Volume 20 Number 3

"What upsets people is not things themselves but their judgments about the things.”

Epictetus, Stoic philosopher
April - June 2017

Archives

 

Congratulations to
First Place Winner, Elena Murphy;
        Second Place Winner, Laura Ruth Loomis;
and three Honorable Mention Winners,
J.D. Blair, Eileen Granfors, and Pamela Kelso


Seven Notes about the Judging:

Character matters.

Conflict matters.

A fresh angle matters.

Something needs to happen.

Something needs to change or be resolved.

The quality of the writing and the complexity of thought worked particularly well when combined with simple prose.

There is sadness in several of these, but we also like happy stories.

 

GOODBYE SONG
By First Place Winner Elena Murphy

“This oh this is the goodbye song…”

Lauren sat on the cropped carpet and swayed from side to side. Her legs were crossed and her heels dug into her thighs.

“Though we won’t be gone for very long…”

She glanced at the clock. 5:56. Nineteen minutes until Jess came to pick her up.
 

   “We say goodbye to another day…”

Lauren smiled as she sang, wondering if it came across as a grin or a grimace.

“And we can’t wait to come back and play…”

She glanced at the clock again. 5:57. Eighteen minutes until he drove her to her appointment.

    “Goodbye, goodbye to one and all…”

Until she faced his pitying glances.

 “We sing goodbye to big and small…”

She brushed a hand against her stomach. He thought this was because they were young, that they weren’t ready. He thought it was for now and they’d get another chance.

“Goodbye to shy goodbye to silly…”

She’d let him think it too. How could she not? It’s not like she meant to lie to him, and she hadn’t either. She’d just stayed quiet, not knowing what to stay. Plus, it was a nice thing to think about, to pretend.

“Goodbye to trucks and dresses frilly…”

The clock hadn’t moved. Eighteen minutes until Lauren stopped pretending and told Jess it was not for now—that even if they were ten years older, living in a real house and not a basement, making their beds everyday and using groceries lists, she would still make this appointment.
 

“This oh this is the goodbye song…”

Eighteen minutes until she told him the truth even though she saw how tenderly he glanced at her belly and heard him whisper his favorite names as they fell asleep the night she peed on the stick.

“Though we won’t be gone for very long…”

He wouldn’t get it. He would tell her she was upset, she was too young to know, she would change her mind.

 “We say goodbye to each of you…”

She would say no.

“For we love you from your head to shoe…”

He would call her selfish and she wouldn’t say anything.

 “Goodbye to Tommy. Goodbye to Pearl…”

Lauren looked at each of the kids while ignoring the tick of the clock. Tommy rolled around on his square of rug, a finger in each nostril. Pearl sat in front of Lauren, watching her with a vacant stare.

“Goodbye to John. Goodbye to Ginny…”

John smiled and clapped. Ginny, supine, twirled her hair and sucked her thumb.

“Goodbye to Felix. Goodbye to Hubert…”

Felix did somersaults across the floor while Hubert followed, trailing a soiled rabbit behind him.

“Goodbye to Dino. Goodbye to Quail…”

The twins sucked on each other’s shirt sleeves.

“Goodbye, goodbye to another day…”

Lauren smiled so hard her eyes moistened.
 

“Tomorrow we’ll come back and play…”

Her insides twisted. It was 5:59. Sixteen minutes until she said what she’d always known: that it wasn’t about age or selfishness or love. It just wasn’t for her. That was all.
 

“This oh this is the goodbye song…”

That was the hardest thing to explain.

 “Though we won’t be gone for very long.”

She placed a hand on her belly again, then moved it away. Hubert waddled toward her. His breath was warm and smelled like fish sticks. Snot bubbled from his nostrils.

    “I make present,” Hubert held out a scrap of paper with a single pencil mark down the middle.

    She took it and smiled, wriggling her fingers against his cheek while swallowing the swell in her throat.
 

   “Thank you, Huey.”
 

   He kissed her and she waited until he’d turned to wipe his saliva from the side of her face.
 

   It was 6:00. Parents congregated by the door and children shuffled toward them. She joined her coworkers as they mingled with parents and stacked miniature chairs. She didn’t look, but she knew Jess was already parked out front. He was always early.
 

   At 6:15, as she closed and locked the door, Hubert and his mother walked past her. His mother waved at Lauren while Hubert, clutching her hand, hopped and skipped down the street, too absorbed in his song to notice her presence. “This this this is the goodbye song and we won’t be gone for very long...”

    Lauren waited for them to disappear around the corner before crossing the street, ducking into the sedan and greeting Jess, who smiled at her.

 


Elena Murphy was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She received her BA in Social Work at San Francisco State University and currently resides in Oakland, CA. Her work has appeared in an anthology by 2Leaf Press.

 

SHOCKED
By Second Place Winner Laura Ruth Loomis

   You don’t know how it feels if you haven’t done it.  The electricity surges through the perp, and he’ll twitch and go limp.  

   Something surges through you, too:  a sense of invincibility.  It doesn’t matter anymore that the sergeant’s been on your case about the overtime and your wife’s been screaming that you’re not bringing home enough money without the overtime, and of course you love her but damn she can drive you crazy.  You can forget about all that because somebody finally has to shut up when you tell them to shut up. 

   You’re supposed to only use the stun gun at times when you’d have reached for a real gun.  And at first you do.  But sooner or later, there’s the raging drunk that you don’t have time to talk down.  The asshole anti-war protester who won’t leave.  The driver who keeps asking what the problem is, instead of getting out of the car like you told him to.   

   You hear about people who got heart attacks from it, but you always figure you’ll be careful.  After you use it they always seem okay.  No bullet holes, no scars, no harm done, right?  

    And then one day your wife’s yelling at you about the money again, and she gets you good and worked up like no one else can.  And the stun gun’s right there.  And you didn’t mean to hurt anyone.  All you wanted to do was get her to shut up, just shut up.


Laura Ruth Loomis is a social worker in the San Francisco area.  Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Writer's Digest, On the Premises, Press 53, and Wordrunner Chapbooks.  The highlight of her writing career was scoring a runner-up and a dishonorable mention in the Bulwer-Lytton  Awards.

 

Last Birthday
By Honorable Mention Winner Pamela Kelso

   Emma Jean sat on the broken top step of what was left of a 150 year old farmhouse.  Her white hair pin curled and wrapped in a lavender see-through scarf.  Her lips and cheeks painted pink with the remnants of a Tangee lipstick bought at the town's dime store in the early 60's.  She and her sister shared that lipstick-just wore it on special occasions.  Today was one.  They turned 100 this morning.  Ezekial, their mailman, would be arriving at the same time he always did and he would notice.  He would tell the others.  Irma Jane was already dressed in her inevitable matching calico dress and waiting on the broken bed in their water-soaked room off the kitchen.   Emma Jean quickly drank her special tea and crawled into bed beside her twin.


Pam Kelso writes poetry and flash fiction, adding to her repertoire of theater, music, and comedy. Her biggest fans are her husband, her 2 sons, and her 4 grandchildren, and members of her writing critique group. She is trying something new after a career in PR and marketing.

 

Marisol Meets the Mountain
By Honorable Mention Winner Eileen Granfors

    I have been here five days. The Sneeds’ house fits me like my new clothes, fresh and new and something I would choose for myself.  I like running in the dark mornings up the dusty mountain road, watching out for pine cones and coyotes.  Daryll lopes ahead of us, running as easily as my cat Remmie runs down the when the neighbors call their cat. Coach Sneed jogs behind us, urging Stan, “Faster Bozo 1, faster! Try to catch Bozo 12!” In only five days, my old jeans are loose at the waistline and that’s after Carmen has washed them!  Carmen’s laughter is as sweet as mole sauce. It fills an empty part of me, like pouring warm syrup on a crispy toaster waffle.    

    We see the sun rising each morning as we finish our run. The sky blooms red and pink. Birds chirp in the trees. The whole wide world lies waiting from the mountain top.  

    Today when we ran, the pain in my side was barely there.  In the beginning, I could only focus on the pain.  Today I was thinking about Mama and how hard she works and how much she smiles.

    I thought about Papa since I always think about Papa, but this was a memory about books instead of about his bloody head on the road. The gangs called him a dangerous newspaper man. The gangsters never saw me sitting in his lap, touching his itchy mustache and counting his tobacco teeth, feeling happy when he came into a room with his cigary smell. Every night before bed he would squeeze the sour lime from his tall drink into my mouth opened like a baby bird’s. The cholos assumed they could judge him from his job like judging a book by its cover.

    At school, I had judged Coach Sneed by his cover, which turns out to be half right and half wrong.  When we run here at the mountain, he is not screaming and turning red in the face like at school.  I know he is near because I smell his Mennen deodorant, fresh and soapy. I should borrow it for Uncle Tomaso, who smells like onions and beer. Coach Sneed encourages us to take another step, lengthen our stride, push harder even when the hill seems too tall or too long.  Sometimes he sings a cadence song he learned in Boy Scouts. He calls me Bozo 12, the Trouper, and it makes me proud in the way I was proud when Papa smiled at my reading ribbons even if I could not win the citizenship ribbon because of too much giggling with Paloma.

    If Stan hears Coach Sneed compliment me instead of him, he calls me “brown nose.” I tell him that of course my nose is brown, look at my skin, you idiot. Skin is just another cover, and I hope this is something I can teach Stan and his friends.  Taljen, Shojen, Zejen (the Jennifers at school), and I will start a club about skin color as only a cover, and sharing the world as equal brothers and sisters. We won’t let people feel lonely or left out because they are different, and we’ll campaign against using mean words like homo and gay and retard.

    When I think about covers, I also think about the belief in the calacas for Dia de los Muertes.  The skeletons and the masks on that day represent the real part of us that the whole world shares. If you take off people’s skin, one skeleton looks just like another.  It doesn’t matter if you are Mexican brown or American black or mixed American white or Barbie doll pink.

    Carmen told me that I have my own smell, like dulce de leche. She makes me proud again that my Mexican skin is brown, which is a great change from when I wanted to be as pale white as Mrs. Beauman. I have decided that Mrs. Beauman’s color is washed out, like a beach towel after a summer in the sun. Their whole house smells like Lysol and bleach. I would like to teach Stan and all the Stans at East Valley High School in the white ghetto of Santa Dorena. They could use a lesson about calacas and sameness, not face color and separateness.


Eileen Granfors lives in Galena, MO. A former army brat and surfer girl from San Diego, Eileen, a UCLA grad, joined the UCLA Writers’ Extension Program after retiring  from teaching (34 years, high school). She writes, reads, critiques, and enjoys life on Table Rock Lake with her husband and three dogs.
Blog: http://www.writeon-readon.com
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Eulogy
By Honorable Mention Winner  JD Blair

    Critics called him a “genuinely fresh talent,” even though he had been writing prose for over forty years.

    Despite his claims that he graduated with a masters degree in literature from Harvard there is no evidence that he finished college. At Penn State where he dabbled in drama and at Harvard, transcripts show large gaps in his attendance at both institutions. They do show increased interest in extracurricular courses dealing in the occult and martial arts, nothing approaching literature.

    He refused to bow to pressure from professors and mentors to complete an MFA regimen and opted instead to, in his words, “take the low road” to literary success. Because he never sought out an MFA program, acceptance of his work was hard to come by.  Rejections from The New Yorker alone numbered in the fifties. Whether he achieved his literary goals only time will tell. As yet his name has not appeared among the pantheon of American literary giants Faulkner, Hemingway, Roth, Steinbeck or Salinger.  

    In an early autobiographical essay published in an obscure Harvard newsletter he confessed that during his teen years he spent hours writing pornographic poetry in the storage attic of his fathers Olathe, Kansas clothing store, “jerking off among the plastic ladies.” In subsequent interviews he admitted to becoming orgasmic while reading a critique of the letters of T.S. Eliot. What he found sexually arousing in the Eliot papers is anybody’s guess.

    These adolescent episodes laid the groundwork that eventually led to the sexually explicit essays he exchanged with Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac in the early ‘50’s. He was a regular attendee at the Esalen Institute in California and often stayed at Miller’s home in Big Sur. Miller introduced him to Kerouac who in turn introduced him to the San Francisco drug culture that became such a large part of his literary focus extending into the seventies. Their published exchanges were met with critical ridicule at the time and most were banned. They appear almost quaint in light of today’s literary mores. There was an anthology published during this period titled “Psychedelic Pornographic Prose: Seeing Sex From The Far Side”. With diligent research excerpts can be found in small underground publications.

    After missing a chance at the Nobel Prize for literature in 1994 he confessed to having difficulty with the word “literature”, for years spelling it “liturature”.

    He died at 72 with his fingers on the keys of the Royal typewriter he used throughout his career. His final sentence, “He was a teaser stallion whose seed and talent are frittered away in fruitless pursuits,” is perhaps a fitting epitaph for a “genuinely fresh talen.”
+++

J.D. Blair developed a 30-year career in journalism and television production as a Writer/Producer and was nominated twice for Emmys. Since 2000 he has been writing plays, short fiction, essays and poetry and has had publishing success in each genre.



J.D. Blair developed a 30-year career in journalism and television production as a Writer/Producer and was nominated twice for Emmys. Since 2000 he has been writing plays, short fiction, essays and poetry and has had publishing success in each genre.

 

 



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