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 Volume #5                     September 1st, 1998                 Issue #3
 Established January, 1994                                http://morpo.com/
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                                             CONTENTS FOR VOLUME 5, ISSUE 3

       Editor's Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . J. D. Rummel 

       Insurance  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  David Starkey
   
       Travelogue . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  David Starkey
   
       Paranoias Can Be So Boring . . . . . . . . . . . . Garnet Cowsill
   
       I Am Not . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Cheri Amey
   
       Newspapers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Cheri Amey
	   
       untitled . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Tony Davino
   
       Condensation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Tony Davino
   
       untitled . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Janet L. Kuypers
   
       Two Months in October  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . M. A. Katt
   
       About the Authors  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  The Authors
   
       In Their Own Words . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  The Authors


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 Editor                               +                       Poetry Editor
 Robert Fulkerson              The Morpo Staff         Kris Kalil Fulkerson
 rfulk@morpo.com                      +                     kalil@morpo.com

 Submissions Editor                                          Fiction Editor 
 Amy Krobot                                                     J.D. Rummel 
 amyk@morpo.com                                            rummel@morpo.com 

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 _The Morpo Review_.  Volume 5, Issue 3.  _The Morpo Review_ is published
 electronically on a quarterly 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 1998, The Morpo Review.  _The Morpo
 Review_ is published in ASCII and World Wide Web formats.

 All literary and artistic works are Copyright 1998 by their respective
 authors and artists.

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                               Editor's Notes   
   
                                J. D. Rummel
                               Fiction Editor
   
   WHOSE IDEA WAS THIS?
   
   When I was much younger, I wanted to be an oceanographer. Actually,
   that was what I told adults who asked me what I wanted to be. Although
   I had no idea what an oceanographer actually does, it seemed to put an
   adult name on what I wanted to do. If an adult had taken the time to
   probe, theyíd have found that I just wanted to be a scuba diver, a guy
   that put on the wet suit and went down into the water. Lots of people
   do that that arenít oceanographers.
   
   I was fascinated by the sea, or more specifically by anything under
   the water. I watched any show, true or fiction where men went under
   the water. I loved to look at pictures of men going down into the sea
   in ships and in suits. What I most enjoyed was seeing men diving in
   scenic places like the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. And I didnít
   take the sea on itís own terms, either. Like most folks of this part
   of the century, I picked and chose the parts of the world that I would
   endure. For instance, even here in Nebraska the thought of being out
   in the rough waters of the north Atlantic where the depths plunge you
   far from the sun makes me shiver, and I wanted little to do with those
   terrible dark canyons miles under the waves.
   
   Yes, I had a lot of books about the ocean, and I picked up quite a bit
   from the photographs that I loved so much. Therefore, when the novel,
   Jaws came out, I knew a little more than most folks about sharks. I
   enjoyed the book. It was one of those that, "you canít put down." And
   somewhere in that excitement that fills me when I read something, or
   see something creative, I wanted to join in. Around the time of the
   movie, I had an idea: what if Carcharodon megalodon (the prehistoric
   ancestor of the Great White Shark) appeared in the modern world? I can
   still see an artistís rendering of such a gigantic beast drawn to
   scale with two divers in the foreground for comparison. My mind ran
   away with a story and I started to write such a tale.
   
   I never finished it. I was distracted by all the stuff that grabs a
   sixteen-year-old and moves his head around preventing focus in any one
   direction. Nor could I make a case that my telling was very good. At
   sixteen I was a very poor writer in many respects.
   
   So, a year or so ago, Iím browsing at a Waldenís books and I notice a
   novel called Meg. Something about the catch phrase, "A novel of deep
   terror" got my attention (somebody in PR earned his dime) and I
   stopped to read the jacket flap. It was a novel about Carcharodon
   megalodon, the ancient great white. Twenty years after I had the idea
   someone finished the job. Two weeks ago, I saw the paperback edition
   of Meg at Borders and bought it.
   
   Iím still reading it, and I must say, I donít think itís very good.
   Before you think Iím bitter or jealous, let me assure you Iím not. I
   respect people who put their backs into any worthy effort, even if Iím
   not fond of the final result. As Truman Capote once wrote, "It takes
   as much energy to write a bad novel as it does a good one." Nor do I
   think Meg is a numbingly bad book--itís not--it just reads very
   unevenly, with phrases and images that are so deeply buried in our
   experience that the author probably doesnít realize how trite he is
   being. Anyone who writes a lot can read something and tell where
   pieces have been stitched in, where phrases have been dropped or
   revised (read John Grishamís A Time to Kill to see a very obvious
   first novel--a good one, but a Frankenstein of patched together
   paragraphs in some spots). What really matters here is, the author of
   Meg did the work, I didnít. Whatever I say about the novel (the
   cover listed great reviews), the man did what he set out to do. I let
   the idea go. When I didnít follow the idea to whatever place my
   resources would have taken me, it went back to whatever place ideas
   wait for us, and waited for someone more worthy--someone who would do
   the work.
   
   This isnít the first time. I have lots of ideas, some of them are
   pretty good, and some probably arenít. Many years ago I had an idea
   about a hit man who goes to his high school reunion. Instead of
   working on that idea, I concentrated on paying the bills, but I also
   watched too much television. Because of those priorities, someone
   wrote an excellent movie called Gross Point Blank and I didnít. None
   of this is intended to state categorically that just because I had the
   same idea as someone else, or in some cases had it first, that I would
   have carried it off as well. A good idea still needs lots of work
   before it is a good story, poem or picture, but it all starts with an
   idea.
   
   Even today I find lots of excuses to not do the work. This column was
   put off in favor of writing letters, spending time with my girlfriend,
   reading lots of technical crap for work, watching way too much t.v. ,
   all the distractions that grab my almost-forty head and shake it
   about, inhibiting focus. I say inhibit, because Iím not sixteen
   anymore and the agency that prevents me from doing anything is my own
   self. I run my life. I choose where I spend my time. For every good
   choice like spending time with my love, I sometimes make inferior
   choices like watching Embrace of the Vampire on "Monstervision."
   
   I now understand more clearly that I will die someday and that each
   day I donít spend writing is a day I will never get back. My days are
   much shorter now than when I was sixteen and quite a spendthrift with
   my time. I didnít know how quickly the days fade, and I wish that I
   had a few thousand of those hours back.
   
   Amy, my girl, says that my stories all have morals, and sheís right.
   Hereís the moral for this column: Ideas only belong to us for a short
   time, then they move on. If you have an idea, work on it. If you
   donít, someone will--I guarantee it.
   
+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+

   Insurance
   by David Starkey
   
   
   From my window I can see the pastel
   post-modern corporate headquarters
   of Wang International, and the houses
   of poor Mexican families across
   the street. I'm an insurance man.
   Nights, I have scrutinized the Labor Code,
   but the thrill of the business world
   didn't last long. I can't sit still
   for five minutes together, but I am rooted
   in this life by what must pass anywhere
   for plenty.
                    The typewriter
   worries me on weekends.
   
   My rural university's required poetry
   course was taught by a man
   who had published in all the best reviews
   for thirteen years and had one thin
   collection to show for it.
   In class his skeletal hands trembled
   as he scanned Rape of the Lock
   on the blackboard. He stuttered
   when replying to our stupid questions,
   yet a more world-weary doodler
   was never found in all the 18th century.
   A nervous sort, he might be an artist,
   but he would never be much
   of a breadwinner. The cover
   of his book showed a Rococo clock--
   Cupid fingering Psyche's chin
   inattentively.
                        The light shifts.
   I clasp my hands and wait
   for the self-destructiveness to pass.
   It always does, then I remember
   I have food and warmth,
   and, somewhere, friends. We each shelter
   our interests as best we can.
   Down on the street, the homeless shriek
   and push their shopping carts to the sea.

+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+

   Travelogue
   by David Starkey
   
   
   When I was young, I'd stay awake
   The night before we were to fly.
   I studied maps with a penlight,
   Plotting the likely route we'd taken,
   Charting the details of our flight.
   
   But when the plane had cleared the ground,
   I'd drowse until the journey's end.
   I never cared for what occurred
   Beyond imagination's bounds:
   My dreams expired just when they stirred.
   
   So now I never fly at all;
   I know too well how the land lies.
   Instead, I hunker in my dreams
   And learn where dusk becomes nightfall
   And blur the sense of "is" and "seems."
   
+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+
   
   Paranoias Can Be So Boring
   by Garnet Cowsill
   
   
   I dreamed
   you threw me an elegant, surprise dinner party.
   Yet, a delicate guilt
   necklaced your head
   with the weight of a jungle vine.
   
   Your dark eyes
   were smoky and decadent.
   But your meal
   was simply sublime:
   salty, spiced bisques
   plus three racks of roast lamb
   served with jug after jug
   of red wine.
   
   And I was so proud of you.
   
   Until a man spoke
   looking every rib
   the emaciated rabbi
   of my poor, dead father.
   His words were
   splintering
   -- almost wooden,
   "Jesus H. Christ, look at that!
   Someone's put blood in his pudding."
   
   It was true.
   I dragged my eyes
   from your pagan mouth
   to the silvery-rimmed servings
   you'd set, three times ten before me,
   amid glorious crucifixions,
   candles and goblets,
   so your guests' benedictions
   wouldn't bore me.
   And I saw:
   (He was quite right.
   The Old Man's eye for detail
   sparked until it was blazing.)
   Even though it looked absolutely edible,
   tarring
   droplets
   of blood
   sprinkled your pudding, like raisin.
   Well, of course,
   news of your purgative spread quickly,
   sickening those still feasting.
   The devout
   backed up and bowed out,
   to eat deli
   on olive-mount heights.
   
   Since then
   my dreams have become rather kosher,
   so I've taken a vow
   to go sleeplessly celibate most nights.
   
   This morning
   I genuflected,
   showered and shaved.
   Then,
   affecting a carpenter-like scrawl
   to properly sculpt
   my chiseling piety
   in hopes
   you'd still be saved,
   I soaped this message
   across our bathroom mirror:
   When you think I'm sleeping
   I'm really pretending,
   so quit doing those things that you shouldn't.
   Stop scoring me, boring me,
   pumping and draining.
   Stop
   mining my blood
   for your pudding.

+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+
   
   I Am Not
   by Cheri Amey
   
   
   I Am Not
   
   a child
   I am
   not crying in the dark room
   pigtails
   bangs cut short straight
   across
   my forehead wild
   black eyebrows like twin
   tepees always
   a surprise when I
   look
   in the mirror I
   am not a
   small
   girl with
   blue eyes reddened
   from crying and
   stuffed nose and hiccups and sadness and sorrow I
   am not crying I am
   not
   crying
   I
   am
   
   not.

+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+

   Newspapers
   by Cheri Amey
   
   
   My sister & I used old dried out
   paintbrushes and white-wash
   on the walls of the tiny
   building behind our rented house
   we swept out chicken
   droppings we cleaned
   windows thick with grime we
   were 10 and 9 years
   old our young
   hearts already leading us
   to freedom I
   found mine stuffed in cracks
   between the boards of the walls in
   that one-room hideaway
   old newspapers yellow and brittle
   I carefully pried them out &
   opened them slowly holding
   my breath to prevent them
   from tearing, my keen
   interest in reading, my
   fascination with the past connected to
   those wrinkled
   charming
   news
   papers.

+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+
   
   untitled
   by Tony Davino
   
   
   I met Vermont with Fall
   in her eyes
   She'd sit behind glass and watch
   the leaves, delighted
   by their flip, or lazy drift
   by the way the wind would be
   betrayed.
   
   She'd collect them to her
   breast like spiked kerchief
   reds and golds,
   brighter than wonder.
   
   By days end they'd have curled
   upon themselves,
   leathern and mottled.
   By days end she knew: they were brilliant
   only on the side toward the sun.

+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+
   
   Condensation
   by Tony Davino
   
   
   drawn by the storm, she
   presses to the window.
   
   reflection obscured, a
   fog of sweet coffee sweat.
   
   a symmetry of winds.
   cool, damp traces.

+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+
   
   untitled
   by Janet L. Kuypers
  

   you actually do
   make me wanna shout.
   And if I didnít know better,
   Iíd say that I have the capacity
   to make you scream a little,
   too.
   You told me that you
   have good hands.
   I believed you, but I
   didnít realize how good they were
   until you showed me.
   You know,
   Iím not so bad myself.
   Show me how good you are
   again.

+--------------------------------------------------------------------------+
   
   Two Months in October
   by M. A. Katt
   
   
   Rain ran down the window of the bus as Gene stared out at the lights
   of approaching cars. The white beams fanned out and highlighted the
   night-time rain. The wet glass became a poor mirror, reflecting his
   features back at him darkly. He saw the gold earring, and the lean
   features of his tanned face were distinct, but his curly black hair
   vanished in the shadowy water that rolled down on the other side of
   the glass. Much of him seemed swallowed in shadows.
   
   He felt several days worth of stubble as he touched his chin. His
   mouth was sticky and there was a cruddy sensation on his teeth. His
   eyes felt raw and dry. He wanted to take a hot shower, a shower with
   lots of steam in a dark room. He cocked his head at an angle, craning
   to look up at the night sky. Somewhere above him were stars, but he
   couldn't see them. At first he thought it was his poor vantage point,
   then he observed the rain once more, and realized how foolish it was
   to look for starlight in a storm.
   
   As he shifted his weight he felt the numb tingling in his buttocks and
   a dull ache around his tailbone. He truly hated riding on the bus. He
   hated the smell of disinfectant back in the toilet, and the way heat
   from the engine rose up between his legs when he could no longer
   ignore the need to sit in there. He hated to be rocked back and forth
   and hear things sloshing below.
   
   And he tired of the people who rode with him. For most of the day he
   sat with a fat man whose scent suggested he was too wide to reach back
   and sufficiently wipe himself. Gene had ridden with his face buried
   against the slim, fresh air duct for 300 miles. The stinky man had
   gotten off and was replaced by an older, thinner fellow who tapped
   away at a laptop computer. He wasn't so bad.
   
   He watched unattended children that were bouncing around the aisles.
   They screamed and cried in such an unrestrained fashion that Gene
   envisioned their parents abandoning them on the bus and sighing with
   relief as the highway forever took them away. One boy, maybe seven or
   eight years old, fired a noisy plastic pistol at Gene. In wash-faded
   letters on his t-shirt were the words: Shit Happens.
   
   Mainly Gene hated the bus because he couldn't sleep. It was hard
   enough lately even when he was comfortable, but here it was
   impossible. He wanted a long sleep. He wanted oblivion.
   
   Gene looked at the magazine rolled in his lap. It contained tales of
   men kayaking down white water, camping in tropical rain forests,
   climbing sheer stone walls. It said nothing about men who just quit
   and moved on.
   
   "Well, that's that," said the fellow beside him. He was heavier than
   Gene, and probably twenty years older as well.
   
   Gene looked over at him as he began to collapse the computer. The man
   smiled and Gene noticed how his glasses sat at an angle on his head.
   
   "Hello," the man said, and extended his open hand. Gene took it and
   felt a squeeze. "Good grip," the man said, his eyes seemed to linger
   over the callouses on Gene's hands, "Construction?" he asked.
   
   "Some. Mainly I turn wrenches." His voice rasped and caught on the
   words.
   
   "How about a soda? Long rides dry you out." Without waiting for a
   reply the man began to dig in a bag at his feet. "Sorry, all I've got
   is diet." He pulled up a can and offered it.
   
   Gene accepted uncertainly, "Uh, sure. Thanks. What do I owe you?"
   
   The man made a waving gesture, "Ahh, don't worry."
   
   Gene opened the can and watched a thin mist spurt out.
   
   "Name's Walt. Walt Cobol, like the computer language. You?"
   
   "Gene Severin." Gene took a long drink from the can. It tasted wet and
   fresh. "I don't think I've ever seen one of those on the bus before,"
   Gene said, pointing at the computer.
   
   "Yeah, and they don't last on long rides, either. But when was the
   last time you read about a bus falling out of the sky killing
   everybody on board?"
   
   "Don't like to fly?" Gene asked.
   
   "Nosir," Walt said, making the sentence one word. "And I do love the
   open road."
   
   Behind them, what Gene imagined as the largest radio on earth blared
   to life and the bus was filled with popping noises, thumping bass, and
   a sing-song reading of poetic lines.
   
   Gene made a face, "I hate rap music," he said to Walt.
   
   "Never listen to it. But I try not to reject something till I've spent
   some time with it. Sometimes if you're open, you can learn from the
   strangest places."
   
   Thank you for cramming your taste down my throat, would have been
   Penny's reaction to the music. And Gene pushed her voice outside his
   head.
   
   "Well, I know your name and that you don't like rap music. Where're
   you from?" Walt asked.
   
   "San Ramone, lower coast of California."
   
   "Where're you headed?"
   
   Gene made a smacking sound as he let the soda run past his lips. "To a
   town called Coop--in Nebraska."
   
   Walt nodded, "Family?"
   
   Gene shook his head, "Job. Friend of mine runs a shop, repairs
   machinery."
   
   "What do you do?" Walt asked.
   
   "I do it all. I can run 'bout any rig an' I can keep 'em running,
   too."
   
   Walt nodded his head in an exaggerated bobbing motion, "Work should be
   plentiful for a man with your qualifications. Why work so far from
   home?"
   
   Penny bubbled to mind for just a second, but Gene pushed her back
   inside. He shrugged, then spoke, "I just like to travel. I felt like
   it was time for a change." Time to get out, he heard inside himself.
   Run away. Gene made a sniffing noise, "Where're you headed?" he
   asked.
   
   Walt pushed his glasses up on his nose, "Des Moines. Going to see my
   grandson. Just turned six. Wanna see 'im?"
   
   Gene smiled and nodded, "Sure."
   
   The older man produced a wallet with a large plastic fanfold of
   photos. He pointed at various snapshots, identifying lots of people
   that Gene had never seen before. Walt indicated one plain woman as his
   daughter. She still lived with him and he wanted to get her married
   and out of the house.
   
   Gene noticed one set of pictures that were side-by-side. Each
   contained a woman. One looked like a professional effort with an
   attractive woman posing with unnatural illumination behind her head.
   Next to that was a picture of a woman in a hospital bed with a much
   younger Walt beside her. Gene felt compelled to ask about that one.
   
   "Is that you?" Gene asked.
   
   Walt's head bobbed in acknowledgement, "Yeah, that's me and Marilyn.
   Marilyn was my first wife. Mike's mother. It's Mike's family I'm going
   to see."
   
   "What happened?" Gene said. Then wincing, he added, "Hey, I'm sorry,
   it's none of my business."
   
   Walt shook his head, and waved his hand in dismissal, "No, don't
   worry. I don't mind." He inhaled and his nostrils whistled a little.
   "Cancer. She never had a chance. Hell, cure is what did this to her,"
   he pointed at the picture containing the hospital bed, then back to
   the other. "Hard to believe they're the same person, isn't it?"
   
   Gene compared the two images. "That's a shame." He paused for a moment
   then added, "She was pretty."
   
   "Yeah, she had a good heart too. She taught me a hell of a lot," Walt
   stated. "Lovin' somebody who's sick--that's a hard walk."
   
   Gene shifted, suddenly needing to get more comfortable.
   
   The bus shuddered and slowed down, they rocked in their seats as the
   bus turned. The driver announced a dinner stop.
   
   "You feel like some supper with an ex-insurance salesman?" Walt asked.
   
   
   Gene smiled, "Long as it's ex," he replied.
     _________________________________________________________________
   
   
   
   Gene and Walt walked quickly through the misting rain. The smell of
   diesel exhaust fumes curdled the air, and the loud motor prevented
   them from hearing the crunch of the wet gravel under their feet. Gene
   saw his own breath and noticed that Walt was colored red by the glow
   of a large neon beer sign. People got off the bus and shuffled in the
   mist.
   
   They walked toward an aluminum building skirted by a wooden porch. The
   building was divided into two sections. Loud music poured out of one
   side. Suspended over the door was the name D.T's in flickering bulbs
   that were supposed to give the illusion of motion.
   
   "D.T.'s?" said Gene. "Great name for a bar."
   
   Walt laughed, "Hell, it's probably the owner's initials."
   
   The bus passengers entered the other half of the structure, which had
   the name Little Bandit Cafe painted on the only picture window. Drawn
   beside the letters was a dwarf cowboy figure with enormous pistols.
   
   Inside, Gene noticed the big-screen T.V. in the corner. Client
   Eastwood's face was huge and the color of his skin was too red and
   full of lines. They sat down at the counter and perused the menu
   hanging in plastic letters on a white and blue Pepsi sign. Virtually
   everything was barbecued.
   
   "Looks like we're gonna have barbecue," Gene said.
   
   Walt gave his exaggerated bob in agreement. "Bus driver usually has a
   deal cut with the owner's of these places so he can get something on
   the side."
   
   They ordered two combination plates. Walt asked for the Hotter 'n Hell
   sauce, while Gene settled on the mild.
   
   "I never liked hot sauce until Marilyn got me to eat Indian food.
   Lord, those people have some hot grub! You ever have any?" Walt asked.
   
   
   Gene shook his head. "No. Hottest thing I ever had was when I was in
   the Navy. Ate at a place in Thailand. Had some little pepper that
   'bout put me in the hospital. Funny thing was, it wasn't on my plate,
   it was in a buddy's food and he had me try it."
   
   Walt laughed. "Price for adventure. Maybe find something wonderful,
   maybe get burned. I lived a hell of lot with her--Marilyn I mean.
   Y'know I never would have tried Indian food if Marilyn hadn't loved
   it. I took her to some place fancy on a date, because I wanted to
   impress her."
   
   "Did it work?"
   
   "She married me."
   
   "Must have been good food."
   
   Walt laughed--an asthmatic kind of sound--and said, "Hell, that's
   funny! 'Musta been good food.' That's good!"
   
   A skinny boy behind the counter brought the drinks they had ordered.
   Walt took a drink from his coffee and asked, "Are you married?"
   
   Gene replied, "No."
   
   "Engaged? Seein' someone?"
   
   "You aren't going to fix me up with your daughter are you?"
   
   Walt laughed again, "No, I was just remembering when I had to go on
   the road to earn a living," he spoke into his coffee cup. "Hell,
   Marilyn was the reason I hit it big in insurance. I knew she wouldn't
   stay with a bum. Anyway, I wondered if you were in anything serious.
   Lotta women wouldn't let their man go away for long periods. Marilyn
   was an exception. She knew I had to travel when I was starting out.
   Yep, I found the exception." He drank some more coffee gave out a
   swallowing sound then continued, "but our time was short. Damn glad I
   knew her though. Damn glad. I owe that woman so much. Without her..."
   he didn't finish, and the expression seemed to drain from his face.
   "Sorry, sometimes you gotta smack me when I get goin'."
   
   Gene made a crooked smile and took another drink, "No, I'm on my own."
   Then he added, and his voice was sadder than he wanted to sound, "I
   was with a woman for a long time, but it didn't work."
   
   Walt released his all-purpose bobbing nod once more. "That's a pity,
   everybody needs someone. But things happen the way they're supposed
   to."
   
   It surprised Gene as he heard his own voice start to explain, "I can't
   imagine this is how it's supposed to be. She got sick. Some kind of
   disease in the muscles. It put her in a wheelchair. Tears her up with
   pain that bends her in knots. She'll sleep whole days away sometimes.
   She spends a lot of her time doing pain killers or trying new drugs."
   As he spoke, he felt like a third party, watching words spill out of
   his mouth.
   
   Walt shook his head, "It's not fair, I agree, but, you ever wonder why
   we think it should be?" He stared at the white coffee mug. "How long
   were you with her?"
   
   "Five years. The last three she got the disease and it just went down
   the toilet."
   
   The skinny boy brought two plates heaped with steaming red sauce and
   set them down. Walt took a bite from his and made a face like a dog
   rejecting something. "It's just got a lot of tabasco sauce in it.
   How's yours?"
   
   Gene absently sampled the backrib and shrugged.
   
   "How'd you meet her?" Walt asked.
   
   "Her name was Penny. She used to bring her car into a shop where I
   worked. She'd always ask for me. We ended up talking a lot. I asked
   her out and when she said 'yes'... From the first time we talked I
   wanted to know her better. She changed my life." Walt smiled, "Oh
   yeah, they do that, don't they? Marilyn turned me around, all right.
   Got inside me. That's what makes losin' them so hard. You give a piece
   of yourself and you lose that piece when they go."
   
   Gene continued, it felt so good to tell someone, "She was the most
   alive person I'd ever met. She was always on the go, never slowing
   down. And god she was tough. She grew up real hard; I mean she saw
   some stuff that just to hear would turn your hair white. Her whole
   life seemed like one bad break after another."
   
   Walt sawed at his food as he spoke, "You were married?"
   
   Gene shook his head and pushed some potato salad around his plate,
   "No, I asked her, but she didn't want any paperwork. Guess it was a
   good thing when I look at it now."
   
   Walt made a humming sound that indicated understanding.
   
   Gene turned the ice in his glass with the straw, "One night, we'd been
   together a few months, we sat out on the fire escape staring up at the
   stars, and I told her how I wanted to be someplace she could feel
   safe, no matter what. I meant it, I really did."
   
   "Yeah, when you're holdin' someone who makes you feel that way...
   Well, sometimes you buy things you can't pay for." He didn't
   elaborate, he just smiled, pulling wads of napkins from the counter
   dispenser and wiping the red sauce that had gathered on his cheeks and
   fingertips. "So, how long ago did you break-up with her?"
   
   Gene's voice was small, "Two weeks ago. She called me into the living
   room and kicked me out, said she felt like I couldn't cut it, and she
   turned me loose. She said she regretted ever being involved with me.
   And I didn't fight. I just said, 'okay,'"
   
   Walt said, "Because you wanted out."
   
   "Yeah," the word fell out of his mouth and landed with a thud between
   them. He took a drink from the glass of soda. "This is turning into
   the longest month of my life."
   
   Walt's eyes narrowed and he took a deep breath that resembled a sigh.
   He didn't nod, and his voice was hushed. "I know. You can't sleep;
   nothing seems like it'll ever be good again." Walt's head bobbed
   slowly now, "You woulda' stayed because you promised, but when she
   gave you an out you took it."
   
   Gene squirmed in his seat. "I mean...I told her I loved her, that I
   wanted to be her shelter, how I wanted to be her hero. We had a deal."
   His voice dropped off and he looked around the room, "I'm not the man
   I wanted to be. I'm no hero."
   
   Walt took off his glasses and folded them together and apart several
   times, before he spoke, "When Marilyn died I felt the same way." He
   stopped as the counterboy refilled his cup from a steaming glass pot.
   When the boy left, he said, "Y'see, I was glad she died," he said the
   words like he had to push them out of his mouth. He didn't look at
   Gene as he continued, "I don't mean just that her suffering was over,
   I mean I wanted out and her passing turned me loose." He straightened
   on the stool and spoke some more, in the voice of someone striving to
   be perfectly clear. "After all she had done for me, I still felt
   trapped by her sickness. That cancer took away someone I loved before
   they ever died." He shook his head as if to shake the memories away.
   "When you take away a person's right to hold down food, when goin' to
   the bathroom by yourself becomes a treat, it's no wonder they become
   somebody else. Like you said, her whole world changed, so she changed
   with it."
   
   Walt shifted somemore on the stool, "I felt real bad, and I was angry
   that I couldn't help her, but I was more angry that I was glad..." He
   closed his eyes and held them shut for an instant, then he said, "I
   don't understand it to this day. But I think maybe we all get to find
   out how dirty we can be."
   
   Gene looked at him and said, "I keep thinking that maybe she told me
   to get out because she loved me, and maybe she thought she was doing
   me a favor."
   
   Walt took a drink and made a face that said coffee and barbecue didn't
   mix, then he said, "Maybe. It's hard to hear, but maybe your time
   together was just up. Everything ends."
   
   The counterboy returned again, "Can I get you fellas anything el..."
   he halted and stared past them. "Oh shoot, this is it! My favorite
   part." He extended his hands palms out in a gesture commanding quiet
   and gazed at the big screen in the corner. Gene and Walt revolved on
   their stools to watch, and Clint Eastwood squinted back at them. A
   breeze blew across his too-red features as he spoke. "Man's gotta know
   his limitations," he told them in his lethal whisper.
   
   Gene turned around and picked up the little green slip with the dinner
   charge on it. "Geez! Look at this!" he said.
   
   Walt took in the figures scrawled on the ticket, "No wonder they call
   this place the Little Bandit," he replied.
   
   
   
   At 1:38 a.m. Gene took his bag from underneath the seat and got out.
   He stepped lightly over Walt who slept quite well on the bus. The
   night was dipped in shades of blue that reflected on the wet streets
   of Coop. Gene could see the plume of his foggy breath in the tungsten
   streetlight. For a moment he watched it curl away to nothing. He heard
   the bus's air brakes hiss in the distance as he walked toward the
   hotel.
   
   Even the brake sounds made him think of Penny. He remembered arguing
   with her about slowing down her then-busy life long enough for him to
   put brakes on her car. She had replied, "Bad brakes aren't going to
   stop me." He smiled as he thought of it. Her words were a part of him.
   He should not shut them out. If he shut out the pain, he lost the good
   things as well. He took a chance five years ago, and this pain was
   part of the risk, part of the real bargain he had struck with Penny.
   
   He checked into a small, steam-heated room with furniture from some
   black and white movie. He opened the window and listened to the utter
   lack of sound outside. He took a shower with lots of steam, and when
   he was finished he put on his robe and propped his feet on the window
   sill and stared outside. For a time he thought about how long the
   month seemed, and he wondered when it would end. Finally, his eyes
   began to close, and the last thing he saw between his bare feet was a
   thunderhead slowly receding, creeping away with violent flashes of
   lightning. The clouds pulled back, hinting of a canopy of stars vast
   and wide.
   
   For a while, the storm was gone.

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                             about the authors 

   
   ** Cheri Amey ( cheri@innercite.com )
   
   "I have work appearing in Kudzu and Gravity: A Journal of On-line
   Writing. I love the song in poetry, the rhythm, the precise
   pronunciation of each word. Some poets who wake me up: Francisco X.
   Alarcon, Lyn Lifshin, Mary Mackey, Robert Lax."
   
   
   
   ** Garnet Cowsill ( magician@iaw.on.ca )
   
   Garnet Cowsill has written three novels and is currently working on
   his fourth book of poetry. A former journalist, he left a 25-year
   career in the newspaper industry to begin his own company as a
   communications consultant. He lives with his wife and two children in
   the Canadian shadows of the big, railed bridge, rusting at Buffalo, N.
   Y. When not working, reading, eating or sleeping, he writes.
   
   
   
   ** Tony Davino ( ragna.rok@mci2000.com )
   
   "I've recently moved to Seattle from Colorado, turned 30, and gained
   my first driver's license. I graduated from the University of Colorado
   in Boulder, where I studied creative writing with Lorna Dee Cervantes,
   Ed Dorn, and Marilyn Krysl. I've been married, divorced, and published
   several times (I've achieved double digits, of late)."
   
   
   
   ** M. A. Katt ( editors@morpo.com [will be forwarded to M. A. Katt] )
   
   M. A. Katt has a mercurial temper, has been known to bite friends, and
   loves to sleep on the sofa.
   
   
   
   ** Janet L. Kuypers ( ccandd96@aol.com )
   
   Since she got so fed up with her job as the art director for a
   publishing company that she wanted to wear postal blue and take out a
   few incompetents, Janet Kuypers, to relieve the stress:
    1. vents her twenty-something angst musically with an acoustic band
       composed of her and two guys who like to get drunk a lot (the
       band's called "Mom's Favorite Vase"),
    2. writes so much that she irritates editors enough to get her
       published over 2,050 times for writing or over 190 times for art
       work,
    3. writes so much that in order to make her feel like a big shot gets
       five books published, "Hope Chest in the Attic," "The Window,"
       "Close Cover Before Striking," "(woman.)," and "Contents Under
       Pressure,"
    4. gets tired of thinking about her own pathetic life, so edits the
       literary magazine "Children, Churches and Daddies" so she can read
       other people's depressing stories, or
    5. all of the above.
       
   
   
   When doing all of that didn't work, Janet decided to quit her job and
   travel around the United States and Europe, writing travel journals
   and starting her first novel.
   
   Poetry Page - http://members.aol.com/jkuypers22/poetry/kuypers.htm
   Scars Publications Site - http://members.aol.com/scarspub/scars.html
   
   
   
   ** David Starkey ( dms1@noctrl.edu )
   
   David Starkey teaches creative writing at North Central College in
   Naperville, Illinois.  More than 200 of his poems have appeared in
   print journals.  His poetry on the web has appeared or is forthcoming
   in Conspire, Crania, Eclectica, Gravity, Nieve Roja Review, Panic
   Attack, PoetryNow, Recursive Angel, and Zuzu's Petals Literary
   Quarterly.
   
   Starkey's Book of States. Boson Books -
   http://www.cmonline.com/boson/starkey.html

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                               in their own words

   
   ** Insurance by David Starkey

   "Insurance" is an early poem, written before I became a part of
   academia, when I was still struggling with questions of identity: Who
   is the true poet? What is a genuine poem?
   
   
   ** Travelogue by David Starkey

   "Travelogue" looks at a few childhood symptoms of what has become my
   lifelong obssession with travel.
   
   
   ** Paranoias Can Be So Boring by Garnet Cowsill
   
   I was exploring a piece sympathetic to Judas Iscariot, when I had a
   vivid dream one night in which my wife threw me a lavish dinner
   party.  I donít often remember dreams. I started to write it down ó
   obviously Iscariot was more pervasive.
   
   ** I Am Not and Newspapers by Cheri Amey
   
   "The pieces are both based on work I've been doing from a similar era
   as a way of remembering where I've been. My sister and I have
   different memories of the same episodes, and it's interesting to share
   these with her."
   
   
   ** Condensation and untitled by Tony Davino
   
   "I've always believed in a concision of imagery, and Condensation is
   an attempt to achieve that sparse exactitude. Both poems use a very
   common language in an attempt to convey the 'real- world' nature of
   the experience upon which they're based. They're snapshots, really,
   and should be that accessible."
   
   ** Two Months in October by M. A. Katt
   
   "The story was born as I watched two friends struggle to hold together
   a relationship when one was clearly losing her physical health. As my
   friend's health faded she became someone else to some degree, and I
   truly believed my other friend needed to get out, but that feeling may
   have been my own fears surfacing more than an objective opinion."

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               Our next issue will be published December 1st, 1998.
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