'm just
   saying that I was at the right place at the right time. But in any
   case, you could tell those kids had zero resemblance with the two
   "You must be Marty," Michelle says.
   "Sure am," I say.
   Marty's out of town, visiting his suddenly sick mother in Oklahoma.
   Jackie finished Christian's desk for the Eyestones and she's deciding
   whether or not to quit. Seeing the Eyestones and those kids still gets
   her down, but the pay is good.
   Michelle invited Jackie to tonight's dinner a week ago. Jackie was
   going to go with Marty, but now I'm going with her. She told me that I
   should pretend to be Marty because that's who she promised Michelle
   would be at dinner. I didn't argue. Sometimes I don't understand
   Jackie at all. Marty agrees with me, so I know I'm not alone in this.
   It is a beautiful house in every way, the kind of home that you see in
   all those homemaker magazines. Or the kind you see when you visit
   apartment models, the ones that agents show around, the ones made up
   to look as if there is a family living there. But of course there is
   no family. All they have are hundreds of strangers who come in and out
   during the day, and at night the house is silent.
   I'm wearing a tie and it's making me uncomfortable. My jacket fits but
   my pants are a little too tight around the crotch. I can't take it
   back, either, because nobody can argue with that bastard at the thrift
   Jackie, all dolled up, her hair kind of poofy, looks pretty good under
   the rainbow lights of the chandelier. She's making talk with Michelle,
   who sits across from me. Brad is sits at the head, and the kids,
   Christian and Melissa, are at the corner. I'm looking at the kids,
   then at Michelle, then at Brad. I do this several times. I look, I
   peer, I scrutinize.
   Adopted. No doubt about it.
   I think about telling Jackie and Marty about the Eyestones, but that
   would probably be a bad thing. Something tells me that I shouldn't,
   and I probably won't. Things are fine, things are smooth, there's no
   reason to bring up things that have nothing to do with anything.
   "So Marty," Brad says.
   "Marty," Brad says again. He's talking to me. I forgot.
   "Yes, Brad," I say. He doesn't look so handsome anymore, I'm thinking.
   He looks old and tired. Every time I look at his face, I imagine him
   crying in the arms of the bleached blonde Em, saying those four words,
   _Me and Michelle both_.
   "How's the job?" he asks me.



                    ABOUT THE AUTHORS, VOLUME 2 ISSUE 1, TMR
   o William C. Burns, Jr. ( is a nationally
   published author of poetry, engineering texts and science fiction
   short stories. He is an artist as well. Many of his murals and
   sculptures are on permanent display at various colleges as well as
   numerous, privately held works. He is indigenous to the eastern part
   of the planet and sustains his family teaching electrical engineering
   courses. Other occupations have included pumping diesel, mining coal,
   peddling heavy equipment and fixing traffic lights. His poem,
   _Twilight Dancers_, appeared in Volume 1, Issue 4.
   o Mitchell Cleveland ( works for an environmental
   consulting company, doing something with computers and spending your
   tax dollars.
   o Richard Cumyn ( has had fiction published in a
   number of Canadian publications, including the prestigious _Journey
   Prize Anthology_, and can be read on-line in such e-zines as
   _InterText_ and _The Blue Penny Quarterly_. He lives and writes in
   Halifax, Nova Scotia. _When I Get Back From the Holy Land_ is one
   story in the collection, _The Limit of Delta Y Over Delta X_,
   published in 1994 by Goose Lane Editions. You can read more about
   Richard on his World Wide Web home page at
   o Robert Fulkerson (, Editor, is in what should be
   his final semester of graduate studies. Whether this is actually the
   case remains to be seen. He spends most of his time passing his lovely
   wife in the hall, since their graduate studies and work arrangements
   don't allow for much time together.
   o Julie Keuper ( was born in June
   of 1975. She still lives with her parents and hopes to escape soon
   before it is too late. She is a journalism major with a minor in
   political science. She tries to write some everyday. She began writing
   at the age of seven and probably (hopefully) will never stop.
   o Doug Lawson ( has been a Henry Hoyns Fellow in
   Creative Writing at the University of Virginia, where he's currently
   teaching, and he'll receive his MFA in Fiction this year from the very
   same place. He's been a co-moderator of America Online's Fiction
   Workshop, currently edits _The Blue Penny Quarterly_, and has work
   published or forthcoming in _The Willow Review_, _Al Aaraaf_, _The
   Alabama Fiction Review_, and other literary places.
   o In a universal context, Matt Mason (,
   Poetry Editor, is almost infinitely insignificant.
   o Pearl Sheil ( has also had a poem
   published in _Atmospherics_. She is in her last term of her Honours
   B.A. in Linguistics, specializing in the teaching of English as a
   Second Language. She will be looking for work as an ESL teacher in the
   Ottawa (Ontario, Canada) area.
   o Arthur Shotmind ( is, in real life, Don Smith. "I
   live in New Jersey where I work as a data administrator. I use the
   pseudonym Arthur Shotmind (my middle name followed by a permutation of
   the letters in "Don Smith") not for the purpose of anonymity, but
   quite the opposite, in fact. Don Smith is a name that provides me with
   all the anonymity I would ever need. There is another Don Smith that
   works for my company. My wife's cousin married a Don Smith. On the
   other hand, I bet you've never heard anyone say, 'Oh, you mean _that_
   Arthur Shotmind.'" Arthur's (er, Don's) poem, _Philosophy_ was
   published in Volume 1, Issue 5.
   o Sung J. Woo ( is the editor of _Whirlwind_, "an
   electronic literary magazine striving for the very best in fiction,
   poetry, and essays."


                    IN THEIR OWN WORDS, VOLUME 2 ISSUE 1, TMR
   o _Potter's Wheel--Shades of Arizona_ by William C. Burns, Jr.
          "This particular work is a remembrance of my checkered college
          days as an engineering student. I was not your typical
          electrical engineering type. Whenever a little free time
          materialized, I took art related courses, ceramics in this
          case. I was befuddled when the instructor said we were going to
          throw pottery, my mom had always been of a somewhat different
   o _Enigma_ by Julie Keuper
          " I wrote this poem about a man in my math class who has some
          problems. I found him intriguing so I created this about him. I
          used the word enigma as the title because it really identifies
          the man in my class correctly...'a mystery wrapped in a
   o _When I Get Back From the Holy Land_ by Richard Cumyn
          "I read the story, of women traveling to Israel to give birth
          among dolphins in the Red Sea, in _The Globe & Mail_ a couple
          of years ago. The character of Roweena had been rattling around
          aimlessly for some time until the news story and the details of
          her escape from her husband brought it all together. That she
          would want her baby's first contact to be other than human is
          crazy, pathetic, and hopeful all at once."
   o _The Onset of Autumn_ by William C. Burns, Jr.
          "Autumn is without doubt my most passionate season. I was on
          the Battery in Charleston, SC on a partly cloudy day this year
          and the scene I describe in the poem actually happened. My eyes
          were closed when I was dancing, so I can't tell you if anyone
          was amused."
   o _In The Basement_ by Pearl Sheil
          "'The Basement' was written from the thinking about the
          expression 'bare floor' and thinking what its opposite would
          be... thinking how someone might think a floor feels - a
          harmless sort of application of imposing ones own set of morals
          on something outside yourself in the case of a floor. The
          egocentricity of the narrator is supposed to add to the sense
          of absurdity in the way of thinking."
   o _Supreme Extra Value Meals_ by Mitchell Cleveland
          "Has anyone ever noticed that fast-food places all really serve
          the same food? They all just take some kind of meat-like
          substance and squirt it into a 'pattie' (or, occasionally,
          'nuggets') and cover it with an algae-based vegetable goo. Then
          they spend millions on television ads convincing us that their
          meat-like algae pattie is better than the other guy's meat-like
          algae pattie. Well, that's not what this story is about."
   o _Night Light_ by Arthur Shotmind
          "I don't know what it means, and I'd keep sharp objects away
          from anyone who does."
   o _Things In Motion_ by Doug Lawson
          "For me, this story is an autobiographical nightmare of a
          piece. It coalesced over a period of two years around the image
          of the shaving brush, and the times my father actually did
          shave my grandfather, who was bedridden from a stroke, in the
          Methodist Manor of Branchville, New Jersey. (Parts of my
          father's family can be traced back to the late 1700's in
          northern New Jersey.) Many things are real, many are real but
          twisted, many are based on nothing, but I'll leave it to the
          reader to speculate on the specifics..."
   o _Pictures of Perfection_ by Sung J. Woo
          "This work was written during my senior year at Cornell and
          presented at Prof. Robert Morgan's _English 448: The American
          Short Story_ for workshop. Started on 1/6/94; completed on
          2/8/94; final revision on 12/28/94."

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   We can read IBM-compatible word processing documents and straight ASCII 
   text.  If you are converting your word processing document to ASCII, 
   please make sure to convert the "smart quotes" (the double quotes that 
   "curve" in like ``'') to plain, straight quotes ("") in your document 
   before converting.   When converted, smart quotes sometimes look like 
   capital Qs and Ss, which can make reading and editing a submission 


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