by Jonathan Rose

Pledge Break

And welcome back, dear listeners. Marcus here, coming at you from the greatest city in the w-o-r-l-d, we are broadcasting a ferocious, vivacious, pugnacious, vainglorious, effervescent, phosphorescent, signal—where we do the rough work to bring you smooth jams; where we bend over backwards to push you forward, under a sky of the blues and clouds of sweet melodies. We’re going to get back to the music in just a few seconds but first we have a very modest, humble, ask of you all. Yes, folks. It is that time. It’s fundraising time. And believe you me, we would not, never, never, ever ask you for your monetary support unless we absolutely-lutely had to. Alas, this is one of those times. Now, this is an abnormal pledge drive time, I know; this is unfortunately one of those dreadful exceptions we’re making because, hey, I’m just going to come out and say it: we’re broke. So, pick up your phone, dial our station number and please make a donation. It’s a testament to all you listeners out there that we’re still on the airwaves, bringing you the most righteous tunes and news at the top of the hour, every hour. And we do that all without the assistance of paid advertisements, we are ad free, strictly no-pro, not for a profit, five-oh-one-see-ya-later, but what that means is we rely on donations, we’re strictly reliant on the support and goodwill and -cheer of our faithful listeners like you. So, please. Please, we ask you for any size of donation. Small, medium, large, extra large. Double XL. Petite. Grande, menudo, mediano, trifling, middling. We’re here and we want to be here, in the future, for you. We want to keep bringing you informative voices and soul-rattling Soul music, all without the interruption of corporate shilling. The only shilling that happens is twice a year, and, I guess, times like these, right now—we have to shill at this point, but that’s just so we don’t have to bring in the evil shills to shill, to play their greedy moneymaking schemes on our airwaves., I keep using the word ‘we.’ I’m not alone here in the studio. I’m actually in the studio here with Randy and Arianna—our audio technician and intern, respectively—two of the hardest working cats in radio, the engineer and the intern, and they are indeed hard at work as we speak. The engineer, Randy, is making sure the equipment is running smoothly, that it’s up to snuff—no, not just up to snuff but that it exceeds snuff, that the quality’s as close to perfection as we can get; while Arianna, dear Ari, is penning, by hand the thank you letters, that you, dear listeners, will be receiving. If, that is, you donate to our fair radio station. So, please. We are, as they say, a hard case. We’re hard up. We are hat-in-hand, just short of begging you for any sized donation. It turns out, running a radio station is expensive. We have to pay for new equipment. We have to pay ourselves, for crying out loud. We have a paid intern. That’s right, folks, Arianna is a paid intern. Randy over there is a miracle worker, what with the sad state the gear we do possess is in. He might as well be dealing with etched wax cylinders. He might as well be dealing with steam powered equipment. He might as well be dealing with hydroelectric power via Archimede’s Screw. He’s tirelessly working over there, and I can tell you, any of you can make old Randy’s life easier by donating. Our equipment is outdated. Our equipment is broken. Our facility is in general disrepair. Randy might as well be using a hand crank, or, I don’t know, a wind turbine, keeping the lights on by riding a stationary bicycle powered generator—what’s that? Randy can’t hear me, or see me. Hold up your old timey monocle, Randy. Hold your lorgnettes to your eyes. Clip on your pince nez spectacles. Lift up your ear horn. Yes, we’re doing a donation drive. Look it’s really easy: as I say, you’re likely to reach either Ari or myself on the donation line, Randy is too busy trying to fix a problem with the amplifiers. Ari has finished a healthy stack of thank you notes and has moved on to organizing the tote bags, ready to send out to you as a thank you gift. You just have to pick up the phone and make a pledge of any amount. Any amount. It could be a dollar. It could be a hundred dollars. It could be a million dollars. That’s the donation sweet spot that helps us keep bringing you sweet tunes: between a dollar and a hundred million, it’s that easy. Again: our station, dear listeners, is in mucho disrepair; it’s not just the equipment, not only the amps and the signal boosters, the microphones, the windscreens and pop filters, the turntables (yes folks, we use turntables that are old fashioned; we also have cassette players and CD players, and even a reel-to-reel, because we love all technologies and those decades that brought us them. Our reel-to-reel has been broken for longer than anyone can remember, broken in a comical fashion, where the left reel spins one way and the right spins the opposite, never in agreement, they’re like the current political situation that we discuss at the top of the hour, every hour). But that’s not all: the physical space is falling apart. There are pieces of ceiling dropping down on us, with a distressingly increasing frequency. Not sure how old this building is but I shudder to think about the amount of lead in the paint on those dropping pieces of ceiling. We’re potentially dealing with lead paint folks. That’s how old this building is. This building is pre-war architecture, and when I say war, I’m talking, like, Spanish-American. The sky is falling—it’s like we’re Chicken Little in here, but we’re not Chicken Little, although we don’t mind Little Richard—a large chunk of ceiling came down only moments ago, just missing my shoulder. So, folks, I implore you, I beseech you, if you like quality radio, if you like radio that inspires, enthralls, disrupts, hearkens back, clues you in, and informs you of the whys the wherefores and the what-have-yous of the day-to-day in the U-S of A, please consider. Now Arianna is actually sitting at her workspace and knitting the wool and canvas—the material that will eventually be the thank you tote bags. So, you see, we play hard, we rock hard, we work really hard, and speaking of playing—we’re going to get back to those tunes, we just have a bit more to discuss before getting back to them. Again, operators are standing by, at the ready, waiting to take your pledge. The operators, or rather the operator will be one of the three of us. That’s a small staff. We’re dedicated to the arts. We are devotees. Devout rockers. We all have our MAAs. We’re masters of the audial arts—evidenced right now, as Randy is tending to a smoking amplifier. Folks, our amplifiers are on fire. “Let me stand next to your fire,” for sure, but don’t let’s catch our beleaguered equipment aflame, am I right? That’s the state we’re in. I’ll have that thrumming, beautiful Hendrix track queued up for you in a second. I just want to finish my pitch to you and—oh dear—it seems as though a piece of ceiling has fallen and hit Ari. She’s out like a light...a light that has been turned off I guess. We don’t like using platitudes here, we strive to bring you precise language. Out like a light doesn’t cut the mustard. She’s been bopped on the crown, thumped in the dome. Eyes closed, forehead resting on the edge of the tote-knitting table, arms hanging down, hands very gently swinging. And Randy is going to make an attempt at reviving her. Really looking for those pledges, folks. We’re in real legit-o trouble here. And, if I could be honest with you—I always strive to be honest with you—this would be a great time to kick it over to a commercial, as Randy goes to have a look at Arianna, but... we’re commercial free radio. And that’s just the thing. We don’t try to sell you anything. We don’t lay down for corporate behemoths, these two-faced media conglomerates whose only aim is to bilk and bamboozle you. We just want to bring you the best possible programming, the best auditory delights and insights. And now it looks like Ari has successfully been roused from her little slumber, thank heavens, and...Oh dear. This is not great. She seems to be erratic, and confrontational, and...Okay. Arianna is behaving violently. She is attacking Randy with the knitting needles. Oh, folks. This is bad. Randy seems to be doing an okay job evading her forays. She’s lunging at him with a knitting needle in each hand. He’s doing a pretty adequate, Mohammed Ali-style, rope-a-dope thing, and really the studio’s just so darn small, and hard to get around what with all our beleaguered equipment. Randy’s yelling for help. know what? That’s a great call, Randy. We’re going to bring you that 1965 classic from the Fab Four in just a few quick minutes. But the point we’re trying to make with this pitch, this plea, is: think about what this station means to you. Think about when you listen to us, and how often. Maybe it’s on your commutes to and from work. Maybe it’s when you’re at home, cooking dinner. Maybe it’s while you’re at work. Maybe it’s right before you go to sleep. The point is: that is time you’re spending with us. That time has value, we would argue. And if you can decide on a value—in a monetary form—that the amount of time you spend with us is worth, then we pray you’ll give accordingly. Again, you don’t have to. We’ll hopefully be here, for you, for free, but please consider giving. And really not sure what is going on with the tussle over there. It’s turned into more of a wrestling match. Not sure where the knitting needles have wound up, but. Now they’re on the floor and it’s a real grapple-fest, folks, they’re somersaulting and there’s headlocking, and there’s underhooking and overhooking, and now their clothes and skin are becoming all jumbled up and difficult to…Okay, now…it appears as though Randy and Arianna have...fused? Am I seeing this correctly? They’ve conjoined themselves, their skin and whatever bones and blood and organs contained within have merged into one lopsided human form. Not really sure how this could happen but look...we’ve been on the air for a long time. I’ve seen my fair share of crazy things; still, this might have just taken the old cake-o-la in that department, the crazy things department. Things are getting weirder too. Not only has our paid intern fused bodies with our engineer...the ceiling, additionally is not just falling down, but it is flying apart. The reel-to-reel player is going absolutely apeshit, and Randy—or, I guess, Randy-slash-Arianna—can’t get over there to stop it at present due to their clumsy lopsided human form. A small donation, and we can probably fix the broken reel-to-reel, folks. It’s an expanding pile of tape, spilling onto the floor, which, by the way, is looking weirder and weirder by the second, or the millisecond. Things are shifting. Things are moving. Essential, solid, material pieces are breaking apart, reconfiguring. Gravitational pull is getting, shall we say, a tad wonky. What’s this? So much is going on that it feels as though it’s already happened in the past, eons ago, and yet also has not happened. Is that what’s called a paradox? The real paradox, as far as this DJ can see, is that we have to keep talking to you about your monetary support while we have an uncountable amount of sweet tunes to bring you. We’re here to take your pledges. And by we, I guess it’s just, well, me, as our audio engineer and paid intern have fused…had fused, that is. As now, all this stuff, this physical solid mass, is shifting, breaking apart, they’re not really one anymore, they’re not so much fused as they are sort of breaking apart at the molecular, the neutrinic, the quarkian level. This is some subatomic shit we’re dealing with right now. This is crazy. And those sub-A particles are splitting, splitting again and reconfiguring. The molecules are like, so long, suckahs, have a nice day, peace, I’m out, goodnight Irene, see you on the dark side of the moon, am I right? The neutrinos are like, sayonara, au revoir, hello I must be going, let’s blow this popsicle stand, and, look, it’s not even the fused engineer and paid intern, or rather the disenfused engineer and paid intern; It is stuff flying apart at the seams—the seams being basic proteins, nuclei and rhizomes—at both the slowest speed and the speed of light, or whatever—the relativity is really messing with us at the moment. Really messing with us at this elongated moment. Really giving us the treatment. It’s hard to ask you for US currency when we can’t even express the molecular break up or break down, or the ever-expanding space between any identifiable particles. This is some super extreme shit. It hasn’t been this trippy here since we did that Jefferson Airplane marathon a while back. The stuff of life is flying apart with such velocity that it’s impossible to describe. Not the paid intern and the audio technician. They’ve reverted to being pure and simple wave forms. I have no idea which one is which, who is who—or if that even matters, for that matter—they’ve become sound and light. We have no way of discerning. We can see the firmament. The firmament has been breached. It’s not great, folks. The firmament is unraveling like it’s an unfinished tote bag. I don’t even know if my voice is reaching you. Maybe you’re hearing a long low belch, a subfrequency hum, or maybe you’re hearing a maniacally high blip, or maybe you’re hearing just plain old me. Just me, old Marcus, coming at you on the ninety-one one frequency, hopefully always with you bringing you sweet tunes—or just, you know, some kind of audio. Some kind of auditory-esque-ish something or other. We try to do that here, despite the fact that ions are cavorting with muons—up is down, down is up, the whole bit. We’re rushing toward something both scintillating and horrifying. Pretty sure I can see the obelisk from Kubrick’s 2001. Our universe is, it turns out, one undetectably small singularity; the Higgs fucking boson just played a guitar solo on Jimmy Page’s Les Paul. That’s what we do here. Firmament-piercing, Higgs boson-shredding, you know it, you love it…Ya’ know, Christian Rock has been one of the only genres we’ve avoided up to this point, but, holy shit, maybe we oughta consider playing some—opera too. Because this is getting really Wagnerian, friends. This is some Rings Cycle, Die Meistersinger-style end of days, apocalypse-stuff right here. We’ll even go so far as to play New Age. That’s right: we’ll play Yanni Live at the goddamn Acropolis if you so wish. And that brings up an important issue. While New Age, opera, and Christian rock music isn’t necessarily our style, here at the station, we’re willing to adapt to listeners’ preferences. Why? Because we’re listener-supported radio, that’s why. What you say goes, folks. You’re in charge! Even though the deceleration of essential leptons and the reorganization of muons and antiprotons are making it harder and harder to figure just what is anything. And that’s just the thing: it’s because we strive to be here for you, that you’re ultimately the boss. Which reminds me...maybe we should queue up some Springsteen for this pledge drive. We absolutely will, even though this is not looking great folks. This is looking like, well, it’s looking like anti-matter is wild, really wild, friends. It’s like we’re here and simultaneously not here, and that simultaneity would be a fun paradox, if it weren’t wrapped up and enmeshed with anti gravity and if the whole cosmological realm weren’t turning itself inside out like it’s my old t-shirt from Steely Dan’s Can’t Buy a Thrill tour...not just falling down, not just flying apart, but plainly and simply, dematerializing...Anyway, the point is....If you can hear me. If you can hear my voice, then please consider donating. If it’s not a blip in your ear. If it’s not a long drudgy, low frequency thing, or if it’s not even on an audible spectrum that human ears can perceive, and if your own molecular organization is intact, if the radio is something you actually fucking love and it’s not something you’re clinging to for the sake of space time telescoping into oblivion and, the seconds are becoming like hours, like centuries, and it’s all apparently happening and all apparently not happening. If nothing…If you can hear us. If you can find it in your heart to donate, then please do. Please do. Please do. For now, though, let’s get back to the tunes.

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Jonathan Rose is a writer living in New York. His work has appeared in various literary journals and magazines, including The Southampton Review, Vol.1 Brooklyn, and Chicago Quarterly Review. He works as a bookseller and bartender in New York. He is also working on his first novel.

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by Jack Sullivan


My roommate was surprised to see me. She screamed as I opened the door, dropping her mug of tea. We stood there for a couple moments looking at each other: me with my travel bag slung over my shoulder, her with hands on hips, trying to figure out who I was. 

Finally she said she thought I didn’t live there anymore. She told me every time she passed my room it seemed empty. At first it felt normal because I was usually so quiet, but eventually she realized something was amiss. As weeks passed and there was still no sign of me, she had gotten into the habit, or so she said, of telling people she had the place to herself. She had even thrown a party in my absence, neglecting to leave a note.         

It was only when the guests went into my room to have sex, or she said, that she realized I was gone. She went into my room and found that all the furniture was missing, my books and television taken off the shelves. There wasn’t even any bed! She had no clue, she said, what her guests planned to have sex on there. She was going to call the police when she found an envelope on the floor, one of those plain white ones you can get in bulk at Walgreens. There was some money in it, and my name was signed on a small piece of paper. 

I had no clue what to say. As far as I was concerned, I still very much lived in this apartment. I paid rent each month, I took out the trash, I even made sure to clean the lint rack in the laundry machine!              

Other things: I never made too much noise coming home every day after work. I waited until my roommate finished cooking to eat my own. I made sure to turn on the ceiling fan while I showered, so there wouldn’t be any mold. As I went to sleep at night, I put on my sleep apnea mask to regulate my snoring. My father and brothers snored, and the sound drove my mother insane. Literally—she killed herself soon after I left for college. I didn’t want my roommate to kill herself, but as she never mentioned anything the next morning, I convinced myself things were fine.                        

Sure, I didn’t have many things—everything else in the apartment was hers—yet it was impossible not to have noticed me. Who else sat beside her at the kitchen counter every morning eating breakfast before work? Who else came home each night and drank the whiskey hidden in the furthest kitchen cabinet, so that he’d only have one? Who else left notes for her tacked on the fridge, saying things like “I’m going to be going away for a few days”? 

Even if I made myself small, the better to avoid trouble, I was still there!               

I didn’t tell her any of this though. I just stood in the doorway and watched as her spilled tea made its way across the floor, bright and shiny. 

My roommate asked again, “Why are you here?” I laughed and said, “I live here.”

“Not anymore.”


“I said: you don’t live here anymore. You don’t have any stuff.” 

I stormed past her toward my bedroom. As I put my hand around the door handle I expected her to say that this was all a joke. And then my friends, hiding behind the couch, would jump out and scream, “Surprise!”            

Yet when I opened my door, I saw she wasn’t kidding. Instead of being empty, however, the entire room had been completely rearranged! Gone were my books, table, and bed—and in their place? Different books, different table, different bed! 

Lying on that bed was a young man about my age. He sat with one leg crossed over the other, cradling a book. He had the same long, monkey feet as mine; he even wriggled his toes in exactly the same manner. In fact, almost everything about him was the same—save his face, which was hidden behind the book.                        

My roommate and I stood in the doorway for a little while, neither of us knowing what to do. Taking my hand like a mother with a frightened child, she tried pulling me back into the other room. But, summoning all the courage I had, I stuck my hand out in the direction of the stranger (whose face was still covered by the book). 

“How do you do?”

“And also with you,” came the reply.

I couldn’t believe it. Not only had this person taken my room—with the knowledge that I was bound to return, no less—he couldn’t even be bothered to greet me!

I set my bag on the floor; my hands balled into fists. Without waiting for either to say something, I stormed over and yanked the book from him. The book bounced off the floor with a loud CLANG and then slid under the new occupant’s desk. 

Silence. Outside, an ice cream truck made its way down the block, as it did every day at the same time. 

Ring around the rosy—

Pockets full of posy—

Ashes, ashes—

We all fall— 

“Now that wasn’t very nice.”       

The new occupant trained his gaze on me. For a second I didn’t know whether to laugh or scream. It was like when you have an upset stomach and finally vomit: the feeling is horrible, and yet all these endorphins rush through your body. You’re glad to have finally seen or experienced the terrible thing.

A young man with a cougar’s head stared at me. Immediately I knew he was real, and not a dream. Fur sloped down his neck; his skull seemed proportional to the rest of his body. His beady eyes gleamed like amber orbs. His nose and mouth wriggled, half-human, half-beast. A sly smile caused his whiskers to bounce. He didn’t appear angry—in fact, he looked bored, like animals do when you place your face up against the glass at the zoo.                     

“I was going to tell you,” my roommate said, sounding like a cheating wife.        

“She really was,” said the cougar. He slid his legs—human legs—onto the floor and stood. “She’s been trying to tell you for some time.”                    

“Tell me what?” 

The cougar looked at my roommate. It was a familiar look, a look between two friends—no, lovers!— as if to say “Can you believe this sap?”               

Suddenly, though the room was still legally mine, I knew I should leave. 

The cougar opened his mouth to speak (what big fangs he had!) but I raised my hand to stop him. 

“No!” I cried. “ I understand what’s happening here.” My roommate put a consoling hand on my shoulder. “Thank you.” 

The cougar seemed nice enough, yet despite the kind way he spoke to me, I could see a hard glint in his eye. I knew that despite his apparent geniality he was really a wild animal—person— animal...person. 

I felt a strong urge to grab my roommate and run. We could find a hotel for the evening, maybe a bed and breakfast. We could run from the cougar and restart our lives. She would teach children foreign languages and I’d work in a car garage. It would be a tough life, hand to mouth in a small rented house, but we’d be happy. 

Yet that was silly. I was not in love with my roommate—I hated her, to be honest—and she was in love with the cougar! How else to explain the chic black blouse she was wearing, the cherry colored slacks? Or the way she pulled her hair back—she never pulled her hair back!—revealing a face that was angular, beautiful. 

Regret pierced my abdomen. If only I had paid more attention! Now I stood in between two sleek, beautiful creatures in my stained and paltry clothes, smelling like shame and Penn Station (really one and the same). My dilapidated travel bag on the floor, containing everything I now owned: a book by Georges Perec, some cheap cologne.    

I picked up these belongings and cradled them close. The Cougar and my now ex-roommate led me toward the door. As we made our way through the apartment, I noticed how everything else had suddenly changed: the living room where the kitchen once was; the kitchen moved to the living room. Our big bay windows that looked out on the street were covered with black duct tape. There was an herbal scent, perhaps incense, causing me to gag.                   

“Get him out of here,” said the cougar. “Before he gets sick!”                    

My roommate opened the front door and nudged me into the hallway. Would it surprise you to know the hallway had changed too? How it changed does not matter—just know I stumbled out into a completely new building. By now though it was all par for the course. I stood there, trying to collect myself, vomit rising in my throat.                        

“Don’t worry,” said my roommate, “You’ll land on your feet.”

Except I was on my feet already, and I did worry.

They didn’t care, though. With a final nod, they shut the door. Almost immediately they started laughing, wildly, and their laughter followed me out of the building. 

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Jack is a queer writer and visual artist living in a floating castle with his partner Travis somewhere above Brooklyn, NY. His prose, poetry, and miscellanea can be found in JAKE, Yes Poetry, Ghost City Review, and Ouroboros. He would like to include a cat in this bio, but Travis won't let him have one. Consider this section of the bio a plea for Travis to let me get a cat.

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by Katie Lynn Johnson

The In-Between

She was fanning herself with a ticket and a check. The tide had risen, heavy and dead enough for the world to sink into—and all they had left was to think of the funeral.

“It’s okay to be angry,” he said to her as they waited for the train. And he meant it, if only because he’d wanted someone to say it to him when he was younger—sitting at the station after missing a bus; looking down at broken glass in a picture frame; when, curled up in bed at night as a kid, he heard his parents yelling in the living room beneath him, the sound, the ruckus, the thudding coming to him from under his bed, circling endlessly around his head. He wanted her to feel things, feel them outrageously, furiously, so that they pushed her one way and then the other, led her down the street, out of the city, to woods and over mountains, showed her ruins and fields, loud places, quiet ones, the world, all the while feeling, feeling.

“I’m not angry,” she said.

The world, he thought, a light that wouldn’t catch—strike, strike against the side of the matchbox, the smell of sulfur. How can you not be angry? He wanted to ask. Her mother had died in such a funny way. She had been dying funny since he’d come to know her, laid up in bed, a sack of bones with just one layer of skin between the world and her marrow so that when he shook her hand the first day he met her—as she lay sprawled out in the hospital bed in the living room, white sheets too white piled around her body like a mountain range—he felt every bone in her fingers, each knuckle and joint sharp against his own. Her face—eyes looking past him—had no muscle, no fat, only bone, and the skin sagged, not like it did on the old under the weighted years of gravity, but because there was nothing left to hold on to anymore.

She was dying already. She was dying anyway. But then, one day—a good day—a fly flew into her mouth, in the middle of a sentence, and she was dead.

Her father was going to have it cut out of her throat and preserved.

“It’s okay,” he said, “To feel whatever you’re feeling.” He thought about putting a hand on her shoulder but didn’t. The train was maybe five minutes away. In the distance he could see the headlight glinting in the growing twilight. The humidity felt thick against his fingertips, like he could feel it pressing into the lines of his skin—beads of sweat were dripping down the nape of her neck.

“Would you stop talking?”

“Okay,” he told her, meaning he would stop talking.

In the dark beyond her, he could see the beach packed with bodies—and, years from now, he knew, when he was dying, when he was laid up in a living room, looking back not on his own life, but those which had become entangled with his, he would remember the way she had looked at him then, over her shoulder like a kid was tugging at her sleeve, a discontentment there, not one—he knew—that would fade, but that stuck in the eyes, a coldness sweetened by youth and the dimming of it, the sadness of it, her mouth set in a worbled line, the muscles in her jaw taught. He would remember how he looked down at her hands then, the nails prim, the knuckles white against the blue skirt around her legs. He would reach out as though reaching for her face, from the sheets of his death bed, from the mountain ranges around his own body, and his children would see the glaze in his eyes, see the whites of his eyes, and pretend as best they could that their father was not dying.

“Don’t say anything please.” The train light flashed across her face, closer now.

He worried the fly would be at the funeral, preserved in a bell jar, that everyone would be wearing color and not black, peering over the glass at the thing that had done it—the worst cancer: happenstance.

“Okay. I’m sorry.”

The platform was bustling. There were families, suitcases, young men in stiff suits who looked down at their wristwatches as though they had something to hurry back to. It all felt close to him, too close to him, and he rubbed a hand over his face. Funerals. Terrible things happened at funerals. He remembered being a little boy, feet dangling from metal folding chairs, staring and staring at the space above the coffin, something rising out of it, a soul, breath, or heat. He remembered looking down at his grandfather’s or grandmother’s or somebody’s face, not recognizing it, not caring to, the coldness of it shocking him back across the carpeted room. There was something awful about the way adults went around at funerals, dressed in black, laughing, crying, holding empty glasses in their wrinkled hands, pretending they felt old enough to deal with death. He’d watch his mother’s black heels sink into the carpet, see the flick of her dark eyes as they flitted over to his father across the room—and he would never follow her gaze. He would feel himself burned alive, floating out of his seat into the air, picture his ashes on the mantel, and wonder if death was watching through the tinted warped glass of an urn as everyone else kept living.

The train rushed into the station. A wave of air pressed against them, and she took a step back into his chest. An accident, but she stayed there, frozen, as the train slowed and the doors opened, and the gush of air fell away to stillness. For a moment, no one seemed to breathe, no one moved, and then: a rush of bodies toward the doors, pushing past them, scuttling around them.

But the conductor didn’t even glance at them, standing on the platform, staring in at the dead mouth of the train. The doors closed, the train chugged off, and she started crying. He put his hand on her shoulder, felt the stick of sweat, felt every bone, every muscle, the blood in her veins as it rushed beneath her skin, and even as they turned to leave, as his hand fell to his side, as she wiped the tears from her eyes with the tips of fingers, saying “Let’s take a cab,” he still felt her little shoulder as it trembled under his hand and knew that he would never again feel as alive as he did then.

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Katie Lynn Johnston is a creative writing graduate of Columbia College Chicago. They have been an editor for the Columbia Poetry Review, Mulberry Literary, and a production editor for Hair Trigger Magazine. Their work has appeared in Clackamas Literary Review, Hoxie Gorge Review, and Lavender Review, among others. You can find more about their work on their website at, and get to know more about them on instagram: @katielynnjohnston

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by Cameron Brindise


Someone played Leadbelly over again on the jukebox and over again on the jukebox. Something about steamboat traveling on a river in America and the mystic rhythm. Would the body know where it was if the mind didn’t tell it? 

I’m killing myself, Henry said. He kept interrupting. Baseball is all I worry about. You worry about whatever else there is, and I’ll worry about baseball. 

When he got up, his pants were wet. I wagged my finger at him and said Henry, you fool. I said Henry, you vagrant. Henry, you little twit. He took the cigarette out of his mouth and started yelling with his hands hellbent in the air. 

We should be poorer, I thought. We should have no liquor at all.  

We left the bar and after a while passed a courtyard covered in garden statues. There was an old, white-wood windmill. It was the size of a leg up past the thigh. Henry liked it, so he jumped the fence. He pulled up on the windmill and when it came loose, he started wobbling, wooing, and then it popped up like it had roots, and he put it underneath his arm. The sky was black. There were no stars in it. That’s when the front light of the building went on and a small guy in his undershirt started yelling. Henry ran like a running back in one direction. I ran in another.

Somehow I got back home and had my nightshirt on, and when I looked around and yelled a bit, I found Henry sleeping on the bathroom floor. The windmill was in the bathtub, taking up more than half of it, and the water from the spout poured over.

Later that night—if you can imagine there was a later—we went to a friend’s apartment to walk Joe, the dog. The place made us feel small. Every inch of it covered in mirrors or paintings. We watched Joe toot and howl and drank fizzy beer, finding joll in the atmosphere. Henry cooked steak. I rubbed both their bellies. The dog was a sufferer like us. We fed him water with a spoon and injected medicine between his teeth.

Some time passed and Henry said, we need to get out of here. So I got up, stood on two feet, and pulled his arms and his legs and dragged him to the door all folded up like a fortune cookie. I slapped him with shoes. 

I mean all of New York, he said. Leave the whole of it. I shrugged and kicked Joe a little. The dog didn’t move. I pushed my shoe underneath Joe’s chin and lifted. I could see his face. Eyes shut. Is he breathing, Henry said and flattened his ear onto the dog’s back. I lifted a paw and watched it fall straight down. Henry tugged at the eyelids and blew in his nose. He shouted in an ear. I got a cold bottle out of the freezer and pressed it onto the dog’s face. 

We called 911. 

Henry explained that Joe might be dead. We couldn’t tell about his breath.  We needed help. When he hung up, he got down on his knees and started pushing on the dog’s chest with his fists.  

I poured vodka into big glasses meant for something else. We sat on the couch, looking at the dog not moving, and we drank. There were walls of mirrors in the place.  

Soon the ambulance arrived. Where’s the emergency? 

Henry yelled from the couch. 

Two uniforms headed toward the room with the couch and the dog. They had strange eyes. I thought for a second that they were imposters. That some scammers had intercepted emergency calls. That they would rob us and not care about the dog. 

I went into the room and sat next to Henry. The paramedics were on the floor, looking at us. They said something about the body being a dog, not a human. We argued with them that it didn’t matter, both live. Henry drank the vodka. They explained they don’t save animals—don’t we know that? I lit a cigarette and debated stealing the oxygen mask out of their bag and wrapping it around Joe’s head and telling him to breathe, breathe.

They questioned us like we’d killed the dog. When is the last time you fed him? Henry stood up and bellowed—I cooked a steak dinner!  The bigger one, the man I think, went over to Joe and put the stethoscope on the dog’s chest. He told us to shut up. Then he snapped the scope out of his ears and said, Joe’s dead.  

Henry started cursing them. His face was red or maybe it was the liquor. He said stuff about them being the killers, not us. They rattled on about responsibility or purpose or the grave seriousness of living. With a good head, dogs don’t die. With a good cop, killers don’t kill? Henry was asking, but they were gone. I kissed Joe on top of his head. Henry said a small prayer.  

Some time passed, and we left. As we shut the door behind us, I looked back. The dog like a wet dish towel. Or maybe he started breathing again. I can’t be completely sure.

Then we were walking toward the East River. Henry battled the air. When we got to it, I took his head in my hands and made him look out past Manhattan, farther than where the World Trade Center used to be, and I said something like, if you want to leave New York, that's where you will go. Look at it. And he put his head on my shoulder. Only then did the sun come up.   

The next day I got my blood drained. I had a condition. It always surprised me how dark it looked as it passed from my arm into the long, almost winding tube. At the end, when it’s all gathered together in the blood bag, it starts to seem soft. So soft that Henry once said he could picture resting his head on it. He hugged my other arm as I waited for the pint to go. He pushed back my hair and smelled it, lifting it up close to his mouth and to his nose.  

We were in love—we really were. 

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Cameron Brindise lives north of the city in a small house on a big plot of land. Her work has been previously published in SmokeLong Quarterly,The Fiddleback and Block Magazine. She holds an MA from NYU and an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College.

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